Chapter XIII. Loyalty in the Colony.

As the Queen's birth-day was at hand, Captain Douglas received an invitation to the Government ball.

‘I am glad to see you are loyal enough, Roberts, to have her Majesty's birth-day kept up here.’

‘And did you fancy that the leopard had changed its spots by crossing the line? Believe me, my friend, we Britishers in the Australian colonies are not like the Britishers that go to America. The first are true to the Union Jack, though the others too frequently desert their colours for a striped rag with some stars on it.’

‘I rejoice to find myself under the old flag I have fought under. But I was told you had all turned Republicans in the colonies.’

‘We are so pretty well as to form of government; but it is a republic with a queen at the head.’

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‘But does that system work well, Roberts?’

‘What do you think yourself? Are we such a mob of misrule? Do you hear à la lanterne in the streets? Are our gaols emptied and fired? Does the governor mount the cap of Liberty?’

‘No, no, my friend. I am struck with your obedience to law. But with this extent of freedom, have you no expression of a desire to get rid of monarchy?’

‘Why should we? Those in England who pay for the toy may grumble at the charges; all we pay is so much a year to a representative of Majesty, but who spends here about the amount we grant. That is no great hardship.’

‘But don't you wish for Independence?’

‘But haven't we got it? Have the Jonathans any more real and practical independence than we enjoy?’

‘Perhaps not; but the child cried for the moon?”

‘Which it wouldn't have done had the moon been handier. The colonists are not children. They are abundantly practical. They did growl once, and cry out loudly enough. Yet it was about no distant moon, of no use to them if they got it; but about a real burden which they wanted removed.’

‘And the English parliament did them justice, and took away their disabilities.’

‘Yes, and gave them, in extension of suffrage, vote by ballot, and control of Crown lands, a freedom not

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enjoyed at home, and not likely to be for a hundred years.’

‘That did astonish us in India. But we were told there that it was done on the principle of a horrid example. The colonists, directly they got the boon, were to have begun worrying one another, kicking over the traces, establishing a Red Republic, and I know not what, to warn Englishmen of the folly of seeking such an absurd indulgence.’

‘And, pray, what is your opinion now about that?’

‘Why, I don't see much sign of the blood and thunder school growing up here.’

‘And won't folks have something to lose here? With all their radicalism, there is far more conservatism in the colonies than in England, because so much larger a proportion have something at stake. The loafers here are the few, and there the many.’

‘I begin to think you are right, Roberts. Already the story is getting another rendering, I hear, in Britain.’

‘And will do still more. Englishmen in the colonies may be trusted with power more readily than Englishmen at home, and more safely than any other race anywhere.’

‘Anyhow, I trust they will be true to the Queen.’

‘They certainly will. When those fellows in Britain turn hot republicans, we mean to invite her down here. What a glorious time we'll have of it!’

A few days after this, the two friends went to the

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levée, held at mid-day of the 24th of May. It rather astonished the Captain to see the free-and-casy way of folks going to salute his Excellency. He supposed that the visitors would have been only those belonging to the upper circles, and he found his own butcher at the levée.

The company marched through, made their bow, received a bow and a shake of the head, and then passed on. The military band were in front of the vice-regal residence.

As to the ball, it met with the entire approval of Mrs Douglas, accustomed, as she had been in India, to nobler gatherings.

‘All was in very good taste, my dear,’ she remarked to her husband. ‘The people were not all very refined, but were well-behaved, for all that. The dancing was correct enough, if some grace were wanting; but the good humour of all was a relief that more distinguished parties might envy.’

‘Right, sensible wife of mine. I met a lot of fellows down from the country, who knew lots of old Indian friends of ours. You know I introduced you to some, but there were plenty more.’

‘Indeed, at one time I began to think I was in Calcutta, from the number of uniforms about.’

‘And the supper was good too,’ added the gentleman.

‘Ah! I saw you enjoyed it.’

‘Of course I did, with such a pleasant company,

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and less reserve than in correcter assemblies, you know. The supper was a real one, and not a sham side-table.’

‘And what a hearty cheer they gave when drinking the Queen's health. I declare I felt proud of the colony. There's no republicanism to hurt here. They may call the spirit bad, if they like, so long as the conduct is manfully loyal.’

It was after this that the Captain took more interest in local politics. He went to both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, and listened to the speeches. Talking afterwards about his visit, to Roberts, the latter said,

‘And what did you think of our colonial spout?’

‘I must admit, I have heard better English; but for sound, sensible matter, and ease of expression, no afternoon speeches in Calcutta would come up to those of your legislators. I admired the natural style of talk. There was not the monotonous droning and awkward stammering of our House of Commons, nor the lively spread-eagleism of the American Congress.’

‘Hansard is a great card among them, you found.’

‘Yes, and the forms of our houses were well observed. I don't think your colonial lawmakers imitate the farmyard cries to drown the voice of opponents.’

‘No; braying is no convincement.’

‘But I want to know, Roberts, what on earth they have to dispute about, and get hot about here.’

‘That puzzles me at times. But wherever human

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passions can find room to play, there they play. If hair-splitting be a joke to some, it must be serious and necessary employment to others. But parties must exist, say our wise men of Gotham.’

‘Yes, that is reasonable enough in England. There certain great families have long retained power, and don't want to part with it. Church and State versus Reform will always produce strife. But what have these to fight about?’

‘Certainly not much for private ends. Yet, whatever their zeal for the progression of the colony, opinions will differ as to the best way of promoting it.’

Perhaps a little personal animus may help to a little strife.’

‘Assuredly; and the wish for a seat on the Treasury Benches. There are loaves and fishes, honey and sugarplums, to be had. Changes in administration give other fellows a turn at official pomp and glory; but the business of State is sadly injured thereby.’

‘You and I have seen what personal ambition has wrought in that direction with Great Britain.’

‘Yes; and a little forbearance with our rustics here, who have to learn legislation, would become some of our English jokers. They may learn to bray and crow down opponents in time.’