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II.

“I hear, Mr. Ford,” remarked his Honour, as the parson paid him the usual morning visit exacted from all Hobart Town gentlemen who drew pay from the Colonial chest, “that you have caused it to be known that your marriage-fee is to be eight pounds in future?”

“That is my fixture, your Honour,” replied the chaplain.




  ― 159 ―

“But I do not know whether I can allow it! You know that the Governor in Sydney has fixed the fee at four pounds?”

“Guineas, your Honour,” gently corrected the parson. “But that is within two described parishes. I am sure of my legal rights on the matter.”

“But the moral effect, Mr. Chaplain—the effect! Have you sufficiently thought of that? A heavy fee is—ahem—an impediment to marriage!”

One great virtue had Parson Ford. He looked over a lot of things in persons of authority, but, when put on his mettle he never winced before a Governor, whether he was only a “Lieutenant,” or whether he was the omnipotent “General.” He faced his Honour now, and said distinctly, with an uncourtier-like acidity of tone: “Would it have proved so in your case, your Honour? If so, I'll reduce it!”

And his Honour took the unpleasant thrust pleasantly. His wine-reddened face was not unusually flushed as he responded: “Well, well, if you must have it so, you must, I s'pose, Mr. Ford. But don't you think you can make it currency, instead of sterling?”note




  ― 160 ―

“With all respect, sir, I do not think I can. My object is to make the ceremony valued in the eyes of the people, and I conceive there is no better way of doing it than to attach an expense to its performance. You have seen, your Honour, that Mr. Knopwood's low charges did not encourage marriages. Now, we will see what my method will do.”

“Very well, Mr. Ford, very well, have your own way. I think you are mistaken, but it's your lookout, and not mine. I'm not—h'm—my brother's keeper—of his morals, at all events. That's your duty.”

And with this, his Honour bowed his reverence out, helped himself to a glass of Spanish wine from a bottle which, one of a dozen, had been presented to him by his former comrade-in-arms, John Macarthur, in Sydney—Capt'n John had bought it at a sale of certain prize booty in the year '5, and treasured it greatly—and set to work to devise a scheme by which to revenge himself upon the clergyman. Davey was not given to vindictiveness, but he dearly liked a jest, and when by the same stroke he could have both his joke and his revenge, he would have fallen below the level of his drunken, rollicking, immoral old self if he had refrained from


  ― 161 ―
applying it. He had all the qualities of a good Governor except dignity, firmness, purity, honour, sobriety, and magnanimity.

As the result of his reflections he outlined a plan which, in the bosom of his irregularly constituted family circle at Government House, was fairly elaborated that same night. It was necessary, you see, for him to use an intermediary in the business. He rather prided himself on his free-and-easy manners. Had he not made his début in the colony in his shirt-sleeves, excusing himself on the score of its being too —— hot to wear full regimentals? Had he not established the custom of drinking and smoking in court? Was it not he who had stopped the trial-gang on their way to the wharf, and treated each of the unfortunates to a drink of rum-punch and a churchwarden pipe at Half-Hanged Jack's beershop? Did he not accept kindly their thankful “God bless yer Honour!” and wish them in return a fair trial, and, if God and the Judge pleased, an easy death? And was it not, too, his identical old blackguard self who, instead of enclosing to Sydney with the depositions of evidence against a convicted forger, the forged note for threepence, put the note, and therefore the evidence, into the fire, with the remark that a throat


  ― 162 ―
that could give out “Tom Bowling” so well, was too good to be fitted with a throat necklace? As a matter of fact, “free and easy” was an absurdly weak term to apply to Lieutenant-Governor Davey's relaxed manners. Nevertheless, he felt it was “not quite the cheese”—the phrase is not ours but the Governor's—for him to place himself in direct communication with the principal in the plot he had contrived for the discomfiture of Parson Ford. “No, Julia,” he said to the presiding madam of the week —his two “ladies” took week about in doing the honours of his private table (his legal family living quite apart)—“it won't be quite the cheese, my duck, for me to see the little dears at the Factory. One of you will have to do that for me.”

“Oh,” simpered madam—she was the identical pretty piece of frailty respecting whom Captain Colnett, of H.M.S. Glatton, had quarrelled with Governor King,note and the twelve years since the row had only matured her charms—“anythin' to


  ― 163 ―
please yer, dear Gov'nor—an' really, ye know, none of us leddies like Parson Sniff an' Snuff! Bobby's my 'dea of a parson. Ain't he yours, dear Gov'nor?”

“I'm with ye, madam, in everything, as ye know,” replied the Governor—whose gallant speeches were not yet intermingled with hiccoughs. “Ah, old Bobby never interfered between me an' ye, did he, dear? But ye'll attend to the Factory, Ju, without fail before Monday evening? Ye know, 'twould never do for his Honour, the Gov., to be known in the business.”

“Oh, lud, your Honour, how squeamish we're gettin' all at once,” tittered the sorceress of the week; “why, ye'll be turnin' saint yourself soon an' 'll cry ‘Fie!’ an' blush when I do this.”

And, bending forward, she pressed with her ruby lips the viceregal forehead. Madame Julia knew the ways of Government in early Van Demonian days. Also which side her bread was buttered. She was better off with Colonel Davey than with Captain Colnett, R.N. Immeasurably.note

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