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  ― 164 ―

III.

What the official lights-o'-love achieved the sequel will show. The Governor did, however, make a specific contribution to the plot, but he kept the knowledge of it from his Cleopatras. He chuckled mightily as he added his fragment of fuel to the flame which was to scorch Parson Ford. He penned the following—

Private.

  “Government House, THURSDAY.

“REVEREND SIR,—The words that passed between us on a delicate subject have afected me, and have not failed to impres me. As one means of helping to releeve me from his reverence's sensure it is likely that a warm discourse on the subject by which you will understand I mean the iregular connections which your reverence does not approve of, on Sunday coming, would strengthen my hands, for I have come to the conclusion that my honourable position does demand from me conduct which would not remain open to your Reverence's objection.

 “Your Reverence's obedient servant,

  “(Sd.)  THOMAS DAVEY, Lieutt.-Gov.

To the REVEREND THEOPHILUS FORD,

at St. Davids Parsonage.”

Like the illustrious Wellington, Colonel Davey was weak in orthography and in grammar, but the Rev. Mr. Ford was too well acquainted with official eccentricities of the kind to dwell upon those features


  ― 165 ―
of the document. What impressed him was the possibility it held out of a reform in popular morals. And he resolved to accept the hint, “and to give it 'em warm.”

It was on the succeeding Sunday that he rose to the occasion. It was the first Sunday in the month, consequently a muster-Sunday, and pretty well everybody in Hobart Town was crowded into the church or within its precincts. A muster-Sunday for the bond or ticket-of-leave classes was, of course, compulsory, and those who were emancipated or “free” by “servitude” were almost as regular in attendance, for, besides the fun of the thing, there was the gratification of witnessing the subjection of others to a procedure once so galling to themselves. Then the few people who “came free” and the “garrison ladies” came also to witness the spectacle. It was so amusing, you will understand, to note the distress of some poor “ticket-of-leave,” as, from some more or less real peccadillo, his “ticket” was withdrawn, perhaps a little home or business sacrificed, and he himself re-consigned to the purgatory of the lumber-yard or the hell of the road-gang. In an epoch when popular entertainments were rare, the Sunday muster was highly valued by all except those who were compelled to attend it.




  ― 166 ―

On this Sunday the muster was before Church. The Muster-Master, as though in anticipation of the coming storm, was righteously indignant in the cases of a couple of dissolute fellows, who, having permission to marry, had gone no nearer the altar than the broomstick. They pleaded Parson Ford's increased fee, but 'twas no use. Their tickets were withdrawn, and they were ordered to present themselves before the Police Magistrate in the morning for sentence.

This incident had so agreeably entertained the “free” people, “irregularly-attached” or not, that they would have been prepared to enjoy even a less thrilling sermon than that Mr. Ford preached to them. Therefore, when he gave out his text from Ecclesiastes vii. and 26th—

“And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bonds; whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her”—

they settled down with an unusual zest. They knew by instinct something interesting was coming.

Illustrating his theme by pretty well every Scriptural passage having the remotest relation to it, the preacher denounced the iniquity of “irregular connections.” Then, by way of contrast, he painted


  ― 167 ―
the virtues of the typical British home, drew tears from many eyes by a description of the conjugal felicity which prevailed in the palace of the Sovereign—he was discreetly silent as to the Regent—and, having insinuated a refined advertisement of his reasons for raising the marriage-fee—“that which costs nothing or next to nothing,” he said, “is never valued,”—he concluded with a most touching peroration. With eyes alternately directed to the roof and upon the viceregal pew, he thanked Heaven that he had it from the best, he might say the very best, authority that henceforth the Local Representative of that pure and pious Personage whose virtues added lustre to the Crown of England, contemplated reflecting in his person and establishment the example of his Gracious Sovereign. With so striking an exemplar on the spot, he reminded his hearers that there would be no excuse for their permitting their irregular unions to remain unblessed by the Church and unsanctioned by the Law.

The effect was tremendous. New South Wales and Van Demonia in the early days had, of course, no opportunity of showing how a C—— could throw an aristocratic splendour over the gallows, or how a H—— could transform by grace of manner a niggardliness of expenditure into a refined economy; but


  ― 168 ―
yet they possessed, all things considered, as devoted a regard for the representative of the throne as we can claim to-day. The eye of the congregation seemed fixed upon the broad shoulders of the Lieutenant-Governor as he sat a few yards away from the pulpit. A kindly shadow from a pillar prevented, however, all save those in the immediate vicinity observing that the viceregal form shook as though with suppressed emotion. Frequent applications of a yellow handkerchief to his eyes further testified to the impression the sermon had made upon him. Was the Colonel really going to reform? Was he smitten with sorrow for the past, and moved by passionate desire for better things in the future? It seemed so, indeed, and one portly merchant—a conditional pardon man from Sydney-side—reflected ruefully that, eight pounds or no eight pounds, he'd be obliged to follow the Governor's example, if the great man really meant to abandon his harem.

But the merchant and those who noticed his Honour's emotion need not have been afraid. True, he did wipe tears from his eyes, but—it pains us to say it—they were of mirth. The Colonel of Marines was all the time wondering to himself how Jess and Ju were taking the sermon. He had


  ― 169 ―
never gone so far as to instal them in the viceregal pew—the ladies of his family proper would have drawn the line at that—but he knew they were in church. He'd have given a day's pay in sterling money, and not in those rascally rupees which were worth no more than eighty per cent of their nominal value, to have been able to look round and wink at the sweet creatures. But that he dare not do: it would have spoilt the sport, for did he catch their eyes in return he would to a certainty burst into laughter. Accordingly, he had to wait till afternoon.

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