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IV.

The Parson dined with his Excellency, and received the latter's great compliments for the unstinted and fervid morality of the discourse. The Colonel now coincided with Mr. Ford as to the wisdom of the increased fee, and expressed a hope that not many months would elapse before it would be—er—as difficult to find an irregularly-attached couple in Hobart Town as a needle in the proverbial truss of hay! And the joy which is generated by the consciousness that a good work is meeting with the applause of the high and mighty settled upon


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Parson Ford's soul as he bade his Honour good-bye, and betook himself to the church for afternoon service. It was a joy undimmed by the least doubt as to the sincerity of the Governor's conversion.

After second service he was asked to tea at the table of one of the two married ladies of the garrison. The garrison was, matrimonially considered, very badly organized indeed. With the exception of two, the ladies who looked after the comfort of the officers, drawing married men's lodging and fuel allowances, however frequently they quarrelled among themselves, had one characteristic in common. They possessed no certificate of marriage—at least, they owned no certificates that sanctified their present relationships. And now, in consequence of Parson Ford's sermon, the virtuous and duly married two were more determined than ever to look down upon their unlicensed sisters of the quarters. Accordingly, as a preliminary, they mutually arranged an applausive tribute to that dear man, the clergyman, who at last had put his foot resolutely down “on the shocking, the really too shocking, state of things that prevailed in the town, and particularly within our brother officers' quarters, you know, dear.” Mrs. Lieutenant Bobbin had wished to do the honours, and invited Mrs. Captain D'Ewes, her


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sister in matrimonial distinction, to take tea with her and the dear parson, but Mrs. Captain D'Ewes, by virtue of her husband's rank, pressed for the privilege of first entertainment, which Mrs. Bobbin at once effusively and affectionately conceded. And so at half-past five o'clock the Rev. Theophilus found himself seated at a table with Mrs. D'Ewes and Captain D'Ewes, and Mrs. Bobbin and her Lieutenant. It may be remarked, by the way, that the Lieutenant's experience of wedded life was rather regarded in the town as strong evidence of the advantages of single blessedness.

Mr. Ford having said grace (the circumstance from its unusual nature deserves to be chronicled), and accepted some of the hospitalities of the table, his hostess lost no time in expressing her congratulations on his proper, very proper, course that day. And did he really think his Honour would alter the disgraceful, very disgraceful, condition of Government House society?

“I am, ma'am, firmly convinced in my own mind he really contemplates a change of conduct,” affirmed the Parson.

“Then—then—those women—— Oh, really, Mr. Ford, I blush for my sex to think such things are possible! And will his Honour at once dismiss them


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to the Factory?” Thus spoke the virtuous Bobbin dame.

“I am quite of opinion that he will do so. In fact, I may tell you—in confidence, ladies, of course—that I believe they have already been returned there!”

“No!” exclaimed both ladies in a breath.

“Indeed, I think so. As I was taking off my surplice in the vestry, the matron of the Factory came in and said that the Governor's ladies—you know, ma'am, that the way those low-class women will speak of these disgraces to their sex ——”

“Yes, indeed!” indignantly said Mrs. D'Ewes, “this misuse of words ought to be put down! And the matron said?”

“That those sinful women had been driven out to the Factory. The matron, bringing in the rest of the Protestant women for afternoon service as usual, met them half-way. They looked in a fine fluster—to use Mrs. Chubb's words—just as though the consequences of their sin had at last fallen upon them.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. D'Ewes, “there comes an end to all wrong-doing sooner or later.”

“Why,” said the Lieutenant, “didn't the matron stop and ask them why they were going out?”




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“Oh, Lieutenant, you don't know what a trouble 'tis to that poor woman to get those drabs of Factory girls to church!—she could not attend to anything else! She has to bring them in two batches—morning and afternoon—for it would take her whole staff to march the lot in together, and she must, of course, leave two or three wards-women behind to look after the sick ones.”

“We'd always tell off a corporal's guard to help her,” said Captain D'Ewes, flippantly. “Our men would not object to guard-duty there. ‘Guardians of beauty, if not of virtue,’ and so on, eh, Bobbin?”

Bobbin, with his spouse's eye upon him, dare not acquiesce verbally, but in his heart he approved of his comrade's sentiment. Of course, their respective wives were not aware that among the Lotharios of the camp, D'Ewes and Bobbin were included, even though they were married. Had he wished to reply, however, he would not have found it possible to do so, for Mrs. D'Ewes sharply remonstrated with her husband.

“I think, Captain,” she said, “that you should keep your wit for the low associates of the barrack-room. Remember, a clergyman is present, if you have no respect for ladies. And now, dear Mr. Ford,


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I should like so much to know whether those—those creatures are really at the Factory! You, I suppose, will find out in due course?”

“Oh, to-morrow, ma'am, is my usual Factory day—Monday succeeding Muster-Sunday, y' know!”

“Oh, yes,” broke in that ribald D'Ewes, “tomorrow's your confessional day, is it, Mr. Ford?”

“My what—sir?” returned the astonished Parson, who was nothing, if he was not a sturdy Evangelical.

“That, I believe, sir, is the term given in the town to your—ah—method of interrogating those frisky young madams at the Factory, of whom you're so fond.”

“Sir!” exclaimed the insulted Parson, rising.

“D'Ewes!” appealed his better-half.

“Captain D'Ewes!” ejaculated the horrified Mrs. Bobbin, whose husband simply chuckled to himself under cover of the storm.

And though D'Ewes apologized, and handsomely withdrew the imputation, which, he averred, was merely a jocular nothing, the Parson's sense of injury was not appeased until both Mrs. D'Ewes and Mrs. Bobbin had consented to accompany him to the Factory on the morrow. “Then, ladies, I beg you'll interrogate every woman for yourselves. Ask them what questions you like as to my treatment of them,


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and see if I've ever acted in a manner unbefitting my sacred office!”

As a simple fact, Parson Ford could not have played more nicely into his adversaries' hands than when he extended that invitation. Davey's plan had been merely to suggest a very naughty idea to the frail fair ones in Mrs. Chubb's charge, and to trust to chance for the result finding its way to the knowledge of the townspeople. But here Ford himself had provided the means for his own discomfiture.

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