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V.

On the Monday afternoon, the Rev. Theophilus, accompanied by Mesdames D'Ewes and Bobbin, was respectfully welcomed by Mrs. Chubb. As the matron made her final curtsey, she said—

“Twelve new ones, your Rev'runce!”

“All—ahem—er—delicate?”

Mrs. Chubb simpered and looked down. “Yes, sir!” she said.

“Now, ladies,” and Mr. Ford turned to the garrison ladies, “of course you don't understand what Mrs. Chubb means?”

“No—not exactly, Mr. Ford,” said Mrs. D'Ewes.

“Well, I must tell you, ma'am. You know, of


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course, why so many girls are sent back to the Factory from service?”

Mrs. Bobbin blushed. Mrs. D'Ewes didn't, but replied “Yes.”

“Well, in the interests, first of morality, and then of the finances of the colony, I'm determined to put a stop to that sort of thing, ladies!”

“Quite right, I'm sure,” said Mrs. D'Ewes.

“Quite right, sir,” echoed Mrs. Bobbin.

“Now, there's only one way, and that is to punish the fathers of the children. But to reach the fathers you must know their names.”

“Of course, Mr. Ford!” said both ladies together.

“That is why, then, I have what the Captain very improperly called my confessional, Mrs. D'Ewes. I interrogate each girl separately as to the paternity of her child. Now, to-day, I will ask you ladies to pursue my inquiries for me. Have you any objection, ladies? Then you can tell the Captain the nature of my method.”

“No objection at all,” chorused the gentle beings.

“Then, as there are twelve to be examined, may I suggest you take six, Mrs. D'Ewes, and you the other six, Mrs. Bobbin, and I'll simply look on!”

The twelve girls—they were nearly all on the youthful side of womanhood—were ranged in a row,


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each standing by the foot of her pallet. Some were quivering with suppressed shame—or laughter. Others were biting their lips. But all were silent till the interrogation began.

Humming a hymn, Parson Ford walked up and down. His back was to the line of women, and consequently he did not see the startled looks which were bestowed upon him and then upon each other by the two ladies. By the time, however, he turned in his walk, each interrogator had examined her second girl, and as she obtained a reply, she glanced so strangely at the clergyman that he could not help but notice her manner. He put the singularity of the look down, however, to some surprising revelation. “Revelations” under the like circumstances were so common, that they had long since ceased to be surprising to him.

As Mrs. Bobbin interrogated her third girl, Mrs. D'Ewes finished the examination of her fourth. They exchanged a look of horror—then moving simultaneously into the centre of the room, they exclaimed together—

“Oh, Mr. Ford! You wretch!” called Mrs. D'Ewes.

“Mr. Ford, you're a hypocritical villain!” cried Mrs. Bobbin, and she hysterically searched for her handkerchief.




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“Ladies!” exclaimed Parson Ford, not believing his ears.

“Yes, sir, I'm glad I came to-day to unmask a scoundrel! Each of these four girls says you are the father of her child!” cried Mrs. D'Ewes.

“Madam!”

“And—oh—infamous!—these three girls all say—they—owe—their—ruin to you!” gasped Mrs. Bobbin, in tears.

“And I say the same!” said a girl as yet uninterrogated.

“He's the father of my child too!” said another.

“And of ours!” cried the rest in chorus.

Under this terrible avalanche of accusation Parson Ford was dumb!

Governor Davey and his “leddies” had calculated only on surprising Parson Ford himself—by bribing the girls with a ticket-of-leave apiece to allege that he, the clergyman, was responsible for her presence in the lying-in ward of the Factory. They had not contemplated so astonishing a success for their little plot, as was achieved through Ford's invitation to the garrison ladies.

Not for many years was Ford allowed to forget this episode. Governor Arthur, fifteen years after


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wards, referred, at a birthday dinner, to Parson Ford as one of the “fathers of the colony,” and was immensely surprised at the uproarious laughter his compliment elicited from all colonists present—save Ford.

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