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Chapter XIV Heans's Ticket-of-Leave

POLICE NO.

POLICE OFFICE RICHMOND TOWN,

21st August, 1840.

The Bearer. WILLIAM HEANS, a Prisoner holding a Ticket of Leave, has permission to pass this day to the house of Captain Shaxton at Flat Top Tier, and return on or before ten p.m. of the 22nd day of August, to this office.

To whom it may concern.

JAS. MANWOOD.

N.B.—This Pass is to be taken on the Day the Bearer arrives in the District to Mr. Chief district Constable of Richmond, who will write his Name and date on which it is exhibited to him hereon, and enter the Pass in his Book. The Pass is to be returned to the Police Office at Hobart Town by the Bearer; and should he have occasion to return before this Pass is out, he must leave it at the Police Office on the Day he arrives at Hobart Town, and should he be unable to leave Hobart Town the day this Pass is dated, he is immediately to return it to this Office.

IT was a still, oppressive night, and very cold. Sir William had with difficulty settled himself to his Plutarch and his tobacco-pipe. The ragged, amber room, if outwardly the same, from being a permanent place of residence to which the chilled mind had endeavoured to yield itself, had become a dangerous and precarious lodging for three days—a restless place of harassment—a mutter with a half-a-dozen chiding ghosts. One of them more than muttered; it moaned incessantly, like the old clock of the poet, “Never—forever”; it had a bitter, beautiful image; it wept. Liberty! What was liberty? It was life! What was


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life? A little while! Oh, fair young head! Oh, kind heart! Oh, lost affection! Oh, voice with your: “Didn't you know it, sir?” Yes.

He thrust his book and pipe on the rheumaticky table, and took a stroll to the cold windows. Over the wet shingles, he could see a ship's light moving on the frosty water. A cart jingled across the top of the street, with a tilt and some rolling oxen. Heans looked a wild relief as he turned and strolled back, but, near the fire, the samplers drew him over:—

The world's a stage; and players know full well
That they must part when rings the caller's bell.
Yea, they must part and mourn their faithful loves;
The cote is silent; sundered all the doves.

There he stood, Sir William Heans; his irksome and tainting bars all crumbling about him; now excited and oppressed by the dark pall of danger; now exalted and cheered by the warm clasp of liberty, stayed yet—pained yet—by something of which a heaviness in his heart told him he would never again touch the like. His heavy-lidded eyes saddened as he stood. How curious! Had the dagger of her beauty gone so deep in the earth of his being? Was it bemoaning so great a bereavement? Crying after a woman: frail creature of ephemeral moods? Could earth weep for earth, grieve for earth? Could earth find an agony in good things spoken, in help given, in the things of simple intercourse? Be still, inward moan! Frail human cry—for the good of her—be still! He cherished a vision of Matilda Shaxton, with her eyes strained, and her brows drawn, beautiful, serious, eager, with that indefinable warring in her—that look of Galatea, elevated by life. “Heaven deal with me, if ever I trouble her!” he said, and went to the windows with his hands over his face.

For something like an hour he walked up and down the garret, past and past the ragged chairs, his handsome face pinched and small. At last he sat down, lit his pipe, and took his Plutarch. He elevated the latter towards the candle in a short-sighted way, and his expression seemed aged and pedantic. Slowly and with great pains he began to read aloud from the Life of Cato, the Censor: “He adds … that he never gave more for a slave than fifteen hundred drachmas, as not requiring in his servants delicate shapes and fine faces, but strength and ability to labour, that they might be fit to be employed in his stable, about his cattle, or such-like business; and these he thought proper to sell again when they grew old, that he might have no useless persons to maintain. In a word, he thought nothing cheap that was superfluous; that what a man has no need of is dear even at a penny.…” He was so concentrated in his book that he did not hear his landlady's knock, nor her rather heavy entrance


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as she came in, clasping a large blue haversack, and a letter. She looked perfectly calm, but her eyes were significant and mistrusting. She said nothing till she reached the escritoire, when something whistled from her lips, as she put down the haversack. At the word “Soldiers” Heans dropped his book with a great clatter, she observing him with a flash of terror.

“Upon my word, madam,” he jumped, “I didn't hear you!”

“No—it was Corporal Hares came,” covered she. “Did you think it was police?”

“Aha, that sycophantic fellow! He has left these, has he? Was the man rude to you?”

“Oh no, sir! Not rude. People know better in my house.”

“You look frightened yourself!”

“Oho dear, I've a clean hand whatever happens! Registered rooms is registered rooms! But it's a worry with lodgers! You gets your constitution touched!”

“Ah, poor human conscience, madam!” (as he took the letter), “how it discredits our discreetest precautions!”

“I know you, if I don't know your talk, sir. But I'm anxious for my own, and the boy there; a woman can't do more. And my own's the lodgers, while they're in my house, and behaves theirselves. I gets taken up with them I'm working for, and feels uncomfortable-like if calamity threatens. ‘Respectable's’ my motto, and a ‘good name's’ my policy. But if my trial comes, I can't trust myself. Mr. Daunt, he says, ‘You're not hard-hearted enough, Mrs. Quaid. Keep shell-fish,’ he says, ‘and you'll keep a reputation.’ Ah, I'd do anything for Mr. Daunt—I say that where none can hear. Yes, in spite of feeling for all, I leaves 'em to their own keep, and holds my counsel. So I'm a sad woman.”

“What—never rejoice with your lodgers, Mrs. Quaid!”

“Well, as I was apologizing for my vapours, Mr. Daunt said, ‘Never mind looking down in the mouth, Mrs. Quaid. It's a sure sign of health in a prisoner.’”

“Well—you've one, here, sad enough, madam!”

“Now I see you, sir, you're looking sadder—I hope for good!” And she began to hobble out through the chairs, looking however as she did when she came in.

Sir William rose suddenly, with his eyes in his letter, and felt with his hand, as if for support, along the whitewashed chimney., “Heaven help us,” he hissed out, wildly, “all's against me!” His face grew livid and then flushed dark. With a swift oath he turned and snatched up the haversack, weighing it in his hand by the straps. He then drew it close to his eyes and examined the fastenings, both of which were sealed.

The old woman stopped in the doorway with a stern and tragic air, as if she would have uttered some word of sympathy—before she stepped down and let it fall.




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The letter was headed:

POLICE OFFICE, HOBART TOWN.

August 21st. 1840.

To William Heans, Ship, Juliana.

SIR,

Captain Shaxton has asked me to convey to you, as arranged previous, a request for the honour of your company, with that of several ladies and gentlemen, to meet Captain Crozier of the Terror, at his estate, at Flat-Top Tier, near Jerusalem, on Wednesday, the 22nd. inst. The Police Office encloses, herewith, haversack of papers, to be carried by you on that date to the District Constable at Richmond. With said packet is Ticket-of-leave, permitting you to pass with same, and break journey at the cottage of Captain Shaxton.

I have the honour to remain,

Sir,

Your obedient servant,

J. GATES, Chief Dist. Const.

To-morrow!

Heans swayed over to the cold windows. He saw again the ship's light, and followed it with his eyes, as it pitched slowly out into the dark.

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