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(ii)

AT about five o'clock in the afternoon of December 3rd of that year, a ball hoisted upon the south yard-arm of the flagstaff at the entrance to Port Jackson showed that a sail had been sighted, approaching from a southerly direction. Later, a flag with St. George's Cross was run up, signifying that the sail in question belonged to a Government ship, full-rigged at that. Almost immediately after, down came this flag, and was replaced by a Jack.

‘Excitement became evident among the boats in the Pilot's anchorage. At South Head the semaphore


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began to function, reporting, in a series of jerks and flickers:

A Government vessel. Between 2 and 3 leagues S.E. of the Head.

To which Fort Phillip, above Sydney Cove, responded in the same lingo:

Report all movements of vessel signalized. Is there much sea between the Heads? State all particulars.

South Head:

This is the vessel expected. Vessel has signalized probable arrival before nightfall. Correct: previous signal should read, vessel does not expect to anchor before morning, owing to lack of wind.

Fort Phillip:

Confirm. Repeat.

South Head:

Vessel does not expect to anchor before morning, owing to lack of wind.

Fort Phillip:

Be more attentive.

Despite this rebuke Fort Phillip was not displeased to have twelve hours' respite. In twelve hours buttons might be polished, arms burnished, the fear of God be put into a guard already drilled to unthinking unanimity. In twelve hours some sort of a reception could be arranged, with flags and bunting, down by the Quay; the citizens' enthusiasm was more likely to show itself freely at the beginning of a hot December day than at a similar day's end. There were speeches to be memorized, beavers to


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be brushed, children's locks to be put in paper; for all this twelve hours was by no means as much time as could be desired, but it would have to serve. The Commandant sent off runners into the town, to the Colonial Secretary, to the President of the Legislative Council, and the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, then sat down, hooking up his close military stock, to an evening meal with his officers, which ended with the health, drunk in Maderia that had taken a six months' roll round the Horn, of the newly-arrived Governor, Sir Richard Bourke——

“And may he not be another of these prigs that we have to foot out of the Turf Club,” said the Commandant as he set down his glass.

The Governor at this moment, in a costume by no means conventional, was lying full length on the deck of that interesting vessel from the south, Foxbound, about which the air clung, never stirring. He said to the young man at his side:

“The climate's giving us a warm welcome, anyway.”

“It's an omen,” the young man returned, “don't build on it. They threw out Bligh, they threw out Darling. For a Governor that's tired of life, I'd say this was a delightful appointment.”

“Did you ever hear how they shifted Darling? It was at a Turf Club dinner. They drank his health, all very civil; but when it came to the Jolly Good Fellow that should have followed, the band broke out with ‘Over the Hills and Far Away.’ Darling looked like a sick hen, one


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of the soldiers told me that was there; sent in his resignation from the Club, and got out of the country soon after. By God, if they'd done that to me I'd have known what answer to make.”

“You'd have whistled, ‘Will ye no come back again,’ all on your own.”

“I might, if I'd thought of it. It will take more than a couple of fiddlers to get rid of me.”

“There's some of this Irish boasting we hear so much about. You'll change your tune when it comes to making a nation out of the scum of England.”

“I know plenty about the scum of England. If you can make an army of it good enough to beat Boney, you can make a nation.”

“Well, be quick about it. I don't want to be half a century out here making my fortune.”

The Governor laughed; and looking at the stars, which kept their places upon the chequer board made by spars and rigging, observed:

“I never can get the lie of these upside-down planets into my head, after all these years.”

“My idea,” the young man went on, following his thought, “is to benefit by corruption. I can't make my fortune any other way; not by fighting, it's too late for that; not by inheritance, I haven't a relative left that's solvent. As for work—true, you can make money working, but it spoils you for the enjoyment of it. And I won't marry an heiress, the pick of them's gone, the only ones left weigh twenty stone or grow beards. I


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like reading poetry with my feet on the hob, but it takes money, that kind of innocent life. So all that remains for me is to be the Governor of New South Wales's sixth cousin.”

“Why can't you write poetry for a living? Lord Byron, I believe, did very handsomely out of his books. You were always a scribbler.”

“True,” answered the young man with a bitterness which made the Governor turn his head, surprised. “I was always a scribbler.”

“I had no notion of being offensive, Charles.”

“The truth is never offensive; distasteful, perhaps. I am a good enough poet to write little stuff for the keep-sakes. That is the best I can do, though I sweat blood. Therefore, my dear sir and cousin, I won't do it. And therefore, my dear sir and cousin, I propose instead to batten on you.”

“I'll disown you once I'm installed.”

“I'll lead a faction if you do. I'll invade Government House and rout you out from under the bed covered in fluff, like Bligh.” The Governor did not heed him, still staring up, hands locked under head. “Stars! What good are stars to a Lieutenant-General, except to remind him of his damn decorations? Stars are poetical stuff. I'm going below. Are you staying here on deck all night?”

“I am.”

“Where's your sense of discipline? Do you think the sailors will think much of a Governor when they


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can see he has less hair on his chest than themselves?”

“Go to your cabin, young fellow-my-lad, and get some sleep if you can. We have a long day to-morrow.”

“Pleasant dreams to your Excellency. Mine, I hope, will be about shameless great bribes.”

“I don't have dreams. Good night.”

The stars moved steadily as a clock's hands; steadily the water reflected their lights, which wavered now and then and were lost in shining furrows, a shark's fin breaking the surface. The lantern on South Head stared, never blinking. His Excellency regarded all these things in turn as the ship swung about, and fell asleep thinking of Spain, where he had served, and where the nights had something of this quality. His last conscious thought was dredged up out of memories he did not know himself to have acquired; the Spanish word guardaamigo, which, as he recollected, meant the prop set under a criminal's chin while he takes his flogging.

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