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(iv)

NEXT morning, having unpacked and distributed his staff (rather a tight fit) among the rooms of Government House, His Excellency said to his cousin, whose decorative idleness he found irritating:

“There is something to be done that you may as well do. Go to the offices of the Bank of New South Wales; introduce yourself as coming from me, and deliver this letter to the Secretary, or one of the Directors. It only concerns me, in so far as I promised Lord Goderich I would deliver it. Talk to the Secretary, and invite him in my name to dine. These fellows know more than Government men about conditions in a country. You might ask him for a little advice on your own account; prospects for investment, and so on.”

“I don't view with any gratification the prospect of earning money by work in this heat. His Excellency's cousin may use his nose, I suppose, to find out what sinecures there are?”

“His nose; not my name.”

“Sea-green Incorruptible! Or shall we say in deference to the climate, lobster-red? Adieu, adieu. Remember me!”

Mr. Adare put the Colonial Secretary's letter into his


  ― 16 ―
tail-pocket and sauntered out into the sunlight. Sydney Cove was on his right, quick with shipping; on his left the trees of the Government Domain proffered a thin shade. He kept to the left, not for this reason only, but in order to beat the marches of the city, of which Macquarie Street formed, at this point, the boundary. His eyes, alert as the infernal brickish dust of passing vehicles would allow, considered houses and people dispassionately, the horses with unaffected interest. They were worth a hunting man's attention. Their unkempt appearance, shaggy legs and manes, could not cheat an Irish judge accustomed to pierce such disguises. Mr. Adare, having seen in the course of ten minutes' walking almost as many rideable horses, began to have a better opinion of the Colony.

As for the streets themselves—he had turned at right angles and was surveying King Street—they were unpaved and damn dirty. They were full of masterless dogs. They offered no picturesque black men, such as Cape Town afforded, no woolly heads adorned with branching horns, or strings of beads, or trophies not easily identified. They resembled, in their undisciplined dusty straight lines, the streets of a manufacturing city at home, save for the depth of the shadows that fell across them, and the height of the Cornstalks who marched along them, trees walking. No colour. No signs of wealth. No signs of pioneering and danger. Why did the place exist?

The answer to that question, at the very moment his


  ― 17 ―
mind asked it, came round the corner of an intersecting street to its own odd musical accompaniment. Against the regular beat of soldiers' feet sounded a shuffling, and above the shuffling a chinking, not rhythmic, never ceasing. Mr. Adare stood, and at his ease reviewed a convict chain-gang as it passed along. Their dress was uniform, spattered with a pattern of arrows; only their caps varied from the fisherman's knitted jelly-bag to beavers not yet wholly devoid of nap. These last perhaps had been worn in London, where their owners exercised those arts for which thieves' jargon found such enlivening terms; smashing of queer screens, shaking of skins, ringing of castors, working the cat-and-kitten rig, or nibbling while Oliver whiddled. Most of them held up their chains as they walked by means of a string hitched to their belts; even so the dulled chinking made itself heard. No man stepped out as a free man may, as the guards did; the chains hobbled them too securely. All kept their heads down against the sun, all shouldered their long-handled, small-headed road-maker's hammers because that was the easiest way to carry them; and the effect of this uniformity was a slavish, hopeless air such as might hang about duppies, those dead men who labour for a witch's profit among Jamaica canes.

Mr. Adare, impressionable, but fortunately volatile; wax to receive, but water to retain; Mr. Adare did not care for the mixed feelings this encounter had roused in him. Pity without the means to relieve is emotion wasted; anger with the human race in general on account


  ― 18 ―
of the cruelty or folly of particulars is not to be justified. So he told himself as he walked on towards George Street, while the shuffling and chinking took itself off in another direction. Nevertheless, the generosity in him was uneasy at finding no outlet, and he stared offensively at passers-by who took convicts in chains for granted. A quarrel would have quieted him down by allowing him to translate emotion into action; a translation, in which, as happens often enough, the original impulse might be lost. But he went unsatisfied. No man took exception to his looks, no woman observed him. In a mood still half-truculent, he found the turning for George Street, and entered the premises of the Bank of New South Wales.

The Secretary, whose manner, whiskers, and excellent brown sherry were not to be distinguished from similar attributes of Bank secretaries in England, was glad to welcome His Excellency's sixth cousin. He took Lord Goderich's letter with just the right bow, accepted Sir Richard Bourke's invitation to dine with just such another, and seemed, having given this faultless performance, to wish to take up his labours. But Mr. Adare was disinclined to move out of a pleasant room into the strengthening sun. He began earnestly to talk, to enquire, and the Secretary was obliged to make answer.

“What openings should you say promise best for a young man—for myself, let us say?”

“As to that, it is not easy for me to speak. If you


  ― 19 ―
could give me some notion as to your interests, your capacities——”

“My capacities? Considerable in some directions; riding, drinking. As far as intellects go, I won't boast.”

“I referred to the question of money; money to invest. I believe that land in the neighbourhood of this town, for instance, is bound to appreciate. In twenty-five years, let us say, I can very well imagine a capital increase of a hundred per cent in the value of land in certain localities.”

“That's a long time to wait.”

“Not for such a considerable increase, Mr. Adare. A man does very well, let me tell you, if he is able to double his fortune in that time.”

“I haven't a shilling, though.”

“Then,” said the Secretary, losing that faint breath of enthusiasm which had informed his voice at the thought of a hundred per cent, “it becomes quite another matter.”

“That's to say, I've got a hundred pounds.”

“Well, Mr. Adare, it is not much, I tell you frankly. It is not much. With a great deal of industry, and frugality, and foresight I don't say it may not be made to do——”

“But I've no wish to work, my dear sir. That's not my intention at all.”

A clerk knocked, thrust in his smooth head decorated at the ears with two quills like those of a Secretary bird, and announced:




  ― 20 ―

“Mr. Flusky to see you, sir.”

“Pray ask him to wait a moment. Just a moment. Say that His Excellency's cousin is with me just now.”

“I won't detain you. Curious name, Flusky. Where have I heard it?”

“One of our most considerable citizens,” said the official, rising. “Rich; a landowner.”

“No, it's not that. Something, somewhere——” Mr. Adare snapped his fingers at the elusive memory and let it go. “Well; so you haven't any formula for getting rich overnight?”

“The old one, Mr. Adare; only the old one, I fear.”

“No good to me. Flusky! Now where the devil have I heard that remarkable name?” He observed the Secretary looking a trifle nervously at the door, which, however, his retiring clerk had shut safely. “Oho! He's a what-d'ye-call-it, is he?”

“Emancipist. Yes.”

“I like that. Emancipist—I must get used to it. What was his crime, anything spectacular?”

“Mr. Adare, allow me to give you a warning. Out here we don't talk of the past. The future, sir. This is a country of the future.”

“Landowner and lag—yes, I like that very well. Introduce me, will you? Come on, man,” as the Secretary looked dubious, “I'll behave myself.”

The Secretary, unwilling to keep his richest client waiting yet reluctant to blend him even for an instant with the aristocracy, bowed helplessly and held open the


  ― 21 ―
door. A figure in shapeless woollen clothes turned towards them, and Mr. Adare was able to note a flabby bulk, a nose pendant after the Jewish manner above a lip that might have lengthened in Wicklow, and a pair of unwinking mild eyes before Mr. Samson Flusky was formally introduced.

“Mr. Adare,” said the Secretary with a nervous laugh, “has come out from Ireland to make his fortune.”

Mr. Flusky smiled without speaking and replaced a warm right hand on the knob of his stick.

“I understand,” said Mr. Adare, “there's something to be done in land; but I don't want to wait for the money till my beard's as long as your arm.”

“Ireland,” Flusky repeated, looking at the Secretary; then transferred his gaze to the young man's face. He pronounced the word as no Englishman ever does; his deep voice had a smooth easy quality. “Is that where you come from? What part?”

“The West. D'you know it?”

“I might,” Mr. Flusky answered without expression. “So you want to make money. You're not the only one.”

“And make it quick,” said Mr. Adare briskly. “I don't feel any call to stay long in this country. Not but it has a deal to say for itself, no doubt; only it doesn't talk my language.”

“You'll stay, surely, during His Excellency's time of office at least.” The Secretary spoke to Flusky: “Mr. Adare is related to Sir Richard Bourke; came out in his ship.”




  ― 22 ―

“Lagged yourself for fear the King should do it for you, eh?” said Mr. Flusky disconcertingly. “How much have you? There's money in land, when the Commissioners will let you buy.”

“I told him so,” the Secretary offered immediately. “Money needs time, as I told him, to grow.”

Mr. Flusky seemed to meditate, both hands upon his stick, under-lip shooting out, eyes cast down. Mr. Adare in this moment attempted to sum up the impression left upon him by his first encounter with an emancipist, convict turned citizen. He found himself staring at the thick unmoving fingers, trying them in this position or that; steady upon a trigger, bunched about the haft of a knife, crooking to strangle. He could not fit them to sly tricks with pockets, or skilful tricks with pens. They proclaimed violence. And when, lifting his eyes, he met the mild gaze of their owner he had a little shock, as though a naked man had in the wink of an eye clothed himself. Flusky was saying:

“All the same, Mister, if you've time to listen there's something might interest you.”

“My office, gentlemen,” the Secretary offered. “Quite at your disposal.”

Flusky moved to it, not thanking him. He sat square in one of the chairs, and rested his head upon the interesting hands which his stick supported. He continued to wear his hat. Adare swung himself on to the Secretary's desk to face him, but from perversity or perhaps curiosity, would not be the first to speak;


  ― 23 ―
marvelling, not for the first time, at the power which hedges the man who can hold his tongue, and determined to try his own hand at the game.

Mr. Flusky seemed to have nothing immediate to say. He sat unthinking to all appearance, challenging the younger man's patience. Mr. Adare began to give himself away. He would not speak, but he could not keep still. The manœuvres of a pair of flies were a relief to his eyes, a sudden itching of the nose afforded him a gesture. He became conscious that the situation was a ridiculous one. The flabby fellow with a hat on, the youngster point-device, both with tongues in their heads, and not a word between them to throw at a dog—Mr. Flusky earned his gratitude by releasing a sentence first.

“I don't know how my proposition'll strike you, Government House and all. Maybe I better let it alone.”

“Don't lump me with His Excellency. He's not responsible for me.”

“Well,” Mr. Flusky considered. “But it might be awkward, all the same.”

“I assure you I didn't come out here to wear gloves, Mr. Flusky.” The mild gaze surveyed his faultless tailoring. “These are all the clothes I have, but if you feel you could talk more freely to a cabbage-tree hat I'll step out and buy one.”

“Do you know anything about land out here?”

That was a surprising question, coming as it did with no change of tone or expression; Mr. Adare made frivolous answers as was his custom when taken aback.




  ― 24 ―

“They tie a string to a dog's tail, don't they, and hit him a kick, and when he stops running that's a mile.”

“You're thinking of Van Diemen's Land,” Flusky said, not smiling. “The man that could kick hardest got best measure. That's how it did ought to be, in a new country.”

He went back to his silence. Mr. Adare, amused and a trifle irritated, began to guess.

“Your proposition has something to do with land.”

“Well, you see,” said Flusky irrelevantly, roused from meditation, “the Regulations are made by Englishmen. You can't run three sheep to an acre here. A sheep to three acres, more like. You got to have room to move stock about.”

“I suppose you can get as much room as you want, if you're prepared to pay.” Mr. Flusky shook his head, rolling it sideways upon his fingers that were laced upon the stick's knob. “You can't? Why not?”

“No more grants. Land all to be sold at auction, and a Board to see one man don't get more than his share. You come at a bad time for pickings, Mister. August the first, that was the start of it.”

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Adare bade him. “This is interesting. I was always good at drawing-room games. Don't tell me what you want me to do, let me see if I can divine it——”

“I won't tell you,” said Flusky briefly.

“Now wait a minute. Plenty of land available. Correct?” He looked at the white face, took a blink


  ― 25 ―
for assent, and went on with his deductions. “Land—but a Board to see a man doesn't get all he can pay for. What's the answer to that? If a man were to get someone else to put in for the land he wanted—am I getting warm?” He perceived the beginnings of a smile. “I'm on to it, I believe. Aha! The drawing-room's no bad training ground.”

“A man that puts in for land has to go before the surveyor and show the purchase-money in cash,” Flusky said without expression.

“What of it? I've got a hundred pounds.” A smile commented. “Not enough? Well, damn it, I suppose I could borrow.”

“You might.”

“Perhaps from the man that wanted the land. I dare say he'd stump up enough to show this surveyor.”

“He might, then.”

Mr. Flusky, setting his stick between his legs, leaned back to seek a wallet. He pulled it out, and chose notes from it, cracking each one, holding watermarks up to the light. Mr. Adare watched and reckoned the total as he laid a bundle down; a thousand pounds.

“Five bob an acre,” said Flusky, “that's the Land Board price.” He took out another note. “No need to show this one to the surveyor.”

“Fifty,” said Mr. Adare, craning to look at it. “Fifty for a signature, the first day of landing. No need to ask if this sort of transaction's legal.”

“It's not legal. I tell you that flat out.”




  ― 26 ―

“But it's the way to get things done?”

“I'm not saying nothing. I'm not asking you, Mister.”

The young man came nearer, picked up the bundle, laughed.

“Why, good Lord, for all you know I might put it on a horse.” Flusky was silent. “Don't you want a receipt?” Flusky shook his head. Mr. Adare had a qualm. “Are the notes bad 'uns?”

“There's a lot of coves out here haven't forgot their old trade, I'll allow. But those is right 'uns.”

“This is the maddest transaction I ever put a hand to, and I've been in a queer rig or two. If I had a grain of caution—but I haven't, thank God. It's a bargain, Mr. Flusky.”

“There's nothing on paper, I'd remind you.”

“Well, but between Irishmen,” said Mr. Adare impulsively, and held out his hand.

How much part in this impulsive decision was played by recollection of the chain-gang, Adare was not able to determine; but he was aware, as he struck hands with the emancipist, of a glow, a release of feeling which might not improbably be traced to that source. The clasp over, he laughed.

“Courtesy title of Honourable!” said Mr. Adare. Then, but to himself. “What the deuce have I let myself in for?”

He was perfectly ignorant of the Colony. The man's statement concerning land might be true or it might not. The bare facts were that he, a guest in the Governor's house, was conspiring with a total stranger to do the


  ― 27 ―
Government. He reassured himself; it was only in principle that the Government would suffer, what could it matter to the Treasury whence came the purchase-money for land; an ungenerous whisper reminded him that the interview had been private, there were no witnesses, no documents—there his thoughts checked sharply.

Mr. Flusky appeared to be troubled by no ironical questionings. He reached out the knob of his stick and rapped on the open door with it. After an interval for dignity, the Secretary answered this summons.

“Business concluded, gentlemen? Satisfactory, may I hope?”

“Mr. Adare wants a word with you.”

“I am at Mr. Adare's service.”

“He wants,” said Flusky, interpreting the young man's quick glance, “to deposit a thousand pounds.”

The Secretary bowed, looking from the square flabby man to the thin rosy man. His glance was enquiring. He said, however, nothing of that hundred pounds previously mentioned as the sole fortune of his new client, who began nervously to talk:

“I take your advice, sir, as you see. I buy land. Well, I have seen two foot by four of painted canvas change hands for a thousand pounds, to say nothing of five foot two of womanhood. How far will it go in kangaroos, do you think? By George, gentlemen, I hope landowners in your country have a better standing than they do in mine. They shoot us from behind hedges, like partridges.


  ― 28 ―
It is not the way a man of spirit would choose to die, winged by a Whiteboy with his dirty coat inside out——”

Mr. Adare prattled on. He found the entire trust reposed in him by this stranger oddly touching, and it was his form of self-defence to talk when silence would have revealed emotion. The emancipist received this patter with no change of expression and said nothing. The Secretary, making out a receipt for the money Adare handed him, observed the numbers of one or two of the notes, familiar owing to certain odd groupings of numerals. He knew to whom he had paid them out. But he too said nothing, having learned that discretion is the first recommendation of a banker, more especially where his richer clients' interests are concerned.

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