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(v)

LIFE in this newest of worlds was patterned in circles upon much the same plan as life in the old. Outer darkness, the convicts, merged into a twilight existence of emancipated men; traders could be dimly perceived, country landowners took the air with a vague grandeur, becoming visible at certain periods, like the remoter stars; but the innermost circle, that which accepted the full light of His Excellency's countenance, wore or had worn uniform. A red coat or a blue one, a wig and gown or the beaver of banking, with an occasional pair of clerical gaiters—this uniformity represented right thinking,


  ― 29 ―
and true dogma, and the power to bind and loose. Uniformity prevailed, as might have been expected, at the parties attended by uniforms and their moieties. There would be offerings of wine from Portugal and France; cheeses brought by sea from cool English dales; sugared fruits that had travelled half the world round. These were consumed to an accompaniment of talk well suited to London dining-rooms, but to which the warm Australian air and a pertinacious humming of insects gave the lie. Proverbs turned head over heels in this new uneasy country, and the gourmet's maxim, Tell me what you eat, that I may know what you are, ran in Australia thus: Tell me first what you are; thence I may deduce what you eat, what you wear, the matter of your talk, and the shape of your wife's coiffure; besides making a tolerably accurate guess at your past income, and a reasonable forecast of the income which will be yours in future.

So much Mr. Adare had discovered in the course of a few weeks' sojourn. He wore no uniform himself, but the glamour of the regulation dress was all about him; he was distantly related to shako and sabretache, vicarious spurs chinked upon his heels, and he was received with all the interest and respect due to a bearer of such emblems. However, at the end of a brief period he had begun to weary a little of the uniforms and their wives, and said as much in His Excellency's hearing.

“You're a thankless pup,” returned Sir Richard. “They do you well enough, don't they?”




  ― 30 ―

“Well enough. But I'm getting to know all the faces by heart—well, not that; not by heart. By my liver.”

“That's something you can't avoid in a small community. The officers in a regimental mess get sick of the sight of each other's faces in peace time. So they do in a man-of-war. It has to be put up with.”

“But their smugness I can't endure. Twenty-five, thirty thousand people in this town, and the same dozen self-satisfied phizes at every dinner-table, like wooden nags on a roundabout.”

“What else is to be done? You can't mix a society, it gives too much offence. Consequence is all that many of these people get in exchange for exile. Besides, no man cares to drink with the fellow that may have picked his pocket in the old country.”

“Would His Excellency's credit be involved, for example, if his irresponsible cousin were to accept this?”

The Governor held out a hand for the letter his irresponsible cousin offered. It was an invitation to dine with Mr. Flusky, signed not by but for him; per pro. William Winter, secretary. The paper was good, the writing copper-plate, the wording conventionally civil; only the astonishing address—Minyago Yugilla, Woolloomoolloo—betrayed the letter's New World provenance.

“Who is this fellow?”

“Rich. A decent sort of an Irishman. Emancipist.”

“What was his offence?”

“I can't find out.” This was true. Adare's curiosity had uncovered as yet nothing of his benefactor's past.


  ― 31 ―
He repeated the Bank secretary's phrase: “Anyway, what's it matter? This is the country of the future. And besides, damme, isn't there old Uncle Lawrence at home that we can't trust with the spoons?”

“There seems no reason why you shouldn't go. We've got to mellow these individuals somehow before we find ourselves sitting beside them on a jury. Wait a moment. I remember something now about this man.”

“So do I, but for the life of me I can't tell what.”

“Something about his wife——” The Governor pondered, then dismissed the puzzle. “My dear fellow, do as you please about this, so you don't involve me. What d'you suppose those extraordinary words are?”

“It's where he lives, evidently.”

“Yes, but the meaning.” He looked up as a youngish civilian entered, carrying a portfolio. “Banks, you know something of the aborigines' tongue; can you tack any meaning to this?”

He underlined the curious address with his thumb-nail and handed the paper over. The newcomer read, and ventured:

“I happen to know—this is the name of Mr. Flusky's house, is it not? The meaning is, Why weepest thou? I have always wondered why Mr. Flusky should choose it.”

“The wife, perhaps. A romantic, Byronic, sort of a female might fancy such a name.”

The civilian made no comment, but his correctness of attitude, his portfolio, recalled the Governor to a


  ― 32 ―
working frame of mind. He dismissed his cousin abruptly, and settled down to consider the Colonists' proposal, shortly to be submitted to the Parliament at home, for a Legislative Assembly of their own.

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