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Title: Sydney Cove Author: J H M Abbott * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1402731h.html Language: English Date first posted: October 2014 Most recent update: October 2014 This eBook was produced by: Maurie Mulcahy Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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Chapter I.—Magnus Hall.
Chapter II.—The Murder in the Library.
Chapter III.—Partridge and Cooper.
Chapter IV.—The Son of His Mother.
Chapter V.—The New South Wales Adventure.
Chapter VI.-The Lady Penrhyn.
Chapter VII.—Mary Urquhart.
Chapter VIII.—An Innocent Victim.
Chapter IX.—Mary's Story.
Chapter X.—The Voyage.
Chapter XI.—The Village of Sydney.
Chapter XII.—The Founding of a City.
Chapter XIII.—The Gold Finder.
Chapter XIV.—The Natives.
Chapter XV.—The Absence of Mary.
Chapter XVI.—Prisoner 749.
Chapter XVII.—The Chase.
Chapter XVIII.—The Forked Waters.
Chapter XIX.—The Fight at Narrabeen.
Chapter XX.—As High as Haman.
NOT far from the ancient cathedral city of Rochester, and the war-like town of Chatham, there still stands an old, square, red-brick mansion in a lovely garden. Gardens in Kent are always lovely, but the garden of Magnus Hall, stretching down its gentle hillside to the waters of the Medway, is still, as it has been for over three hundred years, one of the loveliest of them all.
About the old house stretches, on sides and rear, a wooded park—of oak, and beech, and chestnut, and elm—which grows most densely in its vicinity, thinning out into occasional clumps of shade and foliage in the green meadows that reach to the outskirts of the estate. Before the house is a wide, stone-flagged terrace with a balustrade, and a flight of steps leading down to a green lawn, shaded at either end by two immense cedars of Lebanon, which reach out their flat layers of branches over the velvet turf, and are very ancient, very stately, and very sombre. From the lawn the land slopes gently down to the river, and across the water are hop-fields and rolling downs, of a softly verdant aspect, that merge into a blue and purple sky-line across miles of open field and belts of timber, and the occasional grey splashes of old villages that nestle among trees. Windmills and oast-houses were numerous at the time with which this story has to do—towards the end of the eighteenth century—and, here and there, the dark, flint-cased, square towers of Norman churches, which are still there, rose above the low-lying, far-stretching countryside.
It was drawing towards evening, and already a colony of rooks in some tall elms behind the old house were noisily settling down for the night. On the lawn below the terrace, two men, who had already partaken of the principal meal of the day, were seated over their wine, beside a little round table placed beneath the roof-like branches of one of the big cedars. It was the tree on the right beneath which they sat, and they were contemplating the gathering blue hazes of evening across the country before them, in the quiet, satisfactory fashion that is possible after a good dinner and over good wine. Within their vision, as they looked diagonally across the lawn, was the ivy-clad front of the house, standing out darkly against the brightening glow of the western sky.
They are both clean-shaven, good-looking, well-groomed men, but there was a difference of more than thirty years between their ages. Colonel John Cartwright, late of His Majesty's 16th Regiment of Foot, was a man of about sixty. His white wig set off his red and suntanned face. Dressed in the garments of civil life, he still looked what he was—a soldier from neck to heel—and the contrast of his sober raiment with the uniform of his younger companion was not so pronounced as it would have been were he less obviously of the military caste.
Ensign Patrick Cartwright, of the Marines, was a young man, dark-complexioned and good-looking, of about twenty-two or twenty-three years. His features were clean cut and regular, and his body was that of an athlete, but there was a lurking devil of mischief or waywardness in his eyes that gave him the aspect of one who might be spoken of as "a bit of a lad." He was listening, patiently enough, to a homily from his uncle.
"You see, Patrick, you have it in you to be a young rip, a blood, a chocktaw—something a little out of hand. Your father never succeeded in sowing all the wild oats he had to sow, and your poor mother—God bless her sweet memory—was one of the wild Irish, if ever there was one. In some respects, I think, it's possibly a good thing for you that they died when you were a baby, for though you would have had the most charming of parents—they were both good follows—you'd have found your father's pace a little too hot, and your mother's sympathies demoralising."
The young man looked up, wonderingly.
"How so, Uncle Jack—how could that be?"
"She was a good woman, your mother, but she loved a scamp, and to her, for that reason, all scamps were excusable. I don't know how many times she sheltered and helped young fellows who outraged all the conventions, or how many elopements she didn't counsel and assist. She was for ever doing some young villain a good turn—or backing him up in a bad one."
"I'll wager she was ably seconded by her brother-in-law," laughed the nephew.
"Nonsense. I was more than once one of her victims. She ran me into helping people I'd never have given a thought to by myself. I don't mean to help with money, altogether. It was rather standing between them and somebody's just wrath. Damme, I once came near getting cashiered over one of her proteges—a worthless one, too, if ever there was one."
"No. Not to-night. Some other time, perhaps. I've too much to say to you, Pat, my boy, that cannot wait. Perhaps to-night will be the last chance that I may have. You know, my boy, you're going a long way from me—and even if you are a young devil, and an unlicked cub, and all that, you're all I've got of my own."
He laid his hand affectionately on the young man's knee, and the latter seized it and wrung it with fervor. He said nothing, but there was a look in his eyes that the older man recognised and understood.
"You're all I've got, Patrick," he went on, "and I was very fond of your poor father and your dear mother. So I want to have some serious talk with you this last evening here."
"Anything you like, uncle. Hot and strong as you wish it."
Colonel Cartwright laughed.
"I have cursed you sufficiently often for you to understand my opinion of you, haven't I? It has not been expressed flatteringly, at times. But I'm only blessing you to-night, my boy. Altogether, I think I may say I've been glad to have you. Your parents might have left me a worse legacy. You've been an entertainment at times. God knows—for I never knew a youngster who practised original sin with more originality."
"And I've never heard of an uncle or a guardian who was a better fellow, sir. You've treated me like a man—ever since I wore a bib and tucker."
"Well, well, Pat—there's something about a lifetime under arms that teaches you how to deal with other men. You learn, above all else, to respect manliness. And I think that, however you've fallen short of being the model boy and young man, you have, at any rate, never wanted in manliness. That's a comfort. When I think of some of the young fops whom I encounter at White's, or in the other coffee-houses, or at Ranelagh or Epsom, I am filled with thankfulness that you haven't become such as they are. Poodle-dogs, scent-bottles, fan-carriers! Pet monkeys. No, you've got the makings of a man in you—very likely of a good man. But there's a devil of a lot of good picking for the devil in you, my boy!"
"Well, yes. Uncle Jack—possibly. But——"
The colonel held up his hand to discourage interruption, and went on.
"Some things you have in your character that will develop with the years—and some things you'll have to sit on all your life. But come into my study. Will you carry in the table? Marvel's getting old, and he's a little clumsy when the light fades. Eyes beginning to go, I fancy. But he's the prince of butlers still. No one like him. Can trust him with anything. Come in, Patrick, my boy—I have something to show you—something that has to do with your future, so far as I am able to control it."
They entered the house, and passed through the hall into the library. At the farther end of this large apartment a door opened into a smaller room. An ancient serving man—Marvel, the butler—was drawing the curtains across the mullioned windows as they came in. Already he had lighted candles upon the table and in brass sconces of a curious Eastern design that were affixed to the walls. The room was bright and cosy-looking, evidently the snug sanctum of the master of the house. Side by side, above the mantelpiece, hung two portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds—the one of an exceedingly beautiful, fair-haired woman with laughing eyes, the other that of a bold-looking, handsome man in naval uniform, which might have served as a prophecy of what young Patrick Cartwright would be in another twenty years.
"Ah, Marvel," the colonel addressed the old servant, "making ready for us, eh? The evenings are drawing in, to be sure—'tis scarce eight o'clock yet, and already the light is failing. Ah, well, September marks the change of the seasons, and 'twon't be long before you'll have to light your fires o' nights again."
'"Tis so, indeed, y'r honor," said the old man, in a tone that was serious enough to have been used in assenting to some dismal prediction of impending calamity. He turned from the window, and shuffled hesitatingly towards his master, standing by the table in the centre of the room. When he spoke his voice sank to a wheezy whisper, and the expression on his lined old face was one of sombre anxiety. "Y'r honor," he half mumbled, "if you please, your honor, he's back in the village again. Came there last night, sir, an' I misdoubt he's up to no good. I've made bold to tell y'r honor so soon's I've heard the news. Young Jimmy, the gardener's lad, has just been a-telling me of him. He nigh killed a man at the Red Lion yesternight."
The colonel turned and faced his butler. His nephew saw the quick change that came over the expression of his handsome face-the sudden look of anxious concern that seemed to age it quickly. It appeared to make him look years older, to have in it something of a sort of haunted fear that was altogether foreign to its usually jovial optimism and the expression of a kind of jaunty dignity that was its commonest characteristic. When he spoke, it was in a low tone of almost hopeless resignation.
"Again, Marvel! Well, well. I never thought that he'd come back from America. And he's at the Red Lion? Drinking, I suppose—oh, of course, he's drinking. He'd hardly be his mother's son if he were not. You said he nearly killed someone?"
"Tom Beazeley, y'r honor, so young Jimmy told me. Tom Beazeley, th' poacher. They had a fight over some foolish matter—some bet, or something. An' Tom's got a broken head an' three ribs stove in, so young Jimmy says. Doctor Horne—he does take a ser'ous view o' th' case, so 'tis said, and be of opinion 'twill need all Tom's hardihood for to pull through, after such a beatin' as he's had. A powerful man, Tom, but seeming he's met a powerfuller. Ah, y'r honor," the old man's voice quavered. "I knowed well th' villain 'd come back again. That sort never gets shook off for good—never. Think ye he'll come here, y'r honor?"
"Nothing more certain, Marvel. 'Tis his only object in coming to the village. I should not wonder if we had him here to-night. Well, you must tell him, Marvel, that I refuse to see him. If he wishes to communicate with me he must do it through my lawyers, Messrs. Partridge and Cooper, of Gray's Inn, in London. I'll not see him again. Make that clear to him. You understand?"
The old man nodded, shaking his head. He hobbled to the door leading into the library, and paused, with his hand on the knob. Tears were running down his furrowed cheeks. Falteringly, he spoke before he went out.
"Oh, Master Jack, Master Jack, 'twas trouble, indeed, ye planted thirty-two year agone. A bitter reapin', a bitter reapin'!"
Colonel Cartwright sank into an armchair, his head bowed, and eyes staring at the carpet, whilst his nephew stood by the mantelpiece, regarding him with troubled concern. It was something he did not understand, but it was easy to see that his uncle was face to face with some old sorrowful thing that brought back bitter memories. There was a real bond of affectionate regard between the young man and his senior, and Patrick Cartwright had a helpless sense of somehow failing his uncle in a crisis. But he could not meddle with an affair that the elder man might regard as no concern of his. He must wait until his uncle took him into his confidence. So he kept silent and waited.
Presently the colonel looked up at him and spoke.
"Pat," he said. "'Tis a strange thing—a strange thing, indeed, that the very matter as to which I meant to speak to you to-night should have come up in such a manner as this. Ye'll have been wondering what all this is about, who this fellow is that gives old Marvel and myself so much concern? Well, presently I'll tell you. 'Tis a story I would have had to tell you sooner or later, and, indeed, to-night I was going to take you into my confidence, even if the news that Marvel brings had not been forthcoming in this queer fashion. 'Tis the story of the trouble of my life. The skeleton in my cupboard. The bitter curse of my existence. I pray God that you may have nothing like it in yours. Sit down over there, Patrick. My tale will take some time. Yes, smoke by all means."
Pat Cartwright sat himself down in an easy chair on the other side of the table, and waited for his uncle to begin. There was nothing for him to say—though he was greatly troubled by the colonel's obvious distress, and anxious to learn what was the occasion of it. Perhaps when he understood it be might be able to do something. But there was nothing that he could do or say whilst he was altogether is the dark concerning it.
After he had filled and lit a churchwarden pipe and was settled again in his chair, his uncle began:—
"Listen now, Pat, my boy, and I'll tell you the queerest story you've ever heard. Or are ever likely to hear. Even to me, sometimes, it seems to be so incredible as to be nothing else but some fantastic dream. Heavens above! I wish it were," he said with a sigh.
THE colonel rose from his chair, took a bunch of keys from his pocket, and walked over to a corner of the room where there stood a carved oak desk of that high kind that necessitates the use of a long-legged stool. He unlocked and raised the lid, and, after a few moments' search of its interior, came back to the table with a folded document of parchment, upon which was inscribed, in the legal flourishes beloved of old-time lawyer firms, "The Last Will and Testament of Lieutenant-Colonel John Magnus Cartwright, Lately of His Majesty's 46th Foot, 1786."
He smiled affectionately at his nephew, and waved the document in his direction. Long afterwards, thousands of miles away from the old Kentish manor house, Patrick Cartwright often recalled the scene in the little, dark room, its sombre paneling of ancient oak gleaming dully in the candlelight, the two portraits of his parents looking down from their position above the tall chimney-piece, the shadows in the gloomy corners advancing and receding in the uncertain illumination of the wax tapers—more than all, the wistful, kindly smile on the face of the good old soldier as he spoke. The scene always remained for him the most abiding recollection of his uncle—indeed, it was the last time that he could recall when the good old man had smiled upon him, as he pondered the events of that night of horror in the after years.
"This, Pat," said the colonel, as he drew a chair up to the table and sat down, unfolding the parchment, and spreading it out upon the level surface before him, "is the very last thing I have been able to do for one whom I have loved as if he had been my own son—indeed, for three people whom I have loved very dearly. Those two up there"—he glanced in the direction of the two portraits—"they knew what they were to me. And I am sure that their son realises what he has been, too."
He peered past the candelabrum at his nephew.
"Indeed, Uncle Jack, I do. And what you have been to me, sir."
There was a tremor of emotion in the young man's voice as he murmured the words. Long after, he remembered the strange, nervous shivering that came over him as he spoke, as though some ghostly premonition of impending evil had been vouchsafed him.
"There is nothing in particular to show you in this. It is the last will that I have made though it is as yet unsigned. My lawyers in London sent it down to me a day or so since by the mail, and to-morrow—or, rather, on the following day, for we'll arrive too late in town to call upon them to-morrow—we'll walk down to Gray's Inn and complete the business of signing and attesting it. You are my sole legatee, and everything that I possess—this house, and all the lands attached to it, my shares in the East India Company, and whatever balance may lie at my bankers, Messrs. Coutts and Company—everything goes to you. So, when I am gone, you won't altogether have to depend upon your pay in the Marines. You may exchange into the Household Brigade, if it should please you to do so, or sell out altogether—though I hope you'll not be wanting to do that—for a few years, at any rate. We have always been service men, almost ever since Naseby. You know, I'd like you to stick to the Sea Regiment, for you are a sort of compromise, as it were. Your father was a sailor, and I am a soldier. He'd have liked you to have been in his service, and I wanted you in mine, so I put you where you might be both a soldier and a sailor and do us both equal credit. Besides, I know of no better or more efficient corps than the one to which you belong. My advice to you, my boy, is to stick to your profession until, at least, you shall have gained your majority. Then, perhaps, you may step ashore and see about making arrangements to pass on the old place here to a son of your own."
"Lord, Uncle Jack! Time enough to consider my passing on the place when you are done with it! There are a good many years of your occupation of Magnus Hall yet to run. I hope so! I don't like to think of the place without you. Indeed, I refuse to do it—yet a while, anyhow."
"Well, maybe you won't have to for a few years yet, Pat, but it's as well to have everything provided for. However that may turn out, I've something else to speak about. I want to tell you that strange story I hinted at a while ago, after Marvel had gone out."
"Does it concern this mysterious 'he' the old man spoke of as having come to the village last night? I confess I am curious to learn something of him."
"It does—it very intimately concerns him. In fact, 'tis almost wholly of him that I wish to speak to you. I want to tell you, Pat—I want to tell you all about your brother—so that you may judge as to whether I am not justified in having done in the matter of this"—he laid his hand upon the will spread out before him—"as I have done!"
"My brother!" the young man exclaimed with astonishment. "My brother, sir! I have no brother. You must be jesting, surely!"
Colonel Cartwright sighed, and made a gesture of weariness with his hand.
"I wish it were a jest—though, maybe it is—a jest of God's!"
"But I thought that there had only been two of us, uncle—my little sister Nelly, who died before I can remember her, and myself. We were the only children my mother bore—I've always understood that. Is it not so?"
"Yes. You and your sister—Heaven bless the memory of that sweet angel—were your mother's only offspring. But not your father's. This fellow had another mother—a she-devil!"
Ensign Cartwright leaned back in his chair, frankly puzzled.
"Then my father was married twice? This man is older than I?"
"No, not married, Pat. Not married. Thank God. I was able to prevent that."
"Prevent it? How?"
"By marrying the woman myself."
"Lord, uncle, I am all at sea!"
"Patience, Patrick, and I will tell you everything. But mix yourself some brandy and water, and pass me one, too. I am dry with talking."
The young man stood up, and walked across to a little table bearing glasses and a decanter. He poured out the spirit and the water silently, placed the colonel's tumbler at his elbow, and raised his own glass towards his uncle.
"Your good health, sir!"
Colonel Cartwright nodded his acknowledgement, and turned his gaze upon the portrait of his brother, wistfully, as though he were appealing in some fashion to him.
"Sit down, Pat, and I'll tell you all about it. It won't take very long. Sit down and listen to what I have to say."
With an appearance of deep mystification, the young man seated himself again. Colonel Cartwright began to speak in a low tone, as if what he had to say were something whose saying was infinitely distasteful.
"As I have told you, Pat, your poor father was a bit of a scamp. That is not to say that he was in any way a rogue, or that, after his own erratic fashion, he was not an honorable man. He was careless, maybe a little thoughtless as to the interests of those who were near and dear to him—perhaps selfish in his carelessness. But he was a fine seaman, and a brave man—one of those captains who have made the Royal Navy what it is in our generation. I have heard Lord Rodney speak of his professional abilities and courage in the highest terms. Somehow, I always think of your father as having had two distinct personalities. He must have been absolutely a different man afloat to that which he was on shore. As the commander of a man-o'-war, he was careful, far-seeing, cool, at the same time bold and prudent. When he was on land he was a spendthrift, a rake, and a gambler, besides being the very maddest and most harum-scarum fellow it has ever been my fortune to run across. There were no bounds to his extravagances—no limit to his follies."
Involuntarily the son looked up at his father's portrait, and the old man followed his glance.
"Yes," he went on; "there is true genius in that painting of Sir Joshua's. I always think that, besides being an excellent likeness of him at about the time of his marriage, it portrays the two sides of dear Dick's extraordinary character. To anyone who knew him, there are the two sorts of men that he undoubtedly was—the fearless, keen, able naval officer, and the wild lunatic that he was ashore. To me, the one is as apparent in the picture as the other. Ah, well, I did not set out to discuss the curious contradictions in your father's character—so I'll come to the point at once. Whatever he was, I loved him—and I know that he loved me. Of course, as you know, he was the eldest son, and Magnus Hall was his inheritance. But there was no entail, and he left everything he had to me—your mother having died before him, when you were quite a little chap."
Colonel Cartwright paused for a moment to drain his glass, and then continued.
"Thirty-two or thirty-three years ago your father was in command of the frigate Helena, and came back to Chatham from the Mediterranean, after three years' hard and constant service, to pay off. At his own request—for he was never long unemployed—the people at the Admiralty placed him upon half-pay. He said that he was sick of the sea—for a while, at any rate—and wanted a spell ashore. So he came here in the summer of '55 or '56—I forget exactly which—for a few months' holiday. And I can tell you, he did indeed make a holiday of it, with a vengeance."
"Well, there was a woman in Rochester, a Mrs. Sarah Mortimer, a very gay lady indeed. Handsome as they make them she was—and bad and vicious as, fortunately, they are not often made. She was the wife of a lieutenant who was serving in the West Indies, and it was no time before your father was as badly entangled with her as it was possible to be. In the midst of all the fine business, Mortimer comes home, and there were terrible doings, which ended in a duel, and the death of Mortimer. They fought with swords, and your father, who was a splendid swordsman, did his utmost to spare his adversary—but he would not be spared, and was finally run through the body and killed.
"You may imagine what a to-do there was. It was well known that poor Mortimer—insane with rage and jealousy—had left your father with no option but to fight—he'd have been kicked out of the Navy, ignominiously, if he hadn't. Why, the angry husband struck him in the Dockyard, in the presence of his officers and crew—it was on the quay-side alongside the Helena where it happened. And there wasn't the prejudice against duelling that there is now. Mortimer was determined to have a meeting—he even spat in Dick's face. The affair was inevitable.
"But the scandal about Mrs. Mortimer was too glaring even for your father, who cared very little about other people's comments on his private life—there was never anything but praise for his public one, as the commander of a King's ship. So he resigned his commission, and went across to Ireland, intending to remain there, hunting and shooting, until the affair should have been forgotten. Besides, he wanted to cut loose from that vile woman.
"That sort of infatuation never lasts long—the very intensity of the fever burns out. He put her out of mind when he crossed St. George's Channel—but she didn't do the same by him. He was too good a mark, and there were, besides—not unnaturally—plenty of people who sympathised with her, regarded her as a grossly-wronged woman, and your father as the very prince of blackguards and most unscrupulous seducer of virtue.
"He had not been in Ireland more than three months when—not to my astonishment, for nothing he did astonished me, knowing him as I did—I received a letter from him announcing his impending marriage, and begging me to join him in Dublin without delay. Of course, I scented another complication of the Mortimer sort, and hurried across to Ireland, determined, if I could, to save the situation somehow. But when I met your dear mother, I saw at once that no better thing could happen than their marriage—at least, so far as he was concerned. And one only had to know that splendid woman to realise that she would probably reform him and keep him faithful to their great love. She did this, indeed—for though in most respects he remained an incorrigible reprobate afterwards, until the end of his days, he never looked at another woman but her—that is to say, not in the way he had been wont to look at them.
"I left them in Ireland—having only very short leave from my regiment, which was then stationed at Hounslow—and hurried back to London. And then I learned that, every day for a week past, a lady had been calling upon me at my quarters, with an insistent demand that she must see me. My soldier-servant—'twas old Marvel—told her that I might be back any day, as he knew my leave was short, and the regiment was under orders for India. So every morning found her seated in my room, and the day that I reported myself to the adjutant, there she was awaiting me. 'Twas Mrs. Mortimer.
"Indeed, she was very handsome, and her widow's weeds became her. A pitiful tale she had too—and I was very young. She had a way with her, that wanton—for I was to learn bitterly enough that she was naught else—and was a born actress. That's what she had been before the unfortunate Mortimer had married her. Well, to be brief, she informed me that she expected to become a mother, and there was no doubt as to the paternity of the child—her husband having been in the West Indies three years. Dick was undoubtedly the father—though afterwards I had my suspicions. Well, I"—the old man shook his head sorrowfully—"I did a very foolish thing. I—I married her!"
Patrick Cartwright sat bolt upright in his chair, and stared at his uncle.
"Good Gad, Uncle Jack! In the name of Heaven, why did you do such a thing? Damme—why?"
"Well, Patrick—as I've said, I was very young. And your father was more to me than any man in the world. Moreover, I had fallen under the enchantment of your dear mother. I'd have cut my head off to have saved her a moment of pain. Yes, in less than a month I had given that woman the shelter of my name. I suppose I did it for their sakes," he said, quietly, fixing his eyes upon the two portraits. "And, I think—now that I'm coming to the end of my life—I'm not sorry. Yes—I think I'm not sorry. God bless them both!"
The younger man stood up, and walked round the table to Colonel Cartwright's side. He held out his hand, and the old man took it, and patted it with his left one.
"Uncle—you were splendid! By Gad, though—hullo, what's all this?"
There was a sound of excited voices in the hall, that quickly came into the library—Marvel's querulous protests against the entry of some stranger, and the harsh and angry tones of someone who was determined to come in.
"I tell 'ee, th' colonel give me strict orders not for to let 'ee in, Mr. Mortimer. He says he'll not see——"
"Oh, to hell with you, you old fool! Get out of my way. Where is he—in the study?"
A flash of black wrath darkened Colonel Cartwright's handsome features. He rose to his feet, and strode to the door between the study and the library.
"Come with me, Patrick," he said. "I'll soon give this fellow his route. The villain! To dare to force an entrance in such a fashion!"
Pat Cartwright followed his uncle into the library, on a table in which, that was lighted with candles in silver sticks, and stood in a corner near the further door, supper had been laid for the colonel and his nephew. Snowy tablecloth and silver stood out against the gloom of the big room, and in the circle of candlelight, it seemed to Pat Cartwright, his father stood scowling and defiant, with the old butler hovering behind in the shade, his hands upraised in protest.
"Richard Mortimer—leave my house instant! How do you dare to return to England? Go, I say——"
"Mortimer be———, you infernal old villain. You know my name's the same as yours. See here, father—I am in trouble. I had to chastise a fellow last night in the inn, and the fool's died. I want money to get away to France. And quickly. The constables are after me now. I must escape at once. Come, come—there's no time to argue."
"Not if five pounds would save you from the hangman should you have it, you scoundrel. You have robbed me, and forged my name. I held my hand on the condition you remained in America. Go! Not a penny of mine shall you have to save you from destruction. I have done with you. Ah, God—look out, Patrick!"
So suddenly and instantaneously did the thing happen that it was over before Pat Cartwright realised what had happened. He saw the fierce hatred in the stranger's face—his father's face, the face of the picture, it seemed to him—there was the report of a pistol shot, a haze of acrid smoke, a second or two later the crash of breaking glass, as the murderer plunged through one of the windows looking into the garden, and, after a moment of deadly silence, old Marvel's scream:—
"My Gad, he's killed the colonel!"
THERE was a November fog in Holborn when Lieutenant Patrick Cartwright turned out of the gloom of the busy thoroughfare into the deeper murkiness of Gray's Inn. A day or two after that tragic evening at Magnus Hall, he had received an intimation from the authorities that his first step in rank had been accorded him. It was the only bright incident in a week that was the unhappiest in his short life.
Beneath the archway of the entrance to the Inn, it was as dark as the blackest midnight, and he groped his way with difficulty into the square, on one side of which he sought the offices of his uncle's solicitors, Messrs. Partridge and Cooper, who were now his own, and with whom, if he could hope to find them, he had important business this particular morning. It was damp and chill in the square, and the opaque brown mist, with its slightly acid taste and mouldy smell, hid every wall and window, and muffled all sounds, so that he had not progressed many paces before he recognised the inevitable fact that he was lost.
"——- it!" he muttered to himself. "It has been hard enough to get here from the Golden Cross, and now, it seems, I'm as far away as ever!"
Ten minutes or more he groped his way through the fog, without ever, as it were, reaching any shore. At length he called loudly for assistance, in the hope that some friendly pilot might chance to be at hand. Almost immediately a glow of bright light suffused the turgid vapors on his right-hand side, he became aware that a door had opened in some unseen wall beside him, and in the blurred rectangle he was able dimly to make out the form of a stout being who answered his call.
"Hullo, there, hullo!" Mr. Cartwright thought he had never heard a more welcome sound than the bellow that echoed through the archway—for he recognised that he was back, after all his wanderings, near to the Holborn entrance.
"Hullo yourself," he called back. "Who are you, and have you any notion how I can find my way to Messrs. Partridge and Cooper? Their offices are on the side of the square almost directly opposite to the gateway. Is this the porter's lodge?"
"Aye, master—ye've travelled back to where ye came in. Bide there a moment, an' I'll find the way for ye. 'Tis middlin' bleak, an' no mistake about it."
In a few moments the glow from within the lodge seemed to overflow out into the darkness of the archway, and the burly porter stood beside Mr. Cartwright, with a flaring link in his hand—the only sort of light, even in these electric days, that seems to have any influence with a London fog.
"Come now, master—we shan't be long now. Will ye please to folly me? Take a grip o' my coat tails, else ye'll be adrift again. Partridge an' Cooper, ye said? Ah, that's an easy one. We'll not be long findin' them out."
With some wonderful sense of direction which Patrick envied, the porter steered straight across through the fog. He never hesitated, and in less than a minute pushed open a door and guided his passenger in. Dimly, Patrick could perceive a staircase leading up to a feeble glow of light. In his gratitude for this deliverance from the fog, he presented the porter with half-a-crown, and so earned the esteem of that cheerful individual as to interest him in the problem of Mr. Cartwright's escape from the Inn when he should have concluded his business.
"How long will ye be, master? I'll come back, if ye'll say when ye'll want me. An hour's time? I don't mind a-waitin' a few minutes for sich a free-handed gent as you be, Cap'n. Not by no means!"
Groping his way up the dim staircase, which was faintly lighted by a dim oil lamp on the landing above, Patrick Cartwright found himself outside the offices of Messrs. Partridge and Cooper. Knocking at the door, he was bidden to enter from within, and did so.
The large room at the other side of the door was yellow with the infiltrating fog, and candles gleamed dully on each desk and table occupied by the half-dozen clerks who made up the staff of the firm. He inquired for Mr. Partridge, and a rubicund gentleman who was bending over a ledger at the back of the office turned and looked at him. A jolly-looking fellow he was, in buckskin pantaloons and pumps, and he smiled in a friendly way as he advanced towards the door.
"Hey, hey—what's that?" he said. "Partridge's dead—been dead ten years. Quite dead. No prospect of his coming to life, either. But I'm Cooper, my dear sir—John Cooper, at your service. In fact, I may say, I'm Partridge and Cooper. What can we do for you, sir?"
"My name is Cartwright, sir—Patrick Cartwright. I think you were expecting me to call?"
"Hey, hey! Oh, ah—yes. Mr. Cartwright. Mr. Patrick Cartwright. Lieutenant Cartwright, of the Royal Marines. Like your mother. Indeed, yes—very like. Not so like Captain Dick—but a little, a little. Do come in, Mr. Patrick. This way, if you please—my private room. Hey, hey—delighted to see you. Delighted."
With a great display of natural good humor, the stout little gentleman threw open a door, and signed to the young officer to enter. It was a cosy apartment, with two arm-chairs in front of a blazing fire, a fine carpet upon the floor, a big pedestal desk in the middle of the room, and bright with the light of quite a dozen candles that were disposed on mantelshelf, desk, and various points of vantage.
"Hey, hey—sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Plenty to say to me, I've no doubt. And I've something to say to you. Have they got that villain yet? No! Too bad, too bad—he should be disembowelled. Horrible crime—utter baseness. When did you come to town, Mr. Patrick?"
"Yesterday evening, Mr. Cooper. I am on my way to Portsmouth, but am staying in London for a few days. I have come to see you as early as I possibly could. There was much to attend to at Magnus Hall, as you might suppose."
"Hey, hey—yes, no doubt. Pray sit down in front of the fire, Mr. Patrick. You are extraordinarily like your mother. A dear woman. We will talk matters over. Frightful weather—detestable fog. Hope you are well?"
Patrick seated himself in one of the big chairs before the fire, and Mr. Cooper installed himself in the other. He seemed to be a cheery soul, not in the least like the typical attorney of the time—who was very much the dry-as-dust man of business—but belonged to a class with which our hero had had hitherto little acquaintance. Mr. Cooper might have looked his part better as the host of some cheerful inn, or the chairman of some festive and hilarious gathering, where there was singing, and tobacco smoke, and many bowls of steaming punch. His jovial manner put Patrick at his ease at once, and he formed a notion that whatever business Mr. Cooper might be called upon to transact, it would not be done drearily.
"Well, now," the little lawyer began, "tell me exactly what happened that terrible evening. Hey, hey—never had such a shock in my life as when I had your letter. But you didn't tell me much, you know. Quite natural, indeed. Too upset—too much to do. Fearful calamity. And to think that the villain should have escaped! Had you no chance of laying hands upon him?"
"It seemed to happen in an instant," said Patrick. "My uncle was in the act of telling me of my father and Mrs. Mortimer, and was going on to say something of this fellow, when we heard old Marvel trying to keep someone out who insisted upon seeing my uncle. Of course, he at once recognised the voice of the stranger, and jumped up from his chair in a passion, calling on me to follow him. We went out into the library, and Mortimer immediately demanded money to escape to France. He had had some kind of row with a man at the inn in the village the night before, and the man had died as the result of the fight which ensued. Marvel had heard of the affair—though not that the man was dead—and had told us about it when we came into the study at dusk."
"Hey, hey! Well—and what then?"
"My uncle was furious at his having forced his way in, reminded him that he had allowed him to go to America unmolested, after robbing him and forging his name, said that he would not give him a penny, and commanded him to leave the house."
"And then it happened. He flashed a pistol, fired at my uncle, and killed him immediately. He dropped dead where he stood. Mortimer made a run for the window, jumped clean through the glass, and escaped to the garden. I sprang after him. As I jumped, he fired a second pistol at me—fortunately missing me and ran off into the darkness. I followed for a little way in the direction I thought he had gone, but it was too dark. I lost him. We traced him in the morning, down the bank of the Medway. I think he must have swum across, and made his way to the coast—possibly to Deal or Dover. At any rate, not a trace of him was found in the neighborhood. I fear he has escaped!"
"And the colonel—he was quite dead? Hey, hey!"
"When I gave up the chase, I hurried back to the house to see to my uncle—but there was nothing to be done—he was quite dead. Shot clean through the heart. I sent Marvel to summon assistance, and, with the aid of the groom and the gardener, we carried the body upstairs, and laid it in his bedroom. Then though it was no use—I sent to the village for Dr. Simmons, who, when he came, could only confirm my uncle's death. It was a fearfully sudden business—I don't suppose the ruffian had been in the house five minutes when the murder was done."
"Hey, hey! Dear me—dreadful! What unspeakable wickedness and ingratitude. To kill that good man, who had done so much for him! Terrible! But he was a bad breed, Dick Mortimer. Had all his father's bad qualities, and none of his good. And every one of his mother's bad one's, too. She had no good qualities, that woman—unless her beauty might count as such—and it was her most fatal snare. Of course, I came in contact with her more than once—and in some respects she was able to get on the soft side of me. But Bob Partridge was always too much for her."
"Yes. A sour fellow, Bob. Not a bit like me—a pitiful tale always moves me to some foolishness or other. Bob could listen to anything, and then be as disagreeable as if he had never heard a word. The lovely Sarah found him a thorn in her side more than once, I assure you."
For a little while neither of them spoke. Mr. Cooper lay back in his chair, gazing into the fire with knitted brow, as though he pondered something that was not altogether an agreeable consideration. Patrick looked at the blank, brown oblong of the window framing the darkness of the fog. At length the lawyer asked a question.
"Tell me, Patrick—you do not mind the familiarity, do you? I've known of you since you wore a pinafore, and your dear mother used to call me Johnny boy. Tell me this. Did your uncle show you his new will?"
"Yes. That evening, just before his death. He took it out of his desk to explain to me that he had left me all his property. We were coming up here on the following day, where he was going to sign it."
Mr. Cooper sat up, a startled look on his plump countenance.
"Hey, hey—what's that? Do you mean to tell me that the will is not signed?"
"No. As I've said, he meant to bring it up to your office here, in order to complete it."
With a look of consternation, the little man rose to his feet, and took a couple of turns up and down the room before he spoke.
"Hey, hey—how unfortunate! Good heavens—that he should have been so careless! A will, my dear sir, should be signed as soon as possible after it has been drawn up—no man ever knows what the next half-hour is going to do to him. Your poor uncle is a case in point. Lord—if he had only signed it as soon as he received it!"
Patrick stared at Mr. Cooper, a little astonished at the sudden change that had come over him. All his jollity had disappeared. He was troubled and anxious, and looked sorrowfully at his young client. He took up his stand on the hearth-rug, and stared down compassionately at Patrick.
"Hey, hey—this is bad! Very bad. The worst possible thing that you could have told me."
"How so, Mr. Cooper?"
"Well, it simply means this. You have nothing."
Mr. Cooper nodded solemnly. He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, and opened an iron-bound chest that stood in a corner of the room. From it he took a folded document—Patrick recalled his uncle's action on the night of the tragedy—and held it open before him, studying it gravely.
"Hey, hey!" he sighed—Mr. Cooper expressed his feelings completely by the tone of his "hey, heys." "Yes, all in order. Duly signed, witnessed, and fully completed. Unassailable—quite unquestionable. Dear me—what a comedy! What a bitter comedy."
He sat down again, folding up the parchment.
"It is thirty years," he said, "since Colonel Cartwright made this will—nearly twenty since he determined to alter it. And it's never been altered. Time after time—year after year—almost on every occasion when we discussed business, I have begged him to let me take instructions for the new will that he had decided upon making after your father's death, when you came into his charge. But he hated business, and was, I fear, a little prone to procrastination in all things. Somehow, it was always put off, on one excuse or another. Only lately, when I jokingly threatened to wash my hands of his affairs altogether, was I able to prevail upon him to take the matter seriously, and to devote a few days to seeing how his possessions stood. A will was drawn up, which you have seen at Magnus Hall, by which you came into everything he had. It is a terrible misfortune that he did not sign it at once. Hey, hey—terrible! For this old one I have in my hand states unambiguously that all he had—it was not very much then was to go to Richard Cartwright, known as Richard Mortimer. And so this ruffian who has murdered him is his heir. He will never be able to enjoy it—since the very proof of his identity is all that is requisite to ensure his hanging—but no more will you. Indeed, Patrick, I am truly sorry—but there it is! Hey, hey!"
FOR a few moments Patrick did not speak. It was not that he did not appreciate the extent of his loss—but for the life of him he could not get himself into what he supposed to be the right frame of mind in which to contemplate such a disaster. It was serious enough to Mr. Cooper, he could see, to constitute an irreparable one.
"You take it very quietly," said the lawyer.
"Oh, well, I suppose there's not much use taking it any other way. It won't alter the fact, will it?"
"Hey, hey—no, of course not. You're right not to let it cast you down, Patrick. But if I had lost two or three thousand a year, to say nothing of a fine house and a considerable quantity of good land—well, my dear sir, I think I should be inclined to—possibly—relieve my feelings by swearing. Hey, hey—yes. I think I should be inclined to be a little profane."
Patrick looked up and laughed.
"Damn!" he said. Mr. Cooper laughed also.
"You've your mother's cheerfulness," he chuckled. "Hey, hey—best way, after all, perhaps. 'Tis a serious set-back—but you're not quite penniless, you know. You have the income of the little fortune your mother left you, of course. It hasn't been touched these years past, and it's safe in Consols. Just a moment, till I look up what it is."
He rose and went to his desk, before which he seated himself, and pulled open a drawer. After a moment or two of search, he extracted a book and laid it open upon the desk. For a few minutes he figured busily with a lead pencil, whilst Patrick stood in front of the fire, vaguely wondering why he could not feel more sorry for himself than he did.
Presently Mr. Cooper looked up, smiling.
"Hey, hey!'" he remarked cheerily. "Not so bad—not so bad at all. As near as I can make out, roughly, you will have an income of about two hundred and fifty pounds per annum. Might easily be worse off! Hey, hey—yes!"
"Yes! about that. Maybe a little more. But not less. Well, that will not come amiss as an addition to your pay in the Marines. Why, you might even marry on it, when you have attained your captaincy. Lots of young fellows in the service are not so well off. So cheer up."
Smiling, Patrick intimated to his lawyer that he was not downcast.
"I know I should be," he said, "and I suppose I am, to some extent. But, do you know, Mr. Cooper, the thing that seems the greatest pity is that my uncle's wishes should be nullified in this manner. It is such an absurd affair, in a way. I know he wanted me to have the place, and see to its welfare, and all that—and here, by the queerest sort of fate, all his plans are upset, and everything goes to the last man on earth whom he designed to have it. Can't you tell me something about this half-brother of mine? I know nothing of either himself or his mother, except what my uncle told me on the night of his death—and it wasn't very much. I think he meant to tell me all about him, and why he regarded him with such disfavor—but he had only really expressed his dislike of him to old Marvel in my presence—when he said that he would not see him on any account, and that, if he wished to communicate with him, it would have to be through your firm. Have you time to enlighten my ignorance a little?"
"Hey, hey—of course, yes. Quite right that you should know. Of course, if this fellow comes to his deserts, or otherwise dies, you, as the next-of-kin to him—nominally, you are his cousin—you come in for the estate. Yes I will tell you all I can."
He left the desk, and came over to the fire-place. Suddenly Patrick remembered something, and sprang up.
"Pray excuse me a moment, Mr. Cooper." He walked towards the door.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"I'd forgotten the porter. He was to show me the way back into Holborn. I'll just dismiss him, or tell him to come back later on."
"Oh, one of the clerks will do that—just open the door, will you? James," he called into the other room—"run downstairs and tell that Joe Mumford 'tis no use waiting. Sit down, then, Patrick, and I'll tell you about this precious mother and son."
"My uncle told me something about my father's entanglement with this Mrs. Mortimer, Mr. Cooper; about the duel with her husband, and how he married her. He had just got so far when we were interrupted by Mortimer himself."
"Hey, hey—he did, did he? Well, did you ever hear such a story! A most unbelievable piece of quixotism! He actually took upon himself all the consequences that should rightly have been borne by your father as the result of his folly. Amazing. Admirable, in a way, and yet foolish. But he had a great regard for your mother, and that's why he did it. Devoted to your father, of course, too—devoted to both of them. Well, I'll go on where he left off. Where had he got to, did you say?"
"Just to his marriage with this woman."
"Hey, hey—ah, yes. Well, he married her, and from that time out until she drank herself to death your good uncle never knew a moment's peace. She gave him a dog's life. Look ye, Patrick—I'm a peaceable, easy-going fellow—but I verily believe that I'd have choked that woman had I been in his place and called upon to endure what he put up with from her."
"Was she so very bad, then?"
"Bad. Hey, hey! 'Bad's' too mild a term. She was a she-devil, who'd have been too much for Old Nick himself. Your uncle was obliged, of course, to take her to India when he went there with his regiment, and his life out there with her was one long succession of sordid and disgusting scandals. She was an absolute wanton—one of those women to whom the word 'chastity' means nothing at all. You see? You understand what his life must have been? A hell upon earth. Hey, hey—yes, Frightful!"
"Great heavens! How long did he endure it?"
"Until she died. It was a merciful thing that she eventually managed to kill herself with drink—but he had ten years of it. Hey, hey—the most miserable tale that was ever told. But drink and opium finished her off at last—in most degraded circumstances. She was found dead one morning in some awful den in the native quarter. It was a release for your uncle—a most blessed release—for, of course, he'd been more or less cut off for years from his own kind. While he stuck to her—and that he did, most loyally—he was naturally unwelcome in the homes of his brother officers. It was impossible that he could associate with them. He was really an outcast from society on her account. And I am told by men who knew him at this time that never a word of complaint or lamentation for himself would ever pass his lips. He was a fine soldier, and devoted to his profession—'twas a marvellous thing how he could give his mind to it, under such a burden as he had to put up with. At the time of her death he had just come into the command of the regiment—but he told me once that, had she lived any longer, he'd have had to sell out. The position was impossible."
"And the boy—this child of my father's?"
"Of all the misbegotten scoundrels that have ever been inflicted upon the world, he was surely the very worst. Hey, hey! From his tenderest years—if such a congenital young ruffian can be said to have had any years of tenderness—he was a very epitome of villainy. He did the most devilish things as a little boy. Tortured kittens for amusement. Caught small birds, and set fire to their feathers, letting them fly away blazing. Did horrible things to cows and horses, for the beastly satisfaction of inflicting pain. He attempted to stab his nurse when he was only seven years old. Oh, a sweet little pet—a lovable child, to be sure. Hey, hey! One might almost say that his very life's blood was undiluted sinfulness."
"What on earth could my poor uncle do with him?"
"Well, he had to put up with him whilst his mother lived. But he was for ever involved in some trouble concerning him. He did awful things—unmentionable, depraved things—you follow me? I remember your uncle saying to me, here in this room one day, when he had brought him home to be put to school: 'Look ye, Cooper, there have been times when I could have loaded a pistol and blown the young monster's wicked brains out. He'll come to a gibbet yet.'"
"By heavens," ejaculated Patrick; "if I can do aught to bring him there, he'll swing!"
"Hey, hey—yes. I've no doubt you'll yet come into your inheritance through the good offices of Jack Ketch."
"Oh, believe me, I wasn't thinking of that, Mr. Cooper."
"Hey, hey—I know you weren't, Patrick, my boy. I know you weren't. 'Tis this last villainy that embitters one. To slay so callously his benefactor—the man who saved him from being nameless. 'Tis that that angers a man."
"It is, indeed. But, pray proceed, Mr. Cooper."
"Well, he brought him home with him, and put him to school—a preparatory school for the sons of gentlemen, at Twickenham. He'd not been there a fortnight before the proprietor of the establishment wrote to the colonel to remove him. He had never, he said, had to do with such a consummate young scoundrel. I forget exactly how many schools your uncle sent him to—but it was the same with all of them. He was invariably expelled, after a few weeks. It was about this time that Colonel Cartwright determined that he was not fit to bear the name. He came to me one day—very depressed and downcast—and said, 'Look here, Cooper, that young blackguard's my dear brother Dick's son, and I was fool enough to give his mother the shelter of my name. But he's not going to disgrace it any further. I'll still provide for him, but he'll bear his mother's name in future. I don't want ours to figure too prominently in the Newgate Calendar.' So the estimable young gentleman practised his villainies henceforth under the name of Mortimer. Hey, hey—and he has practised them with a will!"
"And what did my uncle do with him then—when none of the schoolmasters would stand him?"
"He had to employ a man to look after him. At first he hired tutors—young men from Oxford and Cambridge—but, hey hey—he was too much for them. As it had been with the schools, so it was with the tutors—they could not stand more than a few weeks of him. So, in despair, the colonel came to me and implored me to advise him what to do. Hey hey—I was all for turning the young varmint adrift, throwing him out, sending him to sea in a King's ship, perhaps. But this the colonel would not hear of. A most sentimental man your uncle was—God bless him! Just because he had your father's blood in his veins, he would not abandon him to his inevitable fate—the fate of a pre-destined gallows-bird."
"And what did you advise as an alternative to getting rid of him?"
"Hey, hey—I thought I was very clever. I said to the colonel, 'I'll get you the right sort of man for him.' So I sent for old Tom Lennox an ex-prizefighter—I was rather keen on the ring in those days—and told Tom all about him, and how he was to knock the stuffing out of his estimable charge, to be as brutal with him as was necessary to tame him. Hey hey—do you know—he tried to poison Tom Lennox—and nearly succeeded. Oh, he had murder in him, even in those days!"
"And what was done with him when he became a man?"
"Hey, hey—by that time the colonel wouldn't have him at Magnus Hall at all. Too dangerous—the maids, you know. So he got him employment in a merchant's office in Liverpool. Here, of course, he distinguished himself in his usual style—robbed his employer, and ran away. Out of consideration for the colonel, the merchant—who was an old schoolfellow—didn't prosecute. Else he would have hanged—and 'tis a pity he didn't. Well—for years this sort of thing went on. I'll not weary you with further details. But at last he actually went down to Magnus Hall, whilst the colonel was away on the Continent, and burgled the place. He left some trace behind him that made it clear enough who the robber was. And, about the same time, he forged your uncle's name to a draft for a considerable sum of money. Well, that was too much. The colonel would not prosecute, but he got me to arrange a passage for him to America, where he would be paid £500. He was to stay there, at the risk of being proceeded against for the forgery, should he ever return. Hey, hey—you saw his return. May the infernal villain—oh, but I don't know how to curse him competently! Hey, hey—let's change the subject, my good Patrick. Tell me—what are your own plans?"
"What a devil—what a frightful brute! Mr. Cooper, if ever I have the fortune to come across this fellow—by heavens, I'll kill him like a dog!"
The young officer was silent for a while, seeming to brood unhappily over the reward his well-loved uncle had had for all his fine self-sacrifice. At length, with a shrug of his shoulders, he seemed to seek to dismiss his unpleasant thoughts.
"My plans, Mr. Cooper?"
"Hey, hey—yes. What are you thinking of doing with yourself? What will you make of your life? One thing I am certain of, my boy—you won't disgrace the honored name you bear."
"Well, I suppose, sir, I'll stick to the service. What else is there? Besides, I am keen about my profession. Yes, I think I'll continue in the Marines."
"I'm glad to hear it, Patrick. 'Tis as your uncle would have wished. Have you any idea of your next appointment?"
"Yes. I am under orders to join an expedition to Botany Bay."
"Hey, hey—you don't say so! Why, that is the settlement my good friend, Sir Joseph Banks, is so interested in! Indeed, 'tis like to be a hazardous venture, Patrick."
"Perhaps it will be, sir. But there is something about it that has a fascination. A new country, you know. A little variety from soldiering aboard ship. On the whole, I think I look forward to it with interest. Captain Phillip, who is to go as Governor, is an old shipmate of mine. No better officer could have been chosen from the Royal Navy to fill the position."
"When do you start?"
"'Tis not known yet—but I have orders to be ready to join the ship, whatever it may be—early in the New Year."
The old gentleman rose, and held out his hand.
"Well, good fortune attend you, my dear Patrick. Remember, I am always at your service here in London. I will see more of you before you sail, I hope?"
Patrick shook his hand warmly.
"Oh, yes, indeed. I'll have many business arrangements to trouble you with before I sail, sir."
"Hey, hey—trouble! A pleasure to me, my dear lad—for my dear friend John Cartwright's sake, if for naught else."
SOON after the conversation set forth in the last chapter. Patrick Cartwright bade farewell to the home of his boyhood—Magnus Hall—and took lodgings in London. The old house in Kent was closed, and Marvel, for so many years the faithful servant of Colonel Cartwright, was appointed its caretaker by Mr. Cooper, who, under the earlier will which left everything to the man who had murdered him, was named as executor, with certain powers of administration as regarded the estate, which was permanently invested in his firm.
Patrick's leave-taking from the old butler had been an affecting one, for from the days of his babyhood he had been an especial protege of the old man's. It was Marvel who had given him his first lessons in swimming, and riding, and boxing, had instructed him in field-sports and woodcraft, and had been his playmate and companion during his schooldays when he was at home for the holidays. There was a strong tie of affection between the young officer and the faithful old soldier, who, from his youth and through his manhood, had served his beloved master, the colonel, with unabating fidelity.
"Ah, Master Patrick," he had said, with tears in his voice, "'tis a sad day that sees you go out from the old home like this. But, maybe, before I go down to the grave, I'll see ye back again. That villain"—it was remarkable how unanimous all who knew Richard Mortimer were in predicting his destiny—"that wicked murderer cannot long escape his just reward. He'll be swinging at some cross-road before many winters come and go—and then I'll be happier than I am now, for I'll 'tend ye to the day of my death, here, in your rightful home. Oh, that his honor, the colonel, had not had so good a heart!"
"A strange wish, Marvel!"
"Aye, Master Pat—but see what his goodness did for him—worried and distracted all his life by that trollope of a woman and her evil son—and to meet his death at the villain's hands. Good heavens—tis seeming as if there's no right or reason in the world."
They were waiting at "The Green Man," in the neighboring village of Little Magnus—strange contradiction in names—for the London coach, and, as it came into sight in a cloud of dust, with the guard's musical horn echoing between the houses in the long single street of the village, Marvel hastily gripped the young man's hand, and whispered hoarsely:—
"Ye'll mind to seek him, Master Pat—wherever ye may be. 'Tis not right the master should go unavenged. Ye'll seek him and spare not?"
"I'll not spare him, Marvel, if I should chance upon him. Who knows? He may be one of those very wretches whom we are escorting to Botany Bay. Well, good-bye, Marvel. You'll write to me sometimes?"
"Good-bye, Patrick, my boy—forgive me, Master Patrick. God bless ye, wherever ye, may be!"
In London he had taken rooms in St. James's, and busied himself with preparations for the long journey that lay before him—such a journey as no company of Englishmen had ever taken before, nor so strangely constituted a company. The forthcoming expedition was the jest and the apprehension of England in the spring of '87. It was a subject for the more or less caustic wit of all who were in opposition to Mr. Pitt's Ministry; one of doubt for those, even, who held that the Great Commoner could do no wrong. For a few—men like Sir Joseph Banks, and Mr. James Matra, and Admiral Sir George Young, who were the fathers of the scheme—it was something of an enthusiasm. For most of the unfortunates who were to compose it, it meant a severance of all the ties, good or evil, that bound them to the life they knew. In that it was an alternative to death, or the squalid terrors of prison life in the awful gaols of England, it had its manifest advantages for them. But it meant exile in a savage and unknown country at the other end of the world—a vague nightmare that was full of incomprehensible terrors.
Except to a few students of early Australian history, the name of James Matra does not connote very much. Quite lately, a soldier settlement overlooking the wide, blue waters of Botany Bay, into which the young seaman had sailed with Captain Cook in 1770, has been honored with his name—but it is doubtful if many of those who live there have much knowledge of the man after whom their prettily situated little suburb of Sydney has been called.
Matra was a young Englishman of Corsican descent, who had joined the Royal Navy, and he was one of the crew of the Endeavour in the famous voyage round the word, 1769-1771, serving as a midshipman. Of his adventures during this expedition there is a curious story. One quotes it from a paper by Professor Woods, of the University of Sydney.
"On May 23, while the Endeavour was off the coast of Queensland, Cook's clerk, Mr. Orton, lay asleep, dead drunk; so very dead drunk that when he woke up he found that someone had, without his knowledge, cut off all his clothes and part of both ears. Mr. Orton suspected Midshipman Magra"—as he is called in Cook's journal. In the Admiralty list of the crew, he is written down as Ja's Magoa, of New York. "No evidence was to be got, but Cook was told that 'Magra had once or twice before in their drunken frolics cut off his clothes, and had been heard to say that, if it was not for the law, he would murder him.' Cook came rather doubtfully to the conclusion that 'Magra was not altogether innocent,' and therefore, for the present, dismissed him the quarter-deck, 'he being one of those gentlemen frequently found on board King's ships that can very well be spared,' and in a copy of his journal which, one must assume, was written by Clerk Orton himself, Cook added a further reflection which was afterwards erased. If one looks, however, at the same copy of the journal—now in the Australian Museum, Sydney—under the date of June 14 of the same year, one finds interesting evidence that Cook changed his mind. On the margin of the manuscript Cook has written, with his own hand, the following words: 'This day I restored Mr. Magra to his duty, as I did not find him guilty of the crimes laid to his charge.' Now, June 14 was the day when, after the fearful adventure on the coral spike, Cook cautiously groped a way into Cooktown harbor, and we may wonder whether the change of mind was not caused by some brave action of the suspected gentleman-sailor. 'In justice to the ship's company,' wrote Cook, 'I must say that no men ever behaved better than they did on this occasion; animated by the behaviour of every gentleman on board, every man seemed to have a just sense of the dangers we were in, and exercised himself to the utmost.' At all events, Cook's calmer and more mature judgment was that this excessively blithsome gentleman from New York was not unfit to serve His Majesty as a midshipman."
During the voyage of the Endeavour, Matra had won a friendship with Sir Joseph Banks that lasted for the rest of his life, and, owing to the influence of the latter, when he retired from the Navy, he was appointed British consul at Teneriffe.
With the loss of the American colonies, which for more than a century had been a dumping ground for Britain's undesirables, the English Government had found the question of penal administration an embarrassing one. All over the country the gaols were overflowing with criminals, were hotbeds of pestilence and misery, and, apart from the grounds of humanity, were altogether insufferable from a standpoint of the public health. It was urgently necessary to find some distant asylum for the wretched creatures confined within their walls. It was this aspect of it that commended to the authorities the idea of forming a new British colony, as a principal reason for entertaining it.
The idea of British settlement in the new lands of the South Seas had been much discussed by Sir Joseph Banks and others who took an interest in the discoveries of Cook, and when, in 1783, Matra wrote to the former suggesting a colony of American loyalists in Australia—with, of course, some position for himself in its foundation and government—Sir Joseph became deeply interested in the project. As an outcome of their conversations, Matra submitted a document to the consideration of the Government, under the title, "A proposal for establishing a settlement in New South Wales."
Matra's "plan" was primarily one for establishing those loyal Englishmen who had been dispossessed of their holdings in America by the Revolution. Of all the new countries that might hold out hopes of profitable settlement by Europeans, "none," he says, "are more inviting than New South Wales." "Cook," he writes, "found everything to induce him to give the most favorable account of it. In this immense tract of more than two thousand miles there was every variety of soil, and great parts of it were extremely fertile, peopled only by a few black inhabitants, in the rudest state of society..... A few settlers in twenty or thirty years might cause a revolution in the whole system of European commerce, and secure to England a monopoly of some part of it, and a very large share in the whole." Further, he urged that, in case of war with Holland or Spain, New South Wales would be a base of attack upon Java or Spanish America, and the trade between those countries and Europe.
When, upon his introduction to Lord Sydney, that nobleman observed that "New South Wales would be a very proper place for the reception of criminals condemned to transportation," Matra agreed with the observation. "Give them," he suggests, "a few acres of ground as soon as they arrive in New South Wales, in absolute property, with what assistance they may want to till them. They cannot fly from the country, they have no temptation to theft, and they must work or starve. I likewise suppose that they are not, by any means, to be reproached for their former conduct. If these premises be granted me, I may reasonably conclude that it is highly probable that they will be moral subjects of society..... The expense to the nation is absolutely imperceptible, comparatively with what criminals have hitherto cost Government; and thus two objects of most desirable and beautiful union will be permanently blended—economy to the public and humanity to the individual."
But the Government took a long time to make up its mind. Australia was an immense distance away—would it not be wise to seek some situation nearer home? A ship was sent to investigate the suitability of the west coast of Africa. When it was found that Africa would not answer the purpose, the Anglo-Americans had become tired of waiting, and had emigrated to Canada, and Matra himself dropped out of it. Eventually he settled down as Consul in Morocco, a post which was, no doubt, obtained for him by the good offices of Sir Joseph Banks. For years the scheme appeared to be indefinitely hung up.
But at last, in August, 1786—the problem of the prison population having become acute—Lord Sydney gave directions that a fleet should be commissioned to carry out to Botany Bay some 750 convicts, by way of a start, with the officials and Marines necessary to keep them in order and to garrison the little colony. Captain Arthur Phillip, a naval officer who had gained some distinction in the Seven Years' War, and in the recent war with France, was appointed Commodore, and Governor of His Majesty's new territory of New South Wales.
On the whole, Lord Sydney was not a very brilliant person, but he seems to have been lucky enough to choose a man for this difficult position whose courage, patience, and ability peculiarly fitted him for it. Phillip was a man in a thousand, and the very briefest glance at what he had to do renders it plain how easily failure and disaster might have attended a less happy choice of leaders.
"It would be his business first of all to convey more than a thousand people, three-quarters of them prisoners, safely on an eight months' voyage across seas not very well known to a country of which no one really knew anything. Arrived there, he would have to make for himself everything that men need in a civilised settlement; he must build houses, cultivate crops, raise cattle, make roads, and do all this by the labor, either of prisoners, who did not want to work, or of Marines, who had quite enough to do in looking after the prisoners. He would have to maintain the laws, and to make a great many of them, because there were very few already made that exactly fitted the situation. Most laws assume that the majority of people prefer to obey them, but in the new country three people out of every four would be likely to break the laws whenever they could. It was a difficult position to hold, but Lord Sydney found the right man" ("History of Australasia."-A. W. Jose).
The preparation of the fleet took more than half a year, but at length the transports and storeships were assembled at Portsmouth, and the prisoners and their guardians embarked aboard them. But even when this had been done, it was months before the expedition was ready to move. Red tape, departmental blundering, and immense difficulties in obtaining the proper quantity and quality of stores and necessaries hampered Phillip terribly. The prisoners were aboard some of the ships nearly five months before the fleet began its long voyage.
So this brings us to the close of the dreary day in March, 1787, when Lieutenant Patrick Cartwright, of the Royal Marines, alighted at the door of the George, in Portsmouth, from the London coach.
It had been a rough, wild day, with wind and rain from the east, and he was cold and wet when he descended stiffly from his box seat beside the driver. But the genial welcome of mine host, the cheerful glow of the red blinds in the lamp-lit windows, and the roaring fires in ample fireplaces within the hospitable tavern, compensated for the day's discomforts.
"The boots 'll show ye to your room, Mr. Cartwright," said the landlord, "and I'll send ye up some hot grog to keep the chill away. When ye've changed your wet things, dinner will await ye in the coffee-room. There's some more gentlemen of the Marines a-sitting over their wine in there now. Might I ask what ship y'r honor's been appointed to?"
"I'm for the Lady Penrhyn, Martin," answered Patrick. "Bound for Botany Bay."
Host Martin lifted up his hands in affected horror. "Great heavens, Mr. Cartwright, are you also going to the end of the world? And so ye're to be wi' the ladies, sir? Ho, ho," he laughed, "'tis easy seen the Admiralty knows what's what, Mr. Cartwright."
Patrick smiled, as he went upstairs. He was becoming used to the joke about his harem.
WHEN Patrick had changed out of his damp clothing, and had descended to the coffee-room, with an appetite sharpened by his long, cold journey since the mid-day meal, he found that cheerful apartment noisy with the laughter and conversation of a numerous company of Naval and Marine officers. He was delightedly hailed by several acquaintances, one of whom, a former shipmate named Boyce—a first lieutenant—pushed back his chair from the long table at which they sat over their wine in the middle of the room, and rose to greet him.
"Well, well, my gallant Patrick! And how did you leave the little dears in London town? Great George, 'tis a pleasure, I vow, to see your homely countenance again. Damme—we've not met since we were in the Culloden together, in the West Indies."
"What, Bull Boyce? Indeed, the pleasure is mine," laughed Patrick. "What are you doing now? Lord—do you mean to say they've made you a full-blown Number One? 'Tis an age of miracles, truly. But, indeed, I should like to be in your ship. A proper bear-garden, I'll warrant she is."
"Oh, to hell with you, you old boiled lobster! A waster of your description couldn't live with my captain—let alone with his first lieutenant. A smart ship, the Undaunted! No room for idlers like you aboard her. But sit ye here beside me, Patrick, and I'll introduce you to the company. Gentlemen, Mr. Patrick Cartwright, an old shipmate of mine, and a good fellow, whatever compliments our mutual knowledge of one another compels us to exchange. One or two of this distinguished gathering, I think ye know, Patsy, me boy. There's old Puddinghead Smiley, and there's Ben Catesby, both as arrant disgraces to the service as ever. Here, beside you, is Dr. Bowes, of the Lady Penrhyn, and that funny-faced fellow opposite——"
"The Lady Penrhyn!" said Patrick, turning to the officer beside him with interest. "I am glad to meet you, sir, and to introduce myself as a future shipmate. I trust we may——"
A shout of laughter interrupted him, and his friend Boyce thumped him rigorously between the shoulders.
"Oh, my sacred aunt," yelled that festive gentleman. "Here's another of 'em! Great heavens, we'll have the whole august company of seraglio keepers ashore presently. But fancy two of em' being spared at once from the Ship of Love! I'll tell you what it is, my friends——"
Here, Mr. Boyce made a joke which cannot possibly be repeated in these chaste pages, but which set all those present into roars of laughter.
"A toast!" called a little, stout, red-faced man at the end of the table. "The Lords of Love, coupled with the names of Lieutenant Cartwright and Surgeon Bowes!"
A gale of laughter greeted this sally, and in answer to loud cries of "Speech, speech," Patrick rose smilingly to his feet.
"I regret, gentlemen," he said, "that I have not yet made the acquaintance of my ship, and am therefore not privileged to respond. Perhaps the doctor will oblige?"
He sat down, and the surgeon of the Lady Penrhyn stood up, and shook a fist at the grinning proposer of the toast. As Patrick regarded his future shipmate, he experienced one at those sudden likings for the pleasant-looking young medical man, which some people have the enviable gift of inspiring.
The doctor spoke with a slow, tired drawl that accentuated the biting sarcasm of his oration.
"It gives me, gentlemen—gentlemen, I said, and—er—must apologise if I have wronged anybody present—it gives me the very greatest pleasure to respond to such a freshly humorous toast as that which Mr. Purser Baines has just asked you to drink to. It is—er—quite new to me, I assure you. I have never heard the Lady Penrhyn's officers referred to before as the—er—Lords of Love—nor, of course, any reference made to the sex of the passengers whom we are hoping to sail with soon to the coast of New South Wales. Gentlemen, you will hardly believe me when I inform you that these passengers are all of that fair and frail division of the human race which has the honor of mothering and wiving such distinguished and handsome members of that other division which I see assembled around me. It will be news to you to learn that we carry solely women prisoners of the Crown. And, gentlemen, I have one other piece of information, equally startling and new. Her Majesty, Queen Anne, is no more!"
He solemnly bowed, and sat down, amid cries of "Good for you, doctor!" "Well done, Mr. Sawbones!" and "A real hit, Squills, old boy!"
At that moment, the waiter entered with Patrick's dinner, to which he was ready to do ample justice. Taking little part in the noisy jollity going on about them, Dr. Bowes talked to him while he ate, and told him something of the Lady Penrhyn, which he was keenly interested in hearing. He felt sure that he and the surgeon would soon become the firmest of friends.
Dr. Bowes informed him that the ship herself was well found, the captain—whose name was Sever—had the reputation of being a careful navigator and a good seaman, and that she now had her stores nearly complete. The women convicts had been on board for some weeks, and had gradually shaken down into their new surroundings. But they were not easy people to deal with, he said, a little ruefully. And they had been shamefully treated by the prison authorities, who had sent them down to Portsmouth with hardly a stitch of clothing to their backs, so that they had come aboard mostly half dead from exposure to the weather. They were horribly dirty and verminous, and a number of them hopelessly, and, he feared, incurably, diseased.
"'Tis really not my business," he explained; "for my appointment was as surgeon to the ship's company and the Marines, whilst another medical man was told off to look after the prisoners. But he has been ashore, sick, almost ever since I joined, and I have had perforce to take over his duties. Should he not recover sufficiently to make the voyage, I suppose I will be in attendance upon the ladies the whole way out. I have had tasks I liked better, but I suppose one must make the best of things."
"Do you go off to the ship to-night?" asked Patrick.
"No. I am stopping here to-night. I have to take over some medical stores in the morning. I'll not be away until after breakfast. Perhaps you will come off with me? Have you any business in Portsmouth?"
"None but to join the Lady Penrhyn."
"Ah, well, a boat is to come ashore for me about noon, so if that will suit you we can go together."
"Perfectly," said Patrick. "I am glad to have had the good fortune of meeting you here to-night, Doctor. No doubt our acquaintance will improve in the months ahead of us. Here's your very good health, Doctor."
"And the same to you. Yes. I'm sure we'll be very good friends."
As the evening wore on, the spirits of the gentlemen about the table rose rapidly. With the advent of a succession of bowls of steaming punch, the gathering rapidly approached the riotous stage. Pleading to his friend Boyce that he was fatigued by his day's journey, Patrick slipped away to bed, taking leave of Dr. Bowes, with a smile and—
"I'll see you in the morning."
But it was not until well into the afternoon that the surgeon had finished his business. As they stepped into their boat from the King's Steps, he indulged in a little grumble.
"One would think that these dockyard officials had personal reasons for delaying us by every means in their power. I think it is because the Commodore, Captain Phillip, gives them no rest. They hate a departure from routine as much as he dislikes their cut-and-dried methods. He is all zeal and eagerness for the service we are engaged upon, and is continually stirring them up. 'What's the good of giving you these things?—one fellow said to me this morning. 'Ye'll never get there.' And he kept me dawdling about there, until I made it plain to him that I'd not leave him until I had what I had been authorised to get. Finally he shelled out—only, I am sure, so that he might be rid of me. But I've got what I came ashore last night for—and that's something. I might have had to wait a week."
"Indeed, you might," laughed Patrick. "I know the breed of old." They had a long pull out to the ship at Spithead, where she was anchored not far from H.M.S. Sirius, and close to another transport, the Charlotte. These two vessels were so crowded, said the surgeon, that Captain Phillip had ordered them to be brought out here in order that the prisoners might, for the sake of their health, be kept on deck as much as possible, which it was impossible they should be when close in to the shore, because of the risk of escape.
The Lady Penrhyn was a trim-looking little craft, but in her rigging and general appearance Patrick missed the well-ordered neatness characteristic of the men-o'-war he was used to. As they drew close alongside, a sound of shrill chattering came from behind the high bulwarks, sometimes punctuated by a scream or a loudly uttered imprecation.
"Oh, we have some ladies in our company, I assure you," said the surgeon, as he led the way up the side ladder.
It was about half-past two when they came aboard, and they found the ship's and his brother officers just about to sit down to dinner. Patrick immediately reported himself to his superior officer, Captain Campbell, from whom he received a warm welcome.
"Mr. John Cooper, who is a connection of my wife's, has written to me about you, Mr. Cartwright. A sad business about your uncle. Have they apprehended the villain who murdered him yet?"
"No, sir, and do not seem like to do so. I fear he has escaped out of the country."
"Well, you may yet live to welcome him in New South Wales. But come into the cabin, and I'll make you known to the members of our little mess."
They found the commander of the transport—Captain Sever, a burly type of merchant seaman—seated with the rest of his officers and the other lieutenant of Marines. Captain Campbell introduced Patrick to each of them by name before they took their chairs. A Mr. Nicholas Anstis was the chief mate, Mr. Squires the second, Mr. Ball the third, and Mr. Holmes the fourth. The Marine officer was Lieutenant George Johnston, who was afterwards to take such a leading part in the deposition of Governor Bligh. He was Patrick's senior, and he always found him an agreeable companion and a zealous officer—though a little given to boasting of his distinguished family connections.
Mr. Anstis, the mate, was a man past middle-age—a somewhat "dour" person—whose work was his main preoccupation. The second officer, of whom the surgeon had told him a little, was rather a sulky and ill-favored individual, who looked as if he drank. It appeared that, shortly after the female prisoners had joined the ship, some of them had broken out of the prison, with the connivance and assistance of the crew, and had spent the greater part of the night in the men's quarters. One had been found secreted in the second mate's cabin, and he was in consequent disgrace. Captain Campbell had applied to have him removed out of the ship, but somehow the affair blew over, and he remained in the Lady Penrhyn for the voyage.
The third and the fourth officers, Messrs. Ball and Holmes, were both very young men, and inseparable companions. They were fresh-faced, breezy fellows, with all the likeable qualities of the sailor.
"Well, young sir," the captain addressed Patrick; "so ye're comin' to help us take our ladies' school out to Botany Bay, eh? I'm warrant ye've heard enough about it from your friends! They don't spare us, do they?"
Dr. Bowes related the toast that had been proposed at the George in their honor the night before, and Captain Campbell laughed heartily.
"I know that fat purser, Charley Baines," he said. "He's a droll dog. And how did you reply to the toast, Mr. Cartwright? I trust you gave them something in return. We have all had to endure an unmerciful amount of chaff of this sort."
"'Twas the doctor, here, who carried off the honors, sir. He made them a very polite little speech, in which he informed them of the death of Queen Anne. Made quite a hit, didn't you, doctor?"
"Upon my soul," observed Mr. Johnston, "I was quite wearied to death of the witticisms—choice and otherwise—which I had to endure when I was on leave recently. But one has to take it in good part."
"Well, gentlemen"—the captain looked round the table—"I've carried many strange cargoes in my time, and some queer passengers, too, I do assure ye. But never before have I had such a one as is in the ship now. I suppose, Mr. Campbell, 'twould be impossible to get together a queerer lot than we have aboard here. Mind, I believe some of 'em's not so bad—but, Lord, what angels others of them are! Why, I was a-walkin' the quarter-deck this morning, when rayther a handsome wench beckons me to th' barricade. Over I goes, and, Lord save us, what d'ye think she puts to me? 'Cap'n,' she says, as sweet as treacle, 'how'd I do for a sweetheart?' '——- y'r impudence, me lass,' I says; 'I have a wife and eleven children. Me eldest girl's as old as what you be!"
The surgeon laughed, and the second officer looked a little embarrassed.
"Would you like to have the woman punished, Captain Sever? If you point her out, we may be——"
"Oh, bless your soul, no, doctor. If 'twas me, I'd let the poor creatures loose. 'Tis not in me to lift hand to a woman. Though I suppose, since we've got to carry these misses to Botany Bay, we'll have to take means of keepin' of 'em in some sort of order; else they'll rule the ship."
There was no lingering over the wine at this meal. Everybody had business of some sort to attend to. As they rose from table, the surgeon took Patrick's arm, and said:—
"Come on to the poop, Cartwright, and take a look at your lovely charges. Some of them are well worth studying."
As they went up the ladder to the poop, Patrick inquired as to the whereabouts of the other surgeon. Dr. Bowes shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, he's on leave in London, to consult some eminent member of our profession as to his ailments, I understand. Between you and me, I think the fellow's got some drug habit myself. He's not the slightest use in his position here. I have to do his work and my own, and I don't suppose I'll be a penny better off in my pay for it at the end of the voyage. But look down there, and tell me what you think of our beauties."
Patrick turned and looked down into the ship's waist.
As was the fashion in all convict transports, a strong barricade, or wooden wall, stretched from bulwark to bulwark, at their height, across the deck, a little abaft the main mast. In the middle of it, a stout door, heavily clamped with iron, and secured by a huge padlock, gave ingress to the prison quarters. A booby-hatch had been built over the main hatch, down which a flight of steps led to the deck below. Along the sides of the ship a narrow plank gangway, for the use of the crew in working her, led fore and aft. Forward, another wooden wall separated the prisoners' space from the vicinity of the forecastle.
In this species of yard some sixty or seventy women strolled about, squatted upon the deck, or lay stretched out at full length upon the planking. An endless chattering—that they had heard as they approached the ship—rose from the prison. Oaths and foul jests were easily audible from the poop. The majority of the women were very poorly clad—some of them so wretchedly as almost to be without any pretensions to decency—and they all looked cold and pinched, although the day was fine and clear.
Old women, hideous in their aspect of indescribable degradation; women in the prime of life, healthy looking enough; thin and wretched women, with hacking coughs, and obviously in advanced stages of consumption; girls of twenty-five, and less than twenty, some of them pretty, and some of them with the remains of good looks, that had been ruined by dissipation; a few who were almost children—one, indeed, it seemed, was but thirteen—they were as mixed a collection of femininity as it would be possible to see anywhere.
Patrick looked down on them pityingly.
"Lord!" he thought. "I believe I'm with the captain—in wishing to let them go. Poor creatures!"
Suddenly his eyes caught a face—a beautiful, wistful face—that looked up at him appealing for a brief moment and then was turned away. He clutched the surgeon by the elbow.
"Good God, doctor! Who's that woman there—over there on the port side, in the corner forrard—by herself? Have I an illusion? It cannot be!"
NEARLY two years before, a retired London merchant, named Peter Urquhart, had leased a house in the close neighborhood of Magnus Hall, and soon after taking up his residence there had died suddenly, and a little mysteriously. It was given out that he had been in a dying condition with cancer when he came to dwell in the country—indeed, that his sole object in coming there had been that he might end his days in peace, away from the noise and turmoil of the city. His half-sister—a somewhat disagreeable and sourly religious maiden lady, who professed some bitter branch of an aggressive Calvinism—had controlled his household, and there was an only daughter, a very beautiful and accomplished girl, somewhere about twenty years of age, who was the solace and joy at her unhappy parent's latter days.
At that time, the ship on which Patrick was serving, H.M.S. Albatross, had, as the result of a collision in the Downs, been somewhat extensively damaged, and was in Chatham dockyard, undergoing repairs, for close upon three months, so that he had seen a good deal of his home during week-ends and for short periods of leave.
During one of these occasions, on a sunny morning in April, Patrick was strolling with his gun and dogs in the fields, at some little distance from the Hall, and not very far from the house occupied by Mr. Urquhart, when he heard cries for help that seemed to come from a little coppice on the other side of the hedge and ditch that divided the two estates. They were unmistakably uttered by a woman, who seemed to be in great fear and distress, and he scrambled through the hedge, and plunged into the shrubbery with all the speed he could command.
On the further side of the coppice he came upon a scene that prompted him to speedy action. A huge fellow—one of those wandering ne'er-do-wells who infested England at the time—half sneak-thief and wholly vagabond—and were more often in gaol under an accusation of being "a sturdy beggar" than at large—was struggling with a frightened girl, whom Patrick at once recognised as the pretty Miss Urquhart he had seen at church with her father, but had not hitherto met.
A blow on the head from the butt of his gun had quickly laid the tramp out, and he found the lady not much hurt, but very breathless and frightened. Beside her, on the grass, lay an overturned basket of mushrooms, indicating what her occupation had been when the burly ruffian, who now lay unconscious, had rushed out upon her from the coppice and seized her in his arms. What his object had been Patrick shuddered to think, but to the innocent girl it seemed to be sure that all he wanted was the necklace of gold beads that encircled her pretty throat.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, anxiously. "Please allow me to accompany you back to your home. We'll send for this fellow, and have him well whipped for his blackguardism."
She looked prettier than ever, with her golden hair half tumbled down, and her face flushed from the excitement and exertion of her recent struggle.
"No, no I am not hurt," she assured him. "You seemed to rush to my rescue as soon as I cried out. 'Twas such a surprise—he must have been watching me—I hardly saw him before he had seized hold of my arm. But I hope you have not killed him," she asked anxiously, looking down at the recumbent ruffian, who lay with his face in the grass.
"Little loss if I had," said Patrick. "No; he's only stunned—George! what an ugly brute," he exclaimed, as he turned the man over to examine his condition. "His very aspect might well have caused you to swoon. Miss—Miss—are you not Miss Urquhart, ma'am?"
"Yes—and I think I am indebted for my deliverance to Mr. Cartwright, am I not? Yes? I thought so. I thank you most gratefully, sir. But for your fortunate intervention, I would at least have been poorer for my necklace. Will you not come up to the house? I am sure my father would like to thank you."
Gladly Patrick had accompanied the beautiful girl, and had been presented to her father, who was inclined to make a hero of him to a greater extent than he altogether appreciated. The grim aunt, however, was not so enthusiastic. Some caustic comment on the folly of young girls—which might have implied a censure upon her niece for having got herself into a situation from which she had had to be rescued by someone whom she had never met in a conventional way—was all the lady had to say upon the subject. When Mr. Urquhart begged him to remain for their mid-day meal, she marched out of the room, as though to emphasise the fact that the invitation was not from her.
"A regular old Tartar!" was Patrick's unspoken comment.
He stayed to dinner, and all the afternoon, and well on into the evening, and, when Mr. Urquhart, on the plea of ill-health, begged to be excused, and went to lie down early in the afternoon, the pretty Miss Urquhart and Patrick Cartwright had made a mutual discovery that they were able to get on surprisingly well in each other's company. They were in no sense bored by one another.
This pleasant state of affairs led to even a pleasanter. Moved by a strong sense of his gratitude to the young officer, Mr. Urquhart insisted upon calling upon his uncle, and drove across to Magnus Hall, ill as he was, to express his deep indebtedness to Patrick, which, as he put it, "made all who were related to his daughter's saviour his firm and abiding friends." Colonel Cartwright returned his visit, and the two households were soon upon a footing of neighborly familiarity.
The two young people saw a good deal of each other during the times when Patrick could get away from his duties at the barracks in Chatham. They rode much together. They discovered that their tastes in literature were very similar—as, indeed, it seemed they were in most things.
But at length this happy interlude came to an end, by reason of Patrick's ship putting to sea once more and joining the Mediterranean squadron. He went away with those words still unspoken that he had longed to utter—mainly because of a diffident shyness that restrained him—but the boy and girl parted with a fairly clear understanding of what lay within each other's heart.
Six months later, when his ship returned to England to be paid off, and all eagerness to resume those delightful meetings which had opened a new world to him, Patrick found that Mr. Urquhart had died suddenly, leaving the grim aunt as guardian to his daughter. The lease of the house had been given up, and the two ladies had returned to London, leaving no address. It was a bitter disappointment.
Patrick was not a good young man. He had had as many "affairs" involving the opposite sex as most other young men have had. He had supposed himself to be hopelessly in love on more than one occasion, had had his broken-hearted periods, and was ever mindful of the motto that pretty faces were not to be despised. As his uncle had put it, on that fatal evening at Magnus Hall, there was a strain of wildness in him that had to come out, and sometimes it did so. But a native commonsense and manliness had hitherto acted as a brake upon his natural tendencies to the extravagances of dissipation, and, on the whole, his life was clean and healthy.
But he had been hard hit this time, and it was long before the thought of Mary Urquhart had grown any way dim in his remembrance. Only the terrible business of his uncle's death had succeeded in putting it a little in the background of his mind.
When he looked down into the prison enclosure of the Lady Penrhyn, and saw that sweet, sad face—that used to be so merry—it was as if the mizzen mast, under which he stood, had fallen upon his head.
The surgeon turned at his exclamation, and was shocked by his pallor and the wildness in his eyes.
"Good heavens, Cartwright—what's the matter? What ails you, man? You look as if you had seen a ghost!"
"Heavens! So I have, I think."
"I did not see," said the surgeon. "I had glanced over the side at the Charlotte. What woman? Whom do you mean? One of the prisoners?"
"Ah, she has slipped below. I am certain 'twas the face of someone I used to know."
The doctor laughed drily, with mischief in his eyes.
"Well, you know, my dear Cartwright—we have all had our—er—our experiences, have we not? 'Tis most astonishing how they will re-embody themselves sometimes, isn't it? Is it possible that you have seen a face you recognise across the barricade? Oh, well, you know—ahem!"
With a great effort, Patrick had regained control of himself. For a moment he thought that he must have been deceived by some chance resemblance in one of the unfortunate prisoners to the girl who had been so constantly in his mind since her disappearance—but immediately after was certain that he could have made no mistake. Too fondly had he been in the habit of recalling every feature, every change of expression, in that sweet face, to be capable of confusing it with any other, however great a resemblance there might be.
"Doctor, I beg of you to be serious," he said, impatiently. "Down there, amongst those unhappy wretches, I am quite certain that I have just seen someone I know well—an old friend. A lady; one whom I would have so soon expected to see there as—as my dead mother."
The surgeon saw that he was terribly in earnest.
"But, tell me, Cartwright—what was she like? Can you describe her to me? There are over a hundred of them, you know—a hundred and nine, to be precise. Tell me what she was like."
"A young girl—scarce twenty-one. Beautiful—very beautiful and sad-looking. But she was not so when I saw her last."
"Many of them about that age are not ill-looking. And if they are not brazen, they are generally unhappy. What colored hair has she?"
"A bright golden—an abundance of it."
"Is she of about the middle height—well built and active-looking?"
"Long, slender hands—one of them—the right, I think—with a peculiar mark upon the back of it?"
"Oh, yes—by heavens, there is no mistaking that! 'Tis the scar of an accident that happened to her when she was a child—I remember well her telling me of it once. Horses bolted with her father's carriage, whilst they were driving in Richmond Park. The carriage was overturned, and she was pinned beneath it by the right hand, which was broken."
"Indeed—that identifies her beyond question. Well, well—it is very strange. That she should be here, in the congregation of bad lots! A lady, eh? Well brought up. Was she in comfortable circumstances?"
"Very—her father was a wealthy City merchant, retired from business. They had taken a house near Magnus Hall—my late uncle's estate in Kent. We saw a great deal of them. I am certain that I knew her too well to have been mistaken when I saw her just now. And, of course, the mark on the hand you speak of puts it beyond doubt."
The surgeon turned and gazed across the grey-green waters, flecked with little "white horses," and gleaming here and there in patches of sunlight that shone through the broken clouds scudding overhead before the east wind. For nearly a minute he stood considering the strange thing his friend had communicated to him, and then he turned to Patrick, and put a question to him.
"May I ask what this lady's name—was?"
"Urquhart—Urquhart? No—I cannot remember any such name in the list of our prisoners. But come with me below—to my cabin—and we will consult the list. By the way, is she returned to the deck? Do you nee her anywhere amongst the women over yonder?"
Patrick gazed long and searchingly down at the motley groups of women behind the barricade, and presently shook his head.
"No—she has not come back. She must be in the 'tween decks still."
"Ah, well—come down with me, my dear fellow. We will overhaul the list of prisoners, and see whether we can throw any light upon this mystery. Afterwards, perhaps, we may interview her, and see what is to be done. Cheer up—there may have been some miscarriage of justice. Some strange things happen at the Old Bailey and the other courts."
They went down on to the quarter-deck and entered the poop. A short passage ran aft, amidships, into the cabin, and on the starboard side of this, opposite to the mate's, were the surgeon's quarters—a sort of combination of surgery, office, and bedroom.
The doctor had his hand on the door-knob and was about to open the door when Patrick heard his name called from the Great Cabin. He turned, and in the light of the stern windows saw Captain Campbell seated at the dining-table, which had been cleared, with some account books and papers spread before him.
"Sir!" he answered his superior's call, and walked into the main cabin, where he stood at "attention" and saluted.
"Oh, Mr. Cartwright—I wish to ask you to do me a favor. Do you mind?"
"Not at all, sir—if 'tis in my power. May I ask what you require?"
"Oh, nothing very much, Mr. Cartwright—only I am sorry to interrupt your process of settling down and making your quarters ship-shape. But Mr. Johnston is busy over some returns which must be done to-night, and I cannot take him away from them. I want you to go ashore for me, if you will be so good. I have a nephew—a young child—who is an orphan, and whom I am taking out to New South Wales with me in this ship. He arrives in Portsmouth by the London coach this evening, and I do not like to entrust him to any of the sailors who are going ashore to-night. Besides, he will probably be tired out by his journey, and is not very strong—in fact, I am taking him on this long voyage for the benefit of his health—so I want you to look after him to-night, ashore. See that he gets supper, and a bed at the George, and tell Tom Martin, the landlord, to charge me with your and his expenses. You have no objections?"
"None whatever, sir—I shall be delighted."
"Very good—I am much obliged to you, Mr. Cartwright. A boat will be going ashore, with the second mate in charge, in about half an hour."
Patrick saluted and hurried back to rejoin Dr. Bowes. To tell the truth, he was rather glad of the opportunity of a little solitude, which would have been impossible in the ship, to consider the strange affair of Mary Urquhart. He found the surgeon poring over a return of his prisoners.
As Patrick entered and closed the door behind him. Dr. Bowes looked up and shook his head.
"Well—is her name among them—Mary Urquhart?"
"No—I am sorry—I cannot find the name 'Urquhart'. There is no one with that name on board. But—look here."
Patrick leaned over the surgeon's shoulder, and inspected the sheet of foolscap which was part of the list. His friend's forefinger rested against one entry.
"Now, this is the girl with the scarred hand. But her name is not entered here as 'Urquhart.' See!"
Patrick read the line of copper-plate handwriting which stretched across the perpendicular columns containing particulars of the prisoners—their ages, occupations, and term of sentence.
This is what he read:—
Mortimer, Mary—21—Governess—Receiving stolen goods—7 years.
"Mortimer!" he muttered, in bewilderment. "Mortimer!"
PATRICK spent a troubled night ashore. Having duly taken charge of young Jem Campbell—a bright little fellow of eleven or twelve, with a sort of frailness about him that called for tenderness—he hired a private room at the George, and ordered their meal to be served there, having little inclination to mix in the noisy assembly of military and naval officers who were supping in the coffee-room. He was too dumbfounded by the extraordinary discovery of Mary Urquhart as one of the unfortunates aboard the Lady Penrhyn to desire anything but his own company, and quiet in which to seek bewilderingly to surmise as to the reasons for this strange encounter.
It was incredible, unbelievable, that the sweet girl should have come to be herded with criminals and abandoned women in the hold of the prison-ship. As he had said to Dr. Bowes, he would have as soon expected to meet his dead mother in such circumstances as her. A girl such as she was could never have done anything that would bring her within reach of the law—it was preposterous, absurd, to entertain any such idea for a moment. Then what was it? How did she come there? What utterly malign influences could have been at work to make such a thing possible? The more he debated it, and worried and tormented himself over it, the less able was he to arrive at any possible solution of the problem.
He could not sleep all night, and the cold dawn saw him wandering through the windy streets of the old town, tortured and distracted by a hundred conflicting emotions. Could nothing be done to release her from this awful situation? Of course, he knew nothing of the causes of her being where she was—but he was as certain as that he lived and breathed that some horrible mishap, some astounding miscarriage of justice, was accountable.
He longed for someone to whom he might go for advice—who would be able to suggest some course of action that he could take. But there was no one in Portsmouth who could help him with counsel—if, indeed, there was anywhere else. Whom did he know who could do anything?
Suddenly he thought of little Mr. Cooper, the lawyer, as a kindly, friendly soul, whose sympathies, at least, might be enlisted on behalf of the terribly situated girl. He hurried back to the inn, called for paper and ink, and sat himself down to confide his troubled soul to the good little man in Gray's Inn. In all his unhappiness, he could not refrain from smiling as be imagined the startled "Hey, heys" with which his sorrowful epistle would be read. Having written his letter, he felt a little easier, and walked round to the coach office with it, where he handsomely tipped the guard to carry it himself to the offices of Messrs. Partridge and Cooper, in London.
Too impatient to await the morning boat from the Lady Penrhyn, he hired a waterman to sail him out to Spithead, so that he might set about solving the mystery, that was torturing him to madness, as soon as possible. He felt that he could not bear the suspense much longer. Every moment of delay meant hours in hell for that dear girl—to himself life was an unrelieved torment until he could do something to alleviate her misery.
It was a glorious morning, and the harbor sparkled and glittered in the sunlight, as they ran down before a gentle breeze to the anchorage at Spithead. Jem Campbell was all eager delight and insatiable curiosity, as they passed through the shipping to the wider and windier waters beyond. Stately line-of-battle-ships, tall-sided and great of beam, presented their bluff bows to the tide, as they swung at their anchors, their tiers of gun ports open to the breeze, and the red tompions in the muzzles of the pieces catching the light and dotting their wooden walls with color. On their high poops, with the great stern lanterns, admirals and captains paced to and fro, and the scarlet jackets of marine sentries, their fixed bayonets glinting in the sunshine, were vivid in the fine morning. Graceful frigates, sloops of war, storeships, victualling ships, all the many sorts of craft that had to do with Britain's first line of defence, floated in the harbor. Innumerable boats passed to and fro between shore and ships, and the whole scene was one of bustle and activity, and a certain breezy strenuousness.
All this was very wonderful to the little boy in the stern-sheets of the boat, worrying the waterman with incessant questionings—but the young Marine officer saw little of it, and was only vaguely conscious of a fretful impatience to be aboard the ship and questioning the doctor as to the situation of the girl in the prison.
At length they came to the Motherbank, passed by the Sirius, and ran alongside the Lady Penrhyn. After he had handed over his young charge to Captain Campbell, Patrick hastened to the surgeon's cabin, and, hardly pausing to knock, turned the handle and went in.
The light was a little dimmer in the cabin than without in the entrance to the alley way, and, in the faint radiance that filtered in through the thick glass of the closed scuttle, Patrick at first only saw the stooping shoulders of the surgeon, as he bent over the settee that stretched along the side of the ship below it.
"Well, Doctor," he began, when that gentleman stood up and faced him with a grave and serious expression. "Hallo!" he said, noticing a figure stretched out on the lounge. "Whom have you got there?"
"Oh, 'tis you, Cartwright! Just come aboard? I saw you from the poop through Captain Sever's telescope, as you came out of the harbor—and I sent down into the prison for this poor girl. I asked her did she know you—and she looked at me strangely, and fainted. Don't be alarmed—'tis but a swoon. She'll soon come out of it. Ah—I think she's recovering now."
He slipped his arm under the mass of tumbled, golden hair, and held a medicine glass to the grey lips of the semi-conscious girl, forcing the restorative between the white teeth. Presently, with a little choking gasp, she opened her eyes, and gazed bewilderedly about her. White-faced and anxious, Patrick stood close to the door, behind the surgeon, so that at first she did not see him.
"Come, now—you're all right again, aren't you? A little weakness—that was all. How do you feel now?"
Faintly, and evidently with a struggle to collect her senses, she whispered an answer to his question.
"Better—thank you—doctor. Oh, may I please go back to the deck?"
"No, no—you must stay here for a little while. See, here is someone who knows you, and wishes to speak to you—an old friend. Indeed, you must not think you are without friends," he added kindly, as he gently raised her to a sitting posture on the settee.
He stood aside, and she saw Patrick. She moaned softly, and raised her rounded forearm across her eyes, bending her lovely head, whilst her shoulders shook with gentle sobs that she could not control—though she seemed to try to do so.
"Now, then—I am going to leave you here for a little while with Mr. Cartwright," said the surgeon cheerily. "Tell him all about yourself. You know, 'tis not too late, perhaps, for something to be done. But we mustn't have any more fainting—you understand. Not good for us. Well, I'll come back in an hour's time, Cartwright. You must hearten our friend up. But I don't doubt you will."
He opened the door and went out, leaving the two of them together. For a little time Patrick could find nothing to say. What was there to be said, in the face of the hard cruelty of this unalterable fact? How could he, by mere words, make the dreadful situation any different. The tragedy of that beautiful creature's sitting there, in that dim, little dog-hole of a surgery, hardly even decently clad in the coarse and ragged clothing of a convict, was too sternly real to be explained away.
Miss Urquhart seemed thinner, and slighter, and more delicate than when he had known her as a happy girl in Kent—and that was no wonder. She must have endured awful things to be here like this.
Presently, cursing himself for his embarrassment, he found his tongue. "Heavens—Miss Urquhart! What does it mean?"
The sound of his voice made her look up.
She was very pale, and lines of suffering were in her face, but the pure beauty of it nothing could mar. Her lovely golden hair was tumbled as if it had not known brush or comb for months, and seemed ready to fall in a glorious cascade about her shoulders. The blue eyes were wet with tears.
"Oh, Mr. Cartwright—Patrick!" she moaned entreatingly.
He was beside her in an instant upon the settee, and had seized her hands. He could feel that she shivered as if she were perishingly cold. And then he noticed the thinness of her scanty clothing.
"Good heavens!" he said. "You will die of cold." His eyes lighted upon the surgeon's boat-cloak, hanging behind the closed door.
Quickly unhooking it from its peg, he wrapped it about her thin and almost naked shoulders, and seated himself beside her again.
And then those unspoken words of love, that had nearly been uttered before their last parting poured from his lips—incoherent testimony to the fervor of his passion and the depth of his unhappiness. With his arm about her shrinking shoulders, he spoke hoarsely and hurriedly, as though he were hardly conscious of what he said, his broken words half whispered and half groaned into her little ear.
"My God—Miss Urquhart—Mary! What agony it has given me to see you here. All night long I have lain awake thinking of it. What does it mean? Speak to me, darling—and tell me 'tis but some horrid dream from which we shall presently awaken to find ourselves in your good father's house, or at Magnus Hall. Oh—in the name of heaven—what can it mean?"
At first she could say nothing—only nestle closer to him, whilst her sobs shook her and her hot tears fell upon the hand that held her own. But presently she grew a little calmer, and looked shyly up at him. His heart melted with grief as he gazed into the depths of those pleading eyes, and he whispered gently to her—infinite sympathy and love in the tense fervor of his words.
"Dear heart—be not afraid. Thank God that I am here to help you. Confide in me, my own dear girl—and tell me all that has happened. If I had only spoken before, and not been such a coward—all this might have been prevented. Tell me—darling—tell me what it means."
With a great effort of will she managed to control the bursting sobs that choked her utterance.
"Oh, Patrick—Mr. Cartwright, I mean——"
"Nay—my own sweetheart—call me by my name. 'Tis the sweetest sound I've heard this many a day."
"Oh—I have been so unhappy. So wretched and miserable—I know not how I have gone on living! Do you know," she whispered fearfully, "the judge said that I was to die!"
"'Twas but three days before they were to hang me that the reprieve came to Newgate."
"My dear one—do not think about it!"
"I cannot get it out of my mind—often I have wished that they had not changed their minds about me, and had let me die. Death could not have been more terrible than what I have been through—in those awful hulks in the Thames. And here, too, in this ship. But Dr. Bowes has been very kind to me—as he is to everyone. Kind and considerate. But some of those awful women—they are too dreadful to speak of!"
"Do not think of them, then. But tell me all about it. 'Tis possible that I may be able to think of some means of getting you away from here—of setting you free. Surely some dreadful blunder has been made?"
"'Tis I who have blundered—Patrick."
She spoke his name shyly, but with a kind of trustfulness that it did him good to hear.
"Dear one! Well, let me hear it."
"'Tis a long tale, Patrick—a tale of wickedness and baseness, such as I never could have believed existed. 'Tis incredible! Sometimes I think, as you said just now, that it is impossible it can be anything else but a horrid and malignant dream from which I shall presently awake to find myself happy again, and free. But the awakening is always to the terrible truth that nothing can be as it was, and that the awful present is the only real thing."
"No, no—'tis only a dream, dear heart. Soon it will be past, and the awakening a real and happy one. A year or two, and we—you and I, love—we will laugh about it."
She shook her head.
"'Tis too late. Ah, me—that I could ever hope it would be so!"
"It will be so. There's a God in heaven. He will not permit this infamy."
"Sometimes," she whispered, fearfully. "I have even doubted that. It has seemed to me that life must be controlled by devils—fierce, unjust, vengeful devils, who make a sport of us for their own cruel amusement."
"Nay—nay—you must not think so. All will come right. But tell me, love. Tell me—so that I may know how I can help you."
For a little she remained silent. Then, disengaging herself from his encircling arm, she stood up, and looked at him timidly.
"Well?" he said.
"Patrick," she whispered. "Listen! Had I not caught a glimpse of you yesterday, when you came on to the poop and were talking to Dr. Bowes. I meant—I meant—oh, how shall I say it to you?"
"Speak, darling. Tell me everything."
"Well, I was going to drown myself. I meant to throw myself into the sea. It had been too much for me—I was exhausted. I was too weak to face any more—to bear up against it all."
He stood up and folded her in his arms. She lay there a moment or two—then gently disengaged herself, smiling wistfully up at him.
"'Twas a very awful thing to mean to do, Patrick."
"Oh, my poor little darling! Promise me you'll never think of such a thing again."
She shook her head slowly.
"No—not now. Not now that I know there is someone who cares for me. I can almost believe again that God has not forgotten me—now that I have found you, Patrick. Surely He has not."
Presently she went on.
"I had written—partly in Newgate and partly on the hulk Repentance—on scraps and fragments of paper that, from time to time I was able to secure, the story of the whole miserable affair. I don't know why I did it save in some vague hoping against hope that it might somehow chance to come into your hands. I had never ceased to think of you," she faltered.
"Dear heart! Nor I of you."
She smiled at him sadly when he said this and caressed his hand.
"Well—here it is—and it has come into your hands, hasn't it? Take it and read it—it tells all my story—and it is written up to yesterday morning, as you will see. I meant to address it to Dr. Bowes, begging him to find you out, and hand it to you, or send it. I was going to leave it outside the barricade—drop it over, just before I did what I intended to do. Read it, and——"
At that moment there came a knocking at the door of the surgery.
"Put it in your pocket," she whispered. "Read it afterwards."
Patrick hid the little packet of manuscript in the breast of his jacket, and opened the door. The surgeon stepped into the cabin.
"Well, how are we now? Better, I hope. Ah, I see you are. Come now, Mistress Mortimer—I am going to put you in the hospital for a few days' rest. There is nobody else in there, and you'll have it all to yourself. Cartwright, wait for me a minute or two. I have something to say to you. Won't be long. Come, Mistress Mortimer."
The lovers' eyes met in a lingering glance, and she turned to follow the surgeon to the hospital.
"WELL," said the surgeon, when he had returned—seating himself beside Patrick on the settee. "So this is indeed the lady? How strange a chance—that you and she should meet in this way! She's a gentle creature. Indeed, her presence here is unaccountable. I'd stake my life that that woman could do no evil. Has she told you her trouble, Cartwright?"
"Not yet—but she has given me the story of it in writing. Unless you want me for anything, I'll go to my cabin and read it. You spoke a while ago of something you had to say to me?"
"'Twas but to say, my dear fellow—what perhaps you knew—that you have all my sympathy in this matter. We have not known one another very long—but I think there's a mutual liking and confidence between us. Is it not so?"
"Indeed, yes, my dear Bowes. You have been kind to me in many ways, and I assure you I appreciate it."
"Presuming a little upon our friendship, I can see that there is much between you and this lady—a mutual understanding—how shall I put it? 'Tis difficult for men to discuss these matters—though women can do it easily enough. What I wish to assure you, my friend, is that in every way I am at your service. You grasp my meaning—perhaps in ways that I could not very well enlarge upon in my reports to the authorities. There are many little things that I can do. The surgeon in charge of a transport has a wide latitude allowed to him in his treatment of his charges. For instance, I have placed Mary Mortimer—or Mary Urquhart, as I suppose she really is—in the hospital, which, although, not all that a hospital should be, is better than the prison deck. And I am going to keep her there. We will need a nurse—for I do not hope that we are going to get through so tremendous a voyage as this without some sickness. That will ensure her some small amount of privacy, and removal from the society of some of those base wretches in the prison. You can have no idea what some of them are like. Now go away and read the poor girl's story. Perhaps you will satisfy my natural curiosity a little after you have done so? I must confess to, perhaps, an inquisitive interest in this romantic, if unhappy, affair."
The surgeon's kindness touched Patrick deeply. He wrung his hand. "You are a good fellow, Bowes, a sterling good fellow! I shall never forget your goodness."
"Oh—tut, tut! 'Tis but all you would do for me. Come, now—I am going to thrust you out of here. I have some medicines to put up for my ladies, and must not make you privy to such delicate affairs. Professional confidences must be respected—even in the Lady Penrhyn. Out with you!"
In the quietness of his own cabin—not yet quite ship-shape and in order for the voyage—Patrick sat himself down with his back to the light of the scuttle, and drew the manuscript from the bosom of his jacket.
It was a soiled-looking document, tied round with coarse cotton, and much frayed as to the edges—as though it had often had to be thrust hastily into hiding. With a sort of reverence, he carefully untied the string. Half ashamed of himself, he raised the paper to his lips, and then spread it out upon his knees.
He knew the delicate Italian hand she wrote in, and read it without difficulty. This is what he read—though a good deal of it has had to be left out, for reasons of space-saving. Long passages having to do with the unhappy girl's sentiments and feelings on certain occasions have been omitted. It was an age of moralising—when even official reports were not free from lofty sentiment—and Mary's literary style was not exceptional.
"I write this statement whilst in Prison, with little hope that it will have any result in Ameliorating my lot by procuring either my pardon or Release, but merely so that it may establish my Innocence should it fall into the hands of those for whom it is Designed, who have Trust and Confidence in my integrity and Virtue. There are a few who will treat with that scorn which it deserves the wicked and cruel accusation under which I suffer. Should it so happen that this Document may come into the hands of those whose Faith in me is Unshaken, it may, when I am no more, resolve them to preserve my Memory as that of one who has been greatly wronged, and made to suffer Cruelly.
"My name is Mary Mortimer, and at the time of this Writing I am 21 yrs and four months of Age, and am ye daughter of Mr. Thomas Urquhart, lately of Finsbury Pavement, in the Citie of London, and of 'The Beeches,' in the County of Kent, nr Rochester, gentleman, deceased.
"Until about two years ago, my dear Father dwelt in London, in the large House in which his Counting House was situated, but about that time, in ye y'r 1785, when he retired from Business as a Ship Broker and West Indies Merchant, we went to live in Kent—his Health having become so Precarious that the Doctors had advised him to seek the quiet of the country in which to pass what they did not disguise were his last days. So we removed to the House above mentioned, near to the Village of Little Magnus.
"For a time my poor Father's Health seem'd to benefit by the Change of Scene and air—but he was never at any time buoy'd up by any false Hoaps that his Recovery might be compleat. Still, the peacefulness of the Countryside was a great consolation to him, and his Spirits were much better than they had been in London.
"My aunt, Miss Priscilla Urquhart, had lived with us in London for several years, since the death of my Mother, as housekeeper to my father, and as a kind of guardian of myself. She was a deeply Religious woman, or, rather, she had some gloomy Creed to which she was devoted with a sort of fanatick ardor that impelled her to all kinds of strange Manifestations of an ostentatious Piety. I do not think that she could bear to see any one happy or light-hearted, and with me she was ever severe, cold, and Censorious. In every way that was possible she sought to restrain any exuberance of Spirit which I may have possessed, and my life under her charge was anything but Agreeable. I could do nothing to please her—and, indeed, I tried hard to make myself dear to her, since I deeply felt the want of some one's love and regard——"
"My poor Mary!" muttered Patrick. "Who could help but love her?"
"In Kent I found much happiness—mainly owing to one who rescued me from a great peril, and of whom I came to see much, and the more I saw of him the greater was my regard for him. I make no secret of it that I loved him Dearly—and I think he knew this, and returned my Affection. But he had to go where his duty lay, and we parted with only an understanding, that was, however—I am sure of it—very real to both of us."
"God—what a fool I was!"
"Soon after he went away I began to notice that my dear Father became much worse in his Health than he had been—tho' he had not at any time within the last few years enjoy'd much vigor of Life. But his illness seemed to take on a new Character, of a sort that was quite dissimilar from his previous Sufferings. My Aunt professed to have had much experience in Nursing the Sick, and was wont to administer to him many remedies of her own concoction, made from Herbs which she was in the habit of gathering in the woods. One day he was violently ill, with most severe Retchings and great pain in his Bowels, and this was after she had given him one of her Doses, which left him nearly prostrate at Death's door. I had not begun to suspect anything then, and did not do so until, alas, it was too late.. ..
"On another occasion, upon my coming into the sick room Unexpectedly, I saw her in the act of hastily hiding a Black Bottle, which she seemed very desirous that I sh'd not see. Soon after, the poor sufferer was again taken ill, and this time 'twas all that he could do to survive.... I am now convinced, in the light of all that has happened, that this cruel, unnatural, and wicked woman was deliberately engag'd in poisoning her Unfortunate Brother, my beloved Father.. ..
"At last my poor Father died, in the most terrible Agony, with symptoms entirely similar to those which had accompanied my Aunt's previous administration of her Medicines. For a long time he had been wandering in his Mind and Childish, and she seemed latterly to have acquired so much influence over him as to compleatly change all his Sentiments. I had ever been his Fond and Loving Daughter, but in the last weeks of his Illness he seemed to have taken so great a Dislike to me as to be unable to bear my Presence in his room. He was altogether chang'd, and had become entirely subservient to the Will of my Aunt. She prayed over him constantly—if such horrible Blasphemies as she uttered about the Future Life can be termed prayer.. ..
"When my Father was dead, my Aunt produced a Will, made a few weeks before his death, in which she was named the sole Legatee, and I was left nothing, save as a charge upon her Charity. She immediately surrendered the lease of the house, and came up to London, where we lived again in Finsbury Pavement.. ..
"My situation was a very unpleasant one, and it was not long before I determined to support myself by my own industry, as being preferable to the state of Dependence upon my Aunt which was the only Alternative. So, answering an Advertisement in the 'Morning Chronicle.' I became a Governess to some young children in the house of a Mr. Ephraim Halibut, who lived at Edgeware, and was an American Loyalist, who had fled the country of his adoption at the Rebellion of the Colonists.. ..
"My employer was a benevolent Gentleman, who, with his wife, was extreamly kind to me, and my young pupils were Affectionate and docile, so that I found my Situation not an Unpleasant one, and did not regret the Step I had taken in severing my Connection with my Aunt—who, I am convinced, was some kind of Religious Maniac.. ..
"There came to be a member of Mr. Halibut's household a man named Richard Mortimer——"
"Great heavens!" exclaimed Patrick. "Can it be that villain—that type of all that's evil?"
He read on.
"A man named Richard Mortimer. He had obtained a position as Secretary to Mr. Halibut—as I afterwards became aware, by the employment of forged Credentials. Having been for some time in the American Colonies—or, to give them their present title, the United States—he was in some respects useful to the Gentleman in whose service he had fraudulently obtained a position, and, for a time, conducted himself with Propriety. But from the Moment of meeting him, I seemed to discern something of badness in his Nature; this was, alas, only too terribly confirmed, as the sequel will show.. ..
"Accursed name!" groaned Patrick.
"Richard Mortimer early began to show me Attentions which I did everything that it was possible to discourage. He provoked in me a sort of Loathing which I can only ascribe to that Natural Repulsion from Evil which any who have been decently brought up must experience when brought into contact with what is essentially bad and wicked. And these two things it did not take me long to be quite Certain of with respect to this man. Curiously enough, I fancied that in him I could detect a resemblance in person to that cherished Individual whom I have written of Above—but there the likeness ceased, for no two men could be so dissimilar in Character, the one all Goodness, Chivalry, and Gentleness; the other full of Deceptions, Stratagems, and Wickedness."
"A resemblance to me in person," muttered Patrick. "That puts his identity beyond doubt."
"But I was not prepared for the terrible thing that he would do. When the Family were absent in London for several days, and on an evening when I was walking in the Park, at some little distance from the house, in a situation sufficiently Solitary for the perpetration of his vile purpose, he suddenly appeared before me——"
"Oh, God!" moaned Patrick. "What horror is she about to reveal?"
"I cannot bear even to write what took place. But he offered me marriage afterwards—and what could I do? Before the Family returned, we fled to London, where he took a lodging in Clerkenwell, and were married. It is not of any use my setting down the state of my Feelings.. ..
"A bare week after our marriage, two Bow Street officers came to my lodging during my husband's absence, and said that they had a warrant for my arrest, on suspicion of complicity with him in robbing my late Employer, Mr. Halibut, of a sum of Money and some jewellery. I knew nothing of this, but when they searched the room, and found certain of the articles stolen concealed in the fire-place, there was nothing to be said. I was charged before the Magistrates with receiving stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, and was committed for Trial at the Old Bailey. In the meantime, the villain had succeeded in making his escape from the Prison in St. George's Fields, where he was confined——"
The manuscript dropped from Patrick's grasp—though he had not come to the end of it, for there were still several sheets of close-written narrative.
"Oh, my God!" he groaned, burying his face in his hands, as though to shut out the horror of what he had just read. "Oh, my poor girl!"
He sprang to his feet, and dashed his fist against the bulkhead, in a frenzy of rage and despair, so that his knuckles were torn and bleeding. Then he dropped upon his cot, and, with his head buried upon his arms, broke into a storm of passionate and silent sobbing.
Minutes later, a knock at his cabin door aroused him. Hastily picking up the manuscript, he called out, "Come in!" and the surgeon entered.
"Well, well—that's as fine as we can fix it," began Dr. Bowes, cheerily, when the sight of Patrick's drawn and pallid face checked him.
"Cartwright!" he exclaimed. "Heavens, man—are you ill?"
"Doctor—that poor girl has been incredibly wronged. Her story is a terrible one—heart-rending. Read it!" he held the document out towards the surgeon—and then suddenly withdrew it. "No—I beg your pardon, Doctor—'tis, not mine to show you. I must respect her confidence. This is the best way."
He stood up, and tore the manuscript into small fragments. Opening the scuttle, he thrust them through, and let the wind spread them over the waters.
"Sit down, Doctor—and I'll tell you."
The surgeon seated himself on Patrick's sea-chest, and listened to the outline of Mary Urquhart's troubles. But he was not told the terrible thing that had happened in the garden near Edgeware.
"What a——- villain!" he said, when the tale was finished
"Villain!" cried Patrick. "By heavens—Doctor—if I find that man, I'll torture him to death!"
The surgeon said nothing for a little while, but seemed to be thinking seriously. Presently he spoke in a whisper, leaning across the cabin towards the distracted young officer.
"Listen, Cartwright—we must help her to escape!"
BUT there could be no escape, for the very sufficient reason that the principal performer in such an interlude refused to perform. When the surgeon, in a roundabout fashion, broached the subject of making the attempt to her, Mary Mortimer would have nothing to do with it. She preferred, she said, the misery of banishment and exile to being linked in England with the crimes, and atonements for them, of Richard Mortimer. There was nothing she could go through, now, any worse than that which she had already endured. It were better to put the distance of the world between herself and the villain Mortimer than to remain where she might at any moment be called upon to play the part of his wife.
And so the strange comedy remained to be played as it is described in this veracious narrative.
At length the weary period of waiting came to an end, and the Fleet sailed for New South Wales. Captain Phillip completed the strenuous business which had detained him so long in London—a constant fight with apathetic departments for the very necessaries of equipment—or, at least, completed it as far as it might ever hope to be completed—and came down to Portsmouth on May 7, going aboard the Sirius a couple of days later. On May 10 he made the signal to the Fleet to prepare to sail the following morning.
Eleven ships composed the little squadron that was to transport the expedition to the Antipodes. H.M.S. Sirius, 26 guns, carried the Governor and his Staff, with Captain John Hunter, R.N., as Second Captain. The Supply, 12 guns, commanded by Lieutenant Ball, was to act as tender to the Commodore's ship. The transport Alexander had 210 male convicts aboard, and the Scarborough an equal number. The Charlotte carried 73 male and 20 female convicts, the Lady Penrhyn 109 females and eight children, the Prince of Wales 50 females, and the Friendship a mixed company of 109 male and female prisoners. The Borrowdale, Fishburn, and Golden Grove were loaded with stores and equipment for the new settlement. H.M.S. Hyaena was to convoy the Fleet one hundred leagues into the Atlantic.
One of the best records of that long voyage is contained in the journal kept by Dr. Bowes, which is now in the Mitchell Library, at Sydney. He may well be quoted here as to the few days that were spent in the process of departure. There was a little trouble with two or three of the ships, whose crews were dissatisfied over matters relating to pay and final leave—but it was at length adjusted by the much-harassed Commodore, and by May 13 the Fleet was in blue water.
Thus writes our friend, the surgeon of the Lady Penrhyn:—
"May 9th.—Went to Portsmouth to purchase different necessary Articles previous to our Sailing. The Governor came on board the Sirius this forenoon.
"Thursday, 10th.—This morn'g very fine. Wind at N.E.: at Eight O'Clock the Commodore made the Signal for preparing to Sail the next morn'g. An order sent on board the Ships for All Dogs to be sent on Shore. P.M.: very rainy.
"Friday, 11th May.—Wind W.S.W. Ships all very busy in compleating their Bread and Water.
"12th.—Little Wind, and that at N.E. An order sent on board All Ships to desire no men to be suffer'd to leave their respective Ships. At 9 O'Clock a.m. the Sirius made the Signal for weighing All Anchors and Sailing, and at 4 p.m. the Sirius got under weigh, and the whole of the Fleet except the Charlotte, the Lady Penrhyn, and Prince of Wales, as their Bread and Water were not compleated. Went in the Afternoon with Capts. Campbell and Sever to Ryde, and returned abt 9 o'clock in the Even, and on board.
"Sunday, 13th.—This morn'g at 5 o'clock the Lady Penrhyn set sail, as did all the fleet, attended by the Hyaena Frigate, Hon. Capt. De Courcy, Commander, wh. accompanied us abt 100 leagues to the Westward—a very fine day wt a good breeze at E.S.E. the fleet went thro' the Needles. At 11 O'clock a.m. a Signal for crowding Sail and coming up wt the Commodore, at 3 p.m. a Signal for All Ships to keep closer together and bear up to the Sirius. The Charlotte, a remarkably slow sailor, several miles astern. Fish for Mackarell off Portland, within sight of where the Halswell East Indiaman was lost.
"14th.—A rainy morn'g, a gentle breeze; the whole fleet 1 league ahead of us. In the afternoon the wind sank and we came up with the fleet; opposite Devonshire, which is the only Land now in sight and that lies abt 5 or 6 leagues distant. A number of small yellow birds are perch'g upon the rigging and on the Decks. Many on board fishing for Mackarell with success. This day a Dutch Dogger, a French Ship, and an English West Indiaman pass'd us at a small distance. This day Mr. Watts very ill with a Dyspnoea; ordered the pediluvium and administered the Sal Amm in Spr of Oether and Elix paregoric wh greatly relieved him. This day kill'd a Sheep.
"15th.—Get up wt the fleet; spoke the Alex and the Supply Brig; all well; got sight of the Lisard. A great many Casks of Geneva floating on the water, at which the Fishburn pick'd up 35 and the Scarborough 25. A lugger from Falmouth came alongside, all the Hands in her very Drunk; bot some Bread of hrr."
There is not room in this narrative to go into any details concerning this tremendous voyage, save the very slightest. It took the Fleet almost exactly eight months to reach Botany Bay—but there were, of course, the long rests at Rio and the Cape to account for a considerable portion of this time. Some of the transports—particularly the Charlotte, and that in which we are most interested—were very bad sailers, and hindered the progress of the ships a good deal, since it was necessary that they should keep reasonably close together.
On May 19, H.M.S. Hyaena said farewell, and carried the last letters back to England. On the same day an attempted rising of the prisoners on the Scarborough was put down, and the ringleaders punished—somewhat mildly, considering the times. They only had twenty-four lashes.
June 1 saw their arrival at Teneriffe, where they remained a week, taking in supplies and watering. They reached Rio de Janeiro on August 6. Here they remained four weeks, until September 4, being very hospitably and kindly treated by the Portuguese. They anchored in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, on October 13.
They remained at the Cape for four weeks, sailing on November 11 on the last long stretch of their voyage to Australia.
On the 25th of the month Phillip went on board the Supply to sail ahead of the Fleet, so as to explore the coast of New South Wales before the main body of the expedition should have arrived at its destination. This idea he had entertained before sailing from England. Dr. Bowes refers to it in his journal at some length, and with a good deal of disapproval. He does not seem to have known, however, that the plan was a premeditated one.
"The Governor's design in thus separating the fleet," he writes, "was this: As there were several of the Ships that were very slew Sailors (and I am very sorry to say the two Ladies, viz., the Charlotte and Lady Penrhyn, stood foremost in the list), he made a choice of the ships above-mentioned, as being the best sailors hitherto, and these 3 ships were, by his express orders, put under the direction of Lieut. Shortland, the Navy Agent. The Supply was the Swiftest Sailor in the fleet in light breezes, but so low that she cd make no way when there was much wind or swell, being then almost constantly under water, and in every way a most uncomfortable Ship. The Governor, therefore, depending upon the Season of the year for light winds and fine weather, meant to explore the Coast of New S. Wales, previous to the arrival of the rest of the fleet; but in order to have had this scheme succeed, he shd have put his plan in force long before he did, as it cd not, wt the smallest degree of probability, be supposed that the fleet wd arrive long enough after him to compleat such a work of time as that of exploring any considerable a part of so extensive a Coast as that of New Holland. Had he conceived the idea and put it in practice on leaving Rio de Janeiro, it might have succeeded in some measure, but as it was now produced it was a mere Abortion of the Brain, a whim which struck him at the time, as the sequel will sufficiently evince."
Dr. Bowes was a young man, full of enthusiasms and generous, kindly optimisms, that always expected the best of results from the most indifferent materials. When he took charge of the convicts on the Lady Penrhyn, as he did early in the voyage, owing to the utter incompetence of Mr. Alstree, who had been originally appointed to minister to their needs, he had had a notion that he might be able to land his ladies very much better women than they had been when they came aboard. The voyage was to be a sort of probationary period of preparation for the beneficent part they were destined to play in the colony. In the vast spaces of ocean over which they were to travel, they would slough the skin of viciousness, and become somehow purified sufficiently to act a worthy part as the wives and mothers of the new nation.
"'Tis a fine thing," he once remarked to Patrick, "a very fine thing indeed, of Government to have given the poor creatures this chance of working out their own salvation. 'Tis the one thing needful for their redemption and reform—that they should go to a new country, where they will be able to start again. I look for happy results from the scheme."
But by the end of the year he had sadly come to quite a different conclusion. Here is the entry in his journal for December 10, when he had come to know his frail charges better.
"Spoke the Sirius abt 10 o'clock a.m.—the longde. 58½—Since Commodore Phillip left us the remainder of the ships of the fleet have kept much better together, as Capn. Hunter does not carry such a press of sail as the Commodore used to do. This day I had the box of Necessaries got up out of the Gunroom, where, from the rolling of the Ship, it had burst an end, and some of the Sugar had fallen out, and stowed the contents in the Lockyers of my own Cabin. This box was sent on board for the use of the Sick amongst the Convicts, and under the care of the surgeon. It consisted of the following Articles:—Abt 40lb. of moist Sugar, 6lb. of Currants, 6lb. of Sagoe, 1lb. of Almonds, a small quantity of French barley, a 10 galln Cask of red Port Wine, some portable Soup, Tea, Lump Sugar, 10 tin Saucepans and mugs, two Caggs of fine Essence of Malt. The Provisions for the Convicts was also very good of their kind, the Beef and Pork in particular were excellent. A retrospective view of these different Articles may serve to justifie the observation I made some way back in this Journal, that I believe few Marines or Soldiers going out on a foreign service under Government were better if so well provided for as these Convicts are. It is also asserted there are not less than 2000 bots of Medicine of different kinds in the Fleet.
"I wish I could with truth add that the behaviour of the Convicts merited such extream indulgence—but I believe I may venture to say there was never a more abandoned set of wretches collected in one place at any period than are now to be met with in this Ship in particular, and I am credibly informed the comparison holds with respect to all the Convicts in the fleet. The greater part of them are so totally abandoned and callous'd to all sense of shame, and even common decency, that it frequently becomes indispensably necessary to inflict Corporal punishment upon them, and sorry I am to say that even this rigid mode of proceeding has not the desired Effect, since every day furnishes proofs of their being more harden'd in their Wickedness."
The surgeon supplies a footnote to this paragraph, which casts an interesting light upon the methods of discipline in vogue in the Fleet. It is as follows:—
"Upon any very extraordinary occasion, such as thieving, fighting with each other, or making use of abusive language to the Officers, they have thumb screws put on, or iron fetters on their wrists, and sometimes their hair has been cut off and their head shaved, which they seemed to dislike more than any other punishment they underwent. At first, 1 or 2 were flog'd with a Cat of 9 tails on the naked breech, but as.. .. such a mode of punishment cd not be inflicted, with that attention to decency wh everyone whose province it was to punish them wished to adhere to, it was totally laid aside. They were also whilst under punishment so very abusive that there was a necessity for gaging them."
He proceeds with his lamentation.
"Nor do I perceive it possible in their present situation to adopt any plan to induce them to behave like rational or even human Beings—perpetually thieving the Cloaths from each other, nay, almost from their backs, may be rank'd amongst the least of their crimes (tho' it is the Crime for which most of them are in their present disgraceful situation). The Oaths and imprecations they daily make use of in their common conversation and little disputes with each other by far exceeds anything of the kind to be met wt amongst the most profligate wretches in London. Nor can their matchless Hippocracy be equalled, except by their base ingratitude, many of them plundering the Sailors (who have at every Port they arrived at spent almost the whole of the wages due to them in purchasing different Articles of wearing apparel, and something for their accomodation) of their necessary cloaths and cutting them up for some purpose of their own."
Mary Mortimer—thanks to the kindness of Dr. Bowes—had been spared much of the society of these gentle creatures. Her position as nurse in the hospital ensured her a certain amount of privacy, and some little comforts that did not come the way of her companions in misfortune. Several times she had been given an opportunity of speaking with Lieutenant Cartwright. When he happened to be officer of the day on the ship, and had to make the tour of inspection with the captain and the surgeon that was the most important function of the twenty-four hours, he would seek an opportunity of lingering for a moment or two in the hospital to snatch an all too brief word with her.
"Mary, dear," he had whispered on the first of these occasions after having read the written statement of her unhappy fate, "Mary, my own dear love, whatever has happened can make no difference to me. You know that, don't you, dear one?"
Her eyes were full of tears as she raised them to his.
"Ah, Mr. Cartwright—Patrick," she faltered, "you forget—I am the wife of another. Of a wicked villain, 'tis only too true—but he is my husband. God help us—my own love!" she whispered, as he tore himself away. "He will help us—that I feel certain of."
They were gloomy, miserable months for Patrick. Had it not been for the society of the kindly surgeon, he was sure that he would have gone mad with grief. Sometimes such an access of blind fury against the cruel fate that had overwhelmed the beloved woman in the prison quarters of the Lady Penrhyn would take possession of him that he almost felt capable of clasping her in his arms and jumping overboard.
On the 20th of January, 1788, the Lady Penrhyn dropped anchor in Botany Bay—two days after the arrival there of Governor Phillip in H.M.S. Supply. Dr. Bowes' prediction as to the futility of trusting to the sailing qualities of the latter ship had proved correct.
ON an evening early in May of that first year of Australia, Mr. Patrick Cartwright stepped ashore near the head of the Cove from a boat belonging to the Lady Penrhyn, lying out in the stream, almost ready to commence the voyage to China for which she had been chartered by the East India Company, after she should have discharged her prisoners and stores.
He had been to dine with his friend the surgeon, and had found Dr. Bowes in high spirits at once more getting to sea and away from the dismal little settlement on the edge of the wilderness.
"It appals me," his friend had remarked, as they leaned over the poop rail in the afternoon, gazing along the valley of the Tank Stream to where the ragged tops of the dark forest stood up against the skyline on the higher ground behind the settlement—"it almost makes me shudder to think what may lie before yonder little community. I don't wish to seem a croaker, Patrick, my friend—but it looks to me as if you're going to have a devil of a time of it here, in the immediate future. Except that I am sorry to leave you behind, I'm heartily glad that my own services are not to be devoted to Captain Phillip's colony much as I esteem the worthy Governor. He's a man in ten thousand, and if anyone can be expected to pull the thing through, he's the one to do it. But—Great George—look at it. 'Tis enough to sour the most cheerful optimist, when one looks yonder, at this miserable little encampment, and thinks over what it has to face. You have my sympathy."
"Oh, well," laughed Patrick. "You know, Rome wasn't built in a day, my dear Arthur. Wait until you drop anchor here again. We'll have a new London on the shores of Sydney Cove some day. Oh, I've faith in our prospects, I assure you."
Indeed, the eye of faith was needed to take a hopeful view of the prospects of the tiny community that clustered along the Tank Stream in the winter of 1788. It was the merest rough encampment on the shores of the vast, unknown continent—nothing but a precarious foothold on the coast. A bushfire could have wiped its wretched hovels off the map. An epidemic of sickness—such as had destroyed Spanish colonisation in the Solomon Islands two centuries before—might have swept away its queer population in a week. It had nothing about it that had any suggestion of permanence and stability. It was a sordid, squalid little hamlet, meaner and more unpromising than any community of outcasts in all Europe or Asia. Its contemplation appalled more than Surgeon Bowes.
But there was one lion-hearted man who refused to be appalled. Arthur Phillip's faith was never shaken.
"I have no doubt," he wrote about this time to Mr. Secretary Nepean, "but that the country will hereafter prove a most valuable acquisition to Great Britain, though at present no country can afford less support to the first settlers, or be more disadvantageously placed for receiving support from the mother country, on which it must for a time depend. It will require patience and perseverance, neither of which will, I hope, be wanting."
As he made his landing, Patrick halted, and paused a while to look about him. His friend's words were fresh is his ears, and he felt inclined to take stock of the situation as it embodied itself in the curious little village in which he found himself.
If you enter Sydney Cove to-day, and look up the valley of the old Tank Stream—which, perhaps, no living man remembers having seen—say, from the upper deck of a Manly steamer, you will not, by any possibility, be able to form a picture, from what you see before you, of Sydney as it looked one hundred and thirty-two years ago. The busy Quay, with its roaring trams speeding back and forth, crowding pedestrians hurrying like black ants across and about the broad thoroughfare between the waterside and the tall buildings, the narrow streets cutting through a continent of masonry up the gentle slope to the heart of the great city, the high roofs rearing themselves in serrated outline against the blue of the sky—there can be no suggestion whatever in its present-day appearance of the scenery which surrounded Patrick Cartwright on that evening in May so long ago. Everything is changed beyond all recognition. Nothing remains as it looked from the deck of the Sirius, as she lay at anchor in the spot where your suburban passenger steamer stops her engines opposite to the wharf of the P. and O. Company, as she slows down to enter her berth.
On an August day in that first year of Sydney's existence, from a ship's deck in the mouth of the Cove, Captain John Hunter, of H.M.S. Sirius, and afterwards to succeed Phillip in the Governorship of the colony, made a drawing of the scene that lay before him as he looked towards the south. It is a quaintly inartistic effort—something of the sort that a child of seven or eight might have done—but it has an historic value to-day that it would be difficult to over-estimate. Even if some of the objects in the picture almost require such labels as "This is a tree," or "This is a house," that crude sketch is an almost priceless record of the very first beginnings of Australia as a component part of civilisation. Without it we could gather to-day hardly the remotest idea of what the place was like.
Go to the wildest part of the great harbor to the northward—Broken Bay—and select some inlet of the many scores that are available for your choosing, where rocks and forest have not yet been interfered with, and remain in their primeval condition as they have been for thousands and thousands of years. It should be a little bay of about the size of the area partly enclosed by the Circular Quay, with a valley opening into it down which a gentle streamlet finds its way to the sea water. There you may see something of the same sort of scenery that they landed amidst from the First Fleet, in January, 1788. Rocky shores, and dense, impenetrable scrub and forest, a little beach—half mud and half sand at low water and the awe-inspiring silence of the virgin forest over all. There are many such places still to be found in the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, and it is there that you will get the most faithful representation of what Sydney was like when it first became Sydney.
There has recently been published a little book—"The Story of George Street," by C. H. Bertie—in which there is an excellent and illuminating description of what the place was like when Phillip landed, as deduced from Captain Hunter's sketch. Mr. Bertie is possibly the best living authority on Early Sydney, and one is greatly indebted to him for the following passage in his book:—
"On his right hand, as he entered the Cove, Phillip saw a steep, rocky hill extending from what came to be known as Dawes Battery to Grosvenor Street; thence the hill continued southwards, but with a less rocky and rugged contour. On his left arose another hill, at first with an abrupt rise from the water, then changing to a gentler slope as it reached the vicinity where the Custom House now stands, and matching the opposite hill as it ran to the south. In the hollow between these hills ran a little purling brook—'a run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood, the stillness of which had then for the first time since the creation been interrupted by the rude sound of the laborer's axe and the downfall of its ancient inhabitants; a stillness and tranquillity which from that day were to give place to the voice of labor, the confusion of camps and towns, and the busy hum of its new possessions.' Thus wrote a man—David Collins—who landed from the First Fleet and saw in its pristine beauty what was afterwards known as the Tank Stream. Collins refers to a thick wood, and Hunter's drawing, although the ground was cleared in part when he drew his sketch, shows us that the slopes of the hills were thickly wooded. In the woods must have grown some giant trees, for in the 'Sydney Gazette' of August 7, 1803, it is announced that 'the military have completed the streets in their respective districts. They have removed from their places of nativity 33 stumps of trees, many of which were of monstrous bulk. One in particular deserves remark. Its circumference measured nine yards, and employed 16 men six days to loosen and bury it in a gulph that was necessarily prepared close to the spot on which it grew.' The tree required 90 men to roll it into the 'gulph.' This giant stood in the George Street of to-day."
Such were the surroundings of the young officer as he sauntered slowly from the landing place, wonderingly speculating as to how long it would be before the settlement became properly habitable.
It was growing dusk as he bent his steps towards the encampment of the Marines—for they were still under canvas, and were a good deal more comfortable in their tents than the prisoners in their flimsy huts constructed of green timber, daubed with clay, and thatched with rushes.
He had only walked a few paces when he heard himself hailed out of the uncertain light, from a few yards away.
"Iss it your own self, Mr. Cartwright?"
He recognised the voice and accent as belonging to his Marine servant, a Welshman named Owen Morgan.
"Yes, Morgan," he called back. "Here I am—what's the matter?"
The man hastened up to him.
"Y'r honor—th' Governor himself's been a-sending for ye all the afternoon. Indeed, yes. He wass wishing for to see you, sir—ferry particular, I think it iss, y'r honor. The last time the orderly he says 'twas his Exc'lency's wishes ye wass to go to him so soon as ye wass come back. I haf told him ye wass a-dining with Dr. Bowes, sir. Yes, indeed."
"All right—thank you, Morgan. I'll not want you again to-night—you may go where you please. Keep away from the women's lines, though. You know the order."
"Oh, indeed, yes, sir. I'd not dream of any such a thing, y'r honor," responded the virtuous Mr. Morgan, saluting, and disappearing into the darkness.
Wondering what the Governor could want with him at such a time, Patrick turned his steps towards the canvas house by the flagstaff, which was the temporary vice-regal residence. He gave his name to the sentry, and after a short wait was requested to enter.
Government House was a curious little dwelling of canvas, stretched upon a wooden frame, that had been brought out from England, packed away in the hold of the Sirius, and erected for the Governor's accommodation almost as soon as space could be cleared for it in the all-pervading scrub. It stood close by the waterside, just about where Loftus Street runs into the Circular Quay, between the Custom House and the hotel on the other side of the roadway—but it was then at some considerable distance from the head of the Cove, which narrowed into a peak and the mouth of the Tank Stream, a little on the harbor side of where Pitt and Bridge Streets now intersect.
Patrick found his Excellency seated at a small camp-table, busily engaged over the preparation of his first despatch to Lord Sydney—that one which is dated May 15, 1788.
"Lieutenant Cartwright, y'r Ex'lency," announced the Marine, holding aside the flimsy door as Patrick passed into the larger of the two rooms that composed the headquarters of government in New South Wales.
Phillip looked up, and nodded without smiling, so that Patrick knew there was something amiss.
Indicating a camp-stool with his pen, the Governor requested the young officer to be seated, looking at him curiously as be saluted, removed his shako, and sat down.
For a few moments there was an uncomfortable pause, during which the head of the State drummed gently on the table with his fingers, and continued to scan the face of his subordinate with an expression that was blended of annoyance and sorrow. Patrick felt uncomfortable, but could not call to mind any reason for his having incurred the vice-regal displeasure. There had been one or two late nights in the mess—but nothing more serious than a little singing and sky-larking, when the Marine officers had entertained the officers of the Sirius and the Supply. Nothing to be apprehensive about.
Past middle age, Arthur Phillip was still an active, athletic man, capable of great physical exertion and sustained endurance. Thoughtful eyes, a bold, aggressive nose, a square jaw and determined chin, and a kindly, sensitive mouth, gave his face that distinction which is common to the countenances of men who can get things done and are not discouraged by any adverse circumstance. He wore his hair brushed back from a high, broad forehead, and plaited into a short queue behind, as was the naval fashion of the day. Kindliness and benevolence were the most striking features of his physiognomy—but there could be sternness and severity also. It was with something of the latter attributes that he regarded Patrick this evening, as he sat before him in the light of the dim ship's lantern swinging from the ridge-pole, whose faint illumination was eked out by a couple of candles on the writing-table.
"Mr. Cartwright," at length began the Governor. "I have been requesting your attendance here all the afternoon. Where have you been?"
"Aboard the Lady Penrhyn, your Excellency—dining with Doctor Bowes."
"Ah—a good man, Bowes. I trust he is well?"
"Very well, your Excellency."
Patrick wished that the Governor would relieve his apprehensions by coming to the point. He had to wait no longer.
"I have sent for you. Mr. Cartwright, to have a little talk with you on a matter as to which I could wish there were no necessity of alluding. You know, I was well acquainted with your late uncle, Colonel Cartwright—for whom I had a very high regard indeed. It is not an agreeable task, I must confess, to be compelled to censure the nephew of my old friend who is no more."
"Censure? Your Excellency?"
Phillip nodded, and went on. "Yes, Mr. Cartwright—in view of your conduct, nothing else is open to me."
"But, sir—I was not aware that I had been in any way remiss. In the performance of my duties, I mean, your Excellency."
The Governor regarded him with what Mr. Cartwright realised was something of the mild contempt one feels for another who seeks to evade a question that is sufficiently obvious. But, for the life of him, he could not imagine what Phillip was driving at. The latter spoke with deep gravity when he went on.
"You are a young man, Mr. Cartwright, and therefore, under ordinary circumstances, one would be willing to make allowances for you. After all, each of us has been young—and a little foolish, sometimes. But the circumstances here are not ordinary—they are far from being so. We must regard ourselves—we who have the direction of this colony, and its guidance, in our hands—as being placed in a position of exceptional trust. We are upon one of the most severe of active services, here in New South Wales. I am sorry that you should have been forgetful of that very serious fact, Mr. Cartwright."
"But, your Excellency—I have always striven——"
The Governor held up his hand.
"I have no complaint to make as to the performance of your routine duties, Mr. Cartwright. In fact, I have observed that you have taken a more active interest in the matter of making accommodations for your men, for instance, than have many of your brother officers. 'Tis in the matter of your private life, rather than your public capacity, that I have fault to find."
"Sir, I do not know what your Excellency can be alluding to."
"Oh, come now—think, Mr. Cartwright. 'Tis not in reason—and I think you are a reasonable man—that you should be blind to the fact that, to say the least of it, you are setting a very bad example to those under you."
"Will your Excellency please explain? I must confess that I am totally at a loss to account for your manner of addressing me."
"Well, well—Mr. Cartwright—must I remind you that I have issued very stringent orders that there was to be no communication between members of the garrison and the female convicts?"
"Of course—I am aware of your Excellency's views—and strict commands on that subject. But how I may be concerned, I fail——"
A shadow of impatience flitted across the Governor's face. He did not suffer Patrick to continue, but came to the point at once, with startling suddenness.
"'Tis of the prisoner Mary Mortimer I am speaking, Mr. Cartwright, and of your very reprehensible connection with her. You understand me now? I thought so—I can see by your countenance that you do."
Phillip regarded him sternly and disapprovingly. For his life, Patrick could not think of anything to say. Of course, there had been nothing wrong between him and the poor girl he loved so hopelessly, but how was the Governor to believe that? The morals and manners of the community over which he ruled were not such as to lead him to expect anything in the relationship between the sexes that could be regarded as being of a platonic nature. He must look for the worst. Nervously, the young man sought to explain the position.
"Your Excellency, I beg you to believe that I have done no wrong to that unhappy——"
Phillip rose from his seat, and walked round to his side of the table. He laid his hand upon Patrick's shoulder in a fatherly fashion. When he spoke it was with an accent of kindly regard, that sought to soften his expression of disapproval with the young officer's conduct.
"Well, well, Mr. Cartwright, say no more. Say no more. We understand one another. I do not wish to be severe upon you. Cut loose from this undesirable connection, and devote yourself to your work. There is plenty of that for all of us. But I pray you to remember that I am determined that nothing of this sort shall go on between my officers and the women. Quite determined. With the shocking want of morality amongst the convicts I am, alas, unable to cope. But I will not have loose living amongst the higher ranks. Should you not see fit to profit by my advice, I shall send the young woman to Norfolk Island. But I know that I can trust you, Mr. Cartwright. Good evening."
THE sun was shining through the open flap of his tent when Patrick woke in the morning, with the strange, absurd guffawing and cackling of kookaburras in his ears, and the pleasing sight of Mr. Owen Morgan polishing his boots outside, in his eyes. For a few moments he lay wondering why he had a feeling of depression and discontent—that unpleasant sense of something wrong that is a bad beginning of the new day—and then he remembered his interview with the Governor.
He turned over on to his back, and gave a little groan. Poor Mary! Perhaps the only virtuous convict woman—or one of the very few—in the Settlement. It was hard that his Excellency should be possessed of a fear that she, of all of them, was leading him astray, and causing him to be regarded as one who set a corrupting example to the innocent lambs of this chaste community. The very irony of it made him smile ruefully. "The woman Mortimer," Phillip had said, as though she were some common, notorious drab, whose cheapness was every man's jest, and whose name was a synonym for looseness. Good God—that angel!
It was a marvellous thing to him—how she had kept her sweetness and goodness unsullied and uncorrupted through all these months of close association with so much that was vile and debased in womanhood—the frightful creatures with whom she had been compelled to come into the most familiar intimacy, in the hulks before she left England, and for that weary period on the prison deck of the Lady Penrhyn. For more than a year she had listened to their scurrilous obscenities, and had seen their indescribable lewdness and lowness. Their disgusting and appalling habits, personal uncleanliness, and utter baseness had been the background of her existence through all this terrible time. Bad and insufficient food, clothing that was hardly compatible with decency, and the performance of menial and degrading tasks, had been the least trying conditions of her daily life. Never once had she complained of anything. She had accepted all those hard miseries and awful degradations with a steadfast patience that was more than he could understand. It was incredible that she should be where she was—it was more so that she could endure it without becoming overwhelmed by it.
The kindness of Dr. Bowes, in appointing her as a nurse to the ship's hospital, had, it is true, greatly ameliorated her condition. Although the poky little kennel, which was all the space that could be spared for the sick, was ill-lighted and ill-ventilated, opened directly out of the prison, and was generally occupied by one or two of the unhappy creatures who were her companions in misfortune, it was better as a place to live in than the dingy, evil-smelling 'tween-decks, where there was even less of air and light than in the close and dim little hospital. She could keep to herself in a way that would have been impossible in the common quarters of the female prisoners. And she had become interested in some of her patients, and found a sort of solace and comfort in doing what she could to relieve their sickness and distress of mind. Not all were quite abandoned to wantonness and wickedness. There were a few for whom she could feel sympathy, and even love. Her own bitter experiences had broadened her outlook upon life, and she had learned that sin and crime had many sad excuses.
But when the convicts were landed, her privileges had ceased—she had perforce to share in the common lot of the expatriated women.
Almost immediately after the Fleet had put ashore its female passengers, the curious faculty which women have for constituting different grades of social caste had been observable at Port Jackson. There were some thirty or forty women who were the wives of the Marines, and they had immediately constituted themselves into an upper stratum of society, that looked with scorn and contempt upon those who were not so fortunate as to be free and "honest"—in the sense that the word is applied to personal chastity. Mrs. Marine would have little—nothing at all, in fact—to do with Mrs. Lag. She regarded her erring sister is being utterly beyond the pale, and had no mercy for her. Few women are quite happy unless they have some other women to look down upon. Being in such an exceptional position to do this must have compensated the soldiers' ladies greatly for the many hardships and trials they had to undergo in the beginning.
Mary had, at first, to share a tent with some nine of the other women from the Lady Penrhyn—and not the choicest of them, either. The first night ashore had been a terrible experience, when soldiers and sailors, primed and equipped with rum—and even convicts who were working ashore—had invaded the women's camp. It had been a hideous debauch of drunkenness and unrestrained sensuality, from which the trembling and terrified girl had crept away into the bush, and passed the night crouching behind a hollow log, her fingers in her ears to keep out the dreadful sounds of the orgy that was taking place, half winked at by the authorities, which continued until exhaustion terminated it in the dawn of the new day.
Patrick recalled the terror in her face when he first had an opportunity of speaking with her.
"Oh, Patrick darling—how can I live through it?" she had moaned. "Those terrible creatures—and the things they do! I never knew such wickedness was in the world."
He had comforted her as best he could, and had set himself, with Dr. Bowes, to try and find some means of making the rough road a little easier to travel for her. He had enlisted the sympathies of his servant, the dapper little Morgan, and that warm-hearted Celt had, on his own initiative, built her a little hut, where she could live with an old irish-woman, Mrs. Casey, whom she had nursed on the voyage. That had improved matters a little, and when Dr. Bowes had used his influence with Surgeon White, the Principal Medical Officer of the Settlement, to get her work to do in the rough hospital that had been improvised ashore, it made life, perhaps, a little more tolerable for the unhappy girl. She had worked with intelligence and industry, and had earned the good opinion of the medical staff, as well as their frank admiration for her good looks, and obviously well-bred personality.
"I tell you, Pat Cartwright," the good surgeon of the Lady Penrhyn had said to him, "that girl's a true blue. She's full of courage and grit. 'Tis your part to see to it she comes to no harm. She's a gentle creature—a born nurse. 'Pon my soul, I envy you—bad as the circumstances are. She's a good woman. One in ten thousand."
Whenever he could, without compromising her in a community where it was unnatural not to be compromised, Patrick had sought her company. Their meetings could only take the form of chance encounters in the woods about the camp, and sometimes a stolen hour or two under the shadow of darkness. But even the care which they exercised could not blind the other women—either the wives of the Marines or the prisoners who were her fellows. With a hideousness of suggestion, of which neither of them could be aware, she came to be spoken of as "Mr. Cartwright's woman."
And now the Governor himself had noticed it!
Patrick's gloomy meditations were interrupted by Mr. Morgan.
"Iss y'r honor forgetting, 'tis y'r honor for guard this morning? Indeed, yes. Here iss y'r honor's bath, all ready, indeed—an' th' t'me's half after seven. And breakfast's nigh ready, y'r honor."
Patrick sprang from the blankets of his camp-bed. He had forgotten his turn of duty as officer of the guard, which mounted at nine o'clock for the ensuing twenty-four hours.
It was cool and fresh outside the tent, and the exhilaration induced by his cold bath—a bucket of water which Morgan emptied over his head behind a geebung bush—revived his spirits a little. Whilst he was rubbing himself down with a rough towel, Morgan tidied the tent, spreading the bed-clothes to air on the guy-ropes, and laying his master's full-dress uniform out upon the canvas stretcher. During these moments, it was the garrulous little man's wont to entertain Patrick with the news of the day and dainty morsels of camp scandal.
The morning was sunny and bright, and the blue waters of the harbor sparkled and flashed between the head of the Cove and the sombre greenness of the North Shore, against which the tall masts of the Sirius, lying at her moorings between the two points, stood up delicately into the blue sky. Everywhere little spirals of smoke eddied up into the clear atmosphere, as the Settlement cooked its breakfast—at least those of its number who were not already at work. The sound of axes rang in the dark forest, behind the camp, where the gangs were busy clearing away the dense undergrowth, and the hammers of the carpenters at work upon new houses echoed between the hills. Everywhere were signs of an activity that was not altogether strenuous, but was, nevertheless, inspiring enough after the long monotony of the months at sea and the dreariness of shipboard life.
"That woman, Timmins," chattered Mr. Morgan, "she iss a holy terror. Indeed, yes—a bad creature. I took some of y'r honor's washing to her yestereven, and she cursed me for not having brought some rum with it. 'Ye lousy devil of a Taffy,' says she; 'how d'ye think I'm a-goin' for to paddle in th'——- brook all morning wi'out summat for to keep th' rheumatics out o' me bones? To h—- l wi' ye,' she says. 'Go tell y'r master he can do his own dirty shirts—unless he knows how to act like a gemman.' The idea, indeed! I'd cocker th' lazy trollope up wi' rum! 'A good whippin's what you want, me lady,' I tells her. With that she curses till she's nigh blue in th' face, an' fairly stones me away from her hut.. .. .. .. The lazy trull!.. .. Did ye hear the stores wass broken into again night afore last, y'r honor? Yes, indeed. A barrel o' pork, an' a small keg o' rum. They found th' rum-barrel on th' beach, an' 'tis supposed that Black Tom Prentiss an' Soapy Sal, his woman, knows something about it, them both bein' uncommon drunk yesterday mornin'. 'Tis high they'll both swing, if 'tis brought home to 'em. Yes, indeed. Th' Commodore'll not be for 'respitin' them at the foot o' th' tree, as he done afore wi' them six. 'Tis becomin' too common—this bustin' open th' store.. .. .. . Now, iss y'r honor ready. 'Tis a nice kangaroo steak I've done for y'r honor's breakfast. Oh, yes—fery nice and tender. Indeed it iss!"
While he breakfasted, Mr. Morgan entertained Patrick with a wide variety of such news and gossip, assiduously polishing his accoutrements whilst he kept up his ceaseless prattle, to which his master paid only enough attention to interpose an occasional "Indeed," or "You don't say so, Morgan," But he made one remark that caused Patrick to drop his knife and fork and look up with an astonished—-
"'Tis the gospel truth, y'r honor—indeed, yes. I haf it from Mrs. Mortimer's Mrs. Casey herself, no less. 'Tis that young devil Henderson—savin' y'r honor's presence when I mention an officer—he's always a-hangin' about their hut. An' the old woman tells me he got put in his place fery well by Mrs. Mortimer, yesterday morning it wass. She told him he was not a gentleman, to come payin' her such attentions—an' if he didn't leave off a-doin' of it, she'd go at once to Cap'n Phillip hisself, indeed. He went away as red as a turkey-cock, so said Mrs. Casey."
Patrick said nothing, but the tale of the young Marine officer's forcing his attentions upon Mary was very bitter to him. What could he do? Maybe pick a quarrel with Henderson, and call him out. But that would not stop others from persecuting her. In such a place as this her beauty was a sure incentive to those who only regarded her as one of so many worthless convict women—worthless save for one thing, that they were women. He got up from the little camp-table and buckled on his sword. Whatever the risk, he must have word with Mary before the guard-mounting. He must tell her of Phillip's rebuke, for one thing, and warn her as to how careful they must be in their future relations. And this business of that pup, Henderson—he sighed, as he thought how powerless he really was for her protection.
Round the back of the Settlement he hastily made his way through the dew-drenched bush, sweet with the aromatic scent of the native shrubs, until he came to a rough palisading of saplings, surrounding a tiny hut that stood beneath the branches of a great gumtree, somewhere near where the eastern slope of Hunter Street afterwards came to be. Here, on the very outskirts of the tiny capital of the Australias, dwelt Mary Mortimer, with the woman whose life her nursing had saved in the dingy hospital of the Lady Penrhyn.
He peered over the ragged fence, and called softly:—
There was no answer, and he made his way through the opening in the little stockade, and stood within the enclosure. Here, in the doorway of the hut, a shrivelled old woman huddled upon the ground, fast asleep, and snoring loudly. He touched her with the end of his scabbard, and she woke up.
"Eh, dearie me," she mumbled, with closed eyes, and not looking at the red-coated figure leaning over her; "leave us alone, I tell 'ee. 'Tis none o' th' b'ye we'll find here at all, at all, Misther Souldier—they're all at th' fair at Ballyskull this hours since."
"Mrs. Casey—wake up," said Patrick, in a low tone. "Where is your companion—Mrs. Mortimer?"
"Oh, glory be to God, y'r honor," cried the old woman, waking up properly, and opening her eyes. "'Tis y'r honor's silf, so it is! Mary—she's gone this half-hour and more, so she has?"
"Gone? Where has she gone to—come, I am in a hurry, Mrs. Casey."
"Faith, then—'twas wan o' thim sailor fellies th' Gov'nor do be havin' about him come for her this little time back, wid a message she was to go see th' Gov'nor that very instant, so he did."
"The Governor! Captain Phillip sent for her?"
The old woman nodded.
"Aye—an' us been up all night, a-hidin' from thim drunken blaggards from th' Scarborough. 'Tis little rist ye get when ye lives wi' one o' these han'some wans, so it's not. Bad luck to the dirty divils, say I. Why can't they leave th' poor gur-rl alone? 'Tis not old Biddy Casey they're afther—ye can take y'r oat' about that! He, he! But I've known th' time was——"
Patrick turned away, and strode down the valley in the direction of the Main Guard.
Sent for by Phillip! Doubtless to receive the same warning that had come his way last night. Poor girl—poor girl! This would be another bitter reminder to her that in the eyes of the world she was only one of these abandoned wretches with whom she had had to herd on the voyage—creatures of no account, whose very presence here was sufficient evidence of what they were, and how little they were to be considered as aught else than necessary evils in such a community as this.
As he walked hurriedly through the stumps on the outskirts of the camp, and saw the gangs at work about him, one of the last things that would have occurred to Patrick was that he was witnessing a thing that was to be memorable history—the founding of a great city. He did not know that here, in this sordid, wretched, little camp, were being laid the foundations of what was to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
HE had not quite reached the centre of the Settlement, which might be taken as lying in the vicinity of the Governor's canvas house, when, coming round a bush, he almost ran into Mary.
"Patrick!" she exclaimed. And then, as though fearful to be seen talking to him, hesitated a moment, and seemed to be about to resume her hurried walk in the direction of her hut.
He could see that she was much agitated, and she was very pale. Hastily glancing round to be sure that they were unobserved, he stepped before her, so that she could not pass along the narrow track.
"Dearest!" he said, "you are not afraid to be seen with me."
He did not know why he misstated what was obviously the fact—for her wild and fearful manner of looking about her showed that this indeed was the principal cause of her agitation. Her blue eyes were full of tears, as she looked into his anxious face.
"Oh, Patrick, you must not stop me," she whispered. "'Tis forbidden—forbidden that we—that we should have anything to do with one another. Oh, my darling," she bent her head and wept. "Why do they persecute me so—so horridly. The Governor—Captain Phillip—he has just been talking to me—has just been telling me that I must have naught to do with you ever again. He spoke—he spoke to me as if I was one of the worst of those bad women who are all about this wretched place. He seems to think that our—that our friendship is something very wrong. Oh, Patrick—I cannot bear it. I cannot bear it. I shall die, if I may not see you, or speak with you—my own love."
"Was he angry?" Patrick whispered. "Did he threaten you?"
"No—not exactly angry. He seemed to be a little sorry for me. He said that for your sake I must avoid you. But he said, too, that if I did not do so, he would send me to Norfolk Island, where Mr. King has made the new settlement. Oh—do you think he would do that?"
For a moment Patrick risked placing his right arm about her trembling shoulders, and clasped her to him, while he kissed her.
"Oh, be careful, my dearest," she whispered. "If we were seen!" He released her, and stepped out of her path.
"Darling," he said, "you must hurry home. 'Tis true—we must not be seen together. He spoke to me last night, too. Someone has been whispering to him about us, and for your sake—as well as mine—we must be careful. Listen, dear one. My servant Morgan—a good fellow. We can trust him safely. He must act as our go-between, and do for you what I shall envy his doing. Maybe, at night, I will be able to see you sometimes. But on no account must we risk your being sent away. Here I can protect you to some extent—though my very seeming to do so must be, and is, inevitably misunderstood. But if you were sent to Norfolk Island, I could do nothing—nothing at all. Be brave, dear heart. But I think you are braver than I, indeed I do. Good-bye, my own love. Good-bye. You will hear from me through Morgan."
With a hasty kiss they parted. Mary almost ran up the path to her little dwelling on the edge of the forest, whilst Patrick walked with footsteps that seemed heavy as lead to the parade ground of the Marines, behind the flagstaff by Government House. Truly, it was a hard one, this New World.
* * * * * *
The founding of the colony was no easy task, and Phillip had every disadvantage to contend with that can be imagined—or that passes imagination, for that matter. He was a sailor, used to the perfection of naval discipline, and he had to adapt himself to the unfamiliar conditions of a "shore job," where it was extremely difficult to attain that perfection. His responsibilities were tremendous, and he had no one to share them with. And, perhaps greatest handicap of all, the material that he had to do his pioneering with was not merely second-rate, or even tenth-rate—it was Nth rate. He had the queerest collection of blackguards, liars, cheats, cowards, and desperadoes to depend upon as his means of making a success of the colony such as seems to the normal individual to be almost impossible. Any prison governor will recognise the class to-day. It still exists. But in the eighteenth century its congenital hopelessness was immensely intensified by the prevailing ignorance of what have been called "the lower classes." And the darkest ignorance, joined to low cunning, is a combination in a community of mankind that makes it tremendously difficult to handle.
As illustrating the sort of thing that had to be contended with, the story of the quaint gentleman who claimed that he had found a gold mine on the shores of Port Jackson is worth re-telling. Whilst Phillip was absent from the Settlement upon an expedition of exploration about Broken Bay, one of the prisoners came with a tale to the Lieutenant-Governor, Major Ross, that he had discovered in a locality near the harbor—which, under certain conditions to his advantage, he would be willing to make known—evidence of the existence of gold. He was even able to show a specimen of the soil in which it occurred, which actually did contain a small amount of the precious metal.
The convict—whose name was Daly—sought to bargain with Major Ross for a pledge that would bind Phillip to restore him his liberty, give him a passage to England in the first ship available, reward him with a sum of money, and permit him to take with him a woman convict for whom he had a tender spot. Ross replied that he had no power to commit the Governor to any such undertakings, but would guarantee that Daly would be amply rewarded should his discovery prove to be genuine.
This, Mr. Daly protested, was not good enough—he would wait Phillip's return. But Major Ross was interested, and he intimated to the mine promoter that, unless he undertook to point out the valuable locality at once, he would see if he could not induce him to do so by the employment, as an argument, of the cat-o'-nine-tails. Mr. Daly saw reason.
Captain Hunter tells the quaint story.
"Accordingly, an officer, with a corporal and two or three private soldiers, were sent with him. He landed where he said the walk would be but short, and they entered the wood on their way to the mine. Soon after they got among the bushes, he applied for permission to go to one side for a minute upon some necessary occasion, which was granted him. The officer continued there some hours without seeing the discoverer again, who, immediately on getting out of his sight, had pushed off for the camp by land, for he knew the road very well, and he had cunning enough to persuade the officer to send the boat away as soon as they had landed, as he supposed he would not choose to quit the place until a good guard came down; for which purpose the officer was to have despatched a man by land, as soon as he arrived at the place and was satisfied that it merited attention.
"The convict arrived in camp pretty early in the afternoon, and informed the Lieutenant-Governor that he had left the officer who went down with him in full possession of the gold mine; he then got a few things out of his own tent, and disappeared; the party, after waiting for some hours, whooping and searching through the woods for the cheat, left their stations and marched round to the camp, where they arrived at dusk, heartily tired, and not a little chagrined at the trick the villain had played them.
"The want of provisions soon brought him from his concealment, and a severe punishment was the necessary consequence of this imposition; however, he still gave out that he had made the discovery which he before had mentioned, and that his reason for quitting the officer who went with him was that he thought, if he gave the information to the Governor himself, he should certainly get what he had asked.
"When the Governor returned, another officer was sent with him, although every person now believed that there was no truth in what he had hitherto reported. This officer informed him, in going down in the boat, that he would not suffer him to go three yards from him when he landed, and that he would shoot him if he attempted to run from him; for which purpose he showed him that he was loading his gun with ball; this so terrified the cheat that he acknowledged he knew of no gold mine.
"He was then interrogated respecting the ore that he had produced, and he confessed that he had filed down part of a yellow metal buckle, and had mixed it with some gold filed off a guinea, all which had been blended with some earth, and made hard. The man who tried the ore was bred a silversmith, and, upon separating the different parts, he discovered that it contained a small quantity of gold; the inventor was, of course, well punished for his trick."
All that this ingenious pioneer of the great Australian "wild cat" industry received, by way of a concession from the Crown, was a severe flogging, and when he had sufficiently recovered from its effects to get about, they adorned the back of his jacket with a large "R" in black paint, so that it might be patent to all men that he was a rogue.
Mr. Daly's final nemesis was not long in overtaking him. His melancholy end is thus related by Judge-Advocate Collins.
"December—James Daly, the convict who, in August, pretended to have discovered an inexhaustible source of wealth, and was punished for his imposition, was observed from that time to neglect his labor, and to loiter about from hut to hut while others were at work. He was at last taken up and tried for breaking into a house and stealing all the property he could find in it; of this offence he was convicted, and suffered death, the Governor not thinking him an object of mercy. Before he was turned off, he confessed that he had committed several thefts, to which he had been induced by bad connections, and pointed out two women who had received part of the property for the acquisition of which he was then about to pay so dear a price.
"These women were immediately apprehended, and one of them made a public example of, to deter them from offending in the like manner. The convicts being all assembled for muster, she was directed to stand forward, and, her head having been previously deprived of its natural covering, she was clothed with a canvas frock, on which was painted, in large characters. 'R.S.G.,' (receiver of stolen goods), and threatened with punishment if ever she was seen without it."
Collins observes that this treatment did not produce much impression upon the other convicts. It was not very greatly to anybody's detriment to be branded as a receiver. All who were not active thieves were generally willing enough to dispose of the proceeds of robberies.
Another curious light is thrown upon conditions in the infant colony, and Phillip's difficulties made evident, by the accounts which the despatches and official correspondence of the period give of trouble that took place in the garrison. Some of the officers of the detachment of Marines had taken up the attitude that it was no part of their duties to supervise the labor of the convicts in carrying out the necessary tasks of clearing the ground in the vicinity of Sydney Cove, and erecting store-houses and dwellings. They claimed that their function was a purely military one, that only had to do with the defence of, and keeping order in, the settlement.
Phillip's letter to Lord Sydney, of May 16, 1788, makes clear the very great inconvenience that an insistence upon this attitude on the part of the officers was causing.
"I have in my first letter," he writes, "had the honor of observing to your Lordship the great want of proper persons to superintend the convicts. The officers who compose the detachment are not only few in number, but most of them have declined any interference with the convicts, except when they are employed for their own particular service. I requested soon after we landed that officers would occasionally encourage such as they observed diligent, and point out for punishment such as they saw idling or straggling in the woods. This was all I desired, but the officers did not understand that any interference with the convicts was expected, and that they were not sent out to do more than the duty of soldiers. The consequence must be obvious to your Lordship. Here are only convicts to attend to convicts, and who in general fear to exert any authority, and very little labor is drawn from them in a country which requires the greatest exertions.. .. The sitting as members of the Criminal Court is thought a hardship by the officers, and of which they say they were not informed before they left England. It is necessary to mention these circumstances to your Lordship, that officers coming out may know that a young colony requires something more from officers than garrison duty."
Patrick Cartwright was one of the exceptions. He had a great admiration for the Governor—despite the fact that the latter had seen fit to censure him over poor Mary. He readily recognised the unselfish desire for the good of the community that actuated Phillip throughout all his administration. But had he merely shaped his own conduct according to his interests, he would have hesitated before committing himself to any policy that the Governor might disapprove.
Another matter of dissatisfaction arose out of the performance of one Joe Hunt, a private in Patrick's company, who was by way of being a bit of a "hard case." Joe was at the cook-house, engaged in carrying on a mild flirtation with Janey Fitzgerald, when Bill Dempsey, a private in Captain Meredith's company, came along with a pot in his hand to set on the fire.
"How are ye, Bill?" inquired the lady.
Bill assured her that he was in brilliant health.
"Here, ye————-, what th' devil do'ee mean be talkin' to my woman?" savagely interposed the jealous Joseph. "You ain't got no—— bus'ness a'talkin' to any woman wot come out in my ship. To hell out of this with ye!"
Mr. Hunt accompanied his resentful remarks by beating Dempsey over the head and shoulders with a stick, following up the assault by "plugging" the unlucky Bill—who does not appear to have been anything of a fighting man—and generally submitting him to a pretty rough handling.
For these little attentions, Mr. Dempsey prosecuted the fiery Joseph before a Criminal Court, of which Captain-Lieutenant Tench was president. The other officers composing the court—much against their will—were Lieutenants Kellow, Davey, Poulden, and Timins.
After hearing evidence, the court found Mr. Hunt guilty, and thereupon passed sentence in so ambiguous a fashion—probably to express their disgust with this form of duty as much as for any other reason—as to call for the wrathful request from Major Ross, O.C., that they should assemble again and reconsider their verdict, which had genially left the choosing of a sentence in the prisoner's own hands. "The court was of opinion that the prisoner is guilty.. .. .. .. . and do sentence him either to ask public pardon before the battalion of William Dempsey, the soldier whom he struck and injur'd, or to receive one hundred lashes on his bare back, by the drummers of the detachment, and where the commanding officer shall appoint." They refused to rescind their absurd sentence, and Major Ross put them all under arrest, with the intention of trying them by general court-martial.
After great difficulty, the much-worried Governor succeeded in arranging some sort of modus vivendi, and, after long exchange of official reports, notes, and other wearisome communications, peace was restored, and the five officers returned to duty.
But the incident remains in the records as an instance of the troubles which Phillip had to contend with while he was carrying out the onerous duties that had been entrusted to him.
GOVERNOR PHILLIP very early made his dispositions for the town that was to develop out of the little camp in Sydney Cove. In July of the first year he sent a plan of the place as he intended it to be to Lord Sydney—which may be seen in the Mitchell Library—and, if it had been followed out as he meant it to be, the great city of the side of Port Jackson would have been a place of wide and generous streets, instead of the picturesque but inconvenient, narrow, winding thoroughfares we are familiar with to-day.
"The principal streets," he wrote to the Secretary of State, "are placed so as to admit a free circulation of air, and are two hundred feet wide. The ground marked for Government House is intended to include the main guard, Civil, and Criminal Courts, and as the ground that runs to the southward is nearly level, and a very good situation for buildings, streets will be laid out in such a manner as to afford a free air, and when the houses are to be built, if it meets with your Lordship's approbation, the land will be granted with a clause that will ever prevent more than one house being built on the allotment, which will be sixty feet in front and 150 feet in depth. This will preserve uniformity in the buildings, prevent narrow streets and the many inconveniences which the increase of inhabitants would otherwise occasion hereafter."
But, alas for Phillip's plans—they never materialised; and, if it had not been for Governor Macquarie, nearly a quarter of a century later, that part of the city, at least, which lies behind the Cove would have been a curious chaos indeed. Perhaps the first Governor had too many anxieties to face—even worse ones were to harass him before very long than he had faced in the beginning—and town-planing had to be presently put aside in the presence of a struggle for very existence itself. At any rate, the 200 feet street never got made, and is still lacking in Sydney.
One evening in June, Patrick fond himself in Orders for the morrow as being in command of an escort to the Governor in an expedition which he intended to make to the southward with a view of investigating the murder of a couple of convicts by the natives. He welcomed it gladly, as a change from the monotony of routine in the Settlement.
It was just getting light when Morgan awakened him, and, having breakfasted, he was down at Government House before sunrise. He wondered a little, as he walked to Headquarters, whether the Governor had asked Major Ross for him, in order to ascertain during their excursion whether he was still entangled with the convict woman.
Only with the very greatest caution had he continued his visits to Mary—never seeing her in the daytime, save when he might encounter her by chance about the Settlement. But Morgan carried messages and notes between them frequently, and he was able to do a good deal for her comfort through the discreet efforts of the little Welsh soldier. She was well, and she remained unmolested—that was all he could reckon on. But this was something, even if not much.
Outside the little canvas dwelling of the Governor he found his expeditionary force drawn up in readiness for marching—a sergeant, corporal, and six men. They stood "easy," leaning upon their muskets, but the sergeant called them to "attention" when Patrick appeared, and stood himself stiff as a ramrod, his long halberd, with its shining spearpoint, by his side.
"Good morning, Sergeant Reynolds," Patrick greeted him. "In good time, I see. All right, men. Stand at ease—stand easy," he ordered. "We've a long march before us, I understand, Reynolds. By the way, who were these fellows that the blacks murdered?"
The sergeant, a fine-looking man, and an excellent type of the non-commissioned officer of the Sea Regiment, was a favorite of Patrick's. He was an East Kent man, hailing from somewhere near Sandwich, and a very keen sportsman and hunter. He had already done much exploring of the wild country about Port Jackson, during his shooting and fishing expeditions, and once or twice Patrick had accompanied him into the bush in quest of game. He was remarkably successful in winning the good-will of the natives, whom he always treated well, and who trusted him with better reason than they had for having confidence in many of their white invaders.
"Two of the rush-cutters, your honor. One was named Geary, and the other Hobbs. Not much good, either of them, I'm told. But 'tis certain the Indians made a pretty complete job of killing them. A queer thing, though. Hobbs had no less than four spears a-sticking in him, whilst Geary hadn't a mark on his body. He was lying some way distant from the other man. When the doctors opened him, they found his heart very bad. It looks as though the exertion of running away was too much for him."
"I suppose they'd been interfering with the natives?"
"Ye may wager your life upon it, y'r honor. The poor creatures are harmless enough if they're let alone. If everyone was to treat 'em as Cap'n Phillip does, there'd be no trouble—no trouble at all. But some o' th' convicts goes after their women, and others robs 'em and cheats 'em. It can't be looked for as they'll stand by an' see their wives an' daughters mis-handled an' their poor bits o' things looted. After all, they're men, same's th' rest of us, wi' human feelings same as hour's—even if they have black hides. There's many a blacker heart a beatin' below th' shirt of some of the rapscallions we've got here, than th' poor blackfellows carry, as a gen'ral thing, sir."
"Yes—they can't teach our fellows much in blackguardism," assented Patrick. "Had these two been interfering with them?"
"Well, one of our chaps, sir, going out to the signal station at South Head last week came on 'em whilst they were having trouble with the Indians over a canoe they were trying to take from a boy. 'Tis like enough that's what cost the two fools their lives."
At this moment Captain Phillip and Major Ross came out of the Governor's cottage. Patrick called his men to attention, and ordered them to present arms.
Phillip acknowledged the salute.
"Good morning, Mr. Cartwright," he smiled genially at Patrick. "Are we all ready? The men have their cloaks, I see. How about rations—are they all served out with them? We'll be out a couple of days, you know."
"Yes, sir," Patrick replied, knowing that he could depend upon Sergeant Reynolds. "They are all ready for the march."
"Good. Then we'll start at once."
It was a clear, cold morning as they marched down to the shore of the Cove, in order to embark upon the boats which were to convey them to the bay, some distance down the harbor, where the two men had been murdered. The Governor's coxswain and Patrick's servant, Morgan, accompanied their respective masters, and a couple of convicts constituted the baggage train of the little force, carrying axes and cooking-pots for use in the bivouac which they were to make that night.
As soon as they were in the stream, the Governor ordered the sails to be hoisted, and they ran down the harbor before a brisk westerly breeze that soon brought them to their destination.
The scene of the murders was at the head of a large indentation in the southern shore of the harbor that ran into a long valley, and terminated in wide swamps where grew many acres of the rushes that were made use of for thatching the huts of the soldiers and prisoners at the Camp in the Cove. Ever since the deaths of Geary and Hobbs, it has borne the name of Rushcutters' Bay.
Here they landed, and the boats were sent back to Sydney.
The spot where the two men were killed was on the edge of the swamp, not very far from the harbor. The bodies were still lying there, but the tools which they had been using had been taken away by the natives, none of whom seemed to be anywhere in the neighborhood.
When the unfortunate convicts were buried, the Governor turned to Patrick.
"We'll make to the southward, I think, Mr. Cartwright," he said. "I have little doubt but that these unfortunate men brought their fate upon themselves, and, if we come up with the natives, I do not intend to inflict punishment upon them. But if we can hold any intercourse with them, we may be able to find out the true circumstances of the affair, and endeavor to make plain to them that outrage and robbery are no part of our policy towards them. 'Tis difficult, though," he sighed, "to argue in the face of facts. They blame us all equally with the perpetrators of any outrage that is inflicted upon them, and the innocent—with them as ourselves—have to suffer with the guilty. But, unless we can do something to check aggression upon either side, we will have to look for a heritage of hate and revenge that will be no pleasant legacy. Extend your men in a long line, so that we may sweep the country as we travel over it. Tell them to report to me, instantly, the presence of any natives—but not to fire on them on any account. This is not war—'tis a mission of peace, I hope."
Patrick gave the necessary orders to Sergeant Reynolds, and he himself walked with the Governor. The coxswain and Morgan followed them at a little distance.
It was not easy walking through the low scrub and thick undergrowth that covered the sandy hillsides, but at length they came to the long ridge that forms a sort of dividing range between the valleys of Port Jackson and Botany Bay—a little to the eastward of where Paddington stands to-day—and paused to survey the country that lay before and below them.
Far away to the south the blue ranges of Illawarra stretched into the hazy distance, and the wide waters of the great bay sparkled in the sunshine of a gloriously clear winter day, as it seemed, almost at their feet. But long miles, as they realised in the next few hours, lay between where they rested after their climb up the slope, and the gleaming blue waters of Botany.
"'Tis a fine view," remarked Phillip; "but I would that the land were of a better sort. 'Tis nothing but a desert of sand and useless shrub. The fine fields of Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks are only fine when one regards them from a distance. They are quite worthless, really."
"Perhaps we shall find something better in the interior of the country, your Excellency?" Patrick ventured.
"'Tis to be hoped so. Indeed, it is unbelievable that it can all be like that which we are looking at. If it is, our prospects are not good."
All day long, with an interval for the mid-day meal, and a rest of less than an hour, they tramped in a zig-zag fashion about the sandhills, seeking some traces of the dusky lords of the barren soil—but not a sign of man, woman, or child rewarded their toilsome march. They seemed to have had some warning of the expedition, and to be seeking to avoid it—probably regarding it as an inevitable punitive expedition for the murder of the rush-cutters. Not a single blackfellow did they see between Port Jackson and the bay.
"Like enough, they are quite close to us, sir," the sergeant said to Patrick. "They are marvels at lying low. A man might walk a-top of them, almost, before he'd sight 'em."
Just at sunset, after a laborious tramp that could not have been less than twenty miles in actual distance—so widely had they searched the country on either side of the direct route—they came out upon the northern shore of Botany Bay, not a great distance from the heads. Here, drawn up on a little sandy beach, they found nearly fifty canoes, but no sign of their owners.
"We will bivouac here," said the Governor. "They can't be very far from their fishing craft. Perhaps we will be favored by a visit after dark. You had better post a sentry, Mr. Cartwright. 'Twould not do for them to catch us napping!"
As the Governor and Patrick lay by their camp fire, after the evening meal—a little way apart from the soldiers—talking over the events of the day, and about probable happenings in the world from which they were so far removed, Phillip suddenly embarrassed the young officer by remarking:—
"Mr. Cartwright, I am glad to have observed that you seem to have taken my warning seriously. 'Twas not worth it, was it? You realise as much yourself now, don't you? You remember what I am alluding to? That prisoner—Mary—Mary—what's her name? I have forgotten."
Patrick felt himself redden. He was glad of the darkness.
"Yes—your Excellency. I remember. Mary Mortimer."
He had been hoping, half fearfully, that when he found himself alone with him, Phillip might revert to the subject of his reprimand. He was determined that, should he do so, he would tell him the story of the terrible thing that had happened to his poor girl.
"Ah, yes—Mortimer. Mary Mortimer. A well conducted creature, I am told. But you saw the wrong that you might thoughtlessly do to her, and to yourself, I am sure, my dear Cartwright?"
Now was his chance, thought Patrick.
"Your Excellency—Captain Phillip—I beg that you will allow me to acquaint you with the circumstances of that poor girl's transportation. I assure you that there was nothing wrong between us. I knew her in England when she was free."
"You knew her in England—at home?"
"Yes, your Excellency. Have I your permission to speak to you of her—to tell you of the awful thing that has happened to her?"
"Do, by all means, Mr. Cartwright. But I trust that she has not imposed upon your good nature with one of the stories that these women are so apt at concocting."
"Sir—she is a deeply injured woman. She should not be here at all. 'Tis a terrible miscarriage of justice that has taken place."
The Governor looked at him doubtfully—perhaps a little impressed by the earnestness of his tone.
"Well, well—pray proceed, Mr. Cartwright. I will be able to judge for myself, perhaps."
For an hour or more Patrick spoke of Mary's misfortunes, and of her bravery and fortitude under them. In a little while he could see that Phillip was becoming interested and listened with great attention to what he had to say. When, at length, he could think of nothing more to tell him, he felt certain that she had at least some measure of the Governor's sympathy. At any rate, he could not now regard her as one of the low, designing creatures the convict women generally were. He had been fortunate in being vouchsafed this opportunity to speak for her. When he ended, he looked at the kindly-faced man across the fire, who had powers of life and death in this outcast community, with a hopefulness that was more than he had dared to entertain for many a day.
"'Tis indeed a moving tale, Mr. Cartwright. You must allow me to think it over. Do you know that I think I was acquainted with this Mr. Urquhart, her father. What was his business, did you say?"
"A West India merchant, your Excellency. I fancy that he was at one time in a large way of business."
"Ah—then it the same. I will send for her again, Mr. Cartwright, and see what can be done."
"I thank your Excellency."
PATRICK woke in the cold dawn, with a lighter heart than had been his for many a long day.
His talk with the Governor—which he could not but think Phillip had intended to bring about when selecting him to command the escort—had cleared the atmosphere wonderfully, and he knew that the kindly nature of the man would not permit of her case being lost sight of. He was never too worried or too busy to neglect an act of justice or of kindness. Patrick felt that his dear one's position was secured. If the Governor took an interest in her, she would be certain to be safe from the many dangers which threatened an unprotected girl in such a place as the Settlement.
The morning star was bright in the paling east as they ate a hasty breakfast, and the twilight of the dawn lay over the wide waters of the great bay, above whose surface wisps of ghostly mist stretched in long strata that caught the increasing light.
"Well, I hope that we are more fortunate in coming across our friends this morning," remarked the Governor to Patrick. "We shall have had our excursion for nothing if we don't succeed in coming into touch with some of them to-day."
"Does your Excellency intend following the same route back to the camp as we came by yesterday?" asked Patrick.
"No. We will go along the coast, and keep closer together. It is just possible that they may have concealed themselves yesterday so as to surprise us with something in the nature of an ambuscade on the return journey—though I hardly think that is likely. Still, we may as well be prepared. We will follow the shore as closely as possible, until we come to Port Jackson."
The sun was rising over the dark, scrubby hills to seaward as they began their march back to Sydney, and the sky was as clear and blue as it had been on the previous day. The little party was glad to be in motion once more, for it had been a cold night by the water's edge, with nothing but their cloaks to keep them warm. None of them had slept very soundly, and when Patrick awakened before daylight he found half his patrol huddled round the fire in an attempt to thaw their chilled and cramped muscles.
They had proceeded for some distance, close to the edge of the long wall of sandstone stretching between Botany Bay and the heads of Port Jackson, when, within a few yards of them, at the head of what is now known as Long Bay, they came suddenly upon a large party of natives.
"Halt!" cried the Governor, and the little party stopped its advance, uncertain whether the natives intended hostilities or not.
Led by a fine-looking man, a crowd of more than two hundred blacks surged angrily towards them, armed to the teeth with spears, nulla-nullas, and boomerangs. Their leader made emphatic signs that the British should retire.
Patrick was filled with admiration for Phillip's cool behaviour. Laying his musket on the ground, the Governor advanced towards the threatening horde, holding up his arms above his head to show that he was without weapons, and that his party's intent was peaceful.
It was an act of great courage—fully in keeping with all Phillip's previous dealings with the natives when they had threatened hostilities. Patrick called to mind the adventure at Manly, when the Governor had been wounded by a spear, but had forborne from any retaliation, recognising that the man who had attacked him had only been actuated by apprehensions for his own safety. His conduct now was just as nobly fearless as it had been upon that critical occasion.
"Keep your men in hand," the Governor called to Patrick. "I think we may avoid fighting."
Phillip tells the story himself, in one of his despatches.
"The moment the friendship I offered was accepted on their side they joined us, most of them laying down their spears and stone hatchets with the greatest confidence, and afterwards brought down some of their women to receive the little articles we had to give them. I saw nothing to induce me to believe these people had been concerned in the murder which had been committed. We parted on friendly terms, and I was now more than ever convinced of the necessity of placing a confidence in these people as the only means of avoiding a dispute. Had I gone up to them with all the party, though only twelve, or hesitated a moment, a lance would have been thrown, and it would have been impossible to have avoided a dispute.
"Here we saw the finest stream of fresh water I have seen in this country, but the cove is open to the sea. When the natives saw we were going on towards the next cove, one of them, an old man, made signs to let him go first, and as soon as we were at the top of the hill he called out, holding up both his hands (a sign of friendship) to the people in the next cove, giving them to understand that we were friends; we did not go to that cove, but saw about forty men; so that, unless these people had assembled on some particular occasion, the inhabitants are still more numerous than I had imagined."
They reached the camp in the evening without further incident, and, although the expedition had not effected a great deal, it had been of tremendous moment to Patrick. He went to his tent in a happier frame of mind than he had enjoyed since landing in Australia.
After dinner in the mess, and recounting to his brother officers the events of their tour, he went back to his own quarters with the intention, as soon as it should be dark enough to go to her hut unobserved, of acquainting Mary with the momentous news of the Governor's interest in her case.
As he groped his way through the scrub and fern to Mary's hut, he pictured the joy that his news would bring his dear girl. She had felt deeply the slur which the Governor's warning to Patrick had cast upon her character—assuming, without question, that she was even as the most abandoned of her companions, who were any man's plaything—with a few exceptions—for a gill of rum. All the hardships of her unhappy position she had borne bravely, but that her misfortunes had placed her in the position of being regarded as a common woman, of the basest sort, had been very hard to bear.
The sheet-o'-bark door was closed when he came to the low palisade and looked over, but a chink of dull light showing beneath it was evidence that one or other of the hut's tenants was at home.
"Mary!" he called softly, impatient to see her, and to tell her the good news.
There was a stir within the tiny dwelling, and the door opened an inch or two.
"Who's there?" wheezed the husky voice of old Biddy Casey. "Be off wid ye, now—ye blackguard. The gur-rl's not here—an' if so be she was—she'd be havin' naught to do wid an omadhaun like y'silf. Be away wid ye now. Sure. I'll be afther screamin' bluey murther in a minit, so I will—an' thin ye'll take to y'r heels, ye white-livered spalpeen, wid th' gyard afther ye."
"Oh—be quiet, Biddy. Do you want to rouse the whole camp?" Patrick growled impatiently. "Where's Mary—I've some good news for her."
"Oh, 'tis you, Mister Cartwright. Faith, thin, th' dear gur-rl's agettin' th' news o' th' warld this night, so she is. 'Tis not half an hour since another gintleman come to th' dure wid something impor-rtant for to make known to her."
"Another gentleman?" Patrick's astonishment was betrayed by his tone. "Why—who was that, Biddy? What gentleman?"
"Faith, thin, ye'll be knowing him well, Misther Cartwright. Though I'll not be a-sayin' 'tis a friend of yours he is. 'Twas Mr. Henderson, y'r honor—an' 'tis surprised I am ye'd not be a-knowin' anything of it, at all. Faith, he said 'twas yoursilf had been afther sendin' him here."
"I sent him! Good heavens, woman, do you know what you're talking about?"
Mrs. Casey had come out into the enclosure about the hut as she spoke to Patrick, and now stood close to him in the shadow of the tall trees that whispered above them, with the stars shining through the gaps in the leafy roof. He could hear her asthmatic breathing close beside him.
"Thin, y'r honor, 'twas what he said. I heared him tell th' gur-rl ye had met wid a slight accident, an' was wantin' some nursin' in th' hospital—would she go to ye? 'Twas a gret state of alarum she was in, entirely. So she put on her hood, an' away wid her at once, an' him wid her."
"Lord, what does this mean?" muttered Patrick. "Mr. Henderson—why, I hardly ever have anything to say to the young cub! And an accident? There's something wrong here."
He turned to move away, with the intention of seeking his brother officer in his tent. He remembered, now that he had not seen him in the mess while the evening meal was in progress. What the devil——-?
The old woman checked him.
"Misther Cartwright," she wheezed, "I'm thinkin' 'tis a long time now that fellie's been a-hangin' about afther th' swate gur-rl—always a-comin' across her in th' camp, an' passin' her silly complymints. Wan day, whin she was a-gatherin' sticks for the fire, in th' woods beyant there, he comes acrost her, an' asks her for to kiss him, the young blacgyard. Mary comes a-runnin' home, scairt to death—an' 'twas on'y your man Morgan comin' for th' washin' stops him from follerin' her in here. He cleared out when he see Morgan's red coat."
"Heavens!" cried Patrick. "Why did you not tell me of this before? Why didn't Mary tell me?"
"Thin I think 'twas hersilf was too frightened for to tell ye—an' what's more, she does be hatin' for to give ye any more for to worry about on her account. 'Tis th' kind an' thoughtful wan she is—so she is. God bless her!"
Patrick turned away from the garrulous old woman, and strode down the path. Mr. Henderson! He would soon attend to Mr. Henderson!
The lights of the little camp seemed like glimmering pin-points against the blackness of the dark shore across the harbor, and accentuated the loneliness and solitude of this far-flung outpost of England's, far more than it was possible to realise it in the daytime when the business of life was in full swing. A thousand people clustering precariously upon the rim of a vast continent, that would be only sparsely filled with fifty million in it! Some sense of their great loneliness and aloofness from the world that mattered was present in Patrick's mind as he walked down the valley towards the lines of the Marines—but his apprehension concerning Mary's safety was more urgent just now than these thoughts that often came to him when he contemplated their solitary situation.
This young Henderson was a second lieutenant in Captain Meredith's company, and, as Patrick was in Captain Campbell's, and they had come out in different ships, he did not know very much about him. What little he did was not overmuch to his liking.
Mr. Henderson was a singularly inefficient officer in a corps that was notably efficient, and more than once Patrick had heard his company commander lament the fact in language that was hardly complimentary to the young subaltern.
"A drunken, guzzling, young rascal!" Captain Meredith had called him. "Runs after the convict women—plays the fool generally. I'd break him—egad!—if we were in England; but we've to make the best of things here, I suppose."
But Mary had never complained of his attentions—though he remembered how his man Morgan had spoken of him. Probably it was true—what old Biddy had said just now—that the dear girl was fearful of adding to his worries on her behalf. Well, he would soon see about Mr. Henderson.
Pausing a moment, as he came into the lines, to make sure that he approached the right tent, and having counted them to be certain—he remembered that the one he sought was eighth in the row of officers' shelters that stood before those of the N.C.O.'s and privates—he made his way to one that had a light in it, at a little distance from his own, and halted outside in the dark. The flap was fastened across the entrance, but low voices sounded from within, and there were shadow shapes on the dimly-glowing canvas that were vague silhouettes of the people to whom the voices belonged. He halted again, to try and make certain that Mary was inside. But he could only hear male voices that carried on a conversation in low tones.
At length, determined to make sure whether she were there or not, he came close up to the tent, and spoke.
"Henderson, are you inside? I want to speak to you, if you can spare a moment."
At once the conversation within ceased. After a few seconds, a thick voice growled a surly response. He recognised Mr. Henderson's unpleasing tones.
"Hang it, who's there? I've gone to bed. If 'tis anything to do with that return the Adjutant wanted, it can wait till morning."
"I'll not keep you a minute—may I come in?"
"Oh, damnation, who is it?"
"Well, what do you want. Cartwright? Won't it keep till to-morrow?"
"No; 'tis something important, that must be seen to to-night. Will you come out, or shall I open the door and come in?"
There was another pause, and some indistinct muttering. Patrick was only able to catch such vague and disjointed phrases as: "Better see him—less suspicious—I will leave you—won't do to be recognised." And then he heard a hoarse whisper that said. "Upset the candle—I'll make a run for it in the dark." There was another pause, and Patrick grew impatient.
"Look here, Henderson," he cried, "are you coming out, or am I to come in? I must see you."
"Oh, all right. I'll come out. Though I don't see why I should be lugged from my bed in this style! Oh, hang it. I've upset the candle."
As he spoke the light in the tent went out, and a scruffling sound came from inside, as if someone sought to find something in the dark. Then the door-flap was unfastened, and a dim figure emerged from the opening, seemed to avoid coming close to Patrick, and disappeared in the night. In the faint starlight, all that Patrick could be certain of was that it was the figure of a man.
"Just wait a minute till I strike a light, will you?" grumbled Mr. Henderson.
He fumbled with flint and steel for nearly half a minute, and presently the candle was relit.
"Come in," growled the occupant of the tent ungraciously, hastily scrambling back between the blankets. "And, for God's sake, fasten up that opening. 'Tis cold as charity."
Patrick entered the tent, and looked swiftly round it. There was no sign of Mary.
WITH the blankets drawn up to his chin, Mr. Henderson regarded his visitor with hardly concealed disfavor. His little eyes twinkled with malice, and there was a suspicion of a grin in his fat, weak face.
"And to what, Mr. Cartwright, may I ask, do I owe the favor of a call from you at this seasonable hour? 'Tis hardly one's time for receiving visitors!"
For a few moments Patrick eyed him with disgust. This young hog—he had actually attempted liberties with Mary! And even now he was concerned in some queer work concerning her. He felt like hauling him out of bed by the scruff of the neck, and kicking an explanation out of him.
"You went, a little while ago, Mr. Henderson, to—to one of the prisoners—a woman—and enticed her away from her hut?"
"Well—supposing I did? What the devil's it got to do with you?" Mr. Henderson affected the righteous indignation of one whose intimate affairs are made the subject of a quite unjustifiable curiosity.
"It has this much, at any rate—you made use of my name to induce her to accompany you."
"'Tis a lie! Someone has been misinforming you. She came of her own free will."
"Of course she did. She came because she wanted to come. Why the devil shouldn't she? Am I such a mere outsider that a convict wench should hesitate to take a little walk with me? They are all much alike. A bottle of rum, or some trifling gewgaw, will buy 'em easy. She was glad to come."
With a little alarm, he saw that Patrick went white. But he was not a very wise youth, and his evil genius led him on in this strain.
"Oh—I know how it is with you, Cartwright. You imagine that you're the only apple in the basket, don't you? The prettiest girl in the camp, and you think her favors are only for you. Well, let me tell you, my good friend——"
But his jeering foulness went no further.
"Hang you!" gasped Patrick, as he took a quick stride across to the bedside. With his open hand, he struck Mr. Henderson across the face—a stinging blow, that caused that estimable youth to withdraw his head hurriedly below the bed-clothes.
An oath came from beneath the blankets. "What the devil's that for? Here, sentry—help!" he began to call out—but the covering over his mouth made his cries for assistance ineffective.
Patrick turned to the door, drew the canvas flap across the opening, and fastened it securely. Pale with passionate anger, he seized the bed-clothes with his right hand, and stripped them from the cowering youth beneath, who lay upon the stretcher, not in his night-shirt, as might have been expected, but fully clothed, with the exception of his uniform jacket, which hung over a chair at the foot of the bed.
In the next instant, Patrick had him by the throat and the collar of his shirt, and dragged him to his feet in the middle of the tent.
"Now!" he growled, his voice hoarse with rage. "Utter one word, you dog—and I'll kill you!"
He shook the terrified subaltern like a rat, and flung him, gasping, upon the bed, where he lay, half choked, and wholly cowed by Patrick's sudden violence.
But his punishment was not over. Patrick spied a dog-whip hanging to the tent-pole, and seized it eagerly.
"I'll teach you, you hound!" he growled.
Again laying hands upon his victim, he flogged him unmercifully about the buttocks and legs, until he was tired, flinging the groaning youth back again on the stretcher as though he had been a bundle of rags. Mr. Henderson was too alarmed to cry for help. He lay weeping upon the tumbled bed-clothes, moaning piteously, though he knew that pity was not for him. Patrick's stern, white face and fast set jaw had no mercy in its savage expression.
For a little while he looked down upon the squirming, writhing object of his wrath without speaking. He felt a little ashamed of his fierce outbreak of temper, momentarily—but the thought of Mary, and of this young blackguard's sneering insults, hardened his heart.
"Tell me—you miserable cur—where is"—he hated to utter her name in this vile presence—"where is Mary Mortimer?"
A groan was the only answer to his question. He reached out his hand for the dog-whip.
Mr. Henderson looked up at him. Through his tears of pain and mortification a flitting shadow of a grin crossed his face. The shivering wretch snarled his reply.
"With her husband." Patrick gasped.
"Her husband!" he whispered.
"Yes—with her husband—who's as good a right to her society as you—as anyone else has, I suppose." He was too frightened to say what he would have liked to say.
Patrick sat down upon a camp-stool, and stared at Mr. Henderson, with his lips parted in astonishment. For a few seconds he could not speak.
"With Richard Mortimer?" he asked, huskily.
"Yes—with Richard Mortimer—the man she's married to. Though that's not his name here. She's gone with him to his—to where he lives."
For a little while he could only sit and stare at the absurd-looking creature on the camp-bed—overwhelmed with this strange and ominous news. It seemed like a bad dream. He could hardly believe that his ears had not deceived him.
Presently he came to himself.
"Tell me—where is this man Mortimer to be found?"
"Ye'd like to know—wouldn't ye?"
Mr. Henderson's sneer turned to a look of terror as Patrick sprang to his feet.
"You infernal worm—tell me this instant—or I'll choke the life from your miserable body."
Instantly the wretched Henderson was all contrition for his boldness.
"Yes, yes—I'll tell you. I'll tell you. Sit down—I didn't mean anything. Please don't touch me—and I'll tell you."
"Be quick about it, then—or I'll flog you within an inch of your worthless life. Hurry, now!"
Mr. Henderson appreciated the fact that this was no idle threat.
"Mortimer," he said, feebly—"Mortimer's with a gang across the harbor—on the North Shore somewhere. 'Tis one of the gangs that gather oyster shells to burn for lime. He's prisoner 749."
"What part of the North Shore? Quick, now!"
"'Tis somewhere about Sirius Cove. I think—where the Sirius was careened a while back. He has a hut there in the woods."
"Has he taken her there?"
"And you knew that he was going to take her, you villain—when you lured her away from her hut with your lying tale? Answer me! Did you know?"
"Well—I thought 'twas but right he should have his wife, if he wanted her. The man came out in the same ship with me—in the Alexander. He has been a gentleman. Why should he not have her? Oh, oh, oh,—don't, Cart———"
As he stood over him, loathing and execrating him, Patrick struck him across the face with the back of his hand, so that his nose bled and stained the pillow and the blankets with the life-stream of the clan of Henderson. Then he turned to the door to hurry away.
But he faced about as he was half in and half out of the tent, and flung a sharp question at the sobbing creature on the stretcher.
"What name is he using now? Come, out with it quickly—or I'll give you worse than that!"
"Oh, my God!" wailed Mr. Henderson. "I wish to heaven I'd never seen her!"
"Come. Answer my question." Patrick took a step towards the bed.
"Yes, yes—I'm going to tell you. He goes by the name of Denison—Isaac Denison. That's the name he's been transported under—the name he's known by here."
Turning upon his heel, Patrick strode out into the darkness. The groans of the wretched subaltern followed him from the tent.
For a few minutes, the stunned and bewildered young officer walked aimlessly into the dark, stumbling and recovering himself over tent-ropes, all but falling into stump-holes, and blind to everything but his surging and incoherent thoughts. He was dazed, hypnotised, made aghast by what he had just heard. He could not realise it properly, it was too amazing.
That the evil genius of his life should come into it again in this astounding fashion was a miracle of evil. The murderer of his beloved uncle—whom he had foully robbed and swindled—the murderer, too, of the poor yokel at the inn in little Magnus, the foul ravisher of the innocent girl he loved, the thief and robber who had betrayed his employer, the double-dyed scoundrel for whom nothing was too bad, no enormity of conduct too gross or frightful—to appear again in this startling fashion at the very ends of the earths, still working evil and treachery! God—it was incredible! It could not be true.
Why—the man must have been a prisoner in the First Fleet! He had actually been here in Sydney Cove ever since they landed. Mr. Henderson had sailed from Portsmouth in the Alexander—he had said that Mortimer had come out in the same ship. And he had never set eyes upon him in all this time ashore—in this little place where almost every human being was as well known to every other human being as members of the same family. How could it have happened? How was it possible that he had not come across him? Where could he have lain hidden, that he had not seen him? Though he had set eyes on him but once—on the night of the murder in the library at Magnus Hall—he would be prepared to swear to that evil face anywhere, and under any circumstances. And he must have been close to him, here in Sydney Cove and about the Settlement, scores and scores of times.
It was amazing.
But he must have had some sort of disguise. He had grown his beard, maybe. Many of the convicts did so. And that handsome, if evil, countenance—with its clean-cut features—was just the kind that would be most disguised by a growth of hair upon it. Yes—that must be the explanation of his never having recognised his brother.
His brother! Great heavens above—his brother!
"And the sins of the father," he reflected, bitterly.
Suddenly, his half-distracted wanderings of mind and body—he had had no consciousness of whither his steps had led him—were rudely checked by a quick, sharp challenge.
"Halt! Who goes there?"
The waning moon was just risen above the tree-tops on the hillside to the east of the Cove, and a dim half-light had stolen into the valley, vaguely making apparent the lines of the camp and the lay of the land. He looked up, and found that he was outside the Governor's canvas cottage. The sentry had challenged him.
Hastily answering in the prescribed formula, and mattering the countersign for the day, he turned to go away, when a sudden illuminating thought checked his departing footsteps.
By the Lord—he would see Phillip himself! Somehow, he felt certain that the kindly ruler of New South Wales would listen to his tale of foul wrong, and, at the least, advise him what to do. Their excursion together during the last twenty-four hours had brought them close together. They had become good friends. His admiration for Phillip's courageous conduct, when confronted by the overwhelming horde of natives in the forenoon, gave him a confidence and trust in the good Governor that made him feel him to be, of all men, the one who could best advise him. Yes—he would go in and see him.
He turned back, and approached the sentry.
"Is his Excellency in his house?" he asked the soldier pacing to and fro before the little dwelling of authority. The man halted, and grounded his piece, the moonlight flashing on his bayonet as he came from the "slope" to the "order."
"Yis, sorr," replied the man, in a low voice. "'Tis busy writin' he is, I think. He's not gone to bed, annyway. 'Tis Mr. Cartwright, isn't it, y'r honor? I was a-thinkin' I knowed y'r honor's figger."
"Yes—Hegarty, isn't it? Will you find out, Hegarty, if I can see his Excellency. Say 'tis most important and urgent—a matter of life and death."
"Very good, y'r honor. Wan moment, sorr. I'll call th' cox'n."
The sentry walked to one end of his beat, opposite which was a small tent, and spoke to someone inside, returning to his post immediately, and marching up and down before the house.
Almost at once the figure of a sailor appeared, and the Commodore's coxswain, Hardy, came to where Patrick stood.
"Y'r honor wishes to speak with his Excellency? He's very busy, sir—I'm not sure he'll be wishful for to be interrupted. But I'll go see, sir. Who shall I say, if ye please, y'r honor?"
"Lieutenant Cartwright, of the Marines. Be good enough to tell his Excellency 'tis a most important matter."
"Aye, aye, sir." The man tugged at his forelock, and entered the house.
He was away a little while—and Patrick half regretted his daring to disturb the Governor at such a time, when he might well be resting after the fatigues of the day. But he knew that it was Phillip's wont to work far into the night—and, anyhow, the thing was done now.
When the man came out again, he spoke in a low tone to Patrick. "His Excellency's uncommon busy, Mr. Cartwright, sir—he told me to tell 'ee—but he says, if th' matter's raally urgent, will ye be pleased for to step inside, sir?"
He led the way to the door, and announced—
"Lootenant Cartwright, y'r Excellency."
Patrick went in, and found the Governor seated at the same little table, with two candles lighting up a litter of papers, as he had found him at on the night of the rebuke. Phillip looked up as the young officer came into the light of the lantern hanging from the ridge-pole, and then rose to his feet, with a hasty exclamation.
"Dear me, Mr. Cartwright! Pray, what is the matter? Are you ill? You look dreadful. 'Pon my soul—dreadful! Please be seated. Do."
Patrick sank wearily into a chair, and looked at the Governor with such an expression of despair and misery upon his countenance as might well have caused Phillip to exclaim.
AFTER looking at him wonderingly for a few moments, the Governor sat down at his table again.
"Pray, what is the cause of your agitation, Mr. Cartwright?" he asked kindly. "Is there aught that I can do?"
Patrick hardly knew how to begin.
"Does your Excellency recollect the story I told you last night—concerning Mary Mortimer?"
"Oh—yes, yes—of course I do, my dear Cartwright. A most pitiful tale! I have had it in mind ever since. Is she in any trouble, pray?"
"The most terrible trouble, your Excellency. Worse, I think, than anything she has experienced. She has been abducted—taken away into the woods across the harbor, on the North Shore."
"Yes, your Excellency—lured from her dwelling-place by a villain, and violently, I fear, forced to accompany an infinitely worse scoundrel to what must be worse than death, to her—to the poor girl."
"Who has done this outrageous thing? By heavens, he will be punished, whoever he may be!"
Patrick hesitated. A feeling of esprit de corps made him loth to confess that a brother officer had been concerned in the bad business. He had no scruples as to Mr. Henderson—but the honor of the Sea Regiment was at stake.
"Your Excellency, if I may beg you to excuse me being quite explicit—just yet—as to the identity of this person, I hope you will do so. For a little while, at any rate. I have thrashed him soundly already—but if I were to name him now—well, it would but distress others whom I would not cause anxiety to. Possibly his name will have to come out, but for the present I would prefer to keep it to myself."
"Oh, please yourself, Mr. Cartwright. I know you must have good reasons. But, come—tell me what has happened. I am anxious to assist this unhappy girl—if 'tis in my power to do so."
It was not an easy thing to tell any other man the shameful story—innocent though she was—of the girl he loved. A difficult and distasteful thing—one of those matters a man keeps to himself. But he felt that the good Governor would have no other view of it than one of horror of the terrible outrage, and of sympathy with its victim. When he had spoken of her in their bivouac at Botany Bay the night before, he had slurred over the most terrible part at the tale—leaving Phillip to infer that Richard Mortimer had obtained some influence over her—perhaps by the use of drugs—that had induced her to marry him. But now he felt that he must tell the story, if he was to hope that the Governor might enter into an advocacy of her interests that, God knew, they needed.
"'Tis a long tale, your Excellency," he said, glancing at the piles of papers on Phillip's table. "Perhaps I will take up too much of your excellency's time?"
"Oh, never mind that, Mr. Cartwright. I am here rather to try to do justice to all men than to enjoy myself in writing interminable despatches to the Secretary of State, to the exclusion of all else. This unfortunate young woman must be considered. Pray proceed, Mr. Cartwright."
So, a little falteringly, Patrick told the sad story—and was glad, as he went on, that he had decided to do so. The Governor did not interrupt him, only nodding sympathetically from time to time. When he was told of the horror that had befallen Mary that evening in the grounds of Mr. Halibut's house, near Edgeware, he was profoundly moved.
"Oh, the wickedness—the base wickedness!" he muttered softly. "Go on, Mr. Cartwright, go on."
To the bitter end, Patrick narrated all that had taken place. Her thoughts of suicide whilst a prisoner in the Lady Penrhyn at Portsmouth; his recognition of her, and hers of him; the written confession of it all that she had handed to him in the surgeon's cabin; the kindness of Dr. Bowes during the voyage; his own efforts on her behalf, and those of his servant, Morgan, since they had landed in Sydney Cove. When he made an end of it, the Governor rose slowly from his chair, and leaned across the little table, his outstretched hand inviting Patrick's. The good Governor grasped it warmly, and retained it a moment or two.
"Mr. Cartwright, I ask your pardon for having doubted your conduct with regard to this poor girl. I thought—you understand—you know what the majority of these women are. I beg of you to forgive me."
Patrick could only murmur his gratitude to the Governor for his altered point of view. He was doubly glad that he had entrusted him with the full facts of the case.
Phillip sat down again, and thought for a few moments before he spoke.
"Well," he said, "we must act at once. We must send after this fellow Mortimer, and try to save her from him. That is our first and most imperative duty. All other considerations must wait on that. She must be rescued, if it takes the whole detachment to do it. By the way, do you happen to know the name under which this villain is passing here? He must have been transported under some alias. He would never dare to make use of the name under which he is wanted for at least, two murders. Have you it, Mr. Cartwright?"
"Yes, your Excellency. He goes by the name of Isaac Denison."
The Governor looked puzzled, as though he were trying to recall something that had escaped his memory. He got up, and went to a shelf, on which were reposing some ledgers. Taking one down, he brought it to the light, and laid it open upon the table.
"I seem to remember the name in some connection. Ah, yes—here it is—I remember him now. 'Isaac Denison.'" he read from the last page of the list—"here he is. 'Highway robbery—14 years.' That is the man without doubt."
He paused for a moment and went on.
"Yes—I am quite clear about him now. I recollect perfectly. Two days before we sailed—after I had come down from London—he was sent to the Fleet, with a letter from the Sheriff of the County of Bucks, requesting that room should be found for him, since he was a most dangerous ruffian, whom the authorities were anxious to see safely out of the country. We were advised to secure him with double irons—which, I believe, was done. He was sent to the Scarborough, and I heard he gave trouble there. This will be the man. He is identical with Richard Mortimer, no doubt."
"That will account for his number as a prisoner?"
"Yes—we started with 750 of them—and he was almost the last to join the Fleet. There was one other, I remember—an old man who died at Teneriffe, and was taken ashore to be buried there. This is the man."
"He is employed with the lime-burners, your Excellency, over on the North Shore, somewhere near Sirius Core. That is where it seems likely he's taken her."
"Ah—I was about to ask you if you knew where he was stationed. At Sirius Cove, eh? Then he has all that wild, unexplored country behind, into which to retreat if he is pursued. He must know that he will have to take to the bush with his victim—that poor girl—if he does not wish to be punished for this outrage. He cannot hope that it will not be taken notice of. I take it, Cartwright, that you will wish yourself to take part in the chase of the miscreant?"
"Oh, indeed, yes, your Excellency. I could not rest here. If you will be so good as to request Major Ross's permission to absent myself from the detachment?"
"Of course. I will send a note to him, informing the major that I have required your services for a special duty. Will you start at once?"
"There isn't a moment to be lost, sir."
"No—that is so. Whom will you take with you? A sergeant and half a dozen men ought to suffice. The difficulty will be about a guide. Is there anyone you know of who is acquainted with the country to the northward. 'Tis very rough and wild, you know. I found that out on my visits to Broken Bay, a few months ago."
Patrick thought for a few moments. Then an idea occurred to him, and his anxious face cleared a little.
"There is one man, your Excellency, who knows that country better than anyone else. Sergeant Reynolds—you will remember, he was with us yesterday. He is a keen hunter, and often goes over there. Well known to the natives, too, and trusted by them. I am sure he could find a guide amongst them. And I think that if I take Owen Morgan, my Marine servant, that the party will be large enough."
"Only the three of you?"
"Yes, your Excellency. I think our speed would be hampered by a larger party. And speed is the thing. The longer start we give Mortimer, the better chance he has of making good his escape. We should set out within the hour."
"Yes, yes. As soon as possible. Do you go and make your preparations, Mr. Cartwright. I will have Sergeant Reynolds sent to you. But I think I must insist upon your taking another man—three is altogether too small a party. You may need to send someone back for supplies, or to ask for help. We will let the sergeant choose a man. He will be likely to select someone who will not be a hindrance to you. My gig will be ready to carry you across to Sirius Cove, and I'll tell you what I will do. I win send one of the Sirius' boats, with a well-armed party aboard, round by sea, to await you at the head of Pitt's Water. They will have instructions to remain three days after their arrival there. That should give you plenty of time, in case you have to penetrate so far north. Now, lose no time. The boat will be waiting for you in the Cove in an hour."
Patrick rose, and looked at the Governor gratefully.
"I can't say how greatly I am beholden to your Excellency—for—for your kindness and sympathy."
Phillip shook him by the hand again warmly.
"Say nothing, Mr. Cartwright. I pray that your quest may be successful. The unhappy girl has every particle of feeling that I possess. Good-bye, and good luck to you."
It was near midnight when Commodore Phillip's gig, from the Sirius, parsed out of Sydney Cove round Benelong Point (the modern Fort Macquarie—where a tram depot has replaced Sydney's old citadel), and headed diagonally across the harbor towards the dark shores and sombre forests of the northern side, near Sirius Cove. The waning moon was high in the heavens by this time, and the broad waters sparkled and danced in her silvery light, gurgling and splashing as the prow of the boat sped swiftly through the little rippling waves. There was a cold bite in the air, and an aromatic scent of the dense bush, that surrounded Sydney on every side.
Sergeant Reynolds, who had been awakened out of his first sound slumbers by the Governor's coxswain, was keenly enthusiastic as to their quest, and told Patrick all that he knew concerning the man they were to hunt for.
"A bad fellow, y'r honor—thorough bad. Bad as they make 'em. Jack Ketch was cheated out of his rightful prey when they didn't hang this Isaac Denison—that he was! A savage beast, what'd be better dead, a proper hell-hound."
"Have you had much to do with him?" asked Patrick.
"A goodish bit, sir. I was in charge of the gang he was in when we first landed—a clearin' th' timber up the brook from th' Cove. I had him flogged for a-tryin' on some of his little games wi' me. He hit a drummer in the jaw—broke three of his teeth, too—for comin' on him when he was 'idin' in th' bush wi' one o' th' convict women. That Soho Sarah—you know her, sir. By George, he threatened me, when I put him under arrest—but I stretched him wi' th' handcuffs I was a-goin' for to put on him. I tell you, sir, I've watched him pretty sharp since then. That feller thinks no more o' murder than you and I, sir, thinks o' takin' our breakfasts. He swore he'd do for me, when they was a-floggin' him. Well, if we catch him now, I'm half thinkin' a bullet wouldn't do him no great harm."
"If we catch him now," laughed Patrick, grimly, "he'll not escape the hangman again. There are at least two murders in the Old Country that he has to atone for. The Governor knows about them. His shrift will be a short one, should we have the luck to lay him by the heels. Who is this man you have brought with you, sergeant?"
"A young fellie, sir, I sometimes takes out shootin' wi' me—th' sergeant-major's son, one o' th' drummers of th' detachment, a good lad, and a game 'un."
"Good—and Morgan here's a good man, too. What would you advise that we should do to-night, sergeant? It doesn't seem to me as if we could accomplish much before daylight. Do you think so?"
"Nothing at all, sir—except to see whether he's in his hut—an' that's not likely, I think."
"You know where his hut is?"
"He lives by himself at th' head o' th' little bay next to Sirius Cove, y'r honor. Got a little bark hut there, by a brook that runs into the head o' th' bay. But I think we'd better land in the next bay to th' east'ard, an' come round through the bush on to his camp. If he should be there—which ain't probable—he'd see us easily if we was to come ashore in his own bay. There's a long stretch o' sand at low-water—n' it's almost dead low-water now. I think that'd be our best plan."
"And if—as you think likely—he's gone into the bush, what then?"
"Then, sir, we must wait till dawn. In the meantime, I can go to the blacks' camp, and see about a guide. These fellies is marvellous clever at followin' up a man's footsteps—ye'd never believe it. They can see clear an' sartin where you an' I would notice nothing. 'Tis almost like a soit o' witchcraft—indeed it is, sir. There's one of 'em lives here-about that I've often had out wi' me, an' I think I can get him. Araban, they call him. He's picked up a bit o' th' lingo from me, and we'll find him useful. But we'd have no chance in this wilderness without one o' the indians to find this Denison's tracks. So soon as it's daylight, sir, we can make a start. That's the best I can think of, sir."
"Yes—that seems to be our only course—to wait for the coming of the dawn. We'll land in the place you speak of, sergeant, and reconnoitre his hut, first of all. After that, if you will try and secure a guide, we can rest till daylight. I am dead tired. You've had a couple of hours' sleep, haven't you? Then we can breakfast, and get away as soon as it's light enough to see. Here, take the tiller, will you, Reynolds—steer for the bay you mean to land in. You know more about the place than I do."
There is a pretty little bay, with a tiny sandy beach, just below the south-western corner of the Zoological Gardens, immediately east of Little Sirius Cove, and separated from it by a point of land. It is a lively spot, a favorite picnic grounds for motor-boats in these days. It was here that they landed to begin their search for Mary.
AFTER they had landed in the little bay, Sergeant Reynolds led the way over the base of the point towards the head of little Sirius Cove. With little difficulty they located the hut where Mortimer lived, but, as they had been expecting, it was empty, and bare of any belongings of the convict.
"See, Mr. Cartwright, he can't be long gone," said the sergeant; "the fire's still warm. 'Tis not an hour since he left the place, I'd swear."
"Yes," replied Patrick; "if we but had our guide now, we might follow at once. But without him I suppose we are helpless. Well, sergeant, if you will take Drummer Currie, and go after your friend Araban, Morgan and I will wait here for you. You may promise the native anything in the way of a reward for his services. Make it clear that he will be well recompensed for accompanying us."
"Very good, sir," said Sergeant Reynolds. "Come along, Bob."
When the pair of them had departed over the hill towards Sirius Cove, Morgan made up the fire in the hut, and they lay down to try and snatch a little sleep. They were both infinitely weary, after their long journey to Botany Bay and back. Morgan was asleep in a few moments after stretching himself out on the earthen floor, but slumber did not soon calm Patrick's troubled mind. When at last he dropped off, it only seemed that he had been unconscious for a few minutes when someone shook him by the shoulder; and he opened his eyes to see the sergeant bending over him in the bright light of a roaring fire.
"'Tis gettin' on for daylight, sir," he was saying. "I've got our breakfast ready—if ye'll eat a bite—an' then we can make a start."
Patrick rose to his feet, and stretched his cramped limbs.
"What about the guide, sergeant?"
"He's right, sir; rolled up in his skin cloak outside. I'd a job to prevent half th' tribe a-comin'. It seems they're got it in for this fellie Denison. He's been a-foolin' wi' their women. But I told 'em Gubbana'd be angry if more'n one of 'em came with us. They've got a great notion of his Ex'len'cy. As soon as ye've had a bit to eat, we'll make a start—by your leave, sir. Th' dawn's just breakin'."
In the fast lightening twilight they stood outside the little hut, whilst the native, Araban, a tall, athletic, and not unhandsome blackfellow—cast about for the tracks of the man and woman. Circling round the rear of the bark hut, it was not long before he straightened his back and beckoned to Sergeant Reynolds.
"Thiss way be go," he said, pointing up the hill.
Picking up their muskets and their packages of provisions, the three white men prepared to follow him. He had hardly gone ten yards when he halted suddenly, and turned to face them, holding up in his right hand a scrap of white paper.
Patrick ran to where he stood, and eagerly took it from him. A quick glance served to show him that it was a message from Mary.
Hastily scrawled in pencil on the title-page of a prayer book, he read:—
"Richard Mortimer has forced me away with him. He is going to join, he says, a tribe of Blacks somewhere to the north of here, who live beside a Lake that lies between Port Jackson and Broken Bay, near the Coast. I pray that whoever may find This will see that it comes into the Hands of Lieutenant Cartwright.
That was all—a hurried message she had dropped at the beginning of her forced flight, to indicate the direction in which they had gone. Patrick showed it to Sergeant Reynolds.
"Ho!" he said. "I know the place they're going to, sir. I've been there once, in th' company of this same nigger. They call it by a name that means 'Forked Waters.' 'Tis a fine sheet of water—a lake—in the hills near the coast, as she says. This is good, sir; it gives us our direction. With Araban on their tracks, we should overhaul them. I daresay we can travel faster than they can. He'll be loaded up a little, an' she won't travel no faster than what she can help."
"Come, then," said Patrick, cheered by this communication from his dear girl. "We must not lose a moment."
It was a marvellous and wonderful thing to the young officer—the quick and sure fashion in which the native followed the trail. He never seemed to pause or hesitate, even when going over rough and stony country, where not the slightest indication of human footsteps were visible to the white men. Sometimes, where the soil was sandy, Araban would point to two distinct footmarks, in confirmation of his correctness—these made by the man's clumsy prison shoes, and a smaller one, which was clearly the woman's.
The blackfellow led them up—through a tangle of wild woods and dense scrub—to the crest of the ridge that separates Middle Harbor from Port Jackson. Here they rested for a few minutes, whilst Sergeant Reynolds pointed out to Patrick the lay of the land.
Behind them, across the blue waters of the main harbor, the white tents of the encampment gleamed in the sunshine—it was a perfect Australian winter day—at the head of Sydney Cove. Over to the eastward, the perpendicular pillar of North Head stood up boldly against the wide, blue plain of the sea. Ahead, and to the westward, miles and miles of timbered ridges, separated by apparently deep valleys and gorges, stretched into a deep blueness towards a distant skyline. Immediately below them lay the long valley of Middle Harbor.
"How are we going to cross that?" asked Patrick, pointing to the wide gulf that lay to the north.
"There is a spur runs down, sir, to a sandy spit that reaches nearly across the harbor," replied the sergeant. "When we come to the end of it, we'll have to swim—unless we should be lucky enough to come across some natives with canoes, who'd ferry us over."
"Well—let us be moving. The sooner we are across the water, the better."
Reynolds led them along the crest of the dividing ridge—or, rather, Araban's tracking led them in a westerly direction for a mile or so, and then they turned almost at right angles to their former course, down towards the water. To-day, it is easiest to describe their travels here-about by saying that they had struck the Military Road to Middle Head where the Bradley's Head Road joins it, and had then followed the tram-line to the Spit Junction—Trafalgar Square, as it is grotesquely named now.
The ridge down which they laboriously scrambled in the wake of the aboriginal—the Manly tram runs down it these days—was very rough and densely timbered, and covered with an undergrowth that was sometimes almost impenetrable, but at last they found themselves at its foot, on the peculiar sand-bank that partially closes Middle Harbor.
Not a sign of a native fishing from a canoe was to be seen, and the lovely sheet of water lying to the westward of the narrow passage that the tides have kept clear at the end of the spit was empty of any navigators in primitive bark catamarans that might have served to ferry the party to the other side.
"We'll have to swim for it," said Sergeant Reynolds. "I suppose we all know how to?" he added, looking round the little group standing by the water's edge.
"'Tis more'n I do, sar'nt," said the drummer, with an apologetic grin.
"Good Lord, Bobbie—I thought you were more of a man than that," smiled Reynolds. "Never mind—we'll get you across."
Telling Morgan and Currie to come with him, Sergeant Reynolds walked back along the western side of the sand-spit, seeking driftwood with which to construct some kind of a raft, by whose aid they might cross the narrow channel that separated them from the opposite shore.
In half an hour he was back again where Patrick had awaited them, towing a dry log along the beach in the wide stretch of shallow waters that borders the Spit on the side now known as Pearl Bay.
"We can strip off now, sir, and fasten our clothes, and the muskets and provisions, to the top o' this bit o' timber. 'Twill do fine to float 'em over on, and Drummer Currie, here, he can hang on to it and play the passenger. I'll wager ye never sailed on so quaint a ship before, eh, Bobbie?"
They stripped off their clothing, and fastened it with their belts in bundles upon the top side of the log, securing the muskets and provisions on top of them again, so that they were well out of the water. A limb protruding on one side acted as a sort of outrigger, and prevented the tree trunk from turning over. Pushing out from the end of the spit, they managed to get across without losing any of their equipment—not, however, without some difficulty and hard work, for the tide was ebbing fairly strongly through the channel, and they had trouble to prevent themselves from being swept out into the wider waters.
On the northern side, Araban was able to pick up the tracks again at once, and, when they were dressed, he led them up the hill by way of a little gully down which trickled a tiny watercourse.
Through dense forest growths—tall gumtrees and vines, and here and there an occasional graceful cabbage-palm—they forced their way to the summit of the ridge that divided the watersheds of Middle Harbor and the low-lying country beyond, to the north-westward of that coast of the harbor which the Governor had named Manly, as a tribute to the bearing of the natives whom he had encountered there.
Here, Araban said, the man and woman had halted and rested, whilst they ate some food. He showed them where each of the pair had sat down, pointing out to Sergeant Reynolds and Patrick how they must have remained there some little time, because of the depressions in the rushes upon which they had reclined. There was nothing that the white men would have noticed for themselves, but when Araban had explained the signs it was all clear and evident enough.
Down into the valley the tracks led, keeping towards the hills that trended northward, roughly parallel with the coast. They rounded the end of a long lagoon, almost under the low range, and then the route led upward towards a high hill at the back of what is now the situation of the village of Brookvale.
"By George, sir," remarked the sergeant, as they climbed the long slope towards this elevation, "I believe we'll find the fellow's come up here for to get a view of the country beyond. I'm almost certain this is the hill from which I saw the lake—though I came to it from the country near the head of that branch of the harbor we swum across. 'Tis a fine prospect from up there—as ye'll see, if the tracks lead us to the top."
"How far would you say we were behind them, sergeant?" Patrick asked him.
"Well—he had a pretty fair start of us, sir—but we've come faster than what they would have travelled. Let me see—'twas after midnight when we came to Denison's hut. He must have gone nearly an hour—judging from the ashes in the fire-place. We left there a little after six o'clock. Well—he must be six or seven hours to the good, sir—I should say."
When they came to the top of the hill, Patrick found the view on all sides of them magnificent and glorious. Eastward sparkled the sea, to the south there was a glimpse of Port Jackson near the Heads, and westward the long, dark ranges rolled away to the sky. Very far off lay those Blue Mountains that Phillip saw when he ascended the Hawkesbury to the point he named Richmond Hill. But it was to the north that their gaze turned with most interest.
If you go up there to-day—it is called Beacon Hill nowadays, because of the trigonometrical survey station upon its summit—this is what you will see.
Behind Long Reef, there is a hog-backed, darkly-wooded ridge, beyond which lie Collaroy and Narrabeen beaches. Past this high, dark hill, a blue-green haze of distance, with a suggestion of purple in it, colors the coastline. Headland after headland juts out into the sparkling blue sea, until you pick out Barrenjoey, the south head of Broken Bay. The width of the mouth of the Hawkesbury is suggested by the fainter and more distant blueness of the jutting stretch of land that runs north-eastwards to Cape Three Points. The long curve of the ocean horizon ends here, at the bluff which terminates all the coastline that is visible to you. Inland, to the north, lies a wide relief-map of low, rolling ranges, becoming an increasingly fainter blue, that is only a little deeper in tone than the sky, as your eye rests upon the limits of your world. Dark ridges and blue valleys, beyond and beyond one another, until you can see no more. If you know what to look for, you may trace the valley of the Lower Hawkesbury. Very far away, there are faint and hardly-visible blue peaks and summits, rising above the rolling sea of forest and mountain, that may possibly belong to the ranges about the Wollombi.
Down below you, a couple of miles away, in a bottom of rough, wooded spurs and ridges, and about as far in from the sea, a landlocked basin of shining water is set in the depths of the hilly forest. It looks just like some water-filled crater with no outlet, but you recognise it as the broad basin of Narrabeen Lake, and can just make out the flat point below the hills where Deep Creek—that most charming ditch in Fairyland—runs into the lagoon. It is intensely blue in its setting of deep greens and indigoes. Not a sign of life or human habitation about it—it looks from here just as it must have looked to Patrick Cartwright and his little party, a hundred and thirty-two years ago.
For a little while Patrick remained entranced by the loveliness of the wide prospect spread before him—but he had little inclination to enjoy magnificent scenery to-day.
Those dark hills and deep valleys only had one aspect to him—they were the prison of the girl he loved, and shuddered to think of as being in the power of the brutal creature who had stolen her away from him.
"'Tis a fine outlook, sir," said Sergeant Reynolds. "When I first came here, and got down to the water yonder, I thought to myself, 'This is where I'd like to make a home.' Them woods is full of game."
"What of the natives?" asked Patrick.
"I saw little of them, sir. They seemed to be fishing down along the coast, or else engaged upon some business or other that was not in the woods, or on the lake. But I was only here a few hours."
"Well—let us push on," said Patrick, impatient of delay. "We may hear some tidings of them down below, if we encounter any of the natives. I suppose Araban, here, talks their lingo, doesn't he?"
"Oh, yes, sir—'tis much the same, I believe, all along the coast."
He turned to the blackfellow.
"You talkee-talkee 'long them feller, Araban? You know him?"
The black nodded his head.
"Him bad feller," he said, pointing with his spear down towards the lake.
"He told me, when we were here before, sir, that the natives on this side of the lake are a peaceable lot enough—but those to the north are fighting men, and pretty savage."
"Let us get on," Patrick said. "We must try and find some of them."
They began the descent into the basin of Lake Narrabeen.
IT was nearing sunset when they reached the lakeside, and the wide bosom of the basin between the dark green hills was turned to amethyst and gold, in the splendors that shone from the western sky, above the long, mysterious ranges, reflecting themselves perfectly in the still waters.
A restless desire to push on possessed Patrick. To sit down by a camp-fire, to prepare food and eat it, to stretch out and sleep upon the grassy shore of this lovely sheet of water, seemed to him a wicked waste of time, that was all too precious. This would be her second night alone with that brutal ruffian, who, freed from any restraint imposed by the mere presence of other men and women, might do anything that came into the wicked animalism of his debased intelligence. He shivered as he thought of what might be happening even now—and loathed the necessity of halting for the night.
But there was a necessity. The toil that he and Reynolds and Morgan had gone through in the last three days had been strenuous and constant, and they had had but little sleep. They all needed rest, if they were to continue a chase that might last for days. However, he would not give up whilst there was light enough for the blackfellow to see the tracks.
"Sergeant," he said, "do you stop here, and prepare some food. We cannot light a fire, I am afraid. Mortimer may be near at hand upon the other side of the lake, perhaps—and if he should discover that we are close upon him, he would be urged to push on, dragging the poor girl with him. They must be as weary as we are—she must be more so. If they are undisturbed, and sleep somewhere in the neighborhood, we may gain a little upon them in the morning, by starting early. I will take Araban with me, and follow the tracks until it is too dark to see anything. We will return here then, and have some food and sleep. But do not delay your meal on our account."
"Very good, sir. I'll have something to eat for ye by the time ye come hack. Araban, you go 'long Misser Cartwright—good feller that—findem track. Come back 'longa night-time—make good feller sleep, an' drinkem rum."
It is curious how naturally pigeon-English comes to those of the British race, and how confident they are as to its being the only way of making themselves intelligible to natives of the lands they take from them. They would invent a "pigeon" for the inhabitants of Mars, were they to obtain a footing on the planet.
The blackfellow nodded, and he and Patrick set off along the water's edge, in the direction of the sea, whose mumbling roar was distantly audible where they had halted.
The tracks followed the shore, and they had gone nearly a mile before Araban suddenly halted—just as Patrick had been about to suggest that it was getting too dark to trace them any further that night. He stood, gripping his spear, and listening intently, an expression of apprehension in his dusky features. His hand was held out behind him, as a signal to the white man to remain still.
Presently he turned, and, crouching low amongst the fern, whispered huskily and fearfully to Patrick:—
"Bad feller—he come!"
Patrick listened intently, but could hear nothing, save the murmur of the surf on a distant beach, and the calls of homing birds in the forests above them. He noted that the native was shaking and trembling with excitement. He began to crawl towards Patrick, motioning him to crouch down as he was doing. Then, suddenly, with a grunting exclamation, he jumped behind a bush, crouched for a moment, as if listening again—rose to his feet, and dashed into the scrub on the hillside with a yell of fear. At the same moment, something whirred past Patrick's head, and in the last of the light, as he turned, he saw a spear quivering in the red trunk of a gumtree close behind him. For a brief second he had a notion that he saw a hideously painted native run from the shelter of one big tree to another near at hand. He raised his musket and fired in the direction where he thought he had seen this flitting figure.
The flash of the piece's discharge lit up the dark bush momentarily, and again he thought he could distinguish another dodging figure. A spear whined very close beside him, cutting the sleeve of his jacket. Realising that Araban had deserted him, and apprehensive of being cut off from the remainder of the party, he turned and ran. A flight of lances flew from the forest, and one cut the side of his neck. He put his hand up, and it was wet with warm blood.
Steadily he ran on, pausing a moment when he had gone a little way, and the spears were no longer flying about him, to turn and fire one of the two pistols that were stuck in his belt. He had hopes that it might check the hostile blacks.
A thought flashed across his mind that Richard Mortimer had arranged to cover his retreat by setting the aborigines upon the pursuing party, and he set his teeth and cursed him as he ran. If it was so, he had chosen a fine way of baffling them. They would never be able to force a passage through unknown country as wild and rough as this, in the face of opposing natives—on whose assistance, indeed, they had been depending, in order to trace the man Mortimer, and the woman he had captive.
A horrid idea that this attack might only be the sequel to a successful one upon Mortimer and Mary came into his mind, too—but he resolved not to let it daunt him. He would hope for the best.
The discharge of the pistol seemed momentarily to have checked his pursuers. But a dread lest some of them might have been detailed to cut him off from the others, and have got round through the bush between him and the spot where he had left his men in camp, kept him running. It was nearly dark now, only the red afterglow above the black, serrated line of hills in front of him, and the reflected sheen of the waters of the lake, lighting up his path through the deep fern that grew almost to the edge of the shore.
At last, close at hand, the welcome "hulloo" of the sergeant—white men had not yet learned to "cooee" in Australia—cheered him mightily. Evidently there had been no flank attack organised. In half a minute he was amongst his companions.
Gasping from the exertion of his run, he flung himself down on the ground beside Sergeant Reynolds. The three soldiers were crouching behind the trunk of a huge fallen tree, over which solid breastwork they had been peering anxiously in the direction taken by himself and their guide, their muskets pointed towards the quarter whence they had heard the two shots fired.
"Heavens, sir—what's happened?" cried Sergeant Reynolds. "Are ye wounded, Mr. Cartwright?"
In the very last of the light he was just able to make out the blood from the cut in Patrick's neck that had run down over the collar of his jacket, and was staining its cloth a darker red.
"Nothing, Reynolds—'tis nothing but a scratch," he gasped. "The—blacks threw spears at us. Had to run for it. Araban's gone off into the woods—scared—had to make a bolt for it. We'll have to fight, I think. The savages mean business. They didn't pay me the compliment of inquiring what mine might be. Just started spear-throwing without ceremony. Keep an eye on our flank, Morgan. I think my shots halted them—but we must watch out."
They strained their eyes, peering into the darkness before them, tense and silent with the waiting expectancy of battle, each of them curiously conscious of the oppressive silence and eagerly anxious for some sound that would relieve an impatience that almost amounted to suffering. The uncanny call of a mopehawk grunted, startlingly clear in the stillness of the cold evening, somewhere down the lakeside behind. The little night noises of the bush kept up their ceaseless chorus about and above them, in fern and tree-top, and always there was the restless moaning of the sea, somewhere in front of them.
But no sound or sign of their enemies was to be heard or seen.
"We must get out of this, sir," whispered the sergeant. "'Tis a poor place to be caught in, if they should rush us. They might come at us from the hillside up above here, at the same time as they come across the lake in their canoes."
"You think we must abandon our quest, then, sergeant?"
"For the moment, sir, at any rate. Maybe we can push on round the head o' the lake, if we get away from these fellows safely to-night. But to push on now, sir, is out o' th' question. H-s-sh—what's that—up on the hill, there, to our right," he whispered, staring up into the tangle of tree trunks and dense bush above their position.
Patrick listened, and thought he heard a slight rustling in the scrub above them. Then he was sure of it. He swung his musket round, and was about to blaze into the darkness, when, suddenly, the sergeant gripped his elbow.
"For heaven's sake don't fire, sir—'tis the nigger. 'Tis Araban. Ah, I thought he'd not desert us! Come on, Araban," he whispered, a little louder. "Good feller, you!"
Through the high bracken, worming his way noiselessly, almost on his belly, their guide dragged himself into their midst, trailing his spear along the ground by his side.
"Rennel," he grunted, laying his hand on the sergeant's thigh. "Baal stoppit 'long this feller lake. Baal budgeree that one. Quick—come!"
He pointed up the spur, and continued, in a low tone:—
"Bin lie down, close up longa blackfeller—hear him say that feller Denisie bin makem fight you feller. Denisie bin run away—longa white gin. No good, that feller Denisie."
"What's he say?" whispered Patrick.
"Mortimer, sir—Denison, or whatever his name is—he's egged these niggers on to attack us, whilst he's got away wi' th' girl. I thought this might be his little arrangement. Clever—oh, dam clever, sir!"
The black pulled at Reynolds' sleeve.
"Baal stoppit, Rennel. Plenty blackfeller comin'. Mus' run away, quick feller."
"I think we'd better move, sir," whispered the sergeant. "He thinks they're a-comin' in force. Shall we go, sir? Better take his advice, I think."
"Yes, we must get out of this. Perhaps we'll find a better place to defend higher up. Come along. He'll be all right—I mean, he's to be trusted, eh?"
"Oh, yes, y'r honor. He'd not have come back if he hadn't meant for to stick to us. I'm certain sure we can trust him. By George, we'd be lost without him, I'm thinkin', in country like this!"
"Come along, then, Morgan—Currie! Come, we'll make a move out of this."
Silently as a shadow, Araban led them through the fern and scrub, up through the trees along the spur down which they had come to the lake in the afternoon. He led the way, with Reynolds close behind him, Morgan and the drummer following. Patrick constituted the rearguard.
It was a rough road, and, although the night was a clear and star-lit one, the Englishmen only made their way through the tangle of the bush with the greatest difficulty. Their guide, however, showed no hesitation, and led them through the primeval forest with a confidence and sureness that evoked Patrick's admiration. Nothing checked him, and he had a genius for finding the easiest path that was almost uncanny.
They had reached a little peak on the ridge, whence they could look down on to the black basin of the lake, that mirrored the stars in its placid surface, when the dim figures in front of him halted, and Patrick felt one of the two behind Reynolds reach out his hand, and touch him in the breast.
"S-s-t, y'r honor!" It was Morgan whispering to him. "The sergeant wants ye, sir."
Patrick crawled up over the rocks and coarse grass—the little knob they were on was treeless and bare of scrub. He found Sergeant Reynolds alone.
"Y'r honor," he whispered, "th' nigger thinks there's blacks about in the bush, down there below us." He pointed to the black gully on their left-hand side. "He's crawled out to see if he can find where they are. He says he doesn't think they'll try to rush us before the moon gets up—none of 'em likes th' dark at any time. What I was a-thinkin', sir, was that this here place would give us a chance for to defend it—until daylight, anyway. We could pile up the rocks—there's plenty loose boulders layin' about in th' grass—an' make a sort o' breastwork to lie behind. A little sort o' rifle-pit, about six or seven feet wide. Then, if we was to break down a few branches, an' spread 'em across th' top, 'twould serve as a shield to keep their spears off. We've got four muskets, an' plenty of ammunition; we ought to be able to hold 'em off, an' do them some damage into the bargain—mebbe give 'em such a bellyful as'll make 'em anxious to give us a wide berth to-morrow, an' let us get away. What d'ye think, sir?"
The plan seemed to Patrick to be a good one—indeed, it appeared to be the best they could do. They were fortunate in coming upon such a good position for defence.
"Yes, I think you're right, sergeant. By all means let us stop here. And we'll fortify our position. We'll call it Fort Araban when we send in our despatch to headquarters about the Battle of the Forked Waters, eh?"
He laughed in a low tone, and the drummer sniggered behind him. Morgan had his little jest also.
"It doess remind me, y'r honor, of the old woman of Llanfairfechan—indeed, yess!"
"What did she do, Owen?" whispered Reynolds.
"Indeed, she wass a fery wise woman—too wise for to pay her rent. And when they took the roof off of her little house on the hill, for to make her leave it, she just cursed them, and put branches over the rafters. And she told them—she says the curse she'd put upon them was the curse o' Merlin. Indeed, they wass afraid of that, and let her be."
"Why, what was the curse, Morgan?" asked Patrick.
"He that taketh the widow's roof, he shall marry the widow—else shall hiss powels rot within him. Oh, yess, they wass frightened, and let her alone."
They toiled hard with the stones, piling them up into a rough barricade of a circular form, and making a little wall about a yard high. They tore down branches from the trees below, and in less than an hour their tiny fortress was complete. After they had finished their labors, Patrick served out a strong tot of rum, of which he had a large flask slung by a strap to his side. They ate some food, and waited for the moon to rise. Araban returned just as they had finished building the breast-work, and told Sergeant Reynolds that, although he had not got within hearing distance of them, he was sure that there were natives in the forest below.
The night was very cold and still, and, save for the ceaseless little sounds that are characteristic of the Australian bush at night, a quiet that could almost be felt was all about them.
At last the sky to the eastward began to lighten, and the tops of the trees on the ridges between where they were and the sea silhouetted darkly against the silvery radiance that was stealing upward toward the zenith.
Just as the moon rose above the nearest hill, a savage yell broke the quiet of the night, and a spear whizzed high above their heads.
The Battle of the Forked Waters had begun.
THE morning was one of the best that Sydney ever gets in winter—that is to say, it was as near perfection as is possible. A cloudless sky, still air with a delightful tonic in it that makes life infinitely worth living, brilliant sunshine without unpleasant heat, and a clarity of atmosphere render such days memorable. In their fullest perfection they are not common, but when they do occur, it seems fastidious to doubt that it is possible in Sydney to realise the very finest weather in all the world.
White of face, and rather gaunt of feature—but better to look at than he had been half an hour before, for the reason that Mr. Owen Morgan had just scraped from his face a rough beard of exactly three weeks and two days' growth—Mr. Patrick Cartwright, of the Marines, lay in a hammock outside the primitive hospital near the south-western curve of the Cove, propped up with pillows, and delightedly surveyed the entrancing scene before his eyes. He was very weak, but it was easy to see that he was very happy. In his hand was an open letter from Governor Phillip, of which, as a respectable novelist would say, "there will be more anon."
The little bay was all a-sparkle in the sunshine, and the waters of the harbor, stretching over to the densely wooded, dark green heights of its rugged northern coastline, were of an almost unbelievable blueness. In their midst, and in the middle of the picture that very unhandy ship, H.M.S. Sirius, swung at her moorings in the mouth of the Cove. Her tall masts were delicately traced against the splendid blue of the sky and her black lower rigging stood out darkly against the golden green of the land behind. The great flag of St. George drooped over her gilt stern lanterns, without any breeze to display its famous cross, and, similarly, the Commodore's pendant hung listlessly from the mainmast—as if the day were too fine and delightful for a display of such a symbol of naval authority. Over the top of Benelong's Point, across the Cove, the little pyramid of the Island of Mattewai—which the convicts had, for very good reasons, but unpoetically, nicknamed Pinchgut—reared its rocky and verdant summit above the ridge. About the Cove, the white canvas of the Marines' and officers' tents gleamed dazzlingly in the brilliant light. The straggling and squalid little huts of the prisoners, even, looked clean and comfortable on such a comfortable and spotless day—although that was just about what they were not.
Behind his hammock, which swung between the trunk of a shady swamp-oak tree and a stake driven in the ground, a tent had been pitched for the accommodation of the wounded officer, and behind it was the hospital—which had been one of the very first buildings erected in Sydney—and was such a unique kind of medical establishment that neither sheets nor blankets were amongst its equipment. Captain Hunter's drawing of it shows it to have been a most curious structure—a row of six gable-ended shanties of one story, packed close together—but it is possible that the worthy Second-Captain of the Sirius, despite his art and craftsmanship, did not do it justice. It is quite certain, however, that it was a good place not to be a patient in.
"Morgan," said Patrick, in a feeble voice.
"Yess, y'r honor. What iss it y'r honor wants?"
The brisk little Welshman paused in his stropping of Patrick's razors, and came and stood close to the hammock of his master—seeming almost to reproach himself with not having anticipated that gentleman's requirements.
"Morgan, have you seen Sergeant Reynolds lately?"
"Indeed, yess, y'r honor. Thiss fery morning I wass a-talking with him."
"I would like to see him, and have a talk with him too. I've not seen him since I was hurt. Where's he to be found—do you know? Do you think you could get him for me—now, at once?"
"Indeed, then, I could—y'r honor. 'Tis over at th' camp he iss—I know it, indeed. He's for guard at two o'clock, to relieve the reg'lar sergeant, who has to give evidence at the trial of young Patsy Riordan for tryin' to steal th' sar'nt-major's sucking-pig. He'll be gettin' his kit in order at his quarters. I'll go seek him thiss fery minute, y'r honor. Just let me put these shavin' things away, and I'll be off. He's been for to ask after ye each day, y'r honor. Indeed, he wass terrible put about when y'r honor wass so bad."
Patrick smiled wanly, looking at the dapper little soldier with an affectionate gratefulness that was a mighty reward to that valiant, though diminutive, Celt.
"I know he was," he said gently. "The good fellow! Indeed, I owe my life to you and to him, my good Morgan. Some day—when I'm out of these bandages—I hope to show my gratitude properly. Two good men—both of you!"
"Don't think it anything, y'r honor—'twass our privilege for to get ye clear of them murtherin' devils. I'll go at once, sir. Indeed, yess—a privilege."
He hurried into the tent with Patrick's shaving-kit, and then departed "at the double," up the track that is now George Street, making for the rough bridge of logs and earth that spanned the stream above its entrance to the Cove.
In twenty minutes, during which Patrick contemplated, with the appreciation of the world's beauty which comes only to those who have recently been close to bidding farewell to it, the sunlit scene before him, Sergeant Reynolds was stiffly saluting him, as he stood beside his hammock. Smilingly the wounded officer acknowledged the formal greeting, and then held out his hand.
"Thank you, Reynolds—thank you. Morgan has told me of your bravery, and of all you did that night. Get a stool out of my tent, and sit down. I want to hear your version of what happened."
Anticipating his request, the alert Morgan stood behind Patrick's head with a camp-stool in his hand. Reynolds opened it, and placed it where Patrick could see and hear him easily.
"I thank God, y'r honor," he said—almost with a break in his strong voice, "I do, indeed, thank Him for seein' ye on th' road to recovery like this. It does me an' Morgan good—don't it, Owen?"
"Py tamn, it doess!" enthusiastically echoed the Welshman. "Pray excuse me, y'r honor—but 'tis glad I am, indeed."
"But for you two I'd not be here at all, but up behind in the burial ground—or across the harbor in the bush, without any tombstone at all. Now then, Reynolds, my friend—I remember those first spears, and our blazing away into the darkness. What comes after that's gone from me altogether—though Morgan tells me it was some little time before I was knocked out. But I can recall nothing else. Do you relate to me what happened."
While the sergeant told his story, Mr. Morgan hovered in the vicinity, assiduously making a pretence of polishing some of Patrick's accoutrements, whilst he really acted the part of a sort of admiring chorus to his N.C.O.
"Well, sir—'twas something like this—though I'm 'feared I've not a gift o' story-tellin'. Them black devils, they came at us from all sides, all at once. Arahan just managed to get inside the breastwork in time. I kept him at loadin' th' muskets—an' he did it well, having a good bit o' practice when I used to take him out a-shootin' with me. I saw three of 'em go down at the first discharge—but they seemed to be proper furious-like, an' kept a-runnin' up an' throwin' their spears—just as if they was dis'plined troops. Not their style o' fightin' at all, I'm told—but there's no doubt they was game enough that night!"
"Indeed they wass!" murmured Patrick's servant.
"Poor young Bob Currie was hit in almost the first five minutes. I just heard him give a grunt an' a squeal, an' he doubled up an' sort o' squirmed on the ground for a few seconds before he was dead. The spear went right through his body—just below the breast-bone. I think it must ha' pierced his heart. I pulled th' lance out after—when they'd drawn off the second time—the last time—an' 'twas eight or nine inches a-stickin' out on 'tother side of him."
"God preserve him—he died at once. Indeed, yess."
"That first rush was the worst. I think their courage failed them after. And there was a critical moment then, y'r honor—which you saved."
"I?" said Patrick, wonderingly.
"Yes, sir. We'd emptied our muskets, an' your two pistols—an' they came with a rush, almost right up to th' stone-work. You jumped out, and landed a big fellie wi' your fist—an' then another, a-singin' out to us for to load quick. You fair fought 'em, while we worked like mad a-loadin'. Just as I puts up my musket for to shoot a fellie I saw a-comin' at you wi' a tomahawk, another o' th' swine gets a spear through your shoulder—but you pulled it out, sir, an' kep' a-beltin' into 'em like mad. I sings out to you to come inside, an' you turned and ran back to the wall. Just as you jumped, another of 'em threw one o' those clubs with a knob on the end, and it catches you behind the head. You fell all of a heap, inside the breastwork—but, Lord, you were up again, an' I'll swear you kept a-goin' for a good five minutes, a-drippin' blood all over th' place, an'—savin' y'r presence, y'r honor—cursin' in real Navy style."
"Oh, fery goot, ye wass, sir—indeed, yess!" chuckled Mr. Morgan.
"It was hammer-and-tongs for that five minutes—an' if we're alive now, by God, we're men that's got th' right for to be! Never did I see such hard flghtin' in all my sarvice, Mr. Cartwright. I've been in one or two pretty lively boardin' actions in my sea time, but none of 'em was harder than that night up on the ridge above them Forked Waters. What did you think of it, Owen?"
"'Twass fery goot—indeed, yess. A right, proper little 'how-are-ye-an'-here's-something'—'twass indeed. Oh, fery nice!"
"Yes, hard give-and-take, and one-down-th'-other-come-on style, that was. Just as they was beginning to waver, down goes y'r honor as if ye was dead—an', indeed, I thought 'twas th' last o' ye. Barring a knock or two, though, ye'd no further wounds. 'Twas th' bang on th' head from that nulla-nulla, as they calls 'em, what settled ye, sir—an' by rights ye should have gone out to it when it happened. 'A fracture o' th' base o' th' skull,' says Surgeon White, when he come for to run his hands over it."
"The beauty of having a thick head, sergeant," smiled Patrick.
"'Twas no gentle tap, y'r honor—an' that's th' gospel truth. I could hear th' crack of it in all the hullabaloo, when th' waddy hit ye. Well, then them devils drew off, leavin' a half-a-dozen of 'em what'd lost th' number o' their mess, a-lyin' on th' edge o' th' hill—an' we took th' liberty o' helpin' ourselves to a swig o' y'r honor's rum."
"'Twas much overproof!" smiled Patrick.
"Indeed, was it, sir? 'Twas like mother's milk, an' put new heart into us."
"And how long before they came at you again, sergeant?"
"A matter of about a half an hour or so—no longer. But this time 'twas this little man here"—he grinned, and nodded towards Morgan, who affected a grotesque simper—"'twas Owen as did for 'em wi' his hand-grenade."
"A hand-grenade? But we had none," said Patrick, with interest. "How?"
"He takes a powder-flask, y'r honor, an' a bit of his shirt, which he chews an' moistens in his mouth, an' smears all over wi' gunpowder for to make a fuse. Then he strikes a light wi' his flint an' steel, an' makes a little fire, which he keeps a-burnin' behind th' wall, until they come at us th' second time. He holds th' flask, wi' th' fuse he'd stuck in th' neck of it, ready be th' fire, until Araban, he sings out they was a-comin' once more."
"Go on. Oh, this to fine!"
"There they was, a-chargin' wi' fixed bay'nets, so as to say. Then a flash an' roarin' bang nigh shook th' hill down, an' a smother o' smoke, so's nothing's to be seen—th' bomb fell short o' them. But when th' smoke cleared off, there's not a black man to be seen—savin' on'y them that's dead, an' them what couldn't crawl away into the woods because of their wounds. Oh, 'twas th' hand-grenade what done th' trick, y'r honor. By glory, it was! 'Tis th' little man here we've got for to thank for th' Battle o' th' Forked Waters bein' another honor to the British arms—'stead of a mighty lickin'. 'Tis a major-general, wi' a house in th' Lines at Chatham, or Governor o' Gibraltar—that's th' promotion y'r honor ought for to recommend for him."
"You're a great, man, Morgan," laughed Patrick, affectionately.
"'Tiss a great country I come from, y'r honor," responded the little Welshman, modestly, but proudly. "Yess, indeed. Cwmry for ever!"
"Cunning devils, these Taffies," laughed the sergeant. Patrick smiled at the intense gloriousness of Mr. Morgan, who strutted in high delight with himself—a boot on one hand, and a blacking-brush in the other.
"Good men—the Welsh," he murmured; "and Owen here's the father of them all. And then, sergeant—what then?"
"Oh, there's nothing more to tell ye, sir—not much, anyhow. When daylight came, we tied you up as best we could, an' then starts in to Manly with ye. About two o'clock I'd sent Araban off to find his way into Sirius Cove. By the Lord, he was there be daylight! He must have travelled. They sent a boat across the harbor to the camp from the lime-burners' gang, and immediately he had word, his Ex'lency mans his own gig, an's down away to Manly for to meet us. I'd told Araban to say that's the way we'd go—it being smoother travelling. I doubt if we could ha' carried ye over that rough country to the Spit, y'r honor."
"'Twas a wonderful performance to carry me the way you did, my dear Reynolds. I gave you some trouble, didn't I?"
"Well, y'r honor was delirious an' ramblin' in your talk, an' all for goin' back for to rescue Mrs. Mortimer."
"Denison has paid the penalty of his crimes, hasn't he?"
"Aye, y'r honor—hanged as high as Haman—an' died as he lived—an unrepentant blackguard."
Patrick looked away at the blue waters of the Cove, and presently closed his eyes. For a little while there was silence, save for the slight noise of the vigorous brushing of Patrick's boot by Mr. Morgan. It was broken by Sergeant Reynolds.
"Sir?" he asked.
Patrick opened his eyes, and looked at him.
"Would y'r mind a-tellin' me what was the true story o' that fellie Denison's capture by the men that was a-waitin' us at Pitt's Water? I've heard several tales of it—all different—an' I'm right curious to know th' true one."
Patrick became weakly enthusiastic.
"A wonderful business, sergeant. That little girl! Pluck—was there ever courage like it?"
"She iss a brave woman," interjected Mr. Morgan. "I think she must haf some o' the true British blood in her veins. Yess, indeed—'twas worthy of a Welshwoman!"
Patrick and the sergeant laughed.
"Well, there may be, Morgan. At any rate, 'twas she who brought him to justice. After he had set the blacks on to us—by telling them we were come to take away their women to marry to the convicts—he hurried her away, and, though she was nearly dead with fatigue, he did not halt until he came to the end of Pitt's Water, in Broken Bay. They lay down and slept—'twas the night when we were fighting the blacks—and when she woke in the morning, he was still slumbering like a log. So she took a piece of wood and hit him on the head, so as to stun him, and render him helpless—and then she bound him hand and foot with his belt and handkerchief. 'Twas in her mind, she has told me, to try and make her escape back to Port Jackson by the beaches. She took some food from Mortimer's store, and started on her journey. As she came round a bush, down below her, at the water's edge, was the Sirius' boat, with the party the Governor had sent round to wait for us. That is all. Now, Reynolds—would you be so kind as to go to the hospital behind us, and find her for me. Tell her I have something of importance to communicate to her, and would be glad to see her as soon as her duties permit of her leaving the hospital for a few minutes."
The sergeant stood up, and saluted.
"Very good, sir. But a moment, if you please. I but wanted to remark, y'r honor, how strange a thing 'tis—that this man, who, I understand, has done murder' more than once, and committed other crimes that would hang him half a dozen times over, should have finally been executed for stealing a private's musket!"
He wheeled about, and marched off to the door of the hospital. It was not many minutes before Mary stood beside the hammock of the man she loved.
The discreet Mr. Morgan had removed himself out of hearing.
"Dearest," she said, in a soft voice that was music to Patrick's ears—"You wish to see me? What is it, Patrick?"
He turned and looked at her, the Governor's letter in his hand. For a few moments—one is not good at describing this sort of thing—they gazed fondly into one another's eyes. Then he held out the letter to her.
"Read it!" he said, softly. "Read it aloud—I'd love to hear it in your dear tones."
This is what she read—not without faltering a little sometimes. But when she had finished, her eyes were filled with tears of joy. Nor were Patrick's without a suspicion of moisture.
You must remember he was still very weak.
July 2, 1788.
My dear Cartwright,
I wish to communicate something to you that it gives me the Greatest Pleasure to write—but which I must beg you to regard, for the present, at any rate, as Confidential. (You are at liberty, however, to show this letter to one other Person, to be selected at your Discretion, and upon whom the necessity of Secrecy is also to be enjoin'd, until you hear further from me upon the Subject.)
In consideration of her services in bringing to Justice the absconding Prisoner Isaac Denison, otherwise known as Richard Mortimer, who has duly suffered the Penalty of the laws which he had outraged, it is my intention to grant Mary Mortimer, at present employ'd as a nurse in the Hospital, a Conditional Pardon, which will render her free of servitude in the Colony. Further, in Consideration of her uniformly Proper and Correct Behaviour, I intend to send her to England by the first ship that sails hence, with Recommendation to The Secretary of State that she shall be accorded a Full Pardon.
With respect to Yourself, my dear Cartwright, it gives me much Pleasure to inform you that Major Ross, Officer Commanding the Detachment of the Royal Marines with which you are serving here, has approved of your being granted Sick Leave, to return to England at the first Opportunity that presents itself.
Hoping that you continue to make Good Progress towards a Recovery from your Severe Injuries incurr'd whilst in the discharge of your Duties,
Believe me to be, my dear Cartwright,
Your very sincere well-wisher,
P.S.—When the Cottage now building as a Government House is compleated, I will be in Need of some Person to act as a Housekeeper of it. It is my intention to offer the Position to Mary Mortimer, until a Ship is available for her Passage home—wh. will probably not be for some little time.—A.P.
"Oh, Patrick!" she gasped. '"Tis a good man—indeed a good man!"
Never has the little bay on whose shores Sydney was founded looked so lovely as it did to Patrick Cartwright on that perfect winter's morning, so long ago. Sydney Cove was an inlet in the coast of Heaven on that splendid day.
"Yes—a good man," he murmured, with a full heart—"A great man—and a great gentleman!"
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