Chapter 61305677

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Chapter NumberVIII
Chapter TitleTHE WHITE SLAVE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61305677
Full Date1899-12-16
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count3994
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)
Trove TitleFrom Convict to Countess
article text

AIL RIGHTS KKBKBVKD.

PROM CONVICT

TO COUNTESS.

. A NOVEL BY DR. GREY.

Continued from Tuesday's issue.

CHAPTER YUL.

THE WHITE SLATE,

.." A cry of " Land 0 ! " came peeling down from' the most-head of the Scarbrough, and the ship sailed into Port Jaokson.

' The ship was boarded by Major Johnson. He greeted the Captain like .an old friend.

? *-. " Comeintomy cabin, Johnston, and

drink a glass o£ old port, bat I expect yon are so accustomed to rum that you do not care for wine."

? "But I io, Captain," ¿aid the Major. " I am sick of rum. I tell you, sir, the whole'colony reeks with rum, every officer in the. N.S.W. Corps deals in rum. : If you buy beef, you pay in rum ; if you hire a man, you. pay his wages in rum; if you want clothes, you give rum in exchange. Every fourth man you-' meet is an illicit distiller of rum, and tho large inajority of the population are rum ' bottles on two legs. : ?

I ".The glorious futuro bf this God- forsaken place is to become ono vast grog shop for the selling and consump- tion of rum. I tell you, sir, this is a rum hole, and the name oE the colony should be changed accordingly."

But, Major, what is the. Governor doing to remedy this state o£ things ? " ' ' " What is Bligh doing," vociferated the Major. "By jove, Captain, he is making a civil war. tío is butting off tho rum profits of .100 per cent, of our rum merchant officers-from the leading lights of the' glorious 102nd Hegiment, who haye drunk more rum than any other regiment in the whole

world..

' " He is going to cut up and abolish the veBted interests of that corps for whom N.S.W. was and is created. I toll, you, air, he is going to fight tho officers and the merchants who are growing rich on the traffic. : He is going into action, horse, foot, and guns, with the rum monopoly, and one of these fine morn- ings Bligh will be down as flat as a pancake: with the rom monopoly on top ; or, if you like to takë a hint, Bligh will bo ia the guard house, and Major Johnston . will. be running the colony until further orders from Home.' '

, " And when those orders come," said the Captain gravely, " there will come a ' new : Governor and , Major Johnston will be cashiered."

" Don't you beliove that, Captain. I shall be backed np by the whole of the colony."

: " But don't you forget, Major, that

the Home Government are about tired

of the way tho 102nd have been running tho colony, and they are going to close ? the account with your notorious corpse. Their'day is over ; they, may die hard,' but die they will-they can be endured no. longer." ? ?. '.?

' There was a tap at the door. " Come inj" said the Captain, and Alma ap^. pearedr She hesitated when sheeaw th» Major, but the Captain , told , her ehe heed not be afraid, so abo came in. ' " I came, Captain," she said,; " to bid you good-bye (her full rich': voice; trembled), and to thank you for what you have done for me, and to say here and elsowhere that there is one officer

who is a man of honour in the British < navy.

. I leave you with tho ; deepest

iïÇgret, knowing that I go from your j Protection to face once moire the J [chances and tyrannies incidental to my ?

ilife as a convict. I hear we' are now

about to disembark, and I must say J ' farewell. Thank you for all that you "haye done for a friendless and disgraced girl." /.'... ?'? v, -".,.-:.'?:

; " Good-bye, my lass," said the Cap- tain, holding out his band. "All I, Lave dono bas turned to my own profit. ; I shall miss henceforth the evenings I : lave passed in your; society, which have given mo the greatest pleasure, and. not only pleasure, but benefits-that, benefit which follows from the com-

panionship of a good and refined lady. Good-bye, and God bless you !"

"When tho door was closed and Alma iras gone, Major Johnston went off into peals of laughter. " Oh, Captain, I am nearly dead; this is too,rich. By jove, it was the most affecting parting between a captain and a pretty conviot that ever was. I thought I ehould have burst, when' I saw you both with tears in your eyes, hand in band,-and; calling on Heaven for its blessing. ' Why, man, it is enough to make the deck fall upon tho top pf

ns."

"Johnston," said the Captain sternly, " I have but one word to say. If any man says that the girl who has just loft this cabin is anything else but a. good and virtuous woman, I will give him the lie direct." ; j .. . Johnston's face gradually - assumed a more' serious expression. " Why ?, What? "he said. " If you are talking business, Captain, I think you should explain 1 " . 1 :

"'I am talking business, and nothing else," replied the - Captain. "That girl is a lady unjustly convicted of a

crime she never committed. To save her honour I - have taken her . under my protection, and tho grateful girl

was thanking me for preserving that j

whioh she values more than lifo.

.'"I am.sorry I laughed, for your explanation puts a new aspect on tho affair ; but I nm very ^much afraid that all you have done will be useless. Our blackguard officers exercise a monopoly of tho young and pretty convicts. Each man of them has one, perhaps two, assigned to them, whom they keep under the guise of clerks or assistants in thoir stores. The girls whom; you have brought over tho sea will be on view to-morrow, and a beauty '.liko your protegy will be snapped up in half an hour. Nothing

"can save her from ono of tho debauched villians whom sho must call master."

. Tho Captain anxiously pondered .

over Johnston's words. He said at îaab: "Now, Johnston, dome a favor as an old friend. Got the girl assigned

to-day tasóme married man in some family that wants a governess. She is qualified. God won't forgive ns if we stand by and see her ruined."

? " Well," said the Major, " Munroe is going to look out a governess. I will go down and get the entry made out

in the book to him. He will do it for

me; besides, he can't do better. I will have it fixed up in two hours."

" By that time I shall be on shore,' and, Major, if I find'that your promise is kept, the steward shall leave you one dozen of the port, but not other- wise, mind."

"Done!" said Johnston. "I will go at once."

The convicts were>not long in land- ing. The women were marched off and placed in a long one-storied building, and set to work cleaning and washing.

Oneiof the warders, Jones, was very much in evidence ordering and direct- ing, and interfering in work which

could have been better done without him.' He was ill-favoured and freckled. His hair was sandy, in colour, and he had one peculiar eye. "Whenever he gave on order or spoke to one of tho women, that eye first quivered then rolled, and finally disappeared np above. He ; was irritable and unforgiving ; subservient to his superiors and tyrannical to his inferiors ; and, with all, extremely conceited as to his personal appearance, and fully pos-' sessed with the.idea that he was a lady killer.

? Before night he.came into collision, with Alma. After talking with her frequently bn different pretexts, he at' length sont her outside for more water. He followed her outside the room, and proceeded to beBtow a kiss upon her as a mark of his special ' favour.

1 Alma did not think he was as

irresistable as he thought himself, and

she resisted.

Jones took her objection as coyness,

and ho made another determined

attempt, which exasperated Alma to the last degree. . '.' .

. She shut her "firm, white hand and struck wildly at.; Jones,' reaching for- ward as she did so. . Unwittingly she struck him a scientific and severe blow, and Jones carried a black eye for a few days. He uttered. an oath and struck savagely at her face, but she started back and the blow fell upon her shoulder and numbed her arm. He

caught her by 'the hair, and would have, repeated his blow or blows with better effect only that another warder and a dozen of the women came out to the store room for the bedding. Shame made him let her go and hurry away.

They, looked at Alma's loosened hair

I and flushed cheek. ?..

i "What was Schoolmaster Jones

doing to you?" said >ona of tho

womon. . >

i ; " The blackguard' insulted mo, and

I struok his face," said Alma. .

Tho women broke out into a great cacklo of laughter, and for, the next few days tho- humiliated warder was

asked what success he had with the now girl.

" Don't call her that," said one, " call her Miss Alma,: the name she wont by on the Scarborough. Sho W03 the Captain's favourite, and tho. best of all of us." '

After breakfast next day Alma's name was the first called.

?. Poss the word for Grey," said tho matron in charge.

The word ran down the ranks of the women : Grey is wanted." Alma

rose up out of- her placo and walked I from tho hiring room into a smaller

one. ' ' 1 '

In it wore two ladiea and tho

matron; .

« " This is Grey, Mrs. Munroe. She was assigned to you yesterday evening by Mr. Munroe, and the Major came with him for that purpose."

;? " Mr. .Munroe must have been in a ? hurry," said the friend, glancing at' Alma ; " but of course when there is but one governess out of a ship load of convicts, and one with some style, he would havo lost her through any delay." '

" Wo must got on," said Munroe's

wife in her short sharp way. {* Now, j young woman, attend to me,"

" What isyour name ?" "Alma Grey."

"What is your age?" "Twenty-two years."

" Wore you in tho habit of getting drunk before you were transported ? "

"I was not," said. Alma, with in- dignation.. ',

''Don't give yourself airs with mo," said hor new mistress, *' but reply at once to my questions." ?

'! Have you had a child ? "

, I am not married," said Alma..

" That makes no difference. I asked you if you had had a child; answer -yes or no as the case may be."

Alma,, in. hor innocence,- took the question as an insult. - Her cheek burned. Indignant modesty contended with insulted pride in her blazing eyes. She remained proudly silent.

There was a long pause.

, " Answer, Groy," said the matron, getting a glimpse of the girl'B feeling. " Mrs. Munroe is only asking the usual questions."

Alma, thus recalled to tho position and class she occupied in tho eyes of the world, bent her head.

"I have not," she said in a choked J voice ; then sho added : " You may j believe it or not, but my honour is spotless, Mrs. Munroe."

".It makes no difference to me," said tho lady addressed ; " I only want to know the factB of your case. What can you teaoh ? "

"English, French, drawing, dancing, singing, and tho elementa of educa- tion," Alma answered.

. "That is satisfactory. Go to the

store and got your slopB," said her j mistress in her stern way, " and then

follow mo homo."

Accordingly Alma presented herself

at the store and received her slops; they consisted of-one straw bonnet, two gowns of blue serge, one white apron for Sundays, and one coarse apron and jacket for .work days, four fetttcoats, two smocks, and a pair of

oots.

', ' You had better take care of these things, for you will get no.more for twelve months,' ' said the clerk, " except a pair of shoes 5 . so if you destroy them, as some do wilfully, you can gc without. Here is a piece of bagging and some string to make a bundle ol

them."

Alma picked up her bundle with alacrity. " Thank Heaven," she said to herself, " I shall be in a private home and away from prison once more ; " and she followed her mistress.

At the door she passed Jones, who stopped her. Shaking his finger ir her face, he spoke with his eye rolling in his head: "You think you are quit of me, but you make a mistake. I have been transferred to the Hyde Park barracks, and that rip of a mistress you've got will have you sent there before a month ; then, when you come, under my hands, I'll humble your pride. I will take it out of you, see that ! " Alma passed him con- temptuously andfollowed Mrs. Munroe.

She found the work at the Munroes' hard. She had to dress the girls, teach them, mend and sometimes make for Mrs. Munroe. One half day she had to assist Emma to wash, and a second half day to iron. From six in the morning till nine at night they were hard at it. But Alma found

j anything better than dwelling on the I past, and throw herself, to the best of

her ability, into, the rush of work.

Tho two children were not difficult to manage, having been trained under Mrs. Munroe. Their mother was a martinet. If she hod been a soldier she would have been the most rigid drill sergeant in tho British Army, j Alma could see that all the servants were afraid of her. She never spoke to them except to give orders, and those were short and sharp. A word, . sometimes a look, was enough.

Emma was a strong, comely girl, an assigned convict like the rest. Burke, the i man, had served his time and received his discharge, but preferred to remain in service. Emma was

good-natured enough to help Alma in the rough part of her duties which were new to her, but as ,tho latter was a strong, healthy girl, she got through her work fairly well.

Occasionally, she saw Mr. Munroe. He appeared to be an easy-going jovial man, the opposite kind of character to his wife. When in his wife's company he seemed to adopt something of her manner, -but when she was away, which was not often, ho was quito familiar even with- the servants. For . instance, he would joke with Emma, who listened with a emile ; ? but the girl would keep her oye on the door, and, if Mrs. Munroe's step was heard, would hold up a warning finger. She imparted to Alma a secret : " Mistress is frightfully jealous of master, and it is as much as a body's life is worth to be found joking,with him. You koop him.at arm's length,''and then there

will be no feor of trouble."

This advice no doubt was good, but

Alma found that it was easier said than carried out. Munroe took an

interest in tho children's studies, and occasionally, in the absence of his wife, talked with the governess. There was nothing in this, but after a timo he seemed to be frequently meeting Alma at odd times and corners, and she thought he gave her a significant look, which disturbed her at times j but she trusted, by steady attention to her work, and by moans of her own tact and dignity, to go on her way

without friction.

Munroe was a more earnest sports- man than he was a Sabbatarian, and on Easter Sunday ho accepted au invitation to go out duck shooting with a friend somo miles away, and be back to dinner on Monday evening. On Monday morning Mrs, Munroe took advantage of his absence, and announced her determination to devote tho day to calls and shopping, only leaving tho girls at home.

After breakfast Emma sought out Alma, and proposed that as thoy had the morning to themselves thoy could do their own private washing. As assigned convicts wearing the Govern-: ment uniform, their stock .of clothing was none too great for their requiro

ments. 1

"The day is warm, Miss Alma," ' said Emma, " and wo could wash all

our 'clothes. Look at me, I havo nothing on but my smock, a gown, and a pair of' boots; everything else is in the tub.".

"Wait a minute, Emma, and I will

do the same."

, Alma quickly stripped off her under- clothing, except tho articles specified by Emma, and making a bundle bf them together with hor soiled things, was soon with Emma busy at work.

They were getting on well with theiremployment, and Emma had just gono to hang out the first lot of washed clothes when Alma heard a

man's step, and Munroe stood in the doorway. /

He looked at the governess, and as

he saw hor face, rosy and flushed with I exercise, and his eyo travelled down the curvos and lines of her magnificent fignro, plainly displaying their contour from the subtraction of her under- garments, ho drew a long brenth and stopped to her side, with admiration plainly shown upon his fnco.

" Alma," he said, " my opportunities for speaking to you are few, therefore I must come to the point at once. I have admired you from tho first. I should be happy with you. If you like I will place you in a comfortable position, where you shall do as yon wish. I will free you from servitude and work, and protect you against tho world. It but- roBts with yourself to

Bay the -word."

" That word I shall never say, Mr» Munroe,* your proposition is a vile insult," replied Alma.

"But consider you have to suffer thirteen more years of penal servitude. I offer you now a more pleasant life."

" I love a pleasant life aa others do. Mr. Munroe, but I love my honour

more." .

" Tour honour P " said Munroe, im- patiently. "Whenever did a femólo conviot bring her honour ashore from the ship? Do you expect mo to> believe that you are a virtuous

woman ?"

"That discussion is unnecessary; my answer to your proposal is-no, no, no ! "

" I will not take no for an answer,"" said Munro, " but I will take a kiss."

" Not from me," said Alma.

Munroe's reply was to put his an» suddenly found- her waist, and hi»

other hand to the back of her head.

At thiB instant Alma's eye lighter!, on Mrs. Munroe standing outside the dpor-way. The expression of her face was frightful. Munroe, whose back

was to the portal, saw nothing of tho ' apparition, and took the opportunity given by Alma's diverted attention to impress a kiss upon her lips. Gratified by his success in what for the moment he thought was only a mock straggle on Alma's part, he looked her in tho face, then following tho alarmed direc- tion of her eyea, he saw hie wife. Cur liko, ho ran-yeB, ran, and left tho young girl he had insulted to face tho wrath of his jealous wife.

Sustained by her conscious rectitude, Alma waited aa calmly as she waa able till her mistress should formulate some charge to which she could reply. Mrs. Munroe tried to speak three or four times, and failed. Her face was' ashy pale, and she leaned a shaking hand upon the door. She kept her glittering green eyes on Alma's face. At last she spoke. >

" Before my very eyes ! A convict certainly; a wanton probably! Tho moment ray back is turned I find you

in his arms. - Come with me ! and sho laid her hand on Alma's shoulder.

"I assure you," said Alma, " that your husband grasped me. without warning, and, I would have prevented him even then but for tho surprise of your sudden appearance." '

" You shameless huzzy," said Mrs'. Munroe ; " I sow you lying passive in his arms. But I waste timo listening to your lies. Come with me, I say."

. She drew Alma towards the house, only pausing to bid the frightened Emma to immediately send Burke to the sitting-room; Together the mistress and the governess ascended the stairs and entered the room. Mra. Munroe

pointed to tho far side 'of the apart- ment as tho -place where Alma waa to

stand.

Seating'herself at tho table, she . drew writing materials before her and wrote a letter with great deliberation. When Burke entered she"* told him in a husky voice to stand by Alma while , she directed the note.''

"You will take this letter to Mr.

Henderson," she said, when she "had finished it, and take Groy with you. Be sure you don't lose sight of her ; 1 shall hold you responsible for her

return."

Alma asked her mistress for a little time to dress. "I have taken off

almost all my clothing for the wash, aa you may seo from my appearance, Mrs, Munroe, and if I am to walk through the town, I should like to make a little addition to my toilette."

Her mistress, speaking! in.the same husky voice, said she could not grant any time to dress, but that Burke was waiting, and she must go at once.

This command appeared unreason- able to Alma, and she still objected to leave. "Observe,' I beg you^Mrs. Munroe, that I havo, not only removed nearly all my upper garments but my lower, ones as well. You can see

plainly that I have not even stockings, for this short dress does not come quito to tho top of my boots, and my bara ankles aro visible. It is not fitting that I should go in my present state of dress through tho,streets."

Mrs. Munroe listened with her. head resting on her hand. Suddenly she seemed to lose all patience ; she jumped 'suddenly to her feet.- " Will you go ? What is it you say-you have taken most of your clothes off? What does it matter to a shameless wretch Uko yon how you aro clothed' tb walk the streets.? You have enough on for your errand. If you speak again I shall slap your face» Go ! Burke, take her away!" and Burke was '.obliged to take Alma from tho room. :

When-Burke and Alma had left the house, Mrs. Munroe went into tho kitchen. ' " What had Grey on in the> shapo of clothes, Emma r " she; in- quired. She was told that tho governess' ,only had on her gown, smock and

boots.

"But,»Mrs. Munroe, "where havo you sent her with Burke ?"

"Where she ought, to go," said her

mistress.

- Emma'went out wailing-" Oh Miss«

Alma ! Miss Alma ! "

Hor mistress looked after her and repeated " Smock, gown, andi boots I' Why she is more covered up now than she will be'in an hour's time, tho

j convict wanton."