|Chapter Title||THE OLD SOLDIER.|
|Newspaper Title||Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876)|
|Trove Title||Harry Linton's Downfall: A Story of Old Sydney|
HARRY LiNTON'S DOWNFALL. A STORY OF OLD SYDNEY. BT R. A. ATKINS. CHAPTER III. THE OLD SOLDIER. " A man was he, whose very sight would Entitle him the mirror of knighthood ; Who never bowed his stuhborn knee To anything but chivalry, Nor ever stooped to blow but laid Right worshipful on shoulder blade. Hudibras. Sir John Winter, Knight, was a retired Colonel in the army. He had come out to Sydney some fifteen years before our story opens. Naturally of a noble generous disposition, he was addicted to one absorbing vice which corroded all his better nature ; changing the once brave liberal soldier, into a mean, miserly gambler. There seems something strange in the idea that a gambler, of all men in the world, can be miserly, something at first sight incongruous between the terms ; yet, although not perhaps a miser in the usual acceptance of the term, but apparently the reverse, still a gambler is partly actuated by the same feelngs which pervade the veriest skin-flint that ever lived. The one engrossing idea of his mind is gain, how to win money. For this purpose he will risk comfort, friends, life, and honour. Were he differs from the miser proper, is in the way he employs the money he has gained, and in this respect, for all the distinction between the two is very broad, yet the ditierence is in one respect small, the ........ is a cowardly miser, the gambler a desperately brave one. To both, the money they gain is useless, for all purposes of enjoyment. They have no hesitation in bringing themselves to death's door, rather than exceed the smallest sum for the necessaries of life. The miser proper generally hoards his gold, and feasts his eyes upon it ; the gambler, on the other hand, uses his gold as a means, whereby he hopes to gain more. Both feel an incomprehensible delight in acquiring gold, and the doing so is the chief end and aim of their existence. Sir John Winter, although sunk deeply into the mire, had, as yet, managed to keep his honour unsullied, that is, "honour" in the worldly acceptation of the word. His debts of honour were regularly paid, and, although the tradesmen with whom he dealt did not speak in very high terms of his punctuality in discharging his liabilities, yet he always managed to meet his gambling debts promptly. He had married at middle age and his wife had died a few years afterwards, in giving birth to a daughter. At the time of which we are speaking, Sir John was approaching sixty years of age. Dora Winter had accompanied her father to Sydney when very young, and now at the age of nineteen was a pretty accomplished girl. Reader, did you ever attempt to describe a lovely girl, and, if so, did you never discover how utterly impossible it was to do so to your own satisfaction, to say nothing of that of other people ? It you ever have attempted the description, and never felt the difficulty, then all I can say is, that you are a wonderful fellow, a rival of Anthony Trollope, and I wish "more power to your elbow," it would be unnecessary to wish the same to your pen.) It is comparatively easy to describe eyes, nose, mouth, hair, &c., but after all is done what have we before us ! A lovely wax-work, free from crooked fingers, turned-in toes and other evils which wax is heir to, yet still inanimate, and how unlike the copy ! Truly we hare formed our Pandora, but can we give her life ? make her eyes to soften with tenderness, sparkle with mirth, flash with anger, or melt with pity ; describe the peach-bloom of the cheeks, the - but enough ! Let me try and speak of Dora as she was at the time our story opens ; a sweet face, lighted up with eyes that rivalled the Australian sky in the depth of their clear azure ; sunny chestnut hair flowing in ringlets from a fair brow. Her figure rather slight and tall, and always graceful. Such was Dora in person ; her mind and disposition will be shown in the story. The love between father and daughter had strengthened year by year. In the breast of the parent it shone like a light in darkness ;
and, even the stream of vice upon which he was borne, could not extinguish it. As time rolled on Dora saw, and trembled at, the fatal propensities to which her father so weakly yielded. She once dared to remonstrate with him, but his answer had been so stern, and his frown so terrible, that the poor girl, ever after, sank appalled from mentioning a subject, the thoughts of which rendered her daily life wretched. Though naturally of a lively vivacious disposition, this one thought rendered her melancholy and pensive, save occasionally when the pent up feelings would break forth in merry laughter, and brilliantly flashing eyes, but only for a moment, for again the old look of sadness would cloud the brow, and the gamester's daughter with a deep sigh would relapse into melancholy. " Fair was she, and young, but alas ! before her extended - " Dreary and vast, and silent, the desert of life with its pathway, " Marked by the graves of those who had suffered before her." When Colonel Winter retired from the army, he was a man of broken fortunes - all that remained of a once noble property was the rental of three small farms, amounting in all to some six or seven hundred pounds per annum. He felt miserable - ashamed of himself. If he could only tear himself away from the temptations of English society from the "set " he had fallen amongst -- he thought he could conquer his gambling propensities. And so he looked wildly around him for some spot in the wide world where he could rest peaceably, beyond the influence of the rattling dice and fatal cards. At length his attention was drawn to the penal settlement of New South Wales, through reading in a work written by Colonel David Collins, late Judge-Advocate and Secretary of that colony, that " the bond fide settler, who should be a man of some property, must come from England." He therefore embarked for Sydney with his infant daughter, in charge of an old and faithful domestic, and landed during the governorship of Captain Hunter, R.N., a man of virtous principles and warm benevolence ; but who was too quiet for the post he occupied. Colonel Hunter had not been on shore a week before he regretted the step he had taken. He found the cost of housekeeping to be enormous, and his income to be scarcely sufficient to keep up an appearance of respectability. Perhaps it may not be uninteresting to my readers if I give the following quotation from " Lang's N.S. Wales : "The price of a cow about a year after Governor Hunter arrived in the colony was £50 ; a horse cost £90 ; and a sheep, of the Cape breed, £7 10s a breeding sow sold for £5 ; geese and turkeys for a guinea each, and ducks for 10s a couple. Mutton was 2s a pound, goats' flesh 1s 6d, and butter 3s. Wheat sold for 12s a bushel, and barley for 10s. Articles of the most common description, however, for domestic use, were often sold at the most extravagant prices. For example, at a sale in Sydney, in March, 1798, twenty-two shillings were paid for one common cup and saucer !" Under then existing circumstances, it is strange that the Colonel should relapse into his old habits, but so it turned out. Instead of being out of the influence of the gaming table, he had rushed into a very hot-bed of gambling and vice of all kinds. One night, returning from his accustomed haunt, the Colonel was set upon by three footpads. The old soldier defended himself vallantly with a walking-cane which he carried, " cutting" and "pointing" in fine style, and making his assailants" heads rattle again with the well-delivered blows he levelled at them. But for all this, it would have gone hard with the old man had not assistance arrived, in the shape of a fine, stalwart young fellow, clad in the uniform of a British officer of infantry, the very sight of whose flashing sword, as it fled from its sheath, caused the three ruffians to take to their heels and fly. " You have my best thanks, sir !" said Sir John, making desperate efforts, in his excitement, to sheath his cane in a button-hole of his frock coat. " To whom am I indebted for this opportune aid ?" " My name is Harry Linton, a lieutenant in the seventy-third," replied the other. From that time an intimacy sprung up between the old and young soldier. Lieutenant Linton had the entree to the Colonel's house, and in course of time a warm affection sprung up between Dora and the handsome young officer. Young Linton certainly was a fine fellow - courageous, and generous to a fault. Yet his very virtues rendered him liable to give way to temptation, and certainly the town in which he was quartered was not the best school of morality in the world. The 73rd Regiment of the Line superseded the New South Wales Corps, afterwards embodied as the 102nd Regiment of the Line, which was raised in England, for the colonial service in the years 1790 and 1791. Harry Linton was the son of a country squire living in Shropshire, and heir to a fine propenty. He had joined the 73rd at his father's wish, who, having once held a commission himself, was anxious that his son should also see life from a military point of view. Between the elder Linton and the officer commanding the regiment, a friendship of long standing existed, and on that account alone he desired his son to serve in a corps ordered on the unenviable " colonial service." " Good bye, Harry," said the old squire. " I'll allow you one thousand a year, no more. I shall be lonely when you are gone. Had your poor mother lived it would have been easier to bear - but it's only right you should be made a man of. Good bye ! Church and State ! Fear God, honour the King ! Avoid claret, and stick to port ! " And with this advice Harry Linton sailed for Botany Bay. Sir John Winter saw with pleasure the love which had sprung up between his daughter and young Linton. It was a pleasant reflection to the old man that when his death-hour arrived he could leave his daughter under the protection of one he already loved as a Son. Of late he had had one continual run of'ill-luck at the gaming table and was already deeply involved - his principal debts being owed to a man named Levi, a notorious "black-leg," who lived on his wits, and managed to realise a princely fortune out of the frailties of others. The reader will doubtless remember the conversation that Wilkins had overheard and told to Mr. Cash, relative to the conditions upon which Linton was to wed the fair Dora. Wilkins' report was quite true - such conditions had been made, and for all the colonel cursed his fate and " bad luck," he was in a desperate position, and must make a bold dash, yes, though he sacrificed the feelings of his well beloved daughter at the shrine of his fancled honour.