|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. BY R. A. ATKINS. CHAPTER V. LOWERING. " Heaven is here, Where Juliet lives ; and every cat and dog And little mouse, every unworthy thing, Lives here in heaven and may look on her ; But Romeo may not." Romeo and Juliet. " Although I neither lend nor borrow, By taking nor by giving of excess, Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend, I'll break a custom." Merchant of Venice. Colonel Winter sat looking gloomily over his wine. He was thinking about his gambling debts and the necessity of paying them. He appeared restless and uneasy, and his face wore a morose sullen expresolon foreign to it. He trusted implicitly to receiving the promised loan from Lieutenant Linton, and with that money and what he would be able to raise elsewhere he could easily clear himself, break the heavy chain of debt which bound him, and stand up once more a free man, free from the harassing care which now
oppressed him. But should Linton fail in his promise ? The thought nearly drove the old soldier mad. If the young man dared to trifle with him, to cause his ruin, to have his name posted in every hotel and club room in Sydney, to take from him all claim to the title of a man of honour, what then ? He had trusted to Harry's promise, had given written assurance of payment to his creditors on the strength of it, and now, if the young man deceived him, he would certainly be justified in regarding him as the cause of his degradation, and the greatest enemy he had on earth. The Colonel had worked himself up into a state of semi-insanity ; his reasoning powers had departed ; and by a strange sophistry, far from unusual in men similarly placed, he had already shifted all the blame of his present position on Harry's shoulders. His reasoning was not deep, for what sophist can reason deeply ? He passed over altogether the true causes which had brought him into his impecunious state, he only started from the present time and said : " I am in an unpleasant predicament, and should not have been half as badly off, if I had not been backed up by thoughts of the boy's loan. If he fails to release me he shall never enter my doors again ! " At the time when Colonel Winter had argued himself into this uncomfortable state of mind, his housekeeper entered the room and placed a letter on the table. The Colonel opened it hastily and read as follows : "My dear Sir, I have this morning been visited by Mr. Cash, a gentleman residing in Sydney to whom I am indebted in the sum of six hundred pounds sterling. He demanded instant payment, and threatened me with legal proceedings in case I failed to satisfy his demand. We at length came to an arrangement relative to which I consider it my duty to write to you. I agreed to pay him two hundred pounds, (all I have by me) and he agreed to receive that in part payment on condition that I handed over to him your note of hand for £400, due on the 24th of this month. I did not like the idea of doing this without first consulting you, but Mr. Cash would not allow me a moment to consider, and at last I consented to his terms. You now owe the money to Mr. Cash, and not to me, and of course it is a matter of perfect indifference to you who is your creditor, so that he is a man of good position and unimpeachable honor. I am Sir, Your most obedient servant, Joshua Levi. Sydney, Nov. 18th, 18--. Sir John Winter Knt, Macquarie-street, Sydney." " Unimpeachable honour !" exclaimed Sir John rising in great agitation and pacing the room hurriedly, "an emancipist, a transported felon ! And it is to this man I owe four hundred pounds, this is the man who may perhaps be able to declare me a defaulter ; to "post" me throughout the town. Harry Linton if you dare fail me ! " and the old man sank back in his chair his hands clenched, and his face livid with contending emotions. The feeling exhibited by Sir John towards an emancipist was by no means rare at the time of which I am writing. The unprecedented means adopted by Governor Macquarie towards reforming the convict population, were viewed with anything but favourable eyes by the free settlers. This may in a great measure be attributed to jealousy. The favours showered upon ex-convicts by the governor were numerous, and given with a heartiness which doubly enhanced their value. He invited them to his own table, and in every respect payed them more attention than he did the free settlers. The latter he looked upon as intruders who had no business in a convict colony. His Excellency was a man of an obstinate disposition, and the very fact of knowing that his patronage of the emancipists was distasteful to the free population of the colony, rendered him doubly determined to continue the course he was pursuing. And he did continue it, and we must say, rather overdid it. But his motives were good, though his manner of going to work was injudicious, and only resulted in causing the two great parties in Sydney, the bond and free, to live in a state of mutual emnity. The latter generally stood on their dignity as free men, whilst the former crowed under the protesting wing of vice-royalty. It was such a time as the poet Butter describes in Hudibras : - " When civil dudgeon first grew high, And men fell out, they knew not why ; When hard words, jealousies, and fears, Set men together by the ears." Many complaints were made to Earl Bathurst, at that time Secretary of State for the colonies ; and in the following extract from a despatch to that nobleman from Governor Macquarie, dated London, 27th July, 1822, written after his return to England, the maligned ex-governor bitterly complains : - " Even my work of charity, and, as it appears to me, sound policy, in endeavouring to restore emancipated and reformed convicts to a level with their fellow subjects, a work which, considered either in a religious or a political point of view, I shall ever value as the most meritorious part of my administration, has not escaped their animadversion." One can imagine the pain it cost the gallant old Major-General ( for to that rank he had then attained ), when he saw his motives misconstrued, and received blame from men who wilfully closed their eyes to his good actions. There is some thing pathetic in the brave old man's complaint, matter of fact and unpoetical as it is. Sir John had only just succeeded in restoring himself to something like calmness, when Harry Linton was announced and walked into the room. This was his first visit to the Colonel since the races, and he dreaded the result of the interview he was about to have with the old man. He had lost seriously at the races, for his "hedging" had done him no good. He would as soon of thought of backing a turtle, as the horse which had carried off the cup. So his losses amounted to £750, which he had paid immediately after the race ; thus swallowing up his remittance from home and compelling him to borrow fifty pounds from a friend. " Good evening Mr. Linton ;" commenced the Colonel gravely, I'm glad you've called this evening as I wished particularly to see you." Harry moved about uncomfortably in his seat, and hurriedly poured out and drank a glass of wine. All this did not escape the quick eye of the other, who feared the worst, from the young man's apparent uneasiness. A pause of some two or three minutes ensued - an uncomfortable pause - during which the clock ticked louder, and the cat on the
hearth rug purred more contentedly than usual, and the two men, one possessing a secret which the other had guessed at, feared to utter a word to break that oppressive silence. At length the Colonel mustered courage : courage : " The races passed off well. I presume much money has been lost on Hector. I've no patience with men who bet on horse racing. I never do, because I think it worse than madness. If a man stakes a certain sum of money on the result of a game of skill, he has confidence in his own powers and knows what he can do. If he bets on the throw of the dice, he can satisfy himself that all is fair, that the dice have not been loaded or tampered with in any way. In both cases he sees his way before him. But the man who bets on a race-horse does not know what villany he may have to contend with ; the horse may be drugged, the race sold, or a thousand other things may happen, so that betting on races is the worst kind of gambling possibIe. Thank heaven, with all my faults, I've always avoided that !" With this pious reflection, the old Colonel sipped his wine, and looked keenly across the table at Harry, who appeared deeply intent on the rich glow of the wine in the glass before him. He muttered something unintelligible about "great disappointment - could have sworn he'd win." The old officer did not appear to notice what he said, but proceeded at once to business." " What I wanted to see you about, Harry, was this, read this letter, which came to me just now." When Harry had done so and returned it, the Colonel continued : " I need not tell you, Harry, how this affair has grieved me. The thought that I owe money to this man maddens me, you can understand my feelings, for you know that Cash is an emancipist, a man without principle, without honour. I firmly believe that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to 'post' me - disgrace me for life ! You see the money is to be paid on the twenty- fourth, and this is the eighteenth. I now ask you, as a favour, to pay me the four hundred pounds tomorrow. A few days sooner or later cannot possibly make any difference to you - but to me the time will pass in indescribable misery until the debt is cleared off." Harry Linton listened to this request of the Colonel's with a settled expression on his face, nearly akin to despair. His first idea on entering the house had been to confess everything to Sir John, and see if some amicable arrangement could not be arrived at. Now, he knew the impossibility of anything of that kind being brought about. Joshua Levi's letter had rendered the punctual payment of the money doubly urgent. Should he boldly tell the truth ? No, no ! it would be time enough to do that if he could not meet his engagement on the twenty-fourth of the month. He had five clear days, and would perhaps be able to borrow the money in that time. " Sir Joshua Winter, I would do what you desire with great pleasure, but it is now impossible that I can let you have the money tomorrow. When the twenty-fourth arrives I've no doubt I shall be able to fulfil my promise !" The young man spoke with a certain air of dignity. He resented the suspicions which the Colonel so evidently felt as to his ability to fufil his promise. " You have not told me, sir, how Miss Winter is, nor allowed me an opportunity of enquiring," Harry added, after a short pause, in a lighter tone. " Miss Winter is staying on a visit at Parramatta. I heard this morning from her, she appeared perfectly well, thank you !" The old man fell again into his tone of freezing reserve : " So I am to understand you that you cannot do me the favour of letting me have the money tomorrow ?" " It is impossible !" said Harry. " But on the twenty-fourth you will without fail redeem your promise ?" continued the Colonel. Harry lowered his head confusedly, and did not meet the penetrating glance which the old man darted at him over the table. The investigation did not appear to afford the latter satislaction, for his face wore a troubled, anxious look as he continued : " Dora will not return until the twenty- fifth - I've so arranged it. On that day you can call here and see her, provided you have, in the meantime, fulfilled your promise - if not, you shall never cast eyes on her again ! Pardon this seeming doubt in my mind, Harry, but I'm afraid that it is not in your power to keep your promise - I believe you lost your money at the races !" Had some vindictive individual fired a pistol off, close to Harry's ear, he could not have started more suddenly than he did at this bold shot of the Colonel's. He saw that his only chance of safety lay in his taking the high ground ; so it was with some show of hauteur that he replied - " I confess, sir, that my losses at the races were considerable, but I cannot see what that has to do with my paying over money to you on the twenty-fourth !" This was unanswerable, and so the matter dropped. A desultory conversation followed, and when IIHarry rose to go the two shook hands with an appearance of confidence in each other which they were far from feeling. As the young lieutenant was proceeding moodily along the street, he was startled by receiving a violent slap on the back, and turning hastily round to see who had inflicted it, stood face to face with Captain Lambert (owner of Hector), who was rather unsteady on his legs. " Good night Harry !" exclaimed the gallant captain, with difficulty malntaining his equilibrium. " I've been shettling debts - borrer'd tin from 'mancipilst, old Cash, son of old Nick, you know !" " Does he lend money ?" enquired Harry. " I've heard of Mr. Cash, but did not know that he was a money-lender !" " Corsh he ish !" exclaimed the other, waving his right hand gracefully above his head. "Shent per shent, you know - that's heavy, but whats a ferrer to do ? That cursed horse is an imposhter !" By this time they had reached their quarter, and declining an invitation to go and partake of a devilled bone and Burgundy, Harry went to his room. " Old Cash the emancipist !" he thought aloud, as he slowly prepared for rest. " Well, there's no help for it - tomorrow I must try him. Anything rather than lose you !" he continued, gazing at a miniature which he drew from his bosom and kissed fervently. He soon afterwards fell asleep, to dream that he was vainly endeavouring to catch Dora who was borne away on the back of Hector, the racehorse.