|Chapter Title||THE SOMNAMBULIST.|
|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 XI. THE SOMNABULIST. Gentlewoman: I have seen her rise from her bed, throw her night gown upon her, unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it, write upon it, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed, yet all this while in a most fast sleep. Doct.: A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefits of sleep, and do the effects of watching. Macbeth, Act 5, Sec. 1. Directly Wilkins had parted from Colonel Winter and Mr. Camp, after the conversation mentioned in the last chapter, he took care effectually to disguise. himself, so that it would have been difficult for even his most intimate acquaintance to recognise him. Being a prisoner of the Crown, he well knew that if once detected, as Wilkins, the escaped convict, he would be allowed little opportunity of again freeing himself from captivity, or paying off the score which he owed Mr. Cash. He pondered deeply as to what course of action it would be advisable to pursue, to carry out the object which he had in view ; and at length came to the conclusion that it would be as well to engage someone to act as his companion in the close watch which he meant to keep upon Cash. The principal reason for this was, that Wilkins, expecting to discover the hiding place of the notes, and gather, sufficient evidence to prove that it was Cash who had hidden them, saw the necessity of having some eyewitness in addition to himself. He at one time thought it probable that Cash had destroyed the notes, but knowing the man as he did, soon disabused his mind of this idea. The notes, he concluded, would be kept until the forgery, was forgotten, and then passed - perhaps in England, by some agent employed by Cash. They had most likely, been hidden in some place away from Cash's house - so that they would be safe in case his premises were searched - but where ? That was the question that it remained for Wilkins to answer ; and he, believing that "Those who hide can find," and also that the hider would occasionally, if not frequently, pay a visit to his concealed treasure, to see that it was safe, determined to watch Cash closely. Wilkins recollected that Lieutenant Linton had a servant, a man named Jack Hedge, a smart young fellow, and a character in his way, who had been brought up on Squire Linton's esfate, and was much attached to his young master. Jack was not a soldier, so after Linton's arrest he was thrown upon his own resources. Howwever, he was quickly installed as servant to Captain Lambert, and had continued with that gentleman ever since. To this young man Wilkins determined to divulge as much ot his plan as it was necessary for him to know, and enlist his assistance in the attempt to rescue Harry from unjust captivity. It was night before he reached Sydney so
he deferred seeing Hedge until the morning. The place where Wilkins lodged was a public house, chiefly patronised by sailors and soldiers ; and here he had frequently heard the story of Harry Linton's trial and conviction. Since their young officer had been sentenced to work in the chain-gang, the soldiers had, one and all, taken a rooted dislike to gaolers, overseers, and all other humble instruments of the law ; and to such lengths did this feeling of dislike induce the men of the gallant 73rd to go, that several overseers had already been severely maltreated by them. Under such circumstances it is not to be wondered at that these latter were not in the habit of frequenting the " Three Crowns," and this was one reason why Wilkins found it one of the most desirable places at which to 'put up.' It so chanced that on this particular night, Hedge, whose master was dining at Government House, strolled into this,favourite hotel to discuss the affairs of the day, and found Wilkins to be the only sober man of some ten or a dozen who frequented the smoke dried parlour. The two men then began conversing, and it required very little skill on the part of the one to induce the other to speak on the subject of his master's trial and conviction. Wilkins watched him closely ; and soon became satisfied that the honest open-faced young man before him, was to be trusted. He therefore, after their second glass of rum, and after receiving a promise of secrecy from Hedge, told him who he was, the plans which he had formed, and asked him to join in keeping a close watch on the movements of Cash. Everything having been arranged Hedge said :-" Why not let my master into the secret ? I'm sure from what you've told me, and a strange tale it is, that we shall be able to get Mr. Harry out of all his trouble. Master'd do anything to serve his old friend, and although he's a bit wild there ar'nt a braver nor a better hearted gentleman, barring Mr. Harry, in the world ! " " No, no !" replied Wilkins. " two of us are quite enough to go through with this business, and you know, you've promised me to speak to no one about it." "So be it, " said the other, " if you so wish it, but I must tell him that I'm going to do something towards getting. Mr. Harry liberated, so he would Iet me have enough time to go through with the work." Wilkins, after a moment's consideration agreed to this ; and the two parted, having arranged to commence their campaign the next day. Three weeks passed over and still nothing had been observed. in the motions of Mr. Cash likely to lead to an elucidation of the hiding place of the notes ; yet still the two men kept up their watch hopefully, and untiringly. They discovered that Mr. Cash was drinking very hard, and appeared to be in a slate of incipient delirium tremens. He usually retired to bed, as they supposed, about eleven o'clock, and kept a light in his room all night. But he did not seem to rest well, for, several times during the night they would notice his shadow crossing and re-crossing the window blind, as he paced to and fro in his chamber. They had' managed to search the house one night whilst Cash was enjoying himself at Righetti's, and his servant, who took advantage of his absence was regailing himself, at a neighbouring inn. They entered by means of a key, which Wilkins had in his pocket when Cash made the attempt upon his life, and which he had carefully kept ever since. This key opened a small side door of the house. Nothing was discovered that could in any way lead to the inference that the notes were hidden in the house; because the only place in the whole establishment under lock and key, was a large chest in Cash's bedroom, and this happened to be left unlocked on the evening in question. As Wilkins well knew Mr. Cash was far too acute to keep money, or any valuable property in his dwelling house knowing as he did, the number of talented burglars, who at that time resided in Sydney. He kept all his wealth in the strong box at the bank ; except what money was necessary for daily expenditure. It was on a sultry night in summer, when. scarcely a breath of air relieved the oppressive heat of the atmosphere, that Wilkins and Hedge met as usual at the "Three Crowns." " Well Jack !" said Wilkins, " I'm determined tonight to try what fear will do. I'll look in through his bedroom window, which you know is on the ground floor, and take off my beard and whiskers, and ask him " where's them notes ? in a voice like the ghost in the play." Mr. Wilkins chuckled as he thought of the effect his sudden appearance. would have upon the nerves of Mr. Cash. " The best thing you could do," responded Hedge, " he's sure to take you for a ghost, if you only look serious enough ; and now he's so shaky its ten to one if he don't let out the secret." " You don't know him, as I do," said Wilkins, " he's enough nerve for ten men, and would hesitate before telling his secret, if all the ghosts as ever was ruz" axed' him to blab. As to it being ten to one on his telling, I don't know, I should say even betting. He might think I meant the notes he stole from me before throwing me overboard." " Well, well," exclaimed the other, " we can only try him, athough," he added, "it will put you In on awful fix to let him know who you are. He'd have you hunted down as sure as fate. We must try some other plan Wilkins, I'll never agree to that." " It must be tried - it's our only chance," said Wilkins, determinedly. They then started to the wharf, for the purpose of hiring a boat to take tbem over to their destination. As they walked along, Hedge tried to persuade his companlon to abandon tlhe plan which he intended to adopt, but in vain, Wilkins' mind was made up, and he hastened to change the conversation. " There are great doings at Government House tonight, I believe," he said. " Yes," said Hedge ; " Master's gone there. They are going to have, what they call a 'feet-sham-peter," which means a spree in the open air, and much better than flaring up inside, in such weather as this. They are going to have all the trees lit up with coloured lamps, and altogether it will be a grand do." " Then perhaps," said Wilkins, " Cash will be there." " No !" returned his companion ; " that's not likely. Mr. Cash has never been invited to Government House since poor Mr. Harry's trial." " Indeed !" said Wilkins, in a tone of as
astonishment. " Then it has not been all smooth sailing with the scoundrel." By this time they reached the shore, and found a waterman waiting with the boat, which they had hired from him. every night for the past three weeks. " Good night, gentlemen," he said, as they pushed off. " Be kind enough to fasten the boat here when you return. Curious work," he muttered, as he walked slowly home, this boating at night." When they arrived at the North Shore, they secured their boat a little distance from the bottom of the lawn, which, the reader will remember, spread from Mr. Cash's house to the water's edge. They, then cautiously approached the house, keeping in the shade of some scrub, which grew in the neighbourhood. There was a light in the room usually occupied by Mr. Cash, and through the open window came the voice of the master of the house, speaking to the servant : " I don't feel well to-night. Give me a bottle of brandy, and I'll go to bed. You can go and see your friends, only be here early in the morning." " Thank you, sir," they heard the man reply, as he placed the bottle of brandy on the table for his master, and withdrew. Presently they 'saw him leave.the house by the back door, and strike off in an inland direction. Cash then took up the candle and left the room, and almost immediately the light shone forth from the window of his bed-room. The two men sat patiently waiting and watching. At length all seemed quiet within and without the house, and Wilkins, who had removed the false whiskers from his face, rose to go towards the bedroom window. Hedge whispered persuasions to him to abandon the enterprise, but in vain. The moon was shining brilliantly, and surrounding objects were as visible as in broad daylight. Hedge watched his companion, as he crept stealthily towards the house. When he had nearly reached it, Jack saw the French window thrown open, and Mr. Cash, dressed as if for a journey, stepped out on to the lawn. Wilkins stood, so that the strong light of the bright moon fell full upon him, directly in the path of his old master, Hedge heard him ask Cash, in a sepulchral voice, where he had hidden the notes. To his intense astonishment, Cash never answered the question - never started nor stood still but continued, his walk towards Wilkins uninterruptedly. The latter was walking backwards before him, gazing into his face. Hedge was thunderstruck, he could make nothing of what he saw. At last Wilkins joined him holding up his hand for silence. They saw Cash go down to the waters edge and unmoor his boat. Wilkins dragged his companion to where their own boat was lying. " By the heavens above us we have him now ! His secret's ours," he said in excited whisper. " What do you mean ?" said Hedge still bewildered. " Can't you see, the man's asleep !' returned Wilkin's as they prepared to follow Cash who had already pulled out some distance from the shore.