|Chapter Title||HIDE AND SEEK.|
|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 XII. HIDE AND SEEK. Bright, The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men ! Byron. Whence comest thou - what wouldest thou ? Coralamus.(?) The 'fete champitre' given at Government House by Governor Macquarie, was certainly the most briliant affair that had as yet been attempted in New South Wales. Great changes had taken place since the days of Governor Phillip, when his Majesty's representative could receive daily the same ration as the meanest convict in the colony. << Note. The weekly ration issued at Sydney, on and after the 20th April, 1790, was - two and a half pounds flour, two pounds rice, two pounds pork per man. This ration was further reduced on hearing of the wreck of the Sirius, store ship, at Norfolk Island.>> This first governor of New South Wales used to consider it incumbent on him occasionally to invite the officers of the colony to dine at Government House. On these occasions it was always intimated to the guests that they must bring their bread alongn with them, as the governor had none to spare ; having ( like a fine old gentleman, as he was ) surrendered the whole of his own private stock of flour, upwards of three hundredweight, for the public service. A story is told of one officer of a humorous turn, who marched up to Government House with his loaf ( a very small-one ) stuck on the point of his sword. At the time of which I write, however, there was no scarcity of the good things of this world, for those who. could afford to pay for them, and the guests found all the preparations made (colonially speaking) on a scale of unprecedented magnificence. The fete was given on the occasion of the Governor attaining the rank of Major-General in the army, and also in commemoration, of Mrs. Macquarie's birthday. A large number of invitations had been issued and the Governor took care not to lose sight of his darling project, which, however ever unsuccessful in practise, was humane and noble in theory, of attempting to reclaim convicts.by trying to restore their self-respect, and compelling free settlers to recognise, and associate with them. A large number cf emancipists were present, and were treated with marked'attention by the good old governor. Colonel Winter and Mrs Camp, Colonel de Vere and the officers of the 73rd regiment were present, as were also the Colonels and offcers of the 61th and 48th regiments'nf the line ; and all the chief personages civil and military in the then rising colony. It was understood that the time of Colonel Macquarie's governorship would shortly expire, and therefore all were ready for the nonce to lay aside their feelings of pride and exclusiveness, and assemble to do honour to one who, with all his obstinacy, they could not but sincerely respect. It is not my intention to give a detailed account of all the preparation which had been made to render the fete worthy of the ocaslon ; suffice it to say that the pleasure was to be enjoyed in the open air ; and that the illuminated trees, and merry assemblage, rendered brilliant by the gays colours of the ladies dressers or the glitter of a military or naval uniform, gave to the whole scene a bright and animated appearance, whilst the music from the military bands had the usual inspiring and cheering effect upon the spirits of the company, which good music always imparts. The Governor was everywhere, seeing to the comfort of his guests and having a kind greeting for all. " Good evening Winter," he said as he met that gentleman and his friend, " and you too Mr Camp, I am so glad to see you ! But where are Mrs Grey and Miss Winter ? " " l bear their excuses to your Excellency," returned Colonel Winter. " Dora's health of late has been so bad that she is unable to leave the house, and Mrs Grey kindly stayed at home to nurse her." General Macquarie passed on expressing his sorrow to hear the news, Colonel Winter and Mr. Camp strolled to where the dancing was going on. Here they met Mrs Macquarie and a bevy of ladies, and hastened to pay their respects to their hostess. To explain what follows it will be necessary to remind the reader that one of the chief traits in Governor Macquarie's character
was an inordinate longing for fame - an intense desire for terrestrial immortality. This weakness showed itself in a variety of ways, but principally as Dr Lang says : " By taking a singular delight in having his name affixed to everything that required a name in the colony, whether public buildings or remarkable localities, persons, or places or things. The Governor's weakness in this vernor's weakness in this particular, being easi!y discovered, the calculating colonists found it their interest to affix his Excellency's name to anything he had given them in the shape of landed property; as in that case they were almost sure to obtain an extension of their grants. A propensity of this kind on the part of the ruler was likely to be a fruitful subject of ridicule with those who were dissatisfied with his measures." A story.is told of a literary and scientific gentleman, Dr. Townson, L.L.D.,, who resided near Liverpool (N.S.W.) One evening, whilst entertaining a party of his friends he showed them his well stocked garden and orchard, and was asked by a gentleman the name of an insect on one of the trees. The doctor, who was an eminent naturalist, gravely replied, " It is a species of bug that abounds in the native timber of the colony ; it has not yet got a name, but I propose that it should be called Cimex Macquarianus, or the Macquaric bug. In every assemblage there is to be found one who considers himself, and is in some cases considered the wit of the company. In modern society he plays the part that was in olden time left to the Jester or Fool, and the chief difference discernible between the modern and ancient buffoon is, that whilst the former is vastly inferior in mirth provoking wit, his sallies contain a greater spice of malice, and are more clculated to wound the feelings of, or draw ridicule upon, his victim, than the more brilliant bandinage of the latter. This class was represented on the present occasion by one Mr. Riley, a contractor for building the Rum Hospital. His chief talent lay in finding out the weak points of his intended victim, and then holding him up to the ridicule of his friends, but this was done in so skilful a manner that the victim was generally unconscious of having committed himself. At eleven o'clock' supper was announced, and the gay company sat down at a brilliantly lighted table, which had been tastefully laid under the lamp-bearing branches of surrounding trees. Would that I possessed the descriptive powers of Ainsworth to tell of the sumptuous repast that was provided - of the rare dishes and choice wines - but alas ! I must be content to say that the supper was excellent, and - I shudder as i think how often the same expression has been made use of in regard to solemn tea-meetings - was done ample justice to. Those were days of " bumper toasts," and Sydney was a town where hard drinking was the rule to which there were but few exceptions. So after the cloth had been drawn the toasting commenced. "The King, God bless him, and confound his enemies !" " His Excellency the Governor !" " Church and State ! and numerous other toasts were drank without 'heel-taps.' Tongues, hitherto silent, began to wag, and all " went merry as a marriage bell." Mr. Riley rose with an air of solemnity and said he had a toast to propose, and a request to make. The toast was " Mrs Macquarie and the ladies !" (Enthusiastic winey cheering.) The speaker went on eloquently to dilate on the charm which the presence of the ladies gave to every scene of life - they were - &c. &c. The request which he had to make, he went on, was one which, on behalf of his fellow colonists and himself, he earnestly hoped would be acceded to. "'There is,"continued' Mr. Riley, with a graceful flourish of the right hand, ' one spot in this neighbourhood - a lovely, picturesque spot - that will hereafter be regarded with feelings of reverential interest by all dwellers in this colony, when they look back upon the past days of their adopted country, and recall that period in her history, when, under the rule of a wise noble, just, benevolent, and brave Governor, she first became prosperous and free. (Tremendous cheering, although nobody knew what was coming.) " That spot is already known to the people as ' Lady Macquarie's Chair,' - a place where the ornament of her sex is in the habit of repairing, and, in solitude, devising those schemes of unostentatious charity which will render her name ever revered and loved by the poor and humble, and admired and emulated by the wealthy and great. (Great cheering and hammering on the table, to the detriment of wine glasses and ladies' dresses, during which the orator winks furtively at his right hand supporter.) Now, I have, on behalf of the colonists of New South Wales, to request that this night, Mrs Macquarie will accompany her guests to this place, and christen in wine that picturesque rock that will then have the rightful claim to bear the name of Lady Macquarie's Chair. " At the conclusion of this address the applause was tremendous, and the appeals to Mrs. Macquarie to accede to the request earnest and numerous. Some seemed to treat the affair as a joke, and laughed in their sleeves at it ; others, heated by wine, seemed to look upon the christening as an important and solemn event. Amongst these latter was the Governor, who appeared "swelling visibly" with dignity during Mr Riley's grandiloquent address. He saw nothing absurd in it, but only looked upon it as a just tribute to pay to the wife of Major-General Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales. Mrs Macquarie was in an unpleasant predicament, and did not know whether to take what had been said in jest or earnest. At length Governor Macquarie rose, rather unsteadily, and, after thanking Mr. Riley and all present, said that he was sure Mrs. Macquarie would be most happy and feel honoured in acceding to their wishes. Immense cheering again, and more wine preparatory to going to the christening ! " Mr Riley said to his right hand supporter, " You've lost your bet !" " Yes," returned the other. " I did not think the man was such an egotistical fool !" All who have visited Sydney, and strolled through the beautiful park known as the Domalin, must remember that curiously shaped rock called to this day " Lady Macquarie's chair. It is at no great distance from Government House, and thither the merry party wended their way. Torches had been provided, which the bright moonlight rendered unnecessary, and, as the gay and laughing party moved through the timber in the fitful torchlight, they formed a strange and grotesque picture. It was a calm night, and the brighlt moon silvered the placid waters of Sydney Harbour. They reached the "Chair" about midnight, and
gathered around it in a semi-circle. Some speeches were made and healths drank, and then Lady Macquarie, with a bottle of wine in her hand, stood forward. There were now some dispute as to whether the nar? should be "Lady" or "Mrs. Macquarie's Chair," but on being put to the vote the former carried the day, as it was customary for the people of Sydney to speak of the Governor's wife by that title. This point being settled, Mrs. Macquarie threw the bottle against the rock, where it shivered to pieces, and as the purple wine laved the "chair," she said, " I name this rock 'Lady Macquarie's Chair,' in memory of many happy hours I have spent here, gazing on the lovely Sydney Harbour, and at the request of my kind friends in New South Wales." The cheering was renewed and a general conversation was commencing, when an excited voice at the outskirts of the crowd cried out : " Make way for Heaven's sake, and let that man pass !" All eyes were turned to the spot from whence the voice proceeded ; and three figures were seen, one in advance of the other two, approaching. The crowd instinctively made way wonderingly, and Mr. Cash passed through the lane they formed. His face was ghastly pale, and his eyes wide open, and fixed. A mysterious awe fell upon all ; the silence became so profound that the ripple of the water on the beach could be distinct!y heard. The somnambalist walked straight up to Lady Macquarie's chair, and clearing away some bushes at the root of it, disclosed a crevice in the rock, so cleverly hidden that no one would have suspected its being there. Close to him stood Wilkins pale with suspense solemnly holding up his hand for silence. Around stood the Governor, Lady Macquarie and their guests in speechless wonder. At length Mr. Cash thrust his arm into the crevice and drew forth a small leathern bag, Wilkins immediately snatched it from his hand, and seized him fiercely by the arm. Cash awoke with a start and gazed wildly around. Wilkins withdrew his grasp from his arm, and tearing off his false whiskers confronted him. " A ghost ! " exclaimed Cash, and fell insensible to the ground. Now there arose a babel of tongues, all wanting to.know what these mysterious proceedings meant. Mr. Camp was by Wilkin's side in a moment. They opened the bag, and found it contained bank notes and examined their numbers hastily-- these were the very notes Harry Linton had received from the bank ! Then, there followed such a shaking of hands between Colonel Winter, Wilkins. Mr Camp and Hedge that you would i have thought the men were demented. " What is the meaning of all this, gentlemen ?" asked the Governor in a tone of unaffected amazement." " It means, your Excellency," said Mr. Camp, " that we are now in a position to prove beyond the 'shadow' of a doubt, the innocence of Mr. Harry Linton, late of the 73rd." Hip ! hip ! hip !! And Wilkins, and Hedge, and Colonel Winter, and all gave such a cheer as never before was, nor, never again will be heard, in New South Wales or elsewhere ! The noise of that cheer restored Mr. Cash to consciousness, and he now sat up on his haunches, looking the picture of bewilderment and despair. " Seize that scoundrel ! " said Mr. Camp, and a dozen ready hands fastened themselves on the astonished. Mr Cash, who trembled violently. " If your Excellency will let me, I'll tell my tale !" said Wilkins, addressing the Governor and pulling his forelock, and scraping his foot with, great politeness. " Certainly my good fellow, and be quick about it, " replied General Macquarie, forgetting everything in his curiosity and astonishment. Wilkins did not wait for a second bidding but at once commenced his story, while all gathered around him. " I shall not keep you ladies and gentlemen long, for I mean to cut what I have to say, as short as I can. I was servant to that man Cash there, assigned servant, and long afore Mister Linton got into trouble, I knowed as that varmint meant him mischief. He used to send me to watch Colonel Winter's house at night, to see how Mister Linton was getting on with Miss Winter, axin' your parding sir, and I used to bring him news about how that four hundred --" " Your Excellency doubtless remembers the arrangement Colonel Winter mentioned in his evidence at the trial," said Mr. Camp, who desired to spare his old friend as much as possible. " Perfectly !" replied the Governor. " Then go on to the morning of the 23rd of November, when Cash gave Mr. Linton the cheque," said Mr. Camp to Wilkins, who resumed : - " Well, your Excellency, orn that morning I had started off very early unbeknown to Cash to watch him on the Botany Road. He had a great habit of talking in his sleep and one night, some time afore then, I heard him say to hisself, and him asleep : " On the twenty-third I'll meet him on Botany Road," so I guessed who he meant. Well you know Cash wor out o' town on that day, but I know'd my man and determined to watch him. So I watched until I seed young Mister Linton sitting under a tree, and I planted myself behind a bush close to him. He and Cash must a' been' blind not to see me." Here Wilkins corroborated the statement made by Harry Linton, and read at the trial, relative to his receiving the cheque, from Cash. He then proceeded to tell how he had waylaid Cash on the Southern-Road, identified him and changed the notes ; * with which incidents the reader is already acquainted. He also said that the horse Cash rode was not his own, but a strange one. Here Wilkins took from round his neck a piece of string, to which were attached the changed notes. folded up in oilcloth. He next told of the warning which he had given Harry Linton on the day of his arrest. He told also of the night when he had in a moment ot irritation, threatened Cash with exposure, and ruin, and proved to him that he could overthrow all his plots. Cash had offered him a heavy bribe not to make public what he knew, and Wilkins confessed that he took the bribe, on Cash's pledging himself to have Linton released, although it was far from his intention honestly to earn it. Then came out the history of the drugging, the throwing overboard, and the rescue together with his subsequent adventures. " And now," he said in conclusion, that I've tried to get my countryman out of a mess, I'll go and do my time like a man, and take my "fitties" without winking ! If Master
Linton had come from anywhere else but Salop, I'd not have come back here to serve him." << Note. The Shropshire people possess much of that clannish feeling chiefly observable in the Celtic races. Salop being a border county, they frequently intermarry with Welsh.>> * Mr Camp !" said the Governor, " we will at once go and take the necessary steps for Linton's release. Poor, poor fellow ! only to: think of it ! As to you Wilkilns, never talk again of taking your "fitties," for from this monent you are a free man. You have done well, give me your hand !" And to Wilkin's intense astonishment and amidst cheers from the spectators, Governor Macquarie shook him heartily by the .hand. " Now. Winter," said the Governor, turning to the Colonel, " promise me that you'll throw no more obstacles in the way of the marriage between young Linton and your daughter." " I promise," said the Colonel, the tears running down his cheeks, " God only knows how I've suffered for my selfish fault !" " Then we will at once go at once and see about Harry Linton's release ; and pray the God of Justice to lighten our darkness, forgive our blindness, and pardon us the wrong we have done to an innocent man. A devout Amen !" was uttered by all.