“My love,” suggested Mrs. Tallowfat, “he can’t go about without them.”
I made some pettish observations about the “poor Indian” and “beauty unadorned &c.,” but Mrs. Tallowfat said “stuff” in a tone which precluded argument. “The Bellwethers are coming up to the station next week” said she “and to have a black fellow walking about—Oh, it’s not to be thought of.”
“Budgeree, climb tree” says King Billy, turning his dilapidations towards us with the elegant simplicity of the savage. “Slip down long o’ ’possum. Big fellow hole that one.”
There was no disputing it.
“Well my dear” said I, “he’ll get no more from me I’ll—I’ll write to the department.”
His Majesty King William the First was the chieftain of the Great Glimmera blacks, and carried on his manly breast a brass label inscribed with his name, date and title. He was general “knock-about-man” on the station, and as I had been idiot enough to allow myself to be made a corresponding member of the Board for the Protection of Aboriginals, William imagined that he had a right to demand from me unlimited clothing. The Board liberally supplied the few blacks who yet survived the gin bottle with a blanket per year (by the way, the storekeepers who gave rum in exchange vowed the quality was most inferior); by some accident the blanket intended for the monarch had been captured by some inferior aboriginal, and had never been replaced. William indignantly demanded to be clothed, and to quiet his outcries I gave him a pair of pantaloons. The gift was so highly appreciated, that when the blanket did arrive, His Majesty declined to wear it. “What for you gib it that.” “No good,” said he, with profound contempt, and continued to eat, drink, sleep, ride, and climb trees in my pantaloons.
“Mrs. Tallowfat,” said I, “I will write to the department.”
I did write—a forcible, and I flatter myself, even elegant letter, setting forth the poor savage’s yearning for civilisation, begging that the Board would take the matter into their favourable consideration, and supply the dethroned monarch with one pair of moleskins a year. A week passed, and I received a letter from the secretary.
BOARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF ABORIGINES.
July 27th, 186—
Sir,—I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of 20th inst., requesting that the aboriginal named in the margin may be supplied with one pair of moleskin trousers annually by this department, and in reply have the honour to inform you that I will lay the letter before the Board at their next sitting, and communicate to you their decision on the subject.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
JOHN P. ROBINSON,
Secretary to the Board.
To Tiyrus Tallowfat, Esq., J.P.,
Budgeree Flat, Old Man Plains, Great Glimmera.
This, so far, was very satisfactory, and I triumphantly snubbed my wife, who had ventured to hint that I should find my application treated with nonchalance. Weeks, however, rolled away, Billy wore out two more pairs of trousers, and the Board did not write. I sent another despatch; no answer. Another; no answer. A third; still no reply. I got angry, and penned a sarcastic note. “Am I Briareus?” asked I, sardonically, “that I should keep a hundred pairs of breeches on hand.” My sarcasm had the desired result. It provoked an answer.
28th September, 186—
Sir, I have the honour, by the direction of the Board for the Protection of Aboriginies, to acknowledge the correspondence cited in the margin, and to inform you in reply that the Board have given your application their fullest and most complete attention. The practice, however, of supplying breeches to black fellows is one which has not hitherto obtained in this department, authorised, under Act Vic. cxxii., Sec.4001 to provide blankets and petticoats only. I am directed, however, to inform you that the Board will again consider this somewhat important matter, with a view to bringing it under the notice of the Hon. The Chief Secretary at an early date.
I am further instructed to say that your observation on the subject of “Briareus” is not only incorrect, but considered by the Board to be quite uncalled for.
I have the honour to be, &c.,
JOHN P. ROBINSON.
I was staggered. What vast machinery had I not set in motion. Good gracious! I had no desire to trouble the Chief Secretary. I would write to him and apologise. Like an ass, I did so.
In three months I received back my letter, marked in red ink, in blue ink, in green ink, minuted in all directions, and commented upon in all kinds of handwriting.
“Noted and returned, W.P.S.” “Not on the business of this department, O.P.G.” “Refer to the Paste and Scissors Office, M.B.” “Apparently forwarded in error, L.B.O.” Across the right hand bottom corner of this maltreated document was written, in fine bold hand, with which I afterwards became hideously familiar. “Communications on the subject of Clothing of Aboriginals must be made to the Hon. The Chief Secretary through the Gunnybag and Postage Stamp Department Only, O.K.”
This was decisive, though who “O.K.” was, and what the Gunnybag and Postal Stamp Department had to do with the Clothing of Aboriginals (who wore neither Gunnybags nor Postage Stamps), I could not tell. However, I was not yet beaten. I wrote to the Hon. Silas Barnstarke, then Comptroller General of Gunnybags, enclosed the returned letter and begged that he would use his influence in the proper quarter to procure a pair of moleskins for King Billy. The Hon. Silas Barnstarke was an official by nature, and he replied after six months accordingly.
GUNNYBAGS AND POSTAGE STAMP DEPARTMENT.
3rd July, 187—.
Sir,—In reference to your note of 24th January last, I have the honour to inform you that no official cognisance of blackfellows’ breeches can at present be taken by this Department. I have the honour to be, &c.,
Comptroller of Gunnybags.
My Dear Sir,—I have to regret that I am unable to comply with your very reasonable request.
Dear Tallowfat,—I can’t do anything about this confounded blackfellow.
In the meantime King William wore out three more pairs. I wrote again to the Board, and, after waiting the usual time, received the following reply:—
9th October, 187—.
Sir,—I have the honour by direction of the board, to inform you that they cannot at present move in the matters named in the margin.* The subject of the Clothing of Aborigines in general has occupied the gravest attention of the Board for the last six months, but, after mature consideration, they fail to see how your request can be in any respect complied with, unless by the direct authority of His Excellency the Governor-in-Council.
I am instructed to suggest, that perhaps in the meantime, as the case seems urgent, and His Excellency is in Adelaide, a kilt might meet the difficulty.
I have the honour, &c.,
JOHN P. ROBINSON.
“A kilt meet the difficulty! No, nor half of it.” In indignant terms I wrote to this half-hearted Robinson. “No one but an idiot,” said I, “could make such a preposterous suggestion.” The phlegmatic creature replied (after three weeks) as follows:—
1st November, 187—.
Sir,—I have the honour to acknowledge your communication of 12th October last, in which you inform me I am an idiot, as per margin, and in reply thereto, I beg to inform you that on that point a difference of opinion exists in this Department.
and he had again “the honour to be.”
This seemed a fatal blow to my hopes, but I wrote again, begged to withdraw the offensive expression made in the heat of the moment, and to request that the Board would condescend to take my petition into earnest consideration. Mr. Robinson replied in a temperature and forgiving spirit.
The “Board” he observed, in the most elegant round-hand “are most desirous to promote the welfare of Aborigines in the minutest particular, and I am directed to state for your information that a proposal to amalgamate the votes for flannel petticoats and patent revolving beacons will be made to the Government, which amalgamation will enable the Board to issue one pair of moleskin trousers, as per Schedule B., to every three adult aboriginals in the colony. I am directed to ask if you have any suggestions to offer with regard to cut, number of buttons, flap or fly, &c.”
I could not see how one pair of breeches between every three adult natives would “meet the difficulty,” as Mr. Robinson elegantly put it, nor did I understand why the votes for flannel petticoats and patent revolving beacons needed amalgamation, but I replied thanking the Board, and wrote to my friend O’Dowd, member for the Glimmera, to beg him to make a “proper representation” on the subject. O’Dowd was at that time “in opposition.” I saw in the Peacock that “the hon. Member for Glimmera gave notice that he would ask the hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, on the following Thursday, if he was aware of the particulars attending the case of an aboriginal known as King Billy.”
My hopes rose high, when, on the following Thursday, O’Dowd delivered himself of a terrific speech, in which he accused the Government of the most wanton barbarity, and drew such a terrible picture of the trouserless monarch hiding in the dens and clefts of the rocks, that it brought tears into my eyes as I read it.
Barnstarke, however, who had kept two clerks at work night and day, copying the correspondence replied in his usual calm and dignified manner. “The attention of the Government had already been called to the lamentable condition of the aborigines in that wealthy and populous district, where the hon. Member who had just sat down owned such extensive property, and he might inform the hon. Member that the Government had taken steps to remedy, in some measure, the effects of the apparent parsimony of the inhabitants of the Glimmera district, by a method which he was convinced would fully satisfy every intelligent and liberal member of that House.”
O’Dowd was muzzled, but, as luck would have it, little Chips, the leader writer to the Peacock, was in the gallery and wanted a “subject.” “Monstrous case about that blackfellow,” said he to the editor later in the evening. “I should like to do a smart little thing on old Barnstarke about it.”
There was nothing better going, and the article was written. I forget it now, but I know it was vastly clever, quoting Horace twice, and comparing poor Barnstarke to Le Roi Dagobert. In fact, it was full of as much withering scorn as Chips could afford for £2 2s., and Chips was liberal.
Thus encouraged by the support of the Press, O’Dowd moved for a Commission to inquire into the subject of Aborigines’ breeches, with power to call for persons and papers.
The Commission was granted, sat at the Parliament Houses for nine mortal weeks, examined 300 witnesses, ordered “plans and specifications” of all the breeches since the original fig-leaf, and at a cost of £2000 published a Report of 1000 pages, containing a complete history of the development of breeches from the earliest ages.
This Report contained my correspondence in an appendix, and advised that all the Aborigines throughout the Colony, male and female, should at once be provided with three pairs of broadcloth pantaloons a-piece.
In the meantime King Billy wore out four pairs of mine.
Elated, however, by the successful issue of my labours, I gave him the garments, and waited for my revenge. I waited for three months.
It was nearly the end of the session, and I had almost begun to despair, when I received a large packet from Mr. Robinson, enclosing a copy of the Report, and asking for a “return of the number, height, age, and weight of all the Aborigines in the district.” I set to work without delay to furnish this return, and had the gratification of seeing by the papers that “In reply to a question by Mr. O’Dowd, the Comptroller of Gunnybags informed the House that the Report of the Blackfellows’ Breeches Commission had been referred to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, who would give the recommendation of the Commission their best attention.”
It seemed that we had come back to the place whence we had started.
Nothing was done, of course, during the recess, but when the House was about to sit, I saw that the Peacock was “informed that the Special Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, which, we understand, will be shortly laid on the table of the House, contains some startling revelations on the subject of blackfellows’ breeches, and proves beyond a doubt the necessary for an Absolute Freetrade Policy for this Colony.”
The Ministerial journal (the Peacock was always in opposition) hinted that “it was the intention of the liberal and intelligent Government, to further Protect the Native Industry of the Colony by placing a tax of 4½d. a leg on every pair of imported moleskins—a proceeding which cannot fail to redound to the credit of that Government, whose fiscal policy we have always upheld through the medium of our advising columns.” It was not to be expected that the Peacock could allow such a gross fallacy to pass unquestioned, so it inquired sarcastically the following morning if “its Little Bourke contemporary was aware that America had been plunged into Civil War in consequence of the bloomer movement, which deprived thousands of hard-working negroes of their nether garments.” “The Imports of the United States during the year 1862, when a freetrade policy prevailed,” said the Peacock “reached a total of $8,936,052.18. In 1863, when Henry Clay, a member of the notorious Pantaloon-and-gaiter-Ring, levied a tax of one red cent, on every article of clothing that came below the knee, the Customs returns showed a deficit of $18,000,000,000. This fact speaks for itself.”
At it again went the protectionist paper, and proved entirely to its own satisfaction that the only way to make mankind happy, was to encourage the growth of breeches industry by severe protective duties. “It is rumoured” said the protectionist paper “that an effort will be made by the soft goods faction to import the 200,000 pairs of breeches required for our aboriginal population. Quem deus vult perdere, &c. Such an act would blur the blush and grace of modesty. We trust that a patriotic Government will look to it. We have imported too long. Our short-sighted and venal contemporary, not satisfied with importing its Sparrows, Rabbits, Bulls, and Editors, must needs attack the country in its most vital point—stab it in its very seat of honour. We are confident that Sir Ossian M’Orkney, however much he may have appeared to lean towards the unholy condition of Flinders Lane, will draw the line at breeches.”
The controversy was highly interesting, but in the meantime King Billy wore out four more pairs—leathers. I wrote to Barnstarke informing him that while the great question of Freetrade or Protection yet remained unsettled, my wardrobe was becoming absorbed into the surrounding forest, and that unless something was speedily done, I would send the monarch breechesless to Melbourne, marked “This side up with care,” and let his country deal with him.
Barnstarke replied that “while deprecating the indiscreet haste which I had displayed in the treatment of a matter of so much importance, he was willing to do everything in his power, and after consultation with his colleagues, had given instructions to the Chief Commissioner of Police to forward an old pair of regulation cords, which would perhaps satisfy me.” No cords came, but a very large letter from the Chief Commissioner, in which he regretted that all the regulation cords of the Department being in constant use, he was unable to comply with the request of the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, but that he had forwarded my letter (forwarded to him through the Department of the Hon. The Chief Secretary by the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags) to the Commandant of the Local Forces, with a request that he give the matter his immediate attention.
Three weeks passed, and I received a letter from the Commandant of the Local Forces, who, in a military “memo” in red ink, begged to forward me copies of the correspondence between the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, the Chief Commissioner of Police and himself, and to attach a list of the articles with which “it was in his power to supply me through the usual official channel.” The list was five folio pages of close print, and contained, I believe, every article under heaven except the one I desired. I replied by marking a few dozen, convinced that nothing would come of it, and wrote again to Barnstarke. Barnstarke sent me a parcel with a private note.
Dear Tallowfat,—I don’t see how to please you, but as the matter will be brought before the House shortly, and those confounded fellows in the Opposition will be sure to make a handle of it, I have begged a personal interview with the Governor, stated your case, and asked him as an old friend of my cousin, Lord Lofty, to help me. His Excellency, in the kindest and most delicate manner, has sent me an old pair of “plush,” discarded, I believe, by one of the vice-regal domestics, and placed them entirely at your service. For goodness sake, my dear fellow, keep the matter dark, for I sadly fear that so irregular a proceeding will result in some confusion in this Department.
P.S.—I rely as ever on your powerful support in case of a General Election.
We clothed King Billy in the Vice-Regal Plush, and for some months he was happy. The papers having got hold of a Divorce Case, was engaged (in the cause of morality) in commenting on the particulars, and I had hoped that matters would not rest. But I had forgotten one thing—“The Audit Commissioners.”
Early in the following spring, Tommy, the boy who rode for the mail to Bullocktown, informed me that there was a packing-case at the Post Office, marked “On Her Majesty’s Service,” and addressed to me. I sent a bullock-dray for it, and it proved to be a bundle of papers from the “Audit Commissioners,” accompanied by a note from Barnstarke.
Dear Tallowfat,—I knew that we should get into a mess about those confounded breeches. It appears that they had been reseated by the Government contractor, and that no requisition had been sent into this office. The result is that the Commissioners of Audits (among other queries) desire to be “informed” about this “gross irregularity.” The whole of the accounts of this Department are in arrear in consequence. Can you tell them what they want to know?
I rose every morning at daylight for the space of a month, and read away at the bundle. It contained some tolerably rough reading. All the accounts of His Excellency’s household were then noted and commented upon in the most acute and accurate manner. The Audit Commissioners were continually “dropping down” upon His Excellency, as thus—His Excellency’s valet desires a water-bottle for Excellency’s bedroom, and is informed in a brief note from the Chief Clerk of the Water-bottle Department of the Government stores, that he “must requisition for it in the usual way.” He does so, and sends in the bill “in the usual form.” A voluminous correspondence then occurs between the Government Storekeeper, the Commissioners of Audit, and the Contractor, as to whether “cut-glass bottles” should or should not be charged for at a certain rate. This question satisfactorily settled, the Contractor applies to the Government Storekeeper to apply to the Commissioners of Audit to “pass the account through the Treasury,” and is informed contemptuously that “the number of pints not being stated in the voucher, the Commissioners of Audit are unable to forward the account in question.” This causes another correspondence with the Treasury, and, just as I had worked myself into a fever of expectation, imagining that the money must at last be paid, the Treasurer triumphantly encloses a copy of the Registrar-General’s certificate of the death of the applicant, and refers the whole matter for adjustment by the Curator of Intestate Estates.
I stumbled also upon an exciting chase after an item of 2¾d overcharge for farriery, which at last proved to have been paid for a threepenny drink to the smith, less the “usual discount on Government contracts,” but I found nothing bearing upon my breeches, or His Excellency’s breeches, or King billy’s Breeches, or, to speak more correctly, and in accordance with official exactness, the “one pair of double-plush extra super small clothes, the property of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Fid. Def.”
With bewildered brain, I returned the bundle to Barnstarke, and begged him to settle it anyhow. He replied that the only thing to do was to at once return the breeches to the Government Store keeper “for,” said he, “if this is not done, we must move the Treasurer to put a sum of 5s. 4d. on the Supplementary Estimates, and such a course will naturally cause great inconvenience to this Department.”
I sent him down a blank cheque, begged him to fill it up for any sum he pleased, and settle the matter at once. Alas! Little did I know the wisdom by which the world is governed. Barnstarke was most indignant.
“Not only,” said he in his reply, “is the course you propose most improper, and utterly opposed to all the traditions of official business, but it would put the Department to the utmost inconvenience to entertain, even for an instant, such a monstrous proposition. You will, I trust, excuse me speaking thus plainly, when I inform you that, to enable me to receive the sum of money you so rashly proffer, I should require a special vote to the House. If it is absolutely impossible for you to return the breeches, the Treasurer must be moved in the usual way.” What could I do? The breeches were torn to shreds by this time, and fragments of them gleamed derisively from several lofty gum-trees in the vicinity of the station. There was evidently no help for it. The Treasurer, poor fellow, must be “moved in the usual way,” whatever that might be.
In the Supplementary Estimates for 187—accordingly appeared the following item:—
Comptroller of Gunnybags:
“Division, 492; Sub-division, 8.
“His Excellency the Governor-General and Vice-Admiral of the Colony of Victoria.
“For re-seating one pair of extra plush small clothes, 5s. 4d.”
It was thought there would have been a row. The Treasurer trembled when he submitted the fatal item to the House, and an ominous silence reigned. “I would ask the Hon. The Treasurer,” said Mr. Wiggintop rising, “if this piece of wanton extravagance is to be paid for out of the Imperial or the Colonial Funds.
“The Colonial funds of course,” says a rash member from the Government benches. Wiggintop sat down quietly, and those who knew his antipathy to Downing Street, trembled for the fate of the Ministry.
The next morning the Daily Bellower, a paper that went in for economic democracy, laughed bitterly. “So then this is the way in which the Victorian taxpayer is robbed to support the liveried myrmidons of an effete and palsied aristocracy. The representative of Downing Street, not contented with gloating over the Victorian artisan from Toorak, must needs clothe his footmen out of the proceeds of the hardy miner’s toil. The rogue wants his breeches re-seated, does he! Pampered menial.”
There was no standing this. The Ministry resigned, and Wiggintop was sent for. He formed a Ministry in twenty-four hours, and went to the country with the breeches metaphorically nailed to the mast-head of his future policy. “It shall be my business,” said he at an enthusiastic meeting of his constituents, “to see that every half-penny of that 5s. 4d. paid is out of the Royal Exchequer.” When Parliament met, Wiggintop called for “all the correspondence connected with this gross case of Imperial tyranny” (the report of the Blackfellows’ Breeches Committee, came in as an appendix this time), “in order that he might lay it on the table of this wronged and outraged House.” He did so, and, to the triumph of the Colonial Progress Party, it was resolved by an overwhelming majority that the question should be immediately referred to the Privy Council.
I imagined that all was over. But by the return mail, Wiggintop received the gratifying intelligence that a Royal Commission had been appointed, who would examine personally the witnesses in the most important case. A few days after the Bellower informed the public that the first blow had been struck, the “pampered menial” had gone home in the “Great Britain” to give his evidence.
By the following mail was transmitted a list of witnesses who were required to be examined before the fourteen noblemen and gentlemen of the Royal Commission. Of course, I was one, but my blood was up now, and I resolved that I would not shrink from my duty. I left orders with my tailor to supply King Billy, and started. With my gained experience of the celerity of officaldom, I spent a couple of months in London sight-seeing, and then thinking it about time to attend to business, wrote to the Secretary to the Commission, but received no answer. I waited two months more, and then having primed myself with names, called at Downing Street. It was the “silly season,” and London was empty. A messenger was elegantly lounging on the steps of the Colonial Office, however, and to him I addressed myself.
“Is Lord Lofty within?”
“No, His Lordship is in Greece.”
“Mr. Chicester Fortescue?”
“Gone to Norway.”
“Mr. Washington White?”
“In the South of France.”
“Mr. Fritz Clarence Paget?”
“Rusticating in Boulogne.”
“Good Gracious,” said I, “is there no one to look after the interests of these two million of colonists?”
“I think you’ll find a young gentleman upstairs,” said the messenger, carelessly.
I went upstairs, and after some investigation found the young gentleman who looked after the colonies. He was very spruce and very small, with his hair cut very short, and wore a rose in his coat and a glass in his eye. He stared at me as I entered, as one who should say, “What the deuce do you mean coming into a Government Office in this way.”
“Mr. Crackelly Jenks?” said I.
“Quite so! What can I do for you?”
“I have called about the Breeches Commission!”
“Ah! Door B., first on the right, third turning to the left! Not here! Mistake.”
“Pardon me! Sir, I have called there, and they referred me to you.”
“Oh, did they,” says Mr. Crackelly Jenks. “Ah! Well, what is it?”
“I wrote some time ago to Mr. Washington White, who acts as Secretary to the Commission.”
“The Breeches Commission!”
“Oh! Ah! Is there such a thing! Quite so! Didn’t know! Beg your pardon! Go on!”
“My name is Tityrus Tallowfat. I am an Australian! Sir, and have come 36,000 miles!”
“All right! Marrofat! Sit down. Never mind the distance! Every Australian tells us that. So you’re from Victoria Island! Eh?”
“Victoria! Sir! Capital, Melbourne.”
“Oh! Ah! Yes, stupid of me, but the Vs. are not in my department, don’t you see! I take the Bs., Bermuda, and so on; but, however, never mind, I daresay we shall go on. You want to see White?”
“Well, no!” said I, “I want to know——”
“Hadn’t you better put it in writing, Marrowfat? Put it in writing now!”
“There is no occasion for that,” said I, taught by bitter experience, how futile was such a course; “I have already written to Mr. White.”
“Ah!” says the young gentlemen at once relieved. “Why didn’t you say so before? Tomkins bring me Mr. White’s letter-book.” Tomkins brought it, and Mr. Jenks perused it. “You must be under a mistake, Marrowfat,” he said at last. “There’s no letter mentioned here.”
“But I wrote one sir,” I ventured to remark.
“I rather think not, Marrowfat,” said he. “You must be in error, Marrowfat.”
“But my dear sir——”
“But my dear sir, the thing’s as plain as a pikestaff. We register all our letters of course; now there is no letter mentioned here, so we couldn’t have received one. Don’t you see!”
“Perhaps it might have escaped you,” I hesitated again.
He smiled a patronising smile. “My dear Mr. Marrowfat, our system of registration is perfect, simply perfect; it couldn’t have escaped us.”
Just then, the door was burst open, and there entered another gentleman with a letter in his hand.
“Hullo!” said Mr. Jenks quite unabashed. “Here it is! Egad that’s strange. Thanks my dear Carnaby, thanks. Now, sir,” (to me severely, as if I had been in fault) “perhaps you can explain your business.”
A bright idea struck me! I would inquire as to the probable result of my inquiries.
“That letter, sir, fully explains my business. May I ask you what will become of it?”
“Become of it! It is the property of the office, sir.”
“But what will be done with it.”
“It will go through the usual official course, I presume,” said Mr. Jenks.
“And what is that, may I ask.”
“Oh! Said the young man, waving the letter as he spoke, Mr. White will hand it to Mr. Paget, who will minute it, and send it on to Mr. Fortescue. He will pass it through his department, and then it will, in the usual official course, reach Mr. Secretary Landwith; he will send it to the Commissioners.”
“Oh! And what then!”
“Well, the Commissioners will have it read and entered in their minutes, and, then, unless they choose to send it to the Privy Council, they will return it to us in the usual course.”
“From Mr. Secretary Landwith to Mr. Fortescue from Mr. Fortescue to Mr. Paget, from Mr. Paget to Mr. White, from Mr. White to me!”
“And what would you do with it?”
“I should hand it to the Chief,” said Mr. Jenks.
“And what would become of it then?”
Mr. Jenks admired his boot, gloomily, and said at last:—
“’Pon my life, Marrowfat, I don’t know. The Chief is rather absent, and—between ourselves—when once a document gets into his hands, ’gad, there’s no telling what he may do with it.”
“Sir,” said I in a rage! “I wish you good-morning.”
“Good-morning, my dear Marrowfat,” said Mr. Jenks, with perfect affability, “anything we can do for you, you know, d’ighted I’m sure.”
I did not pause to ask what would become of my letter in the alternative of the Commission choosing to hand it to the Privy Council, but left the office. Outside were some thirty or forty of the cloud of witnesses. “Ha! Ha!” they laughed, “here is Mr. Tallowfat, we’ve been all over London looking for it.”
“Gentlemen,” said I, “it may be in the moon for all I know of it. If I don’t go home and go to bed, I shall be a subject for Bedlam.”
I waited in London ten months, and, hearing nothing of the Commission, returned to Melbourne. King Billy had cut the Gordian Knot by dying, and as, according to the custom of his race, he was buried dressed; he took my fifty-third and last pair of breeches with him to his long home.
The Commission is still sitting, I suppose, for we hear the most flourishing accounts from the Agent-General, of the wonderful progress they are making with the collection “of the vast mass of interesting evidence, which I shall have the honour to transmit to you in the usual official course.”
“But if ever ‘I write to the Department’ again I’m——”