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The Master and His Man by John Lang


I had occasion, one day, to attend the police-office in Sydney. One of my convict servants, a farrier, had purposely "pricked" and lamed a favourite horse of mine; and I was determined to have him flogged. The reader may naturally ask, how did I know the man had purposely pricked the animal? Because he had been heard to say that the next time the horse required to be shod, I wouldn't be able to ride him for some weeks to come. I might, by speaking to the magistrate, have had the culprit put upon the treadmill for a month, or placed in a road-gang, to work in irons, for three, six, nine, or twelve months, or flogged to the extent of one hundred lashes, twenty-five being the minimum. (By the way, there were slang terms applied to these doses of the lash: twenty-five was called a "tester"; fifty, a "bob"; seventy-five, a "bull"; and a hundred a "canary.") My chief reason for having the farrier flogged was, that I should not long be deprived of his services, for I had made up my mind to suggest to the magistrate that he should only receive fifty; and as he was a strong, stout man, that number could not do him much harm, while it would suffice to operate upon him as a punishment. Fifty lashes, administered by the hand of a landsman, who was a convict himself, were not equal to nine administered by the strong arm of a boatswain, who can cut "crossways." Had Captain G., whom Marryat has immortalized, seen a convict flogged at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney, he might have been justified in exclaiming to the operator, "One would think you were brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, instead of punishing a scoundrel, with a hide as thick as a buffalo's! 'One!' Do you call that one? It is not a quarter of one! You are only fit to be a fly-flapper at a pork-shop! You Molly Mop! is that the way you handle a cat? Where's the boatswain?"

I was walking up and down the court-yard, waiting for the case to be called on, when I was approached and saluted by that prince of Australian thief-takers, Mr George Flower, who figures so conspicuously in "Assigned to his Wife".

"It is a beautiful day, sir," he remarked.

"Very," I replied.

"And a pretty world it is, sir."

"Yes. But what leads you to make the remark at this moment?"

"Do you see those two men standing in the doorway of the office, talking?"


The two men to whom Flower called my attention were habited in fustian trousers, fustian waistcoats, fustian shooting-coats, and black neckties. On their heads were common straw hats; on their feet high-low shoes. Had I been asked to guess their occupation, I should have said that they were constables. One of these men was nearly six feet high; the other not more than five feet four.

"They are 'Master and Man'," resumed Flower. "The short un is the master--the long un is the man. The short un is a lord--the eldest son of an English earl. The long un is--heaven knows who. He was lagged under the name of Adolphus Frederick Jones. But he is a blood, and there's no mistake about it, sir!"

Here the two men of whom Flower was speaking approached us, and the "short un" (as Flower called him) made me a very graceful bow, and said "Forgive me, if I am interrupting you; but I am anxious to speak to Mr Flower about a pencil-case which I have lost. It is of no great value intrinsically; but to me it is very precious."

I signified by a gesture that Mr Flower was at his entire disposal.

The taller person also saluted me by raising his hat, and his bearing at once satisfied me that he was a man of good birth. I returned his salute; but I evinced no desire to enter into conversation with him; on the contrary, I sauntered away, for it mattered not what might have been his rank or former position in society, since he was then a convict, undergoing the punishment of transportation for some criminal offence; in short, a convicted felon.

Ere long my case was called on. I hastened into the office, and deposed on oath, as follows:--"The prisoner, my assigned servant, farrier by trade, purposely lamed one of my horses while shoeing him."

"You are satisfied he did it on purpose?" the magistrate asked me.

"Perfectly," I replied.

"What have you to say to the charge?" the magistrate asked the prisoner.

"Didn't do it on purpose, your worship."

"It is enough that you lamed the horse."

Here I made my suggestion as to what the punishment should be, and it was forthwith awarded; the magistrate informing the prisoner that he was fortunate in having so lenient a master. The case did not occupy five minutes. Such cases were always speedily settled.

I have mentioned in a former paper that in "the good old times" (as they were called), every master, who was a magistrate, might hold a court and punish his own convict servants. Such, however, was not the case at the time to which this narrative refers. General Rourke then ruled the colony, and the privilege above alluded to having been grossly abused, his excellency ordered that no magistrate should have any voice in the punishment of his servants, beyond making a suggestion as to the mode of punishment, and that all offenders were to be tried in police-courts, before stipendiary magistrates.

After leaving the court, I mounted my horse and was riding towards my home, some seven miles distant from Sydney, on the Parramatta road, when I was overtaken by Mr Flower, who, mounted on his famous galloway, Sheriff, was proceeding to a place called Prospect, to effect, if possible, the capture of three notorious bushrangers. He pulled up, and as we jogged along the road together, he gave me some further information touching "The Master and his Man." In short, Flower afforded me their history, so far as it related to their appearance in the colony of New South Wales. It was thus he ran on:--

"As I have already told you, sir, the short un is a lord--that we know. Who the long un is nobody knows, as he was lagged under a false name. Some say that he is the son of a lord; but that's all guess-work. That he was born a gentleman, we don't want a ghost to come and tell us."

"Certainly not," I conceded.

"How the long un came to be lagged was this. Two or three years ago, when they were at college, they went to Greenwich, or Gravesend, I forgot which, and they hired a trap to take 'em to London. When they got to London, where they spent all the ready money they had, and both being very fresh, blest if long un does not go and sell the trap to a livery-stable keeper, who directly afterwards found out who was the real owner of the trap. Long un was followed, and collared, and given in charge. A clearer case there couldn't be, and as drunkenness is not held as an excuse for felony, he got his sevenpenn'orth, and was sent to the hulks, until such time as a ship was ready to bring out a batch. He was in the hulks for six months. Meantime the short un takes a passage to Sydney, and rents a small cottage in Elizabeth Street, where he makes himself as comfortable as he can, under the circumstances. He went to Gov'ment House--he did then, that is to say--he was hand-in-glove with all the big-wigs, and when the ship arrives with the long un on board, he applies for him by name, and gets him assigned to him as his servant."

"But," I observed, "the shorter man of the two, whom I now remember having seen before, is not known at Government House as a lord, but as Mr Geary."

"That is the name he goes by, sir. But at Government House they know who he really is. He told Sir Richard and the Colonial Secretary that he had only come out to see the colony, and was here incog., as he did not wish to be mi-lorded."

"How do you know this?"

"Ah, sir," replied Flower, with the air, and using almost the very words of Fouché, in addressing Napoleon, "if I were to divulge the sources of my information, I should not be the great man that I am. You lose your property, sir; I find it. In some cases the culprit is punished; in others not. It all depends on my judgement and discretion. What can it signify to you so long as what is Caesar's is rendered unto Caesar? My lord (or Mr Geary, if you please) has lost his pencil-case. He has told me where he has been, and has answered all the questions I put to him; and on this day week, if not before, he will have it restored to him, or my name is not George Flower."

"And how do these persons" (I scarcely know why I did not say "gentlemen") "amuse themselves?" I inquired.

"In various ways, sir," responded Flower. "They saunter about the town, look into the police-office, or the Supreme Court, or the Royal Hotel, just to see what is going on; or they take a boat and have a sail; or go out near the Heads, shark-fishing; or wander over the Surrey Hills in search of quail or whatever is worth shooting. And sometimes they journey into the interior, and take a spell at kangaroo-hunting. And, about a month ago, they joined me in one of my bushranging expeditions, and right good pluck they showed. The little un faced his man, and shot him as dead as a nit, and I got the reward--fifty pounds--for his carcass."

"Do they take their meals together, at the same table?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," said Flower. "But in public they are not very familiar. I breakfasted with them once, and they called each other by their Christian names. They never walk together arm-in-arm in the streets, but just as you saw them today; the master always walks a yard or two in advance of his man. There's a poetry--isn't that what you call it?--about the whole business that I very much like."

"What do you mean by poetry, Flower? There is not much poetry in hiring a horse and chaise, and then feloniously disposing of it."

"No, sir. But there is in one man giving up all the comforts of his home, and coming out to this jail--for the colony is only a jail, after all--for the sake of his friend. Now, suppose he had left him to his fate? What would have been the consequence? He would have been assigned to some master who would have bullied him, perhaps. He would have taken to the bush and the road, or have done something for which he would have got two years in irons; and those two years wouldn't, as you know, sir, count in his lagging. He would have become desperate, and most likely have killed the overseer with a pick-axe; for your bloods are always the most violent men in bondage. Put a carrion crow under a crate, and give him offal and water, and he is contented. But try it on with an eagle that has been accustomed to soar amongst the clouds. God bless you! give him the slightest chance, and he will clap his sinewy claws into your ribs and pick your eyes out."

Indisposed to argue the question, I suffered Mr Flower to continue:--

"As it is, sir, when he has served his time, and gets his bit of parchment, they will go home, and their friends will be none the wiser; that is to say, they will know nothing about the horse-and-gig business, and the trip across the pond."

"How do you know?"

"As I told you before, sir, I never divulge the means of getting at the truth."

"But if their friends do not know of their place of abode, how do they live? Where do they get wherewith to satisfy all their wants?"

"They haven't got much. The little un brought a few hundreds out with him; but it is pretty well gone by this time. The long un sold his dressing--case the other he other day for £25--a thing that must have cost a hundred, if not more."

"Is the convicted person, think you, sensible of his degraded position?"

"He does not feel it--or does not seem to feel it--so much as the other. Between ourselves, sir, it was the little un who suggested the sale of the trap, which the long un executed. Morally, they were both in the same kettle, but not legally. However, that does not alter the poetry part of the business. That's what I like. It's a very common thing, as we all know, for a wife to follow her transported husband to this Bay, and get him assigned to her. Very few colonial secretaries can withstand the tears, and witness the grief of a woman. That's all very natural on the wife's part. And I can also understand a fond husband following a transported wife, and regaining her here. But it is very seldom that you find friendship going to such lengths as it has gone in this case."

"Perhaps not," said I. And here, insomuch as I was at the gate of my own grounds, I parted company with Mr Flower.

Some five or six months subsequent to the time of the conversation above detailed, I paid a visit to the Supreme Court to witness a very remarkable trial--remarkable chiefly on account of the character of the prisoner, who had been a commander in the Royal Navy, and who was the brother of a baronet, who was a member of the British Ministry.

This culprit was subsequently hanged for the murder of a poor woman. (See p.95.) He was now on his trial for forgery--the name of the gentleman with whom he took such an unwarrantable liberty being that of the chief-justice of the colony. It was a cheque for £10 that he forged. He must be known to the reader as George Ketchcalfe.

I had scarcely taken my seat on one of the benches close to the bar--the barrister's place--when Mr Geary, the "master," took a seat beside me. His "man" stood amongst the crowd--and a very dense crowd it was. The prisoner had been originally transported for stealing one of the chronometers belonging to the 18-gun brig that he commanded, and pawning it for a fifth of its value.

When the prisoner was placed in the dock, he made a low, respectful, dignified, and graceful bow to the bench, and then assumed a somewhat defiant attitude. He was a short, thick-set man, of about forty-two years of age; his face was not handsome by any means. He had deeply-set black eyes, a short nose, which was constantly moved by a nervous twitching, a long upper lip, fine teeth, a mouth expressive of ferocity and daring, and a very prominent chin and a short neck. The forehead was not lofty--but broad, and decidedly intellectual.

All eyes were now upon the prisoner, who pleaded, "Not guilty!" in a loud and confident tone of voice.

"How wonderfully like his brother!" exclaimed Mr Geary, addressing himself to me.

"Indeed!" I replied, for until that day I had never heard of, much less seen, the prisoner's brother.

"The very image of him!" said Mr Geary. "Ah, me! It is indeed a strange world."

I don't know exactly what possessed me, but I took it into my head to let off a commonplace remark, or platitude, on the occasion, and with the air of a preacher, I said, "It only shows us the necessity of keeping our passions in control."

Mr Geary said, "Yes," and smiled: so that it is to be questioned if my platitude and grave look had much substantial effect upon him.

The trial proceeded, and during its continuance we exchanged very many remarks. Mr Geary did not strike me as a man of any ability, nor was he a well-educated man. His manners and address were good; but I could see that he was one of those men who delight rather in the society of their inferiors than their equals, though, to the credit of Mr Geary be it said, he did not keep "low company" during his stay in Sydney. In short, after the arrival of his convicted friend, he did not keep any company at all. He went nowhere, except with his "servant," and his servant he could not take into society. His chief associate was Mr George Flower, to whom he was as partial as I was myself, and as were numbers of gentlemen.

The trial of Ketchcalfe ended in a verdict of guilty, and he was sentenced to be transported to Norfolk Island for the term of his natural life. Instead of appearing hurt at the sentence, the prisoner volunteered to the bystanders a piece of information. "Does your honour know," said he, addressing the judge, with much animation and sincerity combined: "Does your honour know that Norfolk Island is the first land that the sun lights up and shines upon when he rises? If you will consult a chart you will find that it is the furthermost soil eastward." From that day until Mr Geary took his departure from the colony with his friend, whose time had expired, whenever we met in the streets, or at a review, or upon a racecourse, we saluted each other, and when he happened to be alone, which was a rare occurrence, we exchanged a few civil sentences. During the last eighteen months of Mr Geary's stay in the colony he was overwhelmed by pecuniary difficulties, and for several months was a prisoner for debt in the common jail. For his liberation, eventually, he was indebted to his friend, Mr George Flower, who paid the whole of his debts in full, and "took him out in triumph," as Flower used to express it.

"How did you raise that £335?" I one day asked the thief-taker.

"Well, sir, I did it in this way," was the reply. "There was fifty pound reward for Carroty Joe, the bushranger, that I shot at Campbell Town, and brought in dead. There was fifty for his pal, that I captured, and brought in alive. There was five-and-twenty for a bolter from Captain Johnstone--a man that had been out two years. That was £125. The rest I borrowed from four Jews, receivers of stolen property, on these easy and quiet terms: my verbal promissory note, payable, with interest, at one thousand per cent per annum--the account to be settled on the great day of judgement, and the money to be forthcoming on the day after."

"And did they consent to those terms?"

"Consent, sir! Why there is not one of them that I could not transport to Norfolk Island for life, at any moment that I like."

A few weeks after, Mr Geary returned to England: he became an earl, and at this present moment enjoys the title and the estates of his ancestors. He repaid Flower to the full, and did not fail to repeat how grateful he felt to him for his "kindness rendered at a time of such dire difficulty and need."


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