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4-316 (Raw)

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addressee author,male,Warung, Price*,40
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Warung, 1960
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"Mr. Pounce, Writer and Forger"
All the trouble arose through Copper-plate Josephs' little joke, and it is accordingly necessary to say a few words about copperplate Josephs himself.
That inimitable artist in bank-note engraving, having, in the judgement of the Governor and directors of the Bank of England, reached so eminent a degree of proficiency in his profession as to render it (in the interests of their dividends) very desirable that he should be expatriated, had been a resident of Old Sydney for a year or two. His fame had preceded him, and as, from the circumstances attending his conviction, he was to be freed the moment he set foot upon the shores of the new Britannia of the Southern World, it cannot be said that the intimation of his arrival had imparted much pleasure to Mr. D'Arcy Wentworth, President of the Bank of New South Wales, and the other magnates of banking circles.
"Have you heard, Mackaness," asked the gentlemanly veteran, "that that rascally bank-note forger Josephs is being sent out?"
"Yes, Mr. Wentworth; my last Times said that he had been respited as a preliminary to transporting him. There seems to be something peculiar about his conviction. There was no direct evidence against him."
"That's my own impression!" replied the ex-Police Magistrate, ex-Principal Surgeon, and ex-twenty other functions, and present Bank President. "Seems to me they've only got moral evidence against him, but have succeeded in frightening him so that he'll come out for good. P'r'aps they'll give him a grant and his freedom. If they do, we'll have to watch him." [42]
"Certainly!" said Solicitor Mackaness; "he'll have to be watched in any case."
Consequently, when the celebrated note-forger having been "morally" convicted on purchased evidence - in those days perjurers stood for hire at per hour within the precincts of the Old Bailey - condemned to death, respited, and "sent out", was duly dropped by the transport ship Hercules into an armed guard-boat which palpitated gently on the "lucid bosom" of Sydney Cove, he was the recipient of much anxious care.
"Josephs, Henry, life, ship's No. 23 - To Governor at once," cried the Principal Superintendent's clerk. And into General Ralph Darling's august presence went the specially honoured Josephs. With the Governor were Sheriff Macquoid and Banker Wentworth.
"Josephs," said his Excellency, "his Lordship, the Secretary of State for Colonial affairs, has been pleased to direct me to extend you his Most Gracious Majesty's clemency, on conditions. On conditions, Josephs"
Josephs, sulky and glum, simply ducked his head. He wasn't going to be thankful for nothing, wasn't Convict Josephs.
"These are that, on your undertaking never to follow your trade, you are to be granted two hundred acres of land and your temporary freedom."
Josephs was not surprised, he had been told as much "at home". He was not even grateful.
"Do you promise, my man?" questioned his precise and prim Excellency.
"S'pose I must, sir. Needs must when the devil drives."
The assembled group exchanged mutual glances of surprise and horror. That the transport should associate magnanimous Sir Ralph with that Other Excellent Pro-Consul who should have been nameless to polite ears - Awful!!
"Sir!" Sir Ralph drew himself up to his uttermost quarter-inch. "Sir!"
"Meant no offence, your Honour - "
"Your Excellency," corrected Mr. D'Arcy Wentworth. Very obliging always was the veteran, and he was never above showing a courtesy to a convict. Even when he ordered a flogging, he was so suave and affable that, as often as not, he would elicit from the floggee a "Thank you, sir!" To which the good old man would respond, "You're quite welcome, my man!"
"No offence, your Excellency. Only I've been 'ardly treated, sir" [43]
"On shipboard?"
"No, your Excellency: But by the Court at 'ome, sir - "
"Oh, I can't hear anything as to that. Every transport says the same thing. Doesn't he, Mr. Macquoid?"
"Never knew one yet who didn't say he was innocent, your Excellency!" answered the Sheriff.
"But I am innocent! They've sent me out on suspicion!" persisted the engraver.
Here let us digress to remark that this was a fact, and the dignitaries present all knew it. The Bank would have hanged Josephs if it could for the forgery of certain hundred-pound notes, and only the circumstance that the Threadneedle Street authorities had nothing to go upon except a microscopic dot in the concave of the "L", which mark was supposed to be the sign by which Josephs, proud, like all good workmen, of his work, sought to identify his peculiar achievements, had prevented the realisation of their amiable wish. But, though the Bank could not hang him, it had influence enough to transport him, His Majesty's Attorney-General doubtless bringing up his mind to the commission of so slight an illegality by the consideration that in sending Josephs to the New World he was doing Josephs a kindly service. "Josephs," he probably thought, "will be sure to be hanged sooner or later if he is freed here, while if he goes out there he can't fall into temptation, as there are no Banks there!" In fact, we might safely go farther and assert the Right Honourable Attorney-General said as much, for such remarks were constantly made at the time, and later, by British officialdom. There were few officers of State, fewer still of the magistracy, but believed they were doing the best for a man in transporting him. And, as to the opinion as to the banking facilities enjoyed at Botany Bay, why, we find that when Lord Glenelg, at a much later time, was appending his signature to a charter for an Australian Bank, he expressed his hope that "the barbaric system of barter would thereupon cease in the colony". Which remark, emanating from a Secretary for the Colonies, was profoundly suggestive of the wisdom with which Britain has governed her dependencies. Governor and distinguished Gaoler Hampton, of Western Australia and Van Demonian fame, used to express his notion of Colonial Secretaries' intelligence by remarking that, had they been convict-cooks, they could not have stolen the men's rations without detection. In other words, they were imbeciles. [44]
This is, we say, a digression. And having ended it, we proceed to state that Copper-plate Josephs accepted freedom, two hundred acres on the Hawkesbury, and the condition that, unless specially ordered by certain prominent officials, he was never to pursue his profession.
The sapient Authorities did not ask how Copper-plate Josephs was to live. An artist who had spent thirty years over the sandbag with burin, and graver, and burnisher was scarcely likely to make a success as a farmer; but, obviously, it was no concern of the Powers to ascertain how Convict Josephs proposed, his tools of trade being withdrawn, to keep body and soul together. And, to tell the truth, Convict Josephs did not trouble about himself sufficiently to put the question to the Authorities. Had he not made, en voyage, perfect arrangements for the transmission of certain "flash 'uns" to the counting-houses of the village by the Thames? Ah if the old walls of the "Help me through the World" Inn, in Fitzgerald Street, Windsor, had chosen to speak, they could have "put away" very nicely, not merely Mr. Copper-plate Josephs, but a certain young transport-ship surgeon who made numerous trips to and from the dear old land. But then, you see, the old bricks did not vocalise their reminiscences, and consequently both Josephs and his friend and "worker-off", the doctor, lived long and prosperously, and died piously with their boots off.
The sapient Authorities did not bother their heads as to the engraver's livelihood. They did no more than enter into an agreement, through Mr. Mackaness, with venerable Mr. Pounce, that he should watch over Mr. Josephs with a tender solicitude.
"It's a sound rule, Mr. Wentworth," advised Mr. Mackaness, "to set a thief to catch a thief. Put Pounce, the forger, to watch Josephs, the forger, and if either goes wrong the other'll split. They'll be rivals in a week." Upon this advice the Powers acted.
It did not take a week to generate a first-class, though disguised , enmity between the brothers in "advanced penmanship'', as Mr. Timothy Pounce, in his moments of conviviality, was wont to term the noble art and mystery of forgery. For, though Mr. Pounce's speciality was the manipulation of documents, and Mr. Josephs' forte was "bank notes from the plate", it is, perhaps, superfluous to say that both gentlemen were possessed of so intelligent and fertile an ingenuity that if the preparation of a will, a land-grant, or a pardon did not insuperable obstacles to Mr. Josephs' talents, neither was Mr. Pounce ignorant of the process of manufacturing "flash 'uns". [45] And Mr. Pounce felt deeply aggrieved that just as he had succeeded in working up a really lucrative connection among Civil Servants and 'Mancipists who wanted the signatures imitated of Governors and Members of Council, and among transports who wished tickets-of-leave and pardons that would pass muster a few years before they would be gazetted in due course, Mr. Josephs should be imported to interfere with his monopoly.
Copper-plate Josephs, on receiving an interim certificate of freedom, had installed himself at Johnny Blackman's "Keep within Compass" Hotel, in George Street, and thither Mr. Pounce, instructed by Mr. John Mackaness, wended his way one afternoon.
Of tall and bulky form, Mr. Pounce was benign and venerable in aspect, and it was with a dignified courtliness which would have reflected upon an English Duke or a colonial Muster-master that he handed his card to the landlord.
"Take that, John, please," he ordered, "to - h'm - newly-freed transport Josephs. I believe he has put up here. And, John, as a friend, you know, I would advise you to be more careful as to what characters you accommodate. Licensing-day is coming close, and the assessors are inclined to be severe."
Johnny, as he delivered his card, felt greatly impressed with this exhortation. He was an old friend of Pounce's, having come out in the same vessel with him. Pounce was a "lifer", while Johnny was only a seven-year man, and therefore the publican looked up to the "penman" and revered him. In the curious topsy-turvy society which the Blessed Spirit of British Colonisation built up in Old Sydney, nothing was more amusing than the deference which "short-termers" paid to long-sentence men. A twenty-year man was to the seven- and ten-year fellows an object of respect; a "lifer" was elevated on a pedestal of reverence; while it is by no means certain that they would not have bowed the knee to a worthy whose "drop"-rope had been cut after he had done the preliminary swing or two, but before life was extinct.
"Gentleman to see you!" said the landlord to Josephs brusquely. Blackman's tones were not so civil as they had been earlier in the day, and Mr. josephs was not slow to perceive the difference. Mr. Blackman had been influenced by Pounce's hint. And the new chum knew it, for Mr. Pounce's words had been distinctly audible to the engraver through the partition which separated the bar from the bar-parlour. [46] He took the card from Blackman.
"Oh, Mr. Pounce, Writing Clerk. You don't call 'im a gentleman, d'ye, landlord? Why, that's old Pounce, I'll swear, who was lagged for doing some 'dummy old ooman's tickets!' I'm a gentleman, indeed. Why, I'm surprised ye allow such characters into your bar, landlord, 'specially as licensing-day is so close, and the assessors are so severe. For, d'ye know, landlord, Pounce was not the sort o' man to be content with forging old ooman's tickets, but to save paying three and threepence he forged the name of his wash'woman's daughter to his wash'woman's bill. That's your Mr. Pounce, landlord. Now show the gentleman in!" With such an accent upon the "gentleman"!
Inasmuch as Mr. Pounce was blessed with the best of good hearings, it will be easily believed that there was no love lost between the two experts from the first moment of their acquaintance.
"Mr. Josephs?" queried the venerable, blue-coated, brass-buttoned, and spotless-linened Pounce, bowing.
Mr. Josephs arose, nodded, and desired to be informed what he could do for his visitor.
Mr. Pounce did not at first say, was effusive in his welcome to Mr. Josephs, sorry for his "misfortune" - "but still, y' know, Mr. Josephs, your personal loss is our young country's gain." - was generous in ordering all a full quart of ruin, "to, ah, cement our 'quaintance, sir."
"Don't drink rum!" said Mr. Josephs, not to be won over by blandishments. "Then a glass of port - a bottle of port, John - must have something for the good of the house, y'know, Mr. Josephs."
"Don't drink port, and as for the good of the house, as I pay my bills, Pounce, and as I don't forge the landlord's name to a receipt, if he ain't satisfied with my custom I can go elsewhere."
"You misunderstand me, Mr. Josephs," rejoined Pounce, outwardly unabashed, but inwardly smarting, "really - you do."
"Can't say I'm sorry if I do. But you ain't said what ye want."
Mr. Pounce motioned Host Blackman to leave the room, and then, drawing his chair nearer to the spot where the other rogue was standing, whispered: "In confidence, my dear sir, I came to propose a bit of business - something that might be mutually profitable." [47]
"What business? - what d'ye mean?"
"'Ush, my dear sir! Mum's the word." And Mr. Pounce lowered his low voice two tones. "Flash 'uns. You print, I'll work off."
In a moment all the love of his old game and all the fascination of a beautiful art, awoke within Copper-plate Josephs. With the one and the other there waked too, however, a doubt of Mr. Pounce. Would that unadulterated scoundrel prove faithful? Might the offer not be a trap to put him away? A man who would forge to evade payment of three and threepence to a poor woman would surely be capable of anything. No, he wouldn't trust Mr. Pounce, and without troubling to wrap up his resolve in smooth-sounding words, he communicated it to his visitor.
"Not trust me!" expostulated that offended person. "Not trust me after I have put my neck into your hands! Why, you could hang me for what I've said to you already!"
"Fudge! I ain't been a fortnight here without learning you're hand and glove with the gentlemen of the staff. They say you do all Gov'ment's dirty work, and that you'll fix anything from a death-warrant to - to - a wash'woman's bill. Shouldn't be surprised if you've only come here now to trap me. That's my 'pinion of you, Mr. Pounce - Writing Clerk."
And Mr. Pounce, bridling in the consciousness of his insulted virtue and in the knowledge that there rested in his pocket an indemnity signed by a Very High Personage indeed "for having made a felonious proposal to one Henry Josephs", was compelled to go to Mr. Mackaness and inform him that Josephs really meant to walk in the paths of rectitude henceforth.
"He wouldn't bite, Mr. Mackaness," he reported, as he returned the indemnity to the solicitor (we have seen two or three such documents). "And for the time, at least, he means to go square. But I'll drop in on him occasionally, sir; and if there's anything wrong, he won't get the better of me. No, sir!"
It was in this way that the fears of the Old Sydney bankers, as to possible damaging effects to the genuineness of their note issues accruing from Copper-plate Josephs' residence in His Gracious Majesty's dependency of New South Wales, were allayed. If there is anything in the method that savours of a dubious morality, do not, we pray you, blame the colonists of Old Sydney. [48] Blame, instead, the System, and the lords and gentlemen who, sitting in the snug parlour of No. 14, Downing Street, set in motion the forces which created it.
Mr. Pounce was true to his word. Again and again he called on Mr. Josephs, and was ever polite, albeit Josephs was ever the reverse.
It was largely due to Pounce's interest with Mr. Macquoid that "Copper-plate" was permitted to establish himself in a small office in Jamieson Street, and work under the strictest police supervision for the printers, besides officiating as "Card and Book-plate Engraver to the Gentry". Pounce wisely pointed out that, once Josephs was allowed to handle his tools, it was only a question of time for him to take to the "flash" business again, and the suggestion commended itself to the Principal Superintendent's and the Sheriff's judgments. Both these high functionaries were shareholders in the local banks, and they were, therefore, particularly solicitous to maintain uncontaminated the purity of the note issues. When an official's public ditty travels parallel to his private interests, it is singular how indefatigable and ingenious he will prove in administration. It was about this time that a Legal Great Man of Van Demonia procured the reprieve of another bank-note forger on the condition that the criminal would never forge documents prejudicial to the Old Bank. He would make no stipulation as to other concerns, but as to the Old Bank - never! The Legal Great Man was a heavy stockholder in the Old Bank. The Principal Superintendent and the Sheriff applied a similar principle to "Copper-plate". As he was not yet colonially condemned, they could not well bargain with him that he should leave their bank's interests alone whatever other interests he attacked. But they could throw a temptation or two in his way, which would have an equal potency. Once he fingered his gravers, Josephs, looking at the official experience of like artists, would not be long before he tripped and stumbled, and then - hey ho for the George Street scaffold, and in the one instant the banks would "drop" Convict Josephs and all fears of a spurious note-circulation.
Pounce visited Josephs freely and frequently. He put little jobs in his way, and trusted to the future to make up for the temporary loss - the future when Josephs having been hanged, he, Pounce, would once more enjoy a monopoly. [49] Truth to say, he was very desirous Josephs should lose no time in getting hanged, or at least transported to Norfolk Island. Pounce's schedule of charges was as follows: - 
1. For Absolute Pardon, with Gazette notice, £30.
2. For Absolute Pardon, without Gazette notice, £20.
3. For Conditional Pardon, with Gazette notice, £25.
4. For Conditional Pardon, without Gazette notice, £15.
5. Ticket-of-Leave, new form complete, with identity exact, and Gazette notice, £15.
6. Ticket-of-Leave, without Gazette notice, £10.
7. Ticket-of-leave, dead or absconded prisoner's form altered as far as possible, £7 7S.
8. Pass to visit Country,. 3 or 6 months, or Country to visit Town, £s 3S.
g. English Marriage Certificate, £2 2s.
10. English Certificate of Death, £2 2S.
11. English Letters from Home Friends, £2 2S.
12. Pass from V.D.L., £2 2S.
13. Letter from V.D.L., £1 1S.
But Copper-plate Josephs' fees were, in every case, 25 per cent. less than Pounce's scale, and the new man's policy of cutting prices had seriously affected the old-established business.
Of course, Josephs was not up in the minutae of traffic in forged freedoms and so forth. It took years of experience and careful study of men and papers to concoct a document that would invariably pass muster - using the term in its most literal sense - as it was the Muster-master's duty to examine every convict's "personal papers". And Josephs had not the tact and bonhomie to enlist the alliance of the necessary officers of the Regulation Departments, or the knowledge of the routine obligatory if he would avert from the transport who had paid him his fee the dreadful consequences of presenting false papers for examination. Still, the average transport who wished to abscond up-country or to Van Demonia with "regular" papers would look at the difference in the rates. He perhaps could not understand that it would be the wiser course to pay Pounce £30 for a Free Pardon, properly sealed and signed, and not only sealed and signed, but registered and GAZETTED as well - how this sort of thing was done we shall tell you some other day - than to fee Josephs in the sum of £22 10s. for a similar document in which there was some defect. [50] The average transport, in a word, could not always estimate the superior quality of Forger Pounce's work, and it was no wonder, therefore, that Forger Pounce's in-come was decreasing, that he was sincerely anxious that his rival in the art of penmanship should be speedily hanged or otherwise put out of the way, or that, to this admirable end, he laboured assiduously, if somewhat secretly.
But Providence was not so friendly to Mr. Pounce, though he went to church twice every Sunday, and Josephs had 'verted to Catholicism so that he might go only once. Providence was, indeed, distinctly unfriendly to the former, inasmuch as Forger Pounce did not succeed in deluding "Copper-plate" into any one of the numerous traps which he laid for that naughty man, but himself tumbled head first into the solitary pitfall which Forger Josephs took the trouble to prepare for his venerable rival. 'Which, after all, wasn't so much a pitfall as a little joke.'
Mr. Timothy Pounce was of refined instincts, and very nasty in his personal appointments. He delighted in little knick-knacks, such as tassels to his cane and charms to his watch-guard. His penknife - most trustworthy ally in matters of erasure! - bore a tiny silver tablet, on which his name was inscribed. And, stepping into David Maziere's shop in George Street one day, and observing in a counter-box a charming little card-case with just such another tablet thereon, the idea occurred to him that the little case would no only prove a convenient accessory to his comfort, but would furnish him with another excuse for visiting Mr. Copper-plate Josephs. The two silver dollars necessary to transfer the case from the counter to his pocket were forthwith handed over - and Mr. Pounce proceeded to Jamieson Street.
"Ah! good morning, Mr. Josephs. Delighted to see you looking so well. And how's business, and could you manage without inconvenience during the next day or two just to engrave my name on this card-case?"
"Sixpence a letter," grunted Josephs, otherwise unresponsive to his patron's seductive address.
"H'm, isn't that rather high? Especially as I'm - he! he! - in the trade?"[51]
"My terms! you ain't in the trade!"
"Ah, well, if you must, you must. 'Timothy Pounce', in Old English, please, Mr. Josephs; and when can I get it?"
"Day after to-morrow. Cash, six and six, before delivery."
"I don't think you need be anxious as to your money, Mr. Josephs. It's not my fault we have not done much more business together. There's a little matter now I'd like to mention - "
"Too busy to talk. Talk next time."
And Mr. Pounce left the shop in as dignified a manner as was possible. Bless us, how he did swear, though, as he crossed the vacant ground by St. Phillip's.
He would, perchance, have sworn a little louder and longer if he could have had any notion of the sequel.
Naturally, as soon as he had purchased his new card-case, he had transferred to it his bits of pasteboard. Each of these, in his own beautiful and perfect writing, was thus inscribed: - Never thinking, in leaving the case with Josephs, he had also left the cards. Even the devil is not always wide-awake.
Opening the case an hour or two later, as a preliminary to executing his rival's commission, "Copper-plate" observed the cards, drew one out, looked at it, and - smiled. Gruff in manner and short in temper as Mr. Josephs was, somewhere or other in his system there lurked an atom of humour which prompted him, though he was really busy (having a very important job in hand for Mrs. Chester, of Chesterdale), to waste his afternoon in engraving a copperplate in this fashion: - 
Timothy Pounce, Writer and Forger, Macquarie Street. Documents of all kinds forged and uttered. Pardons a speciality. [52]
When he had printed off twenty cards he mixed them with Pounce's pen-written ones. A superficial glance failed to distinguish the one description from the other - the engraved from the manuscript. A close one, of course, discovered the difference in the wording; but as to the words which were to be found on both cards, they were identical to a segment of a curve, and to the position of an i-dot. And, mixed just as they were, but with a couple of Mr. Pounce's own scripts On the top, the humorous Josephs filled the card-case with the lot.
Never since he had boarded with her had Mrs. Bevan - widow of the poor wretch Bevan, who was ruthlessly shot as an absconder by soldiers in February, 1829, while engaged in honourable labour - seen Copper-plate Josephs so genial as he was that evening.
"You are merry, sir," she ventured to say.
"Yes, Mrs. Bevan, I'm rather in good spirits to-night. A rather funny thing happened to-day."
"May I not hear it, sit-?'' quoth the curious dame.
"Well, well, not just at present, ma'am. Some day p'r'aps I'll tell you."
He never did, though. Nor did he tell the whole story when ten days later he was interrogated in the Supreme Court when Timothy Pounce was on trial for his life for forgery of a Conditional Pardon - a little ceremony which poor Pounce was compelled to undergo as a consequence of having handed to Captain Charles Sturt, 39th Regiment, without looking at it, a card from his new case.
What man or woman is there who, as he or she hands a servant or a stranger a card from his or her own case, invariably looks at it?
Mr. Pounce did not look at the pasteboard, which, bowing the while in the grand manner, he handed Captain Sturt, as he was tendering his assistance in copying for the press the Captain's journals of his expedition into the Interior.
And he had no chance of seeing it again till he was arraigned on the capital charge.
How he was arraigned, and why, being found guilty, he was not hanged, will form a tale for another time.