From America? said I.
Farther than that, said the man.
Have you any objection to tell me? said I.
From New South Wales, said the man, looking me full in the face.
Dear me, said I.
Why do you say "Dear me"? said the man.
It is a very long way off, said I.
Was that your reason for saying so? said the man.
Not exactly, said I.
No, said the man, with something of a bitter smile; it was something else that made you say so; you were thinking of the convicts.
Well, said I, what then - you are no convict.
How do you know?
You do not look like one.
Thank you, master, said the man cheerfully; and, to a certain extent, you are right - bygones are bygones - I am no longer what I was, nor ever will be again; the truth, however, is the truth - a convict I have been - a convict at Sydney Cove.
And you have served out the period for which you were sentenced, and are now returned?
As to serving out my sentence, replied the man, I cant say that I did; I was sentenced for fourteen years, and I was in Sydney Cove little more than half that time. The truth is that I did the Government a service. There was a conspiracy amongst some of the convicts to murder and destroy - I overheard and informed the Government; mind one thing, however, I was not concerned in it; those who got it up were no comrades of mine, but a bloody gang of villains. Well, the Government, in consideration of the service I had done them, remitted the remainder of my sentence; and some kind gentlemen interested themselves about me, gave me good books and good advice, and, being satisfied with my conduct, procured me employ in an exploring expedition, by which I earned money. In fact, the being sent to Sydney was the best thing that ever happened to me in all my life.
And you have now returned to your native country. Longing to see home brought you from New South Wales.
There you are mistaken, said the man. Wish to see England again would never have brought me so far; for, to tell you the truth, master, England was a hard mother to me, as she has proved to many. No, a wish to see another kind of mother - a poor old woman, whose son I am - has brought me back.
You have a mother, then? said I. Does she reside in London?
She used to live in London, said the man; but I am afraid she is long since dead.
How did she support herself? said I.
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