September 27, 2007

27 September 1807, Sunday, by Elizabeth Macarthur

All the Colony is in uproar today - honestly, the behaviour of some of the Corps is scandalous and both Mr. Macarthur and I blame the officers. There is one young private - Faithfull is his name - whom John has had quite a lot to do with over the years. He is rather simple and will never rise above being a private soldier, and unfortunately he is not the sort of whom one says "they are doing their best". The opposite, rather.
The Church at Sydney remains unfinished and in the abscence of Mr. Marsden it may remain so, as Mr. Fulton lacks the wherewithal to marshall help, other than on the Governor's orders, and frankly there are so few convicts still under sentence available to help, so Church is held in the Orphan's School in Bridge Street, or at the Granary, depending on the numbers expected to attend. Of course, we held our ball during the week so Mr. Macarthur, Hannibal, the girls and I have remained in Sydney and attended Church this morning at the Granary, a very commodious if unpleasant building, and it was made the more unpleasant by the actions of the Corps.
Hannibal and John joined the Governor for breakfast, while Mrs. Putland entertained Elizabeth, Mary and I on the lawns for an al-fresco, and after that we Macarthur's walked across town to Church, while the Governor and Mrs. Putland took their coach. We were already inside when they arrived, but we distinctly heard some form of rucus as the Governor and Mrs. Putland made their way into Church. What happened, I have since discovered, is that Private Faithfull, who has been mooning over Mrs. Putland from afar, became agitated when he saw her dressed in the latest London fashion, of a diaphanous dress over pantaloons. The dress is a marvel to behold, of a sky blue of fine muslin, fully fitted in the body and billowing below - Mrs. Putland told me there are eleven yards of muslin in the skirt. Certainly on first seeing this fashion one may be somewhat taken aback, but that is no affair for a soldier.
One of Faithfull's colleagues, seeing his agitation, stuck a feather in Faithfull's cap, which further agitated the man, and in a moment the entire platoon was playing the fool, guffawing at Faithfull and, consequently, at Mrs. Putland. When Mary heard their guffaws, she turned to them and something happened: something that none of us really saw, but the next moment she had collapsed to the floor, and her father was by her side, bellowing for air and quite beside himself. He had seen the tom-foolery and was extremely upset, but his first concern was for his daughter, as was mine. In a moment we had Mary taken outside, the carriage was called, and she and I, along with the girls, hurried back to Government House.
Meanwhile at the Church, assured that Mrs. Putland had suffered a fainting spell after the foolish behaviour of members of the Corps, the Governor had called their Lieutenant to explain. Some stupid tale was put forth about the feather, and Governor Bligh, enormously angry, was restrained by Mr. Macarthur from striking the adjutant. What a catastrophe!
Mrs. Putland recovered once in the carriage, but she is also tremendously upset - to think that the Governor is not free to attend Church, goes against the natural order. In a moment the triumphs of the week are overturned and we move back to the first square, with civil society an unreachable goal perhaps.

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