Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/432

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339
THE CAPTIVITY

Cumberland previously even to seeing me, if a specious pretext were wanting for it," and reminded Decaen that "on the first evening of my arrival … you told me impetuously that I was imposing on you." He continued, in a strain that was bold and not conciliatory: "I cannot think that an officer of your rank and judgment to act either so ungentlemanlike or so unguardedly as to make such a declaration without proof; unless his reason had been blinded by passion, or a previous determination that it should be so, nolens volens. In your orders of the 21st last it is indeed said that the Captain-General has acquired the conviction that I am the person I pretend to be, and the same for whom a passport was obtained by the English Government from the First Consul. It follows then, as I am willing to explain it, that I am not and was not an imposter. This plea was given up when a more plausible one was thought to be found; but I cannot compliment your Excellency upon this alteration in your position, for the first, although false, is the more tenable post of the two."

Decaen's reply was stiff and stern. He attributed "the unreserved tone" of Flinders to "the ill humour produced by your present situation," and concluded: "This letter, overstepping all the bounds of civility, obliges me to tell you, until the general opinion judges of your faults or of mine, to cease all correspondence tending to demonstrate the justice of your cause, since you know so little how to preserve the rules of decorum."

Flinders in consequence of this snub forebore to make further appeals for consideration; but three days later he preferred a series of requests, one of which related to the treatment of his crew: