Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/203

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Now Bass, as already related, had brought out to Sydney in the Venus a large quantity of unsaleable merchandise. He could not dispose of it under conditions of glut. He had hoped that the Governor would take the cargo into the Government store and let it be sold even at a 50 per cent. reduction. But King declined to permit that to be done. Here, then, was a singularly courageous man, fond of daring enterprises, in command of a good ship, with an unsaleable cargo on his hands. On the other side of the Pacific was a country where such a cargo might, with luck, be sold at a bounding profit. He could easily find out how the trade was done. There was more than one among those with whom he would associate in Sydney who knew a great deal about it.

One or two sentences in Bass's last letters to Henry Waterhouse contain mysterious hints, which to him, with his experience of Port Jackson, would be significant. He explained that he intended taking the Venus to visit the coast of Chili in search of provisions, "and that they may not in that part of the world mistake me for a contrabandist, I go provided with a very diplomatic-looking certificate from the Governor here, stating the service upon which I am employed, requesting aid and protection in obtaining the food wanted. And God grant you may fully succeed, says your warm heart, in so benevolent an object; and thus also say I; Amen, say many others of my friends."

But was the diplomatic-looking paper intended rather to serve as a screen than as a guarantee of bona fides? "In a few hours," wrote Bass at the beginning of February, 1803, "I sail again on another pork voyage, but it combines circumstances of a different nature also"; and at the end of the same letter he added: "Speak not of South America to anyone out of your family, for there is treason in the very name." What