Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/422

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cannot help feeling, he made a tactical mistake. It is easily understood, and allowance can be made for it, but the consequences of it were serious. He was angry on account of his detention, irritated by the treatment to which he had been subjected, and unable in his present frame of mind to appreciate the Governor's point of view. He refused to go, and said he had already dined. The officer who bore the invitation pressed him in a kindly manner, saying that at all events he had better go to the table. Flinders replied that he would not; if the General would first set him at liberty he would accept the invitation with pleasure, and be flattered by it. Otherwise he would not sit at table with Decaen. "Having been grossly insulted both in my public and private character, I could not debase the situation I had the honour to hold."

The effect of so haughty a refusal upon an inflammatory temper like that of Decaen may be readily pictured. Presently an aide-de-camp returned with the message that the General would renew the invitation when Captain Flinders was set at liberty. There was a menace in the cold phrase.

Now, had Flinders bottled up his indignation and swallowed his pride—had he frankly recognised that he was in Decaen's power—had he acknowledged that some deference was due to the official head of the colony of a foreign nation with whom his country was at war—his later troubles might have been averted. An opportunity was furnished of discussing the matter genially over the wine and dessert. He would have found himself in the presence of a man who could be kind-hearted and entertaining when not provoked, and of a charming French lady in Madame Decaen. He would have been assisted by the secretary, Colonel Monistrol, who was always as friendly to him as his duty would permit. He would have been able to hold the company spell-bound