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Seas

At four o'clock in the afternoon of December 17th the Cumberland entered Port Louis, where Flinders learnt that Le Geographe had sailed for France on the previous day. As soon as he could land he went ashore to present himself to the Governor, whom he found to be at dinner.

The patching up of the Reliance not being surgeon's work, Bass, throbbing with energy, looked about him for some useful employment. The whole of the New South Wales settlement at this time consisted of an oblong - the town of Sydney itself - on the south side of Port Jackson, a few sprawling paddocks on either side of the fang-like limbs of the harbour, some small pieces of cultivated land further west, at and beyond Parramatta, and a cultivable area to the north-west on the banks of the Hawkesbury River.

We shall now see how a detention which had been designed as a sharp punishment of an officer who had not comported himself with perfect respect, and which Decaen never intended to be prolonged beyond about twelve months, dragged itself into years, and came to bear an aspect of obstinate malignity.

During the absence of Bass in the whaleboat, the repairing of the Reliance was finished, and in February, 1798, Flinders was able to carry out a bit of exploration on his own account. The making of charts was employment for which he had equipped himself by study and practice, and he was glad to secure an opportunity of applying his abilities in a field where there was original work to do.

Flinders continued to reside at the Garden prison till August, 1805. In that month he was informed that the Governor was disposed to permit him to live in the interior of the island, if he so desired. This change would give him a large measure of personal freedom, he would no longer be under close surveillance, and he would be able to enjoy social life. He had formed a friendship with an urbane and cultivated French gentleman, Thomas Pitot, whom he consulted, and who found for him a residence in the house of Madame D'Arifat at Wilhelm's Plains.

Flinders arrived in Sydney in the Francis about a fortnight after Bass returned in the whaleboat. It was, we may be certain, with delight that he heard from the lips of his friend the story of his adventurous voyage. The eye-sketch of the coastline traversed by Bass was, by the Governor's direction, used by him for the preparation of a chart to be sent to England.

The several representations concerning the case of Flinders that were made in France, the attention drawn to it in English newspapers, and the lively interest of learned men of both nations, produced a moving effect upon Napoleon's Government. Distinguished Frenchmen did not hesitate to speak plainly. Fleurieu, whose voice was attentively heard on all matters touching geography and discovery, declared publicly that "the indignities imposed upon Captain Flinders were without example in the nautical history of civilised nations.

It has been already mentioned that Bass Strait was named by Governor Hunter on the recommendation of Flinders. There is no reason to suppose that George Bass himself made any claim that his name should be applied to his discovery. One derives the impression, from a study of his character as revealed in his words and acts, that he would have been perfectly content had some other name been chosen. He was one of those rare men who find their principal joy in the free exercise of an intrepid and masculine energy, especially in directions affording a stimulus to intellectual curiosity.

From June, 1809, the British squadron in the Indian Ocean commenced to blockade Ile-de-France.* (* Flinders to Banks, Historical Records 7 202.) Decaen's fear of Flinders' knowledge is revealed in the fact that he ordered him not for the future to go beyond the lands attached to Madame D'Arifat's habitation. Flinders wrote complying, and henceforth declined invitations beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the plantation. He amused himself by teaching mathematics and the principles of navigation to the two younger sons of the family, and by the study of French literature.

Two more incidents in the career of Flinders will concern us before we deal with his important later voyages. The first of these is only worth mentioning for the light it throws upon the character of the man. In March, 1799, he sat as a member of a court of criminal judicature in Sydney, for the trial of Isaac Nichols, who was charged with receiving a basket of tobacco knowing it to have been stolen. The case aroused passionate interest at the time.

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