Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

I wouldn’t have swapped my house for the King of England’s castle. I bet I was happier than he was too, especially as the newspapers from England said that King George III was mostly mad and locked up in his room. I’d just taken a swig of tea and a bite of last night’s damper and bush honey when I heard feet running up the hill. I opened the door just as the ragged figure, more whiskers than face, reached the house, panting. I didn’t know him, but I’d seen him about: one of the ticket-of-leave men who ran boats up and down the river from Parramatta to Sydney Town, carrying goods or people. ‘Got an urgent message for Mister Barney Bean!’ Whiskers panted. I frowned. What could be so urgent that a boat would come out here just to give me a message? ‘I’m Barney Bean,’ I said. ‘Message from Mr Johnson.’ Whiskers handed the scrap of paper to me. Paper was precious in the colony. This message really was urgent — too urgent to trust to the memory of a ticket-of-leave man who might be too drunk or muddled to learn it properly.


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