The Sydney mothers were all a'flurry and a'fluster on April 19, 1868 as the ship Northampton had brought to the fair shores of Australia Count von Attems.
The Count was a handsome, elegant, well-groomed gentleman who charmed all he met with his impeccable manners and delightful Continental accent.
Rumours flourished throughout Sydney that he was connected to the Royal House of Austria and that the Count was travelling "on a special, secret mission".
Marriageable daughters were preened and polished while their dear Mama's competed with each other to entertain this distinguished visitor. When he moved from the Royal Hotel, where his high living had netted a bill of over £200, the Count shifted into a house beside the Prussian Consul where he returned the entertainment favours to all those successful businessmen, merchants, and their wives and daughters alike, with unbounded generosity in food and drink.
Count von Attems was never short of a bob or three and was very happy to spend up big in all the shops. The shops and businesses, in return, were only too happy to grant him an unlimited line of credit.
After taking the good people at their word and running up bills totalling over several thousand pounds, the Count bought himself a yacht called Hamlet's Ghost and decreed he was popping down to Melbourne for a visit and would return shortly.
His valet who'd arrived in Sydney with him suddenly spilled the beans.
The Count was no count but an English confidence trickster (who'd have thunk it?!) and everything about him was false from his accent down to his wardrobe which was still unpaid for!
The reason for the valet's sudden honesty was that he'd lent his employer £27, on top of wages owing to the tune of £80 and he seriously doubted he was going to see a penny of it.
Merchants and businessmen tried in vain to pin down the Count in Melbourne but, alas, discovered too late that the rogue had sailed north from Sydney, arriving in Brisbane where he successfully turned his handsome tricks once more upon the unsuspecting population.
Count von Attems then sailed merrily into the sunset to Batavia where he became Captain Stone of the United States Army and started his high living once more.
The Dutch weren't quite as easily taken in as the Aussies and arrested him before he could do a moonlight flit.
He was found guilty of forgery and false pretences, and was allowed to holiday in gaol for 22 years where he made 3 failed attempts to bust out.