|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||A Samaritan of the Riverine|
A SAMARITAN OF THE RIVERINE.
(By RANDOLPH BEDFORD IN THE ARGUS).
And as he trudged along the rough track his heart began to beat with youth as it had never beaten before. He had never felt love, except that dull half
awakening to human sympathy on old Bendigo in ’54, and now the million scents and voices of the eternally beautiful bush told him that such pure attractions as it copld offer were the especial pro perty of such as he. “Ting-a-ling,” sang the bell-bird, and the swng .was heavy no more—“ tweet tweet/’ said the minah, and gaol and the informer were forgotten, •North, farther north, through the giant granite ranges, through the valleys of the Murray, and into the plains of the west he travelled—flying from man always going deeper into the heart of the g-eat wild whoso message of peace had been breathed to him 300 miles nearer the sea. At the stations in his track he neve l ' asked for tho usual ration of flour and mutton—he demanded it and paid for it, and then tramped to his lonely camp, a mile removed from even the hon-e paddock. This sullen reserve lasted long after the Murrumbidgeo had become a daily sight to him, and the spaed of the current heralding its junction with the mighty Murray showed longer and s’rongor in tho eddies at the bends. There venturing near to a homestead unusually early in the day, a horseman rode up to him and inquired if he wanted work. “Yes, sir,” said Stephen Been, humbly pulling at his hat, as if ho were still a number and not a man. “ I want a man to load wool, and to take charge of a barge to Echuca.” Of course Stephen Been accepted, and a new era began for him. He fulfilled 1113 contract satisfactorily, and made many trips on the river, which he began to love as he loved children, and all things that wore young and not men. Ho could not road, and yet he was the best freight dork the rivers ever know. “Two tons of wire for Burrabogio ” said tho carriers at Echuca, “and a case of whisky for Mungadal,” and so on, and Stephen Been could have told you all his freight before he was out of port a day. He used to run over the names of the stations on the river just for the pleasure of feeling his importance as a freight clerk. You might find him a dozen times a day chanting the euphony of tho station nomenclature thus :—“ Groongal, Pevensey, Mungadal, Eli Blwab, Barra bogie, lllillawa, A 1 berm ale, Terrywalka, Ulongn,” to infinity. And then it was a new life. His im portance as steersman of the barge, the quiet green leaf tinted water, the sobbing of the engine of the loving steamer ns it breasted the stubborn current—all had tho charm of novelty ; and the apprecia tion of newness is surely God’s best gift to the adventurous man with a soul. By and-bye he became a property holder. The “ boss’’ liked the strong Old man who could work without a word, who never used the usual language of the river and the shearing-shed —the boss could curse fluently, by the way, and the “ super ” was exceedingly profane and blastiferous—and who could be trust’d alone with the barge load in a “ stranger” port, because he never’ got drunk. Si one day, being present at the sale of a river navigating company’s fl at, the “ boss ” having previously sounded bis bargeman On the subject, purchased the Tilpa, a side-wheel steamer, ordinarily usad for trading purposes, and her atten dant giant, the Bunyip barge. Then he arranged instalment terms with the ox convict, and Been entered on his new line of shipowning. On the strength of being a shipowner, ho secured long credit with several firms for tho supply of mis cellaneous itorc=, and started from Echuca ono summer night with steamer and barge laden almost hulldown with everything that the inhabitants of tho west might require—sheep •shears and moleskins,fenc" ing wire and onions, boots, saddles, and tobacco—a floating store. It was a happy' life from the beginning —he managed to piy for the barge, he opened n bank account, he was respected, men called him “Captain Been,” and more,-he had never to leave the beloved rivers Most of bis dealings with the stations lying on the 3,000 miles or so of water were on tho credit system, and here his absolute dearth of education told much against him. However, his fault’ess memory and a unique description of book keeping invented by himself, and consist ing chiefly of sundry knife-cuts on the starboard paddle-box enabled him to collect at least 70 per cent of bis money. That and 100 per cent, profit considered left him very much on tho right side of the ledger. Ho would sell his stock at the head of the Darling, and then load with wool for Echuca, to return with stores in tho next fresh. Tho life drew from him all sourness. He became tho Samaritan of the rivers. Tho Tilpa up or down trip continually carried men who wanted to “ work thrir passage,” and who evidently translated that phrase as mean ing the consump'ion of as much tucker ns the cook cou’d prepare. And bo tho end of their sfcvgo at Brewarrina, or Bourke,or Tdpi, or Louth, or Wdcannia, or Menindio they left with half a pint of whisky in their stomachs, and a shilling or two in their pockets, and soma tobacco and rations in their swags. Did not Bathurst, tho educated loafer of tho rivers, got threo pounds of Captain Boon by telling a story of an asthmatic mother and did he not a year aft* rwards tell mo that Been was the Svmaritiu of the Rlvorine,and wherefore is not this history written 1 Tho loafers who spungod on him loved him—this simple old man who know of nothing but the rivers, and would talk of them for hours. “You know that bond near ’Crismus Island,” lie would say, “ tlnre’s two of tho cunningost water hens you over s’c — I believe they know tho Tilpa now. Why they’ve been there this five y nr,an’ when ever we passes there they flies round to the stem’s much as soy, ‘ Lot’s see if it’s the dear old Tilpa, or that puffin’ billy, tho Saddler, what’s nl\v\ys firin’ Ihorifl s at us. I b’leovo they can rend the name 0’ my boat, too.” And then ho would repeat that on’y boast of his to the effect tint “ho could take tho Tilpa, what was draw in’ four feet aavon, over a four foot six lur j nn* he could stem her from D ml op to Albor marlo bl nclfold—yes, he could. Oh yer might stare and yer might say no, but ho could. If it comes to that, h AI give yon a passage on* prove ho coul i do it blindfold —there!” His friends loved him, and ho knmv no enemy. There was in Ids nature a stubborn good, which oven the gn at penal system had boon nnablo to destroy. From Fort Boutko to tho Camp.ispo In Jwas known and honored—and yet nr at men knew his history. All titles granted by despotism are im moral, because un<ruo aid unjustly
exercised over a people who never to ihe grant; and most titles grunted by the people over whom they are exercised are immoral also, because unthinkingly and carelessly given by a mob; but tho title of the captain of the Tilpa was de sejv.)d,nnd therefore irremovable—he was the Samaritan of the Riverine—his title was justly earned by his unvarying gentleness. His moments of sad-.ess were few. Ho felt fiercely revengeful when he thought of tho informer, but the memory of his wrong was beginning to fade in his prosperity. Only when he'saw children playing he realised what be had lost, and their voices were as the touch of a hand on his old loveless h°art. If he could have stolen one of those curly-haired babies at Culpmlinor Dunlop, I believe he would have done it. But '78 brought him tho love he craved for. : 1 In a reach near Easter Island tho Tilpa stopped in tho early moonlight to “ wood up,” and tho gentlemen of the river who worked their passages wrestled languidly with tho axe on rot’.encst, and there fore tho most easily cut, and the worst fuel they could find. In the centre of a space embayed in the slnro by the island, a solitary traveller’s fire gleamed fitfully, Tho traveller was extremely disgusted with his situation. He hid been intended by nature to be tho most gregarious of men, and circumstances had made him an Ishmael on the track. This was his second night away from home, and time prospect of the road, which had seemed to him free and indepsndent and glamoured with tho romance of tho bush, was now very, very dreary. Therefore when he saw tho Tilpa moored to tho bank and all hands, from captain to cook, cutting wood for the engine, he walked over (o the workers, wishing to lend a hand and loo proud to risk a aoub. So he stood by while they worked, and would very probably not have spoken to them but for the fact that he saw a tall, spare, magnificent old man bowing under the weight of a gum bough. And then tho traveller stepped forward and said briskly, “ I’ll give you a lift, Daddy.” “ Daddy ?” Stephen Bson staggered with amaze ment, and the weight fell on the traveller’s shoulders. When the work was finished the captain almost forced the young man to accompany him to the little “saloon” next the wheel-house, where they drank a lot of whisky each. He questioned the young fellow in a kindly, inquisitive manner, which proved his interest, and, little by little, ho found that the traveller’s name was George Garth, that he had quarrelled with his father, whom he said be did not like, and there was an end of the matter. He had set out from Louth two days before to walk until he met something to do. And then the captain insisted on Garth remaining aboard, and he sent one of tho gentlemen who were “working their pas sage ” for the swag by the new chum’s fire. Then he installed his new friend in the best berth on the wheel-deck, and saw Garth, worn out with his unusual tramp, fall asleep ns the Tilpa steamed down tho moonlit river. That word “ Daddy ” had won the Samaritan for ever. Next day Garth asked to be given some thing to do, and the o’d man, who had very hazy ideas on the subject, suggested that he ought to take stock. And Garth did so, and placed the Tilpa’s -financial condition in such a new light that tho Samaritan thought his knife-notch stylo of bookkeeping nvght not be absolutely perfect after all. He broached the subject to I ho mate in tho whonlhouse that cv ming, “ Scorns to me, Jim,” said he, “that the young man might’s well stay on an’ look after tho bills—be n what’s it?” “ Soopercargo,” said the mate shortly. “Yes, that’s it,” assented Stephen Been, “ I can’t go malrin’ much more cuts on that paddle-box.” “ That’s a fact. ]f you chop it much more there’ll be no starb’d sponson at all. Bimeby you’ll have a ship made of holes.” And so Georg i Garth became super cargo, and tho trade with the young women at the stations increased amazingly’ and tho old man found the young ono more valuable than he had dreamed he could b\ and loved him more dearly with the birth of each successive day. The afl.'otion was mu'ual—the old man was really lovable, ond then they had so much in common. Bub loved the river —that was everything. And Been showed tho supercargo the wonderful water-hens in tho bond near Christmas Island, and told numberless stories of driving the steamer full spe d nh- ad who i tho river was dangerously low because the banks we’e streets of fir.?, ond of shooting the punt rope at Wilcinnia when the stream was in flood—he sang, in'his rough voca bulary, the epic of the river men. And when they passed a tortoise paddling and spluttering in an instant of fear of the smoking bulk of the steamer, Been would remark that the terrapin was very like an old jew Hz ml he had known at Fort Bourke in ’74, and “ that ihsre jew lizard —he was a terror for santypedes on 1 such like an’ he once ob half a pjund o’ shin o* beef et a siltin’—ho did.” For his part, Garth was in Paradise. The preliminary work of setting affairs in order being ended, he had nothing to do while tho boat was between stopping places, and so he roamed over the steamer at his own sweet will, now in tho wheel house, now on a sponson, then in tho bows. With tho first streak of the day the steamer’s whist’c rang along the river reaches and ns she steamed nwiy tho nude figure of the supercargo appeared on a paddle-box—he droppe I a bucket into the fouuing wh -(Awash, diew it up, and drenched himself with tho contents. And af or that, by the time he had dressed, tho steamer woke the life of th> river before (ha sun had touched it, and the mallards started for t ho day’s flight, f u- they were unreasoning creatures and flew on in a straight line ahead of the sttanv-r, too fio’idi to think of getting out of tho way. And tho ghostly cockatoos fled daily be fore the Tilpa westward, when the summer was waning, for they in'ended to winter on the Murray. At 8 o’clock the boll sounded break fast, and Garth joined the captain and his mate nv the saloon—which was about the size of a fairly large packing case —and vft-T that smoko ho, and a revel in the careless knowledge that the next home stead would not be sighted till the after noon. It is a noble life Urn innocent existence of the rivers—it is a Paradisa for whoever has a son’, and souls wero owned by B on, (ho captain, and hia sup v mirgo, G irlh. (to m; continued,)