|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.)
But discord came to the Paradise as usual. One day in June of ’79 when the river was at its lowest, and the Tilpa and her heavy laden barge passed Dunlop on
the lost upward trip for the season the super of the station hailed the steamer and came aboardl He only wanted a few trifling things he' said, but he delayed the Tilpa half an hour, and in his desultory conversation with the captain told him that Coruna, the next station eastward, had changed bands. The new owner, he remarked, was Mr, Garth, a JIP,, and no end of a swell. The captain retailed the news to the supercargo later on, mnd was amazed at tho confusion of the young man. “You ought to know all about it I sup pose, dad,” said Garth nt last. ?‘This Mr. Garth ii my father, and we’ve never agreed—that’s why I left him, that’s why I don’t want to, see him again till I’m independent of him.” There remarks, ,of course, only resulted in making Been all the more curious, and. by judicious pumping he learned all. the facts. Garth Senior was: -very unscrupulous. He had done shady things in, stock deals and mining transactions. Garth Junior objected, and the old man had told him to clear out with his honesty, and not to come back again unless his honesty brought him enough.to live on. And therefore Garth Junior had cleared. “You're a white man,” commented Been, when the young follow had con cluded. “We’ll let him see that honesty does pay—l ’aven’t much longer to live, and the craft’s yours when I go. No, no talk now—l've said it, and I wouldn’t go back on my word for no man.” They stopped at Ooruna to canvass the now owner before some other trading river tramp secured the business. Captain Been, now quite an experienced diplomat iu his way, sent a message by tho nm'o requesting Mr. John Garth, J.P, to honor the steamer with his pre sence, and five minutes after a white haired old gentleman stepped on tho Tilpa’s deck. The old gentleman was Mr. Garth. He started violently as the super cargo came forward saying. “How are you, father?” He did not start when the supercargo introduced him to -Captain Been—he merely said, “ Glad to meet you, captain —x hope wo shall Lc able to do business together,” But Stephen Been as he took his new customer’s proffered hand felt sick with long thwarted revenge—for Mr. John Garth, J.P., and the informer of old Maria Island were ono man. The shock to the Samaritan had been very great. There, in the midst of the new life of fairness and purity, the corpse of the convict-tinvo had consummated its resurrection. For several hours following the departure of the informer who had left the Tilpa without any idea of her captain’s identity, ho sat in tho little cabin nexttbe wheelhouse with his arms folded, and his hood fallen on his breast. The supercargo looked in once or twice to ask where the steamer was to tie up, and bad been-told to-^steam-easy, till J..tell, you.” The dusk crept over the river, and ..the great spbnson and bow lamps were lit and the cook rang the bell for sapper, but the captain still sat in the cabin on the wheel deck and told his friendly querists that he was “nil right—never bettor— leave him alone.” ?Ho sat' there and thought until he was almost mad. At 9 o'clock tho mate went to him and insisted on being heard. “Tho night was \ery dark, the river was danger ously low,the stream was sown with snag-? —hadn’t they better tie up?” Stephen Been aroused himself by great effort, rose and went into tho wheelhouse. There he went over tho rough chart — which was rolled up in a great box, and was utmost ns long as the river itself—and told them to tie up in tho next bend. His voic*, hollow ns tho voice of tho dying, made mate and supercargo look nt him They saw that tho face was not the face of the Sannritan. Always clean-shaven, it had resumed the expres sion of the hunted convict nt bay—its lines had hardened, the lips seemed, to have become thin and sneering and cruel tho eyes were shot with yellow gleams of revengeful madness —the mouth was half open in a horribly hungry fashion—the eye-teeth standing conspicuously in tho bare and livid gums were like the fangs of tho wild dog. “You are ill, dad,” said tho supercargo pityingly. “ No, I’m not,” answered Been, “ I lifted a big weight to-day, an’ X vet nined my-back.” Tho mate suggested a sweating bath in a wet shoot, but Stephen Been refused all the remedies of tho river, and, without waiting to seethe beloved filpa snug for the night, turned in. In tho darkness there came to him si range old shapes he hoped he had for* gott-n, the ghost of the gang who at tempted to escape, fur which Abe) Sbaw had sold them to tho commandant. There cuipo the ghost of young llitphins—tl}o boy yho hat) iq the frenzy of recapture killed the cons'able who had attempted his arrest, the boy who had in the awful desperation of his gallows-death, uttered blasphemies that made even the executioner shudder. Then came the shade of Peter Wells, who died on the triangles during his punishment as ring leader of the escape ; there came to him others, sad shapes saying hesitatingly that tho time for justice had arrived, noisy, blasphemous shapes, calling on him in the name of his manhood and of his oath to avenge thoir stripes and the great ness of their old-time misery. Some wore cold and half apathetic, some despairing, some hot with tho wbitc h* at of long nursed wrong ; but all of them commanded him to do tho one decd-~to slay thoir common enemy. And aa if tjjey had bean aq many men, and he was indeed their captain too, he had told ihoui'that justice should be dbnc, and had waved them aside as if they in torfered with hi i thoughts. Then (ho shapes left him to decide on tho manner of Garth’s death. All sorb) of schemes, nnst impractic ab)p. tjp-qpplyrq (q )|i»\i. ‘ fte woulc) qeoqy tipi informer into the dry waste in the back blocks of tho river, kill his horse, and leave him to die of thirst —*-ho would Invito )rn) aboard tho ‘steamer, and loop into the river with him —he would look him in the cabin and shoot him—ho would poison him. These and a hundred other plans worked in his brain contemporaneously. ' ra* Hi 0 “i 1 , 1 uqdbpidpd qn t|)t> ipanqer qf Garth's death "rstill determined to exact full payment of tho revenge owing to lilm., Xlowovor, for tbqbweo)j at |oqst hp cqq)d donating, must mature )il« scheme- There must
be no hitch in the execution, or failure would be the inevitable resultant. The Tilpa resumed her journey up stream with her captain in the same un decided frame of mind. Three days after they had reached Browarrlim’ the river fell alartoingly, and the Tilpa was forced to remain tied up at . the wharf until the next fresh. I)uring this period of en forced idleness the captain came to a con clusion as way. the death sentence passed by the ghosts of the murdered on the informer shop Id be earned out. The accepted plan was grotesquely horrible— the jury of dead felons by their foreman, Stephen Been, had both found the verdict and imposed the expiation. Garth, the owner of Corunna, was sentenced to be dressed in the old magpie costume, then to be tied up and flogged to death. The labour of decoying him and binding him was easy to the Samaritan’s diplomacy and the Samaritan’s strength, and revenge would make bis arm tireless of the scourge until the end had been consummated. A fine revenge truly—the Samaritan felt almost happy as he thought over ic. The fresh did not arrive until August, and then it was very small, and only carried them a scorn of miles west of Louth. The mate and supercargo worried and fretted under the delay. They cursed the river, which was now nob much more -than a chain of pools. They s’amped the deck 1 * because September was very close at hand. Ere this they should have been half-way back from Echuca, ready to sell oat the store to the shearers, and get the earliest bales of the clip, and beat the hated Saddler and the Warrego on the down-stream journey. Stephen Been smiled calmly at the delay. There was plenty of time, he said—he did not care if the barge went down stream empty—let the Saddler have the wool what did he care ? A few homestead lessees—men with a paltry 10,000 sheep or so—had cut out early, and the clip of these small men came to the Tilpa, and filled the barge fairly well. This fact served to cheer the 'supercargo and the mate. They would not be able to trade very much, because the store was almost empty, but they couldj got wool loading in early, so that they would be ready to race for tho market on the rise when it did come. But they felt uneasy for all lha% simply because a'l the life of the stream seemed uneasy aUo. The rats began to le*vo the river and scurry up the banks and on to tho plains— every day saw an exodus of rabbits. And then there came that leaden bush of every thing which precedes any unusual oc currence in nature. The river did not seem to ripple as it struck the floats of the Til pa’s wheels —the duck flew away from their natural home —tho screaming cockatoos screamed no more and fled south instead of west as usual—the gum leaves murmured not —tho air was heavy with suppressed fear—even the birds of the mouth, the parakeets, which were shrieks in adresi of emerald and crimson flying athwart the gold of the sun, wore strangely mute— the whole earth seemed to hold its breath so that it might nob s’gh the apprehension which filled it. And Stephen Been, noting these signs, stretched a wire cable from the towing frame of the Tilpa to a great eucalypt growing in the depression inside the southern bank of the river. He ordered the fires to be lighted ; and the engine, rusted by its 'dong rest, drove the steamer to an opening in the tree fringe just abeam of the anchoring gum,. Th a y prepared,in short, with the impudent daring of a man, for a running fight with ah’inundation. They saw no man belonging to the land —they were as much alone as if tlie'-river had -been a trackless sea. No news 'of.. Urn came to them —they blamed Bourko for not having sent warnings. But Bourke itself was wrestling despairingly withihe watei giant. The founders of the town have built it in the shorter parallel of a horseshoe bend just where the river can do its greatest, most destructive work. While the people of the Tilpa grew sick with anxiety, Bourke was up to its arm*- pits in water—Bourko was dishevelled and drunken with the flo;d. It came to the Tilpa in a wall of water and wreckage—a wall of water that broke and reformed and foil upon itse)f with the sound of thunder —a wall that tore patriarchal trees frorq their roots and hurled them along like matches—a wqll that hissed like a groat serpent-, and gathered and crushed the face of tho world in its constricting folds. It came with battering-rams of trees, of wrecknge'covored with snakes qqd other creeping things huddled together like friends, their venom sapped by fear. As the-Tilpa and her barge rose with tho flood the crew hauled on the cable and started the engines, and so by-and-by drew the steamer and her ohargo up to the tree which tho mate said would stand forty floods. But at 3 o'clock tho next morning,when the rain was falling in sheets, the mate recanted. The fastenings of tho cable had disappeared ; tho w.»W cr-pt into the limbs of tho tree and shook it till it groaned- And still they held on. In umhourront the water was black with timber and living trees—rafts of debris carrying hopeless animals, opossums swooning w|t(\ feqr, monkey bqars willing likelittle children lost in the streets of a gr<*at city. A.t 4 o'clock they heard a steamer’s whistle shrieking above the roar of tho water, and' a few minutes later a wool laden barge shot past (hem. Then fol lowed a steamer—her rod lights tinging the water as with blood, her stack vomit ing sparks, Tho men on the Tilpa could see that one wheel had been carried asny by tho battering ram of wreckage ; very probably the rudder had gone also, and they were endeavoring to steer her out of the current wMi thq remaining wheel, It was tho Warrego—she had ridden from Louth on the face of the flood. Tho Warrego disappears—then comes moro wreckage—tho flood draws back for an effort, advances again, and pasacq triumphant, carrying wjth it Tilpa's barge and $3,000. of the soaiou’s clip; Just after daylight the saviour Euoalypt is torn from the soil. Stephen Been springs to the towing framo and cuts the cable with two lightning strokes the axe, and Tilpa goes full spr.o(| qhoqd» steering south op to the i')u)n which is PQVV n soft. ’ 'Jiwy ono of those logs that arc coming down with tho current like stones from a sling would sink tho atoum-r in an instant, apd they t'-y to tqakp fqr the dead water, But it takes lime to leave tho current—its force is so great that tho holm answers spasmodically, and between U\e spasms tho engine drives tho steamer down the stream with frightful velocity. They are pot caught by the droned wtpchagp—they oatohlt. jp»pallyi at 11 o'clock they replied the still water covering a treeless plain, and there they anchor. That plain, although the Samqritqp kpo\ys ft not, covers Gonuia Station, They breakfasted at noon, and the
Captain was unusually jolly. The loss of the barge didn’t matter much, he-said, with a curious smile oa his face. He wouldn’t svant it any more, but he was sorry for the boy’s sake all the same. During tho afternoon the wreckage became larger. It was not confined to trees and river debris now—fence rails, boxes, furniture, and, to show how far the water could penetrate, a cradle came bobbing and turning into the haven of tho steamer. They found that the cradle, by virtue of its shape, was an aikof this deluge—the rescued being mostly snakes and tarantulas and scorpions and centi pedes and all the insect horrors and creeping things which no living man may imagine. At 4- o'clock a hut came down, escaped from tho current, cireered wildly in the eddies, and tiien collapsed with a noise like the discharge of artillery against a tree which had so far been tod strong for the flood. Then a minute later another hut, swimming high out of the water, ran down in midstream,. and when abeam of the Tilpa suddenly shot athwart the current and collid' d with the same tree. (to be continued.)