|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 the hut floating down the swollen torrent did not go to pieces. A projec tion in the timber wedged it in the tree fork, and there it stood exposing its bulk
to the swirl of the deluge. Stephen Been and the mate and Garth looked at the arrented shanty expecting it to break up. Suddenly the captain exclaimed, “ Dammed if there ain’t a man on that thing”—quite as suddenly he 1/wered the dinghy, one of the only two boats on the Tilpn, sprang into her, and pulled for the wreck before anybody fairly understood his intention. He had become a Samaritan again. He had forgotten his revenge at the sight of a human beiog in danger; he had left a haven for the jaws of death. The man on the hut was still now. He had boon waving his arms to the Tilpn until he saw the boat put off to his rescue. The Samaritan pulled to the wreckage as if his own existence depended upon his speed. His struggle to keep the boat broadside on to the boiling current was almost Titanic, But at last he reached the lee of the anchored hut, and after fastening the dinghy to a projecting spar swung himself into the tree, The castaway greeted him with a cry of joy. Stephen Been clambered on the hut and straddled the ridge-pole, so that he was face (o face with the man who had undergone the perilous voyage on the quaking building. And then the Samaritan became Been the Convict again. His face was trans ligured —he Iboked at the wretch whose eyes were so close to bis as a terrier might look at a rat. His face expressed on awful joy—the happiness of the strong courageous devil who finds a coward devil in his grasp. The Informer noted that sudden change, and in the space of a thought recognised his old enemy and shrieked aloud. “So I’ve got you,” said Stephen Been very slowly, enjoying to the full Shaw’s accession of fear. “ I knew I’d gel you some time.” And then, with the snarl of a wolf, “ D’ye remember little Hutchins an’Peter Wells, you dirty liar; do yer? D’ye remember Bendigo and Wood’s Point 1 An’ you’re a swell now, are you; an’ a squatter an’ J.P., an’ all—an’ ye’ve got a son who’d drown yer if he knew what y’are; an’ I’ve bin’ playin’ a.lone ’and all me life. Through you, you dog ; through you.” The Informer opened his mouth to shriek for mercy, bat the roar of the water drowned his voice, and the grip of the captain on bis wrist made him dumb. “ I’m goin’ to leave ye here,” said Been again. “ An’ its on easier death than I meant for yer—its an f osier death than they’d agree to —tbey’H 'aveler content themselves with it.” He spoke of “them” as if they were indeed men and nob impotent shadows. The Informer made no answer—he was dumb with terror. “So good-bye to yer,” concluded the captain. “ May yo go to tho hell ye sent those boys ter an’ may ye meet ’em there.” He ceased and swung himself from the roof, bub ere his feet touched the tree the Informer, mnd with fear, caught his wris;s in a grip of steel and screamed aloud above the artillery of the flood, Tho struggle was very brief. Stephen Been wrestled wi»h his enemy on the swaying hut for a moment, and, freeing himself, reached the tree and looked down for a foothold in his boat. But that struggle had given them both to death. Tho swaying of the hut had loosed the spar, and spar and boat bad darted off with the current. Tho convict gnashed his fangs in rage and climbed higher into the tree to signal for the other dinghy. To his surprise it was not more than a dozen lengths away —the mate and the supercargo had seen the struggle and had hastened with their assistance. They steered the boat under the gum and called to Stephen Been to drop in. ,r lb ’nil only hold another safely,” advised the supercargo. Stephen Bsen prepared to take the jump, and, seeing him, tho Informer shrieked again. Then the supercargo looked to the figure on the hu*, and re cognised in this blood-eyed, foam-flecked, wild animal in the coverings of man—his father. Still he did not falter. “There’s only room for one,” he repeated to the man whom he respected. “ Jurap, Dad.” Been hesitated - the expression of affection had half-killed the wolf in him. The Intonner began to cry and pray and blaspheme by turns, his big round face workingly convulsively. “Jump, Dad,” said the supercargo. “Jump quick—wo can’t hold on here much longer.” Stephen Been was decided—the wolf was altogether dead—tho Samaritan breathed again. “ I’ll wait till wax’ time ” ho said. “Take this suivullm’ vermin, though ho ain’t good enough to sit in tho heat with you, George.” Even in that awful moment George Garth wondered at the words, and tho expression of dying hatred, but he had no timo to think just then. A crying shivering bundle fell through tho air and into tho boat, and the dinghy headed for tho steamer, tho mate crying to tho captain that ho would bo back directly. But before they could reach tho steamer tho great gum-tree wont down, and tho hut, with Stephen Bren porch* and on it« roof, drifted with tho boiling current. They gob away from their moorings and the engines going in, a marvellously short timo, but tho hut was not then in sight. Tho darkness did imt end tho search. All through tho night the Tilpa was a blaze of red lights tramping up and down tho water road, one moment staggering painfully up hill ogainst tho swift stream, the nvxb shootiug like an arrow from a bow with tho current, and the whistle shrieking at every pile of wreckage. At dawn they spoke of him as of the dead, yet they persevered in the search. They intended to find his body if they tramped tho river as long as Philip Van doikeokeu cruised offTaMo Mountain. And at 10 o'clock they found him, and ho was yet Tho house had col-' lapsed against a heap of dobris, and the timber had pinned him by the waisN During the night tho pile had largely in creased, and the groat weight almost out him in two. Yet ho ' had survived the awful experience—bw feet had boon frozen in tho icy water, his middle had been crushed by tho weight of the flood wreck, and still the wonderful vitality tho convict system had developed in him hud strengthened him to triumph. Ho did uob know thorn ns they hailed
hi? discovery with cries of pity and nifnction—as they dug him dear of the debris, as they tenderly lifted his bruised body and dangling, useless limbs from wreck to raft - , and from raft to the steamer-ark. He only heard the fearful chorous of the flood—the rushing of great waters, with the clarion song of the New born as its Antiphone, . A spar had . wounded him on the head)' and he was what the mate called “o.ueer.” • In the afternoon he awoke to find him self in his own berth and the supercargo bending anxiotfsly over him. “ Oh, dad, dad,” said the young man, “ you’re all right, ain’t you 1 You don’t feel any pain ?” Stephen Been smiled. “ I’m not a)) right, George j but I ain’t feelin’ any pain, my back’s broke—that’s whet it is.* And then be dozed again. As the lights were lit he asked if the river had gone down. “ Not enough to be safe out of the dead i water,” the mate told him, “ bat they could get a boat ashore in the back wash oisily,” Then Stephen Been eried fiercely, “Let him go ashore then.” “ Put the vermin ashore. Don’t let him see me dead—-L'm the last of ’em all—don’t let him see me dead.” / And wondering tucy obeyed him. The supercargo, quite at a loss to account for the reason of his benefactor’s horror of his father, told Garth, senior, that he y must quit the steamer, and a deck-hand rowed the Pariah to the edge of the flood near to a point where the light of a slush-lamp proclaimed the existence £)f a human habitation. At 9 o’clock the Samaritan made his will in a style peculiarly bis own. He called into the cabin the cook, * and the engineer, and the deck hands, and the gentlemen of leisure who had probably i for the first time in their lives become er.ergeti* in the search for him, and there verbal’y transferred the Tilpa and her trad-* to the mate and the supercargo. “Ye’ve all been called as witnesses that this day the twenty-seventh of September, eighteen 8eventy«nine, I’ve given the Tilpa an* two barges at Echookey, an’ the book debts, an’ trade, an’ all to Jim Drake an’ George Garth, so ’elp me Gawd.” And they all said they witnessed the bequest, and the ceremony was over. Only Drake and the supercargo were to watch the sick man that night, and when the cabin was cleared of the others h# lay on his pillow quite exhausted. They had suggested sending to Louth for a doctor, but he said, “ A doctor could do him no good—ho was cast right enough,” and so they fed his flickering strength with brandy. Despite his ex haustion, ho insisted on giving them full particulars of the trade. In this way— “ There was a man on Burrabogie what owed twenty six shillings in seventy-four —nex’ time you’re on the ’Bidgee collect it—I don’t reck’lect his name, but ye’re bound to find ’im—ho was a little cove with a wart under ’is ear and a ginger beard. When ye’re up that way, too, leave a bag o’ lollies with sooper at Ben duck ; ’cs got a lot of babies, an’ one of ’em uaeter cotton tor me quite reg’lar. An’ alwus give a nip to the puntman at Wilcannia/aud he’d drop the rope fpryer any time at night.” lie fell into a half sleep towards mid night, and the watchers turned the lamp light low. The change of light seemed to awaken him, but although he spoke again, he did not regard their presence. “ Up at Crismus Island there’s the cun nigiest water hens you over see.” And again— “Yer can drive- this yer Tilpa over a four foot six bar, an’ she draws four foot seven.” And yet again— “ Damn the Saddler. I’ll beat her to Echookey blindfold.” At 2 o'clock in the morning he awoke outright, and began to talk of his old life —the little Devonshire village, Maria Island, the Informer, the boy Hutchins, little Peter Wells, old Bendigo, and then ns ho came to his association with the supercargo, he made Garth’s tears well anew. “ That vermin ain’t yer father,” said the Samaritan—and then with an intonation of loving cunning in hh voice ho added, “ For I love you, George, my boy,’ Ho lay there with Ids brain and his heart strangely active, both thinking and sorrowing over the blasted life of tbeir possessor. No lovo of wife or child or friend had been his until quite latterly, and even of the love George Garth held for him he felt doubtful, like a girl with her first sweetheart. He had known only the embraces of the gyves and the caresses of the flogger’s lash, and the memories made him break into words again. “I’ve had a hard life, I have.” he said to himself aloud. “ A hard life it’s bin ; an’ only mo an’ Gawd knows it—only me an’ Gawd.” After that he lay very still for nearly two hours, and-Vhcu he awoke again the flood had retreated to the river, and the Tilpa lay stranded on the plain. Like her captain, she would never move again. ' In that hour before the dawn, when th" wind laden with the death-fog : f.jnn>gs from the rivop—in that hour whijn men die who are sick of Samaritan spoke with a material tongue for the last time. “Only me an’ Gawd knows,” re peated with the iteration of pathos. “ Only mo an’ Gawd.” And as the first rosospirc of the dawn leaped from the land-rim and tinged the stranded steamer and the haggard.earth with light, the soul of the Samaritan foil into the Groat Sweet Sleep. Then swelled the song of the newborn, triumphant. The Manchester Oity News,remarks that ‘'good coT’o, by means of its marvellous stimubilit g influence on the brain, is lav h the soob 1 and physiological antidote of nlcol.ol. At llio Janeiro, where the population numbers 500,000. drunkenness is almost unknown, and everyone drinks codec in largo quantities. Even emigrants, who may have brought a lovo of alcohol wit h thorn, end by preferring the delicious collV.o which tho Brazilians prepare so w 'll.” Illegal Lotteries. —Summonses have boMi issued out of the Melbourne district court agunst Alfred J. Strong, William Gray, J. IT, Hurron, James Gordon, Thomas F. Uonrdou and F. ,L. W, Ashby, tho promoters of tho art union, held, on 9»h November, in connection with the Hibernian fete, for a breach of tho Lotteries Act, The art union was held without the sanction of tho Attorney- General, and tho present steps have boon taken in conformity with the practice of the police to prosecute in all cases where art unions are held without proper autho rity, whether their object bo charitable or not. Tho summons 's are made returnable on 25th iii'-t.