Chapter 52034422

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Chapter NumberXXII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1884-08-30
Page Number3
Word Count3141
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
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" Your father and me, and Snake," replied Pedro, " used to work in the samo chain-gang at Norfolk Island. After a bit they let us work without chains, and as we kept ourselves quiet, and worked well, we got to be more trusted. Your dod was a handy mon with carpenters' tools, and so was another of our mates, so we were employed building sheds and the like. At last we put our heads together, and talked over plans to escape. One night there was a gale of wind, and next morning we saw a vessel anchored off the Iee of the island. It was the Governor Philip, brig, with provisions for the prisoners. Wc cast many a longing look at her wishing it was possible to get away in her ; but there was no hope of that, for the guards were doubled all round the island. As we had been on short allowance of grub for a little while before, thc Governor was anxious to get the stores off from her, and ordered the boats to be run into thc water for thc purpose of bringing some of the stores aBhore. It was very rough, but the crews were picked men, and

reached the ship all right. The captain

would not put his boats out loaded ; he said it wasn't safe ; that's why the Governor sent his boats. Well, about half way back, one of the boats was struck by a squall, capsized,

and went down with all hands before the

other could get near her. Then your father and the other chap-Snake-were put on to build another boat-just at odd times, mostly ofter hours. This seemed a good chance to do something for our escape. They had lots of boards and timber to pick from, and this is how they did. Every piece of wood they cut and fitted for the boat they mode another piece like it, and stowed away under tho shavings, and on dark nights we took them away to a place about a mile and a half off It was half creek, half gully and a thick scrub right down to the waters edge. In that scrub we put the boat together bit by bit, at^jgghts. We were always afraid she'd

be founc, or that some of the sentinels would hear us knocking ; but all weut well till she was all but finished. Your father asked to be allowed to make the sails for the boat he made in the place of the one that was lost, and they let him. I lent them a hand all through with the Government boat and ours also, for I could carpenter a bit too. That's how wc came to be together. For some time before our boat was finished, we had been saving all the rations we could, and planted it by our boat. Wo put by a good supply of flour ; and the salt-beef we smoked in our hut chimney, and stowed in a small cask by the boat too. All was nearly ready ; tho things were put into the boat, and we cut a track through the scrub to the water, ready to launch her next night. The beef was put into a bag and stowed away in the boat, and the cask was headed and filled with fresh water. The lost night came, and we took the sails, and mast, and some rope, that were meant for the Government boat, and got clear away with them to our boat. There was a Bentmel near the mouth of the creek, but we knew his wayB pretty well, for we had to watch him when we were making the boat. He used to pace between two trees about a hundred yards apart, close to the mouth of the oreek. When the wind was in his direction, we couldn't work much at the boat for fear he'd hear us. She wasn't so well finished os the Government boat, of course, and there was no paint on her, but

she was none the worse tor that for our

Cpose. She was strong, if she wasn't

utiful. We pushed on our way through the scrub with the mast, sails and oars. When we were close to the boat, four fellows started up and held bludgeons over our heads, and swore they'd smash us if we didn't give up everything and keep quiet till they got away. This ÍB how they got wind of it. About a month before we finished the boat, one of them was prowling about on a Sunday just for amusement, and poked his ugly nose into the scrub. He told his mates and they guessed it was us, so they watched and found they were right, and then formed the plan, to overpower us and take thc

boat as soon as it "was finished. But if they were smart, so were wo. "Tie them up, says one, 'and leave them till we get off.' Says I, 'We'll all shout, bring the sentinel down ou you if you don't drop you cheek, and your sticks too.' Wc had thein there,*so

they said, ' Well we'll go together-the boat's big enough.' ' Yest' says I, ?' but the grub and water isn't. ' We'll die of starvation and thirst if we all go ; so wc may as well die herc, and a precious Bight better.' Wo had a lot of barney over it; they swore they wouldn't giyc in, and wc didn't see why we should let them have ali our work and savings, and chance of escape too, hut as we couldn't help ourselves, we agreed togo all together. We got her afloat, and dropped quietly down the creek, under the bank, fill we were in sight of the sentinel. We waited till he got about half-way to the other end of his beat. The stars were out bright. We pulled quietly till he was near the far end

of his track, then all laid down in the boat and kept quiet till he came bock and walked oft" again. We did that several times till we passed his position, and then gave way as hard as we could. He heard us, and ran as hard as he was able towards the mouth of

the creek, and Bhouts, ' Who goes there ?' 'Government boat going to a sh'p in distress,' sayB the man steering. ' Govern- ment boat, give the pass-word (' says the sentinel, 'Come and get it,' the man at the man at the behn shouts. The solider fired, and tile man fell forward, dead. It must have been a chance shot, for we were a good way off the land, and going at a good bat. Your father took the helm, and in ten minutes more we were ont to sea, and lunated the sail, standing away south for New Zealand. We pitched Hie dead man over- board, and weren't sorry he waa shot, for we were then equal tn numbers, and didn't oars a pin for the fellows that had served us so scurvily. Hey weren't aa big men as ourselves, and I ovoid have knifed tue whole

three myself if it had come to a fight, but wi didn't want to hurt them. I would bavi

tried that game on at first when thej attacked us, but was afraid they would have made a noise, and then our chance oi escape would have been spoilt.

We bowled along at a spanking rate all night, and in the morning must Eave beet eighty miles from the island. We were all pleased, and as good friends as possible, thinking of freedom. Our allowance of grui was small, but we could put up with that. We hada lotof potatoesweatoleoutotagarderj the night before we started, and we ate them raw, for we hadn't a good supply of wood for a fire ; however, we didn't mind those sort of things,.

" The second day out, we sighted a ship a long way off, and your dad said it was a man of-war. That put us in a precious fright, so we unstepped the mast, and lay in the bottom of the boat. Before night, ehe was hull down again ; but we lost a sight of time, through not being able to pull or sail for so many tours, for fear of being seen. We soon saw the necessity for keeping on a very short allowance of grub ; for we hod double tim number in the boat that we laid iu for. Sometimes wc would catch a fish or two by towing a line astern, with a bit of red cloth on the hook. I lassoed a porpoise once, but be got away with the rope. It was a very big one, and the rope was too short to play him, so be went off at a gallop, bucking like fury. The boat tore through the water safe enough till he took to diving ; then he went clown with such jerks that pulled her bows under. At last he pulled her sma-k through the top of a wave, and she half filled, so we had to cut his tether and let him go. All hands had to set-to ¡Miling her out, or we should have gone to Davy Jones' locker. The sea spoilt our bit of flour that was left, and we cursed that iiorpoise, I tell you. The wind was mostly air, and we got on well; but we had no compass, and steered by the sun. We had been out seven days when wo noosed the porpoise, and were awfully mad at losing it, for we were terrible hungry. Starvation and thirst were telling on us, but we were buoyed up with the hope of. sighting land soon. There were only two days' short allowance of grub, and a pint and

a half of water in the boat when we lost the

porpoise. Af ter that we hod such a tune of it that I don't wish to see it again 1"

" Nb, by gum 1" said Snake with a look of


" We thought we hod been going about six knots all through, and that we ought to have sighted land before that, for we didn't think New Zealand was a thousand miles from the island, but none of us knew how far it was. We were getting all sorts of fancies for want of water, as we had been three days without, but the weather was getting colder. One of the three chaps got mad, and said all sorts of things about seeing land, and rivers of fresh water, and fine dinners, and that. Ho drank a lot of salt water, and died when we had been out ten days. It was squally that night, and your father got queer in the head, but it rained towards morning, and we caught a lot ot ¿water in the sail, spread our Bhirts and blankets out, too, and squeezed them into the cask. We got it about naif full Didn't we drink that night? We were famishing for food, and I believe we would gladly have eaten the man that died, but no one proposed it, so we hove bim overboard. It was no easy job, though, thin as he was, for we were awfully weak. Two moro days, and every- thing that could be chewed was eaten. Boots, leather off the oars, our belts, and everything. Nobody grumbled, but Snake and me, and your dad hod a right to if any- body hod, but we couldn't say anything to the poor beggars that was left, they looked

like, skeletons. Not a sail was seen ever since the man-of-war passed us, and we began to think we bad missed New Zealand altogether, so we held a council to see what we should do. If we had passed it, we could not tell whether it was to the east or west, but we thought it would be safest to steer west, then we might pull up some part of Australia or Van Diemcn's Land ; if we were to the west of New Zealand. We did so, but with little hope of seeing land .again. It had been fine all the time, except' the night we caught the water. After we altered our course, it was calm for two days, then we got the wind again. - One of thc two chaps said that night at sundown, he saw land. No one else saw it, and we told him so, but he stuck to it. He pointed to the west, and said he could see it plain. He spoke in such a way as mode us half believe him, so me and your fattier just played a trick on him to see u he was O.K. Your dad was to steer the boat round, and I wo« to trim the sails, quietly, and ask him if he saw the land still. Yes, he saw it wherever we turned the boat, so that hope was lost. The poor chap went mad that night, took off his shirt and trousers, rolled them up in his blanket, to take ashore, he said, and walked straight overboard. Your governor broke down then with disap- pointment and'weakness, and talked about his but job at Brisbane, his trial, how he parted with you, and a lot more-"

"And died!" interrupted Giovanni, anxiously.

"No, he didn't, my boy. I'll tell you. There was only four of us left, and none of us thought we'd see another day, so the three that wasn't, mad that was me, Snake, and the lost of the four men-talked it over, and decided to draw lots for who Bhould die to

keep the others alive. I wonder we didn't do it long before, we suffered so horribly. The drawing waa done fair, and as your father was crazy I drew for him. The lot

fell on thc last of the four. Then wo drew

again, to find who should finish him. That fell to me. He didu't care a bit, poor beggar and only said, ' Don't hurt me much, old man.' I opened the veins in 1>ÍB neck so quick, that lie never felt it, 'and kept saying, ' Why don't you finish mc old mon 1 I'm waiting for you to begin.' Snake was catching his blood in a billy all the time and he never knew it. We each hod a drop, and gave8ome toyonr dod, and it made a new man of him. Well, I won't say any more about that part of it. We were all covered with boils, and nothing was left of us but the hides and bones. It got colder and colder as we went on. We were nineteen days ont when the last of our mate was finished, and we began to look at each other and think well, never mind, let that pass. Each man was afraid to lie down to sleep for fear of his mates. We were all wore out at last, and dropped off. Your dad woke first ; it was about daylight, ' Sail ho !' he shouts, as loud as he could, which wasn't much to speak of, but it woke us. It must have passed close to

ÜB in the night. Oh 1 what agony wc suffered j to eec it getting less and less ! About eleven o'clock, she tacked again, then we took heart and tried to stand up and hoist the sail, but we couldn't. By five in the afternoon elie Bighted us, Bent off a boat and took usaboard. They treated us as if we were princes. They rubbed usalloverwith oil, and that mode us feel comfortable, but they wouldn't feed os as much as we wished, so we used to call them ' stingy devils,' and give them all sorts of cheek, but they didn't mind that a bit, and only laughed at us. If they'd fed us os we wanted, wc would have died thc first day.

'We learnt that we were on board the Southern Cross, a Hobart Town whaler. She hail been out four months, and had about of twenty-five tuns of oil on board. We don't know whether we got to the east or west of New Zealand, but we were picked up about a hundred miles south of Vau Diemen'e Land. Another day outwould have cooked thc lotof us,

"We told the captain we were sailors belonging to tbe barqms Sea Bird, wrecked on a barren island about five hundred miles

south of where he picked ns up. Says he ' Then where did you cet that boat ? She isn't a ship's boat !' ' No air,' says your dad, ' I'm a ship's carpenter, and built ber myself. But the captain ' knew the ropes of a ship' i.e., was not to be hood-winked-and lays his finger alongside bis noss, shuts one eye and says, 'Do you see any green ? You're escaped prisoners, and I can tell that by the ont of your j ibs, without ny glass, so don't

tell lies. Your ship was the Port Arthur- ! or Botany Bay-or some such craft; but I j

won't split-you've had enough punishment! thia bout, if you've all been in for any crime, from petty larceny to regicide. I'm none too full-handed, for I lost a boat, crew and all, the other day, so yon can set in as soon as you'ae able, and finish tue cruise with me, and I'll see the owners give you what you re worth when we get back into the Derwent 1' We soon were able to do a little, but it was a good while before we were strong enough to go in the boats. Well, to make a long story short, we were out seven monthB. All our vegetables had been polished off months before, and thirteen got the scurvy BO bad, the captain had to steer for port. We spoke several ships in our way to port. One was the Carolina, barque-a regular old tub, but safe. She'd been out sixteen months, and was . a full ship. We got fifty tons of oil after we were taken aboard, that made seventy-five toOB altogether. It wasn't a bad take for a cruise of eleven months. All tho other

I fellows were ' on thc lay, ' as they call it-that

is, they were to go shares in the take,"

(To ba continued.)