Chapter 62144380

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Url
Full Date1884-08-02
Page Number6
Word Count4908
Last Corrected2020-07-14
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 - 1889)
Trove TitleJohn Brown and His Dog Faithful
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" Truth is stranger than fiction."

As I sit down to write this book—reminiscences of days gone by of John Brown and more than faithful

canine friend. I feel deeply the great truth of the above trite saying. You must not ask me, reader, what year, too closely, the following story was enacted ; remember Melbourne is not so very old, and again, some of the players on the stage of the history I am about to relate are still LIVING. Some are dead—dead, and some of those who are living are on the verge of that bridge whose architect is God, standing with hand raised, shading their eyes from the bright effulgence of brightness, looking across the shore of Spirit land. Yes, a little time and they, too, will be at rest So, reader, let it suffice you at prsent as regards dates of the commencement of the reminiscences, for me to say they took place long ago—ah, long to the young to look forward to, but how short to me to look back—how short—very short to us who have passed the meridian of Australian


Time—the aged put the past in the hollow of their hand, while to the young to look forward to it, is much broader than the ocean.

The pearl to the poet is a tear of the sea ; but to the Oriental, it is a drop of dew solidified ; while to the great connoiseur, it is a jewel of value. So is life, to one a tear of sorrow ; to another, a dew that comes and goes a—mixture; while to another a jewel of priceless value of peace.

On a bright autumn day two gentlemen were walking on one of the surburban roads of Kew, some three and a half miles from Melbourne. Close friends and companions they were, so much so that they were spoken of as the inseparables. Tho' not millionaires, yet they were men of means, so financi- ally they were independent of all, yet being true debonairs, they never displayed the novus homo of society.

Both gentlemen had left England together to see the colonies, having heard so much in the old country of Australia's huge dimensions, its 3,000,000 square miles. They were also moved to make the voyage by their great love of travel and adventure.

They were both about the same age, i.e. turning the hand of the dial , of time at twenty-five of Father Christmas. Beyond this, they were very unlike,—unlike in size, for one (John Brown) was five foot eleven, while his companion Achates was below medium height. They were further dis- similar in money matters, for Achates purse was a kind of Chubb's lock with a key marked self, and a greater dissimiliarity was to be found in many other characteristics of the two men.

The former person was quick in thought and action, and had a habit of stroking his long silky beard when thinking deeply ; while the shorter was slow when working but a problem and ever during such times, feeling the few straggling hairs on his upper lip that formed his moustache or else sending his nose up into close proximity to the centre of his fore- head, and a bringing or lowering down his chin as if seeking for a resting place on the bosom of his shirt, such facial movements gave anything but a pic- turesque view of his features.

Altho' these two persons were so very different, so very opposite, yet no two men could have been more kindly attached, cemented by the bonds of the closest friendship. Yes, such is according to all rules of contrast.

Achates had been for some time feeling his mous- tache as he walked alongside of his friend, when he broke out with a sigh, and said—

" Solitude is charming."

John Brown, looking at his friend's face, with a smile, replied : "Yes, but it needs a person to whom you can say it is charming."

" True for you, John Brown, but I was just think- ing of what happened on Brighton beach yesterday, at the jetty head, for better be alone than have that huge shark for a companion, as that old English

fisherman Jonah like."

"Yes, Achates, it was very sad. I blame that lawyer fellow-boarder of ours, in exciting the fisher- man to undertake such work. Our warning was of no avail ; the only reply we got from the poor fellow was, 'Oh, ah, I have tackled plenty of sharks before with only my knife ; and his wife told me afterwards such was the case."

" Well, John, in his quick fish like movements, he did two or three times strike the shark with his knife but the shark dropped down to his diving and manœ- uvres, so watched for the old salt dive and came open mouth, so received him clean ; it was a horrid sight."

After a pause, " I am glad we succeeded in getting the shark so as to get out the old sailors' body, for decent burial ; but let us leave the subject of the shark. What do you think of this fellow-boarder of ours, Lyndhurst Handslip, the Lincoln's Inn man?"

" At present I cannot say, Achates. Yesterday was the first time we have met outside of our hotel. To make a friend of him. I feel I nevar could, there is something repellant about the man, shifty look of the eyes, that shows craft, cunn- ing, a kind of anguis in herba", (a snake in the grass.)

" I believe you are right, John ; an unprincipled


" Yes Achates, and such is the very worst kind of man humanity at largo (male or female) have, to cope with ; a person devoid of moral principles, is a very Mephistopheles towards all classes. The higher his position, the worse for human kind ; he sways his sceptre but for villainly both towards divine and human laws, aiming to ruin the sterner or weaker sex, ejecting a subtle poison with his band of con- federates—parasites of evil,—that flows onward into the channels of every day life, the private home and the public resort, the germs of high morality sapped up ; the key stone of high and noble principles removod, causing the fabric—workmanship of God—to titter on its throne, leaving an insidious treacher- ous Hydra, with its seven heads shooting out its forked tongues to the four cardi...l points of the compass, to strike with deadly goliath power the spinal marrow of all that is high, noble and good, diametrically opposed, or opposite to

Christian ethics.

" Think of what I have said, Achates, and remember Lyndhurst Handslip is a barrister, not fledg.. by a back door entrance, but a B.A., a member of Lin- coln's Inn. Tho' we met yesterday for ruralising together for the first time, away from the hostelry, yet for some few weeks daily we have met at meals. I hope l am wrong in thinking what I have said applies to our fellow-lodger, if only for the sake of his alma mater ; but you drew out my remarks by your words ' unprincipled fellow,' so my words are rather a giving my opinion of an unprincipled per- son, female or male."

Achates' nasal organ had been working very rapidly during our hero's words, in fact his facial movements were very ludicrous.

"Thanks, John Brown, for your views, I will con- sider them pro. and con. I like to hear you speak, my friend, for you are straight from the shoulder, and don't like too many."

"Compound for sins they are inclined to.

By damming those they have no mind to."

" I am compelled to admit at all times your pre- mises are sound, and reasoning to the point, remind- ing one what you once told me of a remark made to you by your father's Scotch gardener. When you asked him to prove that honesty was the best policy, he said, in reply to your query, ' I have just tried 'em baith,' not that you have made such ocular demon- stration your own."

" No, Achates, I cannot say I have yet tried the Scotchman's plan, still I deeply value his words and the lesson I drew from his remark. We can always learn—if we will—daily, from the little child at our knee to the hoary headed, yea from the poor tempted one that hates the sin that he still pursues, to those who seem to be surrounded with a halo of goodness. Ever my friend Achates strive to take a brood view of your surroundings. I feel that God's power never produces what his goodness cannot embrace, for He throws a zone of mercy around the world, and unworthy is that person to the name of man who would narrow it by a hair's breath. My motto is—

" Wilt thou draw near the nature of the God's, Draw near them then in being merciful. "

Keep to the higher horizon where dwelt the Great Master, tho' He trod the earth, going in and out daily among poor tottering humanity ; ascend with Him the mountain, and there inhale the pure— rarefied air, but bring it back with you to the throb- bing heart of your fellow creature, diffusing it by ennobling their better nature. Stand not on the lofty cliff looking down upon the shipwrecked mariner stranded below, but climb down the rugged precipice—even if you are wounded by the sharp rocks—and kneel upon the sand by his side, making every fibre of your being respond to the sufferer's groans."

Achates, looking very solemn—a very unusual thing for him—replied, "Oh, I see John Brown, you are giving me a hit straight from the shoulder. Well I know I want it, but have I done anything special to call forth your little homily ?"

"No, Achates, only I should like to see you more decided, with a stronger purpose in life ; less fickle- hearted regarding the fair sex.''

With the gravity of a judge Achates spoke.

" God bless their little hearts I I do love them all, and only wish I was the only male in the world," and after a pause, "excepting you, dear John Brown, because you don't care for them—hate them like." After another kind of hiatus. " Because—because I would like you to be near me and guide me manag- ing of them. I never want to have a wife—only talk with them, and see their pretty cherry lips, and admire their handsome faces, and—"

" Stop, Achates, did I not know you do not mean what you are saying. I would rebuke you very strongly, for well I know that knowingly you would not bring a blush to any maiden ; but you made one remark I must take notice of, and it was, that I hated womankind. Such is not so—many I highly respect ; but for love," with a strongly suppressed sigh, "that is another thing. You, Achates, run away with the fallacious idea that it was the best rib of Adam that Eve was made of—a kind of ivory rib. It may be so, but no !" with a sigh that did not escape Achates. " It cannot be, or else——. Let us change the subject. Yes, by the by, it is near dinner time ; get back, and see what the old dog is up to."

The two friends returned to the hotel to dinner, the " old dog," as he was frequently called, meeting his master by jumping through an open window. Here we leave the trio (for we must include the dog Faith- ful, he having a prominent part to play in the fol- lowing pages) for a time to introduce another char- acter who will figure notably by and by.

* * * * * * I must waft my readers to the shores of Tasmania. lt is evening.

Two men wearing felon's garb, leave their hiding place. The ocean is calm and still.

" Time writes no wrinkle on its azure brow."

" Well, De Wert, if I had not have dropped across you, I would never have got those iron dogs off ; I feel a free man already; a close shave, for it ; used my sharpened spoon to a purpose. The dogs to try to stop one of her Britannic Majesty's royal—not loyal, mark you De Wert—subjects in leaving the walled palace. Aha, aha, aha !"

De Wert looked hard at his companion for a minute or two, before he replied.

" Bacchus, I hope you did not take life ?"

" Hallo, De Wert ! Chicken-hearted are you, would take your mammy's apron to hide your pretty face from blood !"

"No, Bacchus" (said in firmness) "I am not chicken-hearted, but I am not a hardened criminal, and rather than take life would have remained and served my time, tho' the treatment I have gone through on this Island was quite enough to make a better man than I am shed blood."

With quivering lips, De Wort went on, "I have been suffering an unjust imprisonment."

Bacchus replied, in deep iron. " Unjust imprison- ment ; forsooth that is good. Did you ever know a man that got the darbies on, legs or paws, that was not ready to take his—his—Oh, 'Alfred David,' that is the word I wanted, tho' it is not the chic word with the upper nine—I make up the ten. Well, to ease your mind, and make you my pater confessor. I

don't think that iron spoon gave the quietus to any of the hounds in the governor's kennel; I was the fox—sly fox," placing his hand on his heart and bowing.

" Well, Bacchus, if we are to leave this Island, we must think out some plan to do so. The very atmos- phere of this land, stifles me. The crew I had to—" (Bacchus interjected. ' Crew, I wish we had a good boat and crew')—deal with in this living hell, the imprecations and sights ; and when I complained would force me to be a flagellator. Oh, horror ! the scored bleeding backs l witnessed ; they would make me witness it. Then the powers that be—calling them- selves men—telling me to prepare for next day to flog a man. This I could not stand, I broke through all bounds that night, and bolted, scratching on my tin plate with a nail the reason I quitted that pande- monium. Had I broken any rule of the place, I was willing to suffer for it. This I told the officer, and the only reply I got was—' You must obey.' Obey ! Be a dog ! Sink my manhood ! Be a servile wretch !

For what !"

Bacchus replied as if interrogated. "You wouls have got a bit of bacca and a pinch of tea—all the flavour boiled out first, mate—and the curse of Her Majesty's royal subjects."

Do Wert went on heedless of Bacchus' remark.

" For what ? To please my superiors ; harden my heart ; steel my nerves ; quench my soul ; disenthrone my higher feelings the Great Maker of the universe has given me. Bacchus, I cannot speak now of all I have seen here in this nursery of all that is harden- ing and daily carried out, making men worse than

serfs of the under world."

" Ah my boy, I could a tale unfold likewise, but what is the use ? Tho' I was in a different depart- ment to you, our notes would be like Darby and Joan. I have seen men openly commit a crime so as to be hanged to get out of life ; but life is sweet, as the cow said when she broke through a fence and was eating the standing corn. You know this is the land of milk and honey—I mean hominy and lash."

Bacchus hardly finished speaking when he said:

" Look, De Wert, there is a «schonner in the offing : good for us the morn is so bright ; can yon not see her, my hearty ?"

" Yes, she is a whaler if I mistake not, but what good will she do us with these self-convicting gar- ments on, and even if we were received on board, her oil will be discharged in Hobart Town ; then on landing there we would be spotted, so arrested."

"No, my dear fellow, I wish I had been your father, and I would have taught you in your by-bye cradle as your mother rocked, the word sanguine, and another word nil desperandum ; one your morn- ing prayer, and the other your evening prayer, being a long word that you might have the night to sleep with it. Let us take our chance ; I know where to get some clothes. You know I was here a week be- fore you came. At night I went exploring, and came across a farm house, but with those chains on could do nothing. The place is two miles from here. You keep an eye on the vessel, while I go. Ta, ta."

As Bacchus went along he commenced to solilo- quise.

" Not a bad chap, tho' rather raw : he will try to cut the painter from me if we reach Melbourne safely, but I must keep him in tow. I'll want a mate to add to my exchequer, and he being raw I shall be able to mould him, and make him a credit to me."

De Wort's soliloquy while alone was as follows :

" Bacchus is good natured I think, but at present I know but little of him, still I do not think we are made for each other. If we get safe away I will be able to work for a living ; there is a stain on my name for what was done by——, well I must not get away into such thoughts. Time will——, there I go again. Poor Ledne, how she must suffer ; shall I ever see her again ?"

"Hallo old boy, in a brown study? I got them togs quicker than I expected ; met an old chum, a ticket of leaver, a close and sure card I can trust, and he gave me these two trousers and |shirts and some prog, with his paternal blessing."

" Good, we are fortunate Bacchus. Next move ?"

"I have not told you all, he is in his masters good graces, so trusted especially as his time is within a week of being up, when he can go to Melbourne as a free man after his seven years here. His master is away in Launceston, so he will be able in an hour's time to put us off in a boat, or dingy, for the Govern- ment won't permit anyone to keep a boat large enough to cross the sea in case escaped convicts should rob it. So boy, cheer up, there is some light- eyed lass looking for you."

On board in due time, the two went and were received as deck hands, the master of the whaler professing to believe the two men's story, that they were not escaped convicts. He made up his mind to closely watch them, that they did not escape ; then after, his voyage to hand them over to the Hobart Town authorities. While their intention was, when they found the ship was a whaler and consequently would in due time return to Hobart Town, to escape if an opportunity occurred—in Bacchus' mind at any price.

Before break of day the whaler set sail for her rendezvous and work. Hobart Town (now called Hobart, was a great receiving depôt for whale oil in those days, and is still to a limited extent.

De Wert worked and noted so well as to gain the good opinion of the skipper, there was a true ring about his actions that did not escape the notice of his. ohlef ; upright, manly, and fearless, so much so that the old salt several times said as he leaned over the taffrail with a short clay black pipe watching the men at work, " That fellow's got grit in him."

But Bacchus did not give such satisfaction to the king of the crew. The old man was strongly sus- picious, he was a fire brand in the forecastle, and further that he was trying to bring about a mutiny. so much so, that on one occasion the skipper called Bacchus before him, and gave him a piece of his mind in the following words.

" Split my sides, Sirrah, but you are worse than the parson's clerk ; I believe you to be a two-faced villain. I will send a harpoon into you, then chuck you overboard, you doubly-dyed villain, if I hear any more of your canting villainous work in the fore- castle. Look, out Sirrah, or by the mother of Moses you'll lose the number of your mess." "What have I done ?" jerked out Bacchus.

" Don't answer me, you land lubber. I have been told what you are about, I know what you are trying to do. I don't try, but I do, so take that."

And down came the skipper's fist like a sledge ham- mer full between Bacchus' two eyes, sending him full length on the deck. Bacchus after a time picked him- self up, muttering a deep curse between his teeth.

Bacchus remembered the blow. De Wert at this time was confined to his bunk with a sprained ankle.

The next day all the men but Bacchus were sent off in the only two boats after a shoal of whales. One boat was stove in towards the end of the day's work.

That night the old dry rotten whaler was on fire from stem to stern. The captain rushed here and there, frantic. The old craft was saturated with oil. The master of the whaler called out immediately he saw the hopeless state of the ship. " Where is that villain Bacchus ? This is his work ; where is he ?"

"There," said the man of the watch, pointing to a prostrate form on the deck. "There be the fellow. I caught him in the dog-watch, taking the boat from the davits, and so sent him sprawling with a back- hander under the ear and a kick in his bread bag."

The Captain, giving Bacchus' body a kick, said— " Remain there you dog, and perish in your work."

" Now for the boot, boys. No time is to be lost, or we are done for," quickly called out the master, and away all rushed, forgetting De Wert in his bunk. The whole was but the work of a few minutes, and not till the rowers got miles from|the ship did they remember him. They reached the Island in two days, but had to land, for safety, forty miles from Hobart. When Bacchus came to, he found De Wert sleeping almost the sleep of death. On deck he brought him, and clung to him, being the only living person on board. Bacchus never told De Wert that he was the incen- diary—the one who had set fire to the ship—yea, rather denied it when asked by De Wert, and further said he had pleaded with the Captain to take De Wert and himself in the boat, and that the reply he got, with an oath, was that they, both being escaped convicts, might perish in the flames. One thing De Wert was certain of, that if Bacchus had not taken him from his bunk, he would have perished there. No doubt of this, so he was consequently drawn to Bacchus. The reader will, in due time, see what was the consequence of this friendship to De Wert. I need not describe the fire on board the whaler, but at once hasten on to show, how the two men escaped.

Axes were quickly used to build a raft—if raft it could be called—and on it the two got, lashing them- selves to the |frail structure. For three and a half days they were tossed at the mercy of the waves, without water or food but a few sea biscuits, that were soon saturated with the saltwater, making them worse than unpalatable. Some six hours after they left the ship, they thought they were on a rock. It was some thing of huge dimensions. De Wert remembered to have read of Olaüs Magnus, and his animal of the sea, a mile long ; also that a pious bishop of Nidros built an altar on a rock, and when the service of song was ended, the rock walked into the sea. The sup- posed rock was a poulps of the sea. Another, Bishop Ponts, who told of a sea monster on which a regi- ment of soldiers fought a battle. All these, and such

like stories, were called to mind by De Wert, but the rock on which they were, or rather the raft, was stationary just above water, and not above a ship's cable length. They untied themselves, to push their raft off, feeling the rock was so abiding place for them. Just as they succeeded in getting their craft off, the rock gave way under their feet—it was a huge whale. Both men were precipitated into the water, and had to swim for life, as if Neptune him- self was after them. Two hours were they in the water before they both regained their raft. The next day at noon, a porpoise, in his skipping and gambols, lighted on the centre of their deck. Quickly were their knives out, and sliced a piece of flesh off before the porpoise wriggled back into the sea, rather surprised; this they were about to eat when knives and meat were washed away by a wave, and at the same time tightening the lashings they were fastened by. By the movement of their bodies wedged like, they dare not free themselves at the time, so had to bear their sufferings from the cords. So things went on, everything—above, below—add- ing intensity to their sufferings. Hurricanes after hurricanes they passed through, with whirling motions of the waves, chasms and vortices, till all hope died within them. On the third day their raft was followed by a shoal of sharks, their fins appearing everywhere, looking and waiting for a meal. These followed during the whole of that day and night. Next day the two men saw them still surrounding their raft. Early that morning De Wert pointed with his finger to a ship, pointed it out to Bacchus, but Bacchus only stared at his companion with glar- ing eye balls, his gaze was piercing ; a piercing look that froze up the blood in De Wort's veins. Bacchus tried to clutch his companion as if to drink his heart's


" Oh heavens," said De Wert " the man is mad !" Bacchus all the time struggling to get free of his bonds and at De Wert. De Wert freed himself, and lashed himself to the further end of the raft, for- getting for a short time the ship. Then he sprang up on his feet and halloed till he was voiceless ; he gesticulated with his arms to the ship, and the only reply he got was the maniacal laugh of Bacchus. Onward went the ship, leaving the men to their fate, for no one on board had seen the raft in the trough of the sea. Bacchus became so bad that De Wert was forced to lash him more firmly and secure his hands. After doing this De Wert was again compelled to lash himself and hardly had he done so when the raft parted in the middle each partaking a man, so the two were separated. With straining eyes De Wert watched Bacchus' portion of the raft in deep anguish.

He would have plunged into the water to have saved

Bacchus, but such a course would have been certain death, for the sharks around were in myriads, part going after Bacchus, and part remaining with De Wert. Towards noon, the two portions of the raft were washed together again, when by great effort De Wert commenced to fasten them side by side, but his efforts were in vain for the small rope soon gave way, so again each raft went on its way with its living freight on its deck.

For farther information on prison life in Tasmania, I would

refer my readers to another of my works. "Oscar Suzenburg, or Misapplied Talents."