|Newspaper Title||Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||John, the Bishop: A Tale of the Dark Days of Tasmania|
JOHN, THE BISHOP. A TALE OF THE DARK DAYS OF TASMANIA.
BY JAMES GRASSIE.
When a wreck occurs the ship's boats are either leaky or the oars have been mislaid; when a fire occurs, the fire engine has either lost its wheels, or the hose is broken; and when a horse bolts with a buggy the driver discovers that the reins are defective. In short, when any emergency happens on sea or land, and a
great calamity is threatened, the boats, the
horses, the engines, or the ropes which
could have averted the calamity are always somehow or other absent or unavailable. Such was the case when John the
Bishop escaped, from the penal establish- ment in Van Dieman's Laud, and such was the case when the London foundered in the Bay of Biscay. When the great iron clad Captain capsized of Cape Finisterre it was discovered when too late that all her boats were locked to the davits; and when the Cospatrick took fire off the Cape of Good Hope it was ascertained
that the boats were so warped by the sun that a mouse could have crept out at any of their seams. The people did not ex- pect the misfortune, and, therefore, pro- vided not for it; - believing that enough for the day is the evil thereof, they did not entertain the wise Scripture which says, "Be ye always ready, for in the hour that you least think your calamity will come!" The warders saw the murderer's flight, and they saw him mount the par- son's horse and fly faster, and they rushed to the stables for horses to follow him, but there was no horse there. They were all away showing off the officers in town, and the pursuers had to wait for the return of these worthy men, and when they did re- turn some of the horses had to be shod, tlie black tracker to be hunted up, and a warrant obtained authorising the pur- suers, to. oppose force to force, which meant to shoot the bolter. And so the evening and the morning was the first day. On the following morning a start was made, and it was soon found that the success of the chase depended on the integrity of a
savage-the tracker; and he having heard that the chase led after " the white man devil man," of whom he had heard so much, concluded that discretion would be
the better part of valour; in this case, at any rate. The leader of the party assured the tracker that the pursued had no arms, and was a stranger in the country, never having been out before. But the black- fellow only grinned, and said " byem-by him get plenty bung bung, and prisoner shepherd tell him where to go. You send out all about prisoner to billets in the, bush, and him guide for all nother one bolter when he run away. If prisoner come and work along o' road? what for you no let'm work along o' road? What for you let one fellow out and keep another fellow in'? No good like o' that." That reproof administered to the Inspector General of Prisons by a naked savage was rather stinging, but he expected success through the tracker, and took the bite and the buffet with it. On the other hand the darkey reasoned thus within himself, " Whitefellow no ___ good; him too jolly, and think blackfellow brother be- longing to dingo. If me track up this devil man, whitefellow then say go and spear him Jacky, and if him shoot me they say, ' Oh, never mind ! only blackfellow! only like it dingo. No fear ! I take 'm all along a wrong track,'"
And s0 he did, and the bolter and his pursuers galloped in very different direc- tions. On the evening of the third day Wycombe fell in with one of the very shepherds alluded to by the black tracker, a prisoner out on assigned service, as was customary in those days, and rendered almos necessary by the scarcity of' labor; and although there were many ruffians amongst those assigned prisoner servants, I have heard some of the old settlers say that many of them were exceedingly trust worthy, and in conflicts with the abori- gines, which were then prevalent and dangerous, the assigned servants always proved infinitely superior to the free help. He invariably acted with more caution and courage, and was far more self-sacri- ficing in his efforts to protect his employer's family and property; I never was in Tasmania myself, but an old settler
of that ilk once told me a story favorable to at least one of these old hands. He
said that having on one occasion to leave his home for a few days at a time when the blacks were dangerous, he left his wife and family under tho protection of three men-servants, two of whom were immi- grants and the third a prisoner. The blacks appeared on the settlement in his absence, and when they did so the immi- grants, fled in terror, but the prisoner, armed with a double-barrelled gun, went out single-handed and dispersed the inva- ders, killing two of them, and having his hat knocked off his head three times by spears. Our friend the shepherd, how ever, was not one of these, but a ruffian, and a polished one too, and the crime for which he was transported showed that he was an exceedingly impudent rascal.
There was a lady of rank in London
who had a stipend of L4000 a year, which she drew in two instalments half yearly at the Bank of England; and the shep- herd, then a swindler in London; having ingratiated himself with one of the lady's maids on the usual Cupid dodge, discovered the day on which her mistress intended to draw her next instalment, when he was at the bank waiting for her. The day arrived, and the lady having drawn her money was seating herself in the carriage at the bank door, preparing to return home, when an artful dodger dressed like a clerk in the bank, bare-headed with a quill stuck behind his ear and cotton cuffs on his sleeves, advanced to the carriage door and said, " My lady, we have omitted to tako the numbers of those notes, will you let me have them for two minutes ?" " Tho numbers of the notes," muttered tho lady. "Yes, mum," he continued, " this is our balance period, and it will inconvonience us to miss these numbers ; let me have them for a second."
Thereupon tho lady handed him the package containing forty fifty pound notes; when he, returning by one door, went out at another, and was lost sight of. He was, however, afterwards arrested with most of tho money in his possession, and got fourteon yoars leave of absence for his pains. Ho greeted John the Bishop cordially, and having hoppled his horse in a sequestered part of the ravine where there was plenty of food, and led himself to a secret gunyah, where he supplied him with food and an opossum rug to sleep in, he commenced to divulge his prospects by stating that he intended in a day or two to forsake the sheep and betake himself to the highway, and there levy contributions on the sons of men, and ho kindly offered to take John as his mate, and furnish him with a pistol. "Well," said John, "I never did steal anything in my life yet, and it is hardly worth my while to become a robber now.
"But," said the fellow, "You killed the warders, and they will hang you like a dog if they grab you." "I killed the warders,'' replied John, " by an impulse
that would have actuated me to kill a robber who had taken my money. They took my liberty, on which they had no more claim than the thief would have had
on my purse, and stood between me and my birthright freedom. It was their position that killed them, and not me." "True," said the ruffian, " that is com mon sense-excellent good sense-and as society owes you a heavy debt, it is your duty to exact payeont to the bitter end."
Society owes me nothing," replied John. " An ignorant jury owes me a heavy, a terrible debt; but society is not the jury," "Tut, man," interposed the ruffian, "society is like a great half inanimate cuttlefish, and the jury is only one of its claws. You have been struck down and trampled upon like a black scorpion, and it matters little whether it was the cuttle or the claw that struck." I was in London after they expelled you from it, and saw tho Society for the Pre vention of Crime give Townsend, the de- tective, a valuable gold watch as a reward for bringing your case to so successful an issue; and many cheered when they did so." " Cheered !" exclaimed John, as a flash of fire darted from his eyes. " Yes," continued tho ruffian. " Cheered! Exulted! Triumphed over your fall, and the ruin of your family," John gnashed his teeth, and clenching his fist, cried, "Bring me the pistol."
(To he Continued.)