|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 DAYSOF'
BY JAMES GBASSIS.
The nature of man inclines to evil, and there are few whose failings lean to virtue's side. Wisdom cries in the streets, at the gates, and in the public places, " How long will fools their folly love, and hear my words in vain ?" and her warnings pass unheeded ; but if the gambler shakes his dice box or the tavern keeper Jingles his glasses if the bacchanal raises his finger, or the courtesan her fan, those who resisted the appeals of wisdom respond to the invitations of vice, and fly with impure feet to the impurer haunts of the
John the Bishop, during his penal servitude, was compelled by the rules of the penal establishment to hear a preacher of some Christian denomina- tion every Sabbath, but their appeals made no impression on him-not one
of them found a key to his conscience, nor could any of them make him be lieve that " he whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." John probably thought that that was a questionable way of showing love, and although he had heard of Irishmen knocking each other down for love, he did not approve of
having such a maxim in theology. The
priest-the good shepherd-could not awaken John's sympathies by the con tinued, teaching of three long years, but the wicked shepherd found the way to his heart in three minutes-which shows that compulsory religion, like compulsory education, is a mistake. The very name of compulsion is so re pulsive that Sir John Falstaff would not even tell the truth on compulsion, and Maunzie Waugh, the Dalkeith tailor, going fast enough to the devil of his own accord, jibbed at once when his 'master threatened to make him go. One man can take a horse to water, but twenty cannot make him drink; and time will show that compulsory education like compulsory religion is a fallacy.
The shepherd, or as he was more commonly called in the penal establish ment " the Banker," now approached with the pistol in his hand. The pistol was a double-barrelled one, and the condition it was in showed that " the Banker " knew how to keep arms in order and had dealt with similar weapons before then; and tendering it to John he accepted it with a sigh and
put it in his pocket. He was not even then wholly lost; but he had waded so far into the current of crime that to return was worse than to go through.
The two started on horseback next day in quest of new adventures, and by a singular coincidence John's next crime was forced upon him like all former ones. They had travelled for three days unmolested, but on the fourth day as they approached a dilapidated unoocupied shed at the roadside, a severe thunderstorm threatened-thick lightnings flashed, and muttering thunder rolled-and they and their horses sought the shelter of the shed.
But they had not been there long when a third party also sought the shelter afforded by the shed. That person was & young man whose demeanour was brim full of hauteur and arrogance.
Loaded with chains and trinkets, he evidently considered himself a person of some importance; and shifting " the
Banker's " horse from the most shel- tered corner of the shed, he put his own in its place, and turning to John, said, " What the devil do you fellows want loafing about here ? Do you want to steal the grindstone ?" "I am not a thief," replied John. " Well," .con tinued the swell, " Yon are liker a thief than a horse at any rate, and as I think you are bolters from some prison I shall put you under arrest, for I am a Justice of the Peace. " The Banker " now came to the front, and looking - sneeringly at the Justice said, "I say
Mister, have you got any bags at the station?" " Yes, I have," replied the Justice. " "Well then," said " the Banker," " go home and put your head in one, and keep it there until you learn ' better mannerrs." "Now, for that
impudence," said the Justice, "I will secure you at any rate;" and be approached "the Banker " menacingly, when the latter exclaimed, "If you
come.near me, I'll knock saucepans out of you." But the Justice did go near
him, and " the Bauker " knocked him down, and when he was down rifled him of watch, purse, pocket-book,
chains, and trinkets. John was all this time a passive spectator, until " the Banker " turning to him said,
"we must either shoot this coon or carry him into the bush and tie him to a tree!" John shrugged his shoulders and said, " here comes another!" And another did come, who was no other
than the district constable carrying despatches to the mail. "The Banker" whispered John to hold the Justice while he dealt with tho constable ; and be did so, and soon heard a shot fol lowed by a deep groan, and he dreaded that the unoffending policeman had gone to the world of spirits. " The
Banker" re-entered the shed, but he was flurried now. The sneer had left his countenance, and the devil sat there plumed in all his horror; Cain was on bis brow and blood on his band. No time now for jeering about bags or stealing grindstones, for " death is on the walls and under." The blustering bully, the Justice, was now paralised with fear. His lips were livid and his face pale. Cold clammy sweat dropped from his forehead, and his knees smote each other like Belshazzar's when he saw the writing on the wall. " Mercy, friends !" he cried imploringly. " Oh mercy, mercy, and I will give you all I have! I have some money here !" "Fork it out," exclaimed the banker, " and quick about it, minutes are life times now." " In the lining of my hat," groanod the justice, and fainted off, and fell on the ground heavily. "The Banker " found five ten pound notes in an envelope concealed within the lining of the hat, and nearly as much in the constable's despatches, and having pocketed the booty he dragged the constable's body into some ferns
near the hut, and on his return found the Justice, still guarded by John,
again begging for mercy. But John's blood was up-a gleam of his own suffering had flitted like a shadowy panorama before his mind-he had seen a vision of his dead wife and ruined daughters-the law, the lash, and the desolate home. " Yes," he exclaimed, " such mercy as was measured to me I will mete to you again," and he shot him through the heart, and his mate laid him low with the policeman. "Oh God! it is a fearful thing to see the human soul take wing," but John and his mate were now so case-hardened that they thought no more of the lives of these men than they would have thought about the lives of two native cats. So having concealed their saddles and cast the murdered men's horses loose, they struck across country for tho sea
coast. There was very little traffic in the country at that time-so little that the bodies lay undiscovered in the ferns for weeks, and in the interim twenty other bushranging parties had sprung into existence, and some of them had made the neighbourhood of
the shed in question the field of their operations. The truth is that the reclamation of criminals was much less understood then than it is now, and the penal authorities in Van Dieman's Land had fancied that by adopting an unusually harsh system of prison dis cipline they would strike terror into the minds of their captives, and torture them at once from demi-demonhood
into being good subjects; but the system proved a fallacy, and its cruelty only urged the prisoners into the most desperate attempts at escape, and ultimately filled the country with
bushrangers. In addition to that per- nicious system of discipline, a great portion of the rural police were liberated prisoners, many of whom were smarting themselves under a sense of real or fancied injustice, and their sympathies all lay with the class
to whom they formerly belonged. The
soldiers too who guarded the prisoners, and had their safety in keeping were
men whose pay was most inadequate in a new country where both luxuries
and necessaries were sold at famine
prices, and the consequence of that economy was that those who could
command money could not only com- mand their escape but their protection after they had escaped.
A great many philanthropists from Howard downwards have been trying, and still try to discover some method of converting rogues into honest men. But some how or other none of them succeed, and they all ultimately give up their attempts in despair. The most energetic of those philanthropists who ever came under my notice was a Mr. Fraser Tertius, who was himself
afterwards convicted of fraudulent in- solvency ; and another was a distiller, whose inconsistency was greater than that of even Mr. Frazer Tertius. The distiller in question wrote. several pamphlets on the " Reformation of Criminals," and was so pious that on the Sabbath he would not " touch a newspaper with a tongs," as he himself used to say. But he would freely sell, a cask of whisky on Sunday; and finally the Excise fined him for smug gling.
Such men as these take the sub- ject for their hobby-they get it on their backs and go about with it like Sidbad the sailor with the old man of the sea-and all the time they are utterly ignorant of the question. The question is, nevertheless, a vital one and I believe it is capable of solution, and that he who solves it will confer a greater benefit on society than he would by discovering the North Pole or the philosopher's stone.
Dr. Darwin's hypothesis may, how ever, be the right one, and it may even be true that cleptomacy is inherent in human nature, and cannot be wholly eradicated. The worthy
Doctor thinks that man is an animal of
prey whose natural instincts ooze out in spite of him, and caunot be entirely subdued. The London merchant or banker has plenty of food at home, but he goes to Scotland to slay grouse or unoffending hares. The gallant huzzar captain would not like to kill
or skin an ox in Smithfield, but he goes exultingly to the wild prairies of America to murder its conquerors and according to Darwin these men are impelled thither by the murdering instinct within them. Clodpole steals a rabbit and Britannia steels Rangoon, and each could live well enough with out either if Darwin's latent instinct would only sleep. Nevertheless, John Wycombe, alias John the Bishop, came to grief with more making ready, without any impulsion from the Dar
(To he Continued,).