|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 OE THE DARK DAYS OF
BY JAMES GRASSIE
When Jacky emerged from the store with his bucket of rum, he met his compaions on the road, and they were rejoiced at the sight of such a treasure as the storemau's dirty bucket contained. The rum looked pale and innocent, but the fire was only con- cealed, and streaks of vitriol floated on its surface like turtle soup in a pig's tub; and ranging themselves around it they oommenced the jubilee.
The whitefellovv, however, need not sneer at the darkey's liquor, for he
drinks the same himself. The black fellow's rusty bucket had no brand 0n it, but the whitefellow'a keg has " Archangel and Love, Jamaica " stuck on its side, and the bung is hermenic- ally sealed; but, nevertheless, the keg holds only a combination of alum, vitriol, and treacle, like the black fellow's bucket, and Archangel and Love, of Jamaica, never saw either. The darkies, after they had drained the bucket, nearly murdered each other,
and then lay down in disturbed slumber from which they awoke with burning breasts and throbbing brows. To allay his burning thirst Jacky re turned to the storekeeper, with the hope of raising "the doctor," but Storey was obdurate until the black offered to lay him on to the murderer of Mr. Prender and the trap for a nobbler. Now, it was not unlikely that there would be a large reward in that case, and the storekeeper, there- fore, embraced the offer, and the black fellow then minutely described the
tracks seen, by him at the Shingle hut, and showed that these tracks corres- ponded exactly with " the Banker's " tracks at the store. "Humph," said the storekeeper to himself, " I thort there was something, hempish about him; but I'll go in for the reward." Turning to the aboriginal, he said, " I say, Jacky, if you follow up his cart tracks and discover where he is camped, and who is with him, I'll give you a bucket of rum-grand thing - double X and double proof ~witb a
cream on it like tar in a Chinaman's water tank." Jacky clawed hia head, and turning to the storekeeper, said,
"you give it nother one nobbler now, big fellow one this time, and then me pull away to camp belonging to white fellow, and me plenty look out where him go." The drink was at once "poured out, and as he poured it the
storekeeper said, " Jacky, don't let him see you, it mightn't be good to get spotted by that coon, for he aint one o' them that turns the right cheek arter he gets a skelp on the left one-that iaint his, religion, I don't think."'
Jacky was not much of a theologist, and all religion to him was pretty much alike. He, however, swallowed the nobbier, lit his pipe; and having gone to the door, returned again, as if
struck by a now idea. "Me tink," he said to the storekeeper, " that you
give it nother one nobbler, and then me pull away-me too much fright-
ened along o' that whitefellow now, but bye 'm bye when me get nother one nobbler fright go way." The merchant made a virtue of necessity, " gave the other nobbler, and Jacky set
out on an enterprise far more perilous than he at first supposed. He reached the beach immediately after the ruffians had got into the boat with
their stores, and seeing him approach they hung upon their oars to bear what he had to say; and Jacky, in his turn, turned traitor. ""What news Jacky?" he enquired " the Banker," when Jacky had got within oar's length of
boat. "What news? Have the traps found out the Shingle hut?"
"Borak traps!" replied Jacky, "only storekeeper rogue, him yabber to me that you kill Prender, and him say
to mine, you pull away Jacky, and tell em trap. Him yabber like o' that to me. But borak me like trap, and me come to tell you all to keep a big one look out." "The Banker" now turned to the two sailor mutineers, and whisper ing, said, " that black devil is foxy, and has been sent spying after us by the traps, and if they hear that we have gone to sea they will follow us in the police boat. I think, Jacky, you had better give him a taste of the duck shot; we want to try the new gun, at any rate," : No sooner said than done.
The sailor raiaed the gun to bis
sboulder, fired, and Jacky fell ap- parently lifeless on the beach, and the mutineers pulled away.
A blackfellow is not easily killed, however, and is said to have nine lives, like a cat. Whether that be true or not Jacky revived sufficiently through the night to be able to crawl back to the store. But being uuable to
awaken the storekeeper, he died of hemorrhage at the shop door, and on
the following morning was found there by his companions, who at tributed bis murder to the storekeeper, who was frightened to open his door, and had to listen to their abuse patiently, " Oh, you bloody old white man dog," they cried, " You kill Jacky
because Jacky know you kill Prender. You murder Prender you big b~-y rogue, and you be hanged by-'n-bye like it old man dingo."
In the meantime the Shingle hut murder had been discovered by the police, and while the blacks were heap
ing torrents of abuse on the storekeeper at his shop door, an Inspector and a party of troopers arrived there in pur
suit of the murders. The storekeeper, who considered their arrival very op portune for his safety, opened his door to receive them. But the clamour of
the blacks increased, and one fellow stepping to the front said, " Look here 'Pector, that old bloody rogue kill Prender, aud then him kill Jacky be cause Jacky know all about it. You pull him along o' this tree, and hang
him liko a b__ y dog." In those
days the police could do pretty much
as they pleased, and did not bother themselves with summonses or wr rants, and as the Inspector fancied that the storekeeper was not altogether on the square, he proceeded to search his premises, and oh, murder ! found Mr.
Prender's saddle concealed in the back shop, and in bis desk the identical bank
notes" which Mr. Prender was known to have had in his possession on the day he was murdered. Alas, poor store- keeper! although your hands are not very clean they are clean enough of this murder, which you heard of first
from the blackfellow. But nevertheless you will go to Hobarft Town, be sub mitted to the solemn mockery of a trial on circumstantial evidence, be con victed, and finally be hanged up by the neck like a dog, aa many have been be fore you and many more will after you have gone to the land of gibbeted
I have always considered the punish ment of death an extreme error, and cannot believe that Themis is justified in murdering a man even if that man murdered another, because if justice miscarries the judicial victim can got no redress after he has been hanged. He, it is true, gets very little beyond his liberty iu other cases, but the law by depriving him of life debars itself from even restoring him to life if hia innocence is established. We have a very ancient precedent in the trial of Cain, the first murderer, and if Dr. Dodd was hanged to-day for some six teen pounds or so, people would not
scruple to call his death a judicial mur der. But in his time it was considered as just to hang a man for committing a small forgery as it would be now for cutting a parson's throat; and in eighty years more the punishment of death will in all probability be abol ished, and it is even now looked upon by many as a cruel relic of barbarism.
The escaped convicts flying from justice could not fly from themselves; and John the Bishop began to feel the gnawing of the worm that will not sleep and cannot die, and he now often thought in his calmest hours that it would have been far better for him if
he had kept his hands clean and trusted for his release to Providence, whose
ways are inscrutable aud past finding out. However, be had cast his life on the "hazard of a die, and it was too late now to retract, for he saw behind him th rtiver of lamentation loud, over which no man passeth who maketh a lie. The mutineer sailors who were to
navigate the ship fully expected to fall in with some passing whaler, and if they did so they meant, to pass them selves off as shipwrecked seamen, and John and "the Banker" as passengers.
and failing that, they knew an island in tbe ocean which waa governed on just and upright principles, where the people were nejther rich nor poor, but each had plenty. The State there was the landlord, and every man had a reason able quantity of land on a long lease at a cheap rent, and these rents paid all the taxes. There was no State pension list in that island; no hungry patriots clamouring for freedom for the people and "bawbees" for themselves. There was no bursting up of property there.
and the only iron band was the hand on the town clock. Rebels with titles and honest men without them there were none and their only protection was a padlock on the money box in Parliament. John listened attentively to their glowing description of that
island, and then exclaimed, "Hurrah for the happy land!"