|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
BY JAMES GRASSIE.
Mansie Waugh was a wise man in his day, and, although hours were pre- cious to him, he used to relate how it took him all his time to watch the legislators of his province until he devised a method of ready- reckoning them. Mansie's short time system was to notice when flour ex- ceeded twenty shillings a bag, and then to cry out for an appeal to the country to set vox populi in motion, trot out that nondescript animal, " the working man," and have the flour equilibrium restored by the ballot box.
But if flour remained at par, then the legislators might tinker away at the laws as long as they pleased. Our Victorian rulers tell us that Mansie Waugh was a goose, and that the price of dough must be regulated by the ex- tent of demand and supply. But Mansie's test is an ancient one, and was accredited by Pharaoh after he saw the seven scrubbers gobble up the fat bullock. Mr. Pitt once said that " wise legislation will ever increase the comforts of the people," and as people cannot possibly be comforted on empty flour bags we find Mr. Pitt coming round to Mansie's doctrine. Even Ebenezer Elliott, the great corn- law rhymer, declared openly that he always measured legislation by the depth of the corn-box. I fancy that the chief end of legislation ought to be to keep food at a price which the poor can reach, and Adam Smith insists that it is the primary duty of all
legislators to do so. Here in Victoria where we have been afflicted with patriots and their "isms" for years past, food is up at famine price, and flour is as dear as it is in Okhotsk, the most remote town in the Russian Empire. If, therefore, patriotism flourishes amidst famine why wonder at Jack Cade seeking an asylum in Victoria, and offering the people a ballot-box when they seek bread, or manhood suffrage and Barabbas in place of a big
loaf and butter?
In the island which the bolters were heading for political affairs were managed in a manner assimilating that by which the Chinese deal with their doctors. In China every Celestial who can afford it pays the family doctor a yearly salary, while his family remains in health. But if sickness visits any of them, Galen's annuity ceases until health is again restored in the family. In the island in question the Parlia- ment is " democratic," whatever that means, and all the representatives of the people are patriots—cheap sugar men—who would burst up anything in the shape of an abuse. They get three hundred pounds a-year each, while food lies within reach of the poor, but as soon as flour rises to two pounds ten shillings a bag, and butcher's meat reaches the famine price of eight pence a pound weight, the Parliamentary salaries cease. Parliament dissolves,
and each patriot has to take a new hobby on his back and go round the country with it like Sinbad the Sailor, carrying the Old Man of the Sea. But the people are very liberal in bestow- ing State pensions on all who have helped to cheapen sugar, or added but one hoop more to Jack Cade's ancient cog, with its three standard hoops. Its civil jurisprudence is immaculate, and if any claimant or other person seeks the aid of the law he will get it un- adulterated at 11 o.p., and in criminal matters its written law requires all
juries to give any prisoner the benefit of the doubt in his case, and juries will not be allowed to know a man better than the mother who bore him. If a solicitor-general in that island pub- licly denounced a claimant as a " per- jurer and a scoundrel " during his trial, and before he was found guilty of being either one or the other ; and if the Judge suffered such slander to pass unrebuked, the jury would con- sider that there was a strong animus against the prisoner, and they would discharge him. The law there holds every man innocent until he has been proved guilty, and when he has been so convicted, it is then quite time enough to call him a perjurer and a
scoundrel. The law there even defines
what a doubt is, and enacts that when a man's mother swears that the man is her son, and a priest swears that he is not her son ; when a captain swears that his name is Egg, and a sergeant that his name is Oyster ; when one tenant de- clares that he is Roger, and another that he is Codger ; these discrepancies shall be tantamount to one thousand doubts with which the accused person
must be credited.
But the voyagers had no chart, and like the Prince of Abyssinia, expected chance to guide them to the island ; and chance was as likely to lead them to the Solomon Islands, or Cape Wrath, as to it. Voltaire belived that chance ruled all nature, but Paley's Evidences of Design in the Universe, dispelled his hypothesis, and I have so little faith in chance that I do not believe it will ever guide these unhappy men to the happy island. When they had heaved about on the ocean for some days, liked the
sad relics of the Grecian train, they espied what they thought was a ship
in the distance. They bore down upon her, and as they ranged alongside they observed three men in the fore- top, and one, who seemod to be the
captain, standing on the quarter deck with a sword in his hand, " Look out for yourselves men," cried a voice from the top, "look out for yourselves, for the skipper is mad with delirium tremens, and has killed the two apprentices, the carponter, and cook,
and will kill you if he can." At that juncture the captain strode to the gangway, when " the Banker" accosted him from the boat. The captain appeared to be in the first stage of delirium tremens, and trembled like an aspen leaf, and he replied to "the Banker" by making a thrust at him with the sword, but the sailor at the helm unshipped the tiller and with it knocked the sword out of his hand. Then John the Bishop leaped on deck, and seizing the unfortunate man by
the nape of the neck hurled him over the transom into the sea.
Relieved from the dread of the captain's sword the crew now thronged to the ship's deck, each relating the narrow escapes he had made from the skipper's fury. The crew consisted of Lascars, Englishmen, and Spaniards— foremast men only—the two mates having died of grog fever on the voy- age. It seems that the ship had been chartered to convey a general cargo— a great portion of which was grog— from Liverpool to Sydney, and the captain and both mates had been drinking hard since the ship left the Mersey, and for the last week she had to take care of herself, as the deranged skipper would suffer no one to approach the wheel.
The bolters held a hurried council of
war, for they still dreaded a pursuit by the Hobart Town police yacht, and they wished to adopt defensive measures as early as possible. They saw that the heterogenous mass of humanity which constituted the crew could easily be moulded into anything with an evil tendency, and they pro posed to alter the venedition and manifests, run the ship to Chili, and sell her and the cargo, and divide the proceeds equally amongst all hands. The motion was moved, seconded, and carried by acclamation. The two mutineer sailors were appointed to posts of honor—the one being captain and the other chief mate—and " the
Banker" altered the ship's papers in a satisfactory manner. Alas, for poor John the Bishop, who, if the law had let him alone, would have lived and died an honest man, and his tombstone with uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked implored " the passing tribute of a sigh." Alas, poor John, you are now a pirate, with spots upon your hand that all the water in great Neptune ocean cannot wash away !
Man accommodates himself to cir-
cumstances. Pride falls with position, and vile associations would tarnish Melancthon or Howard. Although John had avoided these associations
in prison, they would contaminate him now. The happy isle, with its cheap patriotism, and cheaper potatoes—its " floury " anticipations, tea, toddy, and tobacco, were all bursted up like bubbles in the air ; and the iron hand of destiny impended over John like the sword of Damocles, suspended by a single hair. On the day after the
mutineers had installed themselves in the Diligence, a man at the mast-head announced a sail on the weather quarter, and when the telescope was sent up to him, he added, " That the sail was a yacht, with men in uniform on board." " It is, doubtless, the police yacht," said the mutineer cap tain, " and we had better send up the stars and stripes, and deal with them Yankee fashion. They are gallied of Jonathan, and will not dare to board us while that flag is over head,"
The ship's name was changed on her stern, from the Diligence, of Liverpool, to the Rose of St. John's, New Bruns- wick, and as the police yacht ap- proached ; the Banker, having a glib tongue, was disguised to represent the captain, and when the yacht at length ranged up alongside, the following col- loquey took place between Inspector Armstrong and him. A—" What ship is that ?" B.—" Rose of St. John's." A.—" Have you passengers on board ?" B.—"No." A.— " Did you pick up or see a half-decked boat lately ?" B.— " No ; have you lost your boat ?" A.
—" No ; we are in pursuit of escaped prisoners from Van Dieman's Land. We are the water police.' ; B.—"We
have not seen them !" A. — "We wish to search your craft." B.—" We do not recognise your right of search. We are Americans !" A.—"The ex- tradition treaty allows it." B.—" No, it does not. We have nothing to do with the extradition of criminals. You must go to New York for that." A.— " Do you refuse to be searched in the face of a warrant signed by the king's representative here ?" B.—"I do." A.—"Will you allow me to go on
board alone ?" B.—" I will not."
A.—" Will you allow one of my men to look through your ship ?" B.— " He cannot see through my ship, there are no holes in her !" A.—" We might make a few !" B.—" Two can play at that game ; our flag protects us." A.—" Your refusal renders your nation liable to a heavy penalty." B.—" My nation cannot pay ; it has neither a Sovereign nor a Crown." A.—" We will make it pay." B.— " You'll make it shell out, will you? ha, ha, ha ! So good bye and thank you for going."
(To be Continued.)