|Newspaper Title||Northern Argus (Clare, SA : 1869 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Good at Last|
GOOD AT LAST*
Br " PUELLA."
About fifteen years ago there were near Maidstone (oneof themostprettily situated towns in the prettiest county
in Eag-Jand) some railway works going on to connect that town with London.
At these works the naavies were one ! morning resting from their work in a | cutting. Men resting after work-espe
cially if that work be hard, as theirs was j -would of course not admit , the pro- j priety of such an action as disturbed
them from that rest. It did not seem that navvies, any more than others, could have pleased .themselves in the case; for before they even could start . up, pz^paratory to getting out of the
r way^something stumbled and fell®ver j
the top of the cutting, and took its ro tatory way down the sides, stopping only when it reached the place where, our excavating friends were camped, rather scaring a quarter-of-a dozen by its* sudden appearance. One asked another " wot's oop ?" the other couldn't very well tell, as he didn,t "ezatly noaw" himself, until that which had scared them by its apparitional debut had got on its legs, shook itself, nodded to his viewers, and explained to them that his foot bad slipped at the edge of the cutting, and he had made a series of unintended summersaults into their presence. , .
" Then was seen a young fellow of
about three-and-twenty, well and even i handsomely built-though his attire i would snake one wonder' (as they did 1 t who saw him) what had allowed one with the air and appearance' of a gentleman to get into a blue woollen jumper; corduroy indispensibles, and a hat of which you might form any opinion as to its shape without libelling it. This man who, on the principle of taking the first and best looking man that comes in our way, is to be our herd, is, according to the description given of him in the Police Gazette, a few days afterwards, a " man of 23 years, five feei nine inches in height of musculrir build, complexion fair, hair light brown and curly, eyes blue, high and broad forehead, nose Grecian, mouth small and well shaped, teeth good, small whiskerfe and sandy mous tache, and marked with the letter 1D'
on the right shoulder.'7 The last 1 part of the sentence will explain; how . it is that such a minute carte of this hero-this ragged and gentlemanly looking deserter;-comes into the read ers'possession.
The pity' which shows itself in every -British heart-which cannot see misfortune without wishing to lessen it-was the almost instant cause of a readiness on the part of the navvies to set Our friend at his ease with them by offering him part of their dinner, -which
he declined.. He seemed as if the sole j object of liis mtindane existence was to watch the way by which he had de scended to his present stand in the cutting^ apparently looking for any signs of pursuit by the provost sergeant, or the detectives who belonged to Maidstone, and hunted deserters when no other game was to be./ollowed. * - - .
It soon was time for the men to resume
their work. Our deserter, thinking that he would be able to kt^ep c/ut of the way of pursuit by getting work and staying here, that is if there were any ho be had,1 asked the J" gang<
for something to do-anything, he did not care wh&tr/: rThat, worthy wits
rather astounded at tbesJ assurance or a
man who evidently could know no more of railway laboring than Adam, asking for employment at it. But being a
decent sort of fellow, and, from the 1 proximity of the _ cavalry barracks, conjecturing the true state of the .casej he told the young fellow to stay and
do what he couid. .
iWork wen.t_.9j1, navvies taking. their vork easily,'and singing over itj
? "while "the' new .ohe: iratber made a mess
of it-that is,-- he upset 'a* barrow 'of muck, 09 the heads, of some of those working bdow him, he drove a pick Into the ? toe 'of his" boot, lie knocked
more skin off hie bands than he could
spare, and he got laughed at by the others. Ail these little difficulties, which ought, one would think, to have riled him/didn't; for he endured them with a patience qnite Job-like ana beautiful, winning from his pro tem. comrades .. the .. opinion . that *h^ " youngste^ was an Adjective brick,"
which is something of a grand one for . Kentish men, and navvies too, to -utter.of a stranger.
i Towards evening one of the men raised his head to see how time, as
' kepfc by sun; was going. He saw ;
two 5 men standing at the top of the cutting in which they were at, work,
andJooking searichingly at the figures : of the busy workers below Suddenly their attention became fixed, and our
observer, on turning, found that the 1 object of their scrutiny was the new
W^° did not as yet seem aware of the peculiar attention they were honoring him with. By this time, others of the gang had seen the tiro new comers, andfaad stopped work,
liking uiquiringlj at them and him
^- connection-hetween them. S
Aat he was
: 5** dropped bis shovel and made
of the%<S^DSued^T to^he 1°&S
whether .they.wanted anytoing of them.
The answer, of one of them was,
" We want a man named - Henry Mitford, a deserter - from die --tn Light Dragoons, and- who left Maid stone depot this morning* I believe
that's him over there."
" How if he is; have yon authority to take him f" asked the ganger.
" Yes, we hare. I am the sergeant from the Blue Bell Hill; and this is Willis, the Chatham detective,"
" Well then," said one of the men, one whose huge frame gave evidence to
the officers that he could enforce any thing he said, if it depended on strength, " well then, what. I say is, lot the young fellow have a quartern hour's start before you follow him; if he have any reason tor running. We'll take care that you don't start before time. He's been our mate to-day, and a good one too; so we'll do him that, kindness, anyhow."
The detectives objected that that would be conniving at his escape, which would inculpate them all. "At any rate, it was hard," they said, " to run after a fellow all the morning, and then not be allowed to collar him when thev had got him. There now, look ; he's off!" and they made a start, as if to run after their man, who had indeed taken advantage of the noise and inat tention of the speakers, and shown that he hardly needed a start to dis tance his pursuers, at such a pace did
he break off.
" No, you don't," said the fair-play loving ganger, laying his hands on the collars of the two as they were starting. " We promised to give him a start, and we'll do it; so stay where you are, misters. We'll let you go when time's up."
In the meantime Henry had got out of the cutting, and was scudding across ploughed fields, hop-gardens, ditches, and anything that lay in his way. Way, indeed; as far as that word means a road to a destination, it was of no earthly importance to him; he
had no destination. He knew not where be was going; neither did he care. All he wanted was to get free from the hateful tyranny of what was called barrack dicipline.
Two years before the occurrence of the scene just narrated Henry had quarreled with his uncle, with whom he had lived at Canterbury, and the old man-with thatdogmatic authority which well-off people often fancy them
selves entitled to-had ordered him out of the house and forbidden his return. As his only riches were his expecta tions from the uncle, he had his own living to'get ; and that is a very diffi cult matter for anyone to do who is brought up to nothing . particular. After trying to earn something by his pen, and failing, he enlisted in a light dragoon regiment, and did well for a short time, until he fancied that his feelings were hurt by one of the cor porals, and had given an impertinent reply, and for which he had had his Jiead cropped, and been imprisoned for forty-eight hours. He had then de-. serted, been caught, sent to Fort Clarence for 120 days, and his share of God's imagery defaced and disgraced by the imprint of a barbarous " D" on
his shoulder. Then-as some of those
over him had exulted in the degrada tion of " the gentleman," as they called him-he had gotten sick of the service and become, as barrack slang has. it, one of the " Queen's hard bar gains," 1 finally running away again. Engaged in that terribly sane work he . is found in this chapter. Whether his
following doings be any more" sensible .will, it is to be supposed, soon appear.
"; (To be continued.)