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Title: For the Term of His Natural Life
Author: Clarke, Marcus Andrew Hislop
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "For the Term of His Natural Life" ***

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By Marcus Clarke


My Dear Sir Charles, I take leave to dedicate this work to you, not
merely because your nineteen years of political and literary life in
Australia render it very fitting that any work written by a resident in
the colonies, and having to do with the history of past colonial
days, should bear your name upon its dedicatory page; but because the
publication of my book is due to your advice and encouragement.

The convict of fiction has been hitherto shown only at the beginning or
at the end of his career. Either his exile has been the mysterious end
to his misdeeds, or he has appeared upon the scene to claim interest by
reason of an equally unintelligible love of crime acquired during his
experience in a penal settlement. Charles Reade has drawn the interior
of a house of correction in England, and Victor Hugo has shown how
a French convict fares after the fulfilment of his sentence. But
no writer--so far as I am aware--has attempted to depict the dismal
condition of a felon during his term of transportation.

I have endeavoured in “His Natural Life” to set forth the working and
the results of an English system of transportation carefully considered
and carried out under official supervision; and to illustrate in the
manner best calculated, as I think, to attract general attention, the
inexpediency of again allowing offenders against the law to be herded
together in places remote from the wholesome influence of public
opinion, and to be submitted to a discipline which must necessarily
depend for its just administration upon the personal character and
temper of their gaolers.

Your critical faculty will doubtless find, in the construction and
artistic working of this book, many faults. I do not think, however,
that you will discover any exaggerations. Some of the events narrated
are doubtless tragic and terrible; but I hold it needful to my purpose
to record them, for they are events which have actually occurred, and
which, if the blunders which produced them be repeated, must infallibly
occur again. It is true that the British Government have ceased to
deport the criminals of England, but the method of punishment, of which
that deportation was a part, is still in existence. Port Blair is a Port
Arthur filled with Indian-men instead of Englishmen; and, within the
last year, France has established, at New Caledonia, a penal settlement
which will, in the natural course of things, repeat in its annals the
history of Macquarie Harbour and of Norfolk Island.

With this brief preface I beg you to accept this work. I would that its
merits were equal either to your kindness or to my regard.

I am,

My dear Sir Charles,

Faithfully yours,





  BOOK I.--THE SEA.  1827.



  V.      SYLVIA
   XII.    “MR.” DAWES




  X.      A MEETING





On the evening of May 3, 1827, the garden of a large red-brick
bow-windowed mansion called North End House, which, enclosed in spacious
grounds, stands on the eastern height of Hampstead Heath, between
Finchley Road and the Chestnut Avenue, was the scene of a domestic

Three persons were the actors in it. One was an old man, whose white
hair and wrinkled face gave token that he was at least sixty years
of age. He stood erect with his back to the wall, which separates the
garden from the Heath, in the attitude of one surprised into sudden
passion, and held uplifted the heavy ebony cane upon which he
was ordinarily accustomed to lean. He was confronted by a man of
two-and-twenty, unusually tall and athletic of figure, dresses in rough
seafaring clothes, and who held in his arms, protecting her, a lady
of middle age. The face of the young man wore an expression of
horror-stricken astonishment, and the slight frame of the grey-haired
woman was convulsed with sobs.

These three people were Sir Richard Devine, his wife, and his only son
Richard, who had returned from abroad that morning.

“So, madam,” said Sir Richard, in the high-strung accents which in
crises of great mental agony are common to the most self-restrained of
us, “you have been for twenty years a living lie! For twenty years
you have cheated and mocked me. For twenty years--in company with
a scoundrel whose name is a byword for all that is profligate and
base--you have laughed at me for a credulous and hood-winked fool; and
now, because I dared to raise my hand to that reckless boy, you confess
your shame, and glory in the confession!”

“Mother, dear mother!” cried the young man, in a paroxysm of grief, “say
that you did not mean those words; you said them but in anger! See, I am
calm now, and he may strike me if he will.”

Lady Devine shuddered, creeping close, as though to hide herself in the
broad bosom of her son.

The old man continued: “I married you, Ellinor Wade, for your beauty;
you married me for my fortune. I was a plebeian, a ship’s carpenter; you
were well born, your father was a man of fashion, a gambler, the friend
of rakes and prodigals. I was rich. I had been knighted. I was in favour
at Court. He wanted money, and he sold you. I paid the price he asked,
but there was nothing of your cousin, my Lord Bellasis and Wotton, in
the bond.”

“Spare me, sir, spare me!” said Lady Ellinor faintly.

“Spare you! Ay, you have spared me, have you not? Look ye,” he cried,
in sudden fury, “I am not to be fooled so easily. Your family are proud.
Colonel Wade has other daughters. Your lover, my Lord Bellasis, even
now, thinks to retrieve his broken fortunes by marriage. You have
confessed your shame. To-morrow your father, your sisters, all the
world, shall know the story you have told me!”

“By Heaven, sir, you will not do this!” burst out the young man.

“Silence, bastard!” cried Sir Richard. “Ay, bite your lips; the word is
of your precious mother’s making!”

Lady Devine slipped through her son’s arms and fell on her knees at her
husband’s feet.

“Do not do this, Richard. I have been faithful to you for two-and-twenty
years. I have borne all the slights and insults you have heaped upon me.
The shameful secret of my early love broke from me when in your rage,
you threatened him. Let me go away; kill me; but do not shame me.”

Sir Richard, who had turned to walk away, stopped suddenly, and his
great white eyebrows came together in his red face with a savage scowl.
He laughed, and in that laugh his fury seemed to congeal into a cold and
cruel hate.

“You would preserve your good name then. You would conceal this disgrace
from the world. You shall have your wish--upon one condition.”

“What is it, sir?” she asked, rising, but trembling with terror, as she
stood with drooping arms and widely opened eyes.

The old man looked at her for an instant, and then said slowly, “That
this impostor, who so long has falsely borne my name, has wrongfully
squandered my money, and unlawfully eaten my bread, shall pack! That he
abandon for ever the name he has usurped, keep himself from my sight,
and never set foot again in house of mine.”

“You would not part me from my only son!” cried the wretched woman.

“Take him with you to his father then.”

Richard Devine gently loosed the arms that again clung around his neck,
kissed the pale face, and turned his own--scarcely less pale--towards
the old man.

“I owe you no duty,” he said. “You have always hated and reviled me.
When by your violence you drove me from your house, you set spies to
watch me in the life I had chosen. I have nothing in common with you.
I have long felt it. Now when I learn for the first time whose son I
really am, I rejoice to think that I have less to thank you for than
I once believed. I accept the terms you offer. I will go. Nay, mother,
think of your good name.”

Sir Richard Devine laughed again. “I am glad to see you are so well
disposed. Listen now. To-night I send for Quaid to alter my will. My
sister’s son, Maurice Frere, shall be my heir in your stead. I give
you nothing. You leave this house in an hour. You change your name; you
never by word or deed make claim on me or mine. No matter what strait
or poverty you plead--if even your life should hang upon the issue--the
instant I hear that there exists on earth one who calls himself Richard
Devine, that instant shall your mother’s shame become a public scandal.
You know me. I keep my word. I return in an hour, madam; let me find him

He passed them, upright, as if upborne by passion, strode down the
garden with the vigour that anger lends, and took the road to London.

“Richard!” cried the poor mother. “Forgive me, my son! I have ruined

Richard Devine tossed his black hair from his brow in sudden passion of
love and grief.

“Mother, dear mother, do not weep,” he said. “I am not worthy of your
tears. Forgive! It is I--impetuous and ungrateful during all your years
of sorrow--who most need forgiveness. Let me share your burden that
I may lighten it. He is just. It is fitting that I go. I can earn a
name--a name that I need not blush to bear nor you to hear. I am strong.
I can work. The world is wide. Farewell! my own mother!”

“Not yet, not yet! Ah! see he has taken the Belsize Road. Oh, Richard,
pray Heaven they may not meet.”

“Tush! They will not meet! You are pale, you faint!”

“A terror of I know not what coming evil overpowers me. I tremble for
the future. Oh, Richard, Richard! Forgive me! Pray for me.”

“Hush, dearest! Come, let me lead you in. I will write. I will send you
news of me once at least, ere I depart. So--you are calmer, mother!”

          *          *          *          *          *

Sir Richard Devine, knight, shipbuilder, naval contractor, and
millionaire, was the son of a Harwich boat carpenter. Early left an
orphan with a sister to support, he soon reduced his sole aim in life to
the accumulation of money. In the Harwich boat-shed, nearly fifty years
before, he had contracted--in defiance of prophesied failure--to build
the Hastings sloop of war for His Majesty King George the Third’s Lords
of the Admiralty. This contract was the thin end of that wedge which
eventually split the mighty oak block of Government patronage into
three-deckers and ships of the line; which did good service under
Pellew, Parker, Nelson, Hood; which exfoliated and ramified into huge
dockyards at Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Sheerness, and bore, as its buds
and flowers, countless barrels of measly pork and maggoty biscuit. The
sole aim of the coarse, pushing and hard-headed son of Dick Devine was
to make money. He had cringed and crawled and fluttered and blustered,
had licked the dust off great men’s shoes, and danced attendance in
great men’s ante-chambers. Nothing was too low, nothing too high for
him. A shrewd man of business, a thorough master of his trade, troubled
with no scruples of honour or of delicacy, he made money rapidly, and
saved it when made. The first hint that the public received of his
wealth was in 1796, when Mr. Devine, one of the shipwrights to the
Government, and a comparatively young man of forty-four or thereabouts,
subscribed five thousand pounds to the Loyalty Loan raised to prosecute
the French war. In 1805, after doing good, and it was hinted not
unprofitable, service in the trial of Lord Melville, the Treasurer
of the Navy, he married his sister to a wealthy Bristol merchant, one
Anthony Frere, and married himself to Ellinor Wade, the eldest daughter
of Colonel Wotton Wade, a boon companion of the Regent, and uncle by
marriage of a remarkable scamp and dandy, Lord Bellasis. At that time,
what with lucky speculations in the Funds--assisted, it was whispered,
by secret intelligence from France during the stormy years of ‘13, ‘14,
and ‘15--and the legitimate profit on his Government contracts, he had
accumulated a princely fortune, and could afford to live in princely
magnificence. But the old-man-of-the-sea burden of parsimony and avarice
which he had voluntarily taken upon him was not to be shaken off,
and the only show he made of his wealth was by purchasing, on his
knighthood, the rambling but comfortable house at Hampstead, and
ostensibly retiring from active business.

His retirement was not a happy one. He was a stern father and a severe
master. His servants hated, and his wife feared him. His only son
Richard appeared to inherit his father’s strong will and imperious
manner. Under careful supervision and a just rule he might have been
guided to good; but left to his own devices outside, and galled by
the iron yoke of parental discipline at home, he became reckless and
prodigal. The mother--poor, timid Ellinor, who had been rudely torn from
the love of her youth, her cousin, Lord Bellasis--tried to restrain him,
but the head-strong boy, though owning for his mother that strong love
which is often a part of such violent natures, proved intractable, and
after three years of parental feud, he went off to the Continent, to
pursue there the same reckless life which in London had offended Sir
Richard. Sir Richard, upon this, sent for Maurice Frere, his sister’s
son--the abolition of the slave trade had ruined the Bristol House of
Frere--and bought for him a commission in a marching regiment, hinting
darkly of special favours to come. His open preference for his nephew
had galled to the quick his sensitive wife, who contrasted with some
heart-pangs the gallant prodigality of her father with the niggardly
economy of her husband. Between the houses of parvenu Devine and
long-descended Wotton Wade there had long been little love. Sir Richard
felt that the colonel despised him for a city knight, and had heard that
over claret and cards Lord Bellasis and his friends had often lamented
the hard fortune which gave the beauty, Ellinor, to so sordid a
bridegroom. Armigell Esme Wade, Viscount Bellasis and Wotton, was a
product of his time. Of good family (his ancestor, Armigell, was reputed
to have landed in America before Gilbert or Raleigh), he had inherited
his manor of Bellasis, or Belsize, from one Sir Esme Wade, ambassador
from Queen Elizabeth to the King of Spain in the delicate matter of
Mendoza, and afterwards counsellor to James I, and Lieutenant of the
Tower. This Esme was a man of dark devices. It was he who negotiated
with Mary Stuart for Elizabeth; it was he who wormed out of Cobham the
evidence against the great Raleigh. He became rich, and his sister (the
widow of Henry de Kirkhaven, Lord of Hemfleet) marrying into the family
of the Wottons, the wealth of the house was further increased by the
union of her daughter Sybil with Marmaduke Wade. Marmaduke Wade was a
Lord of the Admiralty, and a patron of Pepys, who in his diary [July
17,1668] speaks of visiting him at Belsize. He was raised to the peerage
in 1667 by the title of Baron Bellasis and Wotton, and married for
his second wife Anne, daughter of Philip Stanhope, second Earl of
Chesterfield. Allied to this powerful house, the family tree of Wotton
Wade grew and flourished.

In 1784, Philip, third Baron, married the celebrated beauty, Miss Povey,
and had issue Armigell Esme, in whose person the family prudence seemed
to have run itself out.

The fourth Lord Bellasis combined the daring of Armigell, the
adventurer, with the evil disposition of Esme, the Lieutenant of the
Tower. No sooner had he become master of his fortune than he took
to dice, drink, and debauchery with all the extravagance of the last
century. He was foremost in every riot, most notorious of all the
notorious “bloods” of the day.

Horace Walpole, in one of his letters to Selwyn in 1785, mentions a
fact which may stand for a page of narrative. “Young Wade,” he says, “is
reported to have lost one thousand guineas last night to that vulgarest
of all the Bourbons, the Duc de Chartres, and they say the fool is not
yet nineteen.” From a pigeon Armigell Wade became a hawk, and at thirty
years of age, having lost together with his estates all chance of
winning the one woman who might have saved him--his cousin Ellinor--he
became that most unhappy of all beings, a well-born blackleg. When he
was told by thin-lipped, cool Colonel Wade that the rich shipbuilder,
Sir Richard Devine, had proposed an alliance with fair-haired gentle
Ellinor, he swore, with fierce knitting of his black brows, that no
law of man nor Heaven should further restrain him in his selfish
prodigality. “You have sold your daughter and ruined me,” he said; “look
to the consequences.” Colonel Wade sneered at his fiery kinsman: “You
will find Sir Richard’s house a pleasant one to visit, Armigell; and he
should be worth an income to so experienced a gambler as yourself.” Lord
Bellasis did visit at Sir Richard’s house during the first year of his
cousin’s marriage; but upon the birth of the son who is the hero of this
history, he affected a quarrel with the city knight, and cursing him
to the Prince and Poins for a miserly curmudgeon, who neither diced nor
drank like a gentleman, departed, more desperately at war with fortune
than ever, for his old haunts. The year 1827 found him a hardened,
hopeless old man of sixty, battered in health and ruined in pocket; but
who, by dint of stays, hair-dye, and courage, yet faced the world with
undaunted front, and dined as gaily in bailiff-haunted Belsize as he had
dined at Carlton House. Of the possessions of the House of Wotton Wade,
this old manor, timberless and bare, was all that remained, and its
master rarely visited it.

On the evening of May 3, 1827, Lord Bellasis had been attending a pigeon
match at Hornsey Wood, and having resisted the importunities of his
companion, Mr. Lionel Crofton (a young gentleman-rake, whose position
in the sporting world was not the most secure), who wanted him to go on
into town, he had avowed his intention of striking across Hampstead to
Belsize. “I have an appointment at the fir trees on the Heath,” he said.

“With a woman?” asked Mr. Crofton.

“Not at all; with a parson.”

“A parson!”

“You stare! Well, he is only just ordained. I met him last year at Bath
on his vacation from Cambridge, and he was good enough to lose some
money to me.”

“And now waits to pay it out of his first curacy. I wish your lordship
joy with all my soul. Then, we must push on, for it grows late.”

“Thanks, my dear sir, for the ‘we,’ but I must go alone,” said Lord
Bellasis dryly. “To-morrow you can settle with me for the sitting of
last week. Hark! the clock is striking nine. Good night.”

          *          *          *          *          *

At half-past nine Richard Devine quitted his mother’s house to begin the
new life he had chosen, and so, drawn together by that strange fate of
circumstances which creates events, the father and son approached each

          *          *          *          *          *

As the young man gained the middle of the path which led to the Heath,
he met Sir Richard returning from the village. It was no part of his
plan to seek an interview with the man whom his mother had so deeply
wronged, and he would have slunk past in the gloom; but seeing him thus
alone returning to a desolated home, the prodigal was tempted to utter
some words of farewell and of regret. To his astonishment, however, Sir
Richard passed swiftly on, with body bent forward as one in the act of
falling, and with eyes unconscious of surroundings, staring straight
into the distance. Half-terrified at this strange appearance, Richard
hurried onward, and at a turn of the path stumbled upon something which
horribly accounted for the curious action of the old man. A dead body
lay upon its face in the heather; beside it was a heavy riding whip
stained at the handle with blood, and an open pocket-book. Richard took
up the book, and read, in gold letters on the cover, “Lord Bellasis.”

The unhappy young man knelt down beside the body and raised it.
The skull had been fractured by a blow, but it seemed that life yet
lingered. Overcome with horror--for he could not doubt but that his
mother’s worst fears had been realized--Richard knelt there holding his
murdered father in his arms, waiting until the murderer, whose name he
bore, should have placed himself beyond pursuit. It seemed an hour to
his excited fancy before he saw a light pass along the front of the
house he had quitted, and knew that Sir Richard had safely reached his
chamber. With some bewildered intention of summoning aid, he left the
body and made towards the town. As he stepped out on the path he heard
voices, and presently some dozen men, one of whom held a horse, burst
out upon him, and, with sudden fury, seized and flung him to the ground.

At first the young man, so rudely assailed, did not comprehend his own
danger. His mind, bent upon one hideous explanation of the crime, did
not see another obvious one which had already occurred to the mind of
the landlord of the Three Spaniards.

“God defend me!” cried Mr. Mogford, scanning by the pale light of
the rising moon the features of the murdered man, “but it is Lord
Bellasis!--oh, you bloody villain! Jem, bring him along here, p’r’aps
his lordship can recognize him!”

“It was not I!” cried Richard Devine. “For God’s sake, my lord say--”
 then he stopped abruptly, and being forced on his knees by his captors,
remained staring at the dying man, in sudden and ghastly fear.

Those men in whom emotion has the effect of quickening circulation
of the blood reason rapidly in moments of danger, and in the terrible
instant when his eyes met those of Lord Bellasis, Richard Devine had
summed up the chances of his future fortune, and realized to the full
his personal peril. The runaway horse had given the alarm. The
drinkers at the Spaniards’ Inn had started to search the Heath, and had
discovered a fellow in rough costume, whose person was unknown to
them, hastily quitting a spot where, beside a rifled pocket-book and a
blood-stained whip, lay a dying man.

The web of circumstantial evidence had enmeshed him. An hour ago escape
would have been easy. He would have had but to cry, “I am the son of Sir
Richard Devine. Come with me to yonder house, and I will prove to
you that I have but just quitted it,”--to place his innocence beyond
immediate question. That course of action was impossible now. Knowing
Sir Richard as he did, and believing, moreover, that in his raging
passion the old man had himself met and murdered the destroyer of
his honour, the son of Lord Bellasis and Lady Devine saw himself in
a position which would compel him either to sacrifice himself, or to
purchase a chance of safety at the price of his mother’s dishonour and
the death of the man whom his mother had deceived. If the outcast son
were brought a prisoner to North End House, Sir Richard--now doubly
oppressed of fate--would be certain to deny him; and he would be
compelled, in self-defence, to reveal a story which would at once bring
his mother to open infamy, and send to the gallows the man who had been
for twenty years deceived--the man to whose kindness he owed education
and former fortune. He knelt, stupefied, unable to speak or move.

“Come,” cried Mogford again; “say, my lord, is this the villain?”

Lord Bellasis rallied his failing senses, his glazing eyes stared into
his son’s face with horrible eagerness; he shook his head, raised a
feeble arm as though to point elsewhere, and fell back dead.

“If you didn’t murder him, you robbed him,” growled Mogford, “and you
shall sleep at Bow Street to-night. Tom, run on to meet the patrol, and
leave word at the Gate-house that I’ve a passenger for the coach!--Bring
him on, Jack!--What’s your name, eh?”

He repeated the rough question twice before his prisoner answered, but
at length Richard Devine raised a pale face which stern resolution had
already hardened into defiant manhood, and said “Dawes--Rufus Dawes.”

          *          *          *          *          *

His new life had begun already: for that night one, Rufus Dawes, charged
with murder and robbery, lay awake in prison, waiting for the fortune of
the morrow.

Two other men waited as eagerly. One, Mr. Lionel Crofton; the other, the
horseman who had appointment with the murdered Lord Bellasis under the
shadow of the fir trees on Hampstead Heath. As for Sir Richard Devine,
he waited for no one, for upon reaching his room he had fallen senseless
in a fit of apoplexy.

BOOK I.--THE SEA. 1827.


In the breathless stillness of a tropical afternoon, when the air was
hot and heavy, and the sky brazen and cloudless, the shadow of the
Malabar lay solitary on the surface of the glittering sea.

The sun--who rose on the left hand every morning a blazing ball, to move
slowly through the unbearable blue, until he sank fiery red in mingling
glories of sky and ocean on the right hand--had just got low enough to
peep beneath the awning that covered the poop-deck, and awaken a young
man, in an undress military uniform, who was dozing on a coil of rope.

“Hang it!” said he, rising and stretching himself, with the weary sigh
of a man who has nothing to do, “I must have been asleep”; and then,
holding by a stay, he turned about and looked down into the waist of the

Save for the man at the wheel and the guard at the quarter-railing,
he was alone on the deck. A few birds flew round about the vessel, and
seemed to pass under her stern windows only to appear again at her bows.
A lazy albatross, with the white water flashing from his wings, rose
with a dabbling sound to leeward, and in the place where he had been
glided the hideous fin of a silently-swimming shark. The seams of the
well-scrubbed deck were sticky with melted pitch, and the brass plate of
the compass-case sparkled in the sun like a jewel. There was no breeze,
and as the clumsy ship rolled and lurched on the heaving sea, her idle
sails flapped against her masts with a regularly recurring noise, and
her bowsprit would seem to rise higher with the water’s swell, to
dip again with a jerk that made each rope tremble and tauten. On the
forecastle, some half-dozen soldiers, in all varieties of undress, were
playing at cards, smoking, or watching the fishing-lines hanging over
the catheads.

So far the appearance of the vessel differed in no wise from that of an
ordinary transport. But in the waist a curious sight presented itself.
It was as though one had built a cattle-pen there. At the foot of the
foremast, and at the quarter-deck, a strong barricade, loop-holed and
furnished with doors for ingress and egress, ran across the deck from
bulwark to bulwark. Outside this cattle-pen an armed sentry stood on
guard; inside, standing, sitting, or walking monotonously, within range
of the shining barrels in the arm chest on the poop, were some sixty men
and boys, dressed in uniform grey. The men and boys were prisoners of
the Crown, and the cattle-pen was their exercise ground. Their prison
was down the main hatchway, on the ‘tween decks, and the barricade,
continued down, made its side walls.

It was the fag end of the two hours’ exercise graciously permitted each
afternoon by His Majesty King George the Fourth to prisoners of the
Crown, and the prisoners of the Crown were enjoying themselves. It was
not, perhaps, so pleasant as under the awning on the poop-deck, but
that sacred shade was only for such great men as the captain and his
officers, Surgeon Pine, Lieutenant Maurice Frere, and, most important
personages of all, Captain Vickers and his wife.

That the convict leaning against the bulwarks would like to have been
able to get rid of his enemy the sun for a moment, was probable enough.
His companions, sitting on the combings of the main-hatch, or crouched
in careless fashion on the shady side of the barricade, were laughing
and talking, with blasphemous and obscene merriment hideous to
contemplate; but he, with cap pulled over his brows, and hands thrust
into the pockets of his coarse grey garments, held aloof from their
dismal joviality.

The sun poured his hottest rays on his head unheeded, and though every
cranny and seam in the deck sweltered hot pitch under the fierce heat,
the man stood there, motionless and morose, staring at the sleepy sea.
He had stood thus, in one place or another, ever since the groaning
vessel had escaped from the rollers of the Bay of Biscay, and the
miserable hundred and eighty creatures among whom he was classed had
been freed from their irons, and allowed to sniff fresh air twice a day.

The low-browed, coarse-featured ruffians grouped about the deck cast
many a leer of contempt at the solitary figure, but their remarks were
confined to gestures only. There are degrees in crime, and Rufus Dawes,
the convicted felon, who had but escaped the gallows to toil for all his
life in irons, was a man of mark. He had been tried for the robbery and
murder of Lord Bellasis. The friendless vagabond’s lame story of finding
on the Heath a dying man would not have availed him, but for the curious
fact sworn to by the landlord of the Spaniards’ Inn, that the murdered
nobleman had shaken his head when asked if the prisoner was his
assassin. The vagabond was acquitted of the murder, but condemned to
death for the robbery, and London, who took some interest in the
trial, considered him fortunate when his sentence was commuted to
transportation for life.

It was customary on board these floating prisons to keep each man’s
crime a secret from his fellows, so that if he chose, and the caprice of
his gaolers allowed him, he could lead a new life in his adopted
home, without being taunted with his former misdeeds. But, like other
excellent devices, the expedient was only a nominal one, and few out of
the doomed hundred and eighty were ignorant of the offence which their
companions had committed. The more guilty boasted of their superiority
in vice; the petty criminals swore that their guilt was blacker than it
appeared. Moreover, a deed so bloodthirsty and a respite so unexpected,
had invested the name of Rufus Dawes with a grim distinction, which his
superior mental abilities, no less than his haughty temper and powerful
frame, combined to support. A young man of two-and-twenty owning to no
friends, and existing among them but by the fact of his criminality,
he was respected and admired. The vilest of all the vile horde penned
between decks, if they laughed at his “fine airs” behind his back,
cringed and submitted when they met him face to face--for in a convict
ship the greatest villain is the greatest hero, and the only nobility
acknowledged by that hideous commonwealth is that Order of the Halter
which is conferred by the hand of the hangman.

The young man on the poop caught sight of the tall figure leaning
against the bulwarks, and it gave him an excuse to break the monotony of
his employment.

“Here, you!” he called with an oath, “get out of the gangway!” Rufus
Dawes was not in the gangway--was, in fact, a good two feet from it, but
at the sound of Lieutenant Frere’s voice he started, and went obediently
towards the hatchway.

“Touch your hat, you dog!” cries Frere, coming to the quarter-railing.
“Touch your damned hat! Do you hear?”

Rufus Dawes touched his cap, saluting in half military fashion. “I’ll
make some of you fellows smart, if you don’t have a care,” went on the
angry Frere, half to himself. “Insolent blackguards!”

And then the noise of the sentry, on the quarter-deck below him,
grounding arms, turned the current of his thoughts. A thin, tall,
soldier-like man, with a cold blue eye, and prim features, came out of
the cuddy below, handing out a fair-haired, affected, mincing lady,
of middle age. Captain Vickers, of Mr. Frere’s regiment, ordered for
service in Van Diemen’s Land, was bringing his lady on deck to get an
appetite for dinner.

Mrs. Vickers was forty-two (she owned to thirty-three), and had been
a garrison-belle for eleven weary years before she married prim John
Vickers. The marriage was not a happy one. Vickers found his wife
extravagant, vain, and snappish, and she found him harsh, disenchanted,
and commonplace. A daughter, born two years after their marriage, was
the only link that bound the ill-assorted pair. Vickers idolized little
Sylvia, and when the recommendation of a long sea-voyage for his failing
health induced him to exchange into the --th, he insisted upon bringing
the child with him, despite Mrs. Vickers’s reiterated objections on the
score of educational difficulties. “He could educate her himself, if
need be,” he said; “and she should not stay at home.”

So Mrs. Vickers, after a hard struggle, gave up the point and her dreams
of Bath together, and followed her husband with the best grace she could
muster. When fairly out to sea she seemed reconciled to her fate, and
employed the intervals between scolding her daughter and her maid, in
fascinating the boorish young Lieutenant, Maurice Frere.

Fascination was an integral portion of Julia Vickers’s nature;
admiration was all she lived for: and even in a convict ship, with her
husband at her elbow, she must flirt, or perish of mental inanition.
There was no harm in the creature. She was simply a vain, middle-aged
woman, and Frere took her attentions for what they were worth. Moreover,
her good feeling towards him was useful, for reasons which will shortly

Running down the ladder, cap in hand, he offered her his assistance.

“Thank you, Mr. Frere. These horrid ladders. I really--he, he--quite
tremble at them. Hot! Yes, dear me, most oppressive. John, the
camp-stool. Pray, Mr. Frere--oh, thank you! Sylvia! Sylvia! John, have
you my smelling salts? Still a calm, I suppose? These dreadful calms!”

This semi-fashionable slip-slop, within twenty yards of the wild beasts’
den, on the other side of the barricade, sounded strange; but Mr. Frere
thought nothing of it. Familiarity destroys terror, and the incurable
flirt, fluttered her muslins, and played off her second-rate graces,
under the noses of the grinning convicts, with as much complacency as
if she had been in a Chatham ball-room. Indeed, if there had been
nobody else near, it is not unlikely that she would have disdainfully
fascinated the ‘tween-decks, and made eyes at the most presentable of
the convicts there.

Vickers, with a bow to Frere, saw his wife up the ladder, and then
turned for his daughter.

She was a delicate-looking child of six years old, with blue eyes and
bright hair. Though indulged by her father, and spoiled by her
mother, the natural sweetness of her disposition saved her from being
disagreeable, and the effects of her education as yet only showed
themselves in a thousand imperious prettinesses, which made her the
darling of the ship. Little Miss Sylvia was privileged to go anywhere
and do anything, and even convictism shut its foul mouth in her
presence. Running to her father’s side, the child chattered with all the
volubility of flattered self-esteem. She ran hither and thither, asked
questions, invented answers, laughed, sang, gambolled, peered into the
compass-case, felt in the pockets of the man at the helm, put her tiny
hand into the big palm of the officer of the watch, even ran down to the
quarter-deck and pulled the coat-tails of the sentry on duty.

At last, tired of running about, she took a little striped leather ball
from the bosom of her frock, and calling to her father, threw it up
to him as he stood on the poop. He returned it, and, shouting with
laughter, clapping her hands between each throw, the child kept up the

The convicts--whose slice of fresh air was nearly eaten--turned with
eagerness to watch this new source of amusement. Innocent laughter and
childish prattle were strange to them. Some smiled, and nodded with
interest in the varying fortunes of the game. One young lad could hardly
restrain himself from applauding. It was as though, out of the sultry
heat which brooded over the ship, a cool breeze had suddenly arisen.

In the midst of this mirth, the officer of the watch, glancing round the
fast crimsoning horizon, paused abruptly, and shading his eyes with his
hand, looked out intently to the westward.

Frere, who found Mrs. Vickers’s conversation a little tiresome, and
had been glancing from time to time at the companion, as though in
expectation of someone appearing, noticed the action.

“What is it, Mr. Best?”

“I don’t know exactly. It looks to me like a cloud of smoke.” And,
taking the glass, he swept the horizon.

“Let me see,” said Frere; and he looked also.

On the extreme horizon, just to the left of the sinking sun, rested, or
seemed to rest, a tiny black cloud. The gold and crimson, splashed
all about the sky, had overflowed around it, and rendered a clear view
almost impossible.

“I can’t quite make it out,” says Frere, handing back the telescope. “We
can see as soon as the sun goes down a little.”

Then Mrs. Vickers must, of course, look also, and was prettily affected
about the focus of the glass, applying herself to that instrument with
much girlish giggling, and finally declaring, after shutting one eye
with her fair hand, that positively she “could see nothing but sky, and
believed that wicked Mr. Frere was doing it on purpose.”

By and by, Captain Blunt appeared, and, taking the glass from his
officer, looked through it long and carefully. Then the mizentop was
appealed to, and declared that he could see nothing; and at last the sun
went down with a jerk, as though it had slipped through a slit in the
sea, and the black spot, swallowed up in the gathering haze, was seen no

As the sun sank, the relief guard came up the after hatchway, and the
relieved guard prepared to superintend the descent of the convicts. At
this moment Sylvia missed her ball, which, taking advantage of a sudden
lurch of the vessel, hopped over the barricade, and rolled to the feet
of Rufus Dawes, who was still leaning, apparently lost in thought,
against the side.

The bright spot of colour rolling across the white deck caught his eye;
stooping mechanically, he picked up the ball, and stepped forward to
return it. The door of the barricade was open and the sentry--a young
soldier, occupied in staring at the relief guard--did not notice the
prisoner pass through it. In another instant he was on the sacred

Heated with the game, her cheeks aglow, her eyes sparkling, her golden
hair afloat, Sylvia had turned to leap after her plaything, but even as
she turned, from under the shadow of the cuddy glided a rounded white
arm; and a shapely hand caught the child by the sash and drew her back.
The next moment the young man in grey had placed the toy in her hand.

Maurice Frere, descending the poop ladder, had not witnessed this little
incident; on reaching the deck, he saw only the unexplained presence of
the convict uniform.

“Thank you,” said a voice, as Rufus Dawes stooped before the pouting

The convict raised his eyes and saw a young girl of eighteen or nineteen
years of age, tall, and well developed, who, dressed in a loose-sleeved
robe of some white material, was standing in the doorway. She had black
hair, coiled around a narrow and flat head, a small foot, white skin,
well-shaped hands, and large dark eyes, and as she smiled at him, her
scarlet lips showed her white even teeth.

He knew her at once. She was Sarah Purfoy, Mrs. Vickers’s maid, but he
never had been so close to her before; and it seemed to him that he was
in the presence of some strange tropical flower, which exhaled a heavy
and intoxicating perfume.

For an instant the two looked at each other, and then Rufus Dawes was
seized from behind by his collar, and flung with a shock upon the deck.

Leaping to his feet, his first impulse was to rush upon his assailant,
but he saw the ready bayonet of the sentry gleam, and he checked himself
with an effort, for his assailant was Mr. Maurice Frere.

“What the devil do you do here?” asked the gentleman with an oath. “You
lazy, skulking hound, what brings you here? If I catch you putting your
foot on the quarter-deck again, I’ll give you a week in irons!”

Rufus Dawes, pale with rage and mortification, opened his mouth to
justify himself, but he allowed the words to die on his lips. What was
the use? “Go down below, and remember what I’ve told you,” cried Frere;
and comprehending at once what had occurred, he made a mental minute of
the name of the defaulting sentry.

The convict, wiping the blood from his face, turned on his heel without
a word, and went back through the strong oak door into his den. Frere
leant forward and took the girl’s shapely hand with an easy gesture, but
she drew it away, with a flash of her black eyes.

“You coward!” she said.

The stolid soldier close beside them heard it, and his eye twinkled.
Frere bit his thick lips with mortification, as he followed the girl
into the cuddy. Sarah Purfoy, however, taking the astonished Sylvia by
the hand, glided into her mistress’s cabin with a scornful laugh, and
shut the door behind her.


Convictism having been safely got under hatches, and put to bed in its
Government allowance of sixteen inches of space per man, cut a little
short by exigencies of shipboard, the cuddy was wont to pass some not
unpleasant evenings. Mrs. Vickers, who was poetical and owned a guitar,
was also musical and sang to it. Captain Blunt was a jovial, coarse
fellow; Surgeon Pine had a mania for story-telling; while if Vickers was
sometimes dull, Frere was always hearty. Moreover, the table was well
served, and what with dinner, tobacco, whist, music, and brandy and
water, the sultry evenings passed away with a rapidity of which the
wild beasts ‘tween decks, cooped by sixes in berths of a mere five feet
square, had no conception.

On this particular evening, however, the cuddy was dull. Dinner fell
flat, and conversation languished.

“No signs of a breeze, Mr. Best?” asked Blunt, as the first officer came
in and took his seat.

“None, sir.”

“These--he, he!--awful calms,” says Mrs. Vickers. “A week, is it not,
Captain Blunt?”

“Thirteen days, mum,” growled Blunt.

“I remember, off the Coromandel coast,” put in cheerful Pine, “when we
had the plague in the Rattlesnake--”

“Captain Vickers, another glass of wine?” cried Blunt, hastening to cut
the anecdote short.

“Thank you, no more. I have the headache.”

“Headache--um--don’t wonder at it, going down among those fellows. It is
infamous the way they crowd these ships. Here we have over two hundred
souls on board, and not boat room for half of ‘em.”

“Two hundred souls! Surely not,” says Vickers. “By the King’s

“One hundred and eighty convicts, fifty soldiers, thirty in ship’s crew,
all told, and--how many?--one, two three--seven in the cuddy. How many
do you make that?”

“We are just a little crowded this time,” says Best.

“It is very wrong,” says Vickers, pompously. “Very wrong. By the King’s

But the subject of the King’s Regulations was even more distasteful to
the cuddy than Pine’s interminable anecdotes, and Mrs. Vickers hastened
to change the subject.

“Are you not heartily tired of this dreadful life, Mr. Frere?”

“Well, it is not exactly the life I had hoped to lead,” said Frere,
rubbing a freckled hand over his stubborn red hair; “but I must make the
best of it.”

“Yes, indeed,” said the lady, in that subdued manner with which one
comments upon a well-known accident, “it must have been a great shock to
you to be so suddenly deprived of so large a fortune.”

“Not only that, but to find that the black sheep who got it all sailed
for India within a week of my uncle’s death! Lady Devine got a letter
from him on the day of the funeral to say that he had taken his passage
in the Hydaspes for Calcutta, and never meant to come back again!”

“Sir Richard Devine left no other children?”

“No, only this mysterious Dick, whom I never saw, but who must have
hated me.”

“Dear, dear! These family quarrels are dreadful things. Poor Lady
Devine, to lose in one day a husband and a son!”

“And the next morning to hear of the murder of her cousin! You know that
we are connected with the Bellasis family. My aunt’s father married a
sister of the second Lord Bellasis.”

“Indeed. That was a horrible murder. So you think that the dreadful man
you pointed out the other day did it?”

“The jury seemed to think not,” said Mr. Frere, with a laugh; “but I
don’t know anybody else who could have a motive for it. However, I’ll go
on deck and have a smoke.”

“I wonder what induced that old hunks of a shipbuilder to try to cut
off his only son in favour of a cub of that sort,” said Surgeon Pine to
Captain Vickers as the broad back of Mr. Maurice Frere disappeared up
the companion.

“Some boyish follies abroad, I believe; self-made men are always
impatient of extravagance. But it is hard upon Frere. He is not a bad
sort of fellow for all his roughness, and when a young man finds that an
accident deprives him of a quarter of a million of money and leaves him
without a sixpence beyond his commission in a marching regiment under
orders for a convict settlement, he has some reason to rail against

“How was it that the son came in for the money after all, then?”

“Why, it seems that when old Devine returned from sending for his lawyer
to alter his will, he got a fit of apoplexy, the result of his rage, I
suppose, and when they opened his room door in the morning they found
him dead.”

“And the son’s away on the sea somewhere,” said Mr. Vickers “and knows
nothing of his good fortune. It is quite a romance.”

“I am glad that Frere did not get the money,” said Pine, grimly sticking
to his prejudice; “I have seldom seen a face I liked less, even among my
yellow jackets yonder.”

“Oh dear, Dr. Pine! How can you?” interjected Mrs. Vickers. “‘Pon my
soul, ma’am, some of them have mixed in good society, I can tell you.
There’s pickpockets and swindlers down below who have lived in the best

“Dreadful wretches!” cried Mrs. Vickers, shaking out her skirts. “John,
I will go on deck.”

At the signal, the party rose.

“Ecod, Pine,” says Captain Blunt, as the two were left alone together,
“you and I are always putting our foot into it!”

“Women are always in the way aboard ship,” returned Pine.

“Ah! Doctor, you don’t mean that, I know,” said a rich soft voice at his

It was Sarah Purfoy emerging from her cabin.

“Here is the wench!” cries Blunt. “We are talking of your eyes, my
dear.” “Well, they’ll bear talking about, captain, won’t they?” asked
she, turning them full upon him.

“By the Lord, they will!” says Blunt, smacking his hand on the table.
“They’re the finest eyes I’ve seen in my life, and they’ve got the
reddest lips under ‘m that--”

“Let me pass, Captain Blunt, if you please. Thank you, doctor.”

And before the admiring commander could prevent her, she modestly swept
out of the cuddy.

“She’s a fine piece of goods, eh?” asked Blunt, watching her. “A spice
o’ the devil in her, too.”

Old Pine took a huge pinch of snuff.

“Devil! I tell you what it is, Blunt. I don’t know where Vickers picked
her up, but I’d rather trust my life with the worst of those ruffians
‘tween decks, than in her keeping, if I’d done her an injury.”

Blunt laughed.

“I don’t believe she’d think much of sticking a man, either!” he said,
rising. “But I must go on deck, doctor.” Pine followed him more slowly.
“I don’t pretend to know much about women,” he said to himself, “but
that girl’s got a story of her own, or I’m much mistaken. What brings
her on board this ship as lady’s-maid is more than I can fathom.” And
as, sticking his pipe between his teeth, he walked down the now deserted
deck to the main hatchway, and turned to watch the white figure gliding
up and down the poop-deck, he saw it joined by another and a darker one,
he muttered, “She’s after no good, I’ll swear.”

At that moment his arm was touched by a soldier in undress uniform, who
had come up the hatchway. “What is it?”

The man drew himself up and saluted.

“If you please, doctor, one of the prisoners is taken sick, and as the
dinner’s over, and he’s pretty bad, I ventured to disturb your honour.”

“You ass!” says Pine--who, like many gruff men, had a good heart under
his rough shell--“why didn’t you tell me before?” and knocking the ashes
out of his barely-lighted pipe, he stopped that implement with a twist
of paper and followed his summoner down the hatchway.

In the meantime the woman who was the object of the grim old fellow’s
suspicions was enjoying the comparative coolness of the night air.
Her mistress and her mistress’s daughter had not yet come out of their
cabin, and the men had not yet finished their evening’s tobacco. The
awning had been removed, the stars were shining in the moonless sky, the
poop guard had shifted itself to the quarter-deck, and Miss Sarah Purfoy
was walking up and down the deserted poop, in close tête-à-tête with no
less a person than Captain Blunt himself. She had passed and repassed
him twice silently, and at the third turn the big fellow, peering into
the twilight ahead somewhat uneasily, obeyed the glitter of her great
eyes, and joined her.

“You weren’t put out, my wench,” he asked, “at what I said to you

She affected surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“Why, at my--at what I--at my rudeness, there! For I was a bit rude, I

“I? Oh dear, no. You were not rude.”

“Glad you think so!” returned Phineas Blunt, a little ashamed at what
looked like a confession of weakness on his part.

“You would have been--if I had let you.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw it in your face. Do you think a woman can’t see in a man’s face
when he’s going to insult her?”

“Insult you, hey! Upon my word!”

“Yes, insult me. You’re old enough to be my father, Captain Blunt, but
you’ve no right to kiss me, unless I ask you.”

“Haw, haw!” laughed Blunt. “I like that. Ask me! Egad, I wish you would,
you black-eyed minx!”

“So would other people, I have no doubt.” “That soldier officer, for
instance. Hey, Miss Modesty? I’ve seen him looking at you as though he’d
like to try.”

The girl flashed at him with a quick side glance.

“You mean Lieutenant Frere, I suppose. Are you jealous of him?”

“Jealous! Why, damme, the lad was only breeched the other day. Jealous!”

“I think you are--and you’ve no need to be. He is a stupid booby, though
he is Lieutenant Frere.”

“So he is. You are right there, by the Lord.”

Sarah Purfoy laughed a low, full-toned laugh, whose sound made Blunt’s
pulse take a jump forward, and sent the blood tingling down to his
fingers ends.

“Captain Blunt,” said she, “you’re going to do a very silly thing.”

He came close to her and tried to take her hand.


She answered by another question.

“How old are you?”

“Forty-two, if you must know.”

“Oh! And you are going to fall in love with a girl of nineteen.”

“Who is that?”

“Myself!” she said, giving him her hand and smiling at him with her rich
red lips.

The mizen hid them from the man at the wheel, and the twilight of
tropical stars held the main-deck. Blunt felt the breath of this strange
woman warm on his cheek, her eyes seemed to wax and wane, and the hard,
small hand he held burnt like fire.

“I believe you are right,” he cried. “I am half in love with you

She gazed at him with a contemptuous sinking of her heavily fringed
eyelids, and withdrew her hand.

“Then don’t get to the other half, or you’ll regret it.”

“Shall I?” asked Blunt. “That’s my affair. Come, you little vixen, give
me that kiss you said I was going to ask you for below,” and he caught
her in his arms.

In an instant she had twisted herself free, and confronted him with
flashing eyes.

“You dare!” she cried. “Kiss me by force! Pooh! you make love like a
schoolboy. If you can make me like you, I’ll kiss you as often as you
will. If you can’t, keep your distance, please.”

Blunt did not know whether to laugh or be angry at this rebuff. He was
conscious that he was in rather a ridiculous position, and so decided to

“You’re a spitfire, too. What must I do to make you like me?”

She made him a curtsy.

“That is your affair,” she said; and as the head of Mr. Frere appeared
above the companion, Blunt walked aft, feeling considerably bewildered,
and yet not displeased.

“She’s a fine girl, by jingo,” he said, cocking his cap, “and I’m hanged
if she ain’t sweet upon me.”

And then the old fellow began to whistle softly to himself as he paced
the deck, and to glance towards the man who had taken his place with no
friendly eyes. But a sort of shame held him as yet, and he kept aloof.

Maurice Frere’s greeting was short enough.

“Well, Sarah,” he said, “have you got out of your temper?”

She frowned.

“What did you strike the man for? He did you no harm.”

“He was out of his place. What business had he to come aft? One must
keep these wretches down, my girl.”

“Or they will be too much for you, eh? Do you think one man could
capture a ship, Mr. Maurice?”

“No, but one hundred might.”

“Nonsense! What could they do against the soldiers? There are fifty

“So there are, but--”

“But what?”

“Well, never mind. It’s against the rules, and I won’t have it.”

“‘Not according to the King’s Regulations,’ as Captain Vickers would

Frere laughed at her imitation of his pompous captain.

“You are a strange girl; I can’t make you out. Come,” and he took her
hand, “tell me what you are really.”

“Will you promise not to tell?”

“Of course.”

“Upon your word?”

“Upon my word.”

“Well, then--but you’ll tell?”

“Not I. Come, go on.”

“Lady’s-maid in the family of a gentleman going abroad.”

“Sarah, you can’t be serious?” “I am serious. That was the advertisement
I answered.”

“But I mean what you have been. You were not a lady’s-maid all your

She pulled her shawl closer round her and shivered.

“People are not born ladies’ maids, I suppose?”

“Well, who are you, then? Have you no friends? What have you been?”

She looked up into the young man’s face--a little less harsh at
that moment than it was wont to be--and creeping closer to him,
whispered--“Do you love me, Maurice?”

He raised one of the little hands that rested on the taffrail, and,
under cover of the darkness, kissed it.

“You know I do,” he said. “You may be a lady’s-maid or what you like,
but you are the loveliest woman I ever met.”

She smiled at his vehemence.

“Then, if you love me, what does it matter?” “If you loved me, you would
tell me,” said he, with a quickness which surprised himself.

“But I have nothing to tell, and I don’t love you--yet.”

He let her hand fall with an impatient gesture; and at that moment
Blunt--who could restrain himself no longer--came up.

“Fine night, Mr. Frere?”

“Yes, fine enough.”

“No signs of a breeze yet, though.”

“No, not yet.”

Just then, from out of the violet haze that hung over the horizon, a
strange glow of light broke.

“Hallo,” cries Frere, “did you see that?”

All had seen it, but they looked for its repetition in vain. Blunt
rubbed his eyes.

“I saw it,” he said, “distinctly. A flash of light.” They strained their
eyes to pierce through the obscurity.

“Best saw something like it before dinner. There must be thunder in the

At that instant a thin streak of light shot up and then sank again.
There was no mistaking it this time, and a simultaneous exclamation
burst from all on deck. From out the gloom which hung over the horizon
rose a column of flame that lighted up the night for an instant, and
then sunk, leaving a dull red spark upon the water.

“It’s a ship on fire,” cried Frere.


They looked again, the tiny spark still burned, and immediately over it
there grew out of the darkness a crimson spot, that hung like a lurid
star in the air. The soldiers and sailors on the forecastle had seen
it also, and in a moment the whole vessel was astir. Mrs. Vickers, with
little Sylvia clinging to her dress, came up to share the new sensation;
and at the sight of her mistress, the modest maid withdrew discreetly
from Frere’s side. Not that there was any need to do so; no one heeded
her. Blunt, in his professional excitement, had already forgotten her
presence, and Frere was in earnest conversation with Vickers.

“Take a boat?” said that gentleman. “Certainly, my dear Frere, by all
means. That is to say, if the captain does not object, and it is not
contrary to the Regulations.”

“Captain, you’ll lower a boat, eh? We may save some of the poor
devils,” cries Frere, his heartiness of body reviving at the prospect of

“Boat!” said Blunt, “why, she’s twelve miles off and more, and there’s
not a breath o’ wind!”

“But we can’t let ‘em roast like chestnuts!” cried the other, as the
glow in the sky broadened and became more intense.

“What is the good of a boat?” said Pine. “The long-boat only holds
thirty men, and that’s a big ship yonder.”

“Well, take two boats--three boats! By Heaven, you’ll never let ‘em burn
alive without stirring a finger to save ‘em!”

“They’ve got their own boats,” says Blunt, whose coolness was in strong
contrast to the young officer’s impetuosity; “and if the fire gains,
they’ll take to ‘em, you may depend. In the meantime, we’ll show ‘em
that there’s someone near ‘em.” And as he spoke, a blue light flared
hissing into the night.

“There, they’ll see that, I expect!” he said, as the ghastly flame rose,
extinguishing the stars for a moment, only to let them appear again
brighter in a darker heaven.

“Mr. Best--lower and man the quarter-boats! Mr. Frere--you can go in
one, if you like, and take a volunteer or two from those grey jackets
of yours amidships. I shall want as many hands as I can spare to man the
long-boat and cutter, in case we want ‘em. Steady there, lads! Easy!”
 and as the first eight men who could reach the deck parted to the
larboard and starboard quarter-boats, Frere ran down on the main-deck.

Mrs. Vickers, of course, was in the way, and gave a genteel scream as
Blunt rudely pushed past her with a scarce-muttered apology; but her
maid was standing erect and motionless, by the quarter-railing, and as
the captain paused for a moment to look round him, he saw her dark eyes
fixed on him admiringly. He was, as he said, over forty-two, burly
and grey-haired, but he blushed like a girl under her approving gaze.
Nevertheless, he said only, “That wench is a trump!” and swore a little.

Meanwhile Maurice Frere had passed the sentry and leapt down into the
‘tween decks. At his nod, the prison door was thrown open. The air was
hot, and that strange, horrible odour peculiar to closely-packed human
bodies filled the place. It was like coming into a full stable.

He ran his eye down the double tier of bunks which lined the side of the
ship, and stopped at the one opposite him.

There seemed to have been some disturbance there lately, for instead of
the six pair of feet which should have protruded therefrom, the gleam of
the bull’s-eye showed but four.

“What’s the matter here, sentry?” he asked.

“Prisoner ill, sir. Doctor sent him to hospital.”

“But there should be two.”

The other came from behind the break of the berths. It was Rufus Dawes.
He held by the side as he came, and saluted.

“I felt sick, sir, and was trying to get the scuttle open.”

The heads were all raised along the silent line, and eyes and ears were
eager to see and listen. The double tier of bunks looked terribly like a
row of wild beast cages at that moment.

Maurice Frere stamped his foot indignantly.

“Sick! What are you sick about, you malingering dog? I’ll give you
something to sweat the sickness out of you. Stand on one side here!”

Rufus Dawes, wondering, obeyed. He seemed heavy and dejected, and passed
his hand across his forehead, as though he would rub away a pain there.

“Which of you fellows can handle an oar?” Frere went on. “There, curse
you, I don’t want fifty! Three’ll do. Come on now, make haste!”

The heavy door clashed again, and in another instant the four
“volunteers” were on deck. The crimson glow was turning yellow now, and
spreading over the sky.

“Two in each boat!” cries Blunt. “I’ll burn a blue light every hour for
you, Mr. Best; and take care they don’t swamp you. Lower away, lads!” As
the second prisoner took the oar of Frere’s boat, he uttered a groan and
fell forward, recovering himself instantly. Sarah Purfoy, leaning over
the side, saw the occurrence.

“What is the matter with that man?” she said. “Is he ill?”

Pine was next to her, and looked out instantly. “It’s that big fellow in
No. 10,” he cried. “Here, Frere!”

But Frere heard him not. He was intent on the beacon that gleamed ever
brighter in the distance. “Give way, my lads!” he shouted. And amid a
cheer from the ship, the two boats shot out of the bright circle of the
blue light, and disappeared into the darkness.

Sarah Purfoy looked at Pine for an explanation, but he turned abruptly
away. For a moment the girl paused, as if in doubt; and then, ere his
retreating figure turned to retrace its steps, she cast a quick glance
around, and slipping down the ladder, made her way to the ‘tween decks.

The iron-studded oak barricade that, loop-holed for musketry, and
perforated with plated trapdoor for sterner needs, separated soldiers
from prisoners, was close to her left hand, and the sentry at its
padlocked door looked at her inquiringly. She laid her little hand on
his big rough one--a sentry is but mortal--and opened her brown eyes at

“The hospital,” she said. “The doctor sent me”; and before he could
answer, her white figure vanished down the hatch, and passed round the
bulkhead, behind which lay the sick man.


The hospital was nothing more nor less than a partitioned portion of the
lower deck, filched from the space allotted to the soldiers. It ran fore
and aft, coming close to the stern windows, and was, in fact, a sort of
artificial stern cabin. At a pinch, it might have held a dozen men.

Though not so hot as in the prison, the atmosphere of the lower deck was
close and unhealthy, and the girl, pausing to listen to the subdued hum
of conversation coming from the soldiers’ berths, turned strangely sick
and giddy. She drew herself up, however, and held out her hand to a man
who came rapidly across the misshapen shadows, thrown by the sulkily
swinging lantern, to meet her. It was the young soldier who had been
that day sentry at the convict gangway.

“Well, miss,” he said, “I am here, yer see, waiting for yer.”

“You are a good boy, Miles; but don’t you think I’m worth waiting for?”

Miles grinned from ear to ear.

“Indeed you be,” said he.

Sarah Purfoy frowned, and then smiled.

“Come here, Miles; I’ve got something for you.”

Miles came forward, grinning harder.

The girl produced a small object from the pocket of her dress. If Mrs.
Vickers had seen it she would probably have been angry, for it was
nothing less than the captain’s brandy-flask.

“Drink,” said she. “It’s the same as they have upstairs, so it won’t
hurt you.”

The fellow needed no pressing. He took off half the contents of the
bottle at a gulp, and then, fetching a long breath, stood staring at

“That’s prime!”

“Is it? I dare say it is.” She had been looking at him with unaffected
disgust as he drank. “Brandy is all you men understand.” Miles--still
sucking in his breath--came a pace closer.

“Not it,” said he, with a twinkle in his little pig’s eyes. “I
understand something else, miss, I can tell yer.”

The tone of the sentence seemed to awaken and remind her of her errand
in that place. She laughed as loudly and as merrily as she dared, and
laid her hand on the speaker’s arm. The boy--for he was but a boy, one
of those many ill-reared country louts who leave the plough-tail for
the musket, and, for a shilling a day, experience all the “pomp
and circumstance of glorious war”--reddened to the roots of his
closely-cropped hair.

“There, that’s quite close enough. You’re only a common soldier, Miles,
and you mustn’t make love to me.”

“Not make love to yer!” says Miles. “What did yer tell me to meet yer
here for then?”

She laughed again.

“What a practical animal you are! Suppose I had something to say to

Miles devoured her with his eyes.

“It’s hard to marry a soldier,” he said, with a recruit’s proud
intonation of the word; “but yer might do worse, miss, and I’ll work for
yer like a slave, I will.”

She looked at him with curiosity and pleasure. Though her time was
evidently precious, she could not resist the temptation of listening to
praises of herself.

“I know you’re above me, Miss Sarah. You’re a lady, but I love yer, I
do, and you drives me wild with yer tricks.”

“Do I?”

“Do yer? Yes, yer do. What did yer come an’ make up to me for, and then
go sweetheartin’ with them others?”

“What others?”

“Why, the cuddy folk--the skipper, and the parson, and that Frere. I see
yer walkin’ the deck wi’ un o’ nights. Dom ‘um, I’d put a bullet through
his red head as soon as look at un.”

“Hush! Miles dear--they’ll hear you.”

Her face was all aglow, and her expanded nostrils throbbed. Beautiful as
the face was, it had a tigerish look about it at that moment.

Encouraged by the epithet, Miles put his arm round her slim waist, just
as Blunt had done, but she did not resent it so abruptly. Miles had
promised more.

“Hush!” she whispered, with admirably-acted surprise--“I heard a noise!”
 and as the soldier started back, she smoothed her dress complacently.

“There is no one!” cried he.

“Isn’t there? My mistake, then. Now come here, Miles.”

Miles obeyed.

“Who is in the hospital?”

“I dunno.”

“Well, I want to go in.”

Miles scratched his head, and grinned.

“Yer carn’t.”

“Why not? You’ve let me in before.” “Against the doctor’s orders. He
told me special to let no one in but himself.”


“It ain’t nonsense. There was a convict brought in to-night, and
nobody’s to go near him.”

“A convict!” She grew more interested. “What’s the matter with him?”

“Dunno. But he’s to be kep’ quiet until old Pine comes down.”

She became authoritative.

“Come, Miles, let me go in.”

“Don’t ask me, miss. It’s against orders, and--”

“Against orders? Why, you were blustering about shooting people just

The badgered Miles grew angry. “Was I? Bluster or no bluster, you don’t
go in.” She turned away. “Oh, very well. If this is all the thanks I get
for wasting my time down here, I shall go on deck again.”

Miles became uneasy.

“There are plenty of agreeable people there.”

Miles took a step after her.

“Mr. Frere will let me go in, I dare say, if I ask him.”

Miles swore under his breath.

“Dom Mr. Frere! Go in if yer like,” he said. “I won’t stop yer, but
remember what I’m doin’ of.”

She turned again at the foot of the ladder, and came quickly back.

“That’s a good lad. I knew you would not refuse me”; and smiling at the
poor lad she was befooling, she passed into the cabin.

There was no lantern, and from the partially-blocked stern windows came
only a dim, vaporous light. The dull ripple of the water as the ship
rocked on the slow swell of the sea made a melancholy sound, and the
sick man’s heavy breathing seemed to fill the air. The slight noise
made by the opening door roused him; he rose on his elbow and began to
mutter. Sarah Purfoy paused in the doorway to listen, but she could make
nothing of the low, uneasy murmuring. Raising her arm, conspicuous by
its white sleeve in the gloom, she beckoned Miles.

“The lantern,” she whispered, “bring me the lantern!”

He unhooked it from the rope where it swung, and brought it towards her.
At that moment the man in the bunk sat up erect, and twisted himself
towards the light. “Sarah!” he cried, in shrill sharp tones. “Sarah!”
 and swooped with a lean arm through the dusk, as though to seize her.

The girl leapt out of the cabin like a panther, struck the lantern out
of her lover’s hand, and was back at the bunk-head in a moment. The
convict was a young man of about four-and-twenty. His hands--clutched
convulsively now on the blankets--were small and well-shaped, and the
unshaven chin bristled with promise of a strong beard. His wild black
eyes glared with all the fire of delirium, and as he gasped for breath,
the sweat stood in beads on his sallow forehead.

The aspect of the man was sufficiently ghastly, and Miles, drawing
back with an oath, did not wonder at the terror which had seized Mrs.
Vickers’s maid. With open mouth and agonized face, she stood in the
centre of the cabin, lantern in hand, like one turned to stone, gazing
at the man on the bed.

“Ecod, he be a sight!” says Miles, at length. “Come away, miss, and shut
the door. He’s raving, I tell yer.”

The sound of his voice recalled her.

She dropped the lantern, and rushed to the bed.

“You fool; he’s choking, can’t you see? Water! give me water!”

And wreathing her arms around the man’s head, she pulled it down on her
bosom, rocking it there, half savagely, to and fro.

Awed into obedience by her voice, Miles dipped a pannikin into a small
puncheon, cleated in the corner of the cabin, and gave it her; and,
without thanking him, she placed it to the sick prisoner’s lips. He
drank greedily, and closed his eyes with a grateful sigh.

Just then the quick ears of Miles heard the jingle of arms. “Here’s the
doctor coming, miss!” he cried. “I hear the sentry saluting. Come away!

She seized the lantern, and, opening the horn slide, extinguished it.

“Say it went out,” she said in a fierce whisper, “and hold your tongue.
Leave me to manage.”

She bent over the convict as if to arrange his pillow, and then glided
out of the cabin, just as Pine descended the hatchway.

“Hallo!” cried he, stumbling, as he missed his footing; “where’s the

“Here, sir,” says Miles, fumbling with the lantern. “It’s all right,
sir. It went out, sir.”

“Went out! What did you let it go out for, you blockhead!” growled the
unsuspecting Pine. “Just like you boobies! What is the use of a light if
it ‘goes out’, eh?” As he groped his way, with outstretched arms, in the
darkness, Sarah Purfoy slipped past him unnoticed, and gained the upper


In the prison of the ‘tween decks reigned a darkness pregnant with
murmurs. The sentry at the entrance to the hatchway was supposed to
“prevent the prisoners from making a noise,” but he put a very liberal
interpretation upon the clause, and so long as the prisoners refrained
from shouting, yelling, and fighting--eccentricities in which they
sometimes indulged--he did not disturb them. This course of conduct was
dictated by prudence, no less than by convenience, for one sentry was
but little over so many; and the convicts, if pressed too hard, would
raise a sort of bestial boo-hoo, in which all voices were confounded,
and which, while it made noise enough and to spare, utterly precluded
individual punishment. One could not flog a hundred and eighty men, and
it was impossible to distinguish any particular offender. So, in
virtue of this last appeal, convictism had established a tacit right to
converse in whispers, and to move about inside its oaken cage.

To one coming in from the upper air, the place would have seemed
in pitchy darkness, but the convict eye, accustomed to the sinister
twilight, was enabled to discern surrounding objects with tolerable
distinctness. The prison was about fifty feet long and fifty feet wide,
and ran the full height of the ‘tween decks, viz., about five feet ten
inches high. The barricade was loop-holed here and there, and the planks
were in some places wide enough to admit a musket barrel. On the aft
side, next the soldiers’ berths, was a trap door, like the stoke-hole of
a furnace. At first sight this appeared to be contrived for the
humane purpose of ventilation, but a second glance dispelled this weak
conclusion. The opening was just large enough to admit the muzzle of
a small howitzer, secured on the deck below. In case of a mutiny, the
soldiers could sweep the prison from end to end with grape shot. Such
fresh air as there was, filtered through the loopholes, and came, in
somewhat larger quantity, through a wind-sail passed into the prison
from the hatchway. But the wind-sail, being necessarily at one end only
of the place, the air it brought was pretty well absorbed by the twenty
or thirty lucky fellows near it, and the other hundred and fifty did not
come so well off. The scuttles were open, certainly, but as the row of
bunks had been built against them, the air they brought was the peculiar
property of such men as occupied the berths into which they penetrated.
These berths were twenty-eight in number, each containing six men. They
ran in a double tier round three sides of the prison, twenty at each
side, and eight affixed to that portion of the forward barricade
opposite the door. Each berth was presumed to be five feet six inches
square, but the necessities of stowage had deprived them of six inches,
and even under that pressure twelve men were compelled to sleep on
the deck. Pine did not exaggerate when he spoke of the custom of
overcrowding convict ships; and as he was entitled to half a guinea
for every man he delivered alive at Hobart Town, he had some reason to

When Frere had come down, an hour before, the prisoners were all snugly
between their blankets. They were not so now; though, at the first clink
of the bolts, they would be back again in their old positions, to all
appearances sound asleep. As the eye became accustomed to the foetid
duskiness of the prison, a strange picture presented itself. Groups
of men, in all imaginable attitudes, were lying, standing, sitting, or
pacing up and down. It was the scene on the poop-deck over again; only,
here being no fear of restraining keepers, the wild beasts were a little
more free in their movements. It is impossible to convey, in words, any
idea of the hideous phantasmagoria of shifting limbs and faces which
moved through the evil-smelling twilight of this terrible prison-house.
Callot might have drawn it, Dante might have suggested it, but a minute
attempt to describe its horrors would but disgust. There are depths in
humanity which one cannot explore, as there are mephitic caverns into
which one dare not penetrate.

Old men, young men, and boys, stalwart burglars and highway robbers,
slept side by side with wizened pickpockets or cunning-featured
area-sneaks. The forger occupied the same berth with the body-snatcher.
The man of education learned strange secrets of house-breakers’ craft,
and the vulgar ruffian of St. Giles took lessons of self-control from
the keener intellect of the professional swindler. The fraudulent clerk
and the flash “cracksman” interchanged experiences. The smuggler’s
stories of lucky ventures and successful runs were capped by the
footpad’s reminiscences of foggy nights and stolen watches. The poacher,
grimly thinking of his sick wife and orphaned children, would start as
the night-house ruffian clapped him on the shoulder and bade him, with a
curse, to take good heart and “be a man.” The fast shopboy whose love
of fine company and high living had brought him to this pass, had
shaken off the first shame that was on him, and listened eagerly to the
narratives of successful vice that fell so glibly from the lips of his
older companions. To be transported seemed no such uncommon fate. The
old fellows laughed, and wagged their grey heads with all the glee of
past experience, and listening youth longed for the time when it might
do likewise. Society was the common foe, and magistrates, gaolers, and
parsons were the natural prey of all noteworthy mankind. Only fools were
honest, only cowards kissed the rod, and failed to meditate revenge on
that world of respectability which had wronged them. Each new-comer was
one more recruit to the ranks of ruffianism, and not a man penned in
that reeking den of infamy but became a sworn hater of law, order, and
“free-men.” What he might have been before mattered not. He was now
a prisoner, and--thrust into a suffocating barracoon, herded with
the foulest of mankind, with all imaginable depths of blasphemy
and indecency sounded hourly in his sight and hearing--he lost his
self-respect, and became what his gaolers took him to be--a wild beast
to be locked under bolts and bars, lest he should break out and tear

The conversation ran upon the sudden departure of the four. What could
they want with them at that hour?

“I tell you there’s something up on deck,” says one to the group nearest
him. “Don’t you hear all that rumbling and rolling?”

“What did they lower boats for? I heard the dip o’ the oars.”

“Don’t know, mate. P’r’aps a burial job,” hazarded a short, stout
fellow, as a sort of happy suggestion.

“One of those coves in the parlour!” said another; and a laugh followed
the speech.

“No such luck. You won’t hang your jib for them yet awhile. More like
the skipper agone fishin’.”

“The skipper don’t go fishin’, yer fool. What would he do
fishin’?--special in the middle o’ the night.”

“That ‘ud be like old Dovery, eh?” says a fifth, alluding to an old
grey-headed fellow, who--a returned convict--was again under sentence
for body-snatching.

“Ay,” put in a young man, who had the reputation of being the smartest
“crow” (the “look-out” man of a burglars’ gang) in London--“‘fishers of
men,’ as the parson says.”

The snuffling imitation of a Methodist preacher was good, and there was
another laugh.

Just then a miserable little cockney pickpocket, feeling his way to the
door, fell into the party.

A volley of oaths and kicks received him.

“I beg your pardon, gen’l’men,” cries the miserable wretch, “but I want

“Go to the barber’s and buy a wig, then!” says the “Crow”, elated at the
success of his last sally.

“Oh, sir, my back!”

“Get up!” groaned someone in the darkness. “Oh, Lord, I’m smothering!
Here, sentry!”

“Vater!” cried the little cockney. “Give us a drop o’ vater, for mercy’s
sake. I haven’t moist’ned my chaffer this blessed day.”

“Half a gallon a day, bo’, and no more,” says a sailor next him.

“Yes, what have yer done with yer half-gallon, eh?” asked the Crow
derisively. “Someone stole it,” said the sufferer.

“He’s been an’ blued it,” squealed someone. “Been an’ blued it to buy
a Sunday veskit with! Oh, ain’t he a vicked young man?” And the speaker
hid his head under the blankets, in humorous affectation of modesty.

All this time the miserable little cockney--he was a tailor by
trade--had been grovelling under the feet of the Crow and his

“Let me h’up, gents” he implored--“let me h’up. I feel as if I should
die--I do.”

“Let the gentleman up,” says the humorist in the bunk. “Don’t yer see
his kerridge is avaitin’ to take him to the Hopera?”

The conversation had got a little loud, and, from the topmost bunk on
the near side, a bullet head protruded.

“Ain’t a cove to get no sleep?” cried a gruff voice. “My blood, if I
have to turn out, I’ll knock some of your empty heads together.”

It seemed that the speaker was a man of mark, for the noise ceased
instantly; and, in the lull which ensued, a shrill scream broke from the
wretched tailor.

“Help! they’re killing me! Ah-h-h-!”

“Wot’s the matter,” roared the silencer of the riot, jumping from his
berth, and scattering the Crow and his companions right and left. “Let
him be, can’t yer?”

“H’air!” cried the poor devil--“h’air; I’m fainting!”

Just then there came another groan from the man in the opposite bunk.
“Well, I’m blessed!” said the giant, as he held the gasping tailor by
the collar and glared round him. “Here’s a pretty go! All the blessed
chickens ha’ got the croup!”

The groaning of the man in the bunk redoubled.

“Pass the word to the sentry,” says someone more humane than the rest.
“Ah,” says the humorist, “pass him out; it’ll be one the less. We’d
rather have his room than his company.”

“Sentry, here’s a man sick.”

But the sentry knew his duty better than to reply. He was a young
soldier, but he had been well informed of the artfulness of convict
stratagems; and, moreover, Captain Vickers had carefully apprised
him “that by the King’s Regulations, he was forbidden to reply to any
question or communication addressed to him by a convict, but, in the
event of being addressed, was to call the non-commissioned officer on
duty.” Now, though he was within easy hailing distance of the guard
on the quarter-deck, he felt a natural disinclination to disturb those
gentlemen merely for the sake of a sick convict, and knowing that, in
a few minutes, the third relief would come on duty, he decided to wait
until then.

In the meantime the tailor grew worse, and began to moan dismally.

“Here! ‘ullo!” called out his supporter, in dismay. “Hold up ‘ere! Wot’s
wrong with yer? Don’t come the drops ‘ere. Pass him down, some of yer,”
 and the wretch was hustled down to the doorway.

“Vater!” he whispered, beating feebly with his hand on the thick oak.

“Get us a drink, mister, for Gord’s sake!”

But the prudent sentry answered never a word, until the ship’s bell
warned him of the approach of the relief guard; and then honest old
Pine, coming with anxious face to inquire after his charge, received
the intelligence that there was another prisoner sick. He had the door
unlocked and the tailor outside in an instant. One look at the flushed,
anxious face was enough.

“Who’s that moaning in there?” he asked.

It was the man who had tried to call for the sentry an hour back, and
Pine had him out also; convictism beginning to wonder a little.

“Take ‘em both aft to the hospital,” he said; “and, Jenkins, if there
are any more men taken sick, let them pass the word for me at once. I
shall be on deck.”

The guard stared in each other’s faces, with some alarm, but said
nothing, thinking more of the burning ship, which now flamed furiously
across the placid water, than of peril nearer home; but as Pine went up
the hatchway he met Blunt.

“We’ve got the fever aboard!”

“Good God! Do you mean it, Pine?”

Pine shook his grizzled head sorrowfully.

“It’s this cursed calm that’s done it; though I expected it all along,
with the ship crammed as she is. When I was in the Hecuba--”

“Who is it?”

Pine laughed a half-pitying, half-angry laugh.

“A convict, of course. Who else should it be? They are reeking like
bullocks at Smithfield down there. A hundred and eighty men penned
into a place fifty feet long, with the air like an oven--what could you

Poor Blunt stamped his foot.

“It isn’t my fault,” he cried. “The soldiers are berthed aft. If the
Government will overload these ships, I can’t help it.”

“The Government! Ah! The Government! The Government don’t sleep, sixty
men a-side, in a cabin only six feet high. The Government don’t get
typhus fever in the tropics, does it?”


“But what does the Government care, then?”

Blunt wiped his hot forehead.

“Who was the first down?”

“No. 97 berth; ten on the lower tier. John Rex he calls himself.”

“Are you sure it’s the fever?”

“As sure as I can be yet. Head like a fire-ball, and tongue like a strip
of leather. Gad, don’t I know it?” and Pine grinned mournfully. “I’ve
got him moved into the hospital. Hospital! It is a hospital! As dark as
a wolf’s mouth. I’ve seen dog kennels I liked better.”

Blunt nodded towards the volume of lurid smoke that rolled up out of the
glow.--“Suppose there is a shipload of those poor devils? I can’t refuse
to take ‘em in.”

“No,” says Pine gloomily, “I suppose you can’t. If they come, I must
stow ‘em somewhere. We’ll have to run for the Cape, with the first
breeze, if they do come, that is all I can see for it,” and he turned
away to watch the burning vessel.


In the meanwhile the two boats made straight for the red column that
uprose like a gigantic torch over the silent sea.

As Blunt had said, the burning ship lay a good twelve miles from the
Malabar, and the pull was a long and a weary one. Once fairly away from
the protecting sides of the vessel that had borne them thus far on
their dismal journey, the adventurers seemed to have come into a new
atmosphere. The immensity of the ocean over which they slowly moved
revealed itself for the first time. On board the prison ship, surrounded
with all the memories if not with the comforts of the shore they had
quitted, they had not realized how far they were from that civilization
which had given them birth. The well-lighted, well-furnished cuddy, the
homely mirth of the forecastle, the setting of sentries and the changing
of guards, even the gloom and terror of the closely-locked prison,
combined to make the voyagers feel secure against the unknown dangers of
the sea. That defiance of Nature which is born of contact with humanity,
had hitherto sustained them, and they felt that, though alone on the
vast expanse of waters, they were in companionship with others of their
kind, and that the perils one man had passed might be successfully dared
by another. But now--with one ship growing smaller behind them, and the
other, containing they knew not what horror of human agony and human
helplessness, lying a burning wreck in the black distance ahead of
them--they began to feel their own littleness. The Malabar, that huge
sea monster, in whose capacious belly so many human creatures lived and
suffered, had dwindled to a walnut-shell, and yet beside her bulk how
infinitely small had their own frail cockboat appeared as they shot out
from under her towering stern! Then the black hull rising above them,
had seemed a tower of strength, built to defy the utmost violence of
wind and wave; now it was but a slip of wood floating--on an unknown
depth of black, fathomless water. The blue light, which, at its first
flashing over the ocean, had made the very stars pale their lustre, and
lighted up with ghastly radiance the enormous vault of heaven, was now
only a point, brilliant and distinct it is true, but which by its very
brilliance dwarfed the ship into insignificance. The Malabar lay on
the water like a glow-worm on a floating leaf, and the glare of the
signal-fire made no more impression on the darkness than the candle
carried by a solitary miner would have made on the abyss of a coal-pit.

And yet the Malabar held two hundred creatures like themselves!

The water over which the boats glided was black and smooth, rising into
huge foamless billows, the more terrible because they were silent. When
the sea hisses, it speaks, and speech breaks the spell of terror; when
it is inert, heaving noiselessly, it is dumb, and seems to brood over
mischief. The ocean in a calm is like a sulky giant; one dreads that it
may be meditating evil. Moreover, an angry sea looks less vast in extent
than a calm one. Its mounting waves bring the horizon nearer, and
one does not discern how for many leagues the pitiless billows repeat
themselves. To appreciate the hideous vastness of the ocean one must see
it when it sleeps.

The great sky uprose from this silent sea without a cloud. The stars
hung low in its expanse, burning in a violent mist of lower ether. The
heavens were emptied of sound, and each dip of the oars was re-echoed in
space by a succession of subtle harmonies. As the blades struck the
dark water, it flashed fire, and the tracks of the boats resembled
two sea-snakes writhing with silent undulations through a lake of

It had been a sort of race hitherto, and the rowers, with set teeth and
compressed lips, had pulled stroke for stroke. At last the foremost
boat came to a sudden pause. Best gave a cheery shout and passed her,
steering straight into the broad track of crimson that already reeked on
the sea ahead.

“What is it?” he cried.

But he heard only a smothered curse from Frere, and then his consort
pulled hard to overtake him.

It was, in fact, nothing of consequence--only a prisoner “giving in”.

“Curse it!” says Frere, “What’s the matter with you? Oh, you, is
it?--Dawes! Of course, Dawes. I never expected anything better from such
a skulking hound. Come, this sort of nonsense won’t do with me. It isn’t
as nice as lolloping about the hatchways, I dare say, but you’ll have to
go on, my fine fellow.”

“He seems sick, sir,” said (with) compassionate bow.

“Sick! Not he. Shamming. Come, give way now! Put your backs into it!”
 and the convict having picked up his oar, the boat shot forward again.

But, for all Mr. Frere’s urging, he could not recover the way he had
lost, and Best was the first to run in under the black cloud that hung
over the crimsoned water.

At his signal, the second boat came alongside.

“Keep wide,” he said. “If there are many fellows yet aboard, they’ll
swamp us; and I think there must be, as we haven’t met the boats,” and
then raising his voice, as the exhausted crew lay on their oars, he
hailed the burning ship.

She was a huge, clumsily-built vessel, with great breadth of beam, and
a lofty poop-deck. Strangely enough, though they had so lately seen the
fire, she was already a wreck, and appeared to be completely deserted.
The chief hold of the fire was amidships, and the lower deck was one
mass of flame. Here and there were great charred rifts and gaps in her
sides, and the red-hot fire glowed through these as through the bars of
a grate. The main-mast had fallen on the starboard side, and trailed a
blackened wreck in the water, causing the unwieldy vessel to lean
over heavily. The fire roared like a cataract, and huge volumes of
flame-flecked smoke poured up out of the hold, and rolled away in a
low-lying black cloud over the sea.

As Frere’s boat pulled slowly round her stern, he hailed the deck again
and again.

Still there was no answer, and though the flood of light that dyed the
water blood-red struck out every rope and spar distinct and clear, his
straining eyes could see no living soul aboard. As they came nearer,
they could distinguish the gilded letters of her name.

“What is it, men?” cried Frere, his voice almost drowned amid the roar
of the flames. “Can you see?”

Rufus Dawes, impelled, it would seem, by some strong impulse of
curiosity, stood erect, and shaded his eyes with his hand.

“Well--can’t you speak? What is it?”

“The Hydaspes!”

Frere gasped.

The Hydaspes! The ship in which his cousin Richard Devine had sailed!
The ship for which those in England might now look in vain! The Hydaspes
which--something he had heard during the speculations as to this missing
cousin flashed across him.

“Back water, men! Round with her! Pull for your lives!”

Best’s boat glided alongside.

“Can you see her name?”

Frere, white with terror, shouted a reply.

“The Hydaspes! I know her. She is bound for Calcutta, and she has five
tons of powder aboard!”

There was no need for more words. The single sentence explained the
whole mystery of her desertion. The crew had taken to the boats on the
first alarm, and had left their death-fraught vessel to her fate. They
were miles off by this time, and unluckily for themselves, perhaps, had
steered away from the side where rescue lay.

The boats tore through the water. Eager as the men had been to come,
they were more eager to depart. The flames had even now reached the
poop; in a few minutes it would be too late. For ten minutes or more not
a word was spoken. With straining arms and labouring chests, the
rowers tugged at the oars, their eyes fixed on the lurid mass they were
leaving. Frere and Best, with their faces turned back to the terror
they fled from, urged the men to greater efforts. Already the flames had
lapped the flag, already the outlines of the stern carvings were blurred
by the fire.

Another moment, and all would be over. Ah! it had come at last. A dull
rumbling sound; the burning ship parted asunder; a pillar of fire,
flecked with black masses that were beams and planks, rose up out of
the ocean; there was a terrific crash, as though sea and sky were coming
together; and then a mighty mountain of water rose, advanced, caught,
and passed them, and they were alone--deafened, stunned, and breathless,
in a sudden horror of thickest darkness, and a silence like that of the

The splashing of the falling fragments awoke them from their stupor, and
then the blue light of the Malabar struck out a bright pathway across
the sea, and they knew that they were safe.

          *          *          *          *          *

On board the Malabar two men paced the deck, waiting for dawn.

It came at last. The sky lightened, the mist melted away, and then a
long, low, far-off streak of pale yellow light floated on the eastern
horizon. By and by the water sparkled, and the sea changed colour,
turning from black to yellow, and from yellow to lucid green. The man at
the masthead hailed the deck. The boats were in sight, and as they came
towards the ship, the bright water flashing from the labouring oars, a
crowd of spectators hanging over the bulwarks cheered and waved their

“Not a soul!” cried Blunt. “No one but themselves. Well, I’m glad
they’re safe anyway.”

The boats drew alongside, and in a few seconds Frere was upon deck.

“Well, Mr. Frere?”

“No use,” cried Frere, shivering. “We only just had time to get away.
The nearest thing in the world, sir.”

“Didn’t you see anyone?”

“Not a soul. They must have taken to the boats.”

“Then they can’t be far off,” cried Blunt, sweeping the horizon with his
glass. “They must have pulled all the way, for there hasn’t been enough
wind to fill a hollow tooth with.” “Perhaps they pulled in the wrong
direction,” said Frere. “They had a good four hours’ start of us, you

Then Best came up, and told the story to a crowd of eager listeners. The
sailors having hoisted and secured the boats, were hurried off to the
forecastle, there to eat, and relate their experience between mouthfuls,
and the four convicts were taken in charge and locked below again.

“You had better go and turn in, Frere,” said Pine gruffly. “It’s no use
whistling for a wind here all day.”

Frere laughed--in his heartiest manner. “I think I will,” he said. “I’m
dog tired, and as sleepy as an owl,” and he descended the poop ladder.
Pine took a couple of turns up and down the deck, and then catching
Blunt’s eye, stopped in front of Vickers.

“You may think it a hard thing to say, Captain Vickers, but it’s just
as well if we don’t find these poor devils. We have quite enough on our
hands as it is.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Pine?” says Vickers, his humane feelings getting
the better of his pomposity. “You would not surely leave the unhappy men
to their fate.”

“Perhaps,” returned the other, “they would not thank us for taking them

“I don’t understand you.”

“The fever has broken out.”

Vickers raised his brows. He had no experience of such things; and
though the intelligence was startling, the crowded condition of the
prison rendered it easy to be understood, and he apprehended no danger
to himself.

“It is a great misfortune; but, of course, you will take such steps--”

“It is only in the prison, as yet,” says Pine, with a grim emphasis on
the word; “but there is no saying how long it may stop there. I have got
three men down as it is.” “Well, sir, all authority in the matter is in
your hands. Any suggestions you make, I will, of course, do my best to
carry out.”

“Thank ye. I must have more room in the hospital to begin with. The
soldiers must lie a little closer.”

“I will see what can be done.”

“And you had better keep your wife and the little girl as much on deck
as possible.”

Vickers turned pale at the mention of his child. “Good Heaven! do you
think there is any danger?”

“There is, of course, danger to all of us; but with care we may escape
it. There’s that maid, too. Tell her to keep to herself a little more.
She has a trick of roaming about the ship I don’t like. Infection is
easily spread, and children always sicken sooner than grown-up people.”

Vickers pressed his lips together. This old man, with his harsh,
dissonant voice, and hideous practicality, seemed like a bird of ill

Blunt, hitherto silently listening, put in a word for defence of the
absent woman. “The wench is right enough, Pine,” said he. “What’s the
matter with her?”

“Yes, she’s all right, I’ve no doubt. She’s less likely to take it than
any of us. You can see her vitality in her face--as many lives as a cat.
But she’d bring infection quicker than anybody.”

“I’ll--I’ll go at once,” cried poor Vickers, turning round. The woman of
whom they were speaking met him on the ladder. Her face was paler than
usual, and dark circles round her eyes gave evidence of a sleepless
night. She opened her red lips to speak, and then, seeing Vickers,
stopped abruptly.

“Well, what is it?”

She looked from one to the other. “I came for Dr. Pine.”

Vickers, with the quick intelligence of affection, guessed her errand.
“Someone is ill?”

“Miss Sylvia, sir. It is nothing to signify, I think. A little feverish
and hot, and my mistress--”

Vickers was down the ladder in an instant, with scared face.

Pine caught the girl’s round firm arm. “Where have you been?” Two great
flakes of red came out in her white cheeks, and she shot an indignant
glance at Blunt.

“Come, Pine, let the wench alone!”

“Were you with the child last night?” went on Pine, without turning his

“No; I have not been in the cabin since dinner yesterday. Mrs. Vickers
only called me in just now. Let go my arm, sir, you hurt me.”

Pine loosed his hold as if satisfied at the reply. “I beg your pardon,”
 he said gruffly. “I did not mean to hurt you. But the fever has broken
out in the prison, and I think the child has caught it. You must be
careful where you go.” And then, with an anxious face, he went in
pursuit of Vickers.

Sarah Purfoy stood motionless for an instant, in deadly terror. Her lips
parted, her eyes glittered, and she made a movement as though to retrace
her steps.

“Poor soul!” thought honest Blunt, “how she feels for the child! D----
that lubberly surgeon, he’s hurt her!--Never mind, my lass,” he
said aloud. It was broad daylight, and he had not as much courage in
love-making as at night. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve been in ships with fever
before now.”

Awaking, as it were, at the sound of his voice, she came closer to him.
“But ship fever! I have heard of it! Men have died like rotten sheep in
crowded vessels like this.”

“Tush! Not they. Don’t be frightened; Miss Sylvia won’t die, nor you
neither.” He took her hand. “It may knock off a few dozen prisoners or
so. They are pretty close packed down there--”

She drew her hand away; and then, remembering herself, gave it him

“What is the matter?”

“Nothing--a pain. I did not sleep last night.”

“There, there; you are upset, I dare say. Go and lie down.”

She was staring away past him over the sea, as if in thought. So
intently did she look that he involuntarily turned his head, and the
action recalled her to herself. She brought her fine straight brows
together for a moment, and then raised them with the action of a thinker
who has decided on his course of conduct.

“I have a toothache,” said she, putting her hand to her face.

“Take some laudanum,” says Blunt, with dim recollections of his mother’s
treatment of such ailments. “Old Pine’ll give you some.”

To his astonishment she burst into tears.

“There--there! Don’t cry, my dear. Hang it, don’t cry. What are you
crying about?”

She dashed away the bright drops, and raised her face with a rainy smile
of trusting affection. “Nothing! I am lonely. So far from home; and--and
Dr. Pine hurt my arm. Look!”

She bared that shapely member as she spoke, and sure enough there were
three red marks on the white and shining flesh.

“The ruffian!” cried Blunt, “it’s too bad.” And after a hasty look
around him, the infatuated fellow kissed the bruise. “I’ll get the
laudanum for you,” he said. “You shan’t ask that bear for it. Come into
my cabin.”

Blunt’s cabin was in the starboard side of the ship, just under the poop
awning, and possessed three windows--one looking out over the side, and
two upon deck. The corresponding cabin on the other side was occupied
by Mr. Maurice Frere. He closed the door, and took down a small medicine
chest, cleated above the hooks where hung his signal-pictured telescope.

“Here,” said he, opening it. “I’ve carried this little box for years,
but it ain’t often I want to use it, thank God. Now, then, put some o’
this into your mouth, and hold it there.”

“Good gracious, Captain Blunt, you’ll poison me! Give me the bottle;
I’ll help myself.”

“Don’t take too much,” says Blunt. “It’s dangerous stuff, you know.”

“You need not fear. I’ve used it before.”

The door was shut, and as she put the bottle in her pocket, the amorous
captain caught her in his arms.

“What do you say? Come, I think I deserve a kiss for that.”

Her tears were all dry long ago, and had only given increased colour to
her face. This agreeable woman never wept long enough to make herself
distasteful. She raised her dark eyes to his for a moment, with a saucy
smile. “By and by,” said she, and escaping, gained her cabin. It was
next to that of her mistress, and she could hear the sick child feebly
moaning. Her eyes filled with tears--real ones this time.

“Poor little thing,” she said; “I hope she won’t die.”

And then she threw herself on her bed, and buried her hot head in the
pillow. The intelligence of the fever seemed to have terrified her. Had
the news disarranged some well-concocted plan of hers? Being near the
accomplishment of some cherished scheme long kept in view, had the
sudden and unexpected presence of disease falsified her carefully-made
calculations, and cast an almost insurmountable obstacle in her path?

“She die! and through me? How did I know that he had the fever? Perhaps
I have taken it myself--I feel ill.” She turned over on the bed, as
if in pain, and then started to a sitting position, stung by a sudden
thought. “Perhaps he might die! The fever spreads quickly, and if so,
all this plotting will have been useless. It must be done at once. It
will never do to break down now,” and taking the phial from her pocket,
she held it up, to see how much it contained. It was three parts full.
“Enough for both,” she said, between her set teeth. The action of
holding up the bottle reminded her of the amorous Blunt, and she smiled.
“A strange way to show affection for a man,” she said to herself, “and
yet he doesn’t care, and I suppose I shouldn’t by this time. I’ll go
through with it, and, if the worst comes to the worst, I can fall back
on Maurice.” She loosened the cork of the phial, so that it would come
out with as little noise as possible, and then placed it carefully in
her bosom. “I will get a little sleep if I can,” she said. “They have
got the note, and it shall be done to-night.”


The felon Rufus Dawes had stretched himself in his bunk and tried to
sleep. But though he was tired and sore, and his head felt like lead, he
could not but keep broad awake. The long pull through the pure air, if
it had tired him, had revived him, and he felt stronger; but for all
that, the fatal sickness that was on him maintained its hold; his pulse
beat thickly, and his brain throbbed with unnatural heat. Lying in
his narrow space--in the semi-darkness--he tossed his limbs about, and
closed his eyes in vain--he could not sleep. His utmost efforts induced
only an oppressive stagnation of thought, through which he heard the
voices of his fellow-convicts; while before his eyes was still the
burning Hydaspes--that vessel whose destruction had destroyed for ever
all trace of the unhappy Richard Devine.

It was fortunate for his comfort, perhaps, that the man who had been
chosen to accompany him was of a talkative turn, for the prisoners
insisted upon hearing the story of the explosion a dozen times over, and
Rufus Dawes himself had been roused to give the name of the vessel with
his own lips. Had it not been for the hideous respect in which he was
held, it is possible that he might have been compelled to give his
version also, and to join in the animated discussion which took place
upon the possibility of the saving of the fugitive crew. As it was,
however, he was left in peace, and lay unnoticed, trying to sleep.

The detachment of fifty being on deck--airing--the prison was not quite
so hot as at night, and many of the convicts made up for their lack of
rest by snatching a dog-sleep in the bared bunks. The four volunteer
oarsmen were allowed to “take it out.”

As yet there had been no alarm of fever. The three seizures had excited
some comment, however, and had it not been for the counter-excitement of
the burning ship, it is possible that Pine’s precaution would have
been thrown away. The “Old Hands”--who had been through the Passage
before--suspected, but said nothing, save among themselves. It was
likely that the weak and sickly would go first, and that there would be
more room for those remaining. The Old Hands were satisfied.

Three of these Old Hands were conversing together just behind the
partition of Dawes’s bunk. As we have said, the berths were five feet
square, and each contained six men. No. 10, the berth occupied by Dawes,
was situated on the corner made by the joining of the starboard and
centre lines, and behind it was a slight recess, in which the scuttle
was fixed. His “mates” were at present but three in number, for John Rex
and the cockney tailor had been removed to the hospital. The three that
remained were now in deep conversation in the shelter of the recess. Of
these, the giant--who had the previous night asserted his authority
in the prison--seemed to be the chief. His name was Gabbett. He was
a returned convict, now on his way to undergo a second sentence
for burglary. The other two were a man named Sanders, known as the
“Moocher”, and Jemmy Vetch, the Crow. They were talking in whispers, but
Rufus Dawes, lying with his head close to the partition, was enabled to
catch much of what they said.

At first the conversation turned on the catastrophe of the burning ship
and the likelihood of saving the crew. From this it grew to anecdote of
wreck and adventure, and at last Gabbett said something which made the
listener start from his indifferent efforts to slumber, into sudden
broad wakefulness.

It was the mention of his own name, coupled with that of the woman he
had met on the quarter-deck, that roused him.

“I saw her speaking to Dawes yesterday,” said the giant, with an oath.
“We don’t want no more than we’ve got. I ain’t goin’ to risk my neck for
Rex’s woman’s fancies, and so I’ll tell her.”

“It was something about the kid,” says the Crow, in his elegant slang.
“I don’t believe she ever saw him before. Besides, she’s nuts on Jack,
and ain’t likely to pick up with another man.”

“If I thort she was agoin’ to throw us over, I’d cut her throat as soon
as look at her!” snorts Gabbett savagely.

“Jack ud have a word in that,” snuffles the Moocher; “and he’s a curious
cove to quarrel with.”

“Well, stow yer gaff,” grumbled Mr. Gabbett, “and let’s have no more
chaff. If we’re for bizness, let’s come to bizness.”

“What are we to do now?” asked the Moocher. “Jack’s on the sick list,
and the gal won’t stir a’thout him.”

“Ay,” returned Gabbett, “that’s it.”

“My dear friends,” said the Crow, “my keyind and keristian friends, it
is to be regretted that when natur’ gave you such tremendously thick
skulls, she didn’t put something inside of ‘em. I say that now’s the
time. Jack’s in the ‘orspital; what of that? That don’t make it no
better for him, does it? Not a bit of it; and if he drops his knife and
fork, why then, it’s my opinion that the gal won’t stir a peg. It’s on
his account, not ours, that she’s been manoovering, ain’t it?”

“Well!” says Mr. Gabbett, with the air of one who was but partly
convinced, “I s’pose it is.”

“All the more reason of getting it off quick. Another thing, when the
boys know there’s fever aboard, you’ll see the rumpus there’ll be.
They’ll be ready enough to join us then. Once get the snapper chest, and
we’re right as ninepenn’orth o’ hapence.”

This conversation, interspersed with oaths and slang as it was, had an
intense interest for Rufus Dawes. Plunged into prison, hurriedly tried,
and by reason of his surroundings ignorant of the death of his
father and his own fortune, he had hitherto--in his agony and sullen
gloom--held aloof from the scoundrels who surrounded him, and repelled
their hideous advances of friendship. He now saw his error. He knew that
the name he had once possessed was blotted out, that any shred of his
old life which had clung to him hitherto, was shrivelled in the fire
that consumed the “Hydaspes”. The secret, for the preservation of
which Richard Devine had voluntarily flung away his name, and risked a
terrible and disgraceful death, would be now for ever safe; for Richard
Devine was dead--lost at sea with the crew of the ill-fated vessel in
which, deluded by a skilfully-sent letter from the prison, his mother
believed him to have sailed. Richard Devine was dead, and the secret of
his birth would die with him. Rufus Dawes, his alter ego, alone should
live. Rufus Dawes, the convicted felon, the suspected murderer, should
live to claim his freedom, and work out his vengeance; or, rendered
powerful by the terrible experience of the prison-sheds, should seize
both, in defiance of gaol or gaoler.

With his head swimming, and his brain on fire, he eagerly listened for
more. It seemed as if the fever which burnt in his veins had consumed
the grosser part of his sense, and given him increased power of hearing.
He was conscious that he was ill. His bones ached, his hands burned, his
head throbbed, but he could hear distinctly, and, he thought, reason on
what he heard profoundly.

“But we can’t stir without the girl,” Gabbett said. “She’s got to stall
off the sentry and give us the orfice.”

The Crow’s sallow features lighted up with a cunning smile.

“Dear old caper merchant! Hear him talk!” said he, “as if he had the
wisdom of Solomon in all his glory? Look here!”

And he produced a dirty scrap of paper, over which his companions
eagerly bent their heads.

“Where did yer get that?”

“Yesterday afternoon Sarah was standing on the poop throwing bits o’
toke to the gulls, and I saw her a-looking at me very hard. At last she
came down as near the barricade as she dared, and throwed crumbs and
such like up in the air over the side. By and by a pretty big lump,
doughed up round, fell close to my foot, and, watching a favourable
opportunity, I pouched it. Inside was this bit o’ rag-bag.”

“Ah!” said Mr. Gabbett, “that’s more like. Read it out, Jemmy.”

The writing, though feminine in character, was bold and distinct. Sarah
had evidently been mindful of the education of her friends, and had
desired to give them as little trouble as possible.

“All is right. Watch me when I come up to-morrow evening at three bells.
If I drop my handkerchief, get to work at the time agreed on. The sentry
will be safe.”

Rufus Dawes, though his eyelids would scarcely keep open, and a terrible
lassitude almost paralysed his limbs, eagerly drank in the whispered
sentence. There was a conspiracy to seize the ship. Sarah Purfoy was
in league with the convicts--was herself the wife or mistress of one of
them. She had come on board armed with a plot for his release, and this
plot was about to be put in execution. He had heard of the atrocities
perpetrated by successful mutineers. Story after story of such nature
had often made the prison resound with horrible mirth. He knew the
characters of the three ruffians who, separated from him by but two
inches of planking, jested and laughed over their plans of freedom and
vengeance. Though he conversed but little with his companions, these men
were his berth mates, and he could not but know how they would proceed
to wreak their vengeance on their gaolers.

True, that the head of this formidable chimera--John Rex, the
forger--was absent, but the two hands, or rather claws--the burglar and
the prison-breaker--were present, and the slimly-made, effeminate Crow,
if he had not the brains of the master, yet made up for his flaccid
muscles and nerveless frame by a cat-like cunning, and a spirit of
devilish volatility that nothing could subdue. With such a powerful ally
outside as the mock maid-servant, the chance of success was enormously
increased. There were one hundred and eighty convicts and but fifty
soldiers. If the first rush proved successful--and the precautions taken
by Sarah Purfoy rendered success possible--the vessel was theirs.
Rufus Dawes thought of the little bright-haired child who had run so
confidingly to meet him, and shuddered.

“There!” said the Crow, with a sneering laugh, “what do you think of
that? Does the girl look like nosing us now?”

“No,” says the giant, stretching his great arms with a grin of delight,
as one stretches one’s chest in the sun, “that’s right, that is. That’s
more like bizness.”

“England, home and beauty!” said Vetch, with a mock-heroic air,
strangely out of tune with the subject under discussion. “You’d like to
go home again, wouldn’t you, old man?”

Gabbett turned on him fiercely, his low forehead wrinkled into a frown
of ferocious recollection.

“You!” he said--“You think the chain’s fine sport, don’t yer? But I’ve
been there, my young chicken, and I knows what it means.”

There was silence for a minute or two. The giant was plunged in gloomy
abstraction, and Vetch and the Moocher interchanged a significant
glance. Gabbett had been ten years at the colonial penal settlement of
Macquarie Harbour, and he had memories that he did not confide to his
companions. When he indulged in one of these fits of recollection, his
friends found it best to leave him to himself.

Rufus Dawes did not understand the sudden silence. With all his senses
stretched to the utmost to listen, the cessation of the whispered
colloquy affected him strangely. Old artillery-men have said that, after
being at work for days in the trenches, accustomed to the continued roar
of the guns, a sudden pause in the firing will cause them intense pain.
Something of this feeling was experienced by Rufus Dawes. His faculties
of hearing and thinking--both at their highest pitch--seemed to break
down. It was as though some prop had been knocked from under him. No
longer stimulated by outward sounds, his senses appeared to fail him.
The blood rushed into his eyes and ears. He made a violent, vain effort
to retain his consciousness, but with a faint cry fell back, striking
his head against the edge of the bunk.

The noise roused the burglar in an instant. There was someone in the
berth! The three looked into each other’s eyes, in guilty alarm, and
then Gabbett dashed round the partition.

“It’s Dawes!” said the Moocher. “We had forgotten him!”

“He’ll join us, mate--he’ll join us!” cried Vetch, fearful of bloodshed.

Gabbett uttered a furious oath, and flinging himself on to the prostrate
figure, dragged it, head foremost, to the floor. The sudden vertigo
had saved Rufus Dawes’s life. The robber twisted one brawny hand in his
shirt, and pressing the knuckles down, prepared to deliver a blow that
should for ever silence the listener, when Vetch caught his arm. “He’s
been asleep,” he cried. “Don’t hit him! See, he’s not awake yet.”

A crowd gathered round. The giant relaxed his grip, but the convict gave
only a deep groan, and allowed his head to fall on his shoulder. “You’ve
killed him!” cried someone.

Gabbett took another look at the purpling face and the bedewed forehead,
and then sprang erect, rubbing at his right hand, as though he would rub
off something sticking there.

“He’s got the fever!” he roared, with a terror-stricken grimace.

“The what?” asked twenty voices.

“The fever, ye grinning fools!” cried Gabbett. “I’ve seen it before
to-day. The typhus is aboard, and he’s the fourth man down!”

The circle of beast-like faces, stretched forward to “see the fight,”
 widened at the half-uncomprehended, ill-omened word. It was as though
a bombshell had fallen into the group. Rufus Dawes lay on the deck
motionless, breathing heavily. The savage circle glared at his prostrate
body. The alarm ran round, and all the prison crowded down to stare at
him. All at once he uttered a groan, and turning, propped his body on
his two rigid arms, and made an effort to speak. But no sound issued
from his convulsed jaws.

“He’s done,” said the Moocher brutally. “He didn’t hear nuffin’, I’ll
pound it.”

The noise of the heavy bolts shooting back broke the spell. The first
detachment were coming down from “exercise.” The door was flung back,
and the bayonets of the guard gleamed in a ray of sunshine that shot
down the hatchway. This glimpse of sunlight--sparkling at the entrance
of the foetid and stifling prison--seemed to mock their miseries. It was
as though Heaven laughed at them. By one of those terrible and strange
impulses which animate crowds, the mass, turning from the sick man,
leapt towards the doorway. The interior of the prison flashed white with
suddenly turned faces. The gloom scintillated with rapidly moving hands.
“Air! air! Give us air!”

“That’s it!” said Sanders to his companions. “I thought the news would
rouse ‘em.”

Gabbett--all the savage in his blood stirred by the sight of flashing
eyes and wrathful faces--would have thrown himself forward with the
rest, but Vetch plucked him back.

“It’ll be over in a moment,” he said. “It’s only a fit they’ve got.” He
spoke truly. Through the uproar was heard the rattle of iron on iron, as
the guard “stood to their arms,” and the wedge of grey cloth broke, in
sudden terror of the levelled muskets.

There was an instant’s pause, and then old Pine walked, unmolested, down
the prison and knelt by the body of Rufus Dawes.

The sight of the familiar figure, so calmly performing its familiar
duty, restored all that submission to recognized authority which
strict discipline begets. The convicts slunk away into their berths,
or officiously ran to help “the doctor,” with affectation of intense
obedience. The prison was like a schoolroom, into which the master had
suddenly returned. “Stand back, my lads! Take him up, two of you, and
carry him to the door. The poor fellow won’t hurt you.” His orders
were obeyed, and the old man, waiting until his patient had been safely
received outside, raised his hand to command attention. “I see you know
what I have to tell. The fever has broken out. That man has got it. It
is absurd to suppose that no one else will be seized. I might catch it
myself. You are much crowded down here, I know; but, my lads, I can’t
help that; I didn’t make the ship, you know.”

“‘Ear, ‘ear!”

“It is a terrible thing, but you must keep orderly and quiet, and bear
it like men. You know what the discipline is, and it is not in my power
to alter it. I shall do my best for your comfort, and I look to you to
help me.”

Holding his grey head very erect indeed, the brave old fellow passed
straight down the line, without looking to the right or left. He had
said just enough, and he reached the door amid a chorus of “‘Ear, ‘ear!”
 “Bravo!” “True for you, docther!” and so on. But when he got fairly
outside, he breathed more freely. He had performed a ticklish task, and
he knew it.

“‘Ark at ‘em,” growled the Moocher from his corner, “a-cheerin’ at the
bloody noos!”

“Wait a bit,” said the acuter intelligence of Jemmy Vetch. “Give ‘em
time. There’ll be three or four more down afore night, and then we’ll


It was late in the afternoon when Sarah Purfoy awoke from her uneasy
slumber. She had been dreaming of the deed she was about to do, and was
flushed and feverish; but, mindful of the consequences which hung upon
the success or failure of the enterprise, she rallied herself, bathed
her face and hands, and ascended with as calm an air as she could assume
to the poop-deck.

Nothing was changed since yesterday. The sentries’ arms glittered in
the pitiless sunshine, the ship rolled and creaked on the swell of the
dreamy sea, and the prison-cage on the lower deck was crowded with the
same cheerless figures, disposed in the attitudes of the day before.
Even Mr. Maurice Frere, recovered from his midnight fatigues, was
lounging on the same coil of rope, in precisely the same position.

Yet the eye of an acute observer would have detected some difference
beneath this outward varnish of similarity. The man at the wheel
looked round the horizon more eagerly, and spit into the swirling,
unwholesome-looking water with a more dejected air than before. The
fishing-lines still hung dangling over the catheads, but nobody touched
them. The soldiers and sailors on the forecastle, collected in knots,
had no heart even to smoke, but gloomily stared at each other. Vickers
was in the cuddy writing; Blunt was in his cabin; and Pine, with two
carpenters at work under his directions, was improvising increased
hospital accommodation. The noise of mallet and hammer echoed in the
soldiers’ berth ominously; the workmen might have been making coffins.
The prison was strangely silent, with the lowering silence which
precedes a thunderstorm; and the convicts on deck no longer told
stories, nor laughed at obscene jests, but sat together, moodily
patient, as if waiting for something. Three men--two prisoners and
a soldier--had succumbed since Rufus Dawes had been removed to the
hospital; and though as yet there had been no complaint or symptom
of panic, the face of each man, soldier, sailor, or prisoner, wore an
expectant look, as though he wondered whose turn would come next. On the
ship--rolling ceaselessly from side to side, like some wounded creature,
on the opaque profundity of that stagnant ocean--a horrible shadow had
fallen. The Malabar seemed to be enveloped in an electric cloud, whose
sullen gloom a chance spark might flash into a blaze that should consume

The woman who held in her hands the two ends of the chain that would
produce this spark, paused, came up upon deck, and, after a glance
round, leant against the poop railing, and looked down into the
barricade. As we have said, the prisoners were in knots of four and
five, and to one group in particular her glance was directed. Three men,
leaning carelessly against the bulwarks, watched her every motion.

“There she is, right enough,” growled Mr. Gabbett, as if in continuation
of a previous remark. “Flash as ever, and looking this way, too.”

“I don’t see no wipe,” said the practical Moocher.

“Patience is a virtue, most noble knuckler!” says the Crow, with
affected carelessness. “Give the young woman time.”

“Blowed if I’m going to wait no longer,” says the giant, licking his
coarse blue lips. “‘Ere we’ve been bluffed off day arter day, and kep’
dancin’ round the Dandy’s wench like a parcel o’ dogs. The fever’s
aboard, and we’ve got all ready. What’s the use o’ waitin’? Orfice, or
no orfice, I’m for bizness at once!--”

“--There, look at that,” he added, with an oath, as the figure of
Maurice Frere appeared side by side with that of the waiting-maid, and
the two turned away up the deck together.

“It’s all right, you confounded muddlehead!” cried the Crow, losing
patience with his perverse and stupid companion. “How can she give us
the office with that cove at her elbow?”

Gabbett’s only reply to this question was a ferocious grunt, and a
sudden elevation of his clenched fist, which caused Mr. Vetch to retreat
precipitately. The giant did not follow; and Mr. Vetch, folding his
arms, and assuming an attitude of easy contempt, directed his attention
to Sarah Purfoy. She seemed an object of general attraction, for at the
same moment a young soldier ran up the ladder to the forecastle, and
eagerly bent his gaze in her direction.

Maurice Frere had come behind her and touched her on the shoulder. Since
their conversation the previous evening, he had made up his mind to be
fooled no longer. The girl was evidently playing with him, and he would
show her that he was not to be trifled with.

“Well, Sarah!”

“Well, Mr. Frere,” dropping her hand, and turning round with a smile.

“How well you are looking to-day! Positively lovely!”

“You have told me that so often,” says she, with a pout. “Have you
nothing else to say?”

“Except that I love you.” This in a most impassioned manner.

“That is no news. I know you do.”

“Curse it, Sarah, what is a fellow to do?” His profligacy was failing
him rapidly. “What is the use of playing fast and loose with a fellow
this way?”

“A ‘fellow’ should be able to take care of himself, Mr. Frere. I didn’t
ask you to fall in love with me, did I? If you don’t please me, it is
not your fault, perhaps.”

“What do you mean?”

“You soldiers have so many things to think of--your guards and sentries,
and visits and things. You have no time to spare for a poor woman like

“Spare!” cries Frere, in amazement. “Why, damme, you won’t let a fellow
spare! I’d spare fast enough, if that was all.” She cast her eyes down
to the deck and a modest flush rose in her cheeks. “I have so much to
do,” she said, in a half-whisper. “There are so many eyes upon me, I
cannot stir without being seen.”

She raised her head as she spoke, and to give effect to her words,
looked round the deck. Her glance crossed that of the young soldier
on the forecastle, and though the distance was too great for her to
distinguish his features, she guessed who he was--Miles was jealous.
Frere, smiling with delight at her change of manner, came close to
her, and whispered in her ear. She affected to start, and took the
opportunity of exchanging a signal with the Crow.

“I will come at eight o’clock,” said she, with modestly averted face.

“They relieve the guard at eight,” he said deprecatingly.

She tossed her head. “Very well, then, attend to your guard; I don’t

“But, Sarah, consider--”

“As if a woman in love ever considers!” said she, turning upon him a
burning glance, which in truth might have melted a more icy man than he.
--She loved him then! What a fool he would be to refuse. To get her to
come was the first object; how to make duty fit with pleasure would be
considered afterwards. Besides, the guard could relieve itself for once
without his supervision.

“Very well, at eight then, dearest.”

“Hush!” said she. “Here comes that stupid captain.”

And as Frere left her, she turned, and with her eyes fixed on the
convict barricade, dropped the handkerchief she held in her hand over
the poop railing. It fell at the feet of the amorous captain, and with a
quick upward glance, that worthy fellow picked it up, and brought it to

“Oh, thank you, Captain Blunt,” said she, and her eyes spoke more than
her tongue.

“Did you take the laudanum?” whispered Blunt, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Some of it,” said she. “I will bring you back the bottle to-night.”

Blunt walked aft, humming cheerily, and saluted Frere with a slap on the
back. The two men laughed, each at his own thoughts, but their laughter
only made the surrounding gloom seem deeper than before.

Sarah Purfoy, casting her eyes toward the barricade, observed a change
in the position of the three men. They were together once more, and the
Crow, having taken off his prison cap, held it at arm’s length with
one hand, while he wiped his brow with the other. Her signal had been

During all this, Rufus Dawes, removed to the hospital, was lying flat on
his back, staring at the deck above him, trying to think of something he
wanted to say.

When the sudden faintness, which was the prelude to his sickness, had
overpowered him, he remembered being torn out of his bunk by fierce
hands--remembered a vision of savage faces, and the presence of
some danger that menaced him. He remembered that, while lying on
his blankets, struggling with the coming fever, he had overheard a
conversation of vital importance to himself and to the ship, but of
the purport of that conversation he had not the least idea. In vain he
strove to remember--in vain his will, struggling with delirium, brought
back snatches and echoes of sense; they slipped from him again as fast
as caught. He was oppressed with the weight of half-recollected thought.
He knew that a terrible danger menaced him; that could he but force his
brain to reason connectedly for ten consecutive minutes, he could give
such information as would avert that danger, and save the ship. But,
lying with hot head, parched lips, and enfeebled body, he was as one
possessed--he could move nor hand nor foot.

The place where he lay was but dimly lighted. The ingenuity of Pine had
constructed a canvas blind over the port, to prevent the sun striking
into the cabin, and this blind absorbed much of the light. He could but
just see the deck above his head, and distinguish the outlines of three
other berths, apparently similar to his own. The only sounds that broke
the silence were the gurgling of the water below him, and the Tap tap,
Tap tap, of Pine’s hammers at work upon the new partition. By and by the
noise of these hammers ceased, and then the sick man could hear gasps,
and moans, and mutterings--the signs that his companions yet lived.

All at once a voice called out, “Of course his bills are worth four
hundred pounds; but, my good sir, four hundred pounds to a man in my
position is not worth the getting. Why, I’ve given four hundred pounds
for a freak of my girl Sarah! Is it right, eh, Jezebel? She’s a
good girl, though, as girls go. Mrs. Lionel Crofton, of the Crofts,
Sevenoaks, Kent--Sevenoaks, Kent--Seven----”

A gleam of light broke in on the darkness which wrapped Rufus Dawes’s
tortured brain. The man was John Rex, his berth mate. With an effort he


“Yes, yes. I’m coming; don’t be in a hurry. The sentry’s safe, and the
howitzer is but five paces from the door. A rush upon deck, lads, and
she’s ours! That is, mine. Mine and my wife’s, Mrs. Lionel Crofton,
of Seven Crofts, no oaks--Sarah Purfoy, lady’s-maid and nurse--ha!
ha!--lady’s-maid and nurse!”

This last sentence contained the name-clue to the labyrinth in which
Rufus Dawes’s bewildered intellects were wandering. “Sarah Purfoy!”
 He remembered now each detail of the conversation he had so strangely
overheard, and how imperative it was that he should, without delay,
reveal the plot that threatened the ship. How that plot was to be
carried out, he did not pause to consider; he was conscious that he was
hanging over the brink of delirium, and that, unless he made himself
understood before his senses utterly deserted him, all was lost.

He attempted to rise, but found that his fever-thralled limbs refused to
obey the impulse of his will. He made an effort to speak, but his tongue
clove to the roof of his mouth, and his jaws stuck together. He could
not raise a finger nor utter a sound. The boards over his head waved
like a shaken sheet, and the cabin whirled round, while the patch of
light at his feet bobbed up and down like the reflection from a wavering
candle. He closed his eyes with a terrible sigh of despair, and resigned
himself to his fate. At that instant the sound of hammering ceased, and
the door opened. It was six o’clock, and Pine had come to have a last
look at his patients before dinner. It seemed that there was somebody
with him, for a kind, though somewhat pompous, voice remarked upon the
scantiness of accommodation, and the “necessity--the absolute necessity”
 of complying with the King’s Regulations.

Honest Vickers, though agonized for the safety of his child, would not
abate a jot of his duty, and had sternly come to visit the sick men,
aware as he was that such a visit would necessitate his isolation from
the cabin where his child lay. Mrs. Vickers--weeping and bewailing
herself coquettishly at garrison parties--had often said that “poor dear
John was such a disciplinarian, quite a slave to the service.”

“Here they are,” said Pine; “six of ‘em. This fellow”--going to the
side of Rex--“is the worst. If he had not a constitution like a horse, I
don’t think he could live out the night.”

“Three, eighteen, seven, four,” muttered Rex; “dot and carry one. Is
that an occupation for a gentleman? No, sir. Good night, my lord, good
night. Hark! The clock is striking nine; five, six, seven, eight! Well,
you’ve had your day, and can’t complain.”

“A dangerous fellow,” says Pine, with the light upraised. “A very
dangerous fellow--that is, he was. This is the place, you see--a regular
rat-hole; but what can one do?”

“Come, let us get on deck,” said Vickers, with a shudder of disgust.

Rufus Dawes felt the sweat break out into beads on his forehead. They
suspected nothing. They were going away. He must warn them. With a
violent effort, in his agony he turned over in the bunk and thrust out
his hand from the blankets.

“Hullo! what’s this?” cried Pine, bringing the lantern to bear upon it.
“Lie down, my man. Eh!--water, is it? There, steady with it now”; and he
lifted a pannikin to the blackened, froth-fringed lips. The cool draught
moistened his parched gullet, and the convict made a last effort to

“Sarah Purfoy--to-night--the prison--MUTINY!”

The last word, almost shrieked out, in the sufferer’s desperate efforts
to articulate, recalled the wandering senses of John Rex. “Hush!” he
cried. “Is that you, Jemmy? Sarah’s right. Wait till she gives the

“He’s raving,” said Vickers.

Pine caught the convict by the shoulder. “What do you say, my man? A
mutiny of the prisoners!”

With his mouth agape and his hands clenched, Rufus Dawes, incapable of
further speech, made a last effort to nod assent, but his head fell upon
his breast; the next moment, the flickering light, the gloomy prison,
the eager face of the doctor, and the astonished face of Vickers,
vanished from before his straining eyes. He saw the two men stare at
each other, in mingled incredulity and alarm, and then he was floating
down the cool brown river of his boyhood, on his way--in company with
Sarah Purfoy and Lieutenant Frere--to raise the mutiny of the Hydaspes,
that lay on the stocks in the old house at Hampstead.


The two discoverers of this awkward secret held a council of war.
Vickers was for at once calling the guard, and announcing to the
prisoners that the plot--whatever it might be--had been discovered; but
Pine, accustomed to convict ships, overruled this decision.

“You don’t know these fellows as well as I do,” said he. “In the first
place there may be no mutiny at all. The whole thing is, perhaps, some
absurdity of that fellow Dawes--and should we once put the notion of
attacking us into the prisoners’ heads, there is no telling what they
might do.”

“But the man seemed certain,” said the other. “He mentioned my wife’s
maid, too!”

“Suppose he did?--and, begad, I dare say he’s right--I never liked the
look of the girl. To tell them that we have found them out this time
won’t prevent ‘em trying it again. We don’t know what their scheme is
either. If it is a mutiny, half the ship’s company may be in it. No,
Captain Vickers, allow me, as surgeon-superintendent, to settle our
course of action. You are aware that--”

“--That, by the King’s Regulations, you are invested with full powers,”
 interrupted Vickers, mindful of discipline in any extremity. “Of course,
I merely suggested--and I know nothing about the girl, except that she
brought a good character from her last mistress--a Mrs. Crofton I think
the name was. We were glad to get anybody to make a voyage like this.”

“Well,” says Pine, “look here. Suppose we tell these scoundrels that
their design, whatever it may be, is known. Very good. They will
profess absolute ignorance, and try again on the next opportunity,
when, perhaps, we may not know anything about it. At all events, we
are completely ignorant of the nature of the plot and the names of the
ringleaders. Let us double the sentries, and quietly get the men under
arms. Let Miss Sarah do what she pleases, and when the mutiny breaks
out, we will nip it in the bud; clap all the villains we get in irons,
and hand them over to the authorities in Hobart Town. I am not a cruel
man, sir, but we have got a cargo of wild beasts aboard, and we must be

“But surely, Mr. Pine, have you considered the probable loss of life?
I--really--some more humane course perhaps? Prevention, you know--”

Pine turned round upon him with that grim practicality which was a part
of his nature. “Have you considered the safety of the ship, Captain
Vickers? You know, or have heard of, the sort of things that take place
in these mutinies. Have you considered what will befall those half-dozen
women in the soldiers’ berths? Have you thought of the fate of your own
wife and child?”

Vickers shuddered.

“Have it your way, Mr. Pine; you know best perhaps. But don’t risk more
lives than you can help.”

“Be easy, sir,” says old Pine; “I am acting for the best; upon my soul
I am. You don’t know what convicts are, or rather what the law has made

“Poor wretches!” says Vickers, who, like many martinets, was in reality
tender-hearted. “Kindness might do much for them. After all, they are
our fellow-creatures.”

“Yes,” returned the other, “they are. But if you use that argument to
them when they have taken the vessel, it won’t avail you much. Let me
manage, sir; and for God’s sake, say nothing to anybody. Our lives may
hang upon a word.”

Vickers promised, and kept his promise so far as to chat cheerily with
Blunt and Frere at dinner, only writing a brief note to his wife to tell
her that, whatever she heard, she was not to stir from her cabin until
he came to her; he knew that, with all his wife’s folly, she would obey
unhesitatingly, when he couched an order in such terms.

According to the usual custom on board convict ships, the guards
relieved each other every two hours, and at six p.m. the poop guard was
removed to the quarter-deck, and the arms which, in the daytime,
were disposed on the top of the arm-chest, were placed in an arm-rack
constructed on the quarter-deck for that purpose. Trusting nothing to
Frere--who, indeed, by Pine’s advice, was, as we have seen, kept in
ignorance of the whole matter--Vickers ordered all the men, save those
who had been on guard during the day, to be under arms in the barrack,
forbade communication with the upper deck, and placed as sentry at the
barrack door his own servant, an old soldier, on whose fidelity he could
thoroughly rely. He then doubled the guards, took the keys of the prison
himself from the non-commissioned officer whose duty it was to keep
them, and saw that the howitzer on the lower deck was loaded with grape.
It was a quarter to seven when Pine and he took their station at the
main hatchway, determined to watch until morning.

At a quarter past seven, any curious person looking through the window
of Captain Blunt’s cabin would have seen an unusual sight. That gallant
commander was sitting on the bed-place, with a glass of rum and water in
his hand, and the handsome waiting-maid of Mrs. Vickers was seated on a
stool by his side. At a first glance it was perceptible that the captain
was very drunk. His grey hair was matted all ways about his reddened
face, and he was winking and blinking like an owl in the sunshine.
He had drunk a larger quantity of wine than usual at dinner, in sheer
delight at the approaching assignation, and having got out the rum
bottle for a quiet “settler” just as the victim of his fascinations
glided through the carefully-adjusted door, he had been persuaded to go
on drinking.

“Cuc-come, Sarah,” he hiccuped. “It’s all very fine, my lass, but you
needn’t be so--hic--proud, you know. I’m a plain sailor--plain s’lor,
Srr’h. Ph’n’as Bub--blunt, commander of the Mal-Mal- Malabar. Wors’ ‘sh
good talkin’?”

Sarah allowed a laugh to escape her, and artfully protruded an ankle at
the same time. The amorous Phineas lurched over, and made shift to take
her hand.

“You lovsh me, and I--hic--lovsh you, Sarah. And a preshus tight little
craft you--hic--are. Giv’sh--kiss, Sarah.”

Sarah got up and went to the door.

“Wotsh this? Goin’! Sarah, don’t go,” and he staggered up; and with the
grog swaying fearfully in one hand, made at her.

The ship’s bell struck the half-hour. Now or never was the time. Blunt
caught her round the waist with one arm, and hiccuping with love and
rum, approached to take the kiss he coveted. She seized the moment,
surrendered herself to his embrace, drew from her pocket the laudanum
bottle, and passing her hand over his shoulder, poured half its contents
into the glass.

“Think I’m--hic--drunk, do yer? Nun--not I, my wench.”

“You will be if you drink much more. Come, finish that and be quiet, or
I’ll go away.”

But she threw a provocation into her glance as she spoke, which belied
her words, and which penetrated even the sodden intellect of poor
Blunt. He balanced himself on his heels for a moment, and holding by
the moulding of the cabin, stared at her with a fatuous smile of drunken
admiration, then looked at the glass in his hand, hiccuped with much
solemnity thrice, and, as though struck with a sudden sense of duty
unfulfilled, swallowed the contents at a gulp. The effect was almost
instantaneous. He dropped the tumbler, lurched towards the woman at the
door, and then making a half-turn in accordance with the motion of the
vessel, fell into his bunk, and snored like a grampus.

Sarah Purfoy watched him for a few minutes, and then having blown out
the light, stepped out of the cabin, and closed the door behind her. The
dusky gloom which had held the deck on the previous night enveloped all
forward of the main-mast. A lantern swung in the forecastle, and swayed
with the motion of the ship. The light at the prison door threw a glow
through the open hatch, and in the cuddy, at her right hand, the usual
row of oil-lamps burned. She looked mechanically for Vickers, who was
ordinarily there at that hour, but the cuddy was empty. So much the
better, she thought, as she drew her dark cloak around her, and tapped
at Frere’s door. As she did so, a strange pain shot through her temples,
and her knees trembled. With a strong effort she dispelled the dizziness
that had almost overpowered her, and held herself erect. It would never
do to break down now.

The door opened, and Maurice Frere drew her into the cabin. “So you have
come?” said he.

“You see I have. But, oh! if I should be seen!”

“Seen? Nonsense! Who is to see you?”

“Captain Vickers, Doctor Pine, anybody.”

“Not they. Besides, they’ve gone off down to Pine’s cabin since dinner.
They’re all right.”

Gone off to Pine’s cabin! The intelligence struck her with dismay.
What was the cause of such an unusual proceeding? Surely they did not
suspect! “What do they want there?” she asked.

Maurice Frere was not in the humour to argue questions of probability.
“Who knows? I don’t. Confound ‘em,” he added, “what does it matter to
us? We don’t want them, do we, Sarah?”

She seemed to be listening for something, and did not reply. Her nervous
system was wound up to the highest pitch of excitement. The success of
the plot depended on the next five minutes.

“What are you staring at? Look at me, can’t you? What eyes you have! And
what hair!”

At that instant the report of a musket-shot broke the silence. The
mutiny had begun!

The sound awoke the soldier to a sense of his duty. He sprang to his
feet, and disengaging the arms that clung about his neck, made for
the door. The moment for which the convict’s accomplice had waited
approached. She hung upon him with all her weight. Her long hair swept
across his face, her warm breath was on his cheek, her dress exposed
her round, smooth shoulder. He, intoxicated, conquered, had half-turned
back, when suddenly the rich crimson died away from her lips, leaving
them an ashen grey colour. Her eyes closed in agony; loosing her hold
of him, she staggered to her feet, pressed her hands upon her bosom, and
uttered a sharp cry of pain.

The fever which had been on her two days, and which, by a strong
exercise of will, she had struggled against--encouraged by the violent
excitement of the occasion--had attacked her at this supreme moment.
Deathly pale and sick, she reeled to the side of the cabin. There was
another shot, and a violent clashing of arms; and Frere, leaving the
miserable woman to her fate, leapt out on to the deck.


At seven o’clock there had been also a commotion in the prison. The news
of the fever had awoke in the convicts all that love of liberty which
had but slumbered during the monotony of the earlier part of the voyage.
Now that death menaced them, they longed fiercely for the chance of
escape which seemed permitted to freemen. “Let us get out!” they said,
each man speaking to his particular friend. “We are locked up here to
die like sheep.” Gloomy faces and desponding looks met the gaze of each,
and sometimes across this gloom shot a fierce glance that lighted up
its blackness, as a lightning-flash renders luridly luminous the indigo
dullness of a thunder-cloud. By and by, in some inexplicable way, it
came to be understood that there was a conspiracy afloat, that they
were to be released from their shambles, that some amongst them had been
plotting for freedom. The ‘tween decks held its foul breath in wondering
anxiety, afraid to breathe its suspicions. The influence of this
predominant idea showed itself by a strange shifting of atoms. The
mass of villainy, ignorance, and innocence began to be animated with
something like a uniform movement. Natural affinities came together,
and like allied itself to like, falling noiselessly into harmony, as the
pieces of glass and coloured beads in a kaleidoscope assume mathematical
forms. By seven bells it was found that the prison was divided into
three parties--the desperate, the timid, and the cautious. These three
parties had arranged themselves in natural sequence. The mutineers,
headed by Gabbett, Vetch, and the Moocher, were nearest to the door; the
timid--boys, old men, innocent poor wretches condemned on circumstantial
evidence, or rustics condemned to be turned into thieves for pulling
a turnip--were at the farther end, huddling together in alarm; and the
prudent--that is to say, all the rest, ready to fight or fly, advance or
retreat, assist the authorities or their companions, as the fortune of
the day might direct--occupied the middle space. The mutineers proper
numbered, perhaps, some thirty men, and of these thirty only half a
dozen knew what was really about to be done.

The ship’s bell strikes the half-hour, and as the cries of the three
sentries passing the word to the quarter-deck die away, Gabbett, who has
been leaning with his back against the door, nudges Jemmy Vetch.

“Now, Jemmy,” says he in a whisper, “tell ‘em!”

The whisper being heard by those nearest the giant, a silence ensues,
which gradually spreads like a ripple over the surface of the crowd,
reaching even the bunks at the further end.

“Gentlemen,” says Mr. Vetch, politely sarcastic in his own hangdog
fashion, “myself and my friends here are going to take the ship for you.
Those who like to join us had better speak at once, for in about half an
hour they will not have the opportunity.”

He pauses, and looks round with such an impertinently confident air,
that three waverers in the party amidships slip nearer to hear him.

“You needn’t be afraid,” Mr. Vetch continues, “we have arranged it all
for you. There are friends waiting for us outside, and the door will be
open directly. All we want, gentlemen, is your vote and interest--I mean

“Gaffing agin!” interrupts the giant angrily. “Come to business, carn’t
yer? Tell ‘em they may like it or lump it, but we mean to have the ship,
and them as refuses to join us we mean to chuck overboard. That’s about
the plain English of it!”

This practical way of putting it produces a sensation, and the
conservative party at the other end look in each other’s faces with some
alarm. A grim murmur runs round, and somebody near Mr. Gabbett laughs a
laugh of mingled ferocity and amusement, not reassuring to timid people.
“What about the sogers?” asked a voice from the ranks of the cautious.

“D--- the sogers!” cries the Moocher, moved by a sudden inspiration.
“They can but shoot yer, and that’s as good as dyin’ of typhus anyway!”

The right chord had been struck now, and with a stifled roar the prison
admitted the truth of the sentiment. “Go on, old man!” cries Jemmy Vetch
to the giant, rubbing his thin hands with eldritch glee. “They’re all
right!” And then, his quick ears catching the jingle of arms, he said,
“Stand by now for the door--one rush’ll do it.”

It was eight o’clock and the relief guard was coming from the after
deck. The crowd of prisoners round the door held their breath to listen.
“It’s all planned,” says Gabbett, in a low growl. “W’en the door h’opens
we rush, and we’re in among the guard afore they know where they are.
Drag ‘em back into the prison, grab the h’arm-rack, and it’s all over.”

“They’re very quiet about it,” says the Crow suspiciously. “I hope it’s
all right.”

“Stand from the door, Miles,” says Pine’s voice outside, in its usual
calm accents.

The Crow was relieved. The tone was an ordinary one, and Miles was the
soldier whom Sarah Purfoy had bribed not to fire. All had gone well.

The keys clashed and turned, and the bravest of the prudent party,
who had been turning in his mind the notion of risking his life for a
pardon, to be won by rushing forward at the right moment and alarming
the guard, checked the cry that was in his throat as he saw the men
round the door draw back a little for their rush, and caught a glimpse
of the giant’s bristling scalp and bared gums.

“NOW!” cries Jemmy Vetch, as the iron-plated oak swung back, and with
the guttural snarl of a charging wild boar, Gabbett hurled himself out
of the prison.

The red line of light which glowed for an instant through the doorway
was blotted out by a mass of figures. All the prison surged forward, and
before the eye could wink, five, ten, twenty, of the most desperate
were outside. It was as though a sea, breaking against a stone wall,
had found some breach through which to pour its waters. The contagion
of battle spread. Caution was forgotten; and those at the back, seeing
Jemmy Vetch raised upon the crest of that human billow which reared its
black outline against an indistinct perspective of struggling figures,
responded to his grin of encouragement by rushing furiously forward.

Suddenly a horrible roar like that of a trapped wild beast was heard.
The rushing torrent choked in the doorway, and from out the lantern glow
into which the giant had rushed, a flash broke, followed by a groan, as
the perfidious sentry fell back shot through the breast. The mass in
the doorway hung irresolute, and then by sheer weight of pressure from
behind burst forward, and as it so burst, the heavy door crashed into
its jambs, and the bolts were shot into their places.

All this took place by one of those simultaneous movements which are so
rapid in execution, so tedious to describe in detail. At one instant the
prison door had opened, at the next it had closed. The picture which
had presented itself to the eyes of the convicts was as momentary as are
those of the thaumatoscope. The period of time that had elapsed between
the opening and the shutting of the door could have been marked by the
musket shot.

The report of another shot, and then a noise of confused cries, mingled
with the clashing of arms, informed the imprisoned men that the ship
had been alarmed. How would it go with their friends on deck? Would they
succeed in overcoming the guards, or would they be beaten back? They
would soon know; and in the hot dusk, straining their eyes to see each
other, they waited for the issue Suddenly the noises ceased, and a
strange rumbling sound fell upon the ears of the listeners.

          *          *          *          *          *

What had taken place?

This--the men pouring out of the darkness into the sudden glare of
the lanterns, rushed, bewildered, across the deck. Miles, true to his
promise, did not fire, but the next instant Vickers had snatched the
firelock from him, and leaping into the stream, turned about and
fired down towards the prison. The attack was more sudden then he had
expected, but he did not lose his presence of mind. The shot would serve
a double purpose. It would warn the men in the barrack, and perhaps
check the rush by stopping up the doorway with a corpse. Beaten back,
struggling, and indignant, amid the storm of hideous faces, his humanity
vanished, and he aimed deliberately at the head of Mr. James Vetch; the
shot, however, missed its mark, and killed the unhappy Miles.

Gabbett and his companions had by this time reached the foot of the
companion ladder, there to encounter the cutlasses of the doubled guard
gleaming redly in the glow of the lanterns. A glance up the hatchway
showed the giant that the arms he had planned to seize were defended by
ten firelocks, and that, behind the open doors of the partition which
ran abaft the mizenmast, the remainder of the detachment stood to their
arms. Even his dull intellect comprehended that the desperate project
had failed, and that he had been betrayed. With the roar of despair
which had penetrated into the prison, he turned to fight his way back,
just in time to see the crowd in the gangway recoil from the flash of
the musket fired by Vickers. The next instant, Pine and two soldiers,
taking advantage of the momentary cessation of the press, shot the
bolts, and secured the prison.

The mutineers were caught in a trap.

The narrow space between the barracks and the barricade was choked with
struggling figures. Some twenty convicts, and half as many soldiers,
struck and stabbed at each other in the crowd. There was barely
elbow-room, and attacked and attackers fought almost without knowing
whom they struck. Gabbett tore a cutlass from a soldier, shook his
huge head, and calling on the Moocher to follow, bounded up the ladder,
desperately determined to brave the fire of the watch. The Moocher,
close at the giant’s heels, flung himself upon the nearest soldier, and
grasping his wrist, struggled for the cutlass. A brawny, bull-necked
fellow next him dashed his clenched fist in the soldier’s face, and the
man maddened by the blow, let go the cutlass, and drawing his pistol,
shot his new assailant through the head. It was this second shot that
had aroused Maurice Frere.

As the young lieutenant sprang out upon the deck, he saw by the position
of the guard that others had been more mindful of the safety of the ship
than he. There was, however, no time for explanation, for, as he reached
the hatchway, he was met by the ascending giant, who uttered a hideous
oath at the sight of this unexpected adversary, and, too close to strike
him, locked him in his arms. The two men were drawn together. The guard
on the quarter-deck dared not fire at the two bodies that, twined
about each other, rolled across the deck, and for a moment Mr. Frere’s
cherished existence hung upon the slenderest thread imaginable.

The Moocher, spattered with the blood and brains of his unfortunate
comrade, had already set his foot upon the lowest step of the ladder,
when the cutlass was dashed from his hand by a blow from a clubbed
firelock, and he was dragged roughly backwards. As he fell upon the
deck, he saw the Crow spring out of the mass of prisoners who had been,
an instant before, struggling with the guard, and, gaining the cleared
space at the bottom of the ladder, hold up his hands, as though to
shield himself from a blow. The confusion had now become suddenly
stilled, and upon the group before the barricade had fallen that
mysterious silence which had perplexed the inmates of the prison.

They were not perplexed for long. The two soldiers who, with the
assistance of Pine, had forced-to the door of the prison, rapidly
unbolted that trap-door in the barricade, of which mention has been made
in a previous chapter, and, at a signal from Vickers, three men ran the
loaded howitzer from its sinister shelter near the break of the barrack
berths, and, training the deadly muzzle to a level with the opening in
the barricade, stood ready to fire.

“Surrender!” cried Vickers, in a voice from which all “humanity” had
vanished. “Surrender, and give up your ringleaders, or I’ll blow you to

There was no tremor in his voice, and though he stood, with Pine by his
side, at the very mouth of the levelled cannon, the mutineers perceived,
with that acuteness which imminent danger brings to the most stolid
of brains, that, did they hesitate an instant, he would keep his word.
There was an awful moment of silence, broken only by a skurrying noise
in the prison, as though a family of rats, disturbed at a flour cask,
were scampering to the ship’s side for shelter. This skurrying noise was
made by the convicts rushing to their berths to escape the threatened
shower of grape; to the twenty desperadoes cowering before the muzzle of
the howitzer it spoke more eloquently than words. The charm was broken;
their comrades would refuse to join them. The position of affairs at
this crisis was a strange one. From the opened trap-door came a sort of
subdued murmur, like that which sounds within the folds of a sea-shell,
but, in the oblong block of darkness which it framed, nothing was
visible. The trap-door might have been a window looking into a tunnel.
On each side of this horrible window, almost pushed before it by the
pressure of one upon the other, stood Pine, Vickers, and the guard. In
front of the little group lay the corpse of the miserable boy whom Sarah
Purfoy had led to ruin; and forced close upon, yet shrinking back from
the trampled and bloody mass, crouched in mingled terror and rage, the
twenty mutineers. Behind the mutineers, withdrawn from the patch of
light thrown by the open hatchway, the mouth of the howitzer threatened
destruction; and behind the howitzer, backed up by an array of brown
musket barrels, suddenly glowed the tiny fire of the burning match in
the hand of Vickers’s trusty servant.

The entrapped men looked up the hatchway, but the guard had already
closed in upon it, and some of the ship’s crew--with that carelessness
of danger characteristic of sailors--were peering down upon them. Escape
was hopeless.

“One minute!” cried Vickers, confident that one second would be
enough--“one minute to go quietly, or--”

“Surrender, mates, for God’s sake!” shrieked some unknown wretch from
out of the darkness of the prison. “Do you want to be the death of us?”

Jemmy Vetch, feeling, by that curious sympathy which nervous natures
possess, that his comrades wished him to act as spokesman, raised his
shrill tones. “We surrender,” he said. “It’s no use getting our brains
blown out.” And raising his hands, he obeyed the motion of Vickers’s
fingers, and led the way towards the barrack.

“Bring the irons forward, there!” shouted Vickers, hastening from his
perilous position; and before the last man had filed past the still
smoking match, the cling of hammers announced that the Crow had resumed
those fetters which had been knocked off his dainty limbs a month
previously in the Bay of Biscay.

In another moment the trap-door was closed, the howitzer rumbled back to
its cleatings, and the prison breathed again.

          *          *          *          *          *

In the meantime, a scene almost as exciting had taken place on the upper
deck. Gabbett, with the blind fury which the consciousness of failure
brings to such brute-like natures, had seized Frere by the throat,
determined to put an end to at least one of his enemies. But desperate
though he was, and with all the advantage of weight and strength upon
his side, he found the young lieutenant a more formidable adversary than
he had anticipated.

Maurice Frere was no coward. Brutal and selfish though he might be, his
bitterest enemies had never accused him of lack of physical courage.
Indeed, he had been--in the rollicking days of old that were
gone--celebrated for the display of very opposite qualities. He was an
amateur at manly sports. He rejoiced in his muscular strength, and, in
many a tavern brawl and midnight riot of his own provoking, had proved
the fallacy of the proverb which teaches that a bully is always a
coward. He had the tenacity of a bulldog--once let him get his teeth in
his adversary, and he would hold on till he died. In fact he was, as
far as personal vigour went, a Gabbett with the education of a
prize-fighter; and, in a personal encounter between two men of equal
courage, science tells more than strength. In the struggle, however,
that was now taking place, science seemed to be of little value. To the
inexperienced eye, it would appear that the frenzied giant, gripping
the throat of the man who had fallen beneath him, must rise from the
struggle an easy victor. Brute force was all that was needed--there was
neither room nor time for the display of any cunning of fence.

But knowledge, though it cannot give strength, gives coolness. Taken by
surprise as he was, Maurice Frere did not lose his presence of mind. The
convict was so close upon him that there was no time to strike; but,
as he was forced backwards, he succeeded in crooking his knee round the
thigh of his assailant, and thrust one hand into his collar. Over and
over they rolled, the bewildered sentry not daring to fire, until the
ship’s side brought them up with a violent jerk, and Frere realized that
Gabbett was below him. Pressing with all the might of his muscles, he
strove to resist the leverage which the giant was applying to turn him
over, but he might as well have pushed against a stone wall. With his
eyes protruding, and every sinew strained to its uttermost, he was
slowly forced round, and he felt Gabbett releasing his grasp, in order
to draw back and aim at him an effectual blow. Disengaging his left
hand, Frere suddenly allowed himself to sink, and then, drawing up his
right knee, struck Gabbett beneath the jaw, and as the huge head was
forced backwards by the blow, dashed his fist into the brawny throat.
The giant reeled backwards, and, falling on his hands and knees, was in
an instant surrounded by sailors.

Now began and ended, in less time than it takes to write it, one of
those Homeric struggles of one man against twenty, which are none
the less heroic because the Ajax is a convict, and the Trojans merely
ordinary sailors. Shaking his assailants to the deck as easily as a
wild boar shakes off the dogs which clamber upon his bristly sides, the
convict sprang to his feet, and, whirling the snatched-up cutlass round
his head, kept the circle at bay. Four times did the soldiers round the
hatchway raise their muskets, and four times did the fear of wounding
the men who had flung themselves upon the enraged giant compel them to
restrain their fire. Gabbett, his stubbly hair on end, his bloodshot
eyes glaring with fury, his great hand opening and shutting in air, as
though it gasped for something to seize, turned himself about from side
to side--now here, now there, bellowing like a wounded bull. His
coarse shirt, rent from shoulder to flank, exposed the play of his huge
muscles. He was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, and the blood,
trickling down his face, mingled with the foam on his lips, and dropped
sluggishly on his hairy breast. Each time that an assailant came within
reach of the swinging cutlass, the ruffian’s form dilated with a fresh
access of passion. At one moment bunched with clinging adversaries--his
arms, legs, and shoulders a hanging mass of human bodies--at the next,
free, desperate, alone in the midst of his foes, his hideous countenance
contorted with hate and rage, the giant seemed less a man than a demon,
or one of those monstrous and savage apes which haunt the solitudes
of the African forests. Spurning the mob who had rushed in at him, he
strode towards his risen adversary, and aimed at him one final blow that
should put an end to his tyranny for ever. A notion that Sarah Purfoy
had betrayed him, and that the handsome soldier was the cause of
the betrayal, had taken possession of his mind, and his rage had
concentrated itself upon Maurice Frere. The aspect of the villain was so
appalling, that, despite his natural courage, Frere, seeing the backward
sweep of the cutlass, absolutely closed his eyes with terror, and
surrendered himself to his fate.

As Gabbett balanced himself for the blow, the ship, which had been
rocking gently on a dull and silent sea, suddenly lurched--the convict
lost his balance, swayed, and fell. Ere he could rise he was pinioned by
twenty hands.

Authority was almost instantaneously triumphant on the upper and lower
decks. The mutiny was over.


The shock was felt all through the vessel, and Pine, who had been
watching the ironing of the last of the mutineers, at once divined its

“Thank God!” he cried, “there’s a breeze at last!” and as the
overpowered Gabbett, bruised, bleeding, and bound, was dragged down the
hatchway, the triumphant doctor hurried upon deck to find the
Malabar plunging through the whitening water under the influence of a
fifteen-knot breeze.

“Stand by to reef topsails! Away aloft, men, and furl the royals!” cries
Best from the quarter-deck; and in the midst of the cheery confusion
Maurice Frere briefly recapitulated what had taken place, taking
care, however, to pass over his own dereliction of duty as rapidly as

Pine knit his brows. “Do you think that she was in the plot?” he asked.

“Not she!” says Frere--eager to avert inquiry. “How should she be? Plot!
She’s sickening of fever, or I’m much mistaken.”

Sure enough, on opening the door of the cabin, they found Sarah Purfoy
lying where she had fallen a quarter of an hour before. The clashing of
cutlasses and the firing of muskets had not roused her.

“We must make a sick-bay somewhere,” says Pine, looking at the senseless
figure with no kindly glance; “though I don’t think she’s likely to be
very bad. Confound her! I believe that she’s the cause of all this. I’ll
find out, too, before many hours are over; for I’ve told those fellows
that unless they confess all about it before to-morrow morning, I’ll get
them six dozen a-piece the day after we anchor in Hobart Town. I’ve a
great mind to do it before we get there. Take her head, Frere, and we’ll
get her out of this before Vickers comes up. What a fool you are, to be
sure! I knew what it would be with women aboard ship. I wonder Mrs. V.
hasn’t been out before now. There--steady past the door. Why, man, one
would think you never had your arm round a girl’s waist before! Pooh!
don’t look so scared--I won’t tell. Make haste, now, before that little
parson comes. Parsons are regular old women to chatter”; and thus
muttering Pine assisted to carry Mrs. Vickers’s maid into her cabin.

“By George, but she’s a fine girl!” he said, viewing the inanimate body
with the professional eye of a surgeon. “I don’t wonder at you making
a fool of yourself. Chances are, you’ve caught the fever, though this
breeze will help to blow it out of us, please God. That old jackass,
Blunt, too!--he ought to be ashamed of himself, at his age!”

“What do you mean?” asked Frere hastily, as he heard a step approach.
“What has Blunt to say about her?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” returned Pine. “He was smitten too, that’s all. Like
a good many more, in fact.”

“A good many more!” repeated the other, with a pretence of carelessness.

“Yes!” laughed Pine. “Why, man, she was making eyes at every man in the
ship! I caught her kissing a soldier once.”

Maurice Frere’s cheeks grew hot. The experienced profligate had been
taken in, deceived, perhaps laughed at. All the time he had flattered
himself that he was fascinating the black-eyed maid, the black-eyed
maid had been twisting him round her finger, and perhaps imitating his
love-making for the gratification of her soldier-lover. It was not a
pleasant thought; and yet, strange to say, the idea of Sarah’s treachery
did not make him dislike her. There is a sort of love--if love it can be
called--which thrives under ill-treatment. Nevertheless, he cursed with
some appearance of disgust.

Vickers met them at the door. “Pine, Blunt has the fever. Mr. Best found
him in his cabin groaning. Come and look at him.”

The commander of the Malabar was lying on his bunk in the betwisted
condition into which men who sleep in their clothes contrive to get
themselves. The doctor shook him, bent down over him, and then loosened
his collar. “He’s not sick,” he said; “he’s drunk! Blunt! wake up!

But the mass refused to move.

“Hallo!” says Pine, smelling at the broken tumbler, “what’s this? Smells
queer. Rum? No. Eh! Laudanum! By George, he’s been hocussed!”


“I see it,” slapping his thigh. “It’s that infernal woman! She’s
drugged him, and meant to do the same for”--(Frere gave him an imploring
look)--“for anybody else who would be fool enough to let her do it.
Dawes was right, sir. She’s in it; I’ll swear she’s in it.”

“What! my wife’s maid? Nonsense!” said Vickers.

“Nonsense!” echoed Frere.

“It’s no nonsense. That soldier who was shot, what’s his name?--Miles,
he--but, however, it doesn’t matter. It’s all over now.” “The men will
confess before morning,” says Vickers, “and we’ll see.” And he went off
to his wife’s cabin.

His wife opened the door for him. She had been sitting by the child’s
bedside, listening to the firing, and waiting for her husband’s return
without a murmur. Flirt, fribble, and shrew as she was, Julia Vickers
had displayed, in times of emergency, that glowing courage which women
of her nature at times possess. Though she would yawn over any book
above the level of a genteel love story; attempt to fascinate, with
ludicrous assumption of girlishness, boys young enough to be her sons;
shudder at a frog, and scream at a spider, she could sit throughout a
quarter of an hour of such suspense as she had just undergone with as
much courage as if she had been the strongest-minded woman that ever
denied her sex. “Is it all over?” she asked.

“Yes, thank God!” said Vickers, pausing on the threshold. “All is safe
now, though we had a narrow escape, I believe. How’s Sylvia?” The child
was lying on the bed with her fair hair scattered over the pillow, and
her tiny hands moving restlessly to and fro.

“A little better, I think, though she has been talking a good deal.”

The red lips parted, and the blue eyes, brighter than ever, stared
vacantly around. The sound of her father’s voice seemed to have roused
her, for she began to speak a little prayer: “God bless papa and mamma,
and God bless all on board this ship. God bless me, and make me a good
girl, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our Lord. Amen.”

The sound of the unconscious child’s simple prayer had something awesome
in it, and John Vickers, who, not ten minutes before, would have sealed
his own death warrant unhesitatingly to preserve the safety of the
vessel, felt his eyes fill with unwonted tears. The contrast was
curious. From out the midst of that desolate ocean--in a fever-smitten
prison ship, leagues from land, surrounded by ruffians, thieves, and
murderers, the baby voice of an innocent child called confidently on

          *          *          *          *          *

Two hours afterwards--as the Malabar, escaped from the peril which had
menaced her, plunged cheerily through the rippling water--the mutineers,
by the spokesman, Mr. James Vetch, confessed.

“They were very sorry, and hoped that their breach of discipline would
be forgiven. It was the fear of the typhus which had driven them to it.
They had no accomplices either in the prison or out of it, but they felt
it but right to say that the man who had planned the mutiny was Rufus

The malignant cripple had guessed from whom the information which
had led to the failure of the plot had been derived, and this was his
characteristic revenge.


Extracted from the Hobart Town Courier of the 12th November, 1827:--

“The examination of the prisoners who were concerned in the attempt upon
the Malabar was concluded on Tuesday last. The four ringleaders, Dawes
Gabbett, Vetch, and Sanders, were condemned to death; but we understand
that, by the clemency of his Excellency the Governor, their sentence
has been commuted to six years at the penal settlement of Macquarie




The south-east coast of Van Diemen’s Land, from the solitary Mewstone to
the basaltic cliffs of Tasman’s Head, from Tasman’s Head to Cape Pillar,
and from Cape Pillar to the rugged grandeur of Pirates’ Bay, resembles
a biscuit at which rats have been nibbling. Eaten away by the continual
action of the ocean which, pouring round by east and west, has divided
the peninsula from the mainland of the Australasian continent--and done
for Van Diemen’s Land what it has done for the Isle of Wight--the shore
line is broken and ragged. Viewed upon the map, the fantastic fragments
of island and promontory which lie scattered between the South-West Cape
and the greater Swan Port, are like the curious forms assumed by melted
lead spilt into water. If the supposition were not too extravagant, one
might imagine that when the Australian continent was fused, a careless
giant upset the crucible, and spilt Van Diemen’s land in the ocean. The
coast navigation is as dangerous as that of the Mediterranean. Passing
from Cape Bougainville to the east of Maria Island, and between the
numerous rocks and shoals which lie beneath the triple height of the
Three Thumbs, the mariner is suddenly checked by Tasman’s Peninsula,
hanging, like a huge double-dropped ear-ring, from the mainland. Getting
round under the Pillar rock through Storm Bay to Storing Island, we
sight the Italy of this miniature Adriatic. Between Hobart Town
and Sorrell, Pittwater and the Derwent, a strangely-shaped point of
land--the Italian boot with its toe bent upwards--projects into the bay,
and, separated from this projection by a narrow channel, dotted with
rocks, the long length of Bruny Island makes, between its western
side and the cliffs of Mount Royal, the dangerous passage known as
D’Entrecasteaux Channel. At the southern entrance of D’Entrecasteaux
Channel, a line of sunken rocks, known by the generic name of the
Actaeon reef, attests that Bruny Head was once joined with the shores
of Recherche Bay; while, from the South Cape to the jaws of Macquarie
Harbour, the white water caused by sunken reefs, or the jagged peaks of
single rocks abruptly rising in mid sea, warn the mariner off shore.

It would seem as though nature, jealous of the beauties of her silver
Derwent, had made the approach to it as dangerous as possible; but
once through the archipelago of D’Entrecasteaux Channel, or the less
dangerous eastern passage of Storm Bay, the voyage up the river is
delightful. From the sentinel solitude of the Iron Pot to the smiling
banks of New Norfolk, the river winds in a succession of reaches,
narrowing to a deep channel cleft between rugged and towering cliffs. A
line drawn due north from the source of the Derwent would strike another
river winding out from the northern part of the island, as the Derwent
winds out from the south. The force of the waves, expended, perhaps, in
destroying the isthmus which, two thousand years ago, probably connected
Van Diemen’s Land with the continent has been here less violent. The
rounding currents of the Southern Ocean, meeting at the mouth of the
Tamar, have rushed upwards over the isthmus they have devoured, and
pouring against the south coast of Victoria, have excavated there that
inland sea called Port Philip Bay. If the waves have gnawed the south
coast of Van Diemen’s Land, they have bitten a mouthful out of the south
coast of Victoria. The Bay is a millpool, having an area of nine hundred
square miles, with a race between the heads two miles across.

About a hundred and seventy miles to the south of this mill-race lies
Van Diemen’s Land, fertile, fair, and rich, rained upon by the genial
showers from the clouds which, attracted by the Frenchman’s Cap, Wyld’s
Crag, or the lofty peaks of the Wellington and Dromedary range, pour
down upon the sheltered valleys their fertilizing streams. No parching
hot wind--the scavenger, if the torment, of the continent--blows upon
her crops and corn. The cool south breeze ripples gently the blue waters
of the Derwent, and fans the curtains of the open windows of the city
which nestles in the broad shadow of Mount Wellington. The hot wind,
born amid the burning sand of the interior of the vast Australian
continent, sweeps over the scorched and cracking plains, to lick up
their streams and wither the herbage in its path, until it meets the
waters of the great south bay; but in its passage across the straits it
is reft of its fire, and sinks, exhausted with its journey, at the feet
of the terraced slopes of Launceston.

The climate of Van Diemen’s Land is one of the loveliest in the world.
Launceston is warm, sheltered, and moist; and Hobart Town, protected by
Bruny Island and its archipelago of D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Storm
Bay from the violence of the southern breakers, preserves the mean
temperature of Smyrna; whilst the district between these two towns
spreads in a succession of beautiful valleys, through which glide clear
and sparkling streams. But on the western coast, from the steeple-rocks
of Cape Grim to the scrub-encircled barrenness of Sandy Cape, and
the frowning entrance to Macquarie Harbour, the nature of the country
entirely changes. Along that iron-bound shore, from Pyramid Island and
the forest-backed solitude of Rocky Point, to the great Ram Head, and
the straggling harbour of Port Davey, all is bleak and cheerless. Upon
that dreary beach the rollers of the southern sea complete their circuit
of the globe, and the storm that has devastated the Cape, and united in
its eastern course with the icy blasts which sweep northward from the
unknown terrors of the southern pole, crashes unchecked upon the Huon
pine forests, and lashes with rain the grim front of Mount Direction.
Furious gales and sudden tempests affright the natives of the coast.
Navigation is dangerous, and the entrance to the “Hell’s Gates” of
Macquarie Harbour--at the time of which we are writing (1833), in the
height of its ill-fame as a convict settlement--is only to be attempted
in calm weather. The sea-line is marked with wrecks. The sunken rocks
are dismally named after the vessels they have destroyed. The air is
chill and moist, the soil prolific only in prickly undergrowth and
noxious weeds, while foetid exhalations from swamp and fen cling close
to the humid, spongy ground. All around breathes desolation; on the face
of nature is stamped a perpetual frown. The shipwrecked sailor, crawling
painfully to the summit of basalt cliffs, or the ironed convict,
dragging his tree trunk to the edge of some beetling plateau, looks down
upon a sea of fog, through which rise mountain-tops like islands; or
sees through the biting sleet a desert of scrub and crag rolling to the
feet of Mount Heemskirk and Mount Zeehan--crouched like two sentinel
lions keeping watch over the seaboard.


“Hell’s Gates,” formed by a rocky point, which runs abruptly northward,
almost touches, on its eastern side, a projecting arm of land which
guards the entrance to King’s River. In the middle of the gates is a
natural bolt--that is to say, an island-which, lying on a sandy bar in
the very jaws of the current, creates a double whirlpool, impossible
to pass in the smoothest weather. Once through the gates, the convict,
chained on the deck of the inward-bound vessel, sees in front of him the
bald cone of the Frenchman’s Cap, piercing the moist air at a height of
five thousand feet; while, gloomed by overhanging rocks, and shadowed
by gigantic forests, the black sides of the basin narrow to the mouth of
the Gordon. The turbulent stream is the colour of indigo, and, being fed
by numerous rivulets, which ooze through masses of decaying vegetable
matter, is of so poisonous a nature that it is not only undrinkable, but
absolutely kills the fish, which in stormy weather are driven in from
the sea. As may be imagined, the furious tempests which beat upon this
exposed coast create a strong surf-line. After a few days of north-west
wind the waters of the Gordon will be found salt for twelve miles up
from the bar. The head-quarters of the settlement were placed on an
island not far from the mouth of this inhospitable river, called Sarah

Though now the whole place is desolate, and a few rotting posts and logs
alone remain-mute witnesses of scenes of agony never to be revived--in
the year 1833 the buildings were numerous and extensive. On Philip’s
Island, on the north side of the harbour, was a small farm, where
vegetables were grown for the use of the officers of the establishment;
and, on Sarah Island, were sawpits, forges, dockyards, gaol,
guard-house, barracks, and jetty. The military force numbered about
sixty men, who, with convict-warders and constables, took charge of
more than three hundred and fifty prisoners. These miserable wretches,
deprived of every hope, were employed in the most degrading labour.
No beast of burden was allowed on the settlement; all the pulling and
dragging was done by human beings. About one hundred “good-conduct” men
were allowed the lighter toil of dragging timber to the wharf, to
assist in shipbuilding; the others cut down the trees that fringed the
mainland, and carried them on their shoulders to the water’s edge. The
denseness of the scrub and bush rendered it necessary for a “roadway,”
 perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, to be first constructed; and the
trunks of trees, stripped of their branches, were rolled together in
this roadway, until a “slide” was made, down which the heavier logs
could be shunted towards the harbour. The timber thus obtained was made
into rafts, and floated to the sheds, or arranged for transportation
to Hobart Town. The convicts were lodged on Sarah Island, in barracks
flanked by a two-storied prison, whose “cells” were the terror of the
most hardened. Each morning they received their breakfast of porridge,
water, and salt, and then rowed, under the protection of their guard, to
the wood-cutting stations, where they worked without food, until night.
The launching and hewing of the timber compelled them to work up to
their waists in water. Many of them were heavily ironed. Those who died
were buried on a little plot of ground, called Halliday’s Island (from
the name of the first man buried there), and a plank stuck into the
earth, and carved with the initials of the deceased, was the only
monument vouchsafed him.

Sarah Island, situated at the south-east corner of the harbour, is long
and low. The commandant’s house was built in the centre, having the
chaplain’s house and barracks between it and the gaol. The hospital was
on the west shore, and in a line with it lay the two penitentiaries.
Lines of lofty palisades ran round the settlement, giving it the
appearance of a fortified town. These palisades were built for the
purpose of warding off the terrific blasts of wind, which, shrieking
through the long and narrow bay as through the keyhole of a door, had in
former times tore off roofs and levelled boat-sheds. The little town
was set, as it were, in defiance of Nature, at the very extreme of
civilization, and its inhabitants maintained perpetual warfare with the
winds and waves.

But the gaol of Sarah Island was not the only prison in this desolate

At a little distance from the mainland is a rock, over the rude side
of which the waves dash in rough weather. On the evening of the 3rd
December, 1833, as the sun was sinking behind the tree-tops on the left
side of the harbour, the figure of a man appeared on the top of this
rock. He was clad in the coarse garb of a convict, and wore round his
ankles two iron rings, connected by a short and heavy chain. To the
middle of this chain a leathern strap was attached, which, splitting
in the form of a T, buckled round his waist, and pulled the chain high
enough to prevent him from stumbling over it as he walked. His head was
bare, and his coarse, blue-striped shirt, open at the throat, displayed
an embrowned and muscular neck. Emerging from out a sort of cell, or
den, contrived by nature or art in the side of the cliff, he threw on
a scanty fire, which burned between two hollowed rocks, a small log of
pine wood, and then returning to his cave, and bringing from it an iron
pot, which contained water, he scooped with his toil-hardened hands a
resting-place for it in the ashes, and placed it on the embers. It was
evident that the cave was at once his storehouse and larder, and that
the two hollowed rocks formed his kitchen.

Having thus made preparations for supper, he ascended a pathway which
led to the highest point of the rock. His fetters compelled him to take
short steps, and, as he walked, he winced as though the iron bit him.
A handkerchief or strip of cloth was twisted round his left ankle; on
which the circlet had chafed a sore. Painfully and slowly, he gained his
destination, and flinging himself on the ground, gazed around him. The
afternoon had been stormy, and the rays of the setting sun shone redly
on the turbid and rushing waters of the bay. On the right lay Sarah
Island; on the left the bleak shore of the opposite and the tall peak of
the Frenchman’s Cap; while the storm hung sullenly over the barren hills
to the eastward. Below him appeared the only sign of life. A brig was
being towed up the harbour by two convict-manned boats.

The sight of this brig seemed to rouse in the mind of the solitary of
the rock a strain of reflection, for, sinking his chin upon his hand,
he fixed his eyes on the incoming vessel, and immersed himself in moody
thought. More than an hour had passed, yet he did not move. The ship
anchored, the boats detached themselves from her sides, the sun sank,
and the bay was plunged in gloom. Lights began to twinkle along the
shore of the settlement. The little fire died, and the water in the iron
pot grew cold; yet the watcher on the rock did not stir. With his eyes
staring into the gloom, and fixed steadily on the vessel, he lay along
the barren cliff of his lonely prison as motionless as the rock on which
he had stretched himself.

This solitary man was Rufus Dawes.


In the house of Major Vickers, Commandant of Macquarie Harbour, there
was, on this evening of December 3rd, unusual gaiety.

Lieutenant Maurice Frere, late in command at Maria Island, had
unexpectedly come down with news from head-quarters. The Ladybird,
Government schooner, visited the settlement on ordinary occasions twice
a year, and such visits were looked forward to with no little eagerness
by the settlers. To the convicts the arrival of the Ladybird meant
arrival of new faces, intelligence of old comrades, news of how the
world, from which they were exiled, was progressing. When the Ladybird
arrived, the chained and toil-worn felons felt that they were yet human,
that the universe was not bounded by the gloomy forests which surrounded
their prison, but that there was a world beyond, where men, like
themselves, smoked, and drank, and laughed, and rested, and were Free.
When the Ladybird arrived, they heard such news as interested them--that
is to say, not mere foolish accounts of wars or ship arrivals, or city
gossip, but matters appertaining to their own world--how Tom was with
the road gangs, Dick on a ticket-of-leave, Harry taken to the bush, and
Jack hung at the Hobart Town Gaol. Such items of intelligence were the
only news they cared to hear, and the new-comers were well posted up in
such matters. To the convicts the Ladybird was town talk, theatre,
stock quotations, and latest telegrams. She was their newspaper and
post-office, the one excitement of their dreary existence, the one link
between their own misery and the happiness of their fellow-creatures. To
the Commandant and the “free men” this messenger from the outer life
was scarcely less welcome. There was not a man on the island who did not
feel his heart grow heavier when her white sails disappeared behind the
shoulder of the hill.

On the present occasion business of more than ordinary importance had
procured for Major Vickers this pleasurable excitement. It had been
resolved by Governor Arthur that the convict establishment should be
broken up. A succession of murders and attempted escapes had called
public attention to the place, and its distance from Hobart Town
rendered it inconvenient and expensive. Arthur had fixed upon Tasman’s
Peninsula--the earring of which we have spoken--as a future convict
depôt, and naming it Port Arthur, in honour of himself, had sent down
Lieutenant Maurice Frere with instructions for Vickers to convey the
prisoners of Macquarie Harbour thither.

In order to understand the magnitude and meaning of such an order as
that with which Lieutenant Frere was entrusted, we must glance at the
social condition of the penal colony at this period of its history.

Nine years before, Colonel Arthur, late Governor of Honduras, had
arrived at a most critical moment. The former Governor, Colonel Sorrell,
was a man of genial temperament, but little strength of character. He
was, moreover, profligate in his private life; and, encouraged by his
example, his officers violated all rules of social decency. It was
common for an officer to openly keep a female convict as his mistress.
Not only would compliance purchase comforts, but strange stories were
afloat concerning the persecution of women who dared to choose their own
lovers. To put down this profligacy was the first care of Arthur; and in
enforcing a severe attention to etiquette and outward respectability, he
perhaps erred on the side of virtue. Honest, brave, and high-minded,
he was also penurious and cold, and the ostentatious good humour of
the colonists dashed itself in vain against his polite indifference. In
opposition to this official society created by Governor Arthur was that
of the free settlers and the ticket-of-leave men. The latter were more
numerous than one would be apt to suppose. On the 2nd November, 1829,
thirty-eight free pardons and fifty-six conditional pardons appeared on
the books; and the number of persons holding tickets-of-leave, on the
26th of September the same year, was seven hundred and forty-five.

Of the social condition of these people at this time it is impossible to
speak without astonishment. According to the recorded testimony of many
respectable persons-Government officials, military officers, and free
settlers-the profligacy of the settlers was notorious. Drunkenness was
a prevailing vice. Even children were to be seen in the streets
intoxicated. On Sundays, men and women might be observed standing round
the public-house doors, waiting for the expiration of the hours of
public worship, in order to continue their carousing. As for the
condition of the prisoner population, that, indeed, is indescribable.
Notwithstanding the severe punishment for sly grog-selling, it was
carried on to a large extent. Men and women were found intoxicated
together, and a bottle of brandy was considered to be cheaply bought at
the price of twenty lashes. In the factory--a prison for females--the
vilest abuses were committed, while the infamies current, as matters
of course, in chain gangs and penal settlements, were of too horrible
a nature to be more than hinted at here. All that the vilest and most
bestial of human creatures could invent and practise, was in this
unhappy country invented and practised without restraint and without

Seven classes of criminals were established in 1826, when the new
barracks for prisoners at Hobart Town were finished. The first class
were allowed to sleep out of barracks, and to work for themselves on
Saturday; the second had only the last-named indulgence; the third were
only allowed Saturday afternoon; the fourth and fifth were “refractory
and disorderly characters--to work in irons;” the sixth were “men of
the most degraded and incorrigible character--to be worked in irons, and
kept entirely separate from the other prisoners;” while the seventh were
the refuse of this refuse--the murderers, bandits, and villains, whom
neither chain nor lash could tame. They were regarded as socially dead,
and shipped to Hell’s Gates, or Maria Island. Hells Gates was the most
dreaded of all these houses of bondage. The discipline at the place was
so severe, and the life so terrible, that prisoners would risk all to
escape from it. In one year, of eighty-five deaths there, only thirty
were from natural causes; of the remaining dead, twenty-seven were
drowned, eight killed accidentally, three shot by the soldiers, and
twelve murdered by their comrades. In 1822, one hundred and sixty-nine
men out of one hundred and eighty-two were punished to the extent of two
thousand lashes. During the ten years of its existence, one hundred
and twelve men escaped, out of whom sixty-two only were found-dead.
The prisoners killed themselves to avoid living any longer, and if so
fortunate as to penetrate the desert of scrub, heath, and swamp, which
lay between their prison and the settled districts, preferred death to
recapture. Successfully to transport the remnant of this desperate band
of doubly-convicted felons to Arthur’s new prison, was the mission of
Maurice Frere.

He was sitting by the empty fire-place, with one leg carelessly thrown
over the other, entertaining the company with his usual indifferent air.
The six years that had passed since his departure from England had given
him a sturdier frame and a fuller face. His hair was coarser, his face
redder, and his eye more hard, but in demeanour he was little changed.
Sobered he might be, and his voice had acquired that decisive, insured
tone which a voice exercised only in accents of command invariably
acquires, but his bad qualities were as prominent as ever. His five
years’ residence at Maria Island had increased that brutality of
thought, and overbearing confidence in his own importance, for which he
had been always remarkable, but it had also given him an assured air of
authority, which covered the more unpleasant features of his character.
He was detested by the prisoners--as he said, “it was a word and a blow
with him”--but, among his superiors, he passed for an officer, honest
and painstaking, though somewhat bluff and severe.

“Well, Mrs. Vickers,” he said, as he took a cup of tea from the hands
of that lady, “I suppose you won’t be sorry to get away from this place,
eh? Trouble you for the toast, Vickers!”

“No indeed,” says poor Mrs. Vickers, with the old girlishness shadowed
by six years; “I shall be only too glad. A dreadful place! John’s
duties, however, are imperative. But the wind! My dear Mr. Frere, you’ve
no idea of it; I wanted to send Sylvia to Hobart Town, but John would
not let her go.”

“By the way, how is Miss Sylvia?” asked Frere, with the patronising air
which men of his stamp adopt when they speak of children.

“Not very well, I’m sorry to say,” returned Vickers. “You see, it’s
lonely for her here. There are no children of her own age, with the
exception of the pilot’s little girl, and she cannot associate with her.
But I did not like to leave her behind, and endeavoured to teach her

“Hum! There was a-ha-governess, or something, was there not?” said
Frere, staring into his tea-cup. “That maid, you know--what was her

“Miss Purfoy,” said Mrs. Vickers, a little gravely. “Yes, poor thing! A
sad story, Mr. Frere.”

Frere’s eye twinkled.

“Indeed! I left, you know, shortly after the trial of the mutineers, and
never heard the full particulars.” He spoke carelessly, but he awaited
the reply with keen curiosity.

“A sad story!” repeated Mrs. Vickers. “She was the wife of that wretched
man, Rex, and came out as my maid in order to be near him. She would
never tell me her history, poor thing, though all through the dreadful
accusations made by that horrid doctor--I always disliked that man--I
begged her almost on my knees. You know how she nursed Sylvia and poor
John. Really a most superior creature. I think she must have been a

Mr. Frere raised his eyebrows abruptly, as though he would say,
Governess! Of course. Happy suggestion. Wonder it never occurred to
me before. “However, her conduct was most exemplary--really most
exemplary--and during the six months we were in Hobart Town she taught
little Sylvia a great deal. Of course she could not help her wretched
husband, you know. Could she?”

“Certainly not!” said Frere heartily. “I heard something about him too.
Got into some scrape, did he not? Half a cup, please.”

“Miss Purfoy, or Mrs. Rex, as she really was, though I don’t suppose Rex
is her real name either--sugar and milk, I think you said--came into
a little legacy from an old aunt in England.” Mr. Frere gave a little
bluff nod, meaning thereby, Old aunt! Exactly. Just what might have been
expected. “And left my service. She took a little cottage on the New
Town road, and Rex was assigned to her as her servant.”

“I see. The old dodge!” says Frere, flushing a little. “Well?”

“Well, the wretched man tried to escape, and she helped him. He was to
get to Launceston, and so on board a vessel to Sydney; but they took the
unhappy creature, and he was sent down here. She was only fined, but it
ruined her.”

“Ruined her?”

“Well, you see, only a few people knew of her relationship to Rex, and
she was rather respected. Of course, when it became known, what with
that dreadful trial and the horrible assertions of Dr. Pine--you will
not believe me, I know, there was something about that man I never
liked--she was quite left alone. She wanted me to bring her down here to
teach Sylvia; but John thought that it was only to be near her husband,
and wouldn’t allow it.”

“Of course it was,” said Vickers, rising. “Frere, if you’d like to
smoke, we’ll go on the verandah.--She will never be satisfied until she
gets that scoundrel free.”

“He’s a bad lot, then?” says Frere, opening the glass window, and
leading the way to the sandy garden. “You will excuse my roughness, Mrs.
Vickers, but I have become quite a slave to my pipe. Ha, ha, it’s wife
and child to me!”

“Oh, a very bad lot,” returned Vickers; “quiet and silent, but ready
for any villainy. I count him one of the worst men we have. With the
exception of one or two more, I think he is the worst.”

“Why don’t you flog ‘em?” says Frere, lighting his pipe in the gloom.
“By George, sir, I cut the hides off my fellows if they show any

“Well,” says Vickers, “I don’t care about too much cat myself. Barton,
who was here before me, flogged tremendously, but I don’t think it
did any good. They tried to kill him several times. You remember those
twelve fellows who were hung? No! Ah, of course, you were away.”

“What do you do with ‘em?”

“Oh, flog the worst, you know; but I don’t flog more than a man a week,
as a rule, and never more than fifty lashes. They’re getting quieter
now. Then we iron, and dumb-cells, and maroon them.”

“Do what?”

“Give them solitary confinement on Grummet Island. When a man gets very
bad, we clap him into a boat with a week’s provisions and pull him over
to Grummet. There are cells cut in the rock, you see, and the fellow
pulls up his commissariat after him, and lives there by himself for a
month or so. It tames them wonderfully.”

“Does it?” said Frere. “By Jove! it’s a capital notion. I wish I had a
place of that sort at Maria.”

“I’ve a fellow there now,” says Vickers; “Dawes. You remember him, of
course--the ringleader of the mutiny in the Malabar. A dreadful ruffian.
He was most violent the first year I was here. Barton used to flog
a good deal, and Dawes had a childish dread of the cat. When I came
in--when was it?--in ‘29, he’d made a sort of petition to be sent back
to the settlement. Said that he was innocent of the mutiny, and that the
accusation against him was false.”

“The old dodge,” said Frere again. “A match? Thanks.”

“Of course, I couldn’t let him go; but I took him out of the chain-gang,
and put him on the Osprey. You saw her in the dock as you came in. He
worked for some time very well, and then tried to bolt again.”

“The old trick. Ha! ha! don’t I know it?” says Mr. Frere, emitting a
streak of smoke in the air, expressive of preternatural wisdom.

“Well, we caught him, and gave him fifty. Then he was sent to the
chain-gang, cutting timber. Then we put him into the boats, but
he quarrelled with the coxswain, and then we took him back to the
timber-rafts. About six weeks ago he made another attempt--together with
Gabbett, the man who nearly killed you--but his leg was chafed with the
irons, and we took him. Gabbett and three more, however, got away.”

“Haven’t you found ‘em?” asked Frere, puffing at his pipe.

“No. But they’ll come to the same fate as the rest,” said Vickers, with
a sort of dismal pride. “No man ever escaped from Macquarie Harbour.”

Frere laughed. “By the Lord!” said he, “it will be rather hard for ‘em
if they don’t come back before the end of the month, eh?”

“Oh,” said Vickers, “they’re sure to come--if they can come at all; but
once lost in the scrub, a man hasn’t much chance for his life.”

“When do you think you will be ready to move?” asked Frere.

“As soon as you wish. I don’t want to stop a moment longer than I can
help. It is a terrible life, this.”

“Do you think so?” asked his companion, in unaffected surprise. “I like
it. It’s dull, certainly. When I first went to Maria I was dreadfully
bored, but one soon gets used to it. There is a sort of satisfaction
to me, by George, in keeping the scoundrels in order. I like to see the
fellows’ eyes glint at you as you walk past ‘em. Gad, they’d tear me to
pieces, if they dared, some of ‘em!” and he laughed grimly, as though
the hate he inspired was a thing to be proud of.

“How shall we go?” asked Vickers. “Have you got any instructions?”

“No,” says Frere; “it’s all left to you. Get ‘em up the best way you
can, Arthur said, and pack ‘em off to the new peninsula. He thinks you
too far off here, by George! He wants to have you within hail.”

“It’s dangerous taking so many at once,” suggested Vickers.

“Not a bit. Batten ‘em down and keep the sentries awake, and they won’t
do any harm.”

“But Mrs. Vickers and the child?”

“I’ve thought of that. You take the Ladybird with the prisoners, and
leave me to bring up Mrs. Vickers in the Osprey.”

“We might do that. Indeed, it’s the best way, I think. I don’t like the
notion of having Sylvia among those wretches, and yet I don’t like to
leave her.”

“Well,” says Frere, confident of his own ability to accomplish anything
he might undertake, “I’ll take the Ladybird, and you the Osprey. Bring
up Mrs. Vickers yourself.”

“No, no,” said Vickers, with a touch of his old pomposity, “that won’t
do. By the King’s Regulations--”

“All right,” interjected Frere, “you needn’t quote ‘em. ‘The officer
commanding is obliged to place himself in charge’--all right, my dear
sir. I’ve no objection in life.”

“It was Sylvia that I was thinking of,” said Vickers.

“Well, then,” cries the other, as the door of the room inside opened,
and a little white figure came through into the broad verandah. “Here
she is! Ask her yourself. Well, Miss Sylvia, will you come and shake
hands with an old friend?”

The bright-haired baby of the Malabar had become a bright-haired child
of some eleven years old, and as she stood in her simple white dress in
the glow of the lamplight, even the unaesthetic mind of Mr. Frere was
struck by her extreme beauty. Her bright blue eyes were as bright and as
blue as ever. Her little figure was as upright and as supple as a willow
rod; and her innocent, delicate face was framed in a nimbus of that fine
golden hair--dry and electrical, each separate thread shining with a
lustre of its own--with which the dreaming painters of the middle ages
endowed and glorified their angels.

“Come and give me a kiss, Miss Sylvia!” cries Frere. “You haven’t
forgotten me, have you?”

But the child, resting one hand on her father’s knee, surveyed Mr. Frere
from head to foot with the charming impertinence of childhood, and then,
shaking her head, inquired: “Who is he, papa?”

“Mr. Frere, darling. Don’t you remember Mr. Frere, who used to play ball
with you on board the ship, and who was so kind to you when you were
getting well? For shame, Sylvia!”

There was in the chiding accents such an undertone of tenderness, that
the reproof fell harmless.

“I remember you,” said Sylvia, tossing her head; “but you were nicer
then than you are now. I don’t like you at all.”

“You don’t remember me,” said Frere, a little disconcerted, and
affecting to be intensely at his ease. “I am sure you don’t. What is my

“Lieutenant Frere. You knocked down a prisoner who picked up my ball. I
don’t like you.”

“You’re a forward young lady, upon my word!” said Frere, with a great
laugh. “Ha! ha! so I did, begad, I recollect now. What a memory you’ve

“He’s here now, isn’t he, papa?” went on Sylvia, regardless of
interruption. “Rufus Dawes is his name, and he’s always in trouble. Poor
fellow, I’m sorry for him. Danny says he’s queer in his mind.”

“And who’s Danny?” asked Frere, with another laugh.

“The cook,” replied Vickers. “An old man I took out of hospital. Sylvia,
you talk too much with the prisoners. I have forbidden you once or twice

“But Danny is not a prisoner, papa--he’s a cook,” says Sylvia, nothing
abashed, “and he’s a clever man. He told me all about London, where the
Lord Mayor rides in a glass coach, and all the work is done by free men.
He says you never hear chains there. I should like to see London, papa!”

“So would Mr. Danny, I have no doubt,” said Frere.

“No--he didn’t say that. But he wants to see his old mother, he says.
Fancy Danny’s mother! What an ugly old woman she must be! He says he’ll
see her in Heaven. Will he, papa?”

“I hope so, my dear.”



“Will Danny wear his yellow jacket in Heaven, or go as a free man?”

Frere burst into a roar at this.

“You’re an impertinent fellow, sir!” cried Sylvia, her bright eyes
flashing. “How dare you laugh at me? If I was papa, I’d give you half an
hour at the triangles. Oh, you impertinent man!” and, crimson with rage,
the spoilt little beauty ran out of the room. Vickers looked grave, but
Frere was constrained to get up to laugh at his ease.

“Good! ‘Pon honour, that’s good! The little vixen!--Half an hour at the
triangles! Ha-ha! ha, ha, ha!”

“She is a strange child,” said Vickers, “and talks strangely for her
age; but you mustn’t mind her. She is neither girl nor woman, you see;
and her education has been neglected. Moreover, this gloomy place and
its associations--what can you expect from a child bred in a convict

“My dear sir,” says the other, “she’s delightful! Her innocence of the
world is amazing!”

“She must have three or four years at a good finishing school at Sydney.
Please God, I will give them to her when we go back--or send her to
England if I can. She is a good-hearted girl, but she wants polishing
sadly, I’m afraid.”

Just then someone came up the garden path and saluted.

“What is it, Troke?”

“Prisoner given himself up, sir.”

“Which of them?”

“Gabbett. He came back to-night.”

“Alone?” “Yes, sir. The rest have died--he says.”

“What’s that?” asked Frere, suddenly interested.

“The bolter I was telling you about--Gabbett, your old friend. He’s

“How long has he been out?”

“Nigh six weeks, sir,” said the constable, touching his cap.

“Gad, he’s had a narrow squeak for it, I’ll be bound. I should like to
see him.”

“He’s down at the sheds,” said the ready Troke--“a ‘good conduct’
burglar. You can see him at once, gentlemen, if you like.”

“What do you say, Vickers?”

“Oh, by all means.”


It was not far to the sheds, and after a few minutes’ walk through the
wooden palisades they reached a long stone building, two storeys high,
from which issued a horrible growling, pierced with shrilly screamed
songs. At the sound of the musket butts clashing on the pine-wood
flagging, the noises ceased, and a silence more sinister than sound fell
on the place.

Passing between two rows of warders, the two officers reached a sort of
ante-room to the gaol, containing a pine-log stretcher, on which a mass
of something was lying. On a roughly-made stool, by the side of this
stretcher, sat a man, in the grey dress (worn as a contrast to the
yellow livery) of “good conduct” prisoners. This man held between his
knees a basin containing gruel, and was apparently endeavouring to feed
the mass on the pine logs.

“Won’t he eat, Steve?” asked Vickers.

And at the sound of the Commandant’s voice, Steve arose.

“Dunno what’s wrong wi’ ‘un, sir,” he said, jerking up a finger to his
forehead. “He seems jest muggy-pated. I can’t do nothin’ wi’ ‘un.”


The intelligent Troke, considerately alive to the wishes of his superior
officers, dragged the mass into a sitting posture.

Gabbett--for it was he--passed one great hand over his face, and leaning
exactly in the position in which Troke placed him, scowled, bewildered,
at his visitors.

“Well, Gabbett,” says Vickers, “you’ve come back again, you see. When
will you learn sense, eh? Where are your mates?”

The giant did not reply.

“Do you hear me? Where are your mates?”

“Where are your mates?” repeated Troke.

“Dead,” says Gabbett.

“All three of them?”


“And how did you get back?”

Gabbett, in eloquent silence, held out a bleeding foot.

“We found him on the point, sir,” said Troke, jauntily explaining, “and
brought him across in the boat. He had a basin of gruel, but he didn’t
seem hungry.”

“Are you hungry?”


“Why don’t you eat your gruel?”

Gabbett curled his great lips.

“I have eaten it. Ain’t yer got nuffin’ better nor that to flog a man
on? Ugh! yer a mean lot! Wot’s it to be this time, Major? Fifty?”

And laughing, he rolled down again on the logs.

“A nice specimen!” said Vickers, with a hopeless smile. “What can one do
with such a fellow?”

“I’d flog his soul out of his body,” said Frere, “if he spoke to me like

Troke and the others, hearing the statement, conceived an instant
respect for the new-comer. He looked as if he would keep his word.

The giant raised his great head and looked at the speaker, but did not
recognize him. He saw only a strange face--a visitor perhaps. “You
may flog, and welcome, master,” said he, “if you’ll give me a fig o’
tibbacky.” Frere laughed. The brutal indifference of the rejoinder
suited his humour, and, with a glance at Vickers, he took a small piece
of cavendish from the pocket of his pea-jacket, and gave it to the
recaptured convict. Gabbett snatched it as a cur snatches at a bone, and
thrust it whole into his mouth.

“How many mates had he?” asked Maurice, watching the champing jaws
as one looks at a strange animal, and asking the question as though a
“mate” was something a convict was born with--like a mole, for instance.

“Three, sir.”

“Three, eh? Well, give him thirty lashes, Vickers.”

“And if I ha’ had three more,” growled Gabbett, mumbling at his tobacco,
“you wouldn’t ha’ had the chance.”

“What does he say?”

But Troke had not heard, and the “good-conduct” man, shrinking as it
seemed, slightly from the prisoner, said he had not heard either. The
wretch himself, munching hard at his tobacco, relapsed into his restless
silence, and was as though he had never spoken.

As he sat there gloomily chewing, he was a spectacle to shudder at. Not
so much on account of his natural hideousness, increased a thousand-fold
by the tattered and filthy rags which barely covered him. Not so much on
account of his unshaven jaws, his hare-lip, his torn and bleeding
feet, his haggard cheeks, and his huge, wasted frame. Not only because,
looking at the animal, as he crouched, with one foot curled round the
other, and one hairy arm pendant between his knees, he was so horribly
unhuman, that one shuddered to think that tender women and fair children
must, of necessity, confess to fellowship of kind with such a monster.
But also because, in his slavering mouth, his slowly grinding jaws, his
restless fingers, and his bloodshot, wandering eyes, there lurked a hint
of some terror more awful than the terror of starvation--a memory of a
tragedy played out in the gloomy depths of that forest which had vomited
him forth again; and the shadow of this unknown horror, clinging to him,
repelled and disgusted, as though he bore about with him the reek of the

“Come,” said Vickers, “Let us go back. I shall have to flog him again, I
suppose. Oh, this place! No wonder they call it ‘Hell’s Gates’.”

“You are too soft-hearted, my dear sir,” said Frere, half-way up the
palisaded path. “We must treat brutes like brutes.”

Major Vickers, inured as he was to such sentiments, sighed. “It is
not for me to find fault with the system,” he said, hesitating, in
his reverence for “discipline”, to utter all the thought; “but I have
sometimes wondered if kindness would not succeed better than the chain
and the cat.”

“Your old ideas!” laughed his companion. “Remember, they nearly cost
us our lives on the Malabar. No, no. I’ve seen something of
convicts--though, to be sure, my fellows were not so bad as yours--and
there’s only one way. Keep ‘em down, sir. Make ‘em feel what they are.
They’re there to work, sir. If they won’t work, flog ‘em until they
will. If they work well--why a taste of the cat now and then keeps ‘em
in mind of what they may expect if they get lazy.” They had reached the
verandah now. The rising moon shone softly on the bay beneath them, and
touched with her white light the summit of the Grummet Rock.

“That is the general opinion, I know,” returned Vickers. “But consider
the life they lead. Good God!” he added, with sudden vehemence, as Frere
paused to look at the bay. “I’m not a cruel man, and never, I believe,
inflicted an unmerited punishment, but since I have been here ten
prisoners have drowned themselves from yonder rock, rather than live
on in their misery. Only three weeks ago, two men, with a wood-cutting
party in the hills, having had some words with the overseer, shook hands
with the gang, and then, hand in hand, flung themselves over the cliff.
It’s horrible to think of!”

“They shouldn’t get sent here,” said practical Frere. “They knew what
they had to expect. Serve ‘em right.”

“But imagine an innocent man condemned to this place!”

“I can’t,” said Frere, with a laugh. “Innocent man be hanged! They’re
all innocent, if you’d believe their own stories. Hallo! what’s that red
light there?”

“Dawes’s fire, on Grummet Rock,” says Vickers, going in; “the man I told
you about. Come in and have some brandy-and-water, and we’ll shut the
door in place.”


“Well,” said Frere, as they went in, “you’ll be out of it soon. You can
get all ready to start by the end of the month, and I’ll bring on Mrs.
Vickers afterwards.”

“What is that you say about me?” asked the sprightly Mrs. Vickers from
within. “You wicked men, leaving me alone all this time!”

“Mr. Frere has kindly offered to bring you and Sylvia after us in the
Osprey. I shall, of course, have to take the Ladybird.”

“You are most kind, Mr. Frere, really you are,” says Mrs. Vickers, a
recollection of her flirtation with a certain young lieutenant, six
years before, tinging her cheeks. “It is really most considerate of
you. Won’t it be nice, Sylvia, to go with Mr. Frere and mamma to Hobart

“Mr. Frere,” says Sylvia, coming from out a corner of the room, “I am
very sorry for what I said just now. Will you forgive me?”

She asked the question in such a prim, old-fashioned way, standing in
front of him, with her golden locks streaming over her shoulders, and
her hands clasped on her black silk apron (Julia Vickers had her own
notions about dressing her daughter), that Frere was again inclined to

“Of course I’ll forgive you, my dear,” he said. “You didn’t mean it, I

“Oh, but I did mean it, and that’s why I’m sorry. I am a very naughty
girl sometimes, though you wouldn’t think so” (this with a charming
consciousness of her own beauty), “especially with Roman history. I
don’t think the Romans were half as brave as the Carthaginians; do you,
Mr. Frere?”

Maurice, somewhat staggered by this question, could only ask, “Why not?”

“Well, I don’t like them half so well myself,” says Sylvia, with
feminine disdain of reasons. “They always had so many soldiers, though
the others were so cruel when they conquered.”

“Were they?” says Frere.

“Were they! Goodness gracious, yes! Didn’t they cut poor Regulus’s
eyelids off, and roll him down hill in a barrel full of nails? What do
you call that, I should like to know?” and Mr. Frere, shaking his red
head with vast assumption of classical learning, could not but concede
that that was not kind on the part of the Carthaginians.

“You are a great scholar, Miss Sylvia,” he remarked, with a
consciousness that this self-possessed girl was rapidly taking him out
of his depth.

“Are you fond of reading?”


“And what books do you read?”

“Oh, lots! ‘Paul and Virginia’, and ‘Paradise Lost’, and ‘Shakespeare’s
Plays’, and ‘Robinson Crusoe’, and ‘Blair’s Sermons’, and ‘The Tasmanian
Almanack’, and ‘The Book of Beauty’, and ‘Tom Jones’.”

“A somewhat miscellaneous collection, I fear,” said Mrs. Vickers, with a
sickly smile--she, like Gallio, cared for none of these things--“but
our little library is necessarily limited, and I am not a great reader.
John, my dear, Mr. Frere would like another glass of brandy-and-water.
Oh, don’t apologize; I am a soldier’s wife, you know. Sylvia, my love,
say good-night to Mr. Frere, and retire.”

“Good-night, Miss Sylvia. Will you give me a kiss?”


“Sylvia, don’t be rude!”

“I’m not rude,” cries Sylvia, indignant at the way in which her literary
confidence had been received. “He’s rude! I won’t kiss you. Kiss you
indeed! My goodness gracious!”

“Won’t you, you little beauty?” cried Frere, suddenly leaning forward,
and putting his arm round the child. “Then I must kiss you!”

To his astonishment, Sylvia, finding herself thus seized and kissed
despite herself, flushed scarlet, and, lifting up her tiny fist, struck
him on the cheek with all her force.

The blow was so sudden, and the momentary pain so sharp, that Maurice
nearly slipped into his native coarseness, and rapped out an oath.

“My dear Sylvia!” cried Vickers, in tones of grave reproof.

But Frere laughed, caught both the child’s hands in one of his own, and
kissed her again and again, despite her struggles. “There!” he said,
with a sort of triumph in his tone. “You got nothing by that, you see.”

Vickers rose, with annoyance visible on his face, to draw the child
away; and as he did so, she, gasping for breath, and sobbing with rage,
wrenched her wrist free, and in a storm of childish passion struck her
tormentor again and again. “Man!” she cried, with flaming eyes, “Let me
go! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”

“I am very sorry for this, Frere,” said Vickers, when the door was
closed again. “I hope she did not hurt you.”

“Not she! I like her spirit. Ha, ha! That’s the way with women all the
world over. Nothing like showing them that they’ve got a master.”

Vickers hastened to turn the conversation, and, amid recollections of
old days, and speculations as to future prospects, the little incident
was forgotten. But when, an hour later, Mr. Frere traversed the passage
that led to his bedroom, he found himself confronted by a little figure
wrapped in a shawl. It was his childish enemy.

“I’ve waited for you, Mr. Frere,” said she, “to beg pardon. I ought not
to have struck you; I am a wicked girl. Don’t say no, because I am; and
if I don’t grow better I shall never go to Heaven.”

Thus addressing him, the child produced a piece of paper, folded like a
letter, from beneath the shawl, and handed it to him.

“What’s this?” he asked. “Go back to bed, my dear; you’ll catch cold.”

“It’s a written apology; and I sha’n’t catch cold, because I’ve got my
stockings on. If you don’t accept it,” she added, with an arching of the
brows, “it is not my fault. I have struck you, but I apologize. Being a
woman, I can’t offer you satisfaction in the usual way.”

Mr. Frere stifled the impulse to laugh, and made his courteous adversary
a low bow.

“I accept your apology, Miss Sylvia,” said he.

“Then,” returned Miss Sylvia, in a lofty manner, “there is nothing more
to be said, and I have the honour to bid you good-night, sir.”

The little maiden drew her shawl close around her with immense dignity,
and marched down the passage as calmly as though she had been Amadis of
Gaul himself.

Frere, gaining his room choking with laughter, opened the folded paper
by the light of the tallow candle, and read, in a quaint, childish

SIR,--I have struck you. I apologize in writing. Your humble servant to

“I wonder what book she took that out of?” he said. “‘Pon my word she
must be a little cracked. ‘Gad, it’s a queer life for a child in this
place, and no mistake.”


Two or three mornings after the arrival of the Ladybird, the solitary
prisoner of the Grummet Rock noticed mysterious movements along the
shore of the island settlement. The prison boats, which had put off
every morning at sunrise to the foot of the timbered ranges on the other
side of the harbour, had not appeared for some days. The building of a
pier, or breakwater, running from the western point of the settlement,
was discontinued; and all hands appeared to be occupied with the
newly-built Osprey, which was lying on the slips. Parties of soldiers
also daily left the Ladybird, and assisted at the mysterious work
in progress. Rufus Dawes, walking his little round each day, in vain
wondered what this unusual commotion portended. Unfortunately, no one
came to enlighten his ignorance.

A fortnight after this, about the 15th of December, he observed another
curious fact. All the boats on the island put off one morning to the
opposite side of the harbour, and in the course of the day a great smoke
arose along the side of the hills. The next day the same was repeated;
and on the fourth day the boats returned, towing behind them a huge
raft. This raft, made fast to the side of the Ladybird, proved to be
composed of planks, beams, and joists, all of which were duly hoisted
up, and stowed in the hold of the brig.

This set Rufus Dawes thinking. Could it possibly be that the
timber-cutting was to be abandoned, and that the Government had hit upon
some other method of utilizing its convict labour? He had hewn timber
and built boats, and tanned hides and made shoes. Was it possible that
some new trade was to be initiated? Before he had settled this point
to his satisfaction, he was startled by another boat expedition. Three
boats’ crews went down the bay, and returned, after a day’s absence,
with an addition to their number in the shape of four strangers and a
quantity of stores and farming implements. Rufus Dawes, catching
sight of these last, came to the conclusion that the boats had been to
Philip’s Island, where the “garden” was established, and had taken off
the gardeners and garden produce. Rufus Dawes decided that the Ladybird
had brought a new commandant--his sight, trained by his half-savage
life, had already distinguished Mr. Maurice Frere--and that these
mysteries were “improvements” under the new rule. When he arrived at
this point of reasoning, another conjecture, assuming his first to have
been correct, followed as a natural consequence. Lieutenant Frere
would be a more severe commandant than Major Vickers. Now, severity had
already reached its height, so far as he was concerned; so the unhappy
man took a final resolution--he would kill himself. Before we exclaim
against the sin of such a determination, let us endeavour to set before
us what the sinner had suffered during the past six years.

We have already a notion of what life on a convict ship means; and we
have seen through what a furnace Rufus Dawes had passed before he set
foot on the barren shore of Hell’s Gates. But to appreciate in its
intensity the agony he suffered since that time, we must multiply the
infamy of the ‘tween decks of the Malabar a hundred fold. In that prison
was at least some ray of light. All were not abominable; all were not
utterly lost to shame and manhood. Stifling though the prison, infamous
the companionship, terrible the memory of past happiness--there was yet
ignorance of the future, there was yet hope. But at Macquarie Harbour
was poured out the very dregs of this cup of desolation. The worst had
come, and the worst must for ever remain. The pit of torment was so deep
that one could not even see Heaven. There was no hope there so long as
life remained. Death alone kept the keys of that island prison.

Is it possible to imagine, even for a moment, what an innocent man,
gifted with ambition, endowed with power to love and to respect, must
have suffered during one week of such punishment? We ordinary men,
leading ordinary lives--walking, riding, laughing, marrying and giving
in marriage--can form no notion of such misery as this. Some dim ideas
we may have about the sweetness of liberty and the loathing that evil
company inspires; but that is all. We know that were we chained and
degraded, fed like dogs, employed as beasts of burden, driven to our
daily toil with threats and blows, and herded with wretches among whom
all that savours of decency and manliness is held in an open scorn, we
should die, perhaps, or go mad. But we do not know, and can never know,
how unutterably loathsome life must become when shared with such beings
as those who dragged the tree-trunks to the banks of the Gordon, and
toiled, blaspheming, in their irons, on the dismal sandpit of Sarah
Island. No human creature could describe to what depth of personal
abasement and self-loathing one week of such a life would plunge him.
Even if he had the power to write, he dared not. As one whom in a
desert, seeking for a face, should come to a pool of blood, and
seeing his own reflection, fly--so would such a one hasten from the
contemplation of his own degrading agony. Imagine such torment endured
for six years!

Ignorant that the sights and sounds about him were symptoms of the final
abandonment of the settlement, and that the Ladybird was sent down to
bring away the prisoners, Rufus Dawes decided upon getting rid of that
burden of life which pressed upon him so heavily. For six years he had
hewn wood and drawn water; for six years he had hoped against hope; for
six years he had lived in the valley of the shadow of Death. He dared
not recapitulate to himself what he had suffered. Indeed, his senses
were deadened and dulled by torture. He cared to remember only one
thing--that he was a Prisoner for Life. In vain had been his first dream
of freedom. He had done his best, by good conduct, to win release;
but the villainy of Vetch and Rex had deprived him of the fruit of his
labour. Instead of gaining credit by his exposure of the plot on board
the Malabar, he was himself deemed guilty, and condemned, despite his
asseverations of innocence. The knowledge of his “treachery”--for so it
was deemed among his associates--while it gained for him no credit with
the authorities, procured for him the detestation and ill-will of the
monsters among whom he found himself. On his arrival at Hell’s Gates he
was a marked man--a Pariah among those beings who were Pariahs to all
the world beside. Thrice his life was attempted; but he was not then
quite tired of living, and he defended it. This defence was construed by
an overseer into a brawl, and the irons from which he had been relieved
were replaced. His strength--brute attribute that alone could avail
him--made him respected after this, and he was left at peace. At first
this treatment was congenial to his temperament; but by and by it became
annoying, then painful, then almost unendurable. Tugging at his oar,
digging up to his waist in slime, or bending beneath his burden of pine
wood, he looked greedily for some excuse to be addressed. He would take
double weight when forming part of the human caterpillar along whose
back lay a pine tree, for a word of fellowship. He would work double
tides to gain a kindly sentence from a comrade. In his utter desolation
he agonized for the friendship of robbers and murderers. Then the
reaction came, and he hated the very sound of their voices. He never
spoke, and refused to answer when spoken to. He would even take
his scanty supper alone, did his chain so permit him. He gained the
reputation of a sullen, dangerous, half-crazy ruffian. Captain Barton,
the superintendent, took pity on him, and made him his gardener. He
accepted the pity for a week or so, and then Barton, coming down one
morning, found the few shrubs pulled up by the roots, the flower-beds
trampled into barrenness, and his gardener sitting on the ground among
the fragments of his gardening tools. For this act of wanton mischief he
was flogged. At the triangles his behaviour was considered curious.
He wept and prayed to be released, fell on his knees to Barton, and
implored pardon. Barton would not listen, and at the first blow the
prisoner was silent. From that time he became more sullen than ever,
only at times he was observed, when alone, to fling himself on the
ground and cry like a child. It was generally thought that his brain was

When Vickers came, Dawes sought an interview, and begged to be sent back
to Hobart Town. This was refused, of course, but he was put to work on
the Osprey. After working there for some time, and being released from
his irons, he concealed himself on the slip, and in the evening swam
across the harbour. He was pursued, retaken, and flogged. Then he ran
the dismal round of punishment. He burnt lime, dragged timber, and
tugged at the oar. The heaviest and most degrading tasks were always
his. Shunned and hated by his companions, feared by the convict
overseers, and regarded with unfriendly eyes by the authorities, Rufus
Dawes was at the very bottom of that abyss of woe into which he had
voluntarily cast himself. Goaded to desperation by his own thoughts, he
had joined with Gabbett and the unlucky three in their desperate
attempt to escape; but, as Vickers stated, he had been captured
almost instantly. He was lamed by the heavy irons he wore, and
though Gabbett--with a strange eagerness for which after events
accounted--insisted that he could make good his flight, the unhappy man
fell in the first hundred yards of the terrible race, and was seized by
two volunteers before he could rise again. His capture helped to secure
the brief freedom of his comrades; for Mr. Troke, content with one
prisoner, checked a pursuit which the nature of the ground rendered
dangerous, and triumphantly brought Dawes back to the settlement as his
peace-offering for the negligence which had resulted in the loss of the
other four. For this madness the refractory convict had been condemned
to the solitude of the Grummet Rock.

In that dismal hermitage, his mind, preying on itself, had become
disordered. He saw visions and dreamt dreams. He would lie for hours
motionless, staring at the sun or the sea. He held converse with
imaginary beings. He enacted the scene with his mother over again. He
harangued the rocks, and called upon the stones about him to witness his
innocence and his sacrifice. He was visited by the phantoms of his early
friends, and sometimes thought his present life a dream. Whenever he
awoke, however, he was commanded by a voice within himself to leap into
the surges which washed the walls of his prison, and to dream these sad
dreams no more.

In the midst of this lethargy of body and brain, the unusual occurrences
along the shore of the settlement roused in him a still fiercer hatred
of life. He saw in them something incomprehensible and terrible, and
read in them threats of an increase of misery. Had he known that the
Ladybird was preparing for sea, and that it had been already decided to
fetch him from the Rock and iron him with the rest for safe passage to
Hobart Town, he might have paused; but he knew nothing, save that the
burden of life was insupportable, and that the time had come for him to
be rid of it.

In the meantime, the settlement was in a fever of excitement. In less
than three weeks from the announcement made by Vickers, all had been got
ready. The Commandant had finally arranged with Frere as to his course
of action. He would himself accompany the Ladybird with the main body.
His wife and daughter were to remain until the sailing of the Osprey,
which Mr. Frere--charged with the task of final destruction--was to
bring up as soon as possible. “I will leave you a corporal’s guard, and
ten prisoners as a crew,” Vickers said. “You can work her easily
with that number.” To which Frere, smiling at Mrs. Vickers in a
self-satisfied way, had replied that he could do with five prisoners if
necessary, for he knew how to get double work out of the lazy dogs.

Among the incidents which took place during the breaking up was one
which it is necessary to chronicle. Near Philip’s Island, on the north
side of the harbour, is situated Coal Head, where a party had been
lately at work. This party, hastily withdrawn by Vickers to assist in
the business of devastation, had left behind it some tools and timber,
and at the eleventh hour a boat’s crew was sent to bring away the
débris. The tools were duly collected, and the pine logs--worth
twenty-five shillings apiece in Hobart Town--duly rafted and chained.
The timber was secured, and the convicts, towing it after them,
pulled for the ship just as the sun sank. In the general relaxation of
discipline and haste, the raft had not been made with as much care
as usual, and the strong current against which the boat was labouring
assisted the negligence of the convicts. The logs began to loosen, and
although the onward motion of the boat kept the chain taut, when the
rowers slackened their exertions the mass parted, and Mr. Troke, hooking
himself on to the side of the Ladybird, saw a huge log slip out from
its fellows and disappear into the darkness. Gazing after it with
an indignant and disgusted stare, as though it had been a refractory
prisoner who merited two days’ “solitary”, he thought he heard a cry
from the direction in which it had been borne. He would have paused
to listen, but all his attention was needed to save the timber, and to
prevent the boat from being swamped by the struggling mass at her stern.

The cry had proceeded from Rufus Dawes. From his solitary rock he had
watched the boat pass him and make for the Ladybird in the channel,
and he had decided--with that curious childishness into which the mind
relapses on such supreme occasions--that the moment when the gathering
gloom swallowed her up, should be the moment when he would plunge into
the surge below him. The heavily-labouring boat grew dimmer and dimmer,
as each tug of the oars took her farther from him. Presently, only the
figure of Mr. Troke in the stern sheets was visible; then that also
disappeared, and as the nose of the timber raft rose on the swell of the
next wave, Rufus Dawes flung himself into the sea.

He was heavily ironed, and he sank like a stone. He had resolved not to
attempt to swim, and for the first moment kept his arms raised above his
head, in order to sink the quicker. But, as the short, sharp agony of
suffocation caught him, and the shock of the icy water dispelled the
mental intoxication under which he was labouring, he desperately struck
out, and, despite the weight of his irons, gained the surface for an
instant. As he did so, all bewildered, and with the one savage instinct
of self-preservation predominant over all other thoughts, he became
conscious of a huge black mass surging upon him out of the darkness.
An instant’s buffet with the current, an ineffectual attempt to dive
beneath it, a horrible sense that the weight at his feet was dragging
him down,--and the huge log, loosened from the raft, was upon him,
crushing him beneath its rough and ragged sides. All thoughts of
self-murder vanished with the presence of actual peril, and uttering
that despairing cry which had been faintly heard by Troke, he flung up
his arms to clutch the monster that was pushing him down to death. The
log passed completely over him, thrusting him beneath the water, but his
hand, scraping along the splintered side, came in contact with the loop
of hide rope that yet hung round the mass, and clutched it with the
tenacity of a death grip. In another instant he got his head above
water, and making good his hold, twisted himself, by a violent effort,
across the log.

For a moment he saw the lights from the stern windows of the anchored
vessels low in the distance, Grummet Rock disappeared on his left, then,
exhausted, breathless, and bruised, he closed his eyes, and the drifting
log bore him swiftly and silently away into the darkness.

          *          *          *          *          *

At daylight the next morning, Mr. Troke, landing on the prison rock
found it deserted. The prisoner’s cap was lying on the edge of the
little cliff, but the prisoner himself had disappeared. Pulling back to
the Ladybird, the intelligent Troke pondered on the circumstance, and in
delivering his report to Vickers mentioned the strange cry he had heard
the night before. “It’s my belief, sir, that he was trying to swim the
bay,” he said. “He must ha’ gone to the bottom anyhow, for he couldn’t
swim five yards with them irons.”

Vickers, busily engaged in getting under weigh, accepted this very
natural supposition without question. The prisoner had met his death
either by his own act, or by accident. It was either a suicide or an
attempt to escape, and the former conduct of Rufus Dawes rendered the
latter explanation a more probable one. In any case, he was dead. As Mr.
Troke rightly surmised, no man could swim the bay in irons; and when
the Ladybird, an hour later, passed the Grummet Rock, all on board her
believed that the corpse of its late occupant was lying beneath the
waves that seethed at its base.


Rufus Dawes was believed to be dead by the party on board the Ladybird,
and his strange escape was unknown to those still at Sarah Island.
Maurice Frere, if he bestowed a thought upon the refractory prisoner of
the Rock, believed him to be safely stowed in the hold of the schooner,
and already half-way to Hobart Town; while not one of the eighteen
persons on board the Osprey suspected that the boat which had put off
for the marooned man had returned without him. Indeed the party had
little leisure for thought; Mr. Frere, eager to prove his ability and
energy, was making strenuous exertions to get away, and kept his
unlucky ten so hard at work that within a week from the departure of
the Ladybird the Osprey was ready for sea. Mrs. Vickers and the child,
having watched with some excusable regret the process of demolishing
their old home, had settled down in their small cabin in the brig, and
on the evening of the 11th of January, Mr. Bates, the pilot, who acted
as master, informed the crew that Lieutenant Frere had given orders to
weigh anchor at daybreak.

At daybreak accordingly the brig set sail, with a light breeze from
the south-west, and by three o’clock in the afternoon anchored safely
outside the Gates. Unfortunately the wind shifted to the north-west,
which caused a heavy swell on the bar, and prudent Mr. Bates, having
consideration for Mrs. Vickers and the child, ran back ten miles
into Wellington Bay, and anchored there again at seven o’clock in the
morning. The tide was running strongly, and the brig rolled a good deal.
Mrs. Vickers kept to her cabin, and sent Sylvia to entertain Lieutenant
Frere. Sylvia went, but was not entertaining. She had conceived for
Frere one of those violent antipathies which children sometimes own
without reason, and since the memorable night of the apology had been
barely civil to him. In vain did he pet her and compliment her, she was
not to be flattered into liking him. “I do not like you, sir,” she said
in her stilted fashion, “but that need make no difference to you. You
occupy yourself with your prisoners; I can amuse myself without you,
thank you.” “Oh, all right,” said Frere, “I don’t want to interfere”;
but he felt a little nettled nevertheless. On this particular evening
the young lady relaxed her severity of demeanour. Her father away, and
her mother sick, the little maiden felt lonely, and as a last resource
accepted her mother’s commands and went to Frere. He was walking up and
down the deck, smoking.

“Mr. Frere, I am sent to talk to you.”

“Are you? All right--go on.”

“Oh dear, no. It is the gentleman’s place to entertain. Be amusing!”

“Come and sit down then,” said Frere, who was in good humour at the
success of his arrangements. “What shall we talk about?”

“You stupid man! As if I knew! It is your place to talk. Tell me a fairy

“‘Jack and the Beanstalk’?” suggested Frere.

“Jack and the grandmother! Nonsense. Make one up out of your head, you

Frere laughed.

“I can’t,” he said. “I never did such a thing in my life.”

“Then why not begin? I shall go away if you don’t begin.”

Frere rubbed his brows. “Well, have you read--have you read ‘Robinson
Crusoe?’”--as if the idea was a brilliant one.

“Of course I have,” returned Sylvia, pouting. “Read it?--yes.
Everybody’s read ‘Robinson Crusoe!’”

“Oh, have they? Well, I didn’t know; let me see now.” And pulling hard
at his pipe, he plunged into literary reflection.

Sylvia, sitting beside him, eagerly watching for the happy thought that
never came, pouted and said, “What a stupid, stupid man you are! I shall
be so glad to get back to papa again. He knows all sorts of stories,
nearly as many as old Danny.”

“Danny knows some, then?”

“Danny!”--with as much surprise as if she said “Walter Scott!” “Of
course he does. I suppose now,” putting her head on one side, with an
amusing expression of superiority, “you never heard the story of the

“No, I never did.”

“Nor the ‘White Horse of the Peppers’?”


“No, I suppose not. Nor the ‘Changeling’? nor the ‘Leprechaun’?” “No.”

Sylvia got off the skylight on which she had been sitting, and surveyed
the smoking animal beside her with profound contempt.

“Mr. Frere, you are really a most ignorant person. Excuse me if I hurt
your feelings; I have no wish to do that; but really you are a most
ignorant person--for your age, of course.”

Maurice Frere grew a little angry. “You are very impertinent, Sylvia,”
 said he.

“Miss Vickers is my name, Lieutenant Frere, and I shall go and talk to
Mr. Bates.”

Which threat she carried out on the spot; and Mr. Bates, who had filled
the dangerous office of pilot, told her about divers and coral reefs,
and some adventures of his--a little apocryphal--in the China Seas.
Frere resumed his smoking, half angry with himself, and half angry with
the provoking little fairy. This elfin creature had a fascination for
him which he could not account for.

However, he saw no more of her that evening, and at breakfast the next
morning she received him with quaint haughtiness.

“When shall we be ready to sail? Mr. Frere, I’ll take some marmalade.
Thank you.”

“I don’t know, missy,” said Bates. “It’s very rough on the Bar; me and
Mr. Frere was a soundin’ of it this marnin’, and it ain’t safe yet.”

“Well,” said Sylvia, “I do hope and trust we sha’n’t be shipwrecked, and
have to swim miles and miles for our lives.”

“Ho, ho!” laughed Frere; “don’t be afraid. I’ll take care of you.”

“Can you swim, Mr. Bates?” asked Sylvia.

“Yes, miss, I can.”

“Well, then, you shall take me; I like you. Mr. Frere can take mamma.
We’ll go and live on a desert island, Mr. Bates, won’t we, and grow
cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit, and--what nasty hard biscuits!--I’ll be
Robinson Crusoe, and you shall be Man Friday. I’d like to live on a
desert island, if I was sure there were no savages, and plenty to eat
and drink.”

“That would be right enough, my dear, but you don’t find them sort of
islands every day.”

“Then,” said Sylvia, with a decided nod, “we won’t be ship-wrecked, will

“I hope not, my dear.”

“Put a biscuit in your pocket, Sylvia, in case of accidents,” suggested
Frere, with a grin.

“Oh! you know my opinion of you, sir. Don’t speak; I don’t want any

“Don’t you?--that’s right.”

“Mr. Frere,” said Sylvia, gravely pausing at her mother’s cabin door,
“if I were Richard the Third, do you know what I should do with you?”

“No,” says Frere, eating complacently; “what would you do?”

“Why, I’d make you stand at the door of St. Paul’s Cathedral in a white
sheet, with a lighted candle in your hand, until you gave up your wicked
aggravating ways--you Man!”

The picture of Mr. Frere in a white sheet, with a lighted candle in his
hand, at the door of St. Paul’s Cathedral, was too much for Mr. Bates’s
gravity, and he roared with laughter. “She’s a queer child, ain’t she,
sir? A born natural, and a good-natured little soul.”

“When shall we be able to get away, Mr. Bates?” asked Frere, whose
dignity was wounded by the mirth of the pilot.

Bates felt the change of tone, and hastened to accommodate himself to
his officer’s humour. “I hopes by evening, sir,” said he; “if the tide
slackens then I’ll risk it; but it’s no use trying it now.”

“The men were wanting to go ashore to wash their clothes,” said Frere.

“If we are to stop here till evening, you had better let them go after

“All right, sir,” said Bates.

The afternoon passed off auspiciously. The ten prisoners went ashore and
washed their clothes. Their names were James Barker, James Lesly, John
Lyon, Benjamin Riley, William Cheshire, Henry Shiers, William Russen,
James Porter, John Fair, and John Rex. This last scoundrel had come on
board latest of all. He had behaved himself a little better recently,
and during the work attendant upon the departure of the Ladybird, had
been conspicuously useful. His intelligence and influence among his
fellow-prisoners combined to make him a somewhat important personage,
and Vickers had allowed him privileges from which he had been hitherto
debarred. Mr. Frere, however, who superintended the shipment of some
stores, seemed to be resolved to take advantage of Rex’s evident
willingness to work. He never ceased to hurry and find fault with him.
He vowed that he was lazy, sulky, or impertinent. It was “Rex, come
here! Do this! Do that!” As the prisoners declared among themselves, it
was evident that Mr. Frere had a “down” on the “Dandy”. The day before
the Ladybird sailed, Rex--rejoicing in the hope of speedy departure--had
suffered himself to reply to some more than usually galling remark and
Mr. Frere had complained to Vickers. “The fellow’s too ready to get
away,” said he. “Let him stop for the Osprey, it will be a lesson to
him.” Vickers assented, and John Rex was informed that he was not to
sail with the first party. His comrades vowed that this order was an act
of tyranny; but he himself said nothing. He only redoubled his activity,
and--despite all his wish to the contrary--Frere was unable to find
fault. He even took credit to himself for “taming” the convict’s spirit,
and pointed out Rex--silent and obedient--as a proof of the excellence
of severe measures. To the convicts, however, who knew John Rex better,
this silent activity was ominous. He returned with the rest, however, on
the evening of the 13th, in apparently cheerful mood. Indeed Mr. Frere,
who, wearied by the delay, had decided to take the whale-boat in which
the prisoners had returned, and catch a few fish before dinner, observed
him laughing with some of the others, and again congratulated himself.

The time wore on. Darkness was closing in, and Mr. Bates, walking the
deck, kept a look-out for the boat, with the intention of weighing
anchor and making for the Bar. All was secure. Mrs. Vickers and the
child were safely below. The two remaining soldiers (two had gone with
Frere) were upon deck, and the prisoners in the forecastle were singing.
The wind was fair, and the sea had gone down. In less than an hour the
Osprey would be safely outside the harbour.


The drifting log that had so strangely served as a means of saving Rufus
Dawes swam with the current that was running out of the bay. For some
time the burden that it bore was an insensible one. Exhausted with his
desperate struggle for life, the convict lay along the rough back of
this Heaven-sent raft without motion, almost without breath. At length a
violent shock awoke him to consciousness, and he perceived that the log
had become stranded on a sandy point, the extremity of which was lost in
darkness. Painfully raising himself from his uncomfortable posture,
he staggered to his feet, and crawling a few paces up the beach, flung
himself upon the ground and slept.

When morning dawned, he recognized his position. The log had, in passing
under the lee of Philip’s Island, been cast upon the southern point of
Coal Head; some three hundred yards from him were the mutilated sheds of
the coal gang. For some time he lay still, basking in the warm rays of
the rising sun, and scarcely caring to move his bruised and shattered
limbs. The sensation of rest was so exquisite, that it overpowered all
other considerations, and he did not even trouble himself to conjecture
the reason for the apparent desertion of the huts close by him. If there
was no one there--well and good. If the coal party had not gone, he
would be discovered in a few moments, and brought back to his island
prison. In his exhaustion and misery, he accepted the alternative and
slept again.

As he laid down his aching head, Mr. Troke was reporting his death to
Vickers, and while he still slept, the Ladybird, on her way out, passed
him so closely that any one on board her might, with a good glass, have
espied his slumbering figure as it lay upon the sand.

When he woke it was past midday, and the sun poured its full rays upon
him. His clothes were dry in all places, save the side on which he had
been lying, and he rose to his feet refreshed by his long sleep. He
scarcely comprehended, as yet, his true position. He had escaped, it
was true, but not for long. He was versed in the history of escapes,
and knew that a man alone on that barren coast was face to face with
starvation or recapture. Glancing up at the sun, he wondered indeed,
how it was that he had been free so long. Then the coal sheds caught his
eye, and he understood that they were untenanted. This astonished him,
and he began to tremble with vague apprehension. Entering, he looked
around, expecting every moment to see some lurking constable, or armed
soldier. Suddenly his glance fell upon the food rations which lay in the
corner where the departing convicts had flung them the night before.
At such a moment, this discovery seemed like a direct revelation from
Heaven. He would not have been surprised had they disappeared. Had he
lived in another age, he would have looked round for the angel who had
brought them.

By and by, having eaten of this miraculous provender, the poor creature
began--reckoning by his convict experience--to understand what had taken
place. The coal workings were abandoned; the new Commandant had probably
other work for his beasts of burden to execute, and an absconder would
be safe here for a few hours at least. But he must not stay. For him
there was no rest. If he thought to escape, it behoved him to commence
his journey at once. As he contemplated the meat and bread, something
like a ray of hope entered his gloomy soul. Here was provision for his
needs. The food before him represented the rations of six men. Was it
not possible to cross the desert that lay between him and freedom on
such fare? The very supposition made his heart beat faster. It surely
was possible. He must husband his resources; walk much and eat little;
spread out the food for one day into the food for three. Here was six
men’s food for one day, or one man’s food for six days. He would live on
a third of this, and he would have rations for eighteen days. Eighteen
days! What could he not do in eighteen days? He could walk thirty miles
a day--forty miles a day--that would be six hundred miles and more. Yet
stay; he must not be too sanguine; the road was difficult; the scrub was
in places impenetrable. He would have to make détours, and turn upon
his tracks, to waste precious time. He would be moderate, and say twenty
miles a day. Twenty miles a day was very easy walking. Taking a piece
of stick from the ground, he made the calculation in the sand. Eighteen
days, and twenty miles a day--three hundred and sixty miles. More than
enough to take him to freedom. It could be done! With prudence, it could
be done! He must be careful and abstemious! Abstemious! He had already
eaten too much, and he hastily pulled a barely-tasted piece of meat from
his mouth, and replaced it with the rest. The action which at any
other time would have seemed disgusting, was, in the case of this poor
creature, merely pitiable.

Having come to this resolution, the next thing was to disencumber
himself of his irons. This was more easily done than he expected. He
found in the shed an iron gad, and with that and a stone he drove out
the rivets. The rings were too strong to be “ovalled”, * or he would
have been free long ago. He packed the meat and bread together, and
then pushing the gad into his belt--it might be needed as a weapon of
defence--he set out on his journey.

     * Ovalled--“To oval” is a term in use among convicts, and
     means so to bend the round ring of the ankle fetter that the
     heel can be drawn up through it.

His intention was to get round the settlement to the coast, reach the
settled districts, and, by some tale of shipwreck or of wandering,
procure assistance. As to what was particularly to be done when he found
himself among free men, he did not pause to consider. At that point his
difficulties seemed to him to end. Let him but traverse the desert that
was before him, and he would trust to his own ingenuity, or the chance
of fortune, to avert suspicion. The peril of immediate detection was
so imminent that, beside it, all other fears were dwarfed into

Before dawn next morning he had travelled ten miles, and by husbanding
his food, he succeeded by the night of the fourth day in accomplishing
forty more. Footsore and weary, he lay in a thicket of the thorny
melaleuca, and felt at last that he was beyond pursuit. The next day he
advanced more slowly. The bush was unpropitious. Dense scrub and savage
jungle impeded his path; barren and stony mountain ranges arose before
him. He was lost in gullies, entangled in thickets, bewildered in
morasses. The sea that had hitherto gleamed, salt, glittering, and
hungry upon his right hand, now shifted to his left. He had mistaken his
course, and he must turn again. For two days did this bewilderment last,
and on the third he came to a mighty cliff that pierced with its blunt
pinnacle the clustering bush. He must go over or round this obstacle,
and he decided to go round it. A natural pathway wound about its foot.
Here and there branches were broken, and it seemed to the poor wretch,
fainting under the weight of his lessening burden, that his were not the
first footsteps which had trodden there. The path terminated in a glade,
and at the bottom of this glade was something that fluttered. Rufus
Dawes pressed forward, and stumbled over a corpse!

In the terrible stillness of that solitary place he felt suddenly as
though a voice had called to him. All the hideous fantastic tales of
murder which he had read or heard seemed to take visible shape in the
person of the loathly carcase before him, clad in the yellow dress of a
convict, and lying flung together on the ground as though struck down.
Stooping over it, impelled by an irresistible impulse to know the worst,
he found the body was mangled. One arm was missing, and the skull had
been beaten in by some heavy instrument! The first thought--that this
heap of rags and bones was a mute witness to the folly of his own
undertaking, the corpse of some starved absconder--gave place to a
second more horrible suspicion. He recognized the number imprinted on
the coarse cloth as that which had designated the younger of the two
men who had escaped with Gabbett. He was standing on the place where a
murder had been committed! A murder!--and what else? Thank God the
food he carried was not yet exhausted! He turned and fled, looking back
fearfully as he went. He could not breathe in the shadow of that awful

Crashing through scrub and brake, torn, bleeding, and wild with terror,
he reached a spur on the range, and looked around him. Above him rose
the iron hills, below him lay the panorama of the bush. The white cone
of the Frenchman’s Cap was on his right hand, on his left a succession
of ranges seemed to bar further progress. A gleam, as of a lake,
streaked the eastward. Gigantic pine trees reared their graceful heads
against the opal of the evening sky, and at their feet the dense scrub
through which he had so painfully toiled, spread without break and
without flaw. It seemed as though he could leap from where he stood upon
a solid mass of tree-tops. He raised his eyes, and right against him,
like a long dull sword, lay the narrow steel-blue reach of the harbour
from which he had escaped. One darker speck moved on the dark water.
It was the Osprey making for the Gates. It seemed that he could throw
a stone upon her deck. A faint cry of rage escaped him. During the last
three days in the bush he must have retraced his steps, and returned
upon his own track to the settlement! More than half his allotted time
had passed, and he was not yet thirty miles from his prison. Death had
waited to overtake him in this barbarous wilderness. As a cat allows a
mouse to escape her for a while, so had he been permitted to trifle with
his fate, and lull himself into a false security. Escape was hopeless
now. He never could escape; and as the unhappy man raised his despairing
eyes, he saw that the sun, redly sinking behind a lofty pine which
topped the opposite hill, shot a ray of crimson light into the glade
below him. It was as though a bloody finger pointed at the corpse which
lay there, and Rufus Dawes, shuddering at the dismal omen, averting his
face, plunged again into the forest.

For four days he wandered aimlessly through the bush. He had given up
all hopes of making the overland journey, and yet, as long as his scanty
supply of food held out, he strove to keep away from the settlement.
Unable to resist the pangs of hunger, he had increased his daily ration;
and though the salted meat, exposed to rain and heat, had begun to turn
putrid, he never looked at it but he was seized with a desire to eat his
fill. The coarse lumps of carrion and the hard rye-loaves were to him
delicious morsels fit for the table of an emperor. Once or twice he
was constrained to pluck and eat the tops of tea-trees and peppermint
shrubs. These had an aromatic taste, and sufficed to stay the cravings
of hunger for a while, but they induced a raging thirst, which he slaked
at the icy mountain springs. Had it not been for the frequency of these
streams, he must have died in a few days. At last, on the twelfth day
from his departure from the Coal Head, he found himself at the foot of
Mount Direction, at the head of the peninsula which makes the western
side of the harbour. His terrible wandering had but led him to make a
complete circuit of the settlement, and the next night brought him
round the shores of Birches Inlet to the landing-place opposite to Sarah
Island. His stock of provisions had been exhausted for two days, and he
was savage with hunger. He no longer thought of suicide. His dominant
idea was now to get food. He would do as many others had done before
him--give himself up to be flogged and fed. When he reached the
landing-place, however, the guard-house was empty. He looked across at
the island prison, and saw no sign of life. The settlement was deserted!
The shock of this discovery almost deprived him of reason. For days,
that had seemed centuries, he had kept life in his jaded and lacerated
body solely by the strength of his fierce determination to reach
the settlement; and now that he had reached it, after a journey of
unparalleled horror, he found it deserted. He struck himself to see if
he was not dreaming. He refused to believe his eyesight. He shouted,
screamed, and waved his tattered garments in the air. Exhausted by these
paroxysms, he said to himself, quite calmly, that the sun beating on
his unprotected head had dazed his brain, and that in a few minutes he
should see well-remembered boats pulling towards him. Then, when no boat
came, he argued that he was mistaken in the place; the island yonder was
not Sarah Island, but some other island like it, and that in a second
or so he would be able to detect the difference. But the inexorable
mountains, so hideously familiar for six weary years, made mute
reply, and the sea, crawling at his feet, seemed to grin at him with
a thin-lipped, hungry mouth. Yet the fact of the desertion seemed so
inexplicable that he could not realize it. He felt as might have felt
that wanderer in the enchanted mountains, who, returning in the morning
to look for his companions, found them turned to stone.

At last the dreadful truth forced itself upon him; he retired a few
paces, and then, with a horrible cry of furious despair, stumbled
forward towards the edge of the little reef that fringed the shore.
Just as he was about to fling himself for the second time into the dark
water, his eyes, sweeping in a last long look around the bay, caught
sight of a strange appearance on the left horn of the sea beach. A thin,
blue streak, uprising from behind the western arm of the little inlet,
hung in the still air. It was the smoke of a fire!

The dying wretch felt inspired with new hope. God had sent him a direct
sign from Heaven. The tiny column of bluish vapour seemed to him as
glorious as the Pillar of Fire that led the Israelites. There were yet
human beings near him!--and turning his face from the hungry sea,
he tottered with the last effort of his failing strength towards the
blessed token of their presence.


Frere’s fishing expedition had been unsuccessful, and in consequence
prolonged. The obstinacy of his character appeared in the most trifling
circumstances, and though the fast deepening shades of an Australian
evening urged him to return, yet he lingered, unwilling to come back
empty-handed. At last a peremptory signal warned him. It was the sound
of a musket fired on board the brig: Mr. Bates was getting impatient;
and with a scowl, Frere drew up his lines, and ordered the two soldiers
to pull for the vessel.

The Osprey yet sat motionless on the water, and her bare masts gave no
sign of making sail. To the soldiers, pulling with their backs to her,
the musket shot seemed the most ordinary occurrence in the world. Eager
to quit the dismal prison-bay, they had viewed Mr Frere’s persistent
fishing with disgust, and had for the previous half hour longed to hear
the signal of recall which had just startled them. Suddenly, however,
they noticed a change of expression in the sullen face of their
commander. Frere, sitting in the stern sheets, with his face to the
Osprey, had observed a peculiar appearance on her decks. The bulwarks
were every now and then topped by strange figures, who disappeared as
suddenly as they came, and a faint murmur of voices floated across the
intervening sea. Presently the report of another musket shot echoed
among the hills, and something dark fell from the side of the vessel
into the water. Frere, with an imprecation of mingled alarm and
indignation, sprang to his feet, and shading his eyes with his hand,
looked towards the brig. The soldiers, resting on their oars, imitated
his gesture, and the whale-boat, thus thrown out of trim, rocked from
side to side dangerously. A moment’s anxious pause, and then another
musket shot, followed by a woman’s shrill scream, explained all. The
prisoners had seized the brig. “Give way!” cried Frere, pale with rage
and apprehension, and the soldiers, realizing at once the full terror of
their position, forced the heavy whale-boat through the water as fast as
the one miserable pair of oars could take her.

          *          *          *          *          *

Mr. Bates, affected by the insidious influence of the hour, and lulled
into a sense of false security, had gone below to tell his little
playmate that she would soon be on her way to the Hobart Town of which
she had heard so much; and, taking advantage of his absence, the soldier
not on guard went to the forecastle to hear the prisoners singing. He
found the ten together, in high good humour, listening to a “shanty”
 sung by three of their number. The voices were melodious enough, and the
words of the ditty--chanted by many stout fellows in many a forecastle
before and since--of that character which pleases the soldier nature.
Private Grimes forgot all about the unprotected state of the deck, and
sat down to listen.

While he listened, absorbed in tender recollections, James Lesly,
William Cheshire, William Russen, John Fair, and James Barker slipped to
the hatchway and got upon the deck. Barker reached the aft hatchway as
the soldier who was on guard turned to complete his walk, and passing
his arm round his neck, pulled him down before he could utter a cry.
In the confusion of the moment the man loosed his grip of the musket to
grapple with his unseen antagonist, and Fair, snatching up the weapon,
swore to blow out his brains if he raised a finger. Seeing the sentry
thus secured, Cheshire, as if in pursuance of a preconcerted plan, leapt
down the after hatchway, and passed up the muskets from the arm-racks to
Lesly and Russen. There were three muskets in addition to the one taken
from the sentry, and Barker, leaving his prisoner in charge of Fair,
seized one of them, and ran to the companion ladder. Russen, left
unarmed by this manoeuvre, appeared to know his own duty. He came back
to the forecastle, and passing behind the listening soldier, touched
the singer on the shoulder. This was the appointed signal, and John Rex,
suddenly terminating his song with a laugh, presented his fist in the
face of the gaping Grimes. “No noise!” he cried. “The brig’s ours”;
and ere Grimes could reply, he was seized by Lyon and Riley, and bound

“Come on, lads!” says Rex, “and pass the prisoner down here. We’ve got
her this time, I’ll go bail!” In obedience to this order, the now gagged
sentry was flung down the fore hatchway, and the hatch secured. “Stand
on the hatchway, Porter,” cries Rex again; “and if those fellows come
up, knock ‘em down with a handspoke. Lesly and Russen, forward to the
companion ladder! Lyon, keep a look-out for the boat, and if she comes
too near, fire!”

As he spoke the report of the first musket rang out. Barker had
apparently fired up the companion hatchway.

          *          *          *          *          *

When Mr. Bates had gone below, he found Sylvia curled upon the cushions
of the state-room, reading. “Well, missy!” he said, “we’ll soon be on
our way to papa.”

Sylvia answered by asking a question altogether foreign to the subject.
“Mr. Bates,” said she, pushing the hair out of her blue eyes, “what’s a

“A which?” asked Mr. Bates.

“A coracle. C-o-r-a-c-l-e,” said she, spelling it slowly. “I want to

The bewildered Bates shook his head. “Never heard of one, missy,” said
he, bending over the book. “What does it say?”

“‘The Ancient Britons,’” said Sylvia, reading gravely, “‘were little
better than Barbarians. They painted their bodies with Woad’--that’s
blue stuff, you know, Mr. Bates--‘and, seated in their light coracles
of skin stretched upon slender wooden frames, must have presented a wild
and savage appearance.’”

“Hah,” said Mr. Bates, when this remarkable passage was read to him,
“that’s very mysterious, that is. A corricle, a cory “--a bright light
burst upon him. “A curricle you mean, missy! It’s a carriage! I’ve seen
‘em in Hy’ Park, with young bloods a-drivin’ of ‘em.”

“What are young bloods?” asked Sylvia, rushing at this “new opening”.

“Oh, nobs! Swell coves, don’t you know,” returned poor Bates, thus
again attacked. “Young men o’ fortune that is, that’s given to doing it

“I see,” said Sylvia, waving her little hand graciously. “Noblemen and
Princes and that sort of people. Quite so. But what about coracle?”

“Well,” said the humbled Bates, “I think it’s a carriage, missy. A sort
of Pheayton, as they call it.”

Sylvia, hardly satisfied, returned to the book. It was a little
mean-looking volume--a “Child’s History of England”--and after perusing
it awhile with knitted brows, she burst into a childish laugh.

“Why, my dear Mr. Bates!” she cried, waving the History above her head
in triumph, “what a pair of geese we are! A carriage! Oh you silly man!
It’s a boat!”

“Is it?” said Mr. Bates, in admiration of the intelligence of his
companion. “Who’d ha’ thought that now? Why couldn’t they call it a boat
at once, then, and ha’ done with it?” and he was about to laugh also,
when, raising his eyes, he saw in the open doorway the figure of James
Barker, with a musket in his hand.

“Hallo! What’s this? What do you do here, sir?”

“Sorry to disturb yer,” says the convict, with a grin, “but you must
come along o’ me, Mr. Bates.”

Bates, at once comprehending that some terrible misfortune had occurred,
did not lose his presence of mind. One of the cushions of the couch was
under his right hand, and snatching it up he flung it across the little
cabin full in the face of the escaped prisoner. The soft mass struck
the man with force sufficient to blind him for an instant. The musket
exploded harmlessly in the air, and ere the astonished Barker could
recover his footing, Bates had hurled him out of the cabin, and crying
“Mutiny!” locked the cabin door on the inside.

The noise brought out Mrs. Vickers from her berth, and the poor little
student of English history ran into her arms.

“Good Heavens, Mr. Bates, what is it?”

Bates, furious with rage, so far forgot himself as to swear. “It’s a
mutiny, ma’am,” said he. “Go back to your cabin and lock the door. Those
bloody villains have risen on us!” Julia Vickers felt her heart grow
sick. Was she never to escape out of this dreadful life? “Go into your
cabin, ma’am,” says Bates again, “and don’t move a finger till I tell
ye. Maybe it ain’t so bad as it looks; I’ve got my pistols with me,
thank God, and Mr. Frere’ll hear the shot anyway. Mutiny? On deck
there!” he cried at the full pitch of his voice, and his brow grew damp
with dismay when a mocking laugh from above was the only response.

Thrusting the woman and child into the state berth, the bewildered pilot
cocked a pistol, and snatching a cutlass from the arm stand fixed to the
butt of the mast which penetrated the cabin, he burst open the door with
his foot, and rushed to the companion ladder. Barker had retreated to
the deck, and for an instant he thought the way was clear, but Lesly and
Russen thrust him back with the muzzles of the loaded muskets. He struck
at Russen with the cutlass, missed him, and, seeing the hopelessness of
the attack, was fain to retreat.

In the meanwhile, Grimes and the other soldier had loosed themselves
from their bonds, and, encouraged by the firing, which seemed to them
a sign that all was not yet lost, made shift to force up the forehatch.
Porter, whose courage was none of the fiercest, and who had been for
years given over to that terror of discipline which servitude induces,
made but a feeble attempt at resistance, and forcing the handspike from
him, the sentry, Jones, rushed aft to help the pilot. As Jones reached
the waist, Cheshire, a cold-blooded blue-eyed man, shot him dead. Grimes
fell over the corpse, and Cheshire, clubbing the musket--had he another
barrel he would have fired--coolly battered his head as he lay, and
then, seizing the body of the unfortunate Jones in his arms, tossed it
into the sea. “Porter, you lubber!” he cried, exhausted with the effort
to lift the body, “come and bear a hand with this other one!” Porter
advanced aghast, but just then another occurrence claimed the villain’s
attention, and poor Grimes’s life was spared for that time.

Rex, inwardly raging at this unexpected resistance on the part of the
pilot, flung himself on the skylight, and tore it up bodily. As he did
so, Barker, who had reloaded his musket, fired down into the cabin.
The ball passed through the state-room door, and splintering the wood,
buried itself close to the golden curls of poor little Sylvia. It was
this hair’s-breadth escape which drew from the agonized mother that
shriek which, pealing through the open stern window, had roused the
soldiers in the boat.

Rex, who, by the virtue of his dandyism, yet possessed some abhorrence
of useless crime, imagined that the cry was one of pain, and that
Barker’s bullet had taken deadly effect. “You’ve killed the child, you
villain!” he cried.

“What’s the odds?” asked Barker sulkily. “She must die any way, sooner
or later.”

Rex put his head down the skylight, and called on Bates to surrender,
but Bates only drew his other pistol. “Would you commit murder?” he
asked, looking round with desperation in his glance.

“No, no,” cried some of the men, willing to blink the death of poor
Jones. “It’s no use making things worse than they are. Bid him come up,
and we’ll do him no harm.” “Come up, Mr. Bates,” says Rex, “and I give
you my word you sha’n’t be injured.”

“Will you set the major’s lady and child ashore, then?” asked Bates,
sturdily facing the scowling brows above him.


“Without injury?” continued the other, bargaining, as it were, at the
very muzzles of the muskets.

“Ay, ay! It’s all right!” returned Russen. “It’s our liberty we want,
that’s all.”

Bates, hoping against hope for the return of the boat, endeavoured to
gain time. “Shut down the skylight, then,” said he, with the ghost of an
authority in his voice, “until I ask the lady.”

This, however, John Rex refused to do. “You can ask well enough where
you are,” he said.

But there was no need for Mr. Bates to put a question. The door of the
state-room opened, and Mrs. Vickers appeared, trembling, with Sylvia by
her side. “Accept, Mr. Bates,” she said, “since it must be so. We should
gain nothing by refusing. We are at their mercy--God help us!”

“Amen to that,” says Bates under his breath, and then aloud, “We agree!”

“Put your pistols on the table, and come up, then,” says Rex, covering
the table with his musket as he spoke. “And nobody shall hurt you.”


Mrs Vickers, pale and sick with terror, yet sustained by that strange
courage of which we have before spoken, passed rapidly under the open
skylight, and prepared to ascend. Sylvia--her romance crushed by too
dreadful reality--clung to her mother with one hand, and with the
other pressed close to her little bosom the “English History”. In her
all-absorbing fear she had forgotten to lay it down.

“Get a shawl, ma’am, or something,” says Bates, “and a hat for missy.”

Mrs. Vickers looked back across the space beneath the open skylight,
and shuddering, shook her head. The men above swore impatiently at the
delay, and the three hastened on deck.

“Who’s to command the brig now?” asked undaunted Bates, as they came up.

“I am,” says John Rex, “and, with these brave fellows, I’ll take her
round the world.”

The touch of bombast was not out of place. It jumped so far with the
humour of the convicts that they set up a feeble cheer, at which Sylvia
frowned. Frightened as she was, the prison-bred child was as much
astonished at hearing convicts cheer as a fashionable lady would be to
hear her footman quote poetry. Bates, however--practical and calm--took
quite another view of the case. The bold project, so boldly avowed,
seemed to him a sheer absurdity. The “Dandy” and a crew of nine convicts
navigate a brig round the world! Preposterous; why, not a man aboard
could work a reckoning! His nautical fancy pictured the Osprey
helplessly rolling on the swell of the Southern Ocean, or hopelessly
locked in the ice of the Antarctic Seas, and he dimly guessed at the
fate of the deluded ten. Even if they got safe to port, the chances of
final escape were all against them, for what account could they give of
themselves? Overpowered by these reflections, the honest fellow made one
last effort to charm his captors back to their pristine bondage.

“Fools!” he cried, “do you know what you are about to do? You will never
escape. Give up the brig, and I will declare, before my God, upon the
Bible, that I will say nothing, but give all good characters.”

Lesly and another burst into a laugh at this wild proposition, but
Rex, who had weighed his chances well beforehand, felt the force of the
pilot’s speech, and answered seriously.

“It’s no use talking,” he said, shaking his still handsome head. “We
have got the brig, and we mean to keep her. I can navigate her, though
I am no seaman, so you needn’t talk further about it, Mr. Bates. It’s
liberty we require.”

“What are you going to do with us?” asked Bates.

“Leave you behind.”

Bates’s face blanched. “What, here?”

“Yes. It don’t look a picturesque spot, does it? And yet I’ve lived here
for some years”; and he grinned.

Bates was silent. The logic of that grin was unanswerable.

“Come!” cried the Dandy, shaking off his momentary melancholy, “look
alive there! Lower away the jolly-boat. Mrs. Vickers, go down to your
cabin and get anything you want. I am compelled to put you ashore, but I
have no wish to leave you without clothes.” Bates listened, in a sort
of dismal admiration, at this courtly convict. He could not have spoken
like that had life depended on it. “Now, my little lady,” continued Rex,
“run down with your mamma, and don’t be frightened.”

Sylvia flashed burning red at this indignity. “Frightened! If there had
been anybody else here but women, you never would have taken the brig.
Frightened! Let me pass, prisoner!”

The whole deck burst into a great laugh at this, and poor Mrs. Vickers
paused, trembling for the consequences of the child’s temerity. To thus
taunt the desperate convict who held their lives in his hands seemed
sheer madness. In the boldness of the speech however, lay its safeguard.
Rex--whose politeness was mere bravado--was stung to the quick by the
reflection upon his courage, and the bitter accent with which the child
had pronounced the word prisoner (the generic name of convicts) made him
bite his lips with rage. Had he had his will, he would have struck the
little creature to the deck, but the hoarse laugh of his companions
warned him to forbear. There is “public opinion” even among convicts,
and Rex dared not vent his passion on so helpless an object. As men do
in such cases, he veiled his anger beneath an affectation of amusement.
In order to show that he was not moved by the taunt, he smiled upon the
taunter more graciously than ever.

“Your daughter has her father’s spirit, madam,” said he to Mrs. Vickers,
with a bow.

Bates opened his mouth to listen. His ears were not large enough to take
in the words of this complimentary convict. He began to think that he
was the victim of a nightmare. He absolutely felt that John Rex was a
greater man at that moment than John Bates.

As Mrs. Vickers descended the hatchway, the boat with Frere and the
soldiers came within musket range, and Lesly, according to orders,
fired his musket over their heads, shouting to them to lay to But Frere,
boiling with rage at the manner in which the tables had been turned on
him, had determined not to resign his lost authority without a struggle.
Disregarding the summons, he came straight on, with his eyes fixed on
the vessel. It was now nearly dark, and the figures on the deck were
indistinguishable. The indignant lieutenant could but guess at the
condition of affairs. Suddenly, from out of the darkness a voice hailed

“Hold water! back water!” it cried, and was then seemingly choked in its
owner’s throat.

The voice was the property of Mr. Bates. Standing near the side, he had
observed Rex and Fair bring up a great pig of iron, erst used as part of
the ballast of the brig, and poise it on the rail. Their intention was
but too evident; and honest Bates, like a faithful watch-dog, barked
to warn his master. Bloodthirsty Cheshire caught him by the throat, and
Frere, unheeding, ran the boat alongside, under the very nose of the
revengeful Rex. The mass of iron fell half in-board upon the now stayed
boat, and gave her sternway, with a splintered plank.

“Villains!” cried Frere, “would you swamp us?”

“Aye,” laughed Rex, “and a dozen such as ye! The brig’s ours, can’t ye
see, and we’re your masters now!”

Frere, stifling an exclamation of rage, cried to the bow to hook on, but
the bow had driven the boat backward, and she was already beyond arm’s
length of the brig. Looking up, he saw Cheshire’s savage face, and
heard the click of the lock as he cocked his piece. The two soldiers,
exhausted by their long pull, made no effort to stay the progress of the
boat, and almost before the swell caused by the plunge of the mass of
iron had ceased to agitate the water, the deck of the Osprey had become
invisible in the darkness.

Frere struck his fist upon the thwart in sheer impotence of rage. “The
scoundrels!” he said, between his teeth, “they’ve mastered us. What do
they mean to do next?”

The answer came pat to the question. From the dark hull of the brig
broke a flash and a report, and a musket ball cut the water beside
them with a chirping noise. Between the black indistinct mass which
represented the brig, and the glimmering water, was visible a white
speck, which gradually neared them.

“Come alongside with ye!” hailed a voice, “or it will be the worse for

“They want to murder us,” says Frere. “Give way, men!”

But the two soldiers, exchanging glances one with the other, pulled the
boat’s head round, and made for the vessel. “It’s no use, Mr. Frere,”
 said the man nearest him; “we can do no good now, and they won’t hurt
us, I dare say.”

“You dogs, you are in league with them,” bursts out Frere, purple with
indignation. “Do you mutiny?”

“Come, come, sir,” returned the soldier, sulkily, “this ain’t the time
to bully; and, as for mutiny, why, one man’s about as good as another
just now.”

This speech from the lips of a man who, but a few minutes before, would
have risked his life to obey orders of his officer, did more than
an hour’s reasoning to convince Maurice Frere of the hopelessness
of resistance. His authority--born of circumstance, and supported by
adventitious aid--had left him. The musket shot had reduced him to the
ranks. He was now no more than anyone else; indeed, he was less than
many, for those who held the firearms were the ruling powers. With a
groan he resigned himself to his fate, and looking at the sleeve of the
undress uniform he wore, it seemed to him that virtue had gone out of
it. When they reached the brig, they found that the jolly-boat had
been lowered and laid alongside. In her were eleven persons; Bates with
forehead gashed, and hands bound, the stunned Grimes, Russen and Fair
pulling, Lyon, Riley, Cheshire, and Lesly with muskets, and John Rex
in the stern sheets, with Bates’s pistols in his trousers’ belt, and a
loaded musket across his knees. The white object which had been seen
by the men in the whale-boat was a large white shawl which wrapped Mrs.
Vickers and Sylvia.

Frere muttered an oath of relief when he saw this white bundle. He
had feared that the child was injured. By the direction of Rex the
whale-boat was brought alongside the jolly-boat, and Cheshire and Lesly
boarded her. Lesly then gave his musket to Rex, and bound Frere’s
hands behind him, in the same manner as had been done for Bates. Frere
attempted to resist this indignity, but Cheshire, clapping his musket
to his ear, swore he would blow out his brains if he uttered another
syllable; Frere, catching the malignant eye of John Rex, remembered how
easily a twitch of the finger would pay off old scores, and was silent.
“Step in here, sir, if you please,” said Rex, with polite irony. “I am
sorry to be compelled to tie you, but I must consult my own safety as
well as your convenience.” Frere scowled, and, stepping awkwardly into
the jolly-boat, fell. Pinioned as he was, he could not rise without
assistance, and Russen pulled him roughly to his feet with a coarse
laugh. In his present frame of mind, that laugh galled him worse than
his bonds.

Poor Mrs. Vickers, with a woman’s quick instinct, saw this, and, even
amid her own trouble, found leisure to console him. “The wretches!” she
said, under her breath, as Frere was flung down beside her, “to subject
you to such indignity!” Sylvia said nothing, and seemed to shrink from
the lieutenant. Perhaps in her childish fancy she had pictured him as
coming to her rescue, armed cap-a-pie, and clad in dazzling mail, or, at
the very least, as a muscular hero, who would settle affairs out of hand
by sheer personal prowess. If she had entertained any such notion, the
reality must have struck coldly upon her senses. Mr. Frere, purple,
clumsy, and bound, was not at all heroic.

“Now, my lads,” says Rex--who seemed to have endured the cast-off
authority of Frere--“we give you your choice. Stay at Hell’s Gates, or
come with us!”

The soldiers paused, irresolute. To join the mutineers meant a certainty
of hard work, with a chance of ultimate hanging. Yet to stay with the
prisoners was--as far as they could see--to incur the inevitable fate of
starvation on a barren coast. As is often the case on such occasions,
a trifle sufficed to turn the scale. The wounded Grimes, who was slowly
recovering from his stupor, dimly caught the meaning of the sentence,
and in his obfuscated condition of intellect must needs make comment
upon it. “Go with him, ye beggars!” said he, “and leave us honest men!
Oh, ye’ll get a tying-up for this.”

The phrase “tying-up” brought with it recollection of the worst portion
of military discipline, the cat, and revived in the minds of the pair
already disposed to break the yoke that sat so heavily upon them, a
train of dismal memories. The life of a soldier on a convict station
was at that time a hard one. He was often stinted in rations, and of
necessity deprived of all rational recreation, while punishment for
offences was prompt and severe. The companies drafted to the penal
settlements were not composed of the best material, and the pair had
good precedent for the course they were about to take.

“Come,” says Rex, “I can’t wait here all night. The wind is freshening,
and we must make the Bar. Which is it to be?”

“We’ll go with you!” says the man who had pulled the stroke in the
whale-boat, spitting into the water with averted face. Upon which
utterance the convicts burst into joyous oaths, and the pair were
received with much hand-shaking.

Then Rex, with Lyon and Riley as a guard, got into the whale boat, and
having loosed the two prisoners from their bonds, ordered them to take
the place of Russen and Fair. The whale-boat was manned by the seven
mutineers, Rex steering, Fair, Russen, and the two recruits pulling,
and the other four standing up, with their muskets levelled at the
jolly-boat. Their long slavery had begotten such a dread of authority in
these men that they feared it even when it was bound and menaced by four
muskets. “Keep your distance!” shouted Cheshire, as Frere and Bates, in
obedience to orders, began to pull the jolly-boat towards the shore; and
in this fashion was the dismal little party conveyed to the mainland.

It was night when they reached it, but the clear sky began to thrill
with a late moon as yet unrisen, and the waves, breaking gently upon
the beach, glimmered with a radiance born of their own motion. Frere and
Bates, jumping ashore, helped out Mrs. Vickers, Sylvia, and the wounded
Grimes. This being done under the muzzles of the muskets, Rex commanded
that Bates and Frere should push the jolly-boat as far as they could
from the shore, and Riley catching her by a boat-hook as she came
towards them, she was taken in tow.

“Now, boys,” says Cheshire, with a savage delight, “three cheers for old
England and Liberty!”

Upon which a great shout went up, echoed by the grim hills which had
witnessed so many miseries.

To the wretched five, this exultant mirth sounded like a knell of death.
“Great God!” cried Bates, running up to his knees in water after the
departing boats, “would you leave us here to starve?”

The only answer was the jerk and dip of the retreating oars.


There is no need to dwell upon the mental agonies of that miserable
night. Perhaps, of all the five, the one least qualified to endure
it realized the prospect of suffering most acutely. Mrs.
Vickers--lay-figure and noodle as she was--had the keen instinct of
approaching danger, which is in her sex a sixth sense. She was a woman
and a mother, and owned a double capacity for suffering. Her feminine
imagination pictured all the horrors of death by famine, and having
realized her own torments, her maternal love forced her to live them
over again in the person of her child. Rejecting Bates’s offer of a
pea-jacket and Frere’s vague tenders of assistance, the poor woman
withdrew behind a rock that faced the sea, and, with her daughter in her
arms, resigned herself to her torturing thoughts. Sylvia, recovered
from her terror, was almost content, and, curled in her mother’s shawl,
slept. To her little soul this midnight mystery of boats and muskets had
all the flavour of a romance. With Bates, Frere, and her mother so close
to her, it was impossible to be afraid; besides, it was obvious that
papa--the Supreme Being of the settlement--must at once return and
severely punish the impertinent prisoners who had dared to insult his
wife and child, and as Sylvia dropped off to sleep, she caught herself,
with some indignation, pitying the mutineers for the tremendous scrape
they had got themselves into. How they would be flogged when papa came
back! In the meantime this sleeping in the open air was novel and rather

Honest Bates produced a piece of biscuit, and, with all the generosity
of his nature, suggested that this should be set aside for the sole use
of the two females, but Mrs. Vickers would not hear of it. “We must all
share alike,” said she, with something of the spirit that she knew her
husband would have displayed under like circumstance; and Frere
wondered at her apparent strength of mind. Had he been gifted with more
acuteness, he would not have wondered; for when a crisis comes to one
of two persons who have lived much together, the influence of the nobler
spirit makes itself felt. Frere had a tinder-box in his pocket, and he
made a fire with some dry leaves and sticks. Grimes fell asleep, and the
two men sitting at their fire discussed the chances of escape. Neither
liked to openly broach the supposition that they had been finally
deserted. It was concluded between them that unless the brig sailed in
the night--and the now risen moon showed her yet lying at anchor--the
convicts would return and bring them food. This supposition proved
correct, for about an hour after daylight they saw the whale-boat
pulling towards them.

A discussion had arisen amongst the mutineers as to the propriety of at
once making sail, but Barker, who had been one of the pilot-boat crew,
and knew the dangers of the Bar, vowed that he would not undertake to
steer the brig through the Gates until morning; and so the boats being
secured astern, a strict watch was set, lest the helpless Bates should
attempt to rescue the vessel. During the evening--the excitement
attendant upon the outbreak having passed away, and the magnitude of the
task before them being more fully apparent to their minds--a feeling of
pity for the unfortunate party on the mainland took possession of them.
It was quite possible that the Osprey might be recaptured, in which case
five useless murders would have been committed; and however callous
in bloodshed were the majority of the ten, not one among them could
contemplate in cold blood, without a twinge of remorse, the death of the
harmless child of the Commandant.

John Rex, seeing how matters were going, made haste to take to himself
the credit of mercy. He ruled, and had always ruled, his ruffians not
so much by suggesting to them the course they should take, as by leading
them on the way they had already chosen for themselves. “I propose,”
 said he, “that we divide the provisions. There are five of them and
twelve of us. Then nobody can blame us.”

“Ay,” said Porter, mindful of a similar exploit, “and if we’re taken,
they can tell what we have done. Don’t let our affair be like that of
the Cypress, to leave them to starve.” “Ay, ay,” says Barker, “you’re
right! When Fergusson was topped at Hobart Town, I heard old Troke say
that if he’d not refused to set the tucker ashore, he might ha’ got off
with a whole skin.”

Thus urged, by self-interest, as well as sentiment, to mercy, the
provision was got upon deck by daylight, and a division was made. The
soldiers, with generosity born of remorse, were for giving half to the
marooned men, but Barker exclaimed against this. “When the schooner
finds they don’t get to headquarters, she’s bound to come back and look
for ‘em,” said he; “and we’ll want all the tucker we can get, maybe,
afore we sights land.”

This reasoning was admitted and acted upon. There was in the
harness-cask about fifty pounds of salt meat, and a third of this
quantity, together with half a small sack of flour, some tea and sugar
mixed together in a bag, and an iron kettle and pannikin, was placed
in the whale-boat. Rex, fearful of excesses among his crew, had also
lowered down one of the two small puncheons of rum which the store-room
contained. Cheshire disputed this, and stumbling over a goat that had
been taken on board from Philip’s Island, caught the creature by the
leg, and threw it into the sea, bidding Rex take that with him also. Rex
dragged the poor beast into the boat, and with this miscellaneous
cargo pushed off to the shore. The poor goat, shivering, began to bleat
piteously, and the men laughed. To a stranger it would have appeared
that the boat contained a happy party of fishermen, or coast settlers,
returning with the proceeds of a day’s marketing.

Laying off as the water shallowed, Rex called to Bates to come for the
cargo, and three men with muskets standing up as before, ready to resist
any attempt at capture, the provisions, goat and all, were carried
ashore. “There!” says Rex, “you can’t say we’ve used you badly, for
we’ve divided the provisions.” The sight of this almost unexpected
succour revived the courage of the five, and they felt grateful. After
the horrible anxiety they had endured all that night, they were prepared
to look with kindly eyes upon the men who had come to their assistance.

“Men,” said Bates, with something like a sob in his voice, “I didn’t
expect this. You are good fellows, for there ain’t much tucker aboard, I

“Yes,” affirmed Frere, “you’re good fellows.”

Rex burst into a savage laugh. “Shut your mouth, you tyrant,” said he,
forgetting his dandyism in the recollection of his former suffering. “It
ain’t for your benefit. You may thank the lady and the child for it.”

Julia Vickers hastened to propitiate the arbiter of her daughter’s
fate. “We are obliged to you,” she said, with a touch of quiet dignity
resembling her husband’s; “and if I ever get back safely, I will take
care that your kindness shall be known.”

The swindler and forger took off his leather cap with quite an air. It
was five years since a lady had spoken to him, and the old time when he
was Mr. Lionel Crofton, a “gentleman sportsman”, came back again for
an instant. At that moment, with liberty in his hand, and fortune all
before him, he felt his self-respect return, and he looked the lady in
the face without flinching.

“I sincerely trust, madam,” said he, “that you will get back safely. May
I hope for your good wishes for myself and my companions?”

Listening, Bates burst into a roar of astonished enthusiasm. “What a
dog it is!” he cried. “John Rex, John Rex, you were never made to be a
convict, man!”

Rex smiled. “Good-bye, Mr. Bates, and God preserve you!”

“Good-bye,” says Bates, rubbing his hat off his face, “and I--I--damme,
I hope you’ll get safe off--there! for liberty’s sweet to every man.”

“Good-bye, prisoners!” says Sylvia, waving her handkerchief; “and I hope
they won’t catch you, too.”

So, with cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, the boat departed.

In the emotion which the apparently disinterested conduct of John Rex
had occasioned the exiles, all earnest thought of their own position
had vanished, and, strange to say, the prevailing feeling was that of
anxiety for the ultimate fate of the mutineers. But as the boat grew
smaller and smaller in the distance, so did their consciousness of their
own situation grow more and more distinct; and when at last the boat had
disappeared in the shadow of the brig, all started, as if from a dream,
to the wakeful contemplation of their own case.

A council of war was held, with Mr. Frere at the head of it, and the
possessions of the little party were thrown into common stock. The salt
meat, flour, and tea were placed in a hollow rock at some distance from
the beach, and Mr. Bates was appointed purser, to apportion to each,
without fear or favour, his stated allowance. The goat was tethered with
a piece of fishing line sufficiently long to allow her to browse. The
cask of rum, by special agreement, was placed in the innermost recess
of the rock, and it was resolved that its contents should not be touched
except in case of sickness, or in last extremity. There was no lack of
water, for a spring ran bubbling from the rocks within a hundred yards
of the spot where the party had landed. They calculated that, with
prudence, their provisions would last them for nearly four weeks.

It was found, upon a review of their possessions, that they had among
them three pocket knives, a ball of string, two pipes, matches and a fig
of tobacco, fishing lines with hooks, and a big jack-knife which Frere
had taken to gut the fish he had expected to catch. But they saw with
dismay that there was nothing which could be used axe-wise among the
party. Mrs. Vickers had her shawl, and Bates a pea-jacket, but Frere
and Grimes were without extra clothing. It was agreed that each should
retain his own property, with the exception of the fishing lines, which
were confiscated to the commonwealth.

Having made these arrangements, the kettle, filled with water from the
spring, was slung from three green sticks over the fire, and a pannikin
of weak tea, together with a biscuit, served out to each of the party,
save Grimes, who declared himself unable to eat. Breakfast over, Bates
made a damper, which was cooked in the ashes, and then another council
was held as to future habitation.

It was clearly evident that they could not sleep in the open air. It was
the middle of summer, and though no annoyance from rain was apprehended,
the heat in the middle of the day was most oppressive. Moreover, it was
absolutely necessary that Mrs. Vickers and the child should have some
place to themselves. At a little distance from the beach was a sandy
rise, that led up to the face of the cliff, and on the eastern side of
this rise grew a forest of young trees. Frere proposed to cut down
these trees, and make a sort of hut with them. It was soon discovered,
however, that the pocket knives were insufficient for this purpose, but
by dint of notching the young saplings and then breaking them down, they
succeeded, in a couple of hours, in collecting wood enough to roof
over a space between the hollow rock which contained the provisions and
another rock, in shape like a hammer, which jutted out within five
yards of it. Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia were to have this hut as a
sleeping-place, and Frere and Bates, lying at the mouth of the larder,
would at once act as a guard to it and them. Grimes was to make for
himself another hut where the fire had been lighted on the previous

When they got back to dinner, inspirited by this resolution, they found
poor Mrs. Vickers in great alarm. Grimes, who, by reason of the dint
in his skull, had been left behind, was walking about the sea-beach,
talking mysteriously, and shaking his fist at an imaginary foe. On going
up to him, they discovered that the blow had affected his brain, for he
was delirious. Frere endeavoured to soothe him, without effect; and at
last, by Bates’s advice, the poor fellow was rolled in the sea. The cold
bath quelled his violence, and, being laid beneath the shade of a rock
hard by, he fell into a condition of great muscular exhaustion, and

The damper was then portioned out by Bates, and, together with a small
piece of meat, it formed the dinner of the party. Mrs. Vickers reported
that she had observed a great commotion on board the brig, and thought
that the prisoners must be throwing overboard such portions of the cargo
as were not absolutely necessary to them, in order to lighten her. This
notion Bates declared to be correct, and further pointed out that the
mutineers had got out a kedge-anchor, and by hauling on the kedge-line,
were gradually warping the brig down the harbour. Before dinner was
over a light breeze sprang up, and the Osprey, running up the union-jack
reversed, fired a musket, either in farewell or triumph, and, spreading
her sails, disappeared round the western horn of the harbour.

Mrs. Vickers, taking Sylvia with her, went away a few paces, and leaning
against the rugged wall of her future home, wept bitterly. Bates and
Frere affected cheerfulness, but each felt that he had hitherto regarded
the presence of the brig as a sort of safeguard, and had never fully
realized his own loneliness until now.

The necessity for work, however, admitted of no indulgence of vain
sorrow, and Bates setting the example, the pair worked so hard that by
nightfall they had torn down and dragged together sufficient brushwood
to complete Mrs. Vickers’s hut. During the progress of this work they
were often interrupted by Grimes, who persisted in vague rushes at them,
exclaiming loudly against their supposed treachery in leaving him at the
mercy of the mutineers. Bates also complained of the pain caused by the
wound in his forehead, and that he was afflicted with a giddiness which
he knew not how to avert. By dint of frequently bathing his head at the
spring, however, he succeeded in keeping on his legs, until the work of
dragging together the boughs was completed, when he threw himself on the
ground, and declared that he could rise no more.

Frere applied to him the remedy that had been so successfully tried upon
Grimes, but the salt water inflamed his wound and rendered his condition
worse. Mrs. Vickers recommended that a little spirit and water should
be used to wash the cut, and the cask was got out and broached for that
purpose. Tea and damper formed their evening meal; and by the light of
a blazing fire, their condition looked less desperate. Mrs. Vickers
had set the pannikin on a flat stone, and dispensed the tea with an
affectation of dignity which would have been absurd had it not been
heart-rending. She had smoothed her hair and pinned the white shawl
about her coquettishly; she even ventured to lament to Mr. Frere that
she had not brought more clothes. Sylvia was in high spirits, and
scorned to confess hunger. When the tea had been drunk, she fetched
water from the spring in the kettle, and bathed Bates’s head with it. It
was resolved that, on the morrow, a search should be made for some place
from which to cast the fishing line, and that one of the number should
fish daily.

The condition of the unfortunate Grimes now gave cause for the greatest
uneasiness. From maundering foolishly he had taken to absolute violence,
and had to be watched by Frere. After much muttering and groaning, the
poor fellow at last dropped off to sleep, and Frere, having assisted
Bates to his sleeping-place in front of the rock, and laid him down on
a heap of green brushwood, prepared to snatch a few hours’ slumber.
Wearied by excitement and the labours of the day, he slept heavily, but,
towards morning, was awakened by a strange noise.

Grimes, whose delirium had apparently increased, had succeeded in
forcing his way through the rude fence of brushwood, and had thrown
himself upon Bates with the ferocity of insanity. Growling to himself,
he had seized the unfortunate pilot by the throat, and the pair were
struggling together. Bates, weakened by the sickness that had followed
upon his wound in the head, was quite unable to cope with his desperate
assailant, but calling feebly upon Frere for help, had made shift to lay
hold upon the jack-knife of which we have before spoken. Frere, starting
to his feet, rushed to the assistance of the pilot, but was too late.
Grimes, enraged by the sight of the knife, tore it from Bates’s
grasp, and before Frere could catch his arm, plunged it twice into the
unfortunate man’s breast.

“I’m a dead man!” cried Bates faintly.

The sight of the blood, together with the exclamation of his victim,
recalled Grimes to consciousness. He looked in bewilderment at the
bloody weapon, and then, flinging it from him, rushed away towards the
sea, into which he plunged headlong.

Frere, aghast at this sudden and terrible tragedy, gazed after him, and
saw from out the placid water, sparkling in the bright beams of morning,
a pair of arms, with outstretched hands, emerge; a black spot, that was
a head, uprose between these stiffening arms, and then, with a horrible
cry, the whole disappeared, and the bright water sparkled as placidly as
before. The eyes of the terrified Frere, travelling back to the wounded
man, saw, midway between this sparkling water and the knife that lay on
the sand, an object that went far to explain the maniac’s sudden burst
of fury. The rum cask lay upon its side by the remnants of last night’s
fire, and close to it was a clout, with which the head of the wounded
man had been bound. It was evident that the poor creature, wandering
in his delirium, had come across the rum cask, drunk a quantity of its
contents, and been maddened by the fiery spirit.

Frere hurried to the side of Bates, and lifting him up, strove to
staunch the blood that flowed from his chest. It would seem that he had
been resting himself on his left elbow, and that Grimes, snatching the
knife from his right hand, had stabbed him twice in the right breast.
He was pale and senseless, and Frere feared that the wound was mortal.
Tearing off his neck-handkerchief, he endeavoured to bandage the wound,
but found that the strip of silk was insufficient for the purpose. The
noise had roused Mrs. Vickers, who, stifling her terror, made haste to
tear off a portion of her dress, and with this a bandage of sufficient
width was made. Frere went to the cask to see if, haply, he could obtain
from it a little spirit with which to moisten the lips of the dying man,
but it was empty. Grimes, after drinking his fill, had overturned
the unheaded puncheon, and the greedy sand had absorbed every drop of
liquor. Sylvia brought some water from the spring, and Mrs. Vickers
bathing Bates’s head with this, he revived a little. By-and-by Mrs.
Vickers milked the goat--she had never done such a thing before in all
her life--and the milk being given to Bates in a pannikin, he drank it
eagerly, but vomited it almost instantly. It was evident that he was
sinking from some internal injury.

None of the party had much appetite for breakfast, but Frere, whose
sensibilities were less acute than those of the others, ate a piece of
salt meat and damper. It struck him, with a curious feeling of pleasant
selfishness, that now Grimes had gone, the allowance of provisions would
be increased, and that if Bates went also, it would be increased still
further. He did not give utterance to his thoughts, however, but sat
with the wounded man’s head on his knees, and brushed the settling flies
from his face. He hoped, after all, that the pilot would not die, for
he should then be left alone to look after the women. Perhaps some such
thought was agitating Mrs. Vickers also. As for Sylvia, she made no
secret of her anxiety.

“Don’t die, Mr. Bates--oh, don’t die!” she said, standing piteously
near, but afraid to touch him. “Don’t leave mamma and me alone in this
dreadful place!”

Poor Bates, of course, said nothing, but Frere frowned heavily, and Mrs.
Vickers said reprovingly, “Sylvia!” just as if they had been in the old
house on distant Sarah Island.

In the afternoon Frere went away to drag together some wood for the
fire, and when he returned he found the pilot near his end. Mrs. Vickers
said that for an hour he had lain without motion, and almost without
breath. The major’s wife had seen more than one death-bed, and was calm
enough; but poor little Sylvia, sitting on a stone hard by, shook with
terror. She had a dim notion that death must be accompanied by violence.
As the sun sank, Bates rallied; but the two watchers knew that it was
but the final flicker of the expiring candle. “He’s going!” said
Frere at length, under his breath, as though fearful of awaking his
half-slumbering soul. Mrs. Vickers, her eyes streaming with silent
tears, lifted the honest head, and moistened the parched lips with her
soaked handkerchief. A tremor shook the once stalwart limbs, and the
dying man opened his eyes. For an instant he seemed bewildered, and
then, looking from one to the other, intelligence returned to his
glance, and it was evident that he remembered all. His gaze rested upon
the pale face of the affrighted Sylvia, and then turned to Frere. There
could be no mistaking the mute appeal of those eloquent eyes.

“Yes, I’ll take care of her,” said Frere.

Bates smiled, and then, observing that the blood from his wound had
stained the white shawl of Mrs. Vickers, he made an effort to move his
head. It was not fitting that a lady’s shawl should be stained with the
blood of a poor fellow like himself. The fashionable fribble, with quick
instinct, understood the gesture, and gently drew the head back upon her
bosom. In the presence of death the woman was womanly. For a moment all
was silent, and they thought he had gone; but all at once he opened his
eyes and looked round for the sea.

“Turn my face to it once more,” he whispered; and as they raised him,
he inclined his ear to listen. “It’s calm enough here, God bless it,” he
said; “but I can hear the waves a-breaking hard upon the Bar!”

And so his head dropped, and he died.

As Frere relieved Mrs. Vickers from the weight of the corpse, Sylvia ran
to her mother. “Oh, mamma, mamma,” she cried, “why did God let him die
when we wanted him so much?”

Before it grew dark, Frere made shift to carry the body to the shelter
of some rocks at a little distance, and spreading the jacket over the
face, he piled stones upon it to keep it steady. The march of events had
been so rapid that he scarcely realized that since the previous evening
two of the five human creatures left in this wilderness had escaped
from it. As he did realize it, he began to wonder whose turn it would be

Mrs. Vickers, worn out by the fatigue and excitement of the day, retired
to rest early; and Sylvia, refusing to speak to Frere, followed her
mother. This manifestation of unaccountable dislike on the part of the
child hurt Maurice more than he cared to own. He felt angry with her for
not loving him, and yet he took no pains to conciliate her. It was with
a curious pleasure that he remembered how she must soon look up to him
as her chief protector. Had Sylvia been just a few years older, the
young man would have thought himself in love with her.

The following day passed gloomily. It was hot and sultry, and a dull
haze hung over the mountains. Frere spent the morning in scooping a
grave in the sand, in which to inter poor Bates. Practically awake to
his own necessities, he removed such portions of clothing from the body
as would be useful to him, but hid them under a stone, not liking to let
Mrs. Vickers see what he had done. Having completed the grave by midday,
he placed the corpse therein, and rolled as many stones as possible to
the sides of the mound. In the afternoon he cast the fishing line from
the point of a rock he had marked the day before, but caught nothing.
Passing by the grave, on his return, he noticed that Mrs. Vickers had
placed at the head of it a rude cross, formed by tying two pieces of
stick together.

After supper--the usual salt meat and damper--he lit an economical pipe,
and tried to talk to Sylvia. “Why won’t you be friends with me, missy?”
 he asked.

“I don’t like you,” said Sylvia. “You frighten me.”


“You are not kind. I don’t mean that you do cruel things; but you
are--oh, I wish papa was here!” “Wishing won’t bring him!” says Frere,
pressing his hoarded tobacco together with prudent forefinger.

“There! That’s what I mean! Is that kind? ‘Wishing won’t bring him!’ Oh,
if it only would!”

“I didn’t mean it unkindly,” says Frere. “What a strange child you are.”

“There are persons,” says Sylvia, “who have no Affinity for each other.
I read about it in a book papa had, and I suppose that’s what it is. I
have no Affinity for you. I can’t help it, can I?”

“Rubbish!” Frere returned. “Come here, and I’ll tell you a story.”

Mrs. Vickers had gone back to her cave, and the two were alone by the
fire, near which stood the kettle and the newly-made damper. The child,
with some show of hesitation, came to him, and he caught and placed her
on his knee. The moon had not yet risen, and the shadows cast by the
flickering fire seemed weird and monstrous. The wicked wish to frighten
this helpless creature came to Maurice Frere.

“There was once,” said he, “a Castle in an old wood, and in this Castle
there lived an Ogre, with great goggle eyes.”

“You silly man!” said Sylvia, struggling to be free. “You are trying to
frighten me!”

“And this Ogre lived on the bones of little girls. One day a little girl
was travelling the wood, and she heard the Ogre coming. ‘Haw! haw! Haw!

“Mr. Frere, let me down!”

“She was terribly frightened, and she ran, and ran, and ran, until all
of a sudden she saw--”

A piercing scream burst from his companion. “Oh! oh! What’s that?” she
cried, and clung to her persecutor.

Beyond the fire stood the figure of a man. He staggered forward, and
then, falling on his knees, stretched out his hands, and hoarsely
articulated one word--“Food.” It was Rufus Dawes.

The sound of a human voice broke the spell of terror that was on the
child, and as the glow from the fire fell upon the tattered yellow
garments, she guessed at once the whole story. Not so Maurice Frere. He
saw before him a new danger, a new mouth to share the scanty provision,
and snatching a brand from the fire he kept the convict at bay. But
Rufus Dawes, glaring round with wolfish eyes, caught sight of the damper
resting against the iron kettle, and made a clutch at it. Frere dashed
the brand in his face. “Stand back!” he cried. “We have no food to

The convict uttered a savage cry, and raising the iron gad, plunged
forward desperately to attack this new enemy; but, quick as thought, the
child glided past Frere, and, snatching the loaf, placed it in the hands
of the starving man, with “Here, poor prisoner, eat!” and then, turning
to Frere, she cast upon him a glance so full of horror, indignation, and
surprise, that the man blushed and threw down the brand.

As for Rufus Dawes, the sudden apparition of this golden-haired girl
seemed to have transformed him. Allowing the loaf to slip through his
fingers, he gazed with haggard eyes at the retreating figure of the
child, and as it vanished into the darkness outside the circle of
firelight, the unhappy man sank his face upon his blackened, horny
hands, and burst into tears.


The coarse tones of Maurice Frere roused him. “What do you want?” he
asked. Rufus Dawes, raising his head, contemplated the figure before
him, and recognized it. “Is it you?” he said slowly.

“What do you mean? Do you know me?” asked Frere, drawing back. But the
convict did not reply. His momentary emotion passed away, the pangs of
hunger returned, and greedily seizing upon the piece of damper, he began
to eat in silence.

“Do you hear, man?” repeated Frere, at length. “What are you?”

“An escaped prisoner. You can give me up in the morning. I’ve done my
best, and I’m beat.”

The sentence struck Frere with dismay. The man did not know that the
settlement had been abandoned!

“I cannot give you up. There is no one but myself and a woman and child
on the settlement.” Rufus Dawes, pausing in his eating, stared at him in
amazement. “The prisoners have gone away in the schooner. If you choose
to remain free, you can do so as far as I am concerned. I am as helpless
as you are.”

“But how do you come here?”

Frere laughed bitterly. To give explanations to convicts was foreign to
his experience, and he did not relish the task. In this case, however,
there was no help for it. “The prisoners mutinied and seized the brig.”

“What brig?”

“The Osprey.”

A terrible light broke upon Rufus Dawes, and he began to understand how
he had again missed his chance. “Who took her?”

“That double-dyed villain, John Rex,” says Frere, giving vent to his
passion. “May she sink, and burn, and--”

“Have they gone, then?” cried the miserable man, clutching at his hair
with a gesture of hopeless rage.

“Yes; two days ago, and left us here to starve.” Rufus Dawes burst into
a laugh so discordant that it made the other shudder. “We’ll starve
together, Maurice Frere,” said he, “for while you’ve a crust, I’ll share
it. If I don’t get liberty, at least I’ll have revenge!”

The sinister aspect of this famished savage, sitting with his chin on
his ragged knees, rocking himself to and fro in the light of the fire,
gave Mr. Maurice Frere a new sensation. He felt as might have felt that
African hunter who, returning to his camp fire, found a lion there.
“Wretch!” said he, shrinking from him, “why should you wish to be
revenged on me?”

The convict turned upon him with a snarl. “Take care what you say! I’ll
have no hard words. Wretch! If I am a wretch, who made me one? If I hate
you and myself and the world, who made me hate it? I was born free--as
free as you are. Why should I be sent to herd with beasts, and condemned
to this slavery, worse than death? Tell me that, Maurice Frere--tell me
that!” “I didn’t make the laws,” says Frere, “why do you attack me?”

“Because you are what I was. You are FREE! You can do as you please. You
can love, you can work, you can think. I can only hate!” He paused as if
astonished at himself, and then continued, with a low laugh. “Fine words
for a convict, eh! But, never mind, it’s all right, Mr. Frere; we’re
equal now, and I sha’n’t die an hour sooner than you, though you are a
‘free man’!”

Frere began to think that he was dealing with another madman.

“Die! There’s no need to talk of dying,” he said, as soothingly as it
was possible for him to say it. “Time enough for that by-and-by.”

“There spoke the free man. We convicts have an advantage over you
gentlemen. You are afraid of death; we pray for it. It is the best thing
that can happen to us. Die! They were going to hang me once. I wish they
had. My God, I wish they had!”

There was such a depth of agony in this terrible utterance that Maurice
Frere was appalled at it. “There, go and sleep, my man,” he said. “You
are knocked up. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“Hold on a bit!” cried Rufus Dawes, with a coarseness of manner
altogether foreign to that he had just assumed. “Who’s with ye?”

“The wife and daughter of the Commandant,” replied Frere, half afraid to
refuse an answer to a question so fiercely put.

“No one else?”

“No.” “Poor souls!” said the convict, “I pity them.” And then he
stretched himself, like a dog, before the blaze, and went to sleep
instantly. Maurice Frere, looking at the gaunt figure of this addition
to the party, was completely puzzled how to act. Such a character had
never before come within the range of his experience. He knew not what
to make of this fierce, ragged, desperate man, who wept and threatened
by turns--who was now snarling in the most repulsive bass of the convict
gamut, and now calling upon Heaven in tones which were little less than
eloquent. At first he thought of precipitating himself upon the sleeping
wretch and pinioning him, but a second glance at the sinewy, though
wasted, limbs forbade him to follow out the rash suggestion of his
own fears. Then a horrible prompting--arising out of his former
cowardice--made him feel for the jack-knife with which one murder had
already been committed. Their stock of provisions was so scanty, and
after all, the lives of the woman and child were worth more than that
of this unknown desperado! But, to do him justice, the thought no sooner
shaped itself than he crushed it out. “We’ll wait till morning, and
see how he shapes,” said Frere to himself; and pausing at the brushwood
barricade, behind which the mother and daughter were clinging to each
other, he whispered that he was on guard outside, and that the absconder
slept. But when morning dawned, he found that there was no need for
alarm. The convict was lying in almost the same position as that
in which he had left him, and his eyes were closed. His threatening
outbreak of the previous night had been produced by the excitement of
his sudden rescue, and he was now incapable of violence. Frere advanced,
and shook him by the shoulder.

“Not alive!” cried the poor wretch, waking with a start, and raising his
arm to strike. “Keep off!”

“It’s all right,” said Frere. “No one is going to harm you. Wake up.”

Rufus Dawes glanced around him stupidly, and then remembering what had
happened, with a great effort, he staggered to his feet. “I thought
they’d got me!” he said, “but it’s the other way, I see. Come, let’s
have breakfast, Mr. Frere. I’m hungry.”

“You must wait,” said Frere. “Do you think there is no one here but

Rufus Dawes, swaying to and fro from weakness, passed his shred of a
cuff over his eyes. “I don’t know anything about it. I only know I’m

Frere stopped short. Now or never was the time to settle future
relations. Lying awake in the night, with the jack-knife ready to his
hand, he had decided on the course of action that must be adopted. The
convict should share with the rest, but no more. If he rebelled at that,
there must be a trial of strength between them. “Look you here,” he
said. “We have but barely enough food to serve us until help comes--if
it does come. I have the care of that poor woman and child, and I will
see fair play for their sakes. You shall share with us to our last bit
and drop, but, by Heaven, you shall get no more.”

The convict, stretching out his wasted arms, looked down upon them with
the uncertain gaze of a drunken man. “I am weak now,” he said. “You
have the best of me”; and then he sank suddenly down upon the ground,
exhausted. “Give me a drink,” he moaned, feebly motioning with his hand.
Frere got him water in the pannikin, and having drunk it, he smiled and
lay down to sleep again. Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia, coming out while he
still slept, recognized him as the desperado of the settlement.

“He was the most desperate man we had,” said Mrs. Vickers, identifying
herself with her husband. “Oh, what shall we do?”

“He won’t do much harm,” returned Frere, looking down at the notorious
ruffian with curiosity. “He’s as near dead as can be.”

Sylvia looked up at him with her clear child’s glance. “We mustn’t let
him die,” said she. “That would be murder.” “No, no,” returned Frere,
hastily, “no one wants him to die. But what can we do?”

“I’ll nurse him!” cried Sylvia.

Frere broke into one of his coarse laughs, the first one that he had
indulged in since the mutiny. “You nurse him! By George, that’s a good
one!” The poor little child, weak and excitable, felt the contempt in
the tone, and burst into a passion of sobs. “Why do you insult me, you
wicked man? The poor fellow’s ill, and he’ll--he’ll die, like Mr. Bates.
Oh, mamma, mamma, Let’s go away by ourselves.”

Frere swore a great oath, and walked away. He went into the little wood
under the cliff, and sat down. He was full of strange thoughts, which he
could not express, and which he had never owned before. The dislike
the child bore to him made him miserable, and yet he took delight in
tormenting her. He was conscious that he had acted the part of a
coward the night before in endeavouring to frighten her, and that the
detestation she bore him was well earned; but he had fully determined to
stake his life in her defence, should the savage who had thus come upon
them out of the desert attempt violence, and he was unreasonably angry
at the pity she had shown. It was not fair to be thus misinterpreted.
But he had done wrong to swear, and more so in quitting them so
abruptly. The consciousness of his wrong-doing, however, only made
him more confirmed in it. His native obstinacy would not allow him to
retract what he had said--even to himself. Walking along, he came to
Bates’s grave, and the cross upon it. Here was another evidence of
ill-treatment. She had always preferred Bates. Now that Bates was gone,
she must needs transfer her childish affections to a convict. “Oh,” said
Frere to himself, with pleasant recollections of many coarse triumphs in
love-making, “if you were a woman, you little vixen, I’d make you love
me!” When he had said this, he laughed at himself for his folly--he was
turning romantic! When he got back, he found Dawes stretched upon the
brushwood, with Sylvia sitting near him.

“He is better,” said Mrs. Vickers, disdaining to refer to the scene of
the morning. “Sit down and have something to eat, Mr. Frere.”

“Are you better?” asked Frere, abruptly.

To his surprise, the convict answered quite civilly, “I shall be strong
again in a day or two, and then I can help you, sir.”

“Help me? How?” “To build a hut here for the ladies. And we’ll live here
all our lives, and never go back to the sheds any more.”

“He has been wandering a little,” said Mrs. Vickers. “Poor fellow, he
seems quite well behaved.”

The convict began to sing a little German song, and to beat the refrain
with his hand. Frere looked at him with curiosity. “I wonder what the
story of that man’s life has been,” he said. “A queer one, I’ll be

Sylvia looked up at him with a forgiving smile. “I’ll ask him when he
gets well,” she said, “and if you are good, I’ll tell you, Mr. Frere.”

Frere accepted the proffered friendship. “I am a great brute, Sylvia,
sometimes, ain’t I?” he said, “but I don’t mean it.”

“You are,” returned Sylvia, frankly, “but let’s shake hands, and be
friends. It’s no use quarrelling when there are only four of us, is it?”
 And in this way was Rufus Dawes admitted a member of the family circle.

Within a week from the night on which he had seen the smoke of Frere’s
fire, the convict had recovered his strength, and had become an
important personage. The distrust with which he had been at first viewed
had worn off, and he was no longer an outcast, to be shunned and pointed
at, or to be referred to in whispers. He had abandoned his rough manner,
and no longer threatened or complained, and though at times a profound
melancholy would oppress him, his spirits were more even than those of
Frere, who was often moody, sullen, and overbearing. Rufus Dawes was no
longer the brutalized wretch who had plunged into the dark waters of the
bay to escape a life he loathed, and had alternately cursed and wept
in the solitudes of the forests. He was an active member of society--a
society of four--and he began to regain an air of independence and
authority. This change had been wrought by the influence of little
Sylvia. Recovered from the weakness consequent upon this terrible
journey, Rufus Dawes had experienced for the first time in six years
the soothing power of kindness. He had now an object to live for beyond
himself. He was of use to somebody, and had he died, he would have
been regretted. To us this means little; to this unhappy man it meant
everything. He found, to his astonishment, that he was not despised, and
that, by the strange concurrence of circumstances, he had been brought
into a position in which his convict experiences gave him authority.
He was skilled in all the mysteries of the prison sheds. He knew how to
sustain life on as little food as possible. He could fell trees without
an axe, bake bread without an oven, build a weatherproof hut without
bricks or mortar. From the patient he became the adviser; and from the
adviser, the commander. In the semi-savage state to which these four
human beings had been brought, he found that savage accomplishments
were of most value. Might was Right, and Maurice Frere’s authority of
gentility soon succumbed to Rufus Dawes’s authority of knowledge.

As the time wore on, and the scanty stock of provisions decreased, he
found that his authority grew more and more powerful. Did a question
arise as to the qualities of a strange plant, it was Rufus Dawes who
could pronounce upon it. Were fish to be caught, it was Rufus Dawes
who caught them. Did Mrs. Vickers complain of the instability of her
brushwood hut, it was Rufus Dawes who worked a wicker shield, and
plastering it with clay, produced a wall that defied the keenest wind.
He made cups out of pine-knots, and plates out of bark-strips. He worked
harder than any three men. Nothing daunted him, nothing discouraged him.
When Mrs. Vickers fell sick, from anxiety and insufficient food, it was
Rufus Dawes who gathered fresh leaves for her couch, who cheered her by
hopeful words, who voluntarily gave up half his own allowance of meat
that she might grow stronger on it. The poor woman and her child called
him “Mr.” Dawes.

Frere watched all this with dissatisfaction that amounted at times
to positive hatred. Yet he could say nothing, for he could not but
acknowledge that, beside Dawes, he was incapable. He even submitted
to take orders from this escaped convict--it was so evident that the
escaped convict knew better than he. Sylvia began to look upon Dawes as
a second Bates. He was, moreover, all her own. She had an interest in
him, for she had nursed and protected him. If it had not been for
her, this prodigy would not have lived. He felt for her an absorbing
affection that was almost a passion. She was his good angel, his
protectress, his glimpse of Heaven. She had given him food when he was
starving, and had believed in him when the world--the world of four--had
looked coldly on him. He would have died for her, and, for love of her,
hoped for the vessel which should take her back to freedom and give him
again into bondage.

But the days stole on, and no vessel appeared. Each day they eagerly
scanned the watery horizon; each day they longed to behold the bowsprit
of the returning Ladybird glide past the jutting rock that shut out the
view of the harbour--but in vain. Mrs. Vickers’s illness increased,
and the stock of provisions began to run short. Dawes talked of putting
himself and Frere on half allowance. It was evident that, unless succour
came in a few days, they must starve.

Frere mooted all sorts of wild plans for obtaining food. He would make
a journey to the settlement, and, swimming the estuary, search if haply
any casks of biscuit had been left behind in the hurry of departure. He
would set springes for the seagulls, and snare the pigeons at Liberty
Point. But all these proved impracticable, and with blank faces they
watched their bag of flour grow smaller and smaller daily. Then the
notion of escape was broached. Could they construct a raft? Impossible
without nails or ropes. Could they build a boat? Equally impossible for
the same reason. Could they raise a fire sufficient to signal a ship?
Easily; but what ship would come within reach of that doubly-desolate
spot? Nothing could be done but wait for a vessel, which was sure to
come for them sooner or later; and, growing weaker day by day, they

One morning Sylvia was sitting in the sun reading the “English History”,
which, by the accident of fright, she had brought with her on the night
of the mutiny. “Mr. Frere,” said she, suddenly, “what is an alchemist?”

“A man who makes gold,” was Frere’s not very accurate definition.

“Do you know one?”


“Do you, Mr. Dawes?”

“I knew a man once who thought himself one.”

“What! A man who made gold?”

“After a fashion.”

“But did he make gold?” persisted Sylvia.

“No, not absolutely make it. But he was, in his worship of money, an
alchemist for all that.”

“What became of him?”

“I don’t know,” said Dawes, with so much constraint in his tone that the
child instinctively turned the subject.

“Then, alchemy is a very old art?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Did the Ancient Britons know it?”

“No, not as old as that!”

Sylvia suddenly gave a little scream. The remembrance of the evening
when she read about the Ancient Britons to poor Bates came vividly into
her mind, and though she had since re-read the passage that had then
attracted her attention a hundred times, it had never before presented
itself to her in its full significance. Hurriedly turning the
well-thumbed leaves, she read aloud the passage which had provoked

“‘The Ancient Britons were little better than Barbarians. They
painted their bodies with Woad, and, seated in their light coracles of
skin stretched upon slender wooden frames, must have presented a wild
and savage appearance.’”

“A coracle! That’s a boat! Can’t we make a coracle, Mr. Dawes?”


The question gave the marooned party new hopes. Maurice Frere, with his
usual impetuosity, declared that the project was a most feasible one,
and wondered--as such men will wonder--that it had never occurred to him
before. “It’s the simplest thing in the world!” he cried. “Sylvia,
you have saved us!” But upon taking the matter into more earnest
consideration, it became apparent that they were as yet a long way
from the realization of their hopes. To make a coracle of skins seemed
sufficiently easy, but how to obtain the skins! The one miserable
hide of the unlucky she-goat was utterly inadequate for the purpose.
Sylvia--her face beaming with the hope of escape, and with delight at
having been the means of suggesting it--watched narrowly the countenance
of Rufus Dawes, but she marked no answering gleam of joy in those eyes.
“Can’t it be done, Mr. Dawes?” she asked, trembling for the reply.

The convict knitted his brows gloomily.

“Come, Dawes!” cried Frere, forgetting his enmity for an instant in the
flash of new hope, “can’t you suggest something?”

Rufus Dawes, thus appealed to as the acknowledged Head of the little
society, felt a pleasant thrill of self-satisfaction. “I don’t know,”
 he said. “I must think of it. It looks easy, and yet--” He paused as
something in the water caught his eye. It was a mass of bladdery seaweed
that the returning tide was wafting slowly to the shore. This object,
which would have passed unnoticed at any other time, suggested to Rufus
Dawes a new idea. “Yes,” he added slowly, with a change of tone, “it may
be done. I think I can see my way.”

The others preserved a respectful silence until he should speak again.
“How far do you think it is across the bay?” he asked of Frere.

“What, to Sarah Island?”

“No, to the Pilot Station.”

“About four miles.”

The convict sighed. “Too far to swim now, though I might have done it
once. But this sort of life weakens a man. It must be done after all.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Frere.

“To kill the goat.”

Sylvia uttered a little cry; she had become fond of her dumb companion.
“Kill Nanny! Oh, Mr. Dawes! What for?”

“I am going to make a boat for you,” he said, “and I want hides, and
thread, and tallow.”

A few weeks back Maurice Frere would have laughed at such a sentence,
but he had begun now to comprehend that this escaped convict was not a
man to be laughed at, and though he detested him for his superiority, he
could not but admit that he was superior.

“You can’t get more than one hide off a goat, man?” he said, with an
inquiring tone in his voice--as though it was just possible that such
a marvellous being as Dawes could get a second hide, by virtue of some
secret process known only to himself.

“I am going to catch other goats.” “Where?”

“At the Pilot Station.”

“But how are you going to get there?”

“Float across. Come, there is not time for questioning! Go and cut down
some saplings, and let us begin!”

The lieutenant-master looked at the convict prisoner with astonishment,
and then gave way to the power of knowledge, and did as he was ordered.
Before sundown that evening the carcase of poor Nanny, broken into
various most unbutcherly fragments, was hanging on the nearest tree; and
Frere, returning with as many young saplings as he could drag together,
found Rufus Dawes engaged in a curious occupation. He had killed the
goat, and having cut off its head close under the jaws, and its legs
at the knee-joint, had extracted the carcase through a slit made in the
lower portion of the belly, which slit he had now sewn together with
string. This proceeding gave him a rough bag, and he was busily engaged
in filling this bag with such coarse grass as he could collect. Frere
observed, also, that the fat of the animal was carefully preserved, and
the intestines had been placed in a pool of water to soak.

The convict, however, declined to give information as to what he
intended to do. “It’s my own notion,” he said. “Let me alone. I may make
a failure of it.” Frere, on being pressed by Sylvia, affected to know
all about the scheme, but to impose silence on himself. He was galled to
think that a convict brain should contain a mystery which he might not

On the next day, by Rufus Dawes’s direction, Frere cut down some rushes
that grew about a mile from the camping ground, and brought them in on
his back. This took him nearly half a day to accomplish. Short rations
were beginning to tell upon his physical powers. The convict, on the
other hand, trained by a woeful experience in the Boats to endurance of
hardship, was slowly recovering his original strength.

“What are they for?” asked Frere, as he flung the bundles down. His
master condescended to reply. “To make a float.”


The other shrugged his broad shoulders. “You are very dull, Mr. Frere.
I am going to swim over to the Pilot Station, and catch some of those
goats. I can get across on the stuffed skin, but I must float them back
on the reeds.”

“How the doose do you mean to catch ‘em?” asked Frere, wiping the sweat
from his brow.

The convict motioned to him to approach. He did so, and saw that his
companion was cleaning the intestines of the goat. The outer membrane
having been peeled off, Rufus Dawes was turning the gut inside out.
This he did by turning up a short piece of it, as though it were a
coat-sleeve, and dipping the turned-up cuff into a pool of water. The
weight of the water pressing between the cuff and the rest of the gut,
bore down a further portion; and so, by repeated dippings, the whole
length was turned inside out. The inner membrane having been scraped
away, there remained a fine transparent tube, which was tightly twisted,
and set to dry in the sun.

“There is the catgut for the noose,” said Dawes. “I learnt that trick at
the settlement. Now come here.”

Frere, following, saw that a fire had been made between two stones, and
that the kettle was partly sunk in the ground near it. On approaching
the kettle, he found it full of smooth pebbles.

“Take out those stones,” said Dawes.

Frere obeyed, and saw at the bottom of the kettle a quantity of
sparkling white powder, and the sides of the vessel crusted with the
same material.

“What’s that?” he asked.


“How did you get it?”

“I filled the kettle with sea-water, and then, heating those pebbles
red-hot in the fire, dropped them into it. We could have caught the
steam in a cloth and wrung out fresh water had we wished to do so. But,
thank God, we have plenty.”

Frere started. “Did you learn that at the settlement, too?” he asked.

Rufus Dawes laughed, with a sort of bitterness in his tones. “Do you
think I have been at ‘the settlement’ all my life? The thing is very
simple, it is merely evaporation.”

Frere burst out in sudden, fretful admiration: “What a fellow you are,
Dawes! What are you--I mean, what have you been?”

A triumphant light came into the other’s face, and for the instant he
seemed about to make some startling revelation. But the light faded, and
he checked himself with a gesture of pain.

“I am a convict. Never mind what I have been. A sailor, a shipbuilder,
prodigal, vagabond--what does it matter? It won’t alter my fate, will

“If we get safely back,” says Frere, “I’ll ask for a free pardon for
you. You deserve it.”

“Come,” returned Dawes, with a discordant laugh. “Let us wait until we
get back.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“I don’t want favour at your hands,” he said, with a return of the old
fierceness. “Let us get to work. Bring up the rushes here, and tie them
with a fishing line.”

At this instant Sylvia came up. “Good afternoon, Mr. Dawes. Hard at
work? Oh! what’s this in the kettle?” The voice of the child acted like
a charm upon Rufus Dawes. He smiled quite cheerfully.

“Salt, miss. I am going to catch the goats with that.”

“Catch the goats! How? Put it on their tails?” she cried merrily.

“Goats are fond of salt, and when I get over to the Pilot Station I
shall set traps for them baited with this salt. When they come to
lick it, I shall have a noose of catgut ready to catch them--do you

“But how will you get across?”

“You will see to-morrow.”


The next morning Rufus Dawes was stirring by daylight. He first got his
catgut wound upon a piece of stick, and then, having moved his frail
floats alongside the little rock that served as a pier, he took a
fishing line and a larger piece of stick, and proceeded to draw a
diagram on the sand. This diagram when completed represented a rude
outline of a punt, eight feet long and three broad. At certain distances
were eight points--four on each side--into which small willow rods were
driven. He then awoke Frere and showed the diagram to him.

“Get eight stakes of celery-top pine,” he said. “You can burn them where
you cannot cut them, and drive a stake into the place of each of these
willow wands. When you have done that, collect as many willows as you
can get. I shall not be back until tonight. Now give me a hand with the

Frere, coming to the pier, saw Dawes strip himself, and piling his
clothes upon the stuffed goat-skin, stretch himself upon the reed
bundles, and, paddling with his hands, push off from the shore. The
clothes floated high and dry, but the reeds, depressed by the weight
of the body, sank so that the head of the convict alone appeared above
water. In this fashion he gained the middle of the current, and the
out-going tide swept him down towards the mouth of the harbour.

Frere, sulkily admiring, went back to prepare the breakfast--they were
on half rations now, Dawes having forbidden the slaughtered goat to be
eaten, lest his expedition should prove unsuccessful--wondering at the
chance which had thrown this convict in his way. “Parsons would call it
‘a special providence,’” he said to himself. “For if it hadn’t been for
him, we should never have got thus far. If his ‘boat’ succeeds, we’re
all right, I suppose. He’s a clever dog. I wonder who he is.” His
training as a master of convicts made him think how dangerous such a man
would be on a convict station. It would be difficult to keep a fellow
of such resources. “They’ll have to look pretty sharp after him if they
ever get him back,” he thought. “I’ll have a fine tale to tell of his
ingenuity.” The conversation of the previous day occurred to him. “I
promised to ask for a free pardon. He wouldn’t have it, though. Too
proud to accept it at my hands! Wait until we get back. I’ll teach him
his place; for, after all, it is his own liberty that he is working for
as well as mine--I mean ours.” Then a thought came into his head that
was in every way worthy of him. “Suppose we took the boat, and left
him behind!” The notion seemed so ludicrously wicked that he laughed

“What is it, Mr. Frere?”

“Oh, it’s you, Sylvia, is it? Ha, ha, ha! I was thinking of
something--something funny.”

“Indeed,” said Sylvia, “I am glad of that. Where’s Mr. Dawes?”

Frere was displeased at the interest with which she asked the question.

“You are always thinking of that fellow. It’s Dawes, Dawes, Dawes all
day long. He has gone.”

“Oh!” with a sorrowful accent. “Mamma wants to see him.”

“What about?” says Frere roughly. “Mamma is ill, Mr. Frere.”

“Dawes isn’t a doctor. What’s the matter with her?”

“She is worse than she was yesterday. I don’t know what is the matter.”

Frere, somewhat alarmed, strode over to the little cavern.

The “lady of the Commandant” was in a strange plight. The cavern was
lofty, but narrow. In shape it was three-cornered, having two sides open
to the wind. The ingenuity of Rufus Dawes had closed these sides with
wicker-work and clay, and a sort of door of interlaced brushwood hung at
one of them. Frere pushed open this door and entered. The poor woman was
lying on a bed of rushes strewn over young brushwood, and was moaning
feebly. From the first she had felt the privation to which she was
subjected most keenly, and the mental anxiety from which she suffered
increased her physical debility. The exhaustion and lassitude to
which she had partially succumbed soon after Dawes’s arrival, had now
completely overcome her, and she was unable to rise.

“Cheer up, ma’am,” said Maurice, with an assumption of heartiness. “It
will be all right in a day or two.”

“Is it you? I sent for Mr. Dawes.”

“He is away just now. I am making a boat. Did not Sylvia tell you?”

“She told me that he was making one.”

“Well, I--that is, we--are making it. He will be back again tonight. Can
I do anything for you?”

“No, thank you. I only wanted to know how he was getting on. I must go
soon--if I am to go. Thank you, Mr. Frere. I am much obliged to you.
This is a--he-e--dreadful place to have visitors, isn’t it?”

“Never mind,” said Frere, again, “you will be back in Hobart Town in a
few days now. We are sure to get picked up by a ship. But you must cheer
up. Have some tea or something.”

“No, thank you--I don’t feel well enough to eat. I am tired.”

Sylvia began to cry.

“Don’t cry, dear. I shall be better by and by. Oh, I wish Mr. Dawes was

Maurice Frere went out indignant. This “Mr.” Dawes was everybody, it
seemed, and he was nobody. Let them wait a little. All that day, working
hard to carry out the convict’s directions, he meditated a thousand
plans by which he could turn the tables. He would accuse Dawes
of violence. He would demand that he should be taken back as an
“absconder”. He would insist that the law should take its course, and
that the “death” which was the doom of all who were caught in the act of
escape from a penal settlement should be enforced. Yet if they got safe
to land, the marvellous courage and ingenuity of the prisoner would tell
strongly in his favour. The woman and child would bear witness to his
tenderness and skill, and plead for him. As he had said, the convict
deserved a pardon. The mean, bad man, burning with wounded vanity and
undefined jealousy, waited for some method to suggest itself, by which
he might claim the credit of the escape, and snatch from the prisoner,
who had dared to rival him, the last hope of freedom.

Rufus Dawes, drifting with the current, had allowed himself to coast
along the eastern side of the harbour until the Pilot Station appeared
in view on the opposite shore. By this time it was nearly seven o’clock.
He landed at a sandy cove, and drawing up his raft, proceeded to unpack
from among his garments a piece of damper. Having eaten sparingly, and
dried himself in the sun, he replaced the remains of his breakfast,
and pushed his floats again into the water. The Pilot Station lay some
distance below him, on the opposite shore. He had purposely made
his second start from a point which would give him this advantage of
position; for had he attempted to paddle across at right angles, the
strength of the current would have swept him out to sea. Weak as he was,
he several times nearly lost his hold on the reeds. The clumsy bundle
presenting too great a broadside to the stream, whirled round and
round, and was once or twice nearly sucked under. At length, however,
breathless and exhausted, he gained the opposite bank, half a mile below
the point he had attempted to make, and carrying his floats out of reach
of the tide, made off across the hill to the Pilot Station.

Arrived there about midday, he set to work to lay his snares. The
goats, with whose hides he hoped to cover the coracle, were sufficiently
numerous and tame to encourage him to use every exertion. He carefully
examined the tracks of the animals, and found that they converged to
one point--the track to the nearest water. With much labour he cut down
bushes, so as to mask the approach to the waterhole on all sides save
where these tracks immediately conjoined. Close to the water, and at
unequal distances along the various tracks, he scattered the salt he had
obtained by his rude distillation of sea-water. Between this scattered
salt and the points where he judged the animals would be likely to
approach, he set his traps, made after the following manner. He took
several pliant branches of young trees, and having stripped them of
leaves and twigs, dug with his knife and the end of the rude paddle he
had made for the voyage across the inlet, a succession of holes, about a
foot deep. At the thicker end of these saplings he fastened, by a piece
of fishing line, a small cross-bar, which swung loosely, like the stick
handle which a schoolboy fastens to the string of his pegtop. Forcing
the ends of the saplings thus prepared into the holes, he filled in and
stamped down the earth all around them. The saplings, thus anchored as
it were by the cross-pieces of stick, not only stood firm, but resisted
all his efforts to withdraw them. To the thin ends of these saplings
he bound tightly, into notches cut in the wood, and secured by a
multiplicity of twisting, the catgut springes he had brought from the
camping ground. The saplings were then bent double, and the gutted ends
secured in the ground by the same means as that employed to fix the
butts. This was the most difficult part of the business, for it was
necessary to discover precisely the amount of pressure that would hold
the bent rod without allowing it to escape by reason of this elasticity,
and which would yet “give” to a slight pull on the gut. After many
failures, however, this happy medium was discovered; and Rufus Dawes,
concealing his springes by means of twigs, smoothed the disturbed sand
with a branch and retired to watch the effect of his labours. About two
hours after he had gone, the goats came to drink. There were five goats
and two kids, and they trotted calmly along the path to the water. The
watcher soon saw that his precautions had been in a manner wasted. The
leading goat marched gravely into the springe, which, catching him round
his neck, released the bent rod, and sprang him off his legs into the
air. He uttered a comical bleat, and then hung kicking. Rufus Dawes,
though the success of the scheme was a matter of life and death, burst
out laughing at the antics of the beast. The other goats bounded off at
this sudden elevation of their leader, and three more were entrapped at
a little distance. Rufus Dawes now thought it time to secure his prize,
though three of the springes were as yet unsprung. He ran down to the
old goat, knife in hand, but before he could reach him the barely-dried
catgut gave way, and the old fellow, shaking his head with grotesque
dismay, made off at full speed. The others, however, were secured and
killed. The loss of the springe was not a serious one, for three traps
remained unsprung, and before sundown Rufus Dawes had caught four more
goats. Removing with care the catgut that had done such good service, he
dragged the carcases to the shore, and proceeded to pack them upon his
floats. He discovered, however, that the weight was too great, and that
the water, entering through the loops of the stitching in the hide, had
so soaked the rush-grass as to render the floats no longer buoyant. He
was compelled, therefore, to spend two hours in re-stuffing the skin
with such material as he could find. Some light and flock-like seaweed,
which the action of the water had swathed after the fashion of haybands
along the shore, formed an excellent substitute for grass, and,
having bound his bundle of rushes lengthwise, with the goat-skin as a
centre-piece, he succeeded in forming a sort of rude canoe, upon which
the carcases floated securely.

He had eaten nothing since the morning, and the violence of his
exertions had exhausted him. Still, sustained by the excitement of the
task he had set himself, he dismissed with fierce impatience the thought
of rest, and dragged his weary limbs along the sand, endeavouring to
kill fatigue by further exertion. The tide was now running in, and he
knew it was imperative that he should regain the further shore while the
current was in his favour. To cross from the Pilot Station at low water
was impossible. If he waited until the ebb, he must spend another day
on the shore, and he could not afford to lose an hour. Cutting a long
sapling, he fastened to one end of it the floating bundle, and thus
guided it to a spot where the beach shelved abruptly into deep water.
It was a clear night, and the risen moon large and low, flung a rippling
streak of silver across the sea. On the other side of the bay all
was bathed in a violet haze, which veiled the inlet from which he had
started in the morning. The fire of the exiles, hidden behind a point
of rock, cast a red glow into the air. The ocean breakers rolled in upon
the cliffs outside the bar, with a hoarse and threatening murmur; and
the rising tide rippled and lapped with treacherous melody along the
sand. He touched the chill water and drew back. For an instant he
determined to wait until the beams of morning should illumine that
beautiful but treacherous sea, and then the thought of the helpless
child, who was, without doubt, waiting and watching for him on the
shore, gave new strength to his wearied frame; and fixing his eyes on
the glow that, hovering above the dark tree-line, marked her presence,
he pushed the raft before him out into the sea. The reeds sustained
him bravely, but the strength of the current sucked him underneath the
water, and for several seconds he feared that he should be compelled
to let go his hold. But his muscles, steeled in the slow fire
of convict-labour, withstood this last strain upon them, and,
half-suffocated, with bursting chest and paralysed fingers, he preserved
his position, until the mass, getting out of the eddies along the
shore-line, drifted steadily down the silvery track that led to the
settlement. After a few moments’ rest, he set his teeth, and urged his
strange canoe towards the shore. Paddling and pushing, he gradually
edged it towards the fire-light; and at last, just when his stiffened
limbs refused to obey the impulse of his will, and he began to drift
onwards with the onward tide, he felt his feet strike firm ground.
Opening his eyes--closed in the desperation of his last efforts--he
found himself safe under the lee of the rugged promontory which hid
the fire. It seemed that the waves, tired of persecuting him, had, with
disdainful pity, cast him ashore at the goal of his hopes. Looking back,
he for the first time realized the frightful peril he had escaped, and
shuddered. To this shudder succeeded a thrill of triumph. “Why had he
stayed so long, when escape was so easy?” Dragging the carcases above
high-water mark, he rounded the little promontory and made for the fire.
The recollection of the night when he had first approached it came upon
him, and increased his exultation. How different a man was he now from
then! Passing up the sand, he saw the stakes which he had directed Frere
to cut whiten in the moonshine. His officer worked for him! In his own
brain alone lay the secret of escape! He--Rufus Dawes--the scarred,
degraded “prisoner”, could alone get these three beings back to
civilization. Did he refuse to aid them, they would for ever remain in
that prison, where he had so long suffered. The tables were turned--he
had become a gaoler! He had gained the fire before the solitary watcher
there heard his footsteps, and spread his hands to the blaze in silence.
He felt as Frere would have felt, had their positions been reversed,
disdainful of the man who had stopped at home.

Frere, starting, cried, “It is you! Have you succeeded?”

Rufus Dawes nodded.

“What! Did you catch them?”

“There are four carcases down by the rocks. You can have meat for
breakfast to-morrow!”

The child, at the sound of the voice, came running down from the hut.
“Oh, Mr. Dawes! I am so glad! We were beginning to despair--mamma and

Dawes snatched her from the ground, and bursting into a joyous laugh,
swung her into the air. “Tell me,” he cried, holding up the child with
two dripping arms above him, “what you will do for me if I bring you and
mamma safe home again?”

“Give you a free pardon,” says Sylvia, “and papa shall make you his
servant!” Frere burst out laughing at this reply, and Dawes, with a
choking sensation in his throat, put the child upon the ground and
walked away.

This was in truth all he could hope for. All his scheming, all his
courage, all his peril, would but result in the patronage of a great man
like Major Vickers. His heart, big with love, with self-denial, and with
hopes of a fair future, would have this flattering unction laid to it.
He had performed a prodigy of skill and daring, and for his reward he
was to be made a servant to the creatures he had protected. Yet what
more could a convict expect? Sylvia saw how deeply her unconscious hand
had driven the iron, and ran up to the man she had wounded. “And, Mr.
Dawes, remember that I shall love you always.” The convict, however, his
momentary excitement over, motioned her away; and she saw him stretch
himself wearily under the shadow of a rock.


In the morning, however, Rufus Dawes was first at work, and made no
allusion to the scene of the previous evening. He had already skinned
one of the goats, and he directed Frere to set to work upon another.
“Cut down the rump to the hock, and down the brisket to the knee,” he
said. “I want the hides as square as possible.” By dint of hard work
they got the four goats skinned, and the entrails cleaned ready for
twisting, by breakfast time; and having broiled some of the flesh, made
a hearty meal. Mrs. Vickers being no better, Dawes went to see her, and
seemed to have made friends again with Sylvia, for he came out of the
hut with the child’s hand in his. Frere, who was cutting the meat in
long strips to dry in the sun, saw this, and it added fresh fuel to the
fire in his unreasonable envy and jealousy. However, he said nothing,
for his enemy had not yet shown him how the boat was to be made. Before
midday, however, he was a partner in the secret, which, after all, was a
very simple one.

Rufus Dawes took two of the straightest and most tapered of the
celery-top pines which Frere had cut on the previous day, and lashed
them tightly together, with the butts outwards. He thus produced a
spliced stick about twelve feet long. About two feet from either end he
notched the young tree until he could bend the extremities upwards; and
having so bent them, he secured the bent portions in their places by
means of lashings of raw hide. The spliced trees now presented a rude
outline of the section of a boat, having the stem, keel, and stern all
in one piece. This having been placed lengthwise between the stakes,
four other poles, notched in two places, were lashed from stake to
stake, running crosswise to the keel, and forming the knees. Four
saplings were now bent from end to end of the upturned portions of the
keel that represented stem and stern. Two of these four were placed
above, as gunwales; two below as bottom rails. At each intersection the
sticks were lashed firmly with fishing line. The whole framework being
complete, the stakes were drawn out, and there lay upon the ground the
skeleton of a boat eight feet long by three broad.

Frere, whose hands were blistered and sore, would fain have rested; but
the convict would not hear of it. “Let us finish,” he said regardless of
his own fatigue; “the skins will be dry if we stop.”

“I can work no more,” says Frere sulkily; “I can’t stand. You’ve got
muscles of iron, I suppose. I haven’t.”

“They made me work when I couldn’t stand, Maurice Frere. It is wonderful
what spirit the cat gives a man. There’s nothing like work to get rid of
aching muscles--so they used to tell me.”

“Well, what’s to be done now?”

“Cover the boat. There, you can set the fat to melt, and sew these hides
together. Two and two, do you see? and then sew the pair at the necks.
There is plenty of catgut yonder.”

“Don’t talk to me as if I was a dog!” says Frere suddenly. “Be civil,
can’t you.”

But the other, busily trimming and cutting at the projecting pieces
of sapling, made no reply. It is possible that he thought the fatigued
lieutenant beneath his notice. About an hour before sundown the hides
were ready, and Rufus Dawes, having in the meantime interlaced the ribs
of the skeleton with wattles, stretched the skins over it, with the
hairy side inwards. Along the edges of this covering he bored holes at
intervals, and passing through these holes thongs of twisted skin,
he drew the whole to the top rail of the boat. One last precaution
remained. Dipping the pannikin into the melted tallow, he plentifully
anointed the seams of the sewn skins. The boat, thus turned topsy-turvy,
looked like a huge walnut shell covered with red and reeking hide,
or the skull of some Titan who had been scalped. “There!” cried Rufus
Dawes, triumphant. “Twelve hours in the sun to tighten the hides, and
she’ll swim like a duck.”

The next day was spent in minor preparations. The jerked goat-meat was
packed securely into as small a compass as possible. The rum barrel was
filled with water, and water bags were improvised out of portions of
the intestines of the goats. Rufus Dawes, having filled these last with
water, ran a wooden skewer through their mouths, and twisted it tight,
tourniquet fashion. He also stripped cylindrical pieces of bark, and
having sewn each cylinder at the side, fitted to it a bottom of the same
material, and caulked the seams with gum and pine-tree resin. Thus four
tolerable buckets were obtained. One goatskin yet remained, and out of
that it was determined to make a sail. “The currents are strong,” said
Rufus Dawes, “and we shall not be able to row far with such oars as we
have got. If we get a breeze it may save our lives.” It was impossible
to “step” a mast in the frail basket structure, but this difficulty was
overcome by a simple contrivance. From thwart to thwart two poles were
bound, and the mast, lashed between these poles with thongs of raw hide,
was secured by shrouds of twisted fishing line running fore and aft.
Sheets of bark were placed at the bottom of the craft, and made a safe
flooring. It was late in the afternoon on the fourth day when these
preparations were completed, and it was decided that on the morrow they
should adventure the journey. “We will coast down to the Bar,” said
Rufus Dawes, “and wait for the slack of the tide. I can do no more now.”

Sylvia, who had seated herself on a rock at a little distance, called
to them. Her strength was restored by the fresh meat, and her childish
spirits had risen with the hope of safety. The mercurial little creature
had wreathed seaweed about her head, and holding in her hand a long twig
decorated with a tuft of leaves to represent a wand, she personified one
of the heroines of her books.

“I am the Queen of the Island,” she said merrily, “and you are my
obedient subjects. Pray, Sir Eglamour, is the boat ready?”

“It is, your Majesty,” said poor Dawes.

“Then we will see it. Come, walk in front of me. I won’t ask you to
rub your nose upon the ground, like Man Friday, because that would be
uncomfortable. Mr. Frere, you don’t play?”

“Oh, yes!” says Frere, unable to withstand the charming pout that
accompanied the words. “I’ll play. What am I to do?”

“You must walk on this side, and be respectful. Of course it is only
Pretend, you know,” she added, with a quick consciousness of Frere’s
conceit. “Now then, the Queen goes down to the Seashore surrounded by
her Nymphs! There is no occasion to laugh, Mr. Frere. Of course, Nymphs
are very different from you, but then we can’t help that.”

Marching in this pathetically ridiculous fashion across the sand, they
halted at the coracle. “So that is the boat!” says the Queen, fairly
surprised out of her assumption of dignity. “You are a Wonderful Man,
Mr. Dawes!”

Rufus Dawes smiled sadly. “It is very simple.”

“Do you call this simple?” says Frere, who in the general joy had
shaken off a portion of his sulkiness. “By George, I don’t! This is
ship-building with a vengeance, this is. There’s no scheming about
this--it’s all sheer hard work.”

“Yes!” echoed Sylvia, “sheer hard work--sheer hard work by good Mr.
Dawes!” And she began to sing a childish chant of triumph, drawing lines
and letters in the sand the while, with the sceptre of the Queen.

“Good Mr. Dawes! Good Mr. Dawes! This is the work of Good Mr. Dawes!”

Maurice could not resist a sneer.

“See-saw, Margery Daw, Sold her bed, and lay upon straw!” said he.

“Good Mr. Dawes!” repeated Sylvia. “Good Mr. Dawes! Why shouldn’t I say
it? You are disagreeable, sir. I won’t play with you any more,” and she
went off along the sand.

“Poor little child,” said Rufus Dawes. “You speak too harshly to her.”

Frere--now that the boat was made--had regained his self-confidence.
Civilization seemed now brought sufficiently close to him to warrant his
assuming the position of authority to which his social position entitled
him. “One would think that a boat had never been built before to hear
her talk,” he said. “If this washing-basket had been one of my old
uncle’s three-deckers, she couldn’t have said much more. By the Lord!”
 he added, with a coarse laugh, “I ought to have a natural talent for
ship-building; for if the old villain hadn’t died when he did, I should
have been a ship-builder myself.”

Rufus Dawes turned his back at the word “died”, and busied himself with
the fastenings of the hides. Could the other have seen his face, he
would have been struck by its sudden pallor.

“Ah!” continued Frere, half to himself, and half to his companion,
“that’s a sum of money to lose, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?” asked the convict, without turning his face.

“Mean! Why, my good fellow, I should have been left a quarter of a
million of money, but the old hunks who was going to give it to me died
before he could alter his will, and every shilling went to a scapegrace
son, who hadn’t been near the old man for years. That’s the way of the
world, isn’t it?”

Rufus Dawes, still keeping his face away, caught his breath as if in
astonishment, and then, recovering himself, he said in a harsh voice, “A
fortunate fellow--that son!”

“Fortunate!” cries Frere, with another oath. “Oh yes, he was fortunate!
He was burnt to death in the Hydaspes, and never heard of his luck. His
mother has got the money, though. I never saw a shilling of it.” And
then, seemingly displeased with himself for having allowed his tongue
to get the better of his dignity, he walked away to the fire, musing,
doubtless, on the difference between Maurice Frere, with a quarter of a
million, disporting himself in the best society that could be procured,
with command of dog-carts, prize-fighters, and gamecocks galore; and
Maurice Frere, a penniless lieutenant, marooned on the barren coast of
Macquarie Harbour, and acting as boat-builder to a runaway convict.

Rufus Dawes was also lost in reverie. He leant upon the gunwale of
the much-vaunted boat, and his eyes were fixed upon the sea, weltering
golden in the sunset, but it was evident that he saw nothing of the
scene before him. Struck dumb by the sudden intelligence of his fortune,
his imagination escaped from his control, and fled away to those
scenes which he had striven so vainly to forget. He was looking far
away--across the glittering harbour and the wide sea beyond it--looking
at the old house at Hampstead, with its well-remembered gloomy garden.
He pictured himself escaped from this present peril, and freed from the
sordid thraldom which so long had held him. He saw himself returning,
with some plausible story of his wanderings, to take possession of the
wealth which was his--saw himself living once more, rich, free, and
respected, in the world from which he had been so long an exile. He saw
his mother’s sweet pale face, the light of a happy home circle. He saw
himself--received with tears of joy and marvelling affection--entering
into this home circle as one risen from the dead. A new life opened
radiant before him, and he was lost in the contemplation of his own

So absorbed was he that he did not hear the light footstep of the child
across the sand. Mrs. Vickers, having been told of the success which had
crowned the convict’s efforts, had overcome her weakness so far as
to hobble down the beach to the boat, and now, heralded by Sylvia,
approached, leaning on the arm of Maurice Frere.

“Mamma has come to see the boat, Mr. Dawes!” cries Sylvia, but Dawes did
not hear.

The child reiterated her words, but still the silent figure did not

“Mr. Dawes!” she cried again, and pulled him by the coat-sleeve.

The touch aroused him, and looking down, he saw the pretty, thin face
upturned to his. Scarcely conscious of what he did, and still following
out the imagining which made him free, wealthy, and respected, he
caught the little creature in his arms--as he might have caught his own
daughter--and kissed her. Sylvia said nothing; but Mr. Frere--arrived,
by his chain of reasoning, at quite another conclusion as to the state
of affairs--was astonished at the presumption of the man. The lieutenant
regarded himself as already reinstated in his old position, and with
Mrs. Vickers on his arm, reproved the apparent insolence of the convict
as freely as he would have done had they both been at his own little
kingdom of Maria Island. “You insolent beggar!” he cried. “Do you dare!
Keep your place, sir!”

The sentence recalled Rufus Dawes to reality. His place was that of a
convict. What business had he with tenderness for the daughter of his
master? Yet, after all he had done, and proposed to do, this harsh
judgment upon him seemed cruel. He saw the two looking at the boat he
had built. He marked the flush of hope on the cheek of the poor lady,
and the full-blown authority that already hardened the eye of Maurice
Frere, and all at once he understood the result of what he had done. He
had, by his own act, given himself again to bondage. As long as escape
was impracticable, he had been useful, and even powerful. Now he had
pointed out the way of escape, he had sunk into the beast of burden once
again. In the desert he was “Mr.” Dawes, the saviour; in civilized life
he would become once more Rufus Dawes, the ruffian, the prisoner, the
absconder. He stood mute, and let Frere point out the excellences of the
craft in silence; and then, feeling that the few words of thanks uttered
by the lady were chilled by her consciousness of the ill-advised freedom
he had taken with the child, he turned on his heel, and strode up into
the bush.

“A queer fellow,” said Frere, as Mrs. Vickers followed the retreating
figure with her eyes. “Always in an ill temper.” “Poor man! He has
behaved very kindly to us,” said Mrs. Vickers. Yet even she felt the
change of circumstance, and knew that, without any reason she could
name, her blind trust and hope in the convict who had saved their lives
had been transformed into a patronizing kindliness which was quite
foreign to esteem or affection.

“Come, let us have some supper,” says Frere. “The last we shall eat
here, I hope. He will come back when his fit of sulks is over.”

But he did not come back, and, after a few expressions of wonder at his
absence, Mrs. Vickers and her daughter, rapt in the hopes and fears
of the morrow, almost forgot that he had left them. With marvellous
credulity they looked upon the terrible stake they were about to
play for as already won. The possession of the boat seemed to them so
wonderful, that the perils of the voyage they were to make in it were
altogether lost sight of. As for Maurice Frere, he was rejoiced that
the convict was out of the way. He wished that he was out of the way


Having got out of eye-shot of the ungrateful creatures he had
befriended, Rufus Dawes threw himself upon the ground in an agony of
mingled rage and regret. For the first time for six years he had tasted
the happiness of doing good, the delight of self-abnegation. For the
first time for six years he had broken through the selfish misanthropy
he had taught himself. And this was his reward! He had held his temper
in check, in order that it might not offend others. He had banished the
galling memory of his degradation, lest haply some shadow of it might
seem to fall upon the fair child whose lot had been so strangely cast
with his. He had stifled the agony he suffered, lest its expression
should give pain to those who seemed to feel for him. He had forborne
retaliation, when retaliation would have been most sweet. Having all
these years waited and watched for a chance to strike his persecutors,
he had held his hand now that an unlooked-for accident had placed the
weapon of destruction in his grasp. He had risked his life, forgone his
enmities, almost changed his nature--and his reward was cold looks and
harsh words, so soon as his skill had paved the way to freedom.
This knowledge coming upon him while the thrill of exultation at the
astounding news of his riches yet vibrated in his brain, made him
grind his teeth with rage at his own hard fate. Bound by the purest and
holiest of ties--the affection of a son to his mother--he had condemned
himself to social death, rather than buy his liberty and life by a
revelation which would shame the gentle creature whom he loved. By a
strange series of accidents, fortune had assisted him to maintain the
deception he had practised. His cousin had not recognized him. The very
ship in which he was believed to have sailed had been lost with every
soul on board. His identity had been completely destroyed--no link
remained which could connect Rufus Dawes, the convict, with Richard
Devine, the vanished heir to the wealth of the dead ship-builder.

Oh, if he had only known! If, while in the gloomy prison, distracted by
a thousand fears, and weighed down by crushing evidence of circumstance,
he had but guessed that death had stepped between Sir Richard and his
vengeance, he might have spared himself the sacrifice he had made. He
had been tried and condemned as a nameless sailor, who could call no
witnesses in his defence, and give no particulars as to his previous
history. It was clear to him now that he might have adhered to his
statement of ignorance concerning the murder, locked in his breast
the name of the murderer, and have yet been free. Judges are just, but
popular opinion is powerful, and it was not impossible that Richard
Devine, the millionaire, would have escaped the fate which had overtaken
Rufus Dawes, the sailor. Into his calculations in the prison--when,
half-crazed with love, with terror, and despair, he had counted up his
chances of life--the wild supposition that he had even then inherited
the wealth of the father who had disowned him, had never entered. The
knowledge of that fact would have altered the whole current of his life,
and he learnt it for the first time now--too late. Now, lying prone upon
the sand; now, wandering aimlessly up and down among the stunted trees
that bristled white beneath the mist-barred moon; now, sitting--as he
had sat in the prison long ago--with the head gripped hard between his
hands, swaying his body to and fro, he thought out the frightful problem
of his bitter life. Of little use was the heritage that he had gained. A
convict-absconder, whose hands were hard with menial service, and whose
back was scarred with the lash, could never be received among the gently
nurtured. Let him lay claim to his name and rights, what then? He was a
convicted felon, and his name and rights had been taken from him by the
law. Let him go and tell Maurice Frere that he was his lost cousin. He
would be laughed at. Let him proclaim aloud his birth and innocence, and
the convict-sheds would grin, and the convict overseer set him to
harder labour. Let him even, by dint of reiteration, get his wild story
believed, what would happen? If it was heard in England--after the
lapse of years, perhaps--that a convict in the chain-gang in Macquarie
Harbour--a man held to be a murderer, and whose convict career was
one long record of mutiny and punishment--claimed to be the heir to an
English fortune, and to own the right to dispossess staid and worthy
English folk of their rank and station, with what feeling would the
announcement be received? Certainly not with a desire to redeem this
ruffian from his bonds and place him in the honoured seat of his dead
father. Such intelligence would be regarded as a calamity, an unhappy
blot upon a fair reputation, a disgrace to an honoured and unsullied
name. Let him succeed, let him return again to the mother who had by
this time become reconciled, in a measure, to his loss; he would, at the
best, be to her a living shame, scarcely less degrading than that which
she had dreaded.

But success was almost impossible. He did not dare to retrace his steps
through the hideous labyrinth into which he had plunged. Was he to show
his scarred shoulders as a proof that he was a gentleman and an innocent
man? Was he to relate the nameless infamies of Macquarie Harbour as a
proof that he was entitled to receive the hospitalities of the generous,
and to sit, a respected guest, at the tables of men of refinement? Was
he to quote the horrible slang of the prison-ship, and retail the filthy
jests of the chain-gang and the hulks, as a proof that he was a fit
companion for pure-minded women and innocent children? Suppose even
that he could conceal the name of the real criminal, and show himself
guiltless of the crime for which he had been condemned, all the wealth
in the world could not buy back that blissful ignorance of evil which
had once been his. All the wealth in the world could not purchase the
self-respect which had been cut out of him by the lash, or banish from
his brain the memory of his degradation.

For hours this agony of thought racked him. He cried out as though with
physical pain, and then lay in a stupor, exhausted with actual physical
suffering. It was hopeless to think of freedom and of honour. Let him
keep silence, and pursue the life fate had marked out for him. He would
return to bondage. The law would claim him as an absconder, and would
mete out to him such punishment as was fitting. Perhaps he might escape
severest punishment, as a reward for his exertions in saving the child.
He might consider himself fortunate if such was permitted to him.
Fortunate! Suppose he did not go back at all, but wandered away into the
wilderness and died? Better death than such a doom as his. Yet need he
die? He had caught goats, he could catch fish. He could build a hut.
In here was, perchance, at the deserted settlement some remnant of seed
corn that, planted, would give him bread. He had built a boat, he had
made an oven, he had fenced in a hut. Surely he could contrive to live
alone savage and free. Alone! He had contrived all these marvels alone!
Was not the boat he himself had built below upon the shore? Why not
escape in her, and leave to their fate the miserable creatures who had
treated him with such ingratitude?

The idea flashed into his brain, as though someone had spoken the words
into his ear. Twenty strides would place him in possession of the boat,
and half an hour’s drifting with the current would take him beyond
pursuit. Once outside the Bar, he would make for the westward, in the
hopes of falling in with some whaler. He would doubtless meet with one
before many days, and he was well supplied with provision and water in
the meantime. A tale of shipwreck would satisfy the sailors, and--he
paused--he had forgotten that the rags which he wore would betray him.
With an exclamation of despair, he started from the posture in which
he was lying. He thrust out his hands to raise himself, and his fingers
came in contact with something soft. He had been lying at the foot of
some loose stones that were piled cairnwise beside a low-growing bush;
and the object that he had touched was protruding from beneath these
stones. He caught it and dragged it forth. It was the shirt of poor
Bates. With trembling hands he tore away the stones, and pulled forth
the rest of the garments. They seemed as though they had been left
purposely for him. Heaven had sent him the very disguise he needed.

The night had passed during his reverie, and the first faint streaks of
dawn began to lighten in the sky. Haggard and pale, he rose to his feet,
and scarcely daring to think about what he proposed to do, ran towards
the boat. As he ran, however, the voice that he had heard encouraged
him. “Your life is of more importance than theirs. They will die, but
they have been ungrateful and deserve death. You will escape out of this
Hell, and return to the loving heart who mourns you. You can do more
good to mankind than by saving the lives of these people who despise
you. Moreover, they may not die. They are sure to be sent for. Think of
what awaits you when you return--an absconded convict!”

He was within three feet of the boat, when he suddenly checked himself,
and stood motionless, staring at the sand with as much horror as though
he saw there the Writing which foretold the doom of Belshazzar. He
had come upon the sentence traced by Sylvia the evening before, and
glittering in the low light of the red sun suddenly risen from out the
sea, it seemed to him that the letters had shaped themselves at his very


“Good Mr. Dawes”! What a frightful reproach there was to him in that
simple sentence! What a world of cowardice, baseness, and cruelty, had
not those eleven letters opened to him! He heard the voice of the child
who had nursed him, calling on him to save her. He saw her at that
instant standing between him and the boat, as she had stood when she
held out to him the loaf, on the night of his return to the settlement.

He staggered to the cavern, and, seizing the sleeping Frere by the arm,
shook him violently. “Awake! awake!” he cried, “and let us leave this
place!” Frere, starting to his feet, looked at the white face and
bloodshot eyes of the wretched man before him with blunt astonishment.
“What’s the matter with you, man?” he said. “You look as if you’d seen a

At the sound of his voice Rufus Dawes gave a long sigh, and drew his
hand across his eyes.

“Come, Sylvia!” shouted Frere. “It’s time to get up. I am ready to go!”

The sacrifice was complete. The convict turned away, and two great
glistening tears rolled down his rugged face, and fell upon the sand.


An hour after sunrise, the frail boat, which was the last hope of these
four human beings, drifted with the outgoing current towards the mouth
of the harbour. When first launched she had come nigh swamping, being
overloaded, and it was found necessary to leave behind a great portion
of the dried meat. With what pangs this was done can be easily imagined,
for each atom of food seemed to represent an hour of life. Yet there was
no help for it. As Frere said, it was “neck or nothing with them”. They
must get away at all hazards.

That evening they camped at the mouth of the Gates, Dawes being afraid
to risk a passage until the slack of the tide, and about ten o’clock
at night adventured to cross the Bar. The night was lovely, and the
sea calm. It seemed as though Providence had taken pity on them; for,
notwithstanding the insecurity of the craft and the violence of the
breakers, the dreaded passage was made with safety. Once, indeed, when
they had just entered the surf, a mighty wave, curling high above them,
seemed about to overwhelm the frail structure of skins and wickerwork;
but Rufus Dawes, keeping the nose of the boat to the sea, and Frere
baling with his hat, they succeeded in reaching deep water. A great
misfortune, however, occurred. Two of the bark buckets, left by some
unpardonable oversight uncleated, were washed overboard, and with
them nearly a fifth of their scanty store of water. In the face of
the greater peril, the accident seemed trifling; and as, drenched and
chilled, they gained the open sea, they could not but admit that fortune
had almost miraculously befriended them.

They made tedious way with their rude oars; a light breeze from the
north-west sprang up with the dawn, and, hoisting the goat-skin sail,
they crept along the coast. It was resolved that the two men should keep
watch and watch; and Frere for the second time enforced his authority by
giving the first watch to Rufus Dawes. “I am tired,” he said, “and shall
sleep for a little while.”

Rufus Dawes, who had not slept for two nights, and who had done all the
harder work, said nothing. He had suffered so much during the last two
days that his senses were dulled to pain.

Frere slept until late in the afternoon, and, when he woke, found the
boat still tossing on the sea, and Sylvia and her mother both seasick.
This seemed strange to him. Sea-sickness appeared to be a malady which
belonged exclusively to civilization. Moodily watching the great green
waves which curled incessantly between him and the horizon, he marvelled
to think how curiously events had come about. A leaf had, as it were,
been torn out of his autobiography. It seemed a lifetime since he had
done anything but moodily scan the sea or shore. Yet, on the morning of
leaving the settlement, he had counted the notches on a calendar-stick
he carried, and had been astonished to find them but twenty-two in
number. Taking out his knife, he cut two nicks in the wicker gunwale of
the coracle. That brought him to twenty-four days. The mutiny had taken
place on the 13th of January; it was now the 6th of February. “Surely,”
 thought he, “the Ladybird might have returned by this time.” There was
no one to tell him that the Ladybird had been driven into Port Davey by
stress of weather, and detained there for seventeen days.

That night the wind fell, and they had to take to their oars. Rowing
all night, they made but little progress, and Rufus Dawes suggested that
they should put in to the shore and wait until the breeze sprang up.
But, upon getting under the lee of a long line of basaltic rocks which
rose abruptly out of the sea, they found the waves breaking furiously
upon a horseshoe reef, six or seven miles in length. There was nothing
for it but to coast again. They coasted for two days, without a sign
of a sail, and on the third day a great wind broke upon them from the
south-east, and drove them back thirty miles. The coracle began to leak,
and required constant bailing. What was almost as bad, the rum cask,
that held the best part of their water, had leaked also, and was now
half empty. They caulked it, by cutting out the leak, and then plugging
the hole with linen.

“It’s lucky we ain’t in the tropics,” said Frere. Poor Mrs. Vickers,
lying in the bottom of the boat, wrapped in her wet shawl, and chilled
to the bone with the bitter wind, had not the heart to speak. Surely
the stifling calm of the tropics could not be worse than this bleak and
barren sea.

The position of the four poor creatures was now almost desperate. Mrs.
Vickers, indeed, seemed completely prostrated; and it was evident that,
unless some help came, she could not long survive the continued exposure
to the weather. The child was in somewhat better case. Rufus Dawes had
wrapped her in his woollen shirt, and, unknown to Frere, had divided
with her daily his allowance of meat. She lay in his arms at night, and
in the day crept by his side for shelter and protection. As long as she
was near him she felt safe. They spoke little to each other, but when
Rufus Dawes felt the pressure of her tiny hand in his, or sustained the
weight of her head upon his shoulder, he almost forgot the cold that
froze him, and the hunger that gnawed him.

So two more days passed, and yet no sail. On the tenth day after
their departure from Macquarie Harbour they came to the end of their
provisions. The salt water had spoiled the goat-meat, and soaked the
bread into a nauseous paste. The sea was still running high, and the
wind, having veered to the north, was blowing with increased violence.
The long low line of coast that stretched upon their left hand was at
times obscured by a blue mist. The water was the colour of mud, and
the sky threatened rain. The wretched craft to which they had entrusted
themselves was leaking in four places. If caught in one of the frequent
storms which ravaged that iron-bound coast, she could not live an hour.
The two men, wearied, hungry, and cold, almost hoped for the end to come
quickly. To add to their distress, the child was seized with fever.
She was hot and cold by turns, and in the intervals of moaning talked
deliriously. Rufus Dawes, holding her in his arms, watched the suffering
he was unable to alleviate with a savage despair at his heart. Was she
to die after all?

So another day and night passed, and the eleventh morning saw the boat
yet alive, rolling in the trough of the same deserted sea. The four
exiles lay in her almost without breath.

All at once Dawes uttered a cry, and, seizing the sheet, put the clumsy
craft about. “A sail! a sail!” he cried. “Do you not see her?”

Frere’s hungry eyes ranged the dull water in vain.

“There is no sail, fool!” he said. “You mock us!”

The boat, no longer following the line of the coast, was running nearly
due south, straight into the great Southern Ocean. Frere tried to wrest
the thong from the hand of the convict, and bring the boat back to her
course. “Are you mad?” he asked, in fretful terror, “to run us out to

“Sit down!” returned the other, with a menacing gesture, and staring
across the grey water. “I tell you I see a sail!”

Frere, overawed by the strange light which gleamed in the eyes of his
companion, shifted sulkily back to his place. “Have your own way,”
 he said, “madman! It serves me right for putting off to sea in such a
devil’s craft as this!”

After all, what did it matter? As well be drowned in mid-ocean as in
sight of land.

The long day wore out, and no sail appeared. The wind freshened towards
evening, and the boat, plunging clumsily on the long brown waves,
staggered as though drunk with the water she had swallowed, for at one
place near the bows the water ran in and out as through a slit in a wine
skin. The coast had altogether disappeared, and the huge ocean--vast,
stormy, and threatening--heaved and hissed all around them. It seemed
impossible that they should live until morning. But Rufus Dawes, with
his eyes fixed on some object visible alone to him, hugged the child in
his arms, and drove the quivering coracle into the black waste of night
and sea. To Frere, sitting sullenly in the bows, the aspect of this grim
immovable figure, with its back-blown hair and staring eyes, had in it
something supernatural and horrible. He began to think that privation
and anxiety had driven the unhappy convict mad.

Thinking and shuddering over his fate, he fell--as it seemed to
him--into a momentary sleep, in the midst of which someone called to
him. He started up, with shaking knees and bristling hair. The day had
broken, and the dawn, in one long pale streak of sickly saffron, lay low
on the left hand. Between this streak of saffron-coloured light and the
bows of the boat gleamed for an instant a white speck.

“A sail! a sail!” cried Rufus Dawes, a wild light gleaming in his eyes,
and a strange tone vibrating in his voice. “Did I not tell you that I
saw a sail?”

Frere, utterly confounded, looked again, with his heart in his mouth,
and again did the white speck glimmer. For an instant he felt almost
safe, and then a blanker despair than before fell upon him. From the
distance at which she was, it was impossible for the ship to sight the

“They will never see us!” he cried. “Dawes--Dawes! Do you hear? They
will never see us!”

Rufus Dawes started as if from a trance. Lashing the sheet to the pole
which served as a gunwale, he laid the sleeping child by her mother, and
tearing up the strip of bark on which he had been sitting, moved to the
bows of the boat.

“They will see this! Tear up that board! So! Now, place it thus across
the bows. Hack off that sapling end! Now that dry twist of osier! Never
mind the boat, man; we can afford to leave her now. Tear off that outer
strip of hide. See, the wood beneath is dry! Quick--you are so slow.”

“What are you going to do?” cried Frere, aghast, as the convict tore
up all the dry wood he could find, and heaped it on the sheet of bark
placed on the bows.

“To make a fire! See!”

Frere began to comprehend. “I have three matches left,” he said,
fumbling, with trembling fingers, in his pocket. “I wrapped them in one
of the leaves of the book to keep them dry.”

The word “book” was a new inspiration. Rufus Dawes seized upon the
English History, which had already done such service, tore out the drier
leaves in the middle of the volume, and carefully added them to the
little heap of touchwood.

“Now, steady!”

The match was struck and lighted. The paper, after a few obstinate
curlings, caught fire, and Frere, blowing the young flame with his
breath, the bark began to burn. He piled upon the fire all that was
combustible, the hides began to shrivel, and a great column of black
smoke rose up over the sea.

“Sylvia!” cried Rufus Dawes. “Sylvia! My darling! You are saved!”

She opened her blue eyes and looked at him, but gave no sign of
recognition. Delirium had hold of her, and in the hour of safety the
child had forgotten her preserver. Rufus Dawes, overcome by this last
cruel stroke of fortune, sat down in the stern of the boat, with the
child in his arms, speechless. Frere, feeding the fire, thought that the
chance he had so longed for had come. With the mother at the point
of death, and the child delirious, who could testify to this hated
convict’s skilfulness? No one but Mr. Maurice Frere, and Mr. Maurice
Frere, as Commandant of convicts, could not but give up an “absconder”
 to justice.

The ship changed her course, and came towards this strange fire in the
middle of the ocean. The boat, the fore part of her blazing like a pine
torch, could not float above an hour. The little group of the convict
and the child remained motionless. Mrs. Vickers was lying senseless,
ignorant even of the approaching succour.

The ship--a brig, with American colours flying--came within hail of
them. Frere could almost distinguish figures on her deck. He made his
way aft to where Dawes was sitting, unconscious, with the child in his
arms, and stirred him roughly with his foot.

“Go forward,” he said, in tones of command, “and give the child to me.”

Rufus Dawes raised his head, and, seeing the approaching vessel, awoke
to the consciousness of his duty. With a low laugh, full of unutterable
bitterness, he placed the burden he had borne so tenderly in the arms of
the lieutenant, and moved to the blazing bows.

          *          *          *          *          *

The brig was close upon them. Her canvas loomed large and dusky,
shadowing the sea. Her wet decks shone in the morning sunlight. From her
bulwarks peered bearded and eager faces, looking with astonishment at
this burning boat and its haggard company, alone on that barren and
stormy ocean.

Frere, with Sylvia in his arms, waited for her.




“Society in Hobart Town, in this year of grace 1838, is, my dear lord,
composed of very curious elements.” So ran a passage in the sparkling
letter which the Rev. Mr. Meekin, newly-appointed chaplain, and
seven-days’ resident in Van Diemen’s Land, was carrying to the post
office, for the delectation of his patron in England. As the reverend
gentleman tripped daintily down the summer street that lay between the
blue river and the purple mountain, he cast his mild eyes hither and
thither upon human nature, and the sentence he had just penned recurred
to him with pleasurable appositeness. Elbowed by well-dressed officers
of garrison, bowing sweetly to well-dressed ladies, shrinking from
ill-dressed, ill-odoured ticket-of-leave men, or hastening across a
street to avoid being run down by the hand-carts that, driven by little
gangs of grey-clothed convicts, rattled and jangled at him unexpectedly
from behind corners, he certainly felt that the society through which he
moved was composed of curious elements. Now passed, with haughty nose in
the air, a newly-imported government official, relaxing for an instant
his rigidity of demeanour to smile languidly at the chaplain whom
Governor Sir John Franklin delighted to honour; now swaggered, with
coarse defiance of gentility and patronage, a wealthy ex-prisoner, grown
fat on the profits of rum. The population that was abroad on that sunny
December afternoon had certainly an incongruous appearance to a dapper
clergyman lately arrived from London, and missing, for the first time
in his sleek, easy-going life, those social screens which in London
civilization decorously conceal the frailties and vices of human nature.
Clad in glossy black, of the most fashionable clerical cut, with dandy
boots, and gloves of lightest lavender--a white silk overcoat hinting
that its wearer was not wholly free from sensitiveness to sun and
heat--the Reverend Meekin tripped daintily to the post office, and
deposited his letter. Two ladies met him as he turned.

“Mr. Meekin!”

Mr. Meekin’s elegant hat was raised from his intellectual brow and
hovered in the air, like some courteous black bird, for an instant.
“Mrs. Jellicoe! Mrs. Protherick! My dear leddies, this is an unexpected
pleasure! And where, pray, are you going on this lovely afternoon? To
stay in the house is positively sinful. Ah! what a climate--but
the Trail of the Serpent, my dear Mrs. Protherick--the Trail of the
Serpent--” and he sighed.

“It must be a great trial to you to come to the colony,” said Mrs.
Jellicoe, sympathizing with the sigh.

Meekin smiled, as a gentlemanly martyr might have smiled. “The Lord’s
work, dear leddies--the Lord’s work. I am but a poor labourer in the
vineyard, toiling through the heat and burden of the day.” The aspect
of him, with his faultless tie, his airy coat, his natty boots, and his
self-satisfied Christian smile, was so unlike a poor labourer toiling
through the heat and burden of the day, that good Mrs. Jellicoe, the
wife of an orthodox Comptroller of Convicts’ Stores, felt a horrible
thrill of momentary heresy. “I would rather have remained in England,”
 continued Mr. Meekin, smoothing one lavender finger with the tip of
another, and arching his elegant eyebrows in mild deprecation of any
praise of his self-denial, “but I felt it my duty not to refuse the
offer made me through the kindness of his lordship. Here is a field,
leddies--a field for the Christian pastor. They appeal to me, leddies,
these lambs of our Church--these lost and outcast lambs of our Church.”

Mrs. Jellicoe shook her gay bonnet ribbons at Mr. Meekin, with a hearty
smile. “You don’t know our convicts,” she said (from the tone of
her jolly voice it might have been “our cattle”). “They are horrible
creatures. And as for servants--my goodness, I have a fresh one every
week. When you have been here a little longer, you will know them
better, Mr. Meekin.”

“They are quite unbearable at times.” said Mrs. Protherick, the widow
of a Superintendent of Convicts’ Barracks, with a stately indignation
mantling in her sallow cheeks. “I am ordinarily the most patient
creature breathing, but I do confess that the stupid vicious wretches
that one gets are enough to put a saint out of temper.” “We have all
our crosses, dear leddies--all our crosses,” said the Rev. Mr. Meekin
piously. “Heaven send us strength to bear them! Good-morning.”

“Why, you are going our way,” said Mrs. Jellicoe. “We can walk

“Delighted! I am going to call on Major Vickers.”

“And I live within a stone’s throw,” returned Mrs. Protherick.

“What a charming little creature she is, isn’t she?”

“Who?” asked Mr. Meekin, as they walked.

“Sylvia. You don’t know her! Oh, a dear little thing.”

“I have only met Major Vickers at Government House,” said Meekin.

“I haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing his daughter.”

“A sad thing,” said Mrs. Jellicoe. “Quite a romance, if it was not so
sad, you know. His wife, poor Mrs. Vickers.”

“Indeed! What of her?” asked Meekin, bestowing a condescending bow on a
passer-by. “Is she an invalid?”

“She is dead, poor soul,” returned jolly Mrs. Jellicoe, with a fat sigh.
“You don’t mean to say you haven’t heard the story, Mr. Meekin?”

“My dear leddies, I have only been in Hobart Town a week, and I have not
heard the story.”

“It’s about the mutiny, you know, the mutiny at Macquarie Harbour.
The prisoners took the ship, and put Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia ashore
somewhere. Captain Frere was with them, too. The poor things had a
dreadful time, and nearly died. Captain Frere made a boat at last, and
they were picked up by a ship. Poor Mrs. Vickers only lived a few
hours, and little Sylvia--she was only twelve years old then--was quite
light-headed. They thought she wouldn’t recover.”

“How dreadful! And has she recovered?”

“Oh, yes, she’s quite strong now, but her memory’s gone.”

“Her memory?”

“Yes,” struck in Mrs. Protherick, eager to have a share in the
storytelling. “She doesn’t remember anything about the three or four
weeks they were ashore--at least, not distinctly.”

“It’s a great mercy!” interrupted Mrs. Jellicoe, determined to keep the
post of honour. “Who wants her to remember these horrors? From Captain
Frere’s account, it was positively awful!”

“You don’t say so!” said Mr. Meekin, dabbing his nose with a dainty

“A ‘bolter’--that’s what we call an escaped prisoner, Mr.
Meekin--happened to be left behind, and he found them out, and insisted
on sharing the provisions--the wretch! Captain Frere was obliged to
watch him constantly for fear he should murder them. Even in the boat he
tried to run them out to sea and escape. He was one of the worst men
in the Harbour, they say; but you should hear Captain Frere tell the

“And where is he now?” asked Mr. Meekin, with interest.

“Captain Frere?”

“No, the prisoner.”

“Oh, goodness, I don’t know--at Port Arthur, I think. I know that he was
tried for bolting, and would have been hanged but for Captain Frere’s

“Dear, dear! a strange story, indeed,” said Mr. Meekin. “And so the
young lady doesn’t know anything about it?” “Only what she has been
told, of course, poor dear. She’s engaged to Captain Frere.”

“Really! To the man who saved her. How charming--quite a romance!”

“Isn’t it? Everybody says so. And Captain Frere’s so much older than she

“But her girlish love clings to her heroic protector,” said Meekin,
mildly poetical. “Remarkable and beautiful. Quite the--hem!--the ivy
and the oak, dear leddies. Ah, in our fallen nature, what sweet spots--I
think this is the gate.”

A smart convict servant--he had been a pickpocket of note in days gone
by--left the clergyman to repose in a handsomely furnished drawing-room,
whose sun blinds revealed a wealth of bright garden flecked with
shadows, while he went in search of Miss Vickers. The Major was out, it
seemed, his duties as Superintendent of Convicts rendering such absences
necessary; but Miss Vickers was in the garden, and could be called in at
once. The Reverend Meekin, wiping his heated brow, and pulling down his
spotless wristbands, laid himself back on the soft sofa, soothed by the
elegant surroundings no less than by the coolness of the atmosphere.
Having no better comparison at hand, he compared this luxurious room,
with its soft couches, brilliant flowers, and opened piano, to the
chamber in the house of a West India planter, where all was glare and
heat and barbarism without, and all soft and cool and luxurious within.
He was so charmed with this comparison--he had a knack of being easily
pleased with his own thoughts--that he commenced to turn a fresh
sentence for the Bishop, and to sketch out an elegant description of
the oasis in his desert of a vineyard. While at this occupation, he was
disturbed by the sound of voices in the garden, and it appeared to him
that someone near at hand was sobbing and crying. Softly stepping on the
broad verandah, he saw, on the grass-plot, two persons, an old man and a
young girl. The sobbing proceeded from the old man.

“‘Deed, miss, it’s the truth, on my soul. I’ve but jest come back to yez
this morning. O my! but it’s a cruel trick to play an ould man.”

He was a white-haired old fellow, in a grey suit of convict frieze, and
stood leaning with one veiny hand upon the pedestal of a vase of roses.

“But it is your own fault, Danny; we all warned you against her,” said
the young girl softly. “Sure ye did. But oh! how did I think it, miss?
‘Tis the second time she served me so.”

“How long was it this time, Danny?”

“Six months, miss. She said I was a drunkard, and beat her. Beat her,
God help me!” stretching forth two trembling hands. “And they believed
her, o’ course. Now, when I kem back, there’s me little place all
thrampled by the boys, and she’s away wid a ship’s captain, saving your
presence, miss, dhrinking in the ‘George the Fourth’. O my, but it’s
hard on an old man!” and he fell to sobbing again.

The girl sighed. “I can do nothing for you, Danny. I dare say you can
work about the garden as you did before. I’ll speak to the Major when he
comes home.”

Danny, lifting his bleared eyes to thank her, caught sight of Mr.
Meekin, and saluted abruptly. Miss Vickers turned, and Mr. Meekin,
bowing his apologies, became conscious that the young lady was about
seventeen years of age, that her eyes were large and soft, her hair
plentiful and bright, and that the hand which held the little book she
had been reading was white and small.

“Miss Vickers, I think. My name is Meekin--the Reverend Arthur Meekin.”

“How do you do, Mr. Meekin?” said Sylvia, putting out one of her small
hands, and looking straight at him. “Papa will be in directly.”

“His daughter more than compensates for his absence, my dear Miss

“I don’t like flattery, Mr. Meekin, so don’t use it. At least,”
 she added, with a delicious frankness, that seemed born of her very
brightness and beauty, “not that sort of flattery. Young girls do like
flattery, of course. Don’t you think so?”

This rapid attack quite disconcerted Mr. Meekin, and he could only bow
and smile at the self-possessed young lady. “Go into the kitchen, Danny,
and tell them to give you some tobacco. Say I sent you. Mr. Meekin,
won’t you come in?”

“A strange old gentleman, that, Miss Vickers. A faithful retainer, I

“An old convict servant of ours,” said Sylvia. “He was with papa many
years ago. He has got into trouble lately, though, poor old man.”

“Into trouble?” asked Mr. Meekin, as Sylvia took off her hat.

“On the roads, you know. That’s what they call it here. He married a
free woman much younger than himself, and she makes him drink, and then
gives him in charge for insubordination.”

“For insubordination! Pardon me, my dear young lady, did I understand
you rightly?”

“Yes, insubordination. He is her assigned servant, you know,” said
Sylvia, as if such a condition of things was the most ordinary in
the world, “and if he misbehaves himself, she sends him back to the

The Reverend Mr. Meekin opened his mild eyes very wide indeed. “What
an extraordinary anomaly! I am beginning, my dear Miss Vickers, to find
myself indeed at the antipodes.”

“Society here is different from society in England, I believe. Most new
arrivals say so,” returned Sylvia quietly.

“But for a wife to imprison her husband, my dear young lady!”

“She can have him flogged if she likes. Danny has been flogged. But then
his wife is a bad woman. He was very silly to marry her; but you can’t
reason with an old man in love, Mr. Meekin.”

Mr. Meekin’s Christian brow had grown crimson, and his decorous blood
tingled to his finger-tips. To hear a young lady talk in such an open
way was terrible. Why, in reading the Decalogue from the altar, Mr.
Meekin was accustomed to soften one indecent prohibition, lest
its uncompromising plainness of speech might offend the delicate
sensibilities of his female souls! He turned from the dangerous theme
without an instant’s pause, for wonder at the strange power accorded to
Hobart Town “free” wives. “You have been reading?”

“‘Paul et Virginie’. I have read it before in English.”

“Ah, you read French, then, my dear young lady?”

“Not very well. I had a master for some months, but papa had to send
him back to the gaol again. He stole a silver tankard out of the

“A French master! Stole--”

“He was a prisoner, you know. A clever man. He wrote for the London
Magazine. I have read his writings. Some of them are quite above the

“And how did he come to be transported?” asked Mr. Meekin, feeling that
his vineyard was getting larger than he had anticipated.

“Poisoning his niece, I think, but I forget the particulars. He was a
gentlemanly man, but, oh, such a drunkard!”

Mr. Meekin, more astonished than ever at this strange country, where
beautiful young ladies talked of poisoning and flogging as matters of
little moment, where wives imprisoned their husbands, and murderers
taught French, perfumed the air with his cambric handkerchief in

“You have not been here long, Mr. Meekin,” said Sylvia, after a pause.

“No, only a week; and I confess I am surprised. A lovely climate, but,
as I said just now to Mrs. Jellicoe, the Trail of the Serpent--the Trail
of the Serpent--my dear young lady.”

“If you send all the wretches in England here, you must expect the Trail
of the Serpent,” said Sylvia. “It isn’t the fault of the colony.”

“Oh, no; certainly not,” returned Meekin, hastening to apologize. “But
it is very shocking.”

“Well, you gentlemen should make it better. I don’t know what the
penal settlements are like, but the prisoners in the town have not much
inducement to become good men.”

“They have the beautiful Liturgy of our Holy Church read to them twice
every week, my dear young lady,” said Mr. Meekin, as though he should
solemnly say, “if that doesn’t reform them, what will?”

“Oh, yes,” returned Sylvia, “they have that, certainly; but that is only
on Sundays. But don’t let us talk about this, Mr. Meekin,” she added,
pushing back a stray curl of golden hair. “Papa says that I am not to
talk about these things, because they are all done according to the
Rules of the Service, as he calls it.”

“An admirable notion of papa’s,” said Meekin, much relieved as the door
opened, and Vickers and Frere entered.

Vickers’s hair had grown white, but Frere carried his thirty years as
easily as some men carry two-and-twenty.

“My dear Sylvia,” began Vickers, “here’s an extraordinary thing!” and
then, becoming conscious of the presence of the agitated Meekin, he

“You know Mr. Meekin, papa?” said Sylvia. “Mr. Meekin, Captain Frere.”

“I have that pleasure,” said Vickers. “Glad to see you, sir. Pray sit
down.” Upon which, Mr. Meekin beheld Sylvia unaffectedly kiss both
gentlemen; but became strangely aware that the kiss bestowed upon her
father was warmer than that which greeted her affianced husband.

“Warm weather, Mr. Meekin,” said Frere. “Sylvia, my darling, I hope you
have not been out in the heat. You have! My dear, I’ve begged you--”

“It’s not hot at all,” said Sylvia pettishly. “Nonsense! I’m not made
of butter--I sha’n’t melt. Thank you, dear, you needn’t pull the blind
down.” And then, as though angry with herself for her anger, she
added, “You are always thinking of me, Maurice,” and gave him her hand

“It’s very oppressive, Captain Frere,” said Meekin; “and to a stranger,
quite enervating.”

“Have a glass of wine,” said Frere, as if the house was his own. “One
wants bucking up a bit on a day like this.”

“Ay, to be sure,” repeated Vickers. “A glass of wine. Sylvia, dear, some
sherry. I hope she has not been attacking you with her strange theories,
Mr. Meekin.”

“Oh, dear, no; not at all,” returned Meekin, feeling that this charming
young lady was regarded as a creature who was not to be judged by
ordinary rules. “We got on famously, my dear Major.”

“That’s right,” said Vickers. “She is very plain-spoken, is my little
girl, and strangers can’t understand her sometimes. Can they, Poppet?”

Poppet tossed her head saucily. “I don’t know,” she said. “Why shouldn’t
they? But you were going to say something extraordinary when you came
in. What is it, dear?”

“Ah,” said Vickers with grave face. “Yes, a most extraordinary thing.
They’ve caught those villains.”

“What, you don’t mean? No, papa!” said Sylvia, turning round with
alarmed face.

In that little family there were, for conversational purposes, but one
set of villains in the world--the mutineers of the Osprey.

“They’ve got four of them in the bay at this moment--Rex, Barker,
Shiers, and Lesly. They are on board the Lady Jane. The most
extraordinary story I ever heard in my life. The fellows got to China
and passed themselves off as shipwrecked sailors. The merchants in
Canton got up a subscription, and sent them to London. They were
recognized there by old Pine, who had been surgeon on board the ship
they came out in.”

Sylvia sat down on the nearest chair, with heightened colour. “And where
are the others?”

“Two were executed in England; the other six have not been taken. These
fellows have been sent out for trial.”

“To what are you alluding, dear sir?” asked Meekin, eyeing the sherry
with the gaze of a fasting saint.

“The piracy of a convict brig five years ago,” replied Vickers. “The
scoundrels put my poor wife and child ashore, and left them to starve.
If it hadn’t been for Frere--God bless him!--they would have died. They
shot the pilot and a soldier--and--but it’s a long story.”

“I have heard of it already,” said Meekin, sipping the sherry, which
another convict servant had brought for him; “and of your gallant
conduct, Captain Frere.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Frere, reddening. “We were all in the same
boat. Poppet, have a glass of wine?”

“No,” said Sylvia, “I don’t want any.”

She was staring at the strip of sunshine between the verandah and
the blind, as though the bright light might enable her to remember
something. “What’s the matter?” asked Frere, bending over her. “I was
trying to recollect, but I can’t, Maurice. It is all confused. I only
remember a great shore and a great sea, and two men, one of whom--that’s
you, dear--carried me in his arms.”

“Dear, dear,” said Mr. Meekin.

“She was quite a baby,” said Vickers, hastily, as though unwilling to
admit that her illness had been the cause of her forgetfulness.

“Oh, no; I was twelve years old,” said Sylvia; “that’s not a baby, you
know. But I think the fever made me stupid.”

Frere, looking at her uneasily, shifted in his seat. “There, don’t think
about it now,” he said.

“Maurice,” asked she suddenly, “what became of the other man?”

“Which other man?”

“The man who was with us; the other one, you know.”

“Poor Bates?”

“No, not Bates. The prisoner. What was his name?”

“Oh, ah--the prisoner,” said Frere, as if he, too, had forgotten.

“Why, you know, darling, he was sent to Port Arthur.”

“Ah!” said Sylvia, with a shudder. “And is he there still?”

“I believe so,” said Frere, with a frown.

“By the by,” said Vickers, “I suppose we shall have to get that fellow
up for the trial. We have to identify the villains.”

“Can’t you and I do that?” asked Frere uneasily.

“I am afraid not. I wouldn’t like to swear to a man after five years.”

“By George,” said Frere, “I’d swear to him! When once I see a man’s
face--that’s enough for me.”

“We had better get up a few prisoners who were at the Harbour at the
time,” said Vickers, as if wishing to terminate the discussion. “I
wouldn’t let the villains slip through my fingers for anything.”

“And are the men at Port Arthur old men?” asked Meekin.

“Old convicts,” returned Vickers. “It’s our place for ‘colonial
sentence’ men. The worst we have are there. It has taken the place of
Macquarie Harbour. What excitement there will be among them when the
schooner goes down on Monday!”

“Excitement! Indeed? How charming! Why?” asked Meekin.

“To bring up the witnesses, my dear sir. Most of the prisoners are
Lifers, you see, and a trip to Hobart Town is like a holiday for them.”

“And do they never leave the place when sentenced for life?” said
Meekin, nibbling a biscuit. “How distressing!”

“Never, except when they die,” answered Frere, with a laugh; “and then
they are buried on an island. Oh, it’s a fine place! You should come
down with me and have a look at it, Mr. Meekin. Picturesque, I can
assure you.”

“My dear Maurice,” says Sylvia, going to the piano, as if in protest to
the turn the conversation was taking, “how can you talk like that?”

“I should much like to see it,” said Meekin, still nibbling, “for Sir
John was saying something about a chaplaincy there, and I understand
that the climate is quite endurable.”

The convict servant, who had entered with some official papers for the
Major, stared at the dainty clergyman, and rough Maurice laughed again.

“Oh, it’s a stunning climate,” he said; “and nothing to do. Just the
place for you. There’s a regular little colony there. All the scandals
in Van Diemen’s Land are hatched at Port Arthur.”

This agreeable chatter about scandal and climate seemed a strange
contrast to the grave-yard island and the men who were prisoners for
life. Perhaps Sylvia thought so, for she struck a few chords, which,
compelling the party, out of sheer politeness, to cease talking for the
moment, caused the conversation to flag, and hinted to Mr. Meekin that
it was time for him to depart.

“Good afternoon, dear Miss Vickers,” he said, rising with his sweetest
smile. “Thank you for your delightful music. That piece is an old, old
favourite of mine. It was quite a favourite of dear Lady Jane’s, and
the Bishop’s. Pray excuse me, my dear Captain Frere, but this strange
occurrence--of the capture of the wreckers, you know--must be my
apology for touching on a delicate subject. How charming to contemplate!
Yourself and your dear young lady! The preserved and preserver, dear
Major. ‘None but the brave, you know, none but the brave, none but the
brave, deserve the fair!’ You remember glorious John, of course. Well,
good afternoon.”

“It’s rather a long invitation,” said Vickers, always well disposed to
anyone who praised his daughter, “but if you’ve nothing better to do,
come and dine with us on Christmas Day, Mr. Meekin. We usually have a
little gathering then.”

“Charmed,” said Meekin--“charmed, I am sure. It is so refreshing to meet
with persons of one’s own tastes in this delightful colony. ‘Kindred
souls together knit,’ you know, dear Miss Vickers. Indeed yes. Once
more--good afternoon.”

Sylvia burst into laughter as the door closed. “What a ridiculous
creature!” said she. “Bless the man, with his gloves and his umbrella,
and his hair and his scent! Fancy that mincing noodle showing me the way
to Heaven! I’d rather have old Mr. Bowes, papa, though he is as blind as
a beetle, and makes you so angry by bottling up his trumps as you call

“My dear Sylvia,” said Vickers, seriously, “Mr. Meekin is a clergyman,
you know.”

“Oh, I know,” said Sylvia, “but then, a clergyman can talk like a man,
can’t he? Why do they send such people here? I am sure they could do
much better at home. Oh, by the way, papa dear, poor old Danny’s come
back again. I told him he might go into the kitchen. May he, dear?”

“You’ll have the house full of these vagabonds, you little puss,” said
Vickers, kissing her. “I suppose I must let him stay. What has he been
doing now?”

“His wife,” said Sylvia, “locked him up, you know, for being drunk.
Wife! What do people want with wives, I wonder?”

“Ask Maurice,” said her father, smiling.

Sylvia moved away, and tossed her head.

“What does he know about it? Maurice, you are a great bear; and if you
hadn’t saved my life, you know, I shouldn’t love you a bit. There, you
may kiss me” (her voice grew softer). “This convict business has brought
it all back; and I should be ungrateful if I didn’t love you, dear.”

Maurice Frere, with suddenly crimsoned face, accepted the proffered
caress, and then turned to the window. A grey-clothed man was working in
the garden, and whistling as he worked. “They’re not so badly off,” said
Frere, under his breath.

“What’s that, sir?” asked Sylvia.

“That I am not half good enough for you,” cried Frere, with sudden
vehemence. “I--”

“It’s my happiness you’ve got to think of, Captain Bruin,” said the
girl. “You’ve saved my life, haven’t you, and I should be wicked if I
didn’t love you! No, no more kisses,” she added, putting out her hand.
“Come, papa, it’s cool now; let’s walk in the garden, and leave Maurice
to think of his own unworthiness.”

Maurice watched the retreating pair with a puzzled expression. “She
always leaves me for her father,” he said to himself. “I wonder if she
really loves me, or if it’s only gratitude, after all?”

He had often asked himself the same question during the five years of
his wooing, but he had never satisfactorily answered it.


The evening passed as it had passed a hundred times before; and having
smoked a pipe at the barracks, Captain Frere returned home. His home was
a cottage on the New Town Road--a cottage which he had occupied since
his appointment as Assistant Police Magistrate, an appointment given to
him as a reward for his exertions in connection with the Osprey mutiny.
Captain Maurice Frere had risen in life. Quartered in Hobart Town,
he had assumed a position in society, and had held several of those
excellent appointments which in the year 1834 were bestowed upon
officers of garrison. He had been Superintendent of Works at
Bridgewater, and when he got his captaincy, Assistant Police Magistrate
at Bothwell. The affair of the Osprey made a noise; and it was tacitly
resolved that the first “good thing” that fell vacant should be given to
the gallant preserver of Major Vickers’s child.

Major Vickers also prospered. He had always been a careful man, and
having saved some money, had purchased land on favourable terms. The
“assignment system” enabled him to cultivate portions of it at a small
expense, and, following the usual custom, he stocked his run with cattle
and sheep. He had sold his commission, and was now a comparatively
wealthy man. He owned a fine estate; the house he lived in was purchased
property. He was in good odour at Government House, and his office of
Superintendent of Convicts caused him to take an active part in that
local government which keeps a man constantly before the public.
Major Vickers, a colonist against his will, had become, by force of
circumstances, one of the leading men in Van Diemen’s Land. His daughter
was a good match for any man; and many ensigns and lieutenants, cursing
their hard lot in “country quarters”, many sons of settlers living on
their father’s station among the mountains, and many dapper clerks on
the civil establishment envied Maurice Frere his good fortune. Some went
so far as to say that the beautiful daughter of “Regulation Vickers” was
too good for the coarse red-faced Frere, who was noted for his fondness
for low society, and overbearing, almost brutal demeanour. No one
denied, however, that Captain Frere was a valuable officer. It was said
that, in consequence of his tastes, he knew more about the tricks of
convicts than any man on the island. It was said, even, that he was wont
to disguise himself, and mix with the pass-holders and convict
servants, in order to learn their signs and mysteries. When in charge at
Bridgewater it had been his delight to rate the chain-gangs in their
own hideous jargon, and to astound a new-comer by his knowledge of his
previous history. The convict population hated and cringed to him, for,
with his brutality, and violence, he mingled a ferocious good humour,
that resulted sometimes in tacit permission to go without the letter
of the law. Yet, as the convicts themselves said, “a man was never safe
with the Captain”; for, after drinking and joking with them, as the Sir
Oracle of some public-house whose hostess he delighted to honour, he
would disappear through a side door just as the constables burst in
at the back, and show himself as remorseless, in his next morning’s
sentence of the captured, as if he had never entered a tap-room in all
his life. His superiors called this “zeal”; his inferiors “treachery”.
For himself, he laughed. “Everything is fair to those wretches,” he was
accustomed to say.

As the time for his marriage approached, however, he had in a measure
given up these exploits, and strove, by his demeanour, to make his
acquaintances forget several remarkable scandals concerning his
private life, for the promulgation of which he once cared little. When
Commandant at the Maria Island, and for the first two years after his
return from the unlucky expedition to Macquarie Harbour, he had not
suffered any fear of society’s opinion to restrain his vices, but,
as the affection for the pure young girl, who looked upon him as her
saviour from a dreadful death, increased in honest strength, he had
resolved to shut up those dark pages in his colonial experience, and to
read therein no more. He was not remorseful, he was not even disgusted.
He merely came to the conclusion that, when a man married, he was to
consider certain extravagances common to all bachelors as at an end.
He had “had his fling, like all young men”, perhaps he had been foolish
like most young men, but no reproachful ghost of past misdeeds haunted
him. His nature was too prosaic to admit the existence of such phantoms.
Sylvia, in her purity and excellence, was so far above him, that in
raising his eyes to her, he lost sight of all the sordid creatures to
whose level he had once debased himself, and had come in part to regard
the sins he had committed, before his redemption by the love of this
bright young creature, as evil done by him under a past condition of
existence, and for the consequences of which he was not responsible. One
of the consequences, however, was very close to him at this moment. His
convict servant had, according to his instructions, sat up for him, and
as he entered, the man handed him a letter, bearing a superscription in
a female hand.

“Who brought this?” asked Frere, hastily tearing it open to read.
“The groom, sir. He said that there was a gentleman at the ‘George the
Fourth’ who wished to see you.”

Frere smiled, in admiration of the intelligence which had dictated such
a message, and then frowned in anger at the contents of the letter. “You
needn’t wait,” he said to the man. “I shall have to go back again, I

Changing his forage cap for a soft hat, and selecting a stick from a
miscellaneous collection in a corner, he prepared to retrace his steps.
“What does she want now?” he asked himself fiercely, as he strode down
the moonlit road; but beneath the fierceness there was an under-current
of petulance, which implied that, whatever “she” did want, she had a
right to expect.

The “George the Fourth” was a long low house, situated in Elizabeth
Street. Its front was painted a dull red, and the narrow panes of glass
in its windows, and the ostentatious affectation of red curtains and
homely comfort, gave to it a spurious appearance of old English
jollity. A knot of men round the door melted into air as Captain Frere
approached, for it was now past eleven o’clock, and all persons found
in the streets after eight could be compelled to “show their pass” or
explain their business. The convict constables were not scrupulous in
the exercise of their duty, and the bluff figure of Frere, clad in the
blue serge which he affected as a summer costume, looked not unlike that
of a convict constable.

Pushing open the side door with the confident manner of one well
acquainted with the house, Frere entered, and made his way along a
narrow passage to a glass door at the further end. A tap upon this door
brought a white-faced, pock-pitted Irish girl, who curtsied with servile
recognition of the visitor, and ushered him upstairs. The room into
which he was shown was a large one. It had three windows looking into
the street, and was handsomely furnished. The carpet was soft, the
candles were bright, and the supper tray gleamed invitingly from a table
between the windows. As Frere entered, a little terrier ran barking to
his feet. It was evident that he was not a constant visitor. The rustle
of a silk dress behind the terrier betrayed the presence of a woman; and
Frere, rounding the promontory of an ottoman, found himself face to face
with Sarah Purfoy.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. “Pray, sit down.”

This was the only greeting that passed between them, and Frere sat down,
in obedience to a motion of a plump hand that twinkled with rings.

The eleven years that had passed since we last saw this woman had dealt
gently with her. Her foot was as small and her hand as white as of yore.
Her hair, bound close about her head, was plentiful and glossy, and
her eyes had lost none of their dangerous brightness. Her figure was
coarser, and the white arm that gleamed through a muslin sleeve showed
an outline that a fastidious artist might wish to modify. The most
noticeable change was in her face. The cheeks owned no longer that
delicate purity which they once boasted, but had become thicker, while
here and there showed those faint red streaks--as though the rich blood
throbbed too painfully in the veins--which are the first signs of the
decay of “fine” women. With middle age and the fullness of figure
to which most women of her temperament are prone, had come also that
indescribable vulgarity of speech and manner which habitual absence of
moral restraint never fails to produce.

Maurice Frere spoke first; he was anxious to bring his visit to as
speedy a termination as possible. “What do you want of me?” he asked.

Sarah Purfoy laughed; a forced laugh, that sounded so unnatural, that
Frere turned to look at her. “I want you to do me a favour--a very great
favour; that is if it will not put you out of the way.”

“What do you mean?” asked Frere roughly, pursing his lips with a sullen
air. “Favour! What do you call this?” striking the sofa on which he
sat. “Isn’t this a favour? What do you call your precious house and all
that’s in it? Isn’t that a favour? What do you mean?”

To his utter astonishment the woman replied by shedding tears. For some
time he regarded her in silence, as if unwilling to be softened by such
shallow device, but eventually felt constrained to say something. “Have
you been drinking again?” he asked, “or what’s the matter with you?
Tell me what it is you want, and have done with it. I don’t know what
possessed me to come here at all.”

Sarah sat upright, and dashed away her tears with one passionate hand.

“I am ill, can’t you see, you fool!” said she. “The news has unnerved
me. If I have been drinking, what then? It’s nothing to you, is it?”

“Oh, no,” returned the other, “it’s nothing to me. You are the principal
party concerned. If you choose to bloat yourself with brandy, do it by
all means.”

“You don’t pay for it, at any rate!” said she, with quickness of
retaliation which showed that this was not the only occasion on which
they had quarrelled.

“Come,” said Frere, impatiently brutal, “get on. I can’t stop here all

She suddenly rose, and crossed to where he was standing.

“Maurice, you were very fond of me once.”

“Once,” said Maurice.

“Not so very many years ago.”

“Hang it!” said he, shifting his arm from beneath her hand, “don’t let
us have all that stuff over again. It was before you took to drinking
and swearing, and going raving mad with passion, any way.”

“Well, dear,” said she, with her great glittering eyes belying the soft
tones of her voice, “I suffered for it, didn’t I? Didn’t you turn me out
into the streets? Didn’t you lash me with your whip like a dog? Didn’t
you put me in gaol for it, eh? It’s hard to struggle against you,

The compliment to his obstinacy seemed to please him--perhaps the crafty
woman intended that it should--and he smiled.

“Well, there; let old times be old times, Sarah. You haven’t done badly,
after all,” and he looked round the well-furnished room. “What do you

“There was a transport came in this morning.”


“You know who was on board her, Maurice!”

Maurice brought one hand into the palm of the other with a rough laugh.

“Oh, that’s it, is it! ‘Gad, what a flat I was not to think of it
before! You want to see him, I suppose?” She came close to him, and, in
her earnestness, took his hand. “I want to save his life!”

“Oh, that be hanged, you know! Save his life! It can’t be done.”

“You can do it, Maurice.”

“I save John Rex’s life?” cried Frere. “Why, you must be mad!”

“He is the only creature that loves me, Maurice--the only man who cares
for me. He has done no harm. He only wanted to be free--was it not
natural? You can save him if you like. I only ask for his life. What
does it matter to you? A miserable prisoner--his death would be of no
use. Let him live, Maurice.”

Maurice laughed. “What have I to do with it?”

“You are the principal witness against him. If you say that he behaved
well--and he did behave well, you know: many men would have left you to
starve--they won’t hang him.”

“Oh, won’t they! That won’t make much difference.”

“Ah, Maurice, be merciful!” She bent towards him, and tried to retain
his hand, but he withdrew it.

“You’re a nice sort of woman to ask me to help your lover--a man who
left me on that cursed coast to die, for all he cared,” he said, with a
galling recollection of his humiliation of five years back. “Save him!
Confound him, not I!”

“Ah, Maurice, you will.” She spoke with a suppressed sob in her voice.
“What is it to you? You don’t care for me now. You beat me, and turned
me out of doors, though I never did you wrong. This man was a husband
to me--long, long before I met you. He never did you any harm; he never
will. He will bless you if you save him, Maurice.”

Frere jerked his head impatiently. “Bless me!” he said. “I don’t want
his blessings. Let him swing. Who cares?”

Still she persisted, with tears streaming from her eyes, with white arms
upraised, on her knees even, catching at his coat, and beseeching him
in broken accents. In her wild, fierce beauty and passionate abandonment
she might have been a deserted Ariadne--a suppliant Medea. Anything
rather than what she was--a dissolute, half-maddened woman, praying for
the pardon of her convict husband.

Maurice Frere flung her off with an oath. “Get up!” he cried brutally,
“and stop that nonsense. I tell you the man’s as good as dead for all I
shall do to save him.”

At this repulse, her pent-up passion broke forth. She sprang to her
feet, and, pushing back the hair that in her frenzied pleading had
fallen about her face, poured out upon him a torrent of abuse. “You! Who
are you, that you dare to speak to me like that? His little finger is
worth your whole body. He is a man, a brave man, not a coward, like you.
A coward! Yes, a coward! a coward! A coward! You are very brave with
defenceless men and weak women. You have beaten me until I was bruised
black, you cur; but who ever saw you attack a man unless he was
chained or bound? Do not I know you? I have seen you taunt a man at
the triangles, until I wished the screaming wretch could get loose,
and murder you as you deserve! You will be murdered one of these days,
Maurice Frere--take my word for it. Men are flesh and blood, and flesh
and blood won’t endure the torments you lay on it!”

“There, that’ll do,” says Frere, growing paler. “Don’t excite yourself.”

“I know you, you brutal coward. I have not been your mistress--God
forgive me!--without learning you by heart. I’ve seen your ignorance and
your conceit. I’ve seen the men who ate your food and drank your
wine laugh at you. I’ve heard what your friends say; I’ve heard the
comparisons they make. One of your dogs has more brains than you, and
twice as much heart. And these are the men they send to rule us! Oh,
Heaven! And such an animal as this has life and death in his hand! He
may hang, may he? I’ll hang with him, then, and God will forgive me for
murder, for I will kill you!”

Frere had cowered before this frightful torrent of rage, but, at the
scream which accompanied the last words, he stepped forward as though
to seize her. In her desperate courage, she flung herself before him.
“Strike me! You daren’t! I defy you! Bring up the wretched creatures who
learn the way to Hell in this cursed house, and let them see you do it.
Call them! They are old friends of yours. They all know Captain Maurice


“You remember Lucy Barnes--poor little Lucy Barnes that stole
sixpennyworth of calico. She is downstairs now. Would you know her if
you saw her? She isn’t the bright-faced baby she was when they sent her
here to ‘reform’, and when Lieutenant Frere wanted a new housemaid from
the Factory! Call for her!--call! do you hear? Ask any one of those
beasts whom you lash and chain for Lucy Barnes. He’ll tell you all
about her--ay, and about many more--many more poor souls that are at
the bidding of any drunken brute that has stolen a pound note to fee the
Devil with! Oh, you good God in Heaven, will You not judge this man?”

Frere trembled. He had often witnessed this creature’s whirlwinds
of passion, but never had he seen her so violent as this. Her frenzy
frightened him. “For Heaven’s sake, Sarah, be quiet. What is it you
want? What would you do?”

“I’ll go to this girl you want to marry, and tell her all I know of you.
I have seen her in the streets--have seen her look the other way when
I passed her--have seen her gather up her muslin skirts when my silks
touched her--I that nursed her, that heard her say her baby-prayers (O
Jesus, pity me!)--and I know what she thinks of women like me. She is
good--and virtuous--and cold. She would shudder at you if she knew what
I know. Shudder! She would hate you! And I will tell her! Ay, I will!
You will be respectable, will you? A model husband! Wait till I tell her
my story--till I send some of these poor women to tell theirs. You kill
my love; I’ll blight and ruin yours!”

Frere caught her by both wrists, and with all his strength forced her to
her knees. “Don’t speak her name,” he said in a hoarse voice, “or I’ll
do you a mischief. I know all you mean to do. I’m not such a fool as not
to see that. Be quiet! Men have murdered women like you, and now I know
how they came to do it.”

For a few minutes a silence fell upon the pair, and at last Frere,
releasing her hands, fell back from her.

“I’ll do what you want, on one condition.”


“That you leave this place.”

“Where for?”

“Anywhere--the farther the better. I’ll pay your passage to Sydney, and
you go or stay there as you please.”

She had grown calmer, hearing him thus relenting. “But this house,

“You are not in debt?”


“Well, leave it. It’s your own affair, not mine. If I help you, you must

“May I see him?”


“Ah, Maurice!”

“You can see him in the dock if you like,” says Frere, with a laugh, cut
short by a flash of her eyes. “There, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Offend me! Go on.”

“Listen here,” said he doggedly. “If you will go away, and promise never
to interfere with me by word or deed, I’ll do what you want.”

“What will you do?” she asked, unable to suppress a smile at the victory
she had won.

“I will not say all I know about this man. I will say he befriended me.
I will do my best to save his life.”

“You can save it if you like.”

“Well, I will try. On my honour, I will try.”

“I must believe you, I suppose?” said she doubtfully; and then, with
a sudden pitiful pleading, in strange contrast to her former violence,
“You are not deceiving me, Maurice?”

“No. Why should I? You keep your promise, and I’ll keep mine. Is it a


He eyed her steadfastly for some seconds, and then turned on his heel.
As he reached the door she called him back. Knowing him as she did,
she felt that he would keep his word, and her feminine nature could not
resist a parting sneer.

“There is nothing in the bargain to prevent me helping him to escape!”
 she said with a smile.

“Escape! He won’t escape again, I’ll go bail. Once get him in double
irons at Port Arthur, and he’s safe enough.”

The smile on her face seemed infectious, for his own sullen features
relaxed. “Good night, Sarah,” he said.

She put out her hand, as if nothing had happened. “Good night, Captain
Frere. It’s a bargain, then?”

“A bargain.”

“You have a long walk home. Will you have some brandy?”

“I don’t care if I do,” he said, advancing to the table, and filling his
glass. “Here’s a good voyage to you!”

Sarah Purfoy, watching him, burst into a laugh. “Human beings are queer
creatures,” she said. “Who would have thought that we had been calling
each other names just now? I say, I’m a vixen when I’m roused, ain’t I,

“Remember what you’ve promised,” said he, with a threat in his voice,
as he moved to the door. “You must be out of this by the next ship that

“Never fear, I’ll go.”

Getting into the cool street directly, and seeing the calm stars
shining, and the placid water sleeping with a peace in which he had
no share, he strove to cast off the nervous fear that was on him. That
interview had frightened him, for it had made him think. It was hard
that, just as he had turned over a new leaf, this old blot should
come through to the clean page. It was cruel that, having comfortably
forgotten the past, he should be thus rudely reminded of it.


The reader of the foregoing pages has doubtless asked himself, “what is
the link which binds together John Rex and Sarah Purfoy?”

In the year 1825 there lived at St. Heliers, Jersey, an old watchmaker,
named Urban Purfoy. He was a hard-working man, and had amassed a little
money--sufficient to give his grand-daughter an education above the
common in those days. At sixteen, Sarah Purfoy was an empty-headed,
strong-willed, precocious girl, with big brown eyes. She had a bad
opinion of her own sex, and an immense admiration for the young and
handsome members of the other. The neighbours said that she was too
high and mighty for her rank in life. Her grandfather said she was a
“beauty”, and like her poor dear mother. She herself thought rather
meanly of her personal attractions, and rather highly of her mental
ones. She was brimful of vitality, with strong passions, and little
religious sentiment. She had not much respect for moral courage, for
she did not understand it; but she was a profound admirer of personal
prowess. Her distaste for the humdrum life she was leading found
expression in a rebellion against social usages. She courted notoriety
by eccentricities of dress, and was never so happy as when she was
misunderstood. She was the sort of girl of whom women say--“It is a pity
she has no mother”; and men, “It is a pity she does not get a husband”;
and who say to themselves, “When shall I have a lover?” There was no
lack of beings of this latter class among the officers quartered in Fort
Royal and Fort Henry; but the female population of the island was free
and numerous, and in the embarrassment of riches, Sarah was overlooked.
Though she adored the soldiery, her first lover was a civilian. Walking
one day on the cliff, she met a young man. He was tall, well-looking,
and well-dressed. His name was Lemoine; he was the son of a somewhat
wealthy resident of the island, and had come down from London to recruit
his health and to see his friends. Sarah was struck by his appearance,
and looked back at him. He had been struck by hers, and looked back
also. He followed her, and spoke to her--some remark about the wind
or the weather--and she thought his voice divine. They got into
conversation--about scenery, lonely walks, and the dullness of St.
Heliers. “Did she often walk there?” “Sometimes.” “Would she be there
tomorrow?” “She might.” Mr. Lemoine lifted his hat, and went back to
dinner, rather pleased with himself.

They met the next day, and the day after that. Lemoine was not a
gentleman, but he had lived among gentlemen, and had caught something of
their manner. He said that, after all, virtue was a mere name, and that
when people were powerful and rich, the world respected them more than
if they had been honest and poor. Sarah agreed with this sentiment. Her
grandfather was honest and poor, and yet nobody respected him--at least,
not with such respect as she cared to acknowledge. In addition to his
talent for argument, Lemoine was handsome and had money--he showed her
quite a handful of bank-notes one day. He told her of London and the
great ladies there, and hinting that they were not always virtuous, drew
himself up with a moody air, as though he had been unhappily the cause
of their fatal lapse into wickedness. Sarah did not wonder at this in
the least. Had she been a great lady, she would have done the same. She
began to coquet with this seductive fellow, and to hint to him that
she had too much knowledge of the world to set a fictitious value upon
virtue. He mistook her artfulness for innocence, and thought he had made
a conquest. Moreover, the girl was pretty, and when dressed properly,
would look well. Only one obstacle stood in the way of their loves--the
dashing profligate was poor. He had been living in London above his
means, and his father was not inclined to increase his allowance.

Sarah liked him better than anybody else she had seen, but there are
two sides to every bargain. Sarah Purfoy must go to London. In vain her
lover sighed and swore. Unless he would promise to take her away with
him, Diana was not more chaste. The more virtuous she grew, the more
vicious did Lemoine feel. His desire to possess her increased in
proportionate ratio to her resistance, and at last he borrowed two
hundred pounds from his father’s confidential clerk (the Lemoines were
merchants by profession), and acceded to her wishes. There was no love
on either side--vanity was the mainspring of the whole transaction.
Lemoine did not like to be beaten; Sarah sold herself for a passage to
England and an introduction into the “great world”.

We need not describe her career at this epoch. Suffice it to say that
she discovered that vice is not always conducive to happiness, and is
not, even in this world, so well rewarded as its earnest practice might
merit. Sated, and disappointed, she soon grew tired of her life, and
longed to escape from its wearying dissipations. At this juncture she
fell in love.

The object of her affections was one Mr. Lionel Crofton. Crofton was
tall, well made, and with an insinuating address. His features were too
strongly marked for beauty. His eyes were the best part of his face,
and, like his hair, they were jet black. He had broad shoulders, sinewy
limbs, and small hands and feet. His head was round, and well-shaped,
but it bulged a little over the ears which were singularly small and lay
close to his head. With this man, barely four years older than herself,
Sarah, at seventeen, fell violently in love. This was the more strange
as, though fond of her, he would tolerate no caprices, and possessed
an ungovernable temper, which found vent in curses, and even blows. He
seemed to have no profession or business, and though he owned a good
address, he was even less of a gentleman than Lemoine. Yet Sarah,
attracted by one of the strange sympathies which constitute the romance
of such women’s lives, was devoted to him. Touched by her affection,
and rating her intelligence and unscrupulousness at their true value, he
told her who he was. He was a swindler, a forger, and a thief, and
his name was John Rex. When she heard this she experienced a sinister
delight. He told her of his plots, his tricks, his escapes, his
villainies; and seeing how for years this young man had preyed upon the
world which had deceived and disowned her, her heart went out to him. “I
am glad you found me,” she said. “Two heads are better than one. We will
work together.”

John Rex, known among his intimate associates as Dandy Jack, was
the putative son of a man who had been for many years valet to Lord
Bellasis, and who retired from the service of that profligate nobleman
with a sum of money and a wife. John Rex was sent to as good a school as
could be procured for him, and at sixteen was given, by the interest
of his mother with his father’s former master, a clerkship in an
old-established city banking-house. Mrs. Rex was intensely fond of her
son, and imbued him with a desire to shine in aristocratic circles. He
was a clever lad, without any principle; he would lie unblushingly, and
steal deliberately, if he thought he could do so with impunity. He was
cautious, acquisitive, imaginative, self-conceited, and destructive. He
had strong perceptive faculties, and much invention and versatility, but
his “moral sense” was almost entirely wanting. He found that his fellow
clerks were not of that “gentlemanly” stamp which his mother thought so
admirable, and therefore he despised them. He thought he should like to
go into the army, for he was athletic, and rejoiced in feats of muscular
strength. To be tied all day to a desk was beyond endurance. But John
Rex, senior, told him to “wait and see what came of it.” He did so, and
in the meantime kept late hours, got into bad company, and forged the
name of a customer of the bank to a cheque for twenty pounds. The fraud
was a clumsy one, and was detected in twenty-four hours. Forgeries by
clerks, however easily detected, are unfortunately not considered to
add to the attractions of a banking-house, and the old-established firm
decided not to prosecute, but dismissed Mr. John Rex from their service.
The ex-valet, who never liked his legalized son, was at first for
turning him out of doors, but by the entreaties of his wife, was at last
induced to place the promising boy in a draper’s shop, in the City Road.

This employment was not a congenial one, and John Rex planned to leave
it. He lived at home, and had his salary--about thirty shillings a
week--for pocket money. Though he displayed considerable skill with the
cue, and not infrequently won considerable sums for one in his position,
his expenses averaged more than his income; and having borrowed all
he could, he found himself again in difficulties. His narrow escape,
however, had taught him a lesson, and he resolved to confess all to his
indulgent mother, and be more economical for the future. Just then
one of those “lucky chances” which blight so many lives occurred. The
“shop-walker” died, and Messrs. Baffaty & Co. made the gentlemanly Rex
act as his substitute for a few days. Shop-walkers have opportunities
not accorded to other folks, and on the evening of the third day Mr. Rex
went home with a bundle of lace in his pocket. Unfortunately, he owed
more than the worth of this petty theft, and was compelled to steal
again. This time he was detected. One of his fellow-shopmen caught
him in the very act of concealing a roll of silk, ready for future
abstraction, and, to his astonishment, cried “Halves!” Rex pretended to
be virtuously indignant, but soon saw that such pretence was useless;
his companion was too wily to be fooled with such affectation of
innocence. “I saw you take it,” said he, “and if you won’t share I’ll
tell old Baffaty.” This argument was irresistible, and they shared.
Having become good friends, the self-made partner lent Rex a helping
hand in the disposal of the booty, and introduced him to a purchaser.
The purchaser violated all rules of romance by being--not a Jew, but a
very orthodox Christian. He kept a second-hand clothes warehouse in
the City Road, and was supposed to have branch establishments all over

Mr. Blicks purchased the stolen goods for about a third of their value,
and seemed struck by Mr. Rex’s appearance. “I thort you was a swell
mobsman,” said he. This, from one so experienced, was a high compliment.
Encouraged by success, Rex and his companion took more articles of
value. John Rex paid off his debts, and began to feel himself quite a
“gentleman” again. Just as Rex had arrived at this pleasing state of
mind, Baffaty discovered the robbery. Not having heard about the bank
business, he did not suspect Rex--he was such a gentlemanly young
man--but having had his eye for some time upon Rex’s partner, who was
vulgar, and squinted, he sent for him. Rex’s partner stoutly denied the
accusation, and old Baffaty, who was a man of merciful tendencies, and
could well afford to lose fifty pounds, gave him until the next
morning to confess, and state where the goods had gone, hinting at the
persuasive powers of a constable at the end of that time. The shopman,
with tears in his eyes, came in a hurry to Rex, and informed him that
all was lost. He did not want to confess, because he must implicate
his friend Rex, but if he did not confess he would be given in charge.
Flight was impossible, for neither had money. In this dilemma John Rex
remembered Blicks’s compliment, and burned to deserve it. If he must
retreat, he would lay waste the enemy’s country. His exodus should
be like that of the Israelites--he would spoil the Egyptians. The
shop-walker was allowed half an hour in the middle of the day for lunch.
John Rex took advantage of this half-hour to hire a cab and drive to
Blicks. That worthy man received him cordially, for he saw that he was
bent upon great deeds. John Rex rapidly unfolded his plan of operations.
The warehouse doors were fastened with a spring. He would remain behind
after they were locked, and open them at a given signal. A light cart or
cab could be stationed in the lane at the back, three men could fill
it with valuables in as many hours. Did Blicks know of three such men?
Blicks’s one eye glistened. He thought he did know. At half-past eleven
they should be there. Was that all? No. Mr. John Rex was not going to
“put up” such a splendid thing for nothing. The booty was worth at least
£5,000 if it was worth a shilling--he must have £100 cash when the cart
stopped at Blicks’s door. Blicks at first refused point blank. Let
there be a division, but he would not buy a pig in a poke. Rex was firm,
however; it was his only chance, and at last he got a promise of £80.
That night the glorious achievement known in the annals of Bow Street
as “The Great Silk Robbery” took place, and two days afterwards John Rex
and his partner, dining comfortably at Birmingham, read an account of
the transaction--not in the least like it--in a London paper.

John Rex, who had now fairly broken with dull respectability, bid adieu
to his home, and began to realize his mother’s wishes. He was, after his
fashion, a “gentleman”. As long as the £80 lasted, he lived in
luxury, and by the time it was spent he had established himself in
his profession. This profession was a lucrative one. It was that of a
swindler. Gifted with a handsome person, facile manner, and ready wit,
he had added to these natural advantages some skill at billiards, some
knowledge of gambler’s legerdemain, and the useful consciousness that he
must prey or be preyed on. John Rex was no common swindler; his natural
as well as his acquired abilities saved him from vulgar errors. He saw
that to successfully swindle mankind, one must not aim at comparative,
but superlative, ingenuity. He who is contented with being only cleverer
than the majority must infallibly be outwitted at last, and to be once
outwitted is--for a swindler--to be ruined. Examining, moreover, into
the history of detected crime, John Rex discovered one thing. At the
bottom of all these robberies, deceptions, and swindles, was some lucky
fellow who profited by the folly of his confederates. This gave him
an idea. Suppose he could not only make use of his own talents to rob
mankind, but utilize those of others also? Crime runs through infinite
grades. He proposed to himself to be at the top; but why should he
despise those good fellows beneath him? His speciality was swindling,
billiard-playing, card-playing, borrowing money, obtaining goods, never
risking more than two or three coups in a year. But others plundered
houses, stole bracelets, watches, diamonds--made as much in a night as
he did in six months--only their occupation was more dangerous. Now came
the question--why more dangerous? Because these men were mere clods,
bold enough and clever enough in their own rude way, but no match
for the law, with its Argus eyes and its Briarean hands. They did the
rougher business well enough; they broke locks, and burst doors, and
“neddied” constables, but in the finer arts of plan, attack, and escape,
they were sadly deficient. Good. These men should be the hands; he would
be the head. He would plan the robberies; they should execute them.

Working through many channels, and never omitting to assist a
fellow-worker when in distress, John Rex, in a few years, and in a most
prosaic business way, became the head of a society of ruffians. Mixing
with fast clerks and unsuspecting middle-class profligates, he found out
particulars of houses ill guarded, and shops insecurely fastened, and
“put up” Blicks’s ready ruffians to the more dangerous work. In his
various disguises, and under his many names, he found his way into those
upper circles of “fast” society, where animals turn into birds, where a
wolf becomes a rook, and a lamb a pigeon. Rich spendthrifts who affected
male society asked him to their houses, and Mr. Anthony Croftonbury,
Captain James Craven, and Mr. Lionel Crofton were names remembered,
sometimes with pleasure, oftener with regret, by many a broken man
of fortune. He had one quality which, to a man of his profession,
was invaluable--he was cautious, and master of himself. Having made
a success, wrung commission from Blicks, rooked a gambling ninny like
Lemoine, or secured an assortment of jewellery sent down to his “wife”
 in Gloucestershire, he would disappear for a time. He liked comfort, and
revelled in the sense of security and respectability. Thus he had lived
for three years when he met Sarah Purfoy, and thus he proposed to live
for many more. With this woman as a coadjutor, he thought he could defy
the law. She was the net spread to catch his “pigeons”; she was the
well-dressed lady who ordered goods in London for her husband at
Canterbury, and paid half the price down, “which was all this letter
authorized her to do,” and where a less beautiful or clever woman might
have failed, she succeeded. Her husband saw fortune before him,
and believed that, with common prudence, he might carry on his most
lucrative employment of “gentleman” until he chose to relinquish it.
Alas for human weakness! He one day did a foolish thing, and the law he
had so successfully defied got him in the simplest way imaginable.

Under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, John Rex and Sarah Purfoy
were living in quiet lodgings in the neighbourhood of Bloomsbury.
Their landlady was a respectable poor woman, and had a son who was a
constable. This son was given to talking, and, coming in to supper one
night, he told his mother that on the following evening an attack was
to be made on a gang of coiners in the Old Street Road. The mother,
dreaming all sorts of horrors during the night, came the next day to
Mrs. Skinner, in the parlour, and, under a pledge of profound secrecy,
told her of the dreadful expedition in which her son was engaged. John
Rex was out at a pigeon match with Lord Bellasis, and when he returned,
at nine o’clock, Sarah told him what she had heard.

Now, 4, Bank-place, Old Street Road, was the residence of a man named
Green, who had for some time carried on the lucrative but dangerous
trade of “counterfeiting”. This man was one of the most daring of that
army of ruffians whose treasure chest and master of the mint was Blicks,
and his liberty was valuable. John Rex, eating his dinner more nervously
than usual, ruminated on the intelligence, and thought it would be
but wise to warn Green of his danger. Not that he cared much for
Green personally, but it was bad policy to miss doing a good turn to
a comrade, and, moreover, Green, if captured might wag his tongue too
freely. But how to do it? If he went to Blicks, it might be too late; he
would go himself. He went out--and was captured. When Sarah heard of the
calamity she set to work to help him. She collected all her money and
jewels, paid Mrs. Skinner’s rent, went to see Rex, and arranged
his defence. Blicks was hopeful, but Green--who came very near
hanging--admitted that the man was an associate of his, and the
Recorder, being in a severe mood, transported him for seven years. Sarah
Purfoy vowed that she would follow him. She was going as passenger,
as emigrant, anything, when she saw Mrs. Vickers’s advertisement for a
“lady’s-maid,” and answered it. It chanced that Rex was shipped in the
Malabar, and Sarah, discovering this before the vessel had been a week
at sea, conceived the bold project of inciting a mutiny for the rescue
of her lover. We know the result of that scheme, and the story of the
scoundrel’s subsequent escape from Macquarie Harbour.


The mutineers of the Osprey had been long since given up as dead, and
the story of their desperate escape had become indistinct to the general
public mind. Now that they had been recaptured in a remarkable manner,
popular belief invested them with all sorts of strange surroundings.
They had been--according to report--kings over savage islanders, chiefs
of lawless and ferocious pirates, respectable married men in Java,
merchants in Singapore, and swindlers in Hong Kong. Their adventures had
been dramatized at a London theatre, and the popular novelist of that
day was engaged in a work descriptive of their wondrous fortunes.

John Rex, the ringleader, was related, it was said, to a noble family,
and a special message had come out to Sir John Franklin concerning him.
He had every prospect of being satisfactorily hung, however, for even
the most outspoken admirers of his skill and courage could not but admit
that he had committed an offence which was death by the law. The Crown
would leave nothing undone to convict him, and the already crowded
prison was re-crammed with half a dozen life sentence men, brought up
from Port Arthur to identify the prisoners. Amongst this number was
stated to be “the notorious Dawes”.

This statement gave fresh food for recollection and invention. It was
remembered that “the notorious Dawes” was the absconder who had been
brought away by Captain Frere, and who owed such fettered life as he
possessed to the fact that he had assisted Captain Frere to make the
wonderful boat in which the marooned party escaped. It was remembered,
also, how sullen and morose he had been on his trial five years before,
and how he had laughed when the commutation of his death sentence was
announced to him. The Hobart Town Gazette published a short biography of
this horrible villain--a biography setting forth how he had been engaged
in a mutiny on board the convict ship, how he had twice escaped from the
Macquarie Harbour, how he had been repeatedly flogged for violence and
insubordination, and how he was now double-ironed at Port Arthur,
after two more ineffectual attempts to regain his freedom. Indeed, the
Gazette, discovering that the wretch had been originally transported for
highway robbery, argued very ably it would be far better to hang such
wild beasts in the first instance than suffer them to cumber the ground,
and grow confirmed in villainy. “Of what use to society,” asked the
Gazette, quite pathetically, “has this scoundrel been during the last
eleven years?” And everybody agreed that he had been of no use whatever.

Miss Sylvia Vickers also received an additional share of public
attention. Her romantic rescue by the heroic Frere, who was shortly to
reap the reward of his devotion in the good old fashion, made her almost
as famous as the villain Dawes, or his confederate monster John Rex. It
was reported that she was to give evidence on the trial, together with
her affianced husband, they being the only two living witnesses who
could speak to the facts of the mutiny. It was reported also that her
lover was naturally most anxious that she should not give evidence, as
she was--an additional point of romantic interest--affected deeply by
the illness consequent on the suffering she had undergone, and in a
state of pitiable mental confusion as to the whole business. These
reports caused the Court, on the day of the trial, to be crowded with
spectators; and as the various particulars of the marvellous history of
this double escape were detailed, the excitement grew more intense. The
aspect of the four heavily-ironed prisoners caused a sensation which,
in that city of the ironed, was quite novel, and bets were offered and
taken as to the line of defence which they would adopt. At first it
was thought that they would throw themselves on the mercy of the Crown,
seeking, in the very extravagance of their story, to excite public
sympathy; but a little study of the demeanour of the chief prisoner,
John Rex, dispelled that conjecture. Calm, placid, and defiant, he
seemed prepared to accept his fate, or to meet his accusers with some
plea which should be sufficient to secure his acquittal on the capital
charge. Only when he heard the indictment, setting forth that he had
“feloniously pirated the brig Osprey,” he smiled a little.

Mr. Meekin, sitting in the body of the Court, felt his religious
prejudices sadly shocked by that smile. “A perfect wild beast, my dear
Miss Vickers,” he said, returning, in a pause during the examination
of the convicts who had been brought to identify the prisoner, to the
little room where Sylvia and her father were waiting. “He has quite a
tigerish look about him.”

“Poor man!” said Sylvia, with a shudder.

“Poor! My dear young lady, you do not pity him?”

“I do,” said Sylvia, twisting her hands together as if in pain. “I pity
them all, poor creatures.”

“Charming sensibility!” says Meekin, with a glance at Vickers. “The true
woman’s heart, my dear Major.”

The Major tapped his fingers impatiently at this ill-timed twaddle.
Sylvia was too nervous just then for sentiment. “Come here, Poppet,” he
said, “and look through this door. You can see them from here, and if
you do not recognize any of them, I can’t see what is the use of putting
you in the box; though, of course, if it is necessary, you must go.”

The raised dock was just opposite to the door of the room in which
they were sitting, and the four manacled men, each with an armed warder
behind him, were visible above the heads of the crowd. The girl had
never before seen the ceremony of trying a man for his life, and the
silent and antique solemnities of the business affected her, as it
affects all who see it for the first time. The atmosphere was heavy and
distressing. The chains of the prisoners clanked ominously. The crushing
force of judge, gaolers, warders, and constables assembled to punish
the four men, appeared cruel. The familiar faces, that in her momentary
glance, she recognized, seemed to her evilly transfigured. Even the
countenance of her promised husband, bent eagerly forward towards
the witness-box, showed tyrannous and bloodthirsty. Her eyes hastily
followed the pointing finger of her father, and sought the men in the
dock. Two of them lounged, sullen and inattentive; one nervously chewed
a straw, or piece of twig, pawing the dock with restless hand; the
fourth scowled across the Court at the witness-box, which she could not
see. The four faces were all strange to her.

“No, papa,” she said, with a sigh of relief, “I can’t recognize them at

As she was turning from the door, a voice from the witness-box behind
her made her suddenly pale and pause to look again. The Court itself
appeared, at that moment, affected, for a murmur ran through it, and
some official cried, “Silence!”

The notorious criminal, Rufus Dawes, the desperado of Port Arthur, the
wild beast whom the Gazette had judged not fit to live, had just entered
the witness-box. He was a man of thirty, in the prime of life, with a
torso whose muscular grandeur not even the ill-fitting yellow jacket
could altogether conceal, with strong, embrowned, and nervous hands, an
upright carriage, and a pair of fierce, black eyes that roamed over the
Court hungrily.

Not all the weight of the double irons swaying from the leathern thong
around his massive loins, could mar that elegance of attitude which
comes only from perfect muscular development. Not all the frowning faces
bent upon him could frown an accent of respect into the contemptuous
tones in which he answered to his name, “Rufus Dawes, prisoner of the

“Come away, my darling,” said Vickers, alarmed at his daughter’s
blanched face and eager eyes.

“Wait,” she said impatiently, listening for the voice whose owner she
could not see. “Rufus Dawes! Oh, I have heard that name before!”

“You are a prisoner of the Crown at the penal settlement of Port


“For life?”

“For life.”

Sylvia turned to her father with breathless inquiry in her eyes. “Oh,
papa! who is that speaking? I know the name! the voice!”

“That is the man who was with you in the boat, dear,” says Vickers
gravely. “The prisoner.”

The eager light died out of her eyes, and in its place came a look
of disappointment and pain. “I thought it was a good man,” she said,
holding by the edge of the doorway. “It sounded like a good voice.”

And then she pressed her hands over her eyes and shuddered. “There,
there,” says Vickers soothingly, “don’t be afraid, Poppet; he can’t hurt
you now.”

“No, ha! ha!” says Meekin, with great display of off-hand courage, “the
villain’s safe enough now.”

The colloquy in the Court went on. “Do you know the prisoners in the

“Yes.” “Who are they?”

“John Rex, Henry Shiers, James Lesly, and, and--I’m not sure about the
last man.” “You are not sure about the last man. Will you swear to the
three others?”


“You remember them well?”

“I was in the chain-gang at Macquarie Harbour with them for three
years.” Sylvia, hearing this hideous reason for acquaintance, gave a low
cry, and fell into her father’s arms.

“Oh, papa, take me away! I feel as if I was going to remember something

Amid the deep silence that prevailed, the cry of the poor girl was
distinctly audible in the Court, and all heads turned to the door. In
the general wonder no one noticed the change that passed over Rufus
Dawes. His face flushed scarlet, great drops of sweat stood on his
forehead, and his black eyes glared in the direction from whence the
sound came, as though they would pierce the envious wood that separated
him from the woman whose voice he had heard. Maurice Frere sprang up and
pushed his way through the crowd under the bench.

“What’s this?” he said to Vickers, almost brutally. “What did you bring
her here for? She is not wanted. I told you that.”

“I considered it my duty, sir,” says Vickers, with stately rebuke.

“What has frightened her? What has she heard? What has she seen?” asked
Frere, with a strangely white face. “Sylvia, Sylvia!”

She opened her eyes at the sound of his voice. “Take me home, papa; I’m
ill. Oh, what thoughts!”

“What does she mean?” cried Frere, looking in alarm from one to the

“That ruffian Dawes frightened her,” said Meekin. “A gush of
recollection, poor child. There, there, calm yourself, Miss Vickers. He
is quite safe.”

“Frightened her, eh?” “Yes,” said Sylvia faintly, “he frightened me,
Maurice. I needn’t stop any longer, dear, need I?”

“No,” says Frere, the cloud passing from his face. “Major, I beg your
pardon, but I was hasty. Take her home at once. This sort of thing is
too much for her.” And so he went back to his place, wiping his brow,
and breathing hard, as one who had just escaped from some near peril.

Rufus Dawes had remained in the same attitude until the figure of Frere,
passing through the doorway, roused him. “Who is she?” he said, in a
low, hoarse voice, to the constable behind him. “Miss Vickers,” said the
man shortly, flinging the information at him as one might fling a bone
to a dangerous dog.

“Miss Vickers,” repeated the convict, still staring in a sort of
bewildered agony. “They told me she was dead!”

The constable sniffed contemptuously at this preposterous conclusion, as
who should say, “If you know all about it, animal, why did you ask?”
 and then, feeling that the fixed gaze of his interrogator demanded some
reply, added, “You thort she was, I’ve no doubt. You did your best to
make her so, I’ve heard.”

The convict raised both his hands with sudden action of wrathful
despair, as though he would seize the other, despite the loaded muskets;
but, checking himself with sudden impulse, wheeled round to the Court.

“Your Honour!--Gentlemen! I want to speak.”

The change in the tone of his voice, no less than the sudden loudness
of the exclamation, made the faces, hitherto bent upon the door through
which Mr. Frere had passed, turn round again. To many there it seemed
that the “notorious Dawes” was no longer in the box, for, in place of
the upright and defiant villain who stood there an instant back, was a
white-faced, nervous, agitated creature, bending forward in an attitude
almost of supplication, one hand grasping the rail, as though to save
himself from falling, the other outstretched towards the bench. “Your
Honour, there has been some dreadful mistake made. I want to explain
about myself. I explained before, when first I was sent to Port Arthur,
but the letters were never forwarded by the Commandant; of course,
that’s the rule, and I can’t complain. I’ve been sent there unjustly,
your Honour. I made that boat, your Honour. I saved the Major’s wife and
daughter. I was the man; I did it all myself, and my liberty was sworn
away by a villain who hated me. I thought, until now, that no one knew
the truth, for they told me that she was dead.” His rapid utterance
took the Court so much by surprise that no one interrupted him. “I was
sentenced to death for bolting, sir, and they reprieved me because I
helped them in the boat. Helped them! Why, I made it! She will tell you
so. I nursed her! I carried her in my arms! I starved myself for
her! She was fond of me, sir. She was indeed. She called me ‘Good Mr.

At this, a coarse laugh broke out, which was instantly checked. The
judge bent over to ask, “Does he mean Miss Vickers?” and in this
interval Rufus Dawes, looking down into the Court, saw Maurice Frere
staring up at him with terror in his eyes. “I see you, Captain Frere,
coward and liar! Put him in the box, gentlemen, and make him tell his
story. She’ll contradict him, never fear. Oh, and I thought she was dead
all this while!”

The judge had got his answer from the clerk by this time. “Miss Vickers
had been seriously ill, had fainted just now in the Court. Her only
memories of the convict who had been with her in the boat were those
of terror and disgust. The sight of him just now had most seriously
affected her. The convict himself was an inveterate liar and schemer,
and his story had been already disproved by Captain Frere.”

The judge, a man inclining by nature to humanity, but forced by
experience to receive all statements of prisoners with caution, said
all he could say, and the tragedy of five years was disposed of in the
following dialogue:- JUDGE: This is not the place for an accusation
against Captain Frere, nor the place to argue upon your alleged
wrongs. If you have suffered injustice, the authorities will hear your
complaint, and redress it.

RUFUS DAWES I have complained, your Honour. I wrote letter after letter
to the Government, but they were never sent. Then I heard she was
dead, and they sent me to the Coal Mines after that, and we never hear
anything there.

JUDGE I can’t listen to you. Mr. Mangles, have you any more questions to
ask the witness?

But Mr. Mangles not having any more, someone called, “Matthew Gabbett,”
 and Rufus Dawes, still endeavouring to speak, was clanked away with,
amid a buzz of remark and surmise.

          *          *          *          *          *

The trial progressed without further incident. Sylvia was not called,
and, to the astonishment of many of his enemies, Captain Frere went into
the witness-box and generously spoke in favour of John Rex. “He might
have left us to starve,” Frere said; “he might have murdered us; we were
completely in his power. The stock of provisions on board the brig was
not a large one, and I consider that, in dividing it with us, he showed
great generosity for one in his situation.” This piece of evidence told
strongly in favour of the prisoners, for Captain Frere was known to
be such an uncompromising foe to all rebellious convicts that it was
understood that only the sternest sense of justice and truth could lead
him to speak in such terms. The defence set up by Rex, moreover, was
most ingenious. He was guilty of absconding, but his moderation might
plead an excuse for that. His only object was his freedom, and, having
gained it, he had lived honestly for nearly three years, as he could
prove. He was charged with piratically seizing the brig Osprey, and he
urged that the brig Osprey, having been built by convicts at Macquarie
Harbour, and never entered in any shipping list, could not be said to
be “piratically seized”, in the strict meaning of the term. The Court
admitted the force of this objection, and, influenced doubtless by
Captain Frere’s evidence, the fact that five years had passed since the
mutiny, and that the two men most guilty (Cheshire and Barker) had
been executed in England, sentenced Rex and his three companions to
transportation for life to the penal settlements of the colony.


At this happy conclusion to his labours, Frere went down to comfort the
girl for whose sake he had suffered Rex to escape the gallows. On his
way he was met by a man who touched his hat, and asked to speak with
him an instant. This man was past middle age, owned a red brandy-beaten
face, and had in his gait and manner that nameless something that
denotes the seaman.

“Well, Blunt,” says Frere, pausing with the impatient air of a man who
expects to hear bad news, “what is it now?”

“Only to tell you that it is all right, sir,” says Blunt. “She’s come
aboard again this morning.”

“Come aboard again!” ejaculated Frere. “Why, I didn’t know that she
had been ashore. Where did she go?” He spoke with an air of confident
authority, and Blunt--no longer the bluff tyrant of old--seemed to quail
before him. The trial of the mutineers of the Malabar had ruined Phineas
Blunt. Make what excuses he might, there was no concealing the fact that
Pine found him drunk in his cabin when he ought to have been attending
to his duties on deck, and the “authorities” could not, or would not,
pass over such a heinous breach of discipline. Captain Blunt--who, of
course, had his own version of the story--thus deprived of the honour of
bringing His Majesty’s prisoners to His Majesty’s colonies of New South
Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, went on a whaling cruise to the South Seas.
The influence which Sarah Purfoy had acquired over him had, however,
irretrievably injured him. It was as though she had poisoned his moral
nature by the influence of a clever and wicked woman over a sensual
and dull-witted man. Blunt gradually sank lower and lower. He became
a drunkard, and was known as a man with a “grievance against the
Government”. Captain Frere, having had occasion for him in some
capacity, had become in a manner his patron, and had got him the command
of a schooner trading from Sydney. On getting this command--not without
some wry faces on the part of the owner resident in Hobart Town--Blunt
had taken the temperance pledge for the space of twelve months, and was
a miserable dog in consequence. He was, however, a faithful henchman,
for he hoped by Frere’s means to get some “Government billet”--the grand
object of all colonial sea captains of that epoch.

“Well, sir, she went ashore to see a friend,” says Blunt, looking at the
sky and then at the earth.

“What friend?”

“The--the prisoner, sir.”

“And she saw him, I suppose?”

“Yes, but I thought I’d better tell you, sir,” says Blunt.

“Of course; quite right,” returned the other; “you had better start at
once. It’s no use waiting.”

“As you wish, sir. I can sail to-morrow morning--or this evening, if you

“This evening,” says Frere, turning away; “as soon as possible.”

“There’s a situation in Sydney I’ve been looking after,” said the other,
uneasily, “if you could help me to it.”

“What is it?”

“The command of one of the Government vessels, sir.”

“Well, keep sober, then,” says Frere, “and I’ll see what I can do. And
keep that woman’s tongue still if you can.”

The pair looked at each other, and Blunt grinned slavishly.

“I’ll do my best.” “Take care you do,” returned his patron, leaving him
without further ceremony.

Frere found Vickers in the garden, and at once begged him not to talk
about the “business” to his daughter.

“You saw how bad she was to-day, Vickers. For goodness sake don’t make
her ill again.”

“My dear sir,” says poor Vickers, “I won’t refer to the subject. She’s
been very unwell ever since. Nervous and unstrung. Go in and see her.”

So Frere went in and soothed the excited girl, with real sorrow at her

“It’s all right now, Poppet,” he said to her. “Don’t think of it any
more. Put it out of your mind, dear.”

“It was foolish of me, Maurice, I know, but I could not help it. The
sound of--of--that man’s voice seemed to bring back to me some great
pity for something or someone. I don’t explain what I mean, I know,
but I felt that I was on the verge of remembering a story of some great
wrong, just about to hear some dreadful revelation that should make me
turn from all the people whom I ought most to love. Do you understand?”

“I think I know what you mean,” says Frere, with averted face. “But
that’s all nonsense, you know.”

“Of course,” returned she, with a touch of her old childish manner of
disposing of questions out of hand. “Everybody knows it’s all nonsense.
But then we do think such things. It seems to me that I am double, that
I have lived somewhere before, and have had another life--a dream-life.”

“What a romantic girl you are,” said the other, dimly comprehending her
meaning. “How could you have a dream-life?”

“Of course, not really, stupid! But in thought, you know. I dream such
strange things now and then. I am always falling down precipices and
into cataracts, and being pushed into great caverns in enormous rocks.
Horrible dreams!”

“Indigestion,” returned Frere. “You don’t take exercise enough. You
shouldn’t read so much. Have a good five-mile walk.”

“And in these dreams,” continued Sylvia, not heeding his interruption,
“there is one strange thing. You are always there, Maurice.”

“Come, that’s all right,” says Maurice.

“Ah, but not kind and good as you are, Captain Bruin, but scowling, and
threatening, and angry, so that I am afraid of you.”

“But that is only a dream, darling.”

“Yes, but--” playing with the button of his coat.

“But what?”

“But you looked just so to-day in the Court, Maurice, and I think that’s
what made me so silly.”

“My darling! There; hush--don’t cry!”

But she had burst into a passion of sobs and tears, that shook her
slight figure in his arms.

“Oh, Maurice, I am a wicked girl! I don’t know my own mind. I think
sometimes I don’t love you as I ought--you who have saved me and nursed

“There, never mind about that,” muttered Maurice Frere, with a sort of
choking in his throat.

She grew more composed presently, and said, after a while, lifting her
face, “Tell me, Maurice, did you ever, in those days of which you have
spoken to me--when you nursed me as a little child in your arms, and fed
me, and starved for me--did you ever think we should be married?”

“I don’t know,” says Maurice. “Why?”

“I think you must have thought so, because--it’s not vanity, dear--you
would not else have been so kind, and gentle, and devoted.”

“Nonsense, Poppet,” he said, with his eyes resolutely averted.

“No, but you have been, and I am very pettish, sometimes. Papa has
spoiled me. You are always affectionate, and those worrying ways of
yours, which I get angry at, all come from love for me, don’t they?”

“I hope so,” said Maurice, with an unwonted moisture in his eyes.

“Well, you see, that is the reason why I am angry with myself for not
loving you as I ought. I want you to like the things I like, and to love
the books and the music and the pictures and the--the World I love;
and I forget that you are a man, you know, and I am only a girl; and I
forget how nobly you behaved, Maurice, and how unselfishly you risked
your life for mine. Why, what is the matter, dear?”

He had put her away from him suddenly, and gone to the window, gazing
across the sloping garden at the bay below, sleeping in the soft evening
light. The schooner which had brought the witnesses from Port Arthur lay
off the shore, and the yellow flag at her mast fluttered gently in the
cool evening breeze. The sight of this flag appeared to anger him, for,
as his eyes fell on it, he uttered an impatient exclamation, and turned
round again.

“Maurice!” she cried, “I have wounded you!”

“No, no. It is nothing,” said he, with the air of a man surprised in
a moment of weakness. “I--I did not like to hear you talk in this
way--about not loving me.”

“Oh, forgive me, dear; I did not mean to hurt you. It is my silly way of
saying more than I mean. How could I do otherwise than love you--after
all you have done?”

Some sudden desperate whim caused him to exclaim, “But suppose I had not
done all you think, would you not love me still?”

Her eyes, raised to his face with anxious tenderness for the pain she
had believed herself to have inflicted, fell at this speech.

“What a question! I don’t know. I suppose I should; yet--but what is the
use, Maurice, of supposing? I know you have done it, and that is enough.
How can I say what I might have done if something else had happened?
Why, you might not have loved me.”

If there had been for a moment any sentiment of remorse in his selfish
heart, the hesitation of her answer went far to dispel it.

“To be sure, that’s true,” and he placed his arm round her.

She lifted her face again with a bright laugh.

“We are a pair of geese--supposing! How can we help what has past? We
have the Future, darling--the Future, in which I am to be your little
wife, and we are to love each other all our lives, like the people in
the story-books.”

Temptation to evil had often come to Maurice Frere, and his selfish
nature had succumbed to it when in far less witching shape than this
fair and innocent child luring him with wistful eyes to win her. What
hopes had he not built upon her love; what good resolutions had he not
made by reason of the purity and goodness she was to bring to him? As
she said, the past was beyond recall; the future--in which she was
to love him all her life--was before them. With the hypocrisy of
selfishness which deceives even itself, he laid the little head upon his
heart with a sensible glow of virtue.

“God bless you, darling! You are my Good Angel.”

The girl sighed. “I will be your Good Angel, dear, if you will let me.”


Rex told Mr. Meekin, who, the next day, did him the honour to visit
him, that, “under Providence, he owed his escape from death to the kind
manner in which Captain Frere had spoken of him.”

“I hope your escape will be a warning to you, my man,” said Mr. Meekin,
“and that you will endeavour to make the rest of your life, thus spared
by the mercy of Providence, an atonement for your early errors.”

“Indeed I will, sir,” said John Rex, who had taken Mr. Meekin’s measure
very accurately, “and it is very kind of you to condescend to speak so
to a wretch like me.”

“Not at all,” said Meekin, with affability; “it is my duty. I am a
Minister of the Gospel.”

“Ah! sir, I wish I had attended to the Gospel’s teachings when I was
younger. I might have been saved from all this.”

“You might, indeed, poor man; but the Divine Mercy is infinite--quite
infinite, and will be extended to all of us--to you as well as to me.”
 (This with the air of saying, “What do you think of that!”) “Remember
the penitent thief, Rex--the penitent thief.”

“Indeed I do, sir.”

“And read your Bible, Rex, and pray for strength to bear your

“I will, Mr. Meekin. I need it sorely, sir--physical as well as
spiritual strength, sir--for the Government allowance is sadly

“I will speak to the authorities about a change in your dietary scale,”
 returned Meekin, patronizingly. “In the meantime, just collect together
in your mind those particulars of your adventures of which you spoke,
and have them ready for me when next I call. Such a remarkable history
ought not to be lost.”

“Thank you kindly, sir. I will, sir. Ah! I little thought when I
occupied the position of a gentleman, Mr. Meekin”--the cunning scoundrel
had been piously grandiloquent concerning his past career--“that I
should be reduced to this. But it is only just, sir.”

“The mysterious workings of Providence are always just, Rex,” returned
Meekin, who preferred to speak of the Almighty with well-bred vagueness.

“I am glad to see you so conscious of your errors. Good morning.”

“Good morning, and Heaven bless you, sir,” said Rex, with his tongue in
his cheek for the benefit of his yard mates; and so Mr. Meekin tripped
gracefully away, convinced that he was labouring most successfully in
the Vineyard, and that the convict Rex was really a superior person.

“I will send his narrative to the Bishop,” said he to himself. “It will
amuse him. There must be many strange histories here, if one could but
find them out.”

As the thought passed through his brain, his eye fell upon the
“notorious Dawes”, who, while waiting for the schooner to take him back
to Port Arthur, had been permitted to amuse himself by breaking stones.
The prison-shed which Mr. Meekin was visiting was long and low, roofed
with iron, and terminating at each end in the stone wall of the gaol. At
one side rose the cells, at the other the outer wall of the prison. From
the outer wall projected a weatherboard under-roof, and beneath this
were seated forty heavily-ironed convicts. Two constables, with loaded
carbines, walked up and down the clear space in the middle, and another
watched from a sort of sentry-box built against the main wall. Every
half-hour a third constable went down the line and examined the irons.
The admirable system of solitary confinement--which in average cases
produces insanity in the space of twelve months--was as yet unknown in
Hobart Town, and the forty heavily-ironed men had the pleasure of seeing
each other’s faces every day for six hours.

The other inmates of the prison were at work on the roads, or otherwise
bestowed in the day time, but the forty were judged too desperate to be
let loose. They sat, three feet apart, in two long lines, each man with
a heap of stones between his outstretched legs, and cracked the pebbles
in leisurely fashion. The double row of dismal woodpeckers tapping at
this terribly hollow beech-tree of penal discipline had a semi-ludicrous
appearance. It seemed so painfully absurd that forty muscular men should
be ironed and guarded for no better purpose than the cracking of a
cartload of quartz-pebbles. In the meantime the air was heavy with angry
glances shot from one to the other, and the passage of the parson
was hailed by a grumbling undertone of blasphemy. It was considered
fashionable to grunt when the hammer came in contact with the stone, and
under cover of this mock exclamation of fatigue, it was convenient
to launch an oath. A fanciful visitor, seeing the irregularly rising
hammers along the line, might have likened the shed to the interior of
some vast piano, whose notes an unseen hand was erratically fingering.
Rufus Dawes was seated last on the line--his back to the cells, his face
to the gaol wall. This was the place nearest the watching constable,
and was allotted on that account to the most ill-favoured. Some of his
companions envied him that melancholy distinction.

“Well, Dawes,” says Mr. Meekin, measuring with his eye the distance
between the prisoner and himself, as one might measure the chain of some
ferocious dog. “How are you this morning, Dawes?”

Dawes, scowling in a parenthesis between the cracking of two stones, was
understood to say that he was very well.

“I am afraid, Dawes,” said Mr. Meekin reproachfully, “that you have done
yourself no good by your outburst in court on Monday. I understand that
public opinion is quite incensed against you.”

Dawes, slowly arranging one large fragment of bluestone in a comfortable
basin of smaller fragments, made no reply.

“I am afraid you lack patience, Dawes. You do not repent of your
offences against the law, I fear.”

The only answer vouchsafed by the ironed man--if answer it could be
called--was a savage blow, which split the stone into sudden fragments,
and made the clergyman skip a step backward.

“You are a hardened ruffian, sir! Do you not hear me speak to you?”

“I hear you,” said Dawes, picking up another stone.

“Then listen respectfully, sir,” said Meekin, roseate with celestial
anger. “You have all day to break those stones.”

“Yes, I have all day,” returned Rufus Dawes, with a dogged look
upward, “and all next day, for that matter. Ugh!” and again the hammer

“I came to console you, man--to console you,” says Meekin, indignant at
the contempt with which his well-meant overtures had been received. “I
wanted to give you some good advice!”

The self-important annoyance of the tone seemed to appeal to whatever
vestige of appreciation for the humorous, chains and degradation had
suffered to linger in the convict’s brain, for a faint smile crossed his

“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said. “Pray, go on.”

“I was going to say, my good fellow, that you have done yourself a great
deal of injury by your ill-advised accusation of Captain Frere, and the
use you made of Miss Vickers’s name.”

A frown, as of pain, contracted the prisoner’s brows, and he seemed
with difficulty to put a restraint upon his speech. “Is there to be
no inquiry, Mr. Meekin?” he asked, at length. “What I stated was the
truth--the truth, so help me God!”

“No blasphemy, sir,” said Meekin, solemnly. “No blasphemy, wretched man.
Do not add to the sin of lying the greater sin of taking the name of the
Lord thy God in vain. He will not hold him guiltless, Dawes. He will not
hold him guiltless, remember. No, there is to be no inquiry.”

“Are they not going to ask her for her story?” asked Dawes, with a
pitiful change of manner. “They told me that she was to be asked. Surely
they will ask her.”

“I am not, perhaps, at liberty,” said Meekin, placidly unconscious of
the agony of despair and rage that made the voice of the strong man
before him quiver, “to state the intentions of the authorities, but I
can tell you that Miss Vickers will not be asked anything about you. You
are to go back to Port Arthur on the 24th, and to remain there.”

A groan burst from Rufus Dawes; a groan so full of torture that even the
comfortable Meekin was thrilled by it.

“It is the Law, you know, my good man. I can’t help it,” he said. “You
shouldn’t break the Law, you know.”

“Curse the Law!” cries Dawes. “It’s a Bloody Law; it’s--there, I beg
your pardon,” and he fell to cracking his stones again, with a laugh
that was more terrible in its bitter hopelessness of winning attention
or sympathy, than any outburst of passion could have been.

“Come,” says Meekin, feeling uneasily constrained to bring forth some of
his London-learnt platitudes. “You can’t complain. You have broken the
Law, and you must suffer. Civilized Society says you sha’n’t do certain
things, and if you do them you must suffer the penalty Civilized
Society imposes. You are not wanting in intelligence, Dawes, more’s the
pity--and you can’t deny the justice of that.”

Rufus Dawes, as if disdaining to answer in words, cast his eyes round
the yard with a glance that seemed to ask grimly if Civilized Society
was progressing quite in accordance with justice, when its civilization
created such places as that stone-walled, carbine-guarded prison-shed,
and filled it with such creatures as those forty human beasts, doomed to
spend the best years of their manhood cracking pebbles in it.

“You don’t deny that?” asked the smug parson, “do you, Dawes?”

“It’s not my place to argue with you, sir,” said Dawes, in a tone of
indifference, born of lengthened suffering, so nicely balanced between
contempt and respect, that the inexperienced Meekin could not tell
whether he had made a convert or subjected himself to an impertinence;
“but I’m a prisoner for life, and don’t look at it in the same way that
you do.”

This view of the question did not seem to have occurred to Mr. Meekin,
for his mild cheek flushed. Certainly, the fact of being a prisoner for
life did make some difference. The sound of the noonday bell, however,
warned him to cease argument, and to take his consolations out of the
way of the mustering prisoners.

With a great clanking and clashing of irons, the forty rose and stood
each by his stone-heap. The third constable came round, rapping the
leg-irons of each man with easy nonchalance, and roughly pulling up the
coarse trousers (made with buttoned flaps at the sides, like Mexican
calzoneros, in order to give free play to the ankle fetters), so that
he might assure himself that no tricks had been played since his last
visit. As each man passed this ordeal he saluted, and clanked, with
wide-spread legs, to the place in the double line. Mr. Meekin, though
not a patron of field sports, found something in the scene that reminded
him of a blacksmith picking up horses’ feet to examine the soundness of
their shoes.

“Upon my word,” he said to himself, with a momentary pang of genuine
compassion, “it is a dreadful way to treat human beings. I don’t wonder
at that wretched creature groaning under it. But, bless me, it is near
one o’clock, and I promised to lunch with Major Vickers at two. How time
flies, to be sure!”


That afternoon, while Mr. Meekin was digesting his lunch, and chatting
airily with Sylvia, Rufus Dawes began to brood over a desperate scheme.
The intelligence that the investigation he had hoped for was not to be
granted to him had rendered doubly bitter those galling fetters of self
restraint which he had laid upon himself. For five years of desolation
he had waited and hoped for a chance which might bring him to Hobart
Town, and enable him to denounce the treachery of Maurice Frere. He had,
by an almost miraculous accident, obtained that chance of open speech,
and, having obtained it, he found that he was not allowed to speak.
All the hopes he had formed were dashed to earth. All the calmness
with which he had forced himself to bear his fate was now turned into
bitterest rage and fury. Instead of one enemy he had twenty. All--judge,
jury, gaoler, and parson--were banded together to work him evil and deny
him right. The whole world was his foe: there was no honesty or truth in
any living creature--save one.

During the dull misery of his convict life at Port Arthur one bright
memory shone upon him like a star. In the depth of his degradation,
at the height of his despair, he cherished one pure and ennobling
thought--the thought of the child whom he had saved, and who loved him.
When, on board the whaler that had rescued him from the burning boat, he
had felt that the sailors, believing in Frere’s bluff lies, shrunk from
the moody felon, he had gained strength to be silent by thinking of the
suffering child. When poor Mrs. Vickers died, making no sign, and thus
the chief witness to his heroism perished before his eyes, the thought
that the child was left had restrained his selfish regrets. When Frere,
handing him over to the authorities as an absconder, ingeniously twisted
the details of the boat-building to his own glorification, the knowledge
that Sylvia would assign to these pretensions their true value had given
him courage to keep silence. So strong was his belief in her gratitude,
that he scorned to beg for the pardon he had taught himself to believe
that she would ask for him. So utter was his contempt for the coward and
boaster who, dressed in brief authority, bore insidious false witness
against him, that, when he heard his sentence of life banishment, he
disdained to make known the true part he had played in the matter,
preferring to wait for the more exquisite revenge, the more complete
justification which would follow upon the recovery of the child from
her illness. But when, at Port Arthur, day after day passed over, and
brought no word of pity or justification, he began, with a sickening
feeling of despair, to comprehend that something strange had happened.
He was told by newcomers that the child of the Commandant lay still
and near to death. Then he heard that she and her father had left the
colony, and that all prospect of her righting him by her evidence was at
an end. This news gave him a terrible pang; and at first he was inclined
to break out into upbraidings of her selfishness. But, with that depth
of love which was in him, albeit crusted over and concealed by the
sullenness of speech and manner which his sufferings had produced, he
found excuses for her even then. She was ill. She was in the hands of
friends who loved her, and disregarded him; perhaps, even her entreaties
and explanations were put aside as childish babblings. She would free
him if she had the power. Then he wrote “Statements”, agonized to see
the Commandant, pestered the gaolers and warders with the story of his
wrongs, and inundated the Government with letters, which, containing, as
they did always, denunciations of Maurice Frere, were never suffered to
reach their destination. The authorities, willing at the first to look
kindly upon him in consideration of his strange experience, grew weary
of this perpetual iteration of what they believed to be malicious
falsehoods, and ordered him heavier tasks and more continuous labour.
They mistook his gloom for treachery, his impatient outbursts of passion
at his fate for ferocity, his silent endurance for dangerous cunning.
As he had been at Macquarie Harbour, so did he become at Port Arthur--a
marked man. Despairing of winning his coveted liberty by fair means,
and horrified at the hideous prospect of a life in chains, he twice
attempted to escape, but escape was even more hopeless than it had been
at Hell’s Gates. The peninsula of Port Arthur was admirably guarded,
signal stations drew a chain round the prison, an armed boat’s crew
watched each bay, and across the narrow isthmus which connected it with
the mainland was a cordon of watch-dogs, in addition to the soldier
guard. He was retaken, of course, flogged, and weighted with heavier
irons. The second time, they sent him to the Coal Mines, where the
prisoners lived underground, worked half-naked, and dragged their
inspecting gaolers in wagons upon iron tramways, when such great people
condescended to visit them. The day on which he started for this place
he heard that Sylvia was dead, and his last hope went from him.

Then began with him a new religion. He worshipped the dead. For the
living, he had but hatred and evil words; for the dead, he had love and
tender thoughts. Instead of the phantoms of his vanished youth which
were wont to visit him, he saw now but one vision--the vision of the
child who had loved him. Instead of conjuring up for himself pictures of
that home circle in which he had once moved, and those creatures who in
the past years had thought him worthy of esteem and affection, he placed
before himself but one idea, one embodiment of happiness, one being who
was without sin and without stain, among all the monsters of that pit
into which he had fallen. Around the figure of the innocent child who
had lain in his breast, and laughed at him with her red young mouth,
he grouped every image of happiness and love. Having banished from his
thoughts all hope of resuming his name and place, he pictured to himself
some quiet nook at the world’s end--a deep-gardened house in a German
country town, or remote cottage by the English seashore, where he and
his dream-child might have lived together, happier in a purer affection
than the love of man for woman. He bethought him how he could have
taught her out of the strange store of learning which his roving life
had won for him, how he could have confided to her his real name, and
perhaps purchased for her wealth and honour by reason of it. Yet, he
thought, she would not care for wealth and honour; she would prefer
a quiet life--a life of unassuming usefulness, a life devoted to good
deeds, to charity and love. He could see her--in his visions--reading by
a cheery fireside, wandering in summer woods, or lingering by the marge
of the slumbering mid-day sea. He could feel--in his dreams--her soft
arms about his neck, her innocent kisses on his lips; he could hear her
light laugh, and see her sunny ringlets float, back-blown, as she ran
to meet him. Conscious that she was dead, and that he did to her gentle
memory no disrespect by linking her fortunes to those of a wretch who
had seen so much of evil as himself, he loved to think of her as still
living, and to plot out for her and for himself impossible plans for
future happiness. In the noisome darkness of the mine, in the glaring
light of the noonday--dragging at his loaded wagon, he could see her
ever with him, her calm eyes gazing lovingly on his, as they had gazed
in the boat so long ago. She never seemed to grow older, she never
seemed to wish to leave him. It was only when his misery became too
great for him to bear, and he cursed and blasphemed, mingling for a
time in the hideous mirth of his companions, that the little figure fled
away. Thus dreaming, he had shaped out for himself a sorrowful comfort,
and in his dream-world found a compensation for the terrible affliction
of living. Indifference to his present sufferings took possession of
him; only at the bottom of this indifference lurked a fixed hatred of
the man who had brought these sufferings upon him, and a determination
to demand at the first opportunity a reconsideration of that man’s
claims to be esteemed a hero. It was in this mood that he had intended
to make the revelation which he had made in Court, but the intelligence
that Sylvia lived unmanned him, and his prepared speech had been usurped
by a passionate torrent of complaint and invective, which convinced no
one, and gave Frere the very argument he needed. It was decided that the
prisoner Dawes was a malicious and artful scoundrel, whose only object
was to gain a brief respite of the punishment which he had so justly
earned. Against this injustice he had resolved to rebel. It was
monstrous, he thought, that they should refuse to hear the witness who
was so ready to speak in his favour, infamous that they should send him
back to his doom without allowing her to say a word in his defence. But
he would defeat that scheme. He had planned a method of escape, and he
would break from his bonds, fling himself at her feet, and pray her to
speak the truth for him, and so save him. Strong in his faith in her,
and with his love for her brightened by the love he had borne to her
dream-image, he felt sure of her power to rescue him now, as he had
rescued her before. “If she knew I was alive, she would come to me,” he
said. “I am sure she would. Perhaps they told her that I was dead.”

Meditating that night in the solitude of his cell--his evil character
had gained him the poor luxury of loneliness--he almost wept to think of
the cruel deception that had doubtless been practised on her. “They have
told her that I was dead, in order that she might learn to forget me;
but she could not do that. I have thought of her so often during these
weary years that she must sometimes have thought of me. Five years!
She must be a woman now. My little child a woman! Yet she is sure to be
childlike, sweet, and gentle. How she will grieve when she hears of my
sufferings. Oh! my darling, my darling, you are not dead!” And then,
looking hastily about him in the darkness, as though fearful even there
of being seen, he pulled from out his breast a little packet, and felt
it lovingly with his coarse, toil-worn fingers, reverently raising it to
his lips, and dreaming over it, with a smile on his face, as though it
were a sacred talisman that should open to him the doors of freedom.


A few days after this--on the 23rd of December--Maurice Frere was
alarmed by a piece of startling intelligence. The notorious Dawes had
escaped from gaol!

Captain Frere had inspected the prison that very afternoon, and it had
seemed to him that the hammers had never fallen so briskly, nor the
chains clanked so gaily, as on the occasion of his visit. “Thinking
of their Christmas holiday, the dogs!” he had said to the patrolling
warder. “Thinking about their Christmas pudding, the luxurious
scoundrels!” and the convict nearest him had laughed appreciatively, as
convicts and schoolboys do laugh at the jests of the man in authority.
All seemed contentment. Moreover, he had--by way of a pleasant stroke
of wit--tormented Rufus Dawes with his ill-fortune. “The schooner sails
to-morrow, my man,” he had said; “you’ll spend your Christmas at the
mines.” And congratulated himself upon the fact that Rufus Dawes
merely touched his cap, and went on with his stone-cracking in silence.
Certainly double irons and hard labour were fine things to break a man’s
spirit. So that, when in the afternoon of that same day he heard the
astounding news that Rufus Dawes had freed himself from his fetters,
climbed the gaol wall in broad daylight, run the gauntlet of Macquarie
Street, and was now supposed to be safely hidden in the mountains, he
was dumbfounded.

“How the deuce did he do it, Jenkins?” he asked, as soon as he reached
the yard.

“Well, I’m blessed if I rightly know, your honour,” says Jenkins. “He
was over the wall before you could say ‘knife’. Scott fired and missed
him, and then I heard the sentry’s musket, but he missed him, too.”

“Missed him!” cries Frere. “Pretty fellows you are, all of you! I
suppose you couldn’t hit a haystack at twenty yards? Why, the man wasn’t
three feet from the end of your carbine!”

The unlucky Scott, standing in melancholy attitude by the empty irons,
muttered something about the sun having been in his eyes. “I don’t know
how it was, sir. I ought to have hit him, for certain. I think I did
touch him, too, as he went up the wall.”

A stranger to the customs of the place might have imagined that he was
listening to a conversation about a pigeon match.

“Tell me all about it,” says Frere, with an angry curse. “I was just
turning, your honour, when I hears Scott sing out ‘Hullo!’ and when I
turned round, I saw Dawes’s irons on the ground, and him a-scrambling
up the heap o’ stones yonder. The two men on my right jumped up, and
I thought it was a made-up thing among ‘em, so I covered ‘em with my
carbine, according to instructions, and called out that I’d shoot the
first that stepped out. Then I heard Scott’s piece, and the men gave a
shout like. When I looked round, he was gone.”

“Nobody else moved?”

“No, sir. I was confused at first, and thought they were all in it, but
Parton and Haines they runs in and gets between me and the wall, and
then Mr. Short he come, and we examined their irons.”

“All right?”

“All right, your honour; and they all swore they knowed nothing of it. I
know Dawes’s irons was all right when he went to dinner.”

Frere stopped and examined the empty fetters. “All right be hanged,” he
said. “If you don’t know your duty better than this, the sooner you go
somewhere else the better, my man. Look here!”

The two ankle fetters were severed. One had been evidently filed
through, and the other broken transversely. The latter was bent, as from
a violent blow.

“Don’t know where he got the file from,” said Warder Short.

“Know! Of course you don’t know. You men never do know anything until
the mischief’s done. You want me here for a month or so. I’d teach you
your duty! Don’t know--with things like this lying about? I wonder the
whole yard isn’t loose and dining with the Governor.”

“This” was a fragment of delft pottery which Frere’s quick eye had
detected among the broken metal.

“I’d cut the biggest iron you’ve got with this; and so would he and
plenty more, I’ll go bail. You ought to have lived with me at Sarah
Island, Mr. Short. Don’t know!”

“Well, Captain Frere, it’s an accident,” says Short, “and can’t be
helped now.”

“An accident!” roared Frere. “What business have you with accidents?
How, in the devil’s name, you let the man get over the wall, I don’t

“He ran up that stone heap,” says Scott, “and seemed to me to jump at
the roof of the shed. I fired at him, and he swung his legs over the top
of the wall and dropped.”

Frere measured the distance from his eye, and an irrepressible feeling
of admiration, rising out of his own skill in athletics, took possession
of him for an instant.

“By the Lord Harry, but it’s a big jump!” he said; and then the
instinctive fear with which the consciousness of the hideous wrong
he had done the now escaped convict inspired him, made him add: “A
desperate villain like that wouldn’t stick at a murder if you pressed
him hard. Which way did he go?”

“Right up Macquarie Street, and then made for the mountain. There were
few people about, but Mr. Mays, of the Star Hotel, tried to stop him,
and was knocked head over heels. He says the fellow runs like a deer.”

“We’ll have the reward out if we don’t get him to-night,” says Frere,
turning away; “and you’d better put on an extra warder. This sort of
game is catching.” And he strode away to the Barracks.

From right to left, from east to west, through the prison city flew the
signal of alarm, and the patrol, clattering out along the road to New
Norfolk, made hot haste to strike the trail of the fugitive. But night
came and found him yet at large, and the patrol returning, weary and
disheartened, protested that he must be lying hid in some gorge of the
purple mountain that overshadowed the town, and would have to be starved
into submission. Meanwhile the usual message ran through the island,
and so admirable were the arrangements which Arthur the reformer had
initiated, that, before noon of the next day, not a signal station on
the coast but knew that No. 8942, etc., etc., prisoner for life, was
illegally at large. This intelligence, further aided by a paragraph in
the Gazette anent the “Daring Escape”, noised abroad, the world cared
little that the Mary Jane, Government schooner, had sailed for Port
Arthur without Rufus Dawes.

But two or three persons cared a good deal. Major Vickers, for one, was
indignant that his boasted security of bolts and bars should have been
so easily defied, and in proportion to his indignation was the grief of
Messieurs Jenkins, Scott, and Co., suspended from office, and threatened
with absolute dismissal. Mr. Meekin was terribly frightened at the fact
that so dangerous a monster should be roaming at large within reach of
his own saintly person. Sylvia had shown symptoms of nervous terror,
none the less injurious because carefully repressed; and Captain Maurice
Frere was a prey to the most cruel anxiety. He had ridden off at a
hand-gallop within ten minutes after he had reached the Barracks, and
had spent the few hours of remaining daylight in scouring the country
along the road to the North. At dawn the next day he was away to the
mountain, and with a black-tracker at his heels, explored as much of
that wilderness of gully and chasm as nature permitted to him. He had
offered to double the reward, and had examined a number of suspicious
persons. It was known that he had been inspecting the prison a few hours
before the escape took place, and his efforts were therefore attributed
to zeal, not unmixed with chagrin. “Our dear friend feels his reputation
at stake,” the future chaplain of Port Arthur said to Sylvia at the
Christmas dinner. “He is so proud of his knowledge of these unhappy men
that he dislikes to be outwitted by any of them.”

Notwithstanding all this, however, Dawes had disappeared. The fat
landlord of the Star Hotel was the last person who saw him, and the
flying yellow figure seemed to have been as completely swallowed up by
the warm summer’s afternoon as if it had run headlong into the blackest
night that ever hung above the earth.


The “little gathering” of which Major Vickers had spoken to Mr. Meekin,
had grown into something larger than he had anticipated. Instead of a
quiet dinner at which his own household, his daughter’s betrothed, and
the stranger clergyman only should be present, the Major found himself
entangled with Mesdames Protherick and Jellicoe, Mr. McNab of the
garrison, and Mr. Pounce of the civil list. His quiet Christmas dinner
had grown into an evening party.

The conversation was on the usual topic.

“Heard anything about that fellow Dawes?” asked Mr. Pounce.

“Not yet,” says Frere, sulkily, “but he won’t be out long. I’ve got a
dozen men up the mountain.”

“I suppose it is not easy for a prisoner to make good his escape?” says

“Oh, he needn’t be caught,” says Frere, “if that’s what you mean; but
he’ll starve instead. The bushranging days are over now, and it’s a
precious poor look-out for any man to live upon luck in the bush.”

“Indeed, yes,” says Mr. Pounce, lapping his soup. “This island seems
specially adapted by Providence for a convict settlement; for with an
admirable climate, it carries little indigenous vegetation which will
support human life.”

“Wull,” said McNab to Sylvia, “I don’t think Prauvidence had any thocht
o’ caunveect deesiplin whun He created the cauleny o’ Van Deemen’s

“Neither do I,” said Sylvia.

“I don’t know,” says Mrs. Protherick. “Poor Protherick used often to
say that it seemed as if some Almighty Hand had planned the Penal
Settlements round the coast, the country is so delightfully barren.”

“Ay, Port Arthur couldn’t have been better if it had been made on
purpose,” says Frere; “and all up the coast from Tenby to St. Helen’s
there isn’t a scrap for human being to make a meal on. The West Coast is
worse. By George, sir, in the old days, I remember--”

“By the way,” says Meekin, “I’ve got something to show you. Rex’s
confession. I brought it down on purpose.”

“Rex’s confession!”

“His account of his adventures after he left Macquarie Harbour. I am
going to send it to the Bishop.”

“Oh, I should like to see it,” said Sylvia, with heightened colour. “The
story of these unhappy men has a personal interest for me.”

“A forbidden subject, Poppet.”

“No, papa, not altogether forbidden; for it does not affect me now as it
used to do. You must let me read it, Mr. Meekin.”

“A pack of lies, I expect,” said Frere, with a scowl. “That scoundrel
Rex couldn’t tell the truth to save his life.”

“You misjudge him, Captain Frere,” said Meekin. “All the prisoners are
not hardened in iniquity like Rufus Dawes. Rex is, I believe, truly
penitent, and has written a most touching letter to his father.”

“A letter!” said Vickers. “You know that, by the King’s--no, the
Queen’s Regulations, no letters are allowed to be sent to the friends of
prisoners without first passing through the hands of the authorities.”

“I am aware of that, Major, and for that reason have brought it with me,
that you may read it for yourself. It seems to me to breathe a spirit of
true piety.”

“Let’s have a look at it,” said Frere.

“Here it is,” returned Meekin, producing a packet; “and when the cloth
is removed, I will ask permission of the ladies to read it aloud. It is
most interesting.”

A glance of surprise passed between the ladies Protherick and Jellicoe.
The idea of a convict’s letter proving interesting! Mr. Meekin was new
to the ways of the place.

Frere, turning the packet between his finger, read the address:--

John Rex, sen., Care of Mr. Blicks, 38, Bishopsgate Street Within,

“Why can’t he write to his father direct?” said he. “Who’s Blick?”

“A worthy merchant, I am told, in whose counting-house the fortunate
Rex passed his younger days. He had a tolerable education, as you are

“Educated prisoners are always the worst,” said Vickers. “James, some
more wine. We don’t drink toasts here, but as this is Christmas Eve,
‘Her Majesty the Queen’!”

“Hear, hear, hear!” says Maurice. “‘Her Majesty the Queen’!”

Having drunk this loyal toast with due fervour, Vickers proposed, “His
Excellency Sir John Franklin”, which toast was likewise duly honoured.

“Here’s a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, sir,” said Frere,
with the letter still in his hand. “God bless us all.”

“Amen!” says Meekin piously. “Let us hope He will; and now, leddies, the
letter. I will read you the Confession afterwards.” Opening the packet
with the satisfaction of a Gospel vineyard labourer who sees his first
vine sprouting, the good creature began to read aloud:

“‘Hobart Town, “‘December 27, 1838. “‘My Dear Father,--Through all the
chances, changes, and vicissitudes of my chequered life, I never had a
task so painful to my mangled feelings as the present one, of addressing
you from this doleful spot--my sea-girt prison, on the beach of which I
stand a monument of destruction, driven by the adverse winds of fate to
the confines of black despair, and into the vortex of galling misery.’”

“Poetical!” said Frere.

“‘I am just like a gigantic tree of the forest which has stood many a
wintry blast, and stormy tempest, but now, alas! I am become a withered
trunk, with all my greenest and tenderest branches lopped off. Though
fast attaining middle age, I am not filling an envied and honoured
post with credit and respect. No--I shall be soon wearing the garb of
degradation, and the badge and brand of infamy at P.A., which is, being
interpreted, Port Arthur, the ‘Villain’s Home’.”

“Poor fellow!” said Sylvia.

“Touching, is it not?” assented Meekin, continuing--

“‘I am, with heartrending sorrow and anguish of soul, ranged and mingled
with the Outcasts of Society. My present circumstances and pictures you
will find well and truly drawn in the 102nd Psalm, commencing with the
4th verse to the 12th inclusive, which, my dear father, I request you
will read attentively before you proceed any further.’”

“Hullo!” said Frere, pulling out his pocket-book, “what’s that? Read
those numbers again.” Mr. Meekin complied, and Frere grinned. “Go on,”
 he said. “I’ll show you something in that letter directly.”

“‘Oh, my dear father, avoid, I beg of you, the reading of profane books.
Let your mind dwell upon holy things, and assiduously study to grow
in grace. Psalm lxxiii 2. Yet I have hope even in this, my desolate
condition. Psalm xxxv 18. “For the Lord our God is merciful, and
inclineth His ear unto pity”.’”

“Blasphemous dog!” said Vickers. “You don’t believe all that, Meekin, do
you?” The parson reproved him gently. “Wait a moment, sir, until I have

“‘Party spirit runs very high, even in prison in Van Diemen’s Land. I
am sorry to say that a licentious press invariably evinces a very great
degree of contumely, while the authorities are held in respect by all
well-disposed persons, though it is often endeavoured by some to bring
on them the hatred and contempt of prisoners. But I am glad to tell you
that all their efforts are without avail; but, nevertheless, do not read
in any colonial newspaper. There is so much scurrility and vituperation
in their productions.’”

“That’s for your benefit, Frere,” said Vickers, with a smile. “You
remember what was said about your presence at the race meetings?”

“Of course,” said Frere. “Artful scoundrel! Go on, Mr. Meekin, pray.”

“‘I am aware that you will hear accounts of cruelty and tyranny, said,
by the malicious and the evil-minded haters of the Government and
Government officials, to have been inflicted by gaolers on convicts. To
be candid, this is not the dreadful place it has been represented to be
by vindictive writers. Severe flogging and heavy chaining is sometimes
used, no doubt, but only in rare cases; and nominal punishments are
marked out by law for slight breaches of discipline. So far as I have an
opportunity of judging, the lash is never bestowed unless merited.’”

“As far as he is concerned, I don’t doubt it!” said Frere, cracking a

“‘The texts of Scripture quoted by our chaplain have comforted me much,
and I have much to be grateful for; for after the rash attempt I made to
secure my freedom, I have reason to be thankful for the mercy shown to
me. Death--dreadful death of soul and body--would have been my portion;
but, by the mercy of Omnipotence, I have been spared to repentance--John
iii. I have now come to bitterness. The chaplain, a pious gentleman,
says it never really pays to steal. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in
Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.” Honesty is the
best policy, I am convinced, and I would not for £1,000 repeat my evil
courses--Psalm xxxviii 14. When I think of the happy days I once passed
with good Mr. Blicks, in the old house in Blue Anchor Yard, and reflect
that since that happy time I have recklessly plunged in sin, and stolen
goods and watches, studs, rings, and jewellery, become, indeed, a common
thief, I tremble with remorse, and fly to prayer--Psalm v. Oh what
sinners we are! Let me hope that now I, by God’s blessing placed beyond
temptation, will live safely, and that some day I even may, by the will
of the Lord Jesus, find mercy for my sins. Some kind of madness has
method in it, but madness of sin holds us without escape. Such is, dear
father, then, my hope and trust for my remaining life here--Psalm c 74.
I owe my bodily well-being to Captain Maurice Frere, who was good enough
to speak of my conduct in reference to the Osprey, when, with Shiers,
Barker, and others, we captured that vessel. Pray for Captain Frere, my
dear father. He is a good man, and though his public duty is painful and
trying to his feelings, yet, as a public functionary, he could not allow
his private feelings, whether of mercy or revenge, to step between him
and his duty.’”

“Confound the rascal!” said Frere, growing crimson.

“‘Remember me most affectionately to Sarah and little William, and
all friends who yet cherish the recollection of me, and bid them take
warning by my fate, and keep from evil courses. A good conscience is
better than gold, and no amount can compensate for the misery incident
to a return to crime. Whether I shall ever see you again, dear father,
is more than uncertain; for my doom is life, unless the Government
alter their plans concerning me, and allow me an opportunity to earn my
freedom by hard work.

“‘The blessing of God rest with you, my dear father, and that you may be
washed white in the blood of the Lamb is the prayer of your

“‘Unfortunate Son,’ “John Rex” ‘P.S.---Though your sins be as scarlet
they shall be whiter than snow.’”

“Is that all?” said Frere.

“That is all, sir, and a very touching letter it is.”

“So it is,” said Frere. “Now let me have it a moment, Mr. Meekin.”

He took the paper, and referring to the numbers of the texts which he
had written in his pocket-book, began to knit his brows over Mr. John
Rex’s impious and hypocritical production. “I thought so,” he said, at
length. “Those texts were never written for nothing. It’s an old trick,
but cleverly done.”

“What do you mean?” said Meekin. “Mean!” cries Frere, with a smile at
his own acuteness. “This precious composition contains a very gratifying
piece of intelligence for Mr. Blicks, whoever he is. Some receiver, I’ve
no doubt. Look here, Mr. Meekin. Take the letter and this pencil, and
begin at the first text. The 102nd Psalm, from the 4th verse to the
12th inclusive, doesn’t he say? Very good; that’s nine verses, isn’t
it? Well, now, underscore nine consecutive words from the second word
immediately following the next text quoted, ‘I have hope,’ etc. Have you
got it?”

“Yes,” says Meekin, astonished, while all heads bent over the table.

“Well, now, his text is the eighteenth verse of the thirty-fifth Psalm,
isn’t it? Count eighteen words on, then underscore five consecutive
ones. You’ve done that?”

“A moment--sixteen--seventeen--eighteen, ‘authorities’.”

“Count and score in the same way until you come to the word ‘Texts’
somewhere. Vickers, I’ll trouble you for the claret.”

“Yes,” said Meekin, after a pause. “Here it is--‘the texts of Scripture
quoted by our chaplain’. But surely Mr. Frere--”

“Hold on a bit now,” cries Frere. “What’s the next quotation?--John
iii. That’s every third word. Score every third word beginning with ‘I’
immediately following the text, now, until you come to a quotation. Got
it? How many words in it?”

“‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust
doth corrupt’,” said Meekin, a little scandalized. “Fourteen words.”

“Count fourteen words on, then, and score the fourteenth. I’m up to this
text-quoting business.”

“The word ‘£1000’,” said Meekin. “Yes.”

“Then there’s another text. Thirty-eighth--isn’t it?--Psalm and the
fourteenth verse. Do that the same way as the other--count fourteen
words, and then score eight in succession. Where does that bring you?”

“The fifth Psalm.”

“Every fifth word then. Go on, my dear sir--go on. ‘Method’ of ‘escape’,
yes. The hundredth Psalm means a full stop. What verse? Seventy-four.
Count seventy-four words and score.”

There was a pause for a few minutes while Mr. Meekin counted. The letter
had really turned out interesting.

“Read out your marked words now, Meekin. Let’s see if I’m right.” Mr.
Meekin read with gradually crimsoning face:--

“‘I have hope even in this my desolate condition... in prison Van
Diemen’s Land... the authorities are held in... hatred and contempt of
prisoners... read in any colonial newspaper... accounts of cruelty and
tyranny... inflicted by gaolers on convicts... severe flogging and
heavy chaining... for slight breaches of discipline...I... come... the
pious... it... pays...£1,000... in the old house in Blue Anchor
Yard... stolen goods and watches studs rings and
jewellery... are... now... placed... safely...I...
will... find... some... method of escape... then... for revenge.’”

“Well,” said Maurice, looking round with a grin, “what do you think of

“Most remarkable!” said Mr. Pounce.

“How did you find it out, Frere?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” says Frere; meaning that it was a great deal. “I’ve
studied a good many of these things, and this one is clumsy to some I’ve
seen. But it’s pious, isn’t it, Meekin?”

Mr. Meekin arose in wrath.

“It’s very ungracious on your part, Captain Frere. A capital joke,
I have no doubt; but permit me to say I do not like jesting on such
matters. This poor fellow’s letter to his aged father to be made the
subject of heartless merriment, I confess I do not understand. It was
confided to me in my sacred character as a Christian pastor.”

“That’s just it. The fellows play upon the parsons, don’t you know, and
under cover of your ‘sacred character’ play all kinds of pranks. How the
dog must have chuckled when he gave you that!”

“Captain Frere,” said Mr. Meekin, changing colour like a chameleon
with indignation and rage, “your interpretation is, I am convinced, an
incorrect one. How could the poor man compose such an ingenious piece of

“If you mean, fake up that paper,” returned Frere, unconsciously
dropping into prison slang, “I’ll tell you. He had a Bible, I suppose,
while he was writing?”

“I certainly permitted him the use of the Sacred Volume, Captain Frere.
I should have judged it inconsistent with the character of my Office to
have refused it to him.”

“Of course. And that’s just where you parsons are always putting your
foot into it. If you’d put your ‘Office’ into your pocket and open your
eyes a bit--”

“Maurice! My dear Maurice!”

“I beg your pardon, Meekin,” says Maurice, with clumsy apology; “but I
know these fellows. I’ve lived among ‘em, I came out in a ship with
‘em, I’ve talked with ‘em, and drank with ‘em, and I’m down to all their
moves, don’t you see. The Bible is the only book they get hold of, and
texts are the only bits of learning ever taught ‘m, and being chockfull
of villainy and plots and conspiracies, what other book should they make
use of to aid their infernal schemes but the one that the chaplain has
made a text book for ‘em?” And Maurice rose in disgust, not unmixed with

“Dear me, it is really very terrible,” says Meekin, who was not
ill-meaning, but only self-complacent--“very terrible indeed.”

“But unhappily true,” said Mr. Pounce. “An olive? Thanks.”

“Upon me soul!” burst out honest McNab, “the hail seestem seems to be
maist ill-calculated tae advance the wark o’ reeformation.”

“Mr. McNab, I’ll trouble you for the port,” said equally honest Vickers,
bound hand and foot in the chains of the rules of the services. And
so, what seemed likely to become a dangerous discussion upon convict
discipline, was stifled judiciously at the birth. But Sylvia, prompted,
perhaps, by curiosity, perhaps by a desire to modify the parson’s
chagrin, in passing Mr. Meekin, took up the “confession,” that lay
unopened beside his wine glass, and bore it off.

“Come, Mr. Meekin,” said Vickers, when the door closed behind the
ladies, “help yourself. I am sorry the letter turned out so strangely,
but you may rely on Frere, I assure you. He knows more about convicts
than any man on the island.”

“I see, Captain Frere, that you have studied the criminal classes.”

“So I have, my dear sir, and know every turn and twist among ‘em. I tell
you my maxim. It’s some French fellow’s, too, I believe, but that don’t
matter--divide to conquer. Set all the dogs spying on each other.”

“Oh!” said Meekin. “It’s the only way. Why, my dear sir, if the
prisoners were as faithful to each other as we are, we couldn’t hold
the island a week. It’s just because no man can trust his neighbour that
every mutiny falls to the ground.”

“I suppose it must be so,” said poor Meekin.

“It is so; and, by George, sir, if I had my way, I’d have it so that no
prisoner should say a word to his right hand man, but his left hand man
should tell me of it. I’d promote the men that peached, and make the
beggars their own warders. Ha, ha!”

“But such a course, Captain Frere, though perhaps useful in a certain
way, would surely produce harm. It would excite the worst passions of
our fallen nature, and lead to endless lying and tyranny. I’m sure it

“Wait a bit,” cries Frere. “Perhaps one of these days I’ll get a chance,
and then I’ll try it. Convicts! By the Lord Harry, sir, there’s only one
way to treat ‘em; give ‘em tobacco when they behave ‘emselves, and flog
‘em when they don’t.”

“Terrible!” says the clergyman with a shudder. “You speak of them as if
they were wild beasts.”

“So they are,” said Maurice Frere, calmly.


At the bottom of the long luxuriant garden-ground was a rustic seat
abutting upon the low wall that topped the lane. The branches of the
English trees (planted long ago) hung above it, and between their
rustling boughs one could see the reach of the silver river. Sitting
with her face to the bay and her back to the house, Sylvia opened the
manuscript she had carried off from Meekin, and began to read. It was
written in a firm, large hand, and headed--


Sylvia, having read this grandiloquent sentence, paused for a moment.
The story of the mutiny, which had been the chief event of her
childhood, lay before her, and it seemed to her that, were it related
truly, she would comprehend something strange and terrible, which had
been for many years a shadow upon her memory. Longing, and yet fearing,
to proceed, she held the paper, half unfolded, in her hand, as, in her
childhood, she had held ajar the door of some dark room, into which she
longed and yet feared to enter. Her timidity lasted but an instant.

          *          *          *          *          *

“When orders arrived from head-quarters to break up the penal settlement
of Macquarie Harbour, the Commandant (Major Vickers, --th Regiment) and
most of the prisoners embarked on board a colonial vessel, and set
sail for Hobart Town, leaving behind them a brig that had been built at
Macquarie Harbour, to be brought round after them, and placing Captain
Maurice Frere in command. Left aboard her was Mr. Bates, who had acted
as pilot at the settlement, also four soldiers, and ten prisoners, as
a crew to work the vessel. The Commandant’s wife and child were also

          *          *          *          *          *

“How strangely it reads,” thought the girl.

          *          *          *          *          *

“On the 12th of January, 1834, we set sail, and in the afternoon
anchored safely outside the Gates; but a breeze setting in from
the north-west caused a swell on the Bar, and Mr. Bates ran back to
Wellington Bay. We remained there all next day; and in the afternoon
Captain Frere took two soldiers and a boat, and went a-fishing. There
were then only Mr. Bates and the other two soldiers aboard, and it
was proposed by William Cheshire to seize the vessel. I was at first
unwilling, thinking that loss of life might ensue; but Cheshire and the
others, knowing that I was acquainted with navigation--having in happier
days lived much on the sea--threatened me if I refused to join. A song
was started in the folksle, and one of the soldiers, coming to listen
to it, was seized, and Lyon and Riley then made prisoner of the
sentry. Forced thus into a project with which I had at first but little
sympathy, I felt my heart leap at the prospect of freedom, and would
have sacrificed all to obtain it. Maddened by the desperate hopes that
inspired me, I from that moment assumed the command of my wretched
companions; and honestly think that, however culpable I may have been in
the eyes of the law, I prevented them from the display of a violence to
which their savage life had unhappily made them but too accustomed.”

          *          *          *          *          *

“Poor fellow,” said Sylvia, beguiled by Master Rex’s specious
paragraphs, “I think he was not to blame.”

          *          *          *          *          *

“Mr. Bates was below in the cabin, and on being summoned by Cheshire to
surrender, with great courage attempted a defence. Barker fired at him
through the skylight, but fearful of the lives of the Commandant’s
wife and child, I struck up his musket, and the ball passed through the
mouldings of the stern windows. At the same time, the soldiers whom we
had bound in the folksle forced up the hatch and came on deck. Cheshire
shot the first one, and struck the other with his clubbed musket. The
wounded man lost his footing, and the brig lurching with the rising
tide, he fell into the sea. This was--by the blessing of God--the only
life lost in the whole affair.

“Mr. Bates, seeing now that we had possession of the deck, surrendered,
upon promise that the Commandant’s wife and child should be put ashore
in safety. I directed him to take such matters as he needed, and
prepared to lower the jolly-boat. As she swung off the davits, Captain
Frere came alongside in the whale-boat, and gallantly endeavoured to
board us, but the boat drifted past the vessel. I was now determined to
be free--indeed, the minds of all on board were made up to carry through
the business--and hailing the whale-boat, swore to fire into her unless
she surrendered. Captain Frere refused, and was for boarding us again,
but the two soldiers joined with us, and prevented his intention. Having
now got the prisoners into the jolly-boat, we transferred Captain Frere
into her, and being ourselves in the whale-boat, compelled Captain Frere
and Mr. Bates to row ashore. We then took the jolly-boat in tow, and
returned to the brig, a strict watch being kept for fear that they
should rescue the vessel from us.

“At break of day every man was upon deck, and a consultation took place
concerning the parting of the provisions. Cheshire was for leaving them
to starve, but Lesly, Shiers, and I held out for an equal division.
After a long and violent controversy, Humanity gained the day, and the
provisions were put into the whale-boat, and taken ashore. Upon the
receipt of the provisions, Mr. Bates thus expressed himself: ‘Men, I did
not for one moment expect such kind treatment from you, regarding the
provisions you have now brought ashore for us, out of so little which
there was on board. When I consider your present undertaking, without
a competent navigator, and in a leaky vessel, your situation seems most
perilous; therefore I hope God will prove kind to you, and preserve
you from the manifold dangers you may have to encounter on the stormy
ocean.’ Mrs. Vickers also was pleased to say that I had behaved kindly
to her, that she wished me well, and that when she returned to
Hobart Town she would speak in my favour. They then cheered us on our
departure, wishing we might be prosperous on account of our humanity in
sharing the provisions with them.

“Having had breakfast, we commenced throwing overboard the light cargo
which was in the hold, which employed us until dinnertime. After dinner
we ran out a small kedge-anchor with about one hundred fathoms of line,
and having weighed anchor, and the tide being slack, we hauled on the
kedge-line, and succeeded in this manner by kedging along, and we
came to two islands, called the Cap and Bonnet. The whole of us then
commenced heaving the brig short, sending the whale-boat to take her
in tow, after we had tripped the anchor. By this means we got her safe
across the Bar. Scarcely was this done when a light breeze sprang up
from the south-west, and firing a musket to apprize the party we had
left of our safety, we made sail and put out to sea.”

Having read thus far, Sylvia paused in an agony of recollection. She
remembered the firing of the musket, and that her mother had wept over
her. But beyond this all was uncertainty. Memories slipped across her
mind like shadows--she caught at them, and they were gone. Yet the
reading of this strange story made her nerves thrill. Despite the
hypocritical grandiloquence and affected piety of the narrative, it
was easy to see that, save some warping of facts to make for himself
a better case, and to extol the courage of the gaolers who had him at
their mercy, the narrator had not attempted to better his tale by the
invention of perils. The history of the desperate project that had
been planned and carried out five years before was related with grim
simplicity which (because it at once bears the stamp of truth, and
forces the imagination of the reader to supply the omitted details
of horror), is more effective to inspire sympathy than elaborate
description. The very barrenness of the narration was hideously
suggestive, and the girl felt her heart beat quicker as her poetic
intellect rushed to complete the terrible picture sketched by the
convict. She saw it all--the blue sea, the burning sun, the slowly
moving ship, the wretched company on the shore; she heard--Was that a
rustling in the bushes below her? A bird! How nervous she was growing!

“Being thus fairly rid--as we thought--of our prison life, we cheerfully
held consultation as to our future course. It was my intention to get
among the islands in the South Seas, and scuttling the brig, to pass
ourselves off among the natives as shipwrecked seamen, trusting to God’s
mercy that some homeward bound vessel might at length rescue us. With
this view, I made James Lesly first mate, he being an experienced
mariner, and prepared myself, with what few instruments we had, to take
our departure from Birches Rock. Having hauled the whale-boat alongside,
we stove her, together with the jolly-boat, and cast her adrift.
This done, I parted the landsmen with the seamen, and, steering east
south-east, at eight p.m. we set our first watch. In little more than an
hour after this came on a heavy gale from the south-west. I, and others
of the landsmen, were violently sea-sick, and Lesly had some difficulty
in handling the brig, as the boisterous weather called for two men at
the helm. In the morning, getting upon deck with difficulty, I found
that the wind had abated, but upon sounding the well discovered much
water in the hold. Lesly rigged the pumps, but the starboard one only
could be made to work. From that time there were but two businesses
aboard--from the pump to the helm. The gale lasted two days and a night,
the brig running under close-reefed topsails, we being afraid to shorten
sail lest we might be overtaken by some pursuing vessel, so strong was
the terror of our prison upon us.

“On the 16th, at noon, I again forced myself on deck, and taking a
meridian observation, altered the course of the brig to east and by
south, wishing to run to the southward of New Zealand, out of the usual
track of shipping; and having a notion that, should our provisions hold
out, we might make the South American coast, and fall into Christian
hands. This done, I was compelled to retire below, and for a week lay
in my berth as one at the last gasp. At times I repented my resolution,
Fair urging me to bestir myself, as the men were not satisfied with our
course. On the 21st a mutiny occurred, led by Lyons, who asserted
we were heading into the Pacific, and must infallibly perish. This
disaffected man, though ignorant of navigation, insisted upon steering
to the south, believing that we had run to the northward of the
Friendly Islands, and was for running the ship ashore and beseeching
the protection of the natives. Lesly in vain protested that a southward
course would bring us into icefields. Barker, who had served on board
a whaler, strove to convince the mutineers that the temperature of such
latitudes was too warm for such an error to escape us. After much noise,
Lyons rushed to the helm, and Russen, drawing one of the pistols taken
from Mr. Bates, shot him dead, upon which the others returned to their
duty. This dreadful deed was, I fear, necessary to the safety of the
brig; and had it occurred on board a vessel manned by free-men, would
have been applauded as a stern but needful measure.

“Forced by these tumults upon deck, I made a short speech to the crew,
and convinced them that I was competent to perform what I had promised
to do, though at the time my heart inwardly failed me, and I longed for
some sign of land. Supported at each arm by Lesly and Barker, I took an
observation, and altered our course to north by east, the brig running
eleven knots an hour under single-reefed topsails, and the pumps hard at
work. So we ran until the 31st of January, when a white squall took us,
and nearly proved fatal to all aboard.

“Lesly now committed a great error, for, upon the brig righting (she
was thrown upon her beam ends, and her spanker boom carried away), he
commanded to furl the fore-top sail, strike top-gallant yards, furl the
main course, and take a reef in the maintopsail, leaving her to scud
under single-reefed maintopsail and fore-sail. This caused the vessel to
leak to that degree that I despaired of reaching land in her, and prayed
to the Almighty to send us speedy assistance. For nine days and nights
the storm continued, the men being utterly exhausted. One of the two
soldiers whom we had employed to fish the two pieces of the spanker
boom, with some quartering that we had, was washed overboard and
drowned. Our provision was now nearly done, but the gale abating on
the ninth day, we hastened to put provisions on the launch. The sea
was heavy, and we were compelled to put a purchase on the fore and main
yards, with preventers to windward, to ease the launch in going over the
side. We got her fairly afloat at last, the others battening down the
hatches in the brig. Having dressed ourselves in the clothes of Captain
Frere and the pilot, we left the brig at sundown, lying with her channel
plates nearly under water.

“The wind freshening during the night, our launch, which might, indeed,
be termed a long-boat, having been fitted with mast, bowsprit, and main
boom, began to be very uneasy, shipping two seas one after the other.
The plan we could devise was to sit, four of us about, in the stern
sheets, with our backs to the sea, to prevent the water pooping us. This
itself was enough to exhaust the strongest men. The day, however, made
us some amends for the dreadful night. Land was not more than ten miles
from us; approaching as nearly as we could with safety, we hauled our
wind, and ran along in, trusting to find some harbour. At half-past two
we sighted a bay of very curious appearance, having two large rocks at
the entrance, resembling pyramids. Shiers, Russen, and Fair landed, in
hopes of discovering fresh water, of which we stood much in need. Before
long they returned, stating that they had found an Indian hut, inside
of which were some rude earthenware vessels. Fearful of surprise, we lay
off the shore all that night, and putting into the bay very early in the
morning, killed a seal. This was the first fresh meat I had tasted for
four years. It seemed strange to eat it under such circumstances. We
cooked the flippers, heart, and liver for breakfast, giving some to
a cat which we had taken with us out of the brig, for I would not,
willingly, allow even that animal to perish. After breakfast, we got
under weigh; and we had scarcely been out half an hour when we had a
fresh breeze, which carried us along at the rate of seven knots an hour,
running from bay to bay to find inhabitants. Steering along the shore,
as the sun went down, we suddenly heard the bellowing of a bullock, and
James Barker, whom, from his violent conduct, I thought incapable of
such sentiment, burst into tears.

“In about two hours we perceived great fires on the beach and let go
anchor in nineteen fathoms of water. We lay awake all that night. In the
morning, we rowed further inshore, and moored the boat to some seaweed.
As soon as the inhabitants caught sight of us, they came down to the
beach. I distributed needles and thread among the Indians, and on my
saying ‘Valdivia,’ a woman instantly pointed towards a tongue of land to
the southward, holding up three fingers, and crying ‘leaghos’! which I
conjectured to be three leagues; the distance we afterwards found it to

“About three o’clock in the afternoon, we weathered the point pointed
out by the woman, and perceived a flagstaff and a twelve-gun battery
under our lee. I now divided among the men the sum of six pounds ten
shillings that I had found in Captain Frere’s cabin, and made another
and more equal distribution of the clothing. There were also two
watches, one of which I gave to Lesly, and kept the other for myself. It
was resolved among us to say that we were part crew of the brig Julia,
bound for China and wrecked in the South Seas. Upon landing at the
battery, we were heartily entertained, though we did not understand one
word of what they said. Next morning it was agreed that Lesly, Barker,
Shiers, and Russen should pay for a canoe to convey them to the town,
which was nine miles up the river; and on the morning of the 6th March
they took their departure. On the 9th March, a boat, commanded by a
lieutenant, came down with orders that the rest of us should be conveyed
to town; and we accordingly launched the boat under convoy of the
soldiers, and reached the town the same evening, in some trepidation. I
feared lest the Spaniards had obtained a clue as to our real character,
and was not deceived--the surviving soldier having betrayed us. This
fellow was thus doubly a traitor--first, in deserting his officer, and
then in betraying his comrades.

“We were immediately escorted to prison, where we found our four
companions. Some of them were for brazening out the story of shipwreck,
but knowing how confused must necessarily be our accounts, were we
examined separately, I persuaded them that open confession would be our
best chance of safety. On the 14th we were taken before the Intendente
or Governor, who informed us that we were free, on condition that we
chose to live within the limits of the town. At this intelligence I felt
my heart grow light, and only begged in the name of my companions that
we might not be given up to the British Government; ‘rather than which,’
said I, ‘I would beg to be shot dead in the palace square.’ The Governor
regarded us with tears in his eyes, and spoke as follows: ‘My poor men,
do not think that I would take that advantage over you. Do not make an
attempt to escape, and I will be your friend, and should a vessel come
tomorrow to demand you, you shall find I will be as good as my word. All
I have to impress upon you is, to beware of intemperance, which is
very prevalent in this country, and when you find it convenient, to
pay Government the money that was allowed you for subsistence while in

“The following day we all procured employment in launching a vessel of
three hundred tons burden, and my men showed themselves so active
that the owner said he would rather have us than thirty of his own
countrymen; which saying pleased the Governor, who was there with almost
the whole of the inhabitants and a whole band of music, this vessel
having been nearly three years on the stocks. After she was launched,
the seamen amongst us helped to fit her out, being paid fifteen dollars
a month, with provisions on board. As for myself, I speedily obtained
employment in the shipbuilder’s yard, and subsisted by honest industry,
almost forgetting, in the unwonted pleasures of freedom, the sad reverse
of fortune which had befallen me. To think that I, who had mingled among
gentlemen and scholars, should be thankful to labour in a shipwright’s
yard by day, and sleep on a bundle of hides by night! But this is
personal matter, and need not be obtruded.

“In the same yard with me worked the soldier who had betrayed us, and I
could not but regard it as a special judgment of Heaven when he one
day fell from a great height and was taken up for dead, dying in much
torment in a few hours. The days thus passed on in comparative happiness
until the 20th of May, 1836, when the old Governor took his departure,
regretted by all the inhabitants of Valdivia, and the Achilles, a
one-and-twenty-gun brig of war, arrived with the new Governor. One of
the first acts of this gentleman was to sell our boat, which was moored
at the back of Government-house. This proceeding looked to my mind
indicative of ill-will; and, fearful lest the Governor should deliver us
again into bondage, I resolved to make my escape from the place. Having
communicated my plans to Barker, Lesly, Riley, Shiers, and Russen, I
offered the Governor to get built for him a handsome whale-boat, making
the iron work myself. The Governor consented, and in a little more
than a fortnight we had completed a four-oared whale-boat, capable of
weathering either sea or storm. We fitted her with sails and provisions
in the Governor’s name, and on the 4th of July, being a Saturday night,
we took our departure from Valdivia, dropping down the river shortly
after sunset. Whether the Governor, disgusted at the trick we had
played him, decided not to pursue us, or whether--as I rather think--our
absence was not discovered until the Monday morning, when we were beyond
reach of capture, I know not, but we got out to sea without hazard,
and, taking accurate bearings, ran for the Friendly Islands, as had been
agreed upon amongst us.

“But it now seemed that the good fortune which had hitherto attended
us had deserted us, for after crawling for four days in sultry
weather, there fell a dead calm, and we lay like a log upon the sea for
forty-eight hours. For three days we remained in the midst of the ocean,
exposed to the burning rays of the sun, in a boat without water or
provisions. On the fourth day, just as we had resolved to draw lots
to determine who should die for the sustenance of the others, we were
picked up by an opium clipper returning to Canton. The captain,
an American, was most kind to us, and on our arrival at Canton, a
subscription was got up for us by the British merchants of that city,
and a free passage to England obtained for us. Russen, however, getting
in drink, made statements which brought suspicion upon us. I had imposed
upon the Consul with a fictitious story of a wreck, but had stated that
my name was Wilson, forgetting that the sextant which had been
preserved in the boat had Captain Bates’s name engraved upon it. These
circumstances together caused sufficient doubts in the Consul’s mind to
cause him to give directions that, on our arrival in London, we were
to be brought before the Thames Police Court. There being no evidence
against us, we should have escaped, had not a Dr. Pine, who had been
surgeon on board the Malabar transport, being in the Court, recognized
me and swore to my identity. We were remanded, and, to complete the
chain of evidence, Mr. Capon, the Hobart Town gaoler, was, strangely
enough, in London at the time, and identified us all. Our story was
then made public, and Barker and Lesly, turning Queen’s evidence against
Russen, he was convicted of the murder of Lyons, and executed. We
were then placed on board the Leviathan hulk, and remained there until
shipped in the Lady Jane, which was chartered, with convicts, for Van
Diemen’s Land, in order to be tried in the colony, where the offence was
committed, for piratically seizing the brig Osprey, and arrived here on
the 15th December, 1838.”

          *          *          *          *          *

Coming, breathless, to the conclusion of this wonderful relation, Sylvia
suffered her hand to fall into her lap, and sat meditative. The history
of this desperate struggle for liberty was to her full of vague horror.
She had never before realized among what manner of men she had lived.
The sullen creatures who worked in the chain-gangs, or pulled in the
boats--their faces brutalized into a uniform blankness--must be very
different men from John Rex and his companions. Her imagination pictured
the voyage in the leaky brig, the South American slavery, the midnight
escape, the desperate rowing, the long, slow agony of starvation,
and the heart-sickness that must have followed upon recapture and
imprisonment. Surely the punishment of “penal servitude” must have been
made very terrible for men to dare such hideous perils to escape
from it. Surely John Rex, the convict, who, alone, and prostrated
by sickness, quelled a mutiny and navigated a vessel through a
storm-ravaged ocean, must possess qualities which could be put to better
use than stone-quarrying. Was the opinion of Maurice Frere the correct
one after all, and were these convict monsters gifted with unnatural
powers of endurance, only to be subdued and tamed by unnatural and
inhuman punishments of lash and chain? Her fancies growing amid the fast
gathering gloom, she shuddered as she guessed to what extremities of
evil might such men proceed did an opportunity ever come to them to
retaliate upon their gaolers. Perhaps beneath each mask of servility and
sullen fear that was the ordinary prison face, lay hid a courage and a
despair as mighty as that which sustained those ten poor wanderers over
the Pacific Ocean. Maurice had told her that these people had their
secret signs, their secret language. She had just seen a specimen of
the skill with which this very Rex--still bent upon escape--could send
a hidden message to his friends beneath the eyes of his gaolers. What
if the whole island was but one smouldering volcano of revolt and
murder--the whole convict population but one incarnated conspiracy,
bound together by crime and suffering! Terrible to think of--yet not

Oh, how strangely must the world have been civilized, that this most
lovely corner of it must needs be set apart as a place of banishment for
the monsters that civilization had brought forth and bred! She cast her
eyes around, and all beauty seemed blotted out from the scene before
her. The graceful foliage melting into indistinctness in the gathering
twilight, appeared to her horrible and treacherous. The river seemed to
flow sluggishly, as though thickened with blood and tears. The shadow of
the trees seemed to hold lurking shapes of cruelty and danger. Even the
whispering breeze bore with it sighs, and threats, and mutterings of
revenge. Oppressed by a terror of loneliness, she hastily caught up the
manuscript, and turned to seek the house, when, as if summoned from the
earth by the power of her own fears, a ragged figure barred her passage.

To the excited girl this apparition seemed the embodiment of the unknown
evil she had dreaded. She recognized the yellow clothing, and marked the
eager hands outstretched to seize her. Instantly upon her flashed the
story that three days since had set the prison-town agog. The desperado
of Port Arthur, the escaped mutineer and murderer, was before her, with
unchained arms, free to wreak his will of her.

“Sylvia! It is you! Oh, at last! I have escaped, and come to ask--What?
Do you not know me?”

Pressing both hands to her bosom, she stepped back a pace, speechless
with terror.

“I am Rufus Dawes,” he said, looking in her face for the grateful smile
of recognition that did not come--“Rufus Dawes.”

The party at the house had finished their wine, and, sitting on the
broad verandah, were listening to some gentle dullness of the clergyman,
when there broke upon their ears a cry.

“What’s that?” said Vickers.

Frere sprang up, and looked down the garden. He saw two figures that
seemed to struggle together. One glance was enough, and, with a shout,
he leapt the flower-beds, and made straight at the escaped prisoner.

Rufus Dawes saw him coming, but, secure in the protection of the girl
who owed to him so much, he advanced a step nearer, and loosing his
respectful clasp of her hand, caught her dress.

“Oh, help, Maurice, help!” cried Sylvia again.

Into the face of Rufus Dawes came an expression of horror-stricken
bewilderment. For three days the unhappy man had contrived to keep life
and freedom, in order to get speech with the one being who, he thought,
cherished for him some affection. Having made an unparalleled escape
from the midst of his warders, he had crept to the place where lived the
idol of his dreams, braving recapture, that he might hear from her two
words of justice and gratitude. Not only did she refuse to listen to
him, and shrink from him as from one accursed, but, at the sound of
his name, she summoned his deadliest foe to capture him. Such monstrous
ingratitude was almost beyond belief. She, too,--the child he had nursed
and fed, the child for whom he had given up his hard-earned chance of
freedom and fortune, the child of whom he had dreamed, the child whose
image he had worshipped--she, too, against him! Then there was no
justice, no Heaven, no God! He loosed his hold of her dress, and,
regardless of the approaching footsteps, stood speechless, shaking from
head to foot. In another instant Frere and McNab flung themselves upon
him, and he was borne to the ground. Though weakened by starvation, he
shook them off with scarce an effort, and, despite the servants who came
hurrying from the alarmed house, might even then have turned and
made good his escape. But he seemed unable to fly. His chest heaved
convulsively, great drops of sweat beaded his white face, and from his
eyes tears seemed about to break. For an instant his features worked
convulsively, as if he would fain invoke upon the girl, weeping on her
father’s shoulder, some hideous curse. But no words came--only thrusting
his hand into his breast, with a supreme gesture of horror and aversion,
he flung something from him. Then a profound sigh escaped him, and he
held out his hands to be bound.

There was something so pitiable about this silent grief that, as they
led him away, the little group instinctively averted their faces, lest
they should seem to triumph over him.


“You must try and save him from further punishment,” said Sylvia next
day to Frere. “I did not mean to betray the poor creature, but I had
made myself nervous by reading that convict’s story.”

“You shouldn’t read such rubbish,” said Frere. “What’s the use? I don’t
suppose a word of it’s true.”

“It must be true. I am sure it’s true. Oh, Maurice, these are dreadful
men. I thought I knew all about convicts, but I had no idea that such
men as these were among them.”

“Thank God, you know very little,” said Maurice. “The servants you have
here are very different sort of fellows from Rex and Company.”

“Oh, Maurice, I am so tired of this place. It’s wrong, perhaps, with
poor papa and all, but I do wish I was somewhere out of the sight of
chains. I don’t know what has made me feel as I do.”

“Come to Sydney,” said Frere. “There are not so many convicts there. It
was arranged that we should go to Sydney, you know.”

“For our honeymoon? Yes,” said Sylvia, simply. “I know it was. But we
are not married yet.”

“That’s easily done,” said Maurice.

“Oh, nonsense, sir! But I want to speak to you about this poor Dawes.
I don’t think he meant any harm. It seems to me now that he was rather
going to ask for food or something, only I was so nervous. They won’t
hang him, Maurice, will they?”

“No,” said Maurice. “I spoke to your father this morning. If the fellow
is tried for his life, you may have to give evidence, and so we came to
the conclusion that Port Arthur again, and heavy irons, will meet the
case. We gave him another life sentence this morning. That will make the
third he has had.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. I sent him down aboard the schooner at once. He ought to be
out of the river by this time.” “Maurice, I have a strange feeling about
that man.”

“Eh?” said Maurice.

“I seem to fear him, as if I knew some story about him, and yet didn’t
know it.”

“That’s not very clear,” said Maurice, forcing a laugh, “but don’t
let’s talk about him any more. We’ll soon be far from Port Arthur and
everybody in it.”

“Maurice,” said she, caressingly, “I love you, dear. You’ll always
protect me against these men, won’t you?”

Maurice kissed her. “You have not got over your fright, Sylvia,” he
said. “I see I shall have to take a great deal of care of my wife.”

“Of course,” replied Sylvia.

And then the pair began to make love, or, rather, Maurice made it, and
Sylvia suffered him.

Suddenly her eye caught something. “What’s that--there, on the ground by
the fountain?” They were near the spot where Dawes had been seized the
night before. A little stream ran through the garden, and a Triton--of
convict manufacture--blew his horn in the middle of a--convict
built--rockery. Under the lip of the fountain lay a small packet. Frere
picked it up. It was made of soiled yellow cloth, and stitched evidently
by a man’s fingers. “It looks like a needle-case,” said he.

“Let me see. What a strange-looking thing! Yellow cloth, too. Why,
it must belong to a prisoner. Oh, Maurice, the man who was here last

“Ay,” says Maurice, turning over the packet, “it might have been his,
sure enough.”

“He seemed to fling something from him, I thought. Perhaps this is
it!” said she, peering over his arm, in delicate curiosity. Frere, with
something of a scowl on his brow, tore off the outer covering of the
mysterious packet, and displayed a second envelope, of grey cloth--the
“good-conduct” uniform. Beneath this was a piece, some three inches
square, of stained and discoloured merino, that had once been blue.

“Hullo!” says Frere. “Why, what’s this?”

“It is a piece of a dress,” says Sylvia.

It was Rufus Dawes’s talisman--a portion of the frock she had worn at
Macquarie Harbour, and which the unhappy convict had cherished as a
sacred relic for five weary years.

Frere flung it into the water. The running stream whirled it away. “Why
did you do that?” cried the girl, with a sudden pang of remorse for
which she could not account. The shred of cloth, caught by a weed,
lingered for an instant on the surface of the water. Almost at the same
moment, the pair, raising their eyes, saw the schooner which bore Rufus
Dawes back to bondage glide past the opening of the trees and disappear.
When they looked again for the strange relic of the desperado of Port
Arthur, it also had vanished.


The usual clanking and hammering was prevalent upon the stone jetty of
Port Arthur when the schooner bearing the returned convict, Rufus Dawes,
ran alongside. On the heights above the esplanade rose the grim front
of the soldiers’ barracks; beneath the soldiers’ barracks was the long
range of prison buildings with their workshops and tan-pits; to the left
lay the Commandant’s house, authoritative by reason of its embrasured
terrace and guardian sentry; while the jetty, that faced the purple
length of the “Island of the Dead,” swarmed with parti-coloured figures,
clanking about their enforced business, under the muskets of their

Rufus Dawes had seen this prospect before, had learnt by heart each
beauty of rising sun, sparkling water, and wooded hill. From the
hideously clean jetty at his feet, to the distant signal station, that,
embowered in bloom, reared its slender arms upwards into the cloudless
sky, he knew it all. There was no charm for him in the exquisite blue
of the sea, the soft shadows of the hills, or the soothing ripple of the
waves that crept voluptuously to the white breast of the shining shore.
He sat with his head bowed down, and his hands clasped about his knees,
disdaining to look until they roused him.

“Hallo, Dawes!” says Warder Troke, halting his train of ironed
yellow-jackets. “So you’ve come back again! Glad to see yer, Dawes! It
seems an age since we had the pleasure of your company, Dawes!” At this
pleasantry the train laughed, so that their irons clanked more than
ever. They found it often inconvenient not to laugh at Mr. Troke’s
humour. “Step down here, Dawes, and let me introduce you to your h’old
friends. They’ll be glad to see yer, won’t yer, boys? Why, bless
me, Dawes, we thort we’d lost yer! We thort yer’d given us the slip
altogether, Dawes. They didn’t take care of yer in Hobart Town, I
expect, eh, boys? We’ll look after yer here, Dawes, though. You won’t
bolt any more.”

“Take care, Mr. Troke,” said a warning voice, “you’re at it again! Let
the man alone!”

By virtue of an order transmitted from Hobart Town, they had begun to
attach the dangerous prisoner to the last man of the gang, riveting the
leg-irons of the pair by means of an extra link, which could be removed
when necessary, but Dawes had given no sign of consciousness. At the
sound of the friendly tones, however, he looked up, and saw a tall,
gaunt man, dressed in a shabby pepper-and-salt raiment, and wearing a
black handkerchief knotted round his throat. He was a stranger to him.

“I beg yer pardon, Mr. North,” said Troke, sinking at once the bully in
the sneak. “I didn’t see yer reverence.”

“A parson!” thought Dawes with disappointment, and dropped his eyes.

“I know that,” returned Mr. North, coolly. “If you had, you would have
been all butter and honey. Don’t trouble yourself to tell a lie; it’s
quite unnecessary.”

Dawes looked up again. This was a strange parson.

“What’s your name, my man?” said Mr. North, suddenly, catching his eye.

Rufus Dawes had intended to scowl, but the tone, sharply authoritative,
roused his automatic convict second nature, and he answered, almost
despite himself, “Rufus Dawes.”

“Oh,” said Mr. North, eyeing him with a curious air of expectation that
had something pitying in it. “This is the man, is it? I thought he was
to go to the Coal Mines.”

“So he is,” said Troke, “but we hain’t a goin’ to send there for a
fortnit, and in the meantime I’m to work him on the chain.”

“Oh!” said Mr. North again. “Lend me your knife, Troke.”

And then, before them all, this curious parson took a piece of tobacco
out of his ragged pocket, and cut off a “chaw” with Mr. Troke’s knife.
Rufus Dawes felt what he had not felt for three days--an interest in
something. He stared at the parson in unaffected astonishment. Mr. North
perhaps mistook the meaning of his fixed stare, for he held out the
remnant of tobacco to him.

The chain line vibrated at this, and bent forward to enjoy the vicarious
delight of seeing another man chew tobacco. Troke grinned with a silent
mirth that betokened retribution for the favoured convict. “Here,” said
Mr. North, holding out the dainty morsel upon which so many eyes were
fixed. Rufus Dawes took the tobacco; looked at it hungrily for an
instant, and then--to the astonishment of everybody--flung it away with
a curse.

“I don’t want your tobacco,” he said; “keep it.”

From convict mouths went out a respectful roar of amazement, and Mr.
Troke’s eyes snapped with pride of outraged janitorship. “You ungrateful
dog!” he cried, raising his stick.

Mr. North put up a hand. “That will do, Troke,” he said; “I know your
respect for the cloth. Move the men on again.”

“Get on!” said Troke, rumbling oaths beneath his breath, and Dawes felt
his newly-riveted chain tug. It was some time since he had been in a
chain-gang, and the sudden jerk nearly overbalanced him. He caught at
his neighbour, and looking up, met a pair of black eyes which gleamed
recognition. His neighbour was John Rex. Mr. North, watching them, was
struck by the resemblance the two men bore to each other. Their height,
eyes, hair, and complexion were similar. Despite the difference in
name they might be related. “They might be brothers,” thought he. “Poor
devils! I never knew a prisoner refuse tobacco before.” And he looked on
the ground for the despised portion. But in vain. John Rex, oppressed by
no foolish sentiment, had picked it up and put it in his mouth.

So Rufus Dawes was relegated to his old life again, and came back to
his prison with the hatred of his kind, that his prison had bred in him,
increased a hundred-fold. It seemed to him that the sudden awakening
had dazed him, that the flood of light so suddenly let in upon
his slumbering soul had blinded his eyes, used so long to the
sweetly-cheating twilight. He was at first unable to apprehend the
details of his misery. He knew only that his dream-child was alive and
shuddered at him, that the only thing he loved and trusted had betrayed
him, that all hope of justice and mercy had gone from him for ever, that
the beauty had gone from earth, the brightness from Heaven, and that he
was doomed still to live. He went about his work, unheedful of the jests
of Troke, ungalled by his irons, unmindful of the groans and laughter
about him. His magnificent muscles saved him from the lash; for the
amiable Troke tried to break him down in vain. He did not complain, he
did not laugh, he did not weep. His “mate” Rex tried to converse with
him, but did not succeed. In the midst of one of Rex’s excellent
tales of London dissipation, Rufus Dawes would sigh wearily. “There’s
something on that fellow’s mind,” thought Rex, prone to watch the signs
by which the soul is read. “He has some secret which weighs upon him.”

It was in vain that Rex attempted to discover what this secret might be.
To all questions concerning his past life--however artfully put--Rufus
Dawes was dumb. In vain Rex practised all his arts, called up all his
graces of manner and speech--and these were not few--to fascinate the
silent man and win his confidence. Rufus Dawes met his advances with
a cynical carelessness that revealed nothing; and, when not addressed,
held a gloomy silence. Galled by this indifference, John Rex had
attempted to practise those ingenious arts of torment by which Gabbett,
Vetch, or other leading spirits of the gang asserted their superiority
over their quieter comrades. But he soon ceased. “I have been longer in
this hell than you,” said Rufus Dawes, “and I know more of the devil’s
tricks than you can show me. You had best be quiet.” Rex neglected the
warning, and Rufus Dawes took him by the throat one day, and would have
strangled him, but that Troke beat off the angered man with a favourite
bludgeon. Rex had a wholesome respect for personal prowess, and had
the grace to admit the provocation to Troke. Even this instance of
self-denial did not move the stubborn Dawes. He only laughed. Then
Rex came to a conclusion. His mate was plotting an escape. He himself
cherished a notion of the kind, as did Gabbett and Vetch, but by common
distrust no one ever gave utterance to thoughts of this nature. It would
be too dangerous. “He would be a good comrade for a rush,” thought Rex,
and resolved more firmly than ever to ally himself to this dangerous and
silent companion.

One question Dawes had asked which Rex had been able to answer: “Who is
that North?”

“A chaplain. He is only here for a week or so. There is a new one
coming. North goes to Sydney. He is not in favour with the Bishop.”

“How do you know?”

“By deduction,” says Rex, with a smile peculiar to him. “He wears
coloured clothes, and smokes, and doesn’t patter Scripture. The
Bishop dresses in black, detests tobacco, and quotes the Bible like a
concordance. North is sent here for a month, as a warming-pan for that
ass Meekin. Ergo, the Bishop don’t care about North.”

Jemmy Vetch, who was next to Rex, let the full weight of his portion
of tree-trunk rest upon Gabbett, in order to express his unrestrained
admiration of Mr. Rex’s sarcasm. “Ain’t the Dandy a one’er?” said he.

“Are you thinking of coming the pious?” asked Rex. “It’s no good with
North. Wait until the highly-intelligent Meekin comes. You can twist
that worthy successor of the Apostles round your little finger!”

“Silence there!” cries the overseer. “Do you want me to report yer?”

Amid such diversions the days rolled on, and Rufus Dawes almost longed
for the Coal Mines. To be sent from the settlement to the Coal Mines,
and from the Coal Mines to the settlement, was to these unhappy men a
“trip”. At Port Arthur one went to an out-station, as more fortunate
people go to Queenscliff or the Ocean Beach now-a-days for “change of


Rufus Dawes had been a fortnight at the settlement when a new-comer
appeared on the chain-gang. This was a young man of about twenty years
of age, thin, fair, and delicate. His name was Kirkland, and he belonged
to what were known as the “educated” prisoners. He had been a clerk in
a banking house, and was transported for embezzlement, though, by some,
grave doubts as to his guilt were entertained. The Commandant, Captain
Burgess, had employed him as butler in his own house, and his fate was
considered a “lucky” one. So, doubtless, it was, and might have been,
had not an untoward accident occurred. Captain Burgess, who was a
bachelor of the “old school”, confessed to an amiable weakness for
blasphemy, and was given to condemning the convicts’ eyes and limbs with
indiscriminate violence. Kirkland belonged to a Methodist family and
owned a piety utterly out of place in that region. The language of
Burgess made him shudder, and one day he so far forgot himself and his
place as to raise his hands to his ears. “My blank!” cried Burgess. “You
blank blank, is that your blank game? I’ll blank soon cure you of that!”
 and forthwith ordered him to the chain-gang for “insubordination”.

He was received with suspicion by the gang, who did not like
white-handed prisoners. Troke, by way of experiment in human nature,
perhaps, placed him next to Gabbett. The day was got through in the
usual way, and Kirkland felt his heart revive.

The toil was severe, and the companionship uncouth, but despite his
blistered hands and aching back, he had not experienced anything so very
terrible after all. When the muster bell rang, and the gang broke up,
Rufus Dawes, on his silent way to his separate cell, observed a notable
change of custom in the disposition of the new convict. Instead of
placing him in a cell by himself, Troke was turning him into the yard
with the others.

“I’m not to go in there?” says the ex-bank clerk, drawing back in dismay
from the cloud of foul faces which lowered upon him.

“By the Lord, but you are, then!” says Troke. “The Governor says a night
in there’ll take the starch out of ye. Come, in yer go.”

“But, Mr. Troke--”

“Stow your gaff,” says Troke, with another oath, and impatiently
striking the lad with his thong--“I can’t argue here all night. Get in.”
 So Kirkland, aged twenty-two, and the son of Methodist parents, went in.

Rufus Dawes, among whose sinister memories this yard was numbered,
sighed. So fierce was the glamour of the place, however, that when
locked into his cell, he felt ashamed for that sigh, and strove to erase
the memory of it. “What is he more than anybody else?” said the wretched
man to himself, as he hugged his misery close.

About dawn the next morning, Mr. North--who, amongst other vagaries not
approved of by his bishop, had a habit of prowling about the prison
at unofficial hours--was attracted by a dispute at the door of the

“What’s the matter here?” he asked.

“A prisoner refractory, your reverence,” said the watchman. “Wants to
come out.”

“Mr. North! Mr. North!” cried a voice, “for the love of God, let me out
of this place!”

Kirkland, ghastly pale, bleeding, with his woollen shirt torn, and his
blue eyes wide open with terror, was clinging to the bars.

“Oh, Mr. North! Mr. North! Oh, Mr. North! Oh, for God’s sake, Mr.

“What, Kirkland!” cried North, who was ignorant of the vengeance of the
Commandant. “What do you do here?”

But Kirkland could do nothing but cry,--“Oh, Mr. North! For God’s sake,
Mr. North!” and beat on the bars with white and sweating hands.

“Let him out, watchman!” said North.

“Can’t sir, without an order from the Commandant.”

“I order you, sir!” North cried, indignant.

“Very sorry, your reverence; but your reverence knows that I daren’t do
such a thing.” “Mr. North!” screamed Kirkland. “Would you see me
perish, body and soul, in this place? Mr. North! Oh, you ministers of
Christ--wolves in sheep’s clothing--you shall be judged for this!”

“Let him out!” cried North again, stamping his foot.

“It’s no good,” returned the gaoler. “I can’t. If he was dying, I

North rushed away to the Commandant, and the instant his back was
turned, Hailes, the watchman, flung open the door, and darted into the

“Take that!” he cried, dealing Kirkland a blow on the head with his
keys, that stretched him senseless. “There’s more trouble with you
bloody aristocrats than enough. Lie quiet!”

The Commandant, roused from slumber, told Mr. North that Kirkland might
stop where he was, and that he’d thank the chaplain not to wake him
up in the middle of the night because a blank prisoner set up a blank

“But, my good sir,” protested North, restraining his impulse to overstep
the bounds of modesty in his language to his superior officer, “you know
the character of the men in that ward. You can guess what that unhappy
boy has suffered.”

“Impertinent young beggar!” said Burgess. “Do him good, curse him! Mr.
North, I’m sorry you should have had the trouble to come here, but will
you let me go to sleep?”

North returned to the prison disconsolately, found the dutiful Hailes at
his post, and all quiet.

“What’s become of Kirkland?” he asked.

“Fretted hisself to sleep, yer reverence,” said Hailes, in accents of
parental concern. “Poor young chap! It’s hard for such young ‘uns.”

In the morning, Rufus Dawes, coming to his place on the chain-gang, was
struck by the altered appearance of Kirkland. His face was of a greenish
tint, and wore an expression of bewildered horror.

“Cheer up, man!” said Dawes, touched with momentary pity. “It’s no good
being in the mopes, you know.”

“What do they do if you try to bolt?” whispered Kirkland.

“Kill you,” returned Dawes, in a tone of surprise at so preposterous a

“Thank God!” said Kirkland.

“Now then, Miss Nancy,” said one of the men, “what’s the matter with
you!” Kirkland shuddered, and his pale face grew crimson.

“Oh,” he said, “that such a wretch as I should live!”

“Silence!” cried Troke. “No. 44, if you can’t hold your tongue I’ll give
you something to talk about. March!”

The work of the gang that afternoon was the carrying of some heavy logs
to the water-side, and Rufus Dawes observed that Kirkland was exhausted
long before the task was accomplished. “They’ll kill you, you little
beggar!” said he, not unkindly. “What have you been doing to get into
this scrape?”

“Have you ever been in that--that place I was in last night?” asked

Rufus Dawes nodded.

“Does the Commandant know what goes on there?”

“I suppose so. What does he care?”

“Care! Man, do you believe in a God?” “No,” said Dawes, “not here. Hold
up, my lad. If you fall, we must fall over you, and then you’re done

He had hardly uttered the words, when the boy flung himself beneath the
log. In another instant the train would have been scrambling over his
crushed body, had not Gabbett stretched out an iron hand, and plucked
the would-be suicide from death.

“Hold on to me, Miss Nancy,” said the giant, “I’m big enough to carry

Something in the tone or manner of the speaker affected Kirkland to
disgust, for, spurning the offered hand, he uttered a cry and then,
holding up his irons with his hands, he started to run for the water.

“Halt! you young fool,” roared Troke, raising his carbine. But Kirkland
kept steadily on for the river. Just as he reached it, however, the
figure of Mr. North rose from behind a pile of stones. Kirkland jumped
for the jetty, missed his footing, and fell into the arms of the

“You young vermin--you shall pay for this,” cries Troke. “You’ll see if
you won’t remember this day.”

“Oh, Mr. North,” says Kirkland, “why did you stop me? I’d better be dead
than stay another night in that place.”

“You’ll get it, my lad,” said Gabbett, when the runaway was brought
back. “Your blessed hide’ll feel for this, see if it don’t.”

Kirkland only breathed harder, and looked round for Mr. North, but Mr.
North had gone. The new chaplain was to arrive that afternoon, and it
was incumbent on him to be at the reception. Troke reported the ex-bank
clerk that night to Burgess, and Burgess, who was about to go to dinner
with the new chaplain, disposed of his case out of hand. “Tried to bolt,
eh! Must stop that. Fifty lashes, Troke. Tell Macklewain to be ready--or
stay, I’ll tell him myself--I’ll break the young devil’s spirit, blank

“Yes, sir,” said Troke. “Good evening, sir.”

“Troke--pick out some likely man, will you? That last fellow you had
ought to have been tied up himself. His flogging wouldn’t have killed a

“You can’t get ‘em to warm one another, your honour,” says Troke.

“They won’t do it.”

“Oh, yes, they will, though,” says Burgess, “or I’ll know the reason
why. I won’t have my men knocked up with flogging these rascals. If the
scourger won’t do his duty, tie him up, and give him five-and-twenty for
himself. I’ll be down in the morning myself if I can.”

“Very good, your honour,” says Troke.

Kirkland was put into a separate cell that night; and Troke, by way of
assuring him a good night’s rest, told him that he was to have “fifty”
 in the morning. “And Dawes’ll lay it on,” he added. “He’s one of the
smartest men I’ve got, and he won’t spare yer, yer may take your oath of


“You will find this a terrible place, Mr. Meekin,” said North to his
supplanter, as they walked across to the Commandant’s to dinner. “It has
made me heartsick.”

“I thought it was a little paradise,” said Meekin. “Captain Frere says
that the scenery is delightful.” “So it is,” returned North, looking
askance, “but the prisoners are not delightful.”

“Poor, abandoned wretches,” says Meekin, “I suppose not. How sweet the
moonlight sleeps upon that bank! Eh!”

“Abandoned, indeed, by God and man--almost.”

“Mr. North, Providence never abandons the most unworthy of His servants.
Never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging their
bread. In the valley of the shadow of death He is with us. His staff,
you know, Mr. North. Really, the Commandant’s house is charmingly

Mr. North sighed again. “You have not been long in the colony, Mr.
Meekin. I doubt--forgive me for expressing myself so freely--if you
quite know of our convict system.”

“An admirable one! A most admirable one!” said Meekin. “There were a
few matters I noticed in Hobart Town that did not quite please me--the
frequent use of profane language for instance--but on the whole I was
delighted with the scheme. It is so complete.”

North pursed up his lips. “Yes, it is very complete,” he said; “almost
too complete. But I am always in a minority when I discuss the question,
so we will drop it, if you please.”

“If you please,” said Meekin gravely. He had heard from the Bishop that
Mr. North was an ill-conditioned sort of person, who smoked clay pipes,
had been detected in drinking beer out of a pewter pot, and had been
heard to state that white neck-cloths were of no consequence. The
dinner went off successfully. Burgess--desirous, perhaps, of favourably
impressing the chaplain whom the Bishop delighted to honour--shut off
his blasphemy for a while, and was urbane enough. “You’ll find us rough,
Mr. Meekin,” he said, “but you’ll find us ‘all there’ when we’re wanted.
This is a little kingdom in itself.”

“Like Béranger’s?” asked Meekin, with a smile. Captain Burgess had never
heard of Béranger, but he smiled as if he had learnt his words by heart.

“Or like Sancho Panza’s island,” said North. “You remember how justice
was administered there?”

“Not at this moment, sir,” said Burgess, with dignity. He had been often
oppressed by the notion that the Reverend Mr. North “chaffed” him. “Pray
help yourself to wine.”

“Thank you, none,” said North, filling a tumbler with water. “I have a
headache.” His manner of speech and action was so awkward that a silence
fell upon the party, caused by each one wondering why Mr. North should
grow confused, and drum his fingers on the table, and stare everywhere
but at the decanter. Meekin--ever softly at his ease--was the first to
speak. “Have you many visitors, Captain Burgess?”

“Very few. Sometimes a party comes over with a recommendation from the
Governor, and I show them over the place; but, as a rule, we see no one
but ourselves.”

“I asked,” said Meekin, “because some friends of mine were thinking of

“And who may they be?”

“Do you know Captain Frere?”

“Frere! I should say so!” returned Burgess, with a laugh, modelled upon
Maurice Frere’s own. “I was quartered with him at Sarah Island. So he’s
a friend of yours, eh?”

“I had the pleasure of meeting him in society. He is just married, you

“Is he?” said Burgess. “The devil he is! I heard something about it,

“Miss Vickers, a charming young person. They are going to Sydney, where
Captain Frere has some interest, and Frere thinks of taking Port Arthur
on his way down.”

“A strange fancy for a honeymoon trip,” said North.

“Captain Frere takes a deep interest in all relating to convict
discipline,” went on Meekin, unheeding the interruption, “and is anxious
that Mrs. Frere should see this place.”

“Yes, one oughtn’t to leave the colony without seeing it,” says Burgess;
“it’s worth seeing.”

“So Captain Frere thinks. A romantic story, Captain Burgess. He saved
her life, you know.”

“Ah! that was a queer thing, that mutiny,” said Burgess. “We’ve got the
fellows here, you know.”

“I saw them tried at Hobart Town,” said Meekin. “In fact, the
ringleader, John Rex, gave me his confession, and I sent it to the

“A great rascal,” put in North. “A dangerous, scheming, cold--blooded

“Well now!” said Meekin, with asperity, “I don’t agree with you.
Everybody seems to be against that poor fellow--Captain Frere tried to
make me think that his letters contained a hidden meaning, but I
don’t believe they did. He seems to me to be truly penitent for his
offences--a misguided, but not a hypocritical man, if my knowledge of
human nature goes for anything.”

“I hope he is,” said North. “I wouldn’t trust him.”

“Oh! there’s no fear of him,” said Burgess cheerily; “if he grows
uproarious, we’ll soon give him a touch of the cat.”

“I suppose severity is necessary,” returned Meekin; “though to my ears a
flogging sounds a little distasteful. It is a brutal punishment.”

“It’s a punishment for brutes,” said Burgess, and laughed, pleased with
the nearest approach to an epigram he ever made in his life.

Here attention was called by the strange behaviour of Mr. North. He had
risen, and, without apology, flung wide the window, as though he gasped
for air. “Hullo, North! what’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” said North, recovering himself with an effort. “A spasm. I
have these attacks at times.” “Have some brandy,” said Burgess.

“No, no, it will pass. No, I say. Well, if you insist.” And seizing the
tumbler offered to him, he half-filled it with raw spirit, and swallowed
the fiery draught at a gulp.

The Reverend Meekin eyed his clerical brother with horror. The Reverend
Meekin was not accustomed to clergymen who wore black neckties, smoked
clay pipes, chewed tobacco, and drank neat brandy out of tumblers.

“Ha!” said North, looking wildly round upon them. “That’s better.”

“Let us go on to the verandah,” said Burgess. “It’s cooler than in the

So they went on to the verandah, and looked down upon the lights of
the prison, and listened to the sea lapping the shore. The Reverend
Mr. North, in this cool atmosphere, seemed to recover himself, and
conversation progressed with some sprightliness.

By and by, a short figure, smoking a cheroot, came up out of the dark,
and proved to be Dr. Macklewain, who had been prevented from attending
the dinner by reason of an accident to a constable at Norfolk Bay, which
had claimed his professional attention.

“Well, how’s Forrest?” cried Burgess. “Mr. Meekin--Dr. Macklewain.”

“Dead,” said Dr. Macklewain. “Delighted to see you, Mr. Meekin.”

“Confound it--another of my best men,” grumbled Burgess. “Macklewain,
have a glass of wine.” But Macklewain was tired, and wanted to get home.

“I must also be thinking of repose,” said Meekin; “the journey--though
most enjoyable--has fatigued me.”

“Come on, then,” said North. “Our roads lie together, doctor.”

“You won’t have a nip of brandy before you start?” asked Burgess.

“No? Then I shall send round for you in the morning, Mr. Meekin. Good
night. Macklewain, I want to speak with you a moment.”

Before the two clergymen had got half-way down the steep path that led
from the Commandant’s house to the flat on which the cottages of the
doctor and chaplain were built, Macklewain rejoined them. “Another
flogging to-morrow,” said he grumblingly. “Up at daylight, I suppose,

“Whom is he going to flog now?”

“That young butler-fellow of his.” “What, Kirkland?” cried North. “You
don’t mean to say he’s going to flog Kirkland?”

“Insubordination,” says Macklewain. “Fifty lashes.”

“Oh, this must be stopped,” cried North, in great alarm. “He can’t stand
it. I tell you, he’ll die, Macklewain.”

“Perhaps you’ll have the goodness to allow me to be the best judge of
that,” returned Macklewain, drawing up his little body to its least
insignificant stature.

“My dear sir,” replied North, alive to the importance of conciliating
the surgeon, “you haven’t seen him lately. He tried to drown himself
this morning.”

Mr. Meekin expressed some alarm; but Dr. Macklewain re-assured him.
“That sort of nonsense must be stopped,” said he. “A nice example to
set. I wonder Burgess didn’t give him a hundred.”

“He was put into the long dormitory,” said North; “you know what sort of
a place that is. I declare to Heaven his agony and shame terrified me.”

“Well, he’ll be put into the hospital for a week or so to-morrow,” said
Macklewain, “and that’ll give him a spell.”

“If Burgess flogs him I’ll report it to the Governor,” cries North, in
great heat. “The condition of those dormitories is infamous.”

“If the boy has anything to complain of, why don’t he complain? We can’t
do anything without evidence.”

“Complain! Would his life be safe if he did? Besides, he’s not the sort
of creature to complain. He’d rather kill himself.”

“That’s all nonsense,” says Macklewain. “We can’t flog a whole dormitory
on suspicion. I can’t help it. The boy’s made his bed, and he must lie
on it.”

“I’ll go back and see Burgess,” said North. “Mr. Meekin, here’s the
gate, and your room is on the right hand. I’ll be back shortly.”

“Pray, don’t hurry,” said Meekin politely. “You are on an errand of
mercy, you know. Everything must give way to that. I shall find my
portmanteau in my room, you said.”

“Yes, yes. Call the servant if you want anything. He sleeps at the
back,” and North hurried off.

“An impulsive gentleman,” said Meekin to Macklewain, as the sound of Mr.
North’s footsteps died away in the distance. Macklewain shook his head

“There is something wrong about him, but I can’t make out what it is. He
has the strangest fits at times. Unless it’s a cancer in the stomach, I
don’t know what it can be.”

“Cancer in the stomach! dear me, how dreadful!” says Meekin. “Ah!
Doctor, we all have our crosses, have we not? How delightful the grass
smells! This seems a very pleasant place, and I think I shall enjoy
myself very much. Good-night.”

“Good-night, sir. I hope you will be comfortable.”

“And let us hope poor Mr. North will succeed in his labour of love,”
 said Meekin, shutting the little gate, “and save the unfortunate
Kirkland. Good-night, once more.”

Captain Burgess was shutting his verandah-window when North hurried up.

“Captain Burgess, Macklewain tells me you are going to flog Kirkland.”

“Well, sir, what of that?” said Burgess.

“I have come to beg you not to do so, sir. The lad has been cruelly
punished already. He attempted suicide to-day--unhappy creature.”

“Well, that’s just what I’m flogging him for. I’ll teach my prisoners to
attempt suicide!”

“But he can’t stand it, sir. He’s too weak.”

“That’s Macklewain’s business.”

“Captain Burgess,” protested North, “I assure you that he does not
deserve punishment. I have seen him, and his condition of mind is

“Look here, Mr. North, I don’t interfere with what you do to the
prisoner’s souls; don’t you interfere with what I do to their bodies.”

“Captain Burgess, you have no right to mock at my office.”

“Then don’t you interfere with me, sir.”

“Do you persist in having this boy flogged?”

“I’ve given my orders, sir.”

“Then, Captain Burgess,” cried North, his pale face flushing, “I tell
you the boy’s blood will be on your head. I am a minister of God, sir,
and I forbid you to commit this crime.”

“Damn your impertinence, sir!” burst out Burgess. “You’re a dismissed
officer of the Government, sir. You’ve no authority here in any way;
and, by God, sir, if you interfere with my discipline, sir, I’ll have
you put in irons until you’re shipped out of the island.”

This, of course, was mere bravado on the part of the Commandant. North
knew well that he would never dare to attempt any such act of violence,
but the insult stung him like the cut of a whip. He made a stride
towards the Commandant, as though to seize him by the throat, but,
checking himself in time, stood still, with clenched hands, flashing
eyes, and beard that bristled.

The two men looked at each other, and presently Burgess’s eyes fell
before those of the chaplain.

“Miserable blasphemer,” says North, “I tell you that you shall not flog
the boy.”

Burgess, white with rage, rang the bell that summoned his convict

“Show Mr. North out,” he said, “and go down to the Barracks, and tell
Troke that Kirkland is to have a hundred lashes to-morrow. I’ll show you
who’s master here, my good sir.”

“I’ll report this to the Government,” said North, aghast. “This is

“The Government may go to----, and you, too!” roared Burgess. “Get out!”
 And God’s viceregent at Port Arthur slammed the door.

North returned home in great agitation. “They shall not flog that boy,”
 he said. “I’ll shield him with my own body if necessary. I’ll report
this to the Government. I’ll see Sir John Franklin myself. I’ll have the
light of day let into this den of horrors.” He reached his cottage, and
lighted the lamp in the little sitting-room. All was silent, save that
from the adjoining chamber came the sound of Meekin’s gentlemanly snore.
North took down a book from the shelf and tried to read, but the letters
ran together. “I wish I hadn’t taken that brandy,” he said. “Fool that I

Then he began to walk up and down, to fling himself on the sofa, to
read, to pray. “Oh, God, give me strength! Aid me! Help me! I struggle,
but I am weak. O, Lord, look down upon me!”

To see him rolling on the sofa in agony, to see his white face, his
parched lips, and his contracted brow, to hear his moans and muttered
prayers, one would have thought him suffering from the pangs of some
terrible disease. He opened the book again, and forced himself to read,
but his eyes wandered to the cupboard. There lurked something that
fascinated him. He got up at length, went into the kitchen, and found
a packet of red pepper. He mixed a teaspoonful of this in a pannikin of
water and drank it. It relieved him for a while.

“I must keep my wits for to-morrow. The life of that lad depends upon
it. Meekin, too, will suspect. I will lie down.”

He went into his bedroom and flung himself on the bed, but only to toss
from side to side. In vain he repeated texts of Scripture and scraps
of verse; in vain counted imaginary sheep, or listened to imaginary
clock-tickings. Sleep would not come to him. It was as though he had
reached the crisis of a disease which had been for days gathering force.
“I must have a teaspoonful,” he said, “to allay the craving.”

Twice he paused on the way to the sitting-room, and twice was he driven
on by a power stronger than his will. He reached it at length, and
opening the cupboard, pulled out what he sought. A bottle of brandy.
With this in his hand, all moderation vanished. He raised it to his
lips and eagerly drank. Then, ashamed of what he had done, he thrust the
bottle back, and made for his room. Still he could not sleep. The taste
of the liquor maddened him for more. He saw in the darkness the brandy
bottle--vulgar and terrible apparition! He saw its amber fluid sparkle.
He heard it gurgle as he poured it out. He smelt the nutty aroma of
the spirit. He pictured it standing in the corner of the cupboard, and
imagined himself seizing it and quenching the fire that burned within
him. He wept, he prayed, he fought with his desire as with a madness. He
told himself that another’s life depended on his exertions, that to give
way to his fatal passion was unworthy of an educated man and a reasoning
being, that it was degrading, disgusting, and bestial. That, at all
times debasing, at this particular time it was infamous; that a vice,
unworthy of any man, was doubly sinful in a man of education and a
minister of God. In vain. In the midst of his arguments he found himself
at the cupboard, with the bottle at his lips, in an attitude that was at
once ludicrous and horrible.

He had no cancer. His disease was a more terrible one. The Reverend
James North--gentleman, scholar, and Christian priest--was what the
world calls “a confirmed drunkard”.


The morning sun, bright and fierce, looked down upon a curious sight. In
a stone-yard was a little group of persons--Troke, Burgess, Macklewain,
Kirkland, and Rufus Dawes.

Three wooden staves, seven feet high, were fastened together in the form
of a triangle. The structure looked not unlike that made by gypsies to
boil their kettles. To this structure Kirkland was bound. His feet were
fastened with thongs to the base of the triangle; his wrists, bound
above his head, at the apex. His body was then extended to its fullest
length, and his white back shone in the sunlight. During his tying up he
had said nothing--only when Troke pulled off his shirt he shivered.

“Now, prisoner,” said Troke to Dawes, “do your duty.”

Rufus Dawes looked from the three stern faces to Kirkland’s white back,
and his face grew purple. In all his experience he had never been asked
to flog before. He had been flogged often enough.

“You don’t want me to flog him, sir?” he said to the Commandant.

“Pick up the cat, sir!” said Burgess, astonished; “what is the meaning
of this?” Rufus Dawes picked up the heavy cat, and drew its knotted
lashes between his fingers.

“Go on, Dawes,” whispered Kirkland, without turning his head. “You are
no more than another man.”

“What does he say?” asked Burgess.

“Telling him to cut light, sir,” said Troke, eagerly lying; “they all
do it.” “Cut light, eh! We’ll see about that. Get on, my man, and look
sharp, or I’ll tie you up and give you fifty for yourself, as sure as
God made little apples.”

“Go on, Dawes,” whispered Kirkland again. “I don’t mind.”

Rufus Dawes lifted the cat, swung it round his head, and brought its
knotted cords down upon the white back.

“Wonn!” cried Troke.

The white back was instantly striped with six crimson bars. Kirkland
stifled a cry. It seemed to him that he had been cut in half.

“Now then, you scoundrel!” roared Burgess; “separate your cats! What do
you mean by flogging a man that fashion?”

Rufus Dawes drew his crooked fingers through the entangled cords, and
struck again. This time the blow was more effective, and the blood
beaded on the skin.

The boy did not cry; but Macklewain saw his hands clutch the staves
tightly, and the muscles of his naked arms quiver.


“That’s better,” said Burgess.

The third blow sounded as though it had been struck upon a piece of raw
beef, and the crimson turned purple.

“My God!” said Kirkland, faintly, and bit his lips.

The flogging proceeded in silence for ten strikes, and then Kirkland
gave a screech like a wounded horse.

“Oh!...Captain Burgess!...Dawes!...Mr. Troke!...Oh, my God!... Oh!
oh!...Mercy!...Oh, Doctor!...Mr. North!...Oh! Oh! Oh!”

“Ten!” cried Troke, impassively counting to the end of the first twenty.

The lad’s back, swollen into a lump, now presented the appearance of a
ripe peach which a wilful child had scored with a pin. Dawes, turning
away from his bloody handiwork, drew the cats through his fingers twice.
They were beginning to get clogged a little.

“Go on,” said Burgess, with a nod; and Troke cried “Wonn!” again.

Roused by the morning sun streaming in upon him, Mr. North opened
his bloodshot eyes, rubbed his forehead with hands that trembled, and
suddenly awakening to a consciousness of his promised errand, rolled
off the bed and rose to his feet. He saw the empty brandy bottle on
his wooden dressing-table, and remembered what had passed. With shaking
hands he dashed water over his aching head, and smoothed his garments.
The debauch of the previous night had left the usual effects behind it.
His brain seemed on fire, his hands were hot and dry, his tongue clove
to the roof of his mouth. He shuddered as he viewed his pale face and
red eyes in the little looking-glass, and hastily tried the door. He had
retained sufficient sense in his madness to lock it, and his condition
had been unobserved. Stealing into the sitting-room, he saw that the
clock pointed to half-past six. The flogging was to have taken place
at half-past five. Unless accident had favoured him he was already too
late. Fevered with remorse and anxiety, he hurried past the room where
Meekin yet slumbered, and made his way to the prison. As he entered the
yard, Troke called “Ten!” Kirkland had just got his fiftieth lash.

“Stop!” cried North. “Captain Burgess, I call upon you to stop.”

“You’re rather late, Mr. North,” retorted Burgess. “The punishment is
nearly over.” “Wonn!” cried Troke again; and North stood by, biting his
nails and grinding his teeth, during six more lashes.

Kirkland ceased to yell now, and merely moaned. His back was like a
bloody sponge, while in the interval between lashes the swollen flesh
twitched like that of a new-killed bullock. Suddenly, Macklewain saw his
head droop on his shoulder. “Throw him off! Throw him off!” he cried,
and Troke hurried to loosen the thongs.

“Fling some water over him!” said Burgess; “he’s shamming.”

A bucket of water made Kirkland open his eyes. “I thought so,” said
Burgess. “Tie him up again.”

“No. Not if you are Christians!” cried North.

He met with an ally where he least expected one. Rufus Dawes flung down
the dripping cat. “I’ll flog no more,” said he.

“What?” roared Burgess, furious at this gross insolence.

“I’ll flog no more. Get someone else to do your blood work for you. I

“Tie him up!” cried Burgess, foaming. “Tie him up. Here, constable,
fetch a man here with a fresh cat. I’ll give you that beggar’s fifty,
and fifty more on the top of ‘em; and he shall look on while his back

Rufus Dawes, with a glance at North, pulled off his shirt without a
word, and stretched himself at the triangles. His back was not white
and smooth, like Kirkland’s had been, but hard and seamed. He had been
flogged before. Troke appeared with Gabbett--grinning. Gabbett liked
flogging. It was his boast that he could flog a man to death on a place
no bigger than the palm of his hand. He could use his left hand equally
with his right, and if he got hold of a “favourite”, would “cross the

Rufus Dawes planted his feet firmly on the ground, took fierce grasp on
the staves, and drew in his breath. Macklewain spread the garments of
the two men upon the ground, and, placing Kirkland upon them, turned to
watch this new phase in the morning’s amusement. He grumbled a little
below his breath, for he wanted his breakfast, and when the Commandant
once began to flog there was no telling where he would stop. Rufus Dawes
took five-and-twenty lashes without a murmur, and then Gabbett “crossed
the cuts”. This went on up to fifty lashes, and North felt himself
stricken with admiration at the courage of the man. “If it had not been
for that cursed brandy,” thought he, with bitterness of self-reproach,
“I might have saved all this.” At the hundredth lash, the giant paused,
expecting the order to throw off, but Burgess was determined to “break
the man’s spirit”.

“I’ll make you speak, you dog, if I cut your heart out!” he cried. “Go
on, prisoner.”

For twenty lashes more Dawes was mute, and then the agony forced from
his labouring breast a hideous cry. But it was not a cry for mercy, as
that of Kirkland’s had been. Having found his tongue, the wretched man
gave vent to his boiling passion in a torrent of curses. He shrieked
imprecation upon Burgess, Troke, and North. He cursed all soldiers
for tyrants, all parsons for hypocrites. He blasphemed his God and his
Saviour. With a frightful outpouring of obscenity and blasphemy, he
called on the earth to gape and swallow his persecutors, for Heaven to
open and rain fire upon them, for hell to yawn and engulf them quick.
It was as though each blow of the cat forced out of him a fresh burst of
beast-like rage. He seemed to have abandoned his humanity. He foamed,
he raved, he tugged at his bonds until the strong staves shook again; he
writhed himself round upon the triangles and spat impotently at Burgess,
who jeered at his torments. North, with his hands to his ears, crouched
against the corner of the wall, palsied with horror. It seemed to him
that the passions of hell raged around him. He would fain have fled, but
a horrible fascination held him back.

In the midst of this--when the cat was hissing its loudest--Burgess
laughing his hardest, and the wretch on the triangles filling the air
with his cries, North saw Kirkland look at him with what he thought a
smile. Was it a smile? He leapt forward, and uttered a cry of dismay so
loud that all turned.

“Hullo!” says Troke, running to the heap of clothes, “the young ‘un’s
slipped his wind!”

Kirkland was dead.

“Throw him off!” says Burgess, aghast at the unfortunate accident;
and Gabbett reluctantly untied the thongs that bound Rufus Dawes.
Two constables were alongside him in an instant, for sometimes newly
tortured men grew desperate. This one, however, was silent with the
last lash; only in taking his shirt from under the body of the boy, he
muttered, “Dead!” and in his tone there seemed to be a touch of
envy. Then, flinging his shirt over his bleeding shoulders, he walked
out--defiant to the last.

“Game, ain’t he?” said one constable to the other, as they pushed him,
not ungently, into an empty cell, there to wait for the hospital guard.
The body of Kirkland was taken away in silence, and Burgess turned
rather pale when he saw North’s threatening face.

“It isn’t my fault, Mr. North,” he said. “I didn’t know that the lad was
chicken-hearted.” But North turned away in disgust, and Macklewain and
Burgess pursued their homeward route together.

“Strange that he should drop like that,” said the Commandant.

“Yes, unless he had any internal disease,” said the surgeon.

“Disease of the heart, for instance,” said Burgess.

“I’ll post-mortem him and see.”

“Come in and have a nip, Macklewain. I feel quite qualmish,” said
Burgess. And the two went into the house amid respectful salutes from
either side. Mr. North, in agony of mind at what he considered the
consequence of his neglect, slowly, and with head bowed down, as one
bent on a painful errand, went to see the prisoner who had survived. He
found him kneeling on the ground, prostrated. “Rufus Dawes.”

At the low tone Rufus Dawes looked up, and, seeing who it was, waved him

“Don’t speak to me,” he said, with an imprecation that made North’s
flesh creep. “I’ve told you what I think of you--a hypocrite, who stands
by while a man is cut to pieces, and then comes and whines religion to

North stood in the centre of the cell, with his arms hanging down, and
his head bent.

“You are right,” he said, in a low tone. “I must seem to you a
hypocrite. I a servant of Christ? A besotted beast rather! I am not come
to whine religion to you. I am come to--to ask your pardon. I might have
saved you from punishment--saved that poor boy from death. I wanted to
save him, God knows! But I have a vice; I am a drunkard. I yielded to
my temptation, and--I was too late. I come to you as one sinful man to
another, to ask you to forgive me.” And North suddenly flung himself
down beside the convict, and, catching his blood-bespotted hands in his
own, cried, “Forgive me, brother!”

Rufus Dawes, too much astonished to speak, bent his black eyes upon the
man who crouched at his feet, and a ray of divine pity penetrated his
gloomy soul. He seemed to catch a glimpse of misery more profound than
his own, and his stubborn heart felt human sympathy with this erring
brother. “Then in this hell there is yet a man,” said he; and a
hand-grasp passed between these two unhappy beings. North arose, and,
with averted face, passed quickly from the cell. Rufus Dawes looked at
his hand which his strange visitor had taken, and something glittered
there. It was a tear. He broke down at the sight of it, and when the
guard came to fetch the tameless convict, they found him on his knees in
a corner, sobbing like a child.


The morning after this, the Rev. Mr. North departed in the schooner
for Hobart Town. Between the officious chaplain and the Commandant the
events of the previous day had fixed a great gulf. Burgess knew that
North meant to report the death of Kirkland, and guessed that he would
not be backward in relating the story to such persons in Hobart Town
as would most readily repeat it. “Blank awkward the fellow’s dying,”
 he confessed to himself. “If he hadn’t died, nobody would have bothered
about him.” A sinister truth. North, on the other hand, comforted
himself with the belief that the fact of the convict’s death under the
lash would cause indignation and subsequent inquiry. “The truth must
come out if they only ask,” thought he. Self-deceiving North! Four
years a Government chaplain, and not yet attained to a knowledge of a
Government’s method of “asking” about such matters! Kirkland’s mangled
flesh would have fed the worms before the ink on the last “minute” from
deliberating Authority was dry.

Burgess, however, touched with selfish regrets, determined to baulk the
parson at the outset. He would send down an official “return” of the
unfortunate occurrence by the same vessel that carried his enemy, and
thus get the ear of the Office. Meekin, walking on the evening of the
flogging past the wooden shed where the body lay, saw Troke bearing
buckets filled with dark-coloured water, and heard a great splashing and
sluicing going on inside the hut. “What is the matter?” he asked.

“Doctor’s bin post-morticing the prisoner what was flogged this morning,
sir,” said Troke, “and we’re cleanin’ up.”

Meekin sickened, and walked on. He had heard that unhappy Kirkland
possessed unknown disease of the heart, and had unhappily died before
receiving his allotted punishment. His duty was to comfort Kirkland’s
soul; he had nothing to do with Kirkland’s slovenly unhandsome body,
and so he went for a walk on the pier, that the breeze might blow his
momentary sickness away from him. On the pier he saw North talking to
Father Flaherty, the Roman Catholic chaplain. Meekin had been taught to
look upon a priest as a shepherd might look upon a wolf, and passed with
a distant bow. The pair were apparently talking on the occurrence of
the morning, for he heard Father Flaherty say, with a shrug of his round
shoulders, “He woas not one of moi people, Mr. North, and the Govermint
would not suffer me to interfere with matters relating to Prhotestint
prisoners.” “The wretched creature was a Protestant,” thought Meekin.
“At least then his immortal soul was not endangered by belief in the
damnable heresies of the Church of Rome.” So he passed on, giving
good-humoured Denis Flaherty, the son of the butter-merchant of Kildrum,
a wide berth and sea-room, lest he should pounce down upon him unawares,
and with Jesuitical argument and silken softness of speech, convert
him by force to his own state of error--as was the well-known custom of
those intellectual gladiators, the Priests of the Catholic Faith. North,
on his side, left Flaherty with regret. He had spent many a pleasant
hour with him, and knew him for a narrow-minded, conscientious, yet
laughter-loving creature, whose God was neither his belly nor his
breviary, but sometimes in one place and sometimes in the other,
according to the hour of the day, and the fasts appointed for due
mortification of the flesh. “A man who would do Christian work in a
jog-trot parish, or where men lived too easily to sin harshly, but
utterly unfit to cope with Satan, as the British Government had
transported him,” was North’s sadly satirical reflection upon Father
Flaherty, as Port Arthur faded into indistinct beauty behind the
swift-sailing schooner. “God help those poor villains, for neither
parson nor priest can.”

He was right. North, the drunkard and self-tormented, had a power for
good, of which Meekin and the other knew nothing. Not merely were the
men incompetent and self-indulgent, but they understood nothing of
that frightful capacity for agony which is deep in the soul of
every evil-doer. They might strike the rock as they chose with
sharpest-pointed machine-made pick of warranted Gospel manufacture,
stamped with the approval of eminent divines of all ages, but the water
of repentance and remorse would not gush for them. They possessed not
the frail rod which alone was powerful to charm. They had no sympathy,
no knowledge, no experience. He who would touch the hearts of men must
have had his own heart seared. The missionaries of mankind have ever
been great sinners before they earned the divine right to heal and
bless. Their weakness was made their strength, and out of their own
agony of repentance came the knowledge which made them masters and
saviours of their kind. It was the agony of the Garden and the Cross
that gave to the world’s Preacher His kingdom in the hearts of men. The
crown of divinity is a crown of thorns.

North, on his arrival, went straight to the house of Major Vickers. “I
have a complaint to make, sir,” he said. “I wish to lodge it formally
with you. A prisoner has been flogged to death at Port Arthur. I saw it

Vickers bent his brow. “A serious accusation, Mr. North. I must, of
course, receive it with respect, coming from you, but I trust that you
have fully considered the circumstances of the case. I always understood
Captain Burgess was a most humane man.”

North shook his head. He would not accuse Burgess. He would let the
events speak for themselves. “I only ask for an inquiry,” said he.

“Yes, my dear sir, I know. Very proper indeed on your part, if you think
any injustice has been done; but have you considered the expense, the
delay, the immense trouble and dissatisfaction all this will give?”

“No trouble, no expense, no dissatisfaction, should stand in the way of
humanity and justice,” cried North.

“Of course not. But will justice be done? Are you sure you can prove
your case? Mind, I admit nothing against Captain Burgess, whom I have
always considered a most worthy and zealous officer; but, supposing your
charge to be true, can you prove it?”

“Yes. If the witnesses speak the truth.”

“Who are they?” “Myself, Dr. Macklewain, the constable, and two
prisoners, one of whom was flogged himself. He will speak the truth, I
believe. The other man I have not much faith in.”

“Very well; then there is only a prisoner and Dr. Macklewain; for if
there has been foul play the convict-constable will not accuse the
authorities. Moreover, the doctor does not agree with you.”

“No?” cried North, amazed.

“No. You see, then, my dear sir, how necessary it is not to be hasty in
matters of this kind. I really think--pardon me for my plainness--that
your goodness of heart has misled you. Captain Burgess sends a report
of the case. He says the man was sentenced to a hundred lashes for gross
insolence and disobedience of orders, that the doctor was present during
the punishment, and that the man was thrown off by his directions after
he had received fifty-six lashes. That, after a short interval, he was
found to be dead, and that the doctor made a post-mortem examination and
found disease of the heart.”

North started. “A post-mortem? I never knew there had been one held.”

“Here is the medical certificate,” said Vickers, holding it out,
“accompanied by the copies of the evidence of the constable and a letter
from the Commandant.”

Poor North took the papers and read them slowly. They were apparently
straightforward enough. Aneurism of the ascending aorta was given as the
cause of death; and the doctor frankly admitted that had he known the
deceased to be suffering from that complaint he would not have permitted
him to receive more than twenty-five lashes. “I think Macklewain is
an honest man,” said North, doubtfully. “He would not dare to return
a false certificate. Yet the circumstances of the case--the horrible
condition of the prisoners--the frightful story of that boy--”

“I cannot enter into these questions, Mr. North. My position here is to
administer the law to the best of my ability, not to question it.”

North bowed his head to the reproof. In some sort of justly unjust way,
he felt that he deserved it. “I can say no more, sir. I am afraid I
am helpless in this matter--as I have been in others. I see that the
evidence is against me; but it is my duty to carry my efforts as far
as I can, and I will do so.” Vickers bowed stiffly and wished him good
morning. Authority, however well-meaning in private life, has in its
official capacity a natural dislike to those dissatisfied persons who
persist in pushing inquiries to extremities.

North, going out with saddened spirits, met in the passage a beautiful
young girl. It was Sylvia, coming to visit her father. He lifted his hat
and looked after her. He guessed that she was the daughter of the man he
had left--the wife of the Captain Frere concerning whom he had heard so
much. North was a man whose morbidly excited brain was prone to strange
fancies; and it seemed to him that beneath the clear blue eyes that
flashed upon him for a moment, lay a hint of future sadness, in which,
in some strange way, he himself was to bear part. He stared after her
figure until it disappeared; and long after the dainty presence of the
young bride--trimly booted, tight-waisted, and neatly-gloved--had faded,
with all its sunshine of gaiety and health, from out of his mental
vision, he still saw those blue eyes and that cloud of golden hair.


Sylvia had become the wife of Maurice Frere. The wedding created
excitement in the convict settlement, for Maurice Frere, though
oppressed by the secret shame at open matrimony which affects men of his
character, could not in decency--seeing how “good a thing for him” was
this wealthy alliance--demand unceremonious nuptials. So, after the
fashion of the town--there being no “continent” or “Scotland” adjacent
as a hiding place for bridal blushes--the alliance was entered into with
due pomp of ball and supper; bride and bridegroom departing through the
golden afternoon to the nearest of Major Vickers’s stations. Thence it
had been arranged they should return after a fortnight, and take ship
for Sydney.

Major Vickers, affectionate though he was to the man whom he believed
to be the saviour of his child, had no notion of allowing him to live
on Sylvia’s fortune. He had settled his daughter’s portion--ten thousand
pounds--upon herself and children, and had informed Frere that he
expected him to live upon an income of his own earning. After many
consultations between the pair, it had been arranged that a civil
appointment in Sydney would best suit the bridegroom, who was to sell
out of the service. This notion was Frere’s own. He never cared for
military duty, and had, moreover, private debts to no inconsiderable
amount. By selling his commission he would be enabled at once to pay
these debts, and render himself eligible for any well-paid post under
the Colonial Government that the interest of his father-in-law, and his
own reputation as a convict disciplinarian, might procure. Vickers would
fain have kept his daughter with him, but he unselfishly acquiesced in
the scheme, admitting that Frere’s plea as to the comforts she would
derive from the society to be found in Sydney was a valid one.

“You can come over and see us when we get settled, papa,” said Sylvia,
with a young matron’s pride of place, “and we can come and see you.
Hobart Town is very pretty, but I want to see the world.”

“You should go to London, Poppet,” said Maurice, “that’s the place.
Isn’t it, sir?”

“Oh, London!” cries Sylvia, clapping her hands. “And Westminster Abbey,
and the Tower, and St. James’s Palace, and Hyde Park, and Fleet-street!
‘Sir,’ said Dr. Johnson, ‘let us take a walk down Fleet-street.’ Do you
remember, in Mr. Croker’s book, Maurice? No, you don’t I know, because
you only looked at the pictures, and then read Pierce Egan’s account of
the Topping Fight between Bob Gaynor and Ned Neal, or some such person.”

“Little girls should be seen and not heard,” said Maurice, between a
laugh and a blush. “You have no business to read my books.”

“Why not?” she asked, with a gaiety which already seemed a little
strained; “husband and wife should have no secrets from each other,
sir. Besides, I want you to read my books. I am going to read Shelley to

“Don’t, my dear,” said Maurice simply. “I can’t understand him.”

This little scene took place at the dinner-table of Frere’s cottage, in
New Town, to which Major Vickers had been invited, in order that future
plans might be discussed.

“I don’t want to go to Port Arthur,” said the bride, later in the
evening. “Maurice, there can be no necessity to go there.”

“Well,” said Maurice. “I want to have a look at the place. I ought to be
familiar with all phases of convict discipline, you know.”

“There is likely to be a report ordered upon the death of a prisoner,”
 said Vickers. “The chaplain, a fussy but well-meaning person, has been
memorializing about it. You may as well do it as anybody else, Maurice.”

“Ay. And save the expenses of the trip,” said Maurice.

“But it is so melancholy,” cried Sylvia.

“The most delightful place in the island, my dear. I was there for a few
days once, and I really was charmed.”

It was remarkable--so Vickers thought--how each of these newly-mated
ones had caught something of the other’s manner of speech. Sylvia was
less choice in her mode of utterance; Frere more so. He caught himself
wondering which of the two methods both would finally adopt.

“But those dogs, and sharks, and things. Oh, Maurice, haven’t we had
enough of convicts?”

“Enough! Why, I’m going to make my living out of ‘em,” said Maurice,
with his most natural manner.

Sylvia sighed.

“Play something, darling,” said her father; and so the girl, sitting
down to the piano, trilled and warbled in her pure young voice, until
the Port Arthur question floated itself away upon waves of melody,
and was heard of no more for that time. But upon pursuing the subject,
Sylvia found her husband firm. He wanted to go, and he would go. Having
once assured himself that it was advantageous to him to do a certain
thing, the native obstinacy of the animal urged him to do it despite all
opposition from others, and Sylvia, having had her first “cry” over the
question of the visit, gave up the point. This was the first difference
of their short married life, and she hastened to condone it. In the
sunshine of Love and Marriage--for Maurice at first really loved her;
and love, curbing the worst part of him, brought to him, as it brings
to all of us, that gentleness and abnegation of self which is the only
token and assurance of a love aught but animal--Sylvia’s fears and
doubts melted away, as the mists melt in the beams of morning. A young
girl, with passionate fancy, with honest and noble aspiration, but with
the dark shadow of her early mental sickness brooding upon her childlike
nature, Marriage made her a woman, by developing in her a woman’s trust
and pride in the man to whom she had voluntarily given herself. Yet
by-and-by out of this sentiment arose a new and strange source of
anxiety. Having accepted her position as a wife, and put away from her
all doubts as to her own capacity for loving the man to whom she had
allied herself, she began to be haunted by a dread lest he might do
something which would lessen the affection she bore him. On one or two
occasions she had been forced to confess that her husband was more of
an egotist than she cared to think. He demanded of her no great
sacrifices--had he done so she would have found, in making them,
the pleasure that women of her nature always find in such
self-mortification--but he now and then intruded on her that disregard
for the feeling of others which was part of his character. He was fond
of her--almost too passionately fond, for her staider liking--but he was
unused to thwart his own will in anything, least of all in those seeming
trifles, for the consideration of which true selfishness bethinks
itself. Did she want to read when he wanted to walk, he good-humouredly
put aside her book, with an assumption that a walk with him must, of
necessity, be the most pleasing thing in the world. Did she want to
walk when he wanted to rest, he laughingly set up his laziness as an
all-sufficient plea for her remaining within doors. He was at no pains
to conceal his weariness when she read her favourite books to him. If
he felt sleepy when she sang or played, he slept without apology. If
she talked about a subject in which he took no interest, he turned the
conversation remorselessly. He would not have wittingly offended her,
but it seemed to him natural to yawn when he was weary, to sleep when
he was fatigued, and to talk only about those subjects which interested
him. Had anybody told him that he was selfish, he would have been
astonished. Thus it came about that Sylvia one day discovered that she
led two lives--one in the body, and one in the spirit--and that with
her spiritual existence her husband had no share. This discovery alarmed
her, but then she smiled at it. “As if Maurice could be expected to take
interest in all my silly fancies,” said she; and, despite a harassing
thought that these same fancies were not foolish, but were the best and
brightest portion of her, she succeeded in overcoming her uneasiness.
“A man’s thoughts are different from a woman’s,” she said; “he has his
business and his worldly cares, of which a woman knows nothing. I must
comfort him, and not worry him with my follies.”

As for Maurice, he grew sometimes rather troubled in his mind. He could
not understand his wife. Her nature was an enigma to him; her mind was
a puzzle which would not be pieced together with the rectangular
correctness of ordinary life. He had known her from a child, had loved
her from a child, and had committed a mean and cruel crime to obtain
her; but having got her, he was no nearer to the mystery of her than
before. She was all his own, he thought. Her golden hair was for his
fingers, her lips were for his caress, her eyes looked love upon him
alone. Yet there were times when her lips were cold to his kisses, and
her eyes looked disdainfully upon his coarser passion. He would catch
her musing when he spoke to her, much as she would catch him sleeping
when she read to him--but she awoke with a start and a blush at her
forgetfulness, which he never did. He was not a man to brood over these
things; and, after some reflective pipes and ineffectual rubbings of his
head, he “gave it up”. How was it possible, indeed, for him to solve the
mental enigma when the woman herself was to him a physical riddle? It
was extraordinary that the child he had seen growing up by his side day
by day should be a young woman with little secrets, now to be revealed
to him for the first time. He found that she had a mole on her neck, and
remembered that he had noticed it when she was a child. Then it was a
thing of no moment, now it was a marvellous discovery. He was in daily
wonderment at the treasure he had obtained. He marvelled at her feminine
devices of dress and adornment. Her dainty garments seemed to him
perfumed with the odour of sanctity.

The fact was that the patron of Sarah Purfoy had not met with many
virtuous women, and had but just discovered what a dainty morsel Modesty


The hospital of Port Arthur was not a cheerful place, but to the
tortured and unnerved Rufus Dawes it seemed a paradise. There at
least--despite the roughness and contempt with which his gaolers
ministered to him--he felt that he was considered. There at least he was
free from the enforced companionship of the men whom he loathed, and to
whose level he felt, with mental agony unspeakable, that he was daily
sinking. Throughout his long term of degradation he had, as yet, aided
by the memory of his sacrifice and his love, preserved something of his
self-respect, but he felt that he could not preserve it long. Little by
little he had come to regard himself as one out of the pale of love and
mercy, as one tormented of fortune, plunged into a deep into which the
eye of Heaven did not penetrate. Since his capture in the garden of
Hobart Town, he had given loose rein to his rage and his despair. “I
am forgotten or despised; I have no name in the world; what matter if
I become like one of these?” It was under the influence of this feeling
that he had picked up the cat at the command of Captain Burgess. As the
unhappy Kirkland had said, “As well you as another”; and truly, what was
he that he should cherish sentiments of honour or humanity? But he had
miscalculated his own capacity for evil. As he flogged, he blushed; and
when he flung down the cat and stripped his own back for punishment, he
felt a fierce joy in the thought that his baseness would be atoned for
in his own blood. Even when, unnerved and faint from the hideous ordeal,
he flung himself upon his knees in the cell, he regretted only the
impotent ravings that the torture had forced from him. He could have
bitten out his tongue for his blasphemous utterings--not because they
were blasphemous, but because their utterance, by revealing his agony,
gave their triumph to his tormentors. When North found him, he was in
the very depth of this abasement, and he repulsed his comforter--not so
much because he had seen him flogged, as because he had heard him cry.
The self-reliance and force of will which had hitherto sustained him
through his self-imposed trial had failed him--he felt--at the moment
when he needed it most; and the man who had with unflinched front faced
the gallows, the desert, and the sea, confessed his debased humanity
beneath the physical torture of the lash. He had been flogged before,
and had wept in secret at his degradation, but he now for the first
time comprehended how terrible that degradation might be made, for he
realized how the agony of the wretched body can force the soul to
quit its last poor refuge of assumed indifference, and confess itself

Not many months before, one of the companions of the chain, suffering
under Burgess’s tender mercies, had killed his mate when at work
with him, and, carrying the body on his back to the nearest gang, had
surrendered himself--going to his death thanking God he had at last
found a way of escape from his miseries, which no one would envy
him--save his comrades. The heart of Dawes had been filled with horror
at a deed so bloody, and he had, with others, commented on the cowardice
of the man that would thus shirk the responsibility of that state of
life in which it had pleased man and the devil to place him. Now he
understood how and why the crime had been committed, and felt only pity.
Lying awake with back that burned beneath its lotioned rags, when lights
were low, in the breathful silence of the hospital, he registered in his
heart a terrible oath that he would die ere he would again be made such
hideous sport for his enemies. In this frame of mind, with such shreds
of honour and worth as had formerly clung to him blown away in the
whirlwind of his passion, he bethought him of the strange man who had
deigned to clasp his hand and call him “brother”. He had wept no unmanly
tears at this sudden flow of tenderness in one whom he had thought as
callous as the rest. He had been touched with wondrous sympathy at the
confession of weakness made to him, in a moment when his own weakness
had overcome him to his shame. Soothed by the brief rest that his
fortnight of hospital seclusion had afforded him, he had begun, in a
languid and speculative way, to turn his thoughts to religion. He had
read of martyrs who had borne agonies unspeakable, upheld by their
confidence in Heaven and God. In his old wild youth he had scoffed at
prayers and priests; in the hate to his kind that had grown upon him
with his later years he had despised a creed that told men to love one
another. “God is love, my brethren,” said the chaplain on Sundays, and
all the week the thongs of the overseer cracked, and the cat hissed and
swung. Of what practical value was a piety that preached but did not
practise? It was admirable for the “religious instructor” to tell a
prisoner that he must not give way to evil passions, but must bear his
punishment with meekness. It was only right that he should advise him to
“put his trust in God”. But as a hardened prisoner, convicted of getting
drunk in an unlicensed house of entertainment, had said, “God’s terrible
far from Port Arthur.”

Rufus Dawes had smiled at the spectacle of priests admonishing men, who
knew what he knew and had seen what he had seen, for the trivialities of
lying and stealing. He had believed all priests impostors or fools,
all religion a mockery and a lie. But now, finding how utterly his own
strength had failed him when tried by the rude test of physical pain, he
began to think that this Religion which was talked of so largely was
not a mere bundle of legend and formulae, but must have in it something
vital and sustaining. Broken in spirit and weakened in body, with
faith in his own will shaken, he longed for something to lean upon, and
turned--as all men turn when in such case--to the Unknown. Had now there
been at hand some Christian priest, some Christian-spirited man even, no
matter of what faith, to pour into the ears of this poor wretch words of
comfort and grace; to rend away from him the garment of sullenness and
despair in which he had wrapped himself; to drag from him a confession
of his unworthiness, his obstinacy, and his hasty judgment, and to cheer
his fainting soul with promise of immortality and justice, he might have
been saved from his after fate; but there was no such man. He asked
for the chaplain. North was fighting the Convict Department, seeking
vengeance for Kirkland, and (victim of “clerks with the cold spurt of
the pen”) was pushed hither and thither, referred here, snubbed there,
bowed out in another place. Rufus Dawes, half ashamed of himself for his
request, waited a long morning, and then saw, respectfully ushered into
his cell as his soul’s physician--Meekin.


“Well, my good man,” said Meekin, soothingly, “so you wanted to see me.”

“I asked for the chaplain,” said Rufus Dawes, his anger with himself
growing apace. “I am the chaplain,” returned Meekin, with dignity, as
who should say--“none of your brandy-drinking, pea-jacketed Norths, but
a Respectable chaplain who is the friend of a Bishop!”

“I thought that Mr. North was--”

“Mr. North has left, sir,” said Meekin, dryly, “but I will hear what
you have to say. There is no occasion to go, constable; wait outside the

Rufus Dawes shifted himself on the wooden bench, and resting his
scarcely-healed back against the wall, smiled bitterly. “Don’t be
afraid, sir; I am not going to harm you,” he said. “I only wanted to
talk a little.”

“Do you read your Bible, Dawes?” asked Meekin, by way of reply. “It
would be better to read your Bible than to talk, I think. You must
humble yourself in prayer, Dawes.”

“I have read it,” said Dawes, still lying back and watching him.

“But is your mind softened by its teachings? Do you realize the Infinite
Mercy of God, Who has compassion, Dawes, upon the greatest sinners?” The
convict made a move of impatience. The old, sickening, barren cant of
piety was to be recommenced then. He came asking for bread, and they
gave him the usual stone.

“Do you believe that there is a God, Mr. Meekin?”

“Abandoned sinner! Do you insult a clergyman by such a question?”

“Because I think sometimes that if there is, He must often be
dissatisfied at the way things are done here,” said Dawes, half to

“I can listen to no mutinous observations, prisoner,” said Meekin. “Do
not add blasphemy to your other crimes. I fear that all conversation
with you, in your present frame of mind, would be worse than useless. I
will mark a few passages in your Bible, that seem to me appropriate to
your condition, and beg you to commit them to memory. Hailes, the door,
if you please.”

So, with a bow, the “consoler” departed.

Rufus Dawes felt his heart grow sick. North had gone, then. The only man
who had seemed to have a heart in his bosom had gone. The only man
who had dared to clasp his horny and blood-stained hand, and call him
“brother”, had gone. Turning his head, he saw through the window--wide
open and unbarred, for Nature, at Port Arthur, had no need of bars--the
lovely bay, smooth as glass, glittering in the afternoon sun, the long
quay, spotted with groups of parti-coloured chain-gangs, and heard,
mingling with the soft murmur of the waves, and the gentle rustling of
the trees, the never-ceasing clashing of irons, and the eternal click
of hammer. Was he to be for ever buried in this whitened sepulchre, shut
out from the face of Heaven and mankind!

The appearance of Hailes broke his reverie. “Here’s a book for you,”
 said he, with a grin. “Parson sent it.”

Rufus Dawes took the Bible, and, placing it on his knees, turned to the
places indicated by slips of paper, embracing some twenty marked texts.

“Parson says he’ll come and hear you to-morrer, and you’re to keep the
book clean.”

“Keep the book clean!” and “hear him!” Did Meekin think that he was a
charity school boy? The utter incapacity of the chaplain to understand
his wants was so sublime that it was nearly ridiculous enough to make
him laugh. He turned his eyes downwards to the texts. Good Meekin, in
the fullness of his stupidity, had selected the fiercest denunciations
of bard and priest. The most notable of the Psalmist’s curses upon his
enemies, the most furious of Isaiah’s ravings anent the forgetfulness
of the national worship, the most terrible thunderings of apostle and
evangelist against idolatry and unbelief, were grouped together and
presented to Dawes to soothe him. All the material horrors of Meekin’s
faith--stripped, by force of dissociation from the context, of all
poetic feeling and local colouring--were launched at the suffering
sinner by Meekin’s ignorant hand. The miserable man, seeking for
consolation and peace, turned over the leaves of the Bible only to find
himself threatened with “the pains of Hell”, “the never-dying worm”,
“the unquenchable fire”, “the bubbling brimstone”, the “bottomless pit”,
from out of which the “smoke of his torment” should ascend for ever and
ever. Before his eyes was held no image of a tender Saviour (with hands
soft to soothe, and eyes brimming with ineffable pity) dying crucified
that he and other malefactors might have hope, by thinking on such
marvellous humanity. The worthy Pharisee who was sent to him to teach
him how mankind is to be redeemed with Love, preached only that harsh
Law whose barbarous power died with the gentle Nazarene on Calvary.

Repelled by this unlooked-for ending to his hopes, he let the book fall
to the ground. “Is there, then, nothing but torment for me in this world
or the next?” he groaned, shuddering. Presently his eyes sought his
right hand, resting upon it as though it were not his own, or had some
secret virtue which made it different from the other. “He would not
have done this? He would not have thrust upon me these savage judgments,
these dreadful threats of Hell and Death. He called me ‘Brother’!” And
filled with a strange wild pity for himself, and yearning love towards
the man who befriended him, he fell to nursing the hand on which North’s
tears had fallen, moaning and rocking himself to and fro.

Meekin, in the morning, found his pupil more sullen than ever.

“Have you learned these texts, my man?” said he, cheerfully, willing not
to be angered with his uncouth and unpromising convert.

Rufus Dawes pointed with his foot to the Bible, which still lay on the
floor as he had left it the night before. “No!”

“No! Why not?”

“I would learn no such words as those. I would rather forget them.”

“Forget them! My good man, I--”

Rufus Dawes sprang up in sudden wrath, and pointing to his cell door
with a gesture that--chained and degraded as he was--had something of
dignity in it, cried, “What do you know about the feelings of such as
I? Take your book and yourself away. When I asked for a priest, I had no
thought of you. Begone!”

Meekin, despite the halo of sanctity which he felt should surround him,
found his gentility melt all of a sudden. Adventitious distinctions had
disappeared for the instant. The pair had become simply man and man,
and the sleek priest-master quailing before the outraged manhood of the
convict-penitent, picked up his Bible and backed out.

“That man Dawes is very insolent,” said the insulted chaplain to
Burgess. “He was brutal to me to-day--quite brutal.”

“Was he?” said Burgess. “Had too long a spell, I expect. I’ll send him
back to work to-morrow.”

“It would be well,” said Meekin, “if he had some employment.”


“The “employment” at Port Arthur consisted chiefly of agriculture,
ship-building, and tanning. Dawes, who was in the chain-gang, was put to
chain-gang labour; that is to say, bringing down logs from the forest,
or “lumbering” timber on the wharf. This work was not light. An
ingenious calculator had discovered that the pressure of the log upon
the shoulder was wont to average 125 lbs. Members of the chain-gang were
dressed in yellow, and--by way of encouraging the others--had the word
“Felon” stamped upon conspicuous parts of their raiment.

This was the sort of life Rufus Dawes led. In the summer-time he rose
at half-past five in the morning, and worked until six in the evening,
getting three-quarters of an hour for breakfast, and one hour for
dinner. Once a week he had a clean shirt, and once a fortnight clean
socks. If he felt sick, he was permitted to “report his case to the
medical officer”. If he wanted to write a letter he could ask permission
of the Commandant, and send the letter, open, through that Almighty
Officer, who could stop it if he thought necessary. If he felt himself
aggrieved by any order, he was “to obey it instantly, but might complain
afterwards, if he thought fit, to the Commandant. In making any
complaint against an officer or constable it was strictly ordered that
a prisoner “must be most respectful in his manner and language, when
speaking of or to such officer or constable”. He was held responsible
only for the safety of his chains, and for the rest was at the mercy of
his gaoler. These gaolers--owning right of search, entry into cells at
all hours, and other droits of seigneury--were responsible only to the
Commandant, who was responsible only to the Governor, that is to say,
to nobody but God and his own conscience. The jurisdiction of the
Commandant included the whole of Tasman’s Peninsula, with the islands
and waters within three miles thereof; and save the making of certain
returns to head-quarters, his power was unlimited.

A word as to the position and appearance of this place of punishment.
Tasman’s Peninsula is, as we have said before, in the form of an earring
with a double drop. The lower drop is the larger, and is ornamented,
so to speak, with bays. At its southern extremity is a deep indentation
called Maingon Bay, bounded east and west by the organ-pipe rocks of
Cape Raoul, and the giant form of Cape Pillar. From Maingon Bay an arm
of the ocean cleaves the rocky walls in a northerly direction. On the
western coast of this sea-arm was the settlement; in front of it was a
little island where the dead were buried, called The Island of the
Dead. Ere the in-coming convict passed the purple beauty of this convict
Golgotha, his eyes were attracted by a point of grey rock covered with
white buildings, and swarming with life. This was Point Puer, the
place of confinement for boys from eight to twenty years of age. It
was astonishing--many honest folks averred--how ungrateful were these
juvenile convicts for the goods the Government had provided for them.
From the extremity of Long Bay, as the extension of the sea-arm was
named, a convict-made tramroad ran due north, through the nearly
impenetrable thicket to Norfolk Bay. In the mouth of Norfolk Bay was
Woody Island. This was used as a signal station, and an armed boat’s
crew was stationed there. To the north of Woody Island lay One-tree
Point--the southernmost projection of the drop of the earring; and the
sea that ran between narrowed to the eastward until it struck on the
sandy bar of Eaglehawk Neck. Eaglehawk Neck was the link that connected
the two drops of the earring. It was a strip of sand four hundred and
fifty yards across. On its eastern side the blue waters of Pirates’ Bay,
that is to say, of the Southern Ocean, poured their unchecked force. The
isthmus emerged from a wild and terrible coast-line, into whose bowels
the ravenous sea had bored strange caverns, resonant with perpetual
roar of tortured billows. At one spot in this wilderness the ocean had
penetrated the wall of rock for two hundred feet, and in stormy weather
the salt spray rose through a perpendicular shaft more than five hundred
feet deep. This place was called the Devil’s Blow-hole. The upper drop
of the earring was named Forrestier’s Peninsula, and was joined to the
mainland by another isthmus called East Bay Neck. Forrestier’s
Peninsula was an almost impenetrable thicket, growing to the brink of a
perpendicular cliff of basalt.

Eaglehawk Neck was the door to the prison, and it was kept bolted. On
the narrow strip of land was built a guard-house, where soldiers from
the barrack on the mainland relieved each other night and day; and on
stages, set out in the water in either side, watch-dogs were chained.
The station officer was charged “to pay special attention to the feeding
and care” of these useful beasts, being ordered “to report to the
Commandant whenever any one of them became useless”. It may be added
that the bay was not innocent of sharks. Westward from Eaglehawk Neck
and Woody Island lay the dreaded Coal Mines. Sixty of the “marked men”
 were stationed here under a strong guard. At the Coal Mines was the
northernmost of that ingenious series of semaphores which rendered
escape almost impossible. The wild and mountainous character of the
peninsula offered peculiar advantages to the signalmen. On the summit
of the hill which overlooked the guard-towers of the settlement was a
gigantic gum-tree stump, upon the top of which was placed a semaphore.
This semaphore communicated with the two wings of the prison--Eaglehawk
Neck and the Coal Mines--by sending a line of signals right across the
peninsula. Thus, the settlement communicated with Mount Arthur, Mount
Arthur with One-tree Hill, One-tree Hill with Mount Communication, and
Mount Communication with the Coal Mines. On the other side, the signals
would run thus--the settlement to Signal Hill, Signal Hill to Woody
Island, Woody Island to Eaglehawk. Did a prisoner escape from the Coal
Mines, the guard at Eaglehawk Neck could be aroused, and the whole
island informed of the “bolt” in less than twenty minutes. With these
advantages of nature and art, the prison was held to be the most secure
in the world. Colonel Arthur reported to the Home Government that
the spot which bore his name was a “natural penitentiary”. The worthy
disciplinarian probably took as a personal compliment the polite
forethought of the Almighty in thus considerately providing for the
carrying out of the celebrated “Regulations for Convict Discipline”.


One afternoon ever-active semaphores transmitted a piece of intelligence
which set the peninsula agog. Captain Frere, having arrived from
head-quarters, with orders to hold an inquiry into the death of
Kirkland, was not unlikely to make a progress through the stations,
and it behoved the keepers of the Natural Penitentiary to produce
their Penitents in good case. Burgess was in high spirits at finding so
congenial a soul selected for the task of reporting upon him.

“It’s only a nominal thing, old man,” Frere said to his former comrade,
when they met. “That parson has made meddling, and they want to close
his mouth.”

“I am glad to have the opportunity of showing you and Mrs. Frere the
place,” returned Burgess. “I must try and make your stay as pleasant
as I can, though I’m afraid that Mrs. Frere will not find much to amuse

“Frankly, Captain Burgess,” said Sylvia, “I would rather have gone
straight to Sydney. My husband, however, was obliged to come, and of
course I accompanied him.”

“You will not have much society,” said Meekin, who was of the welcoming
party. “Mrs. Datchett, the wife of one of our stipendiaries, is the only
lady here, and I hope to have the pleasure of making you acquainted with
her this evening at the Commandant’s. Mr. McNab, whom you know, is in
command at the Neck, and cannot leave, or you would have seen him.”

“I have planned a little party,” said Burgess, “but I fear that it will
not be so successful as I could wish.”

“You wretched old bachelor,” said Frere; “you should get married, like

“Ah!” said Burgess, with a bow, “that would be difficult.”

Sylvia was compelled to smile at the compliment, made in the presence of
some twenty prisoners, who were carrying the various trunks and packages
up the hill, and she remarked that the said prisoners grinned at the
Commandant’s clumsy courtesy. “I don’t like Captain Burgess, Maurice,”
 she said, in the interval before dinner. “I dare say he did flog that
poor fellow to death. He looks as if he could do it.”

“Nonsense!” said Maurice, pettishly; “he’s a good fellow enough.
Besides, I’ve seen the doctor’s certificate. It’s a trumped-up story. I
can’t understand your absurd sympathy with prisoners.”

“Don’t they sometimes deserve sympathy?”

“No, certainly not--a set of lying scoundrels. You are always whining
over them, Sylvia. I don’t like it, and I’ve told you before about it.”

Sylvia said nothing. Maurice was often guilty of these small
brutalities, and she had learnt that the best way to meet them was
by silence. Unfortunately, silence did not mean indifference, for the
reproof was unjust, and nothing stings a woman’s fine sense like an
injustice. Burgess had prepared a feast, and the “Society” of Port
Arthur was present. Father Flaherty, Meekin, Doctor Macklewain, and Mr.
and Mrs. Datchett had been invited, and the dining-room was resplendent
with glass and flowers.

“I’ve a fellow who was a professional gardener,” said Burgess to Sylvia
during the dinner, “and I make use of his talents.”

“We have a professional artist also,” said Macklewain, with a sort of
pride. “That picture of the ‘Prisoner of Chillon’ yonder was painted by
him. A very meritorious production, is it not?”

“I’ve got the place full of curiosities,” said Burgess; “quite a
collection. I’ll show them to you to-morrow. Those napkin rings were
made by a prisoner.”

“Ah!” cried Frere, taking up the daintily-carved bone, “very neat!”

“That is some of Rex’s handiwork,” said Meekin. “He is very clever at
these trifles. He made me a paper-cutter that was really a work of art.”

“We will go down to the Neck to-morrow or next day, Mrs. Frere,” said
Burgess, “and you shall see the Blow-hole. It is a curious place.”

“Is it far?” asked Sylvia.

“Oh no! We shall go in the train.”

“The train!”

“Yes--don’t look so astonished. You’ll see it to-morrow. Oh, you Hobart
Town ladies don’t know what we can do here.”

“What about this Kirkland business?” Frere asked. “I suppose I can have
half an hour with you in the morning, and take the depositions?”

“Any time you like, my dear fellow,” said Burgess. “It’s all the same to

“I don’t want to make more fuss than I can help,” Frere said
apologetically--the dinner had been good--“but I must send these people
up a ‘full, true and particular’, don’t you know.”

“Of course,” cried Burgess, with friendly nonchalance. “That’s all
right. I want Mrs. Frere to see Point Puer.”

“Where the boys are?” asked Sylvia.

“Exactly. Nearly three hundred of ‘em. We’ll go down to-morrow, and you
shall be my witness, Mrs. Frere, as to the way they are treated.”

“Indeed,” said Sylvia, protesting, “I would rather not. I--I don’t
take the interest in these things that I ought, perhaps. They are very
dreadful to me.”

“Nonsense!” said Frere, with a scowl. “We’ll come, Burgess, of course.”
 The next two days were devoted to sight-seeing. Sylvia was taken through
the hospital and the workshops, shown the semaphores, and shut up by
Maurice in a “dark cell”. Her husband and Burgess seemed to treat the
prison like a tame animal, whom they could handle at their leisure, and
whose natural ferocity was kept in check by their superior intelligence.
This bringing of a young and pretty woman into immediate contact with
bolts and bars had about it an incongruity which pleased them. Maurice
penetrated everywhere, questioned the prisoners, jested with the
gaolers, even, in the munificence of his heart, bestowed tobacco on the

With such graceful rattlings of dry bones, they got by and by to Point
Puer, where a luncheon had been provided.

An unlucky accident had occurred at Point Puer that morning, however,
and the place was in a suppressed ferment. A refractory little thief
named Peter Brown, aged twelve years, had jumped off the high rock and
drowned himself in full view of the constables. These “jumpings off” had
become rather frequent lately, and Burgess was enraged at one happening
on this particular day. If he could by any possibility have brought the
corpse of poor little Peter Brown to life again, he would have soundly
whipped it for its impertinence.

“It is most unfortunate,” he said to Frere, as they stood in the cell
where the little body was laid, “that it should have happened to-day.”

“Oh,” says Frere, frowning down upon the young face that seemed to smile
up at him. “It can’t be helped. I know those young devils. They’d do it
out of spite. What sort of a character had he?”

“Very bad--Johnson, the book.”

Johnson bringing it, the two saw Peter Brown’s iniquities set down
in the neatest of running hand, and the record of his punishments
ornamented in quite an artistic way with flourishes of red ink

“20th November, disorderly conduct, 12 lashes. 24th November, insolence
to hospital attendant, diet reduced. 4th December, stealing cap from
another prisoner, 12 lashes. 15th December, absenting himself at roll
call, two days’ cells. 23rd December, insolence and insubordination, two
days’ cells. 8th January, insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes.
20th January, insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes. 22nd February,
insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes and one week’s solitary. 6th
March, insolence and insubordination, 20 lashes.”

“That was the last?” asked Frere.

“Yes, sir,” says Johnson.

“And then he--hum--did it?”

“Just so, sir. That was the way of it.”

Just so! The magnificent system starved and tortured a child of twelve
until he killed himself. That was the way of it.

After luncheon the party made a progress. Everything was most admirable.
There was a long schoolroom, where such men as Meekin taught how Christ
loved little children; and behind the schoolroom were the cells and the
constables and the little yard where they gave their “twenty lashes”.
Sylvia shuddered at the array of faces. From the stolid nineteen years
old booby of the Kentish hop-fields, to the wizened, shrewd, ten years
old Bohemian of the London streets, all degrees and grades of juvenile
vice grinned, in untamable wickedness, or snuffed in affected piety.
“Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of
such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” said, or is reported to have said, the
Founder of our Established Religion. Of such it seemed that a large
number of Honourable Gentlemen, together with Her Majesty’s faithful
commons in Parliament assembled, had done their best to create a Kingdom
of Hell.

After the farce had been played again, and the children had stood up
and sat down, and sung a hymn, and told how many twice five were, and
repeated their belief in “One God the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven
and Earth”, the party reviewed the workshops, and saw the church, and
went everywhere but into the room where the body of Peter Brown, aged
twelve, lay starkly on its wooden bench, staring at the gaol roof which
was between it and Heaven.

Just outside this room, Sylvia met with a little adventure. Meekin had
stopped behind, and Burgess, being suddenly summoned for some official
duty, Frere had gone with him, leaving his wife to rest on a bench that,
placed at the summit of the cliff, overlooked the sea. While resting
thus, she became aware of another presence, and, turning her head,
beheld a small boy, with his cap in one hand and a hammer in the other.
The appearance of the little creature, clad in a uniform of grey cloth
that was too large for him, and holding in his withered little hand a
hammer that was too heavy for him, had something pathetic about it.

“What is it, you mite?” asked Sylvia.

“We thought you might have seen him, mum,” said the little figure,
opening its blue eyes with wonder at the kindness of the tone. “Him!

“Cranky Brown, mum,” returned the child; “him as did it this morning. Me
and Billy knowed him, mum; he was a mate of ours, and we wanted to know
if he looked happy.”

“What do you mean, child?” said she, with a strange terror at her heart;
and then, filled with pity at the aspect of the little being, she drew
him to her, with sudden womanly instinct, and kissed him. He looked up
at her with joyful surprise. “Oh!” he said.

Sylvia kissed him again.

“Does nobody ever kiss you, poor little man?” said she.

“Mother used to,” was the reply, “but she’s at home. Oh, mum,” with a
sudden crimsoning of the little face, “may I fetch Billy?”

And taking courage from the bright young face, he gravely marched to an
angle of the rock, and brought out another little creature, with another
grey uniform and another hammer.

“This is Billy, mum,” he said. “Billy never had no mother. Kiss Billy.”

The young wife felt the tears rush to her eyes. “You two poor babies!”
 she cried. And then, forgetting that she was a lady, dressed in silk
and lace, she fell on her knees in the dust, and, folding the friendless
pair in her arms, wept over them.

“What is the matter, Sylvia?” said Frere, when he came up. “You’ve been

“Nothing, Maurice; at least, I will tell you by and by.”

When they were alone that evening, she told him of the two little boys,
and he laughed. “Artful little humbugs,” he said, and supported his
argument by so many illustrations of the precocious wickedness of
juvenile felons, that his wife was half convinced against her will.

          *          *          *          *          *

Unfortunately, when Sylvia went away, Tommy and Billy put into execution
a plan which they had carried in their poor little heads for some weeks.

“I can do it now,” said Tommy. “I feel strong.”

“Will it hurt much, Tommy?” said Billy, who was not so courageous.

“Not so much as a whipping.”

“I’m afraid! Oh, Tom, it’s so deep! Don’t leave me, Tom!”

The bigger boy took his little handkerchief from his neck, and with it
bound his own left hand to his companion’s right.

“Now I can’t leave you.”

“What was it the lady that kissed us said, Tommy?”

“Lord, have pity on them two fatherless children!” repeated Tommy.
“Let’s say it together.”

And so the two babies knelt on the brink of the cliff, and, raising the
bound hands together, looked up at the sky, and ungrammatically said,
“Lord have pity on we two fatherless children!” And then they kissed
each other, and “did it”.

          *          *          *          *          *

The intelligence, transmitted by the ever-active semaphore, reached the
Commandant in the midst of dinner, and in his agitation he blurted it

“These are the two poor things I saw in the morning,” cried Sylvia. “Oh,
Maurice, these two poor babies driven to suicide!”

“Condemning their young souls to everlasting fire,” said Meekin,

“Mr. Meekin! How can you talk like that? Poor little creatures! Oh,
it’s horrible! Maurice, take me away.” And she burst into a passion of
weeping. “I can’t help it, ma’am,” says Burgess, rudely, ashamed. “It
ain’t my fault.”

“She’s nervous,” says Frere, leading her away. “You must excuse her.
Come and lie down, dearest.”

“I will not stay here longer,” said she. “Let us go to-morrow.”

“We can’t,” said Frere.

“Oh, yes, we can. I insist. Maurice, if you love me, take me away.”

“Well,” said Maurice, moved by her evident grief, “I’ll try.”

He spoke to Burgess. “Burgess, this matter has unsettled my wife, so
that she wants to leave at once. I must visit the Neck, you know. How
can we do it?”

“Well,” says Burgess, “if the wind only holds, the brig could go
round to Pirates’ Bay and pick you up. You’ll only be a night at the

“I think that would be best,” said Frere. “We’ll start to-morrow,
please, and if you’ll give me a pen and ink I’ll be obliged.”

“I hope you are satisfied,” said Burgess.

“Oh yes, quite,” said Frere. “I must recommend more careful supervision
at Point Puer, though. It will never do to have these young blackguards
slipping through our fingers in this way.”

So a neatly written statement of the occurrence was appended to the
ledgers in which the names of William Tomkins and Thomas Grove were
entered. Macklewain held an inquest, and nobody troubled about them any
more. Why should they? The prisons of London were full of such Tommys
and Billys.

          *          *          *          *          *

Sylvia passed through the rest of her journey in a dream of terror. The
incident of the children had shaken her nerves, and she longed to be
away from the place and its associations. Even Eaglehawk Neck with its
curious dog stages and its “natural pavement”, did not interest her.
McNab’s blandishments were wearisome. She shuddered as she gazed
into the boiling abyss of the Blow-hole, and shook with fear as the
Commandant’s “train” rattled over the dangerous tramway that wound
across the precipice to Long Bay. The “train” was composed of a number
of low wagons pushed and dragged up the steep inclines by convicts, who
drew themselves up in the wagons when the trucks dashed down the slope,
and acted as drags. Sylvia felt degraded at being thus drawn by human
beings, and trembled when the lash cracked, and the convicts answered to
the sting--like cattle. Moreover, there was among the foremost of these
beasts of burden a face that had dimly haunted her girlhood, and
only lately vanished from her dreams. This face looked on her--she
thought--with bitterest loathing and scorn, and she felt relieved when
at the midday halt its owner was ordered to fall out from the rest, and
was with four others re-chained for the homeward journey. Frere, struck
with the appearance of the five, said, “By Jove, Poppet, there are our
old friends Rex and Dawes, and the others. They won’t let ‘em come all
the way, because they are such a desperate lot, they might make a rush
for it.” Sylvia comprehended now the face was the face of Dawes; and
as she looked after him, she saw him suddenly raise his hands above his
head with a motion that terrified her. She felt for an instant a great
shock of pitiful recollection. Staring at the group, she strove to
recall when and how Rufus Dawes, the wretch from whose clutches her
husband had saved her, had ever merited her pity, but her clouded memory
could not complete the picture, and as the wagons swept round a curve,
and the group disappeared, she awoke from her reverie with a sigh.

“Maurice,” she whispered, “how is it that the sight of that man always
makes me sad?”

Her husband frowned, and then, caressing her, bade her forget the man
and the place and her fears. “I was wrong to have insisted on your
coming,” he said. They stood on the deck of the Sydney-bound vessel the
next morning, and watched the “Natural Penitentiary” grow dim in the
distance. “You were not strong enough.”

          *          *          *          *          *

“Dawes,” said John Rex, “you love that girl! Now that you’ve seen her
another man’s wife, and have been harnessed like a beast to drag him
along the road, while he held her in his arms!--now that you’ve seen and
suffered that, perhaps you’ll join us.”

Rufus Dawes made a movement of agonized impatience.

“You’d better. You’ll never get out of this place any other way. Come,
be a man; join us!”


“It is your only chance. Why refuse it? Do you want to live here all
your life?”

“I want no sympathy from you or any other. I will not join you.”

Rex shrugged his shoulders and walked away. “If you think to get any
good out of that ‘inquiry’, you are mightily mistaken,” said he, as he
went. “Frere has put a stopper upon that, you’ll find.” He spoke truly.
Nothing more was heard of it, only that, some six months afterwards,
Mr. North, when at Parramatta, received an official letter (in which the
expenditure of wax and printing and paper was as large as it could be
made) which informed him that the “Comptroller-General of the Convict
Department had decided that further inquiry concerning the death of the
prisoner named in the margin was unnecessary”, and that some gentleman
with an utterly illegible signature “had the honour to be his most
obedient servant”.


Maurice found his favourable expectations of Sydney fully realized. His
notable escape from death at Macquarie Harbour, his alliance with the
daughter of so respected a colonist as Major Vickers, and his reputation
as a convict disciplinarian rendered him a man of note. He received a
vacant magistracy, and became even more noted for hardness of heart and
artfulness of prison knowledge than before. The convict population spoke
of him as “that ---- Frere,” and registered vows of vengeance against
him, which he laughed--in his bluffness--to scorn.

One anecdote concerning the method by which he shepherded his flock will
suffice to show his character and his value. It was his custom to visit
the prison-yard at Hyde Park Barracks twice a week. Visitors to convicts
were, of course, armed, and the two pistol-butts that peeped from
Frere’s waistcoat attracted many a longing eye. How easy would it be for
some fellow to pluck one forth and shatter the smiling, hateful face of
the noted disciplinarian! Frere, however, brave to rashness, never would
bestow his weapons more safely, but lounged through the yard with his
hands in the pockets of his shooting-coat, and the deadly butts ready to
the hand of anyone bold enough to take them.

One day a man named Kavanagh, a captured absconder, who had openly sworn
in the dock the death of the magistrate, walked quickly up to him as he
was passing through the yard, and snatched a pistol from his belt. The
yard caught its breath, and the attendant warder, hearing the click of
the lock, instinctively turned his head away, so that he might not be
blinded by the flash. But Kavanagh did not fire. At the instant when
his hand was on the pistol, he looked up and met the magnetic glance of
Frere’s imperious eyes. An effort, and the spell would have been broken.
A twitch of the finger, and his enemy would have fallen dead. There was
an instant when that twitch of the finger could have been given, but
Kavanagh let that instant pass. The dauntless eye fascinated him. He
played with the pistol nervously, while all remained stupefied. Frere
stood, without withdrawing his hands from the pockets into which they
were plunged.

“That’s a fine pistol, Jack,” he said at last.

Kavanagh, down whose white face the sweat was pouring, burst into a
hideous laugh of relieved terror, and thrust the weapon, cocked as it
was, back again into the magistrate’s belt.

Frere slowly drew one hand from his pocket, took the cocked pistol and
levelled it at his recent assailant. “That’s the best chance you’ll ever
get, Jack,” said he.

Kavanagh fell on his knees. “For God’s sake, Captain Frere!” Frere
looked down on the trembling wretch, and then uncocked the pistol, with
a laugh of ferocious contempt. “Get up, you dog,” he said. “It takes a
better man than you to best me. Bring him up in the morning, Hawkins,
and we’ll give him five-and-twenty.”

As he went out--so great is the admiration for Power--the poor devils in
the yard cheered him.

One of the first things that this useful officer did upon his arrival
in Sydney was to inquire for Sarah Purfoy. To his astonishment, he
discovered that she was the proprietor of large export warehouses in
Pitt-street, owned a neat cottage on one of the points of land which
jutted into the bay, and was reputed to possess a banking account of no
inconsiderable magnitude. He in vain applied his brains to solve this
mystery. His cast-off mistress had not been rich when she left Van
Diemen’s Land--at least, so she had assured him, and appearances bore
out her assurance. How had she accumulated this sudden wealth? Above
all, why had she thus invested it? He made inquiries at the banks, but
was snubbed for his pains. Sydney banks in those days did some queer
business. Mrs. Purfoy had come to them “fully accredited,” said the
manager with a smile.

“But where did she get the money?” asked the magistrate. “I am
suspicious of these sudden fortunes. The woman was a notorious character
in Hobart Town, and when she left hadn’t a penny.”

“My dear Captain Frere,” said the acute banker--his father had been one
of the builders of the “Rum Hospital”--“it is not the custom of our bank
to make inquiries into the previous history of its customers. The bills
were good, you may depend, or we should not have honoured them. Good

“The bills!” Frere saw but one explanation. Sarah had received the
proceeds of some of Rex’s rogueries. Rex’s letter to his father and
the mention of the sum of money “in the old house in Blue Anchor Yard”
 flashed across his memory. Perhaps Sarah had got the money from the
receiver and appropriated it. But why invest it in an oil and tallow
warehouse? He had always been suspicious of the woman, because he had
never understood her, and his suspicions redoubled. Convinced that there
was some plot hatching, he determined to use all the advantages that his
position gave him to discover the secret and bring it to light. The name
of the man to whom Rex’s letters had been addressed was “Blicks”.
He would find out if any of the convicts under his care had heard of
Blicks. Prosecuting his inquiries in the proper direction, he soon
obtained a reply. Blicks was a London receiver of stolen goods, known to
at least a dozen of the black sheep of the Sydney fold. He was reputed
to be enormously wealthy, had often been tried, but never convicted.
Frere was thus not much nearer enlightenment than before, and
an incident occurred a few months afterwards which increased his
bewilderment He had not been long established in his magistracy, when
Blunt came to claim payment for the voyage of Sarah Purfoy. “There’s
that schooner going begging, one may say, sir,” said Blunt, when the
office door was shut.

“What schooner?”

“The Franklin.”

Now the Franklin was a vessel of three hundred and twenty tons which
plied between Norfolk Island and Sydney, as the Osprey had plied in the
old days between Macquarie Harbour and Hobart Town. “I am afraid that is
rather stiff, Blunt,” said Frere. “That’s one of the best billets going,
you know. I doubt if I have enough interest to get it for you. Besides,”
 he added, eyeing the sailor critically, “you are getting oldish for that
sort of thing, ain’t you?”

Phineas Blunt stretched his arms wide, and opened his mouth, full of
sound white teeth. “I am good for twenty years more yet, sir,” he said.
“My father was trading to the Indies at seventy-five years of age. I’m
hearty enough, thank God; for, barring a drop of rum now and then, I’ve
no vices to speak of. However, I ain’t in a hurry, Captain, for a month
or so; only I thought I’d jog your memory a bit, d ye see.”

“Oh, you’re not in a hurry; where are you going then?”

“Well,” said Blunt, shifting on his seat, uneasy under Frere’s
convict-disciplined eye, “I’ve got a job on hand.”

“Glad of it, I’m sure. What sort of a job?”

“A job of whaling,” said Blunt, more uneasy than before.

“Oh, that’s it, is it? Your old line of business. And who employs you
now?” There was no suspicion in the tone, and had Blunt chosen to evade
the question, he might have done so without difficulty, but he replied
as one who had anticipated such questioning, and had been advised how to
answer it.

“Mrs. Purfoy.”

“What!” cried Frere, scarcely able to believe his ears.

“She’s got a couple of ships now, Captain, and she made me skipper of
one of ‘em. We look for beshdellamare [beche-de-la-mer], and take a turn
at harpooning sometimes.”

Frere stared at Blunt, who stared at the window. There was--so the
instinct of the magistrate told him--some strange project afoot. Yet
that common sense which so often misleads us, urged that it was quite
natural Sarah should employ whaling vessels to increase her trade.
Granted that there was nothing wrong about her obtaining the business,
there was nothing strange about her owning a couple of whaling
vessels. There were people in Sydney, of no better origin, who owned
half-a-dozen. “Oh,” said he. “And when do you start?”

“I’m expecting to get the word every day,” returned Blunt, apparently
relieved, “and I thought I’d just come and see you first, in case of
anything falling in.” Frere played with a pen-knife on the table in
silence for a while, allowing it to fall through his fingers with a
series of sharp clicks, and then he said, “Where does she get the money

“Blest if I know!” said Blunt, in unaffected simplicity. “That’s beyond
me. She says she saved it. But that’s all my eye, you know.”

“You don’t know anything about it, then?” cried Frere, suddenly fierce.

“No, not I.”

“Because, if there’s any game on, she’d better take care,” he cried,
relapsing, in his excitement, into the convict vernacular. “She knows
me. Tell her that I’ve got my eyes on her. Let her remember her bargain.
If she runs any rigs on me, let her take care.” In his suspicious wrath
he so savagely and unwarily struck downwards with the open pen-knife
that it shut upon his fingers, and cut him to the bone.

“I’ll tell her,” said Blunt, wiping his brow. “I’m sure she wouldn’t
go to sell you. But I’ll look in when I come back, sir.” When he got
outside he drew a long breath. “By the Lord Harry, but it’s a ticklish
game to play,” he said to himself, with a lively recollection of the
dreaded Frere’s vehemence; “and there’s only one woman in the world I’d
be fool enough to play it for.”

Maurice Frere, oppressed with suspicions, ordered his horse that
afternoon, and rode down to see the cottage which the owner of “Purfoy
Stores” had purchased. He found it a low white building, situated four
miles from the city, at the extreme end of a tongue of land which ran
into the deep waters of the harbour. A garden carefully cultivated,
stood between the roadway and the house, and in this garden he saw a man

“Does Mrs. Purfoy live here?” he asked, pushing open one of the iron

The man replied in the affirmative, staring at the visitor with some

“Is she at home?”


“You are sure?”

“If you don’t believe me, ask at the house,” was the reply, given in the
uncourteous tone of a free man.

Frere pushed his horse through the gate, and walked up the broad and
well-kept carriage drive. A man-servant in livery, answering his ring,
told him that Mrs. Purfoy had gone to town, and then shut the door in
his face. Frere, more astonished than ever at these outward and visible
signs of independence, paused, indignant, feeling half inclined to enter
despite opposition. As he looked through the break of the trees, he saw
the masts of a brig lying at anchor off the extremity of the point on
which the house was built, and understood that the cottage commanded
communication by water as well as by land. Could there be a special
motive in choosing such a situation, or was it mere chance? He was
uneasy, but strove to dismiss his alarm.

Sarah had kept faith with him so far. She had entered upon a new and
more reputable life, and why should he seek to imagine evil where
perhaps no evil was? Blunt was evidently honest. Women like Sarah
Purfoy often emerged into a condition of comparative riches and domestic
virtue. It was likely that, after all, some wealthy merchant was
the real owner of the house and garden, pleasure yacht, and tallow
warehouse, and that he had no cause for fear.

The experienced convict disciplinarian did not rate the ability of John
Rex high enough.

From the instant the convict had heard his sentence of life banishment,
he had determined upon escaping, and had brought all the powers of his
acute and unscrupulous intellect to the consideration of the best method
of achieving his purpose. His first care was to procure money. This he
thought to do by writing to Blick, but when informed by Meekin of the
fate of his letter, he adopted the--to him--less pleasant alternative of
procuring it through Sarah Purfoy.

It was peculiar to the man’s hard and ungrateful nature that, despite
the attachment of the woman who had followed him to his place of
durance, and had made it the object of her life to set him free, he had
cherished for her no affection. It was her beauty that had attracted
him, when, as Mr. Lionel Crofton, he swaggered in the night-society
of London. Her talents and her devotion were secondary
considerations--useful to him as attributes of a creature he owned, but
not to be thought of when his fancy wearied of its choice. During the
twelve years which had passed since his rashness had delivered him into
the hands of the law at the house of Green, the coiner, he had been
oppressed with no regrets for her fate. He had, indeed, seen and
suffered so much that the old life had been put away from him. When, on
his return, he heard that Sarah Purfoy was still in Hobart Town, he was
glad, for he knew that he had an ally who would do her utmost to help
him--she had shown that on board the Malabar. But he was also sorry, for
he remembered that the price she would demand for her services was his
affection, and that had cooled long ago. However, he would make use of
her. There might be a way to discard her if she proved troublesome.

His pretended piety had accomplished the end he had assumed it for.
Despite Frere’s exposure of his cryptograph, he had won the confidence
of Meekin; and into that worthy creature’s ear he poured a strange and
sad story. He was the son, he said, of a clergyman of the Church of
England, whose real name, such was his reverence for the cloth, should
never pass his lips. He was transported for a forgery which he did not
commit. Sarah Purfoy was his wife--his erring, lost and yet loved
wife. She, an innocent and trusting girl, had determined--strong in the
remembrance of that promise she had made at the altar--to follow her
husband to his place of doom, and had hired herself as lady’s-maid to
Mrs. Vickers. Alas! fever prostrated that husband on a bed of sickness,
and Maurice Frere, the profligate and the villain, had taken advantage
of the wife’s unprotected state to ruin her! Rex darkly hinted how
the seducer made his power over the sick and helpless husband a weapon
against the virtue of the wife and so terrified poor Meekin that, had it
not “happened so long ago”, he would have thought it necessary to look
with some disfavour upon the boisterous son-in-law of Major Vickers.

“I bear him no ill-will, sir,” said Rex. “I did at first. There was a
time when I could have killed him, but when I had him in my power, I--as
you know--forbore to strike. No, sir, I could not commit murder!”

“Very proper,” says Meekin, “very proper indeed.” “God will punish him
in His own way, and His own time,” continued Rex. “My great sorrow is
for the poor woman. She is in Sydney, I have heard, living respectably,
sir; and my heart bleeds for her.” Here Rex heaved a sigh that would
have made his fortune on the boards.

“My poor fellow,” said Meekin. “Do you know where she is?”

“I do, sir.”

“You might write to her.”

John Rex appeared to hesitate, to struggle with himself, and finally to
take a deep resolve. “No, Mr. Meekin, I will not write.”

“Why not?”

“You know the orders, sir--the Commandant reads all the letters sent.
Could I write to my poor Sarah what other eyes were to read?” and he
watched the parson slyly.

“N--no, you could not,” said Meekin, at last.

“It is true, sir,” said Rex, letting his head sink on his breast. The
next day, Meekin, blushing with the consciousness that what he was about
to do was wrong, said to his penitent, “If you will promise to write
nothing that the Commandant might not see, Rex, I will send your letter
to your wife.”

“Heaven bless you, sir,”. said Rex, and took two days to compose an
epistle which should tell Sarah Purfoy how to act. The letter was
a model of composition in one way. It stated everything clearly and
succinctly. Not a detail that could assist was omitted--not a line that
could embarrass was suffered to remain. John Rex’s scheme of six months’
deliberation was set down in the clearest possible manner. He brought
his letter unsealed to Meekin. Meekin looked at it with an interest that
was half suspicion. “Have I your word that there is nothing in this that
might not be read by the Commandant?”

John Rex was a bold man, but at the sight of the deadly thing fluttering
open in the clergyman’s hand, his knees knocked together. Strong in his
knowledge of human nature, however, he pursued his desperate plan.
“Read it, sir,” he said turning away his face reproachfully. “You are a
gentleman. I can trust you.”

“No, Rex,” said Meekin, walking loftily into the pitfall; “I do not read
private letters.” It was sealed, and John Rex felt as if somebody had
withdrawn a match from a powder barrel.

In a month Mr. Meekin received a letter, beautifully written, from
“Sarah Rex”, stating briefly that she had heard of his goodness, that
the enclosed letter was for her husband, and that if it was against the
rules to give it him, she begged it might be returned to her unread. Of
course Meekin gave it to Rex, who next morning handed to Meekin a most
touching pious production, begging him to read it. Meekin did so, and
any suspicions he may have had were at once disarmed. He was ignorant of
the fact that the pious letter contained a private one intended for John
Rex only, which letter John Rex thought so highly of, that, having read
it twice through most attentively, he ate it.

The plan of escape was after all a simple one. Sarah Purfoy was to
obtain from Blicks the moneys he held in trust, and to embark the sum
thus obtained in any business which would suffer her to keep a vessel
hovering round the southern coast of Van Diemen’s Land without exciting
suspicion. The escape was to be made in the winter months, if possible,
in June or July. The watchful vessel was to be commanded by some
trustworthy person, who was to frequently land on the south-eastern
side, and keep a look-out for any extraordinary appearance along the
coast. Rex himself must be left to run the gauntlet of the dogs and
guards unaided. “This seems a desperate scheme,” wrote Rex, “but it
is not so wild as it looks. I have thought over a dozen others, and
rejected them all. This is the only way. Consider it well. I have my own
plan for escape, which is easy if rescue be at hand. All depends upon
placing a trustworthy man in charge of the vessel. You ought to know
a dozen such. I will wait eighteen months to give you time to make all
arrangements.” The eighteen months had now nearly passed over, and
the time for the desperate attempt drew near. Faithful to his cruel
philosophy, John Rex had provided scape-goats, who, by their vicarious
agonies, should assist him to his salvation.

He had discovered that of the twenty men in his gang eight had already
determined on an effort for freedom. The names of these eight were
Gabbett, Vetch, Bodenham, Cornelius, Greenhill, Sanders, called the
“Moocher”, Cox, and Travers. The leading spirits were Vetch and Gabbett,
who, with profound reverence, requested the “Dandy” to join. John Rex,
ever suspicious, and feeling repelled by the giant’s strange eagerness,
at first refused, but by degrees allowed himself to appear to be
drawn into the scheme. He would urge these men to their fate, and take
advantage of the excitement attendant on their absence to effect his
own escape. “While all the island is looking for these eight boobies, I
shall have a good chance to slip away unmissed.” He wished, however, to
have a companion. Some strong man, who, if pressed hard, would turn
and keep the pursuers at bay, would be useful without doubt; and this
comrade-victim he sought in Rufus Dawes.

Beginning, as we have seen, from a purely selfish motive, to urge his
fellow-prisoner to abscond with him, John Rex gradually found himself
attracted into something like friendliness by the sternness with which
his overtures were repelled. Always a keen student of human nature,
the scoundrel saw beneath the roughness with which it had pleased the
unfortunate man to shroud his agony, how faithful a friend and how
ardent and undaunted a spirit was concealed. There was, moreover, a
mystery about Rufus Dawes which Rex, the reader of hearts, longed to

“Have you no friends whom you would wish to see?” he asked, one evening,
when Rufus Dawes had proved more than usually deaf to his arguments.

“No,” said Dawes gloomily. “My friends are all dead to me.”

“What, all?” asked the other. “Most men have some one whom they wish to

Rufus Dawes laughed a slow, heavy laugh. “I am better here.”

“Then are you content to live this dog’s life?”

“Enough, enough,” said Dawes. “I am resolved.”

“Pooh! Pluck up a spirit,” cried Rex. “It can’t fail. I’ve been thinking
of it for eighteen months, and it can’t fail.”

“Who are going?” asked the other, his eyes fixed on the ground. John Rex
enumerated the eight, and Dawes raised his head. “I won’t go. I have
had two trials at it; I don’t want another. I would advise you not to
attempt it either.”

“Why not?”

“Gabbett bolted twice before,” said Rufus Dawes, shuddering at the
remembrance of the ghastly object he had seen in the sunlit glen at
Hell’s Gates. “Others went with him, but each time he returned alone.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rex, struck by the tone of his companion.

“What became of the others?”

“Died, I suppose,” said the Dandy, with a forced laugh.

“Yes; but how? They were all without food. How came the surviving
monster to live six weeks?”

John Rex grew a shade paler, and did not reply. He recollected the
sanguinary legend that pertained to Gabbett’s rescue. But he did not
intend to make the journey in his company, so, after all, he had no
cause for fear. “Come with me then,” he said, at length. “We will try
our luck together.”

“No. I have resolved. I stay here.”

“And leave your innocence unproved.”

“How can I prove it?” cried Rufus Dawes, roughly impatient. “There are
crimes committed which are never brought to light, and this is one of

“Well,” said Rex, rising, as if weary of the discussion, “have it your
own way, then. You know best. The private detective game is hard work.
I, myself, have gone on a wild-goose chase before now. There’s a mystery
about a certain ship-builder’s son which took me four months to unravel,
and then I lost the thread.”

“A ship-builder’s son! Who was he?”

John Rex paused in wonderment at the eager interest with which the
question was put, and then hastened to take advantage of this new
opening for conversation. “A queer story. A well-known character in my
time--Sir Richard Devine. A miserly old curmudgeon, with a scapegrace

Rufus Dawes bit his lips to avoid showing his emotion. This was the
second time that the name of his dead father had been spoken in his
hearing. “I think I remember something of him,” he said, with a voice
that sounded strangely calm in his own ears.

“A curious story,” said Rex, plunging into past memories. “Amongst other
matters, I dabbled a little in the Private Inquiry line of business, and
the old man came to me. He had a son who had gone abroad--a wild young
dog, by all accounts--and he wanted particulars of him.”

“Did you get them?”

“To a certain extent. I hunted him through Paris into Brussels, from
Brussels to Antwerp, from Antwerp back to Paris. I lost him there.
A miserable end to a long and expensive search. I got nothing but
a portmanteau with a lot of letters from his mother. I sent the
particulars to the ship-builder, and by all accounts the news killed
him, for he died not long after.”

“And the son?”

“Came to the queerest end of all. The old man had left him his
fortune--a large one, I believe--but he’d left Europe, it seems, for
India, and was lost in the Hydaspes. Frere was his cousin.”


“By Gad, it annoys me when I think of it,” continued Rex, feeling,
by force of memory, once more the adventurer of fashion. “With the
resources I had, too. Oh, a miserable failure! The days and nights I’ve
spent walking about looking for Richard Devine, and never catching
a glimpse of him. The old man gave me his son’s portrait, with full
particulars of his early life, and I suppose I carried that ivory
gimcrack in my breast for nearly three months, pulling it out to refresh
my memory every half-hour. By Gad, if the young gentleman was
anything like his picture, I could have sworn to him if I’d met him in

“Do you think you’d know him again?” asked Rufus Dawes in a low voice,
turning away his head.

There may have been something in the attitude in which the speaker had
put himself that awakened memory, or perhaps the subdued eagerness of
the tone, contrasting so strangely with the comparative inconsequence of
the theme, that caused John Rex’s brain to perform one of those feats
of automatic synthesis at which we afterwards wonder. The profligate
son--the likeness to the portrait--the mystery of Dawes’s life! These
were the links of a galvanic chain. He closed the circuit, and a vivid
flash revealed to him--THE MAN.

Warder Troke, coming up, put his hand on Rex’s shoulder. “Dawes,” he
said, “you’re wanted at the yard”; and then, seeing his mistake, added
with a grin, “Curse you two; you’re so much alike one can’t tell t’other
from which.”

Rufus Dawes walked off moodily; but John Rex’s evil face turned pale,
and a strange hope made his heart leap. “Gad, Troke’s right; we are
alike. I’ll not press him to escape any more.”


The Pretty Mary--as ugly and evil-smelling a tub as ever pitched under
a southerly burster--had been lying on and off Cape Surville for nearly
three weeks. Captain Blunt was getting wearied. He made strenuous
efforts to find the oyster-beds of which he was ostensibly in search,
but no success attended his efforts. In vain did he take boat and pull
into every cove and nook between the Hippolyte Reef and Schouten’s
Island. In vain did he run the Pretty Mary as near to the rugged cliffs
as he dared to take her, and make perpetual expeditions to the shore. In
vain did he--in his eagerness for the interests of Mrs. Purfoy--clamber
up the rocks, and spend hours in solitary soundings in Blackman’s Bay.
He never found an oyster. “If I don’t find something in three or four
days more,” said he to his mate, “I shall go back again. It’s too
dangerous cruising here.”

          *          *          *          *          *

On the same evening that Captain Blunt made this resolution, the
watchman at Signal Hill saw the arms of the semaphore at the settlement
make three motions, thus:

The semaphore was furnished with three revolving arms, fixed one above
the other. The upper one denoted units, and had six motions, indicating
ONE to SIX. The middle one denoted tens, TEN to SIXTY. The lower one
marked hundreds, from ONE HUNDRED to SIX HUNDRED.

The lower and upper arms whirled out. That meant THREE HUNDRED AND SIX.
A ball ran up to the top of the post. That meant ONE THOUSAND.

Number 1306, or, being interpreted, “PRISONERS ABSCONDED”.

“By George, Harry,” said Jones, the signalman, “there’s a bolt!”

The semaphore signalled again: “Number 1411”.

“WITH ARMS!” Jones said, translating as he read. “Come here, Harry!
here’s a go!”

But Harry did not reply, and, looking down, the watchman saw a dark
figure suddenly fill the doorway. The boasted semaphore had failed this
time, at all events. The “bolters” had arrived as soon as the signal!

The man sprang at his carbine, but the intruder had already possessed
himself of it. “It’s no use making a fuss, Jones! There are eight of us.
Oblige me by attending to your signals.”

Jones knew the voice. It was that of John Rex. “Reply, can’t you?” said
Rex coolly. “Captain Burgess is in a hurry.” The arms of the semaphore
at the settlement were, in fact, gesticulating with comical vehemence.

Jones took the strings in his hands, and, with his signal-book open
before him, was about to acknowledge the message, when Rex stopped him.
“Send this message,” he said. “NOT SEEN! SIGNAL SENT TO EAGLEHAWK!”

Jones paused irresolutely. He was himself a convict, and dreaded the
inevitable cat that he knew would follow this false message. “If they
finds me out--” he said. Rex cocked the carbine with so decided a
meaning in his black eyes that Jones--who could be brave enough on
occasions--banished his hesitation at once, and began to signal eagerly.
There came up a clinking of metal, and a murmur from below. “What’s
keepin’ yer, Dandy?”

“All right. Get those irons off, and then we’ll talk, boys. I’m putting
salt on old Burgess’s tail.” The rough jest was received with a roar,
and Jones, looking momentarily down from his window on the staging, saw,
in the waning light, a group of men freeing themselves from their irons
with a hammer taken from the guard-house; while two, already freed, were
casting buckets of water on the beacon wood-pile. The sentry was lying
bound at a little distance.

“Now,” said the leader of this surprise party, “signal to Woody Island.”
 Jones perforce obeyed. “Say, ‘AN ESCAPE AT THE MINES! WATCH ONE-TREE

Jones--comprehending at once the force of this manoeuvre, which would
have the effect of distracting attention from the Neck--executed the
order with a grin. “You’re a knowing one, Dandy Jack,” said he.

John Rex acknowledged the compliment by uncocking the carbine. “Hold
out your hands!--Jemmy Vetch!” “Ay, ay,” replied the Crow, from beneath.
“Come up and tie our friend Jones. Gabbett, have you got the axes?”
 “There’s only one,” said Gabbett, with an oath. “Then bring that, and
any tucker you can lay your hands on. Have you tied him? On we go then.”
 And in the space of five minutes from the time when unsuspecting Harry
had been silently clutched by two forms, who rushed upon him out of the
shadows of the huts, the Signal Hill Station was deserted.

At the settlement Burgess was foaming. Nine men to seize the Long
Bay boat, and get half an hour’s start of the alarm signal, was an
unprecedented achievement! What could Warder Troke have been about!
Warder Troke, however, found eight hours afterwards, disarmed, gagged,
and bound in the scrub, had been guilty of no negligence. How could
he tell that, at a certain signal from Dandy Jack, the nine men he had
taken to Stewart’s Bay would “rush” him; and, before he could draw a
pistol, truss him like a chicken? The worst of the gang, Rufus Dawes,
had volunteered for the hated duties of pile-driving, and Troke had felt
himself secure. How could he possibly guess that there was a plot, in
which Rufus Dawes, of all men, had refused to join?

Constables, mounted and on foot, were despatched to scour the bush round
the settlement. Burgess, confident from the reply of the Signal Hill
semaphore, that the alarm had been given at Eaglehawk Isthmus, promised
himself the re-capture of the gang before many hours; and, giving
orders to keep the communications going, retired to dinner. His convict
servants had barely removed the soup when the result of John Rex’s
ingenuity became manifest.

The semaphore at Signal Hill had stopped working.

“Perhaps the fools can’t see,” said Burgess. “Fire the beacon--and
saddle my horse.” The beacon was fired. All right at Mount Arthur, Mount
Communication, and the Coal Mines. To the westward the line was clear.
But at Signal Hill was no answering light. Burgess stamped with rage.
“Get me my boat’s crew ready; and tell the Mines to signal to Woody
Island.” As he stood on the jetty, a breathless messenger brought
EAGLEHAWK IN OBEDIENCE TO ORDERS!” Burgess understood it at once. The
fellows had decoyed the Eaglehawk guard. “Give way, men!” And the boat,
shooting into the darkness, made for Long Bay. “I won’t be far behind
‘em,” said the Commandant, “at any rate.”

Between Eaglehawk and Signal Hill were, for the absconders, other
dangers. Along the indented coast of Port Bunche were four constables’
stations. These stations--mere huts within signalling distance of each
other--fringed the shore, and to avoid them it would be necessary to
make a circuit into the scrub. Unwilling as he was to lose time, John
Rex saw that to attempt to run the gauntlet of these four stations would
be destruction. The safety of the party depended upon the reaching of
the Neck while the guard was weakened by the absence of some of the men
along the southern shore, and before the alarm could be given from
the eastern arm of the peninsula. With this view, he ranged his men in
single file; and, quitting the road near Norfolk Bay, made straight for
the Neck. The night had set in with a high westerly wind, and threatened
rain. It was pitch dark; and the fugitives were guided only by the dull
roar of the sea as it beat upon Descent Beach. Had it not been for
the accident of a westerly gale, they would not have had even so much

The Crow walked first, as guide, carrying a musket taken from Harry.
Then came Gabbett, with an axe; followed by the other six, sharing
between them such provisions as they had obtained at Signal Hill. John
Rex, with the carbine, and Troke’s pistols, walked last. It had been
agreed that if attacked they were to run each one his own way. In their
desperate case, disunion was strength. At intervals, on their left,
gleamed the lights of the constables’ stations, and as they stumbled
onward they heard plainer and more plainly the hoarse murmur of the sea,
beyond which was liberty or death.

After nearly two hours of painful progress, Jemmy Vetch stopped, and
whispered them to approach. They were on a sandy rise. To the left was a
black object--a constable’s hut; to the right was a dim white line--the
ocean; in front was a row of lamps, and between every two lamps leapt
and ran a dusky, indistinct body. Jemmy Vetch pointed with his lean

“The dogs!”

Instinctively they crouched down, lest even at that distance the two
sentries, so plainly visible in the red light of the guard-house fire,
should see them.

“Well, bo’s,” said Gabbett, “what’s to be done now?”

As he spoke, a long low howl broke from one of the chained hounds, and
the whole kennel burst into hideous outcry. John Rex, who perhaps was
the bravest of the party, shuddered. “They have smelt us,” he said. “We
must go on.”

Gabbett spat in his palm, and took firmer hold of the axe-handle.

“Right you are,” he said. “I’ll leave my mark on some of them before
this night’s out!”

On the opposite shore lights began to move, and the fugitives could hear
the hurrying tramp of feet.

“Make for the right-hand side of the jetty,” said Rex in a fierce
whisper. “I think I see a boat there. It is our only chance now. We can
never break through the station. Are we ready? Now! All together!”

Gabbett was fast outstripping the others by some three feet of distance.
There were eleven dogs, two of whom were placed on stages set out in the
water, and they were so chained that their muzzles nearly touched. The
giant leapt into the line, and with a blow of his axe split the skull of
the beast on his right hand. This action unluckily took him within reach
of the other dog, which seized him by the thigh.

“Fire!” cried McNab from the other side of the lamps.

The giant uttered a cry of rage and pain, and fell with the dog
under him. It was, however, the dog who had pulled him down, and the
musket-ball intended for him struck Travers in the jaw. The unhappy
villain fell--like Virgil’s Dares--“spitting blood, teeth, and curses.”

Gabbett clutched the mastiff’s throat with iron hand, and forced him
to loose his hold; then, bellowing with fury, seized his axe and sprang
forward, mangled as he was, upon the nearest soldier. Jemmy Vetch had
been beforehand with him. Uttering a low snarl of hate, he fired, and
shot the sentry through the breast. The others rushed through the now
broken cordon, and made headlong for the boat.

“Fools!” cried Rex behind them. “You have wasted a shot! LOOK TO YOUR

Burgess, hurried down the tramroad by his men, had tarried at Signal
Hill only long enough to loose the surprised guard from their bonds, and
taking the Woody Island boat was pulling with a fresh crew to the Neck.
The reinforcement was not ten yards from the jetty.

The Crow saw the danger, and, flinging himself into the water,
desperately seized McNab’s boat.

“In with you for your lives!” he cried. Another volley from the guard
spattered the water around the fugitives, but in the darkness the
ill-aimed bullets fell harmless. Gabbett swung himself over the sheets,
and seized an oar.

“Cox, Bodenham, Greenhill! Now, push her off! Jump, Tom, jump!” and as
Burgess leapt to land, Cornelius was dragged over the stern, and the
whale-boat floated into deep water.

McNab, seeing this, ran down to the water-side to aid the Commandant.

“Lift her over the Bar, men!” he shouted. “With a will--So!” And, raised
in twelve strong arms, the pursuing craft slid across the isthmus.

“We’ve five minutes’ start,” said Vetch coolly, as he saw the Commandant
take his place in the stern sheets. “Pull away, my jolly boys, and we’ll
best ‘em yet.”

The soldiers on the Neck fired again almost at random, but the blaze of
their pieces only served to show the Commandant’s boat a hundred yards
astern of that of the mutineers, which had already gained the deep water
of Pirates’ Bay.

Then, for the first time, the six prisoners became aware that John Rex
was not among them.


John Rex had put into execution the first part of his scheme.

At the moment when, seeing Burgess’s boat near the sand-spit, he
had uttered the warning cry heard by Vetch, he turned back into the
darkness, and made for the water’s edge at a point some distance from
the Neck. His desperate hope was that, the attention of the guard being
concentrated on the escaping boat, he might, favoured by the darkness
and the confusion--swim to the peninsula. It was not a very marvellous
feat to accomplish, and he had confidence in his own powers. Once
safe on the peninsula, his plans were formed. But, owing to the strong
westerly wind, which caused an incoming tide upon the isthmus, it was
necessary for him to attain some point sufficiently far to the southward
to enable him, on taking the water, to be assisted, not impeded, by
the current. With this view, he hurried over the sandy hummocks at
the entrance to the Neck, and ran backwards towards the sea. In a few
strides he had gained the hard and sandy shore, and, pausing to listen,
heard behind him the sound of footsteps. He was pursued. The footsteps
stopped, and then a voice cried--


It was McNab, who, seeing Rex’s retreat, had daringly followed him. John
Rex drew from his breast Troke’s pistol and waited.

“Surrender!” cried the voice again, and the footsteps advanced two

At the instant that Rex raised the weapon to fire, a vivid flash of
lightning showed him, on his right hand, on the ghastly and pallid
ocean, two boats, the hindermost one apparently within a few yards of
him. The men looked like corpses. In the distance rose Cape Surville,
and beneath Cape Surville was the hungry sea. The scene vanished in an
instant--swallowed up almost before he had realized it. But the shock
it gave him made him miss his aim, and, flinging away the pistol with a
curse, he turned down the path and fled. McNab followed.

The path had been made by frequent passage from the station, and Rex
found it tolerably easy running. He had acquired--like most men who live
much in the dark--that cat-like perception of obstacles which is due
rather to increased sensitiveness of touch than increased acuteness
of vision. His feet accommodated themselves to the inequalities of the
ground; his hands instinctively outstretched themselves towards the
overhanging boughs; his head ducked of its own accord to any obtrusive
sapling which bent to obstruct his progress. His pursuer was not so
fortunate. Twice did John Rex laugh mentally, at a crash and scramble
that told of a fall, and once--in a valley where trickled a little
stream that he had cleared almost without an effort--he heard a splash
that made him laugh outright. The track now began to go uphill, and Rex
redoubled his efforts, trusting to his superior muscular energy to
shake off his pursuer. He breasted the rise, and paused to listen. The
crashing of branches behind him had ceased, and it seemed that he was

He had gained the summit of the cliff. The lights of the Neck were
invisible. Below him lay the sea. Out of the black emptiness came puffs
of sharp salt wind. The tops of the rollers that broke below were
blown off and whirled away into the night--white patches, swallowed up
immediately in the increasing darkness. From the north side of the bay
was borne the hoarse roar of the breakers as they dashed against the
perpendicular cliffs which guarded Forrestier’s Peninsula. At his
feet arose a frightful shrieking and whistling, broken at intervals by
reports like claps of thunder. Where was he? Exhausted and breathless,
he sank down into the rough scrub and listened. All at once, on the
track over which he had passed, he heard a sound that made him bound to
his feet in deadly fear--the bay of a dog!

He thrust his hand to his breast for the remaining pistol, and uttered a
cry of alarm. He had dropped it. He felt round about him in the darkness
for some stick or stone that might serve as a weapon. In vain. His
fingers clutched nothing but prickly scrub and coarse grass. The sweat
ran down his face. With staring eyeballs, and bristling hair, he stared
into the darkness, as if he would dissipate it by the very intensity of
his gaze. The noise was repeated, and, piercing through the roar of wind
and water, above and below him, seemed to be close at hand. He heard a
man’s voice cheering the dog in accents that the gale blew away from
him before he could recognize them. It was probable that some of the
soldiers had been sent to the assistance of McNab. Capture, then,
was certain. In his agony, the wretched man almost promised himself
repentance, should he escape this peril. The dog, crashing through the
underwood, gave one short, sharp howl, and then ran mute.

The darkness had increased the gale. The wind, ravaging the hollow
heaven, had spread between the lightnings and the sea an impenetrable
curtain of black cloud. It seemed possible to seize upon this curtain
and draw its edge yet closer, so dense was it. The white and raging
waters were blotted out, and even the lightning seemed unable to
penetrate that intense blackness. A large, warm drop of rain fell upon
Rex’s outstretched hand, and far overhead rumbled a wrathful peal of
thunder. The shrieking which he had heard a few moments ago had ceased,
but every now and then dull but immense shocks, as of some mighty bird
flapping the cliff with monstrous wings, reverberated around him, and
shook the ground where he stood. He looked towards the ocean, and a
tall misty Form--white against the all-pervading blackness--beckoned
and bowed to him. He saw it distinctly for an instant, and then, with
an awful shriek, as of wrathful despair, it sank and vanished. Maddened
with a terror he could not define, the hunted man turned to meet the
material peril that was so close at hand.

With a ferocious gasp, the dog flung himself upon him. John Rex was
borne backwards, but, in his desperation, he clutched the beast by the
throat and belly, and, exerting all his strength, flung him off. The
brute uttered one howl, and seemed to lie where he had fallen; while
above his carcase again hovered that white and vaporous column. It was
strange that McNab and the soldier did not follow up the advantage they
had gained. Courage--perhaps he should defeat them yet! He had been
lucky to dispose of the dog so easily. With a fierce thrill of renewed
hope, he ran forward; when at his feet, in his face, arose that misty
Form, breathing chill warning, as though to wave him back. The terror at
his heels drove him on. A few steps more, and he should gain the summit
of the cliff. He could feel the sea roaring in front of him in the
gloom. The column disappeared; and in a lull of wind, uprose from the
place where it had been such a hideous medley of shrieks, laughter, and
exultant wrath, that John Rex paused in horror. Too late. The ground
gave way--it seemed--beneath his feet. He was falling--clutching, in
vain, at rocks, shrubs, and grass. The cloud-curtain lifted, and by
the lightning that leaped and played about the ocean, John Rex found an
explanation of his terrors, more terrible than they themselves had been.
The track he had followed led to that portion of the cliff in which the
sea had excavated the tunnel-spout known as the Devil’s Blow-hole.

Clinging to a tree that, growing half-way down the precipice, had
arrested his course, he stared into the abyss. Before him--already high
above his head--was a gigantic arch of cliff. Through this arch he saw,
at an immense distance below him, the raging and pallid ocean. Beneath
him was an abyss splintered with black rocks, turbid and raucous with
tortured water. Suddenly the bottom of this abyss seemed to advance to
meet him; or, rather, the black throat of the chasm belched a volume of
leaping, curling water, which mounted to drown him. Was it fancy that
showed him, on the surface of the rising column, the mangled carcase of
the dog?

The chasm into which John Rex had fallen was shaped like a huge funnel
set up on its narrow end. The sides of this funnel were rugged rock, and
in the banks of earth lodged here and there upon projections, a scrubby
vegetation grew. The scanty growth paused abruptly half-way down the
gulf, and the rock below was perpetually damp from the upthrown
spray. Accident--had the convict been a Meekin, we might term it
Providence--had lodged him on the lowest of these banks of earth. In
calm weather he would have been out of danger, but the lightning flash
revealed to his terror-sharpened sense a black patch of dripping rock on
the side of the chasm some ten feet above his head. It was evident that
upon the next rising of the water-spout the place where he stood would
be covered with water.

The roaring column mounted with hideous swiftness. Rex felt it rush at
him and swing him upward. With both arms round the tree, he clutched the
sleeves of his jacket with either hand. Perhaps if he could maintain his
hold he might outlive the shock of that suffocating torrent. He felt
his feet rudely seized, as though by the hand of a giant, and plucked
upwards. Water gurgled in his ears. His arms seemed about to be torn
from their sockets. Had the strain lasted another instant, he must have
loosed his hold; but, with a wild hoarse shriek, as though it was some
sea-monster baffled of its prey, the column sank, and left him gasping,
bleeding, half-drowned, but alive. It was impossible that he could
survive another shock, and in his agony he unclasped his stiffened
fingers, determined to resign himself to his fate. At that instant,
however, he saw on the wall of rock that hollowed on his right hand, a
red and lurid light, in the midst of which fantastically bobbed hither
and thither the gigantic shadow of a man. He cast his eyes upwards and
saw, slowly descending into the gulf, a blazing bush tied to a rope.
McNab was taking advantage of the pause in the spouting to examine the
sides of the Blow-hole.

A despairing hope seized John Rex. In another instant the light would
reveal his figure, clinging like a limpet to the rock, to those above.
He must be detected in any case; but if they could lower the rope
sufficiently, he might clutch it and be saved. His dread of the horrible
death that was beneath him overcame his resolution to avoid recapture.
The long-drawn agony of the retreating water as it was sucked back
again into the throat of the chasm had ceased, and he knew that the next
tremendous pulsation of the sea below would hurl the spuming destruction
up upon him. The gigantic torch slowly descended, and he had already
drawn in his breath for a shout which should make itself heard above the
roar of the wind and water, when a strange appearance on the face of the
cliff made him pause. About six feet from him--glowing like molten gold
in the gusty glow of the burning tree--a round sleek stream of water
slipped from the rock into the darkness, like a serpent from its hole.
Above this stream a dark spot defied the torchlight, and John Rex felt
his heart leap with one last desperate hope as he comprehended that
close to him was one of those tortuous drives which the worm-like action
of the sea bores in such caverns as that in which he found himself. The
drive, opened first to the light of the day by the natural convulsion
which had raised the mountain itself above ocean level, probably
extended into the bowels of the cliff. The stream ceased to let itself
out of the crevice; it was then likely that the rising column of water
did not penetrate far into this wonderful hiding-place.

Endowed with a wisdom, which in one placed in less desperate position
would have been madness, John Rex shouted to his pursuers. “The rope!
the rope!” The words, projected against the sides of the enormous
funnel, were pitched high above the blast, and, reduplicated by a
thousand echoes, reached the ears of those above.

“He’s alive!” cried McNab, peering into the abyss. “I see him. Look!”

The soldier whipped the end of the bullock-hide lariat round the tree to
which he held, and began to oscillate it, so that the blazing bush might
reach the ledge on which the daring convict sustained himself. The groan
which preceded the fierce belching forth of the torrent was cast up to
them from below.

“God be gude to the puir felly!” said the pious young Scotchman,
catching his breath.

A white spume was visible at the bottom of the gulf, and the groan
changed into a rapidly increasing bellow. John Rex, eyeing the blazing
pendulum, that with longer and longer swing momentarily neared him,
looked up to the black heaven for the last time with a muttered prayer.
The bush--the flame fanned by the motion--flung a crimson glow upon his
frowning features which, as he caught the rope, had a sneer of triumph
on them. “Slack out! slack out!” he cried; and then, drawing the burning
bush towards him, attempted to stamp out the fire with his feet.

The soldier set his body against the tree trunk, and gripped the rope
hard, turning his head away from the fiery pit below him. “Hold tight,
your honour,” he muttered to McNab. “She’s coming!”

The bellow changed into a roar, the roar into a shriek, and with a gust
of wind and spray, the seething sea leapt up out of the gulf. John Rex,
unable to extinguish the flame, twisted his arm about the rope, and the
instant before the surface of the rising water made a momentary floor to
the mouth of the cavern, he spurned the cliff desperately with his feet,
and flung himself across the chasm. He had already clutched the rock,
and thrust himself forward, when the tremendous volume of water struck
him. McNab and the soldier felt the sudden pluck of the rope and saw the
light swing across the abyss. Then the fury of the waterspout burst with
a triumphant scream, the tension ceased, the light was blotted out, and
when the column sank, there dangled at the end of the lariat nothing
but the drenched and blackened skeleton of the she-oak bough. Amid a
terrific peal of thunder, the long pent-up rain descended, and a sudden
ghastly rending asunder of the clouds showed far below them the heaving
ocean, high above them the jagged and glistening rocks, and at their
feet the black and murderous abyss of the Blowhole--empty.

They pulled up the useless rope in silence; and another dead tree
lighted and lowered showed them nothing.

“God rest his puir soul,” said McNab, shuddering. “He’s out o’ our han’s


Gabbett, guided by the Crow, had determined to beach the captured boat
on the southern point of Cape Surville. It will be seen by those who
have followed the description of the topography of Colonel Arthur’s
Penitentiary, that nothing but the desperate nature of the attempt could
have justified so desperate a measure. The perpendicular cliffs seemed
to render such an attempt certain destruction; but Vetch, who had been
employed in building the pier at the Neck, knew that on the southern
point of the promontory was a strip of beach, upon which the company
might, by good fortune, land in safety. With something of the decision
of his leader, Rex, the Crow determined at once that in their desperate
plight this was the only measure, and setting his teeth as he seized
the oar that served as a rudder, he put the boat’s head straight for the
huge rock that formed the northern horn of Pirates’ Bay.

Save for the faint phosphorescent radiance of the foaming waves, the
darkness was intense, and Burgess for some minutes pulled almost at
random in pursuit. The same tremendous flash of lightning which had
saved the life of McNab, by causing Rex to miss his aim, showed to the
Commandant the whale-boat balanced on the summit of an enormous
wave, and apparently about to be flung against the wall of rock
which--magnified in the flash--seemed frightfully near to them. The
next instant Burgess himself--his boat lifted by the swiftly advancing
billow--saw a wild waste of raging seas scooped into abysmal troughs,
in which the bulk of a leviathan might wallow. At the bottom of one
of these valleys of water lay the mutineers’ boat, looking, with its
outspread oars, like some six-legged insect floating in a pool of ink.
The great cliff, whose every scar and crag was as distinct as though
its huge bulk was but a yard distant, seemed to shoot out from its base
towards the struggling insect, a broad, flat straw, that was a strip of
dry land. The next instant the rushing water, carrying the six-legged
atom with it, creamed up over this strip of beach; the giant crag, amid
the thunder-crash which followed upon the lightning, appeared to stoop
down over the ocean, and as it stooped, the billow rolled onwards,
the boat glided down into the depths, and the whole phantasmagoria was
swallowed up in the tumultuous darkness of the tempest.

Burgess--his hair bristling with terror--shouted to put the boat about,
but he might with as much reason have shouted at an avalanche. The wind
blew his voice away, and emptied it violently into the air. A snarling
billow jerked the oar from his hand. Despite the desperate efforts of
the soldiers, the boat was whirled up the mountain of water like a
leaf on a water-spout, and a second flash of lightning showed them
what seemed a group of dolls struggling in the surf, and a walnut-shell
bottom upwards was driven by the recoil of the waves towards them. For
an instant all thought that they must share the fate which had overtaken
the unlucky convicts; but Burgess succeeded in trimming the boat, and,
awed by the peril he had so narrowly escaped, gave the order to return.
As the men set the boat’s head to the welcome line of lights that marked
the Neck, a black spot balanced upon a black line was swept under their
stern and carried out to sea. As it passed them, this black spot emitted
a cry, and they knew that it was one of the shattered boat’s crew
clinging to an oar.

“He was the only one of ‘em alive,” said Burgess, bandaging his sprained
wrist two hours afterwards at the Neck, “and he’s food for the fishes by
this time!”

He was mistaken, however. Fate had in reserve for the crew of villains
a less merciful death than that of drowning. Aided by the lightning,
and that wonderful “good luck” which urges villainy to its destruction,
Vetch beached the boat, and the party, bruised and bleeding, reached the
upper portion of the shore in safety. Of all this number only Cox was
lost. He was pulling stroke-oar, and, being something of a laggard,
stood in the way of the Crow, who, seeing the importance of haste in
preserving his own skin, plucked the man backwards by the collar, and
passed over his sprawling body to the shore. Cox, grasping at anything
to save himself, clutched an oar, and the next moment found himself
borne out with the overturned whale-boat by the under-tow. He was
drifted past his only hope of rescue--the guard-boat--with a velocity
that forbade all attempts at rescue, and almost before the poor
scoundrel had time to realize his condition, he was in the best possible
way of escaping the hanging that his comrades had so often humorously
prophesied for him. Being a strong and vigorous villain, however, he
clung tenaciously to his oar, and even unbuckling his leather belt,
passed it round the slip of wood that was his salvation, girding himself
to it as firmly as he was able. In this condition, plus a swoon from
exhaustion, he was descried by the helmsman of the Pretty Mary, a few
miles from Cape Surville, at daylight next morning. Blunt, with a wild
hope that this waif and stray might be the lover of Sarah Purfoy, dead,
lowered a boat and picked him up. Nearly bisected by the belt, gorged
with salt water, frozen with cold, and having two ribs broken, the
victim of Vetch’s murderous quickness retained sufficient life to
survive Blunt’s remedies for nearly two hours. During that time he
stated that his name was Cox, that he had escaped from Port Arthur with
eight others, that John Rex was the leader of the expedition, that the
others were all drowned, and that he believed John Rex had been retaken.
Having placed Blunt in possession of these particulars, he further said
that it pricked him to breathe, cursed Jemmy Vetch, the settlement, and
the sea, and so impenitently died. Blunt smoked three pipes, and then
altered the course of the Pretty Mary two points to the eastward,
and ran for the coast. It was possible that the man for whom he was
searching had not been retaken, and was even now awaiting his arrival.
It was clearly his duty--hearing of the planned escape having been
actually attempted--not to give up the expedition while hope remained.

“I’ll take one more look along,” said he to himself.

The Pretty Mary, hugging the coast as closely as she dared, crawled in
the thin breeze all day, and saw nothing. It would be madness to land at
Cape Surville, for the whole station would be on the alert; so Blunt, as
night was falling, stood off a little across the mouth of Pirates’ Bay.
He was walking the deck, groaning at the folly of the expedition, when
a strange appearance on the southern horn of the bay made him come to a
sudden halt. There was a furnace blazing in the bowels of the mountain!
Blunt rubbed his eyes and stared. He looked at the man at the helm. “Do
you see anything yonder, Jem?”

Jem--a Sydney man, who had never been round that coast before--briefly
remarked, “Lighthouse.”

Blunt stumped into the cabin and got out his charts. No lighthouse was
laid down there, only a mark like an anchor, and a note, “Remarkable
Hole at this Point.” A remarkable hole indeed; a remarkable “lime kiln”
 would have been more to the purpose!

Blunt called up his mate, William Staples, a fellow whom Sarah Purfoy’s
gold had bought body and soul. William Staples looked at the waxing and
waning glow for a while, and then said, in tones trembling with greed,
“It’s a fire. Lie to, and lower away the jolly-boat. Old man, that’s our
bird for a thousand pounds!”

The Pretty Mary shortened sail, and Blunt and Staples got into the

“Goin’ a-hoysterin’, sir?” said one of the crew, with a grin, as Blunt
threw a bundle into the stern-sheets.

Staples thrust his tongue into his cheek. The object of the voyage was
now pretty well understood among the carefully picked crew. Blunt had
not chosen men who were likely to betray him, though, for that
matter, Rex had suggested a precaution which rendered betrayal almost

“What’s in the bundle, old man?” asked Will Staples, after they had got
clear of the ship.

“Clothes,” returned Blunt. “We can’t bring him off, if it is him, in his
canaries. He puts on these duds, d’ye see, sinks Her Majesty’s livery,
and comes aboard, a ‘shipwrecked mariner’.”

“That’s well thought of. Whose notion’s that? The Madam’s, I’ll be


“She’s a knowing one.”

And the sinister laughter of the pair floated across the violet water.

“Go easy, man,” said Blunt, as they neared the shore. “They’re all awake
at Eaglehawk; and if those cursed dogs give tongue there’ll be a boat
out in a twinkling. It’s lucky the wind’s off shore.”

Staples lay on his oar and listened. The night was moonless, and the
ship had already disappeared from view. They were approaching the
promontory from the south-east, and this isthmus of the guarded Neck was
hidden by the outlying cliff. In the south-western angle of this cliff,
about midway between the summit and the sea, was an arch, which vomited
a red and flickering light, that faintly shone upon the sea in the track
of the boat. The light was lambent and uncertain, now sinking almost
into insignificance, and now leaping up with a fierceness that caused a
deep glow to throb in the very heart of the mountain. Sometimes a black
figure would pass across this gigantic furnace-mouth, stooping and
rising, as though feeding the fire. One might have imagined that a door
in Vulcan’s Smithy had been left inadvertently open, and that the old
hero was forging arms for a demigod.

Blunt turned pale. “It’s no mortal,” he whispered. “Let’s go back.”

“And what will Madam say?” returned dare-devil Will Staples who would
have plunged into Mount Erebus had he been paid for it. Thus appealed to
in the name of his ruling passion, Blunt turned his head, and the boat
sped onward.


The lift of the water-spout had saved John Rex’s life. At the moment
when it struck him he was on his hands and knees at the entrance of the
cavern. The wave, gushing upwards, at the same time expanded, laterally,
and this lateral force drove the convict into the mouth of the
subterranean passage. The passage trended downwards, and for some
seconds he was rolled over and over, the rush of water wedging him at
length into a crevice between two enormous stones, which overhung a
still more formidable abyss. Fortunately for the preservation of his
hard-fought-for life, this very fury of incoming water prevented him
from being washed out again with the recoil of the wave. He could hear
the water dashing with frightful echoes far down into the depths beyond
him, but it was evident that the two stones against which he had been
thrust acted as breakwaters to the torrent poured in from the outside,
and repelled the main body of the stream in the fashion he had observed
from his position on the ledge. In a few seconds the cavern was empty.

Painfully extricating himself, and feeling as yet doubtful of his
safety, John Rex essayed to climb the twin-blocks that barred the
unknown depths below him. The first movement he made caused him to
shriek aloud. His left arm--with which he clung to the rope--hung
powerless. Ground against the ragged entrance, it was momentarily
paralysed. For an instant the unfortunate wretch sank despairingly on
the wet and rugged floor of the cave; then a terrible gurgling beneath
his feet warned him of the approaching torrent, and, collecting all his
energies, he scrambled up the incline. Though nigh fainting with pain
and exhaustion, he pressed desperately higher and higher. He heard the
hideous shriek of the whirlpool which was beneath him grow louder
and louder. He saw the darkness grow darker as the rising water-spout
covered the mouth of the cave. He felt the salt spray sting his face,
and the wrathful tide lick the hand that hung over the shelf on which he
fell. But that was all. He was out of danger at last! And as the thought
blessed his senses, his eyes closed, and the wonderful courage and
strength which had sustained the villain so long exhaled in stupor.

When he awoke the cavern was filled with the soft light of dawn. Raising
his eyes, he beheld, high above his head, a roof of rock, on which the
reflection of the sunbeams, playing upwards through a pool of water,
cast flickering colours. On his right hand was the mouth of the cave, on
his left a terrific abyss, at the bottom of which he could hear the
sea faintly lapping and washing. He raised himself and stretched his
stiffened limbs. Despite his injured shoulder, it was imperative that he
should bestir himself. He knew not if his escape had been noticed, or
if the cavern had another inlet, by which McNab, returning, might
penetrate. Moreover, he was wet and famished. To preserve the life which
he had torn from the sea, he must have fire and food. First he examined
the crevice by which he had entered. It was shaped like an irregular
triangle, hollowed at the base by the action of the water which in such
storms as that of the preceding night was forced into it by the rising
of the sea. John Rex dared not crawl too near the edge, lest he should
slide out of the damp and slippery orifice, and be dashed upon the
rocks at the bottom of the Blow-hole. Craning his neck, he could see, a
hundred feet below him, the sullenly frothing water, gurgling, spouting,
and creaming, in huge turbid eddies, occasionally leaping upwards as
though it longed for another storm to send it raging up to the man who
had escaped its fury. It was impossible to get down that way. He turned
back into the cavern, and began to explore in that direction. The
twin-rocks against which he had been hurled were, in fact, pillars which
supported the roof of the water-drive. Beyond them lay a great grey
shadow which was emptiness, faintly illumined by the sea-light cast up
through the bottom of the gulf. Midway across the grey shadow fell a
strange beam of dusky brilliance, which cast its flickering light upon a
wilderness of waving sea-weeds. Even in the desperate position in which
he found himself, there survived in the vagabond’s nature sufficient
poetry to make him value the natural marvel upon which he had so
strangely stumbled. The immense promontory, which, viewed from the
outside, seemed as solid as a mountain, was in reality but a hollow
cone, reft and split into a thousand fissures by the unsuspected action
of the sea for centuries. The Blow-hole was but an insignificant cranny
compared with this enormous chasm. Descending with difficulty the steep
incline, he found himself on the brink of a gallery of rock, which,
jutting out over the pool, bore on its moist and weed-bearded edges
signs of frequent submersion. It must be low tide without the rock.
Clinging to the rough and root-like algae that fringed the ever-moist
walls, John Rex crept round the projection of the gallery, and passed at
once from dimness to daylight. There was a broad loop-hole in the side
of the honey-combed and wave-perforated cliff. The cloudless heaven
expanded above him; a fresh breeze kissed his cheek and, sixty feet
below him, the sea wrinkled all its lazy length, sparkling in myriad
wavelets beneath the bright beams of morning. Not a sign of the recent
tempest marred the exquisite harmony of the picture. Not a sign of human
life gave evidence of the grim neighbourhood of the prison. From the
recess out of which he peered nothing was visible but a sky of turquoise
smiling upon a sea of sapphire.

The placidity of Nature was, however, to the hunted convict a new source
of alarm. It was a reason why the Blow-hole and its neighbourhood should
be thoroughly searched. He guessed that the favourable weather would be
an additional inducement to McNab and Burgess to satisfy themselves
as to the fate of their late prisoner. He turned from the opening, and
prepared to descend still farther into the rock pathway. The sunshine
had revived and cheered him, and a sort of instinct told him that the
cliff, so honey-combed above, could not be without some gully or chink
at its base, which at low tide would give upon the rocky shore. It grew
darker as he descended, and twice he almost turned back in dread of the
gulfs on either side of him. It seemed to him, also, that the gullet of
weed-clad rock through which he was crawling doubled upon itself,
and led only into the bowels of the mountain. Gnawed by hunger, and
conscious that in a few hours at most the rising tide would fill the
subterranean passage and cut off his retreat, he pushed desperately
onwards. He had descended some ninety feet, and had lost, in the devious
windings of his downward path, all but the reflection of the light from
the gallery, when he was rewarded by a glimpse of sunshine striking
upwards. He parted two enormous masses of seaweed, whose bubble-headed
fronds hung curtainwise across his path, and found himself in the very
middle of the narrow cleft of rock through which the sea was driven to
the Blow-hole.

At an immense distance above him was the arch of cliff. Beyond that
arch appeared a segment of the ragged edge of the circular opening,
down which he had fallen. He looked in vain for the funnel-mouth whose
friendly shelter had received him. It was now indistinguishable. At his
feet was a long rift in the solid rock, so narrow that he could almost
have leapt across it. This rift was the channel of a swift black current
which ran from the sea for fifty yards under an arch eight feet high,
until it broke upon the jagged rocks that lay blistering in the sunshine
at the bottom of the circular opening in the upper cliff. A shudder
shook the limbs of the adventurous convict. He comprehended that at
high tide the place where he stood was under water, and that the narrow
cavern became a subaqueous pipe of solid rock forty feet long, through
which were spouted the league-long rollers of the Southern Sea.

The narrow strip of rock at the base of the cliff was as flat as
a table. Here and there were enormous hollows like pans, which the
retreating tide had left full of clear, still water. The crannies of
the rock were inhabited by small white crabs, and John Rex found to his
delight that there was on this little shelf abundance of mussels,
which, though lean and acrid, were sufficiently grateful to his famished
stomach. Attached to the flat surfaces of the numerous stones, moreover,
were coarse limpets. These, however, John Rex found too salt to be
palatable, and was compelled to reject them. A larger variety, however,
having a succulent body as thick as a man’s thumb, contained in long
razor-shaped shells, were in some degree free from this objection, and
he soon collected the materials for a meal. Having eaten and sunned
himself, he began to examine the enormous rock, to the base of which he
had so strangely penetrated. Rugged and worn, it raised its huge breast
against wind and wave, secure upon a broad pedestal, which probably
extended as far beneath the sea as the massive column itself rose above
it. Rising thus, with its shaggy drapery of seaweed clinging about its
knees, it seemed to be a motionless but sentient being--some monster of
the deep, a Titan of the ocean condemned ever to front in silence the
fury of that illimitable and rarely-travelled sea. Yet--silent and
motionless as he was--the hoary ancient gave hint of the mysteries of
his revenge. Standing upon the broad and sea-girt platform where surely
no human foot but his had ever stood in life, the convict saw, many feet
above him, pitched into a cavity of the huge sun-blistered boulders, an
object which his sailor eye told him at once was part of the top hamper
of some large ship. Crusted with shells, and its ruin so overrun with
the ivy of the ocean that its ropes could barely be distinguished from
the weeds with which they were encumbered, this relic of human labour
attested the triumph of nature over human ingenuity. Perforated below by
the relentless sea, exposed above to the full fury of the tempest; set
in solitary defiance to the waves, that rolling from the ice-volcano of
the Southern Pole, hurled their gathered might unchecked upon its iron
front, the great rock drew from its lonely warfare the materials of its
own silent vengeance. Clasped in iron arms, it held its prey, snatched
from the jaws of the all-devouring sea. One might imagine that, when the
doomed ship, with her crew of shrieking souls, had splintered and gone
down, the deaf, blind giant had clutched this fragment, upheaved from
the seething waters, with a thrill of savage and terrible joy.

John Rex, gazing up at this memento of a forgotten agony, felt a
sensation of the most vulgar pleasure. “There’s wood for my fire!”
 thought he; and mounting to the spot, he essayed to fling down the
splinters of timber upon the platform. Long exposed to the sun, and
flung high above the water-mark of recent storms, the timber had dried
to the condition of touchwood, and would burn fiercely. It was precisely
what he required. Strange accident that had for years stored, upon a
desolate rock, this fragment of a vanished and long-forgotten vessel,
that it might aid at last to warm the limbs of a villain escaping from

Striking the disintegrated mass with his iron-shod heel, John Rex broke
off convenient portions; and making a bag of his shirt by tying the
sleeves and neck, he was speedily staggering into the cavern with a
supply of fuel. He made two trips, flinging down the wood on the floor
of the gallery that overlooked the sea, and was returning for a third,
when his quick ear caught the dip of oars. He had barely time to lift
the seaweed curtain that veiled the entrance to the chasm, when the
Eaglehawk boat rounded the promontory. Burgess was in the stern-sheets,
and seemed to be making signals to someone on the top of the cliff. Rex,
grinning behind his veil, divined the manoeuvre. McNab and his party
were to search above, while the Commandant examined the gulf below.
The boat headed direct for the passage, and for an instant John Rex’s
undaunted soul shivered at the thought that, perhaps, after all, his
pursuers might be aware of the existence of the cavern. Yet that was
unlikely. He kept his ground, and the boat passed within a foot of
him, gliding silently into the gulf. He observed that Burgess’s usually
florid face was pale, and that his left sleeve was cut open, showing a
bandage on the arm. There had been some fighting, then, and it was not
unlikely that all his fellow-desperadoes had been captured! He chuckled
at his own ingenuity and good sense. The boat, emerging from the
archway, entered the pool of the Blow-hole, and, held with the full
strength of the party, remained stationary. John Rex watched Burgess
scan the rocks and eddies, saw him signal to McNab, and then, with much
relief, beheld the boat’s head brought round to the sea-board.

He was so intent upon watching this dangerous and difficult operation
that he was oblivious of an extraordinary change which had taken place
in the interior of the cavern. The water which, an hour ago, had left
exposed a long reef of black hummock-rocks, was now spread in one
foam-flecked sheet over the ragged bottom of the rude staircase by which
he had descended. The tide had turned, and the sea, apparently sucked in
through some deeper tunnel in the portion of the cliff which was below
water, was being forced into the vault with a rapidity which bid fair to
shortly submerge the mouth of the cave. The convict’s feet were already
wetted by the incoming waves, and as he turned for one last look at the
boat he saw a green billow heave up against the entrance to the chasm,
and, almost blotting out the daylight, roll majestically through the
arch. It was high time for Burgess to take his departure if he did not
wish his whale-boat to be cracked like a nut against the roof of the
tunnel. Alive to his danger, the Commandant abandoned the search after
his late prisoner’s corpse, and he hastened to gain the open sea. The
boat, carried backwards and upwards on the bosom of a monstrous wave,
narrowly escaped destruction, and John Rex, climbing to the gallery, saw
with much satisfaction the broad back of his out-witted gaoler disappear
round the sheltering promontory. The last efforts of his pursuers
had failed, and in another hour the only accessible entrance to the
convict’s retreat was hidden under three feet of furious seawater.

His gaolers were convinced of his death, and would search for him no
more. So far, so good. Now for the last desperate venture--the escape
from the wonderful cavern which was at once his shelter and his prison.
Piling his wood together, and succeeding after many efforts, by the
aid of a flint and the ring which yet clung to his ankle, in lighting
a fire, and warming his chilled limbs in its cheering blaze, he set
himself to meditate upon his course of action. He was safe for the
present, and the supply of food that the rock afforded was amply
sufficient to sustain life in him for many days, but it was impossible
that he could remain for many days concealed. He had no fresh water, and
though, by reason of the soaking he had received, he had hitherto
felt little inconvenience from this cause, the salt and acrid mussels
speedily induced a raging thirst, which he could not alleviate. It was
imperative that within forty-eight hours at farthest he should be on his
way to the peninsula. He remembered the little stream into which--in his
flight of the previous night--he had so nearly fallen, and hoped to be
able, under cover of the darkness, to steal round the reef and reach it
unobserved. His desperate scheme was then to commence. He had to run
the gauntlet of the dogs and guards, gain the peninsula, and await the
rescuing vessel. He confessed to himself that the chances were terribly
against him. If Gabbett and the others had been recaptured--as he
devoutly trusted--the coast would be comparatively clear; but if they
had escaped, he knew Burgess too well to think that he would give up the
chase while hope of re-taking the absconders remained to him. If indeed
all fell out as he had wished, he had still to sustain life until Blunt
found him--if haply Blunt had not returned, wearied with useless and
dangerous waiting.

As night came on, and the firelight showed strange shadows waving from
the corners of the enormous vault, while the dismal abysses beneath him
murmured and muttered with uncouth and ghastly utterance, there
fell upon the lonely man the terror of Solitude. Was this marvellous
hiding-place that he had discovered to be his sepulchre? Was he--a
monster amongst his fellow-men--to die some monstrous death, entombed
in this mysterious and terrible cavern of the sea? He had tried to
drive away these gloomy thoughts by sketching out for himself a plan of
action--but in vain. In vain he strove to picture in its completeness
that--as yet vague--design by which he promised himself to wrest from
the vanished son of the wealthy ship-builder his name and heritage.
His mind, filled with forebodings of shadowy horror, could not give
the subject the calm consideration which it needed. In the midst of his
schemes for the baffling of the jealous love of the woman who was to
save him, and the getting to England, in shipwrecked and foreign guise,
as the long-lost heir to the fortune of Sir Richard Devine, there arose
ghastly and awesome shapes of death and horror, with whose terrible
unsubstantiality he must grapple in the lonely recesses of that dismal
cavern. He heaped fresh wood upon his fire, that the bright light might
drive out the gruesome things that lurked above, below, and around him.
He became afraid to look behind him, lest some shapeless mass of mid-sea
birth--some voracious polype, with far-reaching arms and jellied mouth
ever open to devour--might slide up over the edge of the dripping caves
below, and fasten upon him in the darkness. His imagination--always
sufficiently vivid, and spurred to an unnatural effect by the exciting
scenes of the previous night--painted each patch of shadow, clinging
bat-like to the humid wall, as some globular sea-spider ready to drop
upon him with its viscid and clay-cold body, and drain out his chilled
blood, enfolding him in rough and hairy arms. Each splash in the water
beneath him, each sigh of the multitudinous and melancholy sea, seemed
to prelude the laborious advent of some mis-shapen and ungainly
abortion of the ooze. All the sensations induced by lapping water
and regurgitating waves took material shape and surrounded him. All
creatures that could be engendered by slime and salt crept forth into
the firelight to stare at him. Red dabs and splashes that were living
beings, having a strange phosphoric light of their own, glowed upon the
floor. The livid encrustations of a hundred years of humidity slipped
from off the walls and painfully heaved their mushroom surfaces to the
blaze. The red glow of the unwonted fire, crimsoning the wet sides
of the cavern, seemed to attract countless blisterous and transparent
shapelessnesses, which elongated themselves towards him. Bloodless and
bladdery things ran hither and thither noiselessly. Strange carapaces
crawled from out of the rocks. All the horrible unseen life of the ocean
seemed to be rising up and surrounding him. He retreated to the brink of
the gulf, and the glare of the upheld brand fell upon a rounded hummock,
whose coronal of silky weed out-floating in the water looked like the
head of a drowned man. He rushed to the entrance of the gallery, and his
shadow, thrown into the opening, took the shape of an avenging phantom,
with arms upraised to warn him back. The naturalist, the explorer,
or the shipwrecked seaman would have found nothing frightful in this
exhibition of the harmless life of the Australian ocean. But the
convict’s guilty conscience, long suppressed and derided, asserted
itself in this hour when it was alone with Nature and Night. The bitter
intellectual power which had so long supported him succumbed beneath
imagination--the unconscious religion of the soul. If ever he was nigh
repentance it was then. Phantoms of his past crimes gibbered at him, and
covering his eyes with his hands, he fell shuddering upon his knees.
The brand, loosening from his grasp, dropped into the gulf, and was
extinguished with a hissing noise. As if the sound had called up some
spirit that lurked below, a whisper ran through the cavern.

“John Rex!” The hair on the convict’s flesh stood up, and he cowered to
the earth.

“John Rex?”

It was a human voice! Whether of friend or enemy he did not pause to
think. His terror over-mastered all other considerations.

“Here! here!” he cried, and sprang to the opening of the vault.

Arrived at the foot of the cliff, Blunt and Staples found themselves in
almost complete darkness, for the light of the mysterious fire, which
had hitherto guided them, had necessarily disappeared. Calm as was
the night, and still as was the ocean, the sea yet ran with silent but
dangerous strength through the channel which led to the Blow-hole; and
Blunt, instinctively feeling the boat drawn towards some unknown peril,
held off the shelf of rocks out of reach of the current. A sudden flash
of fire, as from a flourished brand, burst out above them, and floating
downwards through the darkness, in erratic circles, came an atom of
burning wood. Surely no one but a hunted man would lurk in such a savage

Blunt, in desperate anxiety, determined to risk all upon one venture.
“John Rex!” he shouted up through his rounded hands. The light flashed
again at the eye-hole of the mountain, and on the point above them
appeared a wild figure, holding in its hands a burning log, whose
fierce glow illumined a face so contorted by deadly fear and agony of
expectation that it was scarce human.

“Here! here!”

“The poor devil seems half-crazy,” said Will Staples, under his breath;
and then aloud, “We’re FRIENDS!” A few moments sufficed to explain
matters. The terrors which had oppressed John Rex disappeared in human
presence, and the villain’s coolness returned. Kneeling on the rock
platform, he held parley.

“It is impossible for me to come down now,” he said. “The tide covers
the only way out of the cavern.”

“Can’t you dive through it?” said Will Staples.

“No, nor you neither,” said Rex, shuddering at the thought of trusting
himself to that horrible whirlpool.

“What’s to be done? You can’t come down that wall.” “Wait until
morning,” returned Rex coolly. “It will be dead low tide at seven
o’clock. You must send a boat at six, or there-abouts. It will be low
enough for me to get out, I dare say, by that time.”

“But the Guard?”

“Won’t come here, my man. They’ve got their work to do in watching the
Neck and exploring after my mates. They won’t come here. Besides, I’m


“Thought to be so, which is as well--better for me, perhaps. If they
don’t see your ship, or your boat, you’re safe enough.”

“I don’t like to risk it,” said Blunt. “It’s Life if we’re caught.”

“It’s Death if I’m caught!” returned the other, with a sinister laugh.
“But there’s no danger if you are cautious. No one looks for rats in a
terrier’s kennel, and there’s not a station along the beach from here
to Cape Pillar. Take your vessel out of eye-shot of the Neck, bring the
boat up Descent Beach, and the thing’s done.”

“Well,” says Blunt, “I’ll try it.”

“You wouldn’t like to stop here till morning? It is rather lonely,”
 suggested Rex, absolutely making a jest of his late terrors.

Will Staples laughed. “You’re a bold boy!” said he. “We’ll come at

“Have you got the clothes as I directed?”


“Then good night. I’ll put my fire out, in case somebody else might see
it, who wouldn’t be as kind as you are.”

“Good night.”

“Not a word for the Madam,” said Staples, when they reached the vessel.

“Not a word, the ungrateful dog,” asserted Blunt, adding, with some
heat, “That’s the way with women. They’ll go through fire and water for
a man that doesn’t care a snap of his fingers for ‘em; but for any poor
fellow who risks his neck to pleasure ‘em they’ve nothing but sneers! I
wish I’d never meddled in the business.”

“There are no fools like old fools,” thought Will Staples, looking back
through the darkness at the place where the fire had been, but he did
not utter his thoughts aloud.

At eight o’clock the next morning the Pretty Mary stood out to sea with
every stitch of canvas set, alow and aloft. The skipper’s fishing had
come to an end. He had caught a shipwrecked seaman, who had been brought
on board at daylight, and was then at breakfast in the cabin. The crew
winked at each other when the haggard mariner, attired in garments that
seemed remarkably well preserved, mounted the side. But they, none of
them, were in a position to controvert the skipper’s statement.

“Where are we bound for?” asked John Rex, smoking Staples’s pipe in
lingering puffs of delight. “I’m entirely in your hands, Blunt.”

“My orders are to cruise about the whaling grounds until I meet my
consort,” returned Blunt sullenly, “and put you aboard her. She’ll take
you back to Sydney. I’m victualled for a twelve-months’ trip.”

“Right!” cried Rex, clapping his preserver on the back. “I’m bound to
get to Sydney somehow; but, as the Philistines are abroad, I may as well
tarry in Jericho till my beard be grown. Don’t stare at my Scriptural
quotation, Mr. Staples,” he added, inspirited by creature comforts, and
secure amid his purchased friends. “I assure you that I’ve had the very
best religious instruction. Indeed, it is chiefly owing to my worthy
spiritual pastor and master that I am enabled to smoke this very
villainous tobacco of yours at the present moment!”


It was not until they had scrambled up the beach to safety that
the absconders became fully aware of the loss of another of their
companions. As they stood on the break of the beach, wringing the water
from their clothes, Gabbett’s small eye, counting their number, missed
the stroke oar.

“Where’s Cox?”

“The fool fell overboard,” said Jemmy Vetch shortly. “He never had
as much sense in that skull of his as would keep it sound on his

Gabbett scowled. “That’s three of us gone,” he said, in the tones of a
man suffering some personal injury.

They summed up their means of defence against attack. Sanders and
Greenhill had knives. Gabbett still retained the axe in his belt. Vetch
had dropped his musket at the Neck, and Bodenham and Cornelius were

“Let’s have a look at the tucker,” said Vetch.

There was but one bag of provisions. It contained a piece of salt pork,
two loaves, and some uncooked potatoes. Signal Hill station was not rich
in edibles.

“That ain’t much,” said the Crow, with rueful face. “Is it, Gabbett?”

“It must do, any way,” returned the giant carelessly.

The inspection over, the six proceeded up the shore, and encamped under
the lee of a rock. Bodenham was for lighting a fire, but Vetch, who,
by tacit consent, had been chosen leader of the expedition, forbade it,
saying that the light might betray them. “They’ll think we’re drowned,
and won’t pursue us,” he said. So all that night the miserable wretches
crouched fireless together.

Morning breaks clear and bright, and--free for the first time in ten
years--they comprehend that their terrible journey has begun. “Where are
we to go? How are we to live?” asked Bodenham, scanning the barren
bush that stretches to the barren sea. “Gabbett, you’ve been out
before--how’s it done?”

“We’ll make the shepherds’ huts, and live on their tucker till we get
a change o’ clothes,” said Gabbett evading the main question. “We can
follow the coast-line.”

“Steady, lads,” said prudent Vetch; “we must sneak round yon sandhills,
and so creep into the scrub. If they’ve a good glass at the Neck, they
can see us.”

“It does seem close,” said Bodenham; “I could pitch a stone on to the
guard-house. Good-bye, you Bloody Spot!” he adds, with sudden rage,
shaking his fist vindictively at the Penitentiary; “I don’t want to see
you no more till the Day o’ Judgment.”

Vetch divides the provisions, and they travel all that day until dark
night. The scrub is prickly and dense. Their clothes are torn, their
hands and feet bleeding. Already they feel out-wearied. No one pursuing,
they light a fire, and sleep. The second day they come to a sandy spit
that runs out into the sea, and find that they have got too far to the
eastward, and must follow the shore line to East Bay Neck. Back through
the scrub they drag their heavy feet. That night they eat the last
crumb of the loaf. The third day at high noon--after some toilsome
walking--they reach a big hill, now called Collins’ Mount, and see the
upper link of the earring, the isthmus of East Bay Neck, at their feet.
A few rocks are on their right hand, and blue in the lovely distance
lies hated Maria Island. “We must keep well to the eastward,” said
Greenhill, “or we shall fall in with the settlers and get taken.” So,
passing the isthmus, they strike into the bush along the shore, and
tightening their belts over their gnawing bellies, camp under some
low-lying hills.

The fourth day is notable for the indisposition of Bodenham, who is a
bad walker, and, falling behind, delays the party by frequent cooees.
Gabbett threatens him with a worse fate than sore feet if he lingers.
Luckily, that evening Greenhill espies a hut, but, not trusting to the
friendship of the occupant, they wait until he quits it in the morning,
and then send Vetch to forage. Vetch, secretly congratulating himself on
having by his counsel prevented violence, returns bending under half a
bag of flour. “You’d better carry the flour,” said he to Gabbett, “and
give me the axe.” Gabbett eyes him for a while, as if struck by his puny
form, but finally gives the axe to his mate Sanders. That day they creep
along cautiously between the sea and the hills, camping at a creek.
Vetch, after much search, finds a handful of berries, and adds them to
the main stock. Half of this handful is eaten at once, the other half
reserved for “to-morrow”. The next day they come to an arm of the sea,
and as they struggle northward, Maria Island disappears, and with it all
danger from telescopes. That evening they reach the camping ground by
twos and threes; and each wonders between the paroxysms of hunger if
his face is as haggard, and his eyes as bloodshot, as those of his

On the seventh day, Bodenham says his feet are so bad he can’t walk,
and Greenhill, with a greedy look at the berries, bids him stay behind.
Being in a very weak condition, he takes his companion at his word, and
drops off about noon the next day. Gabbett, discovering this defection,
however, goes back, and in an hour or so appears, driving the wretched
creature before him with blows, as a sheep is driven to the shambles.
Greenhill remonstrates at another mouth being thus forced upon the
party, but the giant silences him with a hideous glance. Jemmy Vetch
remembers that Greenhill accompanied Gabbett once before, and feels
uncomfortable. He gives hint of his suspicions to Sanders, but Sanders
only laughs. It is horribly evident that there is an understanding among
the three.

The ninth sun of their freedom, rising upon sandy and barren hillocks,
bristling thick with cruel scrub, sees the six famine-stricken wretches
cursing their God, and yet afraid to die. All around is the fruitless,
shadeless, shelterless bush. Above, the pitiless heaven. In the
distance, the remorseless sea. Something terrible must happen. That grey
wilderness, arched by grey heaven stooping to grey sea, is a fitting
keeper of hideous secrets. Vetch suggests that Oyster Bay cannot be far
to the eastward--the line of ocean is deceitfully close--and though such
a proceeding will take them out of their course, they resolve to make
for it. After hobbling five miles, they seem no nearer than before,
and, nigh dead with fatigue and starvation, sink despairingly upon the
ground. Vetch thinks Gabbett’s eyes have a wolfish glare in them, and
instinctively draws off from him. Said Greenhill, in the course of a
dismal conversation, “I am so weak that I could eat a piece of a man.”

On the tenth day Bodenham refuses to stir, and the others, being scarce
able to drag along their limbs, sit on the ground about him. Greenhill,
eyeing the prostrate man, said slowly, “I have seen the same done
before, boys, and it tasted like pork.”

Vetch, hearing his savage comrade give utterance to a thought all had
secretly cherished, speaks out, crying, “It would be murder to do it,
and then, perhaps we couldn’t eat it.”

“Oh,” said Gabbett, with a grin, “I’ll warrant you that, but you must
all have a hand in it.”

Gabbett, Sanders and Greenhill then go aside, and presently Sanders,
coming to the Crow, said, “He consented to act as flogger. He deserves

“So did Gabbett, for that matter,” shudders Vetch.

“Ay, but Bodenham’s feet are sore,” said Sanders, “and ‘tis a pity to
leave him.”

Having no fire, they make a little breakwind; and Vetch, half-dozing
behind this at about three in the morning, hears someone cry out
“Christ!” and awakes, sweating ice.

No one but Gabbett and Greenhill would eat that night. That savage pair,
however, make a fire, fling ghastly fragments on the embers, and eat the
broil before it is right warm. In the morning the frightful carcase is
divided. That day’s march takes place in silence, and at midday halt
Cornelius volunteers to carry the billy, affecting great restoration
from the food. Vetch gives it to him, and in half an hour afterwards
Cornelius is missing. Gabbett and Greenhill pursue him in vain, and
return with curses. “He’ll die like a dog,” said Greenhill, “alone in
the bush.” Jemmy Vetch, with his intellect acute as ever, thinks that
Cornelius may prefer such a death, but says nothing.

The twelfth morning dawns wet and misty, but Vetch, seeing the provision
running short, strives to be cheerful, telling stories of men who have
escaped greater peril. Vetch feels with dismay that he is the weakest
of the party, but has some sort of ludicro-horrible consolation in
remembering that he is also the leanest. They come to a creek that
afternoon, and look, until nightfall, in vain for a crossing-place. The
next day Gabbett and Vetch swim across, and Vetch directs Gabbett to cut
a long sapling, which, being stretched across the water, is seized by
Greenhill and the Moocher, who are dragged over.

“What would you do without me?” said the Crow with a ghastly grin.

They cannot kindle a fire, for Greenhill, who carries the tinder, has
allowed it to get wet. The giant swings his axe in savage anger at
enforced cold, and Vetch takes an opportunity to remark privately to him
what a big man Greenhill is.

On the fourteenth day they can scarcely crawl, and their limbs pain
them. Greenhill, who is the weakest, sees Gabbett and the Moocher go
aside to consult, and crawling to the Crow, whimpers: “For God’s sake,
Jemmy, don’t let ‘em murder me!”

“I can’t help you,” says Vetch, looking about in terror. “Think of poor
Tom Bodenham.”

“But he was no murderer. If they kill me, I shall go to hell with Tom’s
blood on my soul.” He writhes on the ground in sickening terror, and
Gabbett arriving, bids Vetch bring wood for the fire. Vetch, going, sees
Greenhill clinging to wolfish Gabbett’s knees, and Sanders calls after
him, “You will hear it presently, Jem.”

The nervous Crow puts his hand to his ears, but is conscious of a dull
crash and a groan. When he comes back, Gabbett is putting on the dead
man’s shoes, which are better than his own.

“We’ll stop here a day or so and rest,” said he, “now we’ve got

Two more days pass, and the three, eyeing each other suspiciously,
resume their march. The third day--the sixteenth of their awful
journey--such portions of the carcase as they have with them prove unfit
to eat. They look into each other’s famine-sharpened faces, and wonder
“who’s next?”

“We must all die together,” said Sanders quickly, “before anything else
must happen.”

Vetch marks the terror concealed in the words, and when the dreaded
giant is out of earshot, says, “For God’s sake, let’s go on alone,
Alick. You see what sort of a cove that Gabbett is--he’d kill his father
before he’d fast one day.”

They made for the bush, but the giant turned and strode towards them.
Vetch skipped nimbly on one side, but Gabbett struck the Moocher on the
forehead with the axe. “Help! Jem, help!” cried the victim, cut, but not
fatally, and in the strength of his desperation tore the axe from the
monster who bore it, and flung it to Vetch. “Keep it, Jemmy,” he cried;
“let’s have no more murder done!”

They fare again through the horrible bush until nightfall, when Vetch,
in a strange voice, called the giant to him.

“He must die.”

“Either you or he,” laughs Gabbett. “Give me the axe.”

“No, no,” said the Crow, his thin, malignant face distorted by a
horrible resolution. “I’ll keep the axe. Stand back! You shall hold him,
and I’ll do the job.”

Sanders, seeing them approach, knew his end was come, and submitted,
crying, “Give me half an hour to pray for myself.” They consent, and the
bewildered wretch knelt down and folded his hands like a child. His
big, stupid face worked with emotion. His great cracked lips moved
in desperate agony. He wagged his head from side to side, in pitiful
confusion of his brutalized senses. “I can’t think o’ the words, Jem!”

“Pah,” snarled the cripple, swinging the axe, “we can’t starve here all

Four days had passed, and the two survivors of this awful journey sat
watching each other. The gaunt giant, his eyes gleaming with hate
and hunger, sat sentinel over the dwarf. The dwarf, chuckling at his
superior sagacity, clutched the fatal axe. For two days they had not
spoken to each other. For two days each had promised himself that on the
next his companion must sleep--and die. Vetch comprehended the devilish
scheme of the monster who had entrapped five of his fellow-beings to aid
him by their deaths to his own safety, and held aloof. Gabbett watched
to snatch the weapon from his companion, and make the odds even once and
for ever. In the day-time they travelled on, seeking each a pretext to
creep behind the other. In the night-time when they feigned slumber,
each stealthily raising a head caught the wakeful glance of his
companion. Vetch felt his strength deserting him, and his brain
overpowered by fatigue. Surely the giant, muttering, gesticulating, and
slavering at the mouth, was on the road to madness. Would the monster
find opportunity to rush at him, and, braving the blood-stained axe,
kill him by main force? or would he sleep, and be himself a victim?
Unhappy Vetch! It is the terrible privilege of insanity to be sleepless.

On the fifth day, Vetch, creeping behind a tree, takes off his belt, and
makes a noose. He will hang himself. He gets one end of the belt over
a bough, and then his cowardice bids him pause. Gabbett approaches;
he tries to evade him, and steal away into the bush. In vain. The
insatiable giant, ravenous with famine, and sustained by madness, is not
to be shaken off. Vetch tries to run, but his legs bend under him. The
axe that has tried to drink so much blood feels heavy as lead. He will
fling it away. No--he dares not. Night falls again. He must rest, or go
mad. His limbs are powerless. His eyelids are glued together. He sleeps
as he stands. This horrible thing must be a dream. He is at Port Arthur,
or will wake on his pallet in the penny lodging-house he slept at when a
boy. Is that the Deputy come to wake him to the torment of living? It is
not time--surely not time yet. He sleeps--and the giant, grinning with
ferocious joy, approaches on clumsy tiptoe and seizes the coveted axe.

On the north coast of Van Diemen’s Land is a place called St Helen’s
Point, and a certain skipper, being in want of fresh water; landing
there with a boat’s crew, found on the banks of the creek a gaunt and
blood-stained man, clad in tattered yellow, who carried on his back an
axe and a bundle. When the sailors came within sight of him, he made
signs to them to approach, and, opening his bundle with much ceremony,
offered them some of its contents. Filled with horror at what the maniac
displayed, they seized and bound him. At Hobart Town he was recognized
as the only survivor of the nine desperadoes who had escaped from
Colonel Arthur’s “Natural Penitentiary”.




Bathurst, February 11th, 1846.

In turning over the pages of my journal, to note the good fortune that
has just happened to me, I am struck by the utter desolation of my life
for the last seven years.

Can it be possible that I, James North, the college-hero, the poet, the
prizeman, the Heaven knows what else, have been content to live on at
this dreary spot--an animal, eating and drinking, for tomorrow I die?
Yet it has been so. My world, that world of which I once dreamt so much,
has been--here. My fame--which was to reach the ends of the earth--has
penetrated to the neighbouring stations. I am considered a “good
preacher” by my sheep-feeding friends. It is kind of them.

Yet, on the eve of leaving it, I confess that this solitary life has not
been without its charms. I have had my books and my thoughts--though
at times the latter were but grim companions. I have striven with my
familiar sin, and have not always been worsted. Melancholy reflection.
“Not always!” “But yet” is as a gaoler to bring forth some monstrous
malefactor. I vowed, however, that I would not cheat myself in this
diary of mine, and I will not. No evasions, no glossings over of my own
sins. This journal is my confessor, and I bare my heart to it.

It is curious the pleasure I feel in setting down here in black and
white these agonies and secret cravings of which I dare not speak. It is
for the same reason, I suppose, that murderers make confession to
dogs and cats, that people with something “on their mind” are given to
thinking aloud, that the queen of Midas must needs whisper to the sedges
the secret of her husband’s infirmity. Outwardly I am a man of God,
pious and grave and softly spoken. Inwardly--what? The mean, cowardly,
weak sinner that this book knows me...Imp! I could tear you in
pieces!...One of these days I will. In the meantime, I will keep you
under lock and key, and you shall hug my secrets close. No, old friend,
with whom I have communed so long, forgive me, forgive me. You are to me
instead of wife or priest.

I tell to your cold blue pages--how much was it I bought you for in
Parramatta, rascal?--these stories, longings, remorses, which I would
fain tell to human ear could I find a human being as discreet as thou.
It has been said that a man dare not write all his thoughts and deeds;
the words would blister the paper. Yet your sheets are smooth enough,
you fat rogue! Our neighbours of Rome know human nature. A man must
confess. One reads of wretches who have carried secrets in their bosoms
for years, and blurted them forth at last. I, shut up here without
companionship, without sympathy, without letters, cannot lock up my
soul, and feed on my own thoughts. They will out, and so I whisper them
to thee.

What art thou, thou tremendous power Who dost inhabit us without our
leave, And art, within ourselves, another self, A master self that loves
to domineer?

What? Conscience? That is a word to frighten children. The conscience of
each man is of his own making. My friend the shark-toothed cannibal whom
Staples brought in his whaler to Sydney would have found his conscience
reproach him sorely did he refuse to partake of the feasts made sacred
by the customs of his ancestors. A spark of divinity? The divinity that,
according to received doctrine; sits apart, enthroned amid sweet music,
and leaves poor humanity to earn its condemnation as it may? I’ll have
none of that--though I preach it. One must soothe the vulgar senses
of the people. Priesthood has its “pious frauds”. The Master spoke in
parables. Wit? The wit that sees how ill-balanced are our actions and
our aspirations? The devilish wit born of our own brain, that sneers at
us for our own failings? Perhaps madness? More likely, for there are few
men who are not mad one hour of the waking twelve. If differing from
the judgment of the majority of mankind in regard to familiar things be
madness, I suppose I am mad--or too wise. The speculation draws near to
hair-splitting. James North, recall your early recklessness, your ruin,
and your redemption; bring your mind back to earth. Circumstances have
made you what you are, and will shape your destiny for you without your
interference. That’s comfortably settled!

Now supposing--to take another canter on my night-mare--that man is
the slave of circumstances (a doctrine which I am inclined to believe,
though unwilling to confess); what circumstance can have brought about
the sudden awakening of the powers that be to James North’s fitness for

HOBART TOWN, Jan. 12th.

“DEAR NORTH,--I have much pleasure in informing you that you can be
appointed Protestant chaplain at Norfolk Island, if you like. It seems
that they did not get on well with the last man, and when my advice was
asked, I at once recommended you for the office. The pay is small, but
you have a house and so on. It is certainly better than Bathurst, and
indeed is considered rather a prize in the clerical lottery.

“There is to be an investigation into affairs down there. Poor old
Pratt--who went down, as you know, at the earnest solicitation of the
Government--seems to have become absurdly lenient with the prisoners,
and it is reported that the island is in a frightful state. Sir Eardley
is looking out for some disciplinarian to take the place in hand.

“In the meantime, the chaplaincy is vacant, and I thought of you.”

I must consider this seeming good fortune further.

February 19th.--I accept. There is work to be done among those unhappy
men that may be my purgation. The authorities shall hear me yet--though
inquiry was stifled at Port Arthur. By the way, a Pharaoh had arisen
who knows not Joseph. It is evident that the meddlesome parson, who
complained of men being flogged to death, is forgotten, as the men are!
How many ghosts must haunt the dismal loneliness of that prison shore!
Poor Burgess is gone the way of all flesh. I wonder if his spirit
revisits the scenes of its violences? I have written “poor” Burgess.

It is strange how we pity a man gone out of this life. Enmity is
extinguished when one can but remember injuries. If a man had injured
me, the fact of his living at all would be sufficient grounds for me to
hate him; if I had injured him, I should hate him still more. Is that
the reason I hate myself at times--my greatest enemy, and one whom I
have injured beyond forgiveness? There are offences against one’s own
nature that are not to be forgiven. Isn’t it Tacitus who says “the
hatred of those most nearly related is most inveterate”? But--I am
taking flight again.

February 27th, 11.30 p.m.--Nine Creeks Station. I do like to be accurate
in names, dates, etc. Accuracy is a virtue. To exercise it, then.
Station ninety miles from Bathurst. I should say about 4,000 head of
cattle. Luxury without refinement. Plenty to eat, drink, and read.
Hostess’s name--Carr. She is a well-preserved creature, about
thirty-four years of age, and a clever woman--not in a poetical sense,
but in the widest worldly acceptation of the term. At the same time, I
should be sorry to be her husband. Women have no business with a brain
like hers--that is, if they wish to be women and not sexual monsters.
Mrs. Carr is not a lady, though she might have been one. I don’t think
she is a good woman either. It is possible, indeed, that she has known
the factory before now. There is a mystery about her, for I was informed
that she was a Mrs. Purfoy, the widow of a whaling captain, and had
married one of her assigned servants, who had deserted her five years
ago, as soon as he obtained his freedom. A word or two at dinner set me
thinking. She had received some English papers, and, accounting for her
pre-occupied manner, grimly said, “I think I have news of my husband.”
 I should not like to be in Carr’s shoes if she has news of him! I don’t
think she would suffer indignity calmly. After all, what business is it
of mine? I was beguiled into taking more wine at dinner than I needed.
Confessor, do you hear me? But I will not allow myself to be carried
away. You grin, you fat Familiar! So may I, but I shall be eaten with
remorse tomorrow.

March 3rd.--A place called Jerrilang, where I have a head and heartache.
“One that hath let go himself from the hold and stay of reason, and lies
open to the mercy of all temptations.”

March 20th.--Sydney. At Captain Frere’s.--Seventeen days since I have
opened you, beloved and detested companion of mine. I have more than
half a mind to never open you again! To read you is to recall to myself
all I would most willingly forget; yet not to read you would be to
forget all that which I should for my sins remember.

The last week has made a new man of me. I am no longer morose,
despairing, and bitter, but genial, and on good terms with fortune. It
is strange that accident should have induced me to stay a week under the
same roof with that vision of brightness which has haunted me so long.
A meeting in the street, an introduction, an invitation--the thing is

The circumstances which form our fortunes are certainly curious things.
I had thought never again to meet the bright young face to which I
felt so strange an attraction--and lo! here it is smiling on me daily.
Captain Frere should be a happy man. Yet there is a skeleton in this
house also. That young wife, by nature so lovable and so mirthful, ought
not to have the sadness on her face that twice to-day has clouded it.
He seems a passionate and boorish creature, this wonderful convict
disciplinarian. His convicts--poor devils--are doubtless disciplined
enough. Charming little Sylvia, with your quaint wit and weird beauty,
he is not good enough for you--and yet it was a love match.

March 21st.--I have read family prayers every night since I have been
here--my black coat and white tie gave me the natural pre-eminence in
such matters--and I feel guilty every time I read. I wonder what the
little lady of the devotional eyes would say if she knew that I am a
miserable hypocrite, preaching that which I do not practise, exhorting
others to believe those marvels which I do not believe? I am a coward
not to throw off the saintly mask, and appear as a Freethinker. Yet, am
I a coward? I urge upon myself that it is for the glory of God I hold
my peace. The scandal of a priest turned infidel would do more harm
than the reign of reason would do good. Imagine this trustful woman for
instance--she would suffer anguish at the thoughts of such a sin, though
another were the sinner. “If anyone offend one of these little ones it
were better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck and
that he be cast into the sea.” Yet truth is truth, and should be
spoken--should it not, malignant monitor, who remindest me how often I
fail to speak it? Surely among all his army of black-coats our worthy
Bishop must have some men like me, who cannot bring their reason to
believe in things contrary to the experience of mankind and the laws of

March 22nd.--This unromantic Captain Frere had had some romantic
incidents in his life, and he is fond of dilating upon them. It seems
that in early life he expected to have been left a large fortune by an
uncle who had quarrelled with his heir. But the uncle dies on the day
fixed for the altering of the will, the son disappears, and is thought
to be drowned. The widow, however, steadfastly refuses to believe in
any report of the young man’s death, and having a life-interest in the
property, holds it against all comers. My poor host in consequence comes
out here on his pay, and, three years ago, just as he is hoping that the
death of his aunt may give him opportunity to enforce a claim as next
of kin to some portion of the property, the long-lost son returns,
is recognized by his mother and the trustees, and installed in due
heirship! The other romantic story is connected with Frere’s marriage.
He told me after dinner to-night how his wife had been wrecked when a
child, and how he had saved her life, and defended her from the rude
hands of an escaped convict--one of the monsters our monstrous system
breeds. “That was how we fell in love,” said he, tossing off his wine

“An auspicious opportunity,” said I. To which he nodded. He is not
overburdened with brains, I fancy. Let me see if I can set down some
account of this lovely place and its people.

A long low white house, surrounded by a blooming garden. Wide windows
opening on a lawn. The ever glorious, ever changing sea beneath. It is
evening. I am talking with Mrs. Frere, of theories of social reform,
of picture galleries, of sunsets, and new books. There comes a sound
of wheels on the gravel. It is the magistrate returned from his
convict-discipline. We hear him come briskly up the steps, but we go on
talking. (I fancy there was a time when the lady would have run to
meet him.) He enters, coldly kisses his wife, and disturbs at once the
current of our thoughts. “It has been hot to-day. What, still no letter
from head-quarters, Mr. North! I saw Mrs. Golightly in town, Sylvia, and
she asked for you. There is to be a ball at Government House. We must
go.” Then he departs, and is heard in the distance indistinctly cursing
because the water is not hot enough, or because Dawkins, his convict
servant, has not brushed his trousers sufficiently. We resume our chat,
but he returns all hungry, and bluff, and whisker-brushed. “Dinner.
Ha-ha! I’m ready for it. North, take Mrs. Frere.” By and by it is,
“North, some sherry? Sylvia, the soup is spoilt again. Did you go out
to-day? No?” His eyebrows contract here, and I know he says inwardly,
“Reading some trashy novel, I suppose.” However, he grins, and
obligingly relates how the police have captured Cockatoo Bill, the noted

After dinner the disciplinarian and I converse--of dogs and horses,
gamecocks, convicts, and moving accidents by flood and field. I remember
old college feats, and strive to keep pace with him in the relation of
athletics. What hypocrites we are!--for all the time I am longing to
get to the drawing-room, and finish my criticism of the new poet, Mr.
Tennyson, to Mrs. Frere. Frere does not read Tennyson--nor anybody else.
Adjourned to the drawing-room, we chat--Mrs. Frere and I--until supper.
(He eats supper.) She is a charming companion, and when I talk my
best--I can talk, you must admit, O Familiar--her face lightens up
with an interest I rarely see upon it at other times. I feel cooled and
soothed by this companionship. The quiet refinement of this house, after
bullocks and Bathurst, is like the shadow of a great rock in a weary

Mrs. Frere is about five-and-twenty. She is rather beneath the middle
height, with a slight, girlish figure. This girlish appearance is
enhanced by the fact that she has bright fair hair and blue eyes. Upon
conversation with her, however, one sees that her face has lost much of
the delicate plumpness which it probably owned in youth. She has had one
child, born only to die. Her cheeks are thin, and her eyes have a tinge
of sadness, which speak of physical pain or mental grief. This thinness
of face makes the eyes appear larger and the brow broader than they
really are. Her hands are white and painfully thin. They must have been
plump and pretty once. Her lips are red with perpetual fever.

Captain Frere seems to have absorbed all his wife’s vitality. (Who
quotes the story of Lucius Claudius Hermippus, who lived to a great age
by being constantly breathed on by young girls? I suppose Burton--who
quotes everything.) In proportion as she has lost her vigour and youth,
he has gained strength and heartiness. Though he is at least forty years
of age, he does not look more than thirty. His face is ruddy, his eyes
bright, his voice firm and ringing. He must be a man of considerable
strength and--I should say--of more than ordinary animal courage and
animal appetite. There is not a nerve in his body which does not twang
like a piano wire. In appearance, he is tall, broad, and bluff, with
red whiskers and reddish hair slightly touched with grey. His manner
is loud, coarse, and imperious; his talk of dogs, horses, and convicts.
What a strangely-mated pair!

March 30th.--A letter from Van Diemen’s Land. “There is a row in the
pantry,” said Frere, with his accustomed slang. It seems that the
Comptroller-General of Convicts has appointed a Mr. Pounce to go down
and make a report on the state of Norfolk Island. I am to go down
with him, and shall receive instructions to that effect from the
Comptroller-General. I have informed Frere of this, and he has written
to Pounce to come and stay on his way down. There has been nothing but
convict discipline talked since. Frere is great upon this point, and
wearies me with his explanations of convict tricks and wickedness. He
is celebrated for his knowledge of such matters. Detestable wisdom! His
servants hate him, but they obey him without a murmur. I have observed
that habitual criminals--like all savage beasts--cower before the
man who has once mastered them. I should not be surprised if the Van
Diemen’s Land Government selected Frere as their “disciplinarian”. I
hope they won’t and yet I hope they will.

April 4th.--Nothing worth recording until to-day. Eating, drinking, and
sleeping. Despite my forty-seven years, I begin to feel almost like the
James North who fought the bargee and took the gold medal. What a drink
water is! The fons Bandusiae splendidior vitreo was better than all the
Massic, Master Horace! I doubt if your celebrated liquor, bottled when
Manlius was consul, could compare with it.

But to my notable facts. I have found out to-night two things which
surprise me. One is that the convict who attempted the life of Mrs.
Frere is none other than the unhappy man whom my fatal weakness caused
to be flogged at Port Arthur, and whose face comes before me to reproach
me even now. The other that Mrs. Carr is an old acquaintance of Frere’s.
The latter piece of information I obtained in a curious way. One night,
while Mrs. Frere was not there, we were talking of clever women. I
broached my theory, that strong intellect in women went far to destroy
their womanly nature.

“Desire in man,” said I, “should be Volition in women: Reason,
Intuition; Reverence, Devotion; Passion, Love. The woman should strike
a lower key-note, but a sharper sound. Man has vigour of reason,
woman quickness of feeling. The woman who possesses masculine force of
intellect is abnormal.” He did not half comprehend me, I could see, but
he agreed with the broad view of the case. “I only knew one woman who
was really ‘strong-minded’, as they call it,” he said, “and she was a
regular bad one.”

“It does not follow that she should be bad,” said I. “This one was,
though--stock, lock, and barrel. But as sharp as a needle, sir, and as
immovable as a rock. A fine woman, too.” I saw by the expression of the
man’s face that he owned ugly memories, and pressed him further. “She’s
up country somewhere,” he said. “Married her assigned servant, I was
told, a fellow named Carr. I haven’t seen her for years, and don’t know
what she may be like now, but in the days when I knew her she was just
what you describe.” (Let it be noted that I had described nothing.) “She
came out in the ship with me as maid to my wife’s mother.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say that I had met her, but I don’t
know what induced me to be silent. There are passages in the lives of
men of Captain Frere’s complexion, which don’t bear descanting on.
I expect there have been in this case, for he changed the subject
abruptly, as his wife came in. Is it possible that these two
creatures--the notable disciplinarian and the wife of the assigned
servant--could have been more than friends in youth? Quite possible.
He is the sort of man for gross amours. (A pretty way I am abusing my
host!) And the supple woman with the dark eyes would have been just the
creature to enthral him. Perhaps some such story as this may account in
part for Mrs. Frere’s sad looks. Why do I speculate on such things?
I seem to do violence to myself and to insult her by writing such
suspicions. If I was a Flagellant now, I would don hairshirt and up
flail. “For this sort cometh not out but by prayer and fasting.”

April 7th.--Mr. Pounce has arrived--full of the importance of his
mission. He walks with the air of a minister of state on the eve of a
vacant garter, hoping, wondering, fearing, and dignified even in his
dubitancy. I am as flippant as a school-girl concerning this fatuous
official, and yet--Heaven knows--I feel deeply enough the importance of
the task he has before him. One relieves one’s brain by these whirlings
of one’s mental limbs. I remember that a prisoner at Hobart Town,
twice condemned and twice reprieved, jumped and shouted with frenzied
vehemence when he heard his sentence of death was finally pronounced. He
told me, if he had not so shouted, he believed he would have gone mad.

April 10th.--We had a state dinner last night. The conversation was
about nothing in the world but convicts. I never saw Mrs. Frere to less
advantage. Silent, distraite, and sad. She told me after dinner that
she disliked the very name of “convict” from early associations. “I have
lived among them all my life,” she said, “but that does not make it the
better for me. I have terrible fancies at times, Mr. North, that seem
half-memories. I dread to be brought in contact with prisoners again. I
am sure that some evil awaits me at their hands.”

I laughed, of course, but it would not do. She holds to her own opinion,
and looks at me with horror in her eyes. This terror in her face is

“You are nervous,” I said. “You want rest.”

“I am nervous,” she replied, with that candour of voice and manner I
have before remarked in her, “and I have presentiments of evil.”

We sat silent for a while, and then she suddenly turned her large
eyes on me, and said calmly, “Mr. North, what death shall I die?” The
question was an echo of my own thoughts--I have some foolish (?) fancies
as to physiognomy--and it made me start. What death, indeed? What sort
of death would one meet with widely-opened eyes, parted lips, and
brows bent as though to rally fast-flying courage? Not a peaceful death
surely. I brought my black coat to my aid. “My dear lady, you must not
think of such things. Death is but a sleep, you know. Why anticipate a

She sighed, slowly awaking as though from some momentary trance.
Checking herself on the verge of tears, she rallied, turned the
conversation, and finding an excuse for going to the piano, dashed into
a waltz. This unnatural gaiety ended, I fancy, in an hysterical fit. I
heard her husband afterwards recommending sal volatile. He is the
sort of man who would recommend sal volatile to the Pythoness if she
consulted him.

April 26th.--All has been arranged, and we start to-morrow. Mr. Pounce
is in a condition of painful dignity. He seems afraid to move lest
motion should thaw his official ice. Having found out that I am the
“chaplain”, he has refrained from familiarity. My self-love is wounded,
but my patience relieved. Query: Would not the majority of mankind
rather be bored by people in authority than not noticed by them? James
North declines to answer for his part. I have made my farewells to my
friends, and on looking back on the pleasant hours I have spent, felt
saddened. It is not likely that I shall have many such pleasant hours.
I feel like a vagabond who, having been allowed to sit by a cheerful
fireside for a while, is turned out into the wet and windy streets, and
finds them colder than ever. What were the lines I wrote in her album?

“As some poor tavern-haunter drenched in wine With staggering footsteps
through the streets returning, Seeing through blinding rain a beacon
shine From household lamp in happy window burning,--

“Pauses an instant at the reddened pane To gaze on that sweet scene of
love and duty, Then turns into the wild wet night again, Lest his sad
presence mar its homely beauty.”

Yes, those were the lines. With more of truth in them than she expected;
and yet what business have I sentimentalizing. My socius thinks “what a
puling fool this North is!”

So, that’s over! Now for Norfolk Island and my purgation.


The lost son of Sir Richard Devine had returned to England, and made
claim to his name and fortune. In other words, John Rex had successfully
carried out the scheme by which he had usurped the rights of his old

Smoking his cigar in his bachelor lodgings, or pausing in a calculation
concerning a race, John Rex often wondered at the strange ease with
which he had carried out so monstrous and seemingly difficult an
imposture. After he was landed in Sydney, by the vessel which Sarah
Purfoy had sent to save him, he found himself a slave to a bondage
scarcely less galling than that from which he had escaped--the bondage
of enforced companionship with an unloved woman. The opportune death of
one of her assigned servants enabled Sarah Purfoy to instal the escaped
convict in his room. In the strange state of society which prevailed
of necessity in New South Wales at that period, it was not unusual for
assigned servants to marry among the free settlers, and when it was
heard that Mrs. Purfoy, the widow of a whaling captain, had married John
Carr, her storekeeper, transported for embezzlement, and with two years
of his sentence yet to run, no one expressed surprise. Indeed, when the
year after, John Carr blossomed into an “expiree”, master of a fine wife
and a fine fortune, there were many about him who would have made his
existence in Australia pleasant enough. But John Rex had no notion of
remaining longer than he could help, and ceaselessly sought means of
escape from this second prison-house. For a long time his search was
unsuccessful. Much as she loved the scoundrel, Sarah Purfoy did not
scruple to tell him that she had bought him and regarded him as her
property. He knew that if he made any attempt to escape from his
marriage-bonds, the woman who had risked so much to save him would
not hesitate to deliver him over to the authorities, and state how the
opportune death of John Carr had enabled her to give name and employment
to John Rex, the absconder. He had thought once that the fact of her
being his wife would prevent her from giving evidence against him, and
that he could thus defy her. But she reminded him that a word to Blunt
would be all sufficient.

“I know you don’t care for me now, John,” she said, with grim
complacency; “but your life is in my hands, and if you desert me I will
bring you to the gallows.”

In vain, in his secret eagerness to be rid of her, he raged and chafed.
He was tied hand and foot. She held his money, and her shrewd wit had
more than doubled it. She was all-powerful, and he could but wait until
her death or some lucky accident should rid him of her, and leave him
free to follow out the scheme he had matured. “Once rid of her,” he
thought, in his solitary rides over the station of which he was the
nominal owner, “the rest is easy. I shall return to England with a
plausible story of shipwreck, and shall doubtless be received with open
arms by the dear mother from whom I have been so long parted. Richard
Devine shall have his own again.”

To be rid of her was not so easy. Twice he tried to escape from his
thraldom, and was twice brought back. “I have bought you, John,” his
partner had laughed, “and you don’t get away from me. Surely you can be
content with these comforts. You were content with less once. I am not
so ugly and repulsive, am I?”

“I am home-sick,” John Carr retorted. “Let us go to England, Sarah.”

She tapped her strong white fingers sharply on the table. “Go to
England? No, no. That is what you would like to do. You would be master
there. You would take my money, and leave me to starve. I know you,
Jack. We stop here, dear. Here, where I can hand you over to the first
trooper as an escaped convict if you are not kind to me.”


“Oh, I don’t mind your abuse. Abuse me if you like, Jack. Beat me if you
will, but don’t leave me, or it will be worse for you.”

“You are a strange woman!” he cried, in sudden petulant admiration.

“To love such a villain? I don’t know that. I love you because you are a
villain. A better man would be wearisome to such as I am.”

“I wish to Heaven I’d never left Port Arthur. Better there than this
dog’s life.”

“Go back, then. You have only to say the word!” And so they would
wrangle, she glorying in her power over the man who had so long
triumphed over her, and he consoling himself with the hope that the day
was not far distant which should bring him at once freedom and fortune.
One day the chance came to him. His wife was ill, and the ungrateful
scoundrel stole five hundred pounds, and taking two horses reached
Sydney, and obtained passage in a vessel bound for Rio.

Having escaped thraldom, John Rex proceeded to play for the great stake
of his life with the utmost caution. He went to the Continent, and lived
for weeks together in the towns where Richard Devine might possibly have
resided, familiarizing himself with streets, making the acquaintance
of old inhabitants, drawing into his own hands all loose ends of
information which could help to knit the meshes of his net the closer.
Such loose ends were not numerous; the prodigal had been too poor, too
insignificant, to leave strong memories behind him. Yet Rex knew well
by what strange accidents the deceit of an assumed identity is often
penetrated. Some old comrade or companion of the lost heir might
suddenly appear with keen questions as to trifles which could cut his
flimsy web to shreds, as easily as the sword of Saladin divided the
floating silk. He could not afford to ignore the most insignificant
circumstances. With consummate skill, piece by piece he built up the
story which was to deceive the poor mother, and to make him possessor of
one of the largest private fortunes in England.

This was the tale he hit upon. He had been saved from the burning
Hydaspes by a vessel bound for Rio. Ignorant of the death of Sir
Richard, and prompted by the pride which was known to be a leading
feature of his character, he had determined not to return until fortune
should have bestowed upon him wealth at least equal to the inheritance
from which he had been ousted. In Spanish America he had striven to
accumulate that wealth in vain. As vequero, traveller, speculator,
sailor, he had toiled for fourteen years, and had failed. Worn out and
penitent, he had returned home to find a corner of English earth in
which to lay his weary bones. The tale was plausible enough, and in the
telling of it he was armed at all points. There was little fear that
the navigator of the captured Osprey, the man who had lived in Chile and
“cut out” cattle on the Carrum Plains, would prove lacking in knowledge
of riding, seamanship, or Spanish customs. Moreover, he had determined
upon a course of action which showed his knowledge of human nature.

The will under which Richard Devine inherited was dated in 1807, and had
been made when the testator was in the first hopeful glow of paternity.
By its terms Lady Devine was to receive a life interest of three
thousand a year in her husband’s property--which was placed in the
hands of two trustees--until her eldest son died or attained the age
of twenty-five years. When either of these events should occur, the
property was to be realized, Lady Devine receiving a sum of a hundred
thousand pounds, which, invested in Consols for her benefit, would,
according to Sir Richard’s prudent calculation exactly compensate for
her loss of interest, the remainder going absolutely to the son, if
living, to his children or next of kin if dead. The trustees appointed
were Lady Devine’s father, Colonel Wotton Wade, and Mr. Silas Quaid,
of the firm of Purkiss and Quaid Thavies Inn, Sir Richard’s solicitors.
Colonel Wade, before his death had appointed his son, Mr. Francis Wade,
to act in his stead. When Mr. Quaid died, the firm of Purkiss and Quaid
(represented in the Quaid branch of it by a smart London-bred nephew)
declined further responsibility; and, with the consent of Lady Devine,
Francis Wade continued alone in his trust. Sir Richard’s sister and her
husband, Anthony Frere, of Bristol, were long ago dead, and, as we know,
their representative, Maurice Frere, content at last in the lot that
fortune had sent him, had given up all thought of meddling with his
uncle’s business. John Rex, therefore, in the person of the returned
Richard, had but two persons to satisfy, his putative uncle, Mr. Francis
Wade, and his putative mother, Lady Devine.

This he found to be the easiest task possible. Francis Wade was an
invalid virtuoso, who detested business, and whose ambition was to be
known as man of taste. The possessor of a small independent income, he
had resided at North End ever since his father’s death, and had made the
place a miniature Strawberry Hill. When, at his sister’s urgent wish, he
assumed the sole responsibility of the estate, he put all the floating
capital into 3 per cents., and was content to see the interest
accumulate. Lady Devine had never recovered the shock of the
circumstances attending Sir Richard’s death and, clinging to the belief
in her son’s existence, regarded herself as the mere guardian of his
interests, to be displaced at any moment by his sudden return. The
retired pair lived thus together, and spent in charity and bric-a-brac
about a fourth of their mutual income. By both of them the return of
the wanderer was hailed with delight. To Lady Devine it meant the
realization of a lifelong hope, become part of her nature. To Francis
Wade it meant relief from a responsibility which his simplicity always
secretly loathed, the responsibility of looking after another person’s

“I shall not think of interfering with the arrangements which you have
made, my dear uncle,” said Mr. John Rex, on the first night of his
reception. “It would be most ungrateful of me to do so. My wants are
very few, and can easily be supplied. I will see your lawyers some day,
and settle it.”

“See them at once, Richard; see them at once. I am no man of business,
you know, but I think you will find all right.”

Richard, however, put off the visit from day to day. He desired to
have as little to do with lawyers as possible. He had resolved upon
his course of action. He would get money from his mother for immediate
needs, and when that mother died he would assert his rights. “My rough
life has unfitted me for drawing-rooms, dear mother,” he said. “Do not
let there be a display about my return. Give me a corner to smoke my
pipe, and I am happy.” Lady Devine, with a loving tender pity, for which
John Rex could not altogether account, consented, and “Mr. Richard” soon
came to be regarded as a martyr to circumstances, a man conscious of his
own imperfections, and one whose imperfections were therefore lightly
dwelt upon. So the returned prodigal had his own suite of rooms, his own
servants, his own bank account, drank, smoked, and was merry. For five
or six months he thought himself in Paradise. Then he began to find his
life insufferably weary. The burden of hypocrisy is very heavy to bear,
and Rex was compelled perpetually to bear it. His mother demanded all
his time. She hung upon his lips; she made him repeat fifty times the
story of his wanderings. She was never tired of kissing him, of weeping
over him, and of thanking him for the “sacrifice” he had made for her.

“We promised never to speak of it more, Richard,” the poor lady said one
day, “but if my lifelong love can make atonement for the wrong I have
done you--”

“Hush, dearest mother,” said John Rex, who did not in the least
comprehend what it was all about. “Let us say no more.”

Lady Devine wept quietly for a while, and then went away, leaving the
man who pretended to be her son much bewildered and a little frightened.
There was a secret which he had not fathomed between Lady Devine and her
son. The mother did not again refer to it, and, gaining courage as the
days went on, Rex grew bold enough to forget his fears. In the first
stages of his deception he had been timid and cautious. Then the
soothing influence of comfort, respect, and security came upon him,
and almost refined him. He began to feel as he had felt when Mr. Lionel
Crofton was alive. The sensation of being ministered to by a loving
woman, who kissed him night and morning, calling him “son”--of being
regarded with admiration by rustics, with envy by respectable folk--of
being deferred to in all things--was novel and pleasing. They were so
good to him that he felt at times inclined to confess all, and leave his
case in the hands of the folk he had injured. Yet--he thought--such a
course would be absurd. It would result in no benefit to anyone, simply
in misery to himself. The true Richard Devine was buried fathoms deep
in the greedy ocean of convict-discipline, and the waves of innumerable
punishments washed over him. John Rex flattered himself that he had
usurped the name of one who was in fact no living man, and that, unless
one should rise from the dead, Richard Devine could never return to
accuse him. So flattering himself, he gradually became bolder, and by
slow degrees suffered his true nature to appear. He was violent to the
servants, cruel to dogs and horses, often wantonly coarse in speech,
and brutally regardless of the feelings of others. Governed, like most
women, solely by her feelings, Lady Devine had at first been prodigal
of her affection to the man she believed to be her injured son. But his
rash acts of selfishness, his habits of grossness and self-indulgence,
gradually disgusted her. For some time she--poor woman--fought against
this feeling, endeavouring to overcome her instincts of distaste, and
arguing with herself that to permit a detestation of her unfortunate son
to arise in her heart was almost criminal; but she was at length forced
to succumb.

For the first year Mr. Richard conducted himself with great propriety,
but as his circle of acquaintance and his confidence in himself
increased, he now and then forgot the part he was playing. One day Mr.
Richard went to pass the day with a sporting friend, only too proud to
see at his table so wealthy and wonderful a man. Mr. Richard drank a
good deal more than was good for him, and returned home in a condition
of disgusting drunkenness. I say disgusting, because some folks have the
art of getting drunk after a humorous fashion, that robs intoxication of
half its grossness. For John Rex to be drunk was to be himself--coarse
and cruel. Francis Wade was away, and Lady Devine had retired for
the night, when the dog-cart brought home “Mr. Richard”. The virtuous
butler-porter, who opened the door, received a blow in the chest and
a demand for “Brandy!” The groom was cursed, and ordered to instant
oblivion. Mr. Richard stumbled into the dining-room--veiled in dim light
as a dining-room which was “sitting up” for its master ought to be--and
ordered “more candles!” The candles were brought, after some delay, and
Mr. Richard amused himself by spilling their meltings upon the carpet.
“Let’s have ‘luminashon!” he cried; and climbing with muddy boots upon
the costly chairs, scraping with his feet the polished table, attempted
to fix the wax in the silver sconces, with which the antiquarian tastes
of Mr. Francis Wade had adorned the room.

“You’ll break the table, sir,” said the servant.

“Damn the table!” said Rex. “Buy ‘nother table. What’s table t’you?”
 “Oh, certainly, sir,” replied the man.

“Oh, c’ert’nly! Why c’ert’nly? What do you know about it?”

“Oh, certainly not, sir,” replied the man.

“If I had--stockwhip here--I’d make you--hic--skip! Whar’s brandy?”

“Here, Mr. Richard.”

“Have some! Good brandy! Send for servantsh and have dance. D’you dance,

“No, Mr. Richard.”

“Then you shall dance now, Tomkins. You’ll dance upon nothing one day,
Tomkins! Here! Halloo! Mary! Susan! Janet! William! Hey! Halloo!” And he
began to shout and blaspheme.

“Don’t you think it’s time for bed, Mr. Richard?” one of the men
ventured to suggest.

“No!” roared the ex-convict, emphatically, “I don’t! I’ve gone to bed at
daylight far too long. We’ll have ‘luminashon! I’m master here. Master
everything. Richard ‘Vine’s my name. Isn’t it, Tomkins, you villain?”

“Oh-h-h! Yes, Mr. Richard.”

“Course it is, and make you know it too! I’m no painter-picture,
crockery chap. I’m genelman! Genelman seen the world! Knows what’s
what. There ain’t much I ain’t fly to. Wait till the old woman’s dead,
Tomkins, and you shall see!” More swearing, and awful threats of
what the inebriate would do when he was in possession. “Bring up
some brandy!” Crash goes the bottle in the fire-place. “Light up the
droring-rooms; we’ll have dance! I’m drunk! What’s that? If you’d gone
through what I have, you’d be glad to be drunk. I look a fool”--this
to his image in another glass. “I ain’t though, or I wouldn’t be
here. Curse you, you grinning idiot”--crash goes his fist through the
mirror--“don’t grin at me. Play up there! Where’s old woman? Fetch her
out and let’s dance!”

“Lady Devine has gone to bed, Mr. Richard,” cried Tomkins, aghast,
attempting to bar the passage to the upper regions.

“Then let’s have her out o’ bed,” cried John Rex, plunging to the door.

Tomkins, attempting to restrain him, is instantly hurled into a cabinet
of rare china, and the drunken brute essays the stairs. The other
servants seize him. He curses and fights like a demon. Doors bang open,
lights gleam, maids hover, horrified, asking if it’s “fire?” and begging
for it to be “put out”. The whole house is in an uproar, in the midst
of which Lady Devine appears, and looks down upon the scene. Rex catches
sight of her; and bursts into blasphemy. She withdraws, strangely
terrified; and the animal, torn, bloody, and blasphemous, is at last
got into his own apartments, the groom, whose face had been seriously
damaged in the encounter, bestowing a hearty kick on the prostrate
carcase at parting.

The next morning Lady Devine declined to see her son, though he sent a
special apology to her.

“I am afraid I was a little overcome by wine last night,” said he to
Tomkins. “Well, you was, sir,” said Tomkins.

“A very little wine makes me quite ill, Tomkins. Did I do anything very

“You was rather obstropolous, Mr. Richard.”

“Here’s a sovereign for you, Tomkins. Did I say anything?”

“You cussed a good deal, Mr. Richard. Most gents do when they’ve
bin--hum--dining out, Mr. Richard.”

“What a fool I am,” thought John Rex, as he dressed. “I shall spoil
everything if I don’t take care.” He was right. He was going the right
way to spoil everything. However, for this bout he made amends--money
soothed the servants’ hall, and apologies and time won Lady Devine’s

“I cannot yet conform to English habits, my dear mother,” said Rex, “and
feel at times out of place in your quiet home. I think that--if you can
spare me a little money--I should like to travel.”

Lady Devine--with a sense of relief for which she blamed
herself--assented, and supplied with letters of credit, John Rex went to

Fairly started in the world of dissipation and excess, he began to grow
reckless. When a young man, he had been singularly free from the vice of
drunkenness; turning his sobriety--as he did all his virtues--to vicious
account; but he had learnt to drink deep in the loneliness of the bush.
Master of a large sum of money, he had intended to spend it as he would
have spent it in his younger days. He had forgotten that since his death
and burial the world had not grown younger. It was possible that Mr.
Lionel Crofton might have discovered some of the old set of fools
and knaves with whom he had once mixed. Many of them were alive and
flourishing. Mr. Lemoine, for instance, was respectably married in his
native island of Jersey, and had already threatened to disinherit a
nephew who showed a tendency to dissipation.

But Mr. Lemoine would not care to recognize Mr. Lionel Crofton, the
gambler and rake, in his proper person, and it was not expedient that
his acquaintance should be made in the person of Richard Devine, lest
by some unlucky chance he should recognize the cheat. Thus poor Lionel
Crofton was compelled to lie still in his grave, and Mr. Richard Devine,
trusting to a big beard and more burly figure to keep his secret, was
compelled to begin his friendship with Mr. Lionel’s whilom friends all
over again. In Paris and London there were plenty of people ready to
become hail-fellow-well-met with any gentleman possessing money. Mr.
Richard Devine’s history was whispered in many a boudoir and club-room.
The history, however, was not always told in the same way. It was
generally known that Lady Devine had a son, who, being supposed to be
dead, had suddenly returned, to the confusion of his family. But the
manner of his return was told in many ways.

In the first place, Mr. Francis Wade, well-known though he was, did
not move in that brilliant circle which had lately received his nephew.
There are in England many men of fortune, as large as that left by the
old ship-builder, who are positively unknown in that little world which
is supposed to contain all the men worth knowing. Francis Wade was a
man of mark in his own coterie. Among artists, bric-a-brac sellers,
antiquarians, and men of letters he was known as a patron and man
of taste. His bankers and his lawyers knew him to be of independent
fortune, but as he neither mixed in politics, “went into society”,
betted, or speculated in merchandise, there were several large sections
of the community who had never heard his name. Many respectable
money-lenders would have required “further information” before they
would discount his bills; and “clubmen” in general--save, perhaps,
those ancient quidnuncs who know everybody, from Adam downwards--had but
little acquaintance with him. The advent of Mr. Richard Devine--a coarse
person of unlimited means--had therefore chief influence upon that
sinister circle of male and female rogues who form the “half-world”.
They began to inquire concerning his antecedents, and, failing
satisfactory information, to invent lies concerning him. It was
generally believed that he was a black sheep, a man whose family kept
him out of the way, but who was, in a pecuniary sense, “good” for a
considerable sum.

Thus taken upon trust, Mr. Richard Devine mixed in the very best of
bad society, and had no lack of agreeable friends to help him to spend
money. So admirably did he spend it, that Francis Wade became at last
alarmed at the frequent drafts, and urged his nephew to bring his
affairs to a final settlement. Richard Devine--in Paris, Hamburg, or
London, or elsewhere--could never be got to attack business, and Mr.
Francis Wade grew more and more anxious. The poor gentleman
positively became ill through the anxiety consequent upon his nephew’s
dissipations. “I wish, my dear Richard, that you would let me know what
to do,” he wrote. “I wish, my dear uncle, that you would do what you
think best,” was his nephew’s reply.

“Will you let Purkiss and Quaid look into the business?” said the
badgered Francis.

“I hate lawyers,” said Richard. “Do what you think right.”

Mr. Wade began to repent of his too easy taking of matters in the
beginning. Not that he had a suspicion of Rex, but that he had
remembered that Dick was always a loose fish. The even current of the
dilettante’s life became disturbed. He grew pale and hollow-eyed. His
digestion was impaired. He ceased to take the interest in china which
the importance of that article demanded. In a word, he grew despondent
as to his fitness for his mission in life. Lady Ellinor saw a change in
her brother. He became morose, peevish, excitable. She went privately
to the family doctor, who shrugged his shoulders. “There is no danger,”
 said he, “if he is kept quiet; keep him quiet, and he will live for
years; but his father died of heart disease, you know.” Lady Ellinor,
upon this, wrote a long letter to Mr. Richard, who was at Paris,
repeated the doctor’s opinions, and begged him to come over at once.
Mr. Richard replied that some horse-racing matter of great importance
occupied his attention, but that he would be at his rooms in Clarges
Street (he had long ago established a town house) on the 14th, and would
“go into matters”. “I have lost a good deal of money lately, my dear
mother,” said Mr. Richard, “and the present will be a good opportunity
to make a final settlement.” The fact was that John Rex, now three years
in undisturbed possession, considered that the moment had arrived for
the execution of his grand coup--the carrying off at one swoop of the
whole of the fortune he had gambled for.


May 12th--landed to-day at Norfolk Island, and have been introduced to
my new abode, situated some eleven hundred miles from Sydney. A solitary
rock in the tropical ocean, the island seems, indeed, a fit place
of banishment. It is about seven miles long and four broad. The most
remarkable natural object is, of course, the Norfolk Island pine, which
rears its stately head a hundred feet above the surrounding forest. The
appearance of the place is very wild and beautiful, bringing to my
mind the description of the romantic islands of the Pacific, which old
geographers dwell upon so fondly. Lemon, lime, and guava trees abound,
also oranges, grapes, figs, bananas, peaches, pomegranates, and
pine-apples. The climate just now is hot and muggy. The approach to
Kingstown--as the barracks and huts are called--is properly difficult.
A long low reef--probably originally a portion of the barren rocks
of Nepean and Philip Islands, which rise east and west of the
settlement--fronts the bay and obstructs the entrance of vessels. We
were landed in boats through an opening in this reef, and our vessel
stands on and off within signalling distance. The surf washes almost
against the walls of the military roadway that leads to the barracks.
The social aspect of the place fills me with horror. There seems neither
discipline nor order. On our way to the Commandant’s house we passed a
low dilapidated building where men were grinding maize, and at the sight
of us they commenced whistling, hooting, and shouting, using the most
disgusting language. Three warders were near, but no attempt was made to
check this unseemly exhibition.

May 14th.--I sit down to write with as much reluctance as though I were
about to relate my experience of a journey through a sewer.

First to the prisoners’ barracks, which stand on an area of about three
acres, surrounded by a lofty wall. A road runs between this wall and
the sea. The barracks are three storeys high, and hold seven hundred and
ninety men (let me remark here that there are more than two thousand men
on the island). There are twenty-two wards in this place. Each ward runs
the depth of the building, viz., eighteen feet, and in consequence is
simply a funnel for hot or cold air to blow through. When the ward is
filled, the men’s heads lie under the windows. The largest ward contains
a hundred men, the smallest fifteen. They sleep in hammocks, slung close
to each other as on board ship, in two lines, with a passage down
the centre. There is a wardsman to each ward. He is selected by the
prisoners, and is generally a man of the worst character. He is supposed
to keep order, but of course he never attempts to do so; indeed, as he
is locked up in the ward every night from six o’clock in the evening
until sunrise, without light, it is possible that he might get
maltreated did he make himself obnoxious.

The barracks look upon the Barrack Square, which is filled with lounging
prisoners. The windows of the hospital-ward also look upon Barrack
Square, and the prisoners are in constant communication with the
patients. The hospital is a low stone building, capable of containing
about twenty men, and faces the beach. I placed my hands on the wall,
and found it damp. An ulcerous prisoner said the dampness was owing to
the heavy surf constantly rolling so close beneath the building. There
are two gaols, the old and the new. The old gaol stands near the sea,
close to the landing-place. Outside it, at the door, is the Gallows. I
touched it as I passed in. This engine is the first thing which greets
the eyes of a newly-arrived prisoner. The new gaol is barely completed,
is of pentagonal shape, and has eighteen radiating cells of a pattern
approved by some wiseacre in England, who thinks that to prevent a man
from seeing his fellowmen is not the way to drive him mad. In the old
gaol are twenty-four prisoners, all heavily ironed, awaiting trial by
the visiting Commission, from Hobart Town. Some of these poor ruffians,
having committed their offences just after the last sitting of the
Commission, have already been in gaol upwards of eleven months!

At six o’clock we saw the men mustered. I read prayers before the
muster, and was surprised to find that some of the prisoners attended,
while some strolled about the yard, whistling, singing, and joking.
The muster is a farce. The prisoners are not mustered outside and
then marched to their wards, but they rush into the barracks
indiscriminately, and place themselves dressed or undressed in their
hammocks. A convict sub-overseer then calls out the names, and somebody
replies. If an answer is returned to each name, all is considered right.
The lights are taken away, and save for a few minutes at eight o’clock,
when the good-conduct men are let in, the ruffians are left to their
own devices until morning. Knowing what I know of the customs of the
convicts, my heart sickens when I in imagination put myself in the place
of a newly-transported man, plunged from six at night until daybreak
into that foetid den of worse than wild beasts.

May 15th.--There is a place enclosed between high walls adjoining the
convict barracks, called the Lumber Yard. This is where the prisoners
mess. It is roofed on two sides, and contains tables and benches. Six
hundred men can mess here perhaps, but as seven hundred are always
driven into it, it follows that the weakest men are compelled to sit on
the ground. A more disorderly sight than this yard at meal times I
never beheld. The cook-houses are adjoining it, and the men bake their
meal-bread there. Outside the cook-house door the firewood is piled,
and fires are made in all directions on the ground, round which sit
the prisoners, frying their rations of fresh pork, baking their hominy
cakes, chatting, and even smoking.

The Lumber Yard is a sort of Alsatia, to which the hunted prisoner
retires. I don’t think the boldest constable on the island would venture
into that place to pick out a man from the seven hundred. If he did go
in I don’t think he would come out again alive.

May 16th.--A sub-overseer, a man named Hankey, has been talking to me.
He says that there are some forty of the oldest and worst prisoners who
form what he calls the “Ring”, and that the members of this “Ring” are
bound by oath to support each other, and to avenge the punishment of any
of their number. In proof of his assertions he instanced two cases
of English prisoners who had refused to join in some crime, and had
informed the Commandant of the proceedings of the Ring. They were found
in the morning strangled in their hammocks. An inquiry was held, but not
a man out of the ninety in the ward would speak a word. I dread the task
that is before me. How can I attempt to preach piety and morality to
these men? How can I attempt even to save the less villainous?

May 17th.--Visited the wards to-day, and returned in despair. The
condition of things is worse than I expected. It is not to be written.
The newly-arrived English prisoners--and some of their histories
are most touching--are insulted by the language and demeanour of the
hardened miscreants who are the refuse of Port Arthur and Cockatoo
Island. The vilest crimes are perpetrated as jests. These are creatures
who openly defy authority, whose language and conduct is such as was
never before seen or heard out of Bedlam. There are men who are known
to have murdered their companions, and who boast of it. With these the
English farm labourer, the riotous and ignorant mechanic, the victim
of perjury or mistake, are indiscriminately herded. With them are mixed
Chinamen from Hong Kong, the Aborigines of New Holland, West Indian
blacks, Greeks, Caffres, and Malays, soldiers for desertion, idiots,
madmen, pig-stealers, and pick-pockets. The dreadful place seems set
apart for all that is hideous and vile in our common nature. In its
recklessness, its insubordination, its filth, and its despair, it
realizes to my mind the popular notion of Hell.

May 21st.--Entered to-day officially upon my duties as Religious
Instructor at the Settlement.

An occurrence took place this morning which shows the dangerous
condition of the Ring. I accompanied Mr. Pounce to the Lumber Yard,
and, on our entry, we observed a man in the crowd round the cook-house
deliberately smoking. The Chief Constable of the Island--my old friend
Troke, of Port Arthur--seeing that this exhibition attracted Pounce’s
notice, pointed out the man to an assistant. The assistant, Jacob
Gimblett, advanced and desired the prisoner to surrender the pipe. The
man plunged his hands into his pockets, and, with a gesture of the most
profound contempt, walked away to that part of the mess-shed where the
“Ring” congregate.

“Take the scoundrel to gaol!” cried Troke.

No one moved, but the man at the gate that leads through the carpenter’s
shop into the barracks, called to us to come out, saying that the
prisoners would never suffer the man to be taken. Pounce, however, with
more determination than I gave him credit for, kept his ground, and
insisted that so flagrant a breach of discipline should not be suffered
to pass unnoticed. Thus urged, Mr. Troke pushed through the crowd, and
made for the spot whither the man had withdrawn himself.

The yard was buzzing like a disturbed hive, and I momentarily expected
that a rush would be made upon us. In a few moments the prisoner
appeared, attended by, rather than in the custody of, the Chief
Constable of the island. He advanced to the unlucky assistant constable,
who was standing close to me, and asked, “What have you ordered me to
gaol for?” The man made some reply, advising him to go quietly, when the
convict raised his fist and deliberately felled the man to the ground.
“You had better retire, gentlemen,” said Troke. “I see them getting out
their knives.”

We made for the gate, and the crowd closed in like a sea upon the two
constables. I fully expected murder, but in a few moments Troke and
Gimblett appeared, borne along by a mass of men, dusty, but unharmed,
and having the convict between them. He sulkily raised a hand as he
passed me, either to rectify the position of his straw hat, or to offer
a tardy apology. A more wanton, unprovoked, and flagrant outrage than
that of which this man was guilty I never witnessed. It is customary for
“the old dogs”, as the experienced convicts are called, to use the
most opprobrious language to their officers, and to this a deaf ear
is usually turned, but I never before saw a man wantonly strike a
constable. I fancy that the act was done out of bravado. Troke informed
me that the man’s name is Rufus Dawes, and that he is the leader of the
Ring, and considered the worst man on the island; that to secure him he
(Troke) was obliged to use the language of expostulation; and that, but
for the presence of an officer accredited by his Excellency, he dared
not have acted as he had done.

This is the same man, then, whom I injured at Port Arthur. Seven years
of “discipline” don’t seem to have done him much good. His sentence is
“life”--a lifetime in this place! Troke says that he was the terror
of Port Arthur, and that they sent him here when a “weeding” of the
prisoners was made. He has been here four years. Poor wretch!

May 24th.--After prayers, I saw Dawes. He was confined in the Old Gaol,
and seven others were in the cell with him. He came out at my request,
and stood leaning against the door-post. He was much changed from the
man I remember. Seven years ago he was a stalwart, upright, handsome
man. He has become a beetle-browed, sullen, slouching ruffian. His hair
is grey, though he cannot be more than forty years of age, and his
frame has lost that just proportion of parts which once made him
almost graceful. His face has also grown like other convict faces--how
hideously alike they all are!--and, save for his black eyes and a
peculiar trick he had of compressing his lips, I should not have
recognized him. How habitual sin and misery suffice to brutalize “the
human face divine”! I said but little, for the other prisoners were
listening, eager, as it appeared to me, to witness my discomfiture.
It is evident that Rufus Dawes had been accustomed to meet the
ministrations of my predecessors with insolence. I spoke to him for
a few minutes, only saying how foolish it was to rebel against an
authority superior in strength to himself. He did not answer, and the
only emotion he evinced during the interview was when I reminded him
that we had met before. He shrugged one shoulder, as if in pain or
anger, and seemed about to speak, but, casting his eyes upon the group
in the cell, relapsed into silence again. I must get speech with him
alone. One can do nothing with a man if seven other devils worse than
himself are locked up with him.

I sent for Hankey, and asked him about cells. He says that the gaol is
crowded to suffocation. “Solitary confinement” is a mere name. There are
six men, each sentenced to solitary confinement, in a cell together. The
cell is called the “nunnery”. It is small, and the six men were naked to
the waist when I entered, the perspiration pouring in streams off their
naked bodies! It is disgusting to write of such things.

June 26th.--Pounce has departed in the Lady Franklin for Hobart Town,
and it is rumoured that we are to have a new Commandant. The Lady
Franklin is commanded by an old man named Blunt, a protegé of Frere’s,
and a fellow to whom I have taken one of my inexplicable and unreasoning

Saw Rufus Dawes this morning. He continues sullen and morose. His papers
are very bad. He is perpetually up for punishment. I am informed that
he and a man named Eastwood, nicknamed “Jacky Jacky”, glory in being the
leaders of the Ring, and that they openly avow themselves weary of life.
Can it be that the unmerited flogging which the poor creature got at
Port Arthur has aided, with other sufferings, to bring him to this
horrible state of mind? It is quite possible. Oh, James North, remember
your own crime, and pray Heaven to let you redeem one soul at least, to
plead for your own at the Judgment Seat.

June 30th.--I took a holiday this afternoon, and walked in the direction
of Mount Pitt. The island lay at my feet like--as sings Mrs. Frere’s
favourite poet--“a summer isle of Eden lying in dark purple sphere of
sea”. Sophocles has the same idea in the Philoctetes, but I can’t
quote it. Note: I measured a pine twenty-three feet in circumference.
I followed a little brook that runs from the hills, and winds through
thick undergrowths of creeper and blossom, until it reaches a lovely
valley surrounded by lofty trees, whose branches, linked together by the
luxurious grape-vine, form an arching bower of verdure. Here stands the
ruin of an old hut, formerly inhabited by the early settlers; lemons,
figs, and guavas are thick; while amid the shrub and cane a large
convolvulus is entwined, and stars the green with its purple and crimson
flowers. I sat down here, and had a smoke. It seems that the former
occupant of my rooms at the settlement read French; for in searching
for a book to bring with me--I never walk without a book--I found and
pocketed a volume of Balzac. It proved to be a portion of the Vie Priveé
series, and I stumbled upon a story called La Fausse Maitresse.
With calm belief in the Paris of his imagination--where Marcas was a
politician, Nucingen a banker, Gobseck a money-lender, and Vautrin a
candidate for some such place as this--Balzac introduces me to a Pole by
name Paz, who, loving the wife of his friend, devotes himself to watch
over her happiness and her husband’s interest. The husband gambles and
is profligate. Paz informs the wife that the leanness which hazard
and debauchery have caused to the domestic exchequer is due to his
extravagance, the husband having lent him money. She does not believe,
and Paz feigns an intrigue with a circus-rider in order to lull all
suspicions. She says to her adored spouse, “Get rid of this extravagant
friend! Away with him! He is a profligate, a gambler! A drunkard!”
 Paz finally departs, and when he has gone, the lady finds out the poor
Pole’s worth. The story does not end satisfactorily. Balzac was too
great a master of his art for that. In real life the curtain never falls
on a comfortably-finished drama. The play goes on eternally.

I have been thinking of the story all evening. A man who loves his
friend’s wife, and devotes his energies to increase her happiness by
concealing from her her husband’s follies! Surely none but Balzac
would have hit upon such a notion. “A man who loves his friend’s
wife.”--Asmodeus, I write no more! I have ceased to converse with thee
for so long that I blush to confess all that I have in my heart.--I will
not confess it, so that shall suffice.


August 24th.--There has been but one entry in my journal since the 30th
June, that which records the advent of our new Commandant, who, as I
expected, is Captain Maurice Frere.

So great have been the changes which have taken place that I
scarcely know how to record them. Captain Frere has realized my worst
anticipations. He is brutal, vindictive, and domineering. His knowledge
of prisons and prisoners gives him an advantage over Burgess, otherwise
he much resembles that murderous animal. He has but one thought--to keep
the prisoners in subjection. So long as the island is quiet, he cares
not whether the men live or die. “I was sent down here to keep order,”
 said he to me, a few days after his arrival, “and by God, sir, I’ll do

He has done it, I must admit; but at a cost of a legacy of hatred to
himself that he may some day regret to have earned. He has organized
three parties of police. One patrols the fields, one is on guard at
stores and public buildings, and the third is employed as a detective
force. There are two hundred soldiers on the island. And the officer
in charge, Captain McNab, has been induced by Frere to increase their
duties in many ways. The cords of discipline are suddenly drawn tight.
For the disorder which prevailed when I landed, Frere has substituted a
sudden and excessive rigour. Any officer found giving the smallest
piece of tobacco to a prisoner is liable to removal from the island..The
tobacco which grows wild has been rooted up and destroyed lest the men
should obtain a leaf of it. The privilege of having a pannikin of hot
water when the gangs came in from field labour in the evening has been
withdrawn. The shepherds, hut-keepers, and all other prisoners, whether
at the stations of Longridge or the Cascades (where the English convicts
are stationed) are forbidden to keep a parrot or any other bird. The
plaiting of straw hats during the prisoners’ leisure hours is also
prohibited. At the settlement where the “old hands” are located railed
boundaries have been erected, beyond which no prisoner must pass unless
to work. Two days ago Job Dodd, a negro, let his jacket fall over the
boundary rails, crossed them to recover it, and was severely flogged.
The floggings are hideously frequent. On flogging mornings I have seen
the ground where the men stood at the triangles saturated with blood, as
if a bucket of blood had been spilled on it, covering a space three feet
in diameter, and running out in various directions, in little streams
two or three feet long. At the same time, let me say, with that strict
justice I force myself to mete out to those whom I dislike, that the
island is in a condition of abject submission. There is not much chance
of mutiny. The men go to their work without a murmur, and slink to their
dormitories like whipped hounds to kennel. The gaols and solitary (!)
cells are crowded with prisoners, and each day sees fresh sentences for
fresh crimes. It is crime here to do anything but live.

The method by which Captain Frere has brought about this repose of
desolation is characteristic of him. He sets every man as a spy upon
his neighbour, awes the more daring into obedience by the display of
a ruffianism more outrageous than their own, and, raising the worst
scoundrels in the place to office, compels them to find “cases”
 for punishment. Perfidy is rewarded. It has been made part of a
convict-policeman’s duty to search a fellow-prisoner anywhere and at
any time. This searching is often conducted in a wantonly rough and
disgusting manner; and if resistance be offered, the man resisting can
be knocked down by a blow from the searcher’s bludgeon. Inquisitorial
vigilance and indiscriminating harshness prevail everywhere, and the
lives of hundreds of prisoners are reduced to a continual agony of
terror and self-loathing.

“It is impossible, Captain Frere,” said I one day, during the initiation
of this system, “to think that these villains whom you have made
constables will do their duty.”

He replied, “They must do their duty. If they are indulgent to the
prisoners, they know I shall flog ‘em. If they do what I tell ‘em,
they’ll make themselves so hated that they’d have their own father up to
the triangles to save themselves being sent back to the ranks.”

“You treat them then like slave-keepers of a wild beast den. They must
flog the animals to avoid being flogged themselves.”

“Ay,” said he, with his coarse laugh, “and having once flogged ‘em,
they’d do anything rather than be put in the cage, don’t you see!”

It is horrible to think of this sort of logic being used by a man who
has a wife, and friends and enemies. It is the logic that the Keeper
of the Tormented would use, I should think. I am sick unto death of the
place. It makes me an unbeliever in the social charities. It takes out
of penal science anything it may possess of nobility or worth. It is
cruel, debasing, inhuman.

August 26th.--Saw Rufus Dawes again to-day. His usual bearing
is ostentatiously rough and brutal. He has sunk to a depth of
self-abasement in which he takes a delight in his degradation. This
condition is one familiar to me.

He is working in the chain-gang to which Hankey was made sub-overseer.
Blind Mooney, an ophthalmic prisoner, who was removed from the gang
to hospital, told me that there was a plot to murder Hankey, but that
Dawes, to whom he had shown some kindness, had prevented it. I saw
Hankey and told him of this, asking him if he had been aware of the
plot. He said “No,” falling into a great tremble. “Major Pratt promised
me a removal,” said he. “I expected it would come to this.” I asked him
why Dawes defended him; and after some trouble he told me, exacting from
me a promise that I would not acquaint the Commandant. It seems that one
morning last week, Hankey had gone up to Captain Frere’s house with
a return from Troke, and coming back through the garden had plucked a
flower. Dawes had asked him for this flower, offering two days’ rations
for it. Hankey, who is not a bad-hearted man, gave him the sprig. “There
were tears in his eyes as he took it,” said he.

There must be some way to get at this man’s heart, bad as he seems to

August 28th.--Hankey was murdered yesterday. He applied to be removed
from the gaol-gang, but Frere refused. “I never let my men ‘funk’,” he
said. “If they’ve threatened to murder you, I’ll keep you there another
month in spite of ‘em.”

Someone who overheard this reported it to the gang, and they set upon
the unfortunate gaoler yesterday, and beat his brains out with their
shovels. Troke says that the wretch who was foremost cried, “There’s for
you; and if your master don’t take care, he’ll get served the same one
of these days!” The gang were employed at building a reef in the sea,
and were working up to their armpits in water. Hankey fell into the
surf, and never moved after the first blow. I saw the gang, and Dawes

“It was Frere’s fault; he should have let the man go!”

“I am surprised you did not interfere,” said I. “I did all I could,” was
the man’s answer. “What’s a life more or less, here?”

This occurrence has spread consternation among the overseers, and they
have addressed a “round robin” to the Commandant, praying to be relieved
from their positions.

The way Frere has dealt with this petition is characteristic of him, and
fills me at once with admiration and disgust. He came down with it in
his hand to the gaol-gang, walked into the yard, shut the gate, and
said, “I’ve just got this from my overseers. They say they’re afraid
you’ll murder them as you murdered Hankey. Now, if you want to murder,
murder me. Here I am. Step out, one of you.” All this, said in a tone
of the most galling contempt, did not move them. I saw a dozen pairs
of eyes flash hatred, but the bull-dog courage of the man overawed them
here, as, I am told, it had done in Sydney. It would have been easy to
kill him then and there, and his death, I am told, is sworn among them;
but no one raised a finger. The only man who moved was Rufus Dawes, and
he checked himself instantly. Frere, with a recklessness of which I did
not think him capable, stepped up to this terror of the prison, and ran
his hands lightly down his sides, as is the custom with constables when
“searching” a man. Dawes--who is of a fierce temper--turned crimson
at this and, I thought, would have struck him, but he did not. Frere
then--still unarmed and alone--proceeded to the man, saying, “Do you
think of bolting again, Dawes? Have you made any more boats?”

“You Devil!” said the chained man, in a voice pregnant with such weight
of unborn murder, that the gang winced. “You’ll find me one,” said
Frere, with a laugh; and, turning to me, continued, in the same jesting
tone, “There’s a penitent for you, Mr. North--try your hand on him.”

I was speechless at his audacity, and must have shown my disgust in
my face, for he coloured slightly, and as we were leaving the yard, he
endeavoured to excuse himself, by saying that it was no use preaching to
stones, and such doubly-dyed villains as this Dawes were past hope. “I
know the ruffian of old,” said he. “He came out in the ship from England
with me, and tried to raise a mutiny on board. He was the man who nearly
murdered my wife. He has never been out of irons--except then and
when he escaped--for the last eighteen years; and as he’s three life
sentences, he’s like to die in ‘em.”

A monstrous wretch and criminal, evidently, and yet I feel a strange
sympathy with this outcast.


The town house of Mr. Richard Devine was in Clarges Street. Not that the
very modest mansion there situated was the only establishment of which
Richard Devine was master. Mr. John Rex had expensive tastes. He neither
shot nor hunted, so he had no capital invested in Scotch moors or
Leicestershire hunting-boxes. But his stables were the wonder of London,
he owned almost a racing village near Doncaster, kept a yacht at Cowes,
and, in addition to a house in Paris, paid the rent of a villa at
Brompton. He belonged to several clubs of the faster sort, and might
have lived like a prince at any one of them had he been so minded; but
a constant and haunting fear of discovery--which three years of
unquestioned ease and unbridled riot had not dispelled--led him to
prefer the privacy of his own house, where he could choose his own
society. The house in Clarges Street was decorated in conformity with
the tastes of its owner. The pictures were pictures of horses, the books
were records of races, or novels purporting to describe sporting life.
Mr. Francis Wade, waiting, on the morning of the 20th April, for the
coming of his nephew, sighed as he thought of the cultured quiet of
North End House.

Mr. Richard appeared in his dressing-gown. Three years of good living
and hard drinking had deprived his figure of its athletic beauty. He
was past forty years of age, and the sudden cessation from severe bodily
toil to which in his active life as a convict and squatter he had been
accustomed, had increased Rex’s natural proneness to fat, and instead
of being portly he had become gross. His cheeks were inflamed with the
frequent application of hot and rebellious liquors to his blood. His
hands were swollen, and not so steady as of yore. His whiskers were
streaked with unhealthy grey. His eyes, bright and black as ever, lurked
in a thicket of crow’s feet. He had become prematurely bald--a sure
sign of mental or bodily excess. He spoke with assumed heartiness, in a
boisterous tone of affected ease.

“Ha, ha! My dear uncle, sit down. Delighted to see you. Have you
breakfasted?--of course you have. I was up rather late last night. Quite
sure you won’t have anything. A glass of wine? No--then sit down and
tell me all the news of Hampstead.”

“Thank you, Richard,” said the old gentleman, a little stiffly, “but
I want some serious talk with you. What do you intend to do with the
property? This indecision worries me. Either relieve me of my trust, or
be guided by my advice.”

“Well, the fact is,” said Richard, with a very ugly look on his face,
“the fact is--and you may as well know it at once--I am much pushed for

“Pushed for money!” cried Mr. Wade, in horror. “Why, Purkiss said the
property was worth twenty thousand a year.”

“So it might have been--five years ago--but my horse-racing, and
betting, and other amusements, concerning which you need not too
curiously inquire, have reduced its value considerably.”

He spoke recklessly and roughly. It was evident that success had but
developed his ruffianism. His “dandyism” was only comparative. The
impulse of poverty and scheming which led him to affect the “gentleman”
 having been removed, the natural brutality of his nature showed itself
quite freely. Mr. Francis Wade took a pinch of snuff with a sharp motion
of distaste. “I do not want to hear of your debaucheries,” he said; “our
name has been sufficiently disgraced in my hearing.”

“What is got over the devil’s back goes under his belly,” replied Mr.
Richard, coarsely. “My old father got his money by dirtier ways than
these in which I spend it. As villainous an old scoundrel and skinflint
as ever poisoned a seaman, I’ll go bail.”

Mr. Francis rose. “You need not revile your father, Richard--he left you

“Ay, but by pure accident. He didn’t mean it. If he hadn’t died in the
nick of time, that unhung murderous villain, Maurice Frere, would have
come in for it. By the way,” he added, with a change of tone, “do you
ever hear anything of Maurice?”

“I have not heard for some years,” said Mr. Wade. “He is something in
the Convict Department at Sydney, I think.” “Is he?” said Mr. Richard,
with a shiver. “Hope he’ll stop there. Well, but about business. The
fact is, that--that I am thinking of selling everything.”

“Selling everything!”

“Yes. ‘Pon my soul I am. The Hampstead place and all.”

“Sell North End House!” cried poor Mr. Wade, in bewilderment. “You’d
sell it? Why, the carvings by Grinling Gibbons are the finest in

“I can’t help that,” laughed Mr. Richard, ringing the bell. “I want
cash, and cash I must have.--Breakfast, Smithers.--I’m going to travel.”

Francis Wade was breathless with astonishment. Educated and reared as he
had been, he would as soon have thought of proposing to sell St. Paul’s
Cathedral as to sell the casket which held his treasures of art--his
coins, his coffee-cups, his pictures, and his “proofs before letters”.

“Surely, Richard, you are not in earnest?” he gasped.

“I am, indeed.”

“But--but who will buy it?”

“Plenty of people. I shall cut it up into building allotments. Besides,
they are talking of a suburban line, with a terminus at St. John’s
Wood, which will cut the garden in half. You are quite sure you’ve
breakfasted? Then pardon me.”

“Richard, you are jesting with me! You will never let them do such a

“I’m thinking of a trip to America,” said Mr. Richard, cracking an
egg. “I am sick of Europe. After all, what is the good of a man like
me pretending to belong to ‘an old family’, with ‘a seat’ and all that
humbug? Money is the thing now, my dear uncle. Hard cash! That’s the
ticket for soup, you may depend.”

“Then what do you propose doing, sir?”

“To buy my mother’s life interest as provided, realize upon the
property, and travel,” said Mr. Richard, helping himself to potted

“You amaze me, Richard. You confound me. Of course you can
do as you please. But so sudden a determination. The old
house--vases--coins--pictures--scattered--I really--Well, it is your
property, of course--and--and--I wish you a very good morning!”

“I mean to do as I please,” soliloquized Rex, as he resumed his
breakfast. “Let him sell his rubbish by auction, and go and live abroad,
in Germany or Jerusalem if he likes, the farther the better for me. I’ll
sell the property and make myself scarce. A trip to America will benefit
my health.”

A knock at the door made him start.

“Come in! Curse it, how nervous I’m getting. What’s that? Letters? Give
them to me; and why the devil don’t you put the brandy on the table,

He drank some of the spirit greedily, and then began to open his

“Cussed brute,” said Mr. Smithers, outside the door. “He couldn’t use
wuss langwidge if he was a dook, dam ‘im!--Yessir,” he added, suddenly,
as a roar from his master recalled him.

“When did this come?” asked Mr. Richard, holding out a letter more than
usually disfigured with stampings.

“Lars night, sir. It’s bin to ‘Amstead, sir, and come down directed with
the h’others.” The angry glare of the black eyes induced him to add, “I
‘ope there’s nothink wrong, sir.”

“Nothing, you infernal ass and idiot,” burst out Mr. Richard, white with
rage, “except that I should have had this instantly. Can’t you see it’s
marked urgent? Can you read? Can you spell? There, that will do. No
lies. Get out!”

Left to himself again, Mr. Richard walked hurriedly up and down the
chamber, wiped his forehead, drank a tumbler of brandy, and finally sat
down and re-read the letter. It was short, but terribly to the purpose.

“THE GEORGE HOTEL, PLYMOUTH,” 17th April, 1846.


“I have found you out, you see. Never mind how just at present. I know
all about your proceedings, and unless Mr. Richard Devine receives his
“wife” with due propriety, he’ll find himself in the custody of the
police. Telegraph, dear, to Mrs. Richard Devine, at above address.

“Yours as ever, Jack,


“To Richard Devine, Esq., “North End House, “Hampstead.”

The blow was unexpected and severe. It was hard, in the very high tide
and flush of assured success, to be thus plucked back into the old
bondage. Despite the affectionate tone of the letter, he knew the woman
with whom he had to deal. For some furious minutes he sat motionless,
gazing at the letter. He did not speak--men seldom do under such
circumstances--but his thoughts ran in this fashion: “Here is this
cursed woman again! Just as I was congratulating myself on my freedom.
How did she discover me? Small use asking that. What shall I do? I can
do nothing. It is absurd to run away, for I shall be caught. Besides,
I’ve no money. My account at Mastermann’s is overdrawn two thousand
pounds. If I bolt at all, I must bolt at once--within twenty-four hours.
Rich as I am, I don’t suppose I could raise more than five thousand
pounds in that time. These things take a day or two, say forty-eight
hours. In forty-eight hours I could raise twenty thousand pounds, but
forty-eight hours is too long. Curse the woman! I know her! How in the
fiend’s name did she discover me? It’s a bad job. However, she’s not
inclined to be gratuitiously disagreeable. How lucky I never married
again! I had better make terms and trust to fortune. After all, she’s
been a good friend to me.--Poor Sally!--I might have rotted on that
infernal Eaglehawk Neck if it hadn’t been for her. She is not a bad
sort. Handsome woman, too. I may make it up with her. I shall have to
sell off and go away after all.--It might be worse.--I dare say the
property’s worth three hundred thousand pounds. Not bad for a start in
America. And I may get rid of her yet. Yes. I must give in.--Oh, curse
her!--[ringing the bell]--Smithers!” [Smithers appears.] “A telegraph
form and a cab! Stay. Pack me a dressing-bag. I shall be away for a day
or so. [Sotto voce]--I’d better see her myself.--[ Aloud]--Bring me a
Bradshaw! [Sotto voce]--Damn the woman.”


Though the house of the Commandant of Norfolk Island was comfortable and
well furnished, and though, of necessity, all that was most hideous in
the “discipline” of the place was hidden, the loathing with which Sylvia
had approached the last and most dreaded abiding place of the elaborate
convict system, under which it had been her misfortune to live, had not
decreased. The sights and sounds of pain and punishment surrounded her.
She could not look out of her windows without a shudder. She dreaded
each evening when her husband returned, lest he should blurt out some
new atrocity. She feared to ask him in the morning whither he was
going, lest he should thrill her with the announcement of some fresh

“I wish, Maurice, we had never come here,” said she, piteously, when he
recounted to her the scene of the gaol-gang. “These unhappy men will do
you some frightful injury one of these days.”

“Stuff!” said her husband. “They’ve not the courage. I’d take the best
man among them, and dare him to touch me.”

“I cannot think how you like to witness so much misery and villainy. It
is horrible to think of.”

“Our tastes differ, my dear.--Jenkins! Confound you! Jenkins, I say.”
 The convict-servant entered. “Where is the charge-book? I’ve told you
always to have it ready for me. Why don’t you do as you are told? You
idle, lazy scoundrel! I suppose you were yarning in the cookhouse, or--”

“If you please, sir.”

“Don’t answer me, sir. Give me the book.” Taking it and running his
finger down the leaves, he commented on the list of offences to which he
would be called upon in the morning to mete out judgment.

“Meer-a-seek, having a pipe--the rascally Hindoo scoundrel!--Benjamin
Pellett, having fat in his possession. Miles Byrne, not walking fast
enough.--We must enliven Mr. Byrne. Thomas Twist, having a pipe and
striking a light. W. Barnes, not in place at muster; says he was
‘washing himself’--I’ll wash him! John Richards, missing muster and
insolence. John Gateby, insolence and insubordination. James Hopkins,
insolence and foul language. Rufus Dawes, gross insolence, refusing to
work.--Ah! we must look after you. You are a parson’s man now, are you?
I’ll break your spirit, my man, or I’ll--Sylvia!”


“Your friend Dawes is doing credit to his bringing up.”

“What do you mean?”

“That infernal villain and reprobate, Dawes. He is fitting himself
faster for--” She interrupted him. “Maurice, I wish you would not use
such language. You know I dislike it.” She spoke coldly and sadly,
as one who knows that remonstrance is vain, and is yet constrained to

“Oh, dear! My Lady Proper! can’t bear to hear her husband swear. How
refined we’re getting!”

“There, I did not mean to annoy you,” said she, wearily. “Don’t let us
quarrel, for goodness’ sake.”

He went away noisily, and she sat looking at the carpet wearily. A noise
roused her. She looked up and saw North. Her face beamed instantly. “Ah!
Mr. North, I did not expect you. What brings you here? You’ll stay to
dinner, of course.” (She rang the bell without waiting for a reply.)
“Mr. North dines here; place a chair for him. And have you brought me
the book? I have been looking for it.”

“Here it is,” said North, producing a volume of ‘Monte Cristo’. She
seized the book with avidity, and, after running her eyes over the
pages, turned inquiringly to the fly-leaf.

“It belongs to my predecessor,” said North, as though in answer to her
thought. “He seems to have been a great reader of French. I have found
many French novels of his.”

“I thought clergymen never read French novels,” said Sylvia, with a

“There are French novels and French novels,” said North. “Stupid people
confound the good with the bad. I remember a worthy friend of mine in
Sydney who soundly abused me for reading ‘Rabelais’, and when I asked
him if he had read it, he said that he would sooner cut his hand off
than open it. Admirable judge of its merits!”

“But is this really good? Papa told me it was rubbish.”

“It is a romance, but, in my opinion, a very fine one. The notion of
the sailor being taught in prison by the priest, and sent back into the
world an accomplished gentleman, to work out his vengeance, is superb.”

“No, now--you are telling me,” laughed she; and then, with feminine
perversity, “Go on, what is the story?”

“Only that of an unjustly imprisoned man, who, escaping by a marvel,
and becoming rich--as Dr. Johnson says, ‘beyond the dreams of
avarice’--devotes his life and fortune to revenge himself.”

“And does he?”

“He does, upon all his enemies save one.”

“And he--?” “She--was the wife of his greatest enemy, and Dantès spared
her because he loved her.”

Sylvia turned away her head. “It seems interesting enough,” said she,

There was an awkward silence for a moment, which each seemed afraid to
break. North bit his lips, as though regretting what he had said. Mrs.
Frere beat her foot on the floor, and at length, raising her eyes, and
meeting those of the clergyman fixed upon her face, rose hurriedly, and
went to meet her returning husband.

“Come to dinner, of course!” said Frere, who, though he disliked the
clergyman, yet was glad of anybody who would help him to pass a cheerful

“I came to bring Mrs. Frere a book.”

“Ah! She reads too many books; she’s always reading books. It is not a
good thing to be always poring over print, is it, North? You have some
influence with her; tell her so. Come, I am hungry.”

He spoke with that affectation of jollity with which husbands of his
calibre veil their bad temper.

Sylvia had her defensive armour on in a twinkling. “Of course, you two
men will be against me. When did two men ever disagree upon the subject
of wifely duties? However, I shall read in spite of you. Do you know,
Mr. North, that when I married I made a special agreement with Captain
Frere that I was not to be asked to sew on buttons for him?”

“Indeed!” said North, not understanding this change of humour.

“And she never has from that hour,” said Frere, recovering his suavity
at the sight of food. “I never have a shirt fit to put on. Upon my word,
there are a dozen in the drawer now.”

North perused his plate uncomfortably. A saying of omniscient Balzac
occurred to him. “Le grand écueil est le ridicule,” and his mind began
to sound all sorts of philosophical depths, not of the most clerical

After dinner Maurice launched out into his usual topic--convict
discipline. It was pleasant for him to get a listener; for his wife,
cold and unsympathetic, tacitly declined to enter into his schemes for
the subduing of the refractory villains. “You insisted on coming here,”
 she would say. “I did not wish to come. I don’t like to talk of these
things. Let us talk of something else.” When she adopted this method
of procedure, he had no alternative but to submit, for he was afraid of
her, after a fashion. In this ill-assorted match he was only apparently
the master. He was a physical tyrant. For him, a creature had but to be
weak to be an object of contempt; and his gross nature triumphed over
the finer one of his wife. Love had long since died out of their life.
The young, impulsive, delicate girl, who had given herself to him seven
years before, had been changed into a weary, suffering woman. The wife
is what her husband makes her, and his rude animalism had made her
the nervous invalid she was. Instead of love, he had awakened in her a
distaste which at times amounted to disgust. We have neither the skill
nor the boldness of that profound philosopher whose autopsy of the human
heart awoke North’s contemplation, and we will not presume to set forth
in bare English the story of this marriage of the Minotaur. Let it
suffice to say that Sylvia liked her husband least when he loved her
most. In this repulsion lay her power over him. When the animal and
spiritual natures cross each other, the nobler triumphs in fact if not
in appearance. Maurice Frere, though his wife obeyed him, knew that he
was inferior to her, and was afraid of the statue he had created. She
was ice, but it was the artificial ice that chemists make in the midst
of a furnace. Her coldness was at once her strength and her weakness.
When she chilled him, she commanded him.

Unwitting of the thoughts that possessed his guest, Frere chatted
amicably. North said little, but drank a good deal. The wine, however,
rendered him silent, instead of talkative. He drank that he might forget
unpleasant memories, and drank without accomplishing his object. When
the pair proceeded to the room where Mrs. Frere awaited them, Frere was
boisterously good-humoured, North silently misanthropic.

“Sing something, Sylvia!” said Frere, with the ease of possession, as
one who should say to a living musical-box, “Play something.”

“Oh, Mr. North doesn’t care for music, and I’m not inclined to sing.
Singing seems out of place here.”

“Nonsense,” said Frere. “Why should it be more out of place here than
anywhere else?”

“Mrs. Frere means that mirth is in a manner unsuited to these melancholy
surroundings,” said North, out of his keener sense.

“Melancholy surroundings!” cried Frere, staring in turn at the piano,
the ottomans, and the looking-glass. “Well, the house isn’t as good as
the one in Sydney, but it’s comfortable enough.”

“You don’t understand me, Maurice,” said Sylvia. “This place is very
gloomy to me. The thought of the unhappy men who are ironed and chained
all about us makes me miserable.”

“What stuff!” said Frere, now thoroughly roused. “The ruffians deserve
all they get and more. Why should you make yourself wretched about

“Poor men! How do we know the strength of their temptation, the
bitterness of their repentance?”

“Evil-doers earn their punishment,” says North, in a hard voice, and
taking up a book suddenly. “They must learn to bear it. No repentance
can undo their sin.”

“But surely there is mercy for the worst of evil-doers,” urged Sylvia,

North seemed disinclined or unable to reply, and nodded only.

“Mercy!” cried Frere. “I am not here to be merciful; I am here to keep
these scoundrels in order, and by the Lord that made me, I’ll do it!”

“Maurice, do not talk like that. Think how slight an accident might
have made any one of us like one of these men. What is the matter, Mr.

Mr. North has suddenly turned pale.

“Nothing,” returned the clergyman, gasping--“a sudden faintness!” The
windows were thrown open, and the chaplain gradually recovered, as he
did in Burgess’s parlour, at Port Arthur, seven years ago. “I am liable
to these attacks. A touch of heart disease, I think. I shall have to
rest for a day or so.” “Ah, take a spell,” said Frere; “you overwork

North, sitting, gasping and pale, smiles in a ghastly manner. “I--I
will. If I do not appear for a week, Mrs. Frere, you will know the

“A week! Surely it will not last so long as that!” exclaims Sylvia.

The ambiguous “it” appears to annoy him, for he flushes painfully,
replying, “Sometimes longer. It is, a--um--uncertain,” in a confused and
shame-faced manner, and is luckily relieved by the entry of Jenkins.

“A message from Mr. Troke, sir.”

“Troke! What’s the matter now?”

“Dawes, sir, ‘s been violent and assaulted Mr. Troke. Mr. Troke
said you’d left orders to be told at onst of the insubordination of

“Quite right. Where is he?” “In the cells, I think, sir. They had a hard
fight to get him there, I am told, your honour.”

“Had they? Give my compliments to Mr. Troke, and tell him that I shall
have the pleasure of breaking Mr. Dawes’s spirit to-morrow morning at
nine sharp.”

“Maurice,” said Sylvia, who had been listening to the conversation in
undisguised alarm, “do me a favour? Do not torment this man.”

“What makes you take a fancy to him?” asks her husband, with sudden
unnecessary fierceness.

“Because his is one of the names which have been from my childhood
synonymous with suffering and torture, because whatever wrong he may
have done, his life-long punishment must have in some degree atoned for

She spoke with an eager pity in her face that transfigured it. North,
devouring her with his glance, saw tears in her eyes. “Does this look as
if he had made atonement?” said Frere coarsely, slapping the letter.

“He is a bad man, I know, but--” she passed her hand over her forehead
with the old troubled gesture--“he cannot have been always bad. I think
I have heard some good of him somewhere.”

“Nonsense,” said Frere, rising decisively. “Your fancies mislead you.
Let me hear you no more. The man is rebellious, and must be lashed back
again to his duty. Come, North, we’ll have a nip before you start.”

“Mr. North, will not you plead for me?” suddenly cried poor Sylvia, her
self-possession overthrown. “You have a heart to pity these suffering

But North, who seemed to have suddenly recalled his soul from some place
where it had been wandering, draws himself aside, and with dry lips
makes shift to say, “I cannot interfere with your husband, madam,” and
goes out almost rudely.

“You’ve made old North quite ill,” said Frere, when he by-and-by
returns, hoping by bluff ignoring of roughness on his own part to avoid
reproach from his wife. “He drank half a bottle of brandy to steady
his nerves before he went home, and swung out of the house like one

But Sylvia, occupied with her own thoughts, did not reply.


The insubordination of which Rufus Dawes had been guilty was, in
this instance, insignificant. It was the custom of the newly-fledged
constables of Captain Frere to enter the wards at night, armed with
cutlasses, tramping about, and making a great noise. Mindful of the
report of Pounce, they pulled the men roughly from their hammocks,
examined their persons for concealed tobacco, and compelled them to open
their mouths to see if any was inside. The men in Dawes’s gang--to which
Mr. Troke had an especial objection--were often searched more than once
in a night, searched going to work, searched at meals, searched going
to prayers, searched coming out, and this in the roughest manner. Their
sleep broken, and what little self-respect they might yet presume to
retain harried out of them, the objects of this incessant persecution
were ready to turn upon and kill their tormentors.

The great aim of Troke was to catch Dawes tripping, but the leader of
the “Ring” was far too wary. In vain had Troke, eager to sustain his
reputation for sharpness, burst in upon the convict at all times and
seasons. He had found nothing. In vain had he laid traps for him; in
vain had he “planted” figs of tobacco, and attached long threads to
them, waited in a bush hard by, until the pluck at the end of his line
should give token that the fish had bitten. The experienced “old hand”
 was too acute for him. Filled with disgust and ambition, he determined
upon an ingenious little trick. He was certain that Dawes possessed
tobacco; the thing was to find it upon him. Now, Rufus Dawes, holding
aloof, as was his custom, from the majority of his companions, had made
one friend--if so mindless and battered an old wreck could be called a
friend--Blind Mooney. Perhaps this oddly-assorted friendship was brought
about by two causes--one, that Mooney was the only man on the island who
knew more of the horrors of convictism than the leader of the Ring; the
other, that Mooney was blind, and, to a moody, sullen man, subject
to violent fits of passion and a constant suspicion of all his
fellow-creatures, a blind companion was more congenial than a sharp-eyed

Mooney was one of the “First Fleeters”. He had arrived in Sydney
fifty-seven years before, in the year 1789, and when he was transported
he was fourteen years old. He had been through the whole round of
servitude, had worked as a bondsman, had married, and been “up country”,
had been again sentenced, and was a sort of dismal patriarch of Norfolk
Island, having been there at its former settlement. He had no friends.
His wife was long since dead, and he stated, without contradiction,
that his master, having taken a fancy to her, had despatched the
uncomplaisant husband to imprisonment. Such cases were not uncommon.

One of the many ways in which Rufus Dawes had obtained the affection
of the old blind man was a gift of such fragments of tobacco as he had
himself from time to time secured. Troke knew this; and on the evening
in question hit upon an excellent plan. Admitting himself noiselessly
into the boat-shed, where the gang slept, he crept close to the sleeping
Dawes, and counterfeiting Mooney’s mumbling utterance asked for “some
tobacco”. Rufus Dawes was but half awake, and on repeating his request,
Troke felt something put into his hand. He grasped Dawes’s arm, and
struck a light. He had got his man this time. Dawes had conveyed to his
fancied friend a piece of tobacco almost as big as the top joint of his
little finger. One can understand the feelings of a man entrapped by
such base means. Rufus Dawes no sooner saw the hated face of Warder
Troke peering over his hammock, then he sprang out, and exerting to the
utmost his powerful muscles, knocked Mr. Troke fairly off his legs into
the arms of the in-coming constables. A desperate struggle took place,
at the end of which the convict, overpowered by numbers, was borne
senseless to the cells, gagged, and chained to the ring-bolt on the bare
flags. While in this condition he was savagely beaten by five or six

To this maimed and manacled rebel was the Commandant ushered by Troke
the next morning.

“Ha! ha! my man,” said the Commandant. “Here you are again, you see. How
do you like this sort of thing?”

Dawes, glaring, makes no answer.

“You shall have fifty lashes, my man,” said Frere. “We’ll see how you
feel then!” The fifty were duly administered, and the Commandant called
the next day. The rebel was still mute.

“Give him fifty more, Mr. Troke. We’ll see what he’s made of.”

One hundred and twenty lashes were inflicted in the course of the
morning, but still the sullen convict refused to speak. He was then
treated to fourteen days’ solitary confinement in one of the new cells.
On being brought out and confronted with his tormentor, he merely
laughed. For this he was sent back for another fourteen days; and still
remaining obdurate, was flogged again, and got fourteen days more.
Had the chaplain then visited him, he might have found him open to
consolation, but the chaplain--so it was stated--was sick. When brought
out at the conclusion of his third confinement, he was found to be in so
exhausted a condition that the doctor ordered him to hospital. As soon
as he was sufficiently recovered, Frere visited him, and finding his
“spirit” not yet “broken”, ordered that he should be put to grind maize.
Dawes declined to work. So they chained his hand to one arm of the
grindstone and placed another prisoner at the other arm. As the second
prisoner turned, the hand of Dawes of course revolved.

“You’re not such a pebble as folks seemed to think,” grinned Frere,
pointing to the turning wheel.

Upon which the indomitable poor devil straightened his sorely-tried
muscles, and prevented the wheel from turning at all. Frere gave him
fifty more lashes, and sent him the next day to grind cayenne pepper.
This was a punishment more dreaded by the convicts than any other.
The pungent dust filled their eyes and lungs, causing them the most
excruciating torments. For a man with a raw back the work was one
continued agony. In four days Rufus Dawes, emaciated, blistered,
blinded, broke down.

“For God’s sake, Captain Frere, kill me at once!” he said.

“No fear,” said the other, rejoiced at this proof of his power. “You’ve
given in; that’s all I wanted. Troke, take him off to the hospital.”

When he was in hospital, North visited him.

“I would have come to see you before,” said the clergyman, “but I have
been very ill.”

In truth he looked so. He had had a fever, it seemed, and they had
shaved his beard, and cropped his hair. Dawes could see that the
haggard, wasted man had passed through some agony almost as great as his
own. The next day Frere visited him, complimented him on his courage,
and offered to make him a constable. Dawes turned his scarred back to
his torturer, and resolutely declined to answer.

“I am afraid you have made an enemy of the Commandant,” said North, the
next day. “Why not accept his offer?”

Dawes cast on him a glance of quiet scorn. “And betray my mates? I’m not
one of that sort.”

The clergyman spoke to him of hope, of release, of repentance, and
redemption. The prisoner laughed. “Who’s to redeem me?” he said,
expressing his thoughts in phraseology that to ordinary folks might seem
blasphemous. “It would take a Christ to die again to save such as I.”

North spoke to him of immortality. “There is another life,” said he. “Do
not risk your chance of happiness in it. You have a future to live for,

“I hope not,” said the victim of the “system”. “I want to rest--to rest,
and never to be disturbed again.”

His “spirit” was broken enough by this time. Yet he had resolution
enough to refuse Frere’s repeated offers. “I’ll never ‘jump’ it,” he
said to North, “if they cut me in half first.”

North pityingly implored the stubborn mind to have mercy on the
lacerated body, but without effect. His own wayward heart gave him the
key to read the cipher of this man’s life. “A noble nature ruined,” said
he to himself. “What is the secret of his history?”

Dawes, on his part, seeing how different from other black coats was this
priest--at once so ardent and so gloomy, so stern and so tender--began
to speculate on the cause of his monitor’s sunken cheeks, fiery eyes,
and pre-occupied manner, to wonder what grief inspired those agonized
prayers, those eloquent and daring supplications, which were daily
poured out over his rude bed. So between these two--the priest and the
sinner--was a sort of sympathetic bond.

One day this bond was drawn so close as to tug at both their
heart-strings. The chaplain had a flower in his coat. Dawes eyed it with
hungry looks, and, as the clergyman was about to quit the room, said,
“Mr. North, will you give me that rosebud?” North paused irresolutely,
and finally, as if after a struggle with himself, took it carefully from
his button-hole, and placed it in the prisoner’s brown, scarred hand. In
another instant Dawes, believing himself alone, pressed the gift to
his lips. North returned abruptly, and the eyes of the pair met. Dawes
flushed crimson, but North turned white as death. Neither spoke, but
each was drawn close to the other, since both had kissed the rosebud
plucked by Sylvia’s fingers.


October 21st.--I am safe for another six months if I am careful, for my
last bout lasted longer than I expected. I suppose one of these days I
shall have a paroxysm that will kill me. I shall not regret it.

I wonder if this familiar of mine--I begin to detest the
expression--will accuse me of endeavouring to make a case for myself
if I say that I believe my madness to be a disease? I do believe it.
I honestly can no more help getting drunk than a lunatic can help
screaming and gibbering. It would be different with me, perhaps, were
I a contented man, happily married, with children about me, and family
cares to distract me. But as I am--a lonely, gloomy being, debarred from
love, devoured by spleen, and tortured with repressed desires--I become
a living torment to myself. I think of happier men, with fair wives
and clinging children, of men who are loved and who love, of Frere for
instance--and a hideous wild beast seems to stir within me, a monster,
whose cravings cannot be satisfied, can only be drowned in stupefying

Penitent and shattered, I vow to lead a new life; to forswear spirits,
to drink nothing but water. Indeed, the sight and smell of brandy make
me ill. All goes well for some weeks, when I grow nervous, discontented,
moody. I smoke, and am soothed. But moderation is not to be thought of;
little by little I increase the dose of tobacco. Five pipes a day become
six or seven. Then I count up to ten and twelve, then drop to three or
four, then mount to eleven at a leap; then lose count altogether. Much
smoking excites the brain. I feel clear, bright, gay. My tongue is
parched in the morning, however, and I use liquor to literally “moisten
my clay”. I drink wine or beer in moderation, and all goes well. My
limbs regain their suppleness, my hands their coolness, my brain its
placidity. I begin to feel that I have a will. I am confident, calm,
and hopeful. To this condition succeeds one of the most frightful
melancholy. I remain plunged, for an hour together, in a stupor of
despair. The earth, air, sea, all appear barren, colourless. Life is a
burden. I long to sleep, and sleeping struggle to awake, because of the
awful dreams which flap about me in the darkness. At night I cry, “Would
to God it were morning!” In the morning, “Would to God it were evening!”
 I loathe myself, and all around me. I am nerveless, passionless, bowed
down with a burden like the burden of Saul. I know well what will
restore me to life and ease--restore me, but to cast me back again into
a deeper fit of despair. I drink. One glass--my blood is warmed, my
heart leaps, my hand no longer shakes. Three glasses--I rise with hope
in my soul, the evil spirit flies from me. I continue--pleasing images
flock to my brain, the fields break into flower, the birds into song,
the sea gleams sapphire, the warm heaven laughs. Great God! what man
could withstand a temptation like this?

By an effort, I shake off the desire to drink deeper, and fix my
thoughts on my duties, on my books, on the wretched prisoners. I succeed
perhaps for a time; but my blood, heated by the wine which is at once my
poison and my life, boils in my veins. I drink again, and dream. I feel
all the animal within me stirring. In the day my thoughts wander to all
monstrous imaginings. The most familiar objects suggest to me loathsome
thoughts. Obscene and filthy images surround me. My nature seems
changed. By day I feel myself a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a man
possessed by a devil, who is ready at any moment to break out and tear
him to pieces. At night I become a satyr. While in this torment I at
once hate and fear myself. One fair face is ever before me, gleaming
through my hot dreams like a flying moon in the sultry midnight of a
tropic storm. I dare not trust myself in the presence of those whom
I love and respect, lest my wild thoughts should find vent in wilder
words. I lose my humanity. I am a beast. Out of this depth there is but
one way of escape. Downwards. I must drench the monster I have awakened
until he sleeps again. I drink and become oblivious. In these last
paroxysms there is nothing for me but brandy. I shut myself up alone and
pour down my gullet huge draughts of spirit. It mounts to my brain. I am
a man again! and as I regain my manhood, I topple over--dead drunk.

But the awakening! Let me not paint it. The delirium, the fever, the
self-loathing, the prostration, the despair. I view in the looking-glass
a haggard face, with red eyes. I look down upon shaking hands, flaccid
muscles, and shrunken limbs. I speculate if I shall ever be one of those
grotesque and melancholy beings, with bleared eyes and running noses,
swollen bellies and shrunken legs! Ugh!--it is too likely.

October 22nd.--Have spent the day with Mrs. Frere. She is evidently
eager to leave the place--as eager as I am. Frere rejoices in his
murderous power, and laughs at her expostulations. I suppose men get
tired of their wives. In my present frame of mind I am at a loss to
understand how a man could refuse a wife anything.

I do not think she can possibly care for him. I am not a selfish
sentimentalist, as are the majority of seducers. I would take no woman
away from a husband for mere liking. Yet I think there are cases in
which a man who loved would be justified in making a woman happy at the
risk of his own--soul, I suppose.

Making her happy! Ay, that’s the point. Would she be happy? There are
few men who can endure to be “cut”, slighted, pointed at, and women
suffer more than men in these regards. I, a grizzled man of forty, am
not such an arrant ass as to suppose that a year of guilty delirium
can compensate to a gently-nurtured woman for the loss of that social
dignity which constitutes her best happiness. I am not such an idiot as
to forget that there may come a time when the woman I love may cease to
love me, and having no tie of self-respect, social position, or family
duty, to bind her, may inflict upon her seducer that agony which he has
taught her to inflict upon her husband. Apart from the question of the
sin of breaking the seventh commandment, I doubt if the worst husband
and the most unhappy home are not better, in this social condition
of ours, than the most devoted lover. A strange subject this for a
clergyman to speculate upon! If this diary should ever fall into the
hands of a real God-fearing, honest booby, who never was tempted to sin
by finding that at middle-age he loved the wife of another, how he would
condemn me! And rightly, of course.

November 4th.--In one of the turnkey’s rooms in the new gaol is to be
seen an article of harness, which at first creates surprise to the mind
of the beholder, who considers what animal of the brute creation exists
of so diminutive a size as to admit of its use. On inquiry, it will be
found to be a bridle, perfect in head-band, throat-lash, etc., for a
human being. There is attached to this bridle a round piece of cross
wood, of almost four inches in length, and one and a half in diameter.
This again, is secured to a broad strap of leather to cross the mouth.
In the wood there is a small hole, and, when used, the wood is inserted
in the mouth, the small hole being the only breathing space. This being
secured with the various straps and buckles, a more complete bridle
could not be well imagined.

I was in the gaol last evening at eight o’clock. I had been to see Rufus
Dawes, and returning, paused for a moment to speak to Hailey. Gimblett,
who robbed Mr. Vane of two hundred pounds, was present, he was at
that time a turnkey, holding a third-class pass, and in receipt of
two shillings per diem. Everything was quite still. I could not help
remarking how quiet the gaol was, when Gimblett said, “There’s someone
speaking. I know who that is.” And forthwith took from its pegs one of
the bridles just described, and a pair of handcuffs.

I followed him to one of the cells, which he opened, and therein was
a man lying on his straw mat, undressed, and to all appearance fast
asleep. Gimblett ordered him to get up and dress himself. He did so,
and came into the yard, where Gimblett inserted the iron-wood gag in his
mouth. The sound produced by his breathing through it (which appeared
to be done with great difficulty) resembled a low, indistinct whistle.
Gimblett led him to the lamp-post in the yard, and I saw that the victim
of his wanton tyranny was the poor blind wretch Mooney. Gimblett placed
him with his back against the lamp-post, and his arms being taken round,
were secured by handcuffs round the post. I was told that the old man
was to remain in this condition for three hours. I went at once to the
Commandant. He invited me into his drawing-room--an invitation which
I had the good sense to refuse--but refused to listen to any plea for
mercy. “The old impostor is always making his blindness an excuse for
disobedience,” said he.--And this is her husband.


Rufus Dawes hearing, when “on the chain” the next day, of the wanton
torture of his friend, uttered no threat of vengeance, but groaned only.
“I am not so strong as I was,” said he, as if in apology for his lack of
spirit. “They have unnerved me.” And he looked sadly down at his gaunt
frame and trembling hands.

“I can’t stand it no longer,” said Mooney, grimly. “I’ve spoken to
Bland, and he’s of my mind. You know what we resolved to do. Let’s do

Rufus Dawes stared at the sightless orbs turned inquiringly to his own.
The fingers of his hand, thrust into his bosom, felt a token which lay
there. A shudder thrilled him. “No, no. Not now,” he said.

“You’re not afeard, man?” asked Mooney, stretching out his hand in the
direction of the voice. “You’re not going to shirk?” The other avoided
the touch, and shrank away, still staring. “You ain’t going to back out
after you swored it, Dawes? You’re not that sort. Dawes, speak, man!”

“Is Bland willing?” asked Dawes, looking round, as if to seek some
method of escape from the glare of those unspeculative eyes.

“Ay, and ready. They flogged him again yesterday.”

“Leave it till to-morrow,” said Dawes, at length.

“No; let’s have it over,” urged the old man, with a strange eagerness.
“I’m tired o’ this.”

Rufus Dawes cast a wistful glance towards the wall behind which lay the
house of the Commandant. “Leave it till to-morrow,” he repeated, with
his hand still in his breast.

They had been so occupied in their conversation that neither had
observed the approach of their common enemy. “What are you hiding
there?” cried Frere, seizing Dawes by the wrist. “More tobacco, you
dog?” The hand of the convict, thus suddenly plucked from his bosom,
opened involuntarily, and a withered rose fell to the earth. Frere at
once, indignant and astonished, picked it up. “Hallo! What the devil’s
this? You’ve not been robbing my garden for a nosegay, Jack?” The
Commandant was wont to call all convicts “Jack” in his moments of
facetiousness. It was a little humorous way he had.

Rufus Dawes uttered one dismal cry, and then stood trembling and cowed.
His companions, hearing the exclamation of rage and grief that burst
from him, looked to see him snatch back the flower or perform some act
of violence. Perhaps such was his intention, but he did not execute
it. One would have thought that there was some charm about this rose so
strangely cherished, for he stood gazing at it, as it twirled between
Captain Frere’s strong fingers, as though it fascinated him. “You’re a
pretty man to want a rose for your buttonhole! Are you going out with
your sweetheart next Sunday, Mr. Dawes?” The gang laughed. “How did you
get this?” Dawes was silent. “You’d better tell me.” No answer. “Troke,
let us see if we can’t find Mr. Dawes’s tongue. Pull off your shirt, my
man. I expect that’s the way to your heart--eh, boys?”

At this elegant allusion to the lash, the gang laughed again, and looked
at each other astonished. It seemed possible that the leader of the
“Ring” was going to turn milksop. Such, indeed, appeared to be the
case, for Dawes, trembling and pale, cried, “Don’t flog me again, sir!
I picked it up in the yard. It fell out of your coat one day.” Frere
smiled with an inward satisfaction at the result of his spirit-breaking.
The explanation was probably the correct one. He was in the habit of
wearing flowers in his coat and it was impossible that the convict
should have obtained one by any other means. Had it been a fig of
tobacco now, the astute Commandant knew plenty of men who would have
brought it into the prison. But who would risk a flogging for so useless
a thing as a flower? “You’d better not pick up any more, Jack,” he said.
“We don’t grow flowers for your amusement.” And contemptuously flinging
the rose over the wall, he strode away.

The gang, left to itself for a moment, bestowed their attention upon
Dawes. Large tears were silently rolling down his face, and he stood
staring at the wall as one in a dream. The gang curled their lips. One
fellow, more charitable than the rest, tapped his forehead and
winked. “He’s going cranky,” said this good-natured man, who could not
understand what a sane prisoner had to do with flowers. Dawes recovered
himself, and the contemptuous glances of his companions seemed to bring
back the colour to his cheeks.

“We’ll do it to-night,” whispered he to Mooney, and Mooney smiled with

Since the “tobacco trick”, Mooney and Dawes had been placed in the new
prison, together with a man named Bland, who had already twice failed
to kill himself. When old Mooney, fresh from the torture of the
gag-and-bridle, lamented his hard case, Bland proposed that the three
should put in practice a scheme in which two at least must succeed. The
scheme was a desperate one, and attempted only in the last extremity.
It was the custom of the Ring, however, to swear each of its members
to carry out to the best of his ability this last invention of the
convict-disciplined mind should two other members crave his assistance.

The scheme--like all great ideas--was simplicity itself.

That evening, when the cell-door was securely locked, and the absence
of a visiting gaoler might be counted upon for an hour at least, Bland
produced a straw, and held it out to his companions. Dawes took it, and
tearing it into unequal lengths, handed the fragments to Mooney.

“The longest is the one,” said the blind man. “Come on, boys, and dip in
the lucky-bag!”

It was evident that lots were to be drawn to determine to whom fortune
would grant freedom. The men drew in silence, and then Bland and
Dawes looked at each other. The prize had been left in the bag.
Mooney--fortunate old fellow--retained the longest straw. Bland’s hand
shook as he compared notes with his companion. There was a moment’s
pause, during which the blank eyeballs of the blind man fiercely
searched the gloom, as if in that awful moment they could penetrate it.

“I hold the shortest,” said Dawes to Bland. “‘Tis you that must do it.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Mooney.

Bland, seemingly terrified at the danger which fate had decreed that
he should run, tore the fatal lot into fragments with an oath, and
sat gnawing his knuckles in excess of abject terror. Mooney stretched
himself out upon his plank-bed. “Come on, mate,” he said. Bland extended
a shaking hand, and caught Rufus Dawes by the sleeve.

“You have more nerve than I. You do it.”

“No, no,” said Dawes, almost as pale as his companion. “I’ve run my
chance fairly. ‘Twas your own proposal.” The coward who, confident in
his own luck, would seem to have fallen into the pit he had dug for
others, sat rocking himself to and fro, holding his head in his hands.

“By Heaven, I can’t do it,” he whispered, lifting a white, wet face.

“What are you waiting for?” said fortunate Mooney. “Come on, I’m ready.”

“I--I--thought you might like to--to--pray a bit,” said Bland.

The notion seemed to sober the senses of the old man, exalted too
fiercely by his good fortune.

“Ay!” he said. “Pray! A good thought!” and he knelt down; and
shutting his blind eyes--‘twas as though he was dazzled by some strong
light--unseen by his comrades, moved his lips silently. The silence was
at last broken by the footsteps of the warder in the corridor. Bland
hailed it as a reprieve from whatever act of daring he dreaded. “We must
wait until he goes,” he whispered eagerly. “He might look in.”

Dawes nodded, and Mooney, whose quick ear apprised him very exactly of
the position of the approaching gaoler, rose from his knees radiant. The
sour face of Gimblett appeared at the trap cell-door.

“All right?” he asked, somewhat--so the three thought--less sourly than

“All right,” was the reply, and Mooney added, “Good-night, Mr.

“I wonder what is making the old man so cheerful,” thought Gimblett, as
he got into the next corridor.

The sound of his echoing footsteps had scarcely died away, when upon the
ears of the two less fortunate casters of lots fell the dull sound of
rending woollen. The lucky man was tearing a strip from his blanket. “I
think this will do,” said he, pulling it between his hands to test its
strength. “I am an old man.” It was possible that he debated concerning
the descent of some abyss into which the strip of blanket was to lower
him. “Here, Bland, catch hold. Where are ye?--don’t be faint-hearted,
man. It won’t take ye long.”

It was quite dark now in the cell, but as Bland advanced his face was
like a white mask floating upon the darkness, it was so ghastly pale.
Dawes pressed his lucky comrade’s hand, and withdrew to the farthest
corner. Bland and Mooney were for a few moments occupied with the
rope--doubtless preparing for escape by means of it. The silence
was broken only by the convulsive jangling of Bland’s irons--he was
shuddering violently. At last Mooney spoke again, in strangely soft and
subdued tones.

“Dawes, lad, do you think there is a Heaven?”

“I know there is a Hell,” said Dawes, without turning his face.

“Ay, and a Heaven, lad. I think I shall go there. You will, old chap,
for you’ve been good to me--God bless you, you’ve been very good to me.”

          *          *          *          *          *

When Troke came in the morning he saw what had occurred at a glance, and
hastened to remove the corpse of the strangled Mooney.

“We drew lots,” said Rufus Dawes, pointing to Bland, who crouched in the
corner farthest from his victim, “and it fell upon him to do it. I’m the

“They’ll hang you for all that,” said Troke.

“I hope so,” said Rufus Dawes.

The scheme of escape hit upon by the convict intellect was simply this.
Three men being together, lots were drawn to determine whom should be
murdered. The drawer of the longest straw was the “lucky” man. He was
killed. The drawer of the next longest straw was the murderer. He was
hanged. The unlucky one was the witness. He had, of course, an excellent
chance of being hung also, but his doom was not so certain, and he
therefore looked upon himself as unfortunate.


John Rex found the “George” disagreeably prepared for his august
arrival. Obsequious waiters took his dressing-bag and overcoat, the
landlord himself welcomed him at the door. Two naval gentlemen came
out of the coffee-room to stare at him. “Have you any more luggage,
Mr. Devine?” asked the landlord, as he flung open the door of the best
drawing-room. It was awkwardly evident that his wife had no notion of
suffering him to hide his borrowed light under a bushel.

A supper-table laid for two people gleamed bright from the cheeriest
corner. A fire crackled beneath the marble mantelshelf. The latest
evening paper lay upon a chair; and, brushing it carelessly with her
costly dress, the woman he had so basely deserted came smiling to meet

“Well, Mr. Richard Devine,” said she, “you did not expect to see me
again, did you?”

Although, on his journey down, he had composed an elaborate speech
wherewith to greet her, this unnatural civility dumbfounded him. “Sarah!
I never meant to--”

“Hush, my dear Richard--it must be Richard now, I suppose. This is not
the time for explanations. Besides, the waiter might hear you. Let us
have some supper; you must be hungry, I am sure.” He advanced to the
table mechanically. “But how fat you are!” she continued. “Too good
living, I suppose. You were not so fat at Port Ar---Oh, I forgot, my
dear! Come and sit down. That’s right. I have told them all that I am
your wife, for whom you have sent. They regard me with some interest and
respect in consequence. Don’t spoil their good opinion of me.”

He was about to utter an imprecation, but she stopped him by a glance.
“No bad language, John, or I shall ring for a constable. Let us
understand one another, my dear. You may be a very great man to other
people, but to me you are merely my runaway husband--an escaped convict.
If you don’t eat your supper civilly, I shall send for the police.”

“Sarah!” he burst out, “I never meant to desert you. Upon my word. It is
all a mistake. Let me explain.”

“There is no need for explanations yet, Jack--I mean Richard. Have your
supper. Ah! I know what you want.”

She poured out half a tumbler of brandy, and gave it to him. He took the
glass from her hand, drank the contents, and then, as though warmed by
the spirit, laughed. “What a woman you are, Sarah. I have been a great
brute, I confess.”

“You have been an ungrateful villain,” said she, with sudden passion, “a
hardened, selfish villain.”

“But, Sarah--”

“Don’t touch me!” “‘Pon my word, you are a fine creature, and I was a
fool to leave you.” The compliment seemed to soothe her, for her tone
changed somewhat. “It was a wicked, cruel act, Jack. You whom I saved
from death--whom I nursed--whom I enriched. It was the act of a coward.”

“I admit it. It was.” “You admit it. Have you no shame then? Have you no
pity for me for what I have suffered all these years?”

“I don’t suppose you cared much.”

“Don’t you? You never thought about me at all. I have cared this much,
John Rex--bah! the door is shut close enough--that I have spent a
fortune in hunting you down; and now I have found you, I will make you
suffer in your turn.”

He laughed again, but uneasily. “How did you discover me?”

With a readiness which showed that she had already prepared an answer to
the question, she unlocked a writing-case, which was on the side table,
and took from it a newspaper. “By one of those strange accidents which
are the ruin of men like you. Among the papers sent to the overseer from
his English friends was this one.”

She held out an illustrated journal--a Sunday organ of sporting
opinion--and pointed to a portrait engraved on the centre page. It
represented a broad-shouldered, bearded man, dressed in the fashion
affected by turfites and lovers of horse-flesh, standing beside a
pedestal on which were piled a variety of racing cups and trophies. John
Rex read underneath this work of art the name,


“And you recognized me?”

“The portrait was sufficiently like you to induce me to make inquiries,
and when I found that Mr. Richard Devine had suddenly returned from a
mysterious absence of fourteen years, I set to work in earnest. I have
spent a deal of money, Jack, but I’ve got you!”

“You have been clever in finding me out; I give you credit for that.”

“There is not a single act of your life, John Rex, that I do not know,”
 she continued, with heat. “I have traced you from the day you stole out
of my house until now. I know your continental trips, your journeyings
here and there in search of a lost clue. I pieced together the puzzle,
as you have done, and I know that, by some foul fortune, you have stolen
the secret of a dead man to ruin an innocent and virtuous family.”

“Hullo! hullo!” said John Rex. “Since when have you learnt to talk of

“It is well to taunt, but you have got to the end of your tether now,
Jack. I have communicated with the woman whose son’s fortune you have
stolen. I expect to hear from Lady Devine in a day or so.”

“Well--and when you hear?”

“I shall give back the fortune at the price of her silence!”

“Ho! ho! Will you?”

“Yes; and if my husband does not come back and live with me quietly, I
shall call the police.”

John Rex sprang up. “Who will believe you, idiot?” he cried. “I’ll have
you sent to gaol as an impostor.”

“You forget, my dear,” she returned, playing coquettishly with her
rings, and glancing sideways as she spoke, “that you have already
acknowledged me as your wife before the landlord and the servants. It
is too late for that sort of thing. Oh, my dear Jack, you think you are
very clever, but I am as clever as you.”

Smothering a curse, he sat down beside her. “Listen, Sarah. What is the
use of fighting like a couple of children. I am rich--”

“So am I.” “Well, so much the better. We will join our riches together.
I admit that I was a fool and a cur to leave you; but I played for a
great stake. The name of Richard Devine was worth nearly half a million
in money. It is mine. I won it. Share it with me! Sarah, you and I
defied the world years ago. Don’t let us quarrel now. I was ungrateful.
Forget it. We know by this time that we are not either of us angels.
We started in life together--do you remember, Sally, when I met you
first?--determined to make money. We have succeeded. Why then set to
work to destroy each other? You are handsomer than ever, I have not lost
my wits. Is there any need for you to tell the world that I am a runaway
convict, and that you are--well, no, of course there is no need. Kiss
and be friends, Sarah. I would have escaped you if I could, I admit. You
have found me out. I accept the position. You claim me as your husband.
You say you are Mrs. Richard Devine. Very well, I admit it. You have all
your life wanted to be a great lady. Now is your chance!” Much as she
had cause to hate him, well as she knew his treacherous and ungrateful
character, little as she had reason to trust him, her strange and
distempered affection for the scoundrel came upon her again with
gathering strength. As she sat beside him, listening to the familiar
tones of the voice she had learned to love, greedily drinking in the
promise of a future fidelity which she was well aware was made but to
be broken, her memory recalled the past days of trust and happiness,
and her woman’s fancy once more invested the selfish villain she had
reclaimed with those attributes which had enchained her wilful and
wayward affections. The unselfish devotion which had marked her conduct
to the swindler and convict was, indeed, her one redeeming virtue; and
perhaps she felt dimly--poor woman--that it were better for her to cling
to that, if she lost all the world beside. Her wish for vengeance melted
under the influence of these thoughts. The bitterness of despised
love, the shame and anger of desertion, ingratitude, and betrayal, all
vanished. The tears of a sweet forgiveness trembled in her eyes, the
unreasoning love of her sex--faithful to nought but love, and faithful
to love in death--shook in her voice. She took his coward hand and
kissed it, pardoning all his baseness with the sole reproach, “Oh, John,
John, you might have trusted me after all?”

John Rex had conquered, and he smiled as he embraced her. “I wish I
had,” said he; “it would have saved me many regrets; but never mind. Sit
down; now we will have supper.”

“Your preference has one drawback, Sarah,” he said, when the meal was
concluded, and the two sat down to consider their immediate course of
action, “it doubles the chance of detection.”

“How so?”

“People have accepted me without inquiry, but I am afraid not without
dislike. Mr. Francis Wade, my uncle, never liked me; and I fear I have
not played my cards well with Lady Devine. When they find I have a
mysterious wife their dislike will become suspicion. Is it likely that I
should have been married all these years and not have informed them?”

“Very unlikely,” returned Sarah calmly, “and that is just the reason why
you have not been married all these years. Really,” she added, with
a laugh, “the male intellect is very dull. You have already told ten
thousand lies about this affair, and yet you don’t see your way to tell
one more.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, my dear Richard, you surely cannot have forgotten that you married
me last year on the Continent? By the way, it was last year that you
were there, was it not? I am the daughter of a poor clergyman of the
Church of England; name--anything you please--and you met me--where
shall we say? Baden, Aix, Brussels? Cross the Alps, if you like, dear,
and say Rome.” John Rex put his hand to his head. “Of course--I am
stupid,” said he. “I have not been well lately. Too much brandy, I

“Well, we will alter all that,” she returned with a laugh, which her
anxious glance at him belied. “You are going to be domestic now, Jack--I
mean Dick.”

“Go on,” said he impatiently. “What then?”

“Then, having settled these little preliminaries, you take me up to
London and introduce me to your relatives and friends.”

He started. “A bold game.”

“Bold! Nonsense! The only safe one. People don’t, as a rule, suspect
unless one is mysterious. You must do it; I have arranged for your doing
it. The waiters here all know me as your wife. There is not the least
danger--unless, indeed, you are married already?” she added, with a
quick and angry suspicion.

“You need not be alarmed. I was not such a fool as to marry another
woman while you were alive--had I even seen one I would have cared to
marry. But what of Lady Devine? You say you have told her.”

“I have told her to communicate with Mrs. Carr, Post Office, Torquay,
in order to hear something to her advantage. If you had been rebellious,
John, the ‘something’ would have been a letter from me telling her who
you really are. Now you have proved obedient, the ‘something’ will be
a begging letter of a sort which she has already received hundreds, and
which in all probability she will not even answer. What do you think of
that, Mr. Richard Devine?”

“You deserve success, Sarah,” said the old schemer, in genuine
admiration. “By Jove, this is something like the old days, when we were
Mr. and Mrs. Crofton.”

“Or Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, eh, John?” she said, with as much tenderness
in her voice as though she had been a virtuous matron recalling her
honeymoon. “That was an unlucky name, wasn’t it, dear? You should have
taken my advice there.” And immersed in recollection of their past
rogueries, the worthy pair pensively smiled. Rex was the first to awake
from that pleasant reverie.

“I will be guided by you, then,” he said. “What next?”

“Next--for, as you say, my presence doubles the danger--we will contrive
to withdraw quietly from England. The introduction to your mother over,
and Mr. Francis disposed of, we will go to Hampstead, and live there for
a while. During that time you must turn into cash as much property as
you dare. We will then go abroad for the ‘season’--and stop there. After
a year or so on the Continent you can write to our agent to sell more
property; and, finally, when we are regarded as permanent absentees--and
three or four years will bring that about--we will get rid of
everything, and slip over to America. Then you can endow a charity
if you like, or build a church to the memory of the man you have

John Rex burst into a laugh. “An excellent plan. I like the idea of the
charity--the Devine Hospital, eh?”

“By the way, how did you find out the particulars of this man’s life. He
was burned in the Hydaspes, wasn’t he?”

“No,” said Rex, with an air of pride. “He was transported in the Malabar
under the name of Rufus Dawes. You remember him. It is a long story. The
particulars weren’t numerous, and if the old lady had been half sharp
she would have bowled me out. But the fact was she wanted to find the
fellow alive, and was willing to take a good deal on trust. I’ll tell
you all about it another time. I think I’ll go to bed now; I’m tired,
and my head aches as though it would split.”

“Then it is decided that you follow my directions?”


She rose and placed her hand on the bell. “What are you going to do?” he
said uneasily.

“I am going to do nothing. You are going to telegraph to your servants
to have the house in London prepared for your wife, who will return with
you the day after to-morrow.”

John Rex stayed her hand with a sudden angry gesture. “This is all
devilish fine,” he said, “but suppose it fails?”

“That is your affair, John. You need not go on with this business at
all, unless you like. I had rather you didn’t.”

“What the deuce am I to do, then?”

“I am not as rich as you are, but, with my station and so on, I am worth
seven thousand a year. Come back to Australia with me, and let these
poor people enjoy their own again. Ah, John, it is the best thing to do,
believe me. We can afford to be honest now.”

“A fine scheme!” cried he. “Give up half a million of money, and go back
to Australia! You must be mad!”

“Then telegraph.”

“But, my dear--”

“Hush, here’s the waiter.”

As he wrote, John Rex felt gloomily that, though he had succeeded in
recalling her affection, that affection was as imperious as of yore.


December 7th.--I have made up my mind to leave this place, to bury
myself again in the bush, I suppose, and await extinction. I try to
think that the reason for this determination is the frightful condition
of misery existing among the prisoners; that because I am daily
horrified and sickened by scenes of torture and infamy, I decide to go
away; that, feeling myself powerless to save others, I wish to spare
myself. But in this journal, in which I bind myself to write nothing
but truth, I am forced to confess that these are not the reasons. I will
write the reason plainly: “I covet my neighbour’s wife.” It does not
look well thus written. It looks hideous. In my own breast I find
numberless excuses for my passion. I said to myself, “My neighbour does
not love his wife, and her unloved life is misery. She is forced to live
in the frightful seclusion of this accursed island, and she is dying for
want of companionship. She feels that I understand and appreciate her,
that I could love her as she deserves, that I could render her happy. I
feel that I have met the only woman who has power to touch my heart, to
hold me back from the ruin into which I am about to plunge, to make
me useful to my fellows--a man, and not a drunkard.” Whispering these
conclusions to myself, I am urged to brave public opinion, and make two
lives happy. I say to myself, or rather my desires say to me--“What
sin is there in this? Adultery? No; for a marriage without love is
the coarsest of all adulteries. What tie binds a man and woman
together--that formula of license pronounced by the priest, which the
law has recognized as a ‘legal bond’? Surely not this only, for
marriage is but a partnership--a contract of mutual fidelity--and in
all contracts the violation of the terms of the agreement by one of the
contracting persons absolves the other. Mrs. Frere is then absolved, by
her husband’s act. I cannot but think so. But is she willing to risk the
shame of divorce or legal offence? Perhaps. Is she fitted by temperament
to bear such a burden of contumely as must needs fall upon her? Will
she not feel disgust at the man who entrapped her into shame? Do not the
comforts which surround her compensate for the lack of affections?” And
so the torturing catechism continues, until I am driven mad with doubt,
love, and despair.

Of course I am wrong; of course I outrage my character as a priest; of
course I endanger--according to the creed I teach--my soul and hers. But
priests, unluckily, have hearts and passions as well as other men. Thank
God, as yet, I have never expressed my madness in words. What a fate is
mine! When I am in her presence I am in torment; when I am absent from
her my imagination pictures her surrounded by a thousand graces that are
not hers, but belong to all the women of my dreams--to Helen, to Juliet,
to Rosalind. Fools that we are of our own senses! When I think of her I
blush; when I hear her name my heart leaps, and I grow pale. Love! What
is the love of two pure souls, scarce conscious of the Paradise into
which they have fallen, to this maddening delirium? I can understand the
poison of Circe’s cup; it is the sweet-torment of a forbidden love like
mine! Away gross materialism, in which I have so long schooled myself!
I, who laughed at passion as the outcome of temperament and easy
living--I, who thought in my intellect, to sound all the depths and
shoals of human feeling--I, who analysed my own soul--scoffed at my own
yearnings for an immortality--am forced to deify the senseless power of
my creed, and believe in God, that I may pray to Him. I know now why men
reject the cold impersonality that reason tells us rules the world--it
is because they love. To die, and be no more; to die, and rendered into
dust, be blown about the earth; to die and leave our love defenceless
and forlorn, till the bright soul that smiled to ours is smothered in
the earth that made it! No! To love is life eternal. God, I believe in
Thee! Aid me! Pity me! Sinful wretch that I am, to have denied Thee! See
me on my knees before Thee! Pity me, or let me die!

December 9th.--I have been visiting the two condemned prisoners, Dawes
and Bland, and praying with them. O Lord, let me save one soul that may
plead with Thee for mine! Let me draw one being alive out of this pit! I
weep--I weary Thee with my prayers, O Lord! Look down upon me. Grant me
a sign. Thou didst it in old times to men who were not more fervent
in their supplications than am I. So says Thy Book. Thy Book which I
believe--which I believe. Grant me a sign--one little sign, O Lord!--I
will not see her. I have sworn it. Thou knowest my grief--my agony--my
despair. Thou knowest why I love her. Thou knowest how I strive to make
her hate me. Is that not a sacrifice? I am so lonely--a lonely man, with
but one creature that he loves--yet, what is mortal love to Thee? Cruel
and implacable, Thou sittest in the heavens men have built for Thee, and
scornest them! Will not all the burnings and slaughters of the saints
appease Thee? Art Thou not sated with blood and tears, O God of
vengeance, of wrath, and of despair! Kind Christ, pity me. Thou
wilt--for Thou wast human! Blessed Saviour, at whose feet knelt the
Magdalen! Divinity, who, most divine in Thy despair, called on Thy cruel
God to save Thee--by the memory of that moment when Thou didst deem
Thyself forsaken--forsake not me! Sweet Christ, have mercy on Thy sinful

I can write no more. I will pray to Thee with my lips. I will shriek my
supplications to Thee. I will call upon Thee so loud that all the world
shall hear me, and wonder at Thy silence--unjust and unmerciful God!

December 14th.--What blasphemies are these which I have uttered in my
despair? Horrible madness that has left me prostrate, to what heights of
frenzy didst thou not drive my soul! Like him of old time, who wandered
among the tombs, shrieking and tearing himself, I have been possessed
by a devil. For a week I have been unconscious of aught save torture.
I have gone about my daily duties as one who in his dreams repeats the
accustomed action of the day, and knows it not. Men have looked at me
strangely. They look at me strangely now. Can it be that my disease of
drunkenness has become the disease of insanity? Am I mad, or do I but
verge on madness? O Lord, whom in my agonies I have confessed, leave me
my intellect--let me not become a drivelling spectacle for the curious
to point at or to pity! At least, in mercy, spare me a little. Let not
my punishment overtake me here. Let her memories of me be clouded with
a sense of my rudeness or my brutality; let me for ever seem to her
the ungrateful ruffian I strive to show myself--but let her not behold


On or about the 8th of December, Mrs. Frere noticed a sudden and
unaccountable change in the manner of the chaplain. He came to her one
afternoon, and, after talking for some time, in a vague and unconnected
manner, about the miseries of the prison and the wretched condition of
some of the prisoners, began to question her abruptly concerning Rufus

“I do not wish to think of him,” said she, with a shudder. “I have the
strangest, the most horrible dreams about him. He is a bad man. He tried
to murder me when a child, and had it not been for my husband, he would
have done so. I have only seen him once since then--at Hobart Town, when
he was taken.” “He sometimes speaks to me of you,” said North, eyeing
her. “He asked me once to give him a rose plucked in your garden.”

Sylvia turned pale. “And you gave it him?”

“Yes, I gave it him. Why not?”

“It was valueless, of course, but still--to a convict?”

“You are not angry?”

“Oh, no! Why should I be angry?” she laughed constrainedly. “It was a
strange fancy for the man to have, that’s all.”

“I suppose you would not give me another rose, if I asked you.”

“Why not?” said she, turning away uneasily. “You? You are a gentleman.”

“Not I--you don’t know me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that it would be better for you if you had never seen me.”

“Mr. North!” Terrified at the wild gleam in his eyes, she had risen
hastily. “You are talking very strangely.”

“Oh, don’t be alarmed, madam. I am not drunk!”--he pronounced the word
with a fierce energy. “I had better leave you. Indeed, I think the less
we see of each other the better.”

Deeply wounded and astonished at this extraordinary outburst, Sylvia
allowed him to stride away without a word. She saw him pass through the
garden and slam the little gate, but she did not see the agony on his
face, or the passionate gesture with which--when out of eyeshot--he
lamented the voluntary abasement of himself before her. She thought
over his conduct with growing fear. It was not possible that he was
intoxicated--such a vice was the last one of which she could have
believed him guilty. It was more probable that some effects of the
fever, which had recently confined him to his house, yet lingered.
So she thought; and, thinking, was alarmed to realize of how much
importance the well-being of this man was to her.

The next day he met her, and, bowing, passed swiftly. This pained her.
Could she have offended him by some unlucky word? She made Maurice ask
him to dinner, and, to her astonishment, he pleaded illness as an excuse
for not coming. Her pride was hurt, and she sent him back his books and
music. A curiosity that was unworthy of her compelled her to ask the
servant who carried the parcel what the clergyman had said. “He said
nothing--only laughed.” Laughed! In scorn of her foolishness! His
conduct was ungentlemanly and intemperate. She would forget, as speedily
as possible, that such a being had ever existed. This resolution taken,
she was unusually patient with her husband.

So a week passed, and Mr. North did not return. Unluckily for the poor
wretch, the very self-sacrifice he had made brought about the precise
condition of things which he was desirous to avoid. It is possible that,
had the acquaintance between them continued on the same staid footing,
it would have followed the lot of most acquaintanceships of the
kind--other circumstances and other scenes might have wiped out the
memory of all but common civilities between them, and Sylvia might never
have discovered that she had for the chaplain any other feeling but
that of esteem. But the very fact of the sudden wrenching away of her
soul-companion, showed her how barren was the solitary life to which
she had been fated. Her husband, she had long ago admitted, with bitter
self-communings, was utterly unsuited to her. She could find in
his society no enjoyment, and for the sympathy which she needed was
compelled to turn elsewhere. She understood that his love for her had
burnt itself out--she confessed, with intensity of self-degradation,
that his apparent affection had been born of sensuality, and had
perished in the fires it had itself kindled. Many women have, unhappily,
made some such discovery as this, but for most women there is some
distracting occupation. Had it been Sylvia’s fate to live in the midst
of fashion and society, she would have found relief in the conversation
of the witty, or the homage of the distinguished. Had fortune cast her
lot in a city, Mrs. Frere might have become one of those charming women
who collect around their supper-tables whatever of male intellect is
obtainable, and who find the husband admirably useful to open his own
champagne bottles. The celebrated women who have stepped out of
their domestic circles to enchant or astonish the world, have almost
invariably been cursed with unhappy homes. But poor Sylvia was not
destined to this fortune. Cast back upon herself, she found no surcease
of pain in her own imaginings, and meeting with a man sufficiently her
elder to encourage her to talk, and sufficiently clever to induce her
to seek his society and his advice, she learnt, for the first time, to
forget her own griefs; for the first time she suffered her nature
to expand under the sun of a congenial influence. This sun, suddenly
withdrawn, her soul, grown accustomed to the warmth and light, shivered
at the gloom, and she looked about her in dismay at the dull and barren
prospect of life which lay before her. In a word, she found that the
society of North had become so far necessary to her that to be deprived
of it was a grief--notwithstanding that her husband remained to console

After a week of such reflections, the barrenness of life grew
insupportable to her, and one day she came to Maurice and begged to be
sent back to Hobart Town. “I cannot live in this horrible island,”
 she said. “I am getting ill. Let me go to my father for a few months,
Maurice.” Maurice consented. His wife was looking ill, and Major Vickers
was an old man--a rich old man--who loved his only daughter. It was not
undesirable that Mrs. Frere should visit her father; indeed, so little
sympathy was there between the pair that, the first astonishment over,
Maurice felt rather glad to get rid of her for a while. “You can go back
in the Lady Franklin if you like, my dear,” he said. “I expect her every
day.” At this decision--much to his surprise--she kissed him with more
show of affection than she had manifested since the death of her child.

The news of the approaching departure became known, but still North did
not make his appearance. Had it not been a step beneath the dignity of
a woman, Mrs. Frere would have gone herself and asked him the meaning of
his unaccountable rudeness, but there was just sufficient morbidity in
the sympathy she had for him to restrain her from an act which a young
girl--though not more innocent--would have dared without hesitation.
Calling one day upon the wife of the surgeon, however, she met the
chaplain face to face, and with the consummate art of acting which
most women possess, rallied him upon his absence from her house. The
behaviour of the poor devil, thus stabbed to the heart, was curious. He
forgot gentlemanly behaviour and the respect due to a woman, flung one
despairingly angry glance at her and abruptly retired. Sylvia flushed
crimson, and endeavoured to excuse North on account of his recent
illness. The surgeon’s wife looked askance, and turned the conversation.
The next time Sylvia bowed to this lady, she got a chilling salute in
return that made her blood boil. “I wonder how I have offended Mrs.
Field?” she asked Maurice. “She almost cut me to-day.” “Oh, the old
cat!” returned Maurice. “What does it matter if she did?” However, a few
days afterwards, it seemed that it did matter, for Maurice called upon
Field and conversed seriously with him. The issue of the conversation
being reported to Mrs. Frere, the lady wept indignant tears of wounded
pride and shame. It appeared that North had watched her out of the
house, returned, and related--in a “stumbling, hesitating way”, Mrs.
Field said--how he disliked Mrs. Frere, how he did not want to visit
her, and how flighty and reprehensible such conduct was in a married
woman of her rank and station. This act of baseness--or profound
nobleness--achieved its purpose. Sylvia noticed the unhappy priest no
more. Between the Commandant and the chaplain now arose a coolness, and
Frere set himself, by various petty tyrannies, to disgust North, and
compel him to a resignation of his office. The convict-gaolers speedily
marked the difference in the treatment of the chaplain, and their
demeanour changed. For respect was substituted insolence; for alacrity,
sullenness; for prompt obedience, impertinent intrusion. The men whom
North favoured were selected as special subjects for harshness, and for
a prisoner to be seen talking to the clergyman was sufficient to ensure
for him a series of tyrannies. The result of this was that North saw the
souls he laboured to save slipping back into the gulf; beheld the men he
had half won to love him meet him with averted faces; discovered that
to show interest in a prisoner was to injure him, not to serve him. The
unhappy man grew thinner and paler under this ingenious torment. He had
deprived himself of that love which, guilty though it might be, was,
nevertheless, the only true love he had known; and he found that, having
won this victory, he had gained the hatred of all living creatures with
whom he came in contact. The authority of the Commandant was so supreme
that men lived but by the breath of his nostrils. To offend him was to
perish and the man whom the Commandant hated must be hated also by all
those who wished to exist in peace. There was but one being who was not
to be turned from his allegiance--the convict murderer, Rufus Dawes, who
awaited death. For many days he had remained mute, broken down beneath
his weight of sorrow or of sullenness; but North, bereft of other love
and sympathy, strove with that fighting soul, if haply he might win
it back to peace. It seemed to the fancy of the priest--a fancy
distempered, perhaps, by excess, or superhumanly exalted by mental
agony--that this convict, over whom he had wept, was given to him as a
hostage for his own salvation. “I must save him or perish,” he said. “I
must save him, though I redeem him with my own blood.”

Frere, unable to comprehend the reason of the calmness with which the
doomed felon met his taunts and torments, thought that he was shamming
piety to gain some indulgence of meat and drink, and redoubled his
severity. He ordered Dawes to be taken out to work just before the hour
at which the chaplain was accustomed to visit him. He pretended that
the man was “dangerous”, and directed a gaoler to be present at all
interviews, “lest the chaplain might be murdered”. He issued an order
that all civil officers should obey the challenges of convicts acting as
watchmen; and North, coming to pray with his penitent, would be stopped
ten times by grinning felons, who, putting their faces within a foot
of his, would roar out, “Who goes there?” and burst out laughing at the
reply. Under pretence of watching more carefully over the property of
the chaplain, he directed that any convict, acting as constable, might
at any time “search everywhere and anywhere” for property supposed to be
in the possession of a prisoner. The chaplain’s servant was a prisoner,
of course; and North’s drawers were ransacked twice in one week by
Troke. North met these impertinences with unruffled brow, and Frere
could in no way account for his obstinacy, until the arrival of the Lady
Franklin explained the chaplain’s apparent coolness. He had sent in his
resignation two months before, and the saintly Meekin had been appointed
in his stead. Frere, unable to attack the clergyman, and indignant at
the manner in which he had been defeated, revenged himself upon Rufus


The method and manner of Frere’s revenge became a subject of whispered
conversation on the island. It was reported that North had been
forbidden to visit the convict, but that he had refused to accept the
prohibition, and by a threat of what he would do when the returning
vessel had landed him in Hobart Town, had compelled the Commandant to
withdraw his order. The Commandant, however, speedily discovered in
Rufus Dawes signs of insubordination, and set to work again to reduce
still further the “spirit” he had so ingeniously “broken”. The unhappy
convict was deprived of food, was kept awake at nights, was put to the
hardest labour, was loaded with the heaviest irons. Troke, with devilish
malice, suggested that, if the tortured wretch would decline to see the
chaplain, some amelioration of his condition might be effected; but his
suggestions were in vain. Fully believing that his death was certain,
Dawes clung to North as the saviour of his agonized soul, and rejected
all such insidious overtures. Enraged at this obstinacy, Frere sentenced
his victim to the “spread eagle” and the “stretcher”.

Now the rumour of the obduracy of this undaunted convict who had been
recalled to her by the clergyman at their strange interview, had reached
Sylvia’s ears. She had heard gloomy hints of the punishments inflicted
on him by her husband’s order, and as--constantly revolving in her
mind was that last conversation with the chaplain--she wondered at the
prisoner’s strange fancy for a flower, her brain began to thrill with
those undefined and dreadful memories which had haunted her childhood.
What was the link between her and this murderous villain? How came it
that she felt at times so strange a sympathy for his fate, and that
he--who had attempted her life--cherished so tender a remembrance of her
as to beg for a flower which her hand had touched?

She questioned her husband concerning the convict’s misdoings, but with
the petulant brutality which he invariably displayed when the name
of Rufus Dawes intruded itself into their conversation, Maurice Frere
harshly refused to satisfy her. This but raised her curiosity higher.
She reflected how bitter he had always seemed against this man--she
remembered how, in the garden at Hobart Town, the hunted wretch had
caught her dress with words of assured confidence--she recollected
the fragment of cloth he passionately flung from him, and which her
affianced lover had contemptuously tossed into the stream. The name
of “Dawes”, detested as it had become to her, bore yet some strange
association of comfort and hope. What secret lurked behind the twilight
that had fallen upon her childish memories? Deprived of the advice
of North--to whom, a few weeks back, she would have confided her
misgivings--she resolved upon a project that, for her, was most
distasteful. She would herself visit the gaol and judge how far the
rumours of her husband’s cruelty were worthy of credit.

One sultry afternoon, when the Commandant had gone on a visit of
inspection, Troke, lounging at the door of the New Prison, beheld, with
surprise, the figure of the Commandant’s lady.

“What is it, mam?” he asked, scarcely able to believe his eyes.

“I want to see the prisoner Dawes.”

Troke’s jaw fell.

“See Dawes?” he repeated.

“Yes. Where is he?”

Troke was preparing a lie. The imperious voice, and the clear, steady
gaze, confused him.

 “He’s here.”

“Let me see him.”

“He’s--he’s under punishment, mam.”

“What do you mean? Are they flogging him?”

“No; but he’s dangerous, mam. The Commandant--”

“Do you mean to open the door or not, Mr. Troke?”

Troke grew more confused. It was evident that he was most unwilling to
open the door. “The Commandant has given strict orders--”

“Do you wish me to complain to the Commandant?” cries Sylvia, with a
touch of her old spirit, and jumped hastily at the conclusion that
the gaolers were, perhaps, torturing the convict for their own
entertainment. “Open the door at once!--at once!”

Thus commanded, Troke, with a hasty growl of its “being no affair of
his, and he hoped Mrs. Frere would tell the captain how it happened”
 flung open the door of a cell on the right hand of the doorway. It was
so dark that, at first, Sylvia could distinguish nothing but the outline
of a framework, with something stretched upon it that resembled a human
body. Her first thought was that the man was dead, but this was not
so--he groaned. Her eyes, accustoming themselves to the gloom, began to
see what the “punishment” was. Upon the floor was placed an iron frame
about six feet long, and two and a half feet wide, with round iron bars,
placed transversely, about twelve inches apart. The man she came to
seek was bound in a horizontal position upon this frame, with his neck
projecting over the end of it. If he allowed his head to hang, the blood
rushed to his brain, and suffocated him, while the effort to keep it
raised strained every muscle to agony pitch. His face was purple, and he
foamed at the mouth. Sylvia uttered a cry. “This is no punishment; it’s
murder! Who ordered this?”

“The Commandant,” said Troke sullenly.

“I don’t believe it. Loose him!”

“I daren’t mam,” said Troke.

“Loose him, I say! Hailey!--you, sir, there!” The noise had brought
several warders to the spot. “Do you hear me? Do you know who I am?
Loose him, I say!” In her eagerness and compassion she was on her knees
by the side of the infernal machine, plucking at the ropes with her
delicate fingers. “Wretches, you have cut his flesh! He is dying! Help!
You have killed him!” The prisoner, in fact, seeing this angel of mercy
stooping over him, and hearing close to him the tones of a voice that
for seven years he had heard but in his dreams, had fainted. Troke and
Hailey, alarmed by her vehemence, dragged the stretcher out into the
light, and hastily cut the lashings. Dawes rolled off like a log, and
his head fell against Mrs. Frere. Troke roughly pulled him aside, and
called for water. Sylvia, trembling with sympathy and pale with passion,
turned upon the crew. “How long has he been like this?”

“An hour,” said Troke.

“A lie!” said a stern voice at the door. “He has been there nine hours!”

“Wretches!” cried Sylvia, “you shall hear more of this. Oh, oh! I am
sick!”--she felt for the wall--“I--I--” North watched her with agony on
his face, but did not move. “I faint. I--“--she uttered a despairing cry
that was not without a touch of anger. “Mr. North! do you not see? Oh!
Take me home--take me home!” and she would have fallen across the body
of the tortured prisoner had not North caught her in his arms.

Rufus Dawes, awaking from his stupor, saw, in the midst of a sunbeam
which penetrated a window in the corridor, the woman who came to
save his body supported by the priest who came to save his soul; and
staggering to his knees, he stretched out his hands with a hoarse cry.
Perhaps something in the action brought back to the dimmed remembrance
of the Commandant’s wife the image of a similar figure stretching forth
its hands to a frightened child in the mysterious far-off time. She
started, and pushing back her hair, bent a wistful, terrified gaze upon
the face of the kneeling man, as though she would fain read there an
explanation of the shadowy memory which haunted her. It is possible that
she would have spoken, but North--thinking the excitement had produced
one of those hysterical crises which were common to her--gently drew
her, still gazing, back towards the gate. The convict’s arms fell,
and an undefinable presentiment of evil chilled him as he beheld
the priest--emotion pallid in his cheeks--slowly draw the fair young
creature from out the sunlight into the grim shadow of the heavy
archway. For an instant the gloom swallowed them, and it seemed to Dawes
that the strange wild man of God had in that instant become a man of
Evil--blighting the brightness and the beauty of the innocence that
clung to him. For an instant--and then they passed out of the prison
archway into the free air of heaven--and the sunlight glowed golden on
their faces.

“You are ill,” said North. “You will faint. Why do you look so wildly?”

“What is it?” she whispered, more in answer to her own thoughts than
to his question--“what is it that links me to that man? What deed--what
terror--what memory? I tremble with crowding thoughts, that die ere they
can whisper to me. Oh, that prison!”

“Look up; we are in the sunshine.”

She passed her hand across her brow, sighing heavily, as one awaking
from a disturbed slumber--shuddered, and withdrew her arm from his.
North interpreted the action correctly, and the blood rushed to his
face. “Pardon me, you cannot walk alone; you will fall. I will leave you
at the gate.”

In truth she would have fallen had he not again assisted her. She
turned upon him eyes whose reproachful sorrow had almost forced him to
a confession, but he bowed his head and held silence. They reached the
house, and he placed her tenderly in a chair. “Now you are safe, madam,
I will leave you.”

She burst into tears. “Why do you treat me thus, Mr. North? What have I
done to make you hate me?”

“Hate you!” said North, with trembling lips. “Oh, no, I do not--do not
hate you. I am rude in my speech, abrupt in my manner. You must forget
it, and--and me.” A horse’s feet crashed upon the gravel, and an instant
after Maurice Frere burst into the room. Returning from the Cascades, he
had met Troke, and learned the release of the prisoner. Furious at this
usurpation of authority by his wife, his self-esteem wounded by the
thought that she had witnessed his mean revenge upon the man he had so
infamously wronged, and his natural brutality enhanced by brandy, he had
made for the house at full gallop, determined to assert his authority.
Blind with rage, he saw no one but his wife. “What the devil’s this
I hear? You have been meddling in my business! You release prisoners!

“Captain Frere!” said North, stepping forward to assert the restraining
presence of a stranger. Frere started, astonished at the intrusion of
the chaplain. Here was another outrage of his dignity, another insult to
his supreme authority. In its passion, his gross mind leapt to the worst
conclusion. “You here, too! What do you want here--with my wife! This is
your quarrel, is it?” His eyes glanced wrathfully from one to the other;
and he strode towards North. “You infernal hypocritical lying scoundrel,
if it wasn’t for your black coat, I’d--”

“Maurice!” cried Sylvia, in an agony of shame and terror, striving
to place a restraining hand upon his arm. He turned upon her with so
fiercely infamous a curse that North, pale with righteous rage, seemed
prompted to strike the burly ruffian to the earth. For a moment, the
two men faced each other, and then Frere, muttering threats of vengeance
against each and all--convicts, gaolers, wife, and priest--flung the
suppliant woman violently from him, and rushed from the room. She fell
heavily against the wall, and as the chaplain raised her, he heard the
hoof-strokes of the departing horse.

“Oh,” cried Sylvia, covering her face with trembling hands, “let me
leave this place!”

North, enfolding her in his arms, strove to soothe her with incoherent
words of comfort. Dizzy with the blow she had received, she clung to him
sobbing. Twice he tried to tear himself away, but had he loosed his hold
she would have fallen. He could not hold her--bruised, suffering, and
in tears--thus against his heart, and keep silence. In a torrent of
agonized eloquence the story of his love burst from his lips. “Why
should you be thus tortured?” he cried. “Heaven never willed you to
be mated to that boor--you, whose life should be all sunshine. Leave
him--leave him. He has cast you off. We have both suffered. Let us leave
this dreadful place--this isthmus between earth and hell! I will give
you happiness.”

“I am going,” she said faintly. “I have already arranged to go.”

North trembled. “It was not of my seeking. Fate has willed it. We go

They looked at each other--she felt the fever of his blood, she read his
passion in his eyes, she comprehended the “hatred” he had affected for
her, and, deadly pale, drew back the cold hand he held.

“Go!” she murmured. “If you love me, leave me--leave me! Do not see me
or speak to me again--” her silence added the words she could not utter,
“till then.”


Maurice Frere’s passion had spent itself in that last act of violence.
He did not return to the prison, as he promised himself, but turned into
the road that led to the Cascades. He repented him of his suspicions.
There was nothing strange in the presence of the chaplain. Sylvia had
always liked the man, and an apology for his conduct had doubtless
removed her anger. To make a mountain out of a molehill was the act of
an idiot. It was natural that she should release Dawes--women were so
tender-hearted. A few well-chosen, calmly-uttered platitudes anent the
necessity for the treatment that, to those unaccustomed to the desperate
wickedness of convicts, must appear harsh, would have served his turn
far better than bluster and abuse. Moreover, North was to sail in
the Lady Franklin, and might put in execution his threats of official
complaint, unless he was carefully dealt with. To put Dawes again to the
torture would be to show to Troke and his friends that the “Commandant’s
wife” had acted without the “Commandant’s authority”, and that must not
be shown. He would now return and patch up a peace. His wife would sail
in the same vessel with North, and he would in a few days be left alone
on the island to pursue his “discipline” unchecked. With this intent
he returned to the prison, and gravely informed poor Troke that he was
astonished at his barbarity. “Mrs. Frere, who most luckily had appointed
to meet me this evening at the prison, tells me that the poor devil
Dawes had been on the stretcher since seven o’clock this morning.”

“You ordered it fust thing, yer honour,” said Troke.

“Yes, you fool, but I didn’t order you to keep the man there for nine
hours, did I? Why, you scoundrel, you might have killed him!” Troke
scratched his head in bewilderment. “Take his irons off, and put him
in a separate cell in the old gaol. If a man is a murderer, that is no
reason you should take the law into your own hands, is it? You’d better
take care, Mr. Troke.” On the way back he met the chaplain, who, seeing
him, made for a by-path in curious haste. “Halloo!” roared Frere. “Hi!
Mr. North!” Mr. North paused, and the Commandant made at him abruptly.
“Look here, sir, I was rude to you just now--devilish rude. Most
ungentlemanly of me. I must apologize.” North bowed, without speaking,
and tried to pass.

“You must excuse my violence,” Frere went on. “I’m bad-tempered, and I
didn’t like my wife interfering. Women, don’t you know, don’t see these
things--don’t understand these scoundrels.” North again bowed. “Why,
d--n it, how savage you look! Quite ghastly, bigod! I must have said
most outrageous things. Forget and forgive, you know. Come home and have
some dinner.”

“I cannot enter your house again, sir,” said North, in tones more
agitated than the occasion would seem to warrant.

Frere shrugged his great shoulders with a clumsy affectation of good
humour, and held out his hand. “Well, shake hands, parson. You’ll have
to take care of Mrs. Frere on the voyage, and we may as well make up our
differences before you start. Shake hands.”

“Let me pass, sir!” cried North, with heightened colour; and ignoring
the proffered hand, strode savagely on.

“You’ve a d--d fine temper for a parson,” said Frere to himself.
“However, if you won’t, you won’t. Hang me if I’ll ask you again.”
 Nor, when he reached home, did he fare better in his efforts at
reconciliation with his wife. Sylvia met him with the icy front of a
woman whose pride has been wounded too deeply for tears.

“Say no more about it,” she said. “I am going to my father. If you want
to explain your conduct, explain it to him.”

“Come, Sylvia,” he urged; “I was a brute, I know. Forgive me.”

“It is useless to ask me,” she said; “I cannot. I have forgiven you so
much during the last seven years.”

He attempted to embrace her, but she withdrew herself loathingly from
his arms. He swore a great oath at her, and, too obstinate to argue
farther, sulked. Blunt, coming in about some ship matters, the pair
drank rum. Sylvia went to her room and occupied herself with some minor
details of clothes-packing (it is wonderful how women find relief from
thoughts in household care), while North, poor fool, seeing from his
window the light in hers, sat staring at it, alternately cursing and
praying. In the meantime, the unconscious cause of all of this--Rufus
Dawes--sat in his new cell, wondering at the chance which had procured
him comfort, and blessing the fair hands that had brought it to him. He
doubted not but that Sylvia had interceded with his tormentor, and by
gentle pleading brought him ease. “God bless her,” he murmured. “I
have wronged her all these years. She did not know that I suffered.” He
waited anxiously for North to visit him, that he might have his belief
confirmed. “I will get him to thank her for me,” he thought. But North
did not come for two whole days. No one came but his gaolers; and,
gazing from his prison window upon the sea that almost washed its walls,
he saw the schooner at anchor, mocking him with a liberty he could
not achieve. On the third day, however, North came. His manner was
constrained and abrupt. His eyes wandered uneasily, and he seemed
burdened with thoughts which he dared not utter.

“I want you to thank her for me, Mr. North,” said Dawes.

“Thank whom?”

“Mrs. Frere.”

The unhappy priest shuddered at hearing the name.

“I do not think you owe any thanks to her. Your irons were removed by
the Commandant’s order.”

“But by her persuasion. I feel sure of it. Ah, I was wrong to think she
had forgotten me. Ask her for her forgiveness.”

“Forgiveness!” said North, recalling the scene in the prison. “What have
you done to need her forgiveness?”

“I doubted her,” said Rufus Dawes. “I thought her ungrateful and
treacherous. I thought she delivered me again into the bondage from
whence I had escaped. I thought she had betrayed me--betrayed me to the
villain whose base life I saved for her sweet sake.”

“What do you mean?” asked North. “You never spoke to me of this.”

“No, I had vowed to bury the knowledge of it in my own breast--it was
too bitter to speak.”

 “Saved his life!”

“Ay, and hers! I made the boat that carried her to freedom. I held her
in my arms, and took the bread from my own lips to feed her!”

“She cannot know this,” said North in an undertone.

“She has forgotten it, perhaps, for she was but a child. But you will
remind her, will you not? You will do me justice in her eyes before I
die? You will get her forgiveness for me?”

North could not explain why such an interview as the convict desired was
impossible, and so he promised.

“She is going away in the schooner,” said he, concealing the fact of his
own departure. “I will see her before she goes, and tell her.”

“God bless you, sir,” said poor Dawes. “Now pray with me”; and the
wretched priest mechanically repeated one of the formulae his Church

The next day he told his penitent that Mrs. Frere had forgiven him. This
was a lie. He had not seen her; but what should a lie be to him now?
Lies were needful in the tortuous path he had undertaken to tread.
Yet the deceit he was forced to practise cost him many a pang. He had
succumbed to his passion, and to win the love for which he yearned had
voluntarily abandoned truth and honour; but standing thus alone with
his sin, he despised and hated himself. To deaden remorse and drown
reflection, he had recourse to brandy, and though the fierce excitement
of his hopes and fears steeled him against the stupefying action of the
liquor, he was rendered by it incapable of calm reflection. In certain
nervous conditions our mere physical powers are proof against the
action of alcohol, and though ten times more drunk than the toper, who,
incoherently stammering, reels into the gutter, we can walk erect
and talk with fluency. Indeed, in this artificial exaltation of the
sensibilities, men often display a brilliant wit, and an acuteness of
comprehension, calculated to delight their friends, and terrify their
physicians. North had reached this condition of brain-drunkenness. In
plain terms, he was trembling on the verge of madness.

The days passed swiftly, and Blunt’s preparations for sea were
completed. There were two stern cabins in the schooner, one of which
was appropriated to Mrs. Frere, while the other was set apart for North.
Maurice had not attempted to renew his overtures of friendship, and the
chaplain had not spoken. Mindful of Sylvia’s last words, he had resolved
not to meet her until fairly embarked upon the voyage which he intended
should link their fortunes together. On the morning of the 19th
December, Blunt declared himself ready to set sail, and in the afternoon
the two passengers came on board.

Rufus Dawes, gazing from his window upon the schooner that lay outside
the reef, thought nothing of the fact that, after the Commandant’s boat
had taken away the Commandant’s wife another boat should put off with
the chaplain. It was quite natural that Mr. North should desire to bid
his friends farewell, and through the hot, still afternoon he watched
for the returning boat, hoping that the chaplain would bring him some
message from the woman whom he was never to see more on earth. The hours
wore on, however, and no breath of wind ruffled the surface of the sea.
The day was exceedingly close and sultry, heavy dun clouds hung on the
horizon, and it seemed probable that unless a thunder-storm should clear
the air before night, the calm would continue. Blunt, however, with a
true sailor’s obstinacy in regard to weather, swore there would be a
breeze, and held to his purpose of sailing. The hot afternoon passed
away in a sultry sunset, and it was not until the shades of evening had
begun to fall that Rufus Dawes distinguished a boat detach itself from
the sides of the schooner, and glide through the oily water to the
jetty. The chaplain was returning, and in a few hours perhaps would
be with him, to bring him the message of comfort for which his soul
thirsted. He stretched out his unshackled limbs, and throwing himself
upon his stretcher, fell to recalling the past--his boat-building, the
news of his fortune, his love, and his self-sacrifice.

North, however, was not returning to bring to the prisoner a message of
comfort, but he was returning on purpose to see him, nevertheless. The
unhappy man, torn by remorse and passion, had resolved upon a course
of action which seemed to him a penance for his crime of deceit. He
determined to confess to Dawes that the message he had brought was
wholly fictitious, that he himself loved the wife of the Commandant,
and that with her he was about to leave the island for ever. “I am no
hypocrite,” he thought, in his exaltation. “If I choose to sin, I will
sin boldly; and this poor wretch, who looks up to me as an angel, shall
know me for my true self.”

The notion of thus destroying his own fame in the eyes of the man whom
he had taught to love him, was pleasant to his diseased imagination. It
was the natural outcome of the morbid condition of mind into which he
had drifted, and he provided for the complete execution of his scheme
with cunning born of the mischief working in his brain. It was desirable
that the fatal stroke should be dealt at the last possible instant; that
he should suddenly unveil his own infamy, and then depart, never to be
seen again. To this end he had invented an excuse for returning to the
shore at the latest possible moment. He had purposely left in his room
a dressing-bag--the sort of article one is likely to forget in the hurry
of departure from one’s house, and so certain to remember when the time
comes to finally prepare for settling in another. He had ingeniously
extracted from Blunt the fact that “he didn’t expect a wind before dark,
but wanted all ship-shape and aboard”, and then, just as darkness fell,
discovered that it was imperative for him to go ashore. Blunt cursed,
but, if the chaplain insisted upon going, there was no help for it.

“There’ll be a breeze in less than two hours,” said he. “You’ve plenty
of time, but if you’re not back before the first puff, I’ll sail without
you, as sure as you’re born.” North assured him of his punctuality.
“Don’t wait for me, Captain, if I’m not here,” said he with the
lightness of tone which men use to mask anxiety. “I’d take him at his
word, Blunt,” said the Commandant, who was affably waiting to take final
farewell of his wife. “Give way there, men,” he shouted to the crew,
“and wait at the jetty. If Mr. North misses his ship through your
laziness, you’ll pay for it.” So the boat set off, North laughing
uproariously at the thought of being late. Frere observed with some
astonishment that the chaplain wrapped himself in a boat cloak that lay
in the stern sheets. “Does the fellow want to smother himself in a night
like this!” was his remark. The truth was that, though his hands and
head were burning, North’s teeth chattered with cold. Perhaps this was
the reason why, when landed and out of eyeshot of the crew, he produced
a pocket-flask of rum and eagerly drank. The spirit gave him courage for
the ordeal to which he had condemned himself; and with steadied step,
he reached the door of the old prison. To his surprise, Gimblett refused
him admission!

“But I have come direct from the Commandant,” said North.

“Got any order, sir?”

“Order! No.”

“I can’t let you in, your reverence,” said Gimblett.

“I want to see the prisoner Dawes. I have a special message for him. I
have come ashore on purpose.”

“I am very sorry, sir--”

“The ship will sail in two hours, man, and I shall miss her,” said
North, indignant at being frustrated in his design. “Let me pass.”

“Upon my honour, sir, I daren’t,” said Gimblett, who was not without his
good points. “You know what authority is, sir.”

North was in despair, but a bright thought struck him--a thought that,
in his soberer moments, would never have entered his head--he would buy
admission. He produced the rum flask from beneath the sheltering cloak.
“Come, don’t talk nonsense to me, Gimblett. You don’t suppose I would
come here without authority. Here, take a pull at this, and let me
through.” Gimblett’s features relaxed into a smile. “Well, sir, I
suppose it’s all right, if you say so,” said he. And clutching the rum
bottle with one hand, he opened the door of Dawes’s cell with the other.

North entered, and as the door closed behind him, the prisoner, who had
been lying apparently asleep upon his bed, leapt up, and made as though
to catch him by the throat.

Rufus Dawes had dreamt a dream. Alone, amid the gathering glooms,
his fancy had recalled the past, and had peopled it with memories. He
thought that he was once more upon the barren strand where he had first
met with the sweet child he loved. He lived again his life of usefulness
and honour. He saw himself working at the boat, embarking, and putting
out to sea. The fair head of the innocent girl was again pillowed on his
breast; her young lips again murmured words of affection in his greedy
ear. Frere was beside him, watching him, as he had watched before. Once
again the grey sea spread around him, barren of succour. Once again,
in the wild, wet morning, he beheld the American brig bearing down upon
them, and saw the bearded faces of the astonished crew. He saw Frere
take the child in his arms and mount upon the deck; he heard the shout
of delight that went up, and pressed again the welcoming hands which
greeted the rescued castaways. The deck was crowded. All the folk he had
ever known were there. He saw the white hair and stern features of
Sir Richard Devine, and beside him stood, wringing her thin hands, his
weeping mother. Then Frere strode forward, and after him John Rex,
the convict, who, roughly elbowing through the crowd of prisoners and
gaolers, would have reached the spot where stood Sir Richard Devine, but
that the corpse of the murdered Lord Bellasis arose and thrust him back.
How the hammers clattered in the shipbuilder’s yard! Was it a coffin
they were making? Not for Sylvia--surely not for her! The air grows
heavy, lurid with flame, and black with smoke. The Hydaspes is on fire!
Sylvia clings to her husband. Base wretch, would you shake her off! Look
up; the midnight heaven is glittering with stars; above the smoke
the air breathes delicately! One step--another! Fix your eyes on
mine--so--to my heart! Alas! she turns; he catches at her dress. What!
It is a priest--a priest--who, smiling with infernal joy, would drag
her to the flaming gulf that yawns for him. The dreamer leaps at the
wretch’s throat, and crying, “Villain, was it for this fate I saved
her?”--and awakes to find himself struggling with the monster of his
dream, the idol of his waking senses--“Mr. North.”

North, paralysed no less by the suddenness of the attack than by the
words with which it was accompanied, let fall his cloak, and stood
trembling before the prophetic accusation of the man whose curses he had
come to earn.

“I was dreaming,” said Rufus Dawes. “A terrible dream! But it has passed
now. The message--you have brought me a message, have you not? Why--what
ails you? You are pale--your knees tremble. Did my violence----?”

North recovered himself with a great effort. “It is nothing. Let us
talk, for my time is short. You have thought me a good man--one blessed
of God, one consecrated to a holy service; a man honest, pure, and
truthful. I have returned to tell you the truth. I am none of these
things.” Rufus Dawes sat staring, unable to comprehend this madness.
“I told you that the woman you loved--for you do love her--sent you a
message of forgiveness. I lied.”


“I never told her of your confession.  I never mentioned your name to

“And she will go without knowing--Oh, Mr. North, what have you done?”

“Wrecked my own soul!” cried North, wildly, stung by the reproachful
agony of the tone. “Do not cling to me. My task is done. You will hate
me now. That is my wish--I merit it. Let me go, I say. I shall be too

“Too late! For what?” He looked at the cloak--through the open window
came the voices of the men in the boat--the memory of the rose, of the
scene in the prison, flashed across him, and he understood it all.

“Great Heaven, you go together!”

“Let me go,” repeated North, in a hoarse voice.

Rufus Dawes stepped between him and the door. “No, madman, I will not
let you go, to do this great wrong, to kill this innocent young soul,
who--God help her--loves you!” North, confounded at this sudden reversal
of their position towards each other, crouched bewildered against the
wall. “I say you shall not go! You shall not destroy your own soul and
hers! You love her! So do I! and my love is mightier than yours, for it
shall save her!”

“In God’s name--” cried the unhappy priest, striving to stop his ears.

“Ay, in God’s name! In the name of that God whom in my torments I had
forgotten! In the name of that God whom you taught me to remember! That
God who sent you to save me from despair, gives me strength to save you
in my turn! Oh, Mr. North--my teacher--my friend--my brother--by the
sweet hope of mercy which you preached to me, be merciful to this erring

North lifted agonized eyes. “But I love her! Love her, do you hear? What
do you know of love?”

“Love!” cried Rufus Dawes, his pale face radiant. “Love! Oh, it is you
who do not know it. Love is the sacrifice of self, the death of all
desire that is not for another’s good. Love is Godlike! You love?--no,
no, your love is selfishness, and will end in shame! Listen, I will tell
you the history of such a love as yours.”

North, enthralled by the other’s overmastering will, fell back

“I will tell you the secret of my life, the reason why I am here. Come

          *          *          *          *          *


The house in Clarges Street was duly placed at the disposal of Mrs.
Richard Devine, who was installed in it, to the profound astonishment
and disgust of Mr. Smithers and his fellow-servants. It now only
remained that the lady should be formally recognized by Lady Devine. The
rest of the ingenious programme would follow as a matter of course. John
Rex was well aware of the position which, in his assumed personality, he
occupied in society. He knew that by the world of servants, of waiters,
of those to whom servants and waiters could babble; of such turfites
and men-about-town as had reason to inquire concerning Mr. Richard’s
domestic affairs--no opinion could be expressed, save that “Devine’s
married somebody, I hear,” with variations to the same effect. He knew
well that the really great world, the Society, whose scandal would have
been socially injurious, had long ceased to trouble itself with Mr.
Richard Devine’s doings in any particular. If it had been reported that
the Leviathan of the Turf had married his washerwoman, Society would
only have intimated that “it was just what might have been expected
of him”. To say the truth, however, Mr. Richard had rather hoped
that--disgusted at his brutality--Lady Devine would have nothing more
to do with him, and that the ordeal of presenting his wife would not
be necessary. Lady Devine, however, had resolved on a different line
of conduct. The intelligence concerning Mr. Richard Devine’s threatened
proceedings seemed to nerve her to the confession of the dislike which
had been long growing in her mind; seemed even to aid the formation of
those doubts, the shadows of which had now and then cast themselves upon
her belief in the identity of the man who called himself her son. “His
conduct is brutal,” said she to her brother. “I cannot understand it.”

“It is more than brutal; it is unnatural,” returned Francis Wade, and
stole a look at her. “Moreover, he is married.”

“Married!” cried Lady Devine.

“So he says,” continued the other, producing the letter sent to him by
Rex at Sarah’s dictation. “He writes to me stating that his wife, whom
he married last year abroad, has come to England, and wishes us to
receive her.”

“I will not receive her!” cried Lady Devine, rising and pacing down the

“But that would be a declaration of war,” said poor Francis, twisting
an Italian onyx which adorned his irresolute hand. “I would not advise

Lady Devine stopped suddenly, with the gesture of one who has finally
made a difficult and long-considered resolution. “Richard shall not sell
this house,” she said.

“But, my dear Ellinor,” cried her brother, in some alarm at this
unwonted decision, “I am afraid that you can’t prevent him.”

“If he is the man he says he is, I can,” returned she, with effort.

Francis Wade gasped. “If he is the man! It is true--I have sometimes
thought--Oh, Ellinor, can it be that we have been deceived?”

She came to him and leant upon him for support, as she had leant upon
her son in the garden where they now stood, nineteen years ago. “I do
not know, I am afraid to think. But between Richard and myself is a
secret--a shameful secret, Frank, known to no other living person. If
the man who threatens me does not know that secret, he is not my son. If
he does know it----”

“Well, in Heaven’s name, what then?”

“He knows that he has neither part nor lot in the fortune of the man who
was my husband.”

“Ellinor, you terrify me. What does this mean?”

“I will tell you if there be need to do so,” said the unhappy lady. “But
I cannot now. I never meant to speak of it again, even to him. Consider
that it is hard to break a silence of nearly twenty years. Write to
this man, and tell him that before I receive his wife, I wish to see him
alone. No--do not let him come here until the truth be known. I will go
to him.”

It was with some trepidation that Mr. Richard, sitting with his wife on
the afternoon of the 3rd May, 1846, awaited the arrival of his mother.
He had been very nervous and unstrung for some days past, and the
prospect of the coming interview was, for some reason he could not
explain to himself, weighty with fears. “What does she want to come
alone for? And what can she have to say?” he asked himself. “She cannot
suspect anything after all these years, surely?” He endeavoured to
reason with himself, but in vain; the knock at the door which announced
the arrival of his pretended mother made his heart jump.

“I feel deuced shaky, Sarah,” he said. “Let’s have a nip of something.”

“You’ve been nipping too much for the last five years, Dick.” (She had
quite schooled her tongue to the new name.) “Your ‘shakiness’ is the
result of ‘nipping’, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, don’t preach; I am not in the humour for it.”

“Help yourself, then. You are quite sure that you are ready with your

The brandy revived him, and he rose with affected heartiness. “My dear
mother, allow me to present to you--” He paused, for there was that in
Lady Devine’s face which confirmed his worst fears.

“I wish to speak to you alone,” she said, ignoring with steady eyes the
woman whom she had ostensibly come to see.

John Rex hesitated, but Sarah saw the danger, and hastened to confront
it. “A wife should be a husband’s best friend, madam. Your son married
me of his own free will, and even his mother can have nothing to say to
him which it is not my duty and privilege to hear. I am not a girl as
you can see, and I can bear whatever news you bring.”

Lady Devine bit her pale lips. She saw at once that the woman before her
was not gently-born, but she felt also that she was a woman of higher
mental calibre than herself. Prepared as she was for the worst, this
sudden and open declaration of hostilities frightened her, as Sarah had
calculated. She began to realize that if she was to prove equal to
the task she had set herself, she must not waste her strength in
skirmishing. Steadily refusing to look at Richard’s wife, she addressed
herself to Richard. “My brother will be here in half an hour,” she said,
as though the mention of his name would better her position in some way.
“But I begged him to allow me to come first in order that I might speak
to you privately.”

“Well,” said John Rex, “we are in private. What have you to say?”

“I want to tell you that I forbid you to carry out the plan you have for
breaking up Sir Richard’s property.”

“Forbid me!” cried Rex, much relieved. “Why, I only want to do what my
father’s will enables me to do.”

“Your father’s will enables you to do nothing of the sort, and you know
it.” She spoke as though rehearsing a series of set-speeches, and Sarah
watched her with growing alarm.

“Oh, nonsense!” cries John Rex, in sheer amazement. “I have a lawyer’s
opinion on it.”

“Do you remember what took place at Hampstead this day nineteen years

“At Hampstead!” said Rex, grown suddenly pale. “This day nineteen years
ago. No! What do you mean?”

“Do you not remember?” she continued, leaning forward eagerly, and
speaking almost fiercely. “Do you not remember the reason why you
left the house where you were born, and which you now wish to sell to

John Rex stood dumbfounded, the blood suffusing his temples. He knew
that among the secrets of the man whose inheritance he had stolen was
one which he had never gained--the secret of that sacrifice to which
Lady Devine had once referred--and he felt that this secret was to be
revealed to crush him now.

Sarah, trembling also, but more with rage than terror, swept towards
Lady Devine. “Speak out!” she said, “if you have anything to say! Of
what do you accuse my husband?”

“Of imposture!” cried Lady Devine, all her outraged maternity nerving
her to abash her enemy. “This man may be your husband, but he is not my

Now that the worst was out, John Rex, choking with passion, felt all the
devil within him rebelling against defeat. “You are mad,” he said. “You
have recognized me for three years, and now, because I want to claim
that which is my own, you invent this lie. Take care how you provoke me.
If I am not your son--you have recognized me as such. I stand upon the
law and upon my rights.”

Lady Devine turned swiftly, and with both hands to her bosom, confronted

“You shall have your rights! You shall have what the law allows you!
Oh, how blind I have been all these years. Persist in your infamous
imposture. Call yourself Richard Devine still, and I will tell the
world the shameful secret which my son died to hide. Be Richard Devine!
Richard Devine was a bastard, and the law allows him--nothing!”

There was no doubting the truth of her words. It was impossible that
even a woman whose home had been desecrated, as hers had been, would
invent a lie so self-condemning. Yet John Rex forced himself to appear
to doubt, and his dry lips asked, “If then your husband was not the
father of your son, who was?”

“My cousin, Armigell Esmè Wade, Lord Bellasis,” answered Lady Devine.

John Rex gasped for breath. His hand, tugging at his neck-cloth, rent
away the linen that covered his choking throat. The whole horizon of
his past was lit up by a lightning flash which stunned him. His brain,
already enfeebled by excess, was unable to withstand this last shock.
He staggered, and but for the cabinet against which he leant, would
have fallen. The secret thoughts of his heart rose to his lips, and were
uttered unconsciously. “Lord Bellasis! He was my father also, and--I
killed him!”

A dreadful silence fell, and then Lady Devine, stretching out her hands
towards the self-confessed murderer, with a sort of frightful respect,
said in a whisper, in which horror and supplication were strangely
mingled, “What did you do with my son? Did you kill him also?”

But John Rex, wagging his head from side to side, like a beast in the
shambles that has received a mortal stroke, made no reply. Sarah Purfoy,
awed as she was by the dramatic force of the situation, nevertheless
remembered that Francis Wade might arrive at any moment, and saw her
last opportunity for safety. She advanced and touched the mother on the

“Your son is alive!”


“Will you promise not to hinder us leaving this house if I tell you?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Will you promise to keep the confession which you have heard secret,
until we have left England?”

“I promise anything. In God’s name, woman, if you have a woman’s heart,
speak! Where is my son?”

Sarah Purfoy rose over the enemy who had defeated her, and said in
level, deliberate accents, “They call him Rufus Dawes. He is a convict
at Norfolk Island, transported for life for the murder which you have
heard my husband confess to having committed--Ah!----”

Lady Devine had fainted.


Sarah flew to Rex. “Rouse yourself, John, for Heaven’s sake. We have not
a moment.” John Rex passed his hand over his forehead wearily.

“I cannot think. I am broken down. I am ill. My brain seems dead.”

Nervously watching the prostrate figure on the floor, she hurried on
bonnet, cloak, and veil, and in a twinkling had him outside the house
and into a cab.

“Thirty-nine, Lombard Street. Quick!”

“You won’t give me up?” said Rex, turning dull eyes upon her.

“Give you up? No. But the police will be after us as soon as that woman
can speak, and her brother summon his lawyer. I know what her promise is
worth. We have only got about fifteen hours start.”

“I can’t go far, Sarah,” said he; “I am sleepy and stupid.”

She repressed the terrible fear that tugged at her heart, and strove to
rally him.

“You’ve been drinking too much, John. Now sit still and be good, while I
go and get some money for you.”

She hurried into the bank, and her name secured her an interview with
the manager at once.

“That’s a rich woman,” said one of the clerks to his friend. “A widow,
too! Chance for you, Tom,” returned the other; and, presently, from out
the sacred presence came another clerk with a request for “a draft on
Sydney for three thousand, less premium”, and bearing a cheque signed
“Sarah Carr” for £200, which he “took” in notes, and so returned again.

From the bank she was taken to Green’s Shipping Office. “I want a cabin
in the first ship for Sydney, please.”

The shipping-clerk looked at a board. “The Highflyer goes in twelve
days, madam, and there is one cabin vacant.”

“I want to go at once--to-morrow or next day.”

He smiled. “I am afraid that is impossible,” said he. Just then one of
the partners came out of his private room with a telegram in his hand,
and beckoned the shipping-clerk. Sarah was about to depart for another
office, when the clerk came hastily back.

“Just the thing for you, ma’am,” said he. “We have got a telegram from
a gentleman who has a first cabin in the Dido, to say that his wife has
been taken ill, and he must give up his berth.”

“When does the Dido sail?”

“To-morrow morning. She is at Plymouth, waiting for the mails. If you
go down to-night by the mail-train which leaves at 9.30, you will be in
plenty of time, and we will telegraph.”

“I will take the cabin. How much?”

“One hundred and thirty pounds, madam,” said he.

She produced her notes. “Pray count it yourself. We have been delayed in
the same manner ourselves. My husband is a great invalid, but I was not
so fortunate as to get someone to refund us our passage-money.”

“What name did you say?” asked the clerk, counting. “Mr. and Mrs. Carr.
Thank you,” and he handed her the slip of paper.

“Thank you,” said Sarah, with a bewitching smile, and swept down to
her cab again. John Rex was gnawing his nails in sullen apathy. She
displayed the passage-ticket. “You are saved. By the time Mr. Francis
Wade gets his wits together, and his sister recovers her speech, we
shall be past pursuit.”

“To Sydney!” cries Rex angrily, looking at the warrant. “Why there of
all places in God’s earth?”

Sarah surveyed him with an expression of contempt. “Because your scheme
has failed. Now this is mine. You have deserted me once; you will do so
again in any other country. You are a murderer, a villain, and a coward,
but you suit me. I save you, but I mean to keep you. I will bring you to
Australia, where the first trooper will arrest you at my bidding as an
escaped convict. If you don’t like to come, stay behind. I don’t care.
I am rich. I have done no wrong. The law cannot touch me--Do you agree?
Then tell the man to drive to Silver’s in Cornhill for your outfit.”

Having housed him at last--all gloomy and despondent--in a quiet tavern
near the railway station, she tried to get some information as to this
last revealed crime.

“How came you to kill Lord Bellasis?” she asked him quietly.

“I had found out from my mother that I was his natural son, and one
day riding home from a pigeon match I told him so. He taunted me--and I
struck him. I did not mean to kill him, but he was an old man, and in my
passion I struck hard. As he fell, I thought I saw a horseman among the
trees, and I galloped off. My ill-luck began then, for the same night I
was arrested at the coiner’s.”

“But I thought there was robbery,” said she.

“Not by me. But, for God’s sake, talk no more about it. I am sick--my
brain is going round. I want to sleep.”

“Be careful, please! Lift him gently!” said Mrs. Carr, as the boat
ranged alongside the Dido, gaunt and grim, in the early dawn of a bleak
May morning.

“What’s the matter?” asked the officer of the watch, perceiving the
bustle in the boat.

“Gentleman seems to have had a stroke,” said a boatman.

It was so. There was no fear that John Rex would escape again from the
woman he had deceived. The infernal genius of Sarah Purfoy had saved
her lover at last--but saved him only that she might nurse him till he
died--died ignorant even of her tenderness, a mere animal, lacking the
intellect he had in his selfish wickedness abused.


          *          *          *          *          *

----“That is my story. Let it plead with you to turn you from your
purpose, and to save her. The punishment of sin falls not upon the
sinner only. A deed once done lives in its consequence for ever, and
this tragedy of shame and crime to which my felon’s death is a fitting
end, is but the outcome of a selfish sin like yours!”

It had grown dark in the prison, and as he ceased speaking, Rufus Dawes
felt a trembling hand seize his own. It was that of the chaplain.

“Let me hold your hand!--Sir Richard Devine did not murder your father.
He was murdered by a horseman who, riding with him, struck him and

“Merciful God! How do you know this?”

“Because I saw the murder committed, because--don’t let go my hand--I
robbed the body.”


“In my youth I was a gambler. Lord Bellasis won money from me, and
to pay him I forged two bills of exchange. Unscrupulous and cruel, he
threatened to expose me if I did not give him double the sum. Forgery
was death in those days, and I strained every nerve to buy back the
proofs of my folly. I succeeded. I was to meet Lord Bellasis near his
own house at Hampstead on the night of which you speak, to pay the money
and receive the bills. When I saw him fall I galloped up, but instead
of pursuing his murderer I rifled his pocket-book of my forgeries. I was
afraid to give evidence at the trial, or I might have saved you.--Ah!
you have let go my hand!”

“God forgive you!” said Rufus Dawes, and then was silent.

“Speak!” cried North. “Speak, or you will make me mad. Reproach me!
Spurn me! Spit upon me! You cannot think worse of me than I do myself.”
 But the other, his head buried in his hands, did not answer, and with a
wild gesture North staggered out of the cell.

Nearly an hour had passed since the chaplain had placed the rum flask in
his hand, and Gimblett observed, with semi-drunken astonishment, that it
was not yet empty. He had intended, in the first instance, to have taken
but one sup in payment of his courtesy--for Gimblett was conscious of
his own weakness in the matter of strong waters--but as he waited and
waited, the one sup became two, and two three, and at length more than
half the contents of the bottle had moistened his gullet, and maddened
him for more. Gimblett was in a quandary. If he didn’t finish the flask,
he would be oppressed with an everlasting regret. If he did finish it he
would be drunk; and to be drunk on duty was the one unpardonable sin. He
looked across the darkness of the sea, to where the rising and falling
light marked the schooner. The Commandant was a long way off! A faint
breeze, which had--according to Blunt’s prophecy--arisen with the night,
brought up to him the voices of the boat’s crew from the jetty below
him. His friend Jack Mannix was coxswain of her. He would give Jack
a drink. Leaving the gate, he advanced unsteadily to the edge of the
embankment, and, putting his head over, called out to his friend. The
breeze, however, which was momentarily freshening, carried his voice
away; and Jack Mannix, hearing nothing, continued his conversation.
Gimblett was just drunk enough to be virtuously indignant at this
incivility, and seating himself on the edge of the bank, swallowed
the remainder of the rum at a draught. The effect upon his enforcedly
temperate stomach was very touching. He made one feeble attempt to get
upon his legs, cast a reproachful glance at the rum bottle, essayed
to drink out of its spirituous emptiness, and then, with a smile of
reckless contentment, cursed the island and all its contents, and fell

North, coming out of the prison, did not notice the absence of
the gaoler; indeed, he was not in a condition to notice anything.
Bare-headed, without his cloak, with staring eyes and clenched hands, he
rushed through the gates into the night as one who flies headlong from
some fearful vision. It seemed that, absorbed in his own thoughts, he
took no heed of his steps, for instead of taking the path which led to
the sea, he kept along the more familiar one that led to his own cottage
on the hill. “This man a convict!” he cried. “He is a hero--a martyr!
What a life! Love! Yes, that is love indeed! Oh, James North, how
base art thou in the eyes of God beside this despised outcast!” And so
muttering, tearing his grey hair, and beating his throbbing temples with
clenched hands, he reached his own room, and saw, by the light of the
new-born moon, the dressing-bag and candle standing on the table as he
had left them. They brought again to his mind the recollection of the
task that was before him. He lighted the candle, and, taking the bag in
his hand, cast one last look round the chamber which had witnessed his