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V.

The next was a mere non-entity—a “refusing-to-work” man—the most fervent believer in the Carlylean doctrine of the soul-saving qualities of work would have doubted his creed had he been


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compelled to work in fifteen-pound trumpeters. He was ordered thirty lashes—not on the back. Wright believed punishment on the back was a concession to a morbidity of sentiment.

And the next accused was a nobody too. Said he was ill. Gaoler affirmed he wasn't. Prisoner asked to see doctor. Gaoler said he shouldn't. Prisoner took the Bible, which was the principal—almost the only—furniture of a gaol-cell, and kissed it, swearing he was ill. Gaoler, shocked at the blasphemy, formally charged the man with prevaricating to evade work—threatened to report him—now did so—received Commandant's instructions to reduce the ration of twelve ounces bread and one half-pint of water made by the generous System even to the turbulent spirits in gaol. Gaoler, touching his forehead, pencilled with stubby finger a cabalistic mark against the Nobody's name, and passed to the next offender. Three days hence, he will put the pencil through the name. The Nobody has, by that time, done the very best thing he ever did for himself—has taken up permanent quarters in the little cemetery by the sea. The manchineel drops its tears on the nameless mounds of a hundred of such nobodies.

The next accused was Hansen.




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“Insubordinate conduct, sir—very insubordinate, sir, I may say.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing: 'twas not what he said: 'twas what he did!”

“Well, what did he do?”

“Nothing, sir—simply refused to speak!”

“That is his offence?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Pass him for the present. Next!”

But with the next and his successors at that day's court we have nothing here to do. They are to us, as their names appear on the partly-inked, partly-pencilled record before us, mere shadows. “Dismissed” to one; “twenty-five” to three; “one hundred” to a fifth; and a “spread-eagle” to a sixth: these are the entries against the names of these phantasms. They are only phantasms—let us thank Heaven for that! For surely, could we realize, even at this distance of time, that these names were those of men—shares with ourselves in the glorious possession of life—our hearts would throb and our eyes fill with sympathetic tears at the thought that all of them, save one, passed unheard and untried to punishment.

And Freeman and Hansen—what of them? Up


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to this date only the prisoners in the gaol had been supplied with “magpie”—yellow (or brown) and black—clothing, the stock of that parti-coloured finery being too low to admit of its being issued to other than the aristocrats of crime. And therefore when Freeman and Hansen were ordered by the Commandant to be transferred to the granary, they were, as a preliminary to removal, stripped. In lieu of their comparatively warm costume—some idiot of a manufacturer had actually dared to make a batch of magpie stuff of strong half-woollen material instead of cottony shoddy—they were re-dressed, Freeman in the dyed ragsnote of some ex-Hessian soldier, Hansen in Parramatta dungaree. The former's case was not so bad, but the previous tenant of Hansen's suit had been a worker in the wet quarry, whence were obtained the drip-stones so much in demand in Sydney households, and the garments were still soaking when Hansen was compelled to don them. The result was that before they had been twenty-four hours in the granary, Hansen was coughing violently. Disciplinarians like Wright could take little account of consumptive


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tendencies, and it was reserved for a latter-day Commandant to invent wet-quarry clothing out of condemned blankets, and thus give the quarrymen a working change.

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