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V.

Mann adjusted himself with philosophic fortitude to the terrible conditions under which he was placed. Reticent as to his past, he strove by whispered word and the example of a manly bearing where the whole routine was carefully designed to stamp out even the physical type of manliness, to encourage his wretched fellow-gangers to look to the future, to bear up under the infinite degradations of the present by forcing their minds to anticipate a brighter and happier time. His influence at the end of three months was extraordinary. Even the Overseer could not but notice it, and should have rejoiced at it, as in the quietude of the gang they worked better. But their superior discipline provoked Franke, for it was none of his doing—caused, instead, by a spirit which he regarded as rebellious, and by methods he considered insubordinate, and Mann's conquest over the rude hearts of his fellow-gangers was the more galling as it was a proof that he, the Overseer, had failed to


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break Mann's spirit in the first week of the young transport's inclusion in the gang.

He had taken offence at the way Mann saluted him, and understanding clearly that nothing was more harassing to a convict of “superior position” than the necessity he was hourly under of “capping” to the penal officers, he put him through a course of instruction. He had permitted the soldier-guard to supervise the labour of the gang one forenoon while he devoted himself to “a-larnin' the gen'elman how to s'lute.”

For three mortal hours he kept Mann marching to and fro on a path six yards long in front of the tents. He sat on a stool in the opening of a tent, midway between the points at which the convict had to turn upon his heel, and every time of passing, he ordered the prisoner to salute.

“One, two, three, four—s'lute. Hand to your peak; higher, feller!” Mann would obey and proceed. Returning, it would be—

“One, two, three, four—s'lute. Left hand to left leg, right brought smartly up, an' held there till yer pass the orf'cer as yer payin' honour to—d'ye hear that, pris'ner, a-payin' honour to!”—he would laugh gaily here, as though to accentuate the stabbing insult; then “One, two, three, four.” And so to the end of the walk.




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After that exercise of three hours' duration, Mr. Franke turned to the transport, and said, with a heavenly smile lighting up his cherub's visage—

“And now, Mann, d'yer think yer'll know another day 'ow to salute properly?”

“I think so, sir!” responded Mann, with as sweet a smile. “I think so! I'll not forget this lesson.” And in the self-abasement which dare not groan aloud, he resolved he would not.

He dare not groan at that or countless other insults, because groaning would have provoked the application of the lash to his back. And Mann dare not, for his soul's sake, do that. Like the poor sinner at Macquarie Harbour, who told Surgeon Barnes that once he was flogged he did not care a brass farden what became of him—he'd as soon go to hell as not—for his thoughts were hell after the lash had bitten him (Charles Buller, to whom the Australias owe so much, wept as he heard Barnes' narrative)—Mann knew he was done for once the cat stung him. He would no longer be a man—a human being; he would be an animal that cringed before such a creature as Phil Franke, or he would be a desperate, blood-craving beast. No, he dare not be flogged. Always he held himself up with that hope


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that he would always keep to the weather-side of the Overseer's mad passion.

But there was no knowing what a day would bring forth in Old Sydney times, when the monarch of the hour was a cherub of the Franke variety. Mann was flogged—forty stripes save one. “That's Scriptooral, pris'ner,” grinned the Cherub—forty was Overseer's limit—“an' I'll take care the scourger don't give yer more. Peel!”

“Peel,” he, Mann, perforce did; and as he stripped for the punishment, he swore to his Maker that, before the next Saturday, the Cherub should have a chance of seeing what the earth looked like from another sphere.

The cause of the punishment was Mann's championship of another ganger.

The weekly ration of O.D. Gang consisted of four pounds of salt pork one week, and seven pounds of fresh beef the next, the flour-food being, week in and week out, ten pounds of wheat and six pounds of maize, ground by the prisoners themselves, in their own time, mixed with cold water.

But Overseer Franke, having been appointed, by reason of being in “detached camp,” a storekeeper, was entitled to make issues from store to himself, as Overseer. And he would not have attained to the


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eminence he possessed as an official if he had not contrived to turn this arrangement to account.

As Storekeeper, he was entitled to buy, at the rate fixed by the Governor, meat, wheat, and maize, giving an order on the Deputy-Commissary-General for the payment.

As Storekeeper, he would issue to the Overseer (himself) the scheduled allowance of rations, taking his own receipt for the quantity of produce.

And as Overseer, he would issue to his men what he pleased. And he pleased to issue very little. He, as a fact, robbed them of nearly half.

One Monday an elderly transport, a coarse, languid, brutish “First-fleeter,” working in the hot sun, fell ill. He was thrust into the shade of the gums till knock-off time, and then carried to the tent, one of the tent-party being Mann.

In the still watches of a moonlit night, the sick man became delirious for want of nourishment or from the sunstroke. Mann rose and, as noiselessly as possible, so as not to disturb the other poor fellows whom slumber mocked, asked him, “Could he do anything for him?” But the First-fleeter, in his delirium, made no coherent answer.

Mann went to the fly-opening, and called: “Sentry!”




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The one sentinel on night duty—twelve hours at a stretch—challenged him and ordered him to stand.

“Prisoner's dying!” Mann never would permit himself to fall into the use of the corrupt form “pris'ner,” though nearly everybody, from the Governor, Judges, and parsons, down to the children in the streets, made the word a dissyllable. “Prisoner's dying!”

The challenge had awoke the Overseer. He came to the mouth of his tent: “What's that?”

“Pris'ner sick in No. 1,” reported the sentry.

“Who's that talking?”

“I—Mann—No. 20.”

“Back to your bed, Mann! Wot d'yer mean, my fine swell, disturbin' the gang at this hour?”

“The man—Cummings—is dying!”

“Wot's that to yer if he is! The rule o' camp is no talkin' arter ‘lights out.’ Back ——”

“You are a murdering villain if you let this poor devil die!”

“Fire, sentry! Fire!” And by virtue of the authority which reposed in the bosom of the Overseer, the sentry obeyed. He fired point-blank—Mann had thrown himself down on his side of the


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tent—and First-fleeter Cummings' delirium merged into and ended with one deep, low groan.

In the flapping of a swallow's wing the young convict was out in the moonlight.

“Shoot me, you murderous scoundrel! Shoot me, if you dare, and all the soldiers in the colony will not save you from the dogs. Shoot me as you've shot that prisoner after starving him—he was ill because you robbed him of his rations. You've as much right to shoot me as that other, for you've robbed me, all of us, of our rations.”

A minute of silence. Then the Cherub spoke to some purpose.

“No, no, my fine feller—we don't waste powder an' shot on gentles. That's the death they like. It's the cat as yer don't like, an' it's the cat as yer a-goin' to have. Scourger!”

At two o'clock in the morning, on the height of Woolloomooloo, with the soft sea-breezes chanting plaintively through sassafrass and eucalyptus, Mann got his thirty-nine! Thirty-nine was scriptural.

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