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Chapter XIII Surridge's Narrative

(Written possibly with the ink-bag of a squid)

HERE'S to you, Carrow, and you, Black Derrick, or Hammes, or any other desperate man. If you ever return, see what it came to, and if not you, for I know not what they'll do now, some poor wretch, wild enough to try and slim enough to break his luck. The great crack was marked above the mouth with a lock and broken key by Samuel Jallet who fell sick working of it in 1804. And he died in the May of that year. Read how I came to finish it; it will do you a service. I was one of thirty suspects deported from Parramatta to aid in forming a settlement at Restdown, and lucky I thought myself, for when 600 armed men rose on March 4th, at Castle Hill—those on the roads, and on the public buildings, and the farm servants—I heard the settlers and soldiers, who knew they meant to overpower them, was ruthless.note A year after, we came across to the Camp, and joined those at work on the building. At first we were set at work in the timber-carriage, and housed in the cave. When I joined there was great activity, the precinct walls and the walls of the cottage being near finished, and the hospital roofed, besides many other wooden houses. As I was a suspect, and the news from the ponds made them fearful, they would not let me work at my trade, though I appealed more than once to the taskmaster and also Sergeant King. Now I became angry and could not forget it, because some made believe to boast I was no mason. To prove the jack-pudding out, I cut an image of Carlet, and one of James Craw, on the cave walls, and later a threat for mate Moreman against King, and one, because no attention was paid me, and for the private hate I had of his person, against the fine gentleman, his Honour. This served me well, for the semblance being good, and it being noted (his Honour himself examining it while we were up the mountain), I was taken down and put before him, when being a fine young man, they showed


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me lenity, and put me in the way of certain ornamentations for the cottage.

His Honour was pleased to be patron to my skill, though he was impatient in his manner, and gave me a new shirt, for though it was hot, we mustn't go in trousers; and Mr. Gargrave, seeing me perspiring over the Basin, gave me an old dress hat for my night-cap. They put me from one thing to another as I showed myself able for it. Together with the Basin, I did a mantel-shelf after the Roman, and two fine gate-posts. The stone was soft, and while I was sorry for that when they thought them praiseworthy, fearing their duration short, I was pleased at the artifice when slighting words were given. Oons, they were pleased to have me try the impossible, but it must be done after their mind! Many a piece I spoiled by anger or despair. I forget blame very hard. (The last sentence in the parchment was uncertain.) Here then I've lived for two years, with a year on the Hospital Acrotoria. At first I carried out the suggestions of the gentlemen, who made a hobby of me, but during the past year, when supplies gave out, I had less attention. Firstly, I was put to some designs for the church, and left to devices of my own, among them the figure of the Virgin which I marred in a fit of temper with Mountgarret, who was pleased to think the trumpeter more a Frenzy than a King's soldier. Master Collins came early into the mansion with three servants, the mistress his sister, that little black princess whose father had been shot at Rest-down, and young Spars, who acted as his Honour's footboy. The young Jack-a-lent had a running tongue with him, and stood off me except to poke fun at my handiwork or rage at his Honour (which he would do as soon as clean his buckles), but the Arab girl—the same who'd tripped it through the roofless mansion in her red and spangles—I often caught her flashing eye, and one morning she came where I was, she did, feeling the cottage flowers, and peeking at the hills—(it was the day we heard Boney was defeated, and his Honour had Joseph powder him)— asked me a question, she did, and stayed with me all morning, but was scolded in doors by the worshipful Master Collins, who came out with some officers of the Government. So it was done between me and her. She looked for me as I looked for her. Never by me in the garden at that time, but staring at one another by the hour round a bush or door, or at a window trying to comb her Arab hair.

Late next year. I was removed, but presently I was back again, and the old man put some reading in my way, as he said I was very ignorant of life. I took to reading what I was given in the cave, and at midday. I suppose she saw what I was at, and soon she had her book too. I saw her book was covered similar to mine, and as the boy had become easier with me, and had confessed he had had her for his sweetheart but had been caught molesting of her, I told him—what I now think he had all along perceived


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—of our partiality, and he agreed to exchange the books, mine containing a piece of my neckerchief on which I had written of a little wound in my hand. Joseph Spars, after some delay, brought a reply from her, “Love poor Walter always!” written painful in her book; and though I considered this reckless, and cautioned him against repeating it on his Honour's books, Spars wouldn't have me destroy the page since it might be missed, but he would lay some ink over it. Thus passed May and June, our attachment growing, and very agonising, and Spars enjoying the mischief of go-between. His Honour was hellish impatient and punished me for malingering, and she was scolded for too much application to her book. I believe now there was disgust and suspicion over us. Her pretty sprightliness was going, and I was insane with longing for speech. I thought upon a plan to be near her, and this was carried out. In these days when we are on salt pig and seaweed, and little of that,note his Honour's sister, Mrs. Collins, will send what little fresh can be spared to the Hospital, and this Moicrime continued to be allowed to carry. In a hollow of the ground, on the other side of the wall, she would sit down. Against and topping the wall, where I worked, was left a bushy tree, and in its leaves I would pull my stone when it was sunny, out of sight of the Marine at the gate. When she was there, she called over the wall. Whereon I climbed over inside the tree and she sat for a few moments in my arms. We had not met more than twice in this way, when as we sat together, I saw the glazed hat of the Marine over the bushes, and he took us both in, she a-sobbing. I got nothing for this, though some have got fifty lashes. They let me alone; I seemed forgotten. In the afternoon his Honour came out where I was, his top-boots covered with mud from riding. He had a whip in his hand, but there was not a word said. And presently he went away. I know not now why they did nothing against me. It was three days before Spars came near, and I heard his Honour had sent the girl away. Perhaps it had been better for all I had been punished. I could never forget my angel.

A night or so after, Spars told me she was in the Hospital. She was not handled severe, and ran about where she would. One morning he saw and spoke with her. She was in the paddock. They had cut down the bush I had used for a ladder, but along towards the Cottage there was a little tree growing, about two feet up, and behind this a gully-hole, cut after the wall was built. In brooding over my bereavement, I thought I could use this on some special occasion. I got soon to the hole, and found it looked also into our hollow. Spars agreed to catch her, and tell her the date of the assembly extraordinary, when she could come across to the wall. This he did; and on that morning, about


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eleven, I heard her voice whisper and found her hand lying in the drain. Here we spoke five times in November and December Spars watching the muster-roll and keeping me informed, and me, since he would risk no more for my promises, jotting dates in my book, and planting that in the gully-hole for her to find. We were discovered one morning. Very sudden her hand was snatched from mine, and though she made no noise, she drew breath grimly. Presently she said to me, “Walter, I will wander by again.” After there was a terrible upbraiding over the wall, but behind me, on the path by the windows, a voice said huskily: “Surridge, you are discovered.” I looked round, and there was Dr. Mountgarret, as he often called in, with his specimen-case and gun.

When I say that I was persuaded of his worship's threatening voice, my act of wickedness may be better understood. But though I knew that I was to go to the geers,note little did I anticipate he would do this with the girl. When I knew that she was to go with Ondia, which I did after two days in these caves, where I was alone but for the nights, my five mates being gone to the works, it was my wicked intention to revenge if I couldn't save her. I had his Honour's book, and in this I wrote a letter to the girl, and persuaded Peter Naut—who was in the garden— to pass it to Spars, and so he did. Now I left my mates by means of the great crack, which Jallet, when the place was building, had discovered by the wind (for he lay below), but since he had died and Bastien had been freed, the two of us, slim enough, had not troubled at the night-work. Now a nail and a stone was provided me, and I set to work at it, but in my agony not content with night-work, ascended on the fifth afternoon, and was trapped there by Mr. Carlet, the taskmaster, who came in for some tools, and calling among others Sergeant King, he searched the caves pretty thoroughly, though for some reason desisting sooner than was expected; nor were the mates questioned beyond the preliminary investigation, the famine hanging heavily upon every one, and he running to a conclusion that I had slipped out among the Government men. Now being trapped, and much sympathy with my grief, two of my mates agreed I should work on out, they drawing me up a little food from their allowance, which was done by means of a chain from the timber-carriage which they were using as a drying-horse, and a running haul of thongs, which, that I might have my hands free, we swivelled on my anklet. Here I worked for four days, not daring to come down, my two mates able to spare me little. On the fifth morning, my mates were taken out as usual, and never returned. For two days and a night I saw nothing of my mates, but heard the hosting of the troops. I now had the neck widened to about


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a foot, but was very thirsty, and feared if I did not get down, I would be unable to move. Having secured the thong by my dagger-knife, I came down about nine that night and got a little water from the jugs. Though the house was lit, as I saw through the port-hole, the court was empty of them who had the order or habit of assembling. At four o'clock on the following, all being quiet, and I being near through the work, yet troubled much with hunger, I again descended. I had not been long down, when I heard his Honour scolding, and looking into the court, saw the foot-boy leading away his horse. I waited there till Spars returned, and spoke to him through the port-hole. After a while he approached me, and when he knew who it was, he promised to get me what he could. This he did, returning with a bottle of wine and some fragments of bones and cheese. As for bread, he said the prisoners were all released into the bush for what they could find, the soldiers and settlers guarding the Camp.note He had been caught taking his share and had been put on Carlet's back. I asked him if the girl was gone, and he said, with a laugh, Master Collins and the lady wouldn't see her again. She was gone with blacks to Cross Marsh. I knew then I could not save her, whereat I spoke wickedly against his Honour and the lady; and he, laughing, backed away from me. Now I called to him, threatening him also, and presently he came near, and said if I wanted out why didn't I come? On my enquiring what he meant, he informed me the door was stapled only, the padlock hanging open in the ring. I ordered him to lift it out, but he said no, he wouldn't. I then asked how I could use it, and he said, with a stick and a piece of thong, I might jerk out the padlock, and lift the hasp. I thanked him, but he made a wicked oath, running weakly to the house.

So in my mischievous anger I did not wait till dark, but with a small double hoe, jerked out the padlock, and with a horn of it, succeeded in raising the hasp. Half an hour after Spars had deserted me, I had passed the bolt, and crept out in the quiet to the butt, where I had a drink of water. The door beside was open, and I came into the passage. People were moving in the maids' portion. Through the door on the left, I saw his Honour sitting on a sofa before the fire. Behind him a Persian shawl and some pistols were on the table. Also wine and cheese. In my grief I would not shoot him, but kill him with my body's strength. Yet it must be done silent, or it might be frustrated. Now the wicked one reminded me what I had been reading in the volume of the Plutarch, how King Hannibal was killed with a cloth, and few knew how he died. So removing my shoes, I came behind and took the shawl. And I put it over his face, and when he sprang forward, some fell into his neck above his


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neck-cloth, and so I stifled him against the sofa-back. And that he might look as if he died as he sat a-reading, I picked up the cocked hat, and put it upon him, and under his hand I put a book that lay on the sofa by his grey pantaloons. Presently after I drank some wine from the decanter and took a little cheese from his plate, and as I took them I saw through the window Mr. Carlet, the taskmaster, approaching the back gate. Taking the pistols, I ran out of a door to the front, but was stopped before Mrs. Collins and a maid-servant. I then came out at the back, hoping to get down the garden behind her Ladyship, and at the corner, past the kitchen, there was Spars holding white beside the wall, and down the garden, Mr. Beaumont, with a nosegay for my lady. I now returned along the kitchen wall, and thence I went across, into the cave, hardly before they came. I think I was not seen by any (saving the foot-boy); but one, attracted, I suspect, by the door, came and looked into the cave, while I lay in Jallet's cell under the crack. He entered one of the cells. He went away throwing-to the door, as some one screamed from the Cottage. Again some one came up in a quarter of an hour, amid the hubbub (when my accident had befallen me), and I heard him drop the hasp and turn the lock.

But God had not done with me, and so I come to my miserable end. As I pressed through the waist of the great crack, a pistol, which I had put behind in my band, exploded in the lower part of my back, and I got with difficulty to my hat and tool, my legs being gone in a paralysis. When I had stanched it, and felt I was not immediately to die, nor yet in such pain, that I could not do something with my hands for a mate or the prisoner, who, like Samuel Jallet, may yet fall upon the secret in these rents—before this I was moaning and making much of my difficulty, and while thus, I depose as I lie here a verily writing, I heard some one come lightly upon the flags, who listened at the hole, and when I cried out for some water, saying I was dying, stayed a while and at last went away, and I have not heard him come again. Who is this who came neither to aid me nor to bring the thing to the light? Oh me, I do not believe … so young! Whom have I killed? I will shoot him through the crack. (The last words were crossed out in the original MS. and made illegible, though from the faintness of the second ink they could again be read.)

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