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Book III Low Water of Spring Tides

Chapter I A Vignette in an Old “Keepsake”

ON December 2nd, 1842, a sad feeling was caused in Hobarton by the news that the prisoner Heans had either escaped or been lost in the forests about Port Arthur.note The news was semaphored from mountain to mountain over that extraordinary sea of trees in the way of particular tidings from and to the prison, whether you were to be informed of a death, or, being a guest of the Commandant, summoned the tramway. A feeling almost of shock hung over many who remembered his mounted figure or in whose minds the death at his hands and the comparative clemency which had been accorded him were still a matter of interest. “Shock”—because the words “lost in the forests” indicated that the search had been abandoned, leaving awash the poor word “escaped” with too heavy a cargo of grey chance for it to float upon the fingers even of romantic hope. Nay, it was there but to stigmatise the poor attempt. There was something infinitely pathetic in a man of his station and gallant bearing, his once elevated position in society, his refined care of his person to the last, lost, wandering, exposed, caught, dead, in that scarce penetrable ring of mighty and extraordinary growths.

We believe there are still to be read some moving regrets and decent moralizing in and out of print upon his “melancholy fate.”

Some five years after, it was reported in Hobarton that he was living in the French seaport town of Dieppe. This strange story was generally discredited. Again a few years later the story was repeated; it was stated he was alive and living in France. But it was not until his demise in the year of the Franco-Prussian War that the rumour of his survival was privately confirmed.

The manner of his escape from that notorious and romantic prison has remained for many reasons a mystery. How comes a man of his physique and gentle nurture to be numbered among the few who succeeded? Hobarton did not know. We believe there were stories. We believe there was one whisper of collusion


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among the authorities, at which those of the authorities who were still living laughed heartily.

How did he penetrate the wooded mountains which rampart it and its lake-like port? How did he feed himself in the forests without gun or arms? How did he find his way where not a few had tried? … where even the Commandant of the Settlement once lost himself and was recovered on his back?

Sir William Heans has left a brief record of his arrival at the Settlement; of his rough passage in the cutter with some fellow-prisoners; of his feeling of despondency—of fear—at the thought that he was approaching the forbidding prison upon which he had heard so many animadversions; of the foreboding he felt as they beat in among the goblin mountains; of his agreeable surprise as they rounded Dead Island at its pretty red stones; and of his amazement as they sailed into the bay at the “haven-like village out of Goldsmith, backed by a tall English spire.”

The place had been laid out for a Naval Arsenal, and had not a few beautiful buildings in the Renaissance Roman, strictly pure, and formed from freestone cut in blocks from a quarry behind the village. The church, an Abbey in size, was a sort of pinnacled Gothic, crowned with a towering Gothic spire. Following a general gentleness of colouring, even the Penitentiary, if of plainer pattern, was built of a beautiful pink brick, and placed low on the lawn of the cove, the jetties along its front lapped by the still arm of a ramparted and foliaged sea much resembling the landscape of Loch Lomond. Perhaps the mountains were a trace too weird and goblin in shape, too close and darkly massed with trees. Perhaps there were three blow-flies for every common house-fly found elsewhere. Perhaps the beautiful harbour was too full of a strangling seaweed. Standing by the church, you saw the Roman town, reared and staircased five houses up on the south hillock, terminating in the Commandant's French villa poised in its hanging garden over the sea (into which sprang a staircase of stone like that we read of in The Mermaid), with below in front, the pink Penitentiary, just seen down by the little water and the isles, through thirteen years' growth of English and Australian trees.

The prison of Port Arthur was like a vignette in an old “Keepsake.” … Looking thus eastward out of the cove fair over the bay or loch—over Dead Man's Isle, which lies in the middle like Ellen's Isle on Loch Katrine—looking out across the bay and up over the towering mountains beyond, you will see where Sir William Heans made his escape, and its direction from the prison. We have now to tell how he broke new ground, and how it occurred.

The peninsula on which Port Arthur is situated may be roughly likened to a pear, its flower being Port Arthur, its stalk the Neck at Eaglehawk, which alone connects it with the mainland.


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A few celebrated escapes were accomplished along the Hobarton Road from the flower to the stalk, the prisoner swimming over, braving the dogs, soldiers, and sharks which watched it. Except by the stalk, how could any one escape from the pear? This road was the one accredited chance of a private pardon—the one opening to good health and practical despair—the others (the pitiful rafts and the roamings in the bush) were but the circlings of the disordered about the bower of the Belle Dame sans Merci. Heans, however, ignoring the stalk, penetrated from the flower at an acute angle from the road fair through the forests eight miles across to the Eastern coast—seeking that rugged indent known as Waterfall Bay. Looking out from Port Arthur, we see that to reach the hills he must have somehow crossed the water or rounded the arm to the north. Which did he do? How did he outwit the Commandant's sleuth-hounds? How, when he had crossed, did he reach the bay without food, water, or a guide?

As the reader may have guessed, it could hardly have been accomplished but in one way, with the help of the guide of Pacificator Robinson, Conapanny, the native woman.

Only a few days before, the Commandant (the famous Captain Booth) had made the remark to Heans, as they were standing on the wharves, that he would do much better to take his parole. He (Heans) had taken sensibly to the work and life; but the oath would open something better to him. The grim man sententiously recommended it. You cannot manage a town of grim clever men without being a grim clever man. This was a grim clever man. Heans, before he descended into the whale-boat which was to row him to his clerking at Point Puer, had received the advice very favourably, requesting only a few days to think it over. While it would seemingly bind himself against himself; turn the prison key a final irrevocable turn; he knew as he raised his face in the cup of the hills, this was a mere impression of his mind, and it would mean, as the Commandant hinted, another kind of turn in a door or two of the walled town above.

He was momently a little shocked when one evening he heard from the boatswain of the whale-boat that a Captain Shaxton was in the place, and had lodgings in the Governor of Tasmania's Cottage over past the church. Government Cottage was a little carven house on which much pains had been lavished, even to biblical bas-relief. It lay secluded beyond the avenue, with its garden and its fountain. It was known Shaxton was the author of the new form of “silent treatment,” and had come to superintend the laying of the lower courses of his prison. It was supposed he was a stern fellow. Heans heard and saw nothing more of him till one evening about six o'clock, when he received


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a summons from Captain Booth saying that Captain Shaxton would be very glad to see him, and asking him to step over to the Commandant's villa.

Captain Booth had given a favourable account of Heans, said he was very civil, and had kept his address; and Shaxton said he would like just to see how he was—he didn't care about speech—before he went back. He would be glad to give a decent account of him to his cousin. It was a pleasant night and they were walking on the green point beyond the garden. The Commandant said—with some deprecations from Shaxton—he would ask Sergeant Dores, in whose cottage Heans now had a chamber, to bring him to the gate, and they could take a turn above the water.

Booth seemed to consider Shaxton a seasoned enough old fellow, not to be frightened by much, while Shaxton was hardening himself up that he might not be shocked by the sight of Heans. When they heard the sentry clattering at the gate (a pretty carriage-gate with stone pillars) and a tall figure walked through, he was glad to see it was Heans himself, in a second-class suit of smooth cords, a sort of collar, and that sort of clever cravat which tries to hide a linenless shirt. No cane. No glass. No gloves. A black peaked cap a little rain-loosed.

The Commandant went up into the veranda, taking the sergeant with him; while Heans, with a look or two about him as if he were rather blind, walked slowly through the garden to the place where Shaxton was standing with his grinning face towards him.

Shaxton remained in that curious position, looking at him hard and doubting, till he came quite close, reminding him of his way of going for Daunt in his room. He seemed half-moved, half-inimical. When they shook hands, he made a great noise, laughing too much. He was strange. He turned gropingly away and put out his hand, however, indicating the sward and inviting Heans to a turn. Not a word did they say for a while, Shaxton stooping a great deal and once only appraising, with a chuckle and a beckon of his arm, the Island of the Dead, and the island-like spit of Point Puer with its lights in the water.

Shaxton asked what sort of life he had of it here. Heans told him, “not so bad: a great deal of clerking work, some choir singing, a little fishing with the commissary-general, a hand at cards with a few of the military—a system sharp, energetic, clever, chilly—distinctly chilly to two old club-men like yourself and me, Shaxton!”

Captain Shaxton concealed great agitation. He was much hipped at seeing how little he was really altered. He thought to himself, “The old seemly reserve; the eye just a little duller, just a bit more fixed; the man might do it, he could do it.” In the quiet evening, in this twilight place miscalled a prison, amid the night noises of little birds, he and poor imprisoned Heans walked


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quietly, his throat sore yet with its old wrong the while he sought words by which he might give way to the persuasions of his wife. Twice had Heans endeavoured to abscond, the first time with the secret aid of Matilda. Again she would join with others in getting Heans away, and he (Shaxton) was actually here with the discretion of the thing and the very message in his mouth.

He wore a cloak over his evening dress and a low castor hat. His lips, as he eyed the bay, had an underhung and fateful smile.

“What a scene, Heans,” says he, with an awed sort of chuckling, “for a duel in the play, an affair between gentlemen, interrupted by the lady-heroine?”

“Would you interrupt it, Shaxton?” says Heans.

“Heans, I am not the tragedy man,” said Shaxton. “I'm the old fellow who does the kind heart.”

“Well, you can't fight me, sir,” said Heans.

“Ho-ho, no,” said Shaxton, “not you and me, Heans.”

How difficult to do! How difficult to decide! It was with him entirely whether he should give or keep his monstrous message. It was for him to judge if these remnants of Sir William were to be trusted with it, whether they were equal to making use of it when heard. It would never be done if he shut his mouth; his faithless, dishonourable mouth. It was with him to withhold a treachery or give. With him to muddle, mar, miscommit, destroy the man's steadiness, give him great news, uncover a strange chance, fling back the lock to a shocking and remarkable opening—or leave him to this (him, poor ceremonious fellow!)—this kind of a collar, this unseemly self-attention, these malformed clothes, these shoes, this cravat from which a fellow peeped aside!

The sea lifted without wave and swept inward about the garden—inward to the wharves. He had not committed himself to anything. He had not given any promise that he would disclose anything to Heans. “Life's brief,” he thought. “Like the great sea-weed down there, we surge or bob up for our gasp of indifferent air, and sway secretly away!” Poor Heans might play out his comical piece here as well as otherwhere; and be buried perhaps in yonder Island Cemetery; and leave the Shaxton mouth to a few “civil enquiries”: to the pleasant thing here in the garden from him to a prisoner of the prison.

His wife's voice touched him.

Booth stood on the high steps of the veranda in conversation with Sergeant Dores. They could hear his sharp, roused protests. As little did he (Booth) think there was a chance of skedaddling for the poor old beau as he dreamed of his swimming the Neck itself, or the architect of the Model Prison being tampered with or tampering with him. No, Hyde-Shaxton that night was the last man to help a prisoner to abscond. The very last man in the prison.

The same air, so self-contained, so pathetically bon ton!




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What a fate—what a fate!

His God, no. … not the cravat; not the Government shoes; not this erection of gentility in burlesque; not these hills, Hyde-Shaxton, for the old fellow who gave it up for the blind young girl! We suppose Shaxton called himself a humane man, though he did design a prison. We suppose he excused himself as a humane man. It is the more uncomfortable, uncommon form of being weak—except with ourselves. Presently, half-chuckling it out—nay, begging him to do it—he communicated there almost without warning the planning that was offered for his escape.

“Is there any way by which you could find yourself outside these walls, besides this kind of thing?” says he.

Heans asked what he meant.

Says he: “Would the Emerald eight miles over those mountains be any use to you, Heans? Could you make use of her—could you reach her?”

“I take it you are in earnest; you do not lightly say it?” Heans said.

“No, I don't. Be sharp!”

In the first dark flush, Heans “believed he could—it was germane to his feelings—he thought so.”

“Could you do it with the old guide, Conapanny, to meet you, feed you, and take you across?”

In the first pale flash, “Yes, sir, but how would Conapanny pass the gut at Eaglehawk?”

“She is prepared for that. Indeed, of what could they suspect the black if they caught her?”

“My Heaven, that is so!” said Heans.

After some talk Sir William Heans satisfied Captain Shaxton his part in it was feasible. They came to an agreement while yet quietly at their paces. Shaxton swore it would be the end of them all if he saw Heans again, and asked how he had best communicate with him, when, by lack of report, Conapanny might be safely said to have passed the Neck. Both he and Heans agreed that the church was the best medium, and Shaxton volunteered the suggestion that his wife would shortly visit the prison in his company and that her presence in the church (and hers alone) would be the warning that the black had gone out upon her journey, and had had time to arrive at a point on the hill opposite the settlement. Her actual arrival at that point would be made known to Heans by a forest fire started on a hot day on the summit of the hills towards the Neck.note Shaxton,


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moreover, asked for some distinct place at which Conapanny could await Heans' escape from the town, and Heans bade him inform her to take the line between Dead Island and the Signal Station on Mount Arthur, and to keep well up from the water in case by some accident he failed to hide his track. He believed there was no danger of their searching any way but to the Neck.

He promised to obey the old native's directions how to hide his path.

The plan put forward had originated with poor, dilatory Stifft, being financed by somebody who was nameless (sentiment will say the Earl of Daisley), and been communicated through Mr. Six to the Oughtryn household—I fear from certain signs Oughtryn himself was not quite unaware of it—and from blind Abelia on her sick-chair to Mrs. Shaxton, who was in the habit of sitting beside her. The surprise and disgust occasioned by the absconding of Madam Ruth with a clerk of the Cascades Prison—a mere prisoner like herself—Oh woman! woman! you are all alike! what a prosaic end to the strange romance!—while it lost Leete his appointment at Port Arthur, was nothing to the disgust of Captain Stifft when the phantom schooner at the mouth of the Tamar took off only Mr. Jarvis Carnt and the half-fainting figure of the artist of the Cascades. True, the fog, or the weeds on his hull, or his indifferent seamanship, had delayed Stifft till the rowers in the boat had all but mutinied and threatened to pull home or land and leave their besodden and despairing cargo in the sun under the beacon. True, Mr. Carnt had made them understand “never” for any other man was “vulgarly early” for the captain of this schooner, and he would prefer some other way of getting dry. True, the ship got the two poor wraiths it did only by a chance of mistiness and calm which kept the day in its bed and winged a late hail to reach a woman's ears. Stifft would neither accept admonishment nor be pleased with his success. On this matter we dare to state nothing more than the fact that he either borrowed or moved some one of means sufficiently (perhaps by his very despondency) to allow him funds with which to procure stores and a new sail, and attended to another matter connected with his two years' agreement with Sir William Heans. Though shocked by the news conveyed by his boy that Heans was now a prisoner at Port Arthur, this did not deter him from offering his services. The details of the affair which led to that segregation spurred him to a fresh effort of patience, while the mild form of Sir William's sentence strengthened him in the belief that the liberation of that gentleman was not outside the power of the contracting party.

He would never have brought his ship so close to Hobarton, perhaps, if Mr. Daunt had been alive. He had had a great respect for what Mr. Daunt might possibly know. But Mr. Daunt, as we know, had died suddenly during an entertainment in


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Hobarton at the house of the old farmer-prisoner. There, also, during the identical day, Sir William Heans had attacked and killed a soldier, though he saved, with his undoubted dislike, the daughter from worse than death. He was always a man for the ladies! We curtail the story as Stifft considered it. On general evidence, especially that of a native, the soldier had been proved to be a dangerous, threatening man, though through an unlucky question by the police magistrate, just when the black seemed inclined to be communicative, she had been reduced to a weeping and impenetrable silence. She seemed to admit knowledge of the man in her childhood, that he had always been a ‘bad wite,’ and that she had had a lover who was a prisoner in the caves in the days of Governor Collins, whom the man had hated if he had not actually brought him to his death; but when asked if she was willing to commit the hand of her lover as being in any way connected with the death of Governor Collins, she grew indignant, laughed, cried, contradicted all her previous evidence and at once reduced herself, or was reduced, to a babbling incoherency from which nothing was able to arouse her. Nay, if she had admitted she was in the caves on the night of that Wednesday, she laughed when asked if Spafield removed the remnants of a body from the stable, and was a hewn statue of silence when they asked if she knew where the body was buried. For the rest, the old farmer had already warned the authorities of ill-will between the servant and the soldier, requesting the latter's removal from his house. The suspicion lay on the soldier and the blame on the authorities (as they admitted), if Heans' excuse for his concealment in the stable as hiding from the man in the hope that he would presently go out was not accepted in some quarters. Oughtryn's sick daughter, herself, seemed doubtful why Heans was in hiding in the caves, unless he wished to avoid the man—or unless he was, as he rather unconnectedly implied, “examining the cracks.” It was Stifft himself who communicated to the Oughtryn household the fact that Heans had been endeavouring to escape, and so it was made plain what he had resigned (so we have it) to these few.

How far Oughtryn was involved we hesitate to say. How far, or by what inducement, he was moved out of his caution towards so grim an enterprise—who shall decide? Possibly he had an inkling from the first what his ‘gentleman’ had been about in the crack; possibly he had had much thought upon the point and his not immediately crying out for help—which were explained when he heard of the near presence of the escapees in the carriage. Heans had struggled with death itself to hide his interrupted enterprise and save a hubbub for a half an hour. If he had succeeded in breaking out of the stable, Spafield would scarcely have summoned the police to confront the story on the girl's chill lips. Poor, precise young miss! did she manage, lying so pale there in her chair, with about her curious pots of


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Wandering Jew and Ragged Betty, cherry pie, Macquarie Harbour vine, love, bay—was it she who worked these wonders upon her Conapanny and her puzzled, scolding parent; did she produce a prudent argument; was it she, “poor chit,” who among these frightened counsellors, these “fair-weather friends,” voiced the final appeal; was it she who (though addressing one who had no “liking for such proceedings”) fluttered about the quiet room the most “obscure” yet the most speaking reason?

Thus Captain Shaxton's was the mouth which chose and uttered the words which showed Heans that mysterious path; which, considering his stern business there, and considering what these gentlemen had known of one another, was a strange weapon to be put at his will, and used in a way as becoming to his warmth of heart, as it was unseemly to his cloth. It cannot be said that he owed Heans this debt. On the contrary, from all we can hear, things between them were hardly even yet—never quite even—sir or madam! There was something even forbearing and showing quite a kind and philosophical outlook in this old fellow. There he went, chuckling and shrugging at the powerful smooth-belted tide in his black cloak and spotless breeches. As for Sir William Heans, he had great difficulty in mastering his emotion. As he says in his description of the interview to Sir Charles, “what with the shock of it, what with the something touching in the old fellow's breaking in and saying it, and the oppression on his spirits, there in the private garden, the Commandant in his very veranda, he had a dismaying struggle to retain an appearance of uneasy resignation.”

The audacity of it—the unlikeliness of it!

When the conversation of Captain Shaxton and the prisoner began to flag a little, they forsook the water and began to return over the grass towards the villa. The garden was beautifully secluded by its fringing of trees above the Penitentiary and the wharves. Booth seemed to see suddenly that Shaxton wished to be relieved, for he advanced down the steps to meet them, sending the sergeant to the gate. Captain Booth, so they say, was a sharp, clever man. Shaxton met him with a rather rueful chuckling, as from one with whom a trying interview was nearly accomplished. “We two old fellows were glad of a word, Commandant. Many thanks. It makes me ashamed to find him a more resigned man than I am. Yes, I'm outgrowing it all, too, Heans. I declare I get befogged now sometimes. I feel—ho-ho—like the drunken gentleman who sought refuge in a theatre, and begged for a seat on the audience side!”

The Commandant made an “oh-ohing,” and said rather harshly: “he was happy to find Sir William Heans well enough—not complaining, he was sure?”

“Not a bit of it, sir,” said Captain Shaxton. “It was just like Heans to keep his head and busy himself with his work.” Of


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course, it was new for a man like Heans. He hoped he foresaw some more pleasant things in store for him. He believed that would come before long.

“Why, yes,” Captain Booth replied, “it has been recommended to Heans that he should take his parole. This we have put before him seriously, and Heans is giving it a few days' consideration. It will mean a considerable broadening of his life. There is a hint of some horseback exercise in the direction of the Model Farm, and Mr. Lempriere, the Commissary-General, requests his interest at the Tidal Observatory on Point Puer. Just so. Here we are, hourly looking for the brief assent.” He looked at Heans.

“Ah, well, I'll leave that to Heans and yourself, sir,” said Shaxton, calmly. And he turned about very slowly and deliberately and went close up to Heans (close to that comical article of apparel about the erect neck) and spoke in a low voice some confidential words to him, and said “Good-night,” shaking his hand warmly and chuckling ruefully. As for Heans, he made a rather sad little congé, raising his cap off his white hair, and moving off a little reserved, putting his hand up against the bars of the gate as he went out in that rather blind way. Shaxton never thought of that moment without a shudder, as Heans strode off with the soldier down the umbrageous lane, with behind them the beautiful tower of the Powder Magazine, so classic in the gloom-light it might have come stone for stone from the Capitol or the Appian Way.




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Chapter II The Abbey in that Far Cove

BOOTH'S importunity apart, the thing, when he came to consider it move by move, was not so easy. It was comforting to be able to say: the appearance of Matilda Shaxton at church one afternoon—a glow of fire on the mountains—then eight miles (or double that) across the forests—and his part at Port Arthur was played; there yet remained the breakage from the prison, which, though not dangerous, was not pleasing to dwell upon. As he thought it over it became less and less so. Out of three or four outlets which he had outlined to Shaxton, he had chosen with Shaxton's approval the safest—perhaps the only certain way. At the weekly choir practice, it had been a habit of kindness in the Chaplain to invite him to take a stroll without the north door of the church. They would walk past the Governor's Cottage, up the north knoll (where goes the road), and return. It was only a few paces, and nearly all that time they were in sight and hearing of the sentries … but not all. The lane inclined among the bushes to the left and to the right. Of late days, as Spring came, if the conversation became interesting, the clergyman and he would take a constitutional nearly to the top.

The Chaplain was an elderly man, with coarse grey hair and a curious sturdy, wistful smile. He did quite a lot of good in the prison, and indeed with every one. He had the wonderful gift of approaching men differently: one familiarly, another with reserve. He was something of a scholar, but his aim was otherwhere. He had no visible fault, but some were invented for him. He was good and kind, and often withheld his opinion, while listening sturdily to those which could not have been anything but painful to him. Heans' task was the one of throwing the Chaplain off his feet, gagging him, and binding his limbs. He did not look upon this as an undertaking of grave difficulty, but he could not approach it without considerable anguish of mind.

Once over the Knoll, he would be in the forests, until three miles on he rounded the north arm of the Bay, and made east along the water. His plan was to make immediately for the beach and make speed along the sands; then as he neared the


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north arm, or Long Bay, he would approach the Eaglehawk road and walk warily, on the qui vive for a late passenger-boat from the tramway, or the tramwaynote itself, which here had a terminus, and if running late would have to be circuited. He would be much aided by dark. Once round the arm and he would have nothing to watch but the central observation-house on Signal Hill, and in this lay his peculiar safety, for the direction in which he was bound was completely bare of the mountain watch-houses which dominated every other part of the Peninsula.

(He relates how by Conapanny's request he was directed how to use the road to confuse his pursuers, and also how to descend into the sea on fragments of tree bark.)

Heans, though his singing voice has been described as passable, if inconsistent, was still vain of it, and was eventually persuaded by the Chaplain to make one of the singers in the Port Arthur choir. To enable him to attend practice, he was granted the countersign every Wednesday, and walked in the evening down Punishment Steps, out of the gate, along the wharves, through the Doric gateway of the avenue (you can see, even now, the pillars lying in the grass), and up the avenue to the church. This beautiful building was of unusual form, having two immense wings running north and south in which sat the prisoners, and between, a shorter nave, entered from the tower, having at the west end a chancel and large window. It was of hewn stone. In the nave were high wooden pews for prison-officers and guests, some of them curtained, while on transverse seats before the chancel was the choir, and on the right a wooden pulpit of the kind called “three-decker.” The seats of the prisoners slanted upward to the rear. During the service there was a sentry without the tower, and one outside both the doors in the wings, and the church was locked.

The Wednesday practice was attended by four determined constables, three high-singing privates in the military, seven good-conduct men in grey, two ancient fellows with cultivated voices and moulting airs, as steely, forgotten, and proud as two old ravens, a chanting Stipendiary, no less a person than the Deputy-Assistant-Commissary-General, and a quiet fellow, fellow-baritone to Heans, whom he understood to be one of the officers' servants. The choir was unsurpliced, those with uniforms appearing in them, the two old fellows in their grey prison smocks, for they were Imperial Paupers, or invalids. There was no organ. The service was Wesleyan. The Psalms were pleasantly and finely chanted.

A fortnight after Shaxton's visit, the weather again moderated, and the clergyman stopping Heans after “practice,” they had a few words and afterwards took a turn up the knoll. The old


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man's monosyllabic talk, and his after-work air, sturdy and polite, if somewhat lost in private anxiety, touched Sir William Heans sufficiently to render him silenter than usual, drawing from the other a tentative enquiry after his affairs and spirits, which he choked off with cackles and shrugs about the weather. They continued to talk concerning the climate, comparing the vanished winter with that of Westmorland. They had some words also on the writings of S. Paul and the craft and cunning of his arguments, by which he must have appealed to the crafty cunning man of many ages. The knoll up which they paced had been once cleared of scrub, but it was once more thinly overgrown, and there were places in the road (as Sir William looking back, perceived) where they walked a few paces completely hidden from the Settlement. The ground was soft and sandy. Heath was budding among the coral fern by the wayside. It was difficult to believe, as he walked spasmodically talking in the grey evening, that after that wonderful and terrible experience on a coming Sunday, that last sight of the beautiful face he yet loved, he must come to interfere with the person of this old man; that through a violent action from him, the seamed and wistful countenance at his shoulder must change to amazement, alarm, dislike, upbraiding, reproach. How would he bring himself to it? After what fairness of argument, unselfish sturdiness of interest, or wistful silence of disagreement, would he turn upon and grapple with him? Better here near the top, not far from the fringe of bracken. He supposed the Chaplain would struggle and bravely wrestle him off, elderly as he was, and sedentary as was his habit. It must be done sharp; the mouth, now anxious, gagged; the arms, now persuasively raised in gesticulation, bound! “Shall you, sir, revenge yourself as you sometimes do, with a wilful stare as you lie in the sand; and I, sir, with a salute upon your upbraiding face?”

So Sir William thought as he went out and returned into the prison. In the ensuing weeks he often looked across the cove, sharply examining the church and knoll. Portions of the road were visible from Dores' cottage and he saw that every precaution must be exercised, and every outing with the Chaplain utilized for strict measurement, precaution, and observation. From the same window, Dores' house being high, he could see part of Dead Island and the hills behind which Stifft would soon be hanging. He often stared long and narrowly at these extraordinary forests, and those swathing the northern heights of Signal Hill, placing in anticipation on this bosom or that a sudden flash and jet of flames, and too experienced in the accidents of life to be able to credit, without moments of despondency and scepticism, the extraordinary promise of a few friends.

(“Ah, Scarning,” says he, in writing to that gentleman, “it seems now a matter for the elegant fireside; for a smile over


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Plutarch in my smoking cabinet or abroad in the coverts of our dear French pleasance; but place yourself with however good a friend in that valley of athletic sceptics, whose attitude of life it was to suspect the fingers of a closed hand, and something of my suspense and cynicism will be yours.”)

October had gone and November had just begun, and Heans had heard nothing more of Shaxton, though indeed along outside the walls below the Hospital, the foundations of the Model Prison were rising out of the ground. For all he knew Shaxton might be in the town or out. Each Sunday, during the two services (at eleven and three), he snatched, through a pair of spectacles he had of late procured, a secret survey of the pews in the nave. He knew with strict accuracy what persons inhabited the nearer seats, and was aware instinctively, and a few moments after the service had begun, if there was a change, and what. Shaxton, if he ever appeared, if he were not so placed, would endeavour to place himself in a conspicuous position. There was a gap of a few feet between the choir and congregation, while the first three pews on either side—that the prisoners in the wings might view the chancel—were uncurtained. In the third of these on the north of the aisle sat the Commandant and one of the military officers, while in the pew behind, half of which was curtained at back and side, Mrs. Booth and an ancient lady sat with three young children. The three pews behind and the four opposite these across the aisle were curtained in a similar manner; moreover, the persons of the few worshippers in the rearmost of these were visible to Heans only when they were on their feet. Here was a black wig, there a beflowered, there a beaver bonnet. He knew them all well enough.

Sir William had begun to look about him in the broadening summer, and doubt both his courage and craft against the pressing of the parole. He had not again been personally approached by Booth, but in three or four situations he caught upon himself that sharp, uneasy gaze. Also it had been conveyed to him by Sergeant Dores that Sir John Franklin on his late visit to the prison had made enquiries about him and had been relieved to hear how “good were his prospects.” Despite of this he had made every preparation and taken every precaution to meet his friends' communication; he had fixed upon a spot where he could come to grimmer hand-grips with the clergyman; he had snatched a view of the beach from the top of the knoll; he was even now secreting large supplies of Mrs. Dores' broad beans. And here it was—a dream seemingly—an insincere civility—the warm-hearted and exaggerated offer of too kind enthusiasm!

One Sunday afternoon, a week after the visit of the Governor of Tasmania to Government Cottage, when both Church services had been distinguished by the presence of Franklin in the pew


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beside the Commandant, and that of her Ladyship beside the Commandant's wife, when the Settlement was suffering something of a reaction after the fine comings and goings, and Heans himself regaining courage after the sinking of spirits occasioned by the sight of the great explorer who had again benevolently touched his life—on this, a fine warm day, he noted, as the congregation assembled, that the officer seated by Captain Booth had an unwonted broadness in his build, and raising his face, he saw that it was Captain Shaxton, For a second or two he dropped his eyes, endeavouring to collect his perturbed senses. When he had quieted his distress, in a sideways flutter of the eyelids, he saw seated in her Ladyship's place against the red curtain behind, a figure in a brown bonnet with averted head.

The service had not yet begun. The chimes were yet pealing over the harbour. The army of prisoners had filed two and two up the avenue, split at the tower, and wound in single file into each door of the wings, which it now filled. There they sat, to the front the men in grey, and sloping higher that all might see and be seen, they with one black and one yellow sleeve, and highest and furthest back those in Lifer's yellow. On the chest of each a great P. A. The prison officers and their women filled the body of the church. The keys had been shot in the doors. Within, thirty soldiers stood to their guns against the tower. The Chaplain sat in the pulpit, looking thoughtfully before him, waiting yet to rise and pray.

Minute after minute—yet it seemed as if nothing would turn the brown bonnet in the curtained pew. There was a long prayer softly but penetratingly spoken. A loud, deep psalm was chanted—psalm of scaffolds and arenas, the Twenty-fifth Psalm: ‘Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed.’ The Bible was read. Another long prayer. Still the lady in brown in the chocolate bonnet had not turned her head. She had arisen, seated herself, and bowed herself in prayer, but only one gleam of a cheek as pale as the feather of that straw poke showed above the high wooden pew. It seemed as though she were trying to lose herself in the reading and the prayer. Sir William Heans, as he sang in his stiff way under the great window, his book elevated, glanced at her again and yet again out of the corner of his spectacles.

He could not be certain. Nay, he did not think that it was. He believed no woman would do so strange a thing! He did not expect it of that lady. But if—if possibly it was Mrs. Shaxton sitting there—what joy, what inexpressible relief and gratitude! Think—the black somewhere up upon those hills outside; the schooner and poor Captain Stifft actually beating in under the cliffs beyond! Before God—to whom this sanctuary belonged—let them have prudence! Nay, it was not she. This person's form was slighter.




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Perhaps the poor young lady was oppressed with the distracting differences of this place of worship? But she must look about her soon. She would not go through the whole service in that still spirit. What is her face like? Is it old or young, sour or soft with pretty hope? Is she perhaps a very beautiful young woman? Has she dark hair—fair hair? What a pity she is so reserved!

A lady exposed to such a thing! Well, well, in these days we may wonder at it! It is a most singular story. In cold narrative it sounds rather an audacious feat of cool endurance. To be locked in that church with such a secret! As we walk now through the roofless ruin, and endeavour to reseat the wild-hearted lady in her pew, with only the book-rest between herself and Commandant Booth: her husband's back before her: as we endeavour to repicture the slim figure of Matilda Shaxton, stooping forward as she sits, a brown mantle about her shoulders, the renowned Commandant just in front, and beside him that humane and guilty inconsistent, Captain Shaxton, somewhat drooping-mouthed, depressed, and singing glumly—to rehear the rustle of massed humanity, to think the thought of this and that, to think the precarious hope in the brains of the three whose story we have followed, to listen to the remote determined reader in the pulpit: “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly”—attempting to picture it, we are not altogether comfortable with the knowledge of how little the most clever, most omniscient officer present had any reason to connect the presence of Captain Shaxton's lady in the church with the accident that happened afterwards to the once-fashionable, now pathetic figure at the back of the choir. It was probably thought that Captain Shaxton did not know she would be confronted by Sir William Heans in the chancel when he brought his wife to the afternoon service. Then people alter so, and perhaps she did not remember him. But, if it was not known if she knew her old beau or not (for she made no effort to speak with him), it was supposed by some, who perhaps were observing him too closely, that he recognised both Captain Shaxton and his wife, and even that the sight of the lady, with its reminder of the brilliant circles in which he had moved, was partially responsible for his melancholy fate.

Sir William Heans' book quivered in his hand as he sang or sat at prayer. If it was she, what unbelievable joy! But was it she? As often as he looked aside, the face of the lady was lost in her great feathered bonnet. She sat behind Commandant Booth, her head seen just past his head, Mrs. Booth and the children being on her right and the old woman on her left. She seemed instinctively to seat herself towards the pulpit. She sat erect and a little forward, her face just so slightly bowed and so averted, she did not show hair or cheek. Her neck was long and very white, and sprang


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frailly from her white collar. She wore a heavy necklace of amber. During the prayers she sat very bowed—sadly or abstractedly, so the prisoner thought—and when she stood up, he could see but the top of her bonnet over the Commandant's shoulder. Sir William Heans felt a little oppressed and sceptical of the woman. Two psalms had been chanted. The Chaplain had prayed for this assemblage, and read. A hymn was sung, a stern old hymn by Sir Walter Scott. This woman still sat forward in her pew with her bonnet fallen and averted. But see, has she not a sad, wild air? Is it fancy there is something sorrowful in that cramped posture? Why is then the lady so oppressed as that impression Heans had of her in that last look? Heans—Heans—something frightens you—something has begun to beat at your heart in yearning—something pitiful and mournful tries your spirit in the look of that poor woman! O freedom, where is then your prize! O life, where is thy victory! What is there in that bowed figure against the curtain that brings persuasion who it is? Not its determination, not a visible fine high spirit of help, not a natural shrinking and fear, nay not that joyous message of gain and personal power—nay, Heans, a little ripple and tender eddy of loss.

It happened that during the following lesson the Chaplain “commended unto them” one “Phœbe,” “for she hath been a succourer of many.…” and Heans, as he sat with his arms folded, cast round his eyes with a sort of affright and yearning. As he did so, the bonnet seemed to turn a fraction towards him, giving a faint gleam of fairish hair, and as if she knew that he was looking at her, her head fell, and then lifted with a heavy effort, sank again, lifted, and gave him the grave anguish of the face he longed for.

Captain Shaxton wrote privately he was much hit by the sight of Heans singing away in the choir. He never forgot the old fellow standing under the window with his proud short-sighted airs, and the (ahem!) cravat. There he was among those deep-voiced, broad-arrowed choristers, piping away like the best of them. He didn't know whether to chuckle or be indignant. Perhaps the strangest jest of all was the old parson-man in the pulpit who'd befriended Heans, and had to be attacked. Captain Shaxton “never attended to a sermon so closely,” he said, “nor gave such strict attention to any other clergyman.” He looked at Heans, he wrote, and then he looked up at the old fellow in the pulpit, and was never so glad to find a brave little sentimental old gentleman droning out talk about “loving your neighbour as yourself,” and “those who have loved another having fulfilled the law.” His stature was comforting, and his text—“Oho, he liked to hear the kind old fellow saying these things.”

At the close, when the doors were unlocked, prisoners and warders had filed out, the congregation gone, the soldiers tramped


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away, and the choir had sole possession of the church, Sir William crept slowly out under the tower. The Chaplain, himself, was just behind him, and struck perhaps with his heavy air, he said, with that wistful smile of his: “What a beautiful eventide!” Heans, walking shakily from his abstraction and looking up, perceived that the light was heavy on the buildings and cove trees. A sudden excitement caught him as he saw a new wanderer in those extraordinary forests.…




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Chapter III Sir William Joins the Wanderer

THE weather culminated on that Friday after the Shaxtons signal in a fierce hot day, and Sir William Heans in his room in the evening kept a vigilant eye on the hills, though hardly expecting the native to be yet across, and only half looking for her flaring summons so close upon Matilda's visit. He could not, however, refrain from a little despondency when the serried tiers of the forests sank unillumined into the darkness, vanishing without a spark, nor could he altogether restrain his mind from picturing the many accidents which might have befallen the woman in those cathedralled fastnesses, or in and about the necks of East Bay and Eaglehawk. A change of weather blowing up in the night, the following day was cold, so for that occasion the precious chance of communication had gone.

On the back of this disappointment came the fellow-trouble bordering on the keen and grim. He had been set one morning some rather distasteful writing in the Punishment Offices, when along came Captain. Booth's servant with a message summoning him to the Commandant's villa. With his heart in his mouth, Heans left his pen and followed the man through the archway and along the street to the gate. All the way up, and while he waited in the garden till Booth was at leisure to join him, his mind fluttered in agitation about the trouble of the parole. Week after week had passed, and here he was, without doubt, to be asked what was the result of his rather dubious deliberations for and against. How might he best again put it aside? How delay yet a few days? There was this parry, that riposte, lame enough against that keen weapon. And supposing he was unable to parry it, and Booth stripped him sudden of his play, with no defence left him—only refusal? If he found he could not give them his word? Ah, Mr. Heans, what now? What would they do with the loose string allowed, the little extraordinary freedoms, those shreds and tatters of suddenly so priceless latitude?

It was a serious moment for Sir William as he squared his shoulders and slowly paced the drive-way before the veranda. It was as beautiful a sunlit morning as you could have wished to see, the shrubs and trees lying golden and green on the sunny air, backed by grey tower, wall, and statue-crowned peak, and


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the low waters making a little sound by the wharves. He does not say, in contemplating this scene, if his mind entertained, in that grave extremity, the ease which would have opened about his plot had he greeted Captain Booth with an affirmative and taken the oath there in his garden. Perhaps it is improper in us even to chronicle the temptation.

When Commandant Booth came out upon the porch and descended the steps, Heans, who had arranged his mind in some sort, came enquiringly towards him. He was by that time ready for the troublesome eventuality, and did what he could to hide his apprehensions under a calm reserve. The Commandant looked up from a paper he was reading, and wished him “Good morning” with his determined, uneasy eyes. He immediately brought the other's heart to a standstill by asking him, “how he found the place in the summer?” On Heans politely replying that it had many attractions on a morning like “this morning,” the Commandant, balancing on the bottom step with the paper stretched in his two hands, and his eyes grimly hanging on Heans, made the horrible remark, that “given sufficient liberty of action, a man might find in Port Arthur as much contentment as a short life deserved.” The last thing that occurred to Sir William at that instant was that the grim gentleman was himself somewhat lost in the graces of his own creation, was himself lost in personal feelings, and momently startled from his caution, he said, “Yes—yes—indeed, it was like a village out of Goldsmith” (had he seen it in these later days, he might with romantic accuracy have compared it to the “Deserted Village”), “and a man only needed sufficient privacy of decision to see poetry itself behind the prison.” Such, however, was the case. Heans' luck seemed actually swinging over in his favour. The Commandant was himself only enjoying the sun a little, and thinking aloud. With a flash, and a shrug of his shoulders, he summond Heans to corroborate some items in the “register” of the Boys' Penitentiary, and grimly and thoughtfully ascended to the veranda.

Imagine Sir William Heans' relief that it didn't go any further. As he opened the gate, he whistled one of Miss Abelia's songs in the red-coat's face.

As we have said, luck seemed to be turning, for heat fell again in the following week, and Sunday broke in a suffocating sun, though with little wind. That day and night Heans' anxious eyes were constantly on the hills, but again they were unbroken by any flame or light that he could discern. Then in the morning of Monday, when rowing over to Point Puer in the whale-boat, the boatswain pointed out a small column of smoke rising from a shoulder behind Signal Hill, and expressed the opinion it was early in the year for bush fires. The day was very warm, and there was a slight breeze west and north. So remote seemed the smoke and so natural the sight, that Heans, as he sat in the stern-sheets of the six-oared vehicle, was amazed at himself,


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at the quiet manner in which he observed and discussed the phenomenon. There it was faintly ballooning into the yellow-blue sky. How shocking, how difficult, in the hot and drowsy morning, to think that that dim wraith was speaking to himself. He heard the boatswain say he must hasten to the wharf, as men would be sent to aid the soldiers from Eaglehawk. He tried to see the old woman near the smoke, or climbing away from it, in this or that high cobweb of a thousand trees. No, she would not be near it; she would be remote from it before her smoke could be seen. No (and his eyes were grim with thankfulness), more than likely she was here and now watching them from the opposite shore, behind the veiling trees of the Island of the Dead, towards which they were swinging under the prisoners' oars.

That evening the whale-boat was late in calling for him at Point Puer, and he had leisure to watch from the boat-stage the far point of the fire smarting and sinking on the gloom like a damp fuse. He learned that the blaze had been signalled as making towards Port Bunche, and that a force of prisoners and soldiers had been taken off to protect the constables' houses. We fain would have presented to the reader a picture of Sir William returning to the wharves in the stern-sheets of the boat with the forests about the harbour ablaze about his head; yet as he ascended those graceful jetties which the same element has reduced to a few odd sticks, and stepped his way, past the various guarded arches, up among the towers and battlemented houses of the peopled town, he felt the very remoteness of her signal spark was the best medicine for his confidence in the guide of Augustus Robinson, and assured him the small live light at his back was the message of human hands.

This was on Monday. On Tuesday the fire was still burning in the settled heat, and on Wednesday, though the smoke ascended only at intervals, it was still engaging the men from the Settlement. Though, in view of their comings and goings by tramway, road, and boat, Heans attended the church on Wednesday without intention of making his hazard after practice that day, yet as he strolled out of the north door with the Chaplain, he experienced all the tenseness and pathos of an invitation. They paced rather exhausted up the hot road, the clergyman sturdily brushing the flies from a somewhat red yet patient countenance. Heans walked with his arms folded, and as they passed calmly gossiping from bush to bush, covert to covert, further and further up the hill, further and further from the Settlement, lost to view to this, and then to that, and then to the other pair of eyes stationed on the terraces of the town, the impatience of Sir William with all he was dropping behind, and the tug of yearning and fine, immediate offer from that which every step of his feet marshalled further about them—the impulse to seize the ghastly changes and chances for the first time possible now and on the instant, was peculiar and overwhelming.


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He found his prudence thin. He found it but serviceable to remind himself that next Wednesday would see it done, and himself bursting out through all these straitened chains of chance and honour. The smell of ferns in the cooler places of the road, the spy-holes to the forest, the very subject on the lips of his companion pedestrian—the fire—constantly pulled him back to the fact that the blackwoman was here—had kindled her lurking signal in the hills. In the minds of these two gentlemen upon their evening stroll, the fire indeed was a pleasing subject of interest, but for very different reasons!

The Chaplain was reminded of a great conflagration which had swept the region of the Clyde, and the “race for life of a certain esteemed family, the ladies gently nurtured, on whom fortune had till then smiled propitiously. Long years of exemption from their enemy had made them contemptuous of it, and the breaks cut in the forests had been allowed to overgrow. Only a day or so before they had been speaking lightly of fire. They were taken at a single hour's notice: a sad, a solemn warning.”

“Indeed!” ejaculated Sir William Heans, glancing pensively about him that he might observe how much of the Settlement could be seen across a thicket of banksia; “just, upon my word, as the shrubs here are being allowed to reclaim this hill-side!”

“Puff,” panted the old fellow, waving the flies from his eyes, “it is like the old enemy, I think! So quickly does it take advantage of supine dealing that it almost has you unawares. Yet I would not call our fine scenery anything but a friend, a clumsy friend perhaps, but not a wicked or a violent one.”

“A friend one would prefer to retain,” said Sir William, staring vaguely before him. “Alas, how many do we meet in existence with a fault somewhat similar!”

“True,” answered the Chaplain, in half-tentative agreement, “but I presume it arises oftentimes out of the difficulties of life. There are many roads that cross, and suddenly, hardly seeing what we do, we find we are pressing, perhaps, in the path of another.”

“It is a pity, my dear sir, that that is sometimes true,” said Sir William, pausing with his hands behind him, and testing again how much he could observe of the town through the thicker weaving of foliage.

“It seems a pity,” agreed the other, waiting and smiling up at him gravely; “but, if you will pardon my freedom, I have observed that the Almighty for His reasons sometimes cramps the boundaries of life.”

“Our forbearance is to be tested, you would say, on one another?” Sir William asked.

“Well—well!” the Chaplain laughed, mildly.

“It is indeed never happy work,” said Sir William, strolling on and speaking with a saddened calm, “to endeavour to explain


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such a situation to any one. How difficult—I may say, how prononcé are many situations!”

“Some persons will not believe until they feel,” said the old fellow with his wistful smile, “and even then the surprise is too trying to them.”

“True, ill-feeling is too often so created,” said Heans, as they approached the top of the knoll. “It is, sir, I suppose, the shock upon a fellow's trust in himself and you!”

“You put it excellently, my good friend,” the intendant answered, and as he spoke he seemed to hesitate a little, as if they would go no further that evening than this secluded portion of the road. “Indeed, sir, I have known of what you hint. Our faith in mankind is not the better for things like these. Eh well—eh well, I presume, sir, we may scatter in our path a little forgiveness here—there a little forgetfulness!”

Both the Chaplain and Sir William here stopped. The latter looked about him in the hot covert—stood a moment staring at the gentleman with a calm abstraction. “Pardon me for my familiarity,” he said at last, “but you look fatigued. Shall we not curtail our promenade for this evening?” Though the old fellow would not confess to fatigue, they turned about. In the cove below was the soft labouring of evening waves.

But, as we have said, Sir William's luck was with him, and by a curious accident he was spared the keen distress of an encounter with the clergyman. This singular occurrence happened as follows.

We have already mentioned Heans' business at the Boys' Penitentiary of Point Puer, where he acted as copyist and accountant in the commissariat and workshop departments. Point Puer is a narrow neck of land which spreads across parallel with the town to a few yards from the Island of the Dead, with which at low tide it is almost connected. It is treed and formed of the same pinkish stone as the island. Upon it stood the extensive Penitentiary Buildings and Workshops, in which almost every trade was in full working order, from boat-building to book-binding, coopering to baking bread.

On the flat of rocks below the Point, where several boats were secured to a wooden slip-way, Heans was in the habit of awaiting the whale-boat after the day's business. He was sometimes accompanied by the Settlement physician, or another, like himself, returning home, but often he was alone. At times the boat was early and at times it was late. If it was likely to be late, he was generally informed so by the boatswain on his way to his work, and given the time at which it would be likely to arrive. It would vary in punctuality from half-past six to seven, and now and then considerably after. Owing to the bush fire, and previous to that, to the arrival of the Government yacht Eliza to “heave down,” when the boat was required to


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attend the tram, Heans' patience had been considerably tried by long periods of tedious waiting.

It was now the Saturday subsequent to the fire, and during the morning journey he had been informed by the boatswain that he would be later than usual in taking him off, owing to the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot and the officers of the 51st Regiment on a visit of inspection. In the evening he came down to the landing about 6.30; wandered for a while about the low flat of rocks; and when the tide drove him back, returned to the slip and took a seat, as was his habit, in one of the boats. Two new official whale-boats had just been completed by the boat-builders, and one of these—an elaborate affair in different coloured woods—lay with others below the slip. It was a beautiful craft, light and graceful of line, part of its glowing timbers almost black, the rest of a golden wood so luminous it might almost have been a metal. She had only been launched that morning, and was the pride of her designers. She lay, half on the slip and half on the rock, the innermost of three large whale-boats, and Heans, as the tide drove him in, went and examined her, and afterwards entered and “possessed his soul in patience” in one of her seats. Sir William Heans was seen to go down to the slip to examine, and afterwards seat himself in the bow of the new boat. After that glimpse of him waiting at the landing he was never seen again.

From Sir William's account the night seems to have been sultry, with a fitful breeze “howing” over the Point from the harbour heads. As twilight fell, finding himself yawning and heavy with the atmosphere, he rose and reseated himself in the bottom of the boat, his back and head propped against a seat. In this position he remained, half napping, half reflecting, till presently he actually fell asleep. He awoke with a start, oppressed with the smell of new varnish, with his head on the bottom. He had been jerked from his first position. Everything had changed: it was dark, a strong wind was blowing, and the boat rose bodily and fell on the water. He sat up. The tossing sea without was fuming up a haze between him and the Port Arthur lamps. All was silent except water, wind, and a slight scraping as the boats were swung together. The boat-swain was late—no sound of him beneath the scurry of leaves. Heans became alarmed at the free movement of the bow in which he lay, and though there was a light visible on the cliffs above, and he knew where he was, he scrambled to his knees, and felt for the gunwale of the boat on his right. His hand at first found nothing, but further out, he struck clumsily not on the side but on the round stern of the old whale-boat, his hand slipping into the corner. He at once reflected that for her bow to take such a position, the new boat must have been working outward along the old craft, and something had given way under the tease of wind and wave. He pushed up hastily into the bow, and felt for the


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rope, by which he might draw her back to safety. There was no rope in the ringbolt, nor did it seem from the smoothness of the paint as if there had ever yet been one there. He then felt about over her bow-decking with no success, but afterwards groping underneath, he found a great pin had been driven into the wood (to save doubtless the paint upon her bow-works) and this was now bent outward—probably by the vanished rope.

Whether the tide was an out-of-the-way high one; whether the new craft had some fault or trait which made her uncommon gamblesome upon her mooring; whether the very lightness of her timbers made her jerk the more disastrous upon her stay; here she was, loose, and scraping away.

The wind was now blowing wildly over the Point, and if the boat had got out, Heans reflected, he alone could hardly have poled her back. There was an earth-grey sky over the warm and pitchy dark, with a flare of invisible stars. In the wind a few tepid rain-drops. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good!

He says he was about to stretch across and grope for the stern of the old boat, when, quick as a flash, a way out of his difficulties occurred to him. He sank in the wind and rattle upon the bottom planking, and for a few rapid heart-beats considered the singular chance thrown in his way. Cautiously he rose on his arm. He could not consult his watch, but considered it was not much after 7.30. The gale which was delaying the commandant's guests, the noise, and black, were a romantic chance. He had waited for the whale-boat in all weathers, and his ears were accustomed to seek the jolt of her sweeps. He was rapidly convinced she was not approaching, even if she had left the wharves. Even as he lay under the gunwale, straining his hearing, the bow with a loud “creak” swung out, and he knew if he was to get her back he had no time to lose. He saw he could no longer haul her in by the gunwale of the old boat. He remained clinging breathless as he was to the bottom. By his side were four great sweeps, and as the boat dived and nodded further into the wash of the sea, he lifted and tried the weight of one of these. Again by the puff over the gunwale, and a sudden list, he felt the wind had found her. He felt the beautiful craft shudder uneasily into freedom.

He found courage to lie perdu, however, till she seemed to be swung like a cradle; then, staggering up, he clumsily fitted the two sweeps upon their pins. Before he fell upon the seat between, he threw a wild “help” towards the slip, and another into the rattling grey curtain of the bay. He might with little suspicion have even now turned her head and tugged her back towards the Point, but when there was no voice (nothing but the wash and wind) on either side, he worked her about only till she faced Long Bay, and settling down in some real difficulty with the oars, began to help her away with the wind. The wuther of


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the night was with him. Upon his right he held the smudgy flicker of Port Arthur, and high in the swinging trees behind, the windows of the Point Puer Buildings, dimming as they rose and fell. The elaborate craft, all grandeur as she was, was light and manageable for her length, and he could feel immediately a fine answer of her heavy bow to the fall of his sweeps. He confesses that he pulled wild and ragged enough, but presently slowed, using his strength more calmly. Quickly after, he rose a glimmer on his left, which he knew must be the cottage of the sexton who lived beside the dead on Cemetery Island, and pulling her out for fear of the shallows, he gasped a wild prayer as it ran by him like a shuddering mast.

In this romantic way Sir William found and took his chance. Thus he began his race in good earnest from the prison and prisoning hills of that Port Arthur whose fluttering bracket-lamps flecked the nether wuther of dark and wind.

Under the Isle of the Dead, he turned her round, and pointed for his hills. The gale swept him away; but when he had got the shelter of the trees of the island between him and Point Puer, and thrust her out across the wind, still her ladyship preferred to make Long Bay upon her broadside. This would never do. Changing his mind, he got her head again to the wind and her will, and having had enough of the experience, and the breakers of the channel, and fearful of losing his bearings with the Port Arthur lights, he set a course as much east as he dared of Long Bay, aiming with his utmost strength to force her as far as possible along between Conapanny and the arm.

But for her unruly head, he might have cast away his left oar, so intent was all his skill and handling on his right, which alone constrained her from Long Bay and the likely course of the pursuing boat. Every fibre of his elderly powers was thus engaged in conquering so much of the wind, and he was aided in many an unthought way by the distinguished make of boat and sweeps, the latter, though made each for a double pair of arms, being fashioned in a mysterious and knowledgeable harmony with the picturesque vehicle and the romantic personages they had been meant to propel. He rowed as he had never rowed, rising up and tugging her in against the sea; now labouring her round as she played half-wilful into danger or swung haughty and contemptuous over the very yawn of tide and wind, and feeling only a passing peace of mind when he most felt the strain of her tossing and mettlesome displeasure. Thus he frantic tugged till he felt he had won a margin of easting from the drift and the barge's inclinations, and so began to hope for the end. For the sea was dark and wide, and the indented, forest-skirted beach meandered its ragged miles and miles, and who was to know to what spot upon it he was gone? Thus, I say, he ran her on till—breathless and exhausted—he began to hope for the sound of a white shore upon the unpeopled darks. Several times he


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thought he heard the pæan of a beach, and had much steady pulling and mastering of my lady before he was punished back to the empty crying of endless water. He fancied he heard at this more heavy-hearted time (and lost with a gasp of chilly horror) one fearful rapid jolting of oars. Again there were two long hails or shouts in some dim corner in the west. Yet again he heard a sudden, mighty sound like the wind in the cordage of a ship, and was in doubt and distress, thinking that pale glimmer of the Commandant's windows had got changed for Point Puer and he was out in the channel. After that blind obstinacy growing blinder. And so on, in a sort of stupor of mechanical agony (no more liking the black places where he was) till he was waked sharp right on top of a hand's-breadth of gnarled beach, and pulled in the boat amid a pleasant and mighty blowing of enormous trees.

Heans did not sit long in the wave-beaten boat, but preparing his nether garments in the best manner for the service, and with his shoes in his hand, he left her ladyship to her own quarrel and hurried off east in the water. He did not know yet with any certainly where he was. He might be perilously close to the head of Long Bay, or miles east of where he hoped to land, though, as he says, he had always had a faculty for places, and was inwardly persuaded he had hit near his mark. The thing was to run from the boat. From her bottom planking he took a small boat-hook to serve him as a staff, throwing overboard all the other fittings he could lay a hasty hand upon, to give what appearance he could of disaster. And away he went, feeling his way by the waves about his steps.

And here we bid good-bye (with the absconder) “to the bedecked and beautiful craft which was afterwards to carry so many distinguished persons back and forwards over these waters, upon whose dark wavelets she was thus wildly born.”

And what of Sir William Heans in these disreputable ways? How would you and I, O Reader, have felt pushing along those wastes of blowing beach, up to our knees in water, in search of a wraith of help—an old native woman? What prudent, pleasant thing would we have had to say about it afterwards? Yet when he had left the galley in the safe distance, perhaps, the worst was in that doubt that hung in these mysterious deeps of trees, whose song was great with emptiness. Could the woman be here? Yet as he buffeted his way about a rocky point, or splashed into the shelter of a sandy inlet; as he found a path here about a fallen giant, there an obstructing headland; as one long, swinging reach gave place to another, and he felt by the rain upon the left side of his face that he must have turned at last into the coast opposite the prison—nay was now, indeed, under his own mountains—as steadier and steadier grew his confidence in the veranda of the woods and died his starting mistrust of the lashing and ebbing sea: who will say that hope


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was not born in his uncrediting breast, who will say that his spirit sank and never fluttered again into a species of elderly elation?

These reverberating ways, the warm rain beating upon the wild wind, each heaving, water-logged step, would have been an increasing happiness with a touch less anxiety about the old guide and the morrow. “The tragic distresses of portions of our lives,” he writes philosophically to his friend Sir Charles, “make at worst a pleasant interest for the young of future ages. Such is life! And the thought ought to uphold us in moments of grave and perhaps bewildered effort.”

In a gap where the goblin-range from the sea-heads ends, and the one from up harbour passes in behind like a wall (as may be seen from the ruins), there was good shelter for the fugitive, and to win as near to this as he could before morning was his struggle, He had narrowly examined the shoulder from the settlement. It was his best landmark to the place of appointment given to the woman—a spot in line with Dead Island and the Signal Station on Mount Arthur over behind the prison.

When Sir William Heans judged, by the witch-lights of Port Arthur, and by instinct, he was in measurable distance of this point, he elected to rest himself and pass the time till light arrived in a tree, by a great fragment of whose boughs, washed by the tide, he ascended to the lower part of the trunk. Being afraid of falling, he did not permit himself to more than rest (indeed, he was too fevered for sleep), and at the first gaze of dawn he returned immediately into the water. As the fog swept by, he found right outside him, like a forest in the sea, the great shoulder of trees, and advancing for some forty minutes, he climbed again from water to scrub, ascending in the bracken and “brambly wilderness” to a point of vantage where he lay down to await a glimpse of Dead Island and Mount Arthur. There had been one heavy shower of rain after two o'clock, but it was now fine. The wind was from the north. The day broke grey and warm. He fell into a short nap. When he awoke the sun had dispersed the gloom of night from the lake, and in the centre lay Dead Island, with a couple of boats pulling round in the heaving channel-way, while to the south-west behind the spire of the village lifted the peak of Mount Arthur, mantled with mossy forests. A few minutes later he was retracing his steps along the hills, ascending higher as he went. Towards nine o'clock he brought mountain and island into line. He stood looking about him in a glen of fern and heath, so wild and empty with wind his soul despaired of such a guest as another human figure. With the two boats swaying now between himself and Dead Island, he hardly dared to raise a halloo. He, however, gave a low call. The wuther of the foliage answered him. He called again with a certain importunity. A bird scattered away, an insect clipped from the


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ferns. He ascended some distance further, along and upward. Shortly after he heard a tapping noise, very slightly, as might have been made by the beak of a woodpecker. In deep despondency he descended towards the sound, for he thought it likely to be the natural noise of an animal. Twice in so many minutes he caught it again. He climbed down till he came above a glade of great gnarled gums. Oh Heaven—in the stem of one of these some one had recently cut a gash with an instrument! It was fresh and red. A little higher, towards a horizontal limb, there was a second cut in the bark. On the limb itself, there sat a sort of bundle of old clothes very still, and presently, out of this, an arm projected, and began deftly to hack at the lurking place of some marsupial!




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Chapter IV A Princess of the Tiers

SIR WILLIAM hardly allowed them an hour for counsel and preparation, pushing off immediately with the old woman in the lead. From the forest into which they now delved, as a man slides under the sea in a diver's helmet, they never emerged till they stood, yet in its serried trees, on the brink of the cliffs of Waterfall Bay. The tree-fern, musk-plant, brush, and lofty timber shut them from all prospect of the outer world as entirely as if they had remained in the gullies, rather than struggled and cut their way up “hill upon hill, alp upon alp,” till, unknown to Heans, the top of the main ridge had been scaled.

After that, though descent became rather more than ascent the order of these hidden places, Heans, from his own account, seems to have seen the eastern sea but a half a dozen times, and at these as a vagueness hanging on the tops of trees indistinguishable from the sky.

There is a story in the Australian histories of an escaped prisoner who, arriving in a starving condition at a camp of natives, was permitted by them to follow their wanderings unmolested, but unfed. He was thus brought to a condition bordering on death; when a native woman took pity upon him, married him, and divulged to him the intricacies of how to win a subsistence from the scrub.note A tradition such as this emphasizes the hopeless position of a prisoner, wandering unarmed on these Port Arthur boundaries, and while it points a cause why the search from headquarters is soon grimly abandoned, it raises the question whether Heans' abettor were not, in employing Conapanny, guided by knowledge of so significant a legend.

While we shall not enter here into unnecessary details, which could possess but little interest for the reader, certain intimate and curious incidents of the four to five days' journey may be worth repeating.

Conapanny did not make at once east up the hill, but led a course slanting rightways over the shoulder, descending about four o'clock into the gully on the hinder side. Their progress was at all times a sort of wrestle with nature, the undergrowth about the iron-bark entangling their ascending feet, and higher


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up in a sort of morass darkened with tree-ferns, footing and hand-hold becoming spongy and superficial. Higher yet among the rock and monstrous yarra was a thornless and pathless brush, head-high, asking a monotonous breasting, though this they now escaped by the hinder descent. In a creek in the gully, they made good northward progress, stooping in the water under the emerald spread of ferns.

Conapanny led, excepting when Sir William's subdued chivalry broke its sensible restraints and retired mistaken. She wore a faded green-flowered dress, the bottom flounces and sleeves of which were cut away, a grey plaid shawl, and the inevitable white handkerchief about her head. Whatever she had been through to reach the Port, she had kept her apparel presentable. On her back, supported by her chest, she carried (when met) a second shawl for Heans' use, and two rush-bags, one large and one small. The larger bag contained some cooked frogs (on which Heans broke his fast), two snakes, a lot of little fish of the size of whitebait, some small crawfish, and some fresh-water mussels. It should have contained an opossum also, had Heans not arrived at an inopportune moment. The other bag held a horn flask for water, her tinder wood, and some edible roots. In her right hand she carried some sticks and bark on fire. In the other a staff.

Her baggage had also included a hatchet, which Heans now passed forward or wielded at her request.

On the first evening they bivouacked on the shingle near the water, Conapanny erecting a shelter of gum-boughs on the wind-ward side, and making for Heans a “stockman's mattress” of gum-tree leaves. When he had made a steady dinner of “white-bait” and roots, she went off upon her hunting, all the animals on which they were to subsist being night prowlers; and he did not see her again till he awoke at dawn. When the shock of his strange and beautiful surroundings had gone off, he observed her seated by the water's edge, picking from the mud by her toes, what he afterwards found to be shell-fish. Near by, under the greying bank, the smoke of a spent fire was ascending, and when he had arisen and refreshed himself, he found, laid on some fresh leaves, a little animal which he was told was a porcupine, and had the flesh and taste of a fowl.

He had been bothered far into that night by the extraordinary noises made by the frogs, so hoarse and full of volume, as one voice answered another, as too closely to resemble distant human utterance. He was also strangely agitated by the noise of the curlew, which, as he says, “is rather a bitter cry from the night than the song of a bird.” That is all written of import of his second and only less grave night in the open.

When Conapanny had destroyed all signs of their stay, they pushed on in the water till about the hour of nine, when they climbed out by a tree and dropped on to the other ascent. They


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seem to have ascended; descended to water; and again ascended a short distance; for on of the following day they must have topped the grand ridge and begun the descent on the coastal mountain called “The Pinnacle.” They were all the following day in accomplishing this, arriving at Waterfall Bay about midday of the next.

On the second night, therefore, they bivouacked on the forest side, Conapanny cooking for Sir William Heans a small fish she had snatched from the second water, and for herself a snake which she selected from three or four, choosing one with a silver belly as “budgery” (good) and throwing away another which was yellow beneath as “bell gammon” (no joke). Heans was reminded of how a European will detect a mushroom from a toadstool. His guide prepared both dainties in her own way, wrapping them in mud and baking in ashes. When the mud was hard, fish and snake were removed clean and (speaking for the fish) very savoury. The encampment here was rendered tiresome by the hurried return of Conapanny from her night roving, having been followed by a “hyena opossum” (now called “native tiger”), which she described as a brown animal with black stripes and a large mouth. Its legs were short, but its length, with its tail, was as “long as gentleman wite ma is tall.” Heans left his shelter and would have moved out in the direction she had come, but she seemed hysterical and unreliable, crying “Nangry—nangry” (“Sit down”), and Heans heard her wandering about the camp through the dark hours digging for roots among the grass-trees and bracken.note

A frugal breakfast of roots and mussels followed in the morning, but before evening Conapanny had made good the failure of the preceding night, by the capture of an opossum and the welcome discovery of some honey. It was a day, however, of singular tribulations. The ascent was woefully steep, dark, and overgrown, and armies of brambles, grass-trees, and a peculiarly malignant thorn, turned them aside repeatedly and pitilessly from the direct route. Again they came on sludgy hollows on the hills, and rocky pockets of the tiers, where dragons seemed to have rioted, ripping up giant yarras or stringy bark, and toppling them over into the creepers, where they lay, balancing across the hanger, presenting a series of unscalable walls. It was in one of these dark dells that a snake flashed up and fastened on the cuff of Heans' coat; and when Conapanny flung herself towards him, it suddenly turned and fixed its fangs in her wrist. To Heans' astonishment she calmly unfastened its teeth with her fingers, killed it, and put it in her bag. And all she would say to his tragic query whether it was poisonless, was “Awoy—awoy” “Oh yes—oh yes.”)




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It must have been over the ridge, at last, on the eastern descent, they found themselves in a “dead forest,” and before they knew it, were enveloped in an awful landscape of prone, erect, and leaning poles. So close and numerous were the dead, so menacing the silent desert of them, so wearying were the mounting, climbing, and dropping occasioned by this place—so unending appeared its extent—that Conapanny, in a moment of indecision, seemed unable to determine whether to go down, retreat, or on which side to look again for the living green of the less evasive if more boisterous enemy. It was Heans who insisted upon picking their way back and climbing round this remote enormous graveyard. So they made, perhaps too timorously, a grim and tiresome return, camping at evening safe, if still on the southern edge of that labyrinth of tragic weirds.

Of this trying adventure Sir William remarks jokingly, that “there were moments when he thought they were fairly caught in the embrace of Death.”

Conapanny had caught her opossum during the morning climb, ascending a tree and dropping some twigs down a hole; cleverly detecting by the scolding of the disturbed animal where it hid, and cutting an orifice lower down under its lair. At the same halt she brought some honeycomb to Sir William on a piece of bark, and on his enquiring how she came by it, she caught a bee in her hand, and fixing some white down on its back, released it, pointing after it up a tree to which it flew. In short, it was a woeful hard day of it, yet after all (so he thought) the deeper they became entangled in these pathless places, the further were their footsteps buried from the eye of that silent yet ever-present follower, and the nearer (as he confidently believed) did they approach their haven of departure and its phantom ship. At eventide, despite of her adventurous day, Conapanny disappeared, scouting with an indescribable gesture all help from Heans; and he, outwearied with his axe work, saw no more of her till in the morning he found her grimly cooking a wombat, and three little animals, the counterpart of kangaroos, the size of field-mice.

On one or two occasions, during a halt here and a balk there, the native woman had dropped certain curious information, herself inducing Heans to make enquiries by enlivening the way with an anecdote or two of the Pacificator, in which she imitated inimitably the well known pompousness of manner of the great Robinson, adding certain other incidents of her life, in which figured a Scotchman, whose broad diction she rendered with an amazing faithfulness, though often, as she confessed, not understanding its true meaning. From these entertainments, given, one would say, with a convivial and social intention, she was once tentatively led by Sir William to explain the secret of her presence in the stable at Oughtryn's on the night of his first struggle with


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Spafield. How came she to be there? The reader will remember her ghostly appearance before the stalls.

She lowered her kerchiefed face awhile. Then with a tone somewhat sour, she outlined rather than told this incident.

Surridge had confessed to her the secret of the cracks. His promise in the Plutarch to “come to her or die” had filled her with terror. As we know, Heans rode out that afternoon with Abelia, outside whose room Conapanny was seen sitting. Conapanny had heard from the woman that “miss” had ridden out, yet lingered for a while watching the incomers and outgoers from the Chamber. While thus engaged, her sharp ears heard a window go very slowly up on the other side of the sentry-box. Knowing “Mr. Tuso” was out, she wondered who this might be in his room. Hearkening, she heard a slight movement now and then, and presently what she took to be an exclamation in a man's voice. Shifting along under the passage window, she was suddenly affrighted by the words “On my oath!” rapped out in the tones of Spafield.

Having no love for Joseph Spars, and hoping to catch him at his thievery, or what he might be about in “Mitta Tuso's room,” she inserted her small figure in the gap between the sentry-box and the wall of the house, and pushing on, pulled her face slowly up to the corner of his window.

One peep and she saw Spars by the table, examining something which, by the leather head-band and silk, she took to be a hat. Another peep, and she perceived there was writing on the band and something peculiar in the hat. A third look, and with a spasm of pain she thought she recognised a once familiar article of headgear.

She saw no more, for the man suddenly came towards the window, and after a considerable pause, climbed out and strode off round the corner of the house. Poor Conapanny pressed out and followed him round the house to the kitchen corner. There she saw him go across into the stable, where presently he lit a candle. She watched the place minute after minute, seeing little, when he emerged and took his way quickly out of the yard gate. Behind him the candle still burned in the stable.

No sooner had he gone than Conapanny ran across into the harness-cave in which the candle stood. There for a considerable while she searched walls, sacks, and harness-press for some sign of the hat, but she found it not. Quite beside herself, she made a hiding-place between two sacks at the rear of the cave, and drawing another down upon her, waited for Spars' return. He came in some half an hour later, carrying a long pole and two other articles, which he threw down against the wall. She then watched him while he approached the end of the sack-chain, severed the thongs, and lowered the former to the ground. She saw him cut the bottle-neck from the thongs and carefully draw the latter into his hands from the crack above. She watched him


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pocket the strings and glass, and after, with a fresh thong and fork of wood, attach the chain in the way Heans found it. All this she saw. Finally, she held her breath while he drew away the sacks beneath and carefully searched after and gathered the fragments of glass into his handkerchief. He was very deliberate. His last act was to return to the pole he had discarded, and attach with a fragment of rock and a nail, the prong and haft of an old fork. This implement he hid in the corner of the cave, and extinguishing the light, left the stables.

This was how the native-woman came to be in the stables on the night the man took the body.

Heans, in reply, repeated the story how “poor Walter” had cut the crack, and how nearly he himself had escaped by the effort of the dying man. Again, though she did not press him with any sign of curiosity, he told her something of the man's agony of separation. Still, she that was called Moicrime showed no sign of interest. Heans said no more of his wound and death, but when he asked her—one day as they sat on the hill—if she knew indeed where Surridge was buried, she concealed her face for a long while, rocking gently to and fro. At last she drew up the left sleeve of her dress, and showed him, above the elbow, a bracelet of jet-black hair such as the natives wear.note

Their luck seemed to hold. The weather kept warm and overcast, with winds blowing from north and south-east. They noticed the stronger breeze as they descended in the weather side of the woods. Here they were—on the last day but one from port, and far from being followed by one human sound—nor single shot nor signal bell—were almost oppressed by the cloistered desolation in which they had been steeped: nay, haunted by nothing more human than the unhuman note of the bell-bird and that other, as fairy like, with a voice like the melodious crackling of a carriage-whip. In despite of this, deep and remote from man as they were lost; sliding and struggling and wrestling in the scented embrace of these enormous places; Heans confesses to a tiresome thought or two at evening, and in the despondency of fatigue, in the direction of those organized and disciplined searchers of Port Arthur, many in numbers, calm in knowledge, old in experience. Though they were not likely for any human or ghostly reason to search this unconsidered region, still, as he slanted further north and began to neighbour the station at Eaglehawk Neck, he was unreasonably agitated at the close proximity of dogs and red-coats.

They camped by a glittering cascade, hinting already of the bay and the waterfall. Conapanny had killed a guana during the


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day, and hunting up the torrent at night, soberly rejoiced at morning in two widgeon, a couple of emu's eggs, and a native companion. They struggled down that day for some time in the water, loath to leave it and its siren-song of falls and sea, and then forsaking it at the guide's urging, though much to Heans' uneasiness, as too far south for debouchment in their direction, took again to woods, momently clearer as to undergrowth. Heans noted how green was the forest in the obscure weather; enlarges on the beautiful grey wattle; records how the forest trees now grew smaller and closer, and how the red heath rouged the ferns and grasses and the golden bottlebrushes of the Banksia. However, Heans came near being right in his anxiety, and the native woman near wrong in her obstinacy. Lower down they fell again into forest growth of extraordinary density, from which, about the hour of twelve, they pressed out with a shocking suddenness fair on the north cliff of the towering bay.

Waterfall Bay is only four to five miles from Eaglehawk Neck, from which, however, it is hidden by the corner of Pirates' Bay, and the usual heavy forest, through which, in our own day, a struggling bridle-path is kept open.

The water was dark blue, and moved in a body against the beachless walls. Far down in it was to be seen the yellow kelp swinging this way and that. The cliffs, of a grey-brown stone, were so high and sheer, that a pebble thrown with all the force from the top could not be seen to reach the water. Yet the bay, in size, seemed rather a smallish cove, feathered about the rim with a grass of forests, out of which, down the opposite wall, fell a ribbon of distant water, subduedly splashing in the sea.

The morning slopes by which they had climbed, hooded over the place in a monumental amphitheatre: in the sombre foliage the white stems of many straight, grim trees.

In shape the bay made three sides of a square, but, just past the falls, where the southern met the western cliff, there was a deep inlet in the corner, at the bottom of which, against the flat wall, some rocks and bushes had collected in a platform, forming a foothold on the tide level, where elsewhere was nothing but the drop to water. Here in calm weather a boat might hang a few seconds, while in the bushes higher on this abrupt secretion was shelter from storm and tide. To this platform, a deep narrow cleft or chasm gave from the forest above, and here, according to the directions of Captain Stifft, Sir William, on his arrival, was to light a signal fire for twenty minutes every morning at the moment of daybreak.

Sir William Heans' story now becomes a mere narration of monotonous events: jottings of the weather, meals, fears, doubts, and sunrise effects. They spent the rest of that day in climbing


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through the scrub to the opposite cliff, camping not immediately above the waterfall, but further inland, within handy distance of the chasm giving upon the platform. There was safety in the chasm as a hiding-place if necessary, whose abruptnesses were difficult of negotiation for any straying animal. Conapanny, after a hasty supper, clambered down and gathered in the twilight enough material for the morning's signal, remaining below to fire, watch, and extinguish it. Here Heans took his place on the following morning, collecting much material during the day, and contriving to kindle his fire during a storm of wind and rain, being in turn replaced by Conapanny, who brought food. The storm was a grim affair. The evening ended warm, though electric and thundery. Dark fell in silence. There was no wind. The whole vast night was on its edge. At close intervals a screaming roar sagged down the arches of the sea. Close to the grey shore the lightning snagged and whipped, flashing up a wonderful light green amber wave and a warm scarred wall. The next day—a grey day under a pall—the box-like bay had swelled, and was full of earth-coloured, plunging seas.

It was rather a cruel joke to think of a boat caught in such a place as it was then; the while he could not help feeling, as he eyed the swirl and heaving surface, how romantic was the promise of help by such an offing, and how much further away after such an upheaval. Both he and the guide were anxious for their phantom rescuer and said little of the matter.

He spent the first two or three days content enough to sit and rest in hollows above and below cliff. The walls were honeycombed with strange buttresses and holes, many of them down on the water line, into which the tide swung like a beast into a lair. In two of such places, high and low in the chasm, Sir William saw the storm out, and also something of his more acute anxieties and watchfulness. On a bracken couch, with some cypress-bushes swaying over the mouth, he experienced, in these precipitous places, a certain triumph of effort and achievement, or would, if he could have believed better in the dreadful pother of the haven. And then, as the water began to subside, and they began to grow bolder and easier between the seclusions of night and chasm, a swing of the breeze brought the sudden horrid clamour of the dogs on the Neck, sending them running to their fastnesses, while at another time, an officer or sergeant, occasionally firing his gun, approached, along the slopes, apparently after a couple of eagles which soared for a while over the bay. These two occasions utterly squashed their growing confidence, and made them impatiently uneasy with the tedious hours, and acutely anxious for rescue. And then, as hour followed hour, and day followed day—four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten—and not a sign of shipping on the clearing sea, Heans' spirit underfell somewhat of his demeanour, and began to whisper the chill word “late.”




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Sir William says he asked Conapanny one morning, when she was cooking a couple of quail, what she had done with her reading books. Colonel Jack she seemed, by her gesticulations, to have buried somewhere, no doubt where it could be resurrected. Paul and Virginia “me leave with big-fellow Oughtryn's gel. Gel lie tink too much.”

“What did she say?” Sir William asked. “Did she promise to keep it safe?”

“Awoy, she said to Conapanny,” turning her face, blinking about and speaking with a surprising preciseness, “ ‘How long must I keep book for Conapanny—a long, long while?’ ”

“Me tell Oughtryn's gel, ‘You keep book for Conapanny till by-em-by. She come fetch book soon.’ ”

They steadily took their turn at chasm and beacon, watching bravely the weather calm, and contending who should be first to see a ship on the horizon. And then as day of calm succeeded day, and then a second week, and then a third of tiresome anxieties and fears crept by, and then a fourth week arrived, and day after day blazed up over the empty sea, illumining the falls, and carrying through the hot hours its inexorable voice into the gloaming—though Sir William, ever courtly, repeated his excuses for Stifft as a man of incurable deliberation, yet meaning well, he ate less and less of Conapanny's crawfish and cockatoo (confessing inwardly to a sickness both at the viands and their grave and forsaken position), while Conapanny, when she thought he was out of sight up the chasm, drew from her shawl a long-concealed pipe, and sat pulling secretly at some weed of her fancy alongside the fruitless ashes of the beacon.

Stifft was late.

Another seven days went by, and he does not like to confess how disastrous were his thoughts and speculations, how sick he was of the roots and spare food, though still keeping up (he hopes for his honour as a fellow cherishing the memory of cultivated life) the mannerisms and habits of confidence and hope. To his friend Scarning he says he is to this day ashamed of his appearance … and the angry dismay of his spirit. He describes himself in shawl, spectacles, and unseemly beard, on these watches, masticating a crawfish claw or a shell-fish for his breakfast. He describes the grey, harsh-voiced evenings. He tells of the noble quiet of the morning platform. It was one of those echoing-places of the sea, where the cliff arches over and makes with some monolith a cellared beating—as if the tide made and ebbed over the written slabs of some cathedral. There he would stand, in the half-dusk, an ignoble and tattered object, sick with the deferred hope of fruitless days, staring with a shred of obstinacy into that wan opening in the walls. He describes


  ― 407 ―
the hot sunrises, beautiful enough. This one, “a splash of red currant on a silver plate”; that one, “a badly trimmed oil lamp on a damask cloth”; and another, Heaven knows, in less sad circumstances a pretty thing! It was a sky of mighty lavender clouds, backed with remote pale alps, and fired with a rifling of pink. A grey satin sea, lit very bright and pale, especially near the cliffs and fall, where the glassy path was bestrown with lavender and carnation. He relates how in the silence of that flat sea he heard a curious “creaking” echo, coming, it seemed from the left hand wall. He drew back a step in the shelter of the inlet. At that instant, he saw a singular object appear behind the rocks and trees beyond the falls. It moved slowly, and looked to him like a broken mast, supporting in temporary fashion a yard and sail. In another moment a second mast appeared, intact, and suspending a patched lug-sail. The thing moved slowly in, its shrouds and dangling hamper sharp and unearthly in the strange light. She was a long, low ship, over-loaded or naturally low in the water, which you could almost have reached from the deck. Her hull, which had once been painted white, seemed as if it had been struck by lightning, so remarkably scarred was it with discoloration and decay. As the swell bellied under her, it disclosed her under-part green with sedgy weeds. Her rudder had been strained and recently strengthened by a great transverse beam. Half her foremast was broken away, but a tanned square-sail was securely rigged upon two yards, and on her bowsprit, as she came, she deftly ran up, over her old grey jibs, a third of a tough dark brown. Her lug was “like my shepherd's-plaid shawl,” says Heans. Ropes hung in festoons from her broken masts and bulwarks, trailing behind her in the satin sea. A fowl greeted the morning from the deck. A pig grunted. So she slowly came. In the increasing light, her deck and deck-houses projected homely and strange. Her after cabin gave by a door on the starboard deck almost on the wheel. In this stood a ragged, grave, tall man, apparently chewing his breakfast. As the schooner fluttered to a stop, he cast up an oppressed and anxious hand.

After all poor Stifft had come.

Sir William Heans knew not how long he stood there. At last he felt a touch on his arm. It was Conapanny, the black, with her rush-bags on her back, and her bit of smouldering wood and staff in her hand.

“Life's a poor player,” quotes an ancient novelist, “that struts and struts his time upon the stage and then is heard no more.” Heans, as he was swung out in the schooner's boat from Waterfall Bay, might be said to be making his final meander towards the wings, and indeed, if, faultlessly costumed, he lingered


  ― 408 ―
there awhile, sympathetically observing the real and the unreal; if the caller seems loath to ring his summons for this quiet figure; we, at least, have little more to add to this narrative of an escape. In this manner, and with these efforts, Sir William Heans disappeared for good from the knowledge of many people, and if we are aware his fate was far from being the melancholy one it was reported, strictly speaking the rest of his life is hardly of general interest. Writing to his friend Sir Charles of his future prospects and the things a man may do, he reflects incidentally how “a fellow may engage himself in being simply a generous, temperate, and noble person, passing his leisure in reading and talking for entertainment, and yet fall short of a difficult ideal.” It will serve our turn to suppose he engaged himself in some effort of this nature.

We have a few more things to add to these narratives. One of the most surprising, perhaps, is the behaviour of Conapanny, the native woman.

When Stifft's ragged youngsters warily brought in the boat, and Heans turned about to hearten the guide and hand her down, he found that Conapanny had gone, and glancing in his annoyance towards the chasm, he saw her climbing already half way up among the pine-like foliage. At once the native waved her hand calling “Good-bye Mitta Tuso,” and as she scrambled back, calling up the chasm, he realised with a tragic pang she was saying “farewell.” She had often expressed distaste for the voyage, but he had never credited her with so reckless an intention. As for her, feeling perhaps that by delaying Heans she might endanger the boat, or that they might attempt to stop her, she continued to mount the chasm, once or twice waving her hand with a quite English “God's speed.” In a moment she would have been gone from sight, and it was only when Heans used a stern tone, threatening himself to remain, that she came slowly and sourly down. In a short time they descended to the boat (Heans with the corner of her shawl in his hand), and were pulled in over her stern. It was not, however, till they were clear of danger, well out from the splash of the cascade, on the placid bodyings of the bay, that Heans began to speak with relief.

Of this behaviour in the guide, we can only say there was no reason for it. She was to have been landed that evening or the next on the mainland north of Tasman's and Forestier's peninsulas, at points where her journey back to Hobarton would have been accomplished without hazard. That she chose again the ugly adventure of the Neck, all aroused as would be its guardians by Heans' disappearance, as preferable to that of the voyage, we can only explain by her confidence in her wood-lore and native powers and her propinquity to the Isthmus (being within sound of the dogs). From such accounts of her journey out as Heans has been able to extract from her, she seems to


  ― 409 ―
have made light of her crossing of the famous Neck, asserting she had had many a worse experience in the Western rivers—and this about a “bolt-hole” only successfully used by a handful of runaways storied with Cash and Kavanagh. She appears to have dived in darkness and swum it under the water with a single rise to the surface, where the gut is attenuated to the size of a river. This, judging by the water feats of the native women in diving beside their husbands to the rescue of drowning whites in the annals of our explorers,note was a matter difficult, but a racial achievement within her power.

It was a moment therefore of intense relief when the ship jibbed about and moved imperceptibly away on the south-eastern tack. Slowly the sound of the waterfall softened, and slowly the great walls dimmed over the silent pool, and slowly they shrank under the wings and pinnacles of the forests, while these with their thousand shouldering sentinels slowly—very slowly—softened in the smoke of morning. To this Bay, ere it was gone, and to a princess of the old race to whom these spires and coloured vales are native, Sir William Heans and Captain Stifft elevated on the deck of the Emerald a silent glass of Burgundy.

They zigzagged through a thunderstorm during that day, with some showers of rain, but no change and little increase of wind. On the third morning of these light and baffling breezes, they put Conapanny ashore either in Blackman's Bay or some inlet north of Roaring Beach, where Stifft watered ship and made shift to get up a sapling on his broken fore-mast. To shorten our story, Conapanny was back in Hobarton in February of 1843, calling for her treasured volume, in whose heroine, Virginia, with her elevation to the highest society and return from it into the wilds, she may have found a soothing sympathy of resemblance. As for the Emerald, better balanced, and better as to wind, they ran north-east and then north for some days, dipping slow but confident out into rougher seas, where, despite of Stifft's husbanding of his old canvas, and her leaks and weeds, she took the straits of Bass in a disconcerting and discreditable hurry, running in on a Polar gale into a certain bay on the southern coast of Australia, into which, six years before, a Sydney gentleman, exploring with some privation and lack of food the unknown interior, arrived to find a ship at anchor and a thriving farmnote To this pathfinder it was then explained that no less than five full-rigged ships had been at anchor there a week since, and though Captain Stifft found under the cliffs in the pocket of Portland Bay but three whalers


  ― 410 ―
and a cattle boat from Launceston, one was skippered by a Mr. Abraham S——of his acquaintance, bound for England by the Horn, who took from him his cargo of skins, and (with a stare of awful curiosity) a homesick member of his crew.

Remarkably soon after Stifft's arrival (almost as if she had been awaiting his cargo) the large ship put out, and at the very last moment, as she was running out of shelter, Captain Stifft splashed alongside, and clambered into the chains. He had come to wish his man good-bye. “Bless me, you were near too late, Stifft!” said Sir William, as he shook his nerveless hand. For answer—under his immense nose—Stifft's little mouth and sloping chin broke into an expressionless and somewhat vacant smile.

Before leaving, Stifft asked what was to be done with the Emerald.

“Ah,” laughed Heans, “you joke, Stifft! She is all yours, and bless you both!”

“Well,” said Stifft, true to a former reputation, “I must thank you for that, for if you don't mind I should like to cast her away.”note

Stifft, when Heans boarded the Emerald at Waterfall Bay, put into his hand certain letters and packages from various friends. One was from Matilda Shaxton, and that we think was buried with him, for that is all we have of it. Another was from Mr. Jarvis Carnt, and it we give presently. There was also a small package from Captain Shaxton, in which, when he opened it, Sir William found a couple of small pistols, and a beautiful satin neck-cloth of shepherd's plaid. So far—Paul and Matilda Shaxton. We hear of them leaving Hobarton about the time of Sir William's disappearance, but of returning and settling there. A guarded correspondence carried on by Heans with that place never extended to them; but in the slow movement of time and shipping of those days, it would reach his ears how the years found and left them.

But a word about Heans' old master Oughtryn. It seems he continued to live at the old Mansion with his ghostly celebrities, so it is to be supposed they kept, with a fair and workable consistency, to his allotment of one room apiece. As to his more lively prosperity, the old man grew even eminent as he


  ― 411 ―
waxed in years, not only obtaining his free pardon, but being appointed, according to a familiar chronicle, a Commissioner of Crown Lands, a country dignitary upon whose duties the informant appears clearer than perhaps the reader is.

There was a rather sad little story about Miss Abelia. Apparently she began to recover health, and exchanged a few letters with Sir William Heans. But then, a singular gap occurring, and Oughtryn himself writing to excuse her on the plea that Dr. Wardshaw had forbade her the use of a quill because of the trouble in her eyes—and Oughtryn taking rather lamely to correspondence, always writing in the first person plural, and sending their “complimentary respects”—Sir William, feeling there was a delicacy in the matter, and that they for some reason were finding the correspondence a burden, dropped all communication for a twelvemonth, in which his anxiety refusing to be pacified, and not feeling satisfied that he had the truth of the matter, he wrote asking Oughtryn directly to assure him that all was quite well with them, receiving a very sad note in answer that “his young person” had “almost lost the use of her eyes,” and was much depressed and saddened in health. Sir William, sorry and much distressed, forwarded to her a steel instrument for spacing her correspondence, the directions of which she precisely followed, and made good progress. In the end he used to tell her she wrote from the treasures of her mind a more peace-giving letter than he with his eyes on the world's gay flowers. Not content yet that he knew how they fared, he requested them to obtain for him a portrait of his friends in extremity, and was the happy recipient of a daguerreotype picture of the same three inmates of the old house whom he had known, quite regal of the woman, uncommon sly of Charles Oughtryn, and so pleasant and serene of Miss, you would never know she could little more than feel the odd flowers in her hand.

Of the Earl of Daisley, we learn from Tasmanian sources that, having continued his voyage about the world in unappeasable depression for the matter of a year, he contracted rather a mesalliance with a beautiful Virginian lady, whose health, or as it was whispered, querulous and haughty inclination, required periods of prolonged residence in southern Spain and the pleasanter portions of provincial Italy. Though unsuitable to his position and exquisite estates, that this union was not altogether a mistake may be gathered from the numerous sketches of their travels which still adorn the walls of the sea-beaten house which they most favoured, and the now famous library of illuminated Paternosters which they jointly collected. They had one child—a delicate girl—whose inclination towards agriculture and rural life was as overbearing as her parents' had been towards studious wandering, and in favour of this predilection


  ― 412 ―
of their beloved daughter, the Earl and Countess eventually relinquished their favourite pastime.

Of Heans' other friends, we hear of Mrs. Quaid and Six, still at their respective avocations, and among the articles of virtu in Sir William's den, we have an oil-painting of a native girl—not with a pipe in her mouth, but seated by the rivulet, and brightly dressed in red and spangles, with a book in her hand. This picture bears the curious signature of R. Destrappes.

Finally, from Mr. Carnt, the fortunate companion in escape of the prison artist, Madame Ruth, we have an old letter, running as hereunder:

Written at sea, as the Emerald is leaving us.

HONOURED FRIEND,

Mr. Carnt is now as free as Magruder, while some unknown accident has kept you from accompanying us. As it is impossible this can leave Stifft's hands except for yours, he may keep Mr. Carnt's scribble till some fine morning you reach the Emerald. I will so address myself therefore, with that hope, and look upon you as having executed his scheme, safe on those lethargic decks. Providence help you to the opportunity! What has befallen you? Heaven forbid you were not taken in the morning! I shall never forgive myself if, through my suggestion, you gave up the carriage, and were grabbed on your horse. And yet how came you to be interfered with on Oughtryn's horses? I cannot see, seeing our journey was uninterrupted, how they can have detained you, and believe some accident has held you back. We waited for you at the Orphanage five racking minutes after the half-hour, my Ruth beginning to sway. Could you have asked two poor bedizened effigies for more?

All went well at Bridgewater, though the jarvey was uneasy at having missed our friend, whom I dismissed as jibbing at night-coach. Rev. Padstow and sister were saved seats inside, I relinquishing mine for the roof when Dr. Charles failed to join, being considerably flustered as well as anxious for my false hair under the eyes of an experienced woman on the opposite seat. All went well for a bit, fine weather, crowd on top, and nobody loquacious. A rather burdensome respect for Mr. Carnt. Mr. Wray's coachman goes whole distance alongside the guard, but does not give undue attention. I was relieved by Miss Padstow's behaviour, who, woman-like, showed little emotion. Recovering very slow from abstraction at leaving Hobarton, she smiled sadly at her brother through window. At Campbell Town there was an annoyance. Obstinate fellow gets up beside Rev. Padstow and enters into parochial conversation. Won't stop it. Catch him feeling whether Mr. Carnt high or low. Ready to be persuaded. Glad of darkness. Take a high, sporting stand and


  ― 413 ―
put forward some reserved views. Had some difficulty in persuading him the Reformation was not the revolt against the Pope it was considered. But rather a misunderstanding between His Holiness and some Consistory Cardinals, one of whom being a high-nosed fellow and an English Bishop, created a church fuss with Henry VIII, which being relevant to the British character, grabbed the local stakes—in a word materially changed the appearance of the table. Obstinate wretch behaves worse than might have been expected, keeping me fencing with his questions till I drop all civility. However, the longest road ends, and the bumps too. At Launceston we got from the hotel to boat with nothing more terrible than the breaking down of poor Ruth, who gave way after she'd done with the coach.

(He gives an account of boat journey, continuing:)

I conclude Hobarton is aghast at Mr. Carnt for running off with the artist. I should no doubt be in ecstasies of joy. If I confess to you that (apart from your absence) I am in a pathetic condition bordering on sadness, why such unsuitable emotion! Is it ingratitude? Heaven knows, I should not be ungracious! Is it that I feel the common discontent of the human idiot as I look upon these spaceless waters, thinking of the stern chains I've smashed—and the heavenly freedom I have earned? I have succeeded in bringing two of us away. We have endured that ghastly night drive, and our regard has survived the disappointments and quarrels of the boat. I know my Ruth better than I could have done in quieter conditions. And yet for some reason freedom does not seem to hold the fulfilment of Mr. Carnt's soaring imagination. I presume I shall expire an evergreen! Mr. Carnt of the Cascades is now a swell, so marvellous free of the old world he must have his grumble at the stars. Natur, sir, natur! Observe me writing in this strain to you with everything a man should wish beside him!

Captain Stifft is about to depart. Indeed, sir, I must close. The signals from the Emerald seem impatient.

We send regrets and bid you good-bye. After all, it would seem accident has been kinder to us than to you; but whatever happens in the future, whether we clasp hand again, whether all the luck's with us or Stifft puts his notions through (as we think he may), turn back the leaves once in a while, Sir William Heans. I know you're not the man to forget Mr. Carnt, or any other doubtful acquaintance, who, besides approving portions of your play, held you in esteem.

Your servant

(as free as Magruder)

J C.

We read Mr. Carnt afterwards learnt the truth, but there is no record of his remark when he heard the actual events of that


  ― 414 ―
tragic day and night on which he escaped. Not that when he had heard them he would ever be likely to forget them. Sir William Heans himself says that to “this moment” he has a bad habit when entering his stables of measuring the stalls with his eye, and likewise he never hears them play “The Campbells are Coming,” or “Robin Adair,” without thinking of Daunt lying in the upper room of Oughtryn's mansion, or of the rude interruption to Miss Abelia's piano.

Reverting again to that day he sailed from Portland Bay, he records how beautiful was the cloud and sunset effect on the evening of their departure. The sky was covered, but for a small light-blue segment, by a red pinion, spreading up from the burial-place of the sun, and feathered with myriads of even cirrus clouds, small near the shoulder, and giant as they spread towards the edge.

The old fellow at Port Arthur would have called it “the shadow of a wing.”

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