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The Blindness Of One-Eyed Bogan
by [?]

“Now, it happened that Jake Boreham and I were passing away the time between shearings, and we were having a sort of fishing and shooting loaf down the river in a boat arrangement that Jake had made out of boards and tarred canvas. We called her the Jolly Coffin. We were just poking up the bank in the slack water, a few hundred yards below the billabong, when Jake said, ‘Why, there’s a horse or something in the river.’ Then he shouted, ‘No, by God, it’s a man,’ and we poked the Coffin out into the stream for all she was worth. ‘Looks like two men fighting in the water,’ Jake shouts presently. ‘Hurry up, or they’ll drown each other.’

“We hailed ’em, and Bogan shouted for help. He was treading water and holding Campbell up in front of him now in real professional style. As soon as he heard us he threw up his arms and splashed a bit–I reckoned he was trying to put as much style as he could into that rescue. But I caught a crab, and, before we could get to them, they were washed past into the top of a tree that stood well below flood-mark. I pulled the boat’s head round and let her stern down between the branches. Bogan had one arm over a limb and was holding Campbell with the other, and trying to lift him higher out of the water. I noticed Bogan’s face was bleeding–there was a dead limb stuck in the tree with nasty sharp points on it, and I reckoned he’d run his face against one of them. Campbell was gasping like a codfish out of water, and he was the whitest man I ever saw (except one, and he’d been drowned for a week). Campbell had the sense to keep still. We asked Bogan if he could hold on, and he said he could, but he couldn’t hold Campbell any longer. So Jake took the oars and I leaned over the stern and caught hold of Campbell, and Jake ran the boat into the bank, and we got him ashore; then we went back for Bogan and landed him.

“We had some whisky and soon brought Campbell round; but Bogan was bleeding like a pig from a nasty cut over his good eye, so we bound wet handkerchiefs round his eyes and led him to a log and he sat down for a while, holding his hand to his eye and groaning. He kept saying, ‘I’m blind, mates, I’m blind! I’ve lost me other eye!’ but we didn’t dream it was so bad as that: we kept giving him whisky. We got some dry boughs and made a big fire. Then Bogan stood up and held his arms stiff down to his sides, opening and shutting his hands as if he was in great pain. And I’ve often thought since what a different man Bogan seemed without his clothes and with the broken bridge of his nose and his eyes covered by the handkerchiefs. He was clean shaven, and his mouth and chin are his best features, and he’s clean limbed and well hung. I often thought afterwards that there was something of a blind god about him as he stood there naked by the fire on the day he saved Campbell’s life–something that reminded me of a statue I saw once in the Art Gallery. (Pity the world isn’t blinder to a man’s worst points.)

“Presently Jake listened and said, ‘By God, that’s lucky!’ and we heard a steamer coming up-river and presently we saw her coming round the point with a couple of wool-barges in tow. We got Bogan aboard and got some clothes on him, and took him ashore at Bourke to the new hospital. The doctors did all they knew, but Bogan was blind for life. He never saw anything again–except ‘a sort of dull white blur,’ as he called it–or his past life sometimes, I suppose. Perhaps he saw that for the first time. Ah, well!