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PAGE 2

Wanted By The Police
by [?]

There was sanctuary in those times, in the monkeries–and the churches, where the soldiers of the king dared not go, for fear of God. There has been sanctuary since, in London and other places, where His or Her Majesty’s police dared not go because of the fear of man. The “Rocks” was really sanctuary, even in my time–also Woollomooloo. Now the only sanctuary is the jail.

And, not so far away, my masters! Down close to us in history, and in Merrie England, during Judge Jeffreys’s “Bloody Assize,” which followed on the Monmouth rebellion and formed the blackest page in English history, “a worthy widow named Elizabeth Gaunt was burned alive at Tyburn, for having sheltered a wretch who himself gave evidence against her. She settled the fuel about herself with her own hands, so that the flames should reach her quickly; and nobly said, with her last breath, that she had obeyed the sacred command of God, to give refuge to the outcast and not to betray the wanderer.” (Charles Dickens’s History of England.)

Note, I am not speaking of rebel to rebel, or loyalist to loyalist, or comrade to comrade, or clansman to clansman in trouble–that goes without saying–but of man and woman to man and woman in trouble, the highest form of clannishness, the clannishness that embraces the whole of this wicked world–the Clan of Mankind!

French people often helped English prisoners of war to escape to the coast and across the water, and English people did likewise by the French; and none dared raise the cry of “traitors.” It was the highest form of patriotism on both sides. And, by the way, it was, is, and shall always be the women who are first to pity and help the rebel refugee or the fallen enemy.

Succour thine enemy.

There must have been a lot of human kindness under the smothering, stifling cloud of the “System” and behind the iron clank and swishing “cat” strokes of brutality–a lot of soul light in the darkness of our dark past–a page that has long since been closed down–when innocent men and women were transported to shame, misery, and horror; when mere boys were sent out on suspicion of stealing a hare from the squire’s preserves, and mere girls on suspicion of lifting a riband from the merchant’s counter. But the many kindly and self-sacrificing and even noble things that free and honest settlers did, in those days of loneliness and hardship, for wretched runaway convicts and others, are closed down with the pages too. My old grandmother used to tell me tales, but–well, I don’t suppose a wanted man (or a man that wasn’t wanted, for that matter) ever turned away from her huts, far back in the wild bush, without a quart of coffee and a “feed” inside his hunted carcass, or went short of a bit of bread and meat to see him on, and a gruff but friendly hint, maybe, from the old man himself. And they were a type of the early settlers, she an English lady and the daughter of a clergyman. Ah! well—

Do you ever seem to remember things that you could not possibly remember? Something that happened in your mother’s life, maybe, if you are a girl, or your father’s, if you are a boy–that happened to your mother or father some years, perhaps, before you were born. I have many such haunting memories–as of having once witnessed a murder, or an attempt at murder, for instance, and once seeing a tree fall on a man–and as a child I had a memory of having been a man myself once before. But here is one of the pictures.

A hut in a dark gully; slab and stringy-bark, two rooms and a detached kitchen with the boys’ room roughly partitioned off it. Big clay fire-place with a big log fire in it. The settler, or selector, and his wife; another man who might have been “uncle,” and a younger woman who might have been “aunt;” two little boys and the baby. It was raining heavens hard outside, and the night was as black as pitch. The uncle was reading a report in a paper (that seemed to have come, somehow, a long way from somewhere) about two men who were wanted for sheep- and cattle-stealing in the district. I decidedly remember it was during the reign of the squatters in the nearer west. There came a great gust that shook the kitchen and caused the mother to take up the baby out of the rough gin-case cradle. The father took his pipe from his mouth and said: “Ah, well! poor devils.” “I hope they’re not out in a night like this, poor fellows,” said the mother, rocking the child in her arms. “And I hope they’ll never catch ’em,” snapped her sister. “The squatters has enough.”