Thursday, September 26, 2013

confronted with his tormentor, he merely laughed

The woman who told her interviewer that there was "a great deal of exaggeration about Port Arthur and the way the prisoners were treated there" would not have liked Caroline Leakey's book, or Marcus Clarke's book; she would not have liked them if her preferences for literature only followed the direction of that recorded statement, and if she judged her fiction by the way it sympathised with the emotions that were copied down in writing on that single occasion, one day of her life; neither book is in sympathy with the idea that Port Arthur "was not so bad after all" but the woman might have liked one of them for some other reason or both of them for other reasons, if she had ever read them -- what other other areas of her preference might have existed outside that statement quoted in Susanna Hoe's book: "you have only to look at the numbers of them who came on and did well for themselves to realise that it was not so bad after all"?

With her vast finity of life around her I will not say that she would not have liked those books.

One hundred and twenty lashes were inflicted in the course of the morning, but still the sullen convict refused to speak. He was then treated to fourteen days' solitary confinement in one of the new cells. On being brought out and confronted with his tormentor, he merely laughed. For this he was sent back for another fourteen days; and still remaining obdurate, was flogged again, and got fourteen days more. Had the chaplain then visited him, he might have found him open to consolation, but the chaplain -- so it was stated -- was sick. When brought out at the conclusion of his third confinement, he was found to be in so exhausted a condition that the doctor ordered him to hospital. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, Frere visited him, and finding his "spirit" not yet "broken", ordered that he should be put to grind maize. Dawes declined to work. So they chained his hand to one arm of the grindstone and placed another prisoner at the other arm. As the second prisoner turned, the hand of Dawes of course revolved.

"You're not such a pebble as folks seemed to think," grinned Frere, pointing to the turning wheel.

Upon which the indomitable poor devil straightened his sorely-tried muscles, and prevented the wheel from turning at all. Frere gave him fifty more lashes, and sent him the next day to grind cayenne pepper.

(from For the Term of his Natural Life, (1874), by Marcus Clarke)

Ada Cambridge, publishing in 1903:

If the afternoon is still young we stroll on around the point, along that sea-wall which was built by convict labour -- significant words, recalling days we do not care to think of. The wall is broken down in places, and stays so; this is the "old part" as the old times left it -- some day to be repaired and used, but gently going to pieces in the meantime. All around us here we feel the spirit of those old times, so stern and sad. Close by is the spot where Commandant Price was murdered. It was before my time, but I have heard the tale of his life and death from friends and relatives, co-officials and eye-witnesses, authorities whom the author of His Natural Life never had opportunity to consult. They say -- of course I can only take their word -- that he was a brave and just, if undoubtedly hard, man, and that Frere in His Natural Life, supposed to be a portrait of him, is a cruel caricature. One of his official colleagues, who was also one of the kindest and most high-minded of men, solemnly assured me that what he did was "what he had to do" and represented to him his duty.

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