No corrections yet
Sam, the Sundowner.
MT WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS."
(See illustrations on this page.)
In the town of Gundagai there ia an old mill called the " Sundowners' home." lt is the only relio of the old town, which was swept away by the floods some forty years ago. But the mill still stands. It with stood the flood which destroyed the town, and has withstood many a flood and storm since that time ; and, although it has a dilapidated appearance, yet the sundowners flock to its doubtful shelter, climb up its ladder-like stairs, and sleep on its rotten floor as contentedly as if it were the best hotel in the town. It is their social centre ; and appointments are made from the most distant parts of tho Murrumbidgee to
meet at tho old mill.
It was my duty as a trooper to visit that old building occasionally; for when any of that large army of loafers who infest the district infringed the laws, if the offenders wero not captured at the mill, information of their whereabouts would invariably be obtained there ; and it waa while on one of these visits that I first met the subject of this story.
Samuel Bay-or Sam the Sundowner, as he was commonly called,-was a man of splendid physique; and when I first saw him I wondered how a man of his appearance could have drifted down to the con temptible position of a sundowner. He was about SO years of age, tall, and well-built, with a face which would have been handsome but for the eyes, which had a far-away look in them. The whole face had a retrospective expression. He had yielded to the ten dency of dwelling on the past ; that fatal habit, which eapa the energies, mid unfits a man to face the stern realities, and fight the battles of life.
Five years before I first met him he had come on to the river, no one knew from where, and had gradually settled down to the life and habits of a sundowner. But it was not long before he was looked upon with some degree of respect, for when the waters of the flooded river submerged the country for miles around, no one displayed such reokless bravery in the saving of life as Sam; and more than one squatter offered him a home for
" They frequently had many miles to walk before they could get a drink."
See tale.entitled " Sam the Sundowner," on this page.)
«' I might visit them in their happy English home, and spend a Christmas there.'?
'V>'(See-tale entitled ?.««.Sam the Sundowner," on this page.) *
life. But the offers were not áccepted. The spirit of unrest was on poor Sam. He had to travel on. Notwithstanding the interest with which he inspired all those'with whom he oamo in contact, there was no denying the fact that Sam was a regular sundowner. No ono could hit tho timo bottor than ho to arrive at a station just as the sun was dipping below the- horizon, when ho would accept his pannikin of flour and his shin of beef- without a blush. In fact, ho considored it his right-as all sundowners do - to receive freo rations at every station Ito passod. Tho squatters generally allow this clas3 of mon sufficient provisions
to carry them on to the next hornett .'nd ; and so they travel on from sta tion to station-up one E ide of the river,and down the other, pretending that t hey are 1 coking for work,
but in most cases without the slightest intention of accepting employment if it wero offered to them. Numbers of travollors looked for work honestly and fairly during tboir long tramps over the big plains, when they frequently had many miles to walk before thoy could get a drink of water. But thore were many-too many-who, to quoto ono of their own sayings, go looking for work, praying to God that thoy won't find it.
Many a timo 1 have como upon Sam, lying under a river oak, waiting till it would bo time to walk quietly up TJO the station, where ho intended to camp for the night ; and at such tirneB I havo had conversations with him, which I can never forgot. At first it was hard to draw him into a conversation ; but, as we became better acquainted, ho gradually thawed down, and would tuon chat freely whenever wo mot. I had not had many talks with him before I suspected that there was a secret in his lifo, which was tho cause of his downfall ; and I was right. Thoro was a Beoret which ho had kept locked within his breast for six long years ; till at last that dark page of his lifo's history was mercifully laid open to the light of day, tho load of guilt lifted from his soul,' and tho sunlight of lifo again poured into his ead
Oh, how many of this unfortunate olass have a history which would touch the most callous heart ; a history which would furnish tho groundwork of many a thrilling romance ! They aro men who-in somo cases-retain traces of a culture'-and refinement, which would graco the highest positibns in life ; but the secret of their fall, whatever it bo, will die with them. God help thom, poor unfortunate wanderers, without an object in lifo ; with no affection to throw its cheering light on their dark path ; thoro only nepenthe tho poison which destroys soul and body ! And so they will continue their weary wanderings year after year, till death relieves thom of the haunt ing memories of happier days ; and tho longed for rest
comes at last.
Thad known Sam about twelve months, when he was arrested for horse stoaling. But I knew, when I read tho telegram which informed mo of the theft, ¡that he had not been responsible for his actions when tho crime was committed ; and I was right. While in a state of intoxication ho had mounted a horse at T-- ,and, riding to Gundagai, was captured at the old mill. That night ho was raving in delirium tremens ; and while in that state he sent for me, and madora confession to tho effect that ho had killed his" wife in England some six years before ; but, as he denied all knowledge of this when ho recovered, the confession was attributed to the ravings of delirium'; and consequently tho affair was allowed to drop. But still, Sam's confession made a deep impression upon my mind. Ho was tried at Gundagai, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment for horse stealing.