[J. C. L FITZPATRICK ]
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up. He would go wherever man or horse could go, The best men are moulded out of faults. - Banjo Paterson. "We were informed at the grave that both the con demned officers kept up bravely to the last, and died like men. Morant pulled the handkerchief off his eyes a couple of minutes before they fired and faced the firing party. We are burying them this afternoon." — Letter from a comrade in South Africa. It is not the intention of the writer here to canvas the justice of the sentence passed-and carried to its dread conclusion upon Harry Harbord Morant and his companion, but merely within the brief space
allotted to pen a sympathetic notice of a man who possessed many excellent characteristics of head and heart, and who, but that he was human and had his fair share of this frailties of the world, might have made his mark in the literary world, and, according to the verdict of quite a number of "very proper" people, have occupied an honored place in the community. Let not those judge him harshly however, whose knowledge of the man was but of a superficial nature - who saw him casually and knew nothing of the trials and tribulations by which he was beset. Under a rough exterior there existed an abundant good nature, and a kindliness of feeling towards all mankind, which appealed to those who enjoyed his confidences; whilst his merry laugh and his perennial good humour scarce sufficed to hide at any time to such as knew the sorrows within him. How easy it is to be sure, to prophesy what he "might have been" as, no doubt, many will most readily do whose lots have been cast in pleasant places - how comforting to suggest that the victim himself is alone to blame for the trouble which has cost him his life. Perhaps tis true; yet, knowing Morant, as I did, I believe that he fully endorsed the sentiments of Adam Lindsay Gordon when he wrote - For gifts misspent and deeds undone and resolutions vain I care not now to trouble - this I know, I would live the same life over if I had to live again And the chances are I go where most men go. A courageous rider and a writer of strong and vigorous verse; a man imbued with many lovable traits of character and a high sense of respect for the opposite sex, Harry Morant made himself popular wherever he ventured; and there are today, scattered throughout this young continent of ours many one time acquaintances of his in every circle of life, who will feel sincere regret at hearing of his untimely end. From Walgett to Windsor, from Penrith to Parkes, and from Muswellbrook to Mungundi he was known by the quaint title bestowed upon him during the period when he was engaged "out back" in the some what hazardous occupation of taming young horses. And if the good folk in country parts had never witnessed his exhibitiions of prowess in this direction they had at least heard of his feats of horsemanship or had read in the press those poems from his pen which bore the signature of "The Breaker". Absolutely unafraid, absolutely careless of danger, and with his face in a condition of perpetual smiles, it took little time for Morant to ingratiate himself with the men of the bush; and his charm as a raconteur did the rest. He was a welcome guest at farm and station-homestead, and the inexhaustible fund of general information upon which he was ever able to draw at a moment's notice made him an interesting companion at all times. Hard living, and the buffeting he had received during a chequered career, rendered him somewhat cynical and endowed him with a wholesome repugnance for many institutions claimed to be cherished by folk more favorably situated; and yet he was wont to recognise in a generous spirit the most trivial kindness shown him, and to distinguish readily between "a real white man" and that snuffle busting and unctuous person who turns up the white of one eye at the bare thought of the world's wickedness - and keeps the other fixed all the time on "the main chance". ' A keen sportsman, he had followed the hounds in the best of company on his native moors in Devonshire, and I have by me at the present time a copy which was his of Whyte Melville's "Katerfelto", a story of Exmoor, which is marginally marked here and there and from which a few quotations may be appropriately made, as showing how devoted he was to his native country and how strong his penchant for the sport of the chase:- I might ride through Exmoor half a summer's day and never set eyes on a human face, but the curlew seems to know me as he flits by, with a quiet call of greeting and a wave of his wide brown wing - the red herds, leading their calves along the ridges, look kindly over their shoulders, and turn their handsome heads to gaze after me, till they disappear. Why, the very breeze, whispering amongst the rushes, pilfering in my own garden, not so many miles away. You know no more than a blind man what morning means till you've seen the sun rise in North Devon. I wish I was back there now. I will be back there next week, if I'm alive." "If I'm alive !" Also, the poor old "Breaker's" eyes have closed upon all North Devon's charming sunsets for ever - unless he be born again. It was delightful to breathe a free, fresh air, untainted by the smells of London - to see the sky come down to a wide horizon uninterrupted by streets and houses - to to feel beneath him the strong elastic action of his good bay horse. The man cannot be morally crooked or mentally depraved who realises the beauty and appreciates the charm of ......... picture such as that quoted - no doubt it commended itself doubly to Morant by reason of the fact that he was reminded of his own favourite mount, "Cavalier," in the reference to the "good bay horse." Talk of the music and the organ in Exeter Cathedral - thirty couple of such voices (the hounds) as those would silence a battery of cannon. They spread like a ...................... they swarm like a hive of bees, soon they settle into their places and stream across moor, like horses in stride and speed, like lions in strength and energy and fierce desire for blood. Now's your time, old man. You sit down in your saddle and say to yourself there is nothing on earth worth living for compared to such moments as these. And now into the story is introduced a sporting parson of the good old English type, "the sort who would sooner ride fifty miles to a fight than five to a prayer meeting," who knew a good dog when he saw him, or a game cock, could tell the points of a pacing nag, and was an excellent judge of strong ale - by name the Rev Abner Gale and he preaches to himself, riding homewards one dark night, on a test which apparently appealed strongly to the sympathies of "The Breaker" - "Keep your own counsel - and take a good hold of your horse's head." But enough! The end has come and the writer here pays his meagre tribute to the memory of a comrade who no matter what his faults and failings were, ever proved himself a manly, good natured, ruggedly-honest fellow, and one who has got as good a show as the average man of being well treated in the Great Beyond! " Morant's philosophy" should have been the title of the attached verses from bis own pen,
which appeared in "The Bulletin" some few years back under the heading : " The Good Things that Remain" ': — Bluey the cattle-dog: gammons asleep ; The pine-sparks fly and the embers glow, While horse-bells ring and the crickets " cheep," And the black ducks "call" ' in the swamp below. Night dews are bleaching the tasselled grass ; Away in the west the moon rides low ; And the bushman's wakeful fancies pass To the light-o'-love of a year ago. "Cattle-dog Bluey, now what think you ? Cunningest dog upon all the earth ! Wake, you schemer, and answer true - Tell us what games are their candles worth ?" One eye opens, and two ears prick : "Not very many, boss, grins the dog ; Sweethearting's vanity - best to stick To good tobacco and decent grog !" And now, revering again to Whyte Melville, let me quote in conclusion an extract marked by "The Breaker" :- There are paths to fortune, plenty of them, for men who look upward and onward, - steep, it may be, and leading through miry places, not seldom slippery with blood. T a bold spirit this is half the charm ! You are lying here, unable to leave your bed to-day : but do you not long for the time when you shall be riding wild horses, pledging lawless healths, drinking, diceing, and brawling once more ? Alas, for "The Breaker" the way has been through miry places and slippery with blood, - whilst the bed in which he sleeps is one from which his poor bullet riddled body will not rise again VALE Harry Morant !