The old soldier and the bushranger [28 August 1858]

[Editor: A story published in The Band of Hope Journal and Australian Home Companion, 28 August 1858.]

The old soldier and the bushranger.

Up the country was a store, which had been frequently robbed by bushrangers. At length the owner hired an old sergeant to take charge of it, who declared, with many ferocious asseverations, that no bushrangers should rob it whilst he was in possession. That he might be enabled to keep his word, he provided himself with a fearful array of firearms, which he arranged in convenient positions about the store; so that, in whatever part of it he might chance to be when the enemy appeared, he might be able to lay his hand on a weapon, and be thus always ready for action. But he placed his chief dependence on a large blunderbuss, which he loaded so heavily, that, like a gun charged with grape and canister, it was calculated to scatter destruction amongst a whole army of assailants. Day after day had elapsed, and no enemy appeared. The sergeant began to hug himself on the terror his name and mighty preparations had inspired, and to venture on a few modest wishes that they would come, in order that they might see what they should see.

It chanced, one fine day, that a young fellow came to the store, and requested permission to light his pipe at the fire. This the sergeant, who was tolerably amiable when his bristles were stroked the right way, immediately granted, and the young man proceeded towards the fire, but suddenly turned round, and, seizing the sergeant by the throat, put a pistol to his head.

“Now, my old man-of-war,” said he, “speak a word or move a finger, and your hour is come. Deliver up the keys; right about face, double quick march!”

This was a dreadful situation for the old boaster, and he heartily wished that an earthquake, or something very dreadful, would happen, to save him from being the jest of the neighbourhood.

Now it chanced that the keys were in an inner room, the door of which would only partly open, in consequence of a heavy box being behind it, and only one man at a time could enter. The bushranger foolishly went in first, instead of driving the old man before him, and thus the latter had an opportunity of getting to the place where his beloved blunderbuss hung. He quickly seized it, and trembling with anxiety and impatience, waited the reappearance of his foe.

His destined victim soon presented himself, and the sergeant presented, took aim, and fired; and what an explosion took place! Pots, pans, pannikins, saucepans, utensils, matters and things (as a word-stringing lawyer would say) came rattling down. The sergeant was stunned for a time. When he came to himself, he saw no signs of the bushranger, and addressed himself to look for the divers particles into which he doubted not that he was certainly blown, but no signs could be found of human remains; and, after cudgelling his brains in sore perplexity, he found that his pet blunderbuss had played him false: it was so heavily loaded that it had “kicked” violently, and the whole charge went off through the roof, while the bushranger went off through the door, very much frightened, but not at all hurt.

Townsend.



Source:
The Band of Hope Journal and Australian Home Companion (Sydney, NSW), 28 August 1858, pages 277-278

Editor’s notes:
divers = a number of items (all of which are not necessarily different, they may all be identical, i.e. distinct from “diverse”), several, sundry, various; “divers” is also an archaic spelling variant of “diverse” (a number of items which are different to each other, a wide range of various types)

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