15 September 1911
MORE INTERESTING REMINISCENCES
NEGOTIATIONS FOR A SHIP
AN OFFER OF £1000
THE STORY OF THE STORM BIRD continued "He gave his name as Fitzgerald, and I, asking him to be seated, waited for him to begin. He apparently found some difficulty in making a start with his business, but after beating about the bush for a little and talking of various topics of the day he said:- "
'I believe this ship is very, very fast, and it's also well armed?'
" 'Yes,' I replied. I could see there was something coming, and therefore played a waiting game, though by rights I should have brought him to the point long before.
"'I am told I can trust you,' he continued, now looking me straight in the face, and I believe it; nevertheless, I wish you to keep what I have to say private. I have some friends who whish to leave this country, and the sooner the better. There are about six of them, and I want them got away quietly and safe. They are at present in the southwest of the colony- it matter not where. Do you think you could arrange to pick them up somewhere on the south coast and convey them to a safe place?'
"I thought for a few minutes," explained the narrator, "though it did not take me two seconds to tumble to the nature of the proposition. The pros and cons of such an adventure quickly marshalled themselves in my mind, and the 'cons' seemed rather a bigger army than the 'pros.' From the secrecy, the number, and the expression 'the south-west of the colony.' I 'dropped' to the fact that the friends of my visitor must be the Kellys. My youth, however, my natural love of adventure and gain, and perhaps some modicum of my sympathy for the hunted-though not for their crimes -prevailed. Perhaps at this date I flatter myself in this. Cynics may say that it was merely cupidity, the longing for a good deal. However it be, I determined to assent on conditions and at a price. Nothing was said for about five minutes, during which the ticking of the ship's chronometer and the gentle lapping of the water outside the porthole only served to accentuate the silence. Fitzgerald all the while never look his dark black eyes from me for a second, and though I had hoped my countenance was expressionless he seemed to read my thoughts and know my decision. At length he spoke.
"'And the terms? What are they?"
"'One thousand pounds in gold brought on board at the meeting place to be arranged, and all arms of your friends to be delivered up to me before they come over the side. The arms will be delivered to them again at whatever spot I may land them.'
"He did not seem at all surprised at my price. He simply listened attentively. Looking at him solemnly and with meaning, I said "
'I have an idea, Fitzgerald, who your friends are - but we wont say any more.'
"'I understand,' he said slowly. Then added, 'I understand; you understand; I trust you.'
"'There was a long pause.
"'He then quietly and clearly pointed out that before fixing up he would have to consult his friends. The sum was large, but might be raised. He did not know as yet. That day was Monday. He would sail to Sydney, thence go overland via Goulburn, and send me a telegram on Thursday if it could be done." 'I waited until Saturday, and as no word came. I could wait no longer, so, repairs now having been effected, I hoisted sail and made for Maryborough, nor have I seen or heard of the dark-eyed Celtic stranger from that day to this, though as my vessel was well known he would have had no difficulty, had he so desired, in communicating with me."
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