Moondyne/The Koagulup Swamp

Moondyne by John Boyle O'Reilly
The Koagulup Swamp

We arrive now at the opening scene of this story. Eight days after his escape from Fremantle, Moondyne was seen by the convict Dave Terrell, on the shores of the Koagulup Swamp. In those eight days he had travelled two hundred miles, suffering that which is only known to the hunted convict. When he met the prisoner in the moonlight and made the motion to silence, Dave Terrell saw the long barrel of a pistol in his belt. He meant to sell his life this time, for there was no hope if retaken.

His intention was to hide in the swamp till he found an opportunity of striking into the Vasse Mountains, a spur of which was not more than sixty miles distant.

But the way of the absconder is perilous; and swift as had been Moondyne's flight, the shadow of the pursuer was close behind. No tardy step was that of him who led the pursuit of a man with a terribly maimed face—a new officer of the penal system, but whose motive in the pursuit was deadlier and dearer than the love of public duty.

On the very day that Moondyne Joe reached the great swamp, the mounted pursuit tracked the fugitive to the water's edge. A few hours later, while he lay exhausted on an island in the densely-wooded morass, the long sedge was cautiously divided a few yards from his face, and the glittering eyes of a native tracker met his for an instant. Before he could spring to his feet the supple savage was upon him, sending out his bush cry as he sprang! A short struggle, with the black hands on the white throat; then the great white arms closed around the black body, and with a gasping sob it lost its nerve and lay still, while Moondyne half rose to listen.

From every point he heard the trackers closing on him. He sank back with a moan of despair; but the next instant the blood rushed from his heart with a new vigour for every muscle.

It was the last breath of his freedom, and he would fight for it as for his life. He sprang to his feet and met his first brutal assailant, a native dog—half-wolf, half-greyhound—which sprang at his throat, but sank its fangs in his shoulder.

A bullet through the animal's brain left him free again, with steadied nerves. Even in the excitement of the moment a thrill of gratitude that it was not a man that lay there passed through him; He flung his pistol into the swamp, and dashed towards the log on which he had gained the island. Beside it stood two men, armed. Barehanded, the fugitive flung himself upon them, and closed in desperate struggle. It was vain, however; others came and struck him down and overpowered him.

He was put in irons, and found himself in charge of the most brutal officer in the penal service—his old fellow-convict and employer, Isaac Bowman.