Poem: Sprite (Spirit) of the Creek
Note name changes: Falconis (Farley); Fredro (Fisher); Warlof (Worrall)
Drained flagons proclaim that ’tis time to give o’er,
The hour for departure is come,
The hostess complacently pockets the score,
The stirrup-glass presses the lip, at the door,
And the rider spurs forward for home.
Doors, windows, and gateways, securely made fast,
Tired inmates prepare for repose;
The day’s toil and bustle are over and past,
An air of calm silence succeeds the rude blast,
That from jovial carousal arose.
But ere his soft pillow, the weary host prest,
The fleet, clatt’ring steps of a steed
His threshold approaches;—he starts—half undrest-
A fearful forboding just enters his breast;
For ill news mostly travels with speed.
“Ope the door!” cried a voice, in wild tones of affright,
“And grant me admittance, I pray!
O, grant me admittance, till morning’s blest light
Shall hence chase the phantoms that wander tonight,
In death’s most appalling array!”
Through the half-opened portal, with frenzied like air
Falconis now furiously springs;
From his brow rolls the cold drop, erect is his hair,
Exhausted and trembling he sinks on a chair,
Whilst around fearful glances he flings.
Dismay blanched his cheek, for each tributary vein
Sent its stream to the citadel heart;
That fortress alarmed, to support it they drain
Their channels; nor back call those currents again,
Till by safety allowed to depart.
All that kindness with cheering assurance could do,
From the panic-struck group, standing by,
Was lost on Falconis, till calmer he grew ;
Yet, a glance of mute horror at intervals flew
From his staring, or wild rolling, eye.
Now, stout was the heart of Falconis, and bold ;
Nor weak superstition dwelt there ;
And hideous that object must be to behold,
That could daunt his fierce spirit, his blood curdle cold,
Or stamp on his cheek palid fear.
And, hideous, in sooth, was the object that scared
And turned him from homeward that night;
In shuddering amazement his hearers all stared,
Whilst, with half-lessened terror, Falconis declared
He had met with a murder’d man’s Sprite.
‘Twas on the rude structure that spans the deep creek,
The horrible figure appeared;
On its pale, ghastly visage, was seen the red streak,
And sunken its eye-balls, and hollow its cheek,
And crimsoned with blood was its beard.
Through the wide gaping wound, the assassin had made,
Issued brains, mixed with streams of dark gore;
Deep gashes more hideous still rendered the shade,
And well might Falconis’s heart feel dismayed,
Though fear it ne’er cherished before.
‘Twas the spectre of Fredro, who long had been lost
To his friends, his dependents, and home;
False rumour gave forth that the seas he had cross’d,
Resolved on beholding once more that lov’d coast,
Whence fortune had doom’d him to roam.
His absence did many with wonder regard,
Through leaving behind him his wealth;
For, with him had industry met its reward,
Snug dwellings and acres acknowledged him lord,
And these blessings were gilded by health.
But, the man of all others, he trusted and loved,
For whom his regard knew no end,
In a dark guilty moment by Satan was moved
(Vile lucre his object, as afterwards proved,)
To spill the life’s blood of his friend.
‘Twas over the wine-cup, as cheerful they sate,
The hell-inspired thought filled his mind;
The day’s toil was over, the hour drawing late—
O, hour of destruction ! by all-ruling fate
To murder’s fell purpose consigned!
Night’s murkiest mantle the pale moon o’erspread,
When Fredro, unconscious of harm,
Stept forth from his threshold; a blow on the head
His defenceless scull shatters—the victim falls dead,
‘Neath false, treacherous Warlof’s fierce arm!
From the red reeking spot then the body he bore,
(Unhallowed and lone was the grave)
On the creek’s reedy margin he covered it o’er;
No track marked the spot, though odd blotches of gore,
Slight traces of violence gave.
But means beyond human were wisely decreed
To bring the foul act to the light;
Falconis’s words to a search quickly lead ;
The Agents of Justice with promptness proceed,
To the spot where appeared the dread Sprite.
Here one join’d the band, as though sent from on high,
To follow the blood shedder’s trail;
An instance most strange of those chances, whereby
The foul crime of murder gets bared to the eye,
And height’ning with interest the tale.
‘Mid the wild sable sons of Australia, but few
With Gilbert (a Chief) could compete;
Unerring his aim, when his barbed spear flew,
Nor less so, when air-cleaving boom’rang he threw,
To lay the wing’d prize at his feet.
The footstep of bandit o’er forest or plain,
Through brushwood and deepest ravine,
Or devious, or straight, he ne’er followed in vain;
Which shewed as if instinct itself held the rein,
And guided, where track was unseen.
With strange power of vision and keenness of scent,
Few objects could hide from his view;
Thus gifted, his aid to the searchers he lent,
And seemed as a being by Providence sent,
To take up the spectre seen clew.
(Man’s natural gifts are designed to provide
For the wants his bare frame should create:
Hence, by just distribution, is freely supplied
To the untutored savage, what’s wisely denied
To man, in his civilized state.)
Each darksome recess ‘twixt the timbers that prop
The bridge is examined with care;
The creek’s stagnant waters they traverse—they stop!
The eagle-eyed Chief sees a scum on the top—
And all for dread tidings prepare.
A thrilling forebodement around quickly flies
As the Chief smells to part of that scum—
Which something near hidden had caus’d to arise;
‘”Tis whitefellow’s fat!”—such the phrase he applies—
His hearers with wonder are dumb.
Quite close to that spot was the mangled corpse found;
A spectacle ghastly to see;
On the victim’s bared scull gaped the wide-mouthed wound,
Through which the seared life a quick passage had found
To a mansion more peaceful to flee.
False statements and dealings exposed, loudly plead,
And fix upon Warlof deep guilt;
Stern Justice awards him the homicide’s meed;
For “He, who man’s blood spills,” (as Heaven has decreed)
“By man shall his own blood be spilt.”
Condemned and in fetters the culprit behold!
(Even pity recoils from his doom)
By agonised conscience upbraided and told
That the friend of his bosom he slaughtered for gold;
Whilst fiends point his way to the tomb.
From the scaffold the murderer’s spirit has fled,
The Fountain of Mercy to seek :
To appease Fredro’s ghost was his guilty blood shed;
And ne’er, from that time (as by neighbors ’tis said)
Has been seen the dread SPRITE OF THE CREEK.