“DINNY” DELANEY (Daniel, he was christened) was a long, lazy, useless individual after the style of Dan Rudd. Their ambitions, their tastes and talents were identical; but in dissimulation and “ways that were dark” Dinny could lose Dan easily. He had forgotten more roguery than ever Dan learned. Dinny was Dan’s tutor. He taught him to “battle”—to lie profitably and interestingly, and to live and enjoy life without working.
Dinny was a philosopher. He studied human nature, and reckoned the world was mostly made up of mugs, and that the Lord created mugs for the use of the higher and more intelligent class, just as He did horses and sheep-dogs.
Dinny, himself, was of the intelligent class. People sometimes spoke well of Dinny; said there was a lot in him. They envied him his brains, and wondered why a fellow like him didn’t make better use of his head.
Dinny had brains. He was brimful of natural gifts, but—as with a bad conscience—he concealed them.
When his wife’s people turned him out of (their) house and home, though, and cast him penniless upon the world, and libelled and belittled him to the neighbours, then his ability shaped and showed itself. Lazy and useless no longer, he wore a watch and owned a horse and saddle the first week out.
“Can make stacks o’ money,” Dinny said to Dan, “if on’y I find th’ right cove to work an idea o’ mine I’ve been thinkin’ o’ for years. . . . Twenty thousand in it inside a year, if there’s a bob.” And he went into details. But Dan shook his head and whistled. (Dan respected the police. Dan was not a criminal.)
Then one day Dinny disappeared from Saddletop, and left Queensland, and was never thought of any more.
Four years passed.
Dinny returned to his native land, returned in a first-class railway carriage, smoking big cigars, his luggage in leather bags, and with all outward signs of a gentleman in prosperous circumstances upon him. Dinny had risen in the world. He was a new man. His name wasn’t Dinny any longer. ’Twas James—James Richardson.
Dinny didn’t call at Saddletop (his home); he went to Brisbane, where all the big business people go, and put up at an obscure hotel in a back street. Dinny was not proud; prosperity hadn’t spoilt him. Like Tyson he avoided society; his mind was all on his business. A good business it was, too. He engaged a cab and drove to the Lands Office, and made loud inquiries about land—good agricultural land—land that he hadn’t any idea of acquiring, or even looking at. The Lands officials fell over their stools and hustled each other finding good country for Dinny. A rich customer from Victoria didn’t adorn the office every morning.
Dinny thought Goomburra or Mount Russell Estate might fill the bill—he wasn’t sure; he would have a look at them; and, loaded with information and maps, he returned to his hotel, where, sprawling on a bed, his partner (an amiable person named Johnson) awaited him.
“Go on th’ land, young man,” Dinny said, with emphasis, to Johnson, throwing the roll of maps he carried in his hand hard at the brick wall; “Go on the land.”
Johnson chuckled cheerfully, and reaching for his coat, took from the pocket of it a railway time-table. He was a calm-looking man, Johnson.
“Leaves Toogoom 7.30 p.m.,” he read aloud; “arrives Greenbank 8.47.”
“Sooner we get to work, then, now,” Dinny rejoined, “th’ better.”
The partner nodded.
“Everything’s serene,” he added, closing a huge leather bag that contained clothes and things belonging to the hotel.
The evening following, Johnson in a casual way entered the train that left Toogoom for Stanthorpe, and joined Dinny—the sole occupant of a first-class carriage. They were strangers to each other till the train started; then they became fast friends again and talked trade.
“No letters or anything in your bag, ’s there?” Johnson said.
Dinny shook his head and gave a smile.
“Not me,” he answered
“Nor about you, anywhere?”
Dinny shook his head again.
Johnson sat back and admired Dinny.
Several small sidings were passed.
“This is her,” Dinny said, as the train slackened speed to stop at Greenbank, the place where all the cheese comes from. A stationmaster swinging a red light, a forlorn-looking person in shirt sleeves, and some dogs, were on the platform. The rest of the inhabitants were away laying poison for ’possums.
A farmer’s wife with two children alighted, and the train moved again.
“Now fer it!” Dinny said, straightening himself up.
He opened the carriage door, stood on the step a moment, said “Look after y ‘self,” to Johnson, glanced along the train, then dropped lightly to the ground, and proceeded cautiously along the line.
Dinny had never been employed on a railway-line, but he understood trains. He had been dropping off trains for four years. Johnson, his head and shoulders protruding from a window, grinned contentedly; then remained in contemplation. Telegraph poles flashed by in grey streaks; farms, ridges, and belts of timber were dimly outlined in the night.
The engine whistled again. Johnson roused himself. He ran his fingers through his hair and became agitated. Johnson was a man with a lot of emotion. He took it all from his father. He was an undertaker. Johnson signalled and called wildly to the stationmaster.
“A man fell out o’ here! “ he cried; “fell out the carriage—tumbled clean through this damn door.”
The guard, hearing the commotion, came along. Guards are not so cautious as policemen.
“He was standing just here,” Johnson explained excitedly, indicating the position, “and was strapping that bag” (he delivered Dinny’s abandoned property a kick). “The strap broke, and he overbalanced against the door, and it flew open, and out he went. . . . Don’t know who he was. He was here when I got in. My Heavens!”
The train went on, and the stationmaster sat and worked hard at the telegraph instrument.
The officer at Greenbank perused his tape, looked at it again, made an exclamation, snapped up a lamp, rushed away to procure some spirits, then hurried along the line.
Quarter of a mile from the platform he came upon Dinny. Unfortunate Dinny! There he was coiled up for dead—with all his best clothes on, too. A few yards from the rails he lay prostrate, doubled up as though he had been rammed into a gun and fired at a tree.
“Are y’ hurt, mister?” the S.M. asked in a subdued voice that trembled with apprehension.
“Poor devil!” the S.M. moaned; then knelt down and placed his ear close to Dinny’s mouth. Dinny emitted just enough breath to convince his benefactor that there was yet hope. Dinny was not a man to discourage a good cause.
The officer raised Dinny’s head tenderly and poked the neck of the whisky flask between his teeth. Dinny didn’t resist. He drank feebly. He drank some more. He would joyously have swilled the lot but for a resolution he made in the firm’s interest never to overdo things during business hours. The stimulant seemed to revive him. He opened his eyes and closed them again. Dinny was bad.
“Are you a married man?” inquired the anxious attendant.
“Have you any friends?”
A “special” with a doctor on board steamed into Greenbank, and Dinny, to all appearances a corpse, was lifted into the van and taken back to Toogoom and placed in the hospital. Next day the whole continent read of the accident.
“Isn’t that saad?” sighed big Mrs. McSmith, a sympathetic old person, and mother-in-law to Dinny. “Th’ peoor maan to trevell a’ th’ waay from Waste Ustralle an’ fall out o’ a train like thet;. . . . an’ dyin’ in the hospital and ne’er a frien’ by; . . . th’ peoor maan . . . a gentlemun, too! “
“That’s y’r beautiful Gov’ment, an’ y’r Railway Department, for y’!” her long-legged son, Johnny, who studied politics, declaimed. “By th’ Lord Harry it beats me how there isn’t more accidents. There’s never any of those blooming doors shut. . . . It’s blanky well time there was a change in th’ ministration of th’ ’fairs of this country, I promise yer!”
And a hundred other such humorists in a hundred different places could understand, from narrow escapes they themselves had had, how the accident happened.
Dinny didn’t die. He didn’t get any better, either. He couldn’t very well, because his spine was injured. Crippled for life, Dinny was paralysed completely in his lower limbs. The patella and planter reflexes (whatever they were) had disappeared from both his legs. He was in a state of extreme nervous prostration, and his lumbar vertebra was shot, or shattered or something—so the doctors said.
Poor old Dinny! For four long sweltering months Dinny lay helpless in a private ward, and was never once off his back—at least not in day-time—not when anyone was about to observe him. And it couldn’t have been that Dinny was sensitive in the presence of nurses. Dinny was not modest. But there were occasions when, without leaving bed, he could take healthful exercise. Dinny was never a believer in absolute inactivity. Raising himself on his palms and shoulders till his feet pointed to the ceiling, he would vigorously work both legs with the speed of a fly-wheel, resembling the orange-coloured acrobat manipulating the big ball with his toes. For variety, Dinny would balance the furniture on them till he got tired or heard a footstep.
One evening, when he was doing this, the door suddenly opened without any noise, and a voice said, “AHA!”
Dinny did get a fright; it nearly choked him.
“M-mighty!” he gasped, picking himself off the floor where he had rolled.
But it was only Johnson to see him—the stranger who witnessed the accident.
“Take three thousand pounds?”
Dinny answered feebly in the negative.
“If the cove who was in the train with me can be got,” he said to his solicitor, “go to law with it, Sir!” Then, after reflecting, “But it can’t matter much t’ me now.”
Dinny was a despondent client.
The “cove” was easily found, but he was sorry on Richardson’s account that he couldn’t remain to give evidence unless the case was brought on at once (Johnson was getting short of cash), as business was calling him to California. But he would do his best to stretch a point.
He’d “see,” anyway.
Johnson was a humane man.
“Action against the Railway Commissioner,” the Brisbane newspapers said. “Fall from a train. £15,000 damages claimed.”
Daniel had gone to judgment.
“Richardson v. Commissioner for Railways!” cried a court official.
’Twas the last case on the cause-list—the grand finale to a long winter session. Dinny was a big draw. A crowd of eager, interested faces filled the court. People left business to flock there. Unusual solemnity marked the proceedings. There was a strong bar.
“I appear for the plaintiff, your honour,” said Dinny’s counsel, an alert, distinguished pleader.
From the other end of the table an eloquent K.C., assisted by juniors and surrounded with Crown officials, books, photographs, piles of documents, and the Railway Department, bowed the formal intimation. His honour made a note.
A short silence, then commotion behind the bar. The Judge, grave, dignified, lifted his head and peered through his glittering, gold-rimmed glasses. The Sheriff, composed, played with a pen. All eyes turned to a side door opening from the jury-room. A constable cleared the way, and the plaintiff, in charge of the ambulance, was conveyed into court on a bed, his lengthy form concealed beneath a cover resembling a trough turned upside down.
Dinny caused a great sensation. The bed was elevated on chairs adjacent to the jurors, and there, in full gaze of everyone, reclined Richardson, Dinny, the eldest son of Delaney—calm, collected, innocentlooking as an infant in its first sleep. Dinny had a fine nerve. He was a fine actor, too. The stage had lost a star in him. The hearts of the audience went right out to Dinny. Never since his birth did he receive so much sympathy. They would give him full damages.
Australians are a just people.
But there was no affinity between Dinny and the Defence. They hadn’t any commiseration; but made audible jests and jeers that jarred the sentiment of the moment. They seemed to think Dinny was a fraud. But Dinny only looked at them. He expressed his opinion of them with his eyes.
Dinny’s advocate rose to his feet. A clear voice he had and suave. Conscious of a good cause, he was all sympathy and assurance. He believed his client’s story.
“What is your name?” he said to Dinny.
Dinny quietly told him “James Richardson.” He told him a host of other things, too, equally false. He said he was thirty-five years of age (Dinny was forty-five if he was a day), that he was born in New Zealand (Dinny was a native of Boondooroo), worked hard there with his father for years (Dinny never worked hard anywhere in his life), went to Tasmania, to Victoria, to W.A. Came to Queensland to take up land. Then in tones that would move a marble monument he described his fall from the train, and, with real tears in his sad-looking eyes, declared that he hadn’t been able to move his legs or sit up since.
“I on’y wish ter heavens I could, mister!” he added. “It wouldn’t be ’ere I’d be.”
Dinny was a touching liar when he was in the mood. The spectators felt sorry for Dinny.
“Call Samuel Johnson.”
“Sam’el Johnson! Sam’el Johnson! Sam’el Johnson!” echoed in the corridors and died off down the double stairway.
For the first time in his life Dinny was discomposed.
The spectators watched for Johnson. If Dinny hadn’t been a strong man he must have fainted or fallen out of bed. He stared at everyone who entered, but there was no sign of Johnson.
Dinny reflected. So did the court. Plaintiff’s counsel made an explanation. He deplored the absence of Johnson, and informed the court that the evidence the missing witness was able to give was most material to his suffering client.
Dinny was a “bit off” just then, but he controlled himself. He closed his eyes and waited. Dinny was a patient plaintiff.
Counsel for the Defence took the floor. He adjusted his glasses, fixed his legal eyes on Dinny, and with the apathy that “mocks a man’s distress,” shouted at him to “speak out.” Quite different he was to Dinny’s advocate; he didn’t consider an invalid at all. And he indulged in personalities; asked Dinny questions about two men named McDonald and Robertson who had fallen out of trains in other States, and were paralysed in the lower limbs, too; who went out walking with their girls immediately they received a solatium in large sums of money from the Governments interested.
Dinny scowled. He didn’t anticipate these things. He could understand, too, now why Johnson didn’t turn up. So could the spectators. They didn’t believe any more in Dinny.
Australians are an unreliable people.
Several witnesses from down-South entered the box and claimed Dinny as a friend of theirs. McDonald, they called him. Dinny lost heart. His temperature went up and a change came over his demeanour. The audience began to enjoy themselves. They were an impulsive congregation.
“You were found lying on the railway-line near Paddy’s Pinch, in Victoria, last October, were you not?” King’s Counsel, in a careless, friendly kind of way, asked of Dinny.
“N-no, I wasn’t!” Dinny answered, showing his teeth. Dinny was an ugly opponent when he was roused.
“And you were taken to an hospital for dead?” (continuing, as though he hadn’t heard Dinny’s reply).
“No, I wasn’t taken ter any horspital fer dead!” Dinny sneered, glaring aggressively at the enemy.
“And you a strong, able-bodied man, in the best of health” (Counsel suddenly waxed vehement), “remained on your back for five months” (he paused, and then in a deep, dramatic voice), “pretending you were paralysed?”
Dinny, to the amazement of the court and his own counsel, raised himself on his elbow.
“N-no!” he shouted. “N-no; ner fer one month” (finishing in the same key as his opponent).
“And for this heinous piece of shamming” (Counsel’s voice cracked like a rifle), “you received from the Government of Victoria a sum of £1500, in settlement of an action you threatened it with?”
“A lie!” Dinny yelled back, suddenly sitting bolt upright and facing his antagonist. (Dinny was always a tiger to fight.) He gulped down a lump that rose in his throat. “It’s a lie! . . . But if yer want ter know” (Dinny jumped off the bed and stood in his pyjamas), “if yer want ter know who did” (Dinny swung his hand round contemptuously and pointed through a window), “find Mister Johnson!”
The court didn’t try to find Mr. Johnson, and the jury didn’t give Dinny any damages. The Judge gave him gaol instead.