The Monster Diamond

A TALE OF THE PENAL COLONY OF WEST AUSTRALIA.

'I’LL have it, I tell you! Curse you!—there!'
The long knife glittered, was sheathed, and was bare.
The sawyer staggered and tripped and fell,
And falling he uttered a frightened yell:
His face to the sky, he shuddered and gasped,
And tried to put from him the man he had grasped
A moment before in the terrible strife.
'I'll have it, I tell you, or have your life!
Where is it?' The sawyer grew weak, but still
His brown face gleamed with a desperate will.
'Where is it?' he heard, and the red knife's drip
In his slayer's hand fell down on his lip.
'Will you give it?' 'Never!' A curse, the knife
Was raised and buried.

Thus closed the life
Of Samuel Jones, known as 'Number Ten'
On his Ticket-of-Leave; and of all the men
In the Western Colony, bond or free,
None had manlier heart or hand than he.

In digging a sawpit, while all alone,—
For his mate was sleeping,—Sam struck a stone
With the edge of the spade, and it gleamed like fire,
And looked at Sam from its bed in the mire,
Till he dropped the spade and stooped and raised
The wonderful stone that glittered and blazed
As if it were mad at the spade's rude blow;
But its blaze set the sawyer's heart aglow
As he looked and trembled, then turned him round,
And crept from the pit, and lay on the ground,
Looking over the mold-heap at the camp
Where his mate still slept. Then down to the swamp
He ran with the stone, and washed it bright,
And felt like a drunken man at the sight
Of a diamond pure as spring-water and sun,
And larger than ever man's eyes looked on!

Then down sat Sam with the stone on his knees,
And fancies came to him, like swarms of bees
To a sugar-creamed hive; and he dreamed awake
Of the carriage and four in which he'd take
His pals from the Dials to Drury Lane,
The silks and the satins for Susan Jane,
The countless bottles of brandy and beer
He'd call for and pay for, and every year
The dinner he'd give to the Brummagem lads,—
He'd be king among cracksmen and chief among pads,
And he'd sport a—
Over him stooped his mate,
A pick in his hand, and his face all hate.
Sam saw the shadow, and guessed the pick,
And closed his dream with a spring so quick
The purpose was baffled of Aaron Mace,
And the sawyer mates stood face to face.
Sam folded his arms across his chest,
Having thrust the stone in his loose shirt-breast,
While he tried to think where he dropped the spade.
But Aaron Mace wore a long, keen blade
In his belt,—he drew it,—sprang on his man:
What happened, you read when the tale began.

Then he looked—the murderer, Aaron Mace—
At the gray-blue lines in the dead man's face;
And he turned away, for he feared its frown
More in death than life. Then he knelt him down,—
Not to pray,—but he shrank from the staring eyes,
And felt in the breast for the fatal prize.
And this was the man, and this was the way
That he took the stone on its natal day;
And for this he was cursed for evermore
By the West Australian Koh-i-nor.

In the half-dug pit the corpse was thrown,
And the murderer stood in the camp alone.
Alone? No, no! never more was he
To part from the terrible company
Of that gray-blue face and the bleeding breast
And the staring eyes in their awful rest.
The evening closed on the homicide,
And the blood of the buried sawyer cried
Through the night to God, and the shadows dark
That crossed the camp had the stiff and stark,
And horrible look of a murdered man!
Then he piled the fire, and crept within
The ring of its light, that closed him in
Like tender mercy, and drove away
For a time the specters that stood at bay,
And waited to clutch him as demons wait,
Shut out from the sinner by Faith's bright gate.
But the fire burnt low, and the slayer slept,
And the key of his sleep was always kept
By the leaden hand of him he had slain,
That oped the door but to drench the brain
With agony cruel. The night wind crept
Like a snake on the shuddering form that slept
And dreamt, and woke and shrieked; for there,
With its gray-blue lines and its ghastly stare,
Cutting into the vitals of Aaron Mace,
In the flickering light was the sawyer's face!
Evermore 'twas with him, that dismal sight,—
The white face set in the frame of night.

He wandered away from the spot, but found
No inch of the West Australian ground
Where he could hide from the bleeding breast,
Or sink his head in a dreamless rest.

And always with him he bor
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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John Boyle O'Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-born poet, journalist and fiction writer. more…

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"The Monster Diamond" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Jul 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/22065/the-monster-diamond>.

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