The Argus at KellyGang 15/10/1902
THE KELLY GANG
AN EXTRAORDINARY YARN; DAN KELLY AND STEVE HART
The Cape Town correspondent of the "London Daily Express" contributed to that journal on September 8 a long story of how he met in Pretoria two men, alleged to be Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, who were burned to death in the Glenrowan Hotel in 1880. The correspondent so far does not appear to have had a visit from Ned Kelly, who was executed in Melbourne Gaol shortly afterwards. His story is:—
One night, when Praetorians, under martial law regulations, had long retired to rest, I was aroused by a knock at the door. On opening it my acquaintance, now nervous and excited, walked in. "I have brought them," he whispered mysteriously. "What's that?" I asked. "The boys." "What boys?" "Dan and Steve." "Oh! you mean the Kellys? Show them in," I said flippantly.
He scowled reprovingly. He went out, and quickly returned with a deputation of two men of middle age, athletic, keen-eyed, sunburnt, firm-featured, typical Australian bushmen, who evidently knew what roughing it meant. There was no necessity for introductions. It was quite true I had met or nodded to them a score of times before that night. I did not know them, however, as "Dan Kelly and "Steve Hart." They sat down, and made themselves at home.
"Now, which is Dan Kelly?" I asked. "Here," said the darker-complexioned of the two, "but you must not say that name again." And don't say mine, either," said Steve Hart. "What! Are you afraid?" "Well, we don't want it known," said Kelly. Then he added earnestly, "You promise never to mention this?" "But why did you come to me?" "Well, he"—pointing to the acquaintance—" persuaded us. Now you promise that, or by—" His voice was husky, and I interrupted, "You needn't fear, for, in the first place, I have only your word for it and, in the second place, I have no ambition to court the anger of the Kellys." "Well, that's all right."
A bottle was opened, pipes were filled, and long after midnight Dan Kelly, who had listened enthusiastically to stories of Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, Burke, Vane, O'Meally, and other earlier Australian bushrangers, combed his bushy hair with his fingers, and said:—"I don't mind you using this if it's worth while, but not before, say, three weeks, and we're safe away. Steve and me and Ned and Joe Byrne was in that hotel all right. Ned got away, and we wus to follow him, but Joe was drunk, and we couldn't pull him together.
When we wusn't watching, Joe walked outside and wus shot. After that two drunken coves was shot dead through the window. They wanted to have a go at the police, so we gave them rifles, revolvers, and powder and shot. The firing where they fell wus too hot for Steve and me to reach them, so our rifles and revolvers wus found by their remains. This wus why they thought we wus dead. I'm sorry these coves didn't take my tip, and go out with a flag, but they had the drink and the devil in them. I think Joe's recklessness maddened them.
"Well, me and Steve planned an escape. We wus in a trap and had to get out of it. We had with us, as we often had, traps' (police) uniforms and troopers' caps, and we put them on. We looked policemen in disguise all right, I tell you. The next question was how to leave the pub. quietly. A few trees, bushes, and logs at the back decided us. We crawled a few yards and then blazed away at the shanty just like the traps. We retreated slow from tree to tree and bush to bush, pretending to take cover.
Yes, cover from Steve and me!
"Soon we wus among the scattered traps, who, no doubt, reckoned we wus cowards. But we banged away at the blooming pub, more than any of them. The traps came from 100 miles around, and only some know'd each other. So how could they tell us from themselves? We worked back into the timber, and got away. Soon afterwards we saw the pub, blazing. Then we thanked our stars we wus not burnt alive. Well, we got to a shepherd's hut, and we stayed there days.
"The shepherd brought us the Melbourne papers, with pages about our terrible end— burnt-up bodies and all that sort of stuff. We heard of Ned's capture, and we wus both for taking to the bush again: but the shepherd made us promise to leave Australia . He found us clothes and money. We got to Sydney , and shipped to the Argentine. We've had a fairly good time since, and ain't been interfered with. We don't want to interfere with anybody either.
"A few years ago we crossed to South Africa . The war broke out, and, not having work we went to the front. We had some narrer escapes, but nothing like the narrer escape from that pub. We're off in an hour or so, but we don't want the world to know where. You can say what I told you, but wait three weeks or a month. Now, listen! If you give Steve and me away, this little thing in the hands of a friend of mine will blow you out"—and he put the point of his revolver almost into my eye. I looked at him sharply, and the awful glare in his eyes convinced me he meant it.
Six weeks later I was surprised to encounter Dan Kelly and Steve Hart in Adderley-street, Cape Town , Dan Kelly said:—"Well, you kept y'r promise. We haven't heard nothing. You may write what you like after to-morrow."
I did not inquire their destination, and they did not volunteer the information.
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