The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 9 page 1
The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare
Mrs. Skillian's Hoax
IT was perfectly wonderful how all the trains were watched by Kelly sympathizers. You could tell them in a moment, they were to be seen on every railway station. It is not to be understood that all these men could communicate with the outlaws; my opinion is they trusted no one but their own blood relations, but the information concerning the police was sent to persons like Aaron Sherritt, there being perhaps three or four men in the whole district who could communicate to the outlaws' sisters any information that was obtained concerning the movements of the police. Hart had a brother and sister, and they were always on the move. Byrne had a brother and two or three sisters; the former was always riding about. Reports came in that Mrs Skillian used to be seen at all hours of the night riding about the bush, sometimes with large packs on her saddle.
A curious incident occurred one morning about daylight. Some policemen had got to Mrs Skillian's house about two o'clock in the morning, and were within a short distance of her place, and in some way she must have become aware of their presence there. She went into the paddock about three or four o'clock , caught her horse, saddled it and tied a large bundle on the saddle, mounted the horse, and started off towards the mountains, the three policemen following her, but without the slightest idea that she was aware of their presence. She made for a very steep gap in the mountains, the men following on foot, thinking they had a good thing on hand. The sun was nearly up when they reached the top of the gap, and the first thing they saw was Mrs Skillian sitting on a log facing them, and her two hands extended from her nose, and taking what is called a "lunar" at them, with a arm of satisfaction on her face. They went up to examine the pack on the saddle, and found it to be an old table cloth wrapped up evidently to take a rise out of the police, who had been watching her.
After I left the cave party, I was constantly on the move. My object was to harass the outlaws as much as possible. I had parties of men out in every direction, going all day, and watching for fires at night. I remember on one occasion I had been out in the bush for about ten days with a party, and having consumed our provisions, we came back to Benalla. The evening I returned Captain Standish got a letter evidently from a well to do farmer, who stated that he had on the previous evening seen four men walking in the direction of a certain man's house, giving a description of the place, and how to find it out. He gave his reasons for thinking they were the Kellys, land altogether it appeared a very good opportunity of falling across them. Captain Standish was in great glee about the information, and I remember sitting up half the night with him talking about it.
At twelve o'clock I went round to my men, awoke them, and told them to be ready to start with me at four o'clock next morning. We were up again about three, got our horses and provisions ready, and away we started at daylight, and went through the town of Benalla before any one was up. As it was Sunday morning, and it was an unusual thing for us to start away on that day, instead of going in the direction indicated in the letter, I went directly in the opposite one. When I got into the bush, about five miles from Benalla, I dismounted the men and read the letter to them. I was afraid to do so before, in case the information we were going on might leak out. They were all in great spirits at the probabilities of success, and thought our chances very good. We camped and let our horses feed in the middle of the day, and so we travelled along until after sunset, when we doubled back, and made in the direction of the farm described in the letter.
About four o'clock in the afternoon we passed a hut. Of course every one, knowing we were in search of the Kellys, came out to see us. One of my men drew my attention to a man standing watching us, and told me he was one of the principal spies of the Kellys. I replied, “Well, he can never guess where we are going, for we have the Warby Ranges between us and the spot we are making for." We passed on, and thought nothing more of him. We got into camp about eight o'clock, tied our horses up, and after having some water, bread, and beef, laid, down until one o'clock in the morning. As the men got out of their hammocks, Lawless cried out, "I say, Mr Hare, I think some of these hammocks will be for sale to-night." He meant by that that some of us would be shot, as all felt convinced we were going to meet the outlaws that morning.
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