The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter I page 1
CHAPTER I - THE MURDERS ON THE WOMBAT
On a Sunday afternoon of October, 1878, the little Victorian town of Mansfield was wrapped in its usual quiet and peacefulness, when a horseman riding through the streets attracted the attention of all residents who chanced to be abroad. He seemed utterly weary. His clothes were torn and mud stained. His pale, horror-stricken face, his whole appearance suggested that he had undergone some terrible experience, and he was making his way to the police-station, where Sub Inspector Pewtress, an officer just arrived from Melbourne, was in charge.
These things excited curiosity. The man was known to be one Constable M’Intyre. But he did not stay to be questioned, and the knot of people who gathered round the doors of the police station waited anxiously to hear his story.
‘They’re all killed, sir. The Kellys have murdered them all,’ were the words with which he greeted his superior officer, and it was some time before he could give a connected account of the experiences he had been through. Gradually, however, he recovered himself, and made Mr Pewtress acquainted with the facts.
On Friday morning, October 25, under the orders of Sergeant Kennedy, and accompanied also by Constables Scanlon and Lonigan, he had set out from Mansfield in search of the Kellys - two brothers for whose arrest orders had been issued on various charges, of which more anon. It was believed that they were somewhere in the neighbourhood of Mansfield ; but in the mountainous country, heavily forested, sparsely settled, and cut up by valleys and creeks, whose banks were clothed in almost impenetrable scrub, there seemed but a faint chance of discovering and arresting them. The party looked forward to spending some considerable time in the wilds. All men were mounted. They were furnished with provisions for three weeks, and in a nondescript fashion they were armed, each man carrying a revolver, in addition to which they had among them a repeating rifle and a double barrelled gun.
Early on Friday morning they left the police station, directing their course into the mountainous country which surrounds Mansfield, itself a picturesquely situated village, nestling among the hills in the north eastern district of Victoria. Though the object of their expedition was nominally secret, and they had substituted ordinary bush costume for uniform, it was pretty generally known in the township that they were in search of the Kellys, whose horse stealing exploits, and the alleged attempted murder of a certain Constable Fitzpatrick, had made them notorious in the district.
On Friday evening the police pitched their camp in the Wombat Ranges, on the banks of Stringy Bark Creek, about twenty miles from Mansfield, and not far from a spot reputed to be one of the Kellys’ bush haunts. On the Saturday morning Sergeant Kennedy, taking Constable Scanlon with him, patrolled down the creek leaving the other two men in camp, and directing Constable M’Intyre to do the cooking for the party. Kennedy and Scanlon were mounted, for though the country is rough in the extreme, no Australian bushman ever thinks of walking where it is possible for a horse to get foothold, or scramble through the trees. Wattle and sassafras scrub clothed the banks of the creek. An open patch of ground, comparatively free from timber, was covered with clumps of bayonet grass six feet high, and beyond was a forest of stringy bark and other gum trees rising above the bracken and undergrowth, and shutting in the view of either side. The police tent was pitched among the bayonet grass, near a huge fallen tree.
Constables Lonigan and M’Intyre had little in the camp to occupy them, and spent much of the day in yarning over their chances of capturing the Kellys, while M’Intyre amused himself for a time by shooting parrots in the neighbouring forest. At five o’clock the sergeant and Scanlon were still away and the other two were making tea in expectation of their return. M’Intyre was putting the billy on the fire. Lonigan stood talking by his side. Suddenly they heard voices calling to them: ‘Bail up! Hold up your hands!’
Looking round they saw that they were covered by the guns of four men, who had stolen up to the camp unheard, and evidently intended mischief. M’Intyre was unarmed. He had left his revolver in the tent, and resistance being hopeless, he held his arms above his head. Three or four yards from the fire there stood a tree, and Lonigan made a bolt for it, at the same time endeavouring to draw the revolver which he carried slung to his belt. He had scarcely taken a step, however, and had no time to grasp his revolver, before he was fired upon, and fell on his face, crying, ‘O Christ! I’m shot.’ He never spoke again, for he had been shot dead by Edward Kelly, and the curtain had risen on a sordid, yet exciting drama, which was to engross the interest of Victoria for years.
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