Cookson, 20 09 1911 1

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20 September 1911

(full text transcription)



The early morning sun set its slanting rays through the open space between the wall plate and the bark covering of the bushrangers' hut, when the outlaws began to bestir themselves. I lay feigning sleep, but still wide awake, wondering what the day would bring forth, inwardly praying that a way might be opened whereby I could escape.

One by one the bushrangers arose. The leader of the gang went forth, no doubt to satisfy his anxious mind that no enemy might lurk within the vicinity of his stronghold. The first movement of the other two was to the whisky bottle, as Byrne remarked, "to have an eye-opener."

I rose from my bed of bags with aching brow and weary limbs. My manacled wrists were swollen and inflamed, and the pressure of the iron rings had left a scarlet circle above my hands, and I felt a sense of relief when Dan took the gyves from off my wrist. Byrne was standing at the entrance, and telling me to come out, pointed to a kerosense tin, and told me to have a wash. I was then informed that I could move about within a prescribed area, but my sever watchful guard was there with his constant companion, the rifle.

Byrne prepared the meal, and ere long the leader was seen driving the bushrangers' horses through the gate at the corner of the fence. I took my breakfast in the same manner as the previous meal. When the repast was ended the two horses that the leader and his brother had ridden the previous day were saddled and led to the door. Then Dan, ordering me to go inside, followed me into the hut, and producing the handcuffs was about to replace them on my wrists, when I said, "These things hurt me terribly. Would you mind tearing my handkerchief, and allow me to put a piece round each wrist before you put them on?"

" 'You'll get no - handkerchief. Many a time you've put them on some bloke without any rag, and it's your turn now," was the reply.

I was determined to leave no opening for my guard to find any excuse for personal violence, so kept silent while he was placing the irons on my wrist. In the meantime the leader had entered the hut, and, addressing me said, "Listen to me. We're going for a ride. We might be away for an hour, perhaps an hour and a half. While we're gone Byrne will look after you with a gun, and if you try to get away you'll get an ounce of lead in your carcase."

"And," added his brother, 'we're pretty sure you're a - trap, and traps don't live long in these parts. But if you try any tricks you'll die before we come back."

Byrne, who was standing at the door with his rifle in his hand, heard the warning given to me, and as the brothers mounted and rode away I heard him say, as if in reply to some caution from his confederates, "All right, if he comes any new chum game with me I'll wing him below the left shoulder blade, "You've heard what I said, and if you try to play it low down on me, by --, I'll do it."

"I understand," I replied, and felt thankful that no promise was exacted from me. Soon after the brothers' departure Byrne, from a billy hanging over the fire, produced some hot water, and standing with his rifle near him shaved himself most carefully, after which he gave his curly hair a vigorous brushing, all the time carrying on a disjointed conversation with me. His tone was affable and quiet. I could not understand the different conduct in the absence of his comrades, but I was eventually enlightened as to the cause of his altered manner. Byrne very soon produced the whisky bottle, and, taking a stiff nip himself, he placed the bottle on the table, and, while filling his pipe inquired if I would like a smoke.

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