Cookson, 21 09 1911 2

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21 September 1911

(full text transcription)

………………FROM THE HANDCUFFS

………....................................................…..…I don’t trust you,” and the

……….........................................… “but if you try to dodge me I’ll get –“

“I won’t attempt to shoot you,” said I “Besides, there’s your rifle,” pointing to it “Keep it in your own possession.”

“All right,” said Byrne, and picking up the rifle, he produced the key from the other handcuffs, and released my hands, instantly stepping back as if prepared for sudden action on my part. But I appeared not to notice this and said,

“Thank you, very much. I’ll never forget this kindness on your part.”

The words so sincerely spoken, had a reassuring effect on Byrne, who said,

“You stop there, I’ll light the fire, and get some tucker.”

“I won’t leave the hut while you are absent,” was my reply, and I intended to keep my promise.

The position of the fireplace was directly in front of the hut, I could view the preparations for the mid-day meal. I did not entertain a thought of leaving the hut. Had I done so the bushranger, who had his rifle by his side, would at once have detected the movement. During my keeper’s brief absence I had time for quiet consideration of my present position as if affected my chance of escape. I had succeeded in obtaining the free use of my hands. This was the first essential towards my object. If I had to fight for my liberty I considered myself quite equal if not superior in physical strength to the bushranger. I knew if it came to a personal encounter I had no mean foe to meet. True, my opponent was muddled with drink or he would not have been such o fool as to allow his prisoner the free use of his hands, but the drink in no way weakened his fighting powers. I had given my word not to resort to the use of firearms, but this promise did not deter me from the use of nature’s weapons. In order to effect my escape I would have to overpower my guard, and when it came to a personal combat. I would rather firearms were not used, as it was quite possible for me to get disabled, thus retarding my movements, if not eventually preventing my escape.

Byrne returned with a billy of tea, and from one of the many receptacles beneath the stretcher brought fourth a tin of preserved sheep’s tongues. These, with a keen appetite and good constitution, I enjoyed every much. It was very evident from the bushranger’s manner that he reposed great confidence in me. As we partook of our food he became still more communicative, and from him I gathered the information that Steve Hart, the fourth member of the gang, was what Byrne termed on the look out, or, as he called it, “scouting.” Each man to take his turn in the ranges, and from every prominent position where a clear view of the surrounding country was obtainable, the scout, who carried a pair of field glasses, would search for the approach of the enemy. The scout was mounted and carried sufficient food to last him forty eight hours. He volunteered the further information that it was the distant voice of Steve Hart that had re-echoed through the ranges on the ranges on the approach of the gang with me, to the camp, and that the imitation of the mopoke signified “All’s well.”

When we had finished our meal Byrne again resorted to the bottle, pressing me to do the same. I kept up the same mode of deception by pressing my tongue against the mouth and raising the bottle as if taking a good drink. Byrne did not notice that the contents of the bottle did not decrease as I drank. His only remark was: “My word, you can take hard stuff with any man I ever met.”

I smiled at the thought of how often cunning men are deceived in their own game, and uavely replied, “It would be very hard stuff I could not take in the same way.”

Many things might have happened with Byrne in the mood in which he quickly got that afternoon. But fortunately for me the other members of the gang returned with good news for me. They had met someone from the station, and had learnt, beyond mistake, that I was all right. I had to promise not to betray them or their hiding place, and then, after a whisky round, they took me through the ranges to where I could find my way back and set me free.

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the previous day / next day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index