The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 8 page 6

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Dan Kelly seen Again

I was in the habit, whilst with my cave party, of getting all information of everything that was going on throughout the district concerning the Kellys. One evening Detective Ward came to my camp and told me that Dan Kelly had been seen near Myrtleford, riding in the direction of Beechworth. Half an hour afterwards Aaron, on his way to Mrs Byrne's, called in at my camp. I told him that Dan Kelly had been seen that day.

He started up at once, and said, "Then he will call at my mother's place to-night, or else at my hut, which is about two miles from my mother's;" and added, "I wish, Mr Hare, you would bring a couple of men with you, and come with me to my mother's place; some of the gang are sure to call there if they are passing by. Let the remainder of the party go to the usua1 place at the stock yard and watch Mrs Byrne's. You come with a couple of men to my mother's place, and get two men from the upper camp and put them in my house."

I consented to this suggestion, and he accompanied me. I left two men at his house, one of whom knew the outlaws, and I went with two men to his mother's. I had a conversation with his mother, and she asked me to be careful and not to shoot any of her sons. She had two besides Aaron, Jack and Willie. I went inside their barn—a large open building, within a few yards of their dwelling house. It was filled with straw, and the two nights I spent in that building with my two men beggars description. The pigs slept in the straw, and the fleas beat anything I ever felt in all my life; the mice, also, were running over me, and I really believe that a snake went over me also; but there was a chance of the Kellys coming there, and that was enough for us. I had arranged with Mrs Sherritt that if she heard footsteps, or any one coming to the place during the night, she would call out, as a signal, "Is that you, Jack, or Willie ? " and I could hear their reply. Aaron stayed all night in his mother's house, in case the outlaws called to see him.

Once or twice during the night I heard footsteps approaching the house, and, of course, my heart was in my mouth, expecting it might be the welcome visitors; but, alas! Mrs Sherritt came to the door when the dogs barked, and called out, "Is that you, Jack ?" and the answer was, "Yes." I stayed there a second night, but at daylight next morning I got up and left with my two men. The horrors of that place frequently come before me, and I shudder when I think of the hours I spent in that barn.

On my way to my camp I called at Aaron's hut, picked up the two men I had left there two nights previously, and took up my position under the rock, feeling as if I had got home again; the bare rock was paradise compared with the abominable place I had just left.

Life in The Mountain Camp

I must now come to the closing act of my stay at the camp in the mountains. We had been about twenty-three nights watching there. Our breakfast consisted of bread and sardines, and a drink of water; dinner and supper the same, varied with tinned beef. In the midst of our camp was a large stone, which was used as a table. We never could have a fire. The food, whatever there was, was placed on the stone. Each man would get up from his position, take what he wanted, and go back to where his ride lay, and eat the food there; no two men went to the socalled table at the same time.

'Now I am a Dead Man'

On the last morning of my stay there, Aaron, who had been watching with us all the night, came into the camp with us. It was a Sunday morning. After we had our meal, each of us lay down in the spots we had selected and fell asleep. I was the highest up the hill, and could look down upon all the others; near me sat the sentry, and Aaron had lain down the furthest down the hill, in a hollow below a large rock. At about eight o'clock in the morning the sentry, without moving from his post, called me, and said the old woman, meaning Mrs Byrne, was in the camp. I sat up in my cave and looked out, and saw her stealing up. She stood for a moment, saw articles lying about the camp, then came a few steps further on, looked down in the direction of where one of the men was lying, then halted for a moment, and retreated. The camp was so situated that unless a person got within a yard or two of it, he could not be seen. I watched her, and did not even let her know that we had seen her. Directly she left I jumped up and went to see who it was she had seen, and to my horror I found it to be poor Aaron. I called him up. He was lying partly on his side, and I was not certain she could have recognized who it was. I told Aaron what had happened, and he turned deadly pale, and huge drops of perspiration broke out on his face. He could scarcely speak, and gasped, "Now I am a dead man." I told him the best thing he could do now was to be off as hard as he could, and go and show himself to some of his friends, so that if Mrs Byrne had recognized him he could prove an alibi, and convince her she was mistaken.

Aaron always wore a peculiar dress, and would have been known by any one at any distance. His dress consisted of a white shirt, a pair of trousers and long boots, with his trousers tucked inside. The first thing I did before I let him leave the camp was to send a sentry over the hill to see if anything could be seen of the old woman. He returned in a few minutes and pointed her out on a hill opposite to us.

I should here describe the formation of the country we were hidden in, to make myself understood. We were on the one side of a deep gully, with high hills, quite impassable to horsemen, in front and behind us. A road or track ran at the foot of the gully, and on one side of the track, about 100 yards from the bottom of this gully, was our watching-place, about half a mile from Mrs Byrne's house. We remained quite quiet, and watched her go up the opposite hill to something white that was on a rock This was her shawl, which she had left behind. It afterwards turned out that she was searching for the police in the mountains, and when she got to the spot where we saw her pick up her shawl, she had noticed a sardine-tin on the rock in our camp shining in the sun. This had been inadvertently left there after breakfast. When she saw this shining thing, she left her shawl and went to see what it was, and after being in our camp she returned and picked up her shawl (this she afterwards told Aaron). I put a watch over her, and saw her come down the hill again.

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