Cookson, 28 08 1911 1
28 August 1911
Mrs Kelly's story
“No,” said the mother of the Kellys, speaking slowly, and with her gaze still upon the fireplace, “I should not be in this miserable place if Dan was alive. These children belong to my daughters. These two little ones are Nell’s. She has a little business ten miles from Benalla, but they have to stay here now because they can’t get home till the weather clears up. The other girl is poor Kate’s daughter. They are all darling little children – so loving and kind. It would be to lonely without them.”
“People blame my boys for all that has happened. They should blame the police. They were at the bottom of it all. We were all living so happily at the old homestead–that’s about a mile and a half from here, on the other side of the road. We were not getting to rich, but were doing all right. The trouble began over a young constable named Fitzpatrick. That was in April 1878. He came to our place over there and said he was going to arrest Dan. He started the trouble. He tried to kiss my daughter, Kate. He had no business there at all, they tell me–no warrant or anything. If he had, he should have done his business and gone.”
“Why did he want to interfere with my girl? He stayed there to make trouble; and there was trouble. It was said that I hit him. I never did. I never touched him. But they took me away–took me from my children and my home, and put me in prison.”
At the memory of her forcible severance from her family the old woman broke down and wept bitterly. On recovering some-what she proceeded, slowly:
“Oh, you can’t imagine what I suffered. You can’t understand what it means, to us poor people in the bush, to be taken away from all that we have–our children. But they took me away, and I had to stay in prison for years. And for nothing–for nothing at all. Because I never touched that constable–his name was Fitzpatrick–at all. I had no part in his being hurt. That was all his own fault. I declare this to you know, declare it before the God I shall soon see, and by my hope of salvation after a life of dreadful trouble, that I did nothing to Fitzpatrick. It was all untrue. And they tore me away from my children and shut me up in prison for years. Can you wonder at anything happening after that to drag an innocent mother from her home and her people and put her in prison for all those weary years? That was the beginning. The police are to blame for everything that happened afterwards.
“Look at me know.” continued the old woman sadly. “Look what I’ve come to. Old and weak and feeble, and have to stay in this place, where there is no comfort or anything like it. The life is to hard–to hard and tough. I could have stood it once, but not know. I am not strong enough. Look at this miserable place. Could anything be more comfortless?
Indeed there was no sign of comfort about the house save the fire. The rough planks of the floor were slimy with the mud that had been carried in from outside. The furniture was of the poorest and scantiest. There was a sleeping apartment just off the living-room, and a small section of a city doss-house would have looked luxurious alongside it. There was no food in sight save a lump of stale-looking bread. And as for lights—well, it was obvious that there would be not even dripping to spare for slush lamps in that household. The children were poorly clad, but their clothes were clean—as, indeed, was everything about the place that could be made clean. But the general pervading tone was one of extreme poverty, and discomfort, and desolation.
“Here, in this poor place, with these little children, is this a life for any woman?” continued the mother of the outlaws, sadly. “Is this a fit reward for being a mother? There’s no justice in the country—no such thing as justice. There’s nothing but cruelty and persecution. Think what the police have done to me and mine, and then tell me if you wonder that the boys turned and smote the ones that had so persecuted them.”
The aged head drooped and for a while the voice spoke brokenly, whilst the youngest of the little grandchildren patted the grey hair and prattled childish comfort to the old woman.
“My God! My God! and I was innocent—innocent as this dear little baby here! And I was thrust into prison like a common thief! Justice! No: there’s none on this earth! I swear it again that I never hurt the man. I never hit him. I remember it all as if it were yesterday. He tried to kiss my daughter. She was a fine, good-looking girl, Kate: and the boys tried to stop him. He was a fool. They were only trying to protect their sister. He was drunk and they were sober. But his story was believed. If he’d been badly hurt he would have richly deserved it. But I never hurt him—before God I didn’t. They swore I hit him with a shovel. It was untrue.
Before that black day when Fitzpatrick came we were so happy. It was a lonely life, but we were all together, and we all loved each other so dearly. Dear little Kate! I can see her now, bustling about the place, keeping things tidy, helping outside whenever she got a chance; always bright and cheerful, just like a sunbeam about the house. And they dragged her poor mother away from her and lied, and sent her to prison for six whole years. After that, nothing but misery. And it has been nothing but misery ever since.
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