The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 14 page 1

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Police parties sent out with all possible despatch on receipt of the news from Jerilderie watched every crossing place on the Murray, but without the least effect. Probably they arrived at the river too late, but at any rate it was soon commonly known that the Kellys were at home again in the Strathbogie Ranges, or some other part of the mountainous North Eastern District. They may have ridden back together, for they were reported to have met at a station twenty miles from Jerilderie, or they may have separated and come together again at some Victorian rendezvous.

One result of the exploit was an increase of the reward offered by the Government for the capture of the outlaws to £1,000 per head, and an offer of the same amount by the New South Wales Government and banks, so that the destruction of the gang became worth £8,0000 to any man who could accomplish it. Blood money, however, owing either to fear of the outlaws, or to some worthier instinct, had no apparent attraction for men who knew the Kellys’ whereabouts. There were numbers of perfectly law abiding residents who at various times could have told the exact position of the Kelly camps, but they did not choose to do so. Just after the Jerilderie affair Ned Kelly, disguised and muffled up, was recognised by a farmer on the King River some forty miles from Benalla at whose house he called, and others were aware that the outlaws had a camp close by, but they made no mention of these things. They had no sympathy with crime. On the whole they would have been glad to see the Kellys caught, but an abstract respect for the law was not sufficient to make them run risks of having their lives taken, or their stacks and fences burnt and their cattle killed or driven away. The Kellys, they knew, would not harm them. Except in murdering Kennedy, the outlaws had done nothing which particularly shocked the average bush farmer’s conscience, and even with regard to the police murders Kelly had succeeded to some extent in fostering a belief that the constables were killed in fair fight. The bank robberies were not altogether displeasing to poor farmers rather inclined to regard banks as their enemies and fair game for anyone smart enough to get the better of them. Accordingly, while they were left alone - and the Kellys, having soared above such small annoying tricks as stealing their neighbours’ stock, were unlikely to harm them - a large number of people who saw and heard of the outlaws frequently decided to let the police catch them as best they might without taking any part in the game.

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