The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 17 page 3

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Mr Sadlier, in spite of his disapproval of the change, supported Mr Hare loyally. Mr O’Connor and his trackers very shortly left the district for Melbourne, for Mr Hare considered that while they remained at Benalla the outlaws would be afraid to come into the open, and the Queensland Government, which considered that their officer had not been particularly well treated, was desirous that he should bring his trackers home as soon as their services could be dispensed with.

After some days spent in reading up the correspondence and other office work Mr Hare personally interviewed and reengaged most of Mr Nicolson’s agents, and reestablished a party of four police in Aaron Sherritt’s house. Aaron had been somewhat under a cloud in Mr Hare’s absence. He did not get on well with Mr Nicolson who showed rather contemptuous distrust of him; but he brightened up on the return of his old friend, who shook hands with him and scolded him for his past laziness and sulks. Aaron said he would do better in future, and promised to give his most loyal endeavours to the work of betraying his former associates to death.

In addition to the police at Sherritt’s house Mr Hare sent out other parties, setting one of four constables to watch the Kellys’ house where Mrs Skillion lived at Greta, and another of the same number to watch the Harts’ house near Wangaratta. He was aware that the outlaws were now almost entirely dependent for supplies upon their blood relations who would desert them in no extremity. The watching was skilfully managed, Mr Hare’s instructions being that after nightfall the constables should go, one by one, from the police stations at Wangaratta or Glenrowan to their respective rendezvous, and keep the houses under observation all night, returning singly as they had gone in order not to excite comment should they be seen.

While a net was thus being woven round the outlaws there were signs of great unrest among their sympathisers. They were all excited and some jubilant - declaring that the Kellys would shortly do a deed that should astonish not only Australia but the whole world.

Sooner even than the police expected the end came - or the beginning of the end—and with dramatic suddenness. On the night of Saturday, June 26, Anton Wicks, a German miner, who lived not far from Aaron Sherritt’s house, was encountered by two horsemen just as darkness was coming on. One of them led another horse. He did not know them at first, but when they spoke he recognised Joe Byrne with whom he had been long acquainted. Byrne and Dan Kelly, who was his companion, bailed up Anton Wicks, and, putting handcuffs upon him, commanded him under pain of being immediately shot to go with them to Aaron Sherritt’s dwelling for a purpose which they would explain to him on the way.

Sherritt’s little house was crowded that evening. The four constables were there, waiting till it should be time to go upon their nightly watch at Mrs Byrne’s, and in addition there were Aaron and his wife, and her mother, Mrs Barry, who had come to spend an evening with her daughter.

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