The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 17 page 4

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He was over and it was only just dark when the inmates of the house heard footsteps outside, and a knock at the door followed. Aaron asked who was there, and Wicks answered him. Mrs Sherritt went to the door, then turning to her husband she said, ‘It is Anton Wicks. He has lost his way.’

For a moment Aaron seemed to hesitate. Then he walked to the door, asking again, ‘Who is that?’ and seeing it was really Wicks, said a word or two jokingly, before beginning to direct him to his home.

Suddenly there came a flash out of the darkness, a report, and Joe Byrne stepped forward from among the trees. He had shot Sherritt, who was staggering backwards, and coming closer Byrne fired again. The bullet almost touched Mrs Sherritt, who was standing by her husband and shrank aside; but it struck him in the body and he fell upon the floor without a word. A bright fire was burning in the kitchen which formed one half the Sherritts’ hut. Three police were in the bedroom which formed the other half, and the fourth constable entered it through a door in the partition just as Wicks and Byrne came to the house. Mrs Barry, the murdered man’s mother in law, knelt upon the floor beside him and saw that he was dying, while her daughter rushed distracted into the bedroom. Joe Byrne over Mrs Barry, almost touching the body that lay by the doorway, and he threatened to put a ball through her unless she told him who was in the house. Apparently he had heard the constable go into the bedroom when he came to the entrance of the hut, but he obtained nothing from Mrs Barry beyond that there was a man looking for work, and glancing at Aaron he said, ‘I wanted that fellow. I have got him now and I am satisfied.’

Meanwhile, the police in the bedroom were in a wretched state of excitement and fear, uncertain what to do, and doing nothing beyond clutching their firearms and whispering together. A manly rush upon Byrne, when for a few seconds he stood by the door after firing his shot, might have settled the outlaw and saved them from disgrace, but they let the moment go by. Their justification was that in the hurry and the darkness they could not soon enough obtain their rifles. Afterwards the man stepped back into darkness, and when the police looked over the partition dividing the kitchen from the bedroom there was no one to be seen. Immediately after the shot was fired, they heard Mrs Sherritt cry out, ‘Oh, Joe, what did you shoot poor Aaron for?’ and the answer, ‘The ---- will never put me away again.’ They knew at last they had met the Kellys for whom they had been seeking so long, and the only thought among them was how best to keep a whole skin.

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