The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 17 page 5

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Strangely enough the outlaws do not seem to have known that there were police in the house. Joe Byrne made Mrs Barry open the front door of the kitchen. It was the back to which Byrne and Wicks had come, and standing outside on either side of the house they called on the men, whoever they might be, to come out and be killed ‘like --- dogs.’ They fired several shots into the house, by way of encouragement, but still the police did not stir, and still the women who ran backwards and forwards, and were constantly threatened with death unless they confessed who was in the house, would say nothing but that they were men looking for work.

In the bedroom the constables still whispered together, and allowed each to persuade the other that it would be madness to venture out—that if they held the place they would do well. A rush would certainly have involved a risk to life for the outlaws were in the darkness, and before the constables could reach the open they would have been exposed to fire through either door of the kitchen, which was brightly lighted by the burning logs on the hearth. It was a risk they were not prepared to run, and to further protect themselves they hit upon a brilliant idea. Mrs Sherritt had been running distractedly in and out of the bedroom, and once when she came they kept her with them and forced her to get under the bed. She would be safer there, they said - and so would they - for while women were in the room they trusted that the outlaws would not fire through the weatherboard walls. Mrs Barry, indeed, begged them not to, saying that they would shoot her daughter, and they fired no more, but spoke of setting alight to the house and actually tried to do so, placing brushwood against the walls and striking matches, which went out.

Here one would suppose came chance for a rush, while at least one of the murderers was engaged in trying to fire the house, but the constables and the women believed all the outlaws to be there, and they resorted to strategy. Mrs Barry was called into the bedroom, and, partly by persuasion and partly by force, detained there, for the constables considered that the outlaws would not be such cowardly brutes as to burn down the house while there were women in it.

Some hours after the abortive or pretended attempt to burn the house the outlaws departed, but at what hour was not ascertained, for the police remained in the house till the morning when a Chinaman who was passing was persuaded to take a letter to a schoolmaster, who, in his turn, visited the house and took information of the murder to Beechworth. People gradually collected round the murdered man’s dwelling and by two o’clock in the afternoon a large crowd had collected, but the constables still held the house and refused to admit anyone till the arrival of Mr Foster, a police magistrate from Beechworth, to whom they shortly explained the facts of the affair.

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