The True Story of the KellyGang of Bushrangers Chapter 18 page 3

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Among the prisoners confined in the hotel was a Mr Curnow, the local State school master, who was bailed up by Ned Kelly at eleven o’clock in the morning when taking his wife and family for a drive. He seems to have made a favourable impression on the outlaws who treated him politely, Dan Kelly going so far as to seek him where he was standing in the yard at about one o’clock in the day with an invitation to come and dance. Curnow said he was afraid he could not do much without dancing boots and asked Kelly to go with him to his house to get them, suggesting, also, that he should be allowed to leave his family at home. He knew that he would have to pass by the police station, where he hoped the constable, Bracken, might be warned of the Kellys’ presence in time to ride away with the news. Ned Kelly was inclined to consent but Dan objected to his leaving the place, so Mr Curnow was obliged to dance in his ordinary boots. He had heard of the Kelly plan of wrecking the police train, and with the object of getting free and possibly averting disaster he worked hard to further ingratiate himself with the outlaws. Happening to learn that one of his fellow prisoners had a revolver in his possession, he called Ned Kelly aside and informed him of the fact. Ned Kelly thanked him, and was gulled into the belief that Curnow was devoted to his interests—a belief which was strengthened when at nine o’clock in the evening the outlaws were about to go to the police station to capture Bracken, the constable already referred to. Curnow had heard Ned Kelly talking of the matter to Mrs Jones, and he suggested that it would be wise to take his (Curnow’s) brother in law, Dave Mortimer, to the barracks to call Bracken out, since the constable would know his voice and come unsuspectingly into the outlaw’s power. Ned Kelly approved of this idea, and on the strength of the help he had given Curnow asked leave to depart from the hotel and go to his home with his wife and sister, who were then at the house of the stationmaster, Mr Stanistreet, which had been used as a place of detention for some of the women. Curnow assured Kelly that there was no need to distrust him as he was with the outlaws heart and soul, to which Kelly replied, ‘Yes; I know that, and I can see it.’

The schoolmaster was then allowed to bring his women folk to the hotel, where they waited for some time, wondering whether they would be allowed to go. Ned Kelly and Byrne were discussing matters in a room which they had reserved to themselves. Some of the prisoners were gathered round a fire of logs which they had lit in the hotel yard while others were playing cards in the hotel, all seemingly content with their position and anxious to amuse themselves as the outlaws had instructed them to do. Towards ten o’clock in the evening Ned Kelly directed Curnow to put his horse into his buggy and drive round to the front of the hotel, telling him to take with him a little boy, the son of the Glenrowan postmaster, as well as the two ladies. After waiting some time, Curnow was joined by Kelly and Byrne on horseback, wearing overcoats, with bundles strapped in front of them, carrying rifles in their hands, and presenting a peculiarly bulky appearance which Curnow was at a loss to account for. They were escorting Dave Mortimer on horseback, and two of the prisoners who resided with the postmaster on foot, all these being intended as hostages or decoys to assist in the capture of Bracken. Knocking and calling failed to bring him out of the barracks, and after searching the place Kelly took Alec Reynolds, the postmaster’s little boy, out of Curnow’s buggy, going with him and Mr E Reynolds, another of the prisoners into the postmaster’s yard. Outside the yard the Curnow’s had a long and anxious wait under the eye of Joe Byrne, and it was nearly an hour later when Kelly came out again with Bracken and the others, leading Bracken’s horse. He order the constable to mount and led the horse with a halter, remarking that he could not trust Bracken with the bridle, to which Bracken replied that had he not been ill in bed all day Kelly would not have captured him so easily. Kelly then told Curnow he might drive home, directing him to go to bed, and warning him significantly not to dream too loud. The outlaws and their prisoners rode away to the hotel, where a dance was in progress and everything appeared to be going merrily. During the dance Bracken, who had observed where the key of the door was placed on the mantelpiece, seized an opportunity when no one was looking of picking it up and slipping it into his boot, with a view to making his escape.

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