|Newspaper Title||The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947)|
|Trove Title||Barumba Station; Or, Amy River's Sacrifice. A True and Eventful Narrative of the Early Days in New South Wales|
BARUMBA STATION ; or, Amy River's Sacrifice.
I A True and Eventful Harratiw of tbk' EARL! DAIS IN NE SOOTH VALES.
BY CAPTAIN LAOIE.
'. :: Coprnioirr RrSxbtxd. ;;) CHAPTER' XIV.
" This is a likely place to examine," Flood called to the major, who was a short distance below. " I never saw a better spot to hide in." His call brought the chief and his
men up, . and they were a little sur prised to find what an admirable screen the growing vegetation made. "I don't notice any tracks," ob jected the major. "Whoever passed ; here may have walked along the course of the water. It is an old dodge. See, your footprints are swept out in' a few moments," and, standing in the stream, Flood illustrated his argument. ; This was enough. ' With weapons in readiness the whole party advanced, and ere long the second screen ap peared to block progress. This was treated as the first by the senior, and, more than ever convinced they had in deed found the retreat of the outlaws, the expedition advanced cautiously. Another wall of vegetation was met and passed, and soon the men stood at the solid rock which appeared to bar 'further advantage. Flood looked about in the twilight which enshrouded them and his skilled eye was not slow to de tect the creepers, which apparently spread over the cliff on the west side of the gorge. The various passages made by the outlaws and the horses could not fait to leave kme marks, and the constable soon exposed the dark en-
trance of the passage. A hasty consulation was now held as to the course to pursue. It was con sidered almost a certainty one or more of the advancing men would meet their death in securing the outlaws; but they had to be captured or killed at all risk. The. passage was almost pitch dark, yet if lights were carried they would only expose the pursuers to the fire of the enemy, so that such a course was out of thei question. The only way was to grope along taking care not to step into a chasm and keep ears as well as eyes open for the enemy.
It was a remarkable scene could anyone not so vitally interested as were ' the men below have witnessed it. In the gloom the forms of the party could be noticed in a shadowy outline, and when they moved it was like a phantom or spectre. This, too, when the midday sun poured its rays down outside. The whispered words resounded from the rocks and rose in a hoarse murmur, whilst far overhead the titanic roffks rested in majestic silence. A few minutes sufficed to decide the men, and the cry was, " Go ahead !" "I'll take I the lead, sir, as I know the sort of" work better than most people," spoke Senior-constable Flood, and the proposition had the true heroic ring in it. He well knew that being first his life was scarcely worth much should the outlaws have their retreat in the place, and all the signs indicated they had. His wish was gratified, and as Major Halpin — himself no coward — nodded approval Flood, without hesi tation, stepped into the passage with his rifle pointed and his finger on the trigger. Halpin followed, then Cosgrove and the others in order. For twenty yards or more a dim light — if not religious — gave them a better chance of making progress. The floor, too, was smooth, or nearly so, but soon they came to a part where the darkness was profound and the clammy walls were slippery as glass. Nothing daunted, Flood led the way and was cheered by a gleam of light which fell athwart the southern wall, a short distance on. This proved to come from a small rent in the roof down which the sun streamed. When the spot was reached a dull murmuring sound was heard, and this occasioned some little interest but 'did not deter the pursuers. They rightly guessed it was caused by falling water, and soon they emerged on that point where the spring fell in cascade fashion into the chasm. On they went until a stronger light was seen, and as a corner was turned they could see the further or western entrance to the pass. In a few minutes it was reached and they looked out on - the remarkable enclosure already des cribed. " They must have given us the slip , and got through the ranges by the pass we have just traversed," said Halpin, with a sigh of relief, as he looked round. No man, however brave, cares - to fight a life-and-death contest in a ' dark, subterranean tunnel and the major was glad to emerge into daylight. " It .is just possible there may be other passages back there," remarked Flood, pointing to the entrance, " which we have missed, but it will not be hard to find them when we make another try. It will be best to explore this place first, as it is just likely there may be no way of getting out except by the way we entered. There is not a path to the east, I'll take my oath," the constable concluded, " We will explore it at once, then," returned the major ; and at once mov ing onwards. Cosgrove was about twenty yards to the south while the above short conversation was in pro gress, and as Halpin stepped on he was arrested by a call from the old man, who was immediately joined by the party. He had something of import ance to show his friends in the shape . of the marks of the horses' hoofs. "These fellows could surely never bave brought the animals through the
pass we have just traversed I" exclaimed Halpin. ' He was speedily convinced, . however,.. that they, must-have done so, as in all directions the marks of horses' hoofs were visible. Some of them were quite recent, and this fact led the men to exercise the utmost confidence in pursuing the quest. It was not long before what was rightly identified as the headquarters of the bushrangers was discovered inside the triangular space formed by the rocks. The recent ashes of a camp-fire was present, and a few articles which Cosgrove identified as having been taken from the homestead by Barumba Station were also discovered; This find was a most important one. The ashes seemed to be two or three days old and there was no doubt the camp had been abandoned just about that time. " We must make a thorough search of this queer spot and try to find out in what direction the outlaws have gone. They may only have shifted the camp to a point further back, and if so per haps we will be lucky enough to alight on them. It is late now, and we can't do better than camp in this place. I notice it covers the entrance to the pas sage yonder and it is safe enough," spoke the major, towards sunset, as he stood near the ashes of the fire made by Lynch and his party. This course was adopted and a strong guard maintained during the night, but nothing occurred to show any human beings save themselves were within miles of them. At daylight the cir cular valley was explored, and soon after noon the gap leading to the west was found. The marks of four horses were discovered, and Halpin and his men arrived at the conclusion that their quarry had taken alarm and were pro bably forty or fifty miles away at the moment. Our only course is to return to the homestead. If we had our horses we could follow with some chance of suc cess; but as it is we are powerless to act, and it would be a tremendous job to get the animals across here and take up the trail, even if it were not obliter ated by rain or other causes. There is
very little danger of the men again re turning to the station, and on that point yon may feel safe, Cosgrove. Goodness knows what their intention is ; but probably we will hear of further outrages before long/' the leader said. Situated as they were, the only thing they could do was return to the station and this was done, the homestead being reached late in the evening after a forced march. Everything was found as left, and it was plain the locality had not been visited by the bushrangers. Next morning Major Halpin set out for Braidwood leaving three of the con-
stables behind to assist Cosgrove and his men in the event of an attack being made on the station. This was most improbable, as the old man himself be lieved, but still it was as well to be on the safe side. For a fortnight after the departure of the party all went well, until Barumba station — or more pro perly its inmates — were startled by sensational news, which will now be led up to. When Lynch ordered the men with him to" retreat and' rendezvous at the lagoon on the night of the fight the order was strictly obeyed. As he went off with Thomas he found the latter was more seriously wounded than he at first supposed, but, under the circum stances, there was no chance to do anything in the way of giving relief. When the lagoon was reached and Laurie and Gibson found waiting for them, a short examination of the wound was made. Thomas himself professed to treat it as a mere scratch, and though none of the party considered it was a fatal in jury, they could tell the loss of blood was considerable and sure to weaken their comrade. With the available means at their disposal an effort was made to staunch the flow, and, in a measure, it succeeded; but the wound being in the side it was not an easy job to effectually stop the bleeding. As soon as the necessary work was finished the quartette made their way towards the mountain and congratu lated themselves on the narrow escape they had from being slain. They knew at least two of the enemy had fallen, and, save for Thomas's wound, which they did not regard in a very serious light, they had come off unscathed. It was after midnight when the gorge leading to the rocky passage was reached, and Thomas was visibly show ing the effects of the injury he had sus tained. The march through the scrub — not to speak of the day's strain — bad been most trying and it told upon the outlaw. I-Iis companions were not taking so much notice, of him as they would have done had he not protested about the slightness of his injury. At last as he went ahead of Laurie the latter noticed him stagger and drew his attention to the fact, but the wounded man only laughed and refused the prof fered assistance. The passage was quickly reached, and, well used as they were to the dark path, the men began to . traverse it rapidly. Lynch led, with Thomas next, then Gibson and Laurie last. All went well until the waterfall , was reached, where the spring fell into the chasm which marked the beginning of Grey Gorge. A low cry from Gibson, who sprung forward, attracted the others' attention, and Lynch and Laurie as they looked — one back, the other ahead — saw Thomas fall headlong from the narrow path of slippery rock into the abyss. He did not utter a cry, and this led the men to afterwards conclude he must have fainted from loss of blood at the critical point and thus met his fate. Gibson was too late to catch him, and even if he had done so it might have resulted in two deaths instead ol one, as at the treacherous spot there was nothing to hold on by and the would-be rescuer would probably have been pulled down . to his grave. The outlaws obtained a light and tried to pierce the darkness of the chasm, but only gloom met their gaze, while the
roar of the .tqmbling water almost) deafetaed them. ' ! " We can-do nothing. He is beyond| all. hope. Poor Thomas, he might have died ill a different way to this,", Laurie' whispered in Lynch's ear, as he; rose from the recumbent position and motioned his comrades to follow out.j In a few minutes they were in the open, air and the camp was reached, and| silently they began to make a fire. As| the cheerful blaze rose they sat together j and briefly discussed the position. It was quickly decided nothing could be | done for the lost bushranger. ! " Probably his body will never go out; of the gorge, and, if so, his foes cannot desecrate it, and neither will they be| able to find out the fate which hasj overtaken him. They will conclude there arc still four of us, and that will be important in the future," spoke the! leader, as he stretched his weary limbs- before the fire. ) " We could do nothing for him. He must have been dead before he reached the bottom. Vou noticed he did not cry out or make the least sign that he was about to fall," added Gibson. " There . is such a noise at the spot that unless he cried loudly it- would have been impossible for us to hear him. At any rate, he is beyond all aid j now, and even if the body ever does come to light we cannot help it. The
question is, what are we going to do? In a day or so these fellows may be' upon us. again — not that we need fear; them much — but there is nothing to be gained by fighting them. My idea is to leave the- locality and go to another," responded Laurie. " Where ?" echoed both his com panions. " Why, to Goulburn and give old Booth a turn. You surely don't forget how he used to treat you, Jack, and,; you know, I have a small account to! settle with that fellow Rivers if he is there; in fact, there are a couple of: other scores I would like to repay in1 that quarter," returned the young man. . " If Gibson agrees I don't see whyl we shouldn't make the change. I do j not forget certainly how I was treated! by the old fool, and there is the Clancy affair to be settled also. The only point is your mother is on the station, i Bill, and that might prove awkward," returned Lynch. "That can't be helped. She will I not interfere with us, and in my posi-j tion I . never wish to see her again, i Perhaps she has not heard of what we! are accused; but the news will travel; fast enough, you may depend. If we hasten on it is just possible we will get there before everyone is told the story.1 If Joe is willing to go we should start in the morning," answered Laurie. " Of course I'll go with you. I haven't any grudges to settle, because perhaps I never lived in the place ; but, anyway, I consider Rivers is as much my enemy as yours. We can't stay forever in this place, and' we might as well make a move . onwards. With luck we should reach Goulburn in seven or eight days at the outside, and- that fellow Rivers if he stays at Braid- wood or any of the other settlements will not be there much ahead ot' us ; in fact, we should beat him, unless wei lose ourselves .in the bush," replied: Gibson. This settled the matter, and without delay the trio ceased talking and' went to sleep without even taking the pre caution of keeping watch. They felt perfectly sure the pursuit could not reach the spot where they were en camped for a couple of days at least. Probably the camp would not be found at all, and they did not experience any misgivings regarding an attack. In this they were quite justified, and it was after sunrise when they awoke much refreshed. After breakfast the horses were sought and found close to hand, and the work of breaking up camp at once commenced. The animal which would have been used by Thomas was saddled and bridled and then packed with most of the stores. The harness was placed on it in order to make it appear Thomas bad used the animal and still further confirm the probable impression he was still in the land of. the living. No trouble was taken to conceal the tracks made in leaving, as the outlaws considered it most improbable their re treat would ever be discovered, and even if it were there was little cause to hide the trail as few could long follow it. Two hours after sunrise they rode, across the circular valley and reached the gap which brought them to the western side of the range, and then they turned to the north. Before night fell they must have covered at least twenty miles through rather rough country. Being excellent horsemen, they took advantage of every portion of ground which offered the least show and put the animals at their best. Camp was made in a forest through which a white man had probably never- set foot at the time, and, secure in the isolation of the place, they took no trouble to set a watch. In this they: were slightly over-rating the safety of' the region, for next day they came upon a numerous tribe of aboriginals who showed a disposition to fight. The outlaws took little notice of them, but it led to their keeping a watch after wards as it was possible, thought not at ,all probable, an attgek might be made, if they all slept during the night. Aus tralian blacks do not, as a rule, fight in the night-time. On the second day the country was exceedingly rugged and not more than tqn miles was attained, and on the suc ceeding day the same condition pre vailed. This was fully compensated, on subsequent occasions when stretches of flat country were met, and not being densely timbered quick time was ac complished. It was remarkable how Lynch and Laurie managed solely by the aid of the sun to keep in the right direction over a pathless and rugged country mostly covered with primeval forest, yet a week after they left the gap leading from the strange circular valley they were in the vicinty of Goul burn. B 14 (to jif. continued.)