Chapter 209330317

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209330317
Full Date1895-10-25
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count3063
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)
Trove TitleBarumba Station; Or, Amy Rivers Sacrifice. A True and Eventful Narrative of the Early Days in New South Wales
article text

A True and Eventful Karrati?e OF THE EARLY DATS IN NEW SOUTH WALES.

BY CAPTAIN LACIE.

[COPTEIOUT RESEKVED.] CHAPTER IV.

The area, of Barumba was nol very extensive—for a sheep and cattle station—and the natural boundaries were a great aid to the men whose work was to round up the flocks and herds which thrived so well in the locality. The wonder was that men having the comparative case which Lynch, Laurie, Thomas and Gibson enjoyed should take to desperate and criminal courses. It is said Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do, and, though the men were not idle, the ennui of the life and the sight of means to do ill deeds probably urged them on to the gulf to which they were hastening. When Thomas and Gibson came up

Laurie and Lynch accompanied them to the stables to put up the horses. In the absence of Moncton the actingmanager was Cosgrove, and this fact intensified the dislike which the four men felt towards him. To put the cook in authority over the other employees was an act scarcely to be tolerated, though no man deserved the trust more than Cosgrove. He was far and away the oldest employee at the station, having come to the place when it was first opened, and he was the most trustworthy in every respect. It must be said he did not exercise his power in a fashion which would make him still more obnoxious, for he scarcely interfered with the men. They could do as they pleased so long as they did not flagrantly violate the rules of the station. In the hay-loft the four men gathered like conspirators, as they were, and Lynch speedily brought matters to a crisis by telling the two latest arrivals the opinions which the reader is already aware of. In order to consolidate the band he desired each man to take an oath of fidelity one to the other, and in the event of discovery being made the party should resist arrest and fight to the death. " I would rather—much rather have one year of free life in the bush with death afterwards than serve ten years ^Sydney gaol and live. That is what we will get if we surrender like cowards at the first attack. What are your opinions, lads ?" asked Lynch, in a serious tone. They were unanimously of the same opinion as Lynch. Gibson and Thomas explained that they never had the least idea of giving themselves up to the authorities on the first challenge, and they were quite ready to take the oath which Lynch required. " My objection to your proposal yesterday," said Thomas, " was to run off before there was the least necessity for it After we ship the couple of hundred head of cattle and the sheep we may be wise to make ourselves scarce before the next muster." The matter of willingness in respect of fidelity being satisfactorily arranged, the next act was to take the oath. None of the men had what, by the greatest

stretch of imagination, might be called a religious education. In the early days of Australian settlement, even in the centres, religious teaching was not very general—that is amongst the free settlers. Certainly the convicts got frequent doses of the gospel, which was flung to them—or at them—much as a bone is thro.wn to a dog—by the prison chaplains, but in the backwjoods where Lynch and Laurie were brought up priests or parsons were seldom ever seen at the period. 1 Lynch had a sort of vague idea that an oath should properly be taken on the Bible, but where was such a book to be obtained at Barumba Station ? The manager—a sturdy old Covenanter —probably had one, but it would not be possible to get it,and it was out of the question to ask Cosgrove for the Scriptures on which to take an oath which meant serious injury to his employer and probably to himself. The difficulty was settled by Laurie. In rummaging in his box a few days previously he found a prayer-book, entitled " The Garden of the Soul," which had been placed there by his mother when he was leaving Goulburn. This surely was quite as efficacious an instrument as the Bible, and, with much parade, Lynch first tcok a simple oath himself, and then it was repeated by the others. Each man bound himself to be true until death to his comrades, and, reverently kissing the missal, they felt in their own superstitious way that they were irrevocably bound by solemn oath to each other. Lynch evidently had a strain of the old pirate in his composition by the action he took regarding the oath, or perhaps he was a keen reader of character and knew just how to obtain the loyal help of his comrades, for it is certain they never broke the oath. After this everything went well until the 24th of November. James Moncton had not returned, though he was daily expected, and tlie four men were also keeping a sharp lookout for ihe brig "Peneiope." Indeed, they were anxious now that the manager would not return until the vessel had come and gone. As might be expected, the work of loading a couple hundred head pf cattle and a quantity of sheep would

not be an easy matter; but the men were skilled at the business and there were facilities for the work, so that it could be accomplished with a minimum of inconvenience. If Moncton were not returned a source of anxiety would be removed, and when on the afternoon of the 24th November Lynch rode back to the homestead, where Laurie and Gibson were employed, and told them a ship was coming up the bay they were rather pleased to hear the news. Of course the man could not say whether or not it was the brig they were so anxiously expecting, but there was every reason to believe it was. The craft from Sydney with stores had put in a fortnight previously and sailed again ; and, as Benson said he would be back towards the end of the month, there was little doubt it was the Penelope which was making its appearance in the distance. It would be necessary to ascertain this at once, as delay would be dangerous, and Lynch volunteered to make his way to the jetty during the night, and if the craft turned out to be the one they wanted he would make arrangements with Benson for the immediate loading. The night gave promise of being unusually bright, for the sky was clear aud the moon at full. It would be necessary to walk the distance, but that was nothing in the eyes of the robust young man and shortly after eight o'clock he slipped quietly away. Cosgrove interfered very little with the men, as has already been stated, and had they not been so immersed in their own affairs they might have noticed that the cook was more than usually irritable and pre occupied at times. As they had little to say to him that fact had escaped their atten-

tion. Knowing the road so well, Lynch soon passed through the home paddocks and plunged into the flats along the large creek which ran into the bay. The distance from the homestead to the jetty near which the vessels usually anchored, or sometimes moored, was nearly seven miles, but Lynch was a quick walker and in about an hour and three-quarters he was standing at the end of the little pier watching the ship he had seen earlier in the day mooring alongside the jetty. He knew at once it was the brig, for he could hear the voice of Captain Phillip Benson giving orders in hoarse tones, and the rig of the craft was familiar. Walking up to the ship he hailed those on deck, and the skipper, recognising him in the moonlight, called on him to come on board, which he quickly did. After seeing the brig secure Benson brought him below, and said: " I have everything ready for the livestock. Will you be able to manage your part of the contract ? You can see the vessel is nearly empty, and most of the cargo which is aboard consists of fodder. If the wind is anyway favorable we should reach our destination in three or four days, but even in that time they will get through a good deal of fodder." " We can have the cattle here by tomorrow afternoon and the loading should be complete before darkness set in. I suppose you have rigged up this place for them, and when we get the leader in the others will not be much trouble. If you have the sheep at daylight next morning I suppose it will suit you, and a start can be made for Sydney at once if the wind is right," returned Lynch. "That will do splendidly, and if I have as much luck in Sydney as I did in Melbourne you will make a good thing out of the transaction. The stock sold well at Port Phillip, and I daresay they will in Sydney. Now, about another cargo to Melbourne. I can be back here in fifteen days, and if there is no fear of your manager discovering the loss in the meantime it might be possible to bring another full load to Pert Phillip. What do you

say ?" remarked Captain Benson. " It is the best plan we can possibly adopt, only on that trip it will he necessary to ask you to carry out the promise you made last time " " What was that ?" interrupted the skipper. " You said it might be safest for us to accompany you on the last trip, so that 110 unpleasant results might fol low from the discovery that many head Of stock were missing. We can get two hundred more ready by the time you return from Sydney, but it will thin out the herds so much that the manager is almost sure to see something is wrong and he will order a muster. If we get to Melbourne it will be possible to go inland long before news is brought to Port Phillip of the robberies. I would like to get further afield, but I suppose you will not be leaving the coast ?" returned Lynch. " I'm not so sure of that. In fact it is as likely as not the Penelope may make a distant voyage. Like yourselves, the colonics may not be over safe for me, and on the ocean I will be able to go where I please. When I get to Sydney and dispose of the cargo it is just possible I will buy my partner out. He doesn't think much of the half-share he has in the bri^ as little or no profits have come to him. I take care of that," and Captain Benson gave a low sivilant laugh which was not pleasant to hear. " You talk just as I like to hear a man speak. You can depend your life on myself and comrades. When you return from Sydney we will have enough good fat stock to fill the ship, and at the same time as you sail we will all bid good-bye to Barumba Station. Even if old Moncton is suspicious a fortnight's delay will make little difference, and we can easily put him off." " If he orders a ' muster ' what will you do ?" asked the skipper. "If he did so to-morrow we could fool him for a fortnight. It is easy enough to say part of a mob of cattle have broken away and are somewhere in the scrub. The search could be prolonged for days. There is no fear of that, however, for the manager has not yet returned from his visit to the

head-station at Goulburn, and the general muster does not take place for a month or six weeks. The original date was lately altered, though I don't know the reason why." "Then we are all perfectly safe in counting on another ship load. I'll come prepared to take as many as can be put on board, and you will be ready with them: You can send along this lot as soon as possible. The quicker you are the sooner I'll be back for the Port Phillip lot Have a drop of this," and the conversation was concluded by Captain Benson producing the inevitable bottle and with Lynch drinking success to the enterprise in which they were embarked. It was late when Lynch left the jetty and just upon midnight when he emerged into the home paddock. The moon was at the zenith, and the homestead and surroundings were bathed in a flood of silvery radiance which poured down from the sparkling dome above. Lynch knew it would not be an easy matter to reach the house and his room without attracting the attention of the dogs, and this he did not want to do as it might arouse Cosgrove, who, thinking it was Moncton returning, would get up to let him in. To avoid this he paused at the outer rim of trees, which ran round the clearing, to consider the best course to pursue, and finally he determined to move round to the stables and sleep in the loft until morning, when he could enter the house without attracting attention. This would be far the surest plan, and he hastened to put it into execution at once. Running from the back of the stables was a clump of box-trees which extended to the gully through which the large creek already mentioned ran, and when near this Lynch was startled to

see a figure slowly moving through the trees towards the house. He was in the open himself and there was no chance to retire, but the advancing man did not appear to notice him. Standing like a statue, Lynch soon distinguished the midnight new-comer, and, to his surpiise, saw it was Cosgrove. The latter almost at the same instant observed Lynch, and he quickly came towards hitn and asked, in an excited way, if anything was the matter. " Couldn't sleep, Alf, and thought I would take a stroll round. I hate to lie awake on a night like this. I suppose you are in the same fix," coolly returned Lynch. " Yes—that is I was restless. What a fine night it is. I have been walking about for two hours and feel tired enough to sleep now, so I will turn in. I suppose you are not tired enough yet to return," responded the cook, in a peculiar fashion. " I may as well go with you, or the dogs will be rousing up everyone in the house directly," and as he spoke Lynch stepped forward, and soon the two men reached and entered the house. Each frustrated the other. Lynch well knew it was not for the sake of merely enjoying the fine night that the cook was wandering about, and he naturally concluded he had been watching him go to the ship. If so, there was undoubtedly danger ahead, but it would not deter the carrying out of the plot decided on. Cosgrove was in a similar puzzled mood. He was quite aware that once the men retired to their rooms they did not suffer from sleeplessness, and he came to the conclusion that the midnight vigil must in some way be connected with the acquirement of money such as he had seen Lynch recently dividing. In the morning the young man took the first opportunity of telling his sworn comrades what arrangements he had made with Captain Benson, and they fully approved of them. He did not forget to mention his unexpected meeting with Alfred Cosgrove, but none of them attached as much importance to the encounter as Lynch himself did. It was decided that the cattle should be drafted from three herds and driven down to the jetty about four o'clock.

Cosgrove was informed the men would make the outer rounds and probably not be back until dark. Lunch was taken with them, so they had the whole of the day in which to carry out their nefarious design. The woik of their employer concerned them very little. Gibson and Thomas went to the Round Hill and " cut out" sixty of the best bullocks, afterwards driving them to the creek at which the rendezvous had been arranged. Laurie and the leader—for the other three had come to recognise Lynch as their chief—were busy selecting and isolating the remaining hundred and forty head of the best stock which were in the five herds on the flats. It was about noon when the work of selection was complete, and when Gibson and Thomas came up with their contingent a start was made towards the jetty with the large mob of fat bullocks. The four mounted men skilled as they were at the business of droving had very little trouble in getting the cattle across the comparatively easy country which intervened to the beach, and shortly before half-past three they emerged from the forest which skirted the coast and headed for the brig, not hall a mile distant. Meanwhile something was happening which the quartette did not anticipate. Soon after they left the homestead Alfred Cosgrove—who watched them keenly from the back of the building, there being only one window in the whole place,—went to the stables, and, saddling a horse, mounted and rode off in the direction of the great range which bounded Barumba on the west. He was mentally disturbed, if one might judge by the anxious look he wore and the frequent glances he cast around as if lie were engaged in some illegal work and was afraid of detection. Moving slowly towards the west he came to a long, narrow gully into which he plunged, but the dense undergrowth made progress very slow. Still he kept in it, and his intention was evidently to elude the observation of the boundary - riders, Gibson ana | Thomas, who had headed from the homestead in the direction he was going. B 4 (TO BE CONTINUED.)