|Newspaper Title||The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)|
|Trove Title||Barumba Station; Or, Amy Rivers Sacrifice. A True and Eventful Narrative of the Early Days in New South Wales|
ITraeanfl Epentfnl Harrati?e OF THB ltttolD1TS fflIEYSOUTH WiLES.
BY CAPTAIN LAC IE.
[COPTEIOHT RESBBVKD.] CHAPTER X.
The animal which Laurie led acted something like a bell-wether, and by its aid the other horses were induced to follow. It was soon seen the noise emanated from a waterfall which gushed out of a wall of rock and formed what was known as "Grey Gorge." The bushrangers, had, in fact, found the source of the strange chasm which cleft the stony plateau that spread out from the base of the great cliff. The water came from a spring in the mount, and it gushed out of the small square aperture almost like water from a hose-nozzle and fell at least fifty feet to the bottom at the gorge The passage which the men were traversing ' went past this strange freak of nature almost on a level with the spouting water. When this point was reached the light became stronger and this gave the horses greater confidence. Twenty yards ahead daylight was seen, and the western end of the pass was quickly reached and the party emerged on an open valley or depression of
peculiar formation. The pasture was rich and succulent, while a perfect primeval forest covered the whole place and almost shut out the light cf the sun. Huge trees more than two hundred feet in height were numerous and smaller growths were interspersed. In places jutting rocks of strange shape broke the limited vistas, whilst in two or three spots near the base of the towering cliffs enormous fragments were lying prostrate, evidently thrown down by some convulsion of nature. 4 1 We will be safe here, lads, as I don't think any white man, or blackfellow either, has ever been in this spot I haven't had time enough to explore this opening, but there is no doubt it is enclosed in a manner which will prevent the horses—and, indeed, from what Laurie and I have seen there is no means of reaching it save the way we came," remarked Lynch, as the four men stood near the entrance to the passage and looked over the strange scene. ".We can spend the remainder of the day in examining the place," suggested Laurie.. " Over at yonder group of rocks would be a good spot to make our camp. From it we can command the passage The pile of rocks is quite a fort, so far as defence goes. Let us go and examine it more fully."
. The suggestion was at once acted on; the horses being turned loose to graze after the saddles and bridles were re moved. The pile of rocks in question were not more than one hundred yards from the passage by which the men had entered,''and they lay almost due west; the^hixuriant forest surrounding the jutting fragments.-? They were triangular <in shape—or rather the small enclosure made by them was of that pattern—and their peculiar formation would have .suggested to an antiquary mystic druidical remains. The matter-of-fact outlaws probably knew nothing of the priests of ancient Britain, or if they did •were not foolish enough to allow superstitious fears to interfere with plans for their safety. • The enclosure made by the rocks was only sufficient to allow the formation of a small camp. The monoliths rose in slightly varying altitudes to an average height of about twenty feet, and.from the interior coujd be seen towering at least a thousand feet above the summit of the great peak. On that side at least it would be impossible tfor a foe to appvoach, for it feu away to •the enclosure in a series of abrupt and awful precipices. As the isolated civilization of the district was located to the east it would be from the direction of the peak at which attack would come, and little was to be feared from ,a western advance as the Great Alps ,tay that way. [• After the packs carried by the horses .and the men's swags borne by the men were transferred to the small triangle formed by the monstrous stones, and a
fyiasty meal was disposed of, it was agreed to make a further exploration of >the depression. With that object Lynch and Gibson set out leaving 'Laurie and Thomas to keep guard at the camp. The outlaws—for such they inow practically were—did not fear immediate attack, even if the retreat were Iknown, for it would be "several days before a posse of constables could reach Darumba Station. They concluded that on the finding of the manager's body a messenger would be at once despatched to Braidwood with the information, and, of course, the officials there would take immediate action in the matter, but several days must elapse before a force of constables could Teach the district The afternoon ramble of Lynch and Gibson did not result in anything sensational. They found the depression or circular valley extended to the westward for a distance of over two miles, and the boundary was formed by a rugged range of hills. It* one portion a pass or gap led out and through it thejj-found it would be possible to take the horses in case they were forced to retreat before superior numbers. On Reaching the summit of the west range
they came to one of the most beautiful glens they had ever seen even in that region of fairy dells. A 6ne spring trickled from a granite cliff at the head of the gully, and this was really the source of the Snowy River, which, after a tortuous course in New South Wales, enters Victoria, being fed by numerous branches from the Australian Alps even to the north of Kosciusko. There are so many separate rivulets at the head of the Snowy River that some confusion appears to exist as to its real source. The two men reached camp before sunset, bringing back with them ten fine bronze-winged pigeons, which, by the aid of the shot gun, they had been enabled to obtain. There were large numbers of these birds in the vicinity, and as they are very toothsome there was no danger of starvation whilst they, with wallaby and an occasional wombat, could be obtained. >A clear fire was made which threw up very little smoke, and it was so arranged that the men considered it could not be noticed from any point which a possible foe might attain. In that they were deceived. As they sat or lounged round the glowing embers Laurie, who had been somewhat morose during the day, broke long silence by saying: " This is cjuiet work, lads." "Yes; but easy and safe. What would you like to be doing ?" retorted Gibson. " Almost anything but loafing here. We will have to bestir ourselves ere long, you know. There will be a lot of those mounted constables sent along, and they will search every foot of these hills. Some ©f them are goed busfctnen and we will not be able to put them off the trail very easily. If caught we know what to expect, and while we have the chance I would like to work out something there is in my mind," answered Laurie, slowly. "Caught!" replied Lynch, fiercely, "Why should we be caught? I'll never be taken alive, at any rate. Ygu want to kill Rivers, I suppose; and, if so, you can depend on me. So long as that idea is in your head you'll be no
good for anything else, Bill, and we must get it out as soon as possible." " It must be done before the men from Braidwood arrives, and there is little time to be lost I'll help you to put an end to the fellow if you think he has injured you, and it is a question whether he has or not Our best plan will be to start about two o'clock in the morning and get to the station about five. There will be a good moon, and I don't think there is any need to take the horses with us. We know every inch of the country—and, in fact, can make as good progress without them," added Gibson; and the sentiments he expressed were eagerly supported by Thomas. A monamania appeared to possess Laurie in his feelings towards Rivers, and nothing but blood would appease it. The fact that Booth's nephew had been sent down to Barumba Station apparently witk the object of getting rid of the fot^men inspired Lynch, Gibson and Thomas with a dislike of the man, and to persons in their desperate position hatred easily led to brutal and murderous acts. Laurie, in his greater rage against the mtin who had married Amy Russell, viewed the matter with more intense feeling than his comrades, and there was little doubt he would have pursued his vengeance to extremities. Young, active and dis-
quieted as the party was, anything which for the moment distracted their thoughts was welcome. As twilight quickly faded and the deep darkness which succeeded wrapped every object in its gloomy embrace, and the four men could distinguish nothing save small sections of the druidical-looking rocks on which the uncertain light from the fire flickered, they concocted measures to encompass the death of the hated Rivers. It must be said there was more than a spark of chivalry in their natures, for it was agreed that Laurie should singlehanded slay his antagonist, and not treacherously either. " If the party at Barumba Station were surprised and captured, Rivers should be given an opportunity to fight for his life. Both he and Laurie, similarly armed, should be placed in the western gully, near the station, which was densely wooded, and allowed to fight in their own way. It would be duel to the death, and the best-*-pr, perhaps it would be more correct to say^fhe moist fortunate of the would win the deadly combat foes It was Laurie himself who suggested this course, and it met with little opposition from his friends, who were dis posed to view it as a proper course. None of them had any knowledge of Rivers's character, or they might have thought differently. Being so arrant a coward, it would" have been simply slaughter to make him a party to duel of the kind. No matter what the failings of the bushrangers were they could not be accused of cowardice.
Soon after the plans were arranged the men dropped off to slumber, while Lynch mounted first guard. He was succeeded by Thomas, and at the ex piry of his watch it was time to begin the desperate mission they had so voluntarily undertaken. A hasty breakfast was prepared and eaten, and, after securing the food sfed stores so as to protect them from the depredations of wild animals, the four men set out The rising moon was tipping the great peak with a halo of silvery glory, but in a few moments the gloomy passage was entered and their pine-sticks were at once lighted. These afforded all the illumination necessary, as they were easily able to make their way along. Once the track was known it was not a difficult one. In a few minutes the waterfall, which marked the beginning of Grey Gorge, was reached and the lights were reflected in a hundred shapes by the cascade of sparkling liquid. A quarte Af an hour sufficied to bring the travellers to the veil of vegetation which concealed the entrance from the gorge or ravine, and when this was passed the torches were still burned as the moon's rays could not penetrate through the living roof
above. As before, they walked in the stream of water in order to obliterate the tracks. Being icy cold it was not pleasant job at three o'clock in the morning; but, being summer-time, the temperature around was not so low as to be inconvenient. In half-an-hour the end of the gorge was passed. Each time the screen of creepers were met care was taken to arrange them in such a fashion as would probably deter any .searcher imagining a man had passed through them. The open valley was quite easy travelling in comparison to the passage and gorge which were first traversed, and soon after daylight appeared. Just as the sun was showing his brow above the horizon the quartette reached the clearing on which Barumba homestead stood. Smoke was issuing from the large chimney at the rear, but it was not an alarming indication that a watch was being kept as it was usual to keep the fire burning all night, the huge logs put on smouldering for many hour& Laurie was armed with two pistols and a knife and the intention was to similarly equip Rivers, as it was almost certain his party would have at least a brace of pistols, and a knife could easily be obtained. A slight detour was made to strike the northern end of the building, as in that direction the stables would cover the advance of the bushrangers and entrance to the house could easily be effected through one of the large shuttered apertures. In five minutes the stables were reached, and without loss of time the cleared space was crossed, and with a vigorous kick the shutter was burst and the men swarmed in. They were not a little surprised to find the two men who had been left behind sound asleep in the room which they bad entered, and in a moment they were prisoners. In fact not the slightest attempt at opposition was made by them. "What room is Rivers in?" asked Laurie at once. " He isn't here at all. Went away yesterday," answered one of the fellows. " Don't tell lies, or your life won't be
worth a penny's purchase! Where is he?" sternly retorted the young man, anxiously. " He left here early yesterday morning for Braidwood to get a magistrate and some constables, I tell you. Ted went with him," responded the second man. Laurie gave utterance to a muttered oath, for the truth of the statement flashed upon him and he could see he was likely to be tricked out of his vengeance The fact of the two men being at the homestead was confirmation of the assertion made as it was certain someone would be despatched to Braidwood. The party had not calculated on Rivers himself going, as they fully believed he would remain at the station and assume charge For the time being at least they were greatly disappointed. While this conversation was in progress Gibson and Lynch had gone to the room occupied by Cosgrove, and not finding him there repaired to the kitchen and surprised him. The old fellow was greatly astonished as he had not reckoned on a visit from his late fellow-workers. Having looted the homestead, he concluded they would lie in the retreat chosen for a few weeks at least, and he had a surmise they would never come back to the place again but make for a distant part of the colony, where under aliases and dis-
guised they might hope to evade justice for a time at least On being questioned by Lynch regarding the whereabouts of Rivers a glimmering of the real motive entered his mind, and he congratulated himself on the result of his statements to Booth's nephew. Though at the time they were spoken Cosgrove did not dream Laurie would seek out the man to satiate his vengeance. The old cook was glad the words had the effect they had, as if not there was little doubt Amy Russell's husband would have met a violent death. "Get us some breakfast, Cosgrove We have had a long walk and are very hungry!" Lynch said, after the old man had given him the same answer as those in the first room. " Gibson," he added, " you keep watch here while I search the house They may be telling us lies, you know. It is best to make sure" At this juncture Laurie and Thomas marched the other prisoners into the big room and assisted Gibson to keep guard while the cook was preparing a meal. The old man was in a very bad humor and a light shone in his eyes occasionally as he glanced at the outlaws which was not pleasant to see It would have taken very little to urge him on to actual resistance, but he saw the extreme futility of the proceeding and restrained his feelings. In the store-room near the kitchen was a keg of arsenic, and the horrible idea more than once crossed his mind that he would try and poison his unwelcome
guests. Lynch had examined the kitchen and found there were not any fitearms in it Indeed, he scarcely gave a thought to Cosgrove acting in a hostile fashion. The other two men were in safe custody, and that was all he cared about After a quarter of an hour spent in searching the premises, the leader returned quite assured none others were at the homestead, and with the others impatiently waited the meal. Meanwhile Satan had got the upper hand in the heart of old Cosgrove and the tempter gained the day. He had to enter the store-room frequently to get the materials for the breakfast, and every time he did so the keg of arsenic —used chiefly as a sheep-wash—fasci nated him. He could not keep his eyes off the poison, and at last it seemed as if the inanimate object was taken on the semblance of life "Why shouldn't I?" the old man muttered. " It may be the means of saving many good lives, and that can be my excuse If they don't die that way the rope or a bullet will be their end, and perhaps it will be a mercy to put a little of that in." B 10 (to be continued.)