Chapter 209330658

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209330658
Full Date1895-12-13
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count3079
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

I TmraM Eventfol Harfattre EARLY DfiTS ffl HEW SOUTH VALES.

[COFTEIOHT RESEEVED.] CHAPTER XL

mr CAPTAIN LAC IE.

As Cosgrove concluded his halfspoken meditation he approached the fatal keg, which with magnetic influence seemed to draw him to it, and took a small portion of the white powder. He well knew its properties and how it should be used, and, after a short delay in which his better nature struggled with the baser, he returned to the kitchen. Being a good Scotsman porridge formed an invariable accompaniment to the first meal of the day. Winter or summer it was all the same to Cosgrove—the table always had the same dish on it Cheap, appetising and strengthening, the Caledonian cook regarded it as a sacred duty not to overlook the merits of the "parritch." It was not five, minutes afterwards when Cosgrove returned to the big room—as it was called—with a huge bowl containing the steaming mixture, and he at once began to ladle it out into foHr parts. " I'm a bit short of oatmeal just at present, and as we cannot get it any time here you must go without this morning," he remarked to the two ne* arrivals. The old man was evidently not destined to be an accomplished poisoner— a Borgia or a Brimvilleers—or he would have proceeded in a somewhat different fashion. It would have been easy enough, for instance, to only poison a portion of the porridge and keep the good for himself and the two men. If six plates had been allotted instead of four it- is almost certain all the men would have fallen, too, and the doom of the bushrangers would have been ingloriously sealed. As it was men who carry their lives in their hands are liable to suspicious, and Lynch was particularly so, and the unusual manner in which the old man spoke caused the leader of the outlaws to regard ' him keenly. keenly, There was something in the blanched face and the trembling hands which at once caused a fearful suspicion to enter Lynch's mind, and in a moment he said : " Never mind us this morning with the 'stirabout' We want something more substantial. You and your friends can eat this and we'll have meat" As he concluded he got up from the seat and shifted th£ plates to where the two new employees sat; at the same time passing one across the table to the cook. This unexpected action almost unnerved Cosgrove, but, summoning all his resolution and courage, he made a couple of steps forward and lifting the plates from before the men he quickly emptied the contents in the bowl, saying: # " I may as well keep this, then. The meat is ready and I will-bring it along now." He was about to go towards the door when Lynch jumped in front of him and cried, in a hoarse voice : "Oh, no you don't You will not leave this room until you have had a good meal of that porridge. Do you hear me? Sk down there and eat! Eat! do you hear !" Cosgrove looked round the room, but on tbe faces of the outlaws there was no sympathy expressed. Anger— flaming anger—was visible and the old man considered it was a case of the would-be biter being bitten. Yet he would not commit suicide. If he had to die it would be by the hands of others, and Lynch had scarcely concluded when he raised the bowl and dashed it into the huge fire smashing it and strewing the contents in the flames and ashes. Lynch drew a pistol, and it seemed for the moment as if he were about to end the life of Alfred Cosgrove; but if such was his intention it was stopped by Laurie calling on him not to fire. " What is the matter, Jack ? Do you suspect poison ? Don't shoot—at least until we are certain." " Yes, I think that porridge has been poisoned. If not, why should he act so? It's as clear as day to me something has been put in it which would either kill us or make us stupid that we could easily be captured," returned the chiet "There is plenty of arsenic in the store-room, you know," interjected Gibson. "Fll soon tell you if it has been used," added Thomas, and as he spoke he took up one of the plates on which the porridge had been placed and tasted the small portion which remained on it. There was a dead silence in the room for the space of a minute or more while Thomas tested the plates, and then he said: " Yes, so far as I can judge that food has been poisoned. It is quite bitter, and a good dose has been put in, too. I will have a look at the keg and see if the poison has been recently disturbed." Leaving the room for a few minutes he went to the store-room and examined the keg of poison with the eye of an expert There were visible marks which showed that someone had been at the arsenic quite recently and the circumstantial evidence pointed to Cosgrove as the culprit. Going back to the dining-room, he told his comrades what be had seen, and then tbe ques-

tion arose as to what should be done with the attempted poisoner. Lynch was not long in making up his mind—death and death at once was his verdict and in that view he was supported, though not very strongly by Gibson and Thomas. The only one who held out was Laurie. " We don't know for certain that Cosgrove has done what we charge him with, and I for one object to kill a man unless I'm certain of his guilt. Our best plan will be to give him one chance. If after the mercy we show him he doesn't act our friend he will deserve death, and if the act lies in my power I will not hesitate to slay him," he said. Gibson and Thomas were inclined to favor this course, and although Lynch grumbled a little the idea of a second time killing an old man in cold blood was, to some extent, repulsive to him, and he finally consented to the cook's life being spared. During the argument over his fate Cosgrove stood in the room with folded arms and maintained a dogged silence. He would not give a direct answer to the questions which Laurie asked him, and his evasions convinced the young man he was really guilty of the act attributed to him. It may be argued that Cosgrove was justified in the step he took to put it out of the bushranger's power to do further arm, but it would be as well to point out that such would probably not have been the effect of his action. Immediately Lynch and this companions found the poison beginning to make itself felt, it is certain they would have killed all in the house, and the two innocent men would have suffered with the cook. Besides, there is something horribly repugnant in the idea of poisoning men like rats or rabbits, and even if the end justifies the means it is always well to adopt the best possible means—that is the most humane in such a case as the one under our notice. As Cosgrove practically refused to give any information on the subject, and it was feared he might repeat the attempt in a more subtle form if he had the opportunity, he was relieved of his duty and Thomas and Laurie took up the work. They destroyed any of the prepared food which might have been tampered with and prepared quite a fresh meal which all did justice to. It was after this had been disposed of that Lynch and Gibson left the room and went out on the verandah, which ran round a portion of the house, to enjoy a smoke, and at the same time keep up a watch so that they might not be surprised. The party did not intend to leave the Homestead^until about an hour before sunset, as they desired to reach their retreat under cover of night. This was to prevent the possibility of being followed, for they well'knew that Cosgrove might'attempt to do so even if his companions refused, as they probably would. Lynch had a more accurate knowledge of the old cook's disposition than any of the others, and it was partly because he was a sworn and inveterate enemy he desired to kill him. There can be little doubt the" leader ofthe outlaws was right in his conclusions. It was agreed that two of the bushrangers should keep guard over the captives in the room while two others were outside, turn and turn to be taken. For nearly an hour the two men sat in the verandah on a rustic seat often patronised by Manager Moncton, and from which an excellent view could be obtained of the Creek Fiats. To the north vision was limited by the outbuildings and the forest which ran down to within a quarter of a mile ofthe homestead. After a long but unimportant conversation relative to the attempt made by Cosgrove on their lives, and the necessity for the exercise of the greatest caution at all times, both men had relapsed into the silence which usually accompanies a reflective smoke. Their reverie was broken by the neighing of a horse, which was quickly answered by another that sounded to the north. To the ordinary person on a station where horses were kept the fact would not occasion much notice, but to such as Lynch every sound meant perhaps danger and death. The two got up as the second neigh was heard and walked round an angle of the house, from which location they had an uninterrupted view of the clearing to the north where the scrub and;forest formed the boundary. They had scarcely reached the spot when out rode a number of horsemen, and a moment's glance was sufficient to show they were mostly constables. They could count ten, and probably there were stragglers behind. " By heavens! they have swooped upon us sooner than I expected. If Rivers only left for Braidwood yesterday morning it is quite impossible he can be the messenger who has sent this body down. There isn't a moment to be lost, Joe. Let us get in and bind those fellows," spoke Lynch, and, suiting the action to the word, the two turned and entered the house. "We are all going out, lads," the chief said to Cosgrove and the couple of employees, "and we will have to bind you until our return. It will not be for long, and you need not fear injury. After what Alf. there did this morning we must take measures to protect ourselves." The men did not demur—they knew better—and in a minute they were secured with ropes taken from the storeroom for the purpose. Meanwhile Thomas and Laurie had been apprised of the danger which threatened them, but it did not cause any of the outlaws to lose their presence of mind. As soon as the trio were bound they were left in the big room, and the bushrangers with all the available weapons hastened to the apartment by which they had first entered the house that morning. - From there they could command a clear view of the space by which the mounted force was approaching, and when the shutter was partly opened it was seen the armed body were less than four hundred yards from the homestead and coming along in a leisurely fashion. The few brief mo-

ments had been sufficient for Lynch to formulate his plan of defence. "We must by any means keep these fellows at bay until night, and then there will be a chance to get into the bush and to our retreat, where we can defy a hundred like them. If we try to leave now they must see us, and on foot as we are our chance of getting off from so many will not be a good one. Indeed, if they are worth calling men our capture or death would be quite easy. We must stop their advance at once and let the four of us fire. I'll tyke that fellow in front, who seems to be the leader, and each of you must mark a man. Fire carefully, for not a shot must be thrown away if possible Get ready and when I give the word blaze away. They musn't come too close, or they'll get into the stables and barn," said the leader. While he was speaking the men levelled their rifles through the aperture, and on the word being given the four weapons sent forth their deadly contents. The aim taken by the 'chief resulted in the horse being shot dead, and as it went crashing down it was hoped the man who rode it, one Major Halpin, the leader of the party, was killed ; but it was not so as he almost instantly regained his feet Laurie's shot slew his man. Thomas wounded his, while Gibson missed but severely injured one of the horses in the rear which at once became frantic and throwing its rider rushed madly back to the forest It can be imagined that such an unexpected salute threw the party into confusion, and for a few moments their consternation- was visible to those in the homestead. The leader could be noticed ordering his followers to seek cover and this was quickly accomplished, and in a masterly manner under the circumstances. Seeing the four shots fired almost simultaneously, Halpin at once concluded that the whole of the bushrangers (he had been informed the party was a quartette) were in the dwelling and he called on his men to run for the large building used, as a stable. It was just possible an ambush might be in it, for those at the station might have been induced or forced to throw in their lots wkh the outlaws. If so, it would mean death to one or more of the attackers; but the risk had to be faced, and results showed such was not the case. The stables were not more than one hundred and fifty yards from the house on the side from which the volley had been fired, and when Halpin got his men under its coyer the question was the next step to be taken. He well knew if a blind rush were made at the house most of his followers would be slain by the desperate beleagured men. That they were armed to the teeth was certain, and it would be simply folly to attempt such a course as openly storming the citadel It would not be so difficult to set fire to the building, but only as a last resource and in dire extremity could that course be adopted by them. After some consideration it was de cided to send out five men, under the senior-constaBle, to make a detour through the scrub and take up the best posssible position to the west of the homestead, as it was more than likely the bushrangers would try and regain the fastnesses of the great ranges. What puzzled Major Holpin was the reason for the outlaws leaving their stronghold. It might be here explained .how the force so quickly reached Barumba Station, for it was manifestly impossible for Rivers to have got to Braidwood through such rough country and sent the party on in the time. As a matter of fact he had encountered them on the previous evening not more than ten miles on the road leading from Twofold Bay to Barumba. A small coasting vessel had put into Bateman Bay a few days previously and sent word over to Braidwood that a vessel had been wrecked near Twofold and apparently all on board lost, as dead bodies strewed the beach and carcases of bullocks were numerous. Major Halpin exercised majesterial duties on such occasions, and taking a body of men he set out to ascertain what facts he could regarding the wreck .and bury the bodies. The reader will at once recognise the derelict as the ill-fated brig " Penelope." He was met on the road by Rivers and his companion who made him acquainted with the tragedy which had occurred at Barumba Station, and how the four murderers of the manager were connected with the wreckage. This latter assumption was based on the news given by Halpin of large numbers of dead bullocks being in the vicinity of the lost vessel. On hearing of the tornado which had swept across the station, and the fact that the brig had left Twofold Bay in time to be caught in its track, the major considered it would be best to make at once for the station and leave two or three men there until he returned from the coast. The formal enquiry into the death of Moncton would not occupy many minutes, and, moreover, there would be food obtainable^ the homestead for his men in the shape of beef, pork and mutton. It was this chance meeting which caused Lynch and his men to be surprised. The outlaws, though taken so suddenly, were not by any means crestfallen. Indeed, though numbers were greatly against them they were more than usually cheerful, and it was clear not the slightest doubt as to their ultimate safety troubled them. " If they try to take the place by a rush it will be bad for them. The pistol and the two muskets we found here this morning will just put us right We have now five rifles, one gun, and three pistols, or one firearm for each of them. That fellow over there"—and he pointed to the man slain by Laurie's shot—"is as dead as a door-nail, I say, and we have just nine to reckon with. Most of them will stay in the stables, but some are sure to be sent to other points, and we'll have to divide ourselves. Gibson and I will remain here while you two go to the big room and keep a look-out. If you see anyone don't foil to fire," said Lynch. (TP BE CONTINUED.) B {X