|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|
I True and Ercntfol narrative OF THB EARLY DAYS IN NEW SOUTH WALES.
BY CAPTAIN LAC IE.
[COFYBIGHT &ESEBVBD.] CHAPTER XII.
As soon as Senior-constable Flood and his four men had left the stable, and keeping it between themselves and house were making for the shelter of the scrub, Halpin opened fire on the house chiefly with a view of distracting the attention of those within from the action he was taking. It was possible
a chance shot might take effect on the foe, he thought, though the strong walls made the supposition improbable. Lynch returned the fire, and a peculiar incident occurred in doing so. Flood's party had almost reached the edge of the forest, which extended round the clearing, when the leader received a stunning blow on the back of the head. Thinking one of his followers had accidentally struck him with a musket, Flood turned round halfdazed and just in time to notice something roll at his feet Picking it up he was intensely surprised to find it was a bullet partly flattened, and for an instant he was inclined to believe an ambush was near him. The idea quickly vanished, as he realised the bullet was a spent one, and he concluded it must have come from the homestead where the foe was keeping up a desultory fire. This was actually the case, and the missile must have gone through both walls of the stable and then tiaversed a distance of nearly four hundred yards before it struck Flood. This was accounted for easy enough, as the thick slabs which formed the walls of the stable were not well joined and the tornado had, to some extent, increased the openings. The bullet, by a lucky chance, must have entered the barn and left it either through the chinks or so near them it met the thin parts of the slabs and easily passed through. It is only mentioned as a curious instance of a man having a narrow escape from death—as with a little more force the bullet would have pierced Flood's brain —and the belief held by many persons that "every bullet has its billet," would have been verified. It took the party under the seniorconstable quite an hour to reach the western side of the forest which intervened between the homestead and the clearing, and he took up a very strong position near the cleared space. In daylight there would be no difficulty and little danger in exterminating the party should they be imprudent enough to leave the shelter of the house; but Flood knew well enough they would not be so simple, and if he came in conflict with the outlaws at all it would be in the darkness of night. That
would be a very different matter altogether, and he could get little, if any, advantage over them. His instructions were to lie in concealment and not to betray the presence of the ambush by firing, except he was attacked. During the day a steady fussilade was maintained from the stable, but Major Haipin had no common foe to contend against and they easily saw through the ruse he was trying to work on them. They knew well enough he desired to convey the impression all his force was in the stable and from that direction and that alone would a rush be made. Halpin had, in fact, arranged in his own mind to give the outlaws a chance of coming into the open. He would allow them one night in which to show their hand, and if they still remained in the house he would storm the place from at least three separate directions. His strong objection to doing so was the probable loss of life it would occasion; but still he could not remain on the watch besieging those within for days or possibly weeks. A great disadvantage he labored under was want of food. The rations carried by the party would not last more than twenty-four hours longer, and under the circumstances he could not well order the men to kill sheep or
cattle, dress and cook them, when everyone was required at his post. So the day wore on, Lynch and his comrades exchanging an occasional shot at the stables in reply to the fire therefrom. At sunset Laurie left his post in the big room to have a talk with the chief, and as he was passing out Cosgrove, who had been silent all day, asked him who the attackers were, and if Rivers was amongst them. Strange to say the mission on which the bushrangers had come to the station and in which Laurie was so vitally affected did not recur to the young man during the day, and he started as Cosgrove asked the question. 4 4 1 don't know who they are, except constables. There was one man in ordinary dress like those fellows," and he pointed to the two bound servants, " and it may have been Rivers. I don't know him by sight—at least I have never seen him," he answered. "That must be Ted Willis, who left here with Rivers, then," replied the old man. " I don't think the young spark intended to return here from what I could see. He was quite differently dressed to him you describe." Cosgrove had a reason for trying to persuade Laurie his foe, Rivers, had not come back with the party. If the outlaw really thought he was with Halpin he would doubtless do some-
thing desperate to obtain the muchsought vengeance, and it might lead to serious consequences to all. The sooner the outlaw cleared out of the homestead the better it would be, tor Cosgrove was beginning to feel how inconvenient was his position, and that a little contretemps might end in a tragedy. Without replying Laurie went to the north room, and, forgetting for the time his idea about Rivers, asked Lynch what he purposed doing. " We must get out of here the moment it is dark enough. We couldn't keep up this kind of business long, and it is more than likely they will set fire to the place during the night in order to root us out If they do it will be awkward for us, as in the firelight they can easily shoot us down, while we will have little chance of replying. We'll make straight for the gully near the big hill about half-past eight. You can be ready by that time, and we will go to the room and out that way," came the reply. "Wouldn't it be wiser to go the eastern way and then turn towards .the mountains. Almost for a certainty the way leading to the west will be watched and we will run into a trap," returned Laurie. " Not at all; If we go eastward we will fall into the trap. It will be in that direction the ambush will be placed as it will be expected that road is the one likely to be chosen by us. We
must arrange some way to burn down the homestead. The more trouble and annoyance that can be inflicted now the better," replied the chief. " Why not put some of the arsenic in the tea or on the food before we leave ? They are sure to be half-starving when they come in, and that will soon wipe them out," interjected Thomas. " YVe might as well repay them in their own coin." "Oh, no, not that Some of thesa fellows may be old friends of ours from the Goulburn district, and if we carry out Jack's idea of burning the house that cannot be done," objected Laurie. 4 1 How will we manage about old Cosgrove and the other two if we use fire?" he added. 4 Let Cosgrove burn. He deserves nothing better. As for the others it will be easy enough to set them free. They cannot do us harm, so far as I see, except to tell those fellows who and what we are. It will do them no good," answered Lynch, with warmth. " If I thought Rivers was amongst them, Jack, nothing would prevent me making a night attack on the party somehow. From what Cosgrove says he must have gone on to Goulburn,£slowly answered Laurie. 4 Don't be a fool, Bill. It would mean certain death to act as you say, and he would have the laugh at you properly then. There is a time and place for everything, and this is neither the one nor the other. We may have a better chance of dealing with your friend in a day or two perhaps. It will be their duty to follow us to the ranges if we get clear off, and then we will be on more equal terms. Up to the present we have done very well, I think, but amongst the mountains we could sweep them away in very little time," answered Lynch. The advice was the best possible under the circumstances, and Laurie was persuaded to put the ideas regarding Rivers out of his mind for the time being. Indeed, the situation of the men was in a manner desperate. Surrounded by nine well armed and resolute men with three others inside the house, who only wanted the opportunity to
become active foes, it did not seem clear how the quartette could hope to get away without a desperate struggle. Had Halpin known a little more about bush-fighting than he did, perhaps the men would have had a hopeless struggle. As it was chance had to decide the matter. As soon as darkness began to approach arrangements were made for setting fire to the structure. A large quantity of the most inflamable materials were piled up in the inner room and a cask of tallow from the store thrown over it. By eight o'clock everything was in readiness" for a flare up, and soon after that hour the question of what was to be done with the prisoners was discussed. Lynch was almost obstinate in his refusal to allow Cosgrove's life to be spared, but at last Laurie got his way—as he invariably did—and it was decided to give him the same privilege as the others. 4 Just as we are about to go they can be sent out of the house towards the stables to their friends and we will go away to the west. While they are entertaining our friends yonder with the story of our doings we can be getting away quietly towards our camp," suggested Laurie. 4 I'll be quite agreeable to that, for
the constables will be sure to shoot them as they approach. They will think it is us who are making an attack," laughed Lynch. 4 We can't help what the other side does. If they kill, let them. The men will have to take their chance, and should be thankful we have given them the opportunity. It is not everyone in our place who would do so," replied Laurie. This idea'meeting with the views of all, the young man went to the captives and informed them what the intention was. " We are going to fight here to the last, and, as you have no concern with the trouble, it is best you should get away. Your cords will be taken off now, and there will be no trouble in reaching the stable where your friends are. If not, you will probably be shot down when the attack is made on the house," he added. The men were grateful for the favor shown them, and Laurie did not forget to impress on Cosgrove the fact that it was owing to his intercession his life had been spared. The old man did not take the news in a very kindly spirit, but only inquired, in a complaining way, why the party should have such a 44 down ^ on him. To this Laurie did not reply, but led the men to the back door and they stepped out into the darkness. Fortunately for the
two employees Cosgrove had sufficient sense not to go directly to the stables, but telling his friends of the risk they ran he piloted them towards the east Indeed, even then he fully expected to be the mark for a bullet, and he drew a long breath of relief when the forest was reached and they sought shelter in a thicket to wait for daylight. They could not have been at the place twenty minutes when the solitary glass window which faced in their direction appeared to be illuminated. By some oversight the inside shutter which covered it was not in position, and the glare from the interior was brightly noticeable through it "They must have set fire to the house," Cosgrove whispered to his comrades, " though why they should do so I can't understand." As they regarded the ever increasing light a tongue of flame shot through the roof, and as it found vent the roaring fire fed by the combustible materials below spread over the building. For a few moments they looked at the weird scene, and then as the sound of several shots rose on the night air to the westward Cosgrove jumped to his feet and exclaimed : " They are making for the mountains and have been intercepted. Come with me; it is our duty to help in securing them !" If he expected the two men to aid in the attack he was woefully mistaken, for one of them replied:
" You may go yourself if you like, but I'll not. Those fellows could have killed us if they cared to, and because they spared your life more than once you want to kill them; besides, what could we do without arms ?" His companion cordially approved of his answer, and Cosgrove was left to go alone if he pleased or stay. Recognising he would be risking his life and not be in a position to assit, he decided to remain where he was. From the frequent shooting which was going on to the west of the homestead, it was clear a desperate combat was being waged, and such was the case. It seems when the three captives had gone from the house the outlaws at once set fire to the material piled in the inner room, and a few minutes later they slipped through the shutter which covered an aperture to the southward and commenced to make their way towards the gully mentioned by Lynch. This was densely wooded and led direct to the gorge which they wished to reach to enter the camping ground The night was intensely dark. The stars were obscured by heavy thunderclouds, and as.the men moved it almost seemed as if a black wall confronted them. Knowing as they did the surroundings so well, they were able to slowly make their way to the edge of the clearing and escape the numerous obstacles, such as posts, fences, Sic., which lay between. In this manner they got to the scrub, but as they reached it a bright jet of flame shot through the roof the house. It did not illuminate so for as they were; but, knowing it would be the signal of their flight, they went on more quickly in order to put as great a distance as possible between .themselves and their possible pursuers. Thomas was a few yards in advance of the others, and he was moving as noiselessly as possible, when- a dark form rose up before him. At the moment he thought it might be a bullock or a horse; but instantly a human voice whispered: 44 Is that you, Mick?" The answer was swift and awful. With the rapidity of a lightning flash
Thomas pulled the trigger of his weapon and a bullet sped through the luckless man's body. The jet of flame as well as the report of the rifle drew attention to the shooter, and in a couple of seconds two bullets were aimed in the direction. One of them struck Thomas in the side inflicting a painful but not fatal wound, whilst the other whizzed past Laurie, who was close behind. In a moment the fight was general. The outlaws had stumbled on the party ambushed, under Senior - constable Flood, and the struggle was an even one as there were four on each side, though the bushrangers were not aware "of the fact. Laurie and Gibson discharged their weapons in the direction whence the last two shots came, and at the instant Lynch glided to their side and whispered; "Make for the lagoon in the flat Let us meet there as soon as possible and separate now. If not they will all be down on us. Finding Thomas was wounded he caught him by the arm, and, taking no notice of the shots which were being fired almost at random by the constables, the two moved off rapidly . through the gloom-enshrouded scrub and were soon beyond the range of bullets.
In fact, the men under Flood were in a desperately excited state and not at all inclined to maintain the attack if it were possible to. avoid the contest It is bad enough to engage in a death struggle with lethal weapons in broad daylight, but darkness adds tremendously to the horror of the situation. The men, after discharging their muskets, huddled together momentarily expecting an attack; but it did not come. For some minutes they were too frightened to load the weapons, as the sound might draw the enemy's fire on them. They quite believed the bushrangers were in a similar position to their own, and the sound of Halpin and his men coming to their relief was a welcome one. When the reinforcements arrived the homestead of Barumba Station was blazing furiously and the whole clearing was illumined. Even where the fight had taken place objects could be distinguished, and with the added strength a search was made in the scrub. It only resulted in the finding of the body of the constable shot by Thomas through his incautious query, and, recognising the folly of attempting pursuit on such a night, Halpin ordered the men back to the burning house. 4 We may be able to save something. Carry back the body, Flood, and I'll go ahead," he sai.cL B 29 (TO BE COr*TINVED,}