Chapter 33152694

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Chapter NumberX.
Chapter TitleNone.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33152694
Full Date1898-03-18
Page Number58
Corrections1
Word Count1581
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-09-02
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Wealth of the West
article text

CHAPTER X.

(Extract from the Goldfields Eagle,

of the 2nd December.)

" Early this morning an incident of a most sensational character has given the township of Three Fingers unen- viable prominence in the annals of the colonial goldfields. In common with the majority of the recently populated districts, where, the resources of town life being absent, it seems to follow as a natural consequence that a close obser- vance of the amenities of civilised life should be suspended also, there have been several instances of a disregard of the law. But these things are looked for—they are almost inevitable where there are large numbers of men collected together in the fierce rush for wealth.

This morning, however, the settlement

found itself face to face with what we

are pleased to say is as yet without a parallel in our short history.

THE WARDEN OF 'THREE FINGERS'

HAS BEEN MURDERED.

" The facts, briefly stated, and as far as we have been able to gather them, are as follow :—

" Yesterday evening it will be remem-

bered that the Warden had occasion to punish the native Coolaloo, who has been known on the diggings for some months past as 'Billy.' Afterwards the deceased gentleman dined at the Union Jack, and passed the latter part of the evening with Colonel Page, who

informs us that he made the acquaintance of Mr. Yeend while the latter was in England (where, as is generally known, he was eminently successful in floating a company to exploit the ' Wealth of the West ' mine—with which company he severed connection on taking the position of Warden). The deceased was then in excellent spirits, and was build- ing his hopes on renewing old associa- tions in the mother country. Colonel Page left the residence of the Warden at about 10.15, when the latter expressed the intention of passing the night in a hammock, in the open air (a not infre- quent habit with him), owing to the heat, which, he said, made it often im- possible for him to obtain sleep indoors. Little did the deceased officer imagine that this innocent practice was to be the means of enabling the hand of some foul assassin to send him to an untimely doom !

" There is no doubt that the Warden carried but his intention of sleeping in the open air, and, that being so, it is at once apparent how easy it would be for the murderer to strike his fatal blow, by which the fields have lost a zealous and enterprising officer, while the large circle who were proud to call Mr. Yeend 'friend,' have experienced an irreparable loss. At about midnight the tenants of the Union Jack were roused by the sound of a woman's scream. Colonel Page (who was visibly and naturally affected when detailing to our repre- sentative this portion of his narrative) was the first to find his way to the out-

side of the hotel, where it appears he was almost immediately joined by his daughter. With that precision pf state- ment which is instinctive with military men, the Colonel is unable to say whether, indeed, Miss Page was not the first on the scene, but the point is im-

material, and the events that followed fast upon each other naturally made it a difficult matter to be absolutely exact on trivial and irrelevant details. The first sight that met Colonel Page's eyes was a struggle between two men, one of

whom was the Warden. The Warden's quarters are within view from, the hotel, and in the moonlight, and while he paused for a moment, the Colonel states that he distinctly saw the hammock in which, presumably, the Warden had slept swaying, in the air, as if the sleeper had just that moment sprung or fallen from it. As he dashed to the assistance of the deceased officer, he saw the flash of a knife as the assassin plunged it into the

body of his victim. There was compara- tively a considerable distance to traverse, and before he could reach, the spot the murderer had fled, with the Warden, evidently as an expiring effort, in close pursuit. The murdered succeeded in getting as far as the declivity bordering a salt lake at the edge of the camp.

Here he disappeared. The Warden staggered, turned, threw up his arms, then placing his hand upon the spot on his left side whence blood was freely

flowing, cried—" I'm done for," and fell headlong into the lake, which has here its deepest part. Whether the Colonel

would have been in time in any case to render assistance is matter for conjec-

ture ; but, be that as it may, the oppor- tunity was not fated to be offered, for just at this moment Colonel Page, in his anxiety to afford assistance to the Warden, did not notice the character of

the ground, and put his fact in one of the trial holes and fell heavily to the ground, and with such force that for some minutes, he informs us, he was as unconscious of what was passing around him as when, during his meritorious career as a soldier in India, he was hit on the head with a gun stock by an infuriated native. He was found in this condition by others who were staying at

the hotel, who had been aroused as he himself had been, but were not as prompt as ingrained military habits had made

the old soldier. They, however, were as ready to lend aid as he was, and every effort was made to rescue the unfortu- nate officer, but in vain. The waters kept their secret, and the victim of this unparalleled atrocity was no more seen. There can be no doubt that in his weakened condition, after the struggle and the loss of blood, the Warden of Three Fingers has closed his stewardship in the tragic manner related, and it now only remains to find the miscreant who committed the deed, sheet home the crime, and mete out the penalty. No

trace of him was to be found in the

vicinity of the lake. Nor has Coolaloo, otherwise Billy, been since seen or heard of, and it is generally supposed that he has made the best of his way back to his tribe; where in the fastnesses of the sandy and arid desert he would expect to find that safety which has too often been an asylum of refuge to other blacks who have been guilty of deeds of lesser enormity than that chronicled. Whether it was in reality the black who com- mitted the crime, it is not within our province to say or to suppose, but sus- picion has generally fixed itself upon him in the community, where men are at a loss to adequately express their horror and indignation ; and it is certain that the black had the diseased motive of vengeance to urge him to the foul act in retaliation for the punishment

with which he had been visited on the

very evening in question. We regret to have to announce that the excitement of the night had such an effect on Miss Page, as may be well understood, that that lady has been most seriously in- disposed ever since, symptoms of delirium having manifested themselves, in consequence of which Colonel Page will probably be under the necessity of curtailing his stay upon the fields."

* * * * * * *

(Extract from the same paper six weeks

later.)

" Though rigorous search and inquiry have been made for the black, ' Billy,' suspected, of. the murder of Mr. Warden Yeend, no trace of the man can be dis-

covered. Even the substantial reward offered by the authorities, which would appeal to the cupidity of the native population, has had no effect, and the black trackers are altogether at a loss. It is to be feared that another unpunished crime has been added to the many that have gone before.

" The atmosphere of mystery that en- velops this unhallowed business is in- creased by the fact that no sign of the Warden has yet been discovered, though the lake has been carefully searched and dragged in every direction. This lake, which has been a matter of speculation with the Geographical Society as to its origin and character, has now added another and peculiar element to its reputation.

" We are informed that Colonel Page is now in Perth, whence he will, in the course of a few days, take his departure for England, accompanied by his daughter, who, we are pleased to relate,

has recovered from the nervous shock received at the time of the crime we have referred to above. The Colonel and

his daughter have our best wishes. During their stay here they endeared themselves to all hearts by their un- affected bearing and the wide sympathy they exhibited to all and sundry who had the pleasure of making their acquaintance. Apart from the unfor- tunate incident that is still fresh in the minds of all, the Colonel speaks in the most glowing terms of his experience on the fields, which he prognosticates will in time be only second to the resources of India in their importance as a source

of wealth to the Empire which that

gentleman has so long and so ably served."