Ralph Rashleigh, by James Tucker

Chapter 22

He took a hundred mortal wounds;

As mute as fox mid mangling hounds.

And when he died, his parting groan

Had more of laughter than of moan!

The loud baying of a dog awoke the desperadoes concealed in the cavern. It was broad daylight, and they quickly discovered that the outlet to their retreat was beset. In the intervals of the clamour made by their canine assailants, they could hear many human voices, whose expressions denoted their certainty that they had at last tracked the ruffian Foxley and his bloodthirsty band to their harbourage, while the tone of one, who seemed to be in authority, was now distinguishable; who, after stilling the fierce baying of his four-footed allies, demanded if any man present knew what sort of a cave it was. Another voice replied to this enquiry, that it was very large, but had only this one outlet.

Directly afterwards the leader shouted out, “Foxley, we know you are here, and you may as well come out, for we will carry away the hill by handfuls, but what we will have you!”

To this invitation the person addressed made no reply, but busily occupied himself in loading all his fire-arms, in which example he was imitated by his companions, and the whole three now took up positions on one side commanding the entrance, which, it will be remembered, was so low that a man must creep upon all fours to come in.

Again and again the garrison of the cave was hailed, but still preserved an obstinate silence. At last a figure appeared at the opening, worming its way in. The head was hardly well in sight when the reports of three muskets resounded with terrific effect through the cavern. The cap fell off the intruder, which now proved to be merely a long pole, dressed up for the nonce to ascertain the impediments which might offer to freedom of ingress. A loud shout greeted the success of this stratagem by the assailants, and once more Foxley was hailed, to tell him if he did not come out and surrender they would smother him and all his companions with smoke, as they did the rats on board ship.

“You may try that and be damned,” growled the dauntless ruffian m reply.

Nor was it long before dense volumes of smoke filled the hold, rolling in thick, yellow, suffocating masses into every nook and cranny, until the inmates had no resource to preserve their lives; save by lying down flat on their faces and placing mouths and nostrils to the ground. The women were in great fear, but restrained themselves from making any noisy demonstrations of it, and they at length found a spot much more free from this suffocating vapour than any other part of the cavern. Owing to its being placed far back, beyond the narrow slit before mentioned as serving the bushrangers for a chimney, they were much more at ease.

For two hours the fire was kept up. It was then slackened, and voices could again be heard outside: they were speculating upon the probability of any of the marauders being still alive. Presently the former stratagem was repeated; but this time it produced no effect, the bushrangers being apparently determined now not to throw away a charge of ammunition until they should be certain of their mark, and the pole was in consequence shortly withdrawn. A volley of musketry was next discharged through the opening; but the balls rattled idly against the rocky roof of the bushrangers’ fortress, as the latter, being all lying on the floor, and the pieces apparently elevated at their muzzles in firing, all the shot passed harmlessly over them.

Three of the assailants now came creeping in, one of whom was rather before the other two. Foxley sprang to his feet, placed himself beside the entrance without noise, and the instant the man’s head was within his reach, the brass-bound stock of the ruffian’s musket descended upon it with such force that the skull was shattered as absolutely as if it had been but a walnut shell, the blood and brains of the victim flying in the faces of his two compeers, who both uttered cries of pain as McCoy and Smith discharged their pieces at them. But these two either withdrew from the opening immediately or were pulled back by their associates outside, for they disappeared directly, while the dead body of their comrade still cumbered the entrance.

The bushrangers, having now reloaded their pieces, discharged all three of them together at random through the orifice after the fugitives, which served at least to clear their immediate front. The voices were not so distinctly heard any more; but fire was renewed, and the smoke reappeared in greater volume than ever. After some time Foxley went to the split or rift that had as yet proved their salvation by allowing part of the smoke to escape. After looking at it for some time, he motioned McCoy to him, and they both began to fashion some pegs out of the remains of their firewood, and these they drove into various parts of the side so as to form a rude kind of ladder on which the leader soon got. These enabled him to reach a projecting pinnacle that concealed portion of the orifice above them, and he quickly afterwards threw down a quantity of rubbish into the cave and got still higher. At last he was seen or heard no longer for some minutes.

When Foxley made his reappearance he seemed in great joy, and Ralph heard him, addressing one of the girls, say, “Thanks to old Nick, Sophy, we can all get out of this smothering hole as easy as kiss your hand. I’ve been right up to the top, seen all them beggars below, busy heaping more wood on to the fire. But they could not see me, and there’s a gully within a hundred yards of the mouth of the hole. If we could only get there unseen, they might bid us good-bye.”

This news being communicated to Smith and McCoy, the flight began, with Foxley getting up first to help the women, that followed him closely. McCoy was after them, to render any assistance that might be required. Rashleigh came next, loaded with food, and Smith closed the retreat. After the pinnacle or ledge which served them for a landing-place was once gained, the difficulty in ascending was really but very slight, the chasm being wide enough to allow even Ralph, burdened as he was, to squeeze along it; and the angle of inclination was not by any means too steep to walk up.

When Rashleigh reached the top, their female companions were already gone, and the thick shrubs, coupled with the smoke that rolled over the face of the hill and the natural inequalities of the place, effectually concealed them from the view of those beneath, whom they could however hear plainly enough stimulating each other to increased exertion and venting many a bitter execration upon the heads of Foxley and his ruffian fellows.

The bushrangers did not long remain to remark the proceedings of their foes, but took their way to the gully, along which they rapidly passed, nor paused an instant in their headlong haste, until they had placed the hill between themselves and their assailants, whom they soon left far behind them.

They pursued their hurried flight westward with the greatest speed they could exert, nor did they see a single living thing during the whole of that day. At nightfall, deep in the recesses of a darksome and rocky ravine of the mountain, they at length halted and stretched themselves upon the ground to rest, not daring to light any fire for the preparation of food even in this solitude, as fear urged upon them that they might be close pursued, and the gleam of a light in such a waste would immediately attract the attention of those whom they most desired to shun.

In the dead of the night Foxley roared out, “Help! Murder! I am choking . . . Take his hand from my throat. Oh!”

Upon his comrades’ going to his assistance, they found him in a kind of fit, with his eyes wide open, foaming at the mouth, raving incoherent muttering sounds and gnashing his teeth. They obtained some water, by the application of which he partially revived; but he was no sooner able to stand than he got up and ran off at full speed. McCoy directed Smith to look out after our adventurer, and follow them. He then hastened on the tracks of the other, whom they all thought had gone mad.

Smith now, by blows and curses, compelled Rashleigh to get up and renew the flight, stumbling in the darkness over fallen trees, at times falling into cavities worn by mountain streams, yet not allowed to stay for a single instant by his brutal companions, to whom fear lent wings, because they believed the avengers of blood to be at their heels. Our unhappy adventurer was hurried along for four and twenty hours more through the heart of the mountains; and when, at last, they deemed themselves in a slight degree of safety, they halted on the edge of the valleys of the Comnaroy, at least 140 miles distant from the scene of their last outrage.

As if to add to the discomfort of these guilty wretches, the weather, which had been variable for some time, now settled into a perfect deluge of wet. The loudest peals of heaven-born artillery reverberated through the sky. The forked lightnings played around them upon every side in broad and vivid sheets of flame. The loftiest trees were crashed to the earth, and the rain descended in such torrents that every small level spot was converted into a standing pool.

The houseless wretches, who did not even possess the means of stripping a sheet of bark, the ordinary resource of bushmen in Australia upon such occasions, were now perfectly miserable. Overpowered with the fatigue of their superhuman exertions in the hurried flight, they yet could only rest in a miry pool or snatch brief and dangerous repose by leaning against trees, liable every instant they did so to be hurried into eternity by an explosion of the electric fluid. Firing, of course, was beyond their reach, for had they even succeeded in lighting a scanty flame, it could endure but few moments beneath such torrents of rain as continually were falling. Their scanty clothing was quickly drenched and all their food spoilt, but these they felt to be minor evils compared to the want of repose, which they one and all so much needed. The vilest hovel which could afford them shelter would have been hailed with heartfelt joy as superior to that experienced in the possession of a palace.

There has been an idea prevalent in almost all bygone ages and nearly every country under heaven, that men whose crimes have been so atrocious that they actually seemed to cry aloud to heaven for vengeance, have at length been utterly cast off as unworthy the divine mercy, and that they appear even in this world to feel a foretaste of those torments to which they are doomed, the anguish of which deprives them of reason and renders their ruin more easy and certain.

The Scottish language has at this day a word expressive of the national belief in such a doctrine. It is fey, and is used to designate the conduct of a man who rushes, as it were, upon destruction; and the old Romans used to say, quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat.

To this notion Ralph Rashleigh ever inclined in his after life from having witnessed the conduct of the villain Foxley during those dreadful three days they spent in the Comnaroy swamps. This ruffian, who had by his own account been repeatedly guilty of every crime that stains the decalogue and of others so atrocious that they are not named among Christians, in short, whose soul was so despoiled with blood-stained guilt that it might have dyed the waters of the vast ocean, was here delivered up a prey to the sharpest pangs of remorse. Twenty times in a day would he now exemplify the truth of the sacred word which states that “the wicked flee when no man pursueth”. Often he would seem to have his staring eye-balls fixed on vacancy, until a strong, fierce shuddering came over his whole frame, and he fell to the earth, raving ever that he was being choked, or that dogs were tearing him piecemeal. Then, after the humble means his colleagues in crime possessed had been effectually used for his resuscitation, he would start to his feet and run with frantic speed until his strength was exhausted or his failing limbs struck against some obstacles that hurled him headlong to the ground.

During all this time he spoke not one reasonable word, and if either Smith or McCoy went near him would fix his unspeakably wild eyes upon their faces as if he knew them not. But when they began to speak kindly to him, he would glare wildly for a few seconds and at last would get up and run, or endeavour to strike them to the earth. On the evening of the third day Ralph overheard a conversation between McCoy and Smith, from the terms of which it seemed they were at last agreed that their leader had become hopelessly mad, and they now deliberated whether they had better kill him. Smith suggested for them to toss up who should do this, and then, cutting off Foxley’s head, go in and deliver it, telling a plausible tale of the hardships he had perforce to sustain to capture the ruffian, by which means as this both, or at any rate one of the two, might at least earn pardon for himself, with the hope of a reward of freedom or promotion besides.

McCoy did not appear much to relish this plan; but Smith urged so many cogent arguments in its favour that at last it was mutually agreed to think over the scheme until morning, and the ruffians withdrew to the scanty covert of boughs which they had put up to shelter them in some measure from the pelting of the pitiless storm, which still continued unabated, and indeed appeared likely to last for many days yet.

Rashleigh had contrived a kind of lair for himself by breaking up a number of boughs, which he laid on the earth, the larger sticks downwards, confining them in their places by stakes set upright on each side, This he roofed with other bare boughs first, and at length thatched with small leafy twigs tied up in bundles. This very meagre shelter, however, he did not complete until the evening of the third day, for it was very troublesome, as he had only a small knife for a stock of working tools. Yet when completed, the loose sticks beneath permitted a passage for the water under his body, while the leafy thatch — the leaves being carefully placed all one way — kept him a little dry overhead. He proceeded to take an immeasurable quantity of repose, which was so very needful, especially after the long fatigue and continual drenching he had received.

It was late on the morning of the fourth day when a great commotion induced our adventurer to peep out of his bothy. He saw Foxley down, bleeding profusely, and doubted not that his two compeers had indeed made up their minds to sacrifice him as they had spoken of doing the previous night; but he quickly found out it was an accident, induced by the chief’s having started madly up, as before, and fallen over a root. His head had come in contact with a sharp-pointed stone, cutting a deep gash above his temple, which his companions were now vainly endeavouring to close so as to stanch the bleeding, which indeed was profuse; nor was it until Foxley must have lost nearly two quarts of blood that their rude bandage produced its wished-for effect.

The wounded bushranger lay nearly three hours in a torpid state; and when he at length unclosed his eyes, it was evident that reason had returned, for he spoke in a soft and very low voice, asking McCoy, whom he addressed by name, where they were; and he seemed much surprised when he was told the distance they had travelled. After taking a drink of water, Foxley went once more to sleep, and as the rain had now gone completely away, the others were enabled to do so likewise, on some drier part, more agreeably than they had yet done since they left Richmond. The next day, being the fifth of their sojourn here, during which time they had had but one meal, Foxley was very hungry; and as his fellow-marauders felt the assaults of the same enemy, they determined to set about robbing some settlement in order to obtain provisions. They therefore followed the banks of the Comnaroy rivulet, not doubting but that they would discover some stock — or sheep-station, of which there were a good many to the right of the Bathurst country.

They now turned southwards along the edge of the brook; but it was not until the forenoon of the next day that they at last descried a small hut and stockyard, which occupied the centre of a little natural clearing. The door of the dwelling was open, and smoke was ascending the chimney.

The bushrangers deliberated together how they might best approach it without being perceived by the inmates, until they should be too close for any of them to escape. At length they all made a circuit, by which they gained the back of the place, still keeping among the trees. Here Foxley and Smith disencumbered themselves of all their burdens, taking only a gun in the hand, and pistols in the belt of each; and throwing themselves on their faces, began to crawl through the grass in that manner. Rashleigh who was left in the charge of McCoy, was lying down behind a log, but could see the space around the hut without any difficulty. He observed that just as the two desperadoes had reached one corner of the stockyard, a man came out of the dwelling with a whip in his hand, and now approached a small shed built against the end of it, from which he led forth a horse ready saddled and bridled. He had his foot in the stirrup and was apparently about to mount when the two bushrangers stood up and presenting their pieces at him, ordered him to halt on peril of death. But the man, just casting one glance at them, vaulted lightly into the saddle and struck his horse with the spur, so that the animal bounded off.

After the rider had passed the covert of the hut, he rode within twenty yards of Foxley and Smith, who again roared out to him to stop; but he shook his bridle rein, and on sped the active colt he bestrode. Both the bushrangers fired simultaneously. The rider’s hat flew off, pierced by the slugs from Smith’s musket. That the horseman was yet unharmed a loud cheer soon satisfied all within hearing of it, and he was quickly lost to view among the trees, riding south at the top of his speed. His opponents now reloaded their pieces, and calling upon McCoy to join them, disappeared into the hovel.

When Rashleigh and his guard arrived at the door they found the three inmates of the hut upon their knees, while Foxley, with a pistol in each hand, was raving at them and threatening them all with instant death. As soon as Smith saw McCoy about to enter, he made a significant motion, as if indicating his disgust at the present proceedings of their leader, and added a gesture, as if he only sought the assent of his comrade to fire his piece into Foxley’s back.

But McCoy shook his head in disapprobation of this proposal, and instead of it said to his leader, “I say, Phil, don’t be in a passion, but let us make these crawlers get us a feed ready, for I’m very hungry.”

“Is that you, Sandy?” demanded the insane ruffian. “I thought these beggars had got you taken, and I was just a-going to slaughter them for it.

“Oh no!” returned the other. “I’m not taken yet! Come, get up, you chaps, and let us see what you have got to eat.” And the trembling inmates, thus released from the fear of immediate death, began to bustle about in order to make ready food for these unwelcome visitors.

One of these stockmen was very tall and had a singularly forbidding, lugubrious expression of countenance, upon which Foxley fixed his eyes repeatedly, sometimes with a vacant look of interrogation, and at others with an angry frown. At last his diseased imagination prompted the bushranger, and he spoke.

“I say, you great long fellow, what’s your name?”

The man tremblingly replied, “Allen. William Allen is my name.”

“You lie, blast you!” roared the querist; “for you are long Hempenstall, that used to hang the rebels long ago in Ireland!”

“I am sure, sir,” returned the terrified object of this address, “I never was in Ireland in my life!”

“Now, I say, Sandy,” persisted Foxley, “An’t it a hard case that such a varmint of a caterpillar as that should strive to make a man like me out a liar? I tell you”— to the stockrnan —“you are the walking gallows! I have heard my father talk about you when I was little, how you used to go about with ropes, and when the soldiers would catch a couple of rebels, they would tie them together by the neck and throw them over your shoulder so that they was choked!”

The poor man here muttered it was not possible it could be him, as he was only twenty-two years of age.

“There!” roared the brutal Foxley, cruel even in insanity. “Say so again, and I’ll tear your tongue out by the roots.”

“Never mind the long ghost, Phil,” now interposed McCoy. “The feed is ready. Come along!” And he persuaded the ruffian to go to the table.

Before Foxley would begin to eat, however, he pulled a pistol out of his belt and laid it beside him. And after their meal he roared out for the object of his suspicious hatred, whom he persisted in calling Hempenstall, and caused him to sing for his sport; then, taking down a stockwhip, he flogged him for making ugly faces.

The next vagary he engaged in was making all the three inmates of the hut dance jigs, he himself repeatedly quickening their steps by lashing them upon the legs. And these and other diversions he prolonged until after sunset, in spite of the entreaties of Smith and McCoy, who wished to be gone from the place, fearing the approach of some assailants, whom the horseman that had escaped would most probably dispatch to apprehend them.

To all the desires and urgent requests of Smith and McCoy that he would leave this hut, Foxley only at first replied by an idiotic laugh; but when towards nightfall they became more pressing in their instances, he worked himself into a fury, bidding them begone by themselves. Nor was it until after dark that he would set off, and even then insisted on passing the night in a thicket scarcely a mile from the scene of their last robbery.

Early the next morning the bushrangers were about to proceed, but had scarcely begun their march before they found there was a camp of native blacks close at hand, who had obviously seen them first and were now preparing for the attack. An obstinate conflict ensued before the sable sons of the forest were sufficiently dispersed to enable the marauders to pursue their flight; and when at last they gave way in front, they hung upon the skirts and rear of the route taken by the bushrangers, frequently discharging a spear or boomerang at one or other of the white men.

In the afternoon the blacks seemed to relax in their pursuit, and when at length the fugitives imagined themselves in a place of sufficient security to warrant their halting, not one of their assailants had been heard or seen for upward of two hours. The harassing nature of their day’s march, carried on in continual dread, without food since the previous evening, made rest with a prospect of refreshment very welcome to all, and each one set himself busily to work to assist in the preparation of their supper.

They were all engaged in partaking of this meal when suddenly a wild cry of a most thrilling and savage kind burst from a neighbouring thicket and a perfect shower of spears and other native missiles rained among them, some of which knocked both McCoy and Rashleigh over as they sat, without however very materially injuring either. Smith and Foxley leaped on their feet and fired into the thicket. A yell of anguish followed the discharge, which was redoubled when the latter — whose whole conduct seemed to have undergone a complete change, his reason appearing to return at the approach of danger — now, with a smile of malignant satsfaction, seized a fire stick, and calling on his companions to follow him, set fire to the scrubby thicket that concealed their enemies.

Smith and McCoy instantly copied his example, running hither and thither with their blazing brands, until the whole of the seared undergrowth was in a flame. The breeze, blowing freshly from the west, seconded their efforts, and the destructive element, flying on the wings of the wind, soon outstripped the efforts of the unfortunate aborigines to escape. Many frantic yells testified their agony at the torments by which they were thus suddenly encircled, and their unconquerable enemy, the fire, seemed like the hydra, on every hand expanding its devouring jaws to receive them; while the noise of the advancing flames, as they reared their fiery heads on high, until with blazing tongues they licked the tops of the loftiest forest trees, was a perfectly appalling compound of roaring, crackling and hissing, while ever and anon the explosion of some small receptacle of pent-up air appeared like a discharge of musketry.

A few of the boldest of the blacks charged the bushrangers through the flames, and two or three of them were shot down in the attempt, the rest scouring away in the direction of their camp, but so fearfully scorched that it seemed highly problematical whether any of them could survive. The fire, now having exhausted all it could feed upon in this neighbourhood, was posting on toward the east, spreading its destructive ravages on every side and illuminating the sky for many a mile with a lurid glow.

Foxley, after laughing at the retreating foes in a scornful manner, said, “They say a burned child dreads the fire. if so, I should think we might now get our suppers without any fear of them black beggars coming back to disturb us!”

“I don’t know that,” remarked McCoy. “Maybe they might come after us the more now to try for revenge. I’ve heard say the blacks in this part will follow any man that does them an injury an hundred miles, but what they will sarve him out for it!”

“Well, then, maybe so,” rejoined Foxley. “All we’ve got to do is to keep a sharp look-out, for I don’t think they’ll be like to sneak upon us through the scrub any more after the warming they got!” And the party once more sat down to their food, which they finished in peace; nor were they again molested during that night.

Having resumed their march next day, they were much surprised about ten o’clock in the forenoon to hear the baying of several dogs, a circumstance which the more alarmed them in this solitude, as they had good reasons for believing they were not nearer than thirty miles to any habitation of civilized man. They halted and began to ponder.

“By heaven!” exclaimed Smith at last. “The wind is blowing from the south. Bathurst lies in that direction from here. Those dogs are coming this way, and it’s very likely they are the bloodhounds in search of us; for they have bloodhounds there. 1 have been hunting the blacks with them myself!”

The sound grew nearer every instant, and facing to the quarter from whence it proceeded, they quickly saw several mounted and apparently well-armed men, who appeared to be galloping on their track, guided as well by the dogs they had heard as by several blackfellows, some of whom bore evident marks in their singed heads and scorched appearances of being those who escaped from the burning scrub the night before. Now, prompted by revenge and probably also stimulated by promises of reward from those they led, they were using their keenest sagacity in following the trail of Foxley and his comrades, whose destruction these sable warriors absolutely panted for, after the immolation of so many of their tribe by the hands of the marauders.

“It is those infernal bloodhounds!” cried Foxley to his companions. “And by all the devils in hell!” he added, as the pursuers drew nearer, “There’s that blasted McGuffin at the head of the party, and the young Shanavans alongside of him . . . I don’t know what you mean to do,” added the ruffian, now rendered desperate, “but I will never be taken alive; nor I’ll not fall by myself either.”

McCoy and Smith both swore they would die on the ground they occupied, and consequently. the bushrangers, shaking hands all round, prepared themselves for a desperate struggle.

As for Rashleigh, he was now quite neglected, and crept into a thicket out of the way. Here he lay perdu behind a log, but could see all that passed, himself, as he hoped, unobserved.

The spot occupied by the bushrangers was on the rise of a considerable elevation; between them and the advancing party lay a narrow valley, and the intermediate space was nearly clear of trees.

McGuffin had now espied his late tormentors, and he shouted out to his followers, “Here are the murdering, ravishing dogs at last. Hurra! Down with them, my lads!” And he fired his piece at the head of Foxley as he spoke, but without effect, for the bushrangers, one and all, were covered by trees, round which they dodged, so as to prevent a certain aim being taken at them.

The young Shanavans also united their boyish voices in a cheering hurra, which was echoed by two mounted policemen that rode beside them. This party also fired as they advanced; and the latter, flinging their carbines to the earth, drew their sabres and galloped up the hill towards the bushrangers, who were now also attacked in their rear by the party of blacks with volleys of spears and every other native missile weapon.

The marauders’ retreat was thus effectually cut off; but to do the ruffian Foxley justice, he does not seem to have thought of any such thing as flight. For he stood unflinchingly and returned the cheer of the attacking party with one equally loud, shouting out to his comrades “not to fire till the beggars were close up”, an order which he himself followed so exactly that McGuffin was nearly riding over him before the bushranger chief pulled the trigger of his piece, and down came his assailant, horse and man, to the ground.

McGuffin, however, was unwounded, for by checking his steed suddenly when he saw Foxley’s intention, the animal had reared up and received the discharge in his brain that was intended for his rider, who had gained his knee in rising again; while Foxley, with his musket clubbed, was rushing upon him to beat out his brains, when the youngest of the Shanavans struck the bushranger’s weapon out of his hand, and himself to the earth with the butt end of his gun.

McGuffin seized Foxley as he fell, and a desperate struggle ensued, neither party being enabled to rise or to obtain any advantage over the other, while young Shanavan could not strike the bushranger again for fear of injuring his companion as they rolled over and over the ground. At length one of the policemen, coming up, seized an opportunity, and cleft Foxley’s skull completely in twain with his weighty sabre, and the bloodthirsty ruffian thus died without a groan. Yet such was the tenacity of his grip upon McGuffin’s throat that it was found necessary to cut off his right hand at the wrist and to mangle every one of his fingers before the other could be freed.

In the mean time Smith had shot one of the advancing policemen dead, but was in his turn sabred by the same policeman that had given Foxley his death blow; while McCoy, by whose hand the elder Shanavan had fallen badly wounded, was knocked down by the younger one, to whom he was at last forced to yield, being overpowered, disarmed and secured by two or three others before he could get up.

McGuffin was some time before he recovered the effects of Foxley’s death grip, and when he regained his legs, he apostrophized his now inanimate enemy. “You wretch, I’ve paid my vow at last. I’ve never yet been off a horse since you done it; and I would have hunted you to hell but I’d have got my revenge.” And with that he kicked the prostrate ruffian.

At this moment he saw McCoy in the hands of captors, and raising from the earth the piece which Foxley had dropped, he rushed towards the captive bushranger. Those who held McCoy left go their holds, and the latter, suddenly drawing a pistol from his breast which had escaped their search, levelled it at McGuffin, and ere the other could close with him, fired. His opponent fell instantly; but the surviving policeman, rushing up, cut McCoy down the moment afterwards.

In the mean time, the blacks, in hunting about, had discovered our unfortunate adventurer’s retreat, and dragged him forth to the light. The other men were now all busily engaged about McGuffin, whose wound, on being examined, was found not likely to be immediately mortal, and Rashleigh was led unresistingly by his sable captors to this spot, where he was quickly recognised by a person present as having formed one of the party when they robbed the hut on the Comnaroy rivulet; and in spite of his protestations that he had been the unwilling thrall of the bushrangers, he was secured in handcuffs.

After a consultation, the victors placed the bodies of Foxley and Smith, who were quite dead, upon one horse; and those of the policeman and a constable, who had also been slain in the fray, were bound on another. McCoy and McGuffin, both severely wounded, were mounted on horseback before two of the party, their wounds having been first as well bandaged as circumstances would permit. Young Shanavan attended to his elder brother, whose wound was not found to be so very severe, and the party thus began their march to Bathurst, which, journeying slowly, they reached upon the third day, when Rashleigh was placed in separate confinement from McCoy.

The inhabitants for many miles round flocked to hear the evidence given upon the inquest, which took place three days after their arrival. The dead bodies were placed in an outer shed, McGuffin was brought on a stretcher from the hospital, and McCoy, tied on an easy chair, was placed at the bar with our adventurer.

After hearing the evidence of McGuffin and the others, a verdict of “justifiable homicide” was returned in the case of Foxley and Smith, while on view of the bodies of the policeman and constable, it was found that “wilful murder” had been committed by Philip Foxley, Christopher Smith and Andrew McCoy, the two former of whom were since deceased; and the latter was held over to take his trial at the next sessions of the Supreme Criminal Court at Sydney.

Our adventurer, who had not been seen by any of the witnesses during the affray, and who had been found unarmed after it was over, was next examined before a magistrate, and his examination ended in his committal to take his trial at the same time and place with Andrew McCoy, for bushranging and robbery, both of which at that time were equally capital offences with the most cold-blooded brutal murder.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/tucker/james/1952/chapter22.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:05