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1 correction by brucehowlett - Show corrections

[COPYRIGHT.]   Early Australian History. Being a Series of Historical Sketches, bearing upon Australian Colonization and Convict Life in New South Wales and van Diemen's Land. By " Chatterer," (C. WHITE.) Part IV.---The Story of the Bushrangers.   FRANK GARDINER, THE " KING OF THE ROAD." (Continued.) The only reliable man he could take with him was Will Mercer, the cook at the station, who was an experienced bushman and expert tracker, like his master, but an old man named Williams, who had reached his seventieth year, volun- teered to make one of the party, as a horse belonging to him was in the stolen mob, and although he could not be expected to do more than follow and keep the two men in view, he was allowed to start with them. Getting on the tracks they ran them past Korong, where the horses had been yarded the first night, and towards Charlton, but here they diverged from the road, and subsequently made for Swan Water. Near this place the pursuers saw where the horses had been yarded the second night, the yard having been made with sheep hurdles set an end. From this point the tracks turned south and ran to what was then called Ramsbottom station. The pursuers   reached this station on the Thursday night and the owner told them that the thieves had used his stockyard on the Tuesday night without his knowledge, and had slept on the   lofty stage of the woolpress, starting unseen on their journey next morning. Following the tracks from here the pursuers ran them through the forest to the Wimmera River, which they crossed eight miles below Crowlands. Mr. Morton's horse being knocked up at this stage he applied for fresh horses at a station near, but the manager would not lend them, and one had to be purchased. Here also, a constable was encountered at the village public, and although he was in a partial state of mental obfuscation through drink he was yet " cute" enough to enquire when requested to join in the hunt, " if there was any gilt attached to it?" Here also Mr. Morton tried to secure a warrant for the arrest of the men, but as he could not give their names the justice, to whom he applied refused to give him one, and he resumed his journey fretting over the time he had lost. Taking up the tracks again the party followed them to Lexington, where they took the road and kept it, the pursuit being smooth and straight from this point forward. Passing Chirnside's cattle station at Mount William, and Dr. Martin's Mount Sturgeon station, the party called at the hotel at the Mount, and there learned from the publican that at the races held two days previously the robbers had run some of the horses against those entered by the police for the prizes. He also informed Mr. Morton that one of the men had asked for writing materials and had left him a letter to post, but he had omitted to carry out the request. Mr. Morton asked for the letter, promising to take it to the police station at Hamilton and have it opened. The letter was handed over and Morton at once rode back to Dr. Martin's station to obtain fresh horses, and the manager furnished them with two, which he guaranteed would carry them 70 miles a day. Fresh mounted, the pursuers proceeded full gallop to Hamilton, where the clerk of the bench opened the letter. It was addressed to Mr. Crouch, the postmaster at Portland, who also was an auctioneer, and ran as follows : — Sir, — I have no doubt you will be surprised to receive a letter from a stranger, but as it is on business I presume it does hot matter. I have sent my representative, Mr. William Troy, to Portland with thirty-three head of horses, which I consider a fair sample for any market. I wish you to dispose of the same by the hammer to the highest bidder. I have authorised Mr. William Troy to receive the proceeds, and his receipt will be sufficient. Be good enough to let him have   only such money as is current in Portland. Should the price realised please me I will send over another draft in the course of a month. I remain, sir, yours obediently, William Taylor. Lake Mingo, Murray River. Setting out from Hamilton accompanied by two troopers, the party, continued to follow the tracks, although from the letter it appeared certain that the horses had been taken to Portland. Before nightfall they had covered a distance of above 70 miles, and while on the road at midnight they met the mailman, who informed them that there were men with horses at Bilston's Hotel, at the Fitzroy. An hour afterwards they drew near the hotel, and dividing their forces two went to the front and two to the rear of the place. Mr. Morton knocked at the door, and in reply to the usual question " Who's there ?" he said " A gentleman from Portland."   The landlord then opened the door and one of the troopers asked softly if there were any men there with horses. "Yes," was the reply, " in a room at the back." The room was pointed out, and the troopers and Mr. Morton immediately rushed in, the landlord holding a lighted candle at the door. Two of the men were found in one bed, and were at once secured. These turned out to be Gardiner (or Christie, as he was then called, and which was his proper name) and Newton. The third man was also secured, and he proved to be the overseer— Mr. William Troy — although he gave his name as John Stuart. This man was in bed by himself when he was aroused by the handcuffs being placed on his wrists. Sitting up and scratching the back of his head with his manacled hands, he exclaimed : " What's ado ? What's up ? Oh, I see you have come here looking for some horses. You will find them all right. They are outside." He then slowly said, as the truth dawned upon him : " Oh, you have done a heavy trick. You have come here with guns and pistols and swords, and one man with a big whip around his shoulders, to take three men unarmed, asleep in bed. Oh, you have done a heavy trick !" Old Mercer then spoke up and called him a scoundrel for stealing a poor man's horse. " Had you a horse among the lot, old fellow ?" said Stuart; "if I had known that I would have cut him out for you ; but I was not coming up to your kitchen to tell you we were going to take the horses." (To be Continued.)