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.)
As he reached the open door, Middleton, could see that the one front room was not occupied, but noticing another doorway leading from that room into one at the back, which doorway was covered with a calico screen, he at once stepped into the room. As he did so he observed the screen move as though it were falling back into position after some person
had pushed under it. As he approached the screen Middleton heard someone say from the inner room " If you enter I'll shoot you," the threat being uttered in a loud tone of voice. Making no reply, but still advancing, the sergeant reached the screen, and suddenly lifted it with his left hand, having a pistol in his right ready for use. No sooner had he done so, however, than a shot was fired from within the room and Middleton, unharmed, at once dropped the screen and drew back a couple of paces. But he had seen a man within the room and knew the exact position in which he stood, and suddenly advancing again he raised the screen a second time and fired as he raised it. Simultaneously, however, the man fired also, and the bullet from his pistol struck Middleton fair in the mouth, and passed into the lower jaw, carrying away two of the front teeth and a portion of the lower part of the jaw bone. Once more the sergeant dropped the screen and fell back, expecting his assailant to rush out ; but there was no movement from within and Middleton determined to have another shot. But his pistol was empty, and when he proceeded to re-load he found that he had also been shot in the left hand, but how he could never explain, except on the hypothesis that the man had fired two shots almost simultaneously, as the same bullet which wounded him in the mouth could not have hit his hand without passing through his neck. Neither could the wounded man afterwards explain whether he swallowed both teeth and bullet, for he was too much excited at the time to take note of small matters. Finding that he was unable to re-load his small firearm — the bullet had passed through the back of his hand into the wrist — he went to the front door where Hosie was standing and told him to go round to the back of the house, and see if he could enter the hut from that direction, himself standing outside the front door. Hosie went round and immediately returned and said there was no entrance from the back. " Then," said Middleton, " come and take your chance here with me," and Hosie obeyed. But the chance proved a poor one, for as he rushed for the inner room calling upon the man to surrender, at the same time firing into the room, two sudden answering shots came back in reply and Hosie fell wounded and stunned to the floor. The man inside was thus ar master of the situation, and if he had kept inside the probabilities are that he would have came off victorious. But seeing Hosie fall as though killed, and knowing that Middleton was badly wounded, he determined to make a rush for liberty, without waiting to reload. Seizing his pistol by the muzzle, he ran out towards Middleton and attempted to strike him with the butt end of the weapon. But Middleton was in part prepared for the attack, having kept a heavy-handled whip in his hand, and with this he parried the blows aimed at him and delivered some in return, the while bleeding copiously from his wounded mouth and hand. How the single-handed contest would have ended it is impossible to say, as both were active, powerful men, although his wounds had placed Middleton at a disadvantage, but Hosie suddenly recovered and went to the assistance of his superior officer, who had succeeded in giving his assailant several severe blows over the head with his hunting whip. Hosie rushed and caught the man from behind, and the two men engaged in a fierce struggle, during which Middleton kept raining blows on the man's head, until Fogg ran up and interfered, calling upon Middleton not to kill him, and then saying, " You had better give in, Gardiner." Thus hearing his name from Fogg, the policemen knew the man with whom they were struggling was the individual for whom they had been searching, and Hosie redoubled his exertions to secure him. The two men fell, locked in close embrace, Hosie being uppermost, and Middleton again attempted to to strike, but was prevented by Fogg, who kept calling to Gardiner to give in and prevent actual murder. Middleton then threw his handcuffs to Hosie, who still managed to keep uppermost, and after some trouble, Fogg still persuading him to "give in," Gardiner was secured. It was then found that he had grown suddenly weak, and also that he had been wounded in the firing, while his head had been greatly cut by the blows from the hunting whip. Fogg and his wife assisted to get Gardiner into the house, where Hosie kept guard over him, while Middleton searched other portions of the premises, under Fogg's guidance, for the purpose of satisfying himself concerning the presence of any of the bushranger's associates. But it goes without saying that if any of Gardiner's associates had been near at hand, the police would have both heard and seen them during the progress of the fight. Middleton's search for others of the gang was vain, and he then asked Fogg to send to Bigga for assistance, but he replied that there was no one there who knew the way, " Then lend me a horse for the man to ride," said the sergeant, to which Fogg replied " I can't do that, for I have no horse." There was no other course open to Middleton, thereupon, but to start, wounded and weak from loss of blood as he was, himself for Bigga, leaving his equally weak and wounded companion to stand guard over the prisoner, who was also weak and wounded, but still in the house of the man who sympathised with him and who had previously associated with and harboured him. (To be Continued.)