| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
"Hunted, and haunted, and hounded,
Outlawed from human kin,
Bound with the self-forged fetters
Of a long career of sin,
Hands that are red with slaughter,
Feet that are sunk in crime—
A harvest of tares and thistles
For the pending scythe of Time."
 IN the early days of Australia one of the great terrors
and dangers of a country life was the bushrangers.
"Bush" meant all land unknown and unreclaimed beyond
the few towns and settlements. It might be "open
bush," "thick bush," or "scrubby bush"—it was all
bush, whether dark forest with high trees and tangled
vines, or great plains of tall, waving grass. And the
bushrangers were the brigands of the wilds—the Robin
Hoods of the Australian forests, except that the
bushrangers were, as a rule, brutal and bad, and we
have come to think that Robin Hood was a good fellow.
Bushrangers were at first convicts who had escaped into
the wilds. For as convicts were hired out to farmers
and others as servants, it was much easier for them to
escape than it is for a gang of prisoners working under
the eye of a warder. Sometimes as many as thirty or
forty would escape in a year. They fled to the woods,
 often living with the savages and doing dreadful deeds.
They thought little of committing a murder for a meal,
but many of their wicked deeds were done out of a kind
of wild revenge for having been imprisoned. Now and
again, however, the life in the bush would prove too
hard even for these criminals, and after suffering
fearful hardships they would return, begging to be
forgiven and taken back.
But enough remained to become a terror to the peaceful
inhabitants. And at one time, both in Tasmania and in
New South Wales, the bushrangers became so bad that the
settlers worked in the fields with pistols in their
belts, and the women in the houses kept loaded guns
always to hand.
One of the most famous Tasmanian bushrangers was
Michael Howe. He was a convict who had been a sailor,
and who had been condemned to seven years' hard labour
for robbery. But not long after he arrived in
Tasmania, Howe escaped and joined a band of
bushrangers. He soon became their chief, and he ruled
like a tyrant. He was very haughty, calling himself
"The Governor of the Ranges." The governor of the
colony he called the "Governor of the Town."
Howe and his gang soon became the terror of the
neighbourhood, but although £100 was offered for his
head, none dared try to earn it, for most feared him
too much, while others admired him.
At last an old sailor named Worral, also a convict,
determined to win the reward. Helped by two other
men, he hunted his prey for many days, and at last
tracked him to his hiding-place. He was a strange
figure, this wild terror of the hills. Clothed in
kangaroo skin, with a haversack and powder-flask across
his shoulders, and a long, dark beard flowing over his
breast, he faced his enemies. Howe fought well for his
life, but the
 struggle was short, and he fell to the
ground. Then hacking off his head. Worral carried it, a
ghastly prize, to the governor, much as in days long,
long ago men carried the heads of wolves to the king
for a reward. Worral received his promised reward, and
was sent home a free man, loaded now, not with fetters,
but with the thanks both of colonists and governor.
Years went on, and convicts were no longer sent to
Australia. For as more and more free settlers came,
they began to object to the convicts being sent there.
Into South Australia they had never been allowed to
enter. And in 1868, just eighty years after Sydney had
been first founded, the last convict-ship sailed for
Australia. After that, evildoers were shut up in
prisons at home.
But although convicts no longer came, bushrangers did
not die out Others took to the wild life. Sometimes
they were the descendants of these convicts or of
ticket-of-leave men, as freed convicts were called, or
others who had a grudge against mankind, and hated law
and order, and above all hated work. They were wild,
fearless men, splendid horsemen, deadly shots.
"THE COACH WOULD BE 'HELD-UP' AND ALL THE PASSENGERS ROBBED."
In the great pastures of Australia horses and cattle
are not shut into small, fenced fields as at home, but
each animal has the initial of its owner branded on its
hide. There were men who made a trade of stealing
cattle. With a hot iron they changed the letters of the
brand, and drove the beasts off to some town far enough
away where buyers could be found who would not ask too
many questions about where they had come from. These
men were called "cattle-duffers" or
They often carried on their trade for years, but when
they became known, and the police were in search of
them, they would take to the bush and become regular
 Then when gold was found bushrangers became yet more
rife. For the gold had to be carried to towns or to the
coast to be shipped home. It went always guarded by
troops or policemen, but gangs of bushrangers banded
together and very often managed to carry off the
treasure. Or sometimes the coach, which carried miners
and others from the mines to the towns, would be "held
up" and all the passengers robbed.
One of the most dreaded of bushrangers was a man called
Daniel Morgan. He was a wild, bad man, and, unlike
other bushrangers, he was always alone. He was utterly
brutal, and his one desire seemed to be to kill. One
day he walked into a farmhouse, alone as usual, with a
pistol in either hand and demanded brandy. It was
given to him. and then, either from drunkenness or mere
cruelty, he began firing among the men with his
pistols. Three of them were so badly wounded that one
man asked leave to go for a doctor. Morgan said he
might go, but when the farmer was on his horse he
repented, and, firing at him from behind, shot him
With such doings as these Morgan kept the countryside
a-tremble. But at last he came to his end.
The dreaded bushranger appeared one evening at a
farmhouse called Peachelba, owned by a Mr. MacPherson.
He ordered tea, and after tea commanded Mrs. MacPherson
to play upon the piano. With trembling fingers the
poor lady did her best. But, as you may imagine, at
such a time she could not give her mind to
piano-playing, and all the thanks she got was to be
yelled at and told that she played very badly.
All the household had been gathered into the room by
Morgan's orders, so that he might have them under his
eye and pistol Only one little child who was ill was
allowed to stay in bed. But now the child began to cry,
 and Mrs. MacPherson begged to be allowed to send her
servant to look after it.
Morgan gruffly gave permission, and the servant left
the room. Presently the crying ceased, and Mrs.
MacPherson, looking out of the window, saw some one
running from the house.
It was the servant. As fast as her feet could carry her
she ran to another farm near. Panting and breathless,
she rushed into the house and told her news. "But I
must go back," she added, "or he will miss me."
"All right," said the farmer, and the brave servant
fled back again and returned to the sick child before
any one, except Mrs. MacPherson, knew that she had been
out of the house.
Quickly the farmer sent messages to the country round
about, and by morning twenty-eight men had gathered to
surround Peachelba, eager to catch Morgan.
It was a long, weary night to the folk at the farm, but
at last day dawned. Breakfast over, Morgan picked up
his pistols. "Now, MacPherson," he said, "we will go
and get a horse."
MacPherson agreed, for he could do nothing else. But as
they walked to the yard a man suddenly slipped from
behind a tree. He levelled a gun, there was a loud
report, and the dreaded Morgan fell to the ground. Then
as if by magic men hurried from their hiding-places and
surrounded him. A few hours later Morgan died, having
hardly spoken except to grumble that he had not been
challenged to a fight—had not had a "fair chance."
A very famous band of bushrangers was a gang called the
Kellys. The whole family, both men and women, were a
wild, horse-stealing, house-breaking lot. So much
feared were they that the country they lived in came to
be known as the Kelly district. But they, too, came to
 their end. Ned Kelly was hanged, others of the gang met
their deaths in different ways, and the country settled
down into peace once more. But so famous had they been
that a theatre manager bought their horses, and made a
good deal of money by bringing them into a Christmas
pantomime in Melbourne.
Now, happily, the bushranger has gone from the land of
Australia as pirates have vanished from the seas. And
we may be glad. Their doings may make thrilling stories
to read, but most of us would rather not meet them in
real life. And it is strange to think that they lived
so lately. Robin Hood seems a long way off in the story
of our little island, but it is less than thirty years
since the last Australian bushranger met his death, and
there are men still living who can remember the days
when Morgan and the Kellys and others like them held
the countryside in thrall.
But Australia is a country which makes rapid strides.
One hundred and eighty years ago there was no such
place, so far as the white man was concerned. Now in
the Island-Continent there are more than five million
white people. And what is more wonderful is that a
whole continent is under one flag, a thing which in the
history of the world has never been before, not even in
the days of Alexander, of Cæsar, or of Napoleon. And
that flag is the red, white, and blue—the Union Jack.
For although since 1901, when all the five colonies
united in one, Australia has been a commonwealth, it is
still a part of the British Empire.
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