Feeling satisfied that the train was safe, Mr Curnow had made all speed back to Glenrowan, where he found his wife and sister in a state of anxious dread for his safety and their own. Only a few minutes before, a man whom they believed to be Ned Kelly had come to the house; but it proved to be a stranger just arrived in Glenrowan, and the return of Mr Curnow relieved them of their greatest fear. Hiding away the scarf and his clothes, which were soaked with dew from the long grass, the schoolmaster went to bed, telling the others to do the same, so that if the outlaws came they should have no proof against him of having warned the police. When the sound of the firing began he dressed himself hastily and went over to learn the news, but was ordered by the police to return to his house. Up to this time, while Curnow and Bracken had won credit for themselves, the police had done nothing in particular to forfeit it. When the shooting began, though women and children suffered, ignorance justified the fierce firing, and the attacking party were not to blame. From this time on ward almost nothing was done which any member of the force engaged can look back upon with bare satisfaction, let alone with pride. An entire absence from foolish rashness is the only commendable quality of which the police gave evidence that day, and this was shown to such as strikingly unheroic degree that people smiled cynically when commending it.
Matters had begun well enough with the spirited rush by Mr Hare and his constables, but that charge has either begun in heedlessness, or it stopped too soon. If Mr Hare’s object was to avoid possible loss of life and merely prevent the outlaws’ escape, he might have disposed his men so as to surround the house and shut up the enemy within it. If, on the other hand, his intention was to take the hotel by assault, one is surprised that he was checked in this bold design by a mere shot in the wrist. The odds against the outlaws were four to one. With the exception of himself, not a man of his force was wounded by the first volleys, and a determined rush upon the house would have secured it, putting an end one could contemplate with satisfaction to the bushrangers’ long career.
But if the first attack was badly advised or half-heartedly executed, it was heroism itself compared with what followed. Knowing that non-combatants were in the house, the police, firing more or less from shelter, continued to pitilessly riddle it with shot, and in the early discharges one of Mrs Jones’ children was mortally wounded. Another, a girl of fifteen or sixteen, had been particularly friendly with the Kellys, as had been also her mother, and the latter must have cursed the impulse which had made her detain the prisoners for Ned Kelly’s interrupted lecture. Now, she turned upon them fiercely, denouncing them as curs for not leaving the house and fighting in the open, while she also heaped frantic curses upon the police when after the first discharge her little boy was heard screaming piteously in the pitch-dark room where he lay. Everyone longed to escape, but between fear of the outlaws and the police no one dared make a move. Presently the firing slackened, and Miss Jones walked into the big dark room where the prisoners crouched close together on the floor, and speaking with orders from the Kellys, she said, ‘All women and children are to leave the house.’
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