Hobbling Music in the thick scrub of the gully, Joe begins untying the rope that secures the rolled up overcoat to the pommel of the saddle and unfurls it, revealing the shotgun that has been hidden within the fabric. The bitting chill of winter sends a shiver from his lips and he wraps the coat around himself, turning up the collar to hide the bushy beard that frames his face. Slinging the weapon across his shoulder, Joe unbuckles the girth and removes the saddle from Music’s back, resting it against the rotted stump of a pine tree. He strokes his hand along the glistening mark at her side, causing her to twitch and flatten her ears in response. Aware of what has made the bloody wound, Joe lifts his leg behind himself and rubs a finger against the pointed tip of his spur, the iron smeared with blood. He shakes his head and removes her bridle, the tom thumb bit falling from her mouth with a clatter. Music grinds her teeth and rubs her forehead against his shoulder, leaving a speckled patch of white on his woollen overcoat. “Enough of that,” Joe says, pushing her head away. Laying the bridle on the stump, he begins his descent down to the flat of Sebastopol in search of rest.
'We have received from an anonymous correspondent who is evidently a sympathiser with, and a near associate of the Kellys and their companions, a long but rambling statement of the case as it is put by the outlaws. The document, which contains sixteen pages, came by post simply addressed to "The editor of the Herald newspaper, Melbourne." It is evidently written by an illiterate person, the orthography being defective, the calligraphy in some portions almost undecipherable, and the composition rambling and sometimes unintelligible. Sufficient can be gathered, however, to show that there is a very bitter feeling of animosity among the sympathisers of the outlaws against the police, and reasons are stated why they should exist. An inquiry is anxiously demanded, and as the statements made are of a serious character, and the demand for an inquiry apparently a justifiable one, we give some particulars from the citation of our anonymous correspondent, who, for aught we know, may be one of the gang.
“...I never quite liked Joe...He had a lousy temper. He was very violent. He injured his sister quite badly one time. He was yarding some horses and she let some of the horses go, so he belted her across the face with a bridle. He didn’t treat his mum well either. His mum was a real battler with seven kids and fourteen cows, trying to live with some dignity and yet Joe was swanning about town, dressing up to the nines, looking like a young squatter. This was very different from Ned. But Ned brought the absolute best out in him. Ned said “he’s my best man” who was “straight and true as steel”. That was true for when Joe was with Ned, but I would trust Aaron before I’d trust Joe. I like Aaron much more than I like Joe.”
I had often pictured to myself the actions of a man in the position I now occupied, and wondered what he would do or say. There was now no time to wonder. The picture had become a reality, and I was the man. Turning quickly in the direction of his voice, I saw a man had me covered with a rifle. The butt was pressed to his shoulder, the forefinger of his right hand was on the trigger, the right eye was on a level with the barrel, and the sight focussed on my head. I sprang to my feet and threw up my hands as ordered. Standing with my face towards the enemy I saw three men. The one who had covered me was tall, and appeared to possess a muscular and well-knit frame. His face was covered with a thick beard and moustache of a dark brown colour; his features were regular, and indicated an appearance of keen anxiety; his age might have been anything between 20 and 30. The young fellow by his side could not have been more than 20 years of age, of medium height, a florid tan-marked complexion; hair that would be called carroty; a slight appearance of young hair on his face of a lighter hue than that of his head. He possessed what might have been termed a bullet head.
The November rain falls about Joe in heavy sheets as he leans his frame against the wooden door of home. Overhead, streaks of lightning illuminate the dark Woolshed sky, followed by sharp cracks of thunder which resound through the gully. Joe shudders at its severity, which rings in his ears like the cat o’ nine tails, as visions of Beechworth gaol flash, uneasily, in his mind. Joe shakes from the brutality that grips him, and knocks a fist, which is cut and calloused from the prison sentence he had just served, against the breadth of door.
The chill of night bites against Joe’s limbs as he lies on the rough bunk, yearning for sleep that does not come. The wood creaks nosily beneath his restless frame as he tries to find warmth under the green woollen blanket that covers him. On the makeshift bed next to him, Dan curses and sits up. Milky streaks of moonlight seep through the chinks of the hut’s timbered walls, illuminating his weary countenance. “You’ll wake Hare with all your bloody noise”, Dan whispers sharply. “I can’t sleep.” Joe sighs, “I’m near freezing.”
Joe moves, silently, through the moonlit scrub of Byrne gully. As he edges closer toward the clearing, curls of smoke drift through the swaying limbs of macrocarpa, marking a home, he knows, he is no longer welcome. Joe stops and surveys the familiar land before him, leaning his frame against a dew dampened rock; he takes out his whiskey flask and takes a swig. The amber liquid is warm against the August chill, numbing his bearded cheeks, as it drifts through the Woolshed Valley.
From under the shadowed veranda of Ann Jones’ Inn, the armoured figure of Joe Byrne stands, peering through the disjointed eye slit of his helmet, to the misty darkness before him. Joe’s rifle is flanked at his side, his fingers nervously furling and unfurling around its trigger. Positioned next to him, the silhouettes of Ned, Dan and Steve line the width of veranda, their figures clad in iron. Joe listens as the heavy crash of excited feet resounds from the clearing, as the police scramble toward the moonlit inn, his eye catching on the shape of one of them as they near the post and rail fence. Joe places his rifle high at his shoulder and waits for Ned’s command. “Let’s give them a show boys!” cries Ned, taking aim at Superintendent Hare as he lurches his towering frame through the glimmering turnstile gate.