Van Diemen’s Land, 1827

My name is William Dwyer. I am a constable at Hobart Town. On the morning of the fifth of November, I was in the taproom of the Duke of Wellington when I saw a crowd coming down the street, following, as best I could tell, a man with a horse. Not a man on a horse, but a man walking beside a horse.

Out there, the sky was blue, a brilliant blue sky with not a wisp of cloud to seen, just the hot sun. In here, in this tap-room, it was shaded and cool, even in the doorway, and the mug of ale in my hand was just a mouthful below full. A waste of good coin to put it aside now, and if I waited long enough, there was always a chance whoever was actually on duty would arrive to take care of the crowd.

I wished he’d hurry.

“Something has your interest there,” said a deep voice. A stool scraped over the floor and then the big hulk of Pete Woodrow joined me in the doorway, or beside me, there not being enough room in the doorway. “That’s quite a gathering up the road. Shouldn’t you be bothering them, lad?”

After being roused from my bed at some unholy hour this morning, I deserved this drink. I should have stayed at my table, not gone to the door to see what so interested the other patrons. It was just a man with a horse, nothing of interest. Nothing that should attract a crowd of any size, and yet man and horse had. That meant trouble.

(Image: part of Panorama of Hobart ca. 1828 by Augustus Earle, from the Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales)

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