Let’s a take a dip into Australian folk history for the tale of Eliza, also known at Betsy Clifford, also known as Mrs Cash.

In 1870, a little book appeared The adventures of Martin Cash : comprising a faithful account of his exploits, while a bushranger under arms in Tasmania, in company with Kavanagh and Jones in the year 1843. It has been many times since, with variations in the title, author and even content. How it came to be has been the same of some debate. It could be a memoir written/dictated by Cash and edited by one James Lester Burke. It could be Burke’s creation, based on interviews, accounts from other places and wild flights of imagination, and presented as an autobiography. Or it could be something in between. Twenty years ago, two authors (Joan & Buck Emberg) published Burke’s original manuscript, which is substantially different in places to the “official” text. A lot of the extra text in the newer version relates to Eliza.

Even without that, Cash’s story is very much about her. He is arrested for receiving stolen goods, escapes to rejoin her, sent to a chain gang, escapes to rejoin her, sent to Port Arthur, escapes to… So I pulled out parts of the biography that tell her part of that story.

With the text below, the italics is material from the Emberg’s version. The rest is from a very battered 1967 paperback entitled Martin Cash: the bushranger of Van Diemen’s Land in 1843: a personal narrative of his exploits in the bush and his experiences at Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. I put quote marks around each extract. So the closing quotes mark effectively means “there’s something missing after this”. Sometimes that’s is a few sentences, sometimes pages. Ellipses mean a few words are are missing. I added some comments in [] to clarify the passage of time or summarise missing bits.

Part I: Meeting

“Shortly after our arrival, we were introduced to the newly appointed store keeper’s missis, who, by the by, appeared to be at the time the most beautiful person I had every beheld. She was a finely proportioned woman with a very fair complexion, light blue eyes, and dark auburn hair and appeared to be about twenty-two years of age. I could not take my eyes away from her, and I felt embarrassed on one or two occasions when she appeared to be conscious of my admiration, not having the presence of mine to conceal it. I felt completely lost in a reverie of blissful anticipation, building castles with a very unstable foundation, and imaging how happy I would have been in having such a piece of property as the residing goddess.”

She entered into conversation, asking me, among other things, if I had been long in the colony and at what distance from her place I resided. To all of which questions I responded with a feeling of embarrassment for which I found it difficult to account. She remarked that it was useless for her to enquire if I was free, as I appeared much too young for such a contingency. There was then only herself, me, and the stock keeper in the room, her husband not having as yet made his appearance. I made her acquainted with my real position, informing her also that I expect to be free in the course of a few moths. My friend who not appear to take a part in the conversation, went outside and left us together.

We passed a very agreeable evening with these people, and the next morning at breakfast the missis showed us ever attention. My companion as well as myself was charmed with her kind and unaffected manner, forgetting herself in providing for the want of all others at the table. After the meal was concluded, we took a friendly leave of our host and his fascinating wife.

“[A visiting stockman] informed me that he stopped at ‘Cow Plains”‘ the previous night and the store keeper’s missis made various enquiries respecting me, at the same time letting fall some very flattering remarks with which I will not trouble the reader. Though assuming an air of nonchalance, I greedily devoured every word he spoke, and I inwardly felt much gratified at being noticed by this (in my opinion) very superior person, at the same time forming a resolution to visit Cow Plains as early as possible. In a day or two after, having mounted my horse, I turned him in the direction of the latter place where I was hospitably received by the hostess who expressed her happiness at seeing me and told me they (meaning herself and husband) were about to leave and also that they were very awkwardly situated, observing that his business appeared not at all adapted to the colony. … She next enquired if I knew “Schofields”. This was a public house fifteen miles lower down on the Sydney road. … She then informed me that they should take that road and would leave on that day week. I expressed my regrets at parting so soon, and observed that if I was certain of such being the case, I would be at Schofields in order to take my leave of her. She next enquired if I knew of any situation which her husband was likely to fill or if there was any probability of him getting employment from my master. I answered that I did not think my master had any employment that would at all suit him, but that I knew of something that might suit herself. However, she did not appear to understand my last observation.

I remained there all night and returned home the next morning. A vague and undefined dread of losing sight of my new acquaintance took possession of me, and being young and inexperienced, I could not see the great impropriety of gratifying the desire I entertained of bidding her farewell at the place appointed.

When we arrived, those we intended to meet had been there some considerable time before us. I immediately entered, and Mrs Clifford (the name of the person with whom I had made the appointment) was the first person I seen. She flew to meet me, telling me that she thought they would be obliged to proceed without having the happiness of seeing me, having been there for the last three hours. I expressed myself very much gratified to learn that my coming was a matter of the slightest consequence to her, and also that I regretted very much to lose the company of such a very agreeable person, considering myself very unfortunate in not having the power to retain her, at the same time expressing a wish that she was situated as I was (single) and then I might possibly have a chance of effecting what I so earnestly desired. She hesitated for a moment, and fixing her eyes on me, answered that it might not be impossible to obviate to this (to her) unpleasant circumstance.

I reminded her that it was a very serious matter in my opinion, and that by her reconsidering the affair she might be inclined to alter her determination. She answered that the world was at liberty to judge her as it thought proper, but that her present connection was in a measure a forced one, and however she might regard him with feelings of gratitude, she never could with those with love and affection. She also gave it as her decided opinion that he would be better without her as he did not appear to be able to provide for himself. She begged me again not to consider her a heartless or profligate woman as appearances were certainly against her, but in perfect confidence she should assure me that I was the only man she ever yet seen that she could love.

I then assured her that, as she came to the resolution of sharing my fortunes, nothing should be wanting on my part, and taking her hand in which I placed a ten pound note, we agreed to separate for the present, with an understanding that she was not to accompany her husband any further, and that she should remain where she was with a view of saving expenses and thereby giving him an opportunity of seeking employment and then sending for her.

On the morning of the third day I made an early start, not allowing the grass to grow under the hoofs of my horse. On dismounting, she was standing by my side. I learned from her that after my departure she informed Clifford that it was not her intention to proceed any further, and also that from that time the connection should cease (I could see that she was much affected when she mentioned his name). She concluded by observing that he left on the same evening. Taking the saddle on my arm we both entered the house, and as Schofield and his family had seen me speaking to her in the verandah on my previous visit, and finding that she declined to accompany her husband, they were at no loss to discover the cause. However, at that time, occurrences of this nature were so frequent that they scarcely elicited a remark.

Having made our arrangement, she suggested a speed exit from the place, as under the circumstances she could not feel at ease in the presence of any of the family, and on taking our leave, I got her up behind me on the horse and turned his head in the direction of home.

[I] reminded her that a person brought up in the style she had been (judging from her own account) might not feel happy in consorting with an uneducated person like myself, and that, unfortunately, my circumstance would not permit me to maintain her in the manner she had been hitherto accustomed to live. She answered that all them considerations went for noting, that all she expected or wished for was kindness on my part, and that poverty had no terrors for, at the same time expressing her readiness to meet with every privation as long as I continued to give her my confidence and protection. This I promised to do, feeling at the same time that I could not with any degree of manhood and under the circumstances withhold either. I also informed her that we commenced housekeeping under rather favourable auspices, as I had been a free man for the last thirteen days, a piece of information which appeared to give her infinite satisfaction. And beguiling the time in this matter, we at length reached our destination, where we lived together for the next two years, enjoying a reasonable share of happiness; and I can only say that at the end of that time I loved her better than when I first knew her.

“At this time I formed an acquaintance with a man named John Boodie, who owned upwards of five hundred head of cattle and was also the possessor of two valuable farms situated within forty miles of Sydney. … He came to me one morning and asked me to assist him and his brother in branding some cattle; and not suspecting for a moment that there was anything wrong I instantly complied, and while so employed we were joined by two persons who were total strangers to me. They merely remained for a few minutes and then departed. Boodie now informed me that the cattle we were branding did not belong to him, and that as the persons who had just left us were perfectly aware of the fact, the best and safest plan for either himself or me to adopt would be to leave the colony immediately.”

“On collecting fifty head of cattle, my own property, I sold them for £100. I then purchased a horse, bridle and saddle, and returned to the station, which had formed my home for the last nine years, and where my companion anxiously awaited me.

“I had now upwards of £200, and after representing the impossibly of remaining together under these circumstances I presented her with half of what money I had, advising her to return to her friends, but this she positively refused to do unless in my company, reminding me of the promise I had formerly made her; on which I consented to take her with me, and having packed up our things, being obliged to leave the greater part of our wearing apparel behind us, we travelled onto Mudgee.

[And eventually onto Sydney]

“On hearing that the barque Francis Freeling was about to sail for Hobart Town, I paid twenty pounds for a cabin passage for myself and companion and five pounds for my horse, having also to provide forage for the latter; and after a passage of seven days we landed at Hobart Town on the 10th February, 1837.”

Part II: On the run.

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