Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/267

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253
THE CHURCH IN THE COLONIES.

the greater part of the day. Father Gibney, who happened to be in the neighbourhood at the time, hastened to the scene of strife, so that the services of a priest would not be wanting, if required. At an early stage of the conflict, he endeavoured to advance through the open to the hotel, and exert his influence with the besieged bushrangers to induce them to surrender, and thereby avert further bloodshed. He was confident that even such desperadoes as they would not fire upon a priest, but the officers in command thought differently, and declined to allow him to place his life in jeopardy. When, however, late in the afternoon, the hotel was seen to be in flames, the brave priest refused to be kept back any longer, and rushed across to the burning building in the hope of still being able to administer the last sacraments of the Church to any surviving bushrangers within. He w^as watched with eager and breathless attention as he crossed the open space in front of the outlaws' citadel, the general fear being that he would be shot down before he reached the house. A cheer went up from the excited spectators as they saw him rush through the flames into the interior of the hotel, and a number of them were emboldened to follow in his footsteps. When Father Gibney got within the blazing building, he saw the bodies of the bushrangers lying on the floor, they having apparently preferred to shoot themselves or each other, rather than fall into the hands of the authorities. He had just time to touch their bodies and ascertain that they were lifeless, before the advancing flames compelled him to beat a hasty retreat in order to save his own life. The courage and intrepidity displayed by Father Gibney on this occasion won universal admiration, and the news of his elevation to the mitre was received with cordial approval by the press and the public of all the colonies.