This section is from the book "Robbery Under Arms; A Story Of Life And Adventure In The Bush And In The Australian Goldfields", by Rolf Boldrewood. Also available from Amazon: Robbery under Arms; a story of life and adventure in the bush and in the Australian goldfields.
The other chaps were wild for a spree. Jim and I had made up our minds to be careful; still, we had a lot to see in a big town like Adelaide; for we'd never been to Sydney even in our lives, and we'd never seen the sea. That was something to look at for the first time, wasn't it?
Well, we got the cattle drafted to rights, every sort and size and age by itself, as near as could be. That's the way to draft stock, whether they're cattle, sheep, or horses; then every man can buy what he likes best, and isn't obliged to lump up one sort with another. We had time to have a bit of dinner. None of us had touched a mouthful since before daylight. Then we began to see the buyers come.
There'd been a big tent rigged, as big as a small woolshed, too. It came out in a cart, and then another cart came with a couple of waiters, and they laid out a long table of boards on trestles with a real first-class feed on it, such as we'd never seen in our lives before. Fowls and turkeys and tongues and rounds of beef, beer and wine in bottles with gilt labels on. Such a set-out it was. Father began to growl a bit. 'If he's going to feed the whole country this way, he'll spend half the stuff before we get it, let alone drawing a down on the whole thing.' But Jim and me could see how Starlight had been working the thing to rights while he was swelling it in the town among the big bugs. We told him the cattle would fetch that much more money on account of the lunch and the blowing the auctioneer was able to do. These would pay for the feed and the rest of the fal-lals ten times over. 'When he gets in with men like his old pals he loses his head, I believe,' father says, 'and fancies he's what he used to be. He'll get "fitted" quite simple some day if he doesn't keep a better look-out.'
That might be, but it wasn't to come about this time. Starlight came riding out by and by, dressed up like a real gentleman, and lookin' so different that Jim and I hardly dared speak to him -- on a splendid horse too (not Rainbow, he'd been left behind; he was always left within a hundred miles of The Hollow, and he could do it in one day if he was wanted to), and a lot of fine dressed chaps with him -- young squatters and officers, and what not. I shouldn't have been surprised if he'd had the Governor out with him. They told us afterwards he did dine at Government House reg'lar, and was made quite free and welcome there.
Well, he jumps down and shakes hands with us before them all. 'Well, Jack! Well, Bill!' and so on, calls us his good faithful fellows, and how well we'd brought the cattle over; nods to father, who didn't seem able to take it all in; says he'll back us against any stockmen in Australia; has up Warrigal and shows him off to the company. 'Most intelligent lad.' Warrigal grinned and showed his white teeth. It was as good as a play.
Then everybody goes to lunch -- swells and selectors, Germans and Paddies, natives and immigrants, a good many of them, too, and there was eating and drinking and speechifying till all was blue. By and by the auctioneer looks at his watch. He'd had a pretty good tuck-in himself, and they must get to business.
Father opened his eyes at the price the first pen brought, all prime young bullocks, half fat most of them. Then they all went off like wildfire; the big men and the little men bidding, quite jealous, sometimes one getting the lot, sometimes another. One chap made a remark about there being such a lot of different brands; but Starlight said they'd come from a sort of depot station of his, and were the odds and ends of all the mobs of store cattle that he'd purchased the last four years. That satisfied 'em, particularly as he said it in a careless, fierce way which he could put on, as if it was like a man's ---- impudence to ask him anything. It made the people laugh; I could see that.
By and by we comes to the imported bull. He was in a pen by himself, looking first-rate. His brand had been faked, and the hair had grown pretty well. It would have took a sharp hand to know him again.
'Well, gentlemen,' says the auctioneer, 'here is the imported bull "Duke of Brunswick". It ain't often an animal of his quality comes in with a mob of store cattle; but I am informed by Mr. Carisforth that he left orders for the whole of the cattle to be cleared off the run, and this valuable animal was brought away in mistake. He was to return by sea; but as he happens to be here to-day, why, sooner than disappoint any intending buyer, Mr. Carisforth has given me instructions to put him up, and if he realises anything near his value he will be sold.'
'Yes!' drawls Starlight, as if a dozen imported bulls, more or less, made no odds to him, 'put him up, by all means, Mr. Runnimall. Expectin' rather large shipment of Bates's "Duchess" tribe next month. Rather prefer them on the whole. The "Duke" here is full of Booth blood, so he may just as well go with the others. I shall never get what he cost, though; I know that. He's been a most expensive animal to me.'
Many a true word spoken in jest. He had good call to know him, as well as the rest of us, for a most expensive animal, before all was said and done. What he cost us all round it would be hard indeed to cipher up.
Anyhow, there was a great laugh at Starlight's easy way of taking it. First one and then another of the squatters that was going in for breeding began to bid, thinking he'd go cheap, until they got warm, and the bull went up to a price that we never dreamed he'd fetch. Everything seemed to turn out lucky that day. One would have thought they'd never seen an imported bull before. The young squatters got running one another, as I said before, and he went up to 270 Pounds! Then the auctioneer squared off the accounts as sharp as he could; an' it took him all his time, what with the German and the small farmers, who took their time about it, paying in greasy notes and silver and copper, out of canvas bags, and the squatters, who were too busy chaffing and talking among themselves to pay at all. It was dark before everything was settled up, and all the lots of cattle delivered. Starlight told the auctioneer he'd see him at his office, in a deuced high and mighty kind of way, and rode off with his new friend.