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.
'And where are you going when you leave this place?' she asked. 'Surely you and my brothers never can live in New South Wales after all that has passed.'
'We must try, at all events, Miss Marston,' Starlight answered, raising up his head and looking proud. 'You will hear something of us before long.'
We made out that there was no great chance of our being run into at the old place. Father went on first with Crib. He was sure to give warning in some way, best known to father himself, if there was any one about that wasn't the right sort. So we went up and went in.
Mother was inside. I thought it was queer that she didn't come outside. She was always quick enough about that when we came home before, day or night. When I went in I could see, when she got up from her chair, that she was weak, and looked as if she'd been ill. She looked ever so much older, and her hair was a lot grayer than it used to be.
She held out her arms and clung round my neck as if I'd been raised from the dead. So I was in a kind of a way. But she didn't say much, or ask what I was going to do next. Poor soul! she knew it couldn't be much good anyway; and that if we were hunted before, we'd be worse hunted now. Those that hadn't heard of our little game with the Momberah cattle would hear of our getting out of Berrima Gaol, which wasn't done every day.
We hadn't a deal of time to spare, because we meant to start off for the Hollow that afternoon, and get there some time in the night, even if it was late. Jim and dad knew the way in almost blindfold. Once we got there we could sleep for a week if we liked, and take it easy all roads. So father told mother and Aileen straight that we'd come for a good comfortable meal and a rest, and we must be off again.
'Oh! father, can't Dick and Jim stop for a day?' cries out Aileen. 'It does seem so hard when we haven't seen Dick for such a while; and he shut up too all the time.'
'D'ye want to have us all took the same as last time?' growls father. 'Women's never contented as I can see. For two pins I wouldn't have brought them this way at all. I don't want to be making roads from this old crib to the Hollow, only I thought you'd like one look at Dick.'
'We must do what's best, of course,' said poor Aileen; 'but it's hard -- very hard on us. It's mother I'm thinking of, you know. If you knew how she always wakes up in the night, and calls for Dick, and cries when she wakes up, you'd try to comfort her a bit more, father.'
'Comfort her!' says dad; 'why, what can I do? Don't I tell you if we stay about here we're shopped as safe as anything ever was? Will that comfort her, or you either? We're safe today because I've got telegraphs on the outside that the police can't pass without ringing the bell -- in a way of speaking. But you see tomorrow there'll be more than one lot here, and I want to be clean away before they come.'
'You know best,' says Aileen; 'but suppose they come here tomorrow morning at daylight, as they did last time, and bring a black tracker with them, won't he be able to follow up your track when you go away to-night?'
'No, he won't; for this reason, we shall all ride different ways as soon as we leave here. A good while before we get near the place where we all meet we shall find Warrigal on the look-out. He can take the Captain in by another track, and there'll be only Jim and I and the old dog, the only three persons that'll go in the near way.'
'And when shall we see -- see -- any of you again?'
'Somewheres about a month, I suppose, if we've luck. There's a deal belongs to that. You'd better go and see what there is for us to eat. We've a long way and a rough way to go before we get to the Hollow.'
Aileen was off at this, and then she set to work and laid a clean tablecloth in the sitting-room and set us down our meal -- breakfast, or whatever it was. It wasn't so bad -- corned beef, first-rate potatoes, fresh damper, milk, butter, eggs. Tea, of course, it's the great drink in the bush; and although some doctors say it's no good, what would bushmen do without it?
We had no intention of stopping the whole night, though we were tempted to do so -- to have one night's rest in the old place where we used to sleep so sound before. It was no good thinking of anything of that kind, anyhow, for a good while to come. What we'd got to do was to look out sharp and not be caught simple again like we was both last time.
After we had our tea we sat outside the verandah, and tried to make the best of it. Jim stayed inside with mother for a good while; she didn't leave her chair much now, and sat knitting by the hour together. There was a great change come over her lately. She didn't seem to be afraid of our getting caught as she used to be, nor half as glad or sorry about anything. It seemed like as if she'd made up her mind that everything was as bad as it could be, and past mending. So it was; she was right enough there. The only one who was in real good heart and spirits was Starlight. He'd come round again, and talked and rattled away, and made Aileen and Jim and me laugh, in spite of everything. He said we had all fine times before us now for a year or two, any way. That was a good long time. After that anything might happen. What it would be he neither knew nor cared. Life was made up of short bits; sometimes it was hard luck; sometimes everything went jolly and well. We'd got our liberty again, our horses, and a place to go to, where all the police in the country would never find us. He was going in for a short life and a merry one. He, for one, was tired of small adventures, and he was determined to make the name of Starlight a little more famous before very long. If Dick and Jim would take his advice -- the advice of a desperate, ill-fated outcast, but still staunch to his friends -- they would clear out, and leave him to sink or swim alone, or with such associates as he might pick up, whose destination would be no great matter whatever befell them. They could go into hiding for a while -- make for Queensland and then go into the northern territory. There was new country enough there to hide all the fellows that were 'wanted' in New South Wales.