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.
Daylight broke when we were close up to the Black Range, safe enough, a little off the line but nothing to signify. Then we hit off the track that led over the Gap and down into a little flat on a creek that ran the same way as ours did.
Jim had managed for father and Warrigal to meet us somewhere near here with fresh horses. There was an old shepherd's hut that stood by itself almost covered with marsh-mallows and nettles. As we came down the steep track a dog came up snuffing and searching about the grass and stones as if he'd lost something. It was Crib.
'Now we're getting home, Jim,' says Starlight. 'It's quite a treat to see the old scamp again. Well, old man,' he says to the dog, 'how's all getting on at the Hollow?' The dog came right up to Rainbow and rubbed against his fetlock, and jumped up two or three times to see if he could touch his rider. He was almost going to bark, he seemed that glad to see him and us.
Dad was sitting on a log by the hut smoking, just the same as he was before he left us last time. He was holding two fresh horses, and we were not sorry to see them. Horses are horses, and there wasn't much left in our two. We must have ridden a good eighty miles that night, and it was as bad as a hundred by daylight.
Father came a step towards us as we jumped off. By George, I was that stiff with the long ride and the cold that I nearly fell down. He'd got a bit of a fire, so we lit our pipes and had a comfortable smoke.
'Well, Dick, you're back agin, I see,' he says, pretty pleasant for him. 'Glad to see you, Captain, once more. It's been lonesome work -- nobody but me and Jim and Warrigal, that's like a bear with a sore head half his time. I'd a mind to roll into him once or twice, and I should too only for his being your property like.'
'Thank you, Ben, I'll knock his head off myself as soon as we get settled a bit. Warrigal's not a bad boy, but a good deal like a Rocky Mountain mule; he's no good unless he's knocked down about once a month or so, only he doesn't like any one but me to do it.'
'You'll see him about a mile on,' says father. 'He told me he'd be behind the big rock where the tree grows -- on the left of the road. He said he'd get you a fresh horse, so as he could take Rainbow back to the Hollow the long way round.'
Sure enough after we'd just got well on the road again Warrigal comes quietly out from behind a big granite boulder and shows himself. He was riding Bilbah, and leading a well-bred, good-looking chestnut. He was one of the young ones out of the Hollow. He'd broken him and got him quiet. I remembered when I was there first spotting him as a yearling. I knew the blaze down his face and his three white legs.
Warrigal jumps off Bilbah and throws down the bridle. Then he leads the chestnut up to where Starlight was standing smoking, and throws himself down at his feet, bursting out crying like a child. He was just like a dog that had found his master again. He kept looking up at Starlight just like a dog does, and smiling and going on just as if he never expected to see such a good thing again as long as he lived.
'Well, Warrigal,' says Starlight, very careless like, 'so you've brought me a horse, I see. You've been a very good boy. Take Rainbow round the long way into the Hollow. Look after him, whatever you do, or I'll murder you. Not that he's done, or anything near it; but had enough for one ride, poor old man. Off with you!' He changed the saddle, and Warrigal hopped on to Bilbah, and led off Rainbow, who tossed his head, and trotted away as if he'd lots to spare, and hadn't had twelve hours under saddle; best part without a halt or a bait. I've seen a few good 'uns in my time, but I never saw the horse that was a patch on Rainbow, take him all round.
We pushed on again, then, for ten miles, and somewhere about eight o'clock we pulled up at home -- at home. Aileen knew we were coming, and ran out to meet us. She threw her arms round me, and kissed and cried over me for ever so long before she took any notice of Starlight, who'd got down and was looking another way. 'Oh! my boy, my boy,' she said, 'I never thought to see you again for years. How thin you've got and pale, and strange looking. You're not like your old self at all. But you're in the bush again now, by God's blessing. We must hide you better next time. I declare I begin to feel quite wicked, and as if I could fight the police myself.'
'Well spoken, Miss Marston,' said Starlight, just lifting his hat and making a bit of a bow like, just as if she was a real lady; but he was the same to all women. He treated them all alike with the same respect of manner as if they were duchesses; young or old, gentle or simple -- it made no odds to him. 'We must have your assistance if we're to do any good. Though whether it wouldn't be more prudent on your part to cut us all dead, beginning with your father, I shouldn't like to say.'
Aileen looked at him, surprised and angry like for a second. Then she says --
'Captain Starlight, it's too late now; but words can never tell how I hate and despise the whole thing. My love for Dick got the better of my reason for a bit, but I could ---- Why, how pale you look!'
He was growing pale, and no mistake. He had been ill for a bit before he left Berrima, though he wouldn't give in, and the ride was rather too much for him, I suppose. Anyhow, down he tumbles in a dead faint. Aileen rushed over and lifted up his head. I got some water and dabbed it over him. After a bit he came to. He raises himself on his elbows and looks at Aileen. Then he smiles quietly and says --
'I'm quite ashamed of myself. I'm growing as delicate as a young lady. I hope I haven't given you much trouble.'
When he got up and walked to the verandah he quite staggered, showing he was that weak as he could hardly walk without help.
'I shall be all right,' he said, 'after a week's riding again.'