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.
I woke first; Jim was fast asleep, but dad had been up a goodish while and got things ready for breakfast. It was a fine, clear morning; everything looked beautiful, 'specially to me that had been locked up away from this sort of thing so long. The grass was thick and green round the cave, and right up to the big sandstone slabs of the floor, looking as if it had never been eat down very close. No more it had. It would never have paid to have overstocked the Hollow. What cattle and horses they kept there had a fine time of it, and were always in grand condition.
Opposite where we were the valley was narrow. I could see the sandstone precipices that walled us in, a sort of yellowish, white colour, all lighted up with the rays of the morning sun, looking like gold towers against the heavy green forest timber at the foot of them. Birds were calling and whistling, and there was a little spring that fell drip, drip over a rough rock basin all covered with ferns. A little mob of horses had fed pretty close up to the camp, and would walk up to look curious-like, and then trot off with their heads and tails up. It was a pretty enough sight that met my eyes on waking. It made me feel a sort of false happiness for a time, to think we had such a place to camp in on the quiet, and call our own, in a manner of speaking.
Jim soon woke up and stretched himself. Then father began, quite cheerful like --
'Well, boys, what d'ye think of the Hollow again? It's not a bad earth for the old dog-fox and his cubs when the hounds have run him close. They can't dig him out here, or smoke him out either. We've no call to do anything but rest ourselves for a week or two, anyhow; then we must settle on something and buckle to it more business-like. We've been too helter-skelter lately, Jim and I. We was beginning to run risks, got nearly dropped on more nor once.'
There's no mistake, it's a grand thing to wake up and know you've got nothing to do for a bit but to take it easy and enjoy yourself. No matter how light your work may be, if it's regular and has to be done every day, the harness 'll gall somewhere; you get tired in time and sick of the whole thing.
Jim and I knew well that, bar accidents, we were as safe in the Hollow as we used to be in our beds when we were boys. We'd searched it through and through last time, till we'd come to believe that only three or four people, and those sometimes not for years at a time, had ever been inside of it. There were no tracks of more.
We could see how the first gang levied; they were different. Every now and then they had a big drink -- 'a mad carouse', as the books say -- when they must have done wild, strange things, something like the Spanish Main buccaneers we'd read about. They'd brought captives with them, too. We saw graves, half-a-dozen together, in one place. THEY didn't belong to the band.
We had a quiet, comfortable meal, and a smoke afterwards. Then Jim and I took a long walk through the Hollow, so as to tell one another what was in our minds, which we hadn't a chance to do before. Before we'd gone far Jim pulls a letter out of his pocket and gives it to me.
'It was no use sending it to you, old man, while you was in the jug,' he says; 'it was quite bad enough without this, so I thought I'd keep it till we were settled a bit like. Now we're going to set up in business on our own account you'd best look over your mail.'
I knew the writing well, though I hadn't seen it lately. It was from her -- from Kate Morrison that was. It began -- not the way most women write, like HER, though --
So this is the end of your high and mighty doings, Richard Marston, passing yourself and Jim off as squatters. I don't blame him -- [no, of course not, nobody ever blamed Jim, or would, I suppose, if he'd burned down Government House and stuck up his Excellency as he was coming out of church] -- but when I saw in the papers that you had been arrested for cattle-stealing I knew for the first time how completely Jeanie and I had been duped.
I won't pretend that I didn't think of the money you were said to have, and how pleasant it would be to spend some of it after the miserable, scrambling, skimping life we had lately been used to. But I loved you, Dick Marston, for YOURSELF, with a deep and passionate love which you will never know now, which you would scorn and treat lightly, perhaps, if you did know. You may yet find out what you have lost, if ever you get out of that frightful gaol.
I was not such a silly fool as to pine and fret over our romance so cruelly disturbed, though Jeanie was; it nearly broke her heart. No, Richard, my nature is not of that make. I generally get even with people who wrong me. I send you a photo, giving a fair idea of myself and my HUSBAND, Mr. Mullockson. I accepted his offer soon after I saw your adventures, and those of your friend Starlight, in every newspaper in the colonies. I did not hold myself bound to live single for your sake, so did what most women do, though they pretend to act from other motives, I disposed of myself to the best advantage.
Mr. Mullockson has plenty of money, which is NEARLY everything in this world, so that I am comfortable and well off, as far as that goes. If I am not happy that is your fault -- your fault, I say, because I am not able to tear your false image and false self from my thoughts. Whatever happens to me in the future you may consider yourself to blame for. I should have been a happy and fairly good woman, as far as women go, if you had been true, or rather if everything about you had not been utterly false and despicable.
You think it fortunate after reading this, I daresay, that we are separated for ever, BUT WE MAY MEET AGAIN, Richard Marston. THEN you may have reason to curse the day, as I do most heartily, when you first set eyes on KATE MULLOCKSON.