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.
'Because it's too late,' growled father; 'too late by years. It's sink or swim with all of us. If we work together we may make ten thousand pounds or more in the next four or five years, enough to clear out with altogether if we've luck. If any of us goes snivelling in now and giving himself up, they'd know there's something crooked with the lot of us, and they'll run us down somehow. I'll see 'em all in the pit of h--l before I give in, and if Jim does, he opens the door and sells the pass on us. You can both do what you like.' And here the old man walked bang away and left us.
'No use, Dick,' says Jim. 'If he won't it's no use my giving in. I can't stand being thought a coward. Besides, if you were nabbed afterwards people might say it was through me. I'd sooner be killed and buried a dozen times over than that. It's no use talking -- it isn't to be -- we had better make up our minds once for all, and then let the matter drop.'
Poor old Jim. He had gone into it innocent from the very first. He was regular led in because he didn't like to desert his own flesh and blood, even if it was wrong. Bit by bit he had gone on, not liking or caring for the thing one bit, but following the lead of others, till he reached his present pitch. How many men, and women too, there are in the world who seem born to follow the lead of others for good or evil! They get drawn in somehow, and end by paying the same penalty as those that meant nothing else from the start.
The finish of the whole thing was this, that we made up our minds to turn out in the bush-ranging line. It might seem foolish enough to outsiders, but when you come to think of it we couldn't better ourselves much. We could do no worse than we had done, nor run any greater risk to speak of. We were 'long sentence men' as it was, sure of years and years in prison; and, besides, we were certain of something extra for breaking gaol. Jim and Warrigal were 'wanted', and might be arrested by any chance trooper who could recollect their description in the 'Police Gazette'. Father might be arrested on suspicion and remanded again and again until they could get some evidence against him for lots of things that he'd been in besides the Momberah cattle. When it was all boiled down it came to this, that we could make more money in one night by sticking up a coach or a bank than in any other way in a year. That when we had done it, we were no worse off than we were now, as far as being outlaws, and there was a chance -- not a very grand one, but still a chance -- that we might find a way to clear out of New South Wales altogether.
So we settled it at that. We had plenty of good horses -- what with the young ones coming on, that Warrigal could break, and what we had already. There was no fear of running short of horse-flesh. Firearms we had enough for a dozen men. They were easy enough to come by. We knew that by every mail-coach that travelled on the Southern or Western line there was always a pretty fair sprinkling of notes sent in the letters, besides what the passengers might carry with them, watches, rings, and other valuables. It wasn't the habit of people to carry arms, and if they did, there isn't one in ten that uses 'em. It's all very well to talk over a dinner-table, but any one who's been stuck up himself knows that there's not much chance of doing much in the resisting line.
Suppose you're in a coach, or riding along a road. Well, you're expected and waited for, and the road party knows the very moment you'll turn up. They see you a-coming. You don't see them till it's too late. There's a log or something across the road, if it's a coach, or else the driver's walking his horses up a steepish hill. Just at the worst pinch or at a turn, some one sings out 'Bail up.' The coachman sees a strange man in front, or close alongside of him, with a revolver pointed straight at him. He naturally don't like to be shot, and he pulls up. There's another man covering the passengers in the body of the coach, and he says if any man stirs or lifts a finger he'll give him no second chance. Just behind, on the other side, there's another man -- perhaps two. Well, what's any one, if he's ever so game, to do? If he tries to draw a weapon, or move ever so little, he's rapped at that second. He can only shoot one man, even if his aim is good, which it's not likely to be. What is more, the other passengers don't thank him -- quite the contrary -- for drawing the fire on them. I have known men take away a fellow's revolver lest he should get them all into trouble. That was a queer start, wasn't it? Actually preventing a man from resisting. They were quite right, though; he could only have done mischief and made it harder for himself and every one else. If the passengers were armed, and all steady and game to stand a flutter, something might be done, but you don't get a coach-load like that very often. So it's found better in a general way to give up what they have quietly and make no fuss about it. I've known cases where a single bush-ranger was rushed by a couple of determined men, but that was because the chap was careless, and they were very active and smart. He let them stand too near him. They had him, simple enough, and he was hanged for his carelessness; but when there's three or four men, all armed and steady, it's no use trying the rush dodge with them.
Of course there were other things to think about: what we were to do with the trinkets and bank-notes and things when we got them -- how to pass them, and so on. There was no great bother about that. Besides Jonathan Barnes and chaps of his sort, dad knew a few 'fences' that had worked for him before. Of course we had to suffer a bit in value. These sort of men make you pay through the nose for everything they do for you. But we could stand that out of our profits, and we could stick to whatever was easy to pass and some of the smaller things that were light to carry about. Men that make 300 or 400 Pounds of a night can afford to pay for accommodation.