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.
There was a big crowd gathered round outside. They began to groan when the trooper lit the straw, but they did nothing, and went quietly home after a bit. We had the horses to see after next day. Just before the sale began, at twelve o'clock, and a goodish crowd had turned up, Starlight rides quietly up, the finest picture of a new chum you ever set eyes on. Jim and I could hardly keep from bursting out laughing.
He had brought up a quiet cobby sort of stock horse from the Hollow, plain enough, but a wonder to go, particularly over broken country. Of course, it didn't do to bring Rainbow out for such work as this. For a wonder, he had a short tail. Well, he'd squared this cob's tail and hogged his mane so that he looked like another animal. He was pretty fat, too.
He was dressed up to the nines himself, and if we didn't expect him we wouldn't have known him from a crow. First of all, he had a thick rough suit of tweed clothing on, all the same colour, with a round felt hat. He had a bran new saddle and bridle, that hadn't got the yellow rubbed off them yet. He had an English hunting whip in his hand, and brown dogskin gloves. He had tan leather gaiters that buttoned up to his knees. He'd shaved his beard all but his moustache and a pair of short whiskers.
He had an eyeglass in his eye, which he let drop every now and then, putting it up when he wanted to look at anybody.
When he rode up to the yard everybody stared at him, and one or two of the diggers laughed and began to call out 'Joe.' Jim and I thought how sold some of them would have been if he turned on them and they'd found out who it was. However, he pushed up to the auctioneer, without looking out right or left, and drawled --
'May I -- er -- ask if you are Mr. -- er -- Joseph Stevenson?'
'I'm Joe Stevenson,' says the auctioneer. 'What can I do for you?'
'Oh! -- a -- here is a letter from my friend, Mr. Bernard Muldoon, of the Lower Macquarie -- er -- requesting you to sell these horses faw him; and -- er -- hand over the pwoceeds to -- er -- me -- Mr. Augustus Gwanby -- aw!'
Stevenson read the letter, nodded his head, said, 'All right; I'll attend to it,' and went on with the sale.
It didn't take long to sell our colts. There were some draught stock to come afterwards, and Joe had a day's work before him. But ours sold well. There had not been anything like this for size, quality, and condition. The Commissioner sent down and bought one. The Inspector of Police was there, and bought one recommended by Starlight. They fetched high prices, from fifty to eighty-five guineas, and they came to a fairish figure the lot.
When the last horse was sold, Starlight says, 'I feel personally obliged to you, Mr. -- aw -- Stevenson -- faw the highly satisfactory manner in which you have conducted the sale, and I shall inform my friend, Mr. Muldoon, of the way you have sold his stock.'
'Much obliged, sir,' says Joe, touching his hat. 'Come inside and I'll give you the cheque.'
'Quite unnecessary now,' says Starlight; 'but as I'm acting for a friend, it may be as well.'
We saw him pocket the cheque, and ride slowly over to the bank, which was half-tent, half-bark hut.
We didn't think it safe to stay on the Turon an hour longer than we were forced to do. We had seen the diggings, and got a good notion of what the whole thing was like; sold the horses and got the money, that was the principal thing. Nothing for it now but to get back to the Hollow. Something would be sure to be said about the horses being sold, and when it came out that they were not Muldoon's there would be a great flare-up. Still they could not prove that the horses were stolen. There wasn't a wrong brand or a faked one in the lot. And no one could swear to a single head of them, though the whole lot were come by on the cross, and father could have told who owned every one among them. That was curious, wasn't it?
We put in a night at Jonathan Barnes's on our way back. Maddie got the earrings, and Bella the making of a new riding habit, which she had been wanting and talking about for a good while. Starlight dressed up, and did the new chum young Englishman, eyeglass and all, over again, and repeated the conversation he had with the Inspector of Police about his friend Mr. Muldoon's illness, and the colts he recommended. It was grand, and the girls laughed till they cried again. Well, those were merry days; we DID have a bit of fun sometimes, and if the devil was dogging us he kept a good way out of sight. It's his way at the start when fellows take the downward track.
We got back safe enough, and father opened his eyes when he saw the roll of notes Starlight counted over as the price of the colts. 'Horse-breeding's our best game,' says the old man, 'if they're going to pay such prices as this. I've half a mind to start and take a lot over to Port Phillip.'