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.
This meeting with Kate Morrison put the stuns upon me and Jim, and no mistake. We never expected to see her up at the Turon, and it all depended which way the fit took her now whether it would be a fit place for us to live in any longer. Up to this time we had done capital well. We had been planted as close as if we had been at the Hollow. We'd had lots of work, and company, and luck. It began to look as if our luck would be dead out. Anyhow, we were at the mercy of a tiger-cat of a woman who might let loose her temper at any time and lay the police on to us, without thinking twice about it. We didn't think she knew Starlight was there, but she was knowing enough for anything. She could put two and two together, and wait and watch, too. It gave me a fit of the shivers every time I thought of it. This was the last place I ever expected to see her at. However, you never can tell what'll turn up in this world. She might have got over her tantrums.
Of course we went over to the Prospectors' Arms that night, as the new hotel was called, and found quite a warm welcome. Mrs. Mullockson had turned into quite a fashionable lady since the Melbourne days; dressed very grand, and talked and chaffed with the commissioner, the police inspectors, and goldfield officers from the camp as if she'd been brought up to it. People lived fast in those goldfields days; it don't take long to pick up that sort of learning.
The Prospectors' Arms became quite the go, and all the swell miners and quartz reefers began to meet there as a matter of course. There was Dandy Green, the Lincolnshire man from Beevor, that used to wear no end of boots and spend pounds and pounds in blacking. He used to turn out with everything clean on every morning, fit to go to a ball, as he walked on to the brace. There was Ballersdorf, the old Prussian soldier, that had fought against Boney, and owned half-a-dozen crushing machines and a sixth share in the Great Wattle Flat Company; Dan Robinson, the man that picked up the 70 pound nugget; Sam Dawson, of White Hills, and Peter Paul, the Canadian, with a lot of others, all known men, went there regular. Some of them didn't mind spending fifty or a hundred pounds in a night if the fit took them. The house began to do a tremendous trade, and no mistake.
Old Mullockson was a quiet, red-faced old chap, who seemed to do all Kate told him, and never bothered himself about the business, except when he had to buy fresh supplies in the wine and spirit line. There he was first chop. You couldn't lick him for quality. And so the place got a name.
But where was Jeanie all this time? That was what Jim put me up to ask the first night we came. 'Oh! Jeanie, poor girl, she was stopping with her aunt in Melbourne.' But Kate had written to her, and she was coming up in a few weeks. This put Jim into great heart. What with the regular work and the doing well in the gold line, and Jeanie coming up, poor old Jim looked that happy that he was a different man. No wonder the police didn't know him. He had grown out of his old looks and ways; and though they rubbed shoulders with us every day, no one had eyes sharp enough to see that James Henderson and his brother Dick -- mates with the best men on the field -- were escaped prisoners, and had a big reward on them besides.
Nobody knew it, and that was pretty nigh as good as if it wasn't true. So we held on, and made money hand over fist. We used to go up to the hotel whenever we'd an evening to spare, but that wasn't often. We intended to keep our money this time, and no publican was to be any the better for our hard work.
As for Kate, I couldn't make her out. Most times she'd be that pleasant and jolly no one could help liking her. She had a way of talking to me and telling me everything that happened, because I was an old friend she said -- that pretty nigh knocked me over, I tell you. Other times she was that savage and violent no one would go near her. She didn't care who it was -- servants or customers, they all gave her a wide berth when she was in her tantrums. As for old Mullockson, he used to take a drive to Sawpit Gully or Ten-Mile as soon as ever he saw what o'clock it was -- and glad to clear out, too. She never dropped on to me, somehow. Perhaps she thought she'd get as good as she gave; I wasn't over good to lead, and couldn't be drove at the best of times. No! not by no woman that ever stepped.
One evening Starlight and his two swell friends comes in, quite accidental like. They sat down at a small table by themselves and ordered a couple of bottles of foreign wine. There was plenty of that if you liked to pay a guinea a bottle. I remember when common brandy was that price at first, and I've seen it fetched out of a doctor's tent as medicine. It paid him better than his salts and rhubarb. That was before the hotels opened, and while all the grog was sold on the sly. They marched in, dressed up as if they'd been in George Street, though everybody knew one of 'em had been at the windlass all day with the wages man, and the other two below, working up to their knees in water; for they'd come on a drift in their claim, and were puddling back. However, that says nothing; we were all in good clothes and fancy shirts and ties. Miners don't go about in their working suits. The two Honourables walked over to the bar first of all, and said a word or two to Kate, who was all smiles and as pleasant as you please. It was one of her good days. Starlight put up his eyeglass and stared round as if we were all a lot of queer animals out of a caravan. Then he sat down and took up the 'Turon Star'. Kate hardly looked at him, she was so taken up with his two friends, and, woman-like, bent on drawing them on, knowing them to be big swells in their own country. We never looked his way, except on the sly, and no one could have thought we'd ever slept under one tree together, or seen the things we had.