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.
We had as little notion of trying anything of the sort ourselves than as we had of breaking into the Treasury in Sydney by night. But those who knew used to say that if the miners had known the past history of some of the men that used to stand up and look on, well dressed or in regular digger rig, as the gold boxes were being brought out and counted into the escort drag, they would have made a bodyguard to go with it themselves when they had gold on board, or have worried the Government into sending twenty troopers in charge instead of six or eight.
One day, as Jim and I happened to be at the camp just as the escort was starting, the only time we'd been there for a month, we saw Warrigal and Moran standing about. They didn't see us; we were among a lot of other diggers, so we were able to take them out of winding a bit.
They were there for no good, we agreed. Warrigal's sharp eyes noted everything about the whole turn-out -- the sergeant's face that drove, the way the gold boxes were counted out and put in a kind of fixed locker underneath the middle of the coach. He saw where the troopers sat before and behind, and I'll be bound came away with a wonderful good general idea of how the escort travelled, and of a good many things more about it that nobody guessed at. As for Moran, we could see him fix his eyes upon the sergeant who was driving, and look at him as if he could look right through him. He never took his eyes off him the whole time, but glared at him like a maniac; if some of his people hadn't given him a shove as they passed he would soon have attracted people's attention. But the crowd was too busy looking at the well-conditioned prancing horses and the neatly got up troopers of the escort drag to waste their thoughts upon a common bushman, however he might stare. When he turned away to leave he ground out a red-hot curse betwixt his teeth. It made us think that Warrigal's coming about with him on this line counted for no good.
They slipped through the crowd again, and, though they were pretty close, they never saw us. Warrigal would have known us however we might have been altered, but somehow he never turned his head our way. He was like a child, so taken up with all the things he saw that his great-grandfather might have jumped up from the Fish River Caves, or wherever he takes his rest, and Warrigal would never have wondered at him.
'That's a queer start!' says Jim, as we walked on our homeward path. 'I wonder what those two crawling, dingo-looking beggars were here for? Never no good. I say, did you see that fellow Moran look at the sergeant as if he'd eat him? What eyes he has, for all the world like a black snake! Do you think he's got any particular down on him?'
'Not more than on all police. I suppose he'd rub them out, every mother's son, if he could. He and Warrigal can't stick up the escort by themselves.'
We managed to get a letter from home from time to time now we'd settled, as it were, at the Turon. Of course they had to be sent in the name of Henderson, but we called for them at the post-office, and got them all right. It was a treat to read Aileen's letters now. They were so jolly and hopeful-like besides what they used to be. Now that we'd been so long, it seemed years, at the diggings, and were working hard, doing well, and getting quite settled, as she said, she believed that all would go right, and that we should be able really to carry out our plans of getting clear away to some country where we could live safe and quiet lives. Women are mostly like that. They first of all believe all that they're afraid of will happen. Then, as soon as they see things brighten up a bit, they're as sure as fate everything's bound to go right. They don't seem to have any kind of feeling between. They hate making up their minds, most of 'em as I've known, and jump from being ready to drown themselves one moment to being likely to go mad with joy another. Anyhow you take 'em, they're better than men, though. I'll never go back on that.
So Aileen used to send me and Jim long letters now, telling us that things were better at home, and that she really thought mother was cheerfuller and stronger in health than she'd been ever since -- well, ever since -- that had happened. She thought her prayers had been heard, and that we were going to be forgiven for our sins and allowed, by God's mercy, to lead a new life. She quite believed in our leaving the country, although her heart would be nearly broken by the thought that she might never see us again, and a lot more of the same sort.
Poor mother! she had a hard time of it if ever any one ever had in this world, and none of it her own fault as I could ever see. Some people gets punished in this world for the sins other people commit. I can see that fast enough. Whether they get it made up to 'em afterwards, of course I can't say. They ought to, anyhow, if it can be made up to 'em. Some things that are suffered in this world can't be paid for, I don't care how they fix it.
More than once, too, there was a line or two on a scrap of paper slipped in Aileen's letters from Gracey Storefield. She wasn't half as good with the pen as Aileen, but a few words from the woman you love goes a long way, no matter what sort of a fist she writes. Gracey made shift to tell me she was so proud to hear I was doing well; that Aileen's eyes had been twice as bright lately; that mother looked better than she'd seen her this years; and if I could get away to any other country she'd meet me in Melbourne, and would be, as she'd always been, 'your own Gracey' -- that's the way it was signed.
When I read this I felt a different man. I stood up and took an oath -- solemn, mind you, and I intended to keep it -- that if I got clear away I'd pay her for her love and true heart with my life, what was left of it, and I'd never do another crooked thing as long as I lived. Then I began to count the days to Christmas.