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 made up our minds to start by Saturday's coach. It left at night and travelled nigh a hundred miles by the same hour next morning. It's more convenient for getting away than the morning. A chap has time for doing all kinds of things just as he would like; besides, a quieter time to slope than just after breakfast. The Turon daily mail was well horsed and well driven. Nightwork though it was, and the roads dangerous in places, the five big double-reflector lamps, one high up over the top of the coach in the middle with two pair more at the side, made everything plain. We Cornstalks never thought of more than the regular pair of lamps, pretty low down, too, before the Yankee came and showed us what cross-country coaching was. We never knew before. My word, they taught us a trick or two. All about riding came natural, but a heap of dodges about harness we never so much as heard of till they came to the country with the gold rush.
We'd made all our bits of preparations, and thought nothing stood in the way of a start next evening. This was Friday. Jim hadn't sold his bits of traps, because he didn't want it to be known he wasn't coming back. He left word with a friend he could trust, though, to have 'em all auctioned and the goodwill of his cottage, and to send the money after him. My share and his in the claim went to Arizona Bill and his mate. We had no call to be ashamed of the money that stood to our credit in the bank. That we intended to draw out, and take with us in an order or a draft, or something, to Melbourne. Jeanie had her boxes packed, and was so wild with looking forward to seeing St. Kilda beach again that she could hardly sleep or eat as the time drew near.
Friday night came; everything had been settled. It was the last night we should either of us spend at the Turon for many a day -- perhaps never. I walked up and down the streets, smoking, and thinking it all over. The idea of bed was ridiculous. How wonderful it all seemed! After what we had gone through and the state we were in less than a year ago, to think that we were within so little of being clear away and safe for ever in another country, with as much as would keep us comfortable for life. I could see Gracey, Aileen, and Jeanie, all so peaceful and loving together, with poor old mother, who had lost her old trick of listening and trembling whenever she heard a strange step or the tread of a horse. What a glorious state of things it would be! A deal of it was owing to the gold. This wonderful gold! But for it we shouldn't have had such a chance in a hundred years. I was that restless I couldn't settle, when I thought, all of a sudden, as I walked up and down, that I had promised to go and say good-bye to Kate Mullockson, at the Prospectors' Arms, the night before we started. I thought for a moment whether it would be safer to let it alone. I had a strange, unwilling kind of feeling about going there again; but at last, half not knowing what else to do, and half not caring to make an enemy of Kate, if I could help it, I walked up.
It was latish. She was standing near the bar, talking to half-a-dozen people at once, as usual; but I saw she noticed me at once. She quickly drew off a bit from them all; said it was near shutting-up time, and, after a while, passed through the bar into the little parlour where I was sitting down. It was just midnight. The night was half over before I thought of coming in. So when she came in and seated herself near me on the sofa I heard the clock strike twelve, and most of the men who were walking about the hall began to clear out.
Somehow, when you've been living at a place for a goodish while, and done well there, and had friends as has stuck by you, as we had at the Turon, you feel sorry to leave it. What you've done you're sure of, no matter how it mayn't suit you in some ways, nor how much better you expect to be off where you are going to. You had that and had the good of it. What the coming time may bring you can't reckon on. All kinds of cross luck and accidents may happen. What's the use of money to a man if he smashes his hip and has to walk with a crutch all his days? I've seen a miner with a thousand a month coming in, but he'd been crushed pretty near to death with a fall of earth, and about half of him was dead. What's a good dinner to a man that his doctor only allows him one slice of meat, a bit of bread, and some toast and water? I've seen chaps like them, and I'd sooner a deal be the poorest splitter, slogging away with a heavy maul, and able, mind you, to swing it like a man, than one of those broken-down screws. We'd had a good time there, Jim and I. We always had a kind spot in our hearts for Turon and the diggings afterwards. Hard work, high pay, good friends that would stick to a man back and edge, and a safe country to lie in plant in as ever was seen. We was both middlin' sorry, in a manner of speaking, to clear out. Not as Jim said much about it on account of Jeanie; but he thought it all the same.
Well, of course, Kate and I got talkin' and talkin', first about the diggings, and then about other things, till we got to old times in Melbourne, and she began to look miserable and miserabler whenever she spoke about marrying the old man, and wished she'd drownded herself first. She made me take a whisky -- a stiffish one that she mixed herself -- for a parting glass, and I felt it took a bit of effect upon me. I'd been having my whack during the day. I wasn't no ways drunk; but I must have been touched more or less, because I felt myself to be so sober.
'You're going at last, Dick,' says she; 'and I suppose we shan't meet again in a hurry. It was something to have a look at you now and then. It reminded me of the happy old times at St. Kilda.'
'Oh, come, Kate,' I said, 'it isn't quite so bad as all that. Besides, we'll be back again in February, as like as not. We're not going for ever.'