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.
I'd settled in my mind that it couldn't be any one else, when he sat up, yawned, and looked round as if he had not been away from the old place a week.
'Ha! Richard, here we are again! "Feeds the boar in the old frank?" The governor told me you and Jim had made back. Dreadful bore, isn't it? Just when we'd all rubbed off the rust of our bush life and were getting civilised. I feel very seriously ill-treated, I assure you. I have a great mind to apply to the Government for compensation. That's the worst of these new inspectors, they are so infernally zealous.'
'You were too many for them, it seems. I half thought you might have been nailed. How the deuce did you get the office in time?'
'The faithful Warrigal, as usual, gave me timely warning, and brought a horse, of course. He will appear on the Judgment Day leading Rainbow, I firmly believe. Why he should be so confoundedly anxious about my welfare I can't make out -- I can't, really. It's his peculiar form of mania, I suppose. We all suffer from some madness or other.'
'How the blazes did he know the police were laid on to the lot of us?' I said.
'I didn't know myself that your Kate had come the double on you. I might have known she would, though. Well, it seems Warrigal took it into his semi-barbaric head to ride into Turon and loaf about, partly to see me, and partly about another matter that your father laid him on about. He was standing about near the Prospectors' Arms, late on Friday night, doing nothing and seeing everything, as usual, when he noticed Mrs. Mullockson run out of the house like a Bedlamite. "My word, that missis big one coolah!" was his expression, and made straight for the camp. Now Warrigal had seen you come out just before. He doesn't like you and Jim over much -- bad taste, I tell him, on his part -- but I suppose he looks upon you as belonging to the family. So he stalked the fair and furious Kate.'
'That was how it was, then?'
'Yes, much in that way. I must say, Dick, that if you are so extremely fond of -- well -- studying the female character, you should carry on the pursuit more discreetly. Just see what this miscalculation has cost your friends!'
'Confound her! She's a heartless wretch, and I hope she'll die in a ditch.'
'Exactly. Well, she knocked, and a constable opened the outer door.
'"I want to see Sir Ferdinand," she says.
'"He's in bed and can't be disturbed," says the bobby. "Any message I can deliver?"
'"I have important information," says she. "Rouse him up, or you'll be sorry for it."
'"Won't it do tomorrow morning?" says he.
'"No, it won't," says she, stamping her foot. "Do what I tell you, and don't stand there like a fool."
'She waited a bit. Then, Warrigal says, out came Sir Ferdinand, very polite. "What can I do for you," says he, "Mrs. Mullockson?"
'"Should you like to know where the Marstons are, Sir Ferdinand," says she, "Dick and Jim?"
'"Know? Would I not?" says he. "No end of warrants out for them; since that Ballabri Bank robbery they seem to have disappeared under ground. And that fellow Starlight, too! Most remarkable man of his day. I'd give my eyes to put the bracelets upon him."
'She whispered something into his ear.
'"Guard, turn out," he roars out first; then, dropping his voice, says out, "My dear Mrs. Mullockson" (you should hear Warrigal imitate him), "you have made my fortune -- officially, I mean, of course. I shall never forget your kindness. Thanks, a thousand times."
'"Don't thank me," she says, and she burst out crying, and goes slowly back to the hotel.
'Warrigal had heard quite enough. He rips over to Daly's mob, borrows a horse, saddle, and bridle, and leads him straight down to our camp. He roused me up about one o'clock, and I could hardly make any explanation to my mates. Such stunning good fellows they were, too! I wonder whether I shall ever associate with gentlemen again? The chances are against it.
'I had all kinds of trouble to tell them I was going away with Warrigal, and yet not to tell too much.
'"What the dickens," says Clifford, "can you want, going away with this familiar of yours at this hour of the night? You're like the fellow in Scott's novel ('Anne of Geierstein') that I was reading over again yesterday -- the mysterious stranger that's called for at midnight by the Avenger of Blood, departs with him and is never seen more."
'"In case you never see me afterwards," I said, "we'd better say good-bye. We've been good mates and true friends, haven't we?"
'"Never better," he said. "I don't know what we shall do without you. But, of course, you're not going very far?"
'"Good-bye, in case," I said. "Anyhow, I'll write you a line, and as I shook hands with them -- two regular trumps, if ever there were any in the world -- I had a kind of notion I'd never see them again. Hardly think I shall, either. Sir Ferdinand surrounded the hut about an hour later, and made them come out one by one -- both of them and the wages man. I daresay they were surprised.
'"Where's the fourth man, Clifford?" says Sir Ferdinand. "Just ask him to come out, will you?"
'"What, Frank Haughton?" says he.
'I heard most of this from that young devil, Billy the Boy. He saw Sir Ferdinand ride up, so he hid close by, just for the fun of hearing how he got on. He'd seen Warrigal and me ride away.
'"Frank Devil!" bangs out Sir Ferdinand, who'd begun to get his monkey up. "How should I know his infernal purser's name? No man, it seems to me, has his right name on this confounded goldfield. I mean Starlight -- Starlight the cattle stealer, the mail robber, the bush-ranger, whose name is notorious over the three colonies, and New Zealand to boot -- your intimate friend and partner for the last nine months!'
'"You perfectly amaze me," says Clifford. "But can't you be mistaken? Is your information to be depended upon?"