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 were desperate fidgety and anxious till the day came. While we were getting ready two or three things went wrong, of course. Jim got a letter from Jeanie, all the way from Melbourne, where she'd gone. It seems she'd got her money from the bank -- Jim's share of the gold -- all right. She was a saving, careful little woman, and she told him she'd enough to keep them both well for four or five years, anyhow. What she wanted him to do was to promise that he'd never be mixed up in any more dishonest work, and to come away down to her at once.
'It was the easiest thing in the world,' she said, 'to get away from Melbourne to England or America. Ships were going every day, and glad to take any man that was strong and willing to work his passage for nothing; they'd pay him besides.'
She'd met one or two friends down there as would do anything to help her and him. If he would only get down to Melbourne all would yet be well; but she begged and prayed him, if he loved her, and for the sake of the life she hoped to live with him yet, to come away from his companions and take his own Jeanie's advice, and try and do nothing wrong for the future.
If Jim had got his letter before we made up matters, just at the last he'd have chucked up the sponge and cleared out for good and all. He as good as said so; but he was one of them kind of men that once he'd made a start never turned back. There'd been some chaff, to make things worse, between Moran and Daly and some of the other fellows about being game and what not, specially after what father said at the hut, so he wouldn't draw out of it now.
I could see it fretted him worse than anything since we came back, but he filled himself up with the idea that we'd be sure to get the gold all right, and clear out different ways to the coast, and then we'd have something worth while leaving off with. Another thing, we'd been all used to having what money we wanted lately, and we none of us fancied living like poor men again in America or anywhere else. We hadn't had hardly a scrap from Aileen since we'd come back this last time. It wasn't much odds. She was regular broken-hearted; you could see it in every line.
'She had been foolish enough to hope for better things,' she said; 'now she expected nothing more in this world, and was contented to wear out her miserable life the best way she could. If it wasn't that her religion told her it was wrong, and that mother depended on her, she'd drown herself in the creek before the door. She couldn't think why some people were brought into this miserable world at all. Our family had been marked out to evil, and the same fate would follow us to the end. She was sorry for Jim, and believed if he had been let take his own road that he would have been happy and prosperous to-day. It was a pity he could not have got away safely to Melbourne with his wife before that wicked woman, who deserved to be burnt alive, ruined everything. Even now we might all escape, the country seemed in so much confusion with all the strangers and bad people' (bad people -- well, every one thinks their own crow the blackest) 'that the goldfields had brought into it, that it wouldn't be hard to get away in a ship somehow. If nothing else bad turned up perhaps it might come to pass yet.'
This was the only writing we'd had from poor Aileen. It began all misery and bitterness, but got a little better at the end. If she and Gracey could have got hold of Kate Morrison there wouldn't have been much left of her in a quarter of an hour, I could see that.
Inside was a little bit of paper with one line, 'For my sake,' that was all. I knew the writing; there was no more. I could see what Gracey meant, and wished over and over again that I had the chance of going straight, as I'd wished a thousand times before, but it was too late, too late! When the coach is running down hill and the break's off, it's no use trying to turn. We had all our plan laid out and settled to the smallest thing. We were to meet near Eugowra Rocks a good hour or two before the escort passed, so as to have everything ready. I remember the day as well as if it was yesterday. We were all in great buckle and very fit, certainly. I don't think I ever felt better in my life. There must be something out-and-out spiriting in a real battle when a bit of a scrimmage like this sent our blood boiling through our veins; made us feel as if we weren't plain Dick and Jim Marston, but regular grand fellows, in a manner of speaking. What fools men are when they're young -- and sometimes after that itself -- to be sure.
We started at daylight, and only stopped once on the road for a bite for ourselves and to water the horses, so that we were in good time. We brought a little corn with us, just to give the horses something; they'd be tied up for hours and hours when we got to the place pitched on. They were all there before us; they hadn't as good horses by a long chalk as we had, and two of their packers were poor enough. Jim and I were riding ahead with Starlight a little on the right of us. When the fellows saw Rainbow they all came crowding round him as if he'd been a show.
'By George!' says Burke, 'that's a horse worth calling a horse, Captain. I often heard tell of him, but never set eyes on him before. I've two minds to shake him and leave you my horse and a share of the gold to boot. I never saw his equal in my life, and I've seen some plums too.'
'Honour among -- well -- bush-rangers, eh, Burke?' says Starlight cheerily. 'He's the right sort, isn't he? We shall want good goers to-night. Are we all here now? We'd better get to business.'
Yes, they were all there, a lot of well-built, upstanding chaps, young and strong, and fit to do anything that a man could do in the way of work or play. It was a shame to see them there (and us too, for the matter of that), but there was no get away now. There will be fools and rogues to the end of the world, I expect. Even Moran looked a bit brighter than he did last time. He was one of those chaps that a bit of real danger smartens up. As for Burke, Daly, and Hulbert, they were like a lot of schoolboys, so full of their fun and larks.