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 done that job to rights if we never done another, eh, lad?' says father, reaching out for a coal to put in his pipe.
'Seems like it,' I said. 'There'll be a deuce of a bobbery about it. We shan't be able to move for a bit, let alone clear out.'
'We'll show 'em a trick or two yet,' says dad. I could see he'd had a tot, early as it was. 'I wonder how them chaps got on? But we'll hear soon.'
'How shall we hear anything? Nobody'll be mad enough to show out of here for a bit.'
'I could get word here,' says father, 'if there was a police barrack on the top of Nulla Mountain. I've done it afore, and I can do it again.'
'Well, I hope it won't be long, for I'm pretty full up of this staying-at-home business in the Hollow. It's well enough for a bit, but it's awful slow when you've too much of it.'
'It wouldn't be very slow if we was all grabbed and tried for our lives, Mr. Dick Marston. Would ye like that better for a change?' says the old man, showing his teeth like a dog that's making up his mind to have ye and don't see where he's to get first bite. 'You leave the thing to them as knows more than you do, or you'll find yourself took in, and that precious sharp.'
'You'll find your pals, Burke and Moran, and their lot will have their turn first,' I said, and with that I walked off, for I saw the old man had been drinking a bit after his night's work, and that always started his temper the wrong way. There was no doing anything with him then, as I knew by long experience. I was going to ask him where he'd put the gold, but thought it best to leave that for some other time.
By and by, when we all turned out and had some breakfast, we took a bit of a walk by ourselves and talked it over. We could hardly think it was all done and over.
'The gold escort stuck up. Fourteen thousand ounces of gold taken. Sergeant Hawkins shot dead. The robbers safe off with their booty.'
This is the sort of thing that we were sure to see in all the papers. It would make a row and no mistake. It was the first time such a thing had been thought of, much less carried out 'to rights', as father said, 'in any of the colonies.' We had the five thousand ounces of gold, safe enough, too. That was something; whether we should be let enjoy it, or what chance we had of getting right away out of the country, was quite another matter. We were all sorry for Sergeant Hawkins, and would have been better pleased if he'd been only wounded like the others. But these sorts of things couldn't be helped. It was the fortune of war; his luck this time, ours next. We knew what we had to expect. Nothing would make much difference. 'As well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.' We were up to our necks in it now, and must fight our way out the best way we could.
Bar any man betraying the secret of the Hollow we might be safe for years to come, as long as we were not shot or taken in fair fight. And who was to let out the secret? No one but ourselves had the least notion of the track or where it led to, or of such a place as the Hollow being in the colony. Only us five were in possession of the secret. We never let any of these other men come near, much less to it. We took good care never to meet them within twenty miles of it. Father was a man that, even when he was drunk, never let out what he didn't want other people to know. Jim and I and Starlight were not likely to blab, and Warrigal would have had his throat cut sooner than let on about anything that might be against Starlight, or that he told him not to do.
We had good reason, then, to think ourselves safe as long as we had such a place to make for whenever we were in danger or had done a stroke. We had enough in gold and cash to keep us comfortable in any other country -- provided we could only get there. That was the rub. When we'd got a glass or two in our heads we thought it was easy enough to get across country, or to make away one by one at shearing time, disguised as swagsmen, to the coast. But when we thought it over carefully in the mornings, particularly when we were a bit nervous after the grog had died out of us, it seemed a rather blue look-out.
There was the whole countryside pretty thick with police stations, where every man, from the sergeant to the last-joined recruit, knew the height, size, colour of hair, and so on of every one of us. If a suspicious-looking man was seen or heard of within miles the telegraph wires could be set to work. He could be met, stopped, searched, and overhauled. What chance would any of us have then?
'Don't flatter yourselves, my boy,' Starlight said, when we'd got the length of thinking how it was to be done, 'that there's any little bit of a chance, for a year or two at any rate, of getting away. Not a kangaroo rat could hop across from one scrub to another if there was the least suspicion upon him without being blocked or run into. Jim, old man, I'm sorry for you, but my belief is we're quartered here for a year or two certain, and the sooner we make up our minds to it the better.'
Here poor old Jim groaned. 'Don't you think,' he said, quite timid-like, 'that about shearing-time a man might take his chance, leading an old horse with a swag on, as if he wanted to get shearing in some of the big down-the-river sheds?'
'Not a bit of it,' says Starlight. 'You're such a good-looking, upstanding chap that you're safe to be pulled up and made answer for yourself before you'd get fifty miles. If you rode a good horse they'd think you were too smart-looking for a regular shearer, and nail you at once.'
'But I'd take an old screw with a big leg,' pleaded Jim. 'Haven't I often seen a cove walking and leading one just to carry his blankets and things?'
'Then they'd know a chap like you, full of work and a native to boot, ought to have a better turn-out -- if it wasn't a stall. So they'd have you for that.'
'But there's Isaac Lawson and Campbelltown. You've seen them. Isaac's an inch taller than me, and the same cut and make. Why shouldn't they shop them when they're going shearing? They're square enough, and always was. And Campbelltown's a good deal like Dick, beard and all.'