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.
When we found that by making darts and playing hide and seek with the police in this way we could ride about the country more comfortable like, we took matters easier. Once or twice we tried it on by night, and had a bit of a lark at Jonathan's, which was a change after having to keep dark so long. We'd rode up there after dark one night, and made ourselves pretty snug for the evening, when Bella Barnes asked us if we'd dropped across Moran and his mob that day.
'No,' says I. 'Didn't know they were about this part. Why, weren't they at Monckton's the day before yesterday?'
'Ah! but they came back last night, passed the house to-day going towards Mr. Whitman's, at Darjallook. I don't know, but I expect they're going to play up a bit there, because of his following them up that time the police nearly got Moran.'
'What makes you think that? They're only going for what they can get; perhaps the riding-horses and any loose cash that's knocking about.'
'Billy the Boy was here for a bit,' says Maddie. 'I don't like that young brat, he'll turn out bad, you take my word for it; but he said Moran knew Mr. Whitman was away at the Castlereagh station, and was going to make it a warning to them all.'
'Well, it's too bad,' said Bella; 'there's no one there but Mrs. Whitman and the young ladies. It's real cowardly, I call it, to frighten a parcel of women. But that Moran's a brute and hasn't the feelings of a man about him.'
'We must ride over, boys,' says Starlight, yawning and stretching himself. 'I was looking forward to a pleasant evening here, but it seems to me we ought to have a say in this matter. Whitman's gone a trifle fast, and been hard on us; but he's a gentleman, and goes straight for what he considers his duty. I don't blame him. If these fellows are half drunk they'll burn the place down I shouldn't wonder, and play hell's delight.'
'And Miss Falkland's up there too, staying with the young ladies,' says Maddie. 'Why, Jim, what's up with you? I thought you wasn't taking notice.'
'Come along, Dick,' says Jim, quite hoarse-like, making one jump to the door. 'Dash it, man, what's the use of us wasting time jawing here? By ----, if there's a hair of her head touched I'll break Moran's neck, and shoot the lot of them down like crows.'
'Good-bye, girls,' I said, 'there's no time to lose.'
Starlight made a bow, polite to the last, and passed out. Jim was on his horse as we got to the stable door. Warrigal fetched Starlight's, and in half a minute Jim and he were off together along the road full split, and I had as much as I could do to catch them up within the next mile. It wasn't twenty miles to Whitman's place, Darjallook, but the road was good, and we did it in an hour and twenty minutes, or thereabouts. I know Starlight lit a match and looked at his watch when we got near the front gate.
We could see nothing particular about the house. The lights shone out of the windows, and we heard the piano going.
'Seems all right,' says Starlight. 'Wonder if they came, after all? They'll think we want to stick the place up if we ride up to the hall door. Get off and look out tracks, Warrigal.'
Warrigal dismounted, lit a couple of matches, and put his head down close to the soft turf, as if he was going to smell it.
'Where track?' says Starlight.
'There!' says Warrigal, pointing to something we couldn't see if we'd looked for a month. 'Bin gone that way. That one track Moran's horse. I know him; turn foot in likit cow. Four more track follow up.'
'Why, they're in the house now, the infernal scoundrels,' says Starlight. 'You stay here with the horses, Warrigal; we'll walk up. If you hear shooting, tie them to the fence and run in.'
We walked up very quiet to the house -- we'd all been there before, and knew where the front parlour was -- over the lawn and two flower-beds, and then up to the big bow-window. The others stood under an old white cedar tree that shadowed all round. I looked in, and, by George! my face burned, cold as it was. There was Moran lying back in an arm-chair, with a glass of grog in his hand, takin' it easy and makin' himself quite at home. Burke and Daly were sitting in two chairs near the table, looking a long way from comfortable; but they had a couple of bottles of brandy on the table and glasses, and were filling up. So was Moran. They'd had quite as much as was good for them. The eldest Miss Whitman was sitting at the piano, playing away tune after tune, while her eyes were wandering about and her lips trembling, and every now and then she'd flush up all over her face; then she'd turn as white as a sheet, and look as if she'd fall off the stool. The youngest daughter was on her knees by her, on the other side, with her head in her lap. Every now and then I could hear a sob come from her, but stifled-like, as if she tried to choke it back as much as she could.
Burke and Daly had their pistols on the table, among the bottles -- though what they wanted 'em there for I couldn't see -- and Moran had stuck his on the back of the piano. That showed me he was close up drunk, for he was a man as never hardly let go of his revolver.
Mrs. Whitman was sitting crouched up in a chair behind her daughter, with a stony face, looking as if the end of the world was come. I hardly knew her again. She was a very kind woman, too; many a glass of grog she'd given me at shearing time, and medicine too, once I was sick there with influenza.
But Miss Falkland; I couldn't keep my eyes off her. She was sitting on the sofa against the wall, quite upright, with her hands before her, and her eyes looking half proudly, half miserable, round the room. You couldn't hardly tell she was frightened except by a kind of twitching of her neck and shoulders.
Presently Moran, who was more than half boozed as it was, and kept on drinking, calls out to Miss Whitman to sing a song.