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.
Dad was hit right through the top of the left shoulder. The ball had gone through the muscle and lodged somewhere. We couldn't see anything of it. Another bullet had gone right through him, as far as we could make out, under the breast on the right-hand side.
'That looks like a good-bye shot,' says Starlight; 'see how the blood comes welling out still; but it hasn't touched the lungs. There's no blood on his lips, and his breathing is all right. What's this? Only through the muscle of the right arm. That's nothing; and this graze on the ribs, a mere scratch. Dash more water in his face, Jim. He's coming to.'
After a few minutes he did come to, sure enough, and looked round when he found himself in bed.
'Where am I?' says he.
'You're at home,' I said, 'in the Hollow.'
'Dashed if I ever thought I'd get here,' he says. 'I was that bad I nearly tumbled off the old mare miles away. She must have carried me in while I was unsensible. I don't remember nothing after we began to get down the track into the Hollow. Where is she?'
'Oh! we found her near the cave, with the saddle and bridle on.'
'That's all right. Bring me a taste of grog, will ye; I'm a'most dead with thirst. Where did I come from last, I wonder? Oh, I seem to know now. Settling accounts with that ---- dog that insulted my gal. Moran got square with t'other. That'll learn 'em to leave old Ben Marston alone when he's not meddling with them.'
'Never mind talking about that now,' I said. 'You had a near shave of it, and it will take you all your time to pull through now.'
'I wasn't hit bad till just as I was going to drop down into Black Gully,' he said. 'I stood one minute, and that cursed wretch Hagan had a steady shot at me. I had one at him afterwards, though, with his hands tied, too.'
'God forgive you!' says Jim, 'for shooting men in cold blood. I couldn't do it for all the gold in Turon, nor for no other reason. It'll bring us bad luck, too; see if it don't.'
'You're too soft, Jim,' says the old man. 'You ain't a bad chap; but any young fellow of ten years old can buy and sell you. Where's that brandy and water?'
'Here it is,' says Jim; 'and then you lie down and take a sleep. You'll have to be quiet and obey orders now -- that is if a few more years' life's any good to you.'
The brandy and water fetched him to pretty well, but after that he began to talk, and we couldn't stop him. Towards night he got worse and worse and his head got hotter, and he kept on with all kinds of nonsense, screeching out that he was going to be hung and they were waiting to take him away, but if he could get the old mare he'd be all right; besides a lot of mixed-up things about cattle and horses that we didn't know the right of.
Starlight said he was delirious, and that if he hadn't some one to nurse him he'd die as sure as fate. We couldn't be always staying with him, and didn't understand what was to be done much. We didn't like to let him lie there and die, so at long last we made up our minds to see if we could get Aileen over to nurse him for a few weeks.
Well, we scribbled a bit of a letter and sent Warrigal off with it. Wasn't it dangerous for him? Not a bit of it. He could go anywhere all over the whole country, and no trooper of them all could manage to put the bracelets on him. The way he'd work it would be to leave his horse a good way the other side of George Storefield's, and to make up as a regular blackfellow. He could do that first-rate, and talk their lingo, too, just like one of themselves. Gin or blackfellow, it was all the same to Warrigal. He could make himself as black as soot, and go barefooted with a blanket or a 'possum rug round him and beg for siccapence, and nobody'd ever bowl him out. He took us in once at the diggings; Jim chucked him a shilling, and told him to go away and not come bothering near us.
So away Warrigal went, and we knew he'd get through somehow. He was one of those chaps that always does what they're told, and never comes back and says they can't do it, or they've lost their horse, or can't find the way, or they'd changed their mind, or something.
No; once he'd started there was no fear of him not scoring somehow or other. Whatever Starlight told him to do, day or night, foul weather or fair, afoot or on horseback, that thing was done if Warrigal was alive to do it.
What we'd written to Aileen was telling her that father was that bad we hardly thought he'd pull through, and that if she wanted to save his life she must come to the Hollow and nurse him.
How to get her over was not the easiest thing in the world, but she could ride away on her old pony without anybody thinking but she was going to fetch up the cows, and then cut straight up the gully to the old yard in the scrub on Nulla Mountain. One of us would meet her there with a fresh horse and bring her safe into the Hollow. If all went well she would be there in the afternoon on a certain day; anyhow we'd be there to meet her, come or no come.
She wouldn't fail us, we were dead sure. She had suffered a lot by him and us too; but, like most women, the very moment anything happened to any of us, even to dad, everything flew out of her head, except that we were sick or sorry and wanted her help. Help, of course; wasn't she willing to give that, and her rest and comfort, health, even life itself, to wear herself out, hand and foot, for any one of her own family?
So poor Aileen made her way up all alone to the old scrub stockyard. Jim and I had ridden up to it pretty early (he wouldn't stop behind) with a nice, well-bred little horse that had shone a bit at country races for her to ride on. We waited there a goodish while, we lying down and our horses hung up not far off for fear we might be 'jumped' by the police at any time.
At last we sees the old pony's head coming bobbing along through the scrub along the worn-out cattle track, grown up as it was, and sure enough there was Aileen on him, with her gray riding skirt and an old felt hat on. She'd nothing with her; she was afraid to bring a ha'porth of clothes or anything for fear they should any of 'em tumble that she was going a long way, and, perhaps, follow her up. So she had to hand that over to Warrigal, and trust to him to bring it on some way or other. We saw her before she saw us, and Jim gave a whistle just as he used to do when he was coming home late at night. She knew it at once, and a smile for a minute came over her pale face; such a sad sort of one it was too, as if she was wondering at herself that she could feel that pleased at anything.