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.
So Aileen used to make Rainbow walk and amble his best, so that all the rest of us, when she did it for fun, had to jog. Then she'd jump him over logs or the little trickling deep creeks that ran down to the main water; or she'd pretend to have a race and go off full gallop, riding him at his best for a quarter of a mile; then he'd pull up as easy as if he'd never gone out of a walk.
'How strange all this is,' she said one day; 'I feel as if I were living on an island. It's quite like playing at "Robinson Crusoe", only there's no sea. We don't seem to be able to get out all the same. It's a happy, peaceful life, too. Why can't we keep on for ever like this, and shut out the wicked, sorrowful world altogether?'
'Quite of your opinion, Miss Marston; why should we ever change?' says Starlight, who was sitting down with the rest of us by the side of our biggest river. We had been fishing all the afternoon and done well. 'Let us go home no more; I am quite contented. But what about poor Jim? He looks sadder every day.'
'He is fretting for his wife, poor fellow, and I don't wonder. You are one of those natures that never change, Jim; and if you don't get away soon, or see some chance of rejoining her, you will die. How you are to do it I don't know.'
'I am bound to make a try next month,' says Jim. 'If I don't do something towards it I shall go mad.'
'You could not do a wiser thing,' says Starlight, 'in one way, or more foolish thing in another. Meantime, why should we not make the best of the pleasant surroundings with which Nature provides us here -- green turf, sparkling water, good sport, and how bright a day! Could we be more favoured by Fortune, slippery dame that she is? It is an Australian Decameron without the naughty stories.'
'Do you know, sometimes I really think I am enjoying myself,' said Aileen, half to herself, 'and then I feel that it must be a dream. Such dreadful things are waiting for me -- for us all.' Then she shuddered and trembled.
She did not know the most dreadful thing of all yet. We had carefully kept it from her. We chanced its not reaching her ears until after she had got home safe and had time to grieve over it all by herself.
We had a kind of feeling somehow that us four might never meet again in the same way, or be able to enjoy one another's company for a month, without fear of interruption, again, as long as we lived.
So we all made up our minds, in spite of the shadow of evil that would crawl up now and then, to enjoy each other's company while it lasted, and make the best of it.
Starlight for all that seemed altered like, and every now and then he'd go off with Warrigal and stay away from daylight to dark. When he did come he'd sit for hours with his hands before him and never say a word to any one. I saw Aileen watch him when he looked like that, not that she ever said anything, but pretended to take it as a matter of course.
Other times he'd be just as much the other way. He'd read to her, and he had a good many books, poetry, and all kinds of things stowed away in the part of the cave he called his own. And he'd talk about other countries that he'd been in, and the strange people he'd seen, by the hour together, while she would sit listening and looking at him, hardly saying a thing, and regular bound up in his words. And he could talk once he was set agoing. I never saw a man that could come up to him.
Aileen wasn't one of those sort of girls that took a fancy to any good-looking sort of fellow that came across her. Quite the other way. She seemed to think so little about it that Jim and I always used to say she'd be an old maid, and never marry at all. And she used to say she didn't think she ever would. She never seemed to trouble her head about the thing at all, but I always knew that if ever she did set her fancy upon a man, and take a liking to him, it would not be for a year or two, but for ever. Though she'd mother's good heart and softness about her, she'd a dash of dad's obstinacy in her blood, and once she made up her mind about anything she wasn't easy turned.
Jim and I could see clear enough that she was taking to Starlight; but then so many women had done that, had fallen in love with him and had to fall out again -- as far as we could see. He used to treat them all alike -- very kind and respectful, but like a lot of children. What was the use of a wife to him? 'No,' he said, once or twice, 'I can bear my fate, because my blood does not run in the veins of a living soul in Australia. If it were otherwise I could not bear my reflections. As it is, the revolver has more than once nearly been asked to do me last service.'
Though both Aileen and he seemed to like each other, Jim and I never thought there was anything in it, and let them talk and ride and walk together just as they pleased. Aileen always had a good word for Starlight, and seemed to pity him so for having to lead such a life, and because he said he had no hope of ever getting free from it. Then, of course, there was a mystery about him. Nobody knew who he'd been, or almost where he had come from -- next to nothing about him had ever come out. He was an Englishman -- that was certain -- but he must have come young to the colony. No one could look at him for a moment and see his pale, proud face, his dark eyes -- half-scornful, half-gloomy, except when he was set up a bit (and then you didn't like to look at them at all) -- without seeing that he was a gentleman to the tips of his delicate-looking fingers, no matter what he'd done, or where he'd been.
He was rather over the middle size; because he was slight made, he always looked rather tall than not. He was tremendous strong, too, though he didn't look that, and as active as a cat, though he moved as if walking was too much trouble altogether, and running not to be thought of.
We didn't expect it would do either of 'em much good. How could it, even if they did fall in love with one another and make it up to get married? But they were both able to take care of themselves, and it was no use interfering with 'em either. They weren't that sort.