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.
'The "Banner" comes next,' says Starlight, tearing it open. 'We shall have something short and sweet after the "Star". How's this?
This mercurial brigand, it would appear, has paid Turon another visit, but, with the exception of what may be considered the legalised robbery of the betting ring, has not levied contributions. Rather the other way, indeed. A hasty note for Mr. Dawson, whom he had tricked into temporary association by adopting one of the disguises he can so wonderfully assume, requested that gentleman to receive the Handicap Stakes, won by his horse, Darkie, alias Rainbow, and to hand them over to the treasurer of the Turon Hospital, which was accordingly done.
Sir Ferdinand and the police had been decoyed away previously nearly 100 miles by false intelligence as to Moran and his gang. Our town and treasure were thus left undefended for forty-eight hours, while a daring criminal and his associates mingled unsuspected with all classes. We have always regarded the present system -- facetiously called police protection -- as a farce. This latter fiasco will probably confirm the idea with the public at large. We, unlike a contemporary, have no morbid sympathy with crime -- embroidered or otherwise; our wishes, as loyal subjects, are confined to a short shrift and a high gallows for all who dare to obstruct the Queen's highway.'
'That's easy to understand, barrin' a word here and there,' says father, taking his pipe out of his mouth and laying it down; 'that's the way they used to talk to us in the old days. Dashed if I don't think it's the best way after all. You know where you are. The rest's flummery. All on us as takes to the cross does it with our eyes open, and deserves all we gets.'
'I'm afraid you're right, governor; but why didn't these moral ideas occur to you, for instance, and others earlier in life?'
'Why?' says father, getting up and glaring with his eyes, 'because I was a blind, ignorant dog when I was young, as had never been taught nothing, and knowed nothing, not so much as him there' (pointing to Crib), 'for he knows what his business is, and I didn't. I was thrashed and starved, locked up in a gaol, chained and flogged after that, and half the time for doing what I didn't know was wrong, and couldn't know more than one of them four-year-old colts out there that knocks his head agin the yard when he's roped, and falls backards and breaks his neck if he ain't watched. Whose business was it to have learned me better? That I can't rightly say, but it seemed it was the business of the Government people to gaol me, and iron me, and flog me. Was that justice? Any man's sense 'll tell him it wasn't. It's been them and me for it since I got my liberty, and if I had had a dozen lives they'd all have gone the same road!'
We none of us felt in the humour to say much after that. Father had got into one of his tantrums, and when he did he was fit to be tied; only I'd not have took the contract for something. Whatever it was that had happened to him in the old times when he was a Government man he didn't talk about. Only every now and then he'd let out just as he did now, as if nothing could ever set him straight again, or keep him from fighting against them, as he called the swells and the Government, and everybody almost that was straightgoing and honest. He'd been at it a good many years, one way and another, and any one that knew him didn't think it likely he'd change.
The next dust we got into was all along of a Mr. Knightley, who lived a good way down to the south, and it was one of the worst things we ever were mixed up in. After the Turon races and all that shine, somehow or other we found that things had been made hotter for us than ever since we first turned out. Go where we would, we found the police always quick on our trail, and we had two or three very close shaves of it. It looked as if our luck was dead out, and we began to think our chance of getting across the border to Queensland, and clear out of the colony that way, looked worse every day.
Dad kept foraging about to get information, and we sent Warrigal and Billy the Boy all over the country to find out how it was things were turning out so contrary.
Sir Ferdinand was always on the move, but we knew he couldn't do it all himself unless he got the office from some one who knew the ropes better than he did.
Last of all we dropped on to it.
There was one of the goldfields commissioners, a Mr. Knightley, a very keen, cool hand; he was a great sporting man, and a dead shot, like Mr. Hamilton. Well, this gentleman took it into his head to put on extra steam and try and run us down. He'd lost some gold by us in the escort robbery, and not forgotten it; so it seems he'd been trying his best to fit us ever since. Just at first he wasn't able for much, but later on he managed to get information about us and our beat, whenever we left the Hollow, and he put two and two together, and very nearly dropped on us, as I said before, two or three times. We heard, too, that he should say he'd never rest till he had Starlight and the Marstons, and that if he could get picked police he'd bring us in within a month, dead or alive.
We didn't care much about blowing of this sort in a general way; but one of dad's telegraphs sent word in that Mr. Knightley had a couple of thousand pounds worth of gold from a new diggings lodged at his private residence for a few days till he could get the escort to call for it; that there was only him and a German doctor, a great scholar he was, named Schiller, in the house.
Moran and Daly knew about this, and they were dead on for sticking up the place and getting hold of the gold. Besides that, we felt savage about his trying to run us in. Of course, it was his duty and that of all magistrates and commissioners in a general way. But he wasn't an officer of police, and we thought he was going outside of his line. So when all came to all, we made up our minds to learn him a lesson to stick to his own work; besides, a thousand ounces of gold was no foolish touch, and we could kill two birds with one stone. Moran, Daly, and Joe Wall were to be in it besides. We didn't like working with them. Starlight and I were dead against it. But we knew they'd tackle it by themselves if we backed out. So we agreed to make one thing of it. We were to meet at a place about ten miles off and ride over there together.