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.
'That won't make it any better for you, mate,' says Moran, with a grin. 'When you and he's lying under that old tree outside, it'll make no odds to yer whether our rope's a long or a short 'un.'
'Quite right, Moran,' says Mr. Knightley. 'Doctor, he has you there.'
Starlight moved a step or two over towards him, as if he was uncertain in his mind. Then he says to Wall and Hulbert --
'See here, men; you've heard what Moran says, and what I think. Which are you going to do? To help in a brutal, cowardly murder, and never be able to look a man in the face again, or to take this money tomorrow? -- a hundred and seventy each in notes, mind, and get away quietly -- or are you going to be led by Moran, and told what you are to do like children?'
'Oh come, Dan, let's take the stuff,' says Wall. 'I think it's good enough. What's the use of being contrary? I think the Captain's right. He knows a dashed sight more than us.'
'He be hanged!' says Moran, with eyes glaring and the whole of his face working like a man in a fit. 'He's no Captain of mine, and never was. I'll never stir from here till I have payment in blood for Daly's life. We may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I've sworn to have that man's life to-night, and have it I will.'
'You'll have ours first, you bloodthirsty, murdering dog,' says Starlight; and, as he spoke, he slipped his revolver into Mr. Knightley's hand, who covered Moran that moment. I drew mine, too, and had Wall under aim. Starlight's repeating rifle was up like lightning.
Mrs. Knightley covered her eyes, the old woman screamed, and the doctor sat down on a chair and puffed away at his meerschaum pipe.
'We're three to three, now,' says Starlight; 'you've only to move a finger and you're a dead man. Wall and Hulbert can have a hand in it if they haven't had shooting enough for one evening. Do your worst, you black-hearted brute! I've two minds to take you and run you in myself, if it's only to give you a lesson in manners.'
Moran's face grew as black as an ironbark tree after a bush fire. He raised his revolver, and in one second we should have been in the middle of a desperate hand-to-hand fight; and God knows how it might have ended hadn't Hulbert struck up his arm, and spoke out like a man.
'It's no use, Dan, we won't stand it. You're a dashed fool and want to spoil everything for a bit of temper. We'll take the notes and let Mrs. Knightley and the doctor clear out for Bathurst if you'll say honour bright that you'll be at the Black Stump by tomorrow evening at five, and won't give the police the office.'
Moran, slow and sulkily, put down his hand and glared round like a dingo with the dogs round him -- as if he didn't know which to snap at first. Then he looked at Mr. Knightley with a look of hellish rage and spite that ten devils couldn't have improved upon, and, throwing himself down on a chair, drank off half a tumbler of brandy.
'Settle it amongst yourselves, and be ---- to you,' he said. 'You're all agin me now; but, by ----, I'll be square with some of ye yet.'
It was all over now. Mr. Knightley took a match out of the silver match-box at his watch-chain, and lit another cigar. I saw the tears trickling through Mrs. Knightley's fingers. Then she turned away her head, and after a minute or two was as calm and quiet as ever.
'You know your way about the place, Wall,' says Mr. Knightley, as if he was in his own house, just the same as usual; 'run up the horses, there's a good fellow; they're in the little horse paddock. Mrs. Knightley's is a gray, and the doctor's is a mouse-coloured mare with a short tail; you can't mistake them. The sooner they're off the sooner you'll handle the cash.'
Wall looked rather amused, but went out, and we heard him rattle off to go round the paddock. The doctor went upstairs, and buckled on a long-necked pair of old-fashioned spurs, and Mrs. Knightley walked away like a woman in a dream to her own room, and soon afterwards returned in her riding-habit and hat.
I foraged about and found the side-saddle and bridle in the harness-room. Everything was in tip-top order there -- glass sides for keeping the dust off the four-in-hand harness and all that kind of thing. All the bits and stirrup-irons like silver. There wasn't much time lost in saddling-up, you bet!
We watched pretty close lest Moran should take a new fancy into his head, but he stuck to the brandy bottle, and very soon put himself from fighting or anything else. I wasn't sorry to see it. I was well aware he was as treacherous as a dingo, and could sham dead or anything else to gain his ends and throw people off their guards.
Well, the horses were brought out, and when Mr. Knightley lifted his wife up on to her saddle on the high-crested gray thoroughbred with a dash of Arab blood from an old Satellite strain, I guess he was never better pleased with anything in the world. They looked in each other's eyes for a minute, and then the old horse started off along the road to Bathurst with his fast, springy walk. Starlight took off his hat and bowed low in the most respectful way. Mrs. Knightley turned in her saddle and tried to say something, but the words wouldn't come -- she could only wave her hand -- and then her head went down nearly to her saddle. The doctor scrambled on to his horse's back, and trotted off after her. The gray moved off, shaking his head, at a beautiful, easy, springy canter. We raised a cheer, and they swept round a corner of the road and out of sight.
'You'll find these rather good, Captain,' says Mr. Knightley, handing Starlight his cigar-case. 'There's a box upstairs in my dressing-room. If you'll allow me I'll order in dinner. There ought to be something decent if my old cook hasn't been frightened out of his life, but I think he has seen too much to be put out of his way by a little shooting.'
'Now I think of it,' says Starlight, 'I do really feel disposed for refreshment. I say, Wall, see if you can't get that ferocious friend of yours into a room where he can sleep off his liquor. I really must apologise for his bad manners; but you see how the case stands.'