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.
At long last they'd got to the end of the conning, and divided the notes. Moran tied his up in a bunch, and rolled 'em in his poncho; but Wall crammed his into his pocket and made 'em all stick out like a boy that's been stealing apples. When they mounted their horses, Mr. Knightley shook hands with me and Starlight. Then he turns round to Moran and Wall -- 'We're parting good friends after all's said and done,' he says. 'Just as well matters have been settled this way. Come, now, in cool blood, ain't you rather glad, Moran?'
'Dashed if I know,' growls he. 'All I know is, you're deuced well out of it; your luck mayn't be so good another time.'
'Nor yours either, my friend,' says Mr. Knightley, drawing up his bridle-rein. 'I had only a snap-shot at you when that bullet went through your poncho, or you'd be lying alongside of Daly. However, I needn't waste my breath talking to that brute,' he says to Starlight. 'I know well all I owe to you and Dick Marston here. Some day I may repay it.'
'You mean what I owe you,' says Starlight, turning it off with a laugh. 'Never fear, you'll find that paid to your credit in the bank. We have agents in all sorts of places. Good-bye, and a safe ride home. My respectful compliments to Mrs. Knightley. Perhaps you'd better follow the doctor now.' The old gentleman had got tired waiting, and ridden on slow and easy.
Two or three weeks after, Starlight and I were taking a ride towards the Bogan Road, not that we was on for anything particular, but just having a turn round for want of something else to do, when we saw a big mob of cattle coming along, with three or four stock-riders behind 'em. Then we met a loaded dray and team in front, that had rations and swags and a tent. The driver asked us if we knew a good place to camp. He was a talking sort of chap, and we yarned away with him for a bit. He told us how the boss was behind in a dogcart and tandem, with two led horses besides. The cattle were going to take up a new run he'd bought on the Lower Bogan, an out-and-out wild place; but he'd got the country cheap, and thought it would pay in the end. He was going ahead after a stage or two, but just now he was camping with them.
'My word, he's well in, is the cove,' says the horse-driver; 'he's got half-a-dozen stations besides this one. He'll be one of the richest men in Australia yet.'
After we saw the cattle (about a thousand head) we thought it would be a middling day's work to 'stick up' the cove and put him through. Going to form a new station, he'd very like have cash about, as he'd have to pay for a lot of things on the nail just at first. If he was such a swell too, he'd have a gold watch and perhaps a few more trifles. Anyhow, he was good for the day's expenses, and we thought we'd try it on.
So we passed the cattle and rode quietly along the road till we saw his dogcart coming; then we stopped inside a yarran scrub, just as he came by -- a square-built man he seemed to be, muffled up in a big rough coat. It was a cool morning. We rode up sharpish, and showed our revolvers, singing out to him to 'bail up'. He pulled up quick and stared at us. So we did at him. Then the three of us burst out laughing -- regular roared again.
Who should it be but old George Storefield.
'Well, this is a prime joke,' says he. 'I knew you were out somewhere on this road; but I never thought I should live to be stuck up by you, Dick Marston.'
I looked foolish. It was rather a stunner when you come to think of it.
'I beg a thousand pardons,' says Starlight. 'Ridiculous mistake. Want of something to occupy our time. "For Satan finds some mischief still," etc. Isn't that the way the hymn runs? Wonderfully true, isn't it? You'll accept our apologies, Mr. Storefield, I trust. Poor Dick here will never get over it.'
'How was I to know? Why, George, old man, we thought it was the Governor turned squatter, or old Billy Wentworth himself. Your trade pays better than ours, let alone being on the square. Well, shake hands; we'll be off. You won't tell the girls, there's a good fellow, will you?'
'I can't promise,' says old George; 'it's too good a joke.' Here he laughed a good one. 'It isn't often a man gets stuck up by his friends like this. Tell you what; come and have some lunch, and we'll talk it over.'
His man rode up then with the spare horse. Luckily, he was a good way behind, as fellows will keep when they're following a trap, so that they can't be any good when they're wanted. In this case it was just as well. He hadn't seen anything.
'Hobble the horses out and put on their nose-bags, Williams,' says he, 'and then get out the lunch. Put the things under that tree.'
They took out the horses, and the chap got out a basket with cold beef and bread and half a tongue and a bottle of good whisky and water-bag.
We sat down on the grass, and as we'd been riding since sunrise we did pretty well in the feed line, and had a regular good bit of fun. I never thought old George had so much go in him; but good times had made him twice the man he used to be.
After a bit he sends the groom down to the Cowall to water the horses, and, says he --
'Captain, you'd better come and manage Willaroon down there, with Dick for stockman. There's a fortune in it, and it's a good way off yet. Nobody would think of looking for you there. You're a new chum, just out from home, you know. Plenty of spare country. I'll send you some cattle to start you on a new run after a bit.'
'If we could throw our past behind us, I'd do it, and thank God on my knees,' said Starlight. 'It would make me almost a happy man again. But why think of that or any other honest life in this colony now? We've debarred ourselves from it now and for ever. Our only hope is in another land -- America -- if we can get away. We shan't be long here now; we're both sick of this accursed work.'
'The sooner the better,' says George, taking his hand and giving it a hearty grip. 'And, look here, you work your way quietly down to Willaroon. That's my place, and I'll give you a line across to the Queensland border. From there you can get over to Townsville, and it's easy to sail from there to the islands or any port out of reach of harm from here.'
'We'll tackle it next month if we're alive,' says I. So we parted.
Not long after this we got a letter from Jim. He'd heard all about the way to do it from a man he'd met in Melbourne that had worked his way down overland from the North. He said once you were there, or near there, there was little or no chance of being interfered with. Jeanie was always in a fright every day Jim went away lest he might be taken and not let come back. So she was always keeping him up to the mark, making him inquire here and look out there until he got a bit of information which told him what he wanted.
This man that worked in the store with him was a fast sort of card, who had been mate of a brig cruising all about and back to Sydney with sandalwood, beche-de-mer, and what they call island trade.
Well, the captain of the craft, who was part owner, had settled in his mind that he'd trade regular with San Francisco now, and touch at Honolulu going and coming. He was to be back at Gladstone in about three months, and then start for California straight away.
This was the very thing, just made to suit us all to pieces. If we could make out to one of the Queensland northern ports it would be easy enough to ship under different names. Once in America, we'd be in a new world, and there'd be nothing to stop us from leading a new life.