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.
As soon as Jeanie got a word from Jim that he'd sailed and was clear of Australia, she'd write up to Aileen, who was to go down to Melbourne, and take mother with her. They could stop with Jeanie until they got a message from San Francisco to say he'd safely arrived there. After that they could start by the first steamer. They'd have money enough to take their passages and something handsome in cash when they got to land.
Aileen agreed to it all, but in a curious sort of way. 'It looked well,' she said, 'and might be carried out, particularly as we were all going to work cautiously and with such a lot of preparation.' Everything that she could do would be done, we might be sure; but though she had prayed and sought aid from the Blessed Virgin and the saints -- fasting and on her bare knees, night after night -- she had not been able to get one gleam of consolation. Everything looked very dark, and she had a terrible feeling of anxiety and dread about the carrying it out. But she didn't want to shake my courage, I could see; so she listened and smiled and cheered me up a bit at the end, and I rode away, thinking there was a good show for us after all.
I got back to the Hollow right enough, and for once in a way it seemed as if the luck was on our side. Maybe it was going to turn -- who was to know? There had been men who had been as deep in it as any of us that had got clean away to other countries and lived safe and comfortable to the day of their death -- didn't die so soon either -- lived to a good round age, and had wives and children round them that never knew but what they'd been as good as the best. That wouldn't be our case; but still if we once were able to put the sea between us and our old life the odds would be all in our favour instead of being a hundred to one that we weren't placed and no takers.
Starlight was glad enough to see me back, and like everything he tackled, had been squaring it all for our getting away with head and hand. We wanted to take everything with us that could do us any good, naturally. Father and he had made it right with some one they knew at Turon to take the gold and give them a price for it -- not all it was worth, but something over three-fourths value. The rest he was to keep for his share, for trouble and risk. There was some risk, no doubt, in dealing with us, but all the gold that was bought in them days wasn't square, not by a lot. But there was no way of swearing to it. Gold was gold, and once it was in the banks it was lumped up with the rest. There was a lot of things to be thought of before we regularly made a move for good and all; but when you make up your mind for a dart, it's wonderful how things shape. We hadn't much trouble dividing the gold, and what cash there was we could whack easy enough. There was the live stock that was running in the Hollow, of course. We couldn't well take them with us, except a few of the horses. We made a deal at last with father for them. He took my share and Starlight's, and paid us in cash out of his share of the notes. All we wanted was a couple of horses each, one to carry a pack, one to ride.
As for dad, he told us out, plump and plain, that he wasn't going to shift. The Hollow was good enough for him, and there he was going to stop. If Jim and I and Starlight chose to try and make blank emigrants of ourselves, well and good. He didn't see as they'd have such a rosy time getting over to these new townships on the other side. We might get took in, and wish we was back again before all was said and done. But some people could never let well alone. Here we had everything that any man in his senses could wish for, and we wasn't contented. Every one was going to cut away and leave him; he'd be all by himself, with no one but the dog for company, and be as miserable as a bandicoot; but no one cared a blank brass farden about that.
'Come with us, governor,' says Starlight, 'have a cruise round the world, and smell salt water again. You've not been boxed up in the bush all your life, though you've been a goodish while there. Make a start, and bring old Crib too.'
'I'm too old and getting stiff in the j'ints,' says dad, brightening up a bit, 'or I don't say as I wouldn't. Don't mind my growling. But I'm bound to be a bit lonely like when you are all drawed off the camp. No! take your own way and I'll take mine.'
'Next Monday ought to see us off,' says Starlight. 'We have got the gold and cash part all right. I've had that money paid to Knightley's credit in the Australian Bank I promised him, and got a receipt for it.'
'That's just like yer,' says father, 'and a rank soft thing for a man as has seen the world to drop into. Losin' yer share of the five hundred quid, and then dropping a couple of hundred notes at one gamble, besides buying a horse yer could have took for nothing. He'll never bring twenty pound again, neither.'
'Always pay my play debts,' says Starlight. 'Always did, and always will. As for the horse -- a bargain, a bargain.'
'And a dashed bad bargain too. Why didn't ye turn parson instead of taking to the bush?' says father, with a grin. 'Dashed if I ain't seen some parsons that could give you odds and walk round ye at horse-dealin'.'
'You take your own way, Ben, and I'll take mine,' says Starlight rather fierce, and then father left off and went to do something or other, while us two took our horses and rode out. We hadn't a long time to be in the old Hollow now. It had been a good friend to us in time of need, and we was sorry in a kind of way to leave it. We were going to play for a big stake, and if we lost we shouldn't have another throw in.
Our horses were in great buckle now; they hadn't been doing much lately. I had the one I'd brought with me, and a thoroughbred brown horse that had been broken in the first season we came there.
Starlight was to ride Rainbow, of course, and he had great picking before he made up his mind what to choose for second horse. At last he pitched upon a thoroughbred bay mare named Locket that had been stolen from a mining township the other side of the country. She was the fastest mare they'd ever bred -- sound, and a weight-carrier too.