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.
He shook hands with me and dad, threw his leg over Rainbow, took Locket's bridle as if he was going for an easy day's ride, and cantered off.
'There goes the Captain,' says father. 'It's hard to say if we'll ever see him again. I shan't, anyhow, nor you either, maybe. Somehow I've had a notion coming over me this good while as my time ain't going to be long. It don't make no odds, neither. Life ain't no great chop to a man like me, not when he gets the wrong side o' sixty, anyhow. Mine ain't been such a bad innings, and I don't owe much to any man. I mean as I've mostly been square with them that's done me a bad turn. No man can say Ben Marston was ever back'ard in that way; and never will be, that's more. No! them as trod on me felt my teeth some day or other. Eh, old man?' Crib growled. He understood things regular like a Christian, that old dog did. 'And now you're a-goin' off and Jim's gone -- seems only t'other day as you and he was little toddlin' chaps, runnin' to meet me when I come home from work, clearin' that fust paddock, and telling me mammy had the tea ready. Perhaps I'd better ha' stuck to the grubbin' and clearin' after all. It looked slow work, but it paid better than this here in the long run.' Father turns away from me then, and walks back a step or two. Then he faces me. 'Dash it, boy, what are ye waitin' for? Shake hands, and tell Jim the old man han't forgot him yet.'
It was many a day since I'd felt father's hand in kindness; he didn't do them sort of things. I held out mine and his fingers closed on it one minute, like a vice -- blest if I didn't expect to feel the bones grate agin one another; he was that strong he hardly knew his own strength, I believe. Then he sits down on the log by the fire. He took out his pipe, but somehow it wouldn't light. 'Good-bye, Crib,' says I. The old dog looked at me for a bit, wagged his tail, and then went and sat between dad's knees. I took my horse and rode away slowish. I felt all dead and alive like when I got near the turn in the track. I looked back and seen the dog and him just the same. I started both horses then. I never set eyes on him again. Poor old dad!
I wasn't very gay for a bit, but I had a good horse under me, another alongside, a smartish lot of cash in notes and gold, some bank deposits too, and all the world before me. My dart now was to make my way to Willaroon and look sharp about it. My chance of getting through was none too good, but I settled to ride a deal at night and camp by day. I began to pick up my spirits after I got on the road that led up the mountain, and to look ahead to the time when I might call myself my own man again.
Next day after that I was at Willaroon. I could have got there overnight, but it looked better to camp near the place and come next morning. There I was all right. The overseer was a reasonable sort of man, and I found old George had been as good as his word, and left word if a couple of men like me and Starlight came up we were to be put on with the next mob of cattle that were going to Queensland. He did a store cattle trade with the far-out squatters that were stocking up new country in Queensland, and it paid him very well, as nearly everything did that he touched. We were to find our own horses and be paid so much a week -- three pounds, I think -- and so on.
As luck would have it, there was a biggish mob to start in a week, and road hands being scarce in that part the overseer was disappointed that my mate, as he called him, hadn't come on, but I said he'd gone another track.
'Well, he'll hardly get such wages at any other job,' says he, 'and if I was Mr. Storefield I wouldn't hire him again, not if he wanted a billet ever so bad.'
'I don't suppose he will,' says I, 'and serves him quite right too.'
I put my horses in the paddock -- there was wild oats and crowsfoot knee-high in it -- and helped the overseer to muster and draft. He gave me a fresh horse, of course. When he saw how handy I was in the yard he got quite shook on me, and, says he --
'By George, you're just the chap the boss wants to send out to some new country he's going to take up in Queensland. What's your name? Now I think of it he didn't tell me.'
'William Turner,' says I.
'Very well, William,' says he, 'you're a dashed good man, I can see, and I wish I could pick up a few more like you. Blessed if I ever saw such a lot of duffers in my life as there are on this side. I've hardly seen a man come by that's worth his grub. You couldn't stop till the next mob starts, I suppose? I'd make it worth your while.'
'I couldn't well this time,' says I; 'my mate's got a friend out north just from home, and we're tied to time to meet him. But if I come back this way I'll put in a year with you.'
'Well, an offer's an offer,' says he. 'I can't say more, but I think you'll do better by stopping on here.'
I got away with the cattle all right, and the drover in charge was told to do all he could for me. The overseer said I was as good as two men, and it was 'Bill' here and 'William' there all the time till we were off. I wasn't sorry to be clear away, for of course any day a trooper might have ridden up and asked questions about the horses, that were a little too good for a working drover.
Besides, I'd had a look at the papers, and I saw that Starlight had been as good as his word, in the matter of the advertisement. Sure enough, the 'Turon Star' and a lot of other papers had, on the same day, received the same advertisement, with a pound note enclosed, and instructions to insert it four times.
To all whom it may concern.
The Messrs. Marston Brothers and Co., being about to leave the district, request that all accounts against them may be sent to the Police Camp, Turon, addressed to the care of Sir Ferdinand Morringer, whose receipt will be a sufficient discharge. For the firm, Starlight.