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 same presumptive certainty and legal incompleteness existed concerning Mr. Bowe's short-horns (as he averred) and Mr. Dawson's Devons.
'Thou art so near and yet so far,'
as a provoking stock-rider hummed. Finally, it was decided by the officials in charge to send the whole collection to the public pound, when each proprietor might become possessed of his own, with a good and lawful title in addition -- for 'a consideration' -- and to the material benefit of the Government coffers.
So it was this way the poor old Hollow was dropped on to, and the well-hidden secret blown for ever and ever. Well, it had been a good plant for us and them as had it before our time. I don't expect there'll ever be such a place again, take it all round.
And that was the end of father! Poor old dad! game to the last. And the dog, too! -- wouldn't touch bit or sup after the old man dropped. Just like Crib that was! Often and often I used to wonder what he saw in father to be so fond of him. He was about the only creature in the wide world that was fond of dad -- except mother, perhaps, when she was young. She'd rather got wore out of her feelings for him, too. But Crib stuck to him to his end -- faithful till death, as some of them writing coves says.
And Warrigal! I could see it all, sticking out as plain as a fresh track after rain. He'd come back to the Hollow, like a fool -- in spite of me warning him -- or because he had nowhere else to go. And the first time dad had an extra glass in his head he tackled him about giving me away and being the means of the other two's death. Then he'd got real mad and run at him with the axe. Warrigal had fired as he came up, and hit him too; but couldn't stop him in the rush. Dad got in at him, and knocked his brains out there and then. Afterwards, he'd sat down and drank himself pretty well blind; and then, finding the pains coming on him, and knowing he couldn't live, finished himself off with his own revolver.
It was just the way I expected he would make an ending. He couldn't do much all alone in his line. The reward was a big one, and there would be always some one ready to earn it. Jim and Starlight were gone, and I was as good as dead. There wasn't much of a call for him to keep alive. Anyhow, he died game, and paid up all scores, as he said himself.
I don't know that there's much more for me to say. Here I am boxed up, like a scrubber in a pound, year after year -- and years after that -- for I don't know how long. However, O my God! how ever shall I stand it? Here I lie, half my time in a place where the sun never shines, locked up at five o'clock in my cell, and the same door with never a move in it till six o'clock next morning. A few hours' walk in a prison yard, with a warder on the wall with a gun in his hand overhead. Then locked up again, Sundays and week-days, no difference. Sometimes I think they'd better have hanged me right off. If I feel all these things now I've only been a few months doing my sentence, how about next year, and the year after that, and so on, and so on? Why, it seems as if it would mount up to more than a man's life -- to ten lives -- and then to think how easy it might all have been saved.
There's only one thing keeps me alive; only for that I'd have starved to death for want of having the heart to eat or drink either, or else have knocked my brains out against the wall when one of them low fits came over me. That one thing's the thought of Gracey Storefield.
She couldn't come to me, she wrote, just yet, but she'd come within the month, and I wasn't to fret about her, because whether it was ten years or twenty years if she was alive she'd meet me the day after I was free, let who will see her. I must be brave and keep up my spirits for her sake and Aileen's, who, though she was dead to the world, would hear of my being out, and would always put my name in her prayers. Neither she nor I would be so very old, and we might have many years of life reasonably happy yet in spite of all that had happened. So the less I gave way and made myself miserable, the younger I should look and feel when I came out. She was sure I repented truly of what I had done wrong in the past; and she for one, and George -- good, old, kind George -- had said he would go bail that I would be one of the squarest men in the whole colony for the future. So I was to live on, and hope and pray God to lighten our lot for her sake.
It must be years and years since that time as I last wrote about. Awful long and miserable the time went at first; now it don't go so slow somehow. I seemed to have turned a corner. How long is it? It must be a hundred years. I have had different sorts of feelings. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be alive. I think the man that knocked his head against the wall of his cell the day he was sentenced and beat his brains out in this very gaol had the best of it. Other times I take things quite easy, and feel as if I could wait quite comfortable and patient-like till the day came. But -- will it? Can it ever come that I shall be a free man again?
People have come to see me a many times, most of them the first year or two I was in. After that they seemed to forget me, and get tired of coming. It didn't make much odds.
But one visitor I had regular after the first month or two. Gracey, poor Gracey, used to come and see me twice a year. She said it wouldn't do her or me any good to come oftener, and George didn't want her to. But them two times she always comes, and, if it wasn't for that, I don't think I'd ever have got through with it. The worst of it was, I used to be that low and miserable after she went, for days and days after, that it was much as I could do to keep from giving in altogether. After a month was past I'd begin to look forward to the next time.
When I'd done over eleven years -- eleven years! how did I ever do it? but the time passed, and passed somehow -- I got word that they that I knew of was making a try to see if I couldn't be let out when I'd done twelve years. My regular sentence was fifteen, and little enough too. Anyhow, they knock off a year or two from most of the long-sentence men's time, if they've behaved themselves well in gaol, and can show a good conduct ticket right through.