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.
Well, I could do that. I was too low and miserable to fight much when I went in; besides, I never could see the pull of kicking up rows and giving trouble in a place like that. They've got you there fast enough, and any man that won't be at peace himself, or let others be, is pretty sure to get the worst of it. I'd seen others try it, and never seen no good come of it. It's like a dog on the chain that growls and bites at all that comes near him. A man can take a sapling and half kill him, and the dog never gets a show unless he breaks his chain, and that don't happen often.
Well, I'd learned carpentering and had a turn at mat-making and a whole lot of other things. They kept me from thinking, as I said before, and the neater I did 'em and the more careful I worked the better it went with me. As for my mats, I came quite to be talked about on account of 'em. I drew a regular good picture of Rainbow, and worked it out on a mat with different coloured thrums, and the number of people who came to see that mat, and the notice they took of it, would surprise any one.
When my twelve years was within a couple of months or so of being up I began to hear that there was a deal of in-and-out sort of work about my getting my freedom. Old George Storefield and Mr. Falkland -- both of 'em in the Upper House -- and one or two more people that had some say with the Government, was working back and edge for me. There was a party on the other side that wasn't willing as I should lose a day or an hour of my sentence, and that made out I ought to have been hanged 'right away', as old Arizona Bill would have said, when I was first taken. Well, I don't blame any of 'em for that; but if they could have known the feelings of a man that's done a matter of twelve years, and thinks he might -- yes, might -- smell the fresh air and feel the grass under his feet in a week or two -- well, they'd perhaps consider a bit.
Whatever way it came out I couldn't say, but the big man of the Government people at that time -- the Minister that had his say in all these sort of things -- took it into his head that I'd had about enough of it, if I was to be let out at all; that the steel had been pretty well taken out of me, and that, from what he knew of my people and so on, I wasn't likely to trouble the Government again. And he was right. All I wanted was to be let out a pardoned man, that had done bad things, and helped in worse; but had paid -- and paid dear, God knows -- for every pound he'd got crooked and every day he'd wasted in cross work. If I'd been sent back for them three years, I do r'aly believe something of dad's old savage blood would have come uppermost in me, and I'd have turned reckless and revengeful like to my life's end.
Anyhow, as I said before, the Minister -- he'd been into the gaol and had a look once or twice -- made up his mind to back me right out; and he put it so before the Governor that he gave an order for my pardon to be made out, or for me to be discharged the day my twelve years was up, and to let off the other three, along of my good behaviour in the gaol, and all the rest of it.
This leaked out somehow, and there was the deuce's own barney over it. When some of the Parliament men and them sort of coves in the country that never forgives anybody heard of it they began to buck, and no mistake. You'd have thought every bush-ranger that ever had been shopped in New South Wales had been hanged or kept in gaol till he died; nothing but petitions and letters to the papers; no end of bobbery. The only paper that had a word to say on the side of a poor devil like me was the 'Turon Star'. He said that 'Dick Marston and his brother Jim, not to mention Starlight (who paid his debts at any rate, unlike some people he could name who had signed their names to this petition), had worked manly and true at the Turon diggings for over a year. They were respected by all who knew them, and had they not been betrayed by a revengeful woman might have lived thenceforth a life of industry and honourable dealing. He, for one, upheld the decision of the Chief Secretary. Thousands of the Turon miners, men of worth and intelligence, would do the same.'
The Governor hadn't been very long in the colony, and they tried it on all roads to get him to go back on his promise to me. They began bullying, and flattering, and preaching at him if such a notorious criminal as Richard Marston was to be allowed to go forth with a free pardon after a comparatively short -- short, think of that, short! -- imprisonment, what a bad example it will be to the rising generation, and so on.
They managed to put the thing back for a week or two till I was nearly drove mad with fretting, and being doubtful which way it would go.
Lucky for me it was, and for some other people as well, the Governor was one of those men that takes a bit of trouble and considers over a thing before he says yes or no. When he says a thing he sticks to it. When he goes forward a step he puts his foot down, and all the blowing, and cackle, and yelping in the world won't shift him.
Whether the Chief Secretary would have taken my side if he'd known what a dust the thing would have raised, and how near his Ministers -- or whatever they call 'em -- was to going out along with poor Dick Marston, I can't tell. Some people say he wouldn't. Anyhow, he stuck to his word; and the Governor just said he'd given his decision about the matter, and he hadn't the least intention of altering it -- which showed he knew something of the world, as well as intended to be true to his own opinions. The whole thing blew over after a bit, and the people of the country soon found out that there wasn't such another Governor (barrin' one) as the Queen had the sending out of.
The day it was all settled the head gaoler comes to me, and says he, 'Richard Marston, the Governor and Council has been graciously pleased to order that you be discharged from her Majesty's gaol upon the completion of twelve years of imprisonment; the term of three years' further imprisonment being remitted on account of your uniform good conduct while in the said gaol. You are now free!'