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.
Then we saw he had been wounded. There was blood on his shirt, and the upper part of his arm was bandaged.
'It's too late, father,' said I; 'he's a dead man. What pluck he must have had to ride down there!'
'He's worth two dead 'uns yet,' said father, who had his hand on his pulse. 'Hold his head up one of you while I go for the brandy. How did he get hit, Warrigal?'
'That ---- Sergeant Goring,' said the boy, a slight, active-looking chap, about sixteen, that looked as if he could jump into a gum tree and back again, and I believe he could. 'Sergeant Goring, he very near grab us at Dilligah. We got a lot of old Jobson's cattle when he came on us. He jump off his horse when he see he couldn't catch us, and very near drop Starlight. My word, he very nearly fall off -- just like that' (here he imitated a man reeling in his saddle); 'but the old horse stop steady with him, my word, till he come to. Then the sergeant fire at him again; hit him in the shoulder with his pistol. Then Starlight come to his senses, and we clear. My word, he couldn't see the way the old horse went. Ha, ha!' -- here the young devil laughed till the trees and rocks rang again. 'Gallop different ways, too, and met at the old needle-rock. But they was miles away then.'
Before the wild boy had come to the end of his story the wounded man had proved that it was only a dead faint, as the women call it, not the real thing. And after he had tasted a pannikin full of brandy and water, which father brought him, he sat up and looked like a living man once more.
'Better have a look at my shoulder,' he said. 'That ---- fellow shot like a prize-winner at Wimbledon. I've had a squeak for it.'
'Puts me in mind of our old poaching rows,' said father, while he carefully cut the shirt off, that was stiffened with blood and showed where the bullet had passed through the muscle, narrowly missing the bone of the joint. We washed it, and relieved the wounded man by discovering that the other bullet had only been spent, after striking a tree most like, when it had knocked the wind out of him and nearly unhorsed him, as Warrigal said.
'Fill my pipe, one of you. Who the devil are these lads? Yours, I suppose, Marston, or you wouldn't be fool enough to bring them here. Why didn't you leave them at home with their mother? Don't you think you and I and this devil's limb enough for this precious trade of ours?'
'They'll take their luck as it comes, like others,' growled father; 'what's good enough for me isn't too bad for them. We want another hand or two to work things right.'
'Oh! we do, do we?' said the stranger, fixing his eyes on father as if he was going to burn a hole in him with a burning-glass; 'but if I'd a brace of fine boys like those of my own I'd hang myself before I'd drag them into the pit after myself.'
'That's all very fine,' said father, looking very dark and dangerous. 'Is Mr. Starlight going to turn parson? You'll be just in time, for we'll all be shopped if you run against the police like this, and next thing to lay them on to the Hollow by making for it when you're too weak to ride.'
'What would you have me do? Pull up and hold up my hands? There was nowhere else to go; and that new sergeant rode devilish well, I can tell you, with a big chestnut well-bred horse, that gave old Rainbow here all he knew to lose him. Now, once for all, no more of that, Marston, and mind your own business. I'm the superior officer in this ship's company -- you know that very well -- your business is to obey me, and take second place.'
Father growled out something, but did not offer to deny it. We could see plainly that the stranger was or had been far above our rank, whatever were the reasons which had led to his present kind of life.
We stayed for about ten days, while the stranger's arm got well. With care and rest, it soon healed. He was pleasant enough, too, when the pain went away. He had been in other countries, and told us all kinds of stories about them.
He said nothing, though, about his own former ways, and we often wondered whatever could have made him take to such a life. Unknown to father, too, he gave us good advice, warned us that what we were in was the road to imprisonment or death in due course, and not to flatter ourselves that any other ending was possible.
'I have my own reasons for leading the life I do,' he said, 'and must run my own course, of which I foresee the end as plainly as if it was written in a book before me. Your father had a long account to square with society, and he has a right to settle it his own way. That yellow whelp was never intended for anything better. But for you lads' -- and here he looked kindly in poor old Jim's honest face (and an honest face and heart Jim's was, and that I'll live and die on) -- 'my advice to you is, to clear off home, when we go, and never come back here again. Tell your father you won't come; cut loose from him, once and for all. You'd better drown yourselves comfortably at once than take to this cursed trade. Now, mind what I tell you, and keep your own counsel.'
By and by, the day came when the horses were run in for father and Mr. Starlight and Warrigal, who packed up to be off for some other part.
When they were in the yard we had a good look at his own horse -- a good look -- and if I'd been a fellow that painted pictures, and that kind of thing, I could draw a middlin' good likeness of him now.
By George! how fond I am of a good horse -- a real well-bred clinker. I'd never have been here if it hadn't been for that, I do believe; and many another Currency chap can say the same -- a horse or a woman -- that's about the size of it, one or t'other generally fetches us. I shall never put foot in stirrup again, but I'll try and scratch out a sort of likeness of Rainbow.
He was a dark bay horse, nearly brown, without a white hair on him. He wasn't above 15 hands and an inch high, but looked a deal bigger than he was, for the way he held his head up and carried himself. He was deep and thick through behind the shoulders, and girthed ever so much more than you'd think. He had a short back, and his ribs went out like a cask, long quarter, great thighs and hocks, wonderful legs, and feet of course to do the work he did. His head was plainish, but clean and bony, and his eye was big and well opened, with no white showing. His shoulder was sloped back that much that he couldn't fall, no matter what happened his fore legs. All his paces were good too. I believe he could jump -- jump anything he was ridden at, and very few horses could get the better of him for one mile or three.