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, away we went to this township. Bundah was the name of it; not that there was anything to do or see when we got there. It was the regular up-country village, with a public-house, a store, a pound, and a blacksmith's shop. However, a public-house is not such a bad place -- at any rate it's better than nothing when a fellow's young and red-hot for anything like a bit of fun, or even a change. Some people can work away day after day, and year after year, like a bullock in a team or a horse in a chaff-cutting machine. It's all the better for them if they can, though I suppose they never enjoy themselves except in a cold-blooded sort of way. But there's other men that can't do that sort of thing, and it's no use talking. They must have life and liberty and a free range. There's some birds, and animals too, that either pine in a cage or kill themselves, and I suppose it's the same way with some men. They can't stand the cage of what's called honest labour, which means working for some one else for twenty or thirty years, never having a day to yourself, or doing anything you like, and saving up a trifle for your old age when you can't enjoy it. I don't wonder youngsters break traces and gallop off like a colt out of a team.
Besides, sometimes there's a good-looking girl even at a bush public, the daughter or the barmaid, and it's odd, now, what a difference that makes. There's a few glasses of grog going, a little noisy, rattling talk, a few smiles and a saucy answer or two from the girl, a look at the last newspaper, or a bit of the town news from the landlord; he's always time to read. Hang him -- I mean confound him -- for he's generally a sly old spider who sucks us fellows pretty dry, and then don't care what becomes of us. Well, it don't amount to much, but it's life -- the only taste of it that chaps like us are likely to get. And people may talk as much as they like; boys, and men too, will like it, and take to it, and hanker after it, as long as the world lasts. There's danger in it, and misery, and death often enough comes of it, but what of that? If a man wants a swim on the seashore he won't stand all day on the beach because he may be drowned or snapped up by a shark, or knocked against a rock, or tired out and drawn under by the surf. No, if he's a man he'll jump in and enjoy himself all the more because the waves are high and the waters deep. So it was very good fun to us, simple as it might sound to some people. It was pleasant to be bowling along over the firm green turf, along the plain, through the forest, gully, and over the creek. Our horses were fresh, and we had a scurry or two, of course; but there wasn't one that could hold a candle to Jim's brown horse. He was a long-striding, smooth goer, but he got over the ground in wonderful style. He could jump, too, for Jim put him over a big log fence or two, and he sailed over them like a forester buck over the head of a fallen wattle.
Well, we'd had our lark at the Bundah Royal Hotel, and were coming home to tea at the station, all in good spirits, but sober enough, when, just as we were crossing one of the roads that came through the run -- over the 'Pretty Plain', as they called it -- we heard a horse coming along best pace. When we looked who should it be but Miss Falkland, the owner's only daughter.
She was an only child, and the very apple of her father's eye, you may be sure. The shearers mostly knew her by sight, because she had taken a fancy to come down with her father a couple of times to see the shed when we were all in full work.
A shed's not exactly the best place for a young lady to come into. Shearers are rough in their language now and then. But every man liked and respected Mr. Falkland, so we all put ourselves on our best behaviour, and the two or three flash fellows who had no sense or decent feeling were warned that if they broke out at all they would get something to remember it by.
But when we saw that beautiful, delicate-looking creature stepping down the boards between the two rows of shearers, most of them stripped to their jerseys and working like steam-engines, looking curiously and pitifully at the tired men and the patient sheep, with her great, soft, dark eyes and fair white face like a lily, we began to think we'd heard of angels from heaven, but never seen one before.
Just as she came opposite Jim, who was trying to shear sheep and sheep with the 'ringer' of the shed, who was next on our right, the wether he was holding kicked, and knocking the shears out of his hand, sent them point down against his wrist. One of the points went right in, and though it didn't cut the sinews, as luck would have it, the point stuck out at the other side; out spurted the blood, and Jim was just going to let out when he looked up and saw Miss Falkland looking at him, with her beautiful eyes so full of pity and surprise that he could have had his hand chopped off, so he told me afterwards, rather than vex her for a moment. So he shut up his mouth and ground his teeth together, for it was no joke in the way of pain, and the blood began to run like a blind creek after a thunderstorm.
'Oh! poor fellow. What a dreadful cut! Look, papa!' she cried out. 'Hadn't something better be bound round it? How it bleeds! Does it pain much?'
'Not a bit, miss!' said Jim, standing up like a schoolboy going to say his lesson. 'That is, it doesn't matter if it don't stop my shearing.'
'Tar!' sings out my next-door neighbour. 'Here, boy; tar wanted for No. 36. That'll put it all right, Jim; it's only a scratch.'
'You mind your shearing, my man,' said Mr. Falkland quietly. 'I don't know whether Mr. M'Intyre will quite approve of that last sheep of yours. This is rather a serious wound. The best thing is to bind it up at once.'
Before any one could say another word Miss Falkland had whipped out her soft fine cambric handkerchief and torn it in two.