Chapter 161922760

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Chapter NumberXX
Chapter Title
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Full Date1882-10-28
Page Number734
Word Count4179
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleRobbery Under Arms
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Robbery Under Arms.

[B? Rolf Boldkewood.]

Chatter XX.— {Continued.)

Well about an hour before dark Jim wakes us up, and we both felt as right as the bank. It took a good deal to knock either ot us out of time in those dayB. 1 looked round for a bit, and then burst out laughing. ' What's that about, Dick ?,' says Jim, rather serious. ' Blest if I didn't think I was in the thundering old cell again,' I said. 'I could have sworn I heard the bolt soap

as your foot sounded, in the room..' a while,*' says he, rather slow like. ' It's bad work, I'm afraid, and worse to come ; but we're in it up to our necks, and must see it out. We'll have another feed and be oft at sundown. We've the devil's own ride before daylight.' -( Anybody called f' says Starlight, sauntering in, washed and dressed and comfortable-looking. 'You told them we were not at home, Jim, I hope ? ' Jim smiled in spite of himself, though he wasn't in a very gay humour. Poor old Jim was looking ahead a bit I expect, and didn't see anything much to be proud of. Wehadaserumptious feed that night, beefsteaks and eggs, fresh butter and milk, things we hadn't smelt for months. Then the girls waited on us ; a good-looking pair they was too, full of lark and fun of all kinds, end not very parti cular what sort of jokes they laughed at They knew well enough, of course, where we'd come from, and why we laid by all day and travelled at night for; they thought nose the worse of us for that, not they. They'd been bred up where they'd heard all kinds of rough talk, ever since they was little kiddies, and you couldn't well put them out. They were a bit afraid of Starlight at first though, because they seen at once that he wasaswelL Jim they knew a little of ; he and. father had called there a good deal the last season, and had done a little in the stookline through. - Jonathan Barnes. They could see I was something hi the same line as Jim. So I suppose they had made it up to have a bit of fan with us that evening before we started. They came down into the parlour where our tea was, dressed out in their best and looking very grand, as I thought, par ticularly sb we hadn't seen the sight of so much as a woman s bonnet and shawl for months and months. ' Well, Mr. Mareton,' says the eldest girl, Bella, to Jim, ' we didn't expect you'd travel this way with friends so soon. Why didn't you tell us, and we'd have had everything comfortable?' ' Wasn't sure about it,' says Jim, 'and wheo yon ain't sure it's safest to hold jour tongue. There's a good many things we all do that don't want talking about.' *' 1 feel certain, Jim,' says Starlight, with bis soft voice and pleasant smile, which no woman as I ever saw could fight against long, 'that any man's secret would be -safe with Miss Bella. I would trust her with my life freely— not that it's worth a great deaL' ' Oh ! Captain,' says poor Bella, and she began to blush quite innocent like, ' you needn't fear ; there ain't a girl from Shoalhayen to Albury that would let on which way you were heading, if they were to offer her all the money in the country,' ' ' ' Not even a diamond necklace and ear-rings ? Think of a lovely pendant, a cross all brilliants, and a brooch to natch, my dear girl.' 'I wouldn't 'come it,' unless I could get that lovely —— — ? ? ?

50tt*^i2otTllyf says the youngest one, Maddiei ','butTd 00 anyi&hg \n the 'world to have him. . He's the greatest .*—&. -ver saw. Wouldn't he look stunning with a eide-ssx* ale j- j-ve a great mind to 'duff * him myself one of these days.' *' You shall have a ride on Hainbow next time we come,' says Starlight. 'I've sworn never to give him away or sell him, that is as long as I'm alive ; but I tell you what I'll do : I'll leave him to you in my will.' ' How do you mean ? ' says ehe, quite excited like. ' Why, if I drop one of these fine days — and it's on the cards anytime — vou shall have Hainbow; but niindjne% vou're to promise me,' here he looked very grave, 'ttat you'll neither sell him nor lend him nor give him away &s long as you live.' 'Oh 2 you don't mean it,' says .the girl, jumping flf , and clapping her hands. ' I'd sooner have him than any thing I ever saw in the world. Oh! I'll take suo% care of him. I'M feed him and rub him over myself ; okt«, I forgot, I'm not to have him before you're dead. IPs rather rough on you. isn't it ?'* '.Kot a bit' says' Stirugnt; ?' we must all go when our time comes. ' If anything happens to me soon, he'll be young enough to carry you for years yet. And you'll win all the ladies' hackney prizes at the ehowB.' 'Oh! I couldn't take him.' 'iJutyou mutt now. I've promised him to you, and though I am a— well— an indifferent character I never go back on my word.' . ' Hav'n't you anything to give me, Captain - ' says Bella ; 'you're in such a generous mind.' ' ' I must bring you something,' says he, next time we call. What shall it be? Now's the time to ask. I'm like the fellow in the 'Arabian Nights', the slave of the ring— your ring;' here he took the g_irl'shand, and pretending to look at a ring she wore took it up and kissed it. It wasn't a very ugly one neither. '.What will you have, Bella?' .. A 'I'd like a watch and chain,' she said, pretending to look a little offended. ' I Buppose I may as well ask for a good thing at once.' ;? Starlight pulled out a pocketbook and, quite solemn and regular, made a note of it. ' It's yours,' ' he Baid, ' within a month. If I cannot conveniently call and present it in person, Pil send it by a sure hand, as they used to say; and now, Jim, boot and saddle.' The horses were out by this time ; the groom was walking Kainbow up and down ; he'd put a regular french-poksh on his coat, and the old horse was arching his neck and chawing his bit as if he thought he was going io start for the Bargo Town Plate. Jonathan himself was holding our two horses, but looking at him. 'My word! ' he said, ' that's a real picture of a horse ; he's too good for a — well— these roads; he ought to be in Sydney carrying some swell abont and never knowing what a day's hardship feels tike. Isn't be a regular outand outer to look at? and .they tell me his look is about the worst of him. Well— here's luck ! ' Starlight had called for drinks all round before we started. 'Here's luck to roads and coaches and them as lives by 'em. They'll miss the old coaching system some day— mark my word. 1 don't hold with these railways they're talkin' about — all steam and hurry-scurry ; it starves the country.' ' Quite right, Jonathan,' says Starlight, throwing his leg over Baisbow, and chucking the old groom a sovereign. 'The times have never been half as good as in the old coaching days,- before we ever enaelt a funnel in New South Wales. But there's a coach or two left yet : isn't there? and sometimes they're worth attending to.' He bowed and juniled to the girls, and Rainbow sailed off with his beautiful easy, springy stride. He always putme in mind of the deer 1 once saw at Mulgoa, near Ponrith ; I'd never Keen any before. My word ! how one of them sailed over a farmer's wheat paddock fence. He'd been in there all aight, and when he 'saw us coming he just up and made for the fence, and flew it like a bird. 1 never saw any horse have the same action only Rainbow. You couldn't tire him, and he was just the came the end of the day as the beginning. If he hadn't fallen into Starlight's hands as a colt he'd have been a secbnd-clasB racehorBe, and wore out his life among ; touts and ringmen. He was better where he was. Ofi we went ; what a ride we had that night ! Just as well we'd fed and reBted before we started, else we should never have held out. All that night long we had to go, and keep going.. A deal ot the road was rough— near the Shoalhaven country, across awfnl deep gullies with a regular climb-un the other side, like the side of a house. Through dismal ironbark forests that looked as black by night as if all the tree trunks were cast iron and the leaves gun-metal. The night wasn't as dark as it might have been, but now and again there was a storm, and the whole sky turned as black as a wolf's throat, as father used to say. We got a few knocks and scrapes against the trees ; but, partly through the horses being pretty clever in that kind of way, and having eharpish eyesight of our own, we pulled through. It's no use talking, sometimes 1 thought Jim must lose his way. Starlight told us he'd made up his mind that we were going round and round, and would fetch up about where we'd started from, and find the Moss Yale police waiting there iorw. 'All right! Captain,' says Jim. 'Don't you flurry yourself. I've been along this track pretty often this last few months, and I can steer by the stars. Look at the Southern Cross there ; you keep him somewhere on theright shoulder ; and you'll pull up not so very far olf that black range above old Kocky Flat.' ' You're not going to be so mad as to call at your own place, Jim, are you Y' eays he. ' Goring'e sure to have a greyhound or two ready to slip, in case the hare makes for her old form.' ' Trust old dad for that,' eayB Jim; 'he knows Dick and you are on the grass again. He'll meet us before we get to the place and have fresh horses. I'll bet he's got a chap or two that he can trust to smell out the traps if they are close handy the old spot. They'll be mighty clever if they get on the blind side of father.' ' Well, we must chance it, I suppose,' I said ; ' but we were sold once, and I've not much fancy for going back again.' ' They're all looking for you the other way this blessed minute, I'll go bail,' says Jim. 'Most of the coves that bolt from Berruna takes down the Southern road to get across the border into Port Phillip as soon as they can work it. They always fancy they are safer there.' 'So they are in some ways. I wouldn't mind if we were back there again,' I said. 'There's worse places than Melbourne; but once we get to the Hollow, and that'll be sometime to-day, we may take it easy and spell for a week or two. How they'll wonder what the deuce has become of us !' The night was long and that cold that Jim's hand was froze aB stiff as a board ; but I sat on my horse, I declare to heaven, and never felt anything but pleasure and com fort to think I was loose again. You've seen a dog that's been chained up. Well, when he's let loose, don't he go, chevying and racing about over everything and into every thing that's next or anigh him ? He'll jump into water or over a fence, and turn aside for nothing. He's mad with joy and the feeling of being off the chain; he can't hardly keep from barking till he's hoarse, and rushing through and over everything till he's winded and done up. Then he lies down with his tongue out and considers it all over. 'Well, a man's just like that when Ad's been on the chain. He mayn't jump about so much, though I've seen foreign fellows do that when their collar was unbuckled; but he feels the very same things iu his heart as that dog does, . you take my word for it. So, as I said, though I was sitting on a horse all that long, cold winter's night through, and had to mind my eye a bit for the road and the rocks and the hanging branches, I felt my heart swell that much and my courage rise that I didn't care whether the night was going to turn into a snowstorm like we'd been in Eiandra way, or whether we'd have a dozen rivers to swim, like the head-waters of the M'Alister, is Gippaland, as nearly drowsed the pair of us. There I sat in my saddle like a man in a dream, letfin* my hone follow Jim's up hill and down dale, and half the time lettin' go his head and givin' him nis own road. Everything, too, I seemed tonotice and to be pleased with somehow. Sometimes it was a rock wallaby out on the feed that we'd come close on before we saw one another, anditwouldjump away almost under the horse's neck, taking two or three awful long springs and lighting square and level among the rocks after a drop leap of a dozen feet, like a cat jumping out of a window. But the cat's got four legs to balance on and the kangaroo only two. How they manage it and measure their distance fio well, God only knows. Then an old 'possum would eing out, or a black furred flying Bquirrel— pongOB the blacks call 'em— would

: branches of enother, looking as ^ ?. mftSaiek ft*' whire it was like the side of a house, and that Mojda to- bars all upon edge that you could mell *e ^oofs oftto brumbies as the sharp stones Tasped and tore and BtrucK eparks out of them like youdo the paring* in ; aUacfeamth * shop. A t***r* L Then, just as I thought daybreak wbb nea?i z ».«*» mopoke flits close over our heads without any rustling or noise, like the ghost of a bird, and begins to hoot in a big bare hollow tree just ahead of us. Hoo-hoo! hoo-hool The last time I heard it, it made me shiver a bit. Now I didn't care. I was a desperate man that had done badi tilings 8r4 was likely to do. worse. But I was free of the forest agaffi, eZi htZ ft good horse under me. So I laughed at the bird and rode on, Chapter XXI. Daylight broke when we were cloBe up to the Black Range, safe enough, -a little off the line but nothing to agnity. Then we hit off the track that led over the Gap and down into a little flat on a creek that ran the same way as owe did. Jim had managed for father and Warrigai to meet ue somewhere near here with fresh horses. There was an. old shepherd's hut that stood by itself almost covered with marehmallows and settles. As we came down' the steep track a dog came up sniffing and searching aberutvths grass and stones as if he'd lost something. ItwaaGribb. ' Now we're getting home, Jim,' says Starlight. 'It's quite a treat to see the old scamp again. Well, old man,' ' he says to the dog. ' how'B all getting on at the Hollow.' The dog came right up to Rainbow and nibbed against Mb fetlock, and jumped up two or three times to see if he could touch his rider. He was almost going to bark, he Beemed that glad to Bee him and us. ..... Dad was sitting on a log by the hut smoking, just the same as he was before he left us last time. He was holding two fresh horses, and we were not sorry to Bee them. Horses are horses and there wasn't much left in our two. We must have ridden a good 80 miles that night, and it was as bad as a hundred by daylight. # Father came a step towards us as we jumped off. By George, I was that Btifi with the long ride and the cold that I nearly fell down. He'd got a bit of a^re,80 we lit our pipes and had a comfortable smoke. 'Well, Dick, you're back agin, I see,' he says, pretty pleasant for him. ' Glad to see you, captain, once more, it's been lonesome work, nobody but mo and ? Jim and Warrigal, that's like a bear with a sore head half his time. I'd a mind to roll into him once or twice, and 1 should too only for his being your property like.' ' Thank you, Ben, I'll knock his head ofi myself as soon as we get settled a bit. Warrigal'a not a bad boy, but a good deal like a Rocky Mountain mule, he's no good unless he's knocked down about once a month or eo, only he doesn't like any one but me to do it.' 'You'll see him about a mile on,' says father. 'He told me he'd be behind the big rock where the tree grows — on the left of the road. He said he'd got you a fresh horse bo as he could take Rainbow back to the Hollow the long way round.' Sure enough after we'd just got well on the roadagam when Warrigal comes quietly out from behind a big granite boulder and shows himself. He was riding Bilbah and leading a well-bred, good-looking chestnut. He was one of the young ones out of the Hollow. He'd broken him and got him quiet. I remembered when I was there first spotting him as a yearling. I knew the blaze down his face and bib three white legs. Warrigal jumped off Bilbah and throws down the bridle. Then he leads the chestnut up to where Warrigal was stand ing smoking, and throws himself down at his feet, bursting out crying like a child. He was just like a dog that had found his master again. He kept looking up at Starlight just like a dog does, and smiling and going on just as if he never expected to see such a good thing again as long as he lived. ' Well, Warrigal,' Bays Starlight, very careless like; ' so you've bought me a horse, I see. You've been a very good boy. Take Rainbow round the long- way into the hollow. Look after him, whatever you do, or I'll murder you. Not that he's done, or anything near it; but had enough for one ride; poor old man. Ofi with you!' Changed the saddle, and Warrigal hopped on to the Bilbah, led off Rainbow, who tossed his head and trotted away as if he'd lots to spare, and hadn't had twelve hours under saddle ; best pace, without a halt or a bait. I've seen a few good 'tins in my time, but I never saw the horse that was a patch on Eaiu bow, take him all round. We pushed on again, then, for 10 miles, and somewhere about 8 o'clock we pulled up at home— at home. Ailecn knew we were coming, and ran out to meet ue. She threw her arms round me, and kissed and cried over me for ever bo long before ehe took any notice of Starlight, who'd got down and was looking another way. ' Oh ! my boy, my boy,'* ehe eaid, 'I never thought to see you again for years. How thin you've got and pale, and strange looking. You're not like your old self at all. But you're in the bush again now, by God's blessing. We must hide you better next time. I declare I begin to feel quite wicked, and as if I could fight the police myself, ' Well spoken, Miss Marston,' said Starlight, just lifting hiB hat and making a bit of a bow like, just as if she was a real lady ; but he was just the same to all women. He treated them all alike with the same respect of manner as if they were duchesses, young or old, gentle or simple —it made no odds to him.. ' We must have your.assietence if we're to do any good. Though whether' it wouldn't be more prudent on your part to cut us all dead, beginning with your father, I shouldn't like to say ? ' Aileen looked at him, surprised and angry like fora second. Then ehe Bays : ' Captain Starlight, it's too late sow; but words can never tell how I hate and despise the whole thing. My love for Dick got the better of my reason, for a bit, but I could ? . Why, how pale you look !' He teas growing pale, and no mistake. He had been ill for a bit before he left Berrima, though he wouldn't give in, and th& ride was rather much, for him I suppose. Any how, down he tumbles in a dead faint. Aileen rushed over j and lifted up his head. I got some water and dabbed it over him. After a bit he came to. He raises himself on his elbows, and looks at Aileen. Then he smiles quietly and says, ' I'm quite ashamed of myself. I'm growing as j delicate as a young lady. I hope 1 haven't given you much ( trouble.' I When he got up and walked to the verandah he quite [ staggered, showing he was that weak as he could hardly I walk without help. ' I shall be all right,' he said, ' after I a week's riding again.' I ' And where are you going when you leave this place r' I she asked. ' Surely you and my brothers never can live in f New South Wales after all that has passed. I ' We must try, at all events, Miss Marston,' Starlight I answered, raising up his head and looking proud. ' You I will hear something of us before long. We made i out that there was no great chance of our being run into at I the old place, Father went on first with Cribb. He was g sure to give warning in some way, best known to Father 1 himself, If there was any one about that wasn't the right i fiort. So we went up and went hi. - E Mother waa inside. I thought it was queer that she didn't m come outside. She was always quick enough about that m when we came home before, day or night. When I went H in I could see, when she got up from her chair, that she was || weak, end looked aB if she'd been ill. She looked ever so m much older, and her hair was a lot grayer than it used m to be. m She held out her arms and clung round my neck as if I'd tm been raised from the dead, so I was hi a kind of a way. |fl But Bhe didn't say much, or ask what I was going to do next. m Poor soul ! ehe knew it couldn't be much good anyway, ana [f| that if we were hunted before, we'd be worse hunted now. j m Those that hadn't heard of our little game with the Mom- j|| berah cattle would hear of our getting out of Berrima gaoli If-, which wasn't done every day. [|| We hadn't a deal of time to spare, because we meant to \m start off for The Hollow that afternoon, and get there some j » time in the night, even if it waB bite. Jim and Dad knew Iffi the way in almost blindfold. Once we got there we H& could sleep for a week if we liked, and take it easy all roads. |f . So father told Mother and Aileen straight that we'd come §g| for a good comfortable meal and a rest, and we must be off p again. p.. I Mr'