Chapter 161925919

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Chapter NumberXXI
Chapter Title
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Full Date1882-11-04
Page Number783
Word Count3466
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.

[By Rolf Boldre-wood.]

Chatter XXL— {Continued.)

' Oh ! Father, can't Dick and Jim stop for a day ?' cries out Aileen. 'It does seem so hard when we haven't seen Dick for such a while ; and he shut up too all the time.' ' D'ye want to have us all took the same as last time ?' growls father. 'Women's never contented as I can see. For two pins I wouldn't have brought them this way at all. I don't want to be making roads from this old crib to The Hollow, only I thought you'd like one look at Dick.'

' we must uo wnat's best, or course,' earn poor Aileen ; 11 but it's bard— very hard on us. It's mother I'm think ing of, you know. If you knew how she always wakes up in the night, and calls for Dick and cries when she wakes up, you'd try to comfort her a bit more, Father. 'Comfort her!' saysDad. 'Why, what can I do? Don't I tell you if we stay about here we're shopped as safe as anything ever was. Will that comfort her, or you either? We're safe to-day because I've got telegraphs on the outside that the police can't pass without ringing the bell — in a way of speaking. But you see to-morrow there'll be more than one lot here, and 1 want to be clean away before they come. ' You know best,' says Aileen ; ' but suppose they come here to-morrow morning at daylight, as they did last time, and bring a black tracker with them, won't he be able to follow up your track when you go away to-night ?' 41 No ; he won't. For this reason, we shall afl ride different ways as soon as we leave here. A good while before we get near the place where we all meet we shall find Warrigal on the lookout. He can take the captain in by another track, and there'll be only Jim and 1 and the old dog, the only three persons that'll go in the near way.' ' And when shall we see— see — any of you again ?' ' Somewheres about a month, I snppose, if we've luck. There's a deal belongs to that. You'd better go and see what there is for us to eat. We've a long way and a rough way to go before we get to the Hollow.' Aileen was off at this, and then she set to work and laid a clean tablecloth in the sitting-room and set us down our meal— breakfast, or whatever it was. It was'nt so bad coined beef, first rate potatoes, fresh damper, milk, butter, eggs. Tea, ot course ; it's the great drink in the bush : and although some doctors say it's no good, what would buEhmen do without it r' We had no intention of stopping the whole night, though we were tempted to do bo— to have one night's rest in the old place where we used to sleep so sound before. It was no good thinking of anything of that kind, anyhow ,for a good while to come. What we'd got to do was to look out sharp and not be caught simple again like we was both last time. After we had our tea we sat outside the verandah, and tried to make the best of it. Jim stayed inside with mother iforagood while; she didn't leave her chair much now, and sat knitting and winking by the hour together. There was a great change come over her lately. She didn't seem to be afraid of our getting caught as she used to be, nor half as glad or sorry about anything. It seemed like as if she'd made up her mind that everything was as bad as it could be, and past mending. So it was ; she was right enough there. The only one who Was in real good heart and spirits was Starlight. He'd come round again, and talked and rattled away, and made Aileen and Jem and me laugh, in spite of everything. He said we had all fine times before us now for a year or two, any way. That was a good long time. After that anythbg might happen. What it would be he neither knew nor cared. Life was made up of short bits ; sometimes it was hard luck; sometimes everything went jolly and well. We'd got our liberty again, our horses, and a place to go to, where all the Dolice in the country would never find us. He was going in for a Bhort life and a merry one. He, for one, was tired of small adventures, and he was determined to make the name of Starlight a little more famous before very long. If Dick and Jim would take his advice— the advice of a desperate, ill-fated outcast, but still staunch to hie friends— they would dear out, and leave him to sink or swim alone, or with such associates as he might pick up, whose destination would be no great matter what ever befel them. They could go into hiding for a while, and then get over to Queensland. There was new country enough there to bide all the fellows that were ' wanted ' in New South Wales. ' But why don't youftake your own advice?' said Aileen, looking over at Starlight as he sat there quite careless and comfortable looking, as if he'd no call to trouble his head about anything. ?' Isn't your life worth mending or caving ? Why keep on this reckless miserable career which you yourself expect to end ill ?' ' If you ask me, Miss Marston,' he said, ' whether my life — what is left of it — is worth saving, I must distinctly answer that it is not. It ia like the list coin or two in the gambler's purse, not worth troubling one's head about. I must be flung on the board with the rest. It might land a reasonable stake. But as to economising and arranging details that would surely be the greatest folly of all.' I heard Aileen sigh to herself. She said nothing for a while. And then old Cribb began to growl. He got up and walked along the track that led up the lull. Father etood up, too, and listened. We all did except Starlight who appeared to think it was too much trouble, and never moved or seemed to notice. Presently the dog came walking dowly back, and coiled himself tip again dose to Starlight as if he had made up his

mind it didn't matter. W« oould hear a-horeecoming along - at a pretty good bat over the hard rocky gravelly joad* ' We could tell it was a single horse ; and, more than that, s ; barefooted one coming s,t a hand-gallop up hill and tlown dale in a careless kind of a manner. This wasn't likely to be police trooper. One man wouldn't come by liimiiMiif to a- place like ours at night, and ne trooper, if he did come, would clatter along a hard track, making row enough to ? be heard more than a mfle off on a quiet night. , 'It's all right,' says father.' ' The old dog knotted him ; it's Billy the Boy. There's something up.' Just as he spoke we eaw a horseman come in sight ; and he rattled down iheetoney track as hard as he could lick. He pulled up just opposite the house, close by where we ?? were standing. It was a boy about 16, dressed in a ragged pair of moleskin trousers, a good deal too large for him, but kept straight by a leather strap round the waist. An old cabbage tree hat, and a blue serge shirt made up the rest of his rig. Boots he had on, but they didn't seem to be fellows, and one rusty spur. His hair was like a hay coloured mop, half hanging over his eyes, which looked ?' sharp enough to see through a gum tree and out at the other side. He jumped down and stood before us, -white his horse's flanks heaved up and down like a pair of bellows. ' Well. what's np ? ' says father. ' My word, governor, you wan all in great luck as £ come home last night, after bem' away with them cattle to pound. Bobby, he don't know a p'leeoe- ; man from a wood-an'-water joey ; he'd never have dropped they was comin' here unless they'd pasted up a notice on the door. ' How did you find out, Billy,' says Billy, ' and when'Jl they be here?' ' Furst thing in the morning,' says the young wit, grin* ning all over his face. ' Won't they be jolly well sold when they rides up and plants by the yard, same as they did last - time when they took Dick.' 'Which ones was they?' asks father, filiin' his pipe - quite business-like, just as if he'd got days to spare. 'Them two fellers from Bargo; one of 'em's anew chum— got his hair cut short, just like Dick's. My word, I thought he'd been waggin' it from some o' them Gov'ment - institoosh'ns. 1 did raly, Dick, old man.' ' You're precious free and easy, my young friend,' say* Starlight, walking over. ' I rather like you. You have a keen sense of humour, evidently; but can't you say how yo» found out that the men were her Majesty's police offioers Id - pursuit of us?' ' You're Cap'n Starlight, I suppose,' says the youngster looking straight and square at him, and not a bit put out. ' Well, I've been pretty quick coming; thirty, mile inside of four hours, I'll be bound. I heard them talking about you. It was Starlight this and Starlight that all the time I was going in and out of the room: pretending to look for something, and mother scolding me.' 'Had they their uniform on?' I asked. ' No fear. They thought we didn't tumble, I expect. But I seen their horses hung up outside, both shod all round ; bits and irons bright. Stabled horses, too, I could swear. Then the youngest chap— him with the old felt hat —walked like this.' Here he squared his shoulders, put his hands by his side, and marched np and down, looking for all the world like one of them chaps that played at soldiering in Bargo. ' There's no hiding the military air, you think, Billy,' said Starlight. ' That fellow was a recruit, and had been drilled lately.' ' 1'd'no. Mother got 'em a cup of tea, and began to talk quite innocent like of the bad characters there was in the country. Ha ! ha ! It was as good as a play. Then they began to talk almost right out about Sergeant Goring having been away on a wrong scent, and how wild he was, and how he would be after Starlight's mob to-morrow morning at daylight, and some p'leece was to meet him near RockvFlat. They didn't say they was the p'leece. That was about 4 o'clock, and getting dark. ' How did you eet the horse ? ' says Jim. ' He's not one of yours, is he ?' ' Not he,' Bays the boy. ' I wish I had him or the' likes of him — he belongs to old Driver. I was just workin* it how I'd get out and eaten our old moke without these chaps being fly as I was going to talligrarph, when mother says to me, ' Have you fetched in the black cow ? * We ain't got no black cow ; but I knowed what she meant* I says No! I couldn't find her.' You catch old Johnny Smoker and look for her tQI yotf do find her, if it's 10 o'clock to-night,' says mother, very fierce. ' Your f ather'I give you a fine larrupin' if he cornea home and there's that cow lost.' So off I goes and mans old Johnny and clears out straight for here. When I came to Driver's I runs his horse up into a yard nigh the angle of his outside naddock, and collars this little 'oss; and lets old Johnny go in hobbles. My word this cove con scratch/* 'So it seems,' says Starlight, 'here's a sovereign for you, youngster. Keep your ears and eyes open, you'll always find that good information brings a good price. I'd advise you to keep away from Mr. Marston, sen., and people of his SOTt and stick to your work, if I thought there was the least earthly chance of your doing so, but I see plainly that you're sot cut out for the industrious, steady-going line.' 'Not if I know it,' said the boy; « I want to Bee life before I die. I'm not going to keep on milling and slaving day after day all the year round. I'll cut it next year as sure as a gun. I say, won't yon let me ride a bit ot toe way with ye.' 'Not a yard,' says father, who was pretty cranky by this time, 'you go home again and put that none where you got him. We don't want old Driver tracking and swearing after us because you ride his horse, and keep off the road as you go back.' Billy tho boy nodded his head and jumping into his eaddle rode off again at much about the same pace he'd come at. He was a regular reckless young devil ; as bold as a two-year, old colt in a branding yard, that's ready to jump at anything and knock his brains out against a stockyard post, just because he's never known any real regular hurt or danger, and can't realise it. He was terrible cruel to horses and would ruin a horse in less time than any man or boy I ever seen. I always thought from the first that he'd come to a bad end. Howsoever, he was a wonder ful chap to track and ride ; none could beat him at that, he was nearly as good as Warrigal in the bush. He was as cunning as a pet dingo and would look as stupid before any one he didn't know, or thought was too respectable, as if he was half an idiot. But no one ever stirred within twenty or thirty miles of where he lived without our hearing about it. father fished him out, having paid him pretty well for some small service, and ever after that he said he could sleep in peace. We had the horses up, ready saddled and fed, by sun down{ and as soon as the moon rose we made a start of it I had time for a bit of a talk with Aileen about the Store fields, thongh I couldn't bring myself to say their names at first. I was right in thinking that Gracey had seen me led away a prisoner by the police. She came into the hut after wards with Aileen as soon as mother was better, and the two girls 6at down beside one another and cried their eyes eut, Aileen said. George Storefield had been very good, and told Aileen that whatever happened ns or the old man it would make no difference to him or to his feelings towards her. She ' thanked him, but said she could never consent tolethfmtbs grace himself by marrying into a family like ours. He had ? come over every now and then, end had seen they wanted for nothing when father and Jim wereaway ; but she always felt her heart growing colder .towards him and bis pros perity while we were bo low down in every wy. As for Gracey, she, Aileen, believed that she was ia. love with me ' in a quiet steady way of her own, without showing it much; but that she would be true to me, if I asked her, to the end of the world; and she was sure that she could never marry any one eke as long as I lived. She was that sort of girl. So, didn't I think 1 ought to do everything I could to get' a better character, and try and .be good enough for such a ' girl ? She knew girls pretty well. She didn't think there was such another girl in the whole colony, and so on. And when we went away where were we going to hide ? I ?'? could not say about particular distances, but I told her gene rally that we'd keep out of harm's way; and be careful not to be caught. We might see her and mother now and then, and by bush-telegraphs and other people we could trust should be able to send news about ourselves. ' What's the captain going to do ?' she said suddenly. ' He doesn't look able to bear up against hardship like the rest of you. What beautiful small hands he has, and hie eyeB are like sleeping fires.' ' ' Oh, he's a good deal stronger than he looks,' I said. 'He's the smartest of the lot of us, except it is dad, and I've heard the old man Bay he must knock under to him.

But don't you bother your head about him, he's quits able to take pare of bfamelf, and the lew a giii like you thinks about a man like him the better for her.' 'Oh! nonsense,' she said, at the same time looking down in a half confused sort of way. ' I'm not likely to think about him. or any oneelse jost now ; bat it seems suoh a dreadful thing to think a '»«' like him, so clever and daring, and to handsome and gentle in his ways, should beiobliged to lead such a life, hnnted from place to place like— like— — ' 9 lake a bushranger, Ailie,' 1 said, ' for that'll be the long and the short of it. You may as well know it now, we're going to 'torn out'' ' ? Yoii don't say that, Dick,' *be said. ' Oh ! surely you wQloerer be so mad. Da you want to kill mother and me right out? .If tou do, why not take a knife or an axe and doit *t once? 'Her you've been killing all along. .As for me, I feel so miserable and degraded and despairing at times thatiwa for her 1 could go and drown myself in the creek irJSttil flunk of what the family is coming to.' ?iWliafs the use of going on like that, Ailcen,' I said roughly. ' If we're caught now, whatever we do, great or email, we're eafe for years and years in gaol. Mayn't we as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb? What odds can it make F We'll only have bolder work than duffing caitls and faking horse-brands like a lot of miserable crawler that are not game for anything more sporting. 'I hear, I hear,' says Bister, sitting down and putting her bead in her hands. ' Surely the devil has power for a Beason to possess himself of the souls of men, and do with them what he will. I know how obstinate you- are, Dick.. Pray God yon may not have poor Jim's blood to answer for as wallas your own before all Is done. ?? Good-bye. I can't eay God bless you, knowing what I do; bat may He torn your heart from all wicked ways, and keep you from worse,, and deadlier evil than you have committed ! Good night. Why, oh why. didn't we all' die when we were ' little children P' She turned away withont another word, and , went - back liangin? her head and looking as if she was going to her own death. How queer it seems that fellows- like us, though they'd give their own lives any day for those they love like Jim and I did mother and Aileen, if there war any outside show of danger, vet they'll put these very people to death by slow degrees — day by day— tea times worse pain and misery than killing them outright ! They know this, yet they won't keep straight, ' or can't— whichever it is. Men and women are queer things, there's no mistake ; and the more life you know, the less you're able to understand the righto of it.