Chapter 161926079

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1882-09-30
Page Number543
Word Count5309
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleRobbery Under Arms
article text

when lie did. He .was ,sale. in the' Hollow, a£3 would chuckle toninwelf-^and be sorry, too— when he heard of iny - being taken, and perhaps Jim. r The odds wen he might be mashed against a tree, perhaps killed, at the pace he was gohxr, on a horse he could not guide. They searched the house, but the money they didn't get. Jim and I had taken care of that in case of accidents. Mother sat rocking herself backwards and forwards every now and then, crying out in a pitiful way like the women in her country do, I've heard tell, when some one of their people is dead. 'Keening' I think they call it. Well, Jim and Z were as good as dead. If the troopers had shot ihe pair of us there and then, same as buBhmen told ua the black' police did their prisoners when they gave 'em any trouble, it would have been better for everybody. How ever people don't die all at once when they go to the bad, and take to stealing or drinking, or any of the devil's favourite traps. Pity they don't, and have done with it, once and for all. I know I thought so when I was forced to stand there with my hands chained together for the first time in my life (though I'd worked for it, I know that) ; and to see Aileen walking about laying the cloth for breakfast like a dead woman, and knew what was in her mind. The troopers were civil enough, and Goring, the senior constable, tried to comfort them as much as he could. He knew it was no fault of theirs ; and though he said he meant to have Jim, if mortal men and horses could do it, he thought he had a fair chance of getting away. ' He's sure to be caught in the long run, though,' he went on to say. ' There's a warrant out for him, and a description in every Police Gazette in the colonies. My advice to him would be to came back and give himself up. It's not a hanging matter, and as it's the first time you've been fitted, Dick, the Judge, as like as not, will let you ofl with a light sentence.' So they talked away until they had finished their breakfast. I couldn't touch a mouthful for the life of me, and as soon as it was all over they ran up my horse and put the saddle on. But I wasn't to ride Aim. No fear. Goring put me on an old screw of a troop horse, with one leg like a gate-post. I was helped up and my legs tied under his belly. Then one of the men took the bridle and led me away. Goring rode in front and the other men behind. As we rese the hill above the place I looked back and saw mother drop down on the ground in a kind ot fit, while Aileen bent over her and seemed to be loosening her dress. Just at that moment George Storefield and his sister rode up to the door. George jumped off and rushed over to Aileen and mother. 1 knew Gracey had seen me, for she sat on her horse as if she had been turned to stone, and let her reins drop on hiB neck. Strange things have happened to me since, but I shall never forget that to the labt minute of my miserable life. Chapter XVII. 1 wasn't in the humour for talking, but sometimes any ihing's better than one's own thoughts. Goring threw in a word from time to time. He'd only lately come into our district , and was sure to be promoted, everybody said. Like Starlight himself, he'd seen hotter days at home in England ; but when he got pinched, he'd taken the right turn and not the wrong one, which makes all the difference. He was earning hiB bread honest, anyway, and he was a chap as liked the fun and dash of a mounted policeman's life. As for the risk:— and there is some danger, more than people tbinbB, now and then — he liked that the best of it. Be was put out at losing Jim; but he believed he couldn't escape, and told me so in a friendly way. ' He's inside a circle and he can't get away, you mark my words,' he said, two or three times. ' We had every police station warned by wire, within a hundred miles of here, three days ago. There's not a man in the colony sharper looked after than MaBter Jim is this minute. - 'Then you only heard about us three days ago ?' I said. 'That's as it may be,' he answered, biting his lip. ' Anyhow, there isn't a shepherd's hut within miles that ho can get to without our knowing it. The country's rough, but there's word gone for a lilack tracker to go down. You'll see him in BaTgo before the week's out.' I had a good guess where Jim would make for, and he knew enough to hide his tracks for the last few miles if there was a whole tribe of trackers after him. That night we rode into Bargo. A long day too we'd had— we were all tired enough when we got in. I was locked up of course, and as soon as we were in the cell, Goring eaid, 'listen to me,' and put on his official face— devilish ttern and hard-looking he was then, in spite of all the talking and nonsense we'd had coming along. ' Bichard Mar-stop, I charge you with unlawfully taking, stealing, and carrying awav, in company with others, one thousand head of mixed cattle, more or* less, the property of one Walter Hood, of Outer Back, Momberah, on or about the month of June last.' ' All right, why don't you make it a1 few more while you're about it?' 41 That'll do,' he said, nodding his head, 'you decline to say anything. 'Well, I can't exactly wish you a merry ChriEtnias — fancy this being Christmas Eve. by Jove— but you'll be cool enough this deuced hot weather till the sessions in February, which is more than some of us can say. Good night.' He went out and locked the door. I sat down on {my blanket on the floor, and hid my head on my hands. I wonder it didn't burst with what I felt then. Strange that I shouldn't have felt half as bad when the Judge, the other day, sentenced me to be a dead man in a couple of months. But 1 was young then. ? *?«?** Christmas Day! Christmas Day! So this is how I was to spend it after all, I thought as I awoke up at dawn, and saw the gray light just beginning to get through the bars of the window of the cell. Here was I locked up, caged, ironed, disgraced, a felon and an outcast for the rest of my life. Jim, flying for his life, hiding from every honest man, every policeman in tho country looking out for him, and authorised to catch him or scoot hint down like a sheep-killing dog. Father living at the Hollow, like a blackfellow in a cave, afraid to spend the bleesed Christmas with his wife and daughter, like the poorest man in the land could do if he was only honest. Mother half dead with grief, and Aileen ashamed to speak to the man that loved and respected her from her child hood. Gracey Storefield, not daring to think of me or say my name, after seeing me carried off a prisoner before her eyes. Here was a load ot misery and disgrace heaped up together, to be borne by the whole family, now and for the time to come, by the' innocent as well as the guilty. And for what? Because we had been too idle and careless to work regularly and save our money, though well able to do it, like honest men. Because, little by little, we had let bad dishonest ways and flash manners grow upon us, all running up an account that had to be paid some day. And now the day of reckoning had covie — sharp and redden with a vengeance ! Well, what .call had we to look for anything else? We had been working for it; now we had got it, and had to bear it. Not for want ot warning, neither. What had mother and Aileen been say ing ever since we could remember ? Warning upon warning. Now the end had come just as they said. Of course I knew in a general way that I couldn't be punished or done anything to right off. I knew law enough lor that The next thing would be that I should have to be brought up before the magistrates and committed for trial as soon as they could get any evidence. After breakfast, flour and water or hominy, I forget which, the warder told me that there wasn't much chance of my being brought up before Christmas was over. The police magistrate was away on a month's leave, and the other magistrates would not be likely to attend before the end of the week, any way. So 1 must make myself com fortable where I was. Comfortable! ' Had they caught Jim V' 'Well, not that he'd heard of, but Goring said it was impossible for him to get away. At 12 he'd, bring me some dinner.' I was pretty certain they wouidn't catch Jim, in spite of Goring being eo cocksure about it. If he wasn't knocked off the first mileorso, he'dfind ways of stopping or steadying his horse, and facing him up to where we had gone to join father at the tablelnnd of the Nulla mountains. Once he got near there he could let go his horse. They'd be following his track, while he made the best of his way on foot to the path that led to the Hollow. If he had five miles start of them therr, as was most likely, all the blacks in the country would never track where he got to. He and father could live there for a month or so, and take it easy until they could slip out *nd do a bjt of father's old trade. That was about wttat I expected Jim to do, and as it turned out, ' * mi aa nearly right ;m could be. They ran

Us track for nine or 10 miles. Then they followed Ms horte tracks till late the second day, and found that the horse had slued round and was making for home again with nobody on him. Jim was nowhere to be seen, and they'd lest all that time, never expecting that he was going to dis mount and leave the horse to go his own way. They searched Nulla Mountain from top to bottom ; but tome of the smartest men of the old Mounted Police, and the best of the stockmen in the old days— men not easy to beat— had tried the same country many a year before, and never found the path to The Hollow. So it wasn't likely any one else would. They had to come back and own that they were beat, which put Goring in a rage and made the Inspector, Sir Ferdinand Morringer, blow them all up for a lot of duffers and old women. Altogether, they had a bad time of it, not that it made any difference to me. After the holidays, a magistrate was fished up somehow, and I was brought before him and the apprehending con stable's evidence taken. Then I was remanded to the bench at Nomah, where Mr. Hood and some of the other witnesses were to appear. So away we started for another journey. Goring and a trooper went with me, and all sorts of cars was taken that I didn't give them the slip on the road. Goring used to put one of my handcuffs on his own wrist at sight, so there wasn't much chance of moving without waking him. 1 had an old horse to ride that couldn't go much faster than I could run, for fear of accident. It was even betting that he'd fall and kill me on the road. If I'd had a laugh in me, I should have had a joke against the Police Department for not keeping safer horses for their prisoners to ride. They keep them till they haven't a leg to stand upon, and long after they can't . go a hundred yards without trying to walk on their heads they're thought good enough to carry packs and prisoners. ** Some day,' Goring said, ' one of those old screws will be the death of a prisoner before he's com mitted for trial,, and then there'll be a row over it, I sup pose.' We hadn't a bad journey of it on the whole. The troopers were civil enough, and gave me a glass of grog now and then when they had one themselves. They'd done theic duty in catching me, and that was all they thought about. What came afterwards wasn't their look-out. I've no call to have any bad feeling against the police, and I don't think most men of my sort have. They've got their work to do, like other people, and as long as they do what they're paid for, and don't go out of their way to harass men for spite we don't bear them any malice, if any one's hit in fair fight it's the fortune of war. What our side don't like ia men going in for police duty that's not in their line. That's interfering according to our notions, and if they fall into a trap or are met with when Ihey don't expect it, 'they gtt it pretty hot. They've only themselves to thank for it. Goring, I could see by his ways, had been a swell, some thing like Starlight. A good many young fellows that don't drop into fortunes when they come out here take to the police in Australia, and very good menthev make. They like the half -soldiering kind of life, and if tney stick steady at their work, and show pluck and gumption, they mostly get promoted. Goring was a real smart, dashing chap, a good rider for an Englishman; that if, he could sit most horses, and hold his own with us natives anywhere but through scrub and mountain county. No man can ride there, 1 don't care who he is, the same as we can, unless he's teen at it all his life. There we have the pull — not that it is so much after all. But give a native a good horse and thick country, and he'll lose any man living that's tackled the work after he's grown up. By-and-by we got to Noma, a regular hot hole of a place, with a log lockup. I was 6tuck in, of course, and had leg irons put on for fear I should get out, as another fellow had done a few weeks back. Starlight and Warrigal hadn't reached yet ; they had farther to come. The trial couldn't come till the Quarter Sessions. January, and February too, passed over, and all the time I was mewed up in a bit of a place enough to stifle a man in the burning weather we had. I heard afterwards that they wanted to bring some of the cattle over, bo as Mr. Hood could Bwear to 'em being bis property. But he said he could only swear to its being his brand ; that he most likely had never set eyes on them in his life, and couldn't swear on his own knowledge that they hadn't been sold, like lots of others, by his manager. So this looked like a hitch, as juries won't bring a man in guilty of cattle-stealing unless there's clear swearing that the animals he sold were the property of the prose cutor, and known by him to be such. Mr. Hood had to go all the way to Adelaide himself, and they told me we might likely have got out of it all, only for the imported bull. When he saw him he said he could swear to, him point blank, brand or no brand. He'd no brand on him, of course, when he left England ; but Hood happened to be in Sydney when he came out, and at the station when he came up. He was stabled for the first six months, so he used to go and look him over every day, and tell visitors what a pot of money he'd cost, till he knew every hair in his tail, as the saying is. As soon as he seen him in Adelaide he said he could swear to him as positive as he could to his favourite riding ho.rse. So he was brought over in a steamer from Adelaide, and then drove all the way up to Nomah. I wished he'd broken his neck before we ever saw him. Next thing I saw was Starlight being brought in, hand cuffed, between two troopers, and looking as if he'd ridden a long way. He was just as easy going and devilmay care as ever. He said to one of the troopers, ' Here we are at last, and I'm deuced glad of it. It's perfectly monstrous you fellows haven't better horses. Yon ought to make me remount agent, and I'd show -ou the sort of horses that ought to be bought for police service. Let me have a glass of beer, that's a good fellow, before I'm locked up. I suppose there's no tap worth speaking of inside.' The constable laughed, and had one brought to him. ' It will be some time before you get another, captain. Here's a long one for you ; make the most of it.' Where, in the devil's name, is that Warrigal ? I thought to myself, has he given them the slip ! He had, as it turned out. He had slipped the handouffs over his slight wrists and small hands, bided hiB time, and then dashed into a scrub. There he was at home. They rode and rode, but Warrigal was gone like a rock wallaby. It was a good while before he was as near the gaol again. All this time I'd been wondering how it was they came to drop on our names so pat, and to find out that Jim and I had a share in the Momberah cattle racket. All they could have known was that we left the back of Boree at a certain day, and that was nothing, seeing that for all they knew we might have gone away to new country or anywhere. The more I looked at it the more I felt sure that some one had given to the police information about us— somebody that was in it and knew all about everything. It wasn t Starlight. We could have depended our life on him. It might have been one of the other chaps, but I didn't think ' eo. We could have been even with them, if they'd tried it on that way. I couldn't thick of any one, except Warrigal. He would do anything in the world to spite me and Jim, I knew. Bat then he couldn't hurt us without drawing the net tighter round Starlight. Sooner than hurt a hair of his head, he'd have put his hand into the fire and kept it there, 1 knew that from things I'd seen him do. Starlight and I hadn't much chance of a talk, but we managed to get news from each other, a bit at a time. That can always be managed. We were to be defended, and a lawyer fetched all the way from Sydney to fight our case from us. The monev was there. Father managed the other part of it through people he had that did every kind of work for him. So when the Judge oame up we should have a show for it. The weary long summer days— every one of them about twenty hours long — came to an end somehow or other. It w«s so hot and close and I was that miserable I had two minds to knock my brains out and finish the whole thing. I couldn't settle to read, as 1 did afterwards. I was always wishing and wondering when I'd hear some news from home, and none ever came. Nomah was a bit of a place where hardly anybody did anvthing but idle and drink, and spend monev when they had it. When they had none, they went away! There wasn't even a place to take exercise in, and the leg-irons I wore night and day began to eat into my flesh. I wasn't used to them in those days. I could feel them in my heart, too. Last of all, I got ill, and fora while was so weak and low they thought I was going to get out of the trial altogether. As for Starlight, it didn't make much odds to Aim. He kept up his spirits, used to chaff and gossip with the police, and I could hear him singing away like a lark first thing in the morning. I used to wonder how he could do it. I 1 couldn't have sung in that doghole if a song would have takes me out of it for good and all.


Robbery Under Arms. .

[By Rolf Boldeewood.]

Chatteb XVI. — (Continued.)

There were two days to Christmas. Next day George and Mb sister would be over, and we all looked forward to that for a good reminder of old times. We were going to have a merry Christmas at home for once hi a way. After . that we would clear out and get away to some of the far out stations, where chaps like ourselves always made to when they wanted to keep dark. We might have the lack of

other men that we had known of, and never be traced till the whole thug had died out and been half-forgotten. Though we didn't say much to each other, we had pretty well made up our minds to go straight from this out. 'We might take up a bit of back country, and put stock on it with some of the money we had left. Lots of men had begun that way that had things against them as bad as ns, and had kept steady, and worked through in course of time. Why shouldn't we as well as others P We wanted to see what the papers said of us. So we rode over to a little post town we knew of, and got a copy of the Evening Times. There it all was in full— ' CATTLE-LIFTING EXTRAORDINAKY. ?' We have heard from time to time of cattle being stolen, in lots' of reasonable size, Bay from ten to one hundred, or even as high as two hundred head at the outside. But we never expected to have to record the erecting of a substantial stockyard and the carrying off and disposing of a whole herd, estimated at a thousand or. eleven hundred head, chiefly the property of one proprietor. Yet this has beeu done in New South Wales, and done, we regret to say cleverly and successfully. It has just transpired, beyond, all possibility of mistaken that Mr. Hood's Outer Back Momberah run has suffered to that extent in the past whi ter. The stolen herd was driven to Adelaide, and there soil openly. The money was received by the robbers, who were permitted to decamp at their leisure. ' When we mention the name of the notorious * Star light,' no one will be surprised that the deed was planned, carried out, and executed with consummate address and completeness. It seems matter of regret that we cannot persuade this illustrious depredator to take the command of our police force, that body of life-assurers and property protectors which has proved so singularly ineffective as a pre ventive service in the present case. On the well-known proverbial principle we might hope for the best results under Mr. Starlight's intelligent supervision, We must not withhold our.approval as to one item of success which the force has ecored. Starlight himself and a half-caste Frenchman have been cleverly captured by Detective Still brook, just as the former, who has been ruffling it among the ' aristocratic ' settlers ot' Christchurch, was about to sail for Honolulu. The names of his other accomplices, six in number it ie said, have not as yet transpired.' ThiB last part gave us confidence, but all the same we kept evciy thing ready for a bolt in case of need. We got up our horses every evening and kept them in the yard all night. The feed was good by the creek now. A little dried up but plenty of bite, and better for horses that had to be ridden far and fast than if it was green. We had enough of last year's hay to give them a feed at night, and that wa» all they wanted. They were two pretty good ones and not ; slow either. We took care of that when we bought them. Nobody ever saw us on bad ones since we were boys, and we had broken ilium iu to stand and be caught day or night.

and to let us jump on and off at a moment s notice. : ? ' All that dav, being awful hot and close, we stayed in the house and yarned away with mother and Aileen till they thought — poor souls— that we had turned over a new leaf and were going to stay at home, and be good boys for the future. When a man sees how little it takes to make women happy — them I'v;!*^ ^ood, and never thinks of anything but d- in? their best for every body belonging to 'em, it's wonderful how men ever make up their minds to go wrong and bring all that loves them to sname and grief. When they've got nobody but themselves to think of it don't so much matter as I know of ; but to keep on breaking the hearts of those as never did you anything but good, and wouldn't if they lived for a hundred years, is cowardly and uumanly any way you look at it. And yet we'd done very little else ourselves these years and years. We all sat up till nigh on to midnight' with our hands in one another's. 3im down at mother's feet; Aileen and I close beBide them on the old seat in the verandah that father made such a time ago. At last mother gets up, and they both started for bed, Aileen seemed as if she couldn't tear her self away. Twice she came back, then she kissed ut both, and the tears came into her eyes. -' I feel too happy,' she said; 'I never thought I should feel like this again. God bless you both, and keep us all from harm.' 'Amen,' said mother from the next room. W* turned out early, and had a bathe in the creek before we went up to the yard to let out the horses. There wasn't a cloud in the eky ; it was safe to be a roasting hot day, but it was cool then. The little waterhole where we learned to swim when we were boys was deep on one side, and had a rocky ledge to jump off. The birds just began to give out a note or two ; the sun was rising clear and bright, and we could see the dark top of Nulla Mountain getting a sort of rose-colour against the sky. ' George and Gracey '11 be over soon after breakfast,' I said, ' we must make everything look ship-nhape as well a* we can before they turn up.' ' The horses may as well go down to the flat,' Jim saya* ' we can catch them easy enough hi time to ride back part of the wav with them. I'll run up Lowan, and give her a bit of hay in the calf-pen.' We went over to the yard, and Jim let down the rails and - walked in. I stopped outside. Jim had his horse by the mane, and was patting his neck as mine came out, when three police troopers rose up from behind the bushes, aud covering us with their rifles called out, 'Stand, in the Queen's name !' Jim made one spring on to his horse's back, drove his heels into his flank, and was out through the gate and half way down the hill before you could wink. Just as Jim cleared the gate a tall man rose up close be hind me and took a cool pot at him with a revolver. I saw Jim' b hat fly off, and another bullet grazed his horse's hip. 1 saw the hair fly, and the horse make a plunge that would have unseated most men with no saddle between their legs. But Jim sat close and steady and only threw up his arm and gave a shout as the old horse tore down the hill a few miles an hour faster. ?? D— n those cartridges,' said the tall trooper, ' they always put too much powder in them for close shooting. * ' Now Dick Marston !' he went on, putting his revolver to my head, ' I'd rather not blow your brains out before yout people— but if you don't put up your hands by ? I'll shoot you where you stand/' I had been standing staring after Jim all the time; I believe I had never thought of myself till he was safe away. ' Get your horses, you d— a fools,' he shouts out to the men, ' and 6ee if yon can follow np that madman. He's most likely knocked off against a tree by this time.' There was nothing else for it but to do it and be hand' cuffed. As the steel locks snapped I saw mother standing below wringing her hands, and Aileen trying to get her into the house. ' Better come down and get your coat on, Dick,' said the senior-conBtable. ' We want to search the place too. By Jove ! we shall get pepper from Sir Ferdinand when we go in. I thought we had you both as safe as chickens in a coop. Who would have thought of Jim givin' us the slip, on a - barebacked horse, without so much as a halter f I'm . devilish 6orry for your family ; but if nothing less than a thousand head of cattle will satisfy people, they must expect trouble to come of it.' 'What are you talking about?' I said. 'You've got the wrong Btory and the wrong men.' ' All right ; we'll see about that. I don't know whether you want any breakfast, bnt I should like a cup of tea. It's deuced slow work watching all night, though it isn't cold. We've got to be in Bargo barracks to-night, so there's no ' time to lose.' It was all over now— the worst had come. What fools we had been not to take the old man's advice, and clear out