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.
They searched Nulla Mountain from top to bottom; but some 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 years 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 constable'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 care 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 night, so there wasn't much chance of moving without waking him. I 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 committed for trial, and then there'll be a row over it, I suppose.'
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 their 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 one's hit in fair fight it's the fortune of war. What our side don't like is 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 they don't expect it they get it pretty hot. They've only themselves to thank for it.
Goring, I could see by his ways, had been a swell, something 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 men they make. They like the half-soldiering kind of life, and if they 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 is, he could set most horses, and hold his own with us natives anywhere but through scrub and mountain country. No man can ride there, I don't care who he is, the same as we can, unless he's been 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 Nomah, a regular hot hole of a place, with a log lock-up. I was stuck 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 this 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, so as Mr. Hood could swear to 'em being his 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 prosecutor, 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 horse. 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, handcuffed, between two troopers, and looking as if he'd ridden a long way. He was just as easy-going and devil-may-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. You ought to make me remount agent, and I'd show you 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.'