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.
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 handcuffs over his slight wrists and small hands, bided his 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 who 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 couldn't think of any one, except Warrigal. He would do anything in the world to spite me and Jim, I knew; but 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. I 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 for us. The money 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 came 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 was 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 I 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 anything but idle and drink, and spend money 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 for a while was so weak and low they thought I was going to get out of the trial altogether.
At last we heard that the judge and all his lot were on the road, and would be up in a few days. We were almost as glad when the news came as if we were sure of being let off. One day they did come, and all the little town was turned upside down. The judge stopped at one hotel (they told us); the lawyers at another. Then the witnesses in ours and other cases came in from all parts, and made a great difference, especially to the publicans. The jurors were summoned, and had to come, unless they had a fancy for being fined. Most of this I heard from the constables; they seemed to think it was the only thing that made any difference in their lives. Last of all I heard that Mr. Hood had come, and the imported bull, and some other witnesses.
There were some small cases first, and then we were brought out, Starlight and I, and put in the dock. The court was crammed and crowded; every soul within a hundred miles seemed to have come in; there never were so many people in the little courthouse before. Starlight was quietly dressed, and looked as if he was there by mistake. Anybody would have thought so, the way he lounged and stared about, as if he thought there was something very curious and hard to understand about the whole thing. I was so weak and ill that I couldn't stand up, and after a while the judge told me to sit down, and Starlight too. Starlight made a most polite bow, and thanked his Honour, as he called him. Then the jury were called up, and our lawyer began his work. He stood alongside of Starlight, and whispered something to him, after which Starlight stood up, and about every second man called out 'Challenge'; then that juror had to go down. It took a good while to get our jury all together. Our lawyer seemed very particular about the sort of jury he was satisfied with; and when they did manage to get twelve at last they were not the best-looking men in the court by a very long way.
The trial had to go on, and then the Crown Prosecutor made a speech, in which he talked about the dishonesty which was creeping unchecked over the land, and the atrocious villainy of criminals who took a thousand head of cattle in one lot, and made out the country was sure to go to destruction if we were not convicted. He said that unfortunately they were not in a position to bring many of the cattle back that had been taken to another colony; but one remarkable animal was as good for purposes of evidence as a hundred. Such an animal he would produce, and he would not trespass on the patience of jurors and gentlemen in attendance any longer, but call his first witness.
John Dawson, sworn: Was head stockman and cattle manager at Momberah; knew the back country, and in a general way the cattle running there; was not out much in the winter; the ground was boggy, and the cattle were hardly ever mustered till spring; when he did go, with some other stock-riders, he saw at once that a large number of the Momberah cattle, branded HOD and other brands, were missing; went to Adelaide a few months after; saw a large number of cattle of the HOD brand, which he was told had been sold by the prisoner now before the court, and known as Starlight, and others, to certain farmers; he could swear that the cattle he saw bore Mr. Hood's brand; could not swear that he recognised them as having been at Momberah in his charge; believed so, but could not swear it; he had seen a short-horn bull outside of the court this morning; he last saw the said bull at the station of Messrs. Fordham Brothers, near Adelaide; they made a communication to him concerning the bull; he would and could swear to the identity of the animal with the Fifteenth Duke of Cambridge, an imported short-horn bull, the property of Mr. Hood; had seen him before that at Momberah; knew that Mr. Hood had bought said bull in Sydney, and was at Momberah when he was sent up; could not possibly be mistaken; when he saw the bull at Momberah, nine months since, he had a small brand like H on the shoulder; Mr. Hood put it on in witness's presence; it was a horse-brand, now it resembled J-E; the brand had been 'faked' or cleverly altered; witness could see the original brand quite plain underneath; as far as he knew Mr. Hood never sold or gave any one authority to take the animal; he had missed him some months since, and always believed he had strayed; knew the bull to be a valuable animal, worth several hundred pounds.