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.
Mr. Runnimall, the auctioneer, swore that the older prisoner placed certain cattle in his hands, to arrive, for sale in the usual way, stating that his name was Mr. Charles Carisforth, and that he had several stations in other colonies. Had no reason for doubting him. Prisoner was then very well dressed, was gentlemanly in his manners, and came to his office with a young gentleman of property whom he knew well. The cattle were sold in the usual way for rather high prices, as the market was good. The proceeds in cash were paid over to the prisoner, whom he now knew by the name of Starlight. He accounted for there being an unusual number of brands by saying publicly at the sale that the station had been used as a depot for other runs of his, and the remainder lots of store cattle kept there.
He had seen a short-horn bull outside of the court this day branded 'J-E' on the shoulder. He identified him as one of the cattle placed in his hands for sale by the prisoner Starlight. He sold and delivered him according to instructions. He subsequently handed over the proceeds to the said prisoner. He included the purchase money in a cheque given for the bull and other cattle sold on that day. He could swear positively to the bull; he was a remarkable animal. He had not the slightest doubt as to his identity.
'Had he seen the prisoner Marston when the cattle were sold now alleged to belong to Mr. Hood?'
'Yes; he was confident that prisoner was there with some other men whom he (witness) did not particularly remark. He helped to draft the cattle, and to put them in pens on the morning of the sale.'
'Was he prepared to swear that prisoner Marston was not a hired servant of prisoner Starlight?'
'No; he could not swear. He had no way of knowing what the relations were between the two. They were both in the robbery; he could see that.'
'How could you see that?' said our lawyer. 'Have you never seen a paid stockman do all that you saw prisoner Marston do?'
'Well, I have; but somehow I fancy this man was different.'
'We have nothing to do with your fancies, sir,' says our man, mighty hot, as he turns upon him; 'you are here to give evidence as to facts, not as to what you fancy. Have you any other grounds for connecting prisoner Marston with the robbery in question?'
'No, he had not.'
'You can go down, sir, and I only wish you may live to experience some of the feelings which fill the breasts of persons who are unjustly convicted.'
This about ended the trial. There was quite enough proved for a moderate dose of transportation. A quiet, oldish-looking man got up now and came forward to the witness-box. I didn't know who he was; but Starlight nodded to him quite pleasant. He had a short, close-trimmed beard, and was one of those nothing-particular-looking old chaps. I'm blessed if I could have told what he was. He might have been a merchant, or a squatter, or a head clerk, or a wine merchant, or a broker, or lived in the town, or lived in the country; any of half-a-dozen trades would suit him. The only thing that was out of the common was his eyes. They had a sort of curious way of looking at you, as if he wondered whether you was speaking true, and yet seein' nothing and tellin' nothing. He regular took in Starlight (he told me afterwards) by always talking about the China Seas; he'd been there, it seems; he'd been everywhere; he'd last come from America; he didn't say he'd gone there to collar a clerk that had run off with two or three thousand pounds, and to be ready to meet him as he stepped ashore.
Anyhow he'd watched Starlight in Canterbury when he was riding and flashing about, and had put such a lot of things together that he took a passage in the same boat with him to Melbourne. Why didn't he arrest him in New Zealand? Because he wasn't sure of his man. It was from something Starlight let out on board ship. He told me himself afterwards that he made sure of his being the man he wanted; so he steps into the witness-box, very quiet and respectable-looking, with his white waistcoat and silk coat -- it was hot enough to fry beefsteaks on the roof of the courthouse that day -- and looks about him. The Crown Prosecutor begins with him as civil as you please.
'My name is Stephen Stillbrook. I am a sergeant of detective police in the service of the Government of New South Wales. From information received, I proceeded to Canterbury, in New Zealand, about the month of September last. I saw there the older prisoner, who was living at a first-class hotel in Christchurch. He was moving in good society, and was apparently possessed of ample means. He frequently gave expensive entertainments, which were attended by the leading inhabitants and high officials of the place. I myself obtained an introduction to him, and partook of his hospitality on several occasions. I attempted to draw him out in conversation about New South Wales; but he was cautious, and gave me to understand that he had been engaged in large squatting transactions in another colony. From his general bearing and from the character of his associates, I came to the belief that he was not the individual named in the warrant, and determined to return to Sydney. I was informed that he had taken his passage to Melbourne in a mail steamer. From something which I one day heard his half-caste servant say, who, being intoxicated, was speaking carelessly, I determined to accompany them to Melbourne. My suspicions were confirmed on the voyage. As we went ashore at the pier at Sandridge I accosted him. I said, "I arrest you on suspicion of having stolen a herd of cattle, the property of Walter Hood, of Momberah." Prisoner was very cool and polite, just as any other gentleman would be, and asked me if I did not think I'd made a most ridiculous mistake. The other passengers began to laugh, as if it was the best joke in the world. Starlight never moved a muscle. I've seen a good many cool hands in my time, but I never met any one like him. I had given notice to one of the Melbourne police as he came aboard, and he arrested the half-caste, known as Warrigal. I produced a warrant, the one now before the court, which is signed by a magistrate of the territory of New South Wales.'