Chapter 161922202

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Chapter NumberXVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161922202
Full Date1882-10-07
Page Number590
Corrections0
Word Count3545
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleRobbery Under Arms
article text

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Robbery Under Arms.

[By Eolf Boldrewood.]

Chapter XVII.— (Continued.)

At laBt 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 coses 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 bo 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 Honor, 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 Becond man called out 'challenge.' Then that juror had to go down. It took a good whUe 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, not 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, aud made out the country was sure to go to destruction if we were not convicted. He said that un fortunately 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 evi dence as a hundred. Such an animal he would pro duce, and he would not trespass on the patience of jurors and gentlemen in attendance any longer, bat 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 stockriders, 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 wa# 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 shorthorn 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 con cerning the bull ; he would and could swear to the identity of the animal with the 15th Duke of Cambridge, an im ported Shorthorn 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

ui wimBBbB presence, n was a noraeDrana, now it re sembled 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 out back ; knew the bull to be a valuable animal, worth several hundred pounds. We had one bit of luck in having to be tried in an out-of the- way place like Nomah. It was a regular outside bush township, and though the distance oughtn't to have much to say to people's honesty, you'll mostly find that these far out back ofjbeyond places, have got men and women to match 'em. Except the squatters and overseers, the other people '« mostly a mostly a shady lot. Some 's run away from places that were too hot to hold 'em. The women ain't the men's wives that they live with, but somebody else's— who's well rid of 'em too if all was known. There's moBt likely a bit of horse and cattle stealing done on the quiet, and the pub licans and storekeepers know who are their best customers, the square people or the cross ones. It ain't so easy to get 8 regular op and down straight ahead jury in a place of.

this sort. So Starlight and I knew that our chance was a lot better than if we'd been tried at Bargo or Datton Forest, or ?By steady going places of that sort. If we'd made up our minds from the first that we were to get into it, it wouldn't have been so bad; we'd have known we had to bear it. Now we might get out of it, and what a thing it would be to feel free again, and walk about in the nm without any one having the right to stop you. Almost, that is, there were other things against us; but there wasn't so much of a chance' of their taming up. This was the great stake. If we won we were as good as made. I felt ready to swear I'd go home and never touch a shilling that didn't come honest again. If we lost, it seemed as if j everything was so much the worse, and blacker than it looked at first, just for this bit of hope and comfort. After the bull had been sworn to by Mr. Hood and another witness, they brought up some more evidence, as they called it, about the other cattle we had sold in Adelaide. They bad fetched some of the fanners up that had been at the sale. They swore straight enough to having bought cattle with certain brands from Starlight. They didn't know, of course, at the time, whose they were, but they could describe the brands fast enough. There was one fellow that couldn't read nor write, bnt he remembered all the brands, about a dozen, in the pen of steers he bought, and described them one by one. One brand, he said, was like a long handled shovel. It turned out to be i-tD. TD— Tom Daweon'8, of Mungeree. About a hundred of his were in the nob. They had drawn back for Mungeree, as was nearly all frontage and cold in the winter. He was the worst witness for qb of the lot, very near. He'd noticed everything and for got nothing. ' Do you recognise either of the prisoners in the dock ? ' he was asked. 'Yes; both of 'em,' says he. 'I wish I could have got at him. I see the swell chap first— him as made out he was the owner, and gammoned ail the Adelaide gentlemen eo neat. There was a half-caste chap with him, as followed him about everywhere. Then there was another man as didn't talk much, but seemed, by letting down sliprails and what not, to be in it. I heard this Starlight, as he calls hisself now, say to him, ' You have everything ready to break camp by 10 o'clock, and I'll be there to-morrow and square up.' I thought he meant pay their wages. I never dropped but what they was his men — his hired servants— as he was going to pay off or send back.' 11 Will you swear,' our lawyer says, ' that the younger prisoner is the man yon saw at Adelaide with the cattle? ' ' Yes ; I'll swear. I looked at him pretty sharp, and nothing ain't likely to make me forget him. He's the man, and that I'll swear to.' 11 Were there not other'people there with the'cattle ? ' ' Yes: there was an oldish, very quiet, but determined - like man — he had a stunnin' dorg with him— and a young man'something like this gentleman. I mean the prisoner. I didn't see the other young man nor the halfcaste in Court. ' That's all very well,' says our lawyer, very fierce ; ' but will you swear, sir, that the prisoner, Marston, took any charge or ownership of the cattle ? ' ' No, I can't,' says the chap. ' I see him a drafting 'em in the morning, and he seemed to know all the brands, and so on. But he done no more than I've Been hired servants do over and over again.' The other witnesses had done, when some one called out, 'Herbert Falkland,' and Mr. Falkland steps into the court. He walks in quiet and a little proud ; he couldn't help feeling it, but he didn't show it in his ways and talk, as little as any man I ever 6aw. He's asked by the Crown prosesutor if he's seen the bull outside of the court this day. ?' Yes ; he has seen him. ' ' Has he ever seen him before ?' ' Never, to his knowledge.' ' He doeBn't, then, know the name of his former owner ?' 'Has heard, generally that he belonged to Mr. Hood, of Mombeach, but does not know it of his own knowledge.' 'Has he ever (seen or does he -know either of the pri soners ?' ' Knows the younger prisoner, who has been in the habit of working for him in various ways.' *l When was prisoner Marston working for him last?' ' He and his brother James, who rendered his family a service he shall never forget, was, working (for him, after last shearing, for some months.'1 11 'Where were they working ?' ' At an outstation at the back of the run.' 'When did they leave '«* ' ' About April or May last.' ' Was it known to you in what direction they proceeded after leaving your service ?' 41 1 have no personal knowledge ; I should think it im proper to quote hearsay.' ' Had they been settled up with for their former work ?' ' No, there was a balance due to them.' ' To what amount ?' 'About twenty pounds each was ''owing.' ' Did you not think it curious that ordinary labourers should leave so large a sum in your hands F' ' It struck me as unusual, but I did not attach much weight to the circumstances. 1 thought they would come back and ask for it before the next shearing. I am heartily sorry that they did not do so, and regret still more deeply that two youns; men worthy of a better fate should have been arraigned on such a charge.' ' One moment, Mr. Falkland,' says our counsel, as they call them, and a first-rate counsellor ours was. If we'd been as innocent as two^schoolgirls he couldn't have done more for us. ' Did the prisoner Marston work well and conduct himself properly while in your employ F' ' No man better, says Mr. Falkland, looking over to me with that pitying kind of.look in his eyes as made me feel what a fool and rogue I'd been, ten times worse than any thing else. ' No man better ; he and his brother were in many reepecte, according to my overseer's report, the most hard- working and beet conducted labourers in the establish ment.

Chapter XVIII. 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 Carieforth, and that he had several stations in other colonies. Had no reason for doubting him. Prisoner waB 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 sow knew by the name of Starlight. He accounted for there being an unusual number of brands by saying publicly at the Bale 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 Shorthorn 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 instruc tions. He subsequently handed over the proceeds to the eaid 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 Eold now alleged to belong to Mr. Hood ? ' 'Yes; he was confident that prisoner was therewith 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 P' 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 yon 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 tip 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, ora 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 beefsteak on the roof of the courthouse that day — and looks abont him as the Crown Prosecutor begins with him as civil as you please. ' My name is Stephen StiUbrook. I am a constable 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 Sep tember last. I there saw 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 par took 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 hie 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 beard his half-caste ser vant say, who, being intoxicated, was speaking carelessly, I determined to accompany them to Melbourne. My sus picions were confirmed on the voyage. As we went on Bhore at the pier at Sandridge, I accosted him. I said, ',1 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 geu tleman 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 pro duced a warrant, the one now before the Court, which is signed by a magistrate of the territory of New South Wales.' The witnessing part was all over. It took the best part of the day, and there were we all the time standing up in the dock, with the court crammed with people staring at us. I don't say that it felt as bad as it might have done nigh home. Most of the Nomah people looked upon fellows stealing cattle or horses, in small lots or big, just like mest people look at boys stealing fruit out of an orchard, or as they used to talk of smugglers on the English coast, as I've heard father' tell |of. Any man might take a turn at that sort ot thing, now and then, and not be such a bad chap after all. It was the duty of the police to catch him. It they caught him, well and good, it was so much the worse for him ; if they didn't, that was their look-out. It wasn't anybody else's business anyhow. And a man that wasn't caught, or that got turned up at his trial, was about as good as the general run of people, and there was no reason for any one to look shy at him.