LONG and deadly wearisome was the journey to Ballarat. Necessarily slow, it became insufferably tedious to impatient men who had been used to take counsel but of their own will and caprice. An early start, a late ending to the dragging day’s journey, broken but by a short mid-day halt. Such was the order of Lance’s return to Ballarat, until, on the fifth day, they saw once more in the distance the smoke of the thousand camp fires and heard the distant surge-like murmur of the army of the Mine.
Wearied and heart-sick, melancholy and furious by turns, Lance Trevanion almost commenced to doubt of his own identity. When they arrived at the camp he found himself led forward between two troopers and half conducted, half pushed into a cell, the clang of the bolt seeming to intensify the strange unreality of his position. The trooper informed him that his meal would be sent in directly; that he would have to make the best of it with the blankets doubled up for a bed in a corner of the cell until next day. Then he would be brought before the police magistrate, and either discharged or committed, as the case might be.
On the journey Lance had, after his first paroxysm of rage and disgust, abundant leisure to think over and over the facts and probable consequences of his position. He was apparently to be arraigned, if committed for trial, for having in his possession a stolen horse. But could they, could any one prove that he had ‘guilty knowledge—that he knew of its being dishonestly come by’? Were not half the horses then sold in Ballarat supposed to be stolen, stolen from the ‘Sydney side,’ from South Australia, from all parts of Victoria indeed? He had never known any one tried on such a charge, and had, indeed, thought in his ignorance that laxity about the ownership of live stock was one of the customs of the country, rendered indeed almost inevitable from the absence of fencing or natural boundaries between the immense herds and flocks.
He had not, of course, the smallest suspicion that Pendragon, the horse he had so named in memory of the old Cornish legend, which he had bought from Ned Lawless at a high figure, was other than perfectly ‘square,’ as Ned would have phrased it. Had he known the truth he would have repudiated the purchase with scorn. But now, to be arrested and marched to gaol with as much formality as if he had taken a horse out of the stable of a neighbouring proprietor in Cornwall, or ‘lifted’ a flock of black-faced sheep, struck him as truly anomalous and absurd.
Next morning, after a night which came to an end in spite of his forlorn condition, he found himself making one of a large class of détenues who, for one offence or another, were to come up for judgment.
The ordinary charge-sheet of a goldfield is fairly filled as a rule, and at this particular period of the existence of Ballarat as a town a large proportion of criminals of all shades and classes had managed to make it their temporary home. Expirees from Tasmania, where the transportation system had only lately come to an end, had swelled the proportion of habitual criminals. These were daring and desperate men; an inexorable penal system had partially controlled, but failed altogether to reform them. So frequent had been the assaults upon life and property with which this class was credited, that an official of exceptional firmness and experience had been specially selected for the responsible post of police magistrate of Ballarat.
This gentleman, Mr. M‘Alpine, generally familiarly and widely known as ‘Launceston Mac,’ was credited with using a short and trenchant way with criminals. Presumably a large proportion of his clientèle had been at some time or other before him in Tasmania, He had, it was conceded, a wonderful memory for faces, as also for ‘accidents and offences.’ It was asserted for him that he never met a man under penal circumstances that he could not recognise if encountered twenty years afterwards. It was only necessary in the case of doubtful identity to direct the attendant police to ‘turn him round,’ which formula was almost invariably followed by the remark, ‘Seen you before, my man, on the other side, your name is so-and-so. Six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.’
Doubtless in nineteen cases out of twenty the inference was correct, and the punishment just. But there was a probability that occasionally the worthy justice was mistaken. Among the hordes of criminals with which he had been officially connected, small wonder if an occasional lapse of memory took place, and then so much the worse for the accused.
But, as in all comprehensive schemes of legislative repression the individual suffers for the general advantage, so the occasional misdirections of justice, in that era of widespread license which might so easily degenerate into lawlessness, were but lightly regarded as incident to a period of martial law; and no one gainsaid the fact that the practised readiness, prompt decision, and stern resolve which Mr. M‘Alpine brought to bear upon the thousands of cases were of priceless advantage to the body politic and all Jaw-abiding citizens.
It was this Rhadamanthus, before whom so many an evildoer trembled, that Lance Trevanion found himself compelled to confront. He knew him, of course, by fame and report, as who did not?—but had never met him, as it happened, personally. He did not doubt, however, but that a few words of explanation would suffice to set him free. It was therefore with a sense of awakening hope that he obeyed the summons to follow one of the constables to the court-house. This was a large but not imposing building, composed of weather-boards, rude, indeed, and deficient as to architectural proportions. However, it was a great improvement upon the large tent which did duty as a hall of justice in the primitive days of the gold outbreak.
Erect upon the bench, regarding the herd of prisoners, as one by one they came before him, with a stern countenance and searching glance, sat Mr. M‘Alpine. His eyes had that fixed and penetrating expression generally acquired by men who have had long experience of criminals. His face seemed to say to such: ‘I can identify you, if necessary—I know every thought of your vile heart—every deed of your ruffian life. Don’t dare to think of deceiving me or it will be worse for you—plead guilty if you are wise, and don’t insult the court by a defence!’
Long and so sombre had been Mr. M‘Alpine’s experiences of every kind of iniquity, of evasion, if not defiance of the law, that it is doubtful if he considered any person ever brought before him to be perfectly innocent. Certainly not, unless conclusively proved by competent witnesses. The onus probandi lay with the accused. It is asserted by outsiders that all police officials in time acquire a tinge of the hunter instinct, which impels them to pursue, and, if possible, run down every species of quarry once started, irrespective of guilt. But this, doubtless, is an invention of the enemy.
After the squad of ‘drunks and disorderlies’ had been dealt with, the names Launcelot Trevanion and Edward Lawless were called; ‘the prisoners’ were ordered to stand up.
A novel experience, truly, for the heir of Wychwood. The court was crowded. It had somehow leaked out that Trevanion, of Number Six, Growlers’, had been ‘run in’ by Sergeant Dayrell for horse-stealing. The news had not yet got as far as the Gully proper—the time not having allowed. But every ‘golden-hole man’ was pretty well known on the ‘field,’ and Lance was a prominent personage, by repute, in the mining community.
‘What the blazes has a chap like that any call to shake a horse—for that’s what I want to know?’ inquires a huge, blackbearded digger. ‘Why, they say he’s worth forty or fifty thousand, if he’s worth a penny, and the claim washing-up better and better every week?’
‘He never stole no moke,’ returned his companion decisively, ‘no more than you or me prigged the post-office clock, that’s just been a-striking! He’s a free-handed chap with his money, and that soft that he don’t know a cross cove from a straight ’un. He’s been had by Ned Lawless and his crowd. That’s about the size of it.’
‘They can’t shop him for that, though,’ said the first man, contemplatively filling his pipe. ‘They say he was riding a crooked horse when he was took. Kate Lawless was with him on another. The yard was half-full of horses the Lawlesses had worked from hereabouts. It looked ugly, didn’t it?’
‘Looked ugly be blowed!’ said his more logical and experienced friend. ‘Things is getting pretty cronk if a chap can’t ride alongside a pretty gal without wanting to see a receipt for the nag she’s on! I believe it’s a plant of that beggar Dayrell’s. He wants a big case, and that poor young chap may have to suffer for it.’
‘Dayrell wouldn’t do a thing like that, surely,’ exclaimed the first speaker in tones of amazement. ‘Why, it’s as bad as murder, I call it. What’s to become of a swell chap like him, if he’s lagged and sent to the hulks?’
‘There’s devilish few things as Dayrell wouldn’t do, it’s my opinion, if he thought he’d get a step by it,’ replied his friend. ‘But this cove’s friends ’ll make a fight for it. They’ll have law. They’ve got money, and so has he, of course. They’ll have a lawyer from Melbourne.’
It did not appear at first as if there was much danger to be apprehended as far as Lance was concerned. Directly his case was called, he stood up and faced the Bench and the expectant crowd with a stern expression half of defiance,—half of contempt.
‘May I say a few words in my own defence?’ he commenced. ‘I am certain that a short explanation would convince the Bench that any charge such as I am called upon to answer is ludicrous in the extreme.’
‘We must first have the evidence of the apprehending constable,’ said the police magistrate decisively, I after which the Bench will hear anything you have to say.’
‘But, your worship, I wish to speak a few words before.’
‘After the evidence,’ said the P.M. sternly. ‘Swear Sergeant Dayrell.’
That official strode forward, stepping into the vertical pew which is placed for the apparent in-convenience of witnesses, by adding to their natural nervousness and trepidation the discomfort of a cramped wearisome posture. To him, at least, it made no difference. Cool and collected, he made his statement with practised ease and deliberation, as if reading an oft-recited passage out of a well-known volume, watching the pen of the clerk of the Bench, so as to permit that official to commit to writing correctly his oft-fateful words. They were as follows—
‘My name is Francis Dayrell, senior-sergeant of police for the colony of Victoria, at present stationed at Growlers’ Gully. I know the prisoners before the court. On Friday the 20th September last, from information received, I proceeded to a digging known as Balooka, situated in New South Wales, and distant about one hundred and seventy miles from Ballarat. I arrived on Monday evening the 23d, and proceeded to the camp of the prisoner Edward Lawless, whom I arrested by virtue of a warrant, which I produce. It is signed by a magistrate of the territory. In a yard close to the prisoner’s camp I found a large number of horses, several of which I at once identified as being stolen from miners at Ballarat, or in the vicinity. Others appeared to have brands resembling those of squatters in the neighbourhood. The prisoner Lawless was unable to account for his possession of these, or to produce receipts. He was about to leave for Melbourne, I was informed, in order to sell the whole mob. I arrested him and his cousin Daniel, and charged him with stealing the horse named in the warrant. While he was in custody I observed the other prisoner, Launcelot Trevanion by name, riding towards the camp in company with a young woman. She was riding one horse, and leading another. When he came up I identified both the horse he was riding and that of his companion as stolen horses, both of which have been advertised in the Police Gazette. I produce the Gazette wherein the brand and description correspond. I charged the prisoner with receiving a certain bay horse branded H. J., well knowing him to be stolen, and arrested him. I then conveyed the prisoners to the gaol at Ballarat East, where I confined them.’
This evidence—which even Lance admitted to himself placed matters in a more unfavourable light than he could have supposed possible—being read over, Mr. M‘Alpine said, ‘Have you any question to ask the witness?’
‘Yes, your worship,’ answered Lance, bringing out the last two words with apparent difficulty.
‘You are aware that I had the bay horse in my possession for some weeks at Growlers’, and rode him openly there?’
‘Then why did you not arrest me there?’
‘I had my reasons, one of which was that I had not received an answer from Mr. Jeffreys—the breeder of the horse.’
‘Was that with reference to the hundred pound reward offered on conviction of any one proved to have stolen one of his horses?’
‘That reward did not actuate you in arresting me on a charge of which you must know that I am innocent, if you have watched my conduct at all?’
‘I have watched your conduct, and know you to be an habitual associate of the Lawlesses, who, as a family, are known to be among the most clever horse and cattle stealera in New South Wales. I have known you to make a practice of gambling with them for large sums. It has been stated to me that you have lost as much as five hundred pounds to them at a sitting.’
‘Did you not know that I had come straight from Ballarat when I rode up to the camp at Balooka?’
‘I am not in a position to state where you came from. I saw you ride up with Kate Lawless, in whose company I have repeatedly seen you. On this occasion you and she were in possession of three horses—all stolen property—the one she rode, the one she led, and the horse you rode.’
‘How could I know that the horse I bought from Ned Lawless was stolen? He did not know, I believe, or he would not have sold it to me, I am sure.’
‘That you will have to explain to the court,’ returned the sergeant, with pitying contempt
‘Good God! Did I look like a guilty man when you arrested me?’exclaimed Lance, in a tone which had an echo of despair as plank by plank he felt his defence foundering, as it were, at every cold and sinister answer of this relentless foe.
‘You made a most violent resistance,’ replied the sergeant calmly, ‘of which my face still bears the mark. I don’t know whether that is to be taken as a proof of your innocence.’
‘I appeal to your worship,’ exclaimed the unfortunate accused as a nameless terror stole over him—such as Quentin Durward may have experienced when Tristan L’Hermite and Petit André were about to attach him to the fatal tree—lest, ignorant of all legal forms, he should be tried and condemned before he had a chance of exculpation. ‘I appeal to your worship to permit my case to be adjourned, in order that I may bring witnesses who can prove my innocence, and also that I may obtain legal assistance. Surely you cannot sit there and see an innocent man wrongfully condemned. Though a miner, I am a gentleman of good, indeed ancient family; an act such as I have been accused of is, therefore, impossible to me. For God’s sake, permit me an adjournment! ‘
The magistrate’s face was impassive. His nature was probably not less compassionate than that of other men. But long familiarity with crime, long official acquaintance with every variety of villainy, had indurated his feelings to such an extent that but little trust in human nature, as ordinarily displayed within the precincts of his court, had survived. No doubt this young fellow looked and spoke like an innocent man; but how many criminals had looked and spoken likewise? The wholesale stealing of miners’ and squatters’ horses—now worth from fifty to a hundred pounds each in the Melbourne market—had reached such a pitch that the miners had declared their intention to shoot or lynch any future ‘horse thieves,’ as the American miners called them, if justice was not done them by the Government. Mr. M‘Alpine had this in his mind at the time, and, with all proper respect for the rules of evidence, had come fully to the conclusion that it was high time that an exemplary sentence should be passed upon the very next culprit caught ‘redhanded’; he therefore made no reply to the passionate appeal of the unlucky prisoner.
‘Read over the evidence,’ he said, in a cold voice, to the clerk of the court.
That official with colourless accuracy read out Dayrell’s damaging statement on oath, as well as Lance’s questions thereupon, which, as generally happens to the accused who essays his own defence, had injured rather than aided his case.
‘Do you wish to ask the witness any other question?’ he inquired, in a tone which would have led a bystander to think that the process was a pleasant interchange of ideas between gentlemen, which any prisoner might enjoy.
‘No; certainly not, but I should like to say——’
‘I understood you to apply for an adjournment, for the purpose of calling witnesses and employing a legal practitioner?’
‘Certainly I did, but I wish ——’
‘The prisoner stands remanded to this day week at 10 A.M. Bail refused. It is understood that any authorised person is not to be denied access to him. The court stands adjourned till ten o’clock to-morrow morning.’
As this closed proceedings, the police magistrate walked slowly forth, leaving Lance to be re-conducted to prison, with, however, permission to see all friends and legal advisers.
Before the proceedings closed the sergeant had made a formal request for the adjournment for a week of the case against Edward Lawless, assigning as a reason that he was not fully prepared with the necessary evidence. This had been assented to: both prisoners were then marched back to gaol, and being locked up in separate cells, were left to their reflections.
From the sound of whistling and even singing which proceeded from the apartment occupied by Mr. Edward Lawless, the penalty of imprisonment did not appear to fall heavily upon his elastic spirits: the iron had not entered into his soul in any marked degree. But far otherwise was it with Lance Trevanion. He had buoyed himself up with the idea that he would only need to make a short explanation to the magistrate, and that he would be immediately set at liberty. In this expectation he had been bitterly disappointed. So far from his release being an easy matter, it seemed as if a fresh element of doubt, a dismal dread, undefined yet ominous, had been introduced into the affair. Would he perhaps really be convicted and sentenced? The idea was maddening, but innocent persons had been found guilty before, if some of the tales which he had heard were not untrue. Why not again? This was a strange country. He had been deceived and thoroughly duped, as he could not help confessing to himself. Might he not find himself yet more fatally mistaken in all his conclusions?
Seated on the floor of his cell, he rapidly fell into a state of semi-stupor as these sombre imaginings coursed through his brain, sometimes slowly and with saddest procession, at other times with almost delirious haste. Was he indeed Lance Trevanion, the free, fearless traveller of a week since? It surely could not be! What was he to do next? Life or liberty, which came to the same thing, was surely worth fighting for. He must have legal assistance if it were possible. There was hardly a lawyer in Ballarat that was practising his profession. A sufficient number there abode doubtless, but they were all in the year 1852 engaged in mining. After a while the ebb of adventure set in, on which a return took place to nearly all the professions. But in the spring of 1852 the golden tide was at flood-mark. It was hard to find any man in the place or position which he had formerly held.
From this mood of doubt and despair Trevanion was aroused by steps in the corridor and the opening of the door of the cell. He had but scant time to rise and stand erect when Hastings and Jack Polwarth entered—the latter with an expression of alarm and astonishment that but for his evident sincerity would have been ludicrous.
‘Why, Mr. Lance—Mr. Trevanion,’ cried Jack, in tones of subdued horror, ‘whatever has come to ye, that they have had the face to do this? Can they stand by it, think ye, Mr. Hastings? Locking up a gentleman like Mr. Lance here and makin’ oot as he’s stolen a trumpery ’oss, him as wouldn’t do the like for a Black Forest full of ’em. It’s fair murther and worse—all the gully’s talking on it, and I could fetch a hundred Cousin Jacks and Devon lads as’lld pull the place about their ears if you’d but say the word, Mr. Lance?’
‘I’m afraid that would do no good, Jack,’ said Hastings, whose concern, not so freely expressed, was as deep and sincere as that of Lance’s faithful partner. ‘I see no reason though, Trevanion, why you shouldn’t be out in a week. However, all this is deucedly annoying and vexatious. Still we must be patient. Queer things happen on a goldfield. You remember my plight when first we made acquaintance?’
‘Annoying!’ replied Trevanion, slowly turning his frowning face, in which the lurid passion-light of his gloomy eyes had , commenced to burn. ‘Why in the world should I have been selected by Providence for this damnable injustice? I feel already as if I was disgraced irrevocably. How can I ever show my face among my equals again after having been arrested, handcuffed, charged with felony, locked up like a criminal? Great God! when I think of it all I wonder why I don’t go mad!’
‘It’s no use getting excited over it,’ said Hastings. ‘The thing is to do all that we can, not to think or talk about it overmuch. Stirling will be here to-morrow. He could not come to-day, but will leave his bank before the stars are out of the sky to-morrow, and will be here by breakfast-time. He could not come to-day because of business. We will see about your witnesses and manage to get a lawyer up from Melbourne in time. Keep up your spirits. There are dozens of men, and women too, that can prove an alibi. If my claim was as good as yours I’d swap places cheerfully with you.’
‘Don’t be too sure of that,’ returned Lance with a sardonic smile. ‘I have a kind of presentiment that evil will come of this business. Why, I know not, but still the feeling haunts me. Well, Jack, we never thought of this on board the Red Jacket when we were so jolly, eh?’
‘Just to think of it,’ exclaimed Jack, with the tears running down his honest face. ‘And never a Trevanion in a prison before since that king—I can’t mind his name—shut up one of them in the old Tower of London and cut his head off. But that was dying like a gentleman—that ever I should have lived to see this! I could never show my face at Wychwood or St. Austell’s again.’
‘Why, Jack, you’re about as foolish as your—master, I was nearly saying as your—mate there, at any rate. Why, Lance is not even committed for trial. All sorts of things may happen in the meantime. Must happen; must happen. Now, we must say good-bye, Lance. I’ll send you in some books. I don’t see many about. For God’s sake, keep up your spirits.’
The time fixed for the remand having expired, Lance and his fellow-prisoner, Ned Lawless, were brought up for their preliminary trial. All necessary arrangements had been completed; no further reason existed for delay either on the part of the Crown or of the prisoners.
The sergeant was quite ready with his witnesses; Stirling and Hastings had secured the services of the celebrated Mr. England, the great criminal lawyer, about whose capacity the general miners’ opinion, as expressed on the occasion, ran thus: ‘Well, if England don’t get him off, nobody will.’
These important preliminaries having been settled, the crowd waited with impatience mingled with a certain satisfaction that so important a trial was really to come off and not to be strangled in its infancy, like many promising legal melodramas to which they had looked forward. There would be no mistake about this one at any rate. Sergeant Dayrell had come down in full uniform from the camp at an early hour. The show would be on soon after the clock struck ten.
At that hour punctually Mr. M‘Alpine took his seat upon the bench. In five minutes the court was crowded. After the ordinary business two men were marched in with a policeman on either side and placed in the dock. They were Lance Trevanion and Edward Lawless. The latter looked calmly around at the crowd as if there was no particular occasion for seriousness of mien. His mental attitude was easily comprehended by those of his compatriots who were present, whatever might be thought by the emigrant miners who were so visibly in the majority. Ned had played for a heavy stake—he had staked his liberty on the hazard and lost. If he had won there was a matter of two or three thousand pounds—indeed more—in the pool That would have set him up in a decent-sized cattle station capable of indefinite development. It was a fair risk. He had taken it knowingly and with his eyes open. Now that he had lost, as the cards had been against him, there was nothing for it but to pay up. It would be three years’ gaol, or perhaps five at the outside.
When Lance Trevanion stood up in the dock, confronting squarely the assembled crowd and the Bench, an almost audible shudder, accompanied by a species of gasping sigh, passed through the court. Quietly but correctly dressed, access having been possible to his raiment at Growlers’, he looked thoroughly a gentleman, a man of race and gentle nurture. As he stood, calm and impassive, with a steadfast unflinching gaze, the most suspicious person, however permeated with universal distrust, could not have connected him with the meaner crimes. In a half-smile, haughty and grimly humorous, his features relaxed for a moment as he met the sorrowful gaze of Mrs. Polwarth. Then he drew himself up to his full height and awaited the first act of the drama in which he played so important a part.
The curtain was not long in rising. The clerk of the court stood up and read out the evidence of Senior-Sergeant Dayrell, taken at the first hearing of the case, as also the order of adjournment signed by the police magistrate. A stoutish dark man, with a mobile face and direct clear glance, stood up and said, ‘May it please your honour, I beg pardon, your worship, I appear for the prisoner, Launcelot Trevanion.’
‘By all means, pleased to hear it, Mr. England. Sergeant Dayrell, your first witness.’
‘Call Herbert Jeffreys,’ and in answer to the stentorian call outside of the court a gentlemanlike man with a bronzed countenance and of quiet demeanour stepped into the witnessbox. On being sworn, he deposed as follows: ‘My name is Herbert Jeffreys, I am a land-holder and grazier, residing at Restdown, which is distant about one hundred and twenty miles from Ballarat. I have seen a bright bay horse with a star, outside of the court, branded “H. J.,” which is our station brand, at least for all horses and cattle running on the Campaspe. I swear to the horse as my property. He has been missing for nearly twelve months. I am perfectly certain it is the horse, and cannot be mistaken. I notice a slight cut inside of the hock, which was the result of an accident. I never sold him or gave prisoner or any other person authority to take him. He is a valuable animal, worth between eighty and a hundred pounds, as prices go. We have had a large number of horses stolen during the past year.’
Cross-examined by Mr. England: ‘We had more than two hundred horses before the diggings. We have offered a hundred pounds reward for the conviction of any person found stealing our horses or cattle. It was a measure of self-defence. We should soon not have had one left. Do not consider it an inducement to the police to make up imaginary cases. If people do not steal our horses the reward is a dead-letter. If they do, they deserve punishment. I never saw the prisoner Trevanion before. If I had, I should probably not have been here to-day.’ (Asked why.) ‘Because any one can see that he is a gentleman, and doubtless unused to this kind of work. I have no doubt that he purchased my horse without suspicion that he had been stolen. Can’t say whether or not the horse has been in the pound since I saw him last.’
Trevanion looked over at the witness as he spoke thus with a frank expression of gratitude, while Mr. Jeffreys, having descended from the witness-box and signed his deposition, sat down in a chair provided for him to watch the trial.
The next witness called was Carl Stockenstrom. ‘My name—ja wohl—I am a dikker from Palooga. Haf been dere all der wege more ’an dree months. On Thursday neuntzehn Zepdember, I saw de brisoner at the Gemp’s Greek, ten mile from der Palooga. He was ride mit de fräulein Lawless. He ride not the horse outside de court. It was anoder. They was having one fine lark. She can ride—she ride like nodings dat I never shall see. I swear positif to de prisoner, his face, his figure, above all dings to his eyes.’
Cross-examined by Mr. England: ‘I have lost a good horse myself. I did not advertise him in the local baper. Many of my mates lost theirs. I did not think it worth while. The two were driving some horses when I see dem. I saw two of them in Ned Lawless’s yard, and was told they was sdolen. Police dook dem away mit de oders anyways.’
‘Call Hiram Edwards.’
A gaunt American miner stalked forward, and with characteristic self-possession stepped into the witness-box.
‘Diggin’ at Balooka? Yes, sir; followed the first rush. Heard talk of hoss-thieves among the boys; advised to hang the first man caught riding a wrong horse, just to skeer other critters. “Worked well in San Francisco, that simple expedient. Do not know prisoner personally, but saw a man durned like him on Friday, 20th September last, in company with that skunk, Ned Lawless, trading horses.
‘Lost no horse? No, sir; know too much to keep one on a placer workin’. Sold mine same day I struck the gulch.’
Cross-examined by Mr. England: ‘Hev a sorter dislike to swear positively to prisoner as having been in company with Lawless on that Friday. To the best of my belief he was the man. (Has the prisoner any objection to look at me for a moment.)’ Then Lance turned suddenly and looked at the witness with a determined and sternly interrogatory expression. The witness changed front noticeably. ‘I now swear to the prisoner as the man I saw with Lawless on Friday; positively and plum-centre. Know his eyes anywhere. First day I saw him was the Wednesday before. He and Lawless both carried stock-whips.’
Senior-Constable Donnellan deposed: ‘I am a mounted trooper, at present stationed at Balooka. I know the prisoner, and have been observing him closely at Balooka for the last three weeks. Frequently saw him in company with Edward Lawless and his sister. As they were suspicious characters, or, at any rate, had a name for finding horses that were not lost, I thought it my duty to watch them.
‘On the morning of Wednesday, 18th instant, I saw Lawless and prisoner ride out early from the former’s camp; they went for some miles up a gully, and on reaching the top, where there is a small plain, I saw two men meet them with a small lot (ten, I believe) of riding horses. They drove them to the camp and put them into a yard. I have ascertained that nearly all of them were stolen, and have since been identified by miners. Saw prisoner several times with Kate Lawless at Balooka; am certain that prisoner is the same man. Sent a messenger to Ballarat express to communicate with Sergeant Dayrell, who came over and arrested both prisoners.’
By Mr. England: ‘Took particular notice of prisoner’s appearance—prisoner is tall and broad-shouldered, with dark curly hair and dark complexion. Has no ill-will against prisoner, Trevanion. If it is sworn that prisoner was in another place, near Ballarat, at the time mentioned by me, would not believe it. It was impossible, unless a man could be in two places at once. Never spoke to prisoner at Balooka but once; noticed that he had remarkable eyes. Was at the Lawlesses’ camp when he rode up with Kate Lawless; had seen him leave Balooka with her early that morning. He was riding the horse prisoner led back. Can’t account for prisoner returning with a different horse and saddle, unless he “shook” it. Beg the Bench’s pardon—meant he may have picked it up on the road. Thought prisoner looked slightly different, and was differently dressed. Spoke differently, a little, not much. Attributed this to seeing the Lawlesses, Ned and Dan, in the hands of the police when he returned; and was dressed differently from what he had on in the morning; had several times noticed him change his dress more than once in a day. Would swear to the prisoner; would know him by his eyes and general appearance anywhere.’
Several other witnesses—miners, stock-riders, and small farmers—were examined. They swore to ownership of various horses found in Ned Lawless’s ‘mob’ or drove, now in charge of the police.
‘Is that your case, sergeant?’ inquired the police magistrate, when the last of these witnesses had, at some personal inconvenience, signed the depositions. ‘I have but one other witness, your worship,’ answered DayrelL, with an air of great deference, ‘rather a material one, however. Call Catharine Lawless.’
From whatever cause, the utterance of this witness’s name produced a profound and universal sensation in the crowded court. Every miner knew that the young Englishman had foolishly, as most people thought,—very naturally, in the opinion of others,—admired the girl, and made no secret of his feelings. For what reason was she now to be called as a witness for the Crown? Had she turned traitress? Would she betray her sweetheart in the hour of his peril? Far from immaculate, vain, violent, and reckless as she was, the girls of her class and country were proverbially as true as steel to their lovers—clinging to them more closely in adversity, ready even to stand by them on the scaffold if need were.