His rest, however, was not of long duration. As he had himself suggested, two policemen reached Gangoil at about three in the afternoon, on their way from Maryborough to Boolabong, in order that they might take Mr. Medlicot’s deposition. After Heathcote’s departure it had occurred to Sergeant Forrest of the police—and the suggestion, having been transferred from the sergeant to the stipendiary magistrate, was now produced with magisterial sanction— that, after all, there was no evidence against the Brownbies. They had simply interfered to prevent the burning of the grass on their own run, and who could say that they had committed any crime by doing so? If Medlicot had seen Nokes with a lighted branch in his hand, the matter might be different with him; and therefore Medlicot’s deposition was taken. He had sworn that he had seen Nokes drag his lighted torch along the ground; he had also seen other horsemen—two or three, as he thought—but could not identify them. Jacko’s deposition was also taken as to the man who had been heard and seen in the wool-shed at night. Jacko was ready to swear point-blank that the man was Nokes. The policemen suggested that, as the night was dark, Jacko might as well allow a shade of doubt to appear, thinking that the shade of doubt would add strength to the evidence. But Jacko was not going to be taught what sort of oath he should swear.
“My word!” he said. “Didn’t I see his leg move? You go away.”
Armed with these depositions, the two constables went on to Boolabong in search of Nokes, and of Nokes only, much to the chagrin of Harry, who declared that the police would never really bestir themselves in a squatter’s cause. “As for Nokes, he’ll be out of Queensland by this time to-morrow.”
The Brownbie party returned, after their midnight raid, in great discomfiture to Boolabong. Their leader, Jerry, was burned about his hands and face in a disagreeable and unsightly manner. Joe had hardly made good that character for “fighting it out to the end” for which he was apt to claim credit. Boscobel was altogether disconcerted by his fall. And Nokes, who had certainly shown no aptitude for the fray, was abused by them all as having caused their retreat by his cowardice; while Sing Sing, the runaway cook, who knew that he had forfeited his wages at Gangoil, was forced to turn over in his heathenish mind the ill effects of joining the losing side. “You big fool, Bos,” he said more than once to his friend the woodsman, who had lured him away from the comforts of Gangoil. “I’ll punch your head, John, if you don’t hold your row,” Boscobel would reply. But Sing Sing went on with his reproaches, and, before they had reached Boolabong, Boscobel had punched the Chinaman’s head.
“You’re not coming in here,” Jerry said to Nokes, when they reached the yard gate.