A slight detour on the way to NSW. I found this account in the back of a book, of the capture of Captain Melville. So, Victoria 1852…

Having had a good dinner at the Corio Street pub, Melville and hie mate, leaving their horses in the stable, strolled along past the police. station, down a cross street, and so to a cottage, at the door of which they knocked. Seemingly they had learned the open-sesame, three sharp raps and two slow ones, because the door opened at once, and a voice within bade them enter.

In a small front parlour they were greeted by two ladies, to whom Captain Melville, ever courteous, bowed ceremoniously. These ladies were somewhat of a contrast. The fairer one was stout, and though not exactly plain, was certainly no Helen of Troy. She was about 30. The other was younger, slimmer, fairly dark, vivacious, and definitely attractive.

As even the most inglorious of ladies symbolizes in some degree even the best of women, this lively brunette was quite a fascination to a man of Melville’s temperament, especially to a man who all his life had been exiled from female companionship. It was doubtless foolish of him to be so susceptible. Possibly it was even deplorable. But there you are!

They all had drinks together, and the drink was strong. Since the two visitors were paying for it, the helpings were generous. Before long Roberts was drowsy and silent; Melville merry and loquacious. In bravado the latter raised his glass and drank to the eternal confusion of the police. Then, getting confidential under the double intoxication of brunette and brandy, he told the two ladies who he was.

They were astonished, and interested. Anyone might well be so at meeting a man of whom the whole countryside was talking and on whose head was a price of a hundred pounds. They all had another drink for luck.

A few minutes later Roberts, who was sitting on a chair by the table, swayed sideways. The large fair lady caught him, heaved him forward, and placed him with his head and arms sprawling on the table. Leaving him thus, sound asleep, she sauntered out of the room. The dark lady was seated on a sofa beside Melville, who had an arm about her waist. With a glance of mingled coquettishness and adoration, she asked him to excuse her, and followed the other lady.

That look of adoration which she had given Melville was quite unexpected. It astonished and bewildered him. But it need not have done so. Now that the dark lady knew him to be the renowned Captain Melville, she felt altogether different toward him.When she returned she was even more vivacious and more affectionate than before. Instead of resuming her former position, she sat herself on his knee, put an arm round his neck, and kissed him. That did not surprise him. Under the circumstances of the visit some show of friendliness, even though but temporary, was to be expected. What did surprise him was the apparent sincerity of the greeting, as of a woman passionately devoted to a man. The strange and unexpected thrill of it made the embrace a moment of sublimated wonder to Melville, an ecstasy of which to dream for many a day. Maybe this was absurd. But there you are.

The dark lady started to speak, and her words somewhat explained her fervour. She loved Melville, had long worshipped his very name, his gallant reputation. He was her hero. She had always longed to meet him. He was so daring! so wonderful!

It was very delightful to listen to her, since man at best is a conceited animal, and praise and adoration from even the most inglorious of ladies is pleasant to his vanity. Suddenly, however, through her soft-voiced chatterings a curious noise battered its way into the consciousness of the man. It demanded to be heard. He listened for a moment, and found that the insistent clamour was not sound, but silence, the unreasonable silence of the house. It disconcerted him. He stood up and gazed round alertly.

His mate still slept, head and arms asprawl on the table. Melville asked where the fair lady had gone to, and, without waiting for a reply, strode into the other rooms of the cottage. There was no sign of her. He remembered that she knew of his identity, and he became apprehensive.

The dark lady, following him, asked anxiously what was the matter. He was too preoccupied to reply, as opening the front door, he discovered the fair lady whom he sought. She was just coming in through the front gate. With her were two policemen. Melville slammed the door and locked it, rushed to Roberts, but failed to wake him. Dashing out through the back door and across the yard, he vaulted the back fence, landing almost on top of a third constable.

Instead of proffering an apology, he knocked that officer down, and racing across a vacant piece of land, reached Corio Street. But to get to the stable where they had left their horses meant having to pass the police station, and Melville’s antipathy to any such establishment was for the moment unduly keen. He went the opposite way, down Malop Street, and so to the dam that led across the gully, the bridge at that time being still but a dream.

It so chanced that Bertie Guy, the new chum, was just then returning across the same dam from his ride to Cowie Creek. He was mounted on a beautiful horse, a horse worthy to carry a fugitive outlaw to safety, and was riding at a walking pace to cool down.

Captain Melville acted a little unceremoniously. He rushed at the horse, seized Bertie by the near leg, and tried to tilt him out of the saddle on the far side. Bertie may have been a gentleman, but he was also a bit of a snag. He vacated the saddle, certainly, but he retained the reins, and as the horse reared, affrighted by the sudden attack, he darted under its head and grappled Melville, who was trying to mount.

Bertie was not going to lose a horse in that way if he could help it. He said so later on, as though to excuse his conduct. Melville, annoyed at his tenacity, tried to knock him down, and Bertie had to let go the reins. The horse bolted for the tranquillity of the Black Bull stables. But Bertie still hung on to his man, and just then the police came up with handcuffs.

That was the end of the escapade, Bertie Guy being quite surprised when he learned the importance of his capture. The authorities acted very generously toward the outlaw, at least in the matter of punishment. He was given sentences aggregating 32 years, and on the convict hulk Success. They tried finally to break his fiery defiance by solitary confinement. To increase the punishment, he was chained to a ringbolt in his cell, for the first three days being fastened by such a short chain that he could only sag there, hanging by the wrists, in a semi-conscious state. The other prisoners, bearing of his torture, raised such a pandemonium that the chain was lengthened to give him a little latitude of movement, though still none of ease.

So in the darkness he had tried to stave off madness by thinking of the dark lady of Geelong, whose embrace had given him a moment of such sublimated wonder. He could have definitely decided that she could have been no party to his betrayal. Her manner had been too evidently sincere.

He was right to some extent in his estimate of her sincerity. For the moment she had indeed worshipped him though not exactly for himself, be it understood. It was for what he symbolized, and that, of course, was the 50 sovereigns which were to be her share of the reward for his capture.

From Nice Day for a Murder and Other Stories, by Bartless Adamson; reprinted in Tell ‘Em I Died Game, by Bill Wannan.

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