Our horses were put in the stable and well looked to, you may be sure. The man that straps a cross cove's horse don't go short of his half-crown -- two or three of them, maybe. We made a first-rate breakfast of it; what with the cold and the wet and not being used to riding lately, we were pretty hungry, and tired too. We intended to camp there that day, and be off again as soon as it was dark.

Of course we ran a bit of a risk, but not as bad as we should by riding in broad daylight. The hills on the south were wild and rangy enough, but there were all sorts of people about on their business in the daytime; and of course any of them would know with one look that three men, all on well-bred horses, riding right across country and not stopping to speak or make free with any one, were likely to be 'on the cross' -- all the more if the police were making particular inquiries about them. We were all armed, too, now. Jim had seen to that. If we were caught, we intended to have a flutter for it. We were not going back to Berrima if we knew it.

So we turned in, and slept as if we were never going to wake again. We'd had a glass of grog or two, nothing to hurt, though; and the food and one thing and another made us sleep like tops. Jim was to keep a good look-out, and we didn't take off our clothes. Our horses were kept saddled, too, with the bridles on their heads, and only the bits out of their mouths -- we could have managed without the bits at a pinch -- everything ready to be out of the house in one minute, and in saddle and off full-split the next. We were learned that trick pretty well before things came to an end.

Besides that, Jonathan kept a good look-out, too, for strangers of the wrong sort. It wasn't a bad place in that way. There was a long stony track coming down to the house, and you could see a horseman or a carriage of any kind nearly a mile off. Then, in the old times, the timber had been cleared pretty nigh all round the place, so there was no chance of any one sneaking up unknown to people. There couldn't have been a better harbour for our sort, and many a jolly spree we had there afterwards. Many a queer sight that old table in the little parlour saw years after, and the notes and gold and watches and rings and things I've seen the girls handling would have stunned you. But that was all to come.

Well, about an hour before dark Jim wakes us up, and we both felt as right as the bank. It took a good deal to knock either of us out of time in those days. I looked round for a bit and then burst out laughing.

'What's that about, Dick?' says Jim, rather serious.

'Blest if I didn't think I was in the thundering old cell again,' I said. 'I could have sworn I heard the bolt snap as your foot sounded in the room.'

'Well, I hope we shan't, any of us, be shopped again for a while,' says he, rather slow like. 'It's bad work, I'm afraid, and worse to come; but we're in it up to our neck and must see it out. We'll have another feed and be off at sundown. We've the devil's own ride before daylight.'

'Anybody called?' says Starlight, sauntering in, washed and dressed and comfortable-looking. 'You told them we were not at home, Jim, I hope.'

Jim smiled in spite of himself, though he wasn't in a very gay humour. Poor old Jim was looking ahead a bit, I expect, and didn't see anything much to be proud of.

We had a scrumptious feed that night, beefsteaks and eggs, fresh butter and milk, things we hadn't smelt for months. Then the girls waited on us; a good-looking pair they was too, full of larks and fun of all kinds, and not very particular what sort of jokes they laughed at. They knew well enough, of course, where we'd come from, and what we laid by all day and travelled at night for; they thought none the worse of us for that, not they. They'd been bred up where they'd heard all kinds of rough talk ever since they was little kiddies, and you couldn't well put them out.

They were a bit afraid of Starlight at first, though, because they seen at once that he was a swell. Jim they knew a little of; he and father had called there a good deal the last season, and had done a little in the stock line through Jonathan Barnes. They could see I was something in the same line as Jim. So I suppose they had made it up to have a bit of fun with us that evening before we started. They came down into the parlour where our tea was, dressed out in their best and looking very grand, as I thought, particularly as we hadn't seen the sight of so much as a woman's bonnet and shawl for months and months.

'Well, Mr. Marston,' says the eldest girl, Bella, to Jim, 'we didn't expect you'd travel this way with friends so soon. Why didn't you tell us, and we'd have had everything comfortable?'

'Wasn't sure about it,' says Jim, 'and when you ain't it's safest to hold your tongue. There's a good many things we all do that don't want talking about.'

'I feel certain, Jim,' says Starlight, with his soft voice and pleasant smile, which no woman as I ever saw could fight against long, 'that any man's secret would be safe with Miss Bella. I would trust her with my life freely -- not that it's worth a great deal.'

'Oh! Captain,' says poor Bella, and she began to blush quite innocent like, 'you needn't fear; there ain't a girl from Shoalhaven to Albury that would let on which way you were heading, if they were to offer her all the money in the country.'

'Not even a diamond necklace and earrings? Think of a lovely pendant, a cross all brilliants, and a brooch to match, my dear girl.'

'I wouldn't "come it", unless I could get that lovely horse of yours,' says the youngest one, Maddie; 'but I'd do anything in the world to have him. He's the greatest darling I ever saw. Wouldn't he look stunning with a side-saddle? I've a great mind to "duff" him myself one of these days.'

'You shall have a ride on Rainbow next time we come,' says Starlight. 'I've sworn never to give him away or sell him, that is as long as I'm alive; but I'll tell you what I'll do -- I'll leave him to you in my will.'