'Capital idea,' says Starlight; 'I was wondering how we'd get those colts off. You've the best head amongst us, governor. We'll start out to-day and muster the horses, and we can take Warrigal with us as far as Jonathan Barnes's place.'

We didn't lose time once we'd made up our minds to anything. So that night all the horses were in and drafted ready -- twenty-five upstanding colts, well bred, and in good condition. We expected they'd fetch a lot of money. They were all quiet, too, and well broken in by Warrigal, who used to get so much a head extra for this sort of work, and liked it. He could do more with a horse than any man I ever saw. They never seemed to play up with him as young horses do with other people. Jim and I could ride 'em easy enough when they was tackled, but for handling and catching and getting round them we couldn't hold a candle to Warrigal.

The next thing was to settle how to work it when we got to the diggings. We knew the auctioneers there and everywhere else would sell a lot of likely stock and ask no questions; but there had been such a lot of horse-stealing since the diggings broke out that a law had been passed on purpose to check it. In this way: If any auctioneer sold a stolen horse and the owner claimed it before six months the auctioneer was held liable. He had to return the horse and stand the loss. But they found a way to make themselves right. Men generally do if a law's over sharp; they get round it somehow or other. So the auctioneers made it up among themselves to charge ten per cent on the price of all horses that they sold, and make the buyer pay it. For every ten horses they sold they could afford to return one. The proof of an animal being stolen didn't turn up above once in fifty or a hundred times, so they could well afford the expense when it did.

It wasn't an easy thing to drive horses out of the Hollow, 'specially those that had been bred or reared there. But they were up to all that kind of thing, dad and Starlight. First there was a yard at the lower end of the gully that led up where we'd first seen Starlight come down, and a line of fence across the mountain walls on both sides, so that stock once in there couldn't turn back. Then they picked out a couple or three old mares that had been years and years in the Hollow, and been used to be taken up this track and knew their way back again. One they led up; dad went first with her, and another followed; then the colts took the track after them, as stock will. In half-an-hour we had them all up at the top, on the tableland, and ready to be driven anywhere. The first day we meant to get most of the way to Jonathan Barnes's place, and to stop there, and have a bit of a spell the second. We should want to spell the horses and make 'em up a bit, as it was a longish drive over rough country to get there. Besides, we wanted all the information we could get about the diggings and other matters, and we knew Jonathan was just that open-mouthed, blatherskitin' sort of chap that would talk to everybody he saw, and hear mostly all that was going on.

A long, hard day was that first one. The colts tried to make back every now and then, or something would start them, and they'd make a regular stampede for four or five miles as hard as they could lay leg to ground. It wasn't easy to live with 'em across broken country, well-bred 'uns like them, as fast as racehorses for a short distance; but there were as good behind 'em, and Warrigal was pretty nearly always near the lead, doubling and twisting and wheeling 'em the first bit of open ground there was. He was A1 through timber, and no mistake. We got to a place father knew, where there was a yard, a little before dark; but we took care to watch them all night for fear of accidents. It wouldn't do to let 'em out of our sight about there. We should never have set eyes on 'em again, and we knew a trick worth two of that.

Next day, pretty early, we got to Barnes's, where we thought we should be welcome. It was all right. The old man laughed all over his face when he saw us, and the girls couldn't do enough for us when they heard we'd had scarce a morsel to eat or drink that day.

'Why, you're looking first-rate, Captain!' says Bella. 'Dick, I hardly knowed ye -- the mountain air seems to agree with you. Maddie and I thought you was never going to look in no more. Thought you'd clean forgot us -- didn't we, Mad? Why, Dick, what a grand beard you've grown! I never thought you was so handsome before!'

'I promised you a trifling present when I was here last, didn't I, Bella?' says Starlight. 'There.' He handed her a small parcel carefully tied up. 'It will serve to remind you of a friend.'

'Oh, what a lovely, splendid duck of a watch!' says the girl, tearing open the parcel. 'And what a love of a chain! and lots of charms, too. Where, in all the world, did you get this? I suppose you didn't buy it in George Street.'

'It WAS bought in George Street,' says he; 'and here's the receipt; you needn't be afraid of wearing it to church or anywhere else. Here's Mr. Flavelle's name, all straight and square. It's quite new, as you can see.'

Jim and I stared. Dad was outside, seeing the horses fed, with Warrigal. We made sure at first it was Mrs. Buxter's watch and chain; but he knew better than to give the girl anything that she could be brought into trouble for wearing, if it was identified on her; so he'd sent the cash down to Sydney, and got the watch sent up to him by one of father's pals. It was as right as the bank, and nobody could touch it or her either. That was Starlight all over; he never seemed to care much for himself. As to anything he told a woman, she'd no call to trouble herself about whether it would be done or not.

'It'll be my turn next,' says Maddie. 'I can't afford to wait till -- till -- the Captain leaves me that beauty horse of his. It's too long. I might be married before that, and my old man cut up rough. Jim Marston, what are you going to give me? I haven't got any earrings worth looking at, except these gold hoops that everybody knows.'