'I'll give him a hammerin' for that yet,' grumbles old Jim. 'My word, he was that shaky and blue-lookin' he didn't know whether I was white or black.'

We had a great spree that night in a quiet way, and got all the fun as was to be had under the circumstances. Barnes came out with some pretty good wine which Starlight shouted for all round. The old woman cooked us a stunning good dinner, which we made the girls sit down to and some cousins of theirs that lived close by. We were merry enough before the evening was out. Bella Barnes played the piano middling, and Maddie could sing first-rate, and all of them could dance. The last thing I recollect was Starlight showing Maddie what he called a minuet step, and Jonathan and the old woman sitting on the sofa as grave as owls.

Anyhow, we all enjoyed ourselves. It was a grand change after being so long alone. The girls romped and laughed and pretended to be offended every now and then, but we had a regular good lark of it, and didn't feel any the worse at daylight next morning.

Jim and I were away before sunrise, and after we'd once got on the road that Jonathan showed us we got on well enough. We were dressed just like common bushmen. There were plenty on the road just then bringing cattle and horses to the diggings. It was well known that high prices were going there and that everybody paid in cash. No credit was given, of course.

We had on blue serge shirts, moleskin trousers, and roughish leather gaiters that came up to the knee, with ponchos strapped on in front; inside them was a spare shirt or two; we had oldish felt hats, as if we'd come a good way. Our saddles and bridles were rusty-looking and worn; the horses were the only things that were a little too good, and might bring the police to suspect us. We had to think of a yarn about them. We looked just the same as a hundred other long-legged six-foot natives with our beards and hair pretty wild -- neither better nor worse.

As soon as Starlight came on to the Turon he was to rig himself out as a regular swell, and gammon he'd just come out from England to look at the goldfields. He could do that part wonderfully well. We would have backed him to take in the devil himself, if he saw him, let alone goldfields police, if Sergeant Goring wasn't about.

The second day Jim and I were driving quietly and easy on the road, the colts trotting along as steady as old stock horses, and feeding a bit every now and then. We knew we were getting near the Turon, so many tracks came in from all parts, and all went one way. All of a sudden we heard a low rumbling, roaring noise, something like the tide coming in on the seashore.

'I say, Jim, old man, we haven't made any mistake -- crossed over the main range and got back to the coast, have we?'

'Not likely,' he said; 'but what the deuce is that row? I can't reckon it up for the life of me.'

I studied and studied. On it went grinding and rattling like all the round pebbles in the world rolling on a beach with a tidy surf on. I tumbled at last.

'Remember that thing with the two rockers we saw at the Hermit's Hut in the Hollow?' I said to Jim. 'We couldn't make out what it was. I know now; it was a gold cradle, and there's hundreds and thousands rocking there at the Turon. That's what's the matter.'

'We're going to see some life, it strikes me,' says he. 'We'll know it all directly. But the first thing we've got to do is to shut these young 'uns up safe in the sale-yard. Then we can knock round this town in comfort.'

We went outside of a rocky point, and sure enough here was the first Australian gold-diggings in full blast. What a sight it was, to be sure! Jim and I sat in our saddles while the horses went to work on the green grass of the flat, and stared as if we'd seen a bit of another world. So it was another world to us, straight away from the sad-voiced solitudes of the bush.

Barring Sydney or Melbourne, we'd never seen so many men in a crowd before; and how different they looked from the crawling people of a town! A green-banked rapid river ran before us, through a deep narrow valley. The bright green flats looked so strange with the yellow water rippling and rushing between them. Upon that small flat, and by the bank, and in the river itself, nearly 20,000 men were at work, harder and more silently than any crowd we'd ever seen before. Most of 'em were digging, winding up greenhide buckets filled with gravel from shafts, which were sunk so thickly all over the place that you could not pass between without jostling some one. Others were driving carts heavily laden with the same stuff towards the river, in which hundreds of men were standing up to their waists washing the gold out of tin pans, iron buckets, and every kind of vessel or utensil. By far the greater number of miners used things like child's cradles, rocking them to and fro while a constant stream of yellow water passed through. Very little talk went on; every man looked feverishly anxious to get the greatest quantity of work done by sundown.

Foot police and mounted troopers passed through the crowd every now and then, but there was apparently no use or no need for them; that time was to come. Now and then some one would come walking up, carrying a knapsack, not a swag, and showing by his round, rosy face that he hadn't seen a summer's sun in Australia. We saw a trooper riding towards us, and knowing it was best to take the bull by the horns, I pushed over to him, and asked if he could direct us to where Mr. Stevenson's, the auctioneer's, yard was.

'Whose horses are these?' he said, looking at the brands. 'B.M., isn't it?'

'Bernard Muldoon, Lower Macquarie,' I answered. 'There's a friend of his, a new chum, in charge; he'll be here tomorrow.'

'Go on down Main Street [the first street in a diggings is always called Main Street] as you're going,' he said carelessly, giving us all a parting look through, 'and take the first lane to the right. It takes you to the yard. It's sale-day tomorrow; you're in luck.'