'"Mine came from a jealous woman," says Sir Ferdinand. "They may generally be depended upon for a straight tip. But we're losing time. When did he leave the claim, and which way did he go?"

'"I have no idea which way he went," says Clifford. "He did not say, but he left about an hour since."

'"On foot or on horseback?"

'"On horseback."

'"Any one with him?"

'"Yes, another horseman."

'"What was he like?"

'"Slight, dark man, youngish, good-looking."

'"Warrigal the half-caste! By George! warrants out for him also," says Sir Ferdinand. "On a good horse, of course, with an hour's start. We may give up the idea of catching him this time. Follow him up as a matter of form. Good-bye, Clifford. You'll hear news of your friend before long, or I'm much mistaken."

'"Stop, Sir Ferdinand, you must pardon me; but I don't exactly understand your tone. The man that we knew by the name of Frank Haughton may be, as you say, an escaped criminal. All I know is that he lived with us since we came here, and that no fellow could have behaved more truly like a man and a gentleman. As far as we are concerned, I have a material guarantee that he has been scrupulously honest. Do you mean to hint for one moment that we were aware of his previous history, or in any way mixed up with his acts?"

'"If I do, what then?" says Sir Ferdinand, laughing.

'"The affair is in no way ludicrous," says Clifford, very stiff and dignified. "I hold myself to have received an insult, and must ask you to refer me to a friend."

'"Do you know that I could arrest you and Hastings now and lock you up on suspicion of being concerned with him in the Ballabri Bank robbery?" says Sir Ferdinand in a stern voice. "Don't look so indignant. I only say I could. I am not going to do so, of course. As to fighting you, my dear fellow, I am perfectly at your service at all times and seasons whenever I resign my appointment as Inspector of Police for the colony of New South Wales. The Civil Service regulations do not permit of duelling at present, and I found it so deuced hard to work up to the billet that I am not going to imperil my continuance therein. After all, I had no intention of hurting your feelings, and apologise if I did. As for that rascal Starlight, he would deceive the very devil himself."

'And so Sir Ferdinand rode off.'

'How did you come; by Jonathan's?'

'We called nowhere. Warrigal, as usual, made a short cut of his own across the bush -- scrubs, gullies, mountains, all manner of desert paths. We made the Hollow yesterday afternoon, and went to sleep in a nook known to us of old. We dropped in to breakfast here at daylight, and I felt sleepy enough for another snooze.'

'We're all here again, it seems,' I said, sour enough. 'I suppose we'll have to go on the old lay; they won't let us alone when we're doing fair work and behaving ourselves like men. They must take the consequences, d--n them!'

'Ha! very true,' says Starlight in his dreamy kind of way. 'Most true, Richard. Society should make a truce occasionally, or proclaim an amnesty with offenders of our stamp. It would pay better than driving us to desperation. How is Jim? He's worse off than either of us, poor fellow.'

'Jim's very bad. He can't get over being away from Jeanie. I never saw him so down in the mouth this years.'

'Poor old Jim, he's a deal too good for the place. Sad mistake this getting married. People should either keep straight or have no relatives to bear the brunt of their villainies. "But, soft," as they say in the play, "where am I?" I thought I was a virtuous miner again. Here we are at this devil-discovered, demon-haunted old Hollow again -- first cousin to the pit of Acheron. There's no help for it, Dick. We must play our parts gallantly, as demons of this lower world, or get hissed off the stage.'


We didn't do much for a few days, you may be sure. There was nothing to do, for one thing; and we hadn't made up our mind what our line was to be. One thing was certain: there would be more row made about us than ever. We should have all the police in the country worried and barked at by the press, the people, the Government, and their superior officers till they got something to show about us. Living at the diggings under the nose of the police, without their having the least suspicion who we were, was bad enough; but the rescue of Jim and the shooting of a policeman in charge of him was more serious -- the worst thing that had happened yet.

There would be the devil to pay if they couldn't find a track of us. No doubt money would be spent like water in bribing any one who might give information about us. Every one would be tried that we had ever been known to be friendly with. A special body of men could be told off to make a dart to any spot they might get wind of near where we had been last seen.

We had long talks and barneys over the whole thing -- sometimes by ourselves with Starlight, sometimes with father. A long time it was before we settled upon any regular put-up bit of work to do.

Sooner or later we began to see the secret of the Hollow would be found out. There was no great chance in the old times with only a few shepherds and stock-riders wandering through the bush, once in a way straggling over the country. But now the whole colony swarmed with miners, who were always prospecting, as they called it -- that is, looking out for fresh patches of gold. Now, small parties of these men -- bold, hardy, experienced chaps -- would take a pick and shovel, a bucket, and a tin dish, with a few weeks' rations, and scour the whole countryside. They would try every creek, gully, hillside, and river bed. If they found the colour of gold, the least trace of it in a dish of wash-dirt, they would at once settle down themselves. If it went rich the news would soon spread, and a thousand men might be gathered in one spot -- the bank of a small creek, the side of a steep range -- within a fortnight, with ten thousand more sure to follow within a month.