'Come, Miss Polly,' says he, 'you can sing away fast enough for your dashed old father and some o' them swells from Bathurst. By George, you must tune your pipe a bit this time for Dan Moran.'

The poor girl said she couldn't sing just then, but she'd play as much as he liked.

'Yer'd better sing now,' he drawls out, 'unless ye want me to come and make you. I know you girls wants coaxing sometimes.'

Poor Miss Mary breaks out at once into some kind of a song -- the pitifullest music ever you listened to. Only I wanted to wait a bit, so as to come in right once for all, I'd have gone at him, hammer and tongs, that very minute.

All this time Burke and Daly were goin' in steady at the brandy, finished one bottle and tackled another. They began to get noisy and talked a lot, and sung a kind of a chorus to Miss Mary's song.

After the song was over, Moran swore he'd have another one. She'd never sing for him any more, he said, unless she took a fancy to him, and went back to the Weddin Mountains with them.

'It ain't a bad name for a mountain, is it, miss?' says he, grinning. Then, fixing his black snake's eyes on her, he poured out about half a tumbler of brandy and drank it off.

'By gum!' he says, 'I must have a dance; blest if I don't! First chop music -- good room this -- three gals and the missus -- course we must. I'm regular shook on the polka. You play us a good 'un, Polly, or whatever yer name is. Dan Moran's goin' to enjoy himself this night if he never sees another. Come on, Burke. Patsey, stand up, yer blamed fool. Here goes for my partner.'

'Come, Moran,' says Burke, 'none of your larks; we're very jolly, and the young ladies ain't on for a hop; are ye, miss?' and he looked over at the youngest Miss Whitman, who stared at him for a moment, and then hid her face in her hands.

'Are you a-goin' to play as I told yer?' says Moran. 'D'ye think yer know when yer well off?'

The tone of voice he said this in and the look seemed to frighten the poor girl so that she started an old-style polka there and then, which made him bang his heels on the floor and spin round as if he'd been at a dance-house. As soon as he'd done two or three turns he walks over to the sofa and sits down close to Miss Falkland, and put his arm round her waist.

'Come, Fanny Falkland,' says he, 'or whatever they call yer; you're so dashed proud yer won't speak to a bush cove at all. You can go home by'n by, and tell your father that you had a twirl-round with Dan Moran, and helped to make the evening pass pleasant at Darjallook afore it was burned.'

Anything like the disgust, misery, and rage mixed up that came into Miss Falkland's face all in a moment and together-like, I never saw. She made no sound, but her face grew paler and paler; she turned white to the lips, as trembled and worked in spite of her. She struggled fierce and wild for nigh a solid minute to clear herself from him, while her beautiful eyes moved about like I've seen a wild animal's caught in a trap. Then, when she felt her strength wasn't no account against his, she gave one piercing, terrible scream, so long and unnatural-like in the tone of it that it curdled my very blood.

I lifted up the window-sash quick, and jumped in; but before I made two steps Jim sprang past me, and raised his pistol.

'Drop her!' he shouts to Moran; 'you hound! Leave go Miss Falkland, or by the living God I'll blow your head off, Dan Moran, before you can lift your hand! How dare you touch her, you cowardly dog!'

Moran was that stunned at seeing us show up so sudden that he was a good bit took off his guard, cool card as he was in a general way. Besides, he'd left his revolver on the piano close by the arm-chair, where his grog was. Burke and Daly were no better off. They found Starlight and Warrigal covering them with their pistols, so that they'd have been shot down before they could so much as reach for their tools.

But Jim couldn't wait; and just as Moran was rising on his feet, feeling for the revolver that wasn't in his belt (and that I never heard of his being without but that once), he jumps at him like a wallaroo, and, catching him by the collar and waist-belt, lifts him clean off his feet as if he'd been a child, and brings him agen the corner of the wall with all his full strength. I thought his brains was knocked out, dashed if I didn't. I heard Moran's head sound against the stone wall with a dull sort of thud; and on the floor he drops like a dead man -- never made a kick. By George! we all thought he had killed him.

'Stash that, now,' says Burke; 'don't touch him again, Jim Marston. He's got as much as 'll do him for a bit; and I don't say it don't serve him right. I don't hold with being rough to women. It ain't manly, and we've got wives and kids of our own.'

'Then why the devil didn't you stop it?' says Starlight. 'You deserve the same sauce, you and Daly, for sitting there like a couple of children, and letting that ruffian torment these helpless ladies. If you fellows go on sticking up on your own account, and I hear a whisper of your behaving yourselves like brutes, I'll turn policeman myself for the pleasure of running you in. Now, mind that, you and Daly too. Where's Wall and Hulbert?'

'They went to yard the horses.'

'That's fair game, and all in the day's work. I don't care what you take or whom you shoot for that matter, as long as it's all in fair fight; but I'll have none of this sort of work if I'm to be captain, and you're all sworn to obey me, mind that. I'll have to shoot a man yet, I see, as I've done before now, before I can get attended to. That brute's coming to. Lift him up, and clear out of this place as soon as you can. I'll wait behind.'

They blundered out, taking Moran with them, who seemed quite stupid like, and staggered as he walked. He wasn't himself for a week after, and longer too, and threatened a bit, but he soon saw he'd no show, as all the fellows, even to his own mates, told him he deserved all he got.