Starlight had plenty of money, besides his share of the gold. If we could ever get away from this confounded rock-walled prison, good as it was in some ways; and if he and Aileen and the rest of us could make a clean dart of it and get to America, we could live there free and happy yet, in spite of all that had come and gone.

Aileen wasn't like to leave poor old mother as long as she wanted her, so it couldn't come off for a year or two at earliest, and many things were sure to happen in the meanwhile. So we let all the talking and walking and riding out in the evening go on as much as they pleased, and never said anything or seemed to take any notice at all about it.

All this time mother was at George Storefield's. When Aileen ran over that time, he said it wasn't fit for them to live at Rocky Flat by themselves. So he went over that very day -- like a good fellow, as he was -- and brought over the old woman, and made them both stay at his house, safe and comfortable. When Aileen said she had to go away to nurse dad he said he would take care of mother till she came back, and so she'd been there all the time. She knew Mrs. Storefield (George's mother) well in the old times; so they used to sit by the kitchen fire when they wanted to be extra comfortable, and knit stockings and talk over the good old times to their hearts' content.

If it hadn't been for old Mrs. Storefield I don't expect mother would have contented herself there -- the cottage was got so grand, Aileen told us, and Gracey had to dress a bit now. George had kept on making more money in every way he tried it, and of course he began, bit by bit, to live according to his means.

He'd bought cattle-stations on the Lachlan just when the gold broke out first, and everybody thought station property was never going to be worth nothing again. Now, since cattle had risen and meat and all to such a price, he was making money hand over fist. More than that, as I said before, he'd been made a magistrate, and all the swells began to take notice of him -- not altogether because he'd made money either; what I call the real swells, as far as I see, won't do that. If they don't care for a man -- no matter how much money he's made -- they hold shy of him. But if he's a straight-going good sort of fellow, that has his head screwed on the right way, and don't push himself forward too much, they'll meet him half-way, and a very good thing too.

We could see George was going upwards and out of our lot, beginning to mix with different people and get different notions -- not but what he was always kind and friendly in his way to Aileen and mother, and would have been to us if he'd ever seen us. But all his new friends were different kind of people, and after a bit, Aileen said, we'd only be remembered as people he'd known when he was young, and soon, when the old lady died, we'd be asked into the kitchen and not into the parlour. Aileen used to laugh when she talked like this, and say she'd come and see George when he'd married a lady, and what fun it would be to remind Gracey of the time they threshed the oats out together at Rocky Flat. But still, laugh and all, I could see, though she talked that way, it made her feel wretched all the while, because she couldn't help thinking that we ought to have done just as well as George, and might have been nigh-hand as far forward if we'd kept straight. If we'd only kept straight! Ah, there was where the whole mistake lay.

It often seems to me as if men and women ought to have two lives -- an old one and a new one -- one to repent of the other; the first one to show men what they ought to keep clear of in the second. When you think how foolish-like and childish man or woman commits their first fault, not so bad in itself, but enough often to shut them out from nearly all their chances of good in this world, it does seem hardish that one life should end all under the sun. Of course, there's the other, and we don't know what's coming, but there's so many different notions about that a chap like me gets puzzled, and looks on it as out of his line altogether.

We weren't sorry to have a little excuse to stop quiet at home for this month. We couldn't have done no good by mooching about, and ten to one, while the chase was so hot after all that were supposed to have had a hand in rubbing out Hagan and his lot, we should have been dropped upon. The whole country was alive with scouting parties, as well as the regulars. You'd have thought the end of the world was come. Father couldn't have done a better thing for himself and all of us than get hit as he did. It kept him and us out of harm's way, and put them off the scent, while they hunted Moran and Burke and the rest of their lot for their lives. They could hardly get a bit of damper out of a shepherd's hut without it being known to the police, and many a time they got off by the skin of their teeth.