'That's impossible,' says the Commissioner. 'There's been no one here that the police are acquainted with; not that I suppose Jackson and Murphy know many of the cross boys.'

'No strange men nor horses, no disguises?' says Sir Ferdinand. Here he brings out a crumpled bit of paper, written on --

If sur firdnand makes haist back heel be in time to see Starlite's Raneboe win the handy capp. BILLY THE BOY.

'I firmly believe that young scoundrel, who will be hanged yet, strung us on after Moran ever so far down south, just to leave the coast clear for the Marstons, and then sent me this, too late to be of any use.'

'Quite likely. But the Marstons couldn't be here, let alone Starlight, unless -- by Jove! but that's impossible. Impossible! Whew! Here, Jack Dawson, where's your Indian friend?'

'Gone back to the inn. Couldn't stand the course after the handicap. You're to dine with us, Commissioner; you too, Scott; kept a place, Sir Ferdinand, for you on the chance.'

'One moment, pardon me. Who's your friend?'

'Name Lascelles. Just from home -- came by India. Splendid fellow! Backed Darkie for the handicap -- we did too -- won a pot of money.'

'What sort of a horse is this Darkie?'

'Very grand animal. Old fellow had him in a tent, about a mile down the creek; dark bay, star in forehead. Haven't seen such a horse for years. Like the old Emigrant lot.'

Sir Ferdinand beckoned to a senior constable.

'There's a tent down there near the creek, I think you said, Dawson. Bring up the racehorse you find there, and any one in charge.'

'And now I think I'll drive in with you, Dawson' (dismounting, and handing his horse to a trooper). 'I suppose a decent dinner will pick me up, though I feel just as much inclined to hang myself as do anything else at present. I should like to meet this travelled friend of yours; strangers are most agreeable.'

Sir Ferdinand was right in thinking it was hardly worth while going through the form of seeing whether we had waited for him. Lieutenant Lascelles, on leave from his regiment in India, had taken French leave. When inquiry was made at the hotel, where dinner had been ordered by Mr. Dawson and covers laid for a dozen, he had just stepped out. No one seemed to know exactly where to find him. The hotel people thought he was with the Mr. Dawsons, and they thought he was at the hotel. When they surrounded the tent, and then rushed it, all that it contained was the body of old Jacob Benton, lying dead drunk on the floor. A horse-rug was over him, his racing saddle under his head, and his pockets stuffed with five-pound notes. He had won his race and got his money, so he was not bound in honour to keep sober a minute longer.

Rainbow was gone, and there was nothing to be got out of him as to who had taken him or which way he had gone. Nobody seemed to have 'dropped' to me. I might have stayed at Turon longer if I'd liked. But it wasn't good enough by a long way.

We rode away straight home, and didn't lose time on the road, you bet. Not out-and-out fast, either; there was no need for that. We had a clear two hours' start of the police, and their horses were pretty well knocked up by the pace they'd come home at, so they weren't likely to overhaul us easy.

It was a grand night, and, though we didn't feel up to much in the way of talking, it wasn't bad in its way. Starlight rode Rainbow, of course; and the old horse sailed away as if a hundred miles or a thousand made no odds to him.

Warrigal led the way in front. He always went as straight as a line, just the same as if he'd had a compass in his forehead. We never had any bother about the road when he led the way.

'There's nothing like adventure,' says Starlight, at last. 'As some one says, who would have thought we should have come out so well? Fortune favours the brave, in a general way, there's no doubt. By George! what a comfort it was to feel one's self a gentleman again and to associate with one's equals. Ha! ha! how savage Sir Ferdinand is by this time, and the Commissioner! As for the Dawsons, they'll make a joke of it. Fancy my dining at the camp! It's about the best practical joke I ever carried out, and I've been in a good many.'

'The luckiest turn we've ever had,' says I. 'I never expected to see Gracey and Aileen there, much less to go to a ball with them and no one to say no. It beats the world.'

'It makes it all the rougher going back, that's the worst of it,' says he. 'Good God! what fools, idiots, raving lunatics, we've all been! Why, but for our own infernal folly, should we be forced to shun our fellow-men, and hide from the light like beasts of prey? What are we better? Better? -- nay, a hundred times worse. Some day I shall shoot myself, I know I shall. What a muff Sir Ferdinand must be, he's missed me twice already.'

Here he rode on, and never opened his mouth again till we began to rise the slope at the foot of Nulla Mountain. When the dark fit was on him it was no use talking to him. He'd either not seem to hear you, or else he'd say something which made you sorry for opening your mouth at all. It gave us all we could do to keep along with him. He never seemed to look where he was going, and rode as if he had a spare neck at any rate. When we got near the pass to the mountain, I called out to him that he'd better pull up and get off. Do you think he'd stop or make a sign he heard me? Not a bit of it. He just started the old horse down when he came to the path in the cliff as if it was the easiest road in the world. He kept staring straight before him while the horse put down his feet, as if it was regular good fun treading up rugged sharp rocks and rolling stones, and turf wasn't worth going over. It seemed to me as if he wanted to kill himself for some reason or other. It would have been easy enough with some horses, but you could have ridden Rainbow down the roof of a house and jumped him into the front balcony, I firmly believe. You couldn't throw him down; if he'd dropped into a well he'd have gone in straight and landed on his legs.