Just about ten o'clock we closed in on the place, and left Billy the Boy and Warrigal with the horses, while we sneaked up. We couldn't get near, though, without his knowing it, for he always had a lot of sporting dogs -- pointers, retrievers, kangaroo dogs, no end. They kicked up a deuce of a row, and barked and howled enough to raise the dead, before we got within a quarter of a mile from the house.

Of course he was on his guard then, and before long the bullets began to fly pretty thick among us, and we had to take cover to return fire and keep as dark as we could. No doubt this Dr. Schiller loaded the guns and handed them to him, else he couldn't have made such play as he did.

We blazed away too, and as there was no stable at the back we surrounded the house and tried hard to find an opening. Devil a chance there seemed to be; none of us dared show. So sure as we did we could hear one of those Winchester rifle bullets sing through the air, almost on the top of us. We all had a close shave more than once for being too fast.

For more than half the night he kept cannonading away, and we didn't seem able to get any nearer the place. At last we drew lots which should try and get up close to the place, so as to make a rush while we poured in our broadside and open a door to let us in.

The lot fell upon Patsey Daly. 'Good-bye, all,' he said. 'I'm dashed if I don't think Knightley will bag me. I don't half like charging him, and that's God's truth. Anyhow I'll try for that barrel there; and if I get behind it I can fire from short range and make him come out.'

He made a rush, half on his hands and knees, and managed to get behind this barrel, where he was safe from being hit as long as he kept well behind it. Then he peppered away, right and left.

On the left of the verandah there was a door stood partly open, and after a bit a man in a light overcoat and a white hat, like Mr. Knightley always wore, showed himself for a second. Daly raps away at this, and the man staggers and falls. Patsey shows himself for a moment from behind the cask, thinking to make a rush forward; that minute Mr. Knightley, who was watching him from a window (the other was only an image), lets drive at him, cool and steady, and poor Patsey drops like a cock, and never raised his head again. He was shot through the body. He lingered a bit; but in less than an hour he was a dead man.

We began to think at last that we had got in for a hot thing, and that we should have to drop it like Moran's mob at Kadombla. However, Starlight was one of those men that won't be beat, and he kept getting more and more determined to score. He crept away to the back of the building, where he could see to fire at a top window close by where the doctor and Mr. Knightley had been potting at us.

He had the repeating rifle he'd won from me; he never let it go afterwards, and he could make wonderful shooting with it. He kept it going so lively that they began to be hard pressed inside, and had to fire away twice as much ammunition as they otherwise would. It always beat me how they contrived to defend so many points at once. We tried back and front, doors and windows. Twenty times we tried a rush, but they were always ready -- so it seemed -- and their fire was too hot for us to stand up to, unless we wanted to lose every second man.

The shooting was very close. Nearly every one of us had a scratch -- Starlight rather the worst, as he was more in the front and showed himself more. His left arm was bleeding pretty free, but he tied a handkerchief over it and went on as if nothing had happened, only I could see that his face had that set look he only got now and then, and his eyes began to show out a fierce light.

At last we began to see that the return fire was slacking off, while ours was as brisk as ever.

'Hurrah!' says Starlight, 'I believe they'll give in soon. If they had any cartridges they would have had every man of us in that last rush. Let's try another dodge. Here goes for a battering-ram, Dick!'

He pointed to a long, heavy sapling which had been fetched in for a sleeper or something of that sort. We picked it up, and, taking a run back, brought it with all its weight against the front door. In it went like a sheet of bark; we almost fell as we ran forward and found ourselves in a big, dark hall. It seemed very queer and strange, everything was so silent and quiet.

We half expected another volley. But nothing came. We could only stand and wait. The others had gone round the side of the house.

'Get to a corner, Dick; they're always the safest places. We must mind it isn't an ambush. What the devil's the matter? Are they going to suicide, like the people in the round tower of Jhansi?'

'There are no women here,' I said. 'There's no saying what Mr. Knightley might do if his wife had been here.'

'Thank God, she's away at Bathurst,' said Starlight. 'I hate seeing women put out. Besides, everybody bows down to Mrs. Knightley. She's as good as she's handsome, I believe, and that's saying a great deal.'

Just then Moran and Wall managed to find their way into the other side of the house, and they came tearing into the hall like a pair of colts. They looked rather queer when they saw us three and no one else.

'What in thunder's up?' says Moran. 'Are they all gone to bed, and left us the spare rooms? Poor Patsey won't want one, anyhow.'

'Better make some search upstairs,' says Starlight. 'Who'll go first? You make a start, Moran; you like fighting people.'

'Couldn't think of going before the Captain,' says Moran, with a grin. 'I'll follow where you lead.'

'All right!' says Starlight; 'here goes,' and he started to walk upstairs, when all of a sudden he stopped and looked up as if something had surprised him above a bit. Then he stepped back and waited. I noticed he took off his hat and leaned against the wall.