We ate well and drank better still at the lunch, although we had such a regular tuck-out at breakfast time. Mr. Knightley wouldn't hear of any of us shirking our liquor, and by the time we'd done all hands were pretty well on. Moran himself began to look pleasant, or as good a sample of it as I'd ever seen in him. Mr. Knightley could get round the devil himself, I believe. I never saw his equals at that business; and this particular time he was in great feather, seeing that he was likely to get out of an ugly business all right. He was as sure of the 500 Pounds in notes being there at the appointed hour as he was of the sun setting that particular evening.

'I think it's a fair thing,' says Starlight at last, looking at his watch. Mr. Knightley wasn't the first to speak, no fear. 'Take us all our time to get to the Black Stump. We shall have to ride, too.' Moran and Wall got up and fetched their horses. Mr. Knightley's was led up by one of his men. He was a big handsome roan, in top condition, and the man was riding a black horse with a tan muzzle that looked a trifle better, if anything. Mr. Knightley turned out in boots and breeches, with a gold fox's head on his scarf, swell hunting fashion, as they do it at home, Starlight said.

When Starlight's horse came up he was as lame as a tree, couldn't put his foot to the ground; got a kick or a strain, or trod on a glass bottle or something. Anyhow he had only three legs that he could rise a move out of. Starlight looked rather glum. He wasn't his second best or his third best either. All the same, a horse is a horse, and I never saw the man yet that a lame horse didn't put out a bit.

'Confound it,' says he, 'what a nuisance! It's just the way with these infernal half-bred brutes; they always let me down at the wrong time.'

'Look here, old fellow,' says Mr. Knightley, 'leave him behind and take this black horse the boy's on; he's one of the finest hacks you ever crossed. I refused sixty guineas for him the other day from Morringer.'

'Thanks, very much,' says Starlight, brightening up a bit; 'but I hardly like to deprive you of him. Won't you want him yourself?'

'Oh, I can manage without him,' says Mr. Knightley. 'I'll let you have him for fifty and allow you ten pounds for your screw. You can add it on to your I O U, and pay it in with the other.'

We all laughed at this, and Moran said if he was dealing with Mr. Knightley he'd get him a pound or two cheaper. But Starlight said, very serious-like, that the arrangement would suit him very well. So he had his saddle shifted, and the groom led back the bay and turned him loose in the paddock.

We mounted then, and it looked as if we were all matched for a race to the Black Stump. Moran had a good horse, and when he set him going in the first bit of thick timber we came to, it took a man, I tell you, to keep him in sight. Starlight made the black horse hit out in a way that must have been a trifle strange to him unless he'd been in training lately. As for Mr. Knightley, he took it easy and sailed away on one side with Joe Wall and me. He played it out cool to the last, and wasn't going to hurry himself for anybody.

Half-an-hour before sundown we rode up to the Black Stump. It was a rum-looking spot, but everybody knew it for miles round. There was nothing like it anywhere handy. It was within a reasonable distance of Bathurst, and not so far from a place we could make to, where there was good shelter and hiding too, if we were pushed.

There were two or three roads led up to it, and crossed there -- one from Bathurst, one to Turon, and another straight into the forest country, which led range by range to Nulla Mountain. We could see on a good way ahead, and, though there was no one at the tree when we came, a single horseman was riding along the road for Bathurst. We all drew rein round the stump. It had been a tremendous big old ironbark tree -- nobody knew how old, but it had had its top blown off in a thunderstorm, and the carriers had lighted so many fires against the roots of it that it had been killed at last, and the sides were as black as a steamer's funnel. After a bit we could make out the doctor's short-tailed, mousy mare and him powdering along at a sort of hand gallop.

When he came up close, he took off his hat and made a bow. 'Chentlemen of the roat, I salude you,' he says. 'You haf kebt your bromise to the letter, and you will fint that Albert von Schiller has kept his. Hauptman!' says he to Starlight, 'I delifer to you the ransom of dies wothy chentleman and his most excellend and hoch-besahltes laty, who has much recovered from her fadigues, and I demant his freetom.'

'Well done, most trust-repaying and not-ever-to-be-entirely-forgotten herald,' says Starlight. 'I hand over to these worthy free companions the frank-geld; isn't that the term? -- and when they have counted it (for they won't take your word or mine), the Graf here -- most high-born and high-beseeming, but uncommonly-near-ending his glorious career magnate -- will be restored to you. Very pleasant company we've found him. I should like to have my revenge at picquet, that's all.'

While this was going on Starlight had collared the bundle of notes from the doctor, and chucked it over quite careless-like to Moran. 'There it is for you,' says he. 'You can divide it between you. Dick and I stand out this time; and you can't say you've done badly.'

Moran didn't say anything, but he and Wall got off their horses and sat down on their heels -- native fashion. Then they turned to, counting out the notes one by one. They were all fivers -- so it took some time -- as they neither of 'em weren't very smart at figures, and after they'd got out twenty or thirty they'd get boxed, like a new hand counting sheep, and have to begin all over again. It must have been aggravating to Mr. Knightley, and he was waiting to be let go, in a manner of speaking. He never showed it, but kept smoking and yarning with Starlight, pointing out how grand the sun was just a-setting on the Bulga Mountains -- just for all the world as if he'd given a picnic, and was making himself pleasant to the people that stayed longest.