We all looked at her -- not a bad-looking woman she'd been once, though you could see she'd come down in the world and been knocked about a bit. Surely I knew her voice! I'd seen her before -- why, of course --

She was quicker than I was.

'Well, Dick!' says she, pouring out all the drinks, taking the note, and rattling down the change on the counter, all in a minute, same as I'd often seen her do before, 'this is a rough shop to meet old friends in, isn't it? So you didn't know me, eh? We're both changed a bit. You look pretty fresh on it. A woman loses her looks sooner than a man when she goes to the bad. And Jim too,' she goes on; 'only to fancy poor old Jim turning up here too! One would think you'd put it up to meet at the township on some plant of that sort.'

It was Kate, sure enough! How in the world did ever she get here? I knew she'd left the Turon, and that old Mullockson had dropped a lot of his money in a big mining company he'd helped to float, and that never turned out gold enough to pay for the quicksilver in the first crushing. We'd heard afterwards that he'd died and she'd married again; but I never expected to see her brought down so low as this -- not but what we'd known many a woman that started on the diggings with silks and satins and a big house and plate-glass windows brought down to a cotton gown and a bark shanty before half-a-dozen years were over.

Jim and I both looked queer. The men began to laugh. Any one could see we were both in a fix. Jim spoke first.

'Are you sure you're not making a mistake, missis?' says he, looking at her very quiet-like. 'Take care what you say.'

He'd better have held his tongue. I don't know whether she really intended to give us away. I don't think she did altogether; but with them kind of women it's a regular toss up whether they'll behave reasonable or not. When they're once started, 'specially if they think they've not been treated on the square, they can't stop themselves.

'Take care what I say!' she breaks out, rising her voice to a scream, and looking as if she'd jump over the bar-counter and tear the eyes out of me. 'Why should I take care? It's you, Dick Marston, you double-faced treacherous dog that you are, that's got a thousand pounds on your head, that has cause to care, and you, Jim Marston, that's in the same reward, and both of you know it. Not that I've anything against you, Jim. You're a man, and always was. I'll say that for you.'

'And you're a woman,' groans out poor Jim. 'That's the reason you can't hold your infernal tongue, I suppose.'

Kate had let the cat out of the bag now and no mistake. You should have seen the drover and his men look at us when they found they had the famous bush-rangers among them that they'd all heard so much about this years past. Some looked pretty serious and some laughed. The drover spoke first.

'Bush-ranger here or bush-ranger there,' he says, 'I'm going to lose a dashed good man among cattle; and if this chattering fool of a woman had held her tongue the pair of ye might have come on with the cattle till they were delivered. Now I'm a man short, and haven't one as I can trust on a pinch. I don't think any more of you, missis,' he says, 'for being so dashed ready to give away your friends, supposing they had been on the cross.'

But Kate didn't hear. She had fallen down in a kind of fit, and her husband, coming in to see what the row was about, picked her up, and stood looking at us with his mouth open.

'Look here, my man,' says I, 'your wife's taken me and this gentleman,' pointing to Jim, 'for some people she knew before on the diggings, and seems to have got rather excited over it. If it was worth our while to stay here, we'd make her prove it. You'd better get her to lie down, and advise her, when she comes to, to hold her tongue, or you might be made to suffer by it.'

'She's a terror when she's put out, and that's God's truth,' says the chap; and starting to drag her over to one of the bits of back bedrooms. 'It's all right, I daresay. She will keep meddling with what don't consarn her. I don't care who yer are or what yer are. If you knowed her afore, I expect ye'll think it best to clear while she's unsensible like.'

'Here's a shout all round for these men here,' says I, throwing a note on the bar. 'Never mind the change. Good-bye, chaps. This gentleman and I have some business together, and there's no bush-ranging in it, you may take my word.'

We all left then. The men went back to their cattle. Jim rode quietly along the road to Cunnamulla just like any other traveller. I went down and saddled up my horse. I'd got everything I wanted in my swag, so I'd left the other horse at Willaroon.

'Never mind the settlement,' says I to the drover. 'I'll be coming back to the station after I've finished my business in Queensland, and we can make up the account then.'

The overseer looked rather doubtful.

'This seems rather mixed,' says he. 'Blest if I understand it. That woman at the pub seems half off her head to me. I can't think two quiet-looking chaps like you can be the Marstons. You've been a thundering good road hand anyhow, and I wish you luck.'

He shook hands with me. I rode off and kept going along the road till I overtook Jim.

When I'd gone a mile or two there was Jim riding steadily along the road, looking very dull and down-like, just the way he used to do when he was studying how to get round a job of work as he wasn't used to. He brightens up a bit when he sees me, and we both jumped off, and had a good shake-hands and a yarn. I told him about mother and Aileen, and how I'd left dad all by himself. He said Jeanie and the boy were all right, but of course he'd never heard of 'em since, and couldn't help feeling dubersome about meeting her again, particular now this blessed woman had dropped across us, and wouldn't keep her mouth shut.