After we'd fairly settled to stay, father began to be more pleasant than he'd ever been before. We were pretty likely, he said, to have a visit from Starlight and the half-caste in a day or two, if we'd like to wait. He was to meet him at the Hollow on purpose to help him out with the mob of fat bullocks we had looked at. Father, it appears, was coming here by himself when he met this outlying lot of Mr. Hunter's cattle, and thought he and old Crib could bring them in by themselves. And a mighty good haul it was. Father said we should share the weaners between the three of us; that meant 50 Pounds a piece at least. The devil always helps beginners.

We put through a couple of days pleasantly enough, after our hardish bit of work. Jim found some fish-hooks and a line, and we caught plenty of mullet and eels in the deep, clear waterholes. We found a couple of double-barrelled guns, and shot ducks enough to last us a week. No wonder the old frequenters of the Hollow used to live here for a month at a time, having great times of it as long as their grog lasted; and sometimes having the tribe of blacks that inhabited the district to make merry and carouse with them, like the buccaneers of the Spanish Main that I've read about, till the plunder was all gone. There were scrawls on the wall of the first cave we had been in that showed all the visitors had not been rude, untaught people; and Jim picked up part of a woman's dress splashed with blood, and in one place, among some smouldering packages and boxes, a long lock of woman's hair, fair, bright-brown, that looked as if the name of Terrible Hollow might not have been given to this lonely, wonderful glen for nothing.

We spent nearly a week in this way, and were beginning to get rather sick of the life, when father, who used always to be looking at a bare patch in the scrub above us, said --

'They're coming at last.'

'Who are coming -- friends?'

'Why, friends, of course. That's Starlight's signal. See that smoke? The half-caste always sends that up -- like the blacks in his mother's tribe, I suppose.'

'Any cattle or horses with them?' said Jim.

'No, or they'd send up two smokes. They'll be here about dinner-time, so we must get ready for them.'

We had plenty of time to get ourselves or anything else ready. In about four hours we began to look at them through a strong spyglass which father brought out. By and by we got sight of two men coming along on horseback on the top of the range the other side of the far wall. They wasn't particularly easy to see, and every now and then we'd lose sight of 'em as they got into thick timber or behind rocks.

Father got the spyglass on to 'em at last, pretty clear, and nearly threw it down with an oath.

'By ----!' he says, 'I believe Starlight's hurt somehow. He's so infernal rash. I can see the half-caste holding him on. If the police are on his tracks they'll spring the plant here, and the whole thing'll be blown.'

We saw them come to the top of the wall, as it were, then they stopped for a long while, then all of a sudden they seemed to disappear.

'Let's go over to the other side,' says father; 'they're coming down the gully now. It's a terrible steep, rough track, worse than the other. If Starlight's hurt bad he'll never ride down. But he has the pluck of the devil, sure enough.'

We rode over to the other side, where there was a kind of gully that came in, something like the one we came in by, but rougher, and full of gibbers (boulders). There was a path, but it looked as if cattle could never be driven or forced up it. We found afterwards that they had an old pack bullock that they'd trained to walk up this, and down, too, when they wanted him, and the other cattle followed in his track, as cattle will.

Father showed us a sort of cave by the side of the track, where one man, with a couple of guns and a pistol or two, could have shot down a small regiment as they came down one at a time.

We stayed in there by the track, and after about half-an-hour we heard the two horses coming down slowly, step by step, kicking the stones down before them. Then we could hear a man groaning, as if he couldn't bear the pain, and partly as if he was trying to smother it. Then another man's voice, very soft and soothing like, trying to comfort another.

'My head's a-fire, and these cursed ribs are grinding against one another every step of this infernal ladder. Is it far now?' How he groaned then!

'Just got the bottom; hold on a bit longer and you'll be all right.'

Just then the leading horse came out into the open before the cave. We had a good look at him and his rider. I never forgot them. It was a bad day I ever saw either, and many a man had cause to say the same.

The horse held up his head and snorted as he came abreast of us, and we showed out. He was one of the grandest animals I'd ever seen, and I afterwards found he was better than he looked. He came stepping down that beastly rocky goat-track, he, a clean thoroughbred that ought never to have trod upon anything rougher than a rolled training track, or the sound bush turf. And here he was with a heavy weight on his back -- a half-dead, fainting man, that couldn't hold the reins -- and him walking down as steady as an old mountain bull or a wallaroo on the side of a creek bank.

I hadn't much time to look him over. I was too much taken up with the rider, who was lying forward on his chest across a coat rolled round and strapped in front of the saddle, and his arms round the horse's neck. He was as pale as a ghost. His eyes -- great dark ones they were, too -- were staring out of his head. I thought he was dead, and called out to father and Jim that he was.

They ran up, and we lifted him off after undoing some straps and a rope. He was tied on (that was what the half-caste was waiting for at the top of the gully). When we laid him down his head fell back, and he looked as much like a corpse as if he had been dead a day.