|Chapter Title||THE BRAND OF CAIN.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
CHAPTER VI. THE BRAND OF CAIN. And so Charles Edgar was dead and buried. The strong young man, so full of life and hope, who had joyously left the hospitable inn a few hours previously, was lying a mangled and unrecognisable corpse in a wombat hole in a wild region. He had disappeared off the earth for- ever, as his grave would be a wombat's maw. The man who had given him the fatal push, which impelled him across the border line between life and death, was hurriedly plunging through the dismal recesses of the Devil's Glen, casting frightened looks behind as though a Iegion of devils were following him. Henceforth, like Cain he would be a wanderer on the earth, and like him he would one day cry aloud that his punish- ment was greater than he could bear.
On the top of the mount Ernest Rennie wandered about like a frantic man. He was completely lost ; hoarse with calling on his comrade, and utterly dis- heartened at receiving no reply ; wet to the skin with the drenching mist, ex- haustion was beginning to assert itself, and at length with a last despairing look at the white walls of fog which hemmed him in he wisely decided to seek one of the caves and rest until the cap should be lifted. After much groping he at length dis- covered a largo recess in one of the granite " humps " which jutted up on the summit of the mount, and getting into this with a sinking heart he endeavored to reassure himself with the thought that the fog might only be temporary. Soon a heavy shower of rain fell, but it did not dissipate the mist, and by the increasing darkness Rennie knew that night must be approaching. He looked at his watch, but it had stopped at three o'clock. He was naturally a brave man, and he nerved himself to the task of spending the night, wet, cold and hungry in his desolate cave. Four o'clock the following day the pleasure-seekers at the Forest Inn were startled out of their usual routine by the appearance of a tattered, famished-looking man, who staggered into the large dining- room of the hotel. His gaunt eyes looked eagerly around as he hoarsely asked : " Where is Edgar ?" "Why, it's Mr. Rennie,' spoke Host English. "Bless my soul, sir, what has happened to you ? Mr. Edgar has not returned here, and we have been anxious about you, for the mountain had its 'cap ' on yesterday. But drink this, sir," said the host, pouring out a fulltwo 'nobbler' measure of brandy, " you look really famished." The tattered-looking man gulphed down the stimulant, and then excitedly cried : "Edgar must be lost or dead then. We parted on the top of the mount a few minutes before the mist came on, and I have never seen him since." "Mr. Edgar may be all right," said the host, reassuringly, "he may have got to Rochford, or to Woodend, or to some of the farm-houses around Newham. Of course, it is too late now to send a search party to the mount." "If my comrade has to pass another night on the range it will kill him. One night has broken me down,' said the young man, despairingly. The utter foolishness of attempting a search at night having been impressed on the worried man, he was placed in a bed that had been vacated for him, and a promise given that a search party would scour the ranges on the following day if Edgar had not returned. Next morning the party set out, but it was composed of men whose enthusiasm exceeded their bush experience They scaled the Camel's Hump, and made a minute search of the caves and rocks but they found nothing, and saw nothing to excite their suspicions. By some means they missed a survey search party, which, looking for a missing comrade that day, found ominous signs of sudden death at the foot of the great cliff ; and they returned tired, but sanguine that the lost man had reached some place of safety, and would shortly return. The day after a fresh interest was im- parted to the subject by the appearance of Dutton, chief of the Macedon survey party, calling at the Forest Inn to enquire after one of his men named Marshall, who was missing. " I am sure," he said, " that some one has been killed by falling over the great cliff at the 'Hump.' We have found all the signs of a body having fallen over, and the bloody stains are yet there." This gave a significant turn to the affair, and the aid of the police authorities was invoked to find the missing men Marshall and Edgar. The most minute search was made in the locality, and the police throughout the colonies were furnished with descrip- tions of the missing men, but all to no purpose. Then suspicion fell upon Rennie re- garding Edgar, and though he could not be arrested, as no body was found, he was a marked man, and for a long time actually shadowed by a detective, in the hope that some clue might be found to criminate him. The thought that he was suspected of being the cause of his friend's strange disappearance preyed upon his mind to such an extent that the cheerful, robust man in a few months became morose and emaciated through the undeserved sus- picion. Those who knew him attributed — with the charity usual in such cases — his al- tered appearance to remorse. Thus are the innocent often made to bear the punishment of the guilty.