|Chapter Title||THE FOREST INN.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
CHAPTER IV. —————— THE FOREST INN. Host English, of the Forest Inn, Macedon, was driven to his wits' end this month of October, in the year 1863.. Never before had so many visitors flocked to the Forest Inn at such a period. And as it was the only hotel in Macedon, or rather, Middle Gully, village, which, by the way, consisted then of a few wood- men's huts, Host English considered it a matter of honor, if not expediency, to provide for the clamorous throng that threw themselves on the hospitality of the sole boniface of the district. Any less experienced provider than the Forest Inn host would scarcely have had the courage to face the situation, for not only had sleeping accommodation to be found for about seventy persons, whom the early approach of spring had attracted
to the Alpine district, when the resources of the house only provided forty sleeping berths, but the keen and bracing air of mountain region had so sharpened and toned up the appetites of the unusual multitude, that the larder of the Forest Inn was fast becoming as bare of food as the "skillion" of a Skibbereen peasant. The guests who were thus gathered were a miscellaneous lot. Side by side with the worn out city merchant, who sought to recruit his health with the pure air of this bracing locality, was the consumptive cleric, who was certainly doing himself more harm than good in taking up his residence in this cold and moist, though invigorating altitude, two thousand feet above sea level. Here was a party of drapers' assistants — vulgarly termed " counter jumpers" — who had wisely decided to leave the bustling, dirty, and foul-aired city behind them for a few days, and for once in the year breathe the pure air of health, in- stead of the study, death-dealing atmos- phere of a city drapers' shop, where the supply of oxygen is scarcely sufficient to give the necessary food to the gas- lights. In another place could be seen a party of "convivials," who, having money and leisure, enough and to spare, were paying one of their many visits to Macedon, to work off the dissipation of Melbourne and prepare themselves for future devotions at the shrine of Bacchus. Sitting in one of the small parlors and apparently on Alpine business bent, were two young men, rather different from the rest of the company. Their dress at once spoke of mountain climbs and researches into nature's fortresses, being very different from the Collins-street suits, that some of the would be mountaineers donned. Their conversation was evidently about the next morning's work, and as they spoke earnestly an opportunity was given to scan their appearance. The one who was just now speaking and whom his companion addressed as Edgar, was a tall and handsome-looking man of about twenty- five years. His face was tanned from exposure to the sun, his eyes a steely grey, yet kindly looking, nose, a cross between a Grecian and a "pug," And his face in general denoted a good disposition and no ordinary degree of intelligence. His mouth was hidden by a rather heavy moustache. His tall, lithe figure spoke plainly as words could do that its pos- sessor was a typical "cornstalk." His companion, though not so tall, was of stouter build and a strikingly hand- some man. In ago he appeared about thirty, whilst his fresh complexion, blue eyes, and easy- going manner spoke the Anglo-Saxon fresh from the motherland. He was in fact a comparative "new chum," having been scarcely a year in Australia. "We cannot do anything this evening, Rennie," spoke Edgar to his companion, pulling out of his vest fob a gold watch, " its nearly six o'clock now so we had bettor reserve ourselves for to-morrow's climbing. From what I hear we shall have no easy task to reach the Camel's Hump." " Yes," languidly replied Rennie, " we should see the "old man" and arrange about our beds." This was a matter not easily settled, but the landlord did his best, and as the young men were prepared to rough it, they didn't grumble at the shake downs they were given. They rose early the following morning eager for their excursion up the mount, and at six o'clock left the hotel on the journey, each carrying a double-barrelled gun. The day was not particularly favorable for a mountain ascent. Dull gray clouds hung on the top of the range, and the southerly wind threatened moist wenther at any moment. Tho tourists decided to first make the ascent of Diogenes — or the Camel's Hump — and a walk of a mile brought them to the edge of the Devil's glen, the deep valley which intervened between them and the peak. Here their troubles began in earnest, as they found it almost impossible to make their way through the jungle of vegetation which impeded them. Sometimes they would walk for fifty or a hundred yards in semi-darkness under underneath the ferns which shrouded the sun. Suddenly one or both of them would dis- appear into one of the narrow ravines which intersected the glen, and which were treacherously covered over with creepers and vegetation which luxuriated on the decaying herbage. Their guns were useless to them, for though wallaby frequently crashed away in front they could not see the animals, and while they heard the flapping of the startled bronze winged pigeon they could not get a shot at them. It was with feelings of heartfelt relief
that they emerged on the easterly side at the foot of the Camel's Hump. With the exception of mimosa and ash trees and a few straggling eucalypti they saw that little vegetation grow on its steep sides. The climb to the summit was a trying one on account of the precipitous slope, but the fine view from the top and the pure bracing air was ample reward for their exertions. It was now approaching mid-day, and sitting under the shade of the govern- ment trigonometrical station which was erected on the highest point, they very soon devoured the lunch brought with them.