Chapter 64226770

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Chapter NumberXIV
Chapter TitleTHE WOMBAT QUEST.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64226770
Full Date1891-10-31
Page Number1
Corrections2
Word Count1000
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-06-17
Newspaper TitleBathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Mount Macedon Mystery
article text

CHAPTER XIV.

THE WOMBAT QUEST.

That half-brother to the Badger — the wombat — has always been a favourite hunting pursuit of city excursionists to the wild haunts of the animal. Times innumerable large parties of en-

thusiastic young men, armed with pick and spade, have essayed the task of cap- turing these strange underground dwel- lers on the mountain sides, but rarely have they succeeded in their design. The subterranean homes of the animal are among the marvels of brute ingenuity and industry. Their extent is hardly conceivable, and the regular method on which they are planned worthy of the highest admiration. The main entrance pierces the side of the hill in a slanting direction, and from this chief drive others branch of. Fre- quently jumps up are put in, and two or even three levels are made. Sometimes half-a-dozen outlets or entrances, as may be required, are made, and some of these are generally concealed. Attempts have been to smoke out the wombat, and the smoke has been seen to issue from outlets a quarter of a mile from the hole where the fire was kindled.

Indeed, it is almost impossible to dig or smoke out the animals, and the ruse of lying in wait until night time to shoot the occupants when they issue for food is generally fruitless of result, for they have a keen scent and smell danger afar. If they conserve no other useful pur- pose in nature they at least afford op- portunities at holiday times to the soft- handed clerks and others of city life to perform a little unusual, and for that reason, temporarily attractive, manual labor, in attempts to dig them out. It was Christmas time, two years after the disappearance of Edgar, that Host

English's hotel, the Forest Inn, was again crowded with tourists to the moun- tain heights, A jolly party was the half dozen young men from a large warehouse in Flinders Lane, who had come with the intention of roughing it in the bush for a week, and bear back to their less fortunate comrades the trophies and spoils which would fall to their prowess in the sylvan and alpine excursions. They had almost pledged their reputations that one of these trophies would be a wombat either dead or alive. This magnificent summer morning, drinking in the soft and cool breezes of that high altitude, the party of young men stood outside the hotel ready for their expedition. They had enlisted the services of one of the residents who was well acquainted with the ranges and who promised to show them the lair of a patriachal wom- bat that had successfully defied all previous attempts at capture. Armed with a miscellaneous collection of weapons, including picks, shovels and an axe, and not forgetting a liberal supply of provisions, amongst which, several bottles of British were conspicuous, the attacking army, with its artillery park and commissariat train, moved on, headed by its guide, in the direction of the Devil's Glen. The rugged and densely vegetated nature of the country soon broke up the ranks of the invaders, and it was a dis- orderly and ragged crowd that after two

hours scrambling and stumbling stood at the mouth of the wombat hole under the frowning cliffs of the Camel's Hump. Much needed refreshment was par- taken of, and inspired by an heroic resolve and beer, one of the party actually volunteered to creep down the hole backwards, let the animal seize his jack-boot, and then he would pull him out clinging to it. His comrades thought this would be an excellent substitute for badger baiting and urged him on, but a slight recon- naisance of the wombat's stronghold caused him to alter his idea of thus easily effecting a capture. One of the party rolled a large stone into tho hole, and it rumbled away, ap- parently into the bowels of the earth, and an answering growl was sent back which told that the subterranean denizen was at home. This sound inspired the young men, and with pick and spade they set to work with a will. The earth was a soft, rich, choco- late colored soil and very easily remov- able, so that rapid progress was made, and in the course of an hour the perspir- ing and nearly exhausted party had ex- cavated a considerable length along the drive, but they appeared to be no nearer the occupant. Ominous blisters were also appearing on the hands, unused to such toil, of the diggers, and a rest for refreshments was decided on. With renewed vigor they shortly set upon their task again, and worked des- perately, for it would be unbearable to return without the promised wombat and endure the jeers and chaff of their fellow workers in the warehouse. At every few feet of the drive they laid bare observations were taken to see if the animal was yet in sight. It was on the last of these occasions that Bruce, one of the most enthusiastic of the party, who was peering into the dark recess of the huge burrow, suddenly came out. "I see him ! I see him !" Instantly all was excitement. Their efforts were about to be crowned with suc- cess, and one after another crowded to look at the fugitive beast which they, in the full sense of the word, had run to earth. "I don't think that's the wombat," said the more experienced guide, us he looked at the object. " It shines too much. It must be a stone or a knob of wood."

The hunters did not think so, however, and set to work vigiorously to unearth the object of their labours. Gradually they excavated towards the place, and Bruce, arming himself with a stick, got down to test the distance from the animal.— (To be continued.) MM 5