|Chapter Title||A HUMAN SATIRE.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
A HUMAN SATIRE.
A ghastly satire upon human life is a lunatic asylum. To the man who is sufficiently callous to examine such in- stitutions with the head and not with the heart, they present a microcosm of the great world in which the hopes and fears, the likes and dislikes, the passions and the virtues of sane humanity are aped.
Observe that man sitting yonder with hollow cheeks and nervous fingers. He is a miser and undreamt of wealth is his, but yet he pines and frets for more. Walking past him with pompous strut is the ambitious man of this little world. He is King ; he's Kaiser, and rules his subjects with Kingly sway. Lying there on the grass with eyes turned skywards is the day dreamer, for- ever planning, but never executing. Pass- ing backwards and forwards among the motley crowd is the man we often meet— the borrower. He is always in debt, and he button-holes his friends for a small loan. That dapper young fellow he has just stopped, and who is carrying a gum stick in lieu of a cane, is the dude of this sham city. There is a woman over the way en- grossed with a few gaudy pieces of cloth with which she is decking herself, and the septangenarian beside her is mumbling out her programme for the next ten years. Every type of humanity may be found here, and every passion that animates the race is present. The softhearted man who looks upon these hallucinations is inclined to pity the wretched inmates ; but the philosopher reserves his sympathy for those in the outer world who are just as mad, but do not know it. The maniac whom Lynx and his friends
had captured took little part in the va- garies of the queer people around him. He was still and impassive as the Sphynx, and absolutely no change had taken place in his demeanor. His warders had received imperative orders to exercise the greatest care with him, for he was a puzzle to the doctors, and they knew not the moment when a violent fit might seize him. It was very plain that physically he was declining, but the medical superin- tendant regarded this as a favourable sign of returning sanity ; for though physical weakness usually accelerates mental decay, in some rare instances it relieves the brain of undue pressure, and this, in the experienced superintendent's opinion, was one of them. Since his admission to the asylum a con- siderable change for the better had been made in his appearance. His hair and beard had been trimmed, and in the tidy clothes he looked a very different man than when he stood in the police court. Detective Lynx had not been to see him since his admission two months pre- viously, and that officer was strolling along Bourke Street one morning when a hearty voice sounded in his ears, and a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder. Turning round at this double summons Lynx met the smiling face of his friend Dutton, who was in town presumably on "business." " Hello! my friend. How do you do?" greeted the surveyor. "Down on business again, eh?'' '' Yes ; only for a summons to head quarters I would be a hundred miles away up north-west. But what is this reward I see in the papers about our friend Simpson ? How did you manage to let him slip after all the trouble you put me to ?" "Well, that's easier asked than an- swered, but if you can find him again it will be worth £500 to you." " I wish I could. That sum is not picked up every day." " You are proud of your faculty for knowing faces," answered the detective,
so that is an opportunity of putting it to practical use." " I have very little chance of doing so, buried as I am in the bush." "We'll get leave of absence and search the city and towns." " It would most likely be a wild goose chase. From what I read in the papers he cannot be in the colony, or probably not on the continent, for he drew his bank deposit in gold," replied Dutton, with a sigh. " If you accidentally meet him you will know what to do at any rate," concluded Lynx. " By the by," suddenly spoke Dutton. " That was a queer adventure of yourself and friends on the Camel's Hump with that madman. I wouldn't have been in Rennie's place for a lump of gold as big as the Mount itself." ''Yes; he was very near making another victim to the unlucky place. Another ten seconds and he would have been over the cliff, with the madman for company." "Who can that fellow be. You have not been able to identify him, I be- lieve?" "No," replied the detective. " So far he is unknown. Did you ever hear of a " wild man " being on the ranges while you were working there ?" " Never ; if such an animal had been there we would most certainly have seen it. I am curious now us to what sort of a creature it must be," said the zoologically inclined Dutton. "If you have the time to spare I can gratify your wish. I will take you to the asylum. I should have gone myself be- fore this but I have been too busy." The proposal was readily complied with, and hailing a cab the two started for the Yarra Bend. '"This is a queer place," said the sur- veyor, after they entered the grounds. " No one would think these people we see were insane ; they look as sensible as any we meet in the streets."
" Yes," assented the officer ; " but there is a lurking devil in every one of them, and it is impossible to tell when the fiend will rise up and assert his do- minion. It is awful to think what a nar- row boundary line separates the sane from the insane. Nine out of ten of the people we see here are as sensible as you or me on every point but one, yet that single taint causes them to be shunned by their fel- low men, and guarded like wild beasts. See that old man coming towards us ? Three generations of his family are here — father, son and grandson. The state should certainly take steps to prevent — cruel though, it may seem — marriages that lead to such dire results. Insanity as a mental disease is more hereditary than any physical infirmity and infinitely more disastrous in its results. In the latter the victims generally die, but in the former case they live to be a burthen to themselves, and a menace to others. My opinion is that families tainted with insanity should be allowed of necessity to die out. The remedy may be a Spartan one, but it is the only cure for the evil." "I must agree with you, inhuman as the remedy at first sight appears," replied Dutton, "No man should be allowed knowingly to inflict such terrible punish- ment on posterity. From every point of view it is indefensible. It injures the individual and the state, and it is only false ideas of humanity that prevents a law such as you indicate being placed on the Statute Book. It would have been little consolation to Rennie's friends if he had been hurled over the cliff by the maniac we are going to see to know that the man had inherited insanity, and was not responsible for his action. We do not hesitate to clutch a drowning man by the hair to save his life, and surely to save posterity we should be doubly anxious." "The patient you want to see Mr Lynx is here now," said an attendant, coming out to the officer. Passing into a small reception room the madman was seen standing near the fire- place. The detective scarcely knew him in his
altered state. He looked much better, but was considerably thinner. The detective turned to his companion and made some remark, but Dutton took no heed of it. He was fixedly staring at the lunatic. " Why," he gasped ; " it's Marshall." "What?" exclaimed Lynx. "Mar- shall. It can't he." "I am certain," excitedly replied Dut- ton. "I could swear it, now that his beard and whiskers are the same as they used to be." Then going towards the patient he said, " don't you know me Marshall ? Dutton, of the survey camp." The only response he got was a vacant stare. The man did not show the slight- est sign of recognition. "He does't know you at any rate," said Lynx. "But if this be Marshall he must be Simpson also, and in truth I see a resemblance to Simpson in the forehead. If these whiskers were off I would be able to judge better." "Get them off then, for I am certain of his identity with Marshall." The officer spoke to the superintendent, and the madman was taken away, return ing in a few minutes with his whiskers shaved off. The resemblance to Phillip Simpson was at once apparent, " What about tho reward ?" Lynx asked the surveyor. "Don't be anxious about that," was the answer. "I wish the man was in his right senses, so that I could question him. He wasn't so dumb as this a few months ago. I wonder if it is sham." He interviewed the medical superin- tendent, and explained the leading points of the case to him, and the necessity, if possible, of getting certain information from the patient." The doctor shook his head as the vis- itor spoke. "We cannot do any more than we have done, and are doing. It is quite impos- sible to force information from the man, even if it were desirable, and we can only hope that in time he will become sane enough to give you the desired informa- tion. It is a most peculiar case, and I am watching it myself carefully. Now that you have told me the questions you de- sire an answer to I will miss no oppor- tunity of assisting you." It was no use waiting longer, and the two men re-entered tho cab and drove back to the city. Making an appointment with Dutton to meet him a couple of hours later, the
detective hurried in search of Ernest Rennie. He had some difficulty in finding him, as the young man was inspecting some agricultural implements, and did not re- turn for some hours. The information was most gratifying to him. Now, he thought, we may be able to ascertain the fate of Charles Edgar. This man must know the secret. If not, how did he become possessed of the pocket book, and he must have been the same man who lost the watch at Mountain Mag's hut. Perhaps, thought the anxious man, he was making for the survey camp to get a change of clothing, that he might get away. His clothes wore in tatters and spotted with blood when he met the old woman, and he could not go into the village in that condition. It was said that a new suit of clothes was missed from the tent, and the story of the old wood- man about the meeting in the shanty was most likely true. Then Marshall's foot- print was formed near the base of the cliff. He must have robbed the body of my poor friend, and then hid it in the wombat hole, he said with a shudder. Then a despairing thought seized him. "Here is my future happiness depend- ing on a creature no better than a brute. My God ! Am I to be condemned to a life of misery because the torch of this man's intellect has been quenched. Am I, already sick with hope deferred, to go on hoping until the end of my days. If this wretched creature will not or cannot speak, then I am doomed, for I know Adeline's vow is irrevocable.