|Chapter Title||THE SEARCH.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
CHAPTER VIII. THE SEARCH. The sun was just throwing its golden beams on the mountain top next morning when the survey camp was astir. The cook was busy at the huge fire at- tending to his camp-oven and brob- dignagian boiler, preparing breakfast for the hungry inmates, when the "chief " said to one of the men : "See if Marshall is in his tent. He was not there at ten o'clock last night." The man addressed went to the tent, and opening the door looked in, but no Marshall met his view. " No, sir ; he is not here," he answered the chief. " I hope he has not met with an acci- dent. If he does not return by dinner- time two of you must go over to 'Diogenes ' and search for him,' replied the leader. The missing man did not appear by the time mentioned, and two of the most ex- pert foresters were dispatched in the direction he had been sent the previous day. It was after nightfall when they returned with the news that no trace of their late comrade could be found. "To-morrow morning if he is not here we must all go and search for him. He
may have fallen over some cliff, or into one of these treacherous glens which are covered over with vegetation. He might be lying in one of those places with a broken Ieg. Next morning at daylight nearly all the party went down into the Devil's Glen in the direction of Mount Diogenes to search for the missing man. They separated in various directions with instructions to meet again on the top of the queer-looking peak. For hours their voices could be heard sounding choked and muffled, as the noise struggled through the dense undergrowth — calling aloud in the hope of attracting their lost comrade's notice. At midday they were all gathered on the top of the "Camel's Hump" after their fruitless search. "Let us examine these caves and the cliffs," said the chief. The men, now exceedingly anxious, dispersed at once, and half-an-hour after a cooee was heard at the northern end, which speedily attracted the party. They found the lender, lying down on the edge of the fearful precipice with which the mount ended in that direction, and pointing with a white face to a small ledge of granite which projected a few feet below. Here, fluttering in the breeze, was a fragment of cloth apparently torn from a coat, and on a jagged point of the rock
the greyish-white granite was marked with a ghastly crimson stain, which meant blood — and what kind of blood it was the fragment of cloth too clearly told. The spot where the men stood was bare, solid granite, and, of course, no footsteps were visible. "Boys," said the leader to the agitated men, " the day Marshall was here one of the mountain fogs suddenly came on, and, I fear, what is left of him we shall find at the bottom of this precipice," and as he finished speaking he pointed shudderingly below. These survey men were true bush pioneers. They had penetrated into wilds where the feet of white men had never previously trod, and they had scaled the most rugged mountain heights in carrying out their work. They were real bushmen, and without wasting words they gave a last look at the fatal spot, and silently followed their leader down the steep westerly side of the mount to reach the foot of the precipice. It was fully an hour before they got to the desired spot, but no shattered and mangled corpse met their eagor gaze. At the foot of the cliff lay a mound of soft, decayed granite which had crumbled off the face by the action of centuries of frosts, winds and rains. The erosive hand of time had not been idle, for even the eternal granite had felt it. The first glance assured the party that a body of some sort had recently fallen down the cliff where they stood. The soft detritus was disturbed, and in places, was sticky and dark colored as though cemented with blood. Some animal —probably a wombat — had scratched it up in several places as though in quest of the blood. On looking up, the track of the body as it slid down the rock, was plainly dis- cernible by the aid of several ominous crimson stains. It needed no seer to understand their meaning, for they spoke trumpet-tongued to these wondering men of terrible and sudden death. But where was the body ? "Look here !" cried one of the party, stooping to the ground and picking up some small white object at his feet. As his comrades turned to him at the exclamation, he held up before their en- quiring eyes a tooth. "It is a human tooth I am certain, and it has not been here many days, for the blood is still fresh on its root," he said. His comrades took the tooth with reverent hands and closely scanned it, for there was not one present who did not firmly believe he was looking upon a relic of his lost comrade. What can possibly have become of the body ? they asked each other, enquir- ingly. " There are no wild beasts about here," one of them said at last, " that would de- vour the corpse, except wombats, and it is impossible to suppose these animals would cause such a total disappearance in
a couple of days. They would not eat the clothes or the watch he wore, and some of the bones would be left," he added, with a shudder at the idea of the fearful death and gruesome burial. ''Perhaps the watch may have fallen out of his pocket and rolled away," sug- gested the leader. A minute search was at once made, but no trace of any article belonging to the missing man was found. One of the party, some little distance from the rest, was looking intently at the ground in front of him. Beckoning to the leader, he pointed to the object which had rivetted his attention, and there in the soft debris was a deep, plain impression of a man's boot quite recently made, and leading down in the direction of the Devil's Glen. "Some person has been here, most likely discovored the body, and has had it removed," he said. The experienced chief looked fixedly at the footprint as he answered, ab- stractedly :
" He could not possibly have fallen such a distance and escaped instant death. Pooh! tho idea is ridiculous. It might be that some tourist, or, I should say, party of tourists, have accidently dis- covered the body and removed it to Middle Gully. If so we will soon find it out.'' Then, as if an idea had suddenly oc- curred to him, he said : "Let us make sure in this matter, Bill," — calling to one of the men — "Go back to the camp and bring me a pair of Marshall's working boots. He has a couple of pair of the same make." The man instantly departed, and being thoroughly acquainted with the rough stretch of country intervening, returned in about three hours with the boots— the very pair, in fact, that Marshall had worn on the day he visited the trigonometrical station, on the Camel's Hump, and which he changed when he entered the camp two nights previously. "Give me the right boot?' said the chief, as he took it and carefully placed it over the impression.
It fitted perfectly, and the identity was established beyond doubt by the fact that three of the large hob-nails which were wanting in the boot were also absent in the footprint. "Alive or dead," spoke the leader, solemnly, " Marshall's boot made that impression. He may have been here be- fore he ascended the mount, or mayhap some unfortunate pleasure-seeker has met his death here, whose body has been discovored by our missing comrade and taken to the ' Gully," where he has had to await the inquest, and been unable to communicate with us. It is useless to re- main here longer. We will get back to camp, and in the morning I will go to Middle Gully, and you, Ratcliffe, to Woodend and make enquiries." The party, after taking a last look at the spot which seemed to possess a mysterious and facinating influence for them, descended the remaining portion of the mount and plunged into the gloomy depths of the Devil's Glen. The road they took back to camp led them directly past the solitary hut of Mountain Mag, whom they found with her sole companion, a fine collie, eating her frugal evening meal at the rough bench near the door. They stopped, as was their wont, to speak to the old woman, and during the conversation shetold them of the meet- ing she had a couple of evenings pre- viously with the excited looking and tat- tered stranger, not even forgetting the finding of the watch. This she brought out and showed them, and on examining it the leader found that the maker's name was "Delaney, Dublin," and the number "14,321." She described the man as he appeared to her, but none of the party seemed to recognise the description as applicable to any of their acquaintances. "Did he come from the Camel's Hump ?" was asked her. "He came from that direction, and he said he had come through the 'Glen.' There was blood on his clothes which he told me was from a wallaby be had shot,
but left behind, and that he had lost his gun in a wombat hole into which he had stumbled," answered the old woman. The men glanced at each other in a puzzled way, and then bidding Mountain Mag good-night soon regained the camp. That evening they were too tired and anxious to pass the time in singing or storytelling, and before long the usually cheerful camp was hushed in deepest silence.