|Chapter Title||THE WILD MAN.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
THE WILD MAN.
From Buckley's time down to the pre- sent day there have been many traditions of "wild men " having been seen in the Australian bush. Frequently these statements have em- anated from imaginative persons who have mistaken some animal in the gloom of the bush for the Australian ourang out- ang, but many times veritable "wild
men" —that is outcasts from civilization, voluntary or otherwise, who have pre- ferred communion with wild beasts in the deep recesses of the bush or the wilderness to the society of their fellow men — have been known to haunt the soli- tary glades of the Australian forests. We hear strange stories even now from the interior of the continent regarding a " white wild man " who is supposed to be one of the survivors of Leichardt's ill- fated party, and the writer of this is per- sonally acquainted with the fact that a " wild man " some twenty years ago roamed the Black Forest, about eight miles to the west of Woodend.
During the Christmas tide of 186— rumours were current amongst the resi- sidents of Middle Gully and Woodend that a "wild man" had his abode in the ranges overlooking these places. They were only rumours, however, for no authentic account had yet been given of the strange being, and most people who heard the news treated the matter as a practical joke. Host English, of the Forest Inn, was particularly indignant that such a rumour should have gone abroad. ''Some enemy of mine, hang him, has spread the report to injure me. He wants to frighten the summer tourists away with his hobgoblin story. A wild man indeed. Surely people will not be mad enough to credit such a story. Such was the emphatic comment of the Forest Inn landlord, but as he surmised people on excursions bent were not foolish enough to believe the tale, and that Christmas time Mr English had his hotel as overflowing with pleasure seekers as ever. Amongst his guests was no lest a per- sonage than Detective Thomas Lynx. That gentleman -----------------------------
with the Mount and its surroundings. Like the lover who haunts the spot where he last parted from his lost mis- tress in the vain hope that she will re- appear the detective was irresistibly drawn to the spot where his thoughts constantly dwelt. Young Bruce, the warehouseman, and his friend Steadman were apparently in- fluenced by similar morbid fancies, for they had joined with the officer in the ex- cursion. "I'll not try any more wombat dig- ging " Bruce said, "for it's confoundedly hard work, and I don't suppose there's a human skeleton in every hole, but the Mount is a strange place, and there is no knowing what mystery we may un- earth." It was evidently the morbid desire of a strange, adventure, rather than the love of natural beauty or the quest of health that accounted for the presence of the three men at the Forest lnn. "I would like to ascend the obser- vatory on Macedon to-morrow, and write my name there as half the world have done," spoke Steadman. "It will be a nice trip," assented Lynx. "I have not been there myself yet." So it was agreed that the programme for the following day should be a climb to the western peak of the range, and the inscription of their names on the summit of the Government observatory, which crowned the eminence. They were astir at an early hour, for no sluggards are tolerated in hotels like the Forest Inn. The sleeper must per- force awake, for at daylight the din and bustle does not permit of further slum- ber. To regular habitues of such places who become accustomed to the noise — like the engineer who slept in a boiler whilst the rivetters were at work on it — it may be possible to sleep on unmindful of the up- roar, but the casual guest has no such chance, The road from the Inn to the top of the Mount is a gentle slope, and the scenery is very pretty. The tourists thoroughly enjoyed them- selves on the way up, for a broad track down which bullock teams dragged huge loss on "bogies" nearly reached the whole distance, and they were saved the rough scrambling through dense under growth. On the apex of the peak they came out on the clearing which the survey party had made, and they were astonished at the gigantic trees that lay prone upon the earth, victims of the woodman's axe. Some of those fallen leviathans were fully twenty feet in diameter, the wood right through being perfectly sound. It was those huge logs that were being conveyed to the saw mills at the foot of the Mount, and out of which most of the sawn hard- wood sent to the Melbourne market was obtained, for the Government had tardily proclaimed the ranges " a state forest"
and no "live" timber was allowed to be cut. This was another Government instance of locking the stable door after the steed was stolen, for nearly all the valuable timber had been taken, —or rather wasted. The observatory stood in the middle of the clearing near tho "lone tree," which had been left as a landmark, but was, a few years ago, blown down. Going to it the party passed by the site of Dutton's survey camp, which had re- cently been removed, and as he looked at the trenches Lynx thought "another act
in the tragedy was played here." After writing their names in the wood work on the platform of the observatory and taking in the glorious view for some time, the enthusiastic Bruce suggested an exploring expedition eastward. They descended on this wish being ex- pressed, and leaving the thick forest of young wattle trees which were springing up amongst the prostrate logs and hiding them from sight on their right they strolled away along the ridge of the peak in an easterly direction. They encountered nothing of note un- til the detective, recognizing the place, knew that they were in the vicinity of the late "Mountain Mag's " hut. She had been dead three months, and wondering whether the fragile erection was standing, he led his companions through the dog-wood grove to the spot. The hut was still there, almost the same as when he last saw it. Telling his comrades the history of the place the three men walked over to it and entered.
A glance from the detective's practised eye convinced him that the hut had been recently occupied. A fire had burned not long previously in the chimney, as the fresh ashes indicated, and pieces of half cooked meat and bones lay about. "Some pic-nic party has been here it seems, although for a wonder they have not left any bottles behind them," re- marked Bruce. "Rather some swagman crossing the Mount, by the appearance of the scraps. They don't look like pic-nic leavings," the officer said.
Dismissing the subject they sallied out again, and as evening was approaching they decided to skirt round and head for the Inn. This course brought them through a portion of the Devil's Glen where they were somewhat separated, each man "playing a lone hand " in getting through the scrub. Bruce and the detective were just clambering over a log that lay in their way when they were suddenly alarmed by a loud cry for help from their companion, who was in the rear, and the next moment he broke through the crackling under- growth in evident terror, and tried to force his way past them. "What the deuce is the matter with you man,'' cried Lynx, seizing him by the arm. "I have seen the devil himself I be- lieve," he tremblingly replied. " Let us get out of here for God's sake." "Don't talk nonsense to us. We're not children to be frightened with tales
of Old Nick and brimstone," said the cool and rather amused officer. "I am speaking the truth as I live," solemnly protested Steadman, who was no coward. " Not a dozen yards back there I came face to face with a creature that was not of this earth." Show me the place," asked the half convinced detective. ' Como on Bruce ; we will bag this monster. It will be bet- ter than your wombat capture." The three men cautiously proceeded to the spot indicated — Steadman nervously peering into the scrub the while — and sure enough there were indications that some animal had been recently there. The undergrowth was trampled down, and twigs broken off the surrounding bushes. No footprints were visible on account of the yielding debris. " Let us search around said Lynx. We may find something to enlighten us." Bruce went off in one direction, but Steadman, thoroughly frightened, would not leave him, and the detective took the ------- -------- ---- ------- -------- ------- ---