Chapter 64231616

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Chapter NumberXVI-(CONTINUED)
Chapter TitlePHILLIP SIMPSON
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64231616
Full Date1891-11-14
Page Number1
Corrections36
Word Count4528
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-06-19
Newspaper TitleBathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Mount Macedon Mystery
article text

AN AUSTRALIAN NOVEL, BY —————

IVAN DEXTER.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. —————— THE Mount Macedon Mystery CHAPTER XVI.—(Continued.)

"You do not seem to be enjoying yourself to-night Miss Devereaux," spoke the gentleman. "I must confess I am not very chee-r ful. Perhaps I am home-sick,' she re- plied with a laugh. "You do not reside in Melbourne, then?" "No. Sydney is my home, but I have spent a good deal of time in Melbourne of late." "Sydney, " he repeated, with a more

interested look. "I suppose you were brought up there ?" " Yes. I never left the city until about a year ago when I came here, so that I have not seen much of the world. I sup- pose you have travelled a great deal, Mr. Simpson?" " Well, no ; I have not been much of a wanderer. I believe in the maxim that a rolling stone gathers no moss," he re- plied, with a laugh. "I hope you have found the maxims also been true," she answered. xperienced " I have no reason to complain. Talkched to the ing of Sydney,' he went on, 'I hav deep leads been there two or three times myself o visits, and I think it a charming place." as that in "Yes, no doubt its surroundings a have been pretty, but," she added almost uncond in some consciously, "happiness comes fro was taken within, not from without." stance, the "You are quite right in that stat Now, we ment," he chimed in. They talked for some time in th at leads of manner, the conversation frequently ppy Valley, curring to Sydney. New South Suddenly the girl looked at him a lower end said : been sadly " Mr. Simpson, you are having a jo number of at my expense. From what you say, importance gather you know more about Sydn nt on them, than I do, who have been born and rear d at times. there." "Indeed you are mistaken," he a that those swered hastily, with a startled look th iew besides puzzled her, " it is chiefly hearsay tha d. Old 44 am repeating to you." early days, "Did you know the Edgar family w ry doubtful , lived at Parramatta," she pointedly ask turn of 1oz. him, looking straight into his face. He turned ghastly pale, and witl the ground. violent effort at control said : ent through " I did not know anyone of that nahe manager in Sydney." wash crushed "Pardon me for asking if you knCreek, where anyone of that name in other parts. shed. Some am anxious to find a person of t ased yield of name." conclusively "I really don't think I do," he repl with a well assumed effort to recollec gold at the such a name was amongst his list of only worked quaintances, " but when my memoryagement. I\aSer refreshed I may be able to oblige you, returns were if so I will let you know." He seemed a little fidgetty after this, and when Rennie came up a few moments after, he left the girl's side. . " You have been having a long talk with Simpson," remarked the young man to her, with a touch of jealousy in his voice. "Yes, we have been talking about Sydney. Mr. Simpson appears to know a great deal about that city, but, strange to say, he doesn't want other people to believe he knows anything." ''Some whim of his probably. He can have no reason for wishing to conceal his knowledge of Sydney surely." " I should think not," replied the girl, " but his manner was quite strange when I asked him if he knew the Edgar family. In fact, he looked frightened." ''Perhaps, my dear Miss Devereaux, if you will allow me to say so, you imagined that he was startled. The sad events connected with the Edgars have made a deep impression on your mind." The girl did not reply, but her look plainly said that she still held her own opinion in the matter. Simpson was standing near a small group at the other end of the room, when he was roused from his usual air of listlessness by over-hearing a voice say : "Yes, Steadman, it was a surprise. To see a human skull grinning at you in- stead of the expected wombat was a staggerer, and in such a wild and lonely spot, too." "I suppose you cleared away from the hole pretty quickly Bruce ?" "I was too surpriscd to move. I know what being "rooted to the ground " means now." The listener slowly approached the group, as if impelled by some invisible power. "I wonder if they will ever find out who the skeleton was when in the flesh?" asked the gentleman called Stead- man. " It seems to be pretty well agreed that it is the remains of a tourist named Edgar, who disappeared from the summit of the ' Camel's Hump ' over two years ago. Some people say that it is probably

the skeleton of Marshall, a survey man, who was lost at the same time at the same place. There is a terrible precipice near the spot, and it is surmised that during a heavy mist they walked over it." "But how did the body get into the wombat-hole?" "That's the puzzler in connection with the affair. There are those who hint at foul play. "It was a queer grave anyhow, and gives me the 'creeps' to think of it. The wombat must have devoured the flesh and then made playthings of the bones." "Oh, let us change the subject, Stead- man, to something more cheerful," one of the party said, as they moved away. "Are you ill, Simpson ?" said Mr. Evelyn, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. "My good man, you look dreadful," he continued, in alarm. " Come with me and have a glass of brandy. I didn't know you were subject to such attacks." Simpson's face was ghastly. His body shook with agitation, and a sweat had broken out on his forehead. "I have a slight affection of the heart," he faintly answered. "It comes on me sometimes, but I shall be all right in a few minutes." He swallowed the brandy his host of- fered, and soon after — declining the bed that Mr Evelyn urged him to take under his roof — he got a cab and was driven to his residence. Declining the landlady's offer of supper, he passed on to his bedroom, leaving the good woman wondering at his early re- turn and his altered manner. "Something has upset him," she re- marked. "Perhaps his sweetheart has refused him." The contemplation of this stupendous calamity quite unnerved her, and she was forced to seek consolation in a gentle stimulant, Simpson lighted his lamp, and carefully locked the door. "On those cursed gold-fields," he mut- tered, "one never sees a newspaper. The chatter of those fellows gave me a shock — it was so unexpected. I don't think anybody except Evelyn noticed me though. I must hunt up the papers and read the full account of the discovery," he continued. "If the body had only been left where it fell everything would have been right, and accidental death, the verdict ; but now— ah, well, we shall see." Unlocking the door, he went down- stairs and asked the landlady if she had any brandy or spirits of any kind in the house, as he felt unwell. Sympathising with him, she quickly got a decanter of brandy, which he carried to his room, and from that night out she observed that the abstemious Mr. Simp- son evidently partook of something stronger than tea or coffee, or even lemonade or claret to induce the rolling and erratic gait with which he frequently returned to his lodgings. Indeed, on some occasions he never re- turned at all for two or three days at a time, but as he paid all the same it was none of her business, though she often sighed at the probability of "another good man going wrong." Yes ! A cloud had settled down upon "There is no doubt," continued the de- tective, "that the remains are those of the body that fell over the cliff. Of that I am certain , but I am absolutely in the dark as to which of the missing men— Marshall or Edgar— it belongs to. There are no traces that give a clue to the identification. "Had we not better go to the place and make a further search in the neighbor- hood?" queried the young man. "That is just my intention. I am going to morrow, and I would be glad to have your company." So it was agreed on, and that evening the two men went into Woodend and so that they could reach the mount early. Whilst there Rennie sent a telegram to Miss Devereaux, asking her to come to Melbourne, for he felt that an important discovery had been made which would lead to important results. At daylight the following day the two anxious seekers set out for the mount. The ascent on the north side is a steep and difficult one, but the to the two strong young men it was a mere bagatelle. The route they were taking led them very near to "Mountain Mag's" hut, and Rennie suggested a visit to the lonely Alpine dweller. "Perhaps the strange old woman may be able to tell us something that may assist. She is always here, and is the most likely person to know the secrets of the mount," he said. The detective readily agreed, and in half-an-hour they were at the abode of the old woman. She was as usual sitting outside in solitary state when the men appeared, and she greeted them as calmly as if they were expected visitors. 'Good morning, mother!" cheerily spoke the detective. "You are as lonely here as Crusoe was; but if you were monarch of all you survey your domain would be a pretty large one," he added, glancing around at the magnificent and far-reaching panorama which lay beneath them. "I am quite content with the small clearing that I have made about my quiet home," she answered.

" I suppose it is seldom you see people about here ?" asked Lynx. "With the exception of the survey men I don't see a human being up here once in a month, and then it is generally one of the saw-mill hands." "There are a good many of these em- ployed about here, sending logs down the 'shoots ' and tramways I believe." ques- tioned the officer. "They are mostly on the other side of the mount facing Woodend, and they generally live at the foot of the range around Saxon's and Barbour's mills.' " Do they work on the Camel's Hump timber getting?' was the next question. 'Oh, no IV she laughed, "there is no good timber there, and if there was it would not be possible to get it, as the Devil's Glen cuts off all practical com- munication." "I have been told that the 'Glen ' it a queer place," said the officer. ''Aye, it is. I have seen men coming out of it with their clothes in tatters, and scratched and bleeding, as if they had been through half-a-dozen briar hedges. I have seen them come from there as terrified as if they had seen the devil himself, whose haunt it is supposed to be. A couple of years ago a queer- looking fellow frightened me by breaking in here late in the afternoon, looking the very picture of misery and fear. "Two years ago?" broke in the de- tective." " Yes. It was on the 13th of October, 186-." "The 13th October!" suddenly ex- claimed Rennie. "Why that was the day—" he stopped abruptly as the old woman looked enquiringly at him. "You have a good memory for dates," the officer said. " Not as a rule, but I have cause to re- member that day, for the man lost a watch as he was leaving here, and I took a note of the date in case he should re- turn." " A watch?" they both exclaimed. " Yes. I will show it to you," replied the old woman, glad to have an oppor- tunity of prolonging the gossip. She returned in a few moments, and took the watch out of a small box in which it was carefully wrapped up. As Rennie looked at it he uttered a startled exclamation : "By heaven !" he cried, ' I believe that is Charles Edgar's watch ;" then checking himself he added, "at least my friend had one similar to it in appear- ance." "Oh ! there are thousands of watches," spoke the detective, "similar in appear- ance. Let me see," (taking the watch and examining it) "Delaney, Dublin. No. 14,321. Did you know the maker and number of Edgar's watch?'' "I did not," answered Ronnie. "I only saw it frequently in his hand, and the appearance of that watch is precisely similar." "Mrs. Argyle," said the detective, turning to Mountain Mag and speaking in a serious tone. " I may as well tell you that I am a detective. My friend and myself are here to-day on business con- nected with the strange disappearance of two men from the Camel's Hump, on the 13th Oct., a couple of years ago — the very day when you saw this excited and blood- stained stranger who lost the watch. You have doubtless heard of the strange oc- currence, and I am sure you will assist us if you can in our efforts to solve this matter. By doing so you will remove a stigma from the innocent and lighten the heart of the loving." The officer produced his credentials, and showed them to the old woman who appeared satisfied. " I am sure I don't know how I can as- sist you," was the reply. "The man was in such a ragged and frightened condi- tion that it would scarcely be possible to identify him again— unless I saw him in the same state." "Did he have a beard?" anxiously asked Rennie. "Yes ; his face was very hairy." "Then it could not have been Edgar, for he only wore a moustache on that day," said the young man. "I will not ask you to give me the watch, now that I have the number and maker's name, unless you choose to do so," the officer said to the old woman. " Take it, by all means, if you think it will assist you in your search. It is not mine, and I do not wish to keep it." "It is yours if the real owner can not be found, and I will give you an acknowledgement for it," the detective said, writing out a receipt, which he handed to her and took the watch. " Let me know if you succeed in your search," she asked, as they were about to depart. " If you address letters to the Woodend Post-office I will get them once a week." " We will certainly let you know all that transpires in this affair, and we are much obliged to you for your willingness to help us." " I don't like mysteries on this mount," the Alpine hermit laughingly said, as she waved them farewell. " I look upon these ranges as my exclusive property, and will not have any dark doings." As the two men disappeared among the dogwood trees, the old woman sat down remarking : "I hope I'll not be dragged into any 'court case ' over that watch. I don't like being mixed up with detectives and judges and all that. I like quietness.a' Rennie and the officer plunged into the gloomy depths of the Devil's Glen in the direction of the " Camel's Hump," and silently made their way through it. They emerged close to the recently excavated wombat-lair, and as Rennie looked up at the terrific cliff which over- shadowed them, he shuddered at the recollection of his awful night on the peak. With reverent feelings, he assisted the detective in his search amongst the debris in the wombat-hole, for he felt that he was disturbing a grave— and that grave probably Charles Edgar's. . They made the most minute examina- tion, and were rewarded by finding a few buttons, which, of course, afforded no clue. In several places they came upon traces of what was evidently decayed cloth, but it was almost reduced to the constituents of the soil in which it was embedded, and quite useless. Seeing that nothing could be found, the detective suggested a visit to the summit of the peak, and Rennie agreed, although he looked anxiously at the firmament to see if he could detect any signs of descending mist. He showed the officer where he and his friend had reclined under the spire which did duty for a landmark, when they were having their al fresco luncheon, and, in- deed, an empty beer bottle still marked the spot. He pointed out the place where they had separated, and where he had seen Charles Edgar for the last time, and together they approached the preci- lice over which the missing man might have fallen. They looked into the dizzy abyss below, but all was still as death, and there was

nothing to denote that a tragedy had even taken place on that peaceful spot. They were resting on the rock behind which the murderer lay concealed on that fatal day, but neither were gifted with the seers' faculty of looking back on the dead Past or forshadowing the dim Future. It is said that murders are sometimes revealed in dreams, and by some curious process of a animal magnetism engraved on the tablet of memory. No such inspiration, however, came to Rennie or his detective companion either in their slumbers or their waking moments. Slowly but laboriously they had to unravel the tangled skein, and as they descended from the mount this thought came to their minds. . "We are making progress, Rennie, but it is very slow. I am now confident of success." " Yes," assented the young man ; " a skeleton has been strangely found, and a watch you have will, I am sure, lead us on. If it be Edgar's watch, he must have been robbed by the wild-looking man Mrs. Argyle saw, for my friend did not wear a beard." "Do you think Miss Devereaux can identify the watch?" " I could not say. Probably she might be able to do so." "If not," answered the detective, " we must advertise in the Sydney papers, for I suppose that is where Edgar would ob- tain it." "He had it with him when he left Sydney I know, so doubtless we may be able to trace it there." The two men returned to Melbourne by the evening train, and, after an interview with the inspector, who looked upon the discovery of the watch as a very im- portant one, it was decided to await Miss Devereaux's arrival in the hope that she might be able to identify it. Two days afterwards she was in the city. Rennie and the officer met her on the steamer's arrival, and briefly ac- quainted her with the discoveries that had been made. She trembled and grew pale as she listened to the account of the finding of the human skeleton. "Oh, God!" she mentally thought ; " what if these bones should be Charlie's. Such a death ! and such a grave !" On being shown the watch she was greatly agitated, and declared it to be Edgar's, but she had no proof that it really was as she did not know the num- ber or the maker. Like Rennie she identified it by the outside appearance only. The cool detective at once saw that it would be necessary to obtain more definite proof, and accordingly the necessary en- quiries were placed in the hands of the Sydney police to make. They had no difficulty in deciding the matter, as one of the leading jewellers in George street on searching his books found that about four years previously he had sold the watch to Charles Edgar, whom he knew personally. "This is one point cleared up," mused the detective. " The watch is Edgar's ; now the question is, who is the man that dropped it ? Unless very much disguised, it could not have been the owner himself. I wonder if he wished to break off his marriage with Miss Devereaux, and adopted this strange and cruel way of doing it. The idea in hardly possible, but stranger things have happened. Then there is the fortune. He may be waiting until she marries, when he will reappear with some make-believe of a story." "Then," he continued, " whose skele- ton have we found ? It may be Marshall's, who disappeared at the same time. I must find out something more about that man if I can. I will hunt up the survey party he worked with." The detective soon found Dutton on applying to the head-office of the survey department, and closely questioned him about his former employee. "He was engaged by me as a temporary hand some six months before he disap- peared, and was working all that time on Macedon and Diogenes," was the chief's reply. " He had evidently been tramp- ing about a good deal before he came to me, but had been well brought up, I judge. for he was educated much beyond his station. He had a rather unstable temper, but did not trouble us much, for he was of a reserved and, indeed, morose disposition. He did his work well, and that was all concerned me. In appearance he was about five feet ten inches, rather stout build, fair complexion, and wore bushy whiskers, moustache and beard— in fact, he did not shave at all." " What effects did he leave behind him in the tent ?" asked Lynx. " I think he left all his things, although some of the men say that a dark tweed suit almost new was missing from the tent." " You never saw him after he was sent to the Camel's Hump ?" "No," replied the surveyor ; " I never saw him after that morning." " Could he have entered the camp and reached his tent during the night without your seeing him ?" "I daresay he could, but I cannot con- ceive any reason for a surreptitious en- trance and disappearance. There was £6 in wages owing to him also, which was a further reason that he would not volun- tarily leave. I believe the poor fellow walked over the cliff on Diogenes and was killed, and doubtless the skeleton you lately discovered there was his." 'Do you think a wombat could have dragged so heavy a body to its hole ?" "No, I do not. Yet, by what other means did it get there ?" "I couldn't say," mused the officer. "When you searched the place a couple of days after the disappearance, did you notice any sign of a body having been dragged away from where you found the blood-stains and the toot?" " I did not," replied the chief. " You are certain the foot-print you found close to the spot was Marshall's?" "Well, it exactly corresponded with Marshall's boot even to the missing three nails." " That is a good proof certainly," said the detective, as he shook hands with Dutton. "The man whom Mountain Mag saw corresponds to a great extent with Marshall, and not all with Edgar," thought Lynx. " The bones must be Edgar's, and Marshall is probably alive. But how did he get the watch ? If he robbed the dead body he would scarcely think of burying the ghastly object. And the body must have been robbed, and very effectually, too. Could it have been murder? My quest is after Marshall," he concluded emphatically, knocking the table in front of him. And thus, as is almost invariably the case, the coils of the web of fate were gradually, but surely, closing in around the murderer of poor Charles Edgar, and the merest accidents and coincidences were destined to unravel the tragic mys- tery that had baffled the long and anxious search of lover and friend and the keen investigations of one of the most astute detectives.— ( To be continued) MM 7