|Chapter Title||THE LURKING FOE.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
CHAPTER V. ——————— THE LURKING FOE. They had been informed that the cliffs and caves on tho top of the peak abounded with wild goats, and after a rest they decided to separate and get a shot at the four-legged game. Edgar soon espied a goat, and fired at it, but was unsuccessful in dropping it. A few moments after the report of the gun, which had echoed and re-echoed. from cliff to cliff died away, a man sud- denly walked out of one of the granite caves and looked intently at the tourist. Crouching behind a rocky ledge he stealthily followed the young sportsman until he was within twenty yards of him. "By Heaven, it is he ?" hissed the man, with a murderous gleam of rage and hate in his eyes. " What foul fiend throws him across my path again. If I had a gun I would shoot him !" As he was thus muttering hoarsely a slight mist began to settle down on the peak "The mountain mist is coming on us," said the revengeful watcher. "It may assist me to my revenge," he ad- ded. As he spoke, a misty fog, so dense that it was impossible to see more than a yard ahead, enveloped the whole upper portion of the Camel's Hump.
"The mountain has put on its cap," residents in the surrounding districts say when this cloudy visitation appears which- frequently renders the whole range in- visible for several days at a time. Travellers thus suddenly caught run no slight danger, for the fog is as bewilder- ing as the darkness of night. To lose one's way may mean exposure and death, whilst a fall from any of the high cliffs, which are numerous on parts of the range, would inevitably be fatal. The man crouching behind the ledge had apparently resolved on what action to take, for he suddenly rose and care- fully groped his way through the blinding and bewildering mist towards the north end of the mount. When he had got far enough he gave a loud cooee, and sank down behind a loose boulder beside him. In a moment the cooee was answered, and he repeated the signal, which seemed to hang upon the whirling fog like the hollow knell of a passing bell. The answering voice gradually ap- proached nearer, and the face of the con- cealed man assumed a look of diabolical ferocity. He had now ceased to return the call, and waited with a painful anxiety he could not conceal. Soon the sound of slowly approaching steps were heard, and a voice that the crouching man listened for said : "Where are you, Rennie ? We must get out of this fog. If we decend a little we may leave it behind us. The question is how are we to get down. I've com- pletely lost my way." "Descend," hissed the lurking enemy, " yes you shall descend. I'll show you the way." The advancing man now neared the rock, and then went beyond it. As he did so the assassin behind it rose with passion-distorted face and followed. The doomed man had not gone half a dozen yards forward when he suddenly stopped, and with a loud cry of terror was in the net of stepping backwards, when he received a violent push behind and was suddenly precipitated into space. As his death shriek rang out on the mist-laden mount, a haggard white-faced man crawled to the edge of the precipice and with gleaming eyes looked into its depth, and far down below he fancied he could see a crushed and shapeless mass that a few moments before had ben a man in the flush and strength of youth. As he looked with fascinated gaze into the abyss, weird shapes seemed to his ex- cited imagination to rise through the fog, and shudderingly he hastily retired from the ill-omened spot. As he rapidly descended the mount he heard the voice of Rennie loudly calling on his Iate comrade. When the murderer had descended about half way, the fog suddenly ceased, and the bright sunlight seemed to reas- sure him. "I cannot leave the body above ground. It would haunt me," he superstitiously muttered. "Pah ; I don't care about seeing it either. My God ! how it must be mangled. Even if it is found the verdict is certain to be "accidental death " through falling over a cliff in a fog. But I would rather it was not found," he added. He sat down for some time on the damp grass and appeared to think deeply. "I will bury it," he muttered, "that is the best thing to do." He then slowly made his way round to the northern end of the mount, to the foot of the stupendous cliff, though it was evident from his agitation that the task he had set himself was a terribly trying one. He trembled as he looked ahead and saw about fifty yards in front, a shapeless, mangled and blood-stained bundle. With difficulty he approached, and almost turned sick at the sight. There was absolutely no resemblance of humanity in the shattered mass before him, and as he looked up the cliff he could see a red streak as far as the fog- line allowed vision to extend which marked the path of the fallen body. A few yards from the corpse he ob- served a gold watch, which had broken loose from the body, and this he secured and put in his coat pocket. He also ex- amined — though with evident repugnance — the dead man's clothes. " How am I to dig a grave ?" he thought, "and what excuse will I have should I be discovered ?'' As he considered, a hellish thought entered his mind. "The wombats will eat it if left here, but the clothes and bones will still re- main. A mammoth wombat has its hole in that scrub, and if I could only get it there it would disappear as effectually as if the earth opened and swallowed it up. Aye, even better, for both wombat and earth will combine in hiding it," he added, with a ghastly smile. He stood irresolute for several minutes, and once he stepped hastily back, for a thin stream of blood was lapping his feet. Then he mustered courage and went to the body. As he touched it, the limp and horrible feeling seemed to fill him with awe, but with a sudden accession of desperate reso- lution he caught the body and, being a powerful man, convoyed the ghastly object over the debris and through the scrub in the direction of the wombat's hole, which was about one hundred yards
distant. His task was a gruesome one, and the crimson trail on the grey granite seemed a record in blood of the crime. On reaching the desired spot he pushed the body down the hole as far as he could, and with a brief, "the wombats will do the rest," hurried back to the cliff to efface whatever traces he could, and also hide the broken gun. An hour afterwards a heavy rain fell and washed away most of the crimson evidences of the tragedy.