Chapter 64221094

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Chapter NumberXIX
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Full Date1891-11-21
Page Number1
Word Count2281
Last Corrected2018-06-22
Newspaper TitleBathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Mount Macedon Mystery
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"MOUNTAIN MAG" FINDS COMPANY AT LAST. Detective Lynx was doomed to disap- pointment in the production of his wit- ness. The most vigorous search failed to discover Simpson, as he had withdrawn a deposit of L3000 from the Bank of New South Wales in gold it was conjectured that he had fled from the colony. For several weeks a remand was granted to allow of his appearance, but at last the magistrates discharged the pri- soner, and the detective saw his scheme hopelessly defeated. He was now perfectly convinced that surveyor Dutton was right in his assertion that Simpson was identical with the miss- ing man Marshall, and he caused a des- cription of him to be sent throughout the various colonies. He seriously debated in his mind what next he should do. He had gained one great advantage by the recent proceed- ings in that the man he wanted could now be arrested for contempt of court. Although he strongly believed that Marshall was privy to Edgar's death— for the officer now felt certain on that point —or at least to the robbery of the body he had no direct evidence to implicate him. At best it was only a suspicion. The statement made to him by Dutton regarding his recognition of Marshall had been kept to himself by the officer, but now he thought it best to acquaint Rennie with the supposed discovery. The latter he found had gone back to his selection, and as the detective felt the trip would do him good he started for Woodend. He found Rennie busily engaged in his farming operations which were now as- suming considerable dimensions. "What have you discovered now ?" asked the young man as he greeted the visitor. "I believe one of the missing men we are in search of is alive," answered Lynx. " Which ?" curtly asked Rennie, with a slight tremor in his voice. "Marshall," but I am not absolutely certain on the point." "Oh," breathed the listener, in a tone which conveyed a strange mixture of pain and relief. "Dutton, the leader of the survey party he worked under on the Mount, met him in Elizabeth Street a few weeks ago and recognised him, although the man strongly disclaimed any acquaintanceship, and said his name was Simpson." " Simpson," repeated Rennie. "Where have I heard that namo. Oh ! I remem- ber, at a friend's house in town— a Mr Evelyn— but of course it would not be the same man." "It might be this Simpson that moved in good society, and did a lot ; of visit- ing." After the detective described him the young farmer exclaimed, "Now that I think of it something queer happened the evening I met Mr Simpson. Miss Devereaux had a long conversation with him, and she told me that his manner was strange. That he appeared to know a great deal about Syd- ney, though he professed to have only visited the city a couple of times, and that when she asked him if he knew the Edgar family he looked quite startled, and left he as soon as possible." "Ah, there may be something in that. Why should he be startled at such a com- mon question ? Who can the man be ? We must find that out somehow. Do you know," continued the detective, lowering his voice, "a suspicion some- times crosses my mind that Marshall may be Reginald Edgar, the disinherited son. There is no proof that he went to America, and it is far more likely that he came to this colony." "I scarcely think such a theory, pro- bable. I never saw the eldest son, as he was away before l arrived in Sydney, but if he were alive it is most likely he would return to his native place in the hope that his father had relented, and surely he would not encompass his brother's death — a man who had never injured him?" "Such a thought is certainly horri- ble," the detective answered, " but there is no accounting for perverse human na- ture. Could you tell me where Miss Devereaux is staying? I would like to, see her, and hear from her own lips all that passed with Simpson." "She is on a visit to her friends — the Evelyns, at Hotham Street, East Mel- bourne, but now you are here you might remain a day or two and have some kan- garoo hunting.'' ''Yes. I can spare a couple of days, and before I go back I will pay a visit to

Mountain Mag, and endeavor to get a more accurate description of the man who dropped the watch." The country around the head of the Campaspe abounded with kangaroos, so that the officer and his friend had ample sport for the ensuing two days. On the third morning the two men— for Rennie decided to vary the monotony by accompanying his friend as far as Macedon — mounted on serviceable cobs, made in the direction of the peak. They left the horses at a farm near the base of the Mount, and climbed towards the abode of "the old woman of the mountain." The sun was at the meridian when they reached it, but no sign of life was visible. The lonely form seated on the rough seat was absent, and the visitors began to think that Mountain Mag had gone on her customary weekly visits to one of the villages, and their journey would be fruit- less. " It's no joke to climb here and find the person we want not at home " said Lynx, wiping the perspiration from his face. "She may be having a noon-day sleep" suggested Rennie. "Yes, she may," acquiesced the detec- tive. "We will soon see," and going to the paling door he knocked rather loudly. There was no response to the repeated summons, and the officer said, "Our old friend is not frightened of being robbed. She goes away and leaves the door unlocked." "There is not much fear of thieves in this quarter, and locking that door would not be a protection if they wished to en- ter " Rennie replied, looking at the frail structure. The knocking caused the door to swing slightly ajar, and as it did so the collie came out, gaunt and famished looking, and sitting on its haunches began to whine piteously. "Why, that dog has not had food for a week " exclaimed both men simultane- ously. "Perhaps the old woman has left here and forgotten the dog," said Rennie. "She was too fond of it to do that. An accident may have happened to her down at the village," replied the other. The dog now ran back into the hut, and then coming to the door looked in such a plaintive manner at the visitors that it almost seemed as if it were taking the place of its absent mistress, and in- viting them to enter. "We might rest here for an hour, and perhaps Mrs Argyle will return, suggested Lynx, seating himself on the bench. This was mutually agreed, and Rennie sat down on the green sward, for his legs were tired after the steep climbing. The action of the dog claimed their at- tention as they sat smoking. It kept run- ning into the hut and back to them, and then it would stand at the door, and with piteous look entreat them to enter. "There is something unusual inside there " said Rennie, rising from the ground "and at the risk of being thought morbidly curious I will investigate.'' The officer did not reply, and the young man went to the door — much to the dog's satisfaction apparently— and looked into the hut. It consisted of two small rooms, one or which was partly screened off by slabs. The natural earth formed the floor. As Rennie peered in his eyes became accustomed to the dull light. The first room was unoccupied, but as he looked into the second, at one side of which the dog was standing, whining, and with its forefeet on the side of what was evidently a rude bedstead, he clearly distinguished a human arm, outstretched. With a rather scared look he turned to his companion. "The old woman is in bed, asleep— I think." "Asleep," cried the detective, spring- ing up and going to the door. "She could never sleep with the noise wo have made.' Looking in he called "Mrs Argyle," in a loud voice several times, but the out- stretched arm remained as still and rigid as though it were made of stone. Putting his hand on Rennie's shoulder, and looking solemnly at him, he said " Take off your hat my friend. We are in the presence of Death," and the two men walked into the hut to the bed- side. The detective was right. On the bed lay all that was mortal of Mountain Mag. As she had lived, so had she died — alone— save for that faithful though mute companion that now mourned her. She had evidently passed away in her sleep, for her face was unmarked by those ghastly and terrible signs with which the grim Destroyer marks his victims. She might have been dead a day or a week, for the cool mountain air would preserve the body from corruption for a long time. By the appearance of the dog it was probable that she had expired some days previously. The detective, with a pro- fessional eye, looked round for any signs of a struggle or foul play, but could not find the slightest indications of such. " This is a lonely death " spoke Rennie, "to die in this wild place without a single relative or friend at one's bedside. What a queer life, and a queer death ?" " She has died happy— and suddenly " —answered the stoical detective. "l would rather die like this than have a room full of howling relatives at my bed- side, and I think a sudden death the hap- piest of all. The contemplation of a lin- gering death must be as bad as dying a dozen times." "Your views of a happy death are not those of most people " said Rennie, "and your profession may be the means of gratifying your wish for sudden exit, but what will we do here" he added, glancing at the corpse. "There is only one course. One of us must go back to Woodend at once and inform the police, who can come here by nightfall with a coffin and remove the corpse in the morning. If you will go I will remain here and keep watch," said the officer. Rennie at once agreed to that course, for the loneliness of the place and the presence of death depressed him. "Bring back some food for the dog and for me too," shouted the detective after the young man, as he rapidly disappeared in the direction of Woodend, leaving Lynx to keep his lonely vigil. " It's a wonder these beasts of wombats did not smell death and get into the hut" he mused, as he sat down outside ; "but I suppose the dog kept them away." The lengthened shadows thrown by the setting sun were casting a gloom over the solitary hut when Rennie, with a con- stable and two assistants, arrived. All agreed that it would be impossible to transport the corpse down the moun- tain during the night, and it was decided to remain until the following morning. Food had been brought, to which Lynx did full justice ; and the dog, which was ravenously hungry, was not forgot- ten.— (TO BE CONTINUED) M M 8