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A MIDNIGHT By "OLD
In tho sprine of tho year _f_.7 ,i__"" wore
man and «¿""ti,
Wo started on ono occasion with a flock of fifteen hundred fat wothors from tho Murrumbidgee for tho Sydney markot, and prosecuted our journey us far ns Bong Bong without mishap or noticeable adventure At tho end of a warm, dusty day wo reached what was thon a beautiful glade, fringed with gigantic trees. tent "Wo pitched our tho verge of r^this glndo, on rounded up our flock for tho night, and made ourselves ns comfortable aa circumstances would pormit. A good n chcorful fire, and an oxccllcnt pipe of tobacco, supper, soon us tho best of terms with ourselves, and on put with tho rest of tho world. "Wo lay upon tho velvot natura carpet which had spread around, chatting quiotly, in listless, enjoymont of tho luxury of tho scene. at its full, and was Tho moon cast her silver light over tho glndo into which tho trees extended their long stillness of tho forest was fnntustio shadows. Tho only broken tho occasional rustling of by tho sheep, ns restless wether shifted his position in Bomo tho camp, by tho audible nibbling of tho horso as ho browsed on tho luxuriant herbngo, or by tho drowsy hum of insect lifo. As wo had to watch tho flock during tho night, each in his tum, after I had walked round tho sheol) I turned in about ten o'clock, while my mato watched ; soon and 1 was wrapped in profound slumber. About ono o'clock George, my mate, roused mo and turned hi in, my pince, whim I took charge of tho flock. inglis in "tholhcaveus^hvnd/lloododLtlio Tho moon was forest with a light nlmost equal to that of day. I stirred up tho smouldering embers of tho fire, pilad on fire, soma a soon had cheerful wood, and whoso crackling pleasantly broku tho almost awful silence which reigned through tho woods. lit my pipo, I sat Having smoking until a feeling of drowsiness crept over mo and warned mo to riso from my recumbont posture. Doubling my great Coat cloBoly round mo, for tho air chill was and moist from tho dews of night, 1 took tho circuit of tho glado, saw that tho horso was all right, and walked back to tho firo, in front of whioh I stood gazing dreamily into HB glowing embers, and watohing tho of tho smoko mid ns rose leaping, irrcgulnr column, nnîl disappeared nniidst tho denso folingo overhead. had stood thus some minutes .whon my attention was aroused by tho Btrango behaviour of tho dogs, ono of which rushed with a frightened voip into tho hush, whilo tho other carno cowering botween my legs, with bristles erect and nhl azo oyes with fright and auger. On looking around to ascertain of tho animal's alarm, tho causo I perceived on tho other sidoof tho Uro, and about twenty paces boforo mc, a young woman in a nitrht-gown or sheet, wrapped tho folds of which slio held tightly to her breast with ono hand, while with tho other she beckoned to mc. In tho hurried glauco which I cast at this singular figuro I perceived that tho neck and shoulder of her chnmiso, or of the shoot which covered her person, wna deeply stained with blood, which was dripping from a wound ; her head nnd that her hair hail also escaped from on its confinement nnd hung in dishovellcd masses-dotted placo with gore-around in ono tho upper portion of llor features, which hor porBou. woro regular and youthful, woro deadly palo and her eyes lind a singular 1 may BO glazed look, in which-if express mysolf-nn expression of terror seomod to ho petrified. During tho in which I had been brief moment noting theso particulars, she had stood motionless in tho nttitudo 1 havo described, and lind not littoral n word. A fooling of mo two and rendored mo incnpnblo of nsking eropt over the unearthly-looking being boforo ino what hor wishes lilia I tried to_apeak, but were and tonguo refused my to a cold perspiration perform their office, whilo bedowed und my knees trembled my person, violently. At Inst tho spoil which bound me wns broken by seeing movo tho woman gradually, still keeping hor fnco away Btill and towards to follow her. me, bcokoning mo I oboyed, nnd stnrtcd nftcr her nt n When good puce. this, BIIO turned hor sho perooived pnlo fuco in tho directo beckon, going, und censed tion sho wns whilo I, though walking nt my very hardest pneo, found it impossible to como within twonty or thirty paces of hor, Onco in vain. or twice I cssnyod to spenk, but Though no longer under tho influcnco of excossivo fright, still there WUB something about my mysterious visitor willoh scnled my.lipfl, so I followed her in silence Sho struck
scnled my.lipfl, so I followed her in silence Sho struck the bush in a northerly direction, nnd at Inst wo in sight of a hut on tho side of tho main lina of cunio rond lending from Sydney to Ilerriimi. She entered tho wide open doorway, und aa sho did HO, shu turned round to follow hor. moro mo and beckoned once Thoro wns i cundle burning on tho tnblo, which throw a strong light ovor tho interior of the hut. On rcnohing tho I Mitrnuco stopped and gn«ed inside On a atool botween tho tnblo and the ilro-placo sat a mnn in his 111B face was shirt sleeves. buried in his hands, nnd bhi On tito middle of tho elbows rested on his knees.
fñoor I /pírcstfofl" "blood-ittdiipd 'tiorrrakawk, [wblcji f seemed to llave been cost violently on'the ground where it lay, for the earth waa deeply dinged and broken under it. I also saw that some heavy body had boon rooently dragged along the:floor and out of the'doorway, and that tho track thus made was sprinkled hero and there with newly-spilt blood. The woman had disappeared had probably gono into tho bedroom, tho door1-she of which I could see from whore I stood. way I dared not, however, go inside tho hilt, although I was consolons that some sanguinary quarrel had not long previously boen prosecuted thora, and that I ought to endeavour to ascertain its cause and its sequel. AVhilo I stood gazing into thc hut, awo-stricken and motionless, still I was further startled by Booing tho woman whom I had followed hither from tho camp, como out of the bedroom, and passingmonoisolossly go towards tho bush behind tho hut. As she roached tho verge of tho forest «ho stopped and beckoned mo in tho samo silent manner aa before. I approached her, and when I carno within a few yards of whoro sho stood, sho pointed to the ground at her foot with her forefinger, and disappeared uttorly from my sight in nu instant. I cast eyes my hurriedly around, hut not tho slightest trace of her was bo seen, to although the view was uninterrupted for hundreds of yards in every direction. Upon looking at tho spot to which silo had pointed, I perceived that tho earth had been recently disturbed for a considerable distance around, and there wcro numerous largo tracks It scorned as if a prave in the moist soil. had been dug T. there, and instantly remembered tho track, os of a body being trailed along the ground, whioh I had scon in tho hut. "Thora has been murder hero," I soliloquised, as I connected all tho circumstances of tho evening. But I was utterly at a loss what to do. Thero was something unearthly tho wholo affair. about Tho mysterious and disappearance of tho female, tho deathappeal anco stillness pf everything, and tho singular like faot that both the woman and myself should have approached and left tho hut without attracting tho man's attention, all so were puzzlos with which my over-excited many incapablo of grappling, and I stood like ono bram was demontcd, uttorly incapablo of action. How long I stood thus I am not awaro, but I was aroused from the lethargy into which surpriso and vague terror had thrown by seeing a man me, from tho approach mo direction of tho hut. Ho was below tho middle height, but stoutly built. His features I could not discern. In a bolt which was buckled round his waist was a tomahawk, and on his shoulder ho carried a spade. As shirt sleeves, I ho was in his I judged ho was tho man had seen in tho hut. An unaccountable terror took Iiossession of mo ns thc man approached tho Bpot whero ; stood and without seeming to bo aware of my presence he began scraping tho dried leaves and branches tho placo whero tho soil lind boen ovor turned. At last I mustered resolution to speak, and pince my hand on his shoulder, aB ho came almost in contact with my Hut hand mot with no resistance, and sank person. my BO suddenly that I was nearly falling "headlong to tho ground ; whilo tho strange being rose orcct and glared stealthily into my cj-os. I could no longer contain myself. 'With a wild cry I rushed from tho spot, and ceased nover in my hcndlong career till I reached tho fire, where nature out utterly, and I foll camp gavo
National Library of Australia
fire, where nature out utterly, and I foll camp gavo * * » * » » * fainting to tho ground When I came to myself, Gcorgowaa bathing my temples and rubbing my palms in a stato of tho utmost surpriso and concern. I related to him what I had and Iiis astonishseen, ns ment was groat as own. aftor Daylight soon my broko, whon, after having a pot of tea, wo started on tho road with our sheep. first hut wo came At tho to wo halted, and I related tho circumstances of my midnight adventure to tho inmates. muoh wcro os They astonished as ourselves ; hut they declared I must have been dreaming, for nobody had lived in that hut for tho peoplo who several years, and had lived thero last had gono to tho Murray River, whoro tho husband had been seen a fow months previously, and stated that his wifo had died on tho road up. a They had been very quiot couple, and scorned to livo in tho greatest harmony up to tho day of their departure jo'urnoy, now Wo proceeded on our convincod that I must have been the victim of optical illusion, and such I firmly behoved to bo for many, aftermyself years wards. But about sixteen years subsequent, when fl was working on tho Bendigo diggings, I picked up an old newspaper, in which I road tho following para-
STRAnaE DISCOVERY.-As wcro two men cmployod in putting up Bomo fencing on Mr. -'s property at Bong Song, thoy turned the skeleton of a fomalo. up wcro Upon examination, tho remains found to havo no marks of violence on ono portion of thc them, snvo skull immediately behind the car, which whs slightlj cracked. Whether occurred this fracture before or aftci death tho medical man tho body does no! who examined pretend to decide, but ho incUncs to tho first hypothesis, or when How tho body was placed thero not a singh person in tho neighbourhood could Bay. A hut formerlj stood in tho vicinity ; but Mr. Lnrkins, tho only pcrsor who its lateBt tenants, understood remembered thal and wife) lind gono to the Murray they (man after i short stay of a few months in Bong Bong. Ho knev nothing of their character or antecedents. And th< affair remains, and is likoly to rcuiuin, ix enshrouded impenetrable obscurity, for several other families havi resided in and removed from tho vicinity of Bong Bon) during tho last twenty ycurs ; so that it is impossibli to say to whioh of thoso families tho fomalo bclougec whose remains wero so strangely discovered." My feelings on reading this may bo easily imagined.
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