(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Mount Marunga mystery"



i Hl^. IVii H 















HARRISON OWEH 



^ 



THE 
MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY. 



THE MOUNT 
MARUNGA MYSTERY. 



BY 

HARRISON OWEN. 



All Dramatic and Picture Rights Tteserved 



Copyrighted, 191 9, 

By Alfred Cecii, Ro\vi,andson, 26 Crejiorne Road, 

Cremorne, and 476 George Street, Sydney, Australia. 



THE N.S.W. BOOKSTALIv COMPANY LIMITED 

SYDNEY. 

1922. 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Love in a Snow Storm 5 

II. Eevelry by Night 13 

III. Murder Most Foul 22 

IV. Seeds of Suspicion 30 

V. The House of the Dead 36 

VI. Perjury 44 

VII. Strange Behaviour 52 

VIII. A Scene at the Club 60 

IX, Mount Marunga Eevisited 67 

X. At Babylon Mansions 74 

XL Ryan Takes a Hand 81 

XII. A Midnight Eescue 89 

XIII. An Arrest 97 

XIV. "That They Did Kill and Murder" 105 

XV. A Clue from Shakespeare Ill 

XVL Mabel's Silence Broken 119 

XVIL On Trial 126 

XVIII. The Coils Tighten 135 

XIX. Enter a Ghost 145 

XX. The Tattoo Mark 152 

XXL A Game of Blufle 158 

XXII. A Letter from the Dead 166 

XXIIL A Stoiy of the Sea 175 

XXIV. Where Love Is 185 



Wholly set up and printed in Australia by John Sands, Limited, Sydney. 



Stac«f 

Annejfi 



Chapter I. 

LOVE IN A SNOW STORM. 

LOOKING back on the tragic early morning of June 

24th, 19 , and the startling events that followed, 

the whole affair seems too horribly fantastic to have 
taken place here in Australia. A man was murdered 
— shot while in his room at a large and fashionable 
hotel. It was a gruesome and mysterious tragedy; in 
itself, though, it would scarcely justify the extended 
treatment which I purpose giving to my narrative as 
a whole ; my justification being the chain of incidents 
which succeeded the tragedy, and which must surely 
form one of the strangest stories in the annals of 
Australian crime. 

The Mount Maininga murder and certain of the 
events which followed have, of course, been described 
in the newspapers; but, so far as the public is con- 
cerned, there is much that remains unexplained. The 
complete history of the murder, the events leading up 
to it, its bizarre sequel, and the ultimate solution of 
the myster}^ surrounding it, I, Richard Maxon, now 
set about to record fully for the first time. Even 
after a lapse of years, when I recall those weeks of 
agony and doubt, of alternate hope and despair, of 
plotting and striving, through which I and one who 
was very dear to me passed, I ask myself if it is 



6 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

worth while again to live through them in retrospect. 
The answer is that there are certain suspicions which 
have never been effectively dispelled, and which, even 
now, may cause injustice to be done to innocent per- 
sons. Therefore, I have determined to make public 
the whole of the facts. 

Bound up Avith this history are certain personal 
details connected with my wooing of Mabel Tracey; 
but, as they have a direct bearing upon subsequent 
events, I make no apology for including them in my 
story. Two persons in the throes of the tender passion 
described by Dryden as "the noblest frailty of the 
mind," have formed the subject of a million stories. 

"The Book or Life," says Wilde, "begins with a 
man and a woman in a garden." This book begins 
with a man and a woman in a snow storm. Snow 
storms are not a common feature of Australian life, 
but they are common enough at Mount Marunga in 
winter. They are one of the things that make the 
place so popular and its leading hotel so profitable. 
Situated some miles from Melbourne, Mount Marunga 
is Victoria's most fashionable winter ^resort. There, 
in i\Iay, June, and July, go those whd^ delight in ice- 
hockey^, ski-ing, and long walks in the cold mountain 
air, which stings one 's face and sets the blood tingling 
in one's veins. They go to Mount Marunga, that is, 
if thej^ have the necessary leisure and the necessary 
cash. 

But let not the reader mistake the narrator for one 
of the "idle rich." Greatly though it would please 
me to be able honestly to gratify what is apparently a 
fairly general liking for wealthy persons as the lead- 
ing characters of a story, I am forced to admit that 



LOVE IN A SNOW STOEM 7 

for years I have made a comparatively honest, but by 
no means luxurious living by the sweat of my pen. 
Among the house party at the Mount Marunga Hotel 
I was, relatively, a pauper. An annual holiday in the 
demesne of snow was one of my extravagances. 

If, however, you like your heroine to be rich, the 
desire is one which I can honestly grant you. Mabel 
Tracey, with whose name — if you belong to the sex 
that reads the social gossip in the newspapers — you 
are doubtless familiar, was one of Australia's most 
notable heiresses. Her father, Henry Tracey, had 
started life as a small farmer, and, when still a 
middle-aged man, had become an enormously wealthy 
pastoralist; the owner of huge tracts of rich grazing 
country and countless heads of stock. Left a widower 
when his daughter, Mabel, was a child of ten, Tracey 
had lavished upon the girl the affection which for- 
merly she had shared Avith her mother, whom the 
pastoralist had married in the days when great strug- 
gles and greater ambitions went to the moulding of 
the strong and resolute character that was his. Mabel 
had the indifference to wealth which is possible only 
to the wealthy, and so did not hesitate to show that 
she reciprocated the regard which I felt for her, and 
which, owing to the barrier of her riches, I had for 
long endeavoured to conceal. 

I had met IMabel at Mount I\Iarunga the year before 
this story opens. For a time I knew her simply as 
"Miss Tracey," a charming, unsophisticated girl, who 
gloried in the open air and all the clean and decent 
things of life. I had gone for long tramps with her 
by day, and had been badly beaten by her at billiards 
on several successive evenings before I learned that 



8 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTEEY 

she was the daughter and heir of Henry Tracey, The 
knowledge came to me rather as an unpleasant shock, 
for the hours I had spent in her company had already 
caused me to conceive for her a lildng which, I was 
quick to recognise, was destined to grow to something 
stronger and more intimate. But Miss Tracey 's un- 
affected pleasure in my company, and her father's 
cordiality had in time made me feel that, for one 
professing democratic principles, there was a good 
deal of snobbishness in my idea that the fortune that 
would one day be hers created a gulf between us. 
When my leave was at an end, we parted, on the 
understanding that we were to meet in Melbourne 
on her return a few weeks later. 

During the year that followed I had seen Mabel 
intermittently, and the conviction was forced upon 
me that if ever there was to be a Mrs. Richard Maxon 
it could only be the daughter of Henry Tracey. June 
came round once more, and again I went to Mount 
Marunga, and again Henry Tracey and his daughter 
were staying at the hotel. But this time there was 
another — the second Mi"s. Tracey. Only a week pre- 
viously the pastoralist had caused a sensation in what 
those who compose it call "society" by taking unto 
himself a young and undeniably attractive wiie. The 
surprise caused by this action upon the part of an 
apparently incorrigible widower of fifty-eight, was 
heightened by the fact that the lady of his choice was 
not known to those people whose doings furnish 
material for the society para^-aphists. Her name, 
prior to her second marriage, was Mrs. Hilda Gordon ; 
she was said to be the widow of an Indian army officer, 
and had only recently arrived in Australia. Tracey 's 



LOVE IN A SNOW STORM 9 

wooing of the lady had been a secret even from his 
daughter, who had been informed of his intention of 
marrying a second time only a few hours before the 
event took place at a registry oflBce. 

The second Mrs. Tracey was a tall, handsome 
woman, of, I should have imagined, about thirty- 
one or thirty-two years of age, but feminine friends 
assured me that she was "thirty-six if a day." She 
was a lively companion, a clever conversationalist, 
and altogether a distinctly fascinating woman. 
Mabel, I know, did not relish having a step-mother, 
especially one who had been presented to her so 
suddenly. 

Viewing the matter selfishly, I decided that Henry 
Tracey 's second marriage was by no means dis- 
tasteful to me. Mabel need now have no compunc- 
tion in leaving her father, and the fact that Mrs. 
Tracey would, of course, come into a large share 
of Tracey 's money, made Mabel less distressingly 
wealthy. These thoughts had been occupying my 
mind as, with Mabel by my side, I tramped through 
the snow. One of those snow-storms which for me, 
and for Mabel also, were not the least attractive 
feature of the Mount Marunga season, was in pro- 
gress. The ground was covered inches deep with 
a soft fleece, and flakes were falling fast, filling the 
mountain air as with a thick white mist. "We had 
set out that morning to climb to Scotney's Look- 
out, and toward midday the snow had begun to 
fall. We had gone too far to turn back, even had 
we so desired, and now after an hour's walk in 
the storm, we were ascending the path that led to 



10 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

the shelter shed, only a couple of hundred yards 
distant, on the summit of the mount. 

Reaching the shed, a fair-sized octagonal building, 
we shook the snow from our clothes and sat down 
to rest until the storm should subside. 

' ' It was a glorious climb ! ' ' exclaimed Mabel, her 
eyes sparkling and her cheeks aglow. 

"Great!" I assented. 

"Oh, you did enjoy it?" she inquired in a tone of 
feigned surprise. 

"Rather! Why do you ask?" 

"Because I timed you by my wristlet watch, and, 
prior to our arrival here, you had not spoken for 
eleven minutes." 

"I'm sorry. I hope you have not been bored." 

"I'm never bored when there is snow, and fresh 
air, and a hill to climb, but you have not been a 
very dazzling companion, dear Richard the Silent." 

"To tell you the truth, Mabel, I was thinking." 

"Poor boy! Was the pain very great?" 

"Somethink horful — at times." 

"Can I do anything to alleviate it?" 

"Yes, a great deal," I replied. 

Something in my tone, for I had suddenly dropped 
badinage and become earnest, caused her to give me 
a quick glance. 

I took her hand in mine. "Do you know what 
I was thinking of, Mabel?" I asked. 

"How should I?" 

"Well, I think you could guess." 

Her cheeks, pink with the cold and the exertion 
of our climb, took on a deeper flush. "If you want 



< ( - 
( < 

< e- 



LOVE IN A SNOW STOEM 11 

me to answer a — a conundrum you had better tell 
me what it is," she suggested. 

"Just this — if a poor man loved a rich girl and 
he asked her to marry him, what would people say ? ' ' 

"The — er — conundrum scarcely seems worth an 
answer. ' ' 

"Well, I'll put another: What would the girl 
say?" 

"It would depend upon the man," she replied, 
slowly and hesitatingly. 

I suppose it would — and the girl." 
And the girl," she assented. 
You can guess who the man is who wants an 
answer to the conundrum?" 

"I'm not much good at guessing." 

"And I'm afraid I am not good at proposing." 

"At ivhat?" she exclaimed. 

"At proposing. It may not sound much like it, 
my dear, but this is a proposal of marriage." 

She took a quick breath and seemed intent upon 
examining the point of her boot. "Dear me," she 
murmured, "who would have thought it." 

"You must excuse my clumsiness," I remarked, 
"but, you see, I haven't had any practice. But 
seriously, Mabel, I think you know my feelings for 
you, and if you had been the daughter of a poor 
man, or a man of moderate income, I would long 
ago have asked you to make me the happiest fellow 
in the world by promising to become Mrs. Dick 
Maxon ; but your absurd wealth has frightened me, 
and I have — have put it off. But, my dear, I can't 
remain silent any longer — is there any chance for 
me?" 



12 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

There was a short silence, which it seemed to 
me was destined to last for the term of our natural 
lives, and I suddenly acquired a horrible feeling of 
emptiness in the pit of the stomach. 

"I suppose," remarked Mabel, still examining the 
toe of her boot — "I suppose I should remark 'This 
is so sudden ! ' " 

"I believe it is the usual thing," I murmured, 
trying hard to camouflage the impatience and appre- 
hension with which I was awaiting her answer, 

"Well, I am not going to say anything of the 
kind," she said, raising her head and looking me 
frankly in the eyes. "I think you have been a 
beastly long while coming to the point, Dick Maxon, 
considering all — all the unmaidenly encouragement 
I have given you." 

I threw my arms around her and drew her to me. 
"Do you mean to say that your answer is 'Yes'?" 
I asked her. 

She allowed her head to rest upon my shoulder. 
"Don't be silly," vshe murmured, "you will be Jisk- 
ing me to give it to you in writing next." 



Chapter II. 

REVELRY BY NIGHT. 

THE day following the episode at Scotney's Looli- 
out, June 23, was the date of the Mount Marunga 
Hotel ball. This was a big annual function which 
was always enjoyed by the guests at the hotel. 
Although not a great dancing man, I, too, had looked 
forw^ard to it, for Mabel was to be there, and a ball 
always atforded opportunities for delightful inter- 
course. It was the last week of my holidays, and 
we had agreed that to-morrow I should ask Henry 
Tracey's consent to my engagement with his 
daughter. 

The ball for a couple of weeks had been the main 
topic of conversation among the hotel guests, of 
whom there were over one hundred and fifty. It 
was a plain and fancy dress affair, and while many 
of the men were content to attend in ordinary 
evening dress, the majority of the ladies had for 
days been busily engaged in designing fancy cos- 
tumes, or tiying on or altering costumes they had 
ordered from Melbourne. When the dancing was 
in full swing the big ballroom presented an animated 
scene, the numerous lights, for which the electricity 
was supplied by the hotel's private plant, shining 
down upon the dancers, gleaming in the hair of 

13 



U THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

women, investing their bare shoulders with a white 
radiance, and causing their jewels to sparkle until 
it almost seemed that they were emitting sparks of 
fire. There was an infinite variety of fancy cos- 
tumes, many of them beautiful, some bizarre or gro- 
tesque, and others merely commonplace. A string 
band occupied a small gallery at the northern end 
of the hall, and sundry cosy nooks, screened by 
arrangements of palms and pot-plants, were placed 
at intervals around the room. The spirit of carnival 
was abroad, and the fun waxed fast and furious. 

I confess that for a time, during the earlier part 
of the evening, my newly-found happiness seemed in 
danger of eclipse, for jealousy gnawed at my — well, 
whatever part of the anatomy it is accustomed to 
feed upon. With so many men, young and middle- 
aged, anxious to dance with her, it Avas absurd for 
mie to expect to have Mabel to myself, but those 
afflicted with the malady of love are apt to mislay 
their sense of proportion, and suffer in consequence. 
On four occasions I had attempted to get near Mabel, 
and each time she had been led oft' by someone else, 
twice by a fellow named Hector Blunt, for whom 
I had conceived an intense dislike when first I met 
him, long before I had come to regard either myself 
or him as suitor for Miss Tracey's hand. 

The fact that Blunt had almost as many pounds 
as I had shillings — ^he had been born with a golden 
corkscrew in his fist, being one of the Blunt & 
Bayley crowd, the big wine merchants — did not tend 
to mitigate my misery as I watched him fox-trotting 
with Mabel. In an effort not to appear discon- 
certed, I asked another girl to dance, and she con- 



REVELEY BY NIGHT 15 

sented, to the great disgust, I could see, of her 
watchful mamma, who obviously did not look upon me 
as eligible in a matrimonial sense. It is characteris- 
tic of mercenary mothers to regard all their 
daughters' dance partners as possible life partners; 
they are forever fearful or hopeful of a fox-trot 
developing into a wedding march 

After the dance I had delivered the fair damsel 
into the hands of her disapproving parent, and was 
about to stroll to the smoking-room when I saw 
Mabel, radiantly lovely, coming towards me. She 
was dressed to represent Brunhilde, and the valkyrian 
costume suited admirably her tall, graceful figure 
and fair beauty Her pale golden hair was sur- 
mounted by a silver helmet, and her silver corselet, 
composed of countless spangles, seemed moulded to 
her waist and bosom, and accentuated the gleaming 
whiteness of her well-rounded arms. Mabel always 
carried herself with an easy dignity, the poise of 
her head, thrown back slightly, her chin tending 
to tilt upward, being that of a daughter of kings 
rather than of the intensely democratic offspring of 
a democratic father. Watching her as she stood 
before me, her cheeks slightly flushed and her lips 
parted in a smile that revealed her strong, white 
teeth, I could not refrain from mentally contrasting 
this healthy, vigorous girl, who seemed to me a 
living embodiment of Wagner's valkyr maiden, with 
the various German opera singers associated in my 
memory with Brunhilde, most of whom, at a rough 
gness, had been both fourteen stone and forty. The 
Brunhildes whom I had previously seen had been 
but r-mbonpoint matrons, but here indeed was a 



16 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

warrior maid to gain whom any man worth his salt 
would gladly have braved Wotan's ring of fire. 

''Well, how long is it to be before you favour me 
with a remark?" inquired Mabel. 

"I beg j'-our pardon, Brunhilde," I answered. "I 
am afraid my imagination had run away with me, 
and just at the moment I was dashing through the 
flames with which Wotan had surrounded you, deter- 
mined to awaken you from sleep and carry you off 
to — to — er — ' ' 

"A comfortable seat somewhere away from this 
racket," she suggested. 

"An admirable idea," I told her. "But are you 
sure Mr. Blunt will be able to get along without 
you for a few minutes?" 

Mabel laughed musically as she linked her arm 
in mine. "I knew it," she cried; "I could tell by 
the way you scowled at poor Myra Hodges while 
you were dancing with her that you were furiously 
jealous." 

"Frankly, I was. Excuse me if I appear a boor — 
I know I feel one — but when I think of Hector Blunt 
plastered all over with filthy lucre — " 

"Silly boy," said Mabel, as we stepped out on 
to the broad verandah which flanked the ballroom, 
"you talk as if I were the daughter of poor but 
honest parents, and had either to acquire a rich 
husband or go out washing. You need not be afraid 
of Mr. Blunt. In fact, after giving the matter care- 
ful thought, I have just come to the definite con- 
clusion that I dislike him. Anyhow, you must not 
speak disrespectfully of the wealthy lower orders. 
You seem to forget that poor dear papa is also 



EEVELEY BY NIGHT 17 

plastered all over with what you please to call 
filthy lucre." 

"That's the trouble — I can't forget it. The more 
I think of it the more unlikely it seems to me that 
Henry Tracey will ever consent to his daughter 
marrying an ordinary, common or garden press- 
man. ' ' 

"Ordinary pressman, indeed! You mean one of 
the " 

"Well, dear," I told her as I squeezed her hand, 
"you need not trouble to recite the list of my 
literary attainments, the value of which you so 
charmingly over-estimate. The reply you gave to 
my question yesterday made me feel that I was the 
luckiest chap in the world, and I suppose the only 
thing is to go to your father, tell him I love you 
and want to marry you, despite the uncomfortable 
fact that you are an heiress, and ask for his blessing. 
If he refuses it, I will have to tell him that, if you 
are willing — and you say you are, God bless you! — 
I will marry you without it. By the way, I have 
not seen your father to-night." 

"No, he is probably in the card-room." 

We had sat on one of the big cushioned seats in 
a cosy corner of the broad verandah. Mabel's face, 
after her last remark, took on a troubled expression, 
and in a second or two she turned to me. "Dick," 
she said, "I am rather worried about father. These 
last few days has somehow seemed — I don't know 
quite how to put it — but he has seemed different to 
the daddy I have known all these years." 

"In what way, dear?" I asked. 



18 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTEEY 

''That is what I can't exactly say, but he doesn't 
seem the same. He hasn't been the same since — 
since he married again." 

"Mrs. Traeey is a very attractive woman," I re- 
marked. "Not a type that appeals to me, though," 
I hastened to add. 

"Oh, she is nice enough in her way," said Mabel, 
"and I think she looks beautiful; but the marriage 
was so strange. You know I had never even met 
her. Father dropped a hint that he was thinking 
of marrying again, but I didn't take him seriously, 
and then one morning he told me definitely that 
he intended doing so. He went out, came back with 
Hilda, and announced that they had been married 
at a registry office. It wasn't like daddy. We had 
had no secrets from one another for years, and I 
felt hurt at having a step-mother sprung on me like 
that. It may seem cattish, Dick, but there are times 
when I fancy that Hilda has some sort of a hold 
over father." 

"Of course she has," I assured her, "she has him 
trussed up in bonds of love." 

"No, I don't mean that," Mabel answered with 
a frown. "It seems to me there is something else; 
something that I am not able to fathom." 

"You do not know under what circumstances your 
father became acquainted with your step-mother, 
do you?" 

"No, and when I questioned him he came very 
near to losing his temper— a thing daddy hasn 't done 
with me for years. Of course, there was no reason 



REVELRY BY NIGHT 19 

why he should not marry again if he wanted to, 
but why was he so mysterious about the whole 
affair?" 

"Possibly at his age he felt sensitive about marry- 
ing a second time. By the way, what age is your 
father?" 

"He was fifty-eight last birthday." 

"Well, he doesn't look his age." 

"No, thank goodness, his health is good; I think 
he is looking younger than ever." 

"I call it positively outrageous, Mr. Maxon; mono- 
polising the belle of the ball in this manner. ' ' 

The words were spoken in a rich contralto voice, 
and Mrs. Hilda Tracey stepped through one of the 
French windows on to the verandah. She was not 
in fancy costume, but wore a black evening dress 
which became her well. A beautiful golden scarf 
draped her broad, generously-moulded shoulders, a 
diamond tiara scintillated in her jet back hair, and 
altogether she looked remarkably handsome. Mrs. 
Tracey was the possessor of a rich olive complexion, 
full red lips, a rather large mouth, and dark eyes, 
behind which, one somehow got the impression, lay 
a knowledge of things exotic and not altogether 
pleasant. Round her throat she wore always a broad 
band of black velvet, which to-night was fastened 
with a diamond brooch, and added to her attractive- 
ness. There were times, hoM'ever, when this band 
did not harmonise with the costume she was wearing, 
as I had pointed out more than once to Mabel, but 



20 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

she, like me, had never seen her step-mother with- 
out it. 

Mrs. Tracey stepped on to the verandah. "What 
have you to say for yourself, Mr. Maxon?" she in- 
quired. 

"I plead guilty, Mrs. Tracey," I replied, "and 1 
cannot even say 'The woman tempted me!' for I 
told Mab — Miss Tracey that she had either to sit 
with me here for a while or give me three dances. 
As she has had some experience of me as a dance 
partner, she regarded the alternative as too appalling 
— so here we are." 

"Well, as a punishment, Mr. Maxon, you will have 
to tolerate me for the one-step." 

"The pleasure will be mine, Mrs. Tracey, and the 
punishment yours," I assured her; and the three of 
us passed inside. 

I did not remain for the finish of the ball, which 
on several previous occasions I remembered had been 
still in progress when the housemaids were sweeping 
the passages in the early morning, Mabel, pleading 
a headache, retired at a comparatively early hour, 
and after strolling about the grounds to smoke a 
cigar beneath a sky of threatening blackness, I, 
too, resolved to seek my virtuous couch. Passing the 
card-room on my way toward the staircase I saw 
Henry Tracey with a group of men, known as "The 
Ricketty Kate school," enjoying that, to me, mys- 
terious, but, to them, apparently fascinating game. 
I called "Good-night" and gave a comprehensive 
flourish of my arm as I passed, and Tracey and one 
or two others looked up and nodded pleasantly. "I 



REVELRY BY NIGHT 21 

hope what I am going to ask of him to-morrow will 
not cause the old boy to alter his attitude toward 
me," I thought, as I made my way upstairs. 

Before I reached my bedroom the storm that had 
long been threatening burst with rather startling 
suddenness. While I undressed the rain was falling 
in torrents, and every now and then a vivid flash 
of lightning was followed by the crash and roar of 
thunder. These things did not at the time seem 
to me unhappy omens, for Mabel's love was mine, 
and all was right with the world. 



Chapter III. 

MURDER I\IOST FOUL. 

I WAS much too pleasurably excited to sleep 
soundly, and several times I was awakened by 
flashes of lightning or unusually loud clasps of 
thunder. It was on one of these occasions that I 
heard other sounds above the noise made by the 
rain. I sat up in bed to listen, and became aware 
that persons were moving about in the corridor. Bed 
was very warm and comfortable, but the quick 
patter of feet and the sound of voices aroused my 
curiosity, so I tumbled out, got into a dressing-gown 
and slippers, and went into the passage. There I 
found the lights on, and several little knots of 
guests, some in their night attire, and others — 
enthusiastic dancers who had been keeping the tired 
orchestra at work in the ballroom downstairs — in 
fancy dress, standing about talking excitedlj^ in 
hushed voices. 

I approached one of these groups. "What's the 
matter?" I inquired. 

''Something terrible!" answered a white - faced 
girl, garbed as Pierrotte. 
^ "Well, what is it?" 

"Mr. Tracey is d-dead!" 
ss 



MUEDER MOST FOUL 23 

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "Why I saw him 
as I passed the card-room only a couple of hours 
ago!" 

"He has been mur-murdered, " Avhispered another 
girl, and she shivered slightly and drew her ^vTapper 
more tightly around her. 

I was too shocked to ask questions, and could 
only stand staring at those about me. 

"You are sure that it was in the card-room that 
you last saw him, Maxon?" inquired a voice at my 
elbow, and turning round I saw Hector Blunt, still 
in evening dress, blinking at me through his spec- 
tacles, a peculiar smile on his mean little face. 

"What the devil do you mean?" I demanded. 

""Oh — nothing," he replied, with an elaborate af- 
fectation of indifference. 

At this moment, Milnor, the manager of the hotel, 
appeared, and implored the guests to return to their 
rooms. Some complied, while others remained. The 
picture of those groups, in garish carnival garb, 
some of them subdued and trembling, others morbidly'- 
excited, is one that will not easily be effaced from 
my memory. An anxious husband, in gaudy pink- 
and-green pyjamas, was endeavouring to soothe his 
stout, middle-aged spouse, who, dressed as Cleo- 
patra, was indulging in a fit of hysterics on the 
stairs. In a recess, a lanky youth, wearing red 
tights — a grotesque caricature of Mephistopheles — 
was holding a glass of brandy to the lips of an 
anaemic, yellow-haired Ophelia who had fainted and 
lay stretched out on the floor. The contrast afforded 
by the gay dresses, and the pale faces of their 



24 THE MOUNT MABUNQA MYSTERY 

wearers, served to accentuate the atmosphere of 
tragedy that hung about the place, while the noise 
of the storm, and the uncanny tricks played by the 
lightning, reduced many of the guests to a state of 
absolute terror. 

I walked along the corridor to where I knew Mr. 
and Mrs. Tracey's rooms were situated. The door 
of Mrs. Tracey's room was open. I saw her lying 
upon the bed, dressed in an elaborate flowered 
wrapper, still wearing round her throat the broad 
band of black velvet, while several ladies stood 
around plying her with sympathy, sal volatile and 
smelling-salts. Next door was the dead man's bed- 
room, and here the chief clerk of the hotel and the 
hall porter were on guard, pending the arrival of 
the constable from the police station, which was 
over a mile away. I was permitted to enter. The 
body of Henry Tracey, in full evening dress, with 
the exception of his coat, which was hanging across 
a chair, was lying on a rug at the foot of the bed. 
I learned from the porter that Dr. Brown, who was 
staying at the hotel, had loosened Tracey's collar, 
but feeling for his heart, and finding that it had 
ceased to beat, had ordered that the body should 
not be interfered with until the constable arrived. 

Tracey was a man who probably would have been 
described by a novelist as "of military appearance." 
His hair and moustache were iron grey, his nose 
hooked and prominent, his face bronzed. In life 
his blue-grey eyes had been keen and penetrating. 
The blinds of the room were drawn, but every nov/ 
and then a flash of lightning invested the scene 
with a ghastly vividness. 



MUEDER MOST FOUL 25 

Crossing the room, I bent over the corpse of the 
man whom a few hours later I had intended to ask 
for his daughter's hand in marriage. The mouth 
was partly open, and the hands tightly clenched. 
On the exquisite evening shirt was an ugly red 
stain. Apparently a bullet wound below the breast 
on the left side had been the cause of Tracey's death. 
Blood had soaked through his clothes and disfigured 
now the rich whiteness of the rug upon which he 
was lying. A quick glance round the room revealed 
that the bed had not been slept in, and the only 
suggestion of a struggle was provided by an over- 
turned chair. I noticed as I went out that one of 
the drawers of the dressing-table had been pulled 
open, but it contained onlj^ a shaving-set and some 
neckties. 

"What happened?" I asked the hall porter, who 
followed me into the corridor. 

"Nobody knows very much, sir." he answered. 
"It seems that he Avas shot; but the dance was still 
going op downstairs, an' what with that and the 
noise of the storm, nobody seems to have heard the 
shot, except jAfrs. Miles, who has the room opposite. 
She woke her 'usband an' he went to Mr. Tracey's 
door an' knocked, but got no reply. Then he 
knocked at Mrs. Tracey's door. Mrs. Tracey got 
up an' Mr. Miles told her that his wife thought she 
had heard a noise in Mr. Tracey's room. Mr. Miles 
and Mrs. Tracey went in together an' turned up the 
light an' saw — well, you know what they saw, sir." 

'It's terrible!" I murmured. 



1 1 ' 



It is that, sir," said the porter, with a touch 



26 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

of unconscious callousness, "it will do the hotel a 
terrible lot of 'arm." 

I left him, and went down to the first floor, where 
most of the guests were gathered in the sitting-room. 
Mrs. Tracey, armed with a large bottle of smelling- 
salts, had come downstairs, and was the centre of a 
sympathetic group, in which was Hector Blunt, who, 
I thought, again looked at me in a peculiar manner 
as I entered the room. I glanced round for Mabel, 
but she was not there. 

"Miss Tracey, I presume, knows of this sad occur- 
rence," I remarked. 

"I don't know that she does, Mr. Maxon," said 
her step-mother, between sniffs at the smelling-salts. 
"Her rooms, you know, are right away from ours, 
at the other end of the corridor ; she may not know, 
poor child!" 

I decided that it would be better that Mabel 
should hear the terrible news from me than from 
some less intimate acquaintance; so I again made 
my way to the second floor and walked along the 
corridor, past the murdered man's room, in which 
I now observed Constable Mullins, to Mabel's suite. 
First I tapped gently on the door of her bedroom, 
but this elicited no response. Then I noticed a faint 
light coming from beneath the door of her private 
sitting-room. I knocked several times, then, taking 
hold of the knob, found that the door was not 
locked, and pushed it open. The room was in semi- 
darkness, the light I had noticed having been made 
by an electric heater, over which Mabel was crouch- 
ing. At the sound of my entry she sprang to her 



MTJEDER MOST FOUL 27 

feet in a startled manner. "Who is it?" she gasped. 
"It is I, darling — Dick; don't be afraid." 

I switched on the light, and Mabel sank back into 
the chair in front of the heater and shivered. She 
was white to the lips, and in her eyes was a pitiful, 
hunted expression that hurt me like a knife. But 
what surprised me at the time was the fact that she 
was fully dressed, in the garb she had worn the day 
before yesterday when we climbed Scotney's Look- 
out. On the floor beside her was her hat, which 
she had evidently lately removed, and dropped there. 

I placed my hand gently upon her shoulder. She 
gave a little shudder, and crouched more closely 
over the heater. 

"Poor little girl," I murmured, "so you know." 

"I don't know what you are talking about," she 
exclaimed hastily. 

This was another surprise. If Mabel was ignorant 
of what had happened, what was the explanation 
of her present pitiful state? 

"You have not heard about — about your father?" 
I asked. 

She rose from her chair with a little hysterical 
cry. "Why are you questioning me like this?" she 
demanded. "I tell you I don't know what you are 
talking about. I don't know anything." 

Evidently something other than the tragedy that 
had been enacted a few doors down the passage had 
caused the poor girl to become quite unnerved. My 
own nerves were beginning to make their presence 



L'8 THE MOT^NT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

felt, and this probablj'^ caused me to blurt out the 
bad tiding-s less tactfully than I had planned, 

"Your father, sweetheart," I told her, "is dead." 

"Dead," she repeated dully. 

"Yes, dear — he has been shot." 

"Shot! Do you — do you mean murdered?" 

"I am afraid so." 

"Oh, my God!" she muttered, swaying towards 
me, and it was only my arm about her waist that 
prevented her falling. She had gone off into a dead 
faint. I carried her into the next room, laid her 
on the bed, and hurried downstairs to bring one of 
her girl friends to her assistance. 



to-" 



Nearly an hour elapsed before Mabel was brought 
round. When I saw that I could render no further 
help, I returned to my room. The rain had ceased; 
the storm clouds had passed away, and dawn had 
laid cold fingers upon the dripping landscape. How 
different it was to the dawn to which I had looked 
forward a few hours previously. In a room not 
far from my own the man whom I had hoped to 
have for father-in-law was lying dead. A little 
further away, the girl I loved, white-faced, and with 
haunted eyes, was lying on her bed groaning. About 
the whole place hung an atmosphere of mystery and 
suspicion. God forgive me for it! but it almost 
seemed to me that there was something suspicious 
about the conduct of Mabel herself. "Why had she 
been dressed in that costume at such an hour of the 
morning? And what was the explanation of her 



MURDEE MOST FOUL 29 

agitation before she had heard of her father's death? 
Then I recalled Blunt 's attitude toward me, and his 
pointed question as to whether it had been in the 
card-room that I had last seen Tracey. The very air 
seemed charged with suspicion. What was the solu- 
tion of the mystery surrounding: Henry Tracey 's 
death? No weapon had been found, and no motive 
for the crime suggested itself to me. 



Chapter TV. 

SEEDS OF SUSPICION. 

THE corpse of Henry Tracey was conveyed to Mel- 
bourne by train, and, after lying at the morgue for 
some days for the purpose of the post-mortem ex- 
amination, was buried. Nearly three weeks elapsed 
before the inquest was held, the police — who at the 
time were coming in for a good deal of criticism 
because of the large proportion of undetected crimes 
in Victoria — securing its postponement in the hope 
that they would be able to obtain evidence to justify 
the coroner in committing somebody for trial on a 
charge of murder. Inquiries had shown that no 
strangers had been seen in the Mount Marunga dis- 
trict about the time of the tragedy, and the police 
were convinced that the murderer was someone at the 
hotel. As the guests and servants in the house num- 
bered about one hundred and seventy, the detectives' 
inquiries covered a wide field. 

A large number of the visitors at the hotel, in- 
cluding all those who figure in this history, left 
shortly after the tragedy. Mabel — whose brain and 
heart appeared to have been numbed by the shock she 
had sustained — and Mrs. Tracey, returned to their 
Toorak home, and I to my diggings in East 
Melbourae. Practically all the guests were at one 

30 



SEEDS OF SUSPICION 33 

ask him, and he did refuse, it does not follow that 
you was the one who shot him — neither of us will 
believe that in a hurry — but your evidence would be 
valuable, as you would have been the last to see him 
alive before the tragedy aetually took place." 

"I am sori-y I can't oblige you," I replied, "for 
I can only repeat that the last time I saw Mr. Tracey 
alive was as I passed the card-room on the way to bed. 
Hang it all, you don't suppose I wanted to butt in on 
him at one o'clock in the morning to put a proposition 
of that kind to him; especially as Miss Tracey and 
myself, even if everything had gone smoothly, had 
no intention of marrying for six months at the least? 
If you want my opinion I can give it to you here and 
now. This cock-and-bull story has been told you by 
a worm who would himself very much like to marry 
Miss Tracey, but he has not got a chance in life, and 
the name of the worm is Hector Blunt." 

The two obviously were under the impression that 
they had perfect control of their features, and that 
their faces were as masks; but, despite their assump- 
tion of mysterious omnipotence, it was perfectly plain 
to see that my guess was correct. 

"In investigating crimes of this sort," observed 
Ryan, with a tremendous air of wisdom, "I have 
always found it a good thing to search first of all for 
a motive. Now, just supposing you had asked Mr. 
Tracey 's consent to the marriage, and he had refused, 
you will admit that there is a motive." 

"I'll admit nothing of the kind. It is too ridic- 
ulous. Had i\Ir. Tracey withheld his blessing I 
would not even have quarrelled with him. In due 
course, had Miss Tracey been willing, I would simply 

B13 



U THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

have married her without the paternal benediction." 
"That's just it, Mr. Maxon," remarked PatuUo. 
" The words that Mr. Blu — that the party who gave us 
the information says he heard were: 'Very well, we 
will do so without your permission!' " 



<( 



'AH I can say is that Blunt — whose name you 
practically let out just now — is an unmitigated liar. 
As I went to my room and straight to bed, I cannot 
produce an alibi, but my word is as good as Blunt 's. 
I tell you the rotten little swine fancied himself a 
rival of mine for Miss Tracey's hand, and this is an 
attempt on his part to get me out of the way. But 
if this is the only alleged evidence you can bring 
against me, I will not entertain any very serious fears 
for the safety of my neck." 

''To tell you the truth, Mr. Maxon," said Patullo, 
' ' I would almost ns soon suspect myself as you. But, 
you know, duty is duty, and our job is to collect the 
evidence. ' ' 

"Of course," I answered; "go ahead, boys. But 
if you are looking for motives, just assume for a 
moment that Blunt is lying, and ask yourselves if he 
may not have an even stronger motive than mere dis- 
like of me for concocting this yarn. Supposing Blunt 
himself went to Tracey's room that night, and put the 
question which he alleges I put — what then?" 

"Oh, well, Mr. Maxon," said Ryan, "you may rest 
assured that Mr. Blunt will be questioned pretty 
closely and watched. We admit that we haven't got 
anything very definite against anybody, but there are 
one or two clues we are following, and something may 
come to light." 



SEEDS OF SUSPICION 35 

A few minutes later they left me, and I lit a pipe 
and sat down to think over the interview. Admittedly 
I was in an uncomfortable position ; but I felt certain 
that no real evidence could be brought against me. 
The talk with the detectives had shown me what an 
unscrupulous scoundrel Blunt was, and to what 
lengths he was prepared to go. If he did not mind 
the target of a horrible suspicion endangering my 
liberty and even my life, in the hope of bettering his 
chances with Mabel, there was probably little he 
would stop at to gain his ends. My suggestion that 
Blunt himself may have interviewed Tracey was only 
a chance shot, but all the same it might be a true one. 
He possibly observed Mabel's demeanor and mine 
closely at the ball, and, detennined to be ahead of me 
in interviewing Tracey, went to his room in the early 
hours of that tragic morning. Granted this much, 
anything might have happened between Tracey and 
Blunt. In endeavouring to fasten suspicion on to me 
Blunt had laid himself open to suspicion, and I re- 
solved to inquire very closely into the movements of 
that gentleman on the night of June 23rd, and the 
early morning of June 241' 



THE HOUSE OF THE vEAD. 

TWO days after my second interview with Ryan 
and Patullo the inquest was held. That mid-July 
morning spent at the Melbourne Morgue has left 
an indelible impression upon my memory. A drizz- 
ling rain was falling, and a thick mist hung over 
the murky Yarra. The footpath leading to the 
Morgue is not asphalted, being little better than a 
cinder track. The road is bounded on one side by 
the river, crawling toward Jolimont like a sinister 
snake, and on the other by a railway siding, a long, 
soot-grimed, galvanised iron fence, and some squat, 
unlovely administrative buildings. The ugliness of 
this portion of Melbourne is in striking contrast to 
the green reposefulness of the Alexandra Gardens 
on the opposite side of the stream, where flowers 
bloom in multi-colored loveliness. On the Morgue 
side all is drab and hideous, save outside the House 
of the Dead itself, where two small, trim lawns but 
serve to accentuate the gloom that drapes itself 
about one like a pall when one passes within. 

Although it seemed to me that the outrageousness 
of Blunt 's insinuation against me was Its own con- 
demnation, and I had not up to now feared for 
myself, I confess that icy fingers seemed to touch 

36 



THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 3T 

my heart as I passed through the tiled porch into 
the gloomy court house. The Coroner conducts his 
inquiries in a room that resembles a schoolroom of 
the bad, old-fashioned sort. Its walls are composed 
of varnished boards, and ugly varnished rafters 
support the ceiling. The witnesses sit on hard forms, 
placed along two sides of the room, and the Coroner 
at a sort of rostrum at the end of the apartment, 
the barristers, the police sub-inspectors in charge 
of the various eases, and the reporters, at a long 
table in front of the Coroner, Avhile at a smaller 
table sits the depositions clerk, who records, on a 
noiseless typewriter, the words spoken by the wit- 
nesses. Each witness, after giving evidence, is re- 
quired to sign the typewritten note taken by the 
depositions clerk. 

A more hateful morning I had not previously 
known, and I am glad that I did not at the time 
guess the hours of greater anxiety and gloom that 
were to be mine before the Mount Marunga mystery 
was cleared up. 

I will confess frankly that for me the horror 
associated with the morning of the murder was 
preferable to the atmosphere of sustained tragedy 
that seemed to lurk in every comer of the cold 
an J dismal court house. I glanced at the doors at 
the further end of the apartment and shivered, 
for I knew that they led to the mortuary, where, 
day by day, were laid the bodies of men and women 
who had found life too bitter to be lived; unhappy 
victims of remorseless circumstance or casual mis- 
chance; unwanted infants, slaughtered at birth. 

That Mabel, still suffering from the shock ocea- 



38 THE MOUNT MARUNGA ivlYSTERY 

sioned by her father's death, should be compelled 
to attend such a place, filled me with the most 
profound regret. She was sitting beside me, in 
deep mourning, and heavily veiled. When she raised 
her veil she revealed a face of deathly whiteness, 
and eyes that seemed two deep wells of unhappi- 
ness. Next to Mabel was Mrs. Tracey, whose mourn- 
ing garb fitted closely her generously moulded figure, 
and had obviously been designed with an eye to 
picturesqueness. Round her throat was the inevi- 
table band of black velvet. 

There was a cry of "Silence" from the court 
orderly, and all present rose to their feet as the 
Coroner, a little chubby-faced man with a very bald 
head, entered and took his place. 

"Inquest on the body of Henry George Tracey," 
announced the orderly, and then he called "Herbert 
James Miles." 

It was Miles 's wife who had heard the shot and 
had roused her husband, and he it was who had 
entered Tracey 's room, followed by Mrs. Tracey, and 
found the body. He was directed by the orderly 
to take his place in the witness-box and repeat the 
words of the oath. 

Miles said that, awakened by Mrs. Miles, he looked 
at his watch, and it was then twenty minutes to two. 
He slipped an overcoat on over his pyjamas, went 
into the passage, and knocked at Tracey 's door. 
The storm was then raging, the rain unon the roof 
making a great deal of noise. He tliumped the 
panels of the door several times loudly, but, receiv- 
ing no answer, went to the door of the next room, 
which was occupied by Mrs. Tracey. His second 



THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 39 

knock brought a reply from within. He asked Mrs. 
Tracey to come to the door, and after a delay of 
a few seconds, she appeared, wearing a wrapper. 
He told her that Mrs. Miles had fancied she heard 
a shot in Tracey 's room, and Mrs. Tracey admitted 
him to her room and pointed to a door which sepa- 
rated it from the one occupied by her husband. 
Tracey 's room was in darkness, but as Miles was 
feeling about for the electric light switch an un- 
usually vivid flash of lightning revealed with 
ghastly distinctness the body of the murdered man, 
lying at the foot of the bed. By the time Miles had 
found the light switch Mrs. Tracey had reached the 
doorway ; she too saw the corpse, gave a shrill scream 
of horror, and rushed back to her bedroom. 

After the witness had answered a few questions, 
his wife, Helen Jessica Miles, a frail, nervous little 
woman, was called. Mrs. Miles said that owing to 
the storm she could not sleep. She was lying listen- 
ing to the rain when she heard a loud report, which 
came with startling suddenness. She was sure that 
it was not thunder, but the sound of a shot, so she 
roused her husband. Here her knowledge of the 
tragedy ended. 

Mrs. Tracey, who was next called, was assisted 
toward the witness-box by a policeman. As she gave 
her evidence she wept quietly into an exquisite 
black-bordered silk handkerchief, about two sizes 
larger than a postage stamp. The earlier portion 
of her evidence merely corroborated that of Mr. Miles. 
All that she could add was that on returning to 
the death chamber later she noticed that a drawer 
of the dressing-table was half open, and a small 



40 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

revolver, which her husband kept there, was missing. 
Upon hearing this piece of information those in court 
exchanged glances, and the Coroner for the first time 
showed signs of taking an interest in the pro- 
ceedings. 

"How do you know that there was a revolver in 
the drawer?" he asked. 

"I know my husband kept it there." 

"What was his object in doing so?" 

"I realW cannot say. He once made some re- 
mark about being ready for burglars." 

"When did you last see the revolver in the 
drawer ? ' ' 

"I happened to go into his room the morning be- 
fore, while he was shaving, and it was there then." 

"Do you know whether or not it was there on 
the night of June 23rd, or the morning of the 24th, 
when you and your husband retired to bed?" 

"I cannot say." 

"Did you and your husband go to your apartments 
at the same time?" 

"Yes, at about twenty minutes past one." 

"Were you in your husband's room before retir- 
ing to your own?" 

"We were talking there for a minute or two." 

"Was the dressing-table drawer then open?" 

"I didn't notice, but I think I would have noticed 
if it had been." 

"You did not hear a shot?" 

"No; I had been dancing all night, and was very 
tired; I think I went right off to sleep." 

"Are you sure that your husband's revolver was 



THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 41 

not in any other drawer, or anywhere else in the 
room?" 

"I could not say; but the police searched his room 
and mine afterwards, and did not find it." 

' ' The Coroner turned over some papers on his desk, 
readjusted his spectacles, and continued the exami- 
nation. 

"I see on reference to the brief supplied me by 
the police that one of the guests at the hotel is to 
give evidence to the effect that on passing Mr. 
Tracey's room shortly after half-past one he heard 
voices from within — you were not in your husband's 
room at that hour?" 

"No, I don't think so; it must have been about 
half-past one when I turned the light off in my 
own room." 

"If anybody had been in Mr. Tracey's room at 
that time it must have been almost immediately 
after you had gone to bed — yet you did not hear 
voices?" 

"No." 

"Do you think you would have heard them had 
anybody been there?" 

"I may not have done so; the storm was making 
a great deal of noise." 

"You know Mr. Richard Maxon?" 

"Yes." 

"Did you know that he was suitor for the hand 
of your step-daughter?" 

"I knew that he was paying her attention." 

"Was your husband also aware of the fact?" 

"I really do not know; we had never discussed 
the matter." 



42 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

"Do you think your husband would have consented 
to a marriage between Mr. Maxon and Miss Traeey?" 

"I cannot answer for my poor husband." 

"You would not regard Mr. Maxon as an unsuit- 
able husband for your daughter?" 

"No-o." 

"Had Mr. Maxon ever to your knowledge been in 
your husband's room?" 

"Not to my knowledge." 

"You have no reason to suppose that he knew 
that Mr. Tracey kept a revolver in his dressing-table 
drawer 1 ' ' 

"No." 

"Your step-daughter did not share your bedroom 
at the hotel?" 

"No, her room was some distance away, at the 
end of the corridor." 

"When did you first see Miss Tracey after the 
tragedy?" 

"Not for some time. I was prostrated and could 
not do anything for a time, but when I was feeling 
better I went to her room. She was lying on the 
bed in a faint. Mr. Maxon had broken the news to 
her." 

"I see in a statement you have given to the police 
you say that Miss Tracey was fully attired, in 
walking costume?" 

"Y-yes." 

"Did you not think it strange that she should 
be thus attired at such an hour?" 

"I did at the time, but she told me later that she 
could not sleep, and had intended going for a walk." 



THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD 43 

The Coroner remarked "Plumph," and after a 
glance at his brief told Mrs. Tracey that she might 
stand down. 

The next witness was Dr. Julius Collins, who had 
made the post-mortem examination. He read his 
report to the effect that the dead man's organs had 
been free from signs of disease. Death had been 
caused by a wound from a revolver bullet. The 
bullet had entered the body below the chest on the 
left side, and had penetrated to the heart. Death 
had probably been instantaneous. 

"Could the wound have been self-inflicted?" in- 
quired the Coroner. 

"It might have been, but there were no indications 
of burning on the shirt front. I should say that 
the shot had been fired from a distance of some 
feet." 

"In your opinion, the shot was fired by a second 
person?" 

"Yes." 

The doctor left the box. 

"Call Hector Ernest Mayne Blunt," said the sub- 
inspector who was conducting the case for the 
police. 



Chapter VI. 
PERJURY. 

WHEN Blunt went into the witness-box he was 
palpably nervous. He held the Bible in his uplifted 
hand, swearing by his God to tell the truth, the 
whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then 
proceeded shamelessly to commit the most flagrant 
perjury. The story he told was that which had 
already been outlined to me by Ryan and Patullo. 
He stated that shortly after half-past one on the 
morning of the murder he had been passing along 
the corridor near Tracey's room and had heard 
voices. One voice, it seemed to him, was raised in 
anger. That voice, he believed, belonged to me. 
The only words he actually heard, and which he 
thought were spoken by me, were: "Very well, we 
will do it without your permission!'^ 

Mabel started on hearing this, and turned her 
head toward me. "You don't believe the lie, do you, 
love?" I whispered. She made no reply, seeming 
intent upon catching every word Blunt uttered. 

The police sub-inspector had been questioning the 
witness, but at this stage the Coroner took the 
examination into his own hands. 

"The storm at the time, I take it, was very fierce, 
and was making a good deal of noise?" he re- 
marked. 
u 



PEEJUEY 45 

"Yes, I suppose it was," Blunt admitted, with 
evident reluctance, 

"Are you sure that the voice you heard was 
Maxon's?" 

"Well, I can't be positive, but I think it was." 

"Did you hear a second voice?" 

"No." 

"You did not pause to listen?" 

"Certainly not," answered Blunt, in a shocked 
tone, as though horrified at being even so much as 
susped;ed of an action so unbecoming a gentleman. 

"From the brief supplied me by the police, I 
gather that you yourself are an admirer of Miss 
Tracey?" 

Blunt hesitated. "I have a very high regard for 
her," he admitted. 

"You knew that Maxon was paying her marked 
attention?" 

"Yes." 

"When you heard his words, to the effect that 
he would do something without Mr. Tracey 's con- 
sent, did you think that he was announcing his 
intention of marrying Miss Tracey against her 
father's wish?" 

"It occurred to me afterwards that he was." 

"Not at the time." 

"No— er— I don't think so." 

"Have you asked Miss Tracey to marry you?" 

Blunt became confused, glanced round the court, 
and began to stammer a protest. 

"Kindly answer my question," snapped the 
Coroner. , 

The witness mumbled an affirmative reply. This 



46 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

was news to me, for Mabel had never hinted that 
Blunt 's advances had reached this stage. 
""Was Miss Tracey's reply favourable?" 
"No," came the answer, in what was little more 
than a mutter. I squeezed Mabel's hand, but re- 
ceived no answering pressure. Despite the painful 
position in which I was placed by his perjured evi- 
dence, I was beginning to enjoy my rival's discom- 
fiture. Obviously he had not bargained for such a 
searching examination, compelling him to reveal 
matters regarding which, doubtless, he would have 
preferred to remain silent. 

"I may take it that your feelings toward Maxon 
are not exactly friendly?" was the Coroner's next 
question. 

"They are not unfriendly," was the lying reply. 
"Where was your room in the hotel situated?" 
"At the head of the staircase, on the first floor." 

"On the first floor! Mr. Tracey's room, I under- 
stand, was on the second floor?" 

"Er— yes." 

"What were you doing on the second floor?" 

There was a pause, and the Coroner repeated the 
question. 

"I had intended knocking at the door of Miss 
Tracey's sitting-room, as I wished to speak to her; 
but when I got there I — er — thought better of it, 
and returned to my own room." 

"Half -past one in the morning is an extraordinary 
hour for calling on a lady who, I presume, you could 
have seen at any time during the day, since she was 
a fellow-guest at the hotel." 



PERJURY 47 

"Oh, the dance was on, you know; many of the 
guests were still about, and Miss Tracey had only a 
short time previously left the ballroom." 

The Coroner "humphed, " and turned over some 
of his papers. After he had again asked Blunt if 
he could swear that it was my voice that he had 
heard in Tracey 's room, and had received a reply 
in the nega' ' -e, the Coroner intimated that he did 
not wish to ask the Avitness any further questions. 
Hector Ernest made no attempt to conceal his relief 
at being allowed to leave the box. 

I was then called to give evidence. The Coroner 
questioned me regarding my relations with iNIabel and 
her father, and my movements after leaving the ball- 
room. He also questioned me concerning my visit 
to Mabel, to tell her of her father's death. I an- 
swered as clearly as I was able, describing my doings 
very much as I have set them forth in previous 
chapters of this narrative. My examination was not 
prolonged, as I could only deny that I had even 
seen Tracey after observing him in the card-room 
when going to my own bedroom. I gathered from 
the Coroner's attitude that he was satisfied with the 
answers I gave him. 

It was now Mabel's turn to go through the ordeal 
of being interrogated. Her agitation was pitiful, 
and every now and then she was shaken by dry sobs, 
which it seemed must choke her. I would have given 
all I possessed to have been able to spare her this 
suffering. After the sub-inspector had finished with 
her the Coroner concentrated his attention on one 
aspect of her evidence, and, as he followed each of 
her answers with yet another question, the pOvT 



48 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 



girl's distress became more and more acute. 

"You attended the ball at the hotel Miss Tracey?" 
he asked her. 

"Yes." 

"Did you leave the dance room with Mr. Maxon?" 

"No; I had a headache and left early; I think 
about twelve o'clock." 

"You attended the ball in evening dress,. I take 
it?" 

"I wore a fancy costume." 

"When Mr. Maxon, and later, your step-mother, 
came to your room, you were in walking dress — how 
did that come about?" 

"I did not feel that I would be able to sleep, so 
I changed into walking dress, with the intention 
of going for a walk." 

"Alone?" 

"Yes." 

"Do you make a habit of going for walks alone at 
such an unusual hour?" 

"No; but I have done so before, when I have not 
felt inclined for sleep. My head was troubling me, 
and I thought that the fresh air would do it good." 

"You were going out into the storm?" 

"I would not have minded the rain, but when I 
looked through the window and saw how black it 
was I — I decided to stay indoors." 

"But you did not go to bed?" 

"No; I sat in front of the heater in my sitting- 
room." 

"You had not been in bed at all up to the time 
Mr. Maxon visited you?" 

*'No." 



PEEJUEY 49 

"But, although you were awake and in your sit- 
ting-room, you did not hear a shot fired in your 
father's room?" 

"No; the rain was making a lot of noise, and 
father's room was some distance away." 

"The first you knew of the tragedy was when 
Mr. Maxon came to your room?" 

"Yes." 

This concluded Mabel's evidence, and she returned 
to her seat beside me, on the verge of collapse. 
With the Coroner's permission I took her into the 
fresh air, and obtaining a chair, placed it for her 
on one of the little lawns outside the building. 
When we returned to the court Detective Ryan was 
giving his evidence. He told of how every room 
in the hotel, the luggage of all the guests, and the 
grounds outside had been searched, but no weapon 
or other clue had been found. He also detailed 
conversations he had had with the various witnesses, 
but these were embodied in the evidence I have 
already summarised. Patullo corroborated the evi- 
dence given by Ryan. Then there was a nerve- 
racking interval of what seemed an hour's duration, 
but was in reality only a minute or two, while the 
Coroner scratched his head Avith his pen, stroked 
his chin, turned over papers, and gave vent to 
several "humphs." 

At last he began his summing up. 

"This case," he said, "is a most mysterious one. 
A wealthy, well-known, and much respected gentle- 
man — a man who, so far as his friends and relatives 
are aware, was without an enemy in the world — 
is foully murdered in a fashionable mountain hotel, 



50 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

crowded with guests, and while a ball is still in 
progress. Nobody seems to have seen the murderer 
either enter or leave Mr. Tracey's room, and the 
weapon with which the crime was committed has 
not been found. The fact that the revolver which 
Mrs. Tracey says her husband kept in a drawer 
in his dressing-table is missing suggests that the 
victim was killed by a bullet from his own revolver, 
but if this is so, hoAV the murderer managed to get 
rid of the weapon after perpetrating the dastardly 
crime is a mj^stery. I cannot attach very much im- 
portance to the evidence of the witness, Blunt, as 
regards the hearing of voices in Mr. Tracey's room, 
as at the time he says he heard them Mrs. Tracey 
was either disrobing in the next room, or had just 
got into bed, and she heard nothing. It seems to 
me that the witness, Maxon, gave his evidence 
clearly and frankly, and I think it is scarcely likely 
that he would approach Mr. Tracey at such an hour 
to ask him for his daughter's hand in marriage. 
Unless corroboration of Blunt 's evidence is forth- 
coming, suspicion of Maxon would be unjustifiable. 
It is to be hoped that the police will redouble their 
efforts to solve this mystery and bring the culprit 
to justice. No evidence has been given at this 
inquiry to warrant me in committing anyone for 
trial." 

The Coroner then delivered his formal finding, 
to the effect that "Henry George Tracey was found 
dead in his room at the Mount Marunga Hotel, Mount 
Marunga, on the morning of June 24th, death being 
due to cardiac failure brought about by a bullet 
wound." 



PEKJURY 51 

"I find," he concluded, "that the said Henry 
George Tracey was murdered by some person or 
persons unknown." 

My reputation had been practically cleared by 
the inquiry, but as I left the court with Mabel on 
my arm, I was even more depressed and worried 
than when I entered it. Especially was I puzzled 
by one point in Mabel's evidence. She had stated 
distinctly that she had not gone to bed at all after 
leaving the ballroom, but had changed at once from 
her fancy costume into walking attire. Yet, when 
I had carried her fainting into the bedroom after 
telling her of her father's death, I had noticed that 
the bedclothes were tumbled about, and that her 
nightdress, which she had evidently lately worn, was 
lying on the floor. 

Why had my love committed perjury? What was 
she attempting to conceal? These questions troubled 
me as I walked toward the city after seeing Mabel 
and Mrs. Tracey into their motor car. 



Chapter VII. 
STRANGE BEHAVIOUR. 

AFTER the inquest Mabel and Mrs. Tracey went 
to the seaside. My work kept me ^n Melbourne, 
but, of course, I corresponded with Mabel. Good 
taste forbade me suggesting a formal engagement 
at this stage, but I certainly expected more warmth 
of feeling than was revealed in Mabel's brief letters 
to me. Even our farewell on the evening before 
she left was marred by a certain coldness upon her 
part. I did not like to reproach her, attributing 
her demeanour to the fact that the tragedy had 
left her temporarily stunned, and incapable of any 
feeling other than intense grief; but on the last 
evening I could not refrain from saying: "Forgive 
me for asking, dear, but you do not believe that 
story which Blunt told at the inquest?" 

"No, no; a thousand times, no," she answered, 
with tears in her eyes. 

"I might have known, dear one," I said; "I 
should not have asked such a question." I kissed 
her fondly, but her lips were cold, and my embrace 
met with no response. 

I did not mention to Mabel my surprise at her 
telling the Coroner that she had not been to bed 
on the morning of the murder. This portion of her 

52 



STKAKGE BEHAVIOUB 53 

evidence, no less than her strange attitude toward 
me, caused me worry and distress. Even before 
Mabel left, I realised that relations between her 
and her step-mother were not cordial. I doubt if 
they ever had been, but while Mr. Tracey was alive, 
each had maintained an outward show of affection. 
In one of her letters Mabel mentioned that she had 
received a communication from her late father's 
lawyers, informing her that, by a will dated several 
years previously, he had left her — after providing 
for certain legacies to servants, and other employees, 
and several large donations to charitable institutions 
— all of which he died possessed. This comprised a 
very considerable sum in cash, a station in the 
Victorian "Western District, another in the Riverina ; 
"Avalong" (the well-known Toorak mansion), and 
a valuable collection of pictures. 

Fresh trouble now arose betAveen Mabel and her 
step-mother. Mrs. Tracey stated that her husband 
had given her to understand that he intended 
making very generous provision for her in the event 
of his death, but apparently the untimely tragedy 
had intervened before he had taken action. "Of 
course, Hilda is entitled to at least a half shar^.in 
the estate," Mabel wrote, "and when I return to 
Melbourne I intend making arrangements to transfer 
some of the property to her. Since we have so little 
in common, we have agreed that it is better for 
both our sakes to live apart. I will keep on 'Ava- 
long,' and Hilda will receive an allowance, which 
will enable her to live in a manner such as she 
might have expected had poor father not been taken." 

I considered this very generous of Mabel, and 



54 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

could not help thinking that Mrs. Tracey would 
very soon get over her grief at her husband's death, 
and find that her new mode of living suited her 
admirably. It may have been uncharitable on my 
part, but I had always held the view that it was 
not affection alone which impelled Mrs. Hilda Gordon 
to become the second Mrs. Henry Tracey. Her tem- 
perament Avas one that craved for gaiety and excite- 
ment, and the life of a wealthy widow, free from 
the restraints that would have been imposed upon 
her as Tracey 's wife, would probably quickly recon- 
cile her to the loss of her middle-aged husband. 

My own unhappiness was not mitigated by the 
news concerning the will. After it had become 
public property, I overheard several remarks — 
couched in such a way that for me to have dis- 
played open resentment would only have made 
matters worse — which brought home to me that 
the inquest had not rendered either Mabel or myself 
immune from suspicion. I had known all along 
that there would be people only too ready to believe 
the story told by Hector Blunt of my alleged inter- 
view with Mr. Tracey on the morning of the murder, 
but I had hoped that Mabel — inasmuch as I alone 
knew that, in one particular, at least, the evidence 
she had given was untrue — would be safe from the 
gossip of unfriendly tongues. Many people, I found, 
regarded as distinctly peculiar her behaviour in 
dressing for the purpose of going out walking at 
such an hour on the morning of the murder, and 
the halting manner in which she had answered some 
of the Coroner's questions had not been in her 
favour. 



^: 



STRANGE BEHAVIOUR - 55 

Troubled though I was by the memory of my 
sweetheart's agitation before I had told her of her 
father's death, and her strange behaviour in swear- 
ing that she had not been to bed that morning, I 
never for a moment believed that she had been in 
any way directly associated with the tragedy. I 
was not long in finding out that others thought 
differently, and the fact that she only had bene- 
fitted by her father's will did not tend to lull their 
suspicions. In another interview I had with Detec- 
tives Ryan and Patullo, they questioned me closely 
regarding the circumstances in which I had broken 
the news of the murder to Mabel. I was careful 
to do all I could to protect her, but the impression 
left upon my mind was that the de^rectives were 
engaged in constructing some fantastic theory in 
which a quarrel between Tracey and myself regard- 
ing my relations with his daughter had led up to 
the tragedy, in which Mabel had somehow had a 
hand. 

To ]\Iabel I did not mention any of these things, 
but when she had been away a fortnight I sug- 
gested in one of my letters that, now that she was 
alone in the world, an earlier marriage than we 
had originally contemplated might be desirable. 
Her reply was that we must not think of marriage 
for "a long time yet." "You know how much I 
love you, dear," she wrote, "but while the mystery 
of poor daddy's death hangs over us, I feel that 
it would not be right to marry. Just now I can 
do nothing but think and think of tliat awful morn- 
ing, and all that has occurred since." 

With this I had perforce to be content, although 



56 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

it seemed to me that unless some unexpected clue 
were to come to light, the chances of the Mount 
Marunga mystery ever being solved were exceed- 
ingly remote. Blunt 's allegation against me, and 
Mabel's own peculiar behaviour, had put the police 
upon a false scent, but one which they were natur- 
ally loath to abandon. 

A month dragged by, and I received a letter from 
Mabel announcing her intention of returning to 
Melbourne. My work prevented me meeting her 
at the railway station, as she arrived by a midday 
train, but I sent a telegram to Toorak intimating 
that I would be out to see her that afternoon. My 
spirits rose as I walked from the tram toward "Ava- 
long, " the Tracey mansion, which is in Pine Avenue. 
It was a beautiful August afternoon, such as we 
get in Melbourne when winter is in its decline. 
The sun cast a genial warmth, and great clusters 
of wattle and richly yellow daffodils made beautiful 
the gardens of the houses of the rich. 

"Avalong" is a solidly built stone mansion, stand- 
ing at the head of an ascending carriage drive, and 
surrounded by a large and beautifully kept garden. 
I walked briskly up the drive, eager to see the 
girl from whom I had been parted for five long 
weeks. A sudden turn in the path brought me 
face to face with the figure of a man, immaculately 
dressed, walking jauntily, and swinging a gold- 
mounted cane. In a second the garden, and the day 
itself, had lost all their beauty for me. As he 
passed, the fellow smirked and bowed. I did not 
acknowledge the salute, but hurried on, a prey to 
gloomy thoughts. 



STRANGE BEHAVIOUE 57 

Knocking at the door of "Avalong," I was ad- 
mitted by a neatly-dressed housemaid, and shown 
into the drawing-room, a luxuriously furnished 
apartment, decorated in white and black. Heavy 
black velvet curtains draped the thr^e lofty windows, 
the rosewood furniture was upholstered in rich black 
and white striped poplin, covering the floor was a 
thick black pile carpet, and on top of this were 
several costly white rugs. The afternoon sun, flood- 
ing the room, gave to everything in it a rich glow, 
while at the same time making the apartment 
eminently cosy and homelike. Here I waited for 
Mabel, a prey to conflicting emotions. After a few 
minutes I heard the rustle of her skirts outside, 
and she appeared in the doorway, looking very pale 
and fragile in her black silk dress, cut low around 
the neck, and accentuating the whiteness of her 
skin. I noticed at once that her eyes were red 
as though she had quite recently been weeping. 

"My darling," I cried, rising and holding out my 
arms. 

With a little cry, half exclamation of joy and 
half sob, she rushed toward me, threw her arms 
around my neck, and rested her head upon my 
shoulder. 

"Poor little girl," I murmured, stroking her 
golden hair, "you have been crying, I can see; what 
has been the matter?" 

At once her manner changed; she pushed me 
gently from her and stood upright, as though on 
guard against a threatened blow. "There is nothing 
the matter, Dick," she said, "and I — I have not 



5S THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

been crying; if my eyes are red it must be from 
some other cause." 

I said nothing, but felt convinced that Mabel 
was not speaking the truth. We talked for a while 
of her holiday, and of her intentions for the future. 
Mrs. Tracey, she told me, had returned to Mel- 
bourne a few days before, having taken a flat which 
she was now busy furnishing. 

"Judging by her behaviour since his death," re- 
marked Mabel, "I don't believe that Hilda ever 
really cared for poor daddy." 

"We continued to talk in a desultory way for some 
time; then I observed: "I met somebody in the 
drive as I was coming up to the house." 

Mabel started slightly. "Met somebody," she 
repeated, ' ' not — not ' ' 

"Yes," I replied, "Hector Blunt." 

"Oh, yes; he— he did call." 

"Mabel, has that man been here trying to poison 
your mind against me?" I asked. 

"No, Dick; indeed no. He was just making a — 
a friendly call." 

"A friendly call! From that cad!" I exclaimed. 
"Really, dear, after what has happened — after his 
base innuendoes against me, which you say yourself 
you do not believe — I should have thought a friendly 
call from Hector Blunt would not be altogether 
welcome. ' ' 

"I can't prevent him calling, darling," she mur- 
mured. 

"You can refuse to receive him." 

"Well, dear, don't speak of it any more. I — I 
probably will not see him again." 



STEANGE BEHAVIOUR 59 

**I sincerely hope not," I said. To put it mildly, 
I was piqued that Mabel should be on friendly 
terms with a man who, if he could, would have 
placed the hangman's noose around my neck. Mabel 
did not seem to realise how much the evidence given 
by Blunt at the inquest might have meant to me 
had there been a scintilla of circumstantial evidence 
to support it, or even if the Coroner had been less 
thorough in his method of examination and more 
ready to take things for granted. 

My first interview with my sweetheart after a sepa- 
ration of five weeks could scarcely be described as 
a happy one. Following her manifestation " of 
pleasure at seeing me, the restraint that had been 
apparent in Mabel's letters asserted itself, and her 
manner was lacking alike in warmth and frankness. 
We kissed at parting, but our embrace was scarcely 
lover-like. 



^JELVPTER VIII. 

A SCENE AT THE CLUB. 

A COUPLE of weeks passed and I saw Mabel fre- 
quently, but there was no improvement in our rela- 
tions. There were times when she seemed almost 
like her old self, frank and affectionate; but soon 
a troubled frown would appear upon her brow, 
and her manner toward me would become restrained, 
and even cold. Obviously she had something upon 
her mind, but although I made many efforts to win 
her confidence they were not crowned with success. 
She persisted that nothing was troubling her except 
her father's death and the mystery surrounding it, 
but I felt certain that there was something else. 
When I again asked her if she really believed that 
I had gone to her father's room on the morning of 
the murder she assured me almost vehemently that 
she did not. 

Then came an incident that brought about an 
entire change in our relationship. One night I was 
sitting in an armchair in front of the fire, in the 
smoking-room of the Constitutional Club, glancing 
through a magazine. At a table near me was a 
little group of men which included Hector Blunt. 

60 



A SCENE AT THE CLUB 51 

They had been talking golf and racing for some 
time, and then came a lull in the conversation. "By 
the way, boys," said Blunt, in a voice that obviously 
was raised so that I could hear him, "I want you to 
congratulate me." 

"What on, Hec," inquired one, "have you drawn 
a starter in the Australian Hurdle?" 

"No; it is something much more exciting — I am 
going to be married." 

Several men offered their congratulations, some 
sincere, others couched in facetious terms. 

"And who is the misguided lady?" someone asked 
in a jocular tone. 

"Miss Mabel Tracey, daughter of poor old Henry 
Tracey," was the reply. 

White with rage, I sprang from my chair and 
strode across to where Blunt was sitting. He also 
rose to his feet, with a sneer upon his lips. The 
other men looked uneasy. 

"Gentlemen," I remarked quie^y, though my 
blood was boiling and it was all that I could do to 
keep my hands from the little rat on the other side 
of the table, "gentlemen, you will kindly not believe 
the statement you have just heard." 

Blunt attempted to bluster. "What do you mean 
by that?" he demanded. 

"I mean that you are a damned liar." 

"Steady on, old man," remarked one of the mem- 
bers, placing his hand upon my shoulder. 

"I mean exactly what I say," I remarked firmly, 



62 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

"and what is more, Blunt will either confess at 
once that he lied, or take the consequences." 

Blunt looked uneasy, and edged away when I 
stepped round to his side of the table. 

"Are you going to withdraw?" I asked. 

' ' Certainly not, ' ' he said ; " I repeat, I am engaged 
to marry Miss Mab — " 

He got no further, for I seized him by the throat 
and threw him back across the table, and, ere the 
other members could interfere, had administered 
several smart blows across his face with the back 
of my open hand. 

The other men pulled me away. Blunt was red 
in the face from my blows, and his necktie was 
hanging loose. With one hand he felt his throat 
where I had gripped him. 

"You will pay for this, Maxon," he gasped, when 
he had regained his breath somewhat. "You don't 
suppose that Miss Tracey wants to marry you, do 
you? Perhaps if you could explain what you were 
doing in her father's room on the ni " 

I managed to break away from the two men who 
were holding me lightly by the arms, and this time 
my method with Blunt was less gentle. I struck 
out with my left arm straight from the shoulder, 
my fist caught him squarely under the chin, and he 
went down like a ninepin, his head striking against 
the edge of the table as he fell. 

One member poured out a glass of brandy and 
lipelt beside the prostrate man, while several others 



A SCENE AT THE CLUB 63 

hustled rae from the room. In the hall I took my 
hat from the steward, and turned and faced them: 

"I am sorry, gentlemen, that this scene should 
have occurred. If any explanation is required by 
the committee, I can only repeat that Blunt is a 
liar and a cad. Some weeks ago, as you are doubt- 
less aware, he endeavoured to trump up a false 
accusation against me, which, had it been believed, 
might have resulted in the loss of my liberty, and 
even my life. To-night, if I had given him the 
opportunity he would have repeated it. Further 
he has tried to link his name with that of a lady 
whose good name is everything to me. If the com- 
mittee requires my resignation it will be promptly 
forthcoming, for if Blunt repeated what he has just 
said, I would act again as I have just acted. I 
am sorry, gentlemen, to have disturbed your evening 
— good-night." 

"Good-night, old man," a couple of them mur- 
mured sympathetically, and I received several warm 
hand-clasps as I left the club. Despite his wealth. 
Blunt was not popular at the Constitutional, and 
I felt that I had the support of the majority of 
the members present in the course I had taken. 

Once outside I walked straight to Swanston-street 
and got upon a Toorak tram. It was only a little 
after 9 o'clock, and I intended going at once to 
"Avalong" and acquainting Mabel with what had 
taken place. 

The maid who opened the door was evidently sur- 
prised to see me. She thought that Miss Tracey 
was at home. In a short while, Mabel, very agitated 



64 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTEEY 

in her manner, came into the room. I went to kiss 
her, but she evaded the caress by turning and sitting 
down hastily. Very quietly I gave her a full descrip- 
tion of what had occurred at the club. While I 
was speaking her agitation increased, and when I 
had finished she rose from her chair and walked 
nervously about the room. 

"You shouldn't have done it, Dick," she said, 
"you should not have made a scene." 

"I know it, dear," I answered, "but when the 
little rat came out with such an outrageous state- 
ment I lost my temper completely. To think that 
a man in a decent club should go out of his way 
to tell such a damnable falsehood made me for- 
get " 

"Oh, but it isn't a falsehood," she cried, "it isn't 
a falsehood." 

Dropping to the sofa she buried her face in a 
cushion, and burst into tears. 

As for me, the shock occasioned by her announce- 
ment caused me to sit in my chair as though petrified. 
It was only the sight of Mabel, her shoulders heav- 
ing from her sobbing, that moved me to action. I 
went across the room and knelt beside her, placing 
my arm around her waist. 

"My dear, dear Mabel," I said, "in heaven's name 
what do you mean? Surely you do not mean that 
you have promised to marry Blunt? Say it isn't 
true, dear — say it is not true." 

She sat up on the sofa and dabbed at her eyes 
with her handkerchief. 



A SCENE AT THE CLUB 65 

"It is true, Dick," she said; "I have promised to 
— to marry him." 

"But why — why, for God's sake tell me why?" 
I urged. 

The scene at the club and Mabel's startling an- 
nouncement, coming after the events of the last 
few weeks, threatened to reduce me to a state not 
very far removed from hysteria. 

"Do not question me, Dick," she pleaded; "it is 
all — all for the best." 

"All for the best!" I exclaimed. "Good heavens, 
Mabel; what are you saying! All for the best to 
become the wife of a little bounder like him! My 
poor girl, what are you thinking of! What hold 
has this scoundrel got over you?" 

"Who says he has a hold over me?" she demanded, 
still sobbing. "You have no right to suggest any- 
thing of the kind. I am free to marry whom I 
choose." 

"Very well, Mabel," I replied; "if you take that 
attitude, of course, I have no more to say. Not 
long ago you gave me to understand that you cared 
for me. If your feelings have changed " 

"They haven't, they haven't," she sobbed. 

"Then this man Blunt has got some hold over you. 
Tell me what it is, Mabel, and let me help you. 
Surely you can trust me." 

"Oh, don't, Dick, don't; you will drive me mad. 
I tell you it is all for the best. Try and forget me ; 
I am not worthy of your love." 

013 



66 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

"That," I said firmly, "I will never believe. I 
will not make things harder for you by worrying 
you further while you are in your present state, 
but since you admit that you still care for me, I 
refuse to accept my dismissal as final. Perhaps, as 
you say, it is all for the best, for I intend to devote 
the whole of my energies to finding out what the 
secret is that you and this man share. I believe it 
is connected with your father's murder, though in 
what way, heaven alone knows. Whatever it is, I 
am determined to get to the bottom of it." 

Mabel's face was again buried in the cushion, and 
she did not raise her head when I approached her 
to say good-bye. I bent down and kissed her hair, 
then left the room, with the sound of her sobbing 
In my ears. 



Chapter IX. '"^ 

MOUNT MARUNGA REVISITED. "' 

FOR several days after my interview with Mabel I 
did little but brood over the turn events had taken. 
Then I decided that unless I was to accept this reverse 
lying doAvn, I must resolve upon a plan of action. 
One evening I drew my armchair up to my sitting- 
room fire, filled my pipe, and when I had got the 
tobacco burning nicely, set myself to think out the 
affair from the beginning. Recalling Detective 
Ryan's remark about first of all searching for a 
motive, I tried to find one for the murder of Henry 
Tracey. I had an advantage over the detectives in- 
asmuch as I knew positively that one person whom 
they had under suspicion — myself — was innocent, and 
felt equally positive that a second — Mabel — was also 
innocent, however inexplicable some of her actions 
might appear. This narrowed the field of investi- 
gation. 

Of all the guests staying at the Mount Marunga 
Hotel at the time of the tragedy, the person who, to 
my mind, had provided the most justifiable grounds 
for suspicion was Hector Blunt. First of all there 



68 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

was his attempt to incriminate me. Of course, he 
might have actually heard voices in Tracey's room, 
and really thought that one of them was mine, but this 
I was not disposed to believe. Considering the fer- 
ocity of the storm at the time, and the fact that Mrs. 
Traeey had heard nothing, I felt justified in regard- 
ing Blunt 's story as a pure invention. His object in 
endeavouring to discredit me might merely be to get 
a rival out of the way ; on the other hand it might be 
a species of camouflage designed to put the police 
upon a wrong scent. The object of this could only 
be to protect another, and who could that other be 
but his miserable self? 

But if I harbored suspicion of Blunt, my first move, 
assuming him to have been guilty of the crime, was 
to seek a motive for his action. The evidence given 
at the inquest showed that he had asked Mabel to be 
his wife some time before the tragedy, and she had 
refused. Under these circumstances, would it be 
likely that he would go to her father and ask per- 
mission to pay his addresses to Mabel ? Even assum- 
ing that he had done this, I could imagine no reason 
that would justify a quarrel between the two men 
that would be likely to lead to murder. The only ex- 
planation that I could think of was that Blunt was 
aware of something discreditable in Tracey's life and 
had gone to give him the choice of exposure or his 
daughter's hand in marriage. I began to feel that I 
was getting "warm," as the children say. Here, 
.surely, was an action that would justify the most 
violent kind of quarrel. Perhaps Traeey had taken 
his revolver from the dressing-table drawer and 
threatened Blunt, and there may have been a struggle 



MOUNT MARUNGA REVISITED 69 

for the weapon, ending in Blunt obtaining it and 
shooting Tracey. The struggle, probably, was not a 
very fierce or prolonged one, or there would have 
been indications of it in the bedroom, and Mrs. Tracey 
would probably have heard it. 

This train of thought led into another avenue. 
Perhaps Mrs. Tracey had heard it, but she too may 
have kno\^Ti of the secret (if there was one) in Tracey 's 
past, and agreed not to expose Blunt, so as to protect 
her dead husband's memory. Perhaps, the secret (the 
existence of w^hich I was assuming) if disclosed might 
prove that Tracey was not entitled to his wealth and 
possessions. This would supply a very strong motive 
for Mrs. Tracey not wishing it made public. It 
would also account for Mabel's otherwise inexplicable 
conduct in consenting to become engaged to a man 
whom she had more than once told me she disliked, 
From what I knew of her character, I felt that she 
was just the girl who would sacrifice herself to 
protect her dead father's reputation. 

All these assumptions upon my part might prove 
absolutely wrong, but I felt that the trail was one 
well worth following. If Hector Blunt were the 
guilty party, the question was: How to go about 
proving his guilt? The more I thought, the more 
evident it became that it was no use merely to sit in 
my armchair constructing theories, however logical. 
There was not much chance of my picking up clues 
in my own sitting-room. The only thing was to re- 
visit the scene of the tragedy, in the hope of stumbling 
across something overlooked by the police, in whose 
perspicacity I had no very great faith. There and 



70 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTEEY 

then I decided that I would spend the week-end at 
Mount Marunga. As I knocked the ashes from my 
pipe preliminary to going to bed, I felt that at last I 
was about to take a step in the right direction. 

I arrived at Mount Marunga station at about 7 
o'clock on Saturday evening, and, with one or two 
others, boarded the char-a-banc that conveys guests 
to the hotel. It was during the pleasant evening drive 
through mountainous country that I acquired a fresh 
idea. Since Hector Blunt was the present object of 
my suspicions, what could be more reasonable than 
that I should ask to be allowed to occupy the room 
which he had had at the time of the tragedy. There 
was just a bare chance that there might be found a 
clue of some description. I knew the room well, No. 
14, immediately at the head of the stairs, on the first 
floor. On reaching the hotel I saw Mr. Milnor, the 
manager, and asked him if No. 14 was occupied. 
Fortunately it was not. It was now the tail end of the 
winter season, and, owing to this, and the fact that 
the tragedy had not proved a desirable advertisement 
for the hotel, not many guests were upon the premises. 

I followed the porter who took charge of my bag 
up to my room, and when he had been duly tipped 
and dismissed, looked around me. The room was the 
ordinary type of better-class hotel bed-sitting room, 
clean, airy, and comfortably furnished. A light blue 
paper covered the walls, and the door, skirting board, 
v.'indow frame and bed were coated with white enamel. 
A small table, on which was a reading lamp, was on 
one side of the bed, and on the other was a wash-basin 
fixed to the wall. At the foot of the bed was an arm- 
chair, and a comfortable sofa was placed near the 



MOUNT MARUNGA EEVISITED 71 

window. A wardrobe, a dressing-table, and a couple 
of chairs completed the furniture. In the wall 
furthest from the bed was a fireplace, and over this 
a mantelpiece, on which stood an inartistically ornate 
clock, and a couple of cheap bronze statuettes. 

I filled in the night before going to bed conversing 
with various persons about the hotel, including the 
manager, the hall-porter, and the clerk at the booking 
office. I found that each was ready to talk of the 
murder. The manager, in pessimistic vein, waxed 
eloquent anent the harm it had done the hotel. Many 
of the guests had left within a day or two of the 
tragedy, and a number of persons who had booked 
rooms had cancelled them after reading the reports 
of the murder in the news.oapers. The porter and 
clerk were less lugubrious, but none proved of any 
real assistance to me in my quest of a clue. Detec- 
tives Ryan and Patullo, I learned, had several times 
visited the hotel, but nothing had been discovered 
that would throw a light upon the mystery of Henry 
Tracey's death. 

Next morning after breakfast, while most of the 
handful of guests whose names were upon the hotel 
book were either in bed or at church, I began a 
systematic search of the room. I was not looking for 
anything in particular, but was determined to leave 
no stone unturned, for I felt that anywhere I might 
stumble across something that might chance to have 
an important bearing upon the mystery. I took out 
every drawer, got inside the cupboard portion of the 
wardrobe and examined it minutely, took the clothes 
off the bed, and felt and thumped the entire surface 



72 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

of the mattress, inch by inch. Next I seized the 
poker, and with it scraped and poked the crevices of 
the chimney above the fireplace, getting myself 
prettily decorated with soot for my pains. Then I 
crawled about the floor on my hands and knees, feel- 
ing the flooring boards one by one to ascertain if any 
of them were loose, but my labors were not rewarded 
by a discovery of any kind. 

Covered with soot, dust and fluff, I lay upon the 
bed to consider what next I should do. Lying there, 
my eye was attracted by the wardrobe, and it sud- 
denly occurred to me that I had not examined the 
top of that massive piece of furniture. I got up, 
pushed the sofa against the wardrobe, and balanced 
a chair on the sofa. Climbing on to the chair, I was 
just able to reach the top of the wardrobe and rub 
my hand along the surface, which was covered thickly 
with the dust of years. It was a laborious job feeling 
about in this way, but when suddenly my hand came 
in contact with something hard and cold, it was as 
much as I could do to prevent myself falling off the 
chair in my excitement. With my forefinger I was 
able to draw the article an inch or two nearer, and 
then to grasp it, and jump from the chair with it in 
my hand. I looked at my find, my heai't gave a leap, 
and I could not keep back a shout of "Eureka!" 
which must have amazed my neighbors if the room 
next door happened to be occupied. It was a revol- 
ver ! 

I examined the weapon eagerly. It was a Colt 
38.0 with six chambers, dusty, but not sufficiently so 
to suggest that it had lain there for any great length 



MOUNT MAEUNGA REVISITED 73 

of time. Five of its chambers were loaded, and one 
had been discharged. The presence of this weapon 
— which it was fair to assume was the one missing 
from the late Henry Tracey's dressing-table drawer 
— in the room which had been occupied by Hector 
Blunt, gave me at last a very definite and valuable 
clue. I tidied up the room, washed myself, and 
locked the revolver in my Gladstone bag. I resolved 
to keep my discovery a secret, and to return to Mel- 
bourne by the evening train. 



Chapter X. 
AT BABYLON MANSIONS. 

HECTOR BLUNT had a flat at the Babylon 
Mansions, St, Kilda, and here I called on the 
Monday following my return from Mount Marunga. 
His man-servant answered my ring. ' ' Tell Mr. Blunt 
that Mr. Richard Maxon has called to see him on 
urgent business," I said. The man passed down 
the little passage and entered a room, and at a 
discreet distance I followed. 

''Tell him I'm out," I heard Blunt say. 

"That is not necessary, Blunt," I remarked, step- 
ping into the room. 

The well-trained servant looked unspeakably 
shocked. Blunt, who was sitting in front of the 
fire, in a gorgeous smoking-jacket, rose to his feet. 

"To what do I owe the unpleasantness of this 
intrusion?" he demanded. 

"A private matter, which I scarcely imagine you 
would wish me to discuss in the presence of a third 
person," I replied. 

"I am not aware " he began, but I inter- 
rupted him. 

"This is a matter that intimately concerns you, 
Blunt," I told him, "and I would advise you to 
listen to what I have to say." 

74 



AT BABYLON MANSIONS 75 

I had decided that it was not advisable for me 
to go direct to the police and acquaint them with 
the discovery I had made at the hotel. What I 
wished to do was to frighten Blunt, and find out, 
if possible, the nature of the hold he had over poor 
Mabel. My next move would depend upon what 
happened at this interview. If it turned out that 
he knew of something really disgraceful in the 
career of the late Henry Tracey — though I found 
it difficult to believe that anything of the sort could 
exist — by having Blunt arrested and placed on his 
trial I would only bring fresh unhappiness to Mabel. 
I was willing, if I thought the circumstances war- 
ranted it, not to make public my discovery, and 
to allow the Mount Marunga murder to remain a 
mystery so far as the outside world was concerned, 
if only I obtained a confession from Blunt, and he 
agreed to absolve Mabel from her promise of mar- 
riage and not trouble her further. 

My manner apparently had the effect of impress- 
ing on Blunt that it would be wise to listen to me, 
for he motioned the servant from the room, and 
resumed his seat. 

"I will call if I want you. Bell," he remarked 
significantly. Evidently the poor worm feared that 
I might resort to personal violence, and was desir- 
ous of letting me know that assistance for him would 
be at hand. 

I helped myself to a seat and filled and lit my 
pipe with great deliberation, taking a certain grim 
pleasure in noting the nervous manner in which 
Blunt fumbled with the matches in lighting his 
cigarette. 



76 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

Not until I had got my tobacco burning satis- 
factorily did I speak, then I went straight to the 
point. "I want you," I said, "to give me an 
account of your movements on the morning of the 
Mount Marunga murder." 

He started, and flashed a keen glance at me, 
obviously anxious to find out if I knew something, 
or if my air of assurance was mere bluff. Before 
replying, he leaned back in his armchair and assumed 
an air of composure. "You are really rather a 
humorous bounder, Maxon," he remarked. 

"Cut that out, Blunt," I answered, "the game 
is up." 

"What game?" 

"Yours." 

"I would be immensely interested if you would 
tell me what my game is." 

"Well, a part of it is to blackmail Miss Tracey 
into becoming your wife." 

"My dear fellow, Mabel" — ^he dwelt on the 
Christian name and glanced at me to see how I 
liked it — "has exercised a free, untramelled choice. 
Of course, you are an awfully fascinating young 
man, and all that kind of thing, but Mabel 
happens " 

"It won't do, Blunt," I told him, "it is no use 
trying bluff. Perhaps it may interest you to know 
that I spent the week-end at the Mount Marunga 
Hotel." 

"Indeed; I trust you had an enjoyable time." 

"Very satisfactory, thank you. You see, I occupied 
your room." 

This shot went home. I had always considered 



AT BABYLON MANSIONS 77 

Hector Blunt a miserable coward, and his agitation 
now confirmed this belief. For a few seconds he 
did not know exactly what to say or do. He cast 
the stump of his cigarette into the grate, and 
stood up. 

"Did you — er — find the room comfortable?" he 
inquired. 

"Quite, thank you. I was very interested in some 
of the furniture." 

"Er — you don't say so." 

"Yes, I was particularly interested in the ward- 
robe." 

This time he crumpled up completely. First he 
sat down, then got up again, and finally walked 
over to the sideboard and poured himself out a 
whisky-and-soda. 

"You see," I remarked, "I was not bluffing. Now 
do you feel inclined to give me an account of your 
actions on that morning, or do you prefer that it 
should be given to the police?" 

His hand shook as he lit another cigarette, but 
by now he had evidently decided what line to take. 
"It is a matter of indifference ta me," he said; 
"why not consult Mabel and ask her advice?" 

"I have no intention of doing anything of the 
kind," I told him. "Apparently you have been suc- 
cessful in frightening her, but you are dealing with 
a man now, not a defenceless girl. I presume you 
know of, or have invented, some more or less dis- 
creditable incident in her father's past, and are 
using it to blackmail the poor girl; but, whatever 
may be the consequences to the late Henry Tracey's 



78 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

reputation, I intend to save his daughter from your 
clutches." 

I had evidently made a false move, for Blunt 
showed unmistakable signs of relief. First he 
grinned at me, and then threw his head back and 
laughed outright, a mirthless but eminently self- 
satisfied laugh. 

"So that is the wonderful theory your investiga- 
tions as an amateur detective have led you to form," 
he said. ""Well, it does credit to your imagination, 
but, let me tell you, you are barking up the wrong 
tree." 

I decided that if it came to bluff I was at least 
his equal. I rose from my chair. "Do I under- 
stand, then, that you wish me to take the revolver 
I found at the hotel to Detective Eyan, and explain 
to him the circumstances in which I found it?" 

"If you wish ; but again I suggest that you should 
first consult Mabel." 

"That will not be necessary. I do not regard 
her as the best judge of what action I should take 
in this matter." I looked at my watch. "If I go 
to Russell-street now," I remarked, "I will prob- 
ably find Ryan there." 

"Here, sit down," he said. "Listen to what I 
have got to say before you make a fool of your- 
self. You have surmised, not incorrectly, that Mabel 
is not head over ears in love with me." 

"That may be taken for granted," I observed. 

' ' Well, why do you suppose she has agreed to many 
me?" 

"Because, like the cur you are, you have held out 
some threat of what you will do if she refuses." 



AT BABYLON MANSIONS 79 

"I have no objection at all to admitting that," 
he replied, with disgusting cynicism. "But, I re- 
peat, you are barking up the wrong tree if you 
imagine I know anything against the late lamented 
Henry Tracey. So far as I am aware, the dear 
departed was a model of respectability. What I know 
concerns, not Tracey, but his daughter." 

I had to exercise all the restraint at my command 
to keep my hands off the little beast, but I realised 
that if I was to find out all I wished to know I 
would have to keep my temper. 

"Perhaps you would not mind informing me what 
it is you know." 

"Why should I?" 

"Because if you do not I go straight from here 
to Ryan or Patullo. However you may attempt to 
blacken Miss Tracey 's character, it will not save 
you from being arrested on a charge of murder. 
Her good name is very precious to me, but I fancy, 
Blunt, that your miserable neck is equally precious 
to you, and, I warn you, I mean business. I will 
chance the revelations concerning Miss Tracey if 
you are prepared to chance the hangman's noose." 

"But, my dear Sherlock Holmes, I am not in any 
danger from your friend, the hangman." 

"That remains to be seen. The fact that the 
revolver with which Henry Tracey was shot was 
concealed in your room, and that you have already 
endeavoured to fix the crime on to me, are likely 
to prove damaging." 

"I do not mind admitting that I hid the revolver; 
but I did not fire the shot that killed Tracey." 



80 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

"Well, if you do not do as I wish, you will have 
an opportunity of explaining that to a judge and 
jury." 

"I would then be in the painful position of having 
to explain that Henry Tracey was murdered by his 
daughter. ' ' 

My resolution about keeping my temper was for- 
gotten. ''You damned scoundrel," I cried, and 
sprang towards him. He attempted to rise, but I 
got him by the throat. "Take that back, you 
miserable cur, or I'll choke you." 

Blunt gasped and wriggled in his chair, and his 
man appeared in the doorway through which I had 
entered. At the same time I heard a step behind 
me, and, relinquishing my grip on Blunt 's wind- 
pipe, I turned around, and, standing in a curtained 
opening, which evidently led to a bedroom, I saw 
Detective Ryan! 



Ch^IiPTER XI. 

RYAN TAKES A HAND. 

"ENOUGH of that, Maxon!" said Ryan sharply. 

"What the devil does this mean?" demanded 
Bhmt, when he was able to regain his breath. 

"I couldn't help it, sir," said the servant; "he 
came in directly after Mr. Maxon, and insisted upon 
getting into your bedroom, sir. He said he was a 
detective and showed me his badge. It isn't my 
fault, sir." 

"You damned fool!" exclaimed Blunt. 

"It is all right," Ryan told the servant, "you 
can get." 

"You have acted wrong in this matter, Mr, 
Maxon," he remarked severely and ungrammati- 
cally. "Still, it looks as if you have helped to 
clear things up; so I suppose it's all for the best." 

"How did you come to be in the room, Ryan?" 
I asked, my curiosity, for the moment, causing me 
to forget more important aspects of the affair. 

"My dear chap," he remarked, with evident 
satisfaction, "I have been shadowing you since 
Saturday. I, too, spent a week-end at Mount 
Marunga. I gathered you had found out something 
at the pub. I have been on your tracks all day, 
and followed you here to-night." 

"You have heard what has taken place?" 

81 



82 THE MOUNT MAllUNGA MYSTEEY 

"Everything. I was in that room a few seconds 
after you began talking. ' ' He then turned to Blunt. 
"You had better come along with me to the CI. 
Branch," he remarked shortly. 

Blunt 's fear was abject. "You are making a great 
mistake, Ryan," he said, his teeth chattering as he 
spoke. "You must look elsewhere for the murderer 
of Henry Tracey." 

" It is my duty to warn you, ' ' said Ryan formally, 
"that anything you say may be used in evidence 
against you." 

"It can't; it can't!" exclaimed Blunt. "Before 
God, I will tell you the truth. That night I had 
just left the ballroom and was going upstairs to 
my room on the first floor, when I heard a shot. 
I paused outside my room — it was at the head of 
the stairs, you know — and I saw Mabel Tracey 
coming along the corridor. She was dressed in 
walking costume — hat and everything — and had a 
revolver in her hand. I don't know why I did it, 
but I — I wanted to save her. I took the revolver 
from her, and told her to go back to her room; 
which she did. Then I threw the revolver on to 
the top of the wardrobe in my room, where I 
reckoned nobody would be likely to find it. This 
is the truth; I swear it." 

The detective stood stroking his thick moustache, 
looking frankly puzzled. His brain, like those of 
most of the underpaid Victorian official sleuth- 
hounds, was not one that moved rapidly. Despite 
his assumption of amiable omnipotence, Ryan was 
a plain, straightforward, rather dull citizen. He was 



EYAN TAKES A HAND 83 

more at home in investigating a simple case of 
house-breaking, in which the offender, by the methods 
he employed, practically supplied his own identifi- 
cation to those familiar with the individual tricks 
of followers in the footsteps of the late unlamented 
W. Sikes. "With a case like the Mount Marunga 
mysterj^, which called for deductive reasoning, poor 
Ryan was all at sea. Just at present, notwithstand- 
ing the success of his eavesdropping tactics, I 
imagined that he was not altogether pleased with 
the turn events had taken. The fact that he had 
not been the finder of the missing revolver was a 
wound to his amour propre, and there was also the 
possibility of his being hauled over the coals for the 
inadequate nature of the search which he had con- 
ducted at the hotel. 

Blunt, pale and trembling, watched the detective's 
face anxiously. "Good God, man," he exclaimed 
despairingly, "I'm not lying to you. Can't you see 
I'm telling you the truth?" 

"Oh, yes; a likely yarn!" I scoffed. "You'd better 
try another one, Blunt, if you want reasonable persons 
to believe you." 

"This is my business," snapped Ryan; so I sub- 
sided. Not wishing to antagonise him at this stage, 
I did not remind the detective that it had also been 
his biisiness to find the missing revolver, but he had 
not made a conspicuous success of it. 

"You will have to come to the C.I. Branch with 
me, anyhow," he said, addressing Blunt. "And you, 
too, Mr. Maxon." he added. 

Ryan pressed an electric button to the right of 
the fireplace, and Bell, Blunt 's man, appeared, dis- 



84 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

approval of the conduct of the detective and myself 
showing in every line of his face. Bell plainly held 
the view that persons accustomed to moving in the 
best society would not have acted as we had done 
and were doing. 

"You rang, sir," he said, pointedly addressing 
Blunt. 

"No, he didn't; I did," the detective told him; 
"I want you to 'phone for a taxi." 

The man waited a moment, as though expecting 
his employer to countermand the order, but Blunt 
was hanging over one of the arms of the big easy 
chair like a wet rag. "Get me a whisky-and-soda 
first, Bell," he muttered. 

Having executed this order. Bell retired, and we 
heard him at the telephone in the passage. For 
about five minutes the three of us remained in the 
room without speaking a word, the silence being 
broken only by the crackling of the fire and an 
occasional groan from Blunt. Ryan stood in front 
of the fire, frowning and caressing his moustache, 
while I puffed my pipe with an air of being quite 
at my ease, although, as a matter of fact, I was 
acutely conscious that the affair was by no means 
at an end, and that there was probably still much 
suft'ering in store for poor Mabel. 

At last Bell announced the arrival of the taxi, 
again addressing himself directly to his employer. 
Never have I seen a human being in a more pitiful 
state of funk than was Hector Ernest Mayne Blunt. 
When Ryan told him to get up and put on his hat and 
overcoat, he clung to the chair and moaned. The 
detective dragged him to his feet, and he stood un- 



RYAN TAKES A HAND 85 

steadily while Bell placed a gorgeous silk scarf 
round his neck, helped him on with his overcoat, 
and handed him his hat. 

"Am I to wait up for you, sir?" asked the 
servant. 

Blunt looked at him wdth a blank expression. 

"I wouldn't if I were you," remarked Ryan 
grimly; whereupon Hector gave vent to a howl of 
dismay and seemed almost on the verge of tears. 
Ryan took Blunt by the arm, not, I fancy, that he 
feared he would attempt to escape, but to guide 
his faltering footsteps towards the lift. When we 
reached the hall downstairs, it seemed that Blunt 's 
knees would give way, and we both assisted him 
to the w^aiting taxi. 

''Russell-street, C.I. Branch," Ryan told the 
driver, and off we went. 

I often now think with a certain grim amuse- 
ment of the strange trio that that taxi bore from 
St. Kilda to Russell-street. I, who had been en- 
gaged to marry Mabel and had practically been 
accused of murdering her father; Hector Blunt, who 
was still Mabel's fiance, and who, in all likelihood, 
would have to stand his trial for the crime he had 
endeavoured to affix to me ; and Ryan, who had 
suspected both Mabel and me, and who seemed more 
than half disappointed that his theories were now 
in danger of being completely upset. 

I must confess, too, that things were not turning 
out as I had hoped. I had calculated upon being 
able to frighten Blunt into a confession, and then 
to compound a felony, by remaining silent regard- 
ing his crime on condition that he left the country; 



86 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

but now a trial, with all the accompanying publicity, 
which would be so hateful to Mabel, seemed in- 
evitable. If Blunt knew anything to Henry Traeey's 
discredit he was certain to divulge it, and also to 
attempt to implicate Mabel herself. These reflec- 
tions were not conducive to cheerfulness upon my 
part. 

The taxi-cab came to a stop outside the dingy 
office of the Criminal Investigation Branch, Ryan 
practically supporting Blunt on the journey across 
the pavement and up the stone steps. Patullo was 
sent for, and quickly appeared. After a whispered 
consultation he took Blunt into one room, while 
Ryan beckoned me into another. 

"What about that revolver — were you bluffing 
or was it the truth?" he asked. 

"I found a revolver on top of the wardrobe in 
the room at the Mount Marunga hotel which was 
occupied by Blunt at the time of the murder," I 
answered. 

"Where is it?" 

I produced the weapon from my hip pocket, and 
handed it to the detective, who examined it eagerly. 

"H'm," he remarked; "one chamber discharged. 
It looks a true bill." Then, with official severity; 
"Why did you not at once bring your discovery 
under the notice of the police?" 

"I wanted first to obtain a confession from Blunt, 
and find out just how matters stood." 

"That was a wrong thing to do, Mr. Maxon," 
he informed me. "This amateur detective business 
is all right in plays and stories, but we are the 
proper people to handle these jobs." 



EYAN TAKES A HAND 87 

I repressed a smile, and did not answer. 

"As a matter of fact," he said loftily, "we have 
had this man Blunt under observation for some 
time." 

"Indeed," I remarked politely. I did not, how- 
ever, attach any importance to Ryan's statement. 
In my work as a newspaper man I had noticed 
that whenever one supplied the police with facts 
they invariably informed you that the person con- 
cerned had been under observation for some time. 

Another sleuth-hound, Detective Brady, was called 
in, and I was questioned closely regarding the cir- 
cumstances which led to the finding of the revolver. 
I described my movements very much as I have 
detailed them in a previous chapter, and the detec- 
tives seemed satisfied with my story. Ryan stepped 
across to the room in which were Patullo and Blunt, 
and Brady remained to talk with me, and keep 
an eye on me until the others had heard what Blunt 
had to say. For over an hour I remained with 
Brady in the room which, by day, is occupied by 
the Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation 
Branch, endeavouring to keep up a conversation 
which never at any time threatened to become in- 
teresting, and wondering all the while what was 
going on in the room across the passage. I felt 
convinced that Blunt was doing all in his power 
to transfer his guilt to the shoulders of my un- 
happy Mabel. 

At length Ryan came into our room. "We will 
not require you any more this evening, Mr. Maxon," 
he said; "I suppose we can get in touch with you 
at the office if we want you to-morrow?" 



88 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

I assured him that he could, and endeavoured to 
find out something of what had taken place in the 
interview with Blunt; but on this point Ryan was 
mysterious and uncommunicative. 

It was ten minutes to eleven when I left the C.I. 
Branch, but I was determined to see Mabel that 
night, and tell her of what had taken place. I had 
not the slightest doubt that the detectives would 
take an early opportunity of interviewing her, so 
I wished to acquaint her with the story Blunt had 
told at his flat, and place her on her guard. Per- 
haps, too, now that the crisis had arrived, she 
would tell me the nature of the threat Blunt had 
held over her to induce her to consent to become 
his wife. 



Chapter XII. 
A MIDNIGHT RESCUE. 

"WALKING slowly down Russell-street, I turned 
into Latrobe-street, and at once increased my pace 
until I reached the entrance to the Third City Court. 
Here I waited for several minutes in the shadow 
of the archway to see if I was being followed, I 
felt annoyed with myself to think that a dull dog 
like Ryan had been able to shadow me to Mount 
Marunga and back, and spoil my plans for dealing 
with Hector Blunt, and endeavouring to restore, 
to some extent, Mabel's lost happiness with as little 
unpleasantness for her as possible. I was not taking 
any risks of further interference this time. The 
street was deserted, and I was soon satisfied that 
no attempt was being made to shadow me. Appar- 
ently up to the time of the scene at Blunt 's flat 
I had been an object of suspicion which had now 
been transferred to Blunt, and also, I feared, to 
Mabel. 

I proceeded rapidly along Swanston-street, secured 
a taxi-cab, and gave directions to the driver to 
take me as quickly as possible to "Avalong," and 
to keep a look out and let me know if we were 
being followed by any other vehicle. 

80 



90 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

On the journey to Toorak I reviewed in my mind 
the events of the evening. I did not for a moment 
believe Blunt 's story that he had met Mabel in the 
passage, with the revolver in her hand, and had 
taken it from her. This might be the desperate in- 
vention of a trapped cur, clutching at anything to 
save himself. On the other hand, it might have 
been put forward deliberately, in the hope that 
Mabel would even go to the length of endorsing 
the story, rather than that Blunt should make any 
unsavory revelations concerning her dead father. I 
still clung to the belief that some knowledge which 
Blunt possessed, or pretended to possess, concerning 
Henry Tracey's past was the means he had employed 
in forcing Mabel into a relationship which I knew 
must be hateful to her. I thought that if I could 
induce the poor girl to confide in me I would prob- 
ably find that the incident, or whatever it was, which 
Blunt threatened to expose, was not nearly so terrify- 
ing as it might appear to the mind of a distraught 
girl. 

Toorak was not yet asleep. Many of the houses 
were in darkness, but lights showed in the windows 
of others, and from several came, where parties 
were still in progress, the strains of music. "Ava- 
long" was in a quiet street in which only one or 
two of the houses were lighted. The big iron en- 
trance gates to the Tracey mansion were locked, 
but I knew of a small door in the stone wall which 
was always left unlocked until a late hour, for the 
use of the various servants on their nights out. 
Through this door I entered, and approached the 



A MIDNIGHT EESCUB 91 

house by a garden path, some twenty yards from 
the main drive. It was a mild, starless night, but 
two big electric lamps in the drive shed a radiance 
over the greater portion of the garden, save where 
here and there shadows were cast by trees and 
bushes, which also in places made quaint arabesques 
upon the broad gravelled drive. 

Suddenly my eyes were attracted by something 
which caused me to stop short. Coming down the 
drive was the figure of a woman. She was walk- 
ing slowly and a little uncertainly. The figure was 
somewhat in the shadow, but in spite of this I 
could not mistake the graceful carriage and well- 
poised head. I had no doubt at all that this wan- 
derer by night in the flowery demesne created by 
the late Henry Tracey was his daughter, Mabel. I 
felt a grea^t surge of pity for the unhappy girl, who, 
even though slie had dismissed me and pledged her 
troth to another, I still regarded as my sweetheart. 
Unable to sleep, Mabel was seeking surcease from 
the troubles that hedged her round in solitary com- 
munion with nature in one of her most peaceful 
moods. I found a side path that led to the drive 
and hurried toward the girl. In doing this I lost 
sight of her for some seconds, and when next I 
saw her she had accelerated her pace and was 
hurrying in the direction of the main entrance gates. 
Mabel was wearing a dust coat, which she usually 
used when motoring, over her dress, and about her 
head, in place of a hat, was draped either a pink 
scarf or a motoring veil, I was not sure which. 
On reaching the main entrance to the grounds she 



92 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

took from her pocket a key and opened one of the 
smaller iron gates, which were placed on either side 
of the big carriage gates. 

I was now some thirty yards behind her, and 
called her by name. She did not hear, and passed 
into the street, banging and locking the gate behind 
her. I was only a few yards from the entrance 
when she withdrew the key from the lock, and 
again I called her by name, but she placed the key 
in her pocket and hastened down the street with- 
out turning her head. 

Her action left me puzzled. Mabel walking in her 
own grounds when the rest of the household was 
asleep was understandable, but Mabel leaving her 
grounds, locking the gate behind her, and hurrying 
off into the night was an altogether different matter. 
I felt sure that she had heard me address her on 
the second occasion, for I had spoken in a fairly 
loud voice, yet she had deliberately chosen to ignore 
me. I did not feel offended — how could I with a 
girl who had suffered as Mabel had, and was still 
suffering? — but her action frightened me. I felt 
that in her present state of mind she was capable 
of almost anything. I resolved to follow her; not 
only to protect her should occasion arise, but also, 
when the opportunity presented itself, to speak to 
her of what I had come from the city to tell her. 
First of all I had to get out of "Avalong." The 
direction Mabel had taken was the opposite to that 
in which lay the gate by which I had entered, so, 
to save time, I scaled the main gates and dropped 
to the footpath. By now Mabel was about fifty 



A MIDNIGHT EESCUE 93 

yards down the road, and walking rapidly. I 
hurried after her, and in the darkness saw her 
turn to the left. My heart gave a leap which almost 
sent it into my throat. She had taken a little un- 
made side street, which skirted the grounds of 
''Avalong, " leading to the river. Now I realised 
what was the explanation of her strange conduct 
and her unwillingness to speak to me. Finding her 
persecution by Blunt, combined with her grief at 
her father's death, more than she could bear, the 
poor girl was going to seek relief, like many another 
before her, in the murky depths of the treacherous 
Yarra. 

A cold sweat appeared upon my forehead as I 
raced down the street. The lane into which Mabel 
had turned was not more than a hundred yards long, 
and at the end of it lay the river. When I -turned 
the corner Mabel was almost at the bottom of the 
lane. 

"Mabel," I shouted, "I want to speak to you; 
I have some good news." 

She did not heed me, but continued straight 
ahead, apparently determined to carry out the 
course of action upon which she had resolved. Still 
running as fast as I could, I kept my eyes fixed 
upon her. She had reached the grassy bank at 
the end of the path, and I saw her, without a 
second's pause, step deliberately into the river. As 
the chilly water closed about her she gave vent to 
one piercing shriek. 

While I covered the few remaining yards that 
separated me from the river, I discarded my over- 



94 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

coat and coat, and on reaching the bank tore at 
my boot laces and pulled off my boots, peering the 
while through the darkness at the ripples Mabel 
had made, and straining my eyes to see her when 
she should rise. Her white face, framed in the pink 
scarf, appeared about the surface not more than seven 
or eight yards away, and I plunged into the stream. 

I knew that at this point the river was excep- 
tionally treacherous, and that a person could drown 
here as easily as in mid-stream. A few strokes 
brought me within reach of Mabel, who was making 
no effort to keep afloat. I succeeded in getting my 
hand under her chin, and, luckily, she did not 
struggle. With rather less difficulty than I had 
anticipated, I managed to get her to the bank. I 
placed her on the grass, and there she lay like one 
who was dead. Tearing open her dust coat and 
blouse, I felt for her heart, and thanked God to 
find that it was still beating. To return to where 
my taxi was waiting would have occupied precious 
minutes, but just at this moment there came from 
the main street the sound of several toots, of a 
motor-horn in rapid succession, and I guessed that 
they had been given by a driver to notify visitors 
to one of the adjacent houses of his arrival. 

In my wet stockinged feet I rushed up the lane, 
and on gaining the street saw the great lights of 
a car outside a house only a few yards away. I 
dashed along and gasped to the chauffeur to drive 
at once down the lane. The sight of my dripping 
clothes, and no doubt generally wild appearance, 
convinced him that the case was one of urgency, 



^ MIDNIGHT EESCUE 95 

and he lost no time in starting the car, and under 
my direction, driving to where I had left Mabel. 
Together we lifted her, inert and unconscious, but 
with her heart still beating faintly, into the car. 
I told the man to drive to "Avalong," which we 
reached in a few seconds. In a couple of minutes 
I had roused the head gardener, who occupied a 
small brick cottage, originally used as a lodge, near 
the entrance gates. He opened the gates for us, 
and in a very short time, in answer to my furious 
ringing, a sleepy-eyed servant appeared at the front 
door. I explained rapidly what had happened. 
Mabel was carried to her room, and soon the big 
house was ablaze with lights, and all was bustle 
and excitement. 

Mabel 's maid came to undress her, another secured 
a great pile of blankets and rugs, and then rushed 
to the kitchen to prepare a hot drink, while one of 
the men-servants got into the car which had brought 
us to the house, and hurried off for a doctor. The 
gardener brought me a suit of his own clothes, for 
which I exchanged my soaked garments. Soon after 
I had completed the exchange the doctor arrived and 
was taken to Mabel's room. 

"She is suffering seriously from shock," he told 
me when he came out, "but there is no reason why 
she should not pull through." 

I waited on at "Avalong" till long past midnight, 
and assured myself that all that could be done for 
Mabel was being done. The servants, I knew, wor- 
shipped her and would see that she did not want 
for anything that it was within their power to give 



96 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

her. Those who had known me as a visitor to the 
house endeavoured to convey to me as discreetly 
as possible that they had once hoped to have me 
there as a permanent resident. Although they were 
all too well-trained to make any definite statement, 
I had no difficulty in gathering that Hector Blunt 
was looked upon with distinct disfavour. 

Having thanked them all for their kindness, I was 
preparing to leave the house with the gardener, 
when there came a ring at the bell. The door was 
opened by one of the maids, and in the portico stood 
Detectives Ryan and Patullo. 



Chapter XIII. 

AN ARREST. 

THE men displayed their badges, and stepped into 
the hall. On entering, Ryan glanced round the place, 
and his eye, when it fell on me, gleamed with dis- 
pleasure. "Hullo, Mr. Maxon, still trying to inter- 
fere?" he inquired. 

"Look here, Ryan," I said, "I will thajik you not 
to question my actions. Your bungling and readiness 
to listen to any sort of ridiculous yarn did me quite 
sufficient harm in the first place ; and now, when it 
must be evident even to you that I was not involved 
in the murder, you will oblige me by leaving me alone, 
and not questioning my actions. You have no excuse 
for placing me under arrest, you know." 

"No; but we could have detained you at Russell 
Street for a few hours," he answered, "and that is 

what we d n well should have done. By now, I 

suppose you have seen that girl, and she is well 
primed." 

"What the devil do you mean?" I demanded. 

"I mean that I presume that you have infonned 
Miss Tracey of what took place to-night at Blunt 's 
flat, and have warned her of the kind of questions 
we aro likely to put to her." 

D13 



98 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

' ' Well, Ryan, you have made yet another mistake, ' ' 
I assured him. "Making mistakes is becoming quite 
a habit of yours. I have had no conversation with 
Miss Tracey, who is at present lying in her room 
unconscious. ' ' 

Ryan looked at me suspiciously. "Now, what's 
the game this time?" he asked. 

"If you doubt my word you can question the ser- 
vants," I replied. 

"Well, Patullo and me want to see Miss Tracey 
badly — we have a warrant for her arrest on a charge 
of murder." 

Although I had seen the possibility of something 
of this sort occurring, I had regarded it as remote, 
and Ryan's calm and confident announcement came 
as a very unpleasant shock. The detectives certainl}'- 
had lost no time in hunting up a magistrate and 
securing a warrant. 

"You don't mean to tell me," I exclaimed, "that 
you are going to make choice asses of yourselves by 
arresting a lady of Miss Tracey 's character and 
position on the unsupported word of a poor little cur, 
half crazy with funk, who is ready to accuse any- 
body of anything to save his own miserable skin?" 

"We will chance making asses of ourselves, as you 
call it," said Patullo, whom I had evidently nettled. 
"Meanwhile we went to see Miss Tracey and execute 
our warrant." 

"Good God, man! you mustn't think of it. Not 
long ago I dragged Miss Tracey from the Yai'ra, un- 
conscious. The doctor has just left her, and she has 
not regained consciousness." 



AN AREEST 99 

"With all due respect, Mr. Maxon," said Ryan, 
"I think we would rather question the servants. We 
don 't exactly see where you come in in this affair. ' ' 

They made their way into the morning room, and 
called in the servants one by one, while I waited 
anxiously in the hall. 

"What does it all mean, Mr. Maxon?" Mabel's 
maid, Dolly, asked me, on emerging, white-faced and 
agitated, from the morning room. 

"It means, Dolly, that on the word of Mr. Blunt, 
the detectives want to arrest Miss Tracey for murder- 
ing her father." 

Dolly gave a little shriek. "Oh, the fools," she 
cried; "MLss Mabel murder Mr. Tracey! Her that 
loved him more that anybody! They must all be 
mad. As for that Mr. Blunt, I always hated him. 
He is a snake in the grass, is that man." 

The detectives, having completed their examination 
of the servants, came into the hall. "Well, Mr. 
Maxon," said Ryan, "of course we are not going to 
arrest an unconscious woman. Patullo is going to 
ring up the doctor and find out how things stand. 
Unless some very good reason prevents it. Miss Tracey 
is going to stand in the dock with Blunt to-morrow, 
and in due course a judge and jury can decide who 
is guilty and who is not. We have already got Blunt 
locked up on a charge of murder, and we can't make 
fish of one and flesh of the other. If what Bli.ut tells 
us is true — and I am more than half inclined to be- 
lieve him, though I agree with you that he is only the 
fag end of a man — if what he says is true, Miss 



100 THE MOUNT MARUNGA :M1"STERY 

Traeey is likely to have a pretty strong ease to 
answer. ' ' 

I knew that nothing was to be gained by arguing. 
The detectives had the upper hand, and nothing I 
could say would prevent them doing what they con- 
ceived to be their duty. I dropped on to a sofa, and 
resting my chin in my hands, gaye myself up to 
miserable brooding, while Ryan and Patullo returned 
to the morning-room for a further consultation. 

After a while Ryan came into the hall and placed 
his hand in a kindlj' manner on my shoulder. "If 
you take my tip, Mr. Maxon, " he said, "you will get 
home to bed. Judging by the way you have been 
sneezing, you are in for a fine old cold, and you can 
do nothing here. You can take my word for it, we 
will do nothing brutal with the lady upstairs." 

"Thank's, Ryan," I replied, "I think I'll take 
your advice." 

I knew that sleep that night, or rather morning, 
was out of the question for me; but I wanted to be 
alone to think out what might best be done in Mabel's 
interest. Having ascertained from Dolly that her 
mistress's condition was unchanged, I accepted an 
offer of a hot whisky from one of the servants, and 
then allowed him to summon my taxi. 

On arriving at my diggings I made no attempt to 
go to bed, but got into dressing-gown and slippers, 
and spent the hours till morning pacing the floor, or 
lying on the couch, smoking innumerable pipes, and 
searching vainly for a glimmer of light in the dark- 
ness that enveloped the actions of the girl who, only 
a few weeks previously, had been healthy, happy, and 



AN AREEST 101 

with scarcely a care in the world. I cursed my own 
carelessness in not having taken the precaution of 
endeavouring to ascertain whether I was being fol- 
lowed when I returned to Mount Marunga, and again 
when I visited Babylon Mansions. Left to them- 
selves, it is doubtful if Ryan and Patullo would have 
discovered anything further in regard to the mystery, 
and in due course the papers relating to it would 
have been stowed away in a pigeon hole where reposed 
documents relating to many other undetected crimes. 
And I might have found some other way of forcing 
Blunt 's hand, and preventing his marriage with 
Mabel. As it was, I had provided the police with the 
only clue of any importance that seemed likely to 
come to light, and it looked as if the indirect result 
of my efforts w^ould be to place Mabel in the dock 
with Blunt. I still did not doubt that Blunt 's story 
was a lie, but Ryan and Patullo appeared inclined to 
accept it, and Mabel's demeanor and actions for some 
time had rather invited suspicion. 

These were the thoughts that I had for company 
through the long hours of darkness. When came the 
dawn, chilly, and wearing a mantle of grey, I went 
to the bathroom, refreshed myself beneath the shower, 
and, having dressed, left the house to walk to Toorak. 
By the time I reached "Avalong" it was light, but 
the gates were not yet open. I roused the gardener, 
who had had but little rest; but he brushed aside my 
apologies. Whether he slept or not was of little 
moment to him at such a period of excitement. "It 
is an awful business, Mr. Maxon," he said; "I sup- 
I)ose you Icnow that they have taken Miss Mabel 
away ? ' ' 



102 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

Again I experienced a shock. It had been inevit- 
able that, sooner or later, she would be placed under 
arrest, but that it should have happened within a few 
hours of her having been saved from a wateiy grave 
and carried unconscious to her room, seemed to me 
inhuman, almost fiendish. I cursed the law and all 
its works. At the house I interviewed Mabel's maid, 
Dolly. I learned that Mabel had regained conscious- 
ness shortly after I had left. The doctor had come 
again, and had said that he would not be responsible 
for the consequences if she were removed. The de- 
tectives had waited for over an hour, and had then 
interviewed her. She received them calmly, and 
agreed to whatever fate might have in store for her. 
Ryan had read over the warrant to Mabel in Dolly's 
presence, and Mabel announced her readiness to ac- 
company the detectives. 

"I cried and cried while I helped her dress," said 
Dolly — a fact to which her red and swollen eyes bore 
testimony — "but she was as quiet as anything, and 
told me I mustn't worry. Then they woke up 
Thompson, and got out the big car and drove away 
with her. She kissed me, and told me I was a good 
girl, and then she gave me this," and Dolly burst 
into tears as she drew from her pocket a beautiful 
diamond brooch, which I had often seen Mabel wear- 
ing. 

"Come, come, Dolly, you mustn't cry," I told her; 
' ' we have to save Miss Mabel, and I want you to help 
me." 

I then questioned the girl regarding the recent 
movements of her mistress, but her answers were not 
of any assistance to me. She was not even aware of 



AN AREEST 103 

the circuinstancee in which Mabel had left the house 
on the previous night. Dolly slept in a different part 
of the big mansion, and after brushing Mabel's hair 
at night, retired to her own room, and did not again 
see her mistress until rung for in the morning. Last 
night Dolly had left Mabel, sitting in a bedroom 
jacket, reading, and had not again seen her until 
roused with the rest of the household when I arrived 
with my dripping and unconscious burden. 

Having asked questions of several of the other 
servants, I left ' ' Avalong, ' ' taking with me one of the 
newspapers that had just been delivered. When on 
the tram going into the city, I opened the paper, and 
my eye was caught by these headlines : 

MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY. 

Sensational Developments. 

Two Arrests ]\Iade. 

Murdered Man's Daughter Implicated. 

The report that followed told of the finding of the 
revolver, and the arrest of Blunt, and set forth that 
Mabel had ' ' attempted to commit suicide, by throwing 
herself into the Yarra, at a point not far from 'Ava- 
long,' the well-known Toorak mansion, which was 
purchased some years ago by the late Henry Tracey. " 
Then followed some stuff about ''a gallant rescue" 
effected by "Mr. Richard Maxon, a well-known writer 
on literary and political topics," and an account of 
Mabel's arrest. Evidently the story had been ob- 



104 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

tained from the police shortly before the paper went 
to press ; it showed signs of having been hastily jQung 
together, and contained several inaccuracies. What 
was there, however, was as highly colored as possible. 
1 groaned to think of the name, even though incor- 
rectly given, of the girl I loved being thus flaunted 
before a public avid for sensationalism. To me the 
most nauseating feature of the report was that, more 
by reason of the way in which it was written than by 
any direct hint, it suggested that the police were in- 
clined to regard the crime as the outcome of a plot 
between Mabel and Blunt. "The two accused," 
stated the concluding paragraph, "will be brought 
before the City Court this morning on a charge oi" 
having murdered Henry Tracey at the Mount Mar- 
unga Hotel, on June 24th." 



Chapter XIV, 

"THAT THEY DID KILL AND MURDER." 

MABEL and Blunt were placed in the dock at the 
City Court that morning. I had rung up my friend, 
Clayton, the solicitor, at his house before breakfast. 
He at once came into town, and together we went to 
the watch-house to see Mabel. Clayton, as her 
solicitor, was allowed a brief chat, but I could not 
obtain permission to see her. When I emerged from 
the watch-house at twenty minutes to ten, there was 
already a large number of people outside the court, 
although the magistrates would not take the bench 
until ten o'clock. The court itself was crowded, but, 
although I was not reporting the case, I managed to 
obtain a seat at the press table. There I sat, breath- 
ing the heavy stale atmosphere which is an unpleasant 
feature of badly ventilated City courts, and which 
soon would be breathed by the girl I loved, and who, 
brought up in luxury, accustomed to every emblem of 
refinement which wealth and good taste could secure, 
had had little or no experience of the rough and 
sordid sides of existence. 

To save myself from brooding, I filled in the time 
of waiting examining the crowd. The City Court 
habitue is a distinctive and by no means prepossessing 

106 



106 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

type. There are persons, the majority of them, men, 
who attend the sittings of the court day after day, 
year in and year out. They belong to the class that 
toils not, neither does it spin; and yet, somehow, 
always has the price of a glass of beer and a packet 
of "fags" concealed about its clothing. These people 
regard the court as a theatre in which the seats are 
free, and the lack of variety in the fare provided 
does not appear to worry them. After all, it is prob- 
ably as varied as that set before the ordinary theatre- 
goer, and, for the most part, distressingly common- 
place dramas enacted at the court have, at least, the 
fascination of being real, and not mere make-believe. 
For the student of psj'chology, the proceedings might 
easily be full of interest, but the average person who 
attends day by day is not a student of psychology. 
When he is not himself a person who has at some 
time been convicted, he is usually just a loafer, seem- 
ingly capable of deriving a certain amount of excite- 
ment from the two-penny tragedies and comedies 
which make up the ordinary routine of a court of 
Petty Sessions. 

A case such as that promised for this morning was 
distinctly out of the usual. Murder charges, happily, 
are not frequent; especially charges surrounded with 
as many sensational circumstances as were these. In 
addition to the court's regular patrons I noticed a 
number of people, many of them acquaintances of 
Mabel's or of Blunt 's, more or less well known 
socially. For these the case bristled with interest, 
and before the proceedings began they chattered 
loudly and continuously, as though they were present 
at a classical concert. The thought of poor Mabel as 



"THAT THEY DID KILL AND MUEDER" 107 

a target f®r these eyes — the bleary eyes of the court 
loafers, and the hard eyes of the society loafers — 
filled me with anger and disgust. 

The chatter was interrupted by the usual loud cry 
of ''Silence" from the court orderly, as the police 
magistrate and five justices of the peace took their 
seats upon the Bench. Two unimportant remand 
cases were dealt with and then the names of Mabel 
Helen Tracey and Hector Ernest Mayne Blunt were 
called. Persons who had met both of them socially 
dozens of times craned their necks to see the two as 
eagerly as those who were now seeing them for the 
first time. There were dark shadows beneath Mabel's 
eyes, and she looked pale and tired. Her head was 
cast downward, and her eyelids, with their long, dark 
lashes, hid the eyes that I had learned to love. There 
was that in her bearing calculated to excite pity, but 
certainly not contempt; whereas Blunt — his pasty 
face as white as it had been the night before, his 
cheeks unshaven, his eyes bloodshot — looked about 
him uneasily, licked his lips, shuffled his feet, and 
with his every action proclaimed himself a coward. 
Both were charged, in the customary tautological legal 
phraseology, with that they "did kill and murder 
Henry George Tracey." 

Detective Ryan entered the witness-box, and gave a 
brief resume of the facts in connection with the mur- 
der, the finding of the revolver, and the scene at 
Blunt 's flat, and read a statement which Blunt had 
made, setting forth more fully the accusation he had 
brought against Mabel the night before. Ryan then 
detailed the incidents connected with the arrest of 
Mabel, and read a statement she had signed, in which 



108 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEBY 

she admitted that she had met Blunt in the corridor 
of the hotel, and that he had taken the revolver from 
her. This revelation caused an excited whispering 
among the spectators, which was immediately sub- 
dued with a cry of "Silence." 

Ryan was questioned by Clayton, and admitted 
that Llabel M^as in a highly nervous, almost hysterical 
condition Avhen she made the statement. The de- 
tective then formally asked for a remand for seven 
days. This application, which was not opposed by 
Clayton, or by Blunt 's solicitor, was granted. Clay- 
ton then made an effort to obtain bail for Mabel, but 
it is a rule not to grant bail to persons called upon to 
answer a capital charge, and, despite Clayton's 
appeal, on the ground that Mabel was in bad health 
and might suffer serious consequences as a result of 
her incarceration, the application was refused. The 
two prisoners were motioned from the dock, and the 
next case called. About half the disappointed spec- 
tatoi*s, many of whom had evidently imagined that 
the trial would begin there and then, left the court. 

That afternoon I succeeded in obtaining an inter- 
view with Mabel, in company with Clayton. It took 
place in a room at the lock-up — a small, cheerless 
apartment furnished only with a table and two 
wooden chairs. The door was closed, but Patullo 
waited outside. Mabel welcomed me with a poor, 
wan little smile, and allowed me to kiss her pale cold 
cheek. ' ' You are very good to me, Dick, after — after 
the way I have treated you," she faltered. 

"Don't talk of that, dear one," I answered; "I 
never believed that in becoming Blunt 's fiancee you 
acted willingly, and if this horrible business saves 



"THAT THEY DID KILL AND MURDER" 109 

you from him and restores you to me, our suffering 
will not have been in vain." 

"Poor old Dick," she murmured, taking my hand 
and kissing it. This action was quick and spon- 
taneous, but her manner as quickly changed, and she 
sat down with a sigh. "It is no use, Diclcy, ' ' she said ; 
"you must not cherish false hopes. That statement 
I made to the detectives was true." 

' ' That may be ; but even if you yourself tell me 
you killed your father, I will not believe you." 

"Speak quietly, both of you;" said Clayton, 
"Patullo is outside. Now, Miss Tracey, you must tell 
me exactly what happened on the morning of June 
24th, and if it is humanely possible to prove your 
innocence, you may rest assured that it will be done. ' ' 

"I cannot tell you anything, ' ' Mabel replied ; "ex- 
cept that I met Blunt in the corridor, just as he says; 
I had the revolver in my hand, and — oh! what is the 
use of asking me questions? You are only torturing 
me ! Leave me alone, and let me pay the penalty. I 
don't want to live — I did kill father, and there is 
nothing for me to live for." 

"Hush, hush," exclaimed Clayton, glancing 
anxiously at the door. 

"What does it matter? Wliat does anything 
matter?" cried Mabel, hysterically. "I tell you I 
did it — I did it, and I want to die. Death is the only 
boon I ask for." 

Flinging her arms across the table, she rested her 
head upon them, and wept. Her shoulders shook, 
and it seemed that her sobs would choke her. My 
distress was scarcely less acute. I could only pace the 



110 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

floor with clenched hands, my nails biting into my 
palms. 

"I don't believe you, Mabel," I exclaimed. "I will 
never believe this thing of you — it is horrible — damn- 
able." 

"It is no use trying to do anything while she is in 
this state," Clayton whispered to me. "You had 
better leave. Heaven knows how much of this Patullo 
has overheard already ! You must let me see her 
to-morrow alone, and I will try and get to the bottom 
of the ghastly business. To continue this interview 
now will do more harm than good." 

I saw that he was right. "Good-bye, darling," I 
whispered to Mabel, "and remember, I for one will 
always believe in your innocence." She was still 
sobbing piteously, and I knew she did not hear me. I 
bent and kissed her bowed head, and left the room. 

Out in the street the sun was shining, and there was 
a breath of spring in the air, but to me the world 
seemed cold and forbidding. One thought burned 
itself into my brain — that the woman whom I loved 
above all else on earth had declared hereelf a mur- 
deress — the slayer of the father who had cherished her. 
My loyalty to Mabel never wavered, but the horrible 
significance of her words had reduced me to a state 
of mental paralysis. It almost seemed that grief and 
worry had unhinged the poor girl's mind. Mabel was 
shielding somebody, of course; but what could save 
her if she persisted in this mad self-sacrifice? 



Chapter XV. 

A CLUE FROM SHAKESPEARE. 

THE evidence given at the City Court and my 
subsequent interview with Mabel only served to 
deepen my depression. I saw Clayton again in the 
afternoon, and he was scarcely less gloomy. "I have 
retained McPherson, K.C.," he said, "but what can 
he do if she persists in her present attitude? Like 
you, I find it hard to believe that the girl murdered 
her father; but Blunt has told the police a fairly 
circumstantial story, and if she repeats to the police 
what she said to us this morning, the case is hope- 
less. I have warned her to refuse to answer any 
questions put to her by anyone but me, but, in her 
present unstrung condition, the poor girl is as likely 
as not to make damaging statements to anyone who 
talks to her; and you may bet that Ryan and 
PatuUo will not miss many opportunities." 

Having got through the misery of the day I re- 
turned to East Melbourne to face the more acute 
misery of another sleepless night. I could not even 
concentrate my thoughts on finding a solution of the 
mystery. A hundred images from the past jostled 
one another in my brain. The memory of my first 
meeting with Mabel came to me; and this gave place 

111 



112 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

to memories of those happy days at Mount Marunga, 
when together we indulged in hill-climbing, ski-ing, 
dancing, and took part in a dozen delightful excur- 
sions. Then the incidents of the ball and the morn- 
ing after crowded on top of the others, creating a 
medley of visions and emotions that rendered 
ordered thought impossible. After an hour or more 
spent in this manner, I decided that a mind as dis- 
turbed and a brain as agitated as mine were not 
likely to be of much use in Mabel's service. It 
were better that I should now seek mental relaxa- 
tion, and, if possible, get a little sleep, so that in 
the morning, when more or less refreshed, I could 
again tackle the problem that lay before me. 

I went into the bedroom, first taking from a book- 
case in my workroom one of the twenty volumes of 
my cherished set of Shakespeare. Many times in the 
past, when worried or depressed, had I sought, and 
found, relief in communion with the master mind. 
It was my habit to turn to Shakespeare as I might 
to an old and dear friend, and it was rarely that 
he failed me. He did not indulge in fatuous chatter, 
he did not drink my whisky or smoke my tobacco, 
his views on life did not irritate me, and he did 
not place his feet on my recently upholstered chairs. 
Taking one consideration with another, I regarded 
William of Avon as the most satisfactory of my 
friends. 

Getting into bed, I propped myself up against my 
pillows, and began to read. The volume that I had 
happened to take down contained Macbeth and 
Othello. I opened the book at random — Shakespeare 



A CLUE FEOM SHAKE SPEAEE 113 

being one of the few authors with whom this can 
be done in the full confidence of finding something 
of interest — and began reading the fourth act of 
Macbeth. I could not wholly forget my trouble, but 
very quickly I fell under the magic spell of Shakes- 
peare's supreme genius, and I read on, and in due 
course came to the fifth act, containing the sleep- 
walking scene, which never failed to thrill me. I 
first experienced an excitement that had little to 
do with the dramatic quality of the scene when I 
reached the part where Lady Macbeth, taper in 
hand, enters, observed by the Doctor and the Gentle- 
woman : — 

Gent.: This is her very guise, and, upon my life, fast 
asleep. Observe her ; stand close. 

DocT. : How came she by that light ? 

Gent. : Wliy, it stood by her ; she has light by her 
continually; 'tis her command. 

DocT. : You see her eyes are open. 

Gent. : Ay, but their sense is shut. 

I read the lines again, and put down the book. 
"You see, her eyes are open." *'Ay. but their 
sense is shut." Lady Macbeth was walking in her 
sleep, her eyes wide open, a taper in her hand. 

In a second, things which had seemed mysterious 
suddenly loomed up in my mind's eye with startling 
distinctness. When I had called to Mabel as she 
locked the front gate of "Avalong" behind her 
she had not answered me — had not even started, 
or given any sign that she had heard my voice. 
When T had called to her in the lane, she had not 
turned round, but had walked straight into the 
river; and then had come that scream, which I now 



114 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

believed had been caused by a much more acute 
sensation than that caused by contact with the 
chill water from one who premeditated suicide. 

The more I thought the stronger became my belief 
that Mabel had not deliberately left "Avalong" 
with the intention of taking her life, but had been 
walking in her sleep. If she had been walking in 
her sleep last night, might she not have been doing 
so on the morning of the murder? This would 
account for the state in which I had found her when 
I went to the room, the fact that she was then 
fully dressed, and the further fact, which had so 
disconcerted me after the inquest, that her bed 
had been slept in. 

The feeling of relief at first induced by these 
thoughts was of brief duration. If Mabel really 
was a somnambulist, Blunt 's story " of having met 
her in the passage with a revolver in her hand 
might, after all, be true. Good heavens t The poor 
girl might even have killed her father in her sleep ! 

Rest, either mental or physical, was now impos- 
sible. I rose, and went into my sitting-working 
room. The theory that Mabel was a somnambulist 
had seized hold of me, and as I recollected, one by 
one, the details of my interview with her on the 
morning of the murder, and the circumstances of 
her journey through the grounds of "Avalong" to 
the river a few hours before, I told myself that 
there were undoubtedly facts to support the theory. 
But, even assuming that Mabel was a somnambulist, 
would it be possible for her to kill a person while 
walking in her sleep? My first task must be to 



A CLUE FEOM SHAKESPEAEE 115 

ascertain as much as I could concerning somnam- 
bulism. 

I took down a volume of "Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica." Under the heading "Somnambulism," the 
reader was referred to an article on "Sleep." This 
I turned up and read eagerly. My excitement grew, 
and I placed marks against passage after passage. 
"Some persons," said the article, "rise during sleep, 
walk about, apparently unconscious of all external 
impressions, return to bed, and when they awake they 
have no recollection of any of these occurrences." 

In this way, I reasoned, Mabel might have risen 
from her bed, dressed, killed her father, and returned 
to bed, unaware of the terrible deed she had com- 
mitted, had she not encountered Hector Blunt, who 
awakened her and took the revolver out of her hand. 
If this had actually happened, small wonder that 
Mabel was in a semi-hysterical condition when I 
went to her room. When I entered, all that she 
knew, probably, was that she had been stopped in 
the corridor by Blunt, a weapon had been taken 
from her, and she had been advised to return to 
her room. When I saw her she may have been in 
a state of extreme nervous tension, owing to this 
unpleasant experience, but as yet unaware of the 
dreadful tragedy that had taken place at the hotel. 
When I told her that her father had been found 
murdered in his room, the awful possibility that 
she had shot him had at once been presented to her 
mind, and she had gone off in a swoon. Subsequently, 
possibly Blunt had seen her and warned her not 
to say anything of what had happened, promising 
that he would keep silent, and assuring her that 



116 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

nothing was likely to be found out. After the in- 
quest, Blunt had played on the doubts and fears 
of the nearly distracted girl, and had frightened 
her into agreeing to marry him, under a threat of 
exposure if she refused. 

It was thus that I reconstructed a possible chain 
of events in my mind, which was now abnormally 
alert and active. I returned to the encyclopaedia 
and read: "A cook has been known to rise out of 
bed, carry a pitcher to a well in the garden, fill it, 
go back to the house, fill various vessels carefully 
and without spilling a drop of water, and then re- 
turn to bed, and have no recollection of what had 
happened." I read, too, of cases in which somnam- 
bulists, while asleep, had written letters, executed 
drawings, and played musical instruments. It 
seemed to me that, compared with the writing of 
a letter or the execution of drawing, the mere act 
of taking a revolver from a drawer and pulling the 
trigger was a very simple operation, and one of 
which a somnambulist might very easily be capable. 
"The somnambulist," continued the article, "acts 
his dream. Many of his movements are in a sense 
purposive; his eyes may be shut so that the move- 
ments are executed in the dark, or the eyes may 
be open so that there is a picture of the retina that 
may awaken consciousness, and yet may, by reflex 
mechanisms, be the starting point of definite and 
deliberate movements. ' ' 

So far I had come across nothing that stamped 
my theory as impossible. A little further down I 
read: "In many cases he (the somnambulist) does 
not hear, the auditory centres not responding." 



A CLUE FROM SHAKESPEARE 117 

This would account for Mabel not having answered 
me when I called to her at the gate, and again in 
the lane; also it might mean that she had fired the 
revolver, and yet had not heard the shot. 

In another place the article stated that with the 
sleep-walker on awaking "there is either no memory 
of what has taken place, or the dim recollection 
of a fading dream." It explained that a shock 
would have the effect of awaking a somnambulist, 
and might also have very serious consequences. 
Obviously, if a sleep-walker stepped into a river, he 
or she would awake immediately, and doubtless it 
was the shock of finding herself in the water, instead 
of in her bed at "Avalong," that had called forth 
IMabel's piercing scream. It must have affected her 
in much the same manner as a very terrible night- 
mare. 

By the time I had finished reading the article I 
M'as thoroughly convinced that my theorj^ whether 
right or wrong, was not only possible, but, in the 
extraordinary circumstances, even probable. From 
one passage, which I marked in red ink, I derived 
a certain comfort: "It is important to notice that 
there is scarcely any action of which a somnam- 
bulist may not be capable, and immoral acts from 
which the individual would shrink in waking hours 
ma.y be performed with indifference. Considering 
the abrogation of self-control peculiar to the physio- 
logical condition, it is evident that no moral respon- 
sibility can be attached to such actions." 

Supposing Blunt 's story should prove correct, and 
the death of Henry Tracey be shown to have been 



118 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

caused by his daughter, in the face of such an 
opinion, coming as it did from an acknowledged 
authority, would any jury in the land convict her 
of the crime of murder? I had had sufficient ex- 
perience of work at the law courts to know that 
what lawyers call "intent" was the essence of 
murder; without "intent" manslaughter was the 
most that a person could be held to be guilty of. 
What "intent" could there be upon the part of a 
somnambulist? I asked myself, and, constituting 
myself a jury, answered promptly "None." Still, 
I was aware that the jury of one that returned this 
answer was hopelessly prejudiced in Mabel's favour, 
and I realised that twelve commonplace men and 
true, who knew not Mabel as I did, might answer 
differently. 



Chapter XVI. 

MABEL'S SILENCE BROKEN. 

I WAS at Clayton's office that morning before him, 
and as soon as he arrived acquainted him with my 
theory and read to him copious extracts which I 
had made from the "Encyclopedia Brittanica." 
That afternoon we interviewed Mabel at the gaol. 
As gently as possible, I led up to the question I 
wished to ask her, namely if she had ever had 
reason to suppose that she was a somnambulist. 
She at once showed signs of distress. 

"What is the use of asking me questions?" she 
demanded brokenly. "I tell you that what that 
hateful man says is true — I killed my father, the 
best father in all the world." 

"You owe it to yourself, Mabel, and to all your 
friends, to be brave and helpful at a time like this," 
I told her. "Even if what you say is true, I am 
sure it was not a deliberate, or, perhaps, even a 
conscious, act on your part. Do you think your 
poor father would wish his daughter to bear the 
stigma of being a murderess if there was any way 
of saving her? Come now, dear, and answer my 
question: Have you ever had cause to suppose that 
you walk in your sleep?" 

119 



120 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

She pulled herself together and answered with 
comparative calmness: "I never had reason to think 
so until — until that horrible night at Mount 
Marunga. Nom'^ I know that I murdered my father 
while asleep. Oh! it is awful — awful!" She covered 
her eyes with her hands as if to shut out some 
ghastly vision. 

I put my arms about her, while Clayton stayed 
discreetly in the background, jotting down notes. 
"You must tell me exactly what happened on that 
night, dear," I said. 

"There is so little I can tell, and what there is 
is so horrible," she answered with a shudder. "All 
I know is that after saying good-night to you I went 
upstairs to my room. I had a splitting head, as I 
told you, and went straight to bed. I don't remember 
anything after that until — oh! I can't go on, I 
can't." 

I waited for a little while until she became 
quieter. "And what do you next remember, sweet- 
heart," I inquired gently. 

"The next thing I knew was that I was standing 
in the corridor near the head of the stairs, with 
all my clothes on, and poor father's revolver in my 
hand." 

"Obviously a case of sleep-walking," remarked 
Clayton. "What caused you to wake up. Miss 
Tracey?" 

"Blunt must have awakened me. I opened my 
eyes with a start, as though — well, as though I had 
been aroused suddenly by somebody dropping some- 
thing heavy near my bed — you know the feeling?" 

We both nodded. 



MABEL'S SILENCE BEOKEN 121 

"Blunt was standing in front of me, and I almost 
screamed — it was all so startling, so uncanny. I 
could not understand how it was I was not in my 
room in bed. It seemed like a horrible nightmare. 
I think I must have been about to scream, for Blunt 
put his hand over my mouth and told me not to 
make a noise. Then he took the revolver from me, 
and told me to go back to my room at once. Scarcely 
knowing where I was or what was happening I 
obeyed him like one in a trance. I sat in my sitting- 
room in front of the stove, puzzling over it all, 
and I came to the conclusion that I must have been 
walking in my sleep. It seemed to me that if, 
without knowing it, I could get up, dress, go to 
father's room, take his revolver out of the drawer 
where he kept it, and walk out into the corridor, 
T might do anything. It was dreadful to think of. 
My nerves were all on edge; and then you came 
into the room, Dick, and started asking me questions. 
You made me feel that I wanted to scream out in 
agony. And you told me that — that — oh, you know 
what you told me — and I fainted." 

"Poor little girl," I murmured. "It is cruel to 
think that fate should have treated you in this 
manner. I know how you loved your father, and 
the thought of doing him an injury never entered 
your mind. You are no more guilty of murder than 
I am; Mr. Clayton will tell you that." 

"Perhaps not legally, dear," she said; "but what 
does that matter? I swear by all I hold holy that 
I never wished to hurt a hair of my poor father's 
head, and yet I — I killed him; and I don't wish 
to live. The thought of what I have done would 



122 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

haunt me for ever; death for me would me mer- 
ciful." 

"Hush, sweetest; you must not talk like that. 
You cannot be held responsible, either in the eyes 
of God or man, for something you did while uncon- 
scious. I can well imagine how the thought of it 
now tortures you, poor darling; but time will help 
to blur the hateful memory. I know it is no use 
telling you that you will forget all about it; but 
you will come to view things in a different perspec- 
tive. Memory will deal gently with you; the years 
will heal your wounds as they have healed those 
of many another sufferer. I love you now more 
than ever before, and I will do all I can to make 
you happy. When this ghastly business is over I 
will keep you to your promise to marry me." 

"Even if I agreed, you would not be marrying 
the girl you used to know." 

"Perhaps not, dear. I would not marry the care- 
free girl with whom I have spent so many happy 
hours, but I would be marrying one whom I love 
just as dearly, and who needs my love more than 
that other." 

"You are a dear, loyal fellow, Dick; and I hate 
to think of the pain I have caused you and every- 
one, but I know I could never be the same again. 
Even a future as your wife does not reconcile me 
to the prospect of living, haunted by the awful 
thought that I took the life of the being who, after 
you, was the dearest thing in the world to me." 

Clayton coughed discreetly as a reminder that the 
time allowed for the interview was limited, and there 
were other questions which must be asked. I signed 



MABEL'S SILENCE BEOKEN 123 

to him to remain in the background, knowing that 
Mabel would be more likely to answer me, 

"Tell me, dear," I said; "did Blunt use the 
knowledge which he gained that night to force you 
into an engagement of marriage?" 

"Yes; he said that if I did not consent to marry 
him he would go to the police and tell them all 
he knew. Oh, I was a coward. I could not bear 
the thought of the exposure; most of all I could 
not bear to think of you, Dicky, getting to know 
everything. These last few weeks have been hellish 
— there is no other word for it. I thought I might 
be able to forget. I kept telling myself that I was 
not responsible for what I had done, and I shrank 
from the horror of a trial and all the other dreadful 
things which I knew would happen if Blunt went 
to the police. That I regarded a marriage with 
that hateful creature as preferable to it all, shows 
how unworthy I am of your love. But I know now 
that I could not have gone on with it. If the 
detectives had not come when they did I would have 
gone to them myself and confessed. I am ashamed 
now of my cowardice, and I see that death is the 
easiest escape from my misery." 

"When you went down to the river did you know 
what you were doing? Did you intend — to com — 
to take your o^vn life?" 

"No, no. I went to bed that night, sick and 
miserable, and I knew nothing until I felt the cold 
water round me, and found myself in the river. 
The shock seemed to paralyse me, and I did not 
even know that you had sprung in to save me. 
It was brave of you, Dick, but how I wish you 



124 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

had not been there. I believe that God in His mercy- 
gave me that chance of escape from my unhappiness. 
Oh, why did I not drown! There in the darkness 
I would have found peace; I would have gone to 
my Maker, guiltless even of self-destruction." 

''God sent me, dear, to save you," I told her. 
"If you had drowned through walking into the 
river while asleep, you would, as you say, have been 
guiltless of having taken your own life, just as you 
are of having taken that of your father." 

After Clayton had asked a number of questions, 
to which Mabel replied dejectedly and unwillingly, 
I did my best to comfort the poor girl ere we left 
her. I went with Clayton when he laid the facts, 
as we had ascertained them, before Ian McPherson, 
K.C. That eminent barrister was deeply impressed 
and tremendously interested. He read eagerly my 
notes copied from the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," 
and said that the case was the most extraordinary 
that had come within his knowledge. A few days 
later Clayton told me that McPherson had gone 
into the matter fully, had consulted legal authorities, 
had obtained further information from leading 
doctors of the subject of somnambulism, and intended 
putting up a good fight on Mabel's behalf. 

"He thinks there is a chance of an acquittal," 
said Clayton; "but it will depend largely upon the 
sort of jury we get, and also upon what fresh evi- 
dence is presented by the police. We will not do 
anything in the City Court, but will reserve our 
defence and fight it out in the higher Court." 

"But, meanwhile," I objected, "that poor girl, 



MABEL'S SILENCE BROKEN 125 

in her present state of ill-health and her terrible 
mental state, will be left in prison." 

"Yes, I know how painful that must be to you, 
old man," he replied, "but it cannot be helped. If 
we exposed our hand in the lower court, the prosecu- 
tion would get to work to combat the suggestion 
that Miss Tracey killed her father while walking 
in her sleep. We must not allow a hint of our defence 
to leak out before the trial. If we take the prosecution 
by surprise, and McPherson can play upon the feel- 
ings of the jury, the victory will be ours." 

I saw that he was right, and for the time being 
poor Mabel would have to be left alone with her 
unhappiness within the stern grey walls of the 
living tomb to which the law in its blindness had 
consigned her. 



Chapter XVII. 

ON TRIAL. 

THREE times were Blunt and Mabel charged at the 
City Court, and remanded, before the police were 
ready to go on with the ease. There is no need 
for me to describe the proceedings in the lower 
court, for they were destined subsequently to be 
repeated with sensational additions in the Supreme 
Court. The prosecution was content to make out a 
prima facie case against both the accused, and Blunt, 
like Mabel, reserved his defence. Both pleaded not 
guilty (though it was with difficulty that Mabel had 
been persuaded to agree to doing this) and the two 
were committed to stand their trial. 

Then followed an anxious fortnight, during which 
Clayton was frequently in consultation with Mabel 
and with Ian McPherson, K.C. Blunt, too, had en- 
gaged a King's Counsel, Henry Stroude, and public 
interest in the case ran high. 

At last the day for beginning the trial arrived. 
No sooner were the doors of the Supreme Court 
gallery opened than there was a rush for seats. 
Many people had waited outside the various en- 

126 



ON TRIAL 127 

trances to the Law Courts from an early hour in 
the morning, and when allowed in, had raced along 
the stone-flagged corridors searching for the par- 
ticular court in which the trial was to take place. 
A queue was formed by the police, and an effort 
was made to preserve order, but there was not a 
sufficiently large force of police present to control 
the rush which ensued immediately upon the open- 
ing of the doors. In a few seconds the public 
galleries were crowded, and the doors were closed 
in the faces of a disappointed horde for which room 
could not be found. These still waited outside, hope- 
ful of gaining admittance, and later in the morning 
had to be forcibly dispersed by the police. As every 
seat at the totally inadequate press table was occupied 
by men engaged in reporting the case, I sat in the 
dismal pit, beneath the public gallery, which is re- 
served for witnesses and men summoned to serve 
on juries. The dock is immediately in front of this 
pit, and the prisoners sit with their backs towards 
the occupants, but I was careful to take up my 
position in a seat well to the side, where I would 
be able to keep my eyes on Mabel, and on Blunt also, 
for I was determined to watch him closely in the 
hope of detecting some sign that might betray him, 
and be of assistance to Mabel's counsel. 

The trial began on a warm spring morning, and 
even before the Judge had taken his seat on the 
Bench the atmosphere of the court was far from 
pleasant. The places in which justice is adminis- 
tered in Melbourne are neither well-ventilated nor 
impressive, being inadequately equipped as regards 



128 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

the provision both of air and of light. Their bare 
plaster walls and heavy mahogany fittings contribute 
nothing toward the relief of their general air of 
gloominess. The only touch of vivid colour in the 
dingy surroundings was provided when Mr. Justice 
Strutt took his seat, in the heavy white wig and 
gorgeous scarlet gown worn by judges when sitting 
in criminal jurisdiction. A jury was quickly sworn 
in, neither prisoner exercising the right of challenge, 
and the trial commenced. 

I will not bore readers with a detailed account 
of the proceedings. With much of the evidence 
given they have already been made familiar. For 
me the trial was a prolonged nightmare. It was 
soon made apparent that McPherson was not alone 
in having surprises up his sleeve. The prosecution 
had been at great pains in preparing an elaborate 
case which, 1 was forced to confess, in the eyes of 
an unprejudiced person, made things look very black 
for Mabel. The police were evidently satisfied that 
she was the actual culprit, and, I learned afterwards, 
had even contemplated abandoning the charge 
against Blunt, but had decided to go on with it in 
the hope that additional facts would be brought 
to light during the trial which would establish his 
complicity. They still clung to the theory that the 
death of Henry Tracey had been brought about as 
the result of collusion between Mabel and Blunt. 

As the evidence was unfolded, and point after 
point was brought out by the skilful Crown Pro- 
secutor, I felt that the conviction was being forced 



ON TRIAL 129 

upon evtn those few of the general public who were 
anxious to believe the best, that Mabel was a mur- 
deress. I was called by the prosecution to give 
evidence regarding the finding of the revolver. Sub- 
sequently I was to be called by McPherson to re- 
count the episode in the grounds of "Avalong," 
and the rescuing of Mabel from the Yarra, with a 
view to supporting the contention of the defence 
that Mabel was a somnambulist. 

The sensation of the first day was the evidence 
given by M.s. Tracey, who was called as a witness 
for the prosecution, 

A murmur ran round the crowded courtroom when 
the handsome and expensively attired widow took 
her place in the witness stand. Many of the fashion- 
able occupants of the packed gallery had never seen 
Mrs. Tracey, and these craned their necks to catch 
a glimpse of the woman whose second marriage had 
supplied a sensation which was eclipsed only by 
that associated with her second Avidowhood. That 
Mrs. Tracey, with her rich olive complexion, fine 
eyes, and costly habiliments, made a striking figure 
was undeniable. Her black silk blouse was cut al- 
most sufficiently low for evening dress, displaying 
her finely moulded neck, round which was the usual 
band of black velvet. Knowing the strained rela- 
tions that had come about between Mabel and her 
step-mother so soon after Henry Tracey 's death, the 
calling of Mrs. Tracey as a witness for the prosecu- 
tion filled me with apprehension, which deepened to 
dismay, when, with an apparent reluctance, which 
I felt sure was assumed, she unfolded her story. 

E13. 



ISO THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

Watching her, and noting, too, the blank surprise 
that showed on the face of Mabel while listening 
to her step-mother's evidence, I had no doubt that 
the woman was lying, and getting rid of pent-up 
venom against the daughter of the man she had 
married. I had never had a doubt but that Mrs. 
Tracey had hoped to benefit very considerably by 
her husband's will, and, despite Mabel's generosity 
toward her, she evidently cherished a grudge against 
a girl who had been left the fortune which she had 
hoped would be hers. 

Hilda Tracey was a consummate actress, and the 
manner in which she told her story — as one suffer- 
ing the torture of the rack, but determined to do 
her duty, however painful it might be to herself, 
in the interests of truth and justice — obviously im- 
pressed both the Judge and the jury. Briefly stated, 
Mrs. Tracey 's evidence was that she had committed 
perjury at the inquest. On the morning of the 
murder she had said good-night to her husband in 
his bedroom and had then retired to her own room 
and gone to bed. Before turning out the light she 
had heard voices in Tracey 's room. One of the voices 
was that of her husband, the other was Mabel's. 
She had called out good-night to Mabel, but had 
received no reply. The two appeared to be talking 
earnestly. This had not caused her surprise at the 
time, as Mabel often came to her father's room 
for a chat before going to bed. After Mrs. Tracey 
got into bed, the voices in the next room became 
louder, and it seemed to her that a quarrel was in 
progress. Owing to the noise made by the storm 



ON TEIAL 131 

she heard very little of the conversation, but she 
heard her husband say: "I will never consent — 
never, and that's final," and a little later Mabel 
exclaimed loudly: "Very well, we will do so with- 
out your permission." 

This statement made me gasp, for these were the 
words that Blunt had alleged he overheard me use 
in Tracey's room. The clever Crown Prosecutor 
helped Mrs. Tracey to get out her explanation, which, 
I have to admit, she delivered in a manner which 
must have made it seem quite plausible to those un- 
acquainted with the inner history of the affair as 
I was. Shortly after Mabel had spoken these words, 
Mrs. Tracey continued, she heard a shot. Her first 
inclination was to spring from bed and rush into 
her husband's room, but she was rendered almost 
numb with terror, and lay in bed waiting for further 
sounds from the next room. These did not come, 
but very shortly she heard a knock at her own door, 
got out of bed, opened the door, and admitted Mr. 
Miles, who occupied a room on the other side of 
the passage. When she learned of the murder she 
could not help suspecting her step-daughter, but she 
had learned to love Mabel, and, feeling sure that 
the girl had not deliberately shot her father, had 
remained silent concerning what she had heard. The 
only thing that had now induced her to break her 
silence was the fear that an innocent man, Mr. Blunt, 
might suffer for the crime. 

"Did your step-daughter know that your husband 
kept a revolver in the drawer of his dressing-table?" 
asked the Crown Prosecutor. 



132 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTETJY 

There was a long pause before Mrs. Tracey an- 
swered, as though deeply distressed at being forced 
to divulge so damaging a piece of information: "Yes; 
she had been handling it the morning before, while 
my poor husband was shaving, and he told her to 
be careful with it." 

The Judge made a note of this. The Crown Pro- 
secutor asked one or two additional questions, and 
resumed his seat. 

Knowing what I knew, Mrs. Tracey 's story seemed 
too utterly fantastic to be credited by any sane 
person, but I had to recognise that the jury, who 
were without my knowledge of the leading actors 
in this tragic drama, and who could simply judge 
the case on the facts as presented to them, might 
not detect anything inherently impossible in the 
cleverly told story. My own conviction was that 
hatred of ]\Iabel, reinforced in all probability by a 
bribe from some representative of Blunt 's, had in- 
duced IMrs. Tracey to act as she had done. 

IMcPherson was unprepared for this fresh evidence 
against Mabel, but in cross-examination he did his 
best to discredit Mrs. Tracey. The sallow-faced, 
deep-voiced K.C., who spoke with a marked Scottish 
accent, and drove home his questions by stabbing 
the atmosphere with an accusing index finger, was 
especially desirous of obtaining precise information 
regarding the relations existing between Mrs. Tracey 
and her step-daughter. 

"Was there not a quarrel between you and your 



ON TRIAL 133 

step-daughter after your husband's death?" he in- 
quired, 

"No, not a quarrel; it was simply that we found 
we could not agree on matters of minor importance." 

"What were those matters of minor importance?" 

"Oh, trivial things — mere questions of taste, likes 
and dislikes, habits of life, and so forth." 

"You were disappointed, I take it, at not figuring 
in your husband's will?" 

"Certainly not. I scarcely expected anything. We 
had been married such a short time and his death 
came so suddenly. Miss Tracey, I may mention, 
has behaved most generously toward me — more 
generously than I had a right to expect." 

This voluntary admission upon Mrs. Tracey 's part 
was very clever, and doubtless served to impress the 
jury with her friendliness toward Mabel. 

Nothing that McPherson could do caused Mrs. 
Tracey to alter her evidence. She admitted that 
she had done wrong in withholding it at the inquest, 
but pleaded her almost maternal feelings for Mabel, 
and her conviction that Tracey 's death had been 
accidentally caused. It is doubtful if McPherson 's 
bullying tactics at this stage and harping on the 
point that the witness was "a self-confessed per- 
jurer" did any good. Most of the jury, I believed, 
sympathised with the handsome widow as a woman 
who at the inquest had risked a charge of perjury 



134 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

in her anxiety to save her step-daughter. Altogether, 
I felt that iVIrs. Traeey had created a distinctly 
favourable impression and had tightened the coils 
which were being drawn about my unhappy sweet- 
heart. 

When the court adjourned at the end of the first 
day of the trial, and the jury was locked up for 
the night, it was not difficult to gather from the 
conversation of those who had been present in the 
public galleries that poor Mabel was already ad- 
judged a murderess. 



Chapter XVIII. 

THE COILS TIGHTEN. 

PUBLIC interest in the trial did not diminish on the 
second day. Again the court was packed to suffo- 
cation. The ease for the prosecution was brought to 
a close early in the day with the evidence of the de- 
tectives; and Stroude outlined the evidence he pro- 
posed to call on behalf of Blunt. Briefly, his case 
was that Blunt was an accessory after the fact, but 
had had no hand in the actual murder. He had 
acted wrongly — doubtless from a mistaken sense of 
chivahy and out of his deep love for the girl — in 
endeavouring to protect Mabel Tracey from the con- 
sequences of her crime. 

By the time the K.C. had finished, he had drawn a 
picture of Hector Blunt — which probably impressed 
those who did not know him — as a misguided, but 
extremely loyal and rather noble young man. Stroude 
concluded his address by announcing that his client 
would give evidence on oath on his own behalf. 

Blunt was duly sworn, and there I had to sit and 
listen to the puny, white-faced coward committing 
what I knew to be the rankest perjury; each lying 
statement making the case against Mabel look more 
ominous. The poor, pale girl sat in the dock, staring 
straight before her; her thoughts evidently far away. 

1S6 



136 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

The perjured evidence given by her step-mother the 
previous day had seemingly left Mabel stunned and 
indifferent to anything that might now be said or 
done. Sitting in the court, a mere spectator, I felt 
singularly impotent; a fight for Mabel's life was 
going on in which I could take no part. McFherson, 
I knew, would not surrender without a struggle, but, 
after all, he was merely a hired advocate, determined 
to put forward the facts contained in his bulky brief 
in the best possible light for his client; but the fight 
to him did not mean what it meant to me, and it was 
not even certain that he had any real belief in Mabel's 
innocence. 

Blunt 's story was that shortly after seeing Mabel 
leave the ballroom he had gone upstairs and knocked 
at the door of her sitting-room. He loved Miss 
Tracey, and his intention had been to ask her to 
marry him. He admitted that it was an unusual hour 
at which to make such a proposal, but on the occasion 
of the annual ]\Iount Marunga Hotel ball, night was 
turned into day, and there was nothing unusual in the 
guests visiting one another in the early hours of the 
morning. He knocked at Miss Tracey 's door, but 
received no reply. Returning along the corridor, he 
heard the sound of voices coming from Henry 
Tracey 's room. There was a slight lull in the storm 
and he heard the words, spoken in Miss Tracey 's 
voice: "But what is your objection to him?" A clap 
of thunder drowned Tracey 's reply. Blunt confessed 
— with an affectation of being heartily ashamed of 
himself — that for a moment or two he played the part 
of eavesdropper, but the only other words he caught 
were spoken by Miss Tracey, who exclaimed: "Very 



THE COILS TIGHTEN 137 

well, we will do so without your permission." He 
then descended to the first floor, where he occupied a 
room near the head of the stairs. He had some diffi- 
culty with his key, and just as he opened the door of 
his room he saw Miss Traeey rushing down the stairs 
from the second floor, dressed in walking costume, 
and with a revolver in her right hand. She was very 
excited, and apparently did not see him until she was 
right in front of him, when she made as though to 
turn back. "Good heavens, Miss Traeey, what is the 
matter?" Blunt asked. "I have done it!" she ex- 
claimed; wild-eyed, and, seemingly, scarcely knowing 
what she said or did. "Good God, what have you 
done?" he demanded. "He threatened to disinherit 
me if I married Dick, and I — I shot him!" was her 
reply. 

When the wretch delivered himself of this shame- 
less falsehood, I could control my pent-up feelings no 
longer. 

' ' That is a damnable lie ! " I shouted from my seat 
in the court. 

There was a rustle in the public gallery, a sten- 
torian shout of "Silence" from the court crier, and 
all eyes were turned towards me. As soon as I had 
spoken I realised that such an outburst could not do 
the least good. I was made to stand forward and 
receive a severe lecture from the Judge, who threat- 
ened to commit me for contempt of court if there was 
a repetition of the offence. I could do nothing but 
listen to the lecture in humble silence, and express 
contrition for what I had done. Mabel gave me a 
look of entreaty, as though begging that I should allow 
events to take their course, so that the trial might be 



138 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

over as soon as possible. I took a firm grip of my 
emotions, and resumed my seat, to listen in silence 
to the remainder of Blunt 's evidence. 

On hearing Miss Tracey's words (Blunt continued) 
their awful significance was borne in upon him. His 
one desire vv^as to protect the woman he loved from 
the consequence of her crime. He took the revolver 
from her, and told her to return at once to her room. 
He then entered his own room, and, looking round 
for a place in which to conceal the weapon, threw it 
on to the top of the wardrobe and remained in his 
room until he heard people moving about on the 
second floor, when he knew that the tragedy had been 
discovered. He joined the excited guests, but said 
nothing of what he had seen and heard. His action 
a few da3^s later in going to Detectives Eyan and 
Patullo and endeavouring to incriminate Mr. Richard 
Maxon, attributing to him the words that had been 
spoken by Miss Tracey, was, he freelj^ confessed, a 
piece of criminal folly; but he cared nothing for Mr. 
Maxon and everything for Miss Tracey. 

McPherson subjected Blunt to a raking cross- 
examination. The result was to turn a strong light 
upon Blunt 's cowardice and meanness, but not to 
shake his testimony on any of the main points which 
told against Mabel. Blunt was questioned concern- 
ing the circumstances in which he had become engaged 
to marry Mabel after her father's death. He djnied 
that he had obtained her consent to this proposal by 
means of threats. He did not think that Miss Tracey 
really loved him, but he imagined that gratitude for 
what he had done in saving her from the consequencd*" 



THE COILS TIGHTEN 139 

of the crime at Mount Marunga had influenced her 
to consent. 

"You deliberately went to Ryan and Patullo and 
told them that the words, 'Very well, we will do it 
without your consent,' which you now attribute to 
Mabel Tracey, were spoken by Mr. Maxon?" 
INIcPherson asked him. 

"Yes." 

"You told a dastardly lie, which might have re- 
sulted in a capital charge being brought against an 
innocent man?" 

"I can only reply that I loved Miss Tracey and 
did it to save her, ' ' was the hypocrite 's answer. 

"I see," remarked the K.C., his Scotch accent 
adding to the biting sarcasm of his words, "you love 
Miss Tracey so fondly that you would cheerfully send 
another man to die for her, but when your own neck 
is in danger your love for this young woman becomes 
a matter of secondary importance?" 

To this Blunt did not reply, and several similar 
remarks, put by JMcPherson in the form of interro- 
gations, added to his discomfiture and caused him to 
cut a very contemptible figure. This occasioned me 
some satisfaction, but what worried me was that the 
case against Mabel was not being materially weak- 
ened. 

"On your own confession, you lied then to save a 
woman whom you say you love ; how do we know you 
are not lying now to save somebody whom you love 
a great deal more — yourself?" 

"I am telling the truth," said Blunt; "I swear it." 

"You were on oath when you perjured yourself at 
the inquest. Is it not that you are so fearful lest 



140 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

this crime should be sheeted home to you that you 
are anxious to see somebody convicted — you are not 
particular who — and, having failed to make out a 
case against Mr. Maxon, you are now devoting your 
attention to Mabel Tracey?" 

"No; you do me a cruel Avrong to suggest such a 
thing." 

By the time McPherson had done with him Blunt 
stood revealed for the sorry character he was; but, 
as Clayton warned me in the course of a conversation 
during the luncheon adjournment, the mere fact that 
Blunt had been made to appear despicable was not 
sufficient to secure Mabel's acquittal. " Blunt 's 
evidence and Mrs. Tracey 's dovetail so well," said 
Clayton. "I can tell you it is devilishly disconcert- 
ing. The evidence that Miss Tracey is to give — that 
she recollects nothing between the time of going to 
bed and finding herself face to face with Blunt in the 
passage — will not, I arn afraid, make a very strong 
impression on the minds of twelve ordinary un- 
imaginative jurymen." 

This gloomy forecast, it seemed to me, was con- 
firmed when Mabel gave her evidence. When I went 
into the witness-box and gave an account of my inter- 
view with Mabel in her room after the murder, and 
the episode in the grounds of "Avalong" which led 
to the rescue of Mabel from the river, I was afraid 
that I had not induced the court to share my view 
that the girl was a somnambulist. I could see that all 
would depend upon the effect on the jury of 
McPherson 's speech, in which he would elaborate the 
sleep-walking theory. 



THE COILS TIGHTEN 141 

Counsels' addresses were delivered on the following 
day. Henry Stroude, K.C., on behalf of Blunt, urged 
that there was no evidence to connect his client with 
the murder. Blunt 's association with the case, apart 
from the fact that he had overheard a portion of a 
conversation which had taken place in Henry 
Tracey's room, began after the crime had been cam- 
mitted. Unquestionably Blunt had acted wrongly in 
concealing the revolver; he had acted criminally in 
endeavouring to incriminate the witness Maxon ; 
some might even consider that he had acted con- 
temptibly in betraying his fiancee to the detectives, 
after having been at pains to sacrifice another man 
in an effort to save her; the jury might brand him 
coward, poltroon, and perjurer, but there was no 
justification for saying that he was a murderer. 
Admittedly Blunt had committed perjury at the in- 
quest; but the evidence he had given at the present 
trial did not stand by itself; it was more in the 
nature of corroboration of that tendered by Mrs. 
Tracey. Miss Tracey knew that the revolver with 
which the crime was committed was kept in a certain 
drawer, but there was nothing to show that Blunt 
shared this knowledge. 

Stroude, as wiD be seen from this brief summary of 
his speech, made no effort to protect his client from 
the contempt which his actions deserved. Stroude 'a 
attitude was that he did not care what the conn 
thought of Blunt as long as it did not think him a 
murdei'er: and this unquestionably was the best ime 
he could have taken. 

McPherson's address was eloquent, and. t;- ii.\ 
mind, absolutely convincing. He elaborated al 



142 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

length the theory that Mabel had shot her father 
while walking in her sleep. He reconstructed the 
incidents of the murder night as he wished the jury 
to believe, and as I firmly believed, they had taken 
place. He quoted at length from the ' ' Encyclopaedia 
Britannica" article and from several learned Avorks 
on somnambulism, and also dealt with the evidence 
of two well-known doctors whom he had called as 
witnesses for the defence, and who had supplied in- 
stances of truly remarkable things done by persons 
under the influence of som.nambulism. He cast doubts 
on the evidence given by Blunt and by Mrs. Tracey, 
dilating upon the point that both had for weeks re- 
mained silent regarding highly important facts con- 
nected with a mystery which the detectives had been 
making every effort to solve. He drew a touching 
picture of the love of Mabel for her father, whose 
constant companion she had been since childhood; 
and scouted as utterly ridiculous the suggestion that 
Mabel had shot her father because he would not con- 
sent to her marriage with me, before I had even asked 
Henry Tracey for his consent. In a moving per- 
oration, which had the effect of bringing tears to the 
eyes of more than one person in the court, he appealed 
to the jury not to accept the evidence of two dis- 
credited witnesses, and brand a young and beautiful 
girl as the slayer of the father who for many years 
she had loved, honored, and obeyed. 

About half the afternoon had gone when McPher.-s/^n 
finished his address, and Barnett, the Crown 
Prosecutor, rose to put forward his final effort to 
secure a conviction. Barnett did not devote much 
attention to the case against Blunt, except to suggest 



THE COILS TIGHTEN 142 

that the words "Very well, we will do it without 
your consent" might have referred to a marriage 
between Mabel and Blunt, and not Mabel and me. 
Blunt might have been waiting outside Tracey's door 
to hear the result of the interview, and might actually 
have had a hand in the crime. Certainly his sub- 
sequent actions had been criminal and suspicious in 
a high degree. 

"As regards 'the accused, Traeey' (I winced each 
time I heard this hateful phrase) the chain of 
evidence that connected her with the murder was 
practically complete. Unless someone had actually 
seen her fire the shot which killed her father, it 
would be difficult to get a stronger case against her. 
According to the evidence of two witnesses she was 
the last person in conversation with Henry Traeey 
prior to his death. A few seconds after the murder 
she was seen in the passage with her father's revolver 
in her hand — a fact which she did not deny, but 
which the defence attempted to explain away by put- 
ting forward the fantastic theory that the girl was 
walking in her sleep. The girl had a motive for such 
a crime, inasmuch as her father was evidently op- 
posed to the idea of her marriage with some particular 
person, but whether the person was Blunt or Maxon 
he could not say. It was terrible to have to associate 
so foul a crime with a young and lovely woman like 
Mabel Traeey, but his (the Crown Prosecutor's) duty 
was to assist in establishing the guilt of a culprit, 
regardless of age, sex, or sentimental considerations. 
He left it for the jury to say whether or not the case 
against this woman had been proved. 



144 THE MOUNT MARUXGA MYSTERY 

Jud?e Strutt summed up carefully, reviewinfr the 
facts at length, and strivin"; throujzhout to preserve 
an attitude of strict impartiality. The su<if;estion of 
a murder having been committed by a person under 
the influence of somnambulism was unique in his ex- 
perience. The theory was certainly an extraordinary 
one, but it must also be remembered that the medical 
evidence showed that somnambulists frequently did 
extraordinary things. The jury must be careful not 
to accept such a theory unless convinced of its sound- 
ness: on the other hand they must not dismiss it 
merely because it was unusual. They would do well 
to remember Hamlet's oft-quoted remark: "There are 
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are 
dreamt of in your philosophy." 

The court lights had been lit by the time the Judge 
had finished his summing-up. The jury filed out of 
the box to consider its verdict, and in the dimly- 
lighted courthouse the now chattering crowd, and the 
pale-faced girl and haggard man in the dock; the 
array of witnesses, and the friends of both prisoners 
awaited the return of the jury in an atmosphere 
pregnant with tragedy. 



Chapter XIX, 

ENTER A GHOST. 

AFTER a retirement of over two hours the jury 
returned to court. The murmur of many tongues 
ceased, and the tense silence was broken only by 
a slight rustling sound made by the Judge adjust- 
ing some papers on his desk. 

His Honor's associate faced the jury. "Have you 
arrived at your verdict, gentlemen?" he inquired. 

"We have," the foreman answered. 

"How say you; is Hector Ernest Mayne Blunt 
guilty or not guilty?" 

"Not guilty," was the reply. 

As the foreman spoke the words there came a 
shuffling sound from the dock. Blunt, who had 
been standing up, white and trembling, staring at 
the foreman, and licking his dry lips, had fainted. 
A policeman helped him to sit down, and the associate 
again addressed the foreman of the jury: "How say 
you; is Mabel Helen Tracey guilty or not guilty?" 

The foreman paused for a moment, with eyes cast 
downward, and then answered quietly: "Guilty." 

Outwardly Mabel gave the impression of being 
less affected by the verdict than anyone else in 
court; she received it with a calmness which seemed 
very little removed from indifference. 

145 



146 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

Blunt was curtly discharged by the Judge, after 
McPherson had made an eloquent and moving appeal 
for mercy on behalf of Mabel, and she was ordered 
to stand up to receive her sentence. She stepped 
forward, and with her hands held behind her, faced 
the red-robed judge without showing the slightest 
sign of fear. 

"Prisoner at the bar," said his Honor, speaking 
slowly and impressively, "the jury, after giving the 
most careful and earnest attention to this case, has 
found you guilty of the horrible crime charged 
against you. I am bound to say that, in the light 
of the evidence, I do not see how they could have 
arrived at any other verdict. You have had the 
advantage of a learned and eloquent advocate to 
plead your cause, but in face of the damaging evi- 
dence against you an acquittal, I think, would have 
been a miscarriage of justice. You have had some 
weeks in which to contemplate in solitude your 
dreadful crime, and doubtless you have already 
suffered at the whipping-post of conscience; which 
suffering is no more than you deserve. Your sex 
and your youth may serve to save you from paying 
the extreme penalty which the law exacts for crimes 
such as the one of which you have been found 
guilty, but it is not for me to hold out to you any 
hope of leniency. My painful — most painful — duty 
is to impose the only punishment commensurate with 
the enormity of your crime. Have you anjiihing to 
say why sentence should not be passed upon you?" 

"No, your Honor," answered Mabel, quietly but 
firmly. 



ENTEE A GHOST 147 

The Judge, not without emotion, then pronounced 
the sentence: "Mabel Helen Tracey, the sentence of 
the court is that you be taken back to the place 
from which you came, thence to the place of execu- 
tion to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, 
and that your body be buried in lime within the 
precincts of the gaol." 

Several women were sobbing quietly while his 
Honor was delivering his short address. When 
the sentence was announced a shrill scream came 
from among the spectators in the public gallery, 
and Dolly, Mabel's adoring maid, was carried out 
in a faint. Mabel stood erect in the dock, as though 
awaiting some fresh form of torture; a policeman 
tapped her lightly on the shoulder, and she seemed 
to realise with a start that her present ordeal was 
at an end. As she turned to walk down the steps 
leading from the dock to the cells beneath the court 
she smiled bravely in my direction, while I clenched 
my hands and bit my lower lip to prevent myself 
shrieking a protest against the horrible injustice 
that had been done to this dearest and bravest of 
women. The crowd that had remained in the court 
without tea was now scuffling to gain the exits; but 
I sat like a man turned to stone. The courtroom 
must have been unpleasantly warm, but I was chilled 
to the bone. After a time I felt a kindly arm linked 
in mine, and Clayton was leading me toward an exit 
used by the barristers and court officials. 

"I was afraid of the verdict, old man," he said, 
''but at least the sentence is not likely to be carried 
out It is many years since a woman was hanged in 



148 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

Melbourne, and I don't think this case will be the 
exception." 

Clayton thought that he was comforting me, but 
every word was as a handful of salt rubbed into a 
gaping wound. I did not myself think that the 
sentence would be put into effect, but the thought 
of beautiful Mabel Tracey being kept a prisoner for 
fifteen years or more in the soul-destroying atmos- 
phere of Pentridge, and finally emerging into the 
world, her youth and beauty vanished, a dull-eyed, 
hopeless <voman, broken in body and spoilt in mind, 
was no less agonising than the picture of the same 
queenly creature stepping on to the hangman's trap, 
a black cap hiding from view the brave blue eyes 
and the fair cheeks that I had so many times kissed. 
I was in a state of mental revolt, induced by my un- 
shakable conviction that a most horrible, a most 
damnable miscarriage of justice had taken place. 

That Mabel had shot her father, alas ! seemed only 
too clear, but that she had done so while unconscious, 
and therefore irresponsible, I had not the slightest 
doubt. Any chance there might have been of induc- 
ing the jury to believe that the deed was done while 
the poor girl was asleep was destroyed by the evi- 
dence of Mrs. Tracey, and of Blunt, who had ob- 
viously perjured himself regarding the conversation 
alleged to have taken place in Henry Tracey 's room. 
Apparently Blunt had determined to do all he could 
to make ]\Iabel look as guilty as possible, for in this 
way was he most likely to save his ov/n coward's 
neck; w'hile I could only suppose that Mrs. Tracey 
had been bribed by a representative of Blnnt's to 
givp simiio** '^vifience. She had probably welcomed 



ENTEE A GHOST 149 

the chance to feed the hatred which I now had no 
doubt she cherished toward Mabel. 

I urged Clayton to consult with McPherson with 
a view of lodging an appeal against the conviction 
if there was any possible loophole for so doing, 
then parted from him and walked to the office. 
There were arrears of work for me to make up, 
and I welcomed the prospect of work as a possible 
means of escape from the torture of my thoughts. 

But I was not to do any journalistic work that 
night. The hateful day had been sufficiently crowded 
with incident, but yet another, more startling than 
any that had gone before, awaited me. At the office 
a seedy-looking, red-haired man, with a weather- 
beaten face, and eyes screwed up in the manner of 
those used to gazing for long at the horizon, was 
waiting to see me. 

"What do you want?" I asked the man, not car- 
ing greatly what he wanted. 

His reply was to thrust into my hand a soiled and 
crumpled envelope addressed to me. I tore it open, 
and took out a half sheet of cheap notepaper on 
which was scrawled : 

*'If you are desirous of serving Mahcl Tracey, whom 
I believe you love, accompany the bearer of this nole. 
The matter is urgent, and your help is badly needed." 

The note was not signed, and I questioned the 
man as to whore he had come from and who had 
sent him, but all he would tell me was that his 
instructions were to deliver the note to me person- 



150 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

ally, and to take me back to the house in Fitzroy 
from which he had come. 

I told myself that it might be a trap of some kind, 
but I was not going to miss any chance, however 
slender, which might mean help for ]\Iabel. I told 
the man that I was ready to come with him, and 
in the fellow's presence informed the chief mes- 
senger of my intention, so that in case of foul play 
some hint of my movements would be available. I 
walked with my shabby guide, whose nautical gait 
confirmed the impression I had formed, on seeing his 
weather-beaten countenance, that he was a sea-faring 
man. We boarded a Fitzroy tram, and when we 
alighted he led me along several mean streets and 
stopped before the door of an ugly, third-rate, two- 
storey house; one of a terrace of six dwellings in 
a dimly lighted thoroughfare. My companion 
knocked gently at the door, which was opened by 
a bent, white-haired, parchment-faced woman. In 
the shabby hall I stood with my back against the 
wall ready for an emergency. 

"Has he come?" inquired a strangely familiar 
masculine voice from the front room. 

"Yes, he's here, sir," replied my guide. 

"Thank God!" exclaimed the voice. 

The man motioned me to enter the room. 

I stepped into a large, poorly-furnished apartment, 
noting as 1 did so a table, double bed, wardrobe, 
chest of drawers, and a couple of uninviting chairs. 
The room was dimly lighted by an unsatisfactory 
lamp, and it was not for a second or two that I 
discerned its occupant. When I did so I started back 



ENTEE A GHOST 151 

and came near to bolting, for the sight set quivering 
every one of my badly lacerated nerves. 

It required the sound of the man's voice saying 
quietly, "Good-night, Maxon," to convince me that 
I had not suddenly gone stark, staring mad, for there 
on the other side of the table stood Henry Tiacey, 
whom I had seen' lying dead with a bullet wound 
in his body in his room at the Mount Marunga Hotel 
on June 24th ! 



Chapter XX. 

THE TATTOO IVIARK. 

STEPPING round to my side of the table the man 
held out his hand. I made no attempt to take it, 
but stood staring at him. I thought that there could 
be no mistake about his identity ; the military figure, 
which made very obvious whence had come Mabel's 
fine poise and carriage; the iron grey hair and 
moustache, the aggressive nose, and keen grey eyes 
were those of the man with whom I had had many 
interesting talks at Mount Marunga. 

"You may as well shake hands with me, Maxon; 
I can assure you I am not a ghost," he remarked 
pleasantly. 

Doubtfully and hesitatingly I took the proffered 
hand. 

"You must pardon me if I have given you a 
shock," he said. "Sit down." 

"Yes, I'll sit down," I told him, "and perhaps 
you will oblige me by telling me who you are and 
what the devil it all means." 

He seated himself opposite me, took out his pipe 
and tobacco pouch, and handed the pouch to me. 
"You had better smoke," he remarked; "it will take 
some time to explain." 

152 



THE TATTOO MARK 153 

"I don't donbt that," I replied grrimly, "but first 
or all you might introduce yourself." 

"Certainly — my name is Henry George Tracey; 
by occupation I am a grazier." 

"Supposing you drop that sort of thing, and give 
me the truth," I suggested. 

"I am telling you the truth, Maxon," he answered 
quietly. "Hang it all, man, you ought to know me; 
we have had a good many long yarns in the past." 

"All I know about you is that you are the living 
image of my friend Henry Tracey, who was murdered 
at Mount Marunga last June." 

"At least I am glad you refer to Henry Tracey as 
your friend," he answered, "as I am going to test 
your friendship for him." 

Having filled my pipe I handed back the pouch 
to the man opposite me; he, too, filled his pipe, and 
there in that dingy room of what I afterwards learned 
was a cheap lodging-house, I listened to one of the 
strangest stories I had ever heard or read. The nar- 
rative was simply and convincingly told, and yet, 
at the finish I still experienced difficulty in believ- 
ing it. 

"I would not doubt the word of Henry Tracey," 
I told the narrator at the conclusion of his recital, 
"but I must have proof that you are Henry Tracey." 

"H'm," he remarked doubtfully, "I don't know 
exactly what proof I can give you on the spur of 
the moment. Hold on, though," he added, "I think 
I once showed you the sheep which, in a foolish 
m(»ment in my young days, I had tattooed on my 
arm ? ' ' 



154 THE MOUNT MAKUNGA MYSTERY 

"Yes, I remember Henry Tracey showing it to me 
shortly after our first meeting at Mount Marunga 
over a year ago." 

"Right-o," said the man, preparing to remove his 
coat, "I will show it to you again." 

"But that would prove nothing," I objected; "if 
you are an impostor you would probably know that 
Tracey bore that tattoo mark, and would take the 
precaution of acquiring a similar one." 

"That is so," he agreed, "but on the other hand, 
if the man who was murdered at Mount Marunga 
was an impostor there is a chance that he did not 
know of Henry Tracey 's trade mark, and if you set 
about making inquiries you may find that he was not 
similarly branded." 

This seemed to me reasonable, so I waited while 
he took off his coat and rolled up the sleeve of his 
shirt. There on his left arm, above the elbow, was 
the picture, tattooed in blue and red, which Tracey 
had shown me in the early days of our acquaintance. 

"By heaven!" I exclaimed, "I am not going to 
wait until to-morrow to have this settled; I am on 
fairly good terms with Dr. Collins, the Morgue sur- 
geon, and I am going to the nearest telephone to 
ring him up and ask him if the body brought from 
Mount Marunga bore any tattoo marks." 

"Very well," was the reply, "have the question 
settled at once, and then you may listen to what I 
have to say." 

I foand a pastrycook's shop which possessed a 
telephone, and rang up Dr. Julius Collins at his 
private house. He was at home, and in reply to my 



THE TATTOO MARK 155 

inquiry stated emphatically that there was not a 
tattoo mark of any description upon the corpse that 
had been brought to the morgue from Mount 
Marunga. Of this he was absolutely certain. 

I was now in a great state of excitement, and, 
thanking the doctor, rushed back to the house where 
I had left the man whom I now believed was Henry 
Tracey. 

"Well, are you satisfied?" he inquired when I 
rejoined hira. 

"Quite," I replied, shaking him by the hand; 
"and I am more pleased than I can say to find 
you still in the land of the living," 

The hour was late, but there was a great deal to dis- 
cuss. I found that Tracey had had to rely on 
recently purchased newspapers for much of his in- 
formation regarding the tragedy, and the arrest 
and trial of his daughter. He informed me that 
he had read every paper he had been able to lay 
hands on relating to the tragedy, but there were 
many points in regard to which he was in doubt. 
These I endeavoured to make clear, and I also sup- 
plied him with certain details which had not been 
published in the press. 

"Poor Mabel," he murmured; "poor little girl; 
it must have been an awful ordeal for her." 

"Terrible!" I agreed, "and she bore it heroically. 
But since you know what the defence was, tell me 
— is Mabel a somnambulist?" 

"Yes. Had you ever asked my consent to mar- 
riage with her — as, I confess, I always hoped you 
would — I would have told you of this. The poor 



156 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

girl herself never knew, and so far as I am aware 
there were only two occasions previous to this 
awful business when she walked in her sleep. The 
first was when she was seventeen, and the second 
about a year ago. In view of what you have told 
me about your proposal of marriage at Scotney's 
Look-out, don't you think that the excitement of 
that episode, followed by the excitement of the ball, 
may have left her in a highly nervous state, which 
paved the way for another manifestation of her 
affliction? The previous occasions upon which it 
manifested itself were times of high nervous tension 
for her. I think that it is not unlikely that she 
rose from bed in her sleep, impelled, by whatever 
unknown force it is that governs the actions of a 
somnambulist, with the sub-conscious intention of 
re-visiting Scotney's Look-out. How do we know 
that she even went near the room that I was sup- 
posed to occupy? According to the evidence given 
by Mabel, her mind was an absolute blank from 
the time she went to bed until she awoke in the 
passage and found herself face to face with this 
fellow Blunt. There is a hiatus between the two 
incidents which she cannot help us in filling. How 
do we know what occurred in between?" 

**By heaven," I exclaimed, "I see what you are 
driving at. You mean that there is a possibility 
that Mabel did not fire that shot, even while un- 
conscious and irresponsible!" 

"Precisely my point. I think you can guess who 
is the person most likely to know what actually 
happened in the victim's bedroom?" 



THE TATTOO MARK 157 

"I can. Your story throws a fresh li^rht upon 
everji;hing. You did well to return secretly, and 
for the present, I think you should remain here. 
Nothing will be lost if you delay proclaiming your 
identity for a while longer, and something — although 
I don't exactly know what — may be gained. Any- 
how, in the contest of wits which I can see ahead, 
it will be an advantage for me to know something, 
namely, the fact that you who are supposed to be 
dead are alive, of which my adversary is ignorant." 

"Exactly," he acquiesced. "That was my object 
in returning as I did, and in taking up my abode in 
this high-class mansion. We are in possession of 
the knowledge, which we can disclose when it suits 
us, that whatever poor JMabel did, she certainly did 
not shoot her father. With your complete know- 
ledge of the case you may be able to devise some 
scheme for getting at the truth. If I am to remain 
here in the background, it rests with you, Maxon, 
to see this thing through. It is easy to see how dearly 
you love Mabel, and I know that I can, rely upon 
you doing everything in your power to save her." 

"You can trust me," I replied, 

"Well, what do you propose as your first move?" 

"I am going home," I told him, "to think like 
blazes."' 



Chapter XXI. 

A GAME OF BLUFF. 

ON the day following my astonishing interview with 
Henry Tracey, I called again at the Fitzroy lodging- 
house to ask him to elucidate certain points that 
were not clear. I also had a long talk with Mr. 
George Banks, the furtive seafaring gentleman who 
had acted as Tracey 's messenger and my guide. 
Banks was a most undesirable type of person, but 
he furnished me with much valuable information. 
I took away copious notes from the two interviews, 
and set to work sorting out and arranging my 
facts, like a lawyer preparing a brief. I also saw 
Clayton, who was making arrangements for an 
appeal to the Full Court. Clayton had had a brief 
interview with Mabel. She Avas, he told me, bearing 
up bravely. I did not disclose to Clayton or any- 
one else what I knew regarding Henry Tracey. I 
considered that, for the time being, secrecy was 
best, and nothing was to be lost by allowing Clay- 
ton to proceed independently in preparing an appeal 
upon Mabel's behalf. I had hopes, however, that, 
armed with the knowledge which I had obtained 
from Tracey and Banks, I would eventually be able 
to solve the Mount Marunga Mystery. 

159 



A GAME OF BLUFF 159 

In a few days I had constructed a very definite 
theory, and then set about putting it to the test. 

My first move was to call upon Mrs. Hilda Tracey 
at her South Yarra flat. On sending in my card I 
was at once admitted. Although the afternoon Avas 
well advanced, Mrs. Tracey was still in a morning 
wrapper; a gorgeous Japanese silk garment which 
had the effect of accentuating, even while it con- 
cealed, the voluptuous lines of her figure. Around 
her neck was the customary band of velvet. When 
I entered she was lounging upon a rich Oriental 
divan, smoking a cigarette. Her silky black hair 
was done up in a loose coil, which concealed the 
nape of her neck, her eyes were unusually bright, 
her cheeks somewhat flushed. I at once formed the 
impression that she had made several excursions to 
the brandy decanter, and this was confirmed when 
I came near her. 

"Good-day, Mr. Maxon," she remarked, holding 
out a beautifully white, long-fingered, heavily-be- 
ringed hand. "Excuse me for not getting up, won't 
you; but I have not been feeling verj- well for the 
last few days. That terrible ordeal at the court 
took it out of me. Sit down, there's a dear man; 
you will find cigarettes on the table there." 

I helped myself to a seat and a cigarette. "The 
trial was indeed an ordeal for all concerned," I 
remarked. 

She sighed, threw the stump of her cigarette into 
the empty grate, which contained at least twenty 
similar stumps, and signed to me to pass the heavy 
silver cigarette box which was on the table at my 
side. 



160 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

"I suppose you simply loathe me," she murmured 
as I held a match for her to light her cigarette. 

"Why should I?" I inquired. 

"Because of the evidence I gave against poor 
Mabel. I could tell by the way you looked at me 
that day as I left the court that you hated me. 
But, really, Mr. Maxon, what could I do? That 
little beast of a Blunt is no friend of mine ; but I 
knew he was innocent, and he might have been 
hanged. I couldn't have that on my conscience, 
could I?" 

I did not vouchsafe a reply. 

"Anyhow, don't let us talk of the horrible busi- 
ness," she said with a shudder. "I hope, Blr. Maxon, 
that Ave can still be friends, and that this is a friendly 
call. You know I have been left very much alone 
since my poor husband died." 

"Your husband?" I remarked in a tone of as- 
sumed surprise, and with the air of a man asking 
a question. She gave me a quick look, but retained 
her composure. It was obvious, however, that she 
did not know what to make of the remark, and had 
suddenly become uncomfortable. 

"You will excuse me, won't you, if I don't order 
afternoon tea?" she murmured. "I am feeling such 
a wreck that I don't like to ask visitors to stay 
long. My head is simply splitting." 

Needless to say, I did not take the hint. Instead 
I fired the first effective shot of the battle which 
I was determined should be fought. 

"I did not come here to have afternoon tea, Mrs. 
Tracey," I remarked, "but to find out who killed 
Stephen Rodda." 



A GAME OF BLUFF 161 

The shot went home. The cigarette, which had 
been hanging loosely from her lips, dropped to the 
floor, and she sat suddenly bolt upright, while her 
fine olive skin paled, and, touched by the afternoon 
sun peeping through the curtained window, assumed 
an unlovely sallow hue. In an attempt to recover 
her composure, she stooped to pick up her cigarette. 
Even then a second or two elapsed before she had 
sufficiently regained control of herself to speak. 

"What on earth are you talking about?" she 
asked in an affected drawl; but she could not pre- 
vent a tremor creeping into her voice. 

"My remark," I repeated firmly, "was that T had 
come to you to find out who killed Stephen Rodda." 

She had herself well in hand by now, and, lolling 
back among her cushions, slowly blew from between 
her lips a thin spiral of cigarette smoke. "And 
who, may I ask, is — what was the name you said?" 

"Stephen Rodda." 

"Well, who is Stephen Rodda?" 

"Do you mean to say you do not know?" I de- 
manded. 

"My dear man, I have not the remotest idea what 
you are talking about. I have never heard of anyone 
named Rodda." 

"If he were alive," I said, "I don't think he 
would deny acquaintanceship with Belle Vere." 

This second shot created even worse havoc than 
the first. The face of the woman opposite me be- 
came positively ghastly. Her lips were almost blue, 
and she gasped something which I guessed was 
"Brandy!" Rising hastily, I looked round for the 
decanter. Having found it and poured out a stift' 

F13 



162 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

nobbier, I returned to the divan, to find that its 
occupant had fainted. Supporting her with one 
arm, I forced some brandy between her teeth. Her 
breath was coming in quick gasps, and she made 
a little gurgling noise in her throat, I placed the 
brandy glass on the floor, unfastened the jewelled 
clasp that held the strip of black velvet in position, 
and removed it. This brought to view on the left 
side of her finely moulded throat an ugly red scar, 
which stretched from half an inch or so below the 
ear almost to the windpipe. Seeing this livid dis- 
figurement I told myself that it was no wonder that 
she had been careful never to be seen in public 
without a neckband. 

Some anxious minutes elapsed before the woman 
— whom I will from now on refer to by her correct 
name of Belle Vere — recovered. She sat up and 
gulped down another glass of brandy which I poured 
out for her. 

"Thanks," she remarked, "I am alright now, I 
think. My heart has been giving me trouble lately." 
Her hand went to her throat, and, feeling it bare, 
she looked toward me. 

"Your neckband," I said, "is on the table. Your 
breathing was difficult, so I took it off." 

There was a long silence which she at length 
broke by asking me to pass the cigarette box. With 
a trembling hand she struck a match and lit a 
cigarette. 

"Apparently, Mr. Maxon, you know something of 
— of my past," she said slowly. 

"Yes, Miss Vere, I know a good deal of it," I 
replied. 



A GAME OF BLUFF 163 

"Well, what of it?" she demanded with an air of 
recklessness. "What are you after, anyhow?" 

' ' What I want is a full statement of what actually 
took place in Rodda's room at the Mount Marunga 
Hotel on June 24th." 

She laughed unpleasantly. 

"You have already heard the story told in court," 
she said; "alter Tracey's name to Rodda and you 
know all the facts." 

"I know a good many of them, Miss Vere," I 
assured her, "and if I go with them to the police 
they will involve you in a great deal of — shall we 
say — unpleasantness ? ' ' 

There was another long pause. 

"Just what have you found out?" she asked, 

"You cannot expect me to show my hand," I 
replied; "but I do not mind telling you that Henry 
Tracey is alive and in Melbourne." 

Again I observed her closely, and mentally regis- 
tered a third bullseye to my account. 

"Anything else?" she inquired, with a hollow 
assumption of indifference. 

"Yes; George Banks is also in Melbourne." 

"I suppose the cur has been blabbing to you?" 

"I have had the pleasure of several long and 
highly interesting conversations with Mr. Banks," 
I replied. 

"Well, I still don't know what you want me to 
do," she said. 

"I want you to be frank with me, Miss Vere," 
I told her. "I know of your relations with Stephen 
Rodda, and I know that he treated you like a brute. 
I know, for instance, that he was responsible for that 



164 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

scar upon your throat, and — I know that you were 
given every provocation to kill him." 

She looked at me with cunning eyes. *'If you 
know all this, why don't you go and tell the police?" 
she asked. "Why do you come and tell me? No, 
no, Mr. Maxon; of course, you are awfully clever 
and all that, but you are trying to bluff me, and 
the bluff won't come off. I may, as you put it, 
have had every provocation to kill Stephen Rodda, 
but I didn't do it; and you can't prove anything 
to the contrary. It was your beloved Miss Tracey 
who killed him. She thought he was her dear papa, 
and he would not agree to her marrying you." 

The woman was right when she accused me of 
bluffing. I could prove nothing against her so far 
as the murder was concerned, but in regard to other 
matters I was well primed with facts. I told myself 
that I might yet succeed in bringing off my bluff. 
I lit a cigarette and spoke slowly. 

"A murder committed under extreme provoca- 
tion," I said, "is a very different thing to a similar 
crime committed in cold blood." 

"Indeed? How very interesting!" 

"A jury is always sympathetic toward a woman 
who has been ill-treated, and if she were defended 
by the best legal talent available " 

She interrupted me with a shrill nervous laugh. 
"My dear man," she cried, "you are not by any 
chance trying to induce me to confess to murdering 
Stephen Rodda — which, of course, I didn't — by offer- 
ing to pay for my defence? Really, Mr. Maxon, I 
am surprised at a man of your remarkable intelli- 
gence not being able to think of a cleverer scheme," 



A GAME OF BLUFF 165 

"Am I, then, to understand, Miss Vere, that you 
refuse to tell me the truth concerning what happened 
at Mount Marunga?" 

"There is nothing for me to tell." 

I rose and picked up my hat from the chair on 
which I had placed it. "Very well, then," I re- 
marked, "my only course is to go to the police." 

"And tell them that I killed Rodda? Very well, 
run along — if you insist upon making a fool of 
yourself." 

"The question of who killed Rodda can be dealt 
with later," I said. "In the meanwhile I can supply 
the police with facts which will result in wilful and 
corrupt perjury, conspiracy to defraud and murder 
Henry Tracey, and several other charges being 
brought against you. These can be proved up to 
the hilt, and a long term of imprisonment is the very 
least that you will be able to look forward to." 

The woman was pale and agitated, but she had 
plenty of pluck. "Go ahead," she remarked, but 
I scarcely recognised the voice that spoke the words. 



Chapter XXII. 

A LETTER FROM THE DEAD. 

HAVING remained late at the office to correct the 
proof of a special article for the following day's 
paper, I had put on my hat and was strolling toward 
the stairs, when Clancy, our night roundsman (which 
is the name applied in the newspaper world to the 
man whose job it is to write up any cases reported 
to the police or the various hospitals — accidents, 
crimes, and so forth — between 6 p.m. and the time of 
going to press) rushed past me in the passage. 

"Hullo," I cried, "what's the latest?" 

"Something big doing at 'Como'; don't know what 
it is; Russell Street just rang up and gave me the tip; 
beastly fashionable hole, 'Como'; ought to be some- 
thing good." 

I at once became interested, for "Como" was the 
name of the South Yarra mansion — once the home of 
a wealthy solicitor, but now owned by a company 
which let it out in fiats — which I had visited a few 
hours previously. 

"Hold on, Clancy; I'll come with you," I called 
after him. 

The office motor car was waiting at the door, and 
we were soon exceeding the speed limit as we raced 
along St. Eilda Road — now almost deserted, for it 

16? 



i 



A LETTER FROM THE DEAD 167 

was after midnight — in the direction of South Yarra. 
We arrived outside "Como" almost simultaneously 
with a taxi-cab, from which stepped Ryan, Patullo, 
and a third detective named Collins. 

"Hullo, Mr. Maxon," exclaimed Ryan banteringly, 
but not without a trace of irritation, "I suppose you 
reckon that nothing connected with the Mount 
]\Iarunga business would be complete without you ? ' ' 

"Has this anything to do with it?" I inquired. 

He looked at me closely. "Do you mean to say 
you don't know?" 

"I only know that Clancy told me something big 
had happened here, and curiosity impelled me to 
force my company upon him." 

"Well, the 'something big'," he remarked, rather 
offensively, "is that your mother-in law that was to 
have been has been found dead in her room." 

I was not altogether surprised. When Clancy told 
me that the police had had news from "Como " I 
immediately associated it in my mind with Belle Vere. 

In the hall we were met by a stolid policeman, and 
an agitated manageress, with whom Ryan went into a 
room and had a short interview. When he returned 
I accompanied the three detectives, Clancy, and the 
policeman to the dead woman's rooms. We passed 
through the sitting-room, in which she had received 
me, into the bedroom. This was a dainty and cosy 
apartment, with its pink wallpaper, the design being 
alternate broad stripes of light pink and dark pink; 
its white, fragile-looking furniture, and its thick red 
carpet. Lying on the bed, in the Japanese wrapper 
which she had worn when I visited her, was Belle 
Vere. A pink-shaded electric lamp on a small table 



168 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

near the head of the bed cast a soft light upon the 
face, lending to the cheeks a warm color, which for a 
moment made me think that the woman could not be 
dead, but was merely sleeping. Her eyelids, fringed 
with heavy black lashes, hid the eyes in which I had 
seen terror a few hours earlier ; on her lips was a faint 
smile; her right hand loosely clasped her throat, as 
though to hide that hideous scar, for the black neck- 
band was not there; while the left arm hung inertly 
over the edge of the bed. Her hair, which had come 
partly undone, lay in a black shiny mass upon the 
pillow. 

While I was standing looking at the mortal remains 
of the beautiful but unscrupulous creature who had 
been Belle Vere, Patullo took from the table near the 
bed a small phial at which he sniffed. "Chloral, I 
think," he remarked, and handed the phial to Ryan, 
who promptly supplied confirmation. 

"When did they find out about her?" 

"About an hour ago," Ryan answered; "a woman 
from another flat wanted to borrow a book; she 
knocked at the door, and got no reply, but seeing a 
light in the room, she walked in. When she first saw 
Mrs. Tracey she thought she was sleeping, but she 
soon altered her opinion, and called the manageress, 
who sent for a doctor. When the doctor arrived the 
body was not quite cold, but he pronounced life ex- 
tinct. Evidently she poisoned herself." 

Just here Detective Collins, who had gone into the 
sitting-room, returned to the death chamber with an 
envelope in his hand. "This was on the table in the 
sitting-room, ' ' he remarked ; "it is addressed to you, 
Mr. Maxon." 



A LETTER FROM THE DEAD 169 

Ryan gave me a quick glance of suspicion. Ob- 
viously he regarded the fact of my receiving a note 
from the dead woman as another piece of unwarranted 
interference upon my part. 

I took the bulky envelope, and the four of us went 
into the sitting-room. The constable remained on 
guard at the bedroom door. Clancy had already 
rushed back to the office to write something concern- 
ing the tragedy. Many sheets of pink, scented note- 
paper, bearing the monogram of Mrs. Hilda Tracey, 
were covered with writing in a large, sprawling hand. 
I read through a few pages, conscious that the eyes of 
the three detectives were upon me. It was not 
necessary for me to attempt to conceal the excitement 
produced in me by what I read. 

"Sit down, you chaps," I said, "and listen to 
this : — 

Dear Sherlock Holmes, 

By the time you receive this you will have heard 
of my demise; hut I don't expect you to go into 
mourning. Something in a bottle, which has been 
a good frie^id to me during the past few months, 
is going to do me a still better turn by conducting 
me out of a world in which, believe me, I got very 
little happiness. I Jiave never believed the tales of 
the pious about an after life — death means annihil- 
ation, and anniJiilation isn't a had thing for a 
woman who has made the mess of her life that I 
have. But before I die I want to make things 
right for you and Mabel; not, J assure you, 
through any fear of a future made up of burning 
brimstone and red hot pitchforks, hut because I 
was always rather a sport at heart, and by no 



170 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTEEY 

means a had sort, although I sez it myself as 
shouldn't. Well, here, goes— I KILLED STE- 
PHEN RODDA. I didn't mean to; but I don't 
regret it; the beast deserved dealh. I know you 
are awfxdhj clever, dear Mr. Holmes, hut I don't 
believe you could ever have proved this against 
me. StiU, it seems thai you had enough evidence 
in regard to other things to earn me a long stretch, 
and I have always (old myself thai if the worst 
came to the worst, I would ra titer take a trip to 
nowhere for ever than stand the hell of gaol. Belle 
Vere {by the tvay, I suppose you learned my name 
from your charming new acquaintance, Mr. Banks) 
i^ not going to ruin tier beautifully manicured 
finger nails picking oakum. Of caurse, I coidd, 
if I so minded, just say ta-ta to tlie world, and 
leave you all to find out what you can IF you can; 
but Mabel was always decent to me. God knows 
women get a rotten enough time of it; so there is 
no reason why I should let one of my sex suffer 
unnecessarily ichen I have nothing to lose by sav- 
ing her. As dear Mr. Banks doubtless has told 
you, I was fool enough to fall in love with Stephen 
Rodda year's ago. I believe that even to the end 
he loved me in a sort of way, but it didn'l prevent 
him treating me like a brute. The mark you dis- 
covered on my throat this afternoon he put there 
two years ago when he attacked nie with a razor. 
WJien he lost his temper, he was like a madman, 
and many a time he has kicked arid beaten me 
black and blue. Heaven knows ichy I stayed ivilh 
the swine, but in between times he ivas all right — 
nobody better — and he could always do as he liked 



A LETTER FROM THE DEAD 171 

with me. It was only a year ago that we arrived 
in Australia from England, so we were not known 
to Mr. Ryan and the other bungler whose name I 
can never remember. 

It was not without a certain satisfaction that I 
read this portion of Belle's letter. "You will excuse 
me, PatuUo, won't you," I remarked; "you under- 
stand, I am merely reading what is written here." 

"I can't make head nor tail of half of it," he 
observed glumly, "but go on." 

I continued my reading: — 

The business of which, I suppose, Banks has told 
you, was Stephen's idea. We had seen old Tracey 
several times, and the resemblance between him 
and Stephen was remarkable. Stephen had to 
grow a moustacJie, and get rid of some of his hair 
on the top, and then you couldn't — well, you know 
how like old Tracey he was, although Slephen was 
five years younger. 

As I read this part of the letter I recalled the con- 
versation I had had with Mabel on the night of the 
ball, when she had spoken about the change that had 
come over her father since his second marriage. When 
I expressed the opinion that it certainly was not hav- 
ing a prejudicial effect upon his health she had, I re- 
collected, answered, "No, thank goodness, he is looking 
younger than ever." 

"What are you stopping for? "asked Ryan, testily. 

"I beg your pardon; I was just thinking of some- 
thing." 

Stephen was living in Tracey 's place for a few 
days before I joined him. I was afraid he would 



172 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

get struck on Mabel, and told him I woidd make 
trouble unless he arranged for me to live with him. 
So ivc put up the gag about old Tracey marrying a 
widow from India. Things were right enough for 
a while. Stephen at first behaved decently, but 
we soon began quarrelling. The night of the ball 
we had a deuce of a row — it doesn't matter ivhat 
about — and I was sick of things. WJien I saw that 
he intended knocking me about again I grabbed his 
own revolver out of the dressing-table drawer and 
threatened him. I didn't mean to pull the trigger, 
but the tiling went off and he just collapsed quite 
gently on the floor. I was in a terrible funk and 
rushed into the passage in my nightdress, for I had 
been ready to get into bed ivhen the row began. A 
few yards along the passage I saw Mabel, fully 
dressed, walking towards me. She didn't say a 
word, but walked right past me. "Here, for God's 
sake get rid of this," I gasped, scarcely knowing 
what I was doing, and I put the revolver into her 
hand. She took no notice of me, but walked 
straight on, and down the stairs. I went back into 
Stephen's bedroom. I knew that he was dead, so 
I switched off the light, locked the door, went to 
my own room, and got into bed. I lay there until 
old Miles came knocking at the door. I was in a 
terrible state, not knowing wliat Mabel would do 
or say. I could not understand her behaviour in 
the passage, and it ivas only when I grew calmer 
and started putting two and two together that I 
guessed that she had been walking in her sleep. 
That bounder. Blunt, had nothing to do ivith the 
affair, except that, apparently, he met Mabel ai the 



A LETTER FROM THE DEAD 173 

foot of the stairs on the first floor, took the revolver 
from her, and later bluffed her into promising to 
marry him. I suppose it was just in the hope of 
getting you out of the way that he spun the yarn to 
Ryan and ivhat's-his-name about li.earing you talk- 
ing in the room,. When both he and Mabel were 
arrested, a satellite of his offered me a thumping 
big cheque to give the evidence I did at the trial, 
and which was all lies. Blunt reckoned that the 
conviction of Mabel was his best chance, and I 
tJiought it was mine also. Whether I could have 
gone through with it to the point of seeing Mabel 
hanged, I can't say. I don't think I would have, 
for life Jiasn't Iteld enough attractions for me 
lately to make it worth my while lo have that on 
my conscience. Anyway, you know the truth, and 
you owe me a vote of thanks. I haven't written^ 
sucJi a long letter for years, and my wrist is tired. 
Any blanks I have left you and Banks can fill in 
between you. Tell Mabel I hope sJie will be happy. 

BELLE VERE. 

"When reading the early part of the letter my chief 
feeling was one of joy that it was at last possible to 
establish Mabel's innocence, but by the time I had 
reached the end of the epistle, pity for its unhappy 
writer was uppermost in my mind. What a strange 
mixture of cynicism, unscrupulousness, and alfection- 
ateness she had been. Had the man to whom she had 
given her love been of a dilfei'ent type, poor Belle 
might have been a very dilferent woman. From what 
I had learned from Banks, I knew that she had been 
brought up in an atmosphere of intrigue, and her 



174 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTEEY 

early and disastrous association with Rodda had 
apparently deprived her of her last opportunity for 
the development of that embryo sense of decency of 
which she now seemed to have been possessed. That, 
despite her cynicism, she had mourned for the man 
who for so long had ill-treated her, I had no doubt. 
Life had not given her a fair deal; nor had she dealt 
fairly with life. Do you wonder, now that the wrong 
that she had done Mabel was capable of being righted, 
I found it in my heart to pity beautiful but mis- 
guided Belle Vere? 



Chapter XXIII. 

A STORY OF THE SEA. 

"WHEN you have done with brooding, Mr. Maxon," 
remarked Patullo, with heavy satire, "you might tell 
us what it all means." 

I looked up with a start. The tragedy of Belle's 
life and death, as revealed in the document she had 
left behind, had, for the moment, caused me to forget 
where I was and the work that there remained for 
me to do. 

"It means," I said, "that the conviction of Miss 
Tracey was a terrible miscarriage of justice, and ap- 
plication for her immediate release must he made to 
the Chief Secretary without delay." 

"It's all very well to put forward a tall order like 
that," said Ryan, irritably, probably more than half 
resenting the idea of the glory of having secured the 
conviction of the ]\Iount Marunga murderer being 
snatched from him. "What I want to know is: what 
the deuce has this Stephen Rodda to do with it? Who 
was Stephen Rodda?" 

"Stephen Rodda," I explained, "was the man who 
was murdered at Mount Marunga and was mistaken 
for Henry Tracey. I saw Tracey only yesterday, 
ttiive and well." 

176 



176 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

"For heaven's sake," said Patullo, "tell us what 
you know." 

"I will," I replied, "begin at the beginning." 

The silver casket, which had been refilled with 
cigarettes since the afternoon, was on the sitting- 
room table. "I don't think Miss Vere would object 
to us making ourselves comfortable," I remarked, 
helping myself to a cigarette and passing the casket 
to Ryan. The four of us lit cigarettes, and there, in 
that luxurious sitting-room, already heavy with the 
odour of smoke which had been puffed from between 
lips now motionless for ever, I told my story; filling 
in for the benefit of the detectives the gaps left in 
the narrative which was my previous legacy from the 
dead woman in the next room. 

"When I reached the office after the trial," I told 
them, "a seedy-looking individual, whose name I 
afterwards learned was George Banks, called upon 
me. I let him take me to a Pitzroy lodging-house, and 
there I met Henry Tracey." 

"Or an imposter who thinks he will step into 
Tracey 's shoes, and play ducks and drakes with his 
money," suggested Ryan. 

"Not a bit of it," I replied; "there is no doubt 
about this man; he proved his identity to me. If you 
are so quick at detecting imposters, Ryan, you should 
have spotted one months ago, at the time of the ]\Iount 
Marunga murder. However, it is better that I should 
not get off the track. Tracey told me an astonishing 
story. It seemed too strange, almost, to be true; but 
so many incredible things have happened in con- 
nection with this ghastly business that I have lost my 
capacity for unbelief. In March last, about three 



A STORY OF THE SEA 177 

months before the Mount Marunga affair, Henry 
Tracey was abducted." 

"Abducted!" exclaimed Patnllo, incredulously; 
but Ryan's limited intelligence was getting to work, 
and he already showed signs of interest. He silenced 
his colleague with a wave of the hand. "Go on, Mr. 
Maxon," he urged. 

"Yes, abducted. It was while he was in Sydney. 
As you are probably aware, Tracey was always fond 
of hanging about the water front, going on board 
boats, and chatting with the men who go down to the 
sea in big ships. Well, on this occasion, he was enticed 
on board a small schooner, engaged in trading with 
the Islands. While below deck he was knocked on the 
head with a belaying pin, and when he came to be 
was lying on a bunk in a small, stuffy cabin, bound 
and gagged, and with his pillow stained with blood 
fr(>m a wound in his head. The gentle motion of the 
ship made him. aware that he was at sea. He tried to 
free himself, but the cords were tight about his legs 
and arms; so there he had to lie, silent and helpless. 
la due course, an evil-looking, black-bearded in- 
dividual, who turned out to be the master of the craft, 
came to the cabin, loosened his bonds, and removed 
the gag. Tracey, of course, demanded an explanation, 
but the other merely laughed. 'It is no use fuming 
or carrying on,' the skipper told him; 'we are well out 
to sea now, and you are going to be taken a long 
voyage, whether you like it or not. Your only chance 
of escape,' he added, in such a way that he appeared 
to be putting forward the alternative as one worthy 
of Tracey 's earnest consideration, 'is to jump over- 
board'. 



178 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

" 'Thank you,' Tracey replied, 'I have no intention 
of doing anything of the kind.' " 

"After the first day or two, Tracey was allowed on 
deck. He conversed freely with the members of the 
crew, there being no other passengers on board. 
From none of the seamen was he able to obtain any 
information as to why he had been brought on board. 
For the most part they were dull fellows who gave 
unquestioning obedience to the orders of the captain 
— a tyrant of the worst sort — and cared nothing for 
what might happen on the ship apart from their own 
work. They accepted Tracey 's presence as a matter 
of course, and even treated him with a certain rough 
respect, but he quickly came to the conclusion that 
they were in no position to tell him what he wanted 
to know, even had they so desired. The only man 
who appeared to be in the captain's confidence was 
George Banks, the first mate, and Banks was a silent, 
moody man, who, when questioned, looked at Tracey 
with dull, uncomprehending eyes, and walked away 
without speaking. King, the skipper, was, obviously, 
a boor by nature, but in the course of a week or so 
he made efforts — which appeared, however, to occasion 
him acute pain — to display towards Tracey something 
which he evidently intended to be accepted as 
geniality. But when asked questions King was as 
uncommunicative as ever. Tracey came to the con- 
clusion that he had been kidnapped and was to be 
held to ransom. The notion that he was the victim of 
a species of brigandage on the high seas afforded him 
a good deal of amusement, and but for the fact that 
he was troubled by the thought of the pain his dis- 
appearance would cause his daughter, he says he 



A STOBY OF THE SEA 17fi 

would even have derived a good deal of pleasure 
from the rest and the sea voyage. He had been used 
to roughing it in his young daj^s, so the coarse food 
did not worry him ; and he had every opportunity for 
indulging his interest in sailors and the sea. 

"When the ship was approaching the islands he was 
told that he would have to remain in his cabin, and 
that unless he gave Skipper King his assurance that 
he would not make any effort to attract attention he 
would again be bound and gagged. Tracey gave the 
required assurance, which was accepted. 

"It was on the voyage back, after num^erous con- 
sultations between King and Banks that Tracey was 
called into the captain's cabin, and a proposition was 
put to him. King and Banks, it transpired, had 
entered into a contract with a man, whose name they 
would not at this stage disclose, to kidnap the 
pastoralist, and when they were well away from the 
Australian coast, take whatever means they thought 
fit to prevent him ever returning to Australia. They 
had been well paid for entering into this infamous 
agreement, and they explained to Tracey that it 
rested with him whether or not it would be carried 
out. It soon became apparent to Tracey that it was 
a case of 'money or life.' The two scoundrels had 
a fairly good idea of the extent of his wealth, and 
their demands were accordingly high, but Tracey 
agreed to them, on condition that he was acquainted 
with the details of the plot. He found that of this 
There was no reason to suppose that he would have 
the skipper knew little, and apparently cared less. 



180 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

been seriously perturbed if his interests had demanded 
the dropping overboard of Tracey, but this, of course, 
would have been something of an inconvenience, and 
as there was a prospect of obtaining more money if 
Tracey remained alive, his inclination was to return 
the grazier to Australia, sound in wind and limb. 

"The details of the arrangement had really been 
attended to by Banks, the mate, and it was from 
him that Tracey learned them. Banks confessed to a 
career on land which had been just as adventurous 
and twice as discreditable as his life on the ocean 
wave. Among his acquaintances in England had been 
Stephen Kodda, a swell magsman whose reputation 
could only be effectively inquired into by an invest- 
igator who went to work with a handkerchief held to 
his nose. Rodda was an educated scoundrel, who had 
for mistress a woman named Belle Vere, whom he 
treated brutally, but who had stuck to him for years, 
and assisted him in sundry nefarious schemes. Find- 
ing that his name, and numerous aliases, were becom- 
ing altogether too odoriferous in England, Rodda, 
accompanied by Belle, came to Australia. It was 
while in Sydney that he discovered his striking re- 
semblance to Henry Tracey and conceived a daring 
scheme to get rid of Tracey, and take the missing 
man's place as soon as he had disappeared, deriving 
thereby wealth such as he could not hope to acquire 
by a score of minor villainies. Banks had been well 
bribed to assist in the scheme, and he, in his turn, had 
made financial arrangements to secure the help of 
skipper King. Banks assured Tracey — and it doesn't 
much matter whether we believe him or not — that he 
never had any intention of going to the length of 



A STORY OF THE SEA 181 

committing murder on the high seas. He accepted 
Kodda's money, intending to take Tracey for a voyage 
to the Islands, and then enter into negotiations with 
the pastoralist with a view to his safe return. Tracey 
tells me that Banks obviously had no love for Rodda, 
and from talks I have had with him in the last few 
days, I believe the strange, unprepossessing rascal har- 
bored a silent passion for the unfortunate woman in 
the next room. He had met her in England, in con- 
nection with other schemes of Rodda 's, and admits 
that she scarcely deigned to notice his existence. He 
knew Rodda ill-treated her, and hated him for it. It 
was from Banks that I first learned the story of that 
scar, which she mentions in her letter. 

"To cut a long yarn short, Tracey made satisfac- 
tory financial arrangements with King and Banks, 
and was duly brought back to Australia. It was on 
reaching a Queensland port that he read in the press 
the startling news that in his absence he had been 
murdered and his daughter accused of the crime. 
At first he was going to telegraph at once to the police 
announcing that he was alive and well, but thinking 
that Miss Tracey might have discovered that Rodda 
was a usurper and that almost anything might have 
happened, he decided that the situation was one that 
required delicate handling. He came to Melbourne 
as speedily and secretly as possible, accompanied by 
Banks; went to the house at Fitzroy at which Banks 
was accustomed to lodge when in Melbourne, and 



182 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

knowing that I had paid Miss Tracey marked at- 
tention at Mount Marunga the year before, and hav- 
ing learned from the press reports of the trial that 
before the tragedy we had become engaged, he came 
to the conclusion that I was the man who could best 
help him. So he sent for me in the manner I have 
described. ' ' 

Once I had got fairly started, the three detectives 
listened to my story in absolute silence, and their 
faces when I had finished expressed blank amazement 
rather than incredulity. Like me, they had evidently 
realised the foolishness of refusing to believe events 
merely because they were bizarre , especially when 
they were associated with so unusual a crime as the 
Mount Marunga murder. 

"Well, my oath! Truth is stranger than fiction," 
observed Patullo, platitudinously. 

* ' So the woman in the next room was never married 
to Tracey, but was Rodda's mistress?" said Ryan. 

"Exactly." 

"And she killed Rodda?" 



if 



1 have read you her confession; you can read it 
for yourself." 

"How is it she came to write that letter to you, Mr. 
Maxon ? ' ' asked Ryan, and I fancied I detected in his 
voice a new note of respect, which he evidently con- 
sidered was due to one who, even though indirectly, 
had succeeded in solving a mystery that had baffled 



A STORY OF THE SEA 183 

the giant intellects of the Criminal Investigation 
Branch. 

"Because I visited her this afternoon — or rather 
yesterday afternoon," I replied, for I had just 
glanced at ray watch and it was now 2.20 a.m. "I 
called on her, told her that I knew of the plot against 
Tracey, and that I suspected her of having murdered 
Rodda." 

Ryan pricked his ears up. "How did you get at 
that?" he asked. 

"By methods that would scarcely commend them- 
selves to professional sleuthhounds, " I replied, for I 
could not resist an unworthy desire to "rub it in" to 
these men who, from the first, had shown such a 
tremendous faith in their own theories and so little 
respect for those of others. 

"I recollected your words of wisdom, Ryan — that 
in cases of this sort it was a good thing first of all to 
search for a motive. Well, the fact that Rodda ill- 
treated Belle Vere and had once come near to mur- 
dering her supplied the motive. I saw Belle Vere 
yesterday, and endeavoured to frighten a confession 
from her. To my mind, during the interview she 
undoubtedly betrayed her guilt, but would not confess 
it. I left, threatening to inform the police of the other 
crimes in which she had been concerned — the ab- 
duction of Tracey, and Rodda 's impersonation of him 
— and her second perjury at the trial of Miss Tracey. 
As a matter of fact, I had not decided whether it 



184 THE MOUNT MARUNGA MYSTERY 

would be good policy to do this, as I still had hopes 
of being able to devise some means of obtaining a 
confession from Belle, but, as her letter shows, she 
was not prepared to suffer a long term in gaol, and 
so put an end to a life which had held very little 
happiness. ' ' 

"Women mostly do when the coils are tightening 
round them," was Ryan's comment. 



CH.VPTER XXIV. 

WHERE LOVE IS. 

LITTLE now remains to be told. The death of the 
handsome woman whom Melbourne had known as 
Mrs. Tracey, and the publication of her confession 
created, if possible, a greater sensation than did the 
Mount Marunga murder itself. Society had been first 
surprised by the news that Henry Tracey had married 
a second time ; then it was shocked by the announce- 
ment that he had been foully murdered; now it was 
astonished by the information that he was again in 
Melbourne, alive, and still a widower. The day fol- 
lowing the death of the woman whom the world had 
supposed his wife, Tracey left the Fitzroy lodging- 
house to which he had been taken by Banks, and re- 
turned to the splendor of ''Avalong." And "Ava- 
long" in the course of a few days again sheltered its 
beautiful and beloved mistress, for when the newly 
ascertained facts relating to the murder had been laid 
before the Cabinet, Mabel was promptly released by 
a special order from the Attorney-General. 

From the living tomb in which she had been in- 
carcerated she stepped into a world of blue and gold, 
of warmth and sunshine; for Nature decked herself 
in her fairest robes as though in honor of the occasion. 

185 



186 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

The poor girl who had suffered so much, and sho^vn 
such heroic fortitude, returned to a freedom which 
she could now enjoy, in the knowledge that not even 
sub-consciously had she offended against the laws of 
God or of man, and that the father whom she had 
mourned as dead still lived. Hers was a joyful home- 
coming. The servants at "Avalong" had always 
loved her, and their unbounded pleasure at her return 
brought tears to the eyes of others than Mabel. Dolly, 
the maid, ignoring all artificial restraints, threw her 
arms around Mabel's neck; and the two greeted each 
other, not as mistress and maid, but as woman and 
woman; and then, woman-like, wept together. 

Of my own meeting with Mabel after her release, I 
will not write. This was one of those moments which 
no wealth of verbal imagery can adequately describe, 
and which, perhaps, it is not fitting that one should 
attempt to describe. Generous always, she over- 
estimated to an absurd degree the part I had taken 
in establishing her innocence. Although such praise, 
coming from the woman one loves, is sweet indeed, I 
did not want it. The reward I received for my 
blundering, although finally successful, efforts was 
much greater than any to which even a fond woman 
could give voice. 

At the inquest on the body of poor Belle Vere a 
finding of suicide was returned. Hector Blunt, who 
from the start had cut such a contemptible figure, 
and had done so much to increase Mabel's unhap- 
piness, received bis deserts. Charges of perjury and 
suborning were brought against him, and he was 
given a substantial term of imprisonment. 

The reader is now in possession of all the facts 



WHERE LOVE IS 187 

relating to the sensational Mount Marunga mystery. 
If the narrative has failed to interest, the fault lies 
with the narrator, for the story itself is one of absorb- 
ing interest. The plot that germinated in the mind of 
Stephen Rodda was as daring and original as a clever 
and unscrupulous man could conceive. As things 
turned out, it was doomed to failure because, like 
many another criminal, Rodda made a mistake in 
selecting his accomplices. Had his own brutality not 
led to his death at Mount Marunga, his villainy 
would have been exposed upon the return from the 
Islands of the man whom he was impersonating. I 
am convinced — and the opinion is shared by Mr. 
Tracey — that George Banks, although he took Rodda 's 
money, had no intention of carrying out to the full 
the dirty work allotted him. I have no doubt that the 
seedy little sailor, apart from his greed for gold, was 
influenced in this matter by his hatred of the man 
who had made life a hell for Belle Vere ; the beautiful 
lady whom Banks regarded with an affection which 
was too sincere to be wholly ridiculous. Rodda 's 
death saved him from paying the penalty which the 
law would have demanded for his wrongdoing, but 
the unlucky coincidences associated with it involved 
several innocent people in misery such, fortunately, 
as is the fate of few to experience. 

However, to employ a trite quotation, "All's well 
that ends well." I write these words in a room, the 
large French windows of which open on to a porch- 
way. Beyond this is a garden bright with flowers. 
Spanish broom flaunts its yellow loveliness, while 
simple white and yellow daisies, watsonia, pale and 



188 THE MOUNT MAEUNGA MYSTERY 

chaste, and snapdragon — its white bell-blossoms mov- 
ing gently in the breeze — compete for notice with the 
more gorgeous beauty of erythrina, just commencing 
to break into bloom, Mabel, fresh and sweet in white 
muslin, and a big, shady straw hat, comes in from the 
garden, her arms full of freshly-picked flowers. 

"Haven't you finished that beastly book of yours 
yet?" she inquires poutingly; "little Mabel and I 
have seen scarcely anything of you lately; you seem 
always to be writing." 

"Just finishing, dear," I assure her, and as she 
moves about the room I know the blessed contentment 
of those who have gained: 

Rest after toil, 

Port after stormy seas, 

Peace after ivar. 

The End. 



1/- each. THE "BOOKSTALL" SERIES. 1/2 posted. 
Written by Australians for Australians. 



Humorous Books 

BY 

THOMAS E. SPENCER 



HOW KcDOUGALL TOPPED THE SCORE 
and Other Verses and Sketches 

A delightful series of humorous recitations. The verses 
which give the title to this collection are probably 
more widely known than any other Australian recitation. 

THE SURPRISING ADVENTURES OF 
BRIDGET McSWEENEY 

A series of fourteen hilarious adventures of the most 
amusing Irishwoman fiction possesses. 

THAT DROLL LADY 

Being further " surprising adventures" of Bridget 
McSweeney. A book ehockful of fun. 

THE SPRING CLEANING 

Another series of shriekingly humorously stories. 

WHY DOHERTY DIED 

More brilliantly humorous verses, suitable for recitation. 

BINDAWALLA 

A fascinating romance of the bush. "Bindawalla" pre- 
sents a charming love story, which is supplemented by 
some highly exciting and amusing incidents. 



N.S.W. BOOKSTALL CO.. LTD.. 476 George St., Sydney. 



1/- each. THE "BOOKSTALL" SEHIES. 1/2 posted. 
New Volumes added Monthly. 

THE BOOK OF DAN 

Dan was one of the most interesting characters in Steele 
Eudd 's earlier books, and now that the family has grown 
up it is fitting that the adventures of Dan should have a 
book to themselves. A most enjoyable story. 

GRANDPA'S SELECTION 

A recent and popular addition to the Selection Seriea. 

THE OLD HOMESTEAD 

Steele Eudd at his best. 

MEMOIRS OF CORPORAL KEELEY 

In this volume — Steele Rudd's latest — the popular author 
has struck a new vein of humour, quite distinct from his 
famous selection work. Corporal Keeley is an Anzac, 
armed to the teeth with humour. 

THE POOR PARSON 

A rattling good tale, describing, mostly in a humorous 
manner, the trials, troubles and strange adventures of 
the Outback parson. 

DUNCAN McCLURE 

A great story of a Scotch squatter— brimful of humorous 
episodes. 

ON AN AUSTRALIAN FARM 

A brilliant novel of the Outback. In contrast with his 
selection stories — most of which dealt humorously with 
the struggling selector — the author has made a 
prosp( reus farming family the subjects of his sparkling 
humour. 

THE DASHWOODS 

1 hough intended as a sequel to "On An Australian 
Farm," the two novels are quite independent. 

FOR LIFE 

" I'or Lile" is the story of a suspect accused of a triple 
murder, who is required to prove his alibi under police 
escort. Makes one of the most iuterestiug tales imagin- 
able. 



N.S-W. BOOKSTALL CO., LTD., 47S (Jeorfe St., Sydney. 



1/- each. THE •* BOOKSTALL" SERIES. 1/2 posted. 
New Volumes added Monthly. 



Sporting Novels 

By 

ARTHUR WRIGHT 

Australia's most popular Novelist 



A GAME OF CHANCE 

A story of a daring attempt at impersonation, which for 
a time succeeds with startling results. A strong sporting 
interest and a good love story run throughout the novel. 

IN THE LAST STRIDE 

A rattling good story, which deals with the adventures 
of an all-round athlete. Undoubtedly one of the best 
Australian sporting novels ever published. 

THE SPORT FROM HOLLOWLOG FLAT 

An exceptionally bright and entertaining story, which is 
acclaimed by the critics to be one of the best novels this 
popular author has yet written. 

GAMBLER'S GOLD 

A capital sensational story, in which the course of true 
love is impeded by the effects of an old-time tragedy, but 
which is again set on its happy way by means of some 
fine sporting episodes. 

RUNG IN 

The sub-title, to a large ertent, explains the book: "A 
Taste of the Turf, Interwoven with a Murder Mystery 
and a Love Story." A sparkling novel, possessing great 
dramatic strength. 

A ROGUE'S LUCK 

A thrilling story that holds the reader's interest from 
page to page. 

N.S.W. BOOKSTALL CO., LTD., 476 George St., Sydney. 



1/- each. THE "BOOKSTALL" SERIES. 1/2 posted. 
Written by Australiaiis for Australians. 



TAP TAP ISLAND byj.M.Waish 

A fascinating adventure and mystery story. 

THE DOINGS OF DAVE byCon.Drew 

An excellent volume of humour in which several con- 
fidence men are seen in action. The volume is full of 
surprises, for just when the reader expects the "crook" 
to_ score, very often the tables are turned. All the old 
tricks are given a new interest by this popular sporting 
writtr. 

ROGUES AND RUSES byCon. Drew 

A companion volume to "The Doinsrs of Dave." There 
is a smile in every page of "Eogues and Ruses." 

EQUALITY ROAD by Vera Baker 

One of the best Australian novels of recent years. Val- 
entine Hood, a fine type of Australian girl, be^eveg that 
"all men are equal"— given equal opportuni. r^si She 
puts her theory into practice — and discovers that 
Equality Road is a very rough track indeed. A great 
story with surprising developments. 

IN RACING SILK by Gerald R. Baldwin 

A powerful story of the turf. Whilst a thorough exposi- 
tion of the methods of the unscrupulous bookmaker and 
horse-owner are a feature of the novel, the author has 
deftly introduced a most delightful love story — a com- 
bination that assures the reader of many exciting 
incidents. 

THE PYJAMA MAN by Ralph stock 

A capital romance that originates in the surf, adjourns 
for a spell to the glamour of London theatrical life, and 
eventually terminates in unconventional circumstances 
on a station on the Monaro. One of those rare books 
that has not a single dull page. 

THE CALLING VOICE by e. f. Chnstie 

One of the most charming and interesting busih novels 
that has yet been published. There is a fascination 
in Australian bush life, and Miss Christie, in a story full 
of incident and humour, shows how great the fascination 
really is. 



N.S.W. BOOKSTALL CO., LTD., 476 George St., Sydney. 



II 



UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 





A 000 139 102 8 




^55;:>^S;^^-«' 







ihiliililll^^K