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Title:      The Secret of Emu Plain
Author:     L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace
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Title:      The Secret of Emu Plain
Author:     L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace

IT so happened that business called me to Queensland in the late October
of 1894, and hearing that my old friend, Rosamund Dale, was about to be
married, I determined to present myself at Jim Macdonald's station on the
Barcoo District in December, in order to be present at the ceremony. I
had seen a good deal of Rosamund when she was a child, and it was an old
promise of mine that, if possible, I was to be one of the guests at her

I arrived at Macdonald's a week before Christmas, and when a hot wind, or
sirocco, was blowing in from the west. I little thought, as I did so,
that the strangest, and most terrible adventure of my life was about to
take place in the Queensland bush. But so it was, and this is the story
just as it happened.

I had been delayed on my journey, and on the evening of my arrival the
wedding was to take place. Macdonald's property was about seven hundred
and fifty square miles in extent, and was in the heart of the hills,
which are the fountain-head of the countless creeks that run south, and
join to form the Warrego, and eventually the Great Darling River, some
four hundred miles away. It was good grazing country on the whole, but
contained one enormous tract of arid sand, some forty square miles in
extent, which went by the name of Emu Plain. Skirting one corner of this
plain ran the coach road from Blackall to Charleville, along which ran
Cobb & Co.'s coach once a fortnight. Almost in the middle of the plain
stood in solitary grandeur the great Emu Rock, a grotesque, bare,
perpendicular crag of limestone, rising a sheer three hundred feet from
the ground.

Leaving my heavy luggage at Blackall, I had come with a valise by Cobb &
Co.'s coach to the cross roads, and had then ridden over to Macdonald's
house, a low wooden homestead of one storey, with a verandah running all
round it. The sitting-rooms opened into the verandah. There was a
garden at the back, enclosed by a fence. Macdonald met me with words of
hearty welcome.

"But you are late, Bell," he exclaimed, "Rosamund has been waiting
impatiently for your arrival all day. She never forgets how good you were
to her when she was a child, and all alone in the old country. But let me
take you to your room for a tub and brush up, for she would like to see
you for a moment or two before the wedding."

Jim took me to my apartment in the left wing of the house, and half an
hour later I joined Rosamund Dale on the balcony. She was a handsome dark-eyed girl, with a bright vivacious face and sparkling eyes. She had
changed much in appearance since I had last seen her, as a small and
somewhat awkward schoolgirl, but her affectionate heart and frank manners
were still abundantly manifest. She made me seat myself in a deck chair,
and began at once to talk about her bridegroom. Goodwin was the best man
in the world, she loved him with all her heart and soul; she liked the
life in the bush, too. Notwithstanding its loneliness there was an
element of excitement about it which quite suited her nature.

As she spoke to me I noticed that she looked anxiously out, and shading
her eyes with her hand I saw them travel across the paddock, and up the

"What is the matter, Rosamund," I said at last; "and, by the way," I
added, "won't you introduce me to Mr. Goodwin?"

"He has not come yet, and I cannot understand it," replied the girl; "he
ought to have been here an hour ago. His station is about thirty miles
from here, just across Emu Plain."

"What a hideous piece of desolation that Emu Plain is," I answered. "I
skirted it on the coach, and never saw anything so repulsive in my life."

I noticed that Rosamund shuddered, and her face turned pale.

"It is an ugly place," she said at last, "and bears a bad name."

"What do you mean by that?" I interrupted.

''You will laugh at me, Mr. Bell," was her reply, "but people say the
plain is haunted. Some most extraordinary disappearances have taken place
there from time to time. If Frank came across the plain there is no
saying, but"--she looked me full in the face.

"I am surely frightening myself about nothing," she said. "Will you
excuse me a moment? I must just go into the drawing-room and ask if
there is any news of Frank."

She rose, and I followed her into the room behind the verandah. I there,
for the first time, made Mrs. Macdonald's acquaintance. She was a hearty,
good-natured looking woman, with eyes like Rosamund's. She seemed
devotedly attached to her niece, and now went up to the girl, and kissed
her affectionately.

"Your uncle has just gone off to meet Frank," she said; "they are sure to
be here in a few moments.''

She spoke cheerfully, but I felt certain that I noticed a veiled anxiety
in her eyes.

At that moment a man crossed the room, came up to Rosamund, and held out
his hand.

"How do you do, Mr. Corry?" said the girl gravely. She had beautiful dark
eyes, with magnificent lashes, and I observed, as Corry spoke to her,
that she lowered them, and avoided looking at him. He was a thin, tall
man, with red hair, and a slight cast in one eye. His lips were thin, the
thinnest I had ever seen, and their expression, joined to the cast in the
eye, gave him a sinister look. He was on good terms, however, with all
the guests, and had the manners of a gentleman. Rosamund returned to the
verandah, and I followed her.

"Are you really nervous about anything?" I said. "Is it possible that you
apprehend that an accident has happened to Goodwin?"

"How can I tell?" she answered, and now a look of agony crossed her
strong face. "He ought to be here before now; he has never failed before,
and on his wedding evening, too! The Plain is haunted, you know, Mr.
Bell. Don't laugh at me when I say that I--I believe in the ghost of Emu

"You must tell me more," I answered. "You know," I continued with a
smile, "that I am interested in ghosts."

She could not return my smile; her face grew whiter and whiter.

"Who is that man Corry?" I said, after a pause.

"Oh, never mind about him," she answered impatiently. "He has a selection
about twenty miles from here, and is, I believe, an Englishman. I cannot
think what is keeping Frank," she added. "Ah! thank God! I hear horses'
hoofs at last."

She ran to the farther end of the verandah, and stood there, gazing up
the road with the most longing, perplexed expression I had ever seen on
human face. Alas! only one rider was returning, and that was Macdonald
himself. He came in cheerfully, said that Frank might appear at any
moment, and suggested we should all go to supper.

At that meal I noticed that Rosamund only played with her food. She was
seated near Mr. Lee, the clergyman from the nearest township, who had
come over to marry her. He talked to her in low tones, and she replied
listlessly. It was evident that her thoughts were with her absent lover,
and that she could think of nothing else. At last the miserable meal had
dragged to an end, the evening passed away somehow, and the different
guests retired to their rooms. By--and--by Macdonald and I found
ourselves alone.

"Now, what is up?" I said, going up to him at once; "Jim, what is the
meaning of this?"

"God only knows," was his reply; "I don't like it, Bell, and that's a
fact. You noticed that big plain as you came along by the coach?"

"Emu Plain?" I replied.

Jim nodded.

"It bears an ugly reputation," he said. "There have been the most
extraordinary disappearances there from time to time. The blacks say that
the place is haunted by a ghost, which they call the Bunyip. Of course, I
don't believe in anything of that sort; but it is a fact that you will
scarcely get a black man to cross the plain after dark, and two or three
of our settlers have entered that plain alone and never been heard of
since. Whether the agency which causes them to disappear is ghostly or
otherwise it is impossible for me to say."

"You surely do not believe in the Bunyip?" I said, with a slight laugh.

"Hush!" he answered. "The fact is this, Bell; old man; I cannot laugh
over the matter. If anything has happened to Goodwin I believe he--
hollo! who can this be? Lie down, boy," added Jim to Help, his big collie.

We went out into the paddock. As we did so a man rode quickly up, whom
Jim recognised at once as one of the mounted police.

"What's up, Jack?" said Jim.

"A traveller riding alone from Blackall has got bushed on the ranges,"
was the man's reply. "I heard that Frank Goodwill had not turned up here,
and it occurred to me that you ought to know at once. The man's horse,
with an empty saddle, was found on your boundary fence. It is possible
that he had an accident. Could you let me have Billy, your black tracker?
The poor chap may be lying crippled and cannot move on some of the
ranges. There is not a moment to lose."

"Good God! Then it must be Goodwin," exclaimed Jim. "We won't tell
Rosamund yet. We will bring Billy and go with you at once, Jack," he
continued. "You will come along, too, won't you, Bell?" he added briskly.
"Anything is better than suspense. I'll get the horses up and we'll start
in a moment, though we won't be able to do much before daylight."

In less than a quarter of an hour we set out. Billy, the black tracker,
looked sulky, and also considerably alarmed, and Jim whispered to me that
he had great difficulty in making him come at all.

"He believes in that Bunyip," he added, dropping his voice to a hoarse

Billy himself was an ill-favoured looking creature, but as a tracker he
was possessed of almost superhuman powers, and was noted in all the
district as one who could follow tracks of almost any kind. He had only
one eye, the other having been knocked out in a scrimmage, but with that
eye he could read the ground as a civilised man reads a book.

We started off slowly. Billy was presently induced to ride ahead. He
sucked his pipe as if he took no interest in the affair.

"Goodwin must be somewhere on the ranges," said Macdonald emphatically.
"But how he got off the track beats me, as he knows every yard of the
place. There is foul play somewhere."

Just as he said the last words Billy turned in his saddle, and cocking
his one eye round, said slowly:

"Baal boodgeree Emu Plain night time. Bunyip there."

"Nonsense, Billy," replied Macdonald almost angrily. "There is no such
thing as the Bunyip, and you know that as well as I do."

"I see Bunyip once in Emu Plain, along rock," the black went on. "I make
tracks, my word!"

Just as the day broke our way led us out of the scrub, and the trees
began to get more sparsely scattered, till we suddenly burst upon the
borders of the great plain itself. A few moments afterwards Billy uttered
a cry and picked up the tracks. With his one eye fixed on the ground he
dismounted, and began to examine some bent grass and disturbed stones. To
my unaccustomed vision the signs that guided him were absolutely
invisible. It was an exhibition of instinct that no one would believe
without seeing it.

On and on we went through the heat, silent and expectant; now up, now
down, over ridge and gully. Suddenly Billy uttered a sharp cry, and
leaping from his horse gave me the reins, and walked round and round,
peering about and grunting to himself. At last, looking up, he exclaimed
"Man meet someone here."

"Meet someone," cried Macdonald. "Are you sure, Billy?"

"Quite sure," was the answer. He took his tomahawk and cut a notch in one
of the trees in order to mark the spot. We then remounted and rode on. In
a moment Billy spoke again. "More horses! my word!" he said. "Look! "

The marks were clear enough now, even to us. In a piece of soft ground
were the hoof-marks of three horses. Billy said no more, but put his
horse in a canter. We followed him. About a mile farther we pulled up at
the edge of the scrub. We were now close to the great Emu Rock. I noticed
at once that a number of crows were wheeling round its summit.

"It is strange," said Jim, speaking in a hoarse voice, "but I never come
near this great rock that I don't see the crows whirling round the top.
Ay, there they go, as usual," he added, clutching my arm. "My God!
whenever a man disappears there are marks of a struggle at the foot of
the rock. Watch Billy now, he will know in a moment. Oh! merciful heaven!
it is true then, and something has happened to Goodwin. Poor Rosamund;
this will break her heart. Yes, there are the marks, Billy notices them.
Now, Bell, you never had a greater mystery than this to solve. Marks at
the foot of the rock, a man disappears, never found again. What does it
mean, Bell? Where does he go? There must be devilry in the matter."

Billy had dismounted and was bending over the ground. Suddenly he uttered
a sharp shrill cry.

"The marks! the marks!" he gasped. "Bunyip here, man here. Debil, debil
take him. See! see! see!"

His intense excitement communicated itself to us. He began to run about,
peering down low over the ground.

"See! see!" he repeated. "They get off here. Go this way, that way. Ah! a
spur come off." His quick eye had caught the glitter. He picked up a long
spur. "Yes, yes; it is as it always is: three men fight, two men go away;
one man--where he go? Debil take him." He pointed to the sky, gazing up
and showing his white teeth in horror.

"Nonsense, Billy!" said Macdonald, in a voice which he tried to render
commonplace and assured.

I looked at him and saw that he was shaking from head to foot.

"Come away," he said to me. "Poor girl, poor Rosamund. Billy," he added
abruptly, turning to the tracker, "we must pick up the tracks of these

We mounted and followed the horse tracks again. We ran the tracks back to
the coach road, and then lost them in the confusion of a mob of cattle
that had passed during the morning.

"Well, this is a bad business," said Macdonald. "Goodwin is missing, and
what took place on the plain by the rock, and how he has disappeared from
the face of the earth, and who are the men who had a hand in it, are
insoluble problems. It is not the first time, Bell, and that's the horror
of the thing. I tell you, I don't like the business at all. It looks
uncommonly like another of those queer disappearances."

"Tell me about them," I said suddenly.

He began to talk, lowering his voice to a whisper.

"A year ago a man was lost on Emu Plain; he was a young fellow, an
Englishman, and the heir to a big property. He was seen to cross the
plain on horseback one afternoon, and was never heard of or seen again,
and there were the marks of a struggle by the great rock, just as we saw
them to-day, Bell. His people have spent thousands trying to discover
the mystery, but all in vain. Since then the neighbourhood of the rock
has been avoided, and the horror of the plain has grown in the minds of
everybody. For this disappearance was not the first, others had preceded
it. From time to time, at longer or shorter intervals, a man entered that
desolate plain, and never, as far as human being could tell, left it
again. What does the thing portend?"

Billy kept on croaking "Bunyip! Bunyip!" At last Macdonald shouted to
him that he would break his head if he said the word any more.

We returned to the station. Rosamund, with a face like death, came out to
meet us.

"You must bear up, my dear," said her uncle.

"Any news?" she asked.

"Well, there are tracks of a struggle on the plain," he said, with
evident reluctance, "but we cannot follow them. A mob of cattle passed up
the road this morning and have confused the tracks."

"Where was the struggle?" she said in a low voice.

Macdonald avoided her eyes. She gave him a direct and piercing glance.

"Come on to the verandah, Uncle Jim, and you too, Mr. Bell, and tell me
everything,'' said the girl. Her voice was quiet and had a strange
stillness about it. We followed her without a word. She drew deck chairs
forward as we entered the cool verandah, and then kneeling by my side,
laid her hand on my shoulder.

"Now," she said, facing Macdonald, "tell me all. Where was the struggle?"

"Rosamund, you must bear up; it was in the old spot, at the foot of the
great rock. There, my girl," he added hastily, rising as he spoke, "I
don't give up hope yet. I will send off Jack immediately, and have the
affair telegraphed all round the country."

He left the verandah, walking slowly. Rosamund turned to me.

"My fears are certainties," she said; "and Frank has disappeared just as
the other men have disappeared; but oh, my God," she added, rising
hastily to her feet, "I will find him, I will. If he is alive I will find
him, and you, Mr. Bell, must help me. You have solved mysteries before,
but never so great a one as this. You will help me, will you not?"

"With all my heart, my child," I answered.

"Then there is not a moment to lose, let us go at once."

"No, no, Rosamund, that would be madness," I said. "If Goodwin is alive
the police will get tidings of him, and if not--" my voice fell;
Rosamund looked at me intently.

"Do you think I can rest so?" she said. "If you do not want to drive me
mad, something must be done immediately."

"Then what do you propose?" I asked, looking at her.

"To go back with you to the plain, to examine those marks myself, to
bring my woman's wit and intuition to bear on the matter. Where man may
fail to discover any cause a woman may succeed; you know I am right."

"And I would take you with me gladly if it were possible, but it is not."

"Do you think anything that is possible for a man is impossible for a
woman?" she said. ''We can take some food with us, and start at once. We
won't consult anyone. If we are quick, we can reach the rock an hour or
two before sunset, and I know the whole of the ghastly place so well that
we can return in the moonlight. Oh, don't oppose me,'' she added, "for if
you do I will start alone. Anything is better than inaction."

I did not say a word. She gave me a quick, grateful glance, and left the
verandah. Half-an-hour later she appeared in the paddock, equipped in a
stout habit, and mounted on a splendid black horse; she led another by
the bridle for me. We started off at once, and reached the great rock by
daylight. The sweltering sun beat down upon our heads, and the arid sand
rose in clouds around us, but Rosamund neither faltered nor complained--a spirit burned within her which no obstacle could daunt. There were the
marks of the struggle plainly visible. Rosamund knelt on the ground and
examined them with as close and keen an eye as even Billy the black
tracker himself. We walked round and round the rock, the crows whirled in
circles over our heads, making hideous noises as they did so. But, search
as we would, we could find no clue beyond the very manifest one, that
where three had fought and struggled only two had gone away. What--what
in the name of heaven had become of the third?

Before sunset Rosamund put her hand in mine. "Take me home," she said
faintly. I did so. We neither of us spoke on that desolate return

Again the next day we visited the rock, and made a careful search, and
the next day and the next, and meanwhile the country rang with the
disappearance of Frank Goodwin, and with news of Rosamund's grief. But no
clue could we obtain anywhere. We could not get the faintest tidings of
the missing man. That it was Goodwin's horse which was found by the
boundary fence was beyond doubt. He had started from his station in good
time on that fatal morning, and in the best of health and spirits, but
from that moment he had never been seen.

I stayed with the Macdonalds for over a fortnight, and then, loth as I
was to leave Rosamund in her trouble, I had to take my departure, owing
to some pressing business in Brisbane, but I promised to return again as
soon as I could. My plan was to ride for my first stage to Corry's
selection. Billy would come with me, and bring back the horse I was
riding. I would then wait for the coach to pick me up.

I arrived at Corry's in good time, sent Billy back with my horse, and as
there were still some hours before Cobb's coach would pass it suddenly
occurred to me that I would go once again to the Emu Rock, and exert
every faculty I possessed to discover the mystery. Corry and the two
friends who lived with him, Englishmen of much his own build and make,
were out. I told Corry's black servant that I was going to try and bag a
plain turkey, and borrowed one of his guns for the purpose.

In about half an hour I reached the rock. The sun was already dipping low
over the hills. Across the summit of the rock, crows and eagle-hawks
wheeled to and fro. I walked round and round it in despair. I longed to
tear its ghastly secret out of the silent rock. What strange scene had it
not, in all probability, recently witnessed?

By-and-by I sat down at the base of the rock, and watched the shadow
creeping across the plain as the sun sank lower and lower. I was just
making up my mind to return to Corry's when suddenly, within a few yards
of me, I saw something drop on the sand. It made no noise, but as it fell
it caught my eye. Wondering vaguely what it might be I got up, and
sauntered across to the place. I saw something on the ground, an odd-
looking thing. I bent down to see what it was. As I did so my heart stood
still. I was looking at a human finger. The flesh was nearly all picked
from the bone. I took it in my hand and gazed at it--my pulses were
throbbing, and a deadly fear seized me. Where had it come from? What did
it mean? Then in an instant a wild thought struck me. I looked up. Still
flying to and fro noisily were the crows and hawks. Could one of them
have dropped the finger? Was the body of Frank Goodwin at the top of the
Emu Rock? The idea was monstrous, and yet there was the finger, and the
crows wheeling round and round above me. But how could I prove my ghastly
suspicion? By no earthly means would it be possible to scale three
hundred feet of perpendicular rock. If the body of poor Goodwin was
there, how in the name of all that was mysterious had it been put there?
One thing, at least, was certain, I must go back at once to Macdonald's
station and report the horrible discovery I had made, and arrange for an
investigation of the summit of the rock to take place immediately.

The sirocco was still blowing hard, and great eddies of sand were
circling in the air. A sand-storm was evidently coming on, and there
was nothing for me to do but to lie down and bury my face in the ground
until it passed by. I did so, my pulses throbbing, the most nameless fear
and depression stealing over me. The storm grew greater, it was upon me.
I kept my eyes shut, and my face buried. All of a sudden, from what
quarter I knew not, there came a dizzy pain; lights danced before my
eyes. I seemed to sink into nothingness, my terrors were lifted from me,
I was enshadowed in an impregnable darkness, and remembered no more.

When I came to myself I was lying on my back, and gazing up at the stars.
Everything around me was silent as the grave, except the noise of the
wind through the scrub which, curiously enough, now sounded far below me.
I was lying on hard rock, and every bone in my body ached. I managed to
turn myself slowly round, and then gazed about me. Where in the name of
heaven was I? I saw that I was lying in a sort of basin of rock, the edge
of which was some ten feet above me, but what was this dark mass lying a
little to my left? I managed to crawl towards it. Great Heavens! it was a
human body. The moment I saw it memory returned. I knew what my last
conscious thoughts had been. I was in the midst of a sand-storm at the
foot of the great Emu Rock. Darkness, joined to heavy pain, had overtaken
me. When I came to myself I was at the top of the Emu Rock, and the body
beside me was, doubtless, that of Frank Goodwin. By what supernatural
agency had I been transported here? For a moment my brain  reeled, and I
thought  that I must be the victim of some hideous nightmare.

The moon was riding high in the heavens; the sand-storm had completely
passed; the stars were bright. In this subdued light I could see every
object around me almost as vividly as if it were day. I gazed once again
at the body of the man by my side. Suddenly my heart leapt with fresh
fear, and I raised myself on my elbow. I thought I saw the body stir.
Could it be still alive? No. Yet, as if poised above the shoulder,
something was moving--a black, smooth object, which swayed gently to and
fro with a horrible and perfect regularity. The silence was suddenly
broken by a long low hiss, and I now perceived that the coils of an
enormous snake heaved and rolled, as the loathsome creature slowly
unwound itself, and glided noiselessly up the side of the rock. Drops of
sweat broke out upon my forehead, and for fully an hour I lay still,
literally paralysed with fear. Then the mad courage of desperation seized
me, and with a reckless disregard of danger from the reptile I sprang
back to the edge of the rock; but as I did so I knew all the time that a
pair of glittering eyes was fixed upon me. Never for a moment did they
blink, or withdraw their gaze. Single-handed and unarmed, in a prison
from which escape was impossible, I was face to face with this deadly
reptile. For all I knew there might be many others close beside me among
the rocks.

The dawn began slowly to break. The light grew stronger every moment, as
I crouched on one side of my prison, tense and motionless. I knew that if
I stirred, the reptile would spring upon me. It was coiled up now on the
rock exactly opposite the spot where the body of Frank Goodwin lay. Once
I ventured to turn my eyes and look round. Three hundred feet below
stretched the plain. Yes; escape was impossible. Now I had to face either
a quick death from the bite of this huge brown snake, or a lingering
death from thirst and starvation. Just for a moment I nearly yielded to a
sudden impulse that assailed me, to take one step back over the edge of
the basin and end my sufferings instantaneously. But, sick and faint as I
still was, I determined to have one last fight before I destroyed myself.
Cautiously, and still keeping my eyes upon the brute, I loosened a large
flat stone, weighing nearly a couple of pounds; and; gently and slowly--
for all the while those eyes, which never blinked, were fixed upon me--I
unfastened my leather belt and made a loop with one end through the
buckle. Then slipping in the stone, I drew the strap tightly round the
stone. Here was an improvised weapon, a good one if I chanced to have the
first blow. Wrapping the end of the belt twice round my hand, I crept
slowly forward, across the body of the dead man. As I did so, the great
snake moved to and fro, and, opening its jaws, hissed at me in fury. I
knew now that in a moment he would spring. I held out my hand, keeping
the strap with the stone at the end well behind me, and then with all my
force swung it round over my shoulder at the brute. At the same instant,
with incredible swiftness, it struck out sideways at me. The huge stone
met it halfway, and it fell, with its back broken, at my feet, hissing
and wriggling in hideous contortions. I sprang back and, once more
swinging round the stone with all my force, crushed its head against the
rock. In another moment I had flung it over, and was watching its great
body whirling down through the air to the plain below.

This immediate danger passed, I now began as coolly as I could to
calculate my own chances. It was impossible to say when the news of my
disappearance might reach Jim Macdonald's station. Perhaps not for weeks.
Meanwhile, what was to become of me? If there were no more brown snakes
lurking between the crevices of the rock, I must, at best, slowly die
from thirst and starvation. Surely by superhuman agency had I been
transported to this giddy eminence. But escape was absolutely impossible.
Poor Rosamund! I had at last succeeded in my quest, and Goodwin's mangled
body lay close to me. Was I to share a similar fate?

As the hopelessness of the situation came upon me I trembled. The sun was
now well up, and I knew that my sufferings from heat and thirst were all
too soon to begin. I removed my shirt, and tearing it into strips
fastened them together and then attached the free end to a projection of
rock. I then flung the body of poor Goodwin on to the plain below. As I
did so the grim idea of ending my sufferings by suicide recurred to me
once more. If no help came I would, when my pains became intolerable,
fling myself also from the dizzy height. I sat down on a huge stone and
looked out towards the coach road. The hours dragged wearily on, but no
sign of human life did I see.

The blazing sun beat mercilessly upon my head, and by midday the pangs of
thirst had almost arisen to torture, and hunger also now assailed me. I
was faint and giddy too, and discovered that I was suffering from a
severe blow on the head. Doubtless I had received this blow at the foot
of the rock; it had rendered me unconscious, and the mysterious agency
which had lifted me to the height above was then brought into
requisition. Were they indeed ghostly hands which had dealt me this blow?
Was the Bunyip a real devil? Was Emu Plain haunted by a horror which
admitted of no solution?

From time to time I shouted insanely, in order to keep off the eagle-hawks and crows which swooped down and wheeled round me. More than once I
rose and peered down over the edge of my awful prison. There was not the
slightest ledge or projection from the smooth sides for more than a
hundred feet. Escape was out of the question.

My weakness was increasing hour by hour, and I resolved that if relief
did not come before the sun set to-morrow, I would take that desperate
leap and end my sufferings. I dared not sleep lest I might miss the frail
chance of anyone coming, and the whole long night I paced around,
shouting at intervals, though my voice came hoarse and thick from my
parched lips. As morning broke once more I was utterly exhausted, and lay
down, now half delirious from raging fever. My head felt as if it would
burst, and the great rock seemed to reel and totter beneath me. The hours
went by I know not how; time seemed nowhere; reality had merged into a
ghostly phantasmagoria, hunger and thirst grew greater and greater.
Insensibly, and scarcely knowing why I did it, I crept to the edge of
that terrible cup in the rock. I could stand my tortures no longer.
Instantaneous death should end my sufferings. I gazed round with haggard
eyes for my last look at earth. Suddenly a shrill shout rent the air. I
reeled back and clung to the corner of the rock for support. Once again
came the noise. I heard my name, followed immediately by the report of a
gun. The next instant I saw lying across the cup of rock close beside me
a thin piece of cord.

"Catch it and haul in," I heard in a drawling voice as through a
telephone from below.

I leapt up, hope had returned. My delirium fell from me like a mantle.
For the time I was myself once more. I obeyed the words from below, and
began frantically to haul in the rope. Coil after coil came up thicker
and thicker till presently I held in my hands a stout rope. I now
mustered all my remaining strength and fastened the rope tightly round
the neck of a piece of solid rock. After doing this I remembered nothing

They told me afterwards, long weeks afterwards, when my fever had left
me, and weak as a child I submitted to Rosamund's ministrations--they
told me then, in my room at Jim Macdonald's station, what had really

Rosamund had dreamt the strangest dream of her life. She had gone through
overmastering terror; horror beyond description had visited her. She had
dreamt that I was on the top of the Emu Rock, and insisted on going
there, accompanied by Jim and Billy, the black tracker. At the base of
this mighty rock evidence of the most terrible character met her eyes,
but, brave girl that she was,  she turned her attention to the rescue of
the living. A cord was sent up to my dizzy eminence by means of a rocket
gun, and when I had fastened the rope to the rock Billy himself had come
up and brought me down.

Thus I was saved from the very jaws of death. But what the mystery was,
and how Frank Goodwin's body had been hauled up to the top of the Emu
Rock, and how I myself had got there, are insoluble mysteries. I have
unearthed more than one ghost in my day, but the great Bunyip of Emu
Plain has baffled my ingenuity. He has won in the fight, and I bow my
head in silence, owning that he, in his unfathomable mystery, is stronger
than I.




THIS exceedingly clever story is the sequel to the adventures of John
Bell, the ghost exposer, related for us by Mrs. Meade last year, under
the title of  "A MASTER OF MYSTERIES". Some of our readers will remember
that Mrs. Meade spoke then of one mystery which John Bell had not been
able to fathom. The above story of Emu Plain is the mystery in question.
That which John Bell could not explain is, however, known to the authors
of the adventure. We suggest that our readers attempt to solve the
mystery themselves, and we will award Ten Prizes of One Guinea each to
the ten solutions which, in Mrs. Meade's opinion, are the best sent to
us. These solutions, marked "STORY PRIZE," and addressed to the Editor of
CASSELL'S MAGAZINE, La Belle Sauvage, London, E.G., must reach us on or
before February 15th. We shall publish Mrs. Meade's explanation of the
mystery in our April Number. No person may send more than one solution of
the story, and no solution must exceed 300 words in length.


The following is the authors' solution of the mystery which was left
unexplained in our December number.

BEFORE leaving the old country for Australia, Corry, who was a clever
mechanician, had been engaged for a long time in investigating the
possible uses of kites for military operations, and had made a large
number of very interesting experiments as to their lifting power. He
found (and his results corresponded with those of other investigators)
that in a fairly strong wind one square foot of kite surface would raise
half a pound. He found, also, that to obviate the inconvenience of using
a large and unwieldy kite for raising heavy weights, a series of small
kites attached vertically one above the other answered the purpose
equally well. And by this means he succeeded in raising weights up to 200
lb. by attaching them to the ground-rope about six feet from the lowest
of the kites and employing a horse to draw the rope.

By means of a slip-rope arrangement an enormous explosive charge could
be raised and dropped over an enemy's fortification with considerable
accuracy, three kites, each ten feet square, raising eleven stone.

Hereditarily tainted with criminal instincts, coupled with a fantastic
imagination, the peculiar construction of the Emu Rock suggested to him
that by means of kites the body of a man could be raised and deposited
upon the top where it could never by any possibility be discovered. An
opportunity for practically putting this diabolical scheme to the test
soon occurred. So long as the sirocco was blowing, the feat was
comparatively easy. The manner in which John Bell became one of his
victims is already known.


THE task of selecting the winners of the ten prizes, of one guinea each,
offered in our December number for the best solutions of the mystery left
unexplained by the authors of  "The Secret of Emu Plain,'' has proved no
light one. Of the three hundred and eighty--six competitors who essayed
the solution of the problem, only four actually indicated the use of a
kite, and one of these four, Mr. F. M. Holmes, being a contributor to
CASSELL'S MAGAZINE, was hors concours.

Many competitors sent with their solutions letters which spoke of the
interest which the unexplained problem had aroused, and attempts to solve
it came from every country of Europe as well as from the Far West of the
United States, the West Indies, Canada, India, and Australia. Even more
diversified than the origin of the solutions was their nature. Nearly
half the competitors found their way to the top of the rock by means of a
fissure or tunnel in the limestone, whose existence was known only to
Corry and his associates; and a very large number staked its chance of a
prize on the suggestion that a whirlwind was the sole force by which the
bodies were raised from the plain to the top of the crag. Not a few
hazarded the suggestion that the rocket-gun, which played so important
a part in the rescue of Mr. Bell, had a counterpart which was equally
active in getting him "into the hole.'' The united efforts of crows and
eagle-hawks, the snake, balloons-both captive and free-and even
indigestion on the part of Mr. Bell, were all, in turn, offered as
explanations of the mystery. Though so few of the solutions were
absolutely in accord with that deposited by the authors, under seal,
before a single competitor had entered the lists, and only opened after
the most laggard of our competitors had shot his bolt, the ingenuity with
which so many competitors defended most plausible keys to the mystery
added to the difficulty of making an award. The names of the ten prize-
winners are given in alphabetical order in the following list:--

AGNES CLANCHY, Sunville, Cork.
Miss CROSLAND, c/o Messrs. Homberger and Co., Stoney  Street, Nottingham.
W. R. FOSTER, 73, Port Street, Bengeworth, Evesham.
SAM. H. GOOD, Advertiser Offices, Adelaide, S.A. E.
T. JONES, Potomas, Salto, Uruguay.
The Rev.J. MIREHOUSE, Colsterworth, Grantham.
MINNIE ROBERTSON, 11, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, E.C.
THOS. V. STATON, Duddo, Norham--on--Tweed.
W. H. TWAMLEY Trinolin Glebe, Ballyboro, co. Kildare, Ireland.
DORA M. WATTS, Carrhoime, Stackhouse, Settle.


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