A TRAMP IN HIGH
Strange Scenes and People.
It was a hot morning at the end of January a few years ago that' I, grown tired of the ways of the city, made np my mind to go into the mountains for a spell. I had been in parts of the Australian Alps from time to time, but never yet had I travelled the much-talked of Yarra Track. Some people said it was' the most beautiful and never-to-be-forgotten part of all the ranges.
I trained for Warburton, convinced that the further I penetrated the mountains the cooler the weather would be. but in that I was destined to disappointment. It was enjoyable enough travelling by train over the Yarra flats for 45 miles. Warburton was right on the bank of the Crystal River, whose waters fresh-fed from a thousand mountain streams and springs hurried by. Behind the town on either side the river, timbered hills rose till their summits met the sky. Being young and impetuous, I delayed in town only long enough to eat a hearty dinner. It was>19 miles to Upper Yarra, and I decided to walk the distance before nightfall. I had not walked very far out of the town, when the clear summer atmosphere became clouded. The further and faster I walked, the darker it became. Suddenly I came to where fires were burning the grass and scrub on either side of the road. The afternoon was hot, but the fires made it doubly so. Perspiration streamed from my every pore, and soon my clothes were saturated. _ It was an experience, and I accepted it as such. I met a couple of young men and boys, who said they lived back on the river, and were searching for Borne cattle that they feared might not be safe.
Through the fired area and I came to more open country. The feet of the hills were wider apart, the flats had been cleared, and some of them cultivated. At McMahon's Creek there stood a hotel, and in spite of the millions of gallons of pure water that ran by every hour, I sought other refreshment. In the bar I met a man, whom I_ remembered , to have been acquainted with in a mining field in another part of the State. He was employed as an inspector of dredging leases. We talked of mining and raining fields for half an hour, had a last drink, and said goodbye. It was a last goodbye. Not many months after I read his death notice in the papers. He bad to all intents and purposes died a natural death. But a couple of years later his widow passed away under peculiar circumstances. His daughter was put on her trial, and to make sure that the old man had not been poisoned, bis remains were ordered to be exhumed and a careful post mortem examination conducted to find if there were any trace of poison in his stomach. The unfortunate girl was not convicted, but a stigma rested on her.
A Haven of Refuge.
As I walked further the mountains closed in on the river, and were clothed with the heaviest of timber. It was not ob late as sundown when I reached McVeigh's chateau. It was a veritnble haven of refuge. I was distressed more than I cared to admit. I bathed in a hole in the river round a bed above the hotel, and sat down to a hearty supper. Luckily I carried a change of underclothing in my handbag. I hung my saturated garments on a fence until bed time, then placed them near the fire, where they might dry before morning. I was a stranger to every one, and every one was strange to me. There was a pile of old and new papers on a table in the sitting room. They were^ all past reading as far as I was concerned. I looked through many of them to find some news that I might not yet have read. A number ot men sat on the verandah, and more occupied the bar. They were fossickers from one of the numerous creeks that helped to fill the river, and road-menders, who were repairing the Yarra track. Among them was an old man (since dead) who supplied the Carlton Brewery with their advertisement. "I allers has wun at eleven!" I could say with Hugh Clougli, "There is a stream (I name not its name, lest inquisitive tourist hunt it, and make it a lion, and get it at last into guide books.") Already Pat McVeigh had won a name for his excellent locality, and every summer, tourists were finding their way to his hotel in increasing numbers. He had plans drawn for a large house, and was soon to build one of the best hotels in all the Alps.
A Tragic End.
McVeigh told me of the heavy road that I had to travel to Matlock, but he scarcely knew mountain roads as well as experience had trained me to them. I waited not to spend a day in so picturesque a place, for every mile of the road furnished satiety for the most aesthetic taste. I wound a long way round the side of a bill till the road turned at a sharp elbow out of a gully and back along the side of another spur. When I thought I was at least five miles out of sight of McVeigh's, I discovered myself on the point of another spur and McVeigh's hotel lying snug nearly beneath me. I looked across a narrow, deep ravine to the point of the headland where I lost sight of the hotel nearly an hour before. So it was for a few hours, winding round headlands and in and out of deep gullies till I came to more level country. There was some grazing land round about and a rest house on the roadside. It was Becker's. They were a German couple, who had migrated from the Fatherland in the goldfield days of the 'sixties. Becker never mined for gold. While trekking from Reefton on the Yarra, to Woodspoint, he located where there was land enough for a home, and sold whisky and meals to the miners for a good many years. Becker and his wife are both dead now, and the old homestead long since consumed by a bushfire. Their end was tragic. He was away when a fire swept on the home. The old lady fled, and fell exhausted on the road. When the old man returned he discovered that all was lost, and went in search of his companion. A falling tree disabled him, and a few weeks later he was past knowing that the fire had consumed his earthly possessions. McVeigh had told me of The Mountain Home, some distance beyond Becker's, and I hurried past without calling on them.
A Lonely Homestead.
The Mountain Home wee hidden from the outside world by high hiUa and heavy! timber. It was one of the loneliest homesteads that I have come upon. Collins, the proprietor, was away at Woodspoint, and his wife and several children kept the homestead. The woman _ scarcely expected a traveller, and apologized that she had no dinner to offer. I drank a glass of wine—there was little else—and sat down on a dry goods case while she, on my urging, baked a few scones. Scones, with a tin of fish from her little store, were a meal for me. As I ate, she talked, and told me of her troubles. For many years she and her husband kept a mountain home on top of Frenchman Mountain, over which the road from Woodspoint to Jamieson and Mansfield used to pass. Cut time brings many changes and heals many ills. The climb orera Frenchman Mountain was to be : eliminated. A new road bad been cut round the side of the mountain instead of the one over it. The teamsters and co&chdrivers made full use of the easier grade, and the mountain home had lost itB trade. It was then that Billy Collins moved to the Yarra track and bought the right to cater for the travelling public on that road. Billy was somewhere on his way home. He had business in Woodspoint, and took a couple of paek:horses with him. She would have abundance of flour and tea and sugar when Billy returned. I left her to the company of her children and hurried on.
Here and there the road wound round the side of a high mountain. One could look down on top of trees that were more than three hundred feet high. In one quick glance one could throw one's eyes over dense _ forests of timber that could keep a million saws busy for many years.The hundreds of millions of trees tliatl I saw for that afternoon need never tear' the woodman's axe. I climbed higher and, higher until I thought I was on ground high enough to allow me to knock at heaven's door. Away to the northward I could see hills that had scarcely more than shed their winter's snow, and south again I could pick out some of the high peaks whose names had been familiar to me since I took my first lesson in geography at school! At last I was nearly on the roof of Australia. I passed over some country that was fairly open, and noticed cattle grazing. A few miles from The Oaks I came to The Springs—more open country, and paddocks fenced. Past The Springs a gang of men were working to repair the road. I stopped to talk, and learnt that it was eight miles further to Matlock. I pushed on and again entered timber country. At last I could look miles to northward, and equally as far to southward. Ahead a clear path spelt Matlock. Outside the highest town in Victoria I met Billy Collins. On learning from me that his family could exist for a day or two longer, he turned back and we both hired beds at Monnighetti's wine saloon. If there is one thing more than another that Matlock is famous for, it is its roaring fires and prodigious meals. I had covered 34 miles of mountain track and was tired, but for all that I managed with extreme difficulty only to consume the meal that was set before me that evening. Collins and I occupied the same room. It was summer, but the heavy pile of blankets on the bed were all required to keep me warm on the roof or the country.
Missed the Track.
At five o'clock Billy Collins woke mo. It was Sunday morning, but there was nothing to encourage me to slay a day in Matlock. The Loch Fync mine that had yielded a hundred thousand ounces of gold was not working, and the Ail Nations, that boasted a good record, was no longer a rich mine. It was in the hands of tributers. Billy Collins was able to secure the key of the wine bar, and brought rue a glass of wine. Before any one eisa wag astir we were on the road back from Matlock to a point where he put me on a track, which he said was a short walk to Gaffney's- Somehow or another 1 missed following the right track, and instead of avoiding Woodspoint I found myself entering the town before I knew I was near it. A cliapel door was open, and save for the few people hurrying to early Afass, Woodspoint was still sleeping. There was joy in such a morning's walk. The creek that had been soiled and muddied three hundred days in the year when the alluvial miners dug up its bed, or sluiced the wash dug from their claims along its banks, now hurried along, a silver 6tream, as in the days a hundred years before man had appeared on its banks. I walked over the summit of the Frenchman and Inspected the remains of what had been a home of delightful pleasure for 41 years