Dora was roused from her nap in the rocking chair by the sound of hooves on the driveway. Leaning forward, she peered out the parlour window. A man was dismounting near the front door. Meg, the housemaid, greeted him at the door.
Sitting back, Dora placed one hand on her swollen stomach, rubbing her hand in gentle circles to settle the squirming of her unborn child. Three-year-old Elsie was playing with her doll in the corner. Through the bedroom door, Dora could see fifteen-month-old Charles asleep on the bed.
“Maybe this is Monty’s promised letter,” Dora smiled, her thoughts drifting to her husband. Monty was a Geological Surveyor for the colony of New South Wales. His work required him to make frequent trips to inspect mineral fields and explore caves.
Monty had been sick recently, with vomiting, spitting up blood and acute pains in his back and side. Dora had begged him not to go to Bermagui, but Monty had insisted he was well enough. He had written a brief note on his arrival, to let her know he was safe and well and would write more later.
As Meg entered and placed the letter on the table, Dora knew immediately it was not from her husband. It was addressed, in an unknown handwriting, to Mrs Lamont Young and was dated Thursday, October 14th, 1880.
Dora’s hand trembled as she reached for the letter. She had a sudden horrible feeling that something was very wrong. She unfolded the crisp pages and began to read.
Dear Mrs Young,
I regret being the one to inform you of the unfortunate events which have occurred recently at Bermagui.
Your husband, Mr Lamont Henry Graeme Young, arrived here a week ago, on Friday the 8th October. I myself had lunch with him on Saturday and we spoke together at length.
As I drove my buggy to church on Sunday morning, my son pointed out to me a small green boat sailing north up the coast. I thought nothing of it at the time.
However, on Monday morning I received a visit from Senior Constable Berry, informing me that a boat had been found on the rocks at Mutton Fish Point. This boat apparently contained a book belonging to your husband.
Snr Constable Berry and I immediately visited the site and inspected the boat. It was the same boat my son had pointed out on Sunday morning. The boat had been holed from the inside, and several large rocks were placed in it. During our inspection we discovered a great many articles belonging to your husband including books, clothing, surveyors equipment and personal letters. There has been no trace found of your husband or his four companions.
I am sorry to inform you that we believe your husband is deceased. I will endeavour to keep you informed of any forthcoming news.
Henry McCrummin Keightley
Police Magistrate of Moruya
The last pages of the letter floated to the ground as Dora found herself gasping for breath. From somewhere a long way away she heard a woman’s voice screaming.
“Mrs Young, Mrs Young. You’re frightening the children,” Meg finally managed to get her attention and Dora realised it had been her own voice screaming.
As sobs began to wrack her body, she pointed to the letter on the floor. Meg picked it up and began to read.
Over the following months Meg did all she could to protect her mistress from the rumours being spread about by the newspapers. All sorts of wild stories were told, and ridiculous accusations were made. But through it all, Meg and Dora tried to glean the actual facts.
Lamont and his colleague, Karl Schneider, had apparently joined three other men for a trip up the coast from Bermagui. Someone had vomited in the boat, and several bullets were found lodged in the side of it. There was no blood, nor any sign of a struggle. A small blue bottle, possibly containing poison, was found on the beach. No trace was ever found of the five men.
As Dora watched Elsie, Charles and the new baby Olive grow, she listened each day for the sound of her husband’s voice, his footstep in the hall, the jolly laugh. Each night she would tell her children stories of the brave and wonderful man who was their father.
Author’s Note: This is based on the true story of the disappearance of my Great-Great Grandfather, which remains one of Australia’s unsolved mysteries.
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