|Chapter Title||A VISITOR AND A VISIT.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN, A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (THE COPYRIGHT AND RIGHT OF TRANSLATION ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday's issue.) CHAPTER II. A VISITOR AND A VISIT. THE voyage was more than usually mono- tonous, nothing having occurred to enliven its tedious length except a couple of ships spoken with at sea, and a distant glimpse of the South American coast. When Maxwell landed in Sydney he declared he had had enough of the sea to last him all his life. His health was, however, almost completely restored, and he felt as if entering upon a new existence, with a world of boundless and magnificent open before him. Mingled with his hopeful anticipations for the future were many mournful thoughts connected with the past. He had left, perhaps for ever, the dearly loved land of his birth; he had sepa- rated himself from relations and friends whom he might never see again; and had thrown up an employment of a respectable nature, to enter upon a speculation the issue of which might be extremely disastrous. He was a man of great depth of thought, and, as is generally the case with such men, was some times given to despondency; yet his mind was well tutored in the belief that he was under the protection of an all-wise Provi- dence who, as it is said in the proverb, would help him if he would only help him- self. The hurry and bustle of debarkation over, a lodging procured, and the luggage safely put away, our settler bethought himself of his letters of introduction. He took one to an eminent merchant of whose urbanity and liberal disposition he had heard a great deal, and was received with politeness, tempered with a fair proportion of ice. The merchant was a keen man of business, and as his busi- ness absorbed all his thoughts as well as dreams he had no leisure to throw away upon bearers of letters of introduction ; unless it was possible to drive with such bargains to personal advantage. He understood, he said listlessly, that it was Mr. Maxwell's intention to proceed into the country; he was sorry to say he knew nothing at all of the country, and could give him no information whatever. He evidently voted Maxwell's presence a bore, and bowed him out of doors with a be- nign smile. The settler was grieved, and making a sudden resolution never to deliver any more such letters, he packed up his re- maining stock with his card in each envelope, and dropped them into the post-office. After waiting in some anxiety for a couple of days le was pleased to find that even one out of the two dozen gentlemen to whom his letters were addressed, condescended to take some notice of him. This was a retired Indian officer, Colonel Arnott by name, who resided at a little distance from the city. He introduced himself with the honest bluntness of an old soldier, declaring that had he but known a few days sooner how Mr. Maxwell was situated he would have been on the spot to assist and advise to the best of his ability. "As it is," said the worthy old officer, " you can pack up your traps, leave them or bring them with you just as you like, and come out to my place for a few weeks until you decide what's to be done." "You are too good, Colonel," said Mrs. Maxwell, "a fanmily like ours would be too serious an invasion of your hospitable man- sion." "Not at all, my dear madam,"said the Colonel, "if I was not sincere I'd have said nothing. I have witnessed--aye, and also suffered in --far more desperate invasions; but I came not to bore you with military tactics. My manners ma'am are like my parts of speech, or I might say words of command—short, sharp, and decisive. You'll excuse me, but my house is heartily at your service; and my wife—a good soul—will be glad to see you : my son and daughter, too, will be so happy. Fine boys those of yours sir, and your daugh- ter a perfect lily of the valley as I live. We'll make men of those boys : which is the elder, for I see no difference?" "This boy, Colonel," replied Maxwell, pointing to Eugene, "is exactly fifteen minutes older than his brother." "O I see," said the Colonel with a chuckle, "That's the way to do it—nay my dear madam, no cause for blushing. Egad, I was a long time before I had even one, and then ten years before I had another, and in two years another, only three just like you; two at home, one up the country taking care of the sheep, though there could not be perhaps a more careless rascal to take care of any- thing." "If you will be so good, Colonel Arnott," said Maxwell, not wishing to hear any family disclosures, "as to give me a little informa- tion relative to the mode of proceeding to be adopted, I shall feel greatly indebted to you." " 'Pon my honor, sir," answered the old officer, "you'll excuse me—but information is a thing I never do give except in my own house, and after dinner. After dinner, sir, when the ladies are good enough to show us their backs—I beg ten millions of pardons ! when I crack my bottle of Burgundy as you can see by my nose, I'll give you more infor- mation than mayhap you'll be apt to relish. I'll put you up to a wrinkle or two that'll astonish you, depend on it. I am a rough old dog, sir, but I put on some restraint before the ladies; and if you don't promise to come to my house, the whole box and dice of you, I will just say this—if you ever pre- sume to speak to me again I'll call you a sneak, if it's in the presence of the Governor. What do you say ? Is it to be peace or war ?" " You cannot suppose, my dear sir," replied Maxwell, "that I am so foolish as to decline
your valuable friendship; were it only for a single day I will give Mrs. Maxwell and the children the great pleasure of a drive to your residence." "You will do no such thing, sir," said the Colonel, his carbuncled nose assuming a variety of hues, " as that is a pleasure I pro- pose for myself. My carriage will be here precisely at eleven o'clock to-morrow morn- ing, and if I am not in it my promising son, my second hopeful—a sly young dog, Miss Maxwell, so beware of him—will be there in- stead. Now pack up your things and leave the heavy articles in the charge of your landlady—an honest woman ma'am, know her very well—and be ready. You'll excuse me—have a very pressing appointment." So saying the old gentleman shook hands with his new friends, and coming to Griselda he said slowly as if speaking to himself " Upon my word, a delicate young flower this, rather too delicate for our hot sun ; let us see--fair hair, classic forehead, blue eyes, Grecian nose, cherry lips, chin-chopper- chin," tucking her under it and laughing aloud, " Mr. Maxwell, keep your eyes on that girl. Good by boys, we'll make men of you, we will;" and the. Colonel put on his hat and walked out, striking his cane heroi- cally on the floor. Punctually at eleven the next day, accord- ing to the Colonel's appointment, a carriage drove up to the door, drawn by two hand- some bays. From it leaped a fashionably dressed young man, rather well-looking, though of an Indian cast of countenance, with very black hair, and sparkling eyes of the same sombre hue. He was rather tall and slight, but of an exceedingly good figure. He announced himself as the son and repre- sentative of Colonel Arnott, who, he said, had been reluctantly compelled to stay at home, owing to a severe attack of gout. The young gentleman did the honors on this occa- sion with studied politeness, and in a short time the whole party were proceeding at a rapid pace down George-street on their way to Cook Villa, for its proprictor loved to do all in his power to perpetuate the names and fame of England's greatest men. The day was fine and not much too warm, the horses were fresh, and the road tolerably good. The party did not seem disposed for conversation, except that young Arnott would turn round in his seat beside the coachman occasionally and point out some particular place, or the residence of some noted man to Mr. Maxwell. The young people enjoyed their drive; Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter looked perfect pictures of happiness, while Maxwell examined with care the many objects of beauty that passed before his eyes, though his mind was not yet divested of that anxiety for the future which he could not altogether shake off. Arriving at the summit of an eminence from which a commanding view of one of the most splendid harbors in the world can be obtained, Mr. Arnott ordered the car- riage to be stopped in order to afford the newly-arrived family an opportunity of examining the scenes that lay on either hand—exquisite panoramas, not easily for- gotten when once gazed upon. On the left they could see the city of Sydney with its white arms jutting out into the bay, and looking peacefully happy as hundreds of suburban cottages reflected the beams of the midday sun, with the curved and jagged outlines of the harbor, its bays and islets, unrivalled in the beauty of its quiet waters, and the welcome haven of many a weary mariner. On the right a less beautiful but more rural picture presented itself. A vale of great ex- tent was spread out before them, in the midst of which a sheet of water like a quiet river or lake lay surrounded by beautiful knolls, clothed with underwood and adorned with trees of patriarchal dignity. When these enchanting prospects had been sufficiently admired, the carriage moved on, and in a little time entered a broad gateway, at which hung a wooden gate painted red. They were now within Colonel Arnott's do- main, which, about fifty acres in extent, sur- rounded his house and offices. The avenue was rugged, being in an unfinished state; the holes were partially filled up with stones newly gathered from the soil, so that our travellers were glad when their journey was over. At the door of an aristocratic cottage orned they found their loquacious host stand- ing, one of his feet encased in a polished boot, the other wrapped in numerous cloths and bandages, supporting himself with a stout stick. Advancing cautiously as the carriage drove up, he lifted his hat with a gallant air, and said in a loud voice, " Welcome, wel- come to Cook Villa, my dear madam ! How d'ye do, Maxwell ! Haven't forgotten your name, you see. Welcome, my future heroes. Ha, my fair lily of the valley ! Powers of lightning ! Mrs. Arnott, ma'am, where are you !" "I am happy to see Mrs. Maxwell," said a female voice; and a tall, dark-haired lady, moving with majestic grace, came forward and presented her hand. "I bid you wel- come to our land of sunshine. Pray come in; I hope these hot summers will agree with you better than they do with me." The busy Colonel introduced Maxwell to Mrs. Arnott; also, Miss Griselda Maxwell, and Masters Romulus and Remus Maxwell. Mrs. Arnott smiled, saying, " O, Colonel, you are surely joking ;" to which he replied, " Not a bit, 'pon honor." A young lady now came forth. "O, Isabel ," said Mrs. Arnott, " Mrs. Maxwell, allow me to introduce my daughter; Miss Maxwell, my daughter Isabel." The party entered the parlor, and took seats, the Colonel making facetious remarks and complimentary speeches; when after sitting about five minutes the ladies rose by general consent and left the room, Mrs. Arnott having invited her visitors to take off their bonnets. Contrary to expecta- tion Mrs. Maxwell found in the Colonel's wife a lady-like woman in the prime of life. Her deportment was stately, and her manners
tinged with a slight shade of hauteur, the re- suit, perhaps, of an over-strained conscious- ness of superiority of blood and birth. On the present occasion, however, she seemed desirous of making a favorable impression. Her features were pleasing and regular, but sharp, and expressive of great shrewdness. Hcr hair and eyes were black, like those of her son and daughter. This last was a sprightly damsel of seventeen, with some pretensions to beauty : her dark complexion and elegant figure were both alike faultless. She was dressed in a white,with a blue kerchief on her neck fastened by a showy diamond brooch. The Colonel and his residence remain to be described. The imaginative reader may picture to himself a short, straight, puffy old gentleman with capacious checks and purple a nose. His eyes, which twinkled and sparkled incessantly, were of a dark hazel hue, and a few thin locks of very white hair peeped from beneath a high crowned white hat, which when removed displayed a shining bald head, extremely venerable in its antiquated ap- pearance. He wore a loose morning wrapper of yellow silk, a white waistcoat, and dark inexpressibles. His perpendicular figure was displayed in a pompous strut and magisterial air. The residence, built doubtless on the pro- prietor's own plan, after the fashion of a Bengal bungalow, was constructed principally of wood. It covered a large portion of ground, and had a verandah in front and at the sides. The dining and drawing-rooms, principal bed- rooms, and kitchen, were all on the ground floor; and there was plenty of space for the Colonel's family and visitors. The offices consisted of a spacious stable, in which four horses were well kept : and amongst numerous etceteras a well-stocked aviary occupied a genial corner, enjoying alternately sun and shade. The garden was large and quite full of flowering shrubs and fruit trees, amongst which the orange, apricot, peach, and mul- berry were conspicuous. There was a little lawn sloping away to the margin of the bay, and a paddock wherein a couple of contented cows roamed at pleasure. It was now two o'clock, the Colonel's usual hour for dinner, and a bell was rung to announce the important fact. In a few minutes the company assembled in the draw- ing room, and the host pompously conducted Mrs. Maxwell to the dining room, Mr. Max- well performing the same act of politeness for Mrs. Arnott; Mr. Henry followed with Griselda and his sister, the two boys bringing up the rear. The conversation scarcely lagged for a mo- ment, the Colonel's jokes and hearty laughs were frequent, and the rest of the party par- took of his gaity. " Your daughter," said Mrs. Arnott to Mrs. Maxwell," has a very uncommon name. Griselda I think you call her." "That is my daughter's name," replied Mrs. Maxwell. "Well, I think it is a delightfully pretty name, so very singular." "I think it's an infernally ugly name;" said the Colonel. " O Colonel," said his wife, " how very shocking! You will make use of those bar- barous words, though you know they annoy me so much : pray Mrs. Maxwell do not mind him—his expressions sometimes quite put me to the blush." " Like the tip of my nose," said the Colo- nel. "O for shame you dreadful man," said Mrs. Arnott, using her smelling bottle. " Well, well," said the Colonel," we won't quarrel about names. A rose you know by any other name, etcetera—your good health fair lily of the valley; if your name is ugly you are not, at least if my eyes are as good now as they were fifty years ago. Your mamma will now tell us, my pretty one, why you were called by such a greasy name—it sounds to me like that of a Spanish gipsy." "I will tell you with pleasure," said Mrs. Maxwell. "You have doubtless heard of Madam Steevens's hospital in Dublin ?" "No, never in my life ma'am." " Well, you must know that there is an hospital so-called in that city, and it derived its name from the fact of a lady of rank and fortune having shut herself up within its walls, and devoted all her time and money to the amelioration of the sufferings of her poor and diseased fellow creatures. The lady's name was Griselda Steevens. Her brother, Dr. Richard Steevens, was a man of consider- able fortune, and when on his death bed he called his sister to him, and asked her if it was her intention to marry, if she thought of so doing he would leave her all his fortune without reserve; but if not, he would leave it to her for her life only, and after her decease to found and endow an hos- pital. She, with an abnegation of self worthy of the highest honor, promised him that she would never marry, and he made his will, ac- cordingly. She not only kept her word, but immediately commenced carrying her brother's intentions into effect, without wishing to enjoy his fortune in any other way, and when the hospital was ready for her reception she fixed upon it as her own permanent residence, My mother was a very intimate friend of this lady, and, indeed, it was at her request that I called my daughter Griselda, with Mr. Maxwell's concurrence, of course." " Of course," said the Colonel, "but upon my honor a very pretty little story, quite a sunny episode in our dark and hard-hearted world; but, sounds ! Mrs. Arnott, ma'am, you're not going so soon ? Well au revoir, as the poet says— Fare thee well, and if for ever, Still for ever, fare thee well. Harry, you young dog, why don't you open the door? You look at Miss Maxwell as if you never saw a young lady before—be quick you planet struck son of a Fort William fire- eater." Mrs. Arnott, without deigning to take any notice of her husband's speech, gracefully
swept out of the room, followed by Mrs. Maxwell and the young ladies : while the Colonel stood up, rubbed his hands, and chuckled audibly.