|Chapter Title||DELIBERATION AND DECISION.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) (Countinued from last Saturday's issue.), CHAPTER V. DELIBERATION AND DECISION. The father of our heroine generally rose with the sun, but on the present occasion he was a little behind his time, and allowed that glorious luminary to get the start of him by a couple of hours. It was seven o'clock when he found himself walking alone in Colonel Arnott's rich garden, and knowing that he had two hours to spare before the family assembled for breakfast, he strolled forth along the avenue and towards the high road over which he had travelled on the pro- ceding day, to enjoy the cool and invigora- ting air of the morning. Directing his steps to the eminence from which he had seen and admired the magnificent view of the harbor on the previous day, he paused and cast his eyes once more over the same scene, rendered now if possible still more enchanting by the ever-varying tints peculiar to early day. Here he sat down by the road side and re- mained for more than an hour in anxious, if not painful, deliberation. There is no time like the morning for de- ciding any knotty or momentous question; difficulties that appear insurmountable at night often seem to vanish before the light of coming day. Many a weary brain worn out by the toils and cares of existence and almost crushed by intense anxiety or suffer- ing, loses the remembrance of its sorrows in sleep, and awakes on the morrow to renewed hope and vigorous exertion. If there are any human beings whose hearts are hardened by nature or the force of adverse circum- stances so that they are indifferent to the spirit-stirring breath of morning, they are to be pitied indeed. It is through the clear ambient air of this sober hour that the voice of the sailor is heard, borne over the distant bay, louder and more melodious than at any other time; and it is now that the hunter's horn, echoing through brake or over wood- land lawn, sparkles on the ear as the ripples of the glittering water on the sight. Two sides of a picture, or more properly two separate pictures presented themselves to Maxwell's mental vision, and both seemed so evenly balanced that immediate decision was extremely difficult. His eye wan- dered over a very small portion of the vast island in the mysterious recesses of which he and his family might be lost, and never heard of more by friend or enemy. He had heard stories of awful fires carrying desolation over hundreds of miles of hot and blighted coun- try, to the progress of which even a broad river was but a feeble barrier. He had read of settlers, in haste to be rich, driving large flocks of sheep through trackless deserts, and dying miserably in the midst of their wealth for want of a drop of water. Nor were the tales he had heard of murdering natives, and of cruel, ferocious bushrangers one iota less fearful. It was true that could he only sur- mount these difficulties and brave other in- numerable hardship, he might, in ten years, be the master of twice that number of thou- sands, and like Colonel Arnott be in a posi- tion to take his future case in a comfortable home on some favored and happy spot. But he felt as if alone. His sons were more boys : his wife and daughter had both been deli- cately brought up. Should he take them some hundreds of miles into an unknown land, far away from all civilised society, and if so--while surrounded by a dreary solitude, in which perhaps concealed enemies might lurk by night and day—should the hand of sickness or of death lay him low, what would become of those he loved ? As he asked him- self this question, his heart beat quickly, and he mentally exclaimed—" Never will I ex- pose them to this anguish." To the distant shores of Tasmania—an island of which he had heard and read but little—he now turned his attention. By going there it was possible that he might secure a good farm in a more genial climate near some place of human abode, or at least among settlers near enough to be called neighbors. This might make him indepen- dent for life, and his cares would be confined to its simple management. Still there were difficulties to be overcome and hardships to be encountered, but they did not seem so gigantic as those pertaining to New South Wales. The more he considered and pon- dered on these matters the more he felt in clined to take a voyage to Tasmania, a com- paratively small island where distressing droughts, and terrible journeys in bullock waggons into the interior, were almost un- known, or at least might be more easily en- dured. Already he was half decided. Making the best of his way back to Cook Villa, he arrived just in time to hear the old Colonel shouting his name through the shrub- bery. On making his presence known he received a sound but good humored lecture from his host for being one single moment behind the appointed time ; and having made his excuses they entered the parlor together and sat down to a substantial breakfast. Maxwell, after saluting Mrs. Arnott and Isabel, examined the countenances of his wife and daughter, and was pleased to see them looking happy and cheerful. Even their hostess, with her formal precise etiquette, seemed to think them proper objects of atten- tion, and exerted herself to please accordingly. Henry Arnott and the two young Maxwells commenced their morning repast with every appeareinmce of internal satisfaction. "Mr. Maxwell," said the Colonel, "has been taking a constitutional walk, a thing I disapprove of in toto. I used to like a walk before breakfast at one time, but if a break- fast is to be got first you don't catch me at such a thing again : once bitten, twice shy, you know."
"Thereby hangs a tale, I presume ?" said Maxwell. " You've just hit it, Sir, just hit it, 'pon my life; and as my tea is too hot, I'll just let it cool and tell it to you, if the ladies have no objection." " Certainly not, Colonel Arnott," said Mrs. Maxwell. "Well, you must know, ma'am, that when I first became a colonist, and had selected my station in the country, I had a great deal of work in taking up stores and necessary articles to go on with, and many slow, long, tedious journeys I had, the bullocks crawling along at the rate of between two and three miles an hour; and sometimes in the hot weather we would travel for days together and not find a drop of water, being obliged to carry a supply with us in the drays. Well, Sir, one morning, when about to start from our camp, on taking stock of water I found we had just enough to fill the tea-kettle, and no more ; so giving the men positive orders not to touch a drop of it until midday, when we should most want it on account of the heat, and taking a stout stick in my hand, I started off in front of the drays, hoping to stumble upon water somewhere. After walking for about four hours, I began to feel both hungry and thirsty, and seeing at a distance a small grove of honey suckles I made towards it, thinking to lie down and rest myself until the carts came up : when lo ! and behold, ma'am, just as I was going to enter the cool shade, I was astonished to find the muzzle of a double barreled gun thrust within an inch of my nose ; and to hear a hoarse voice roar out, ' Stand, you tlundering old scoundrel, or I'll blow your brains out.' So, sir, you may think I was fast as a church steeple in a moment, for I found myself completely in the power of two of the most ferocious looking villains I ever saw in my life. They imme- diately caught me by the collar, and pulled me into the scrub, made me strip myself of everything except my flannel shirt and drawers--begging pardon for mentioning them--and when they had tied everything up in a bundle ready to tramp off, to my utmost horror and consterntion, they forced me back against a stout young tree and com- menced tying me up to it just as if I was a wild ass, with the barbarous intention of leaving me there to perish of thirst and hun- ger. Well, the more I implored them to let me go, and promised not to trouble them any more, the harder they swore at me-- swearing they would settle me if I did not hold my tongue ; and the tighter they tied me. When the operation was complete they took up their guns and my clothes, with watch, pistols, pocket-book, and everything, and began to move off, one of the wretches saying as he did so, " That's the old hatchet faced villain that helped me to my last twelve months in irons, two years ago." "My good man," said I, "you mistake. I have not been in the country above twelve months--long enough to wish myself well out of it again." "None of your lies you hoary old sinner," said the ruffian, " would'nt I know you among a thousand ? and if it wasn't you it was just such another pick-axe looking var- mint." And without saying another word they walked away leaving me all alone in my glory. " Well, my dear madam, the first sincere prayer I offered up when they were gone was that I might live to see them both hanged, and my prayer was heard, ma'am ; I have lived to see them both hanged ; and have survived the event without ever having the worse appetite." " And pray how were you released Colonel ?" asked Mrs. Maxwell. "Why ma'am," answered the Colonel, after taking a cup of ten, "I could not release myself that was clear, though I tried hard ; and I then commenced shouting and making the most desperate noises, until I shouted myself as hoarse as an asthmatic badger. Not having had breakfast, either bite or sup, I began to feel exceedingly queer, and of course gave myself up for lost, unless the bullock-drivers should come within hail. For seven mortal hours I remained stuck to that tree, not able to move hand or foot, saying all the prayers that I ever learned since I was six months old — commencing with ' Bless father, mother, sisters, brothers, all my little cousins, and devil take the bushrangers ; Uncle Bill and Aunt Betty, whose pockets I've picked and drawers I've robbed of many a fancy nick-nack ;' and winding up with a scream that would have woke up the ghost of Caligula, if it had not been deafened by the screams of other ghosts ; when I was con- founded out of my propriety to hear some fellow shout in reply about fifty yards off, and who on earth should come riding up but my son Frederick, for all the world looking as if he was in the presence of a real ghost, when I roared out to him as loud as my cracked voice would permit me—' Get down, you fool, and untie me this minute, unless you want me to die like an insane elephant ; —get down, Sir, and release your old father, or by the powers of war and glory, when I am loose, I'll make it a warning—' while I was speaking he had cut the ropes, and down I fell on the grass like a pig, suddenly deprived of both soung and sentiment. When I came round a little, with the help of a cordial that Fred happened to have in his pocket, we went to look for the drays, my son explaining to me on the way that he had ridden out to see if the stores were coming as he had not tasted a drop of tea for six weeks, and had had nothing but bread and mutton and water— the dainty youth. We were surprised that the drays had not come on, but when we came to them we found out the reason, the bushrangers had met them, helped them- selves to what they wanted, and then the abominable villains tied each man to his own dray. But I have lived to see them hanged, that's some comfort."
The worthy old officer now applied himself with vigor to his breakfast, and while he was thus employed his amiable lady entertained their guests with sundry and lively anecdotes concerning the state of society, the bush- rangers, the natives, the servants, and the snakes, which however interesting they may have been at a breakfast table are scarcely worth committing to paper, or if worthy of that honor, it would look something like pla- giarism to say anything about them now after all that has been said by various elo- quent writers on Australian subjects. When the Colonel had finished his break- fast he asked his guest what he proposed doing, or if he had had a curtain consultation. " I propose going to Tasmania, Sir," re- plied Maxwell. "Have you fully resolved upon taking that step?" " Why so much so that I intend to go into town to-day to engage passages for self and family." " Well, Sir," said the Colonel, "there's nothing like being decided one way or other ; take your passage and stop here till the vessel sails. Harry will drive you in in my gig." The necessary orders were given. The gig was soon at the door, and Harry accompanied by Maxwell drove rapidly away. Neither of them spoke for some time. Maxwell seemed absorbed in contemplation of the beautiful scenery, and Harry silently enjoyed a fragrant Havana. At length he broke the silence and exclaimed— " Smoke?" "No, thank you," replied Maxwell. "Governor a queer stick, isn't he ?" said Harry. "I have not the pleasure of knowing his Excellency," said Maxwell. "I don't mean him ; I'm speaking of the old chap at home—my governor." "Oh, your father—I beg pardon ; why, yes, he is a singular old gentleman, but pos- sessing a good heart, I think." " Yes, a good heart enough—soft and pli- able as the chain cable of a ninety-gun ship." " At least he allows you to get out of his way," said Maxwell, laughing. " Yes," said Harry, "I get out of his way whether he likes it or not, but I tune him up sometimes." " Tune him up ! how do you mean?" "I threaten to call mother to him ; let him get into ever such a rage—swear like a trooper or dance like a bear on burning bricks—when I open the door and call out— ' Mother, here's father playing up" he gets as quiet as a lamb." Maxwell smiled at the novel way Mr. Henry had of "tuning up" his venerable parent, and resumed— "Your father told me yesterday of his having shot a horse called Donnybrook, a vicious brute ; did he really shoot him?" " He shot at him certainly ;" replied Henry, "but it's not true that he hit him though he firmly believed he did. My brother had the horse got in immediately but found he had never been touched. The affair was caused by an assigned servant, a noto- rious liar, telling the governor that Fred was going to give him Donnybrook to ride on, the most vicious horse he said this side of Swan River; though the fact is Donnybrook is a very quiet horse, and does nothing but toss his head about ; and to protect the old chap's nose, Fred had a martingale put on." "And his adventure with the bushran- gers, did it really happen ?" "Yes, I believe it is true enough ; the bushrangers were very troublesome then, and are still more or less so." A desultory conversation was carried on until the two gentlemen arrived in Sydney, where Maxwell took the necessary steps in procuring his passage to Hobart Town, the capital of Tasmania. He ascertained that in six days the brig, comnmanded by a fat and jolly specimen of England's merchant seamen, would be ready to sail. After calling at his lodgings, where he dined with Henry, they returned to Cook Villa and spent the re- mainder of the day in listening to the Colonel's wonderful adventures, of which it is presumed the reader is most heartily tired. (To be continued.)