|Chapter Title||AN ORIGINAL SETTLER AND HIS HOMESTEAD.|
|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 ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday's issue.) CHAPTER IX. AN ORIGINAL SETTLER AND HIS HOMESTEAD. OUR traveller, having finished his eventful journey, now sat in a comfortable apartment of a comfortable cottage—at least he thought so after his accommodation of the previous night. Constructed after the general fashion of the times of wattle-and-dab ;—in other words, of poles stuck in the ground with young wattle saplings twined closely amongst them, the whole covered both inside and out with a thick coating of mud, and roofed with large sheets of stringy bark. The room in which Maxwell found himself was not fur- nished in an aristocratic or expensive man- ner. A table made of common gum wood stood in the centre ; a few wooden bottomed chairs were visible ; a kind of corner cup- board carefully locked, a shelf suspended by cords, on which were to be seen a few old books; a wooden bench, similar to a sofa but without a covering of any kind ; a few maps and a picture or two pinned up against the walls completed the array. This was the parlor of Mr. Johnson Juniper's mansion, of which a suitable description may be borrowed from a quaint old song— A neat little cottage with ground for the floor. Mr. Juniper had risen early that morning with the intention of going to a sale of stock to be held somewhere in the neighborhood. He had done the honors of his house and bidden the traveller welcome, and now sat reading the Surveyor-General's letter. He had already passed the prime of life, though his face had a freshness of color almost exclu- sively peculiar to younger men. About his visage and person there was nothing extraor- dinary or particularly demanding description, save that his hair was partially grey, and his beard, whiskers, and heavy eyebrows nearly white—not on account of age, but more proba- bly caused by over-exertion in his peaceable occupation. With a pair of small grey eyes deeply set beneath a high projecting forehead, over which his hair stood upright as if sup- ported in that position by an indefinite quan- tity of starch ; with a nose of rather small dimensions, a large mouth, a thick short neck, and a stout mus- cular well knit frame, Mr. Juniper had combined some of those qualities peculiar to most persons of his age and condition. To see him in his ordinary attire he was not un- like the bushranger whom Maxwell had met in the forest ; but on this occasion he was dressed for a journey and wore his clothes like other people. Yes, extraordinary as it may appear amongst the singular anomalies which present themselves to the eyes of a visitor to this part of the world—where the swans, instead of being white as snow, are black as coal ; where cherries grow with their stones outside ; where the bark on the trees withers and falls in the winter, while the leaves remain as green as ever,—no individual of my acquaintance has yet observed a gentle- man farmer of Mr. Juniper's rank going forth to a sale of stock with his coat but- toned behind him. " Cook," said Mr. Juniper, as soon as he had finished reading the Surveyor-General's letter, " bring in breakfast—what have you got, pork pie ?" " Yes, Sir," said the cook in a cracked voice. He was an elderly man, and rather surly withal, and his kitchen was within fair talking distance of his master's parlor. " Pork pie," he continued, sinking his voice to a low growl, " pork pie from morning till night ; when a pig is killed pork pie is the song for six months ; when a bullock, beef steaks and rounds o'beef must last for ever ; when an extra fat sheep, stand and admire it hour after hour." " Bring in the breakfast, and stop your grumbling, will you," said his master. " I'm coming with it," answered the cook, " you won't let me wait for the kittle to bile to wet the tay." " Well, bring in the pie, and we can be getting on. Perhaps, Mr. Maxwell, you would prefer a chop ?" " No thank you," said that gentleman, " I think I shall be able to do justice to the pork pie." The cook entered, bearing a formidable dish containing the pie, Mr. Juniper's de- light. It had stopped up an extensive gap already, for something less that half the original only remained. Mr. Juniper pounced upon it with the avidity of a hawk, and helped first his guest then himself to large portions. To do him justice we must say he was hospitable ; there was no stingi- ness about him. His table was not loaded with delicacies, but he liked to have some thing good—a piece of fat beef, fat mutton, or fat pork, anything provided it was fat—to be seen upon it. Mr. Juniper was a bachelor, and he managed to enjoy his existence quite as much as the majority of miserable bachelors can. After they had progressed favorably with the pie for some time, the tea was brought in, and when he had disposed of a couple of large cups full, the face of Johnson Juniper assumed an air of satisfied importance. He picked his teeth while he interrogated Maxwell re- specting his adventures of the preceding day .and night. " And so, Mr. Maxwell," said he, " you got lost in the forest last night ; you rode over the track to the ford, and went too high up the river." " I must have lost the proper road in some way or other," replied Maxwell. " It is difficult for a stranger to recognise indistinct tracks." " If you had kept along the bank you would have seen my house, but an attempt to cross might have cost you your life."
" I was so bewildered amongst those giants of the wood," said the guest, " that I did not know where the river was, or what was before me or what behind, and when night came on I was not very likely to find my way better than by daylight. " No, certainly not," said Juniper. " How did you pass the night ?" " The best way I could, of course, under such circumstrances : prayed for patience, and made the best of it." " And how did you find your way this morning ?" " I met a man very early who gave me directions, or if I had not I do not know when I should have found you." " What did he look like ?" asked the host. " He had the appearance of a shingle- splitter," replied the guest. " It's well he didn't split your skull, Sir. Did he tell you for whom he was working ?" " No, he gave me no information on that point. Do the peasants of this country practice the amusement of splitting skulls extensively ?" "Why," said Juniper, " they try their hands at it certainly now and then, but per- haps we're no worse off than the landlords in Ireland." " And it would be better to die that way," said Maxwell, " than to be starved to death by inches in a wilderness. How far do you intend travelling to-day, Sir ?" " To Campbell Town, Sir, where Mr. Var- nish, the auctioneer, will hold a sale of stock. It is above thirty miles from here, and I don't think I can be back to-night ; but be sure to make yourself quite at home, and stir up that old rascal to get you some dinner. He is, between ourselves, the laziest and most insolent old scoundrel in the district. I've tried to get rid of him dozens of times, but he's like a horse leech, I can't shake him off. Here, cook, clear away these things and put the saddle on Buffalo, or tell Tom to do it." " I feel quite knocked up," said Maxwell, " and would like to have a sleep somewhere if it would not put you to inconvenience." " Don't talk of inconvenience, Sir," said a the hospitable bachelor; " to be out all night in the bush and meet a shingle splitter in the morning, and you a stranger in the country, too, is above a joke. Cook, get a bed ready for this gentleman directly, and mind, let him have dinner when he wakes up. Is the horse ready—where's Joe ?" " Tom's bringin' the horse, and Joe says he'll be after you in half an hour." " Well, good morning Mr. Maxwell, make yourself as happy as you can ; I'll be back early to-morrow unless I break my neck on Skittleball Hill ;" and Mr. Juniper departed singing as he went—— "I'll sing a doleful tragedy, Guy Fawkes the prince of sinisters, Who once blew up the House of Lords, the King, and all the ministers." When he was gone the old cook made a bed ready for the guest in a small room ad- joining the one in which they had had break- fast, and he gladly retired to rest. After an uninterrupted sleep he arose much refreshed, and upon finishing the various operations of his toilet, sat down in the parlor and amused himself with a book. The cook offered his services to get dinner ready, whereupon Max well intimated his willingness to eat a chop. " Take tay, Sir ?" said the knight of the frying-pan. " Why, we never take tea at dinner," said Maxwell. " Master always does, Sir." " O, very well, I like tea, if it is not too much trouble." " No trouble at all, Sir, but master is the most strangest man you ever seen. He roars for his breakwust the very moment he gets one leg out of bed, an' when he gets enough of pork pie, or whatever it is, away he goes over the farm, forgettin' that I've told him a dozen times that the men are all waiting at the door to know what the're a goin' to do. Then when he goes out and finds ther' not at work, he comes home and begins blowin' me up, just as if I was the overseer—an' if I ever says a word to them, when his back is turned, I gets nothin' but " lie down ye dog—jam his tail," and sich like ; its more nor flesh an' blood can stand, Sir." " Well," said Maxwell, " you can surely give up your place, if it is disagreeable to you, and get another one." " Lor bless yer simplicity, no Sir. I can't do nothin' of the kind. I'm a 'signed servant If I told master I wanted to go away he'd have me up to the magistrate, an' get me punished directly." " That looks queer. I suppose you are hired for a certain time." " Yes, Sir, till I'm due for my ticket." " It seems strange," said Maxwell, " that a man of your years and consequent experience should occupy such a position." " Yes, Sir," said the old man, whose name was Heffernan, " it is a strange thing surely ; an' what is more stranger still I've received my ticket about a dozen times since I've been in guvernment, an' never could keep it a week." " How does that happen ?" " Why, just as this here, Sir—you see I spends time here very lonesome, an' frets an' pines away day an' night afther my liberty, without no indulgence except what masther likes to give me, an' that' not much, only a bit of 'bacca an' scarcely a dhrop of rum or gin, or any other drink, till I'm wasted away to a perfect shadder, an' when I gets my ticket and goes away to the nearest town- ship an' goes into a public-house to get some refreshment, somehow or other, dang me if ever I did or could understand it, whenever I goes to sleep in a public-house I'm certain sure to wake up in the watch- house, an' away goes my ticket just as if I'd lit my pipe with it an' sent it to glory in smoke. But I'm forgettin' yer dinner." This lucid explanation did not quite relieve
the ill-used servitor of his surplus steam of fretfulness. He set about cooking his chops and making the "tay," both of which he presently brought in, muttering a variety of things to himself all the time. Left alone to enjoy his dinner, Maxwell dispatched it in haste, and when he had finished he rambled out into the garden and paddocks to look about him. Mr. Juniper's garden was not very large, but it was well stocked with young fruit-trees. The farm buildings consisted of a large barn, constructed in a very primitive and make-shift manner, filled with the newly-housed crop of wheat, which two stout fellows were busily employed in thrashing ; a stable to match with the barn, capable of accommodating four horses ; a shed in which there was an old bullock being fattened on turnips ; and a pig-stye containing several fat and lazy occupants. A couple of respectable stacks of oats and hay gave a substantial appearance to the other- wise rickety establishment. At some distance from the farm house there were two huts, one of which a ploughman and his wife lived, and in the other the single men, of whose there might have been three or four. The ploughman acted also as shepherd, and had followed his master to Campbell Town. The South Esk flowed by in a dark current (the sombre color of its waters being evidently caused by the shade of the neighboring hills and trees) between banks of moderate height close to the foot of Mr. Juniper's garden, and our pensive settler walked along its margin for some distance, admiring with the eye of a connoissour the high, dark wooded hills that lay on his left hand, and the distant moun- tain scenery, which in this part of Tasmania is very wild and pretty, though wanting the sublime grandeur of other lands, where the mountains may be double or treble the height. Some reflections of a painful nature as usual insinuated themselves into his mind. His adventure in the forest did not seem the brightest of welcomes to his now home in Tasmania, and he dreaded lest after having built his house and laid out the greatest portion of his capital a party of these marauders might come and rob him of his property, perhaps burn his house over his head. But he checked his dismal reflections by repeating to himself—" Come what may I am in the hands of Providence ; I have passed the Rubicon of my fate, and it is too late to retreat." Returning to the mansion he amused himself with Mr. Juniper's library for the rest of the evening. The next day being fine he strolled out after breakfast, and spent a good many hours in rambling over the adjacent hills. When he returned he found that Juniper had come home, and was engaged in an angry alterca- tion with his cook because the latter had not the frying pan on the fire full of chops. " How was I to tell," asked the denizen of the kitchen, " when you wor coming ? You often stops an' takes tay with Mrs. Grap- fartlhing up at Avoca, an' dash my rags, master, whenever there is any one here to listen to you, you go on blowin' me up jist to show your cleverness at scouldin'." " Keep your impudence to yourself, you stupid old fool, and make haste with those chops," said Mr. Juniper. " It's always the way when I come home from a long journey there is never anything ready to eat, scarcely a fire to get anything ready on." " There always is a fire an' you knows it," answered the cook ; " and there's always something ready, only I wasn't born a witch to see you coming through the Skittleball Hill ; but you can get another cook and send me to the watch'us when you like. Dang me, if I was to bring in my own head roasted an' done to a turn it would'nt plase you no how." Both the auditors burst out laughing. Maxwell exclaimed, " I should rather think not;" and Juniper—" Aye, it's done to a turn already." The old cook was preparing for another outburst, his blood being up to high pressure, but his master suddenly retreated into the apology for a parlor, whither he was followed by his guest, who prudently shut the door of communication. " Well, Sir," said Juniper, " how have you fared ? I hope that half-witted blockhead did not forget you ?" " I had not the slightest idea of letting him forget me, I assure you," answered Max- well. " Quite right, Sir, quite right ; he's a miserable driveller, he'd starve a cat; I'd soon he a perfect skeleton if I didn't bounce him a little." "Have you heard any particular news, Mr Juniper ?" " Nothing very particular, Sir ; here are some newspapers such as they are ; it is a month since I got any before." " Then the news will be pretty old. This is the Hobart Town Courier I see, yes I saw some of these before I left town. I suppose your post is not regular here ?" " Once a fortnight between Hobart Town and Launceston, I believe a man carries it on foot. I get my papers at Avoca whenever I send, as there is a messenger between Camp- belltown and the Magistrate's Office at Fin- gal." "This," said Maxwell, " is a northern paper called the Cornwall Blusterer, number five ; not come to years of discretion yet. There is literary rivalry I see in Launceston, which may yet perhaps be not inappro- priately called the Australian Athens. Listen to this—" ' We have been employed for the last five minutes—and we blush to own it—in look- ing over the columns of that vain and des- picable rag, the "Hammertongs." The addle pated* editor of this rich and racy publication must feel astonishlnnent mingled with pride at our condescending to notice five feet two and a quarter. When it is our pleasure to contem- * The italicized words are portions of real editorial articles.
plate this superannuated Zany, it is unneces- sary to inform our polite readers that the dis- tance from our proper elevation to which we are obliged to descend is inmmeasurable. If the reading public would like to see this ex- traordinary specimen of the immortal fourth estate, we will have much pleasure in posting each number as it appears in our own win- dow. And we doubt not that the intelligent enquirer at the fount of political and general knowledge will there find writings like the frothings of a beer cask teeming with the absurdities of a disordered imagination. Our sorrow is sincere and profound, while—alas ! for the intellects of beings calling themselves men, we are compelled to say that we have scarcely, if ever, perused a greater mass of un- mitigated nonsense and unadulterated rub- bish.' " Short and sweet like a donkey's race," said Juniper. " What saith the Hammertongs, I wonder," said Maxwell, " is it here? " " Very likely, Sir, they send these news- papers as specimens of their abilities, hoping to get paid for them some day, and I devoutly hope they may find the money." "Yes, here it is, the Launceston Hammer- tongs, listen." ' That ridiculous apology for a newspaper, the Blusterer, has dragged its slow length along to its fifth number,—we wonder will it reach a sixth. It is our intention—the re- sult of mature deliberation—to take no fur- ther notice of its contemptible outpourings. The editor of that journal is out of his proper element : if he had his right place he would be wearing a leather apron, scouring pewter pots." " Why, that's shorter and sweeter still," said Juniper, " come cook, are those chops done yet ?" " Just done," said the cook, " and the tay wet, and pork pie for breakwust, I sup- pose." The hungry Juniper sat down to dinner, inviting his guest to follow his example, and proceeded to polish off the chops, in which business he became completely absorbed, gulping down three or four cups of tea along with them. Maxwell soon finished his repast, and resumed reading aloud extracts from the newspapers, eliciting now and again a grunt of satisfiaction from his host, whose mouth during the time was constantly full. When dinner was over, Juniper threw himself back in his wooden arm-chair, and asked his guest to join him in a smoke. Maxwell declined to smoke, but intimated that he had no objection to the smell of tobacco; whereupon the chop-enamored bachelor filled his pipe, lit it, and puffed away, flinging the cares of the world and the troubles of housekeeping to the winds. An animated conversation soon sprang up between himself and Maxwell respecting the political and social aspects of the colony, unlocated sections of Crown land, past events and future prospects,—all highly interesting to the latter individual, but very likely not so to the general reader. We will, therefore, leave them together for the present, and betake ourselves to a short repose. (To be continued.)