Chapter 36644081

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Chapter NumberXII
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Full Date1867-06-08
Page Number2
Word Count3832
Last Corrected2020-01-24
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
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THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. ) (Continued from last Saturday's issue.) CHAPTER XII. THE JOURNEY IS CONTINUED. The ensuing morning was sufficiently fine to invite the travellers to rise early and re- sume their toilsome journey. Their hostess urgently requested Mrs. Maxwell to do full justice to the excellent breakfast she had prepared, and not satisfied with that, she packed up two loaves of bread, a quantity of ham, and other articles in a basket, to refresh the young people on the road. Mrs. Max- well remonstrated, but in vain. At the con- clusion of the repast she bade her kind en- tertainers good by, tending at the same time to Mrs. White the sum of two pounds. To her surprise, however, Mrs. White positively refused to take any money, saying that as she did not keel, a public-house, she could not feel justified in taking payment. " Besides, ma'am," she added, " I might at some future time be glad to accept a cup of tea from you, if circumstances should ever take me into your neighbourhood." " You will be heartily welcome," said Mrs. Maxwell, " and Mr. White also." " Thank you, ma'am," said the farmer, " I might soon ride over and see Mr. Maxwell. In the mean time take care of yourself and the children." The aspect of the country had undergone a considerable change. The recent rains had stimulated nature into a second spring, so that the grass which was but lately of a bright yellow color now appeared green and fresh. The foliage of the distant trees was much brighter than before, but the hills and the valley, in which the road lay, were clothed with a snowy mantle of light vapor, which had arisen from the earth at earliest dawn. The track, no longer hard, because a series of soft banks, adhesive mud, and pools of dirty water; adding doubly to the labor of the bullocks, and making their progress more slow and difficult than ever. Indeed, it re- quired all Mr. Baxter's energy to make any progress at all. He had to order a halt fre- quently ; his heaviest dray had perhaps got stuck in a mud-hole. Then he had to unyoke the leaders from his other drays and chain them to the fixed one, still sinking gradually deeper in the mud. When, with the whips cracking about their ears, and the drivers de- livering torrents of abuse, the double team would pull it out with a heavy plunge. In this manner they toiled onwards over Consti- tution Hill and down into the beautiful val- lay of the Cross Marsh. At the village of Green Ponds the cattle were unyoked, and the fifth night was passed. The conversation at White's had not the effect of elevating Mrs. Maxwell's spirits ; and Griselda, young and by nature timid, often found her eyes wandering from tree to tree, and from bush to bush, examining every cover where a lurking enemy might be con- cealed ; and trembling lest she should dis- cover one. Small parties of constables and soldiers, escorting prisoners hand-cuffed to- gether, occasionally met them ; and to Bax- ter's enquiries the answers generally were, "all right." But Mrs. Maxwell's mind was ill at ease. She thought of her absent hus- hand, of her children, and of her own unpro- tected state ; if her husband should meet with enemies and be killed, what would be her lot ? Or how should she effect a retreat from a country into which it was so difficult to penetrate ? She thought of the happy home far away beyond the ocean—of the sweet faces blooming amongst the flowers of her native land, and her eyes insensibly filled to with tears. " Dear mother," said Griselda in her usual soft, gentle voice, " you are getting into low spirits again ; a few more days and we shall see papa." " I hope so, my love;" said her mother, " but I am thinking if circumstances compel its to leave this country, how are we to get out of it again ?" " Why mother, the same way we came into it, I suppose; make for the nearest sea- port, and get on board a ship." " Yes, my child ; but these natives may beset us on the way. They fill my mind with terror. They are quiet enough now, but how will they be a year hence ?" " Oh mamma, do not let your mind dwell upon them ; banish such thoughts and think of your oft repeated maxim of putting your trust in Providence ! We will be kind to them if we should meet them, and they are not likely to do us any injury." " You do not know then, Griselda, the na- ture of these savages. They may appear docile for a while, but if they suffer an injury from one bad white man, they imme- diately proceed to revenge it upon all white people who come in their way. That is what I dread—we shall not be safe a moment." " Nay, mother," said Griselda after a short pause, " do not yet despair, they are not so bad after all. I have heard you say that my granduncle, George had two of his children murdered by the Indians in North America, yet he never deserted the country he had chosen." " That is quite true, love ; they killed his children, then sought to kill him ; burned his wheat and his cottage, and all for what ? Because some white miscreant whom your uncle never saw, had slain some of their tribe." " Well, mother, we are fairly embarked on the sea of a new existence, and we must cheerfully bear with the evils of it. If we perish, we perish, like Queen Esther, and our troubles will be over. There only remains pity for those who survive ; but God will never leave or forsake those who trust in His mercy."

This and similar conversations, though a often of a more hopeful and pleasing nature, beguiled the time as the weary cattle drew their heavy drays through mud and stream, over hill and bank ; sometimes nibbling at the long half-green, half-yellow tussocks, as they slowly moved along, and generally receiving a cut from the drivers' whips for presuming to satisfy the cravings of appetite. They had commenced the ascent of Spring Hill, at the southern side of which a charming landscape was visible, embracing a rich variety of hill and valley, rising in tree-covered terraces and sinking in grassy slopes and tranquil glens alternately, for many miles. The scenery of Tasmania has been described by so many en- thusiastic and patriotic writers, that the author of these pages feels his wings con- siderably clipped, and deplores his inability to soar in such exalted company. People who have made this highly-praised island their adopted home seem to worship it far more than the natives themselves ever can or will. " I see nothing here," says the rich settler, " but scenes of splendour, beautiful mountains, magnificent valleys, living pictures of sunny Alps, elegant mansions, most worthy hosts, and truly amiable ladies." We have also seen barren wastes of inhospitable rock, and gullies into which the rays of the sun scarcely ever penetrate. But to our history. The brothers of Griselda ascended Spring Hill on foot, and Griselda and her mother would gladly have done the same, but that the road was muddy and forbidding. The boys hung back, as was their custom, to hear what Mr. Baxter might have to say. That gentleman seemed anxious about his drays, and had transferred a portion of his luggage to the one in which the ladies were seated. The bullocks toiled up the hill at a steady pace, and the carrier attentively watched their progress, saying to the boys, " That black off- side pole bullock will have gone his last journey when he gets home." " You intend to kill him, I suppose ?" said Eugene. " I just do," said Baxter; " but I'll fatten him first, though, and eat him up after- wards." " How do you intend to fatten him ?" asked Eugene. " Easy enough," answered the carrier ; " give him hay for breakfast, if you have got it, and turnips for dinner, if you can grow 'em or steal 'em ; if you have nothin', give him a rovin' license in the bush, with permission to go into your father's wheat while it's young and tender, just to finish him off like." " Perhaps my father would object to that a little," said Eugene " Very likely," said Baxter; " he will send you or your brother to let me know, in course, and away I'll go to get him out, swearin' at him for a mischievous, trea- cherous, hungry-gutted beast ; but don't be surprised if you find him there again the next mornin'." " Is that the way the farmers fatten their bullocks in this country ?" enquired Charles. " Sometimes," answered Baxter ; but a good many don't take that trouble : they steal 'em when they're fat enough to make 'em worth stealin' ; and when you get fat bullocks and sheep you must watch 'em well. There are fellows here as would steal your breakfast from before your eyes. I knows one, Bill Jenkins ; they call him Bloody Bill Jenkins, because his shirt is always bloody about the shoulders, from carryin' dead 'pos- sums and other game, and he would steal the buttons off your breeches and you not know it. Was you long in Hobart Town ?" " Not very long : about eight weeks." " Was your house broken into ? Did you ever get robbed ?" " No, we never lost anything." " That's a wonder. Hobart Town is full of thieves and burglars, and clever fellows too, they are. Did you ever hear the story of the old lady and her silver tea-pot ?" " No," said Eugene; " tell it to us, please." " It won't take long," said Baxter. " There was an old lady, the widow of some guvment officer, and she lived in Davey-street, with a servant girl to wait on her, on per- haps a pension of thirty or forty pounds a year; but she had'nt much property, only a few articles of furniture and a silver tea-pot. Well, she prized this tea-pot mightily ; there never was such a tea-pot before or since, and the old lady never parted with it by night or day, and the burglars knew, as they know everything, that before they could get the tea-pot they'd have to kill the old lady, but this they did'nt want for to do. So as Polly the servant wench was takin' the air one fine evenin' at the garden gate, up comes a gentleman to her who seemed to be an old acquaintance. " ' Polly,' says he, coaxin'ly, 'I want you to do me a favor.' " ' What is it ?' says Polly. " 'I want you, Polly,' says he, ' to give me the dimensions and particulars respectin' your missus's tea-pot. My sweetheart has taken a fancy to it, and I'll give her one quite as good in exchange.' " ' She'll not part with it,' says Polly ; ' she never takes her eyes off it all day, and she takes it to bed with her at night.' " ' O never , mind that,' says he, ' I'll manage all that ; only just give me the di- mensions and shape, there's a good girl.' " 'You mus'nt hurt her, mind,' says Polly, ' on no account.' " 'If I hurt a hair of her head,' says the gentleman, ' may my fingers be burnt off be- fore I'm dead.' " Polly promised to furnish the desired in- formation the next day, and in about a fort- night a very well-dressed gentleman knocked at the door. ' Is this,' said he, as pompous as a pair o' tongs, ' the residence of Mrs. Judith Stokes ?' ' Yes, Sir,' says Polly, not knowing who he was. ' I wish to see her on important business,' said the gentleman. ' Walk in, Sir,' said Polly, and in he did

walk ; he had some papers in one hand and something tied up in a handkecher in the other. Presently the old lady came into the room, curtseyin' very low—' Have I the pleasure of addressin' Mrs. Judith Stokes ?' said the gentleman. ' That is my name, Sir,' said the old lady. ' My dear ma'am,' says he, ' allow me to congratulate you—allow me to shake you by the hand—this is the most happiest day of my life.' ' I don't quite misunderstand you, sir,' says the old lady, curtseyin' again and smilin' sweetly. ' Only just this, my dear ma'am, as you'll see by these papers—only just a legacy left you of two hundred and fifty pound a year, with reversionary annuity to your next kin, whomsoever you think proper to appoint.' ' Sir—Sir,' gasped the old lady in astonish- ment, ' you don't mean for to say—' ' Now don't allow yourself to be overcome, my dear ma'am,' said the stranger, ' I repeat what I have said. I was in such a hurry to tell you that I left the ship the moment she cast anchor in the bay, and I've been livin' on salt pork for nine months—could you just oblige me with a cup of tea, just one cup, with a very little cream in it ?' " With wonderful pleasure and quickness did the old lady bring in the silver teapot, with Polly at her elbow with cup and saucer, bread and butter, sugar and cream, and the tea was made and poured out, while the pleasant gentleman went on with the par- ticulars of the legacy; but in the middle of his discourse he pulled out snuff- box and offered the old lady a pinch which set her sneezin' so violently that she was compelled to leave the room for a couple of minutes. When she came back the stranger sat quite still, finish- ing his cup of tea, but starting up suddenly he exclaimed, ' there goes the captain of my ship, I must speak to him, have been looking for him these three hours ; excuse me, dear ma'am, for one moment, only one moment— will be back again directly ; will leave my papers here ; have pen and ink and a respec- table witness ready ;' and the gentleman rushed out, lookin' up the street and shoutin' 'hi,' as if desperately anxious to overtake somebody. " In course I need hardly tell such intelli- gent characters as you that the gentleman never came back ; that the silver tea-pot was gone, and a pewter one left in its place ; that the silver spoons were gone, and pewter ones left in their places ; but you may like to know that the poor old lady, when she dis- covered the cheat, and that the darling of her life was gone, took to her bed, and died exactly that day month." " That was a great scoundrel," said Eu- gene. " And so impudent to ask for tea and cream in it too," said Charles. " It was a clever trick though a hard- hearted one," said Baxter, " and I could tell you of dozens. He was one of a large gang, there was nothin' safe from them ; the town is not so bad now, but at that time I knew a gentleman who had a gold watch, and for safety put it under his pillow every night, till one mornin' when he looked for it as usual it was gone, and a piece of paper, with writin' on it, left in its place, tellin' him to thank his stars that his throat wasn't cut ; and he never heard nothin' about it no more. When I lived in town five years ago I had a horse that was blind of an eye, and I turned him one night into my neighbor Sprigg's paddock, and went to fetch him out early next mornin' before daylight, but he was gone, and I never saw him from that day to this ; and the only ob- servation I made was that Sprigg got up a little too early." The travellers had now arrived at Mr. Augustus Flynn's well conducted hotel, and Mrs. Maxwell was glad to retire to rest early, as she was now thoroughly tired of her conveyance. At Spring Hill the following day was passed, as it turned out exceedingly cold and windy. The time hung heavily on the hands of our friends, though Mrs. Flynn, a respectable person, did all in her power to amuse them. They did not see much of Dr. Flynn, as he was very busy superintending the laborers on his farm. He was an active, bustling, well meaning man, one of those generous sons of Hibernia who take your money reluctantly, and heave a sympathetic sigh while doing so. On the morrow the drays were got into motion again, and the day's journey termi- nated, no incident worth recording having occurred, at Oatlands where tolerable accom- modation was to be found. Again onward through slush, puddle, and swollen brook, over stone and hillock, into deep rut with widespread splash of water and mud-counting the precious moments as they slowly pass, wishing that they or the bullocks could go faster—still onward to the happy home in the ever-green forest. Move your- selves along, good, patient, weary cattle ; think of the beautiful green grass growing in the valley of the South Esk—think of the clear stream where you can quench your daily thirst—think of the warm honeysuckle tree, of the sunny bank, of the sheltered nook, of the well-worn and well-known track through the pleasant woods ! Think of the sweet sounds of recognition rising from the marshes as you draw near home, and your brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, young and old flocking round you and asking when you have been away so long ! Think of the refreshing nibbles at your master's haystack, the nocturnal rambles into his neighbor's turnips, and of the green crops in which you often gravely enjoy yourselves —think of all these things, good bullocks, and go faster !—They sleep at Antill Ponds— not in the ponds, but in a roadside cabin— this night. Onward still across the Salt Pan Plains and stop at the village where the Angel Inn by Peter bluff stood in nearly solitary glory.

But all is silent, tenantless, and desolate. Has the angelic guardian of this establish- ment taken her departure, or what is the matter with Mr. Peter Muff ? There is no life about the place. There are no jolly voices issuing from the taproom. Where is Peter?—the joyous, the gay, the potent spirit and caustic wit, the terror of preachers and teetotallers ? He is dead ! What befel you, Peter, when as you were making a set speech to the blacksmith's wife on the impro- priety and immorality of spending money upon anything except the true comforts of life—beer, rum, gin, and brandy—you tumbled off your perch in the bar in such a woful state of unconsciousness that even the strong scent of your beloved rum assiduously ap- plied to your nose failed to revive you ? We pass on. ' No dinner to be had here,' should have been painted on the signboard. On- ward to the future city—the town of Ross ; but ere you reach it, Griselda ! who is this riding across the plain at a smart canter, now spurring to a gallop when he sees the ap- proaching teams ? Did you ever see him before ? It is your father, safe and well, and he reins up his panting steed close to the dray containing his wife and children. He presses their hands, be bids Mr. Baxter good evening, his wife gazes upon him, he looks well and happy—his face flushed with health and exercise—and tears of love, joy, and gratitude flow down her cheeks. At Ross the second Sunday was passed and divine service was held in a large wooden building, at which the Maxwell family at- tended. On Monday the journey was again resumed, and Campbell Town was reached at an early hour. The journey from Campbell Town to Avoca occupied two days, and then an unexpected delay took place in consequence of the river St. Paul's being flooded, rendering the ford extremely hazardous to cross. There was no help for it but to wait for the subsidence of the flood. Mrs. Maxwell's patience was sorely tried, but fortunately the weather con- tinued fine, and the river was safely crossed on the evening of the second day. Mrs. Trapfarthing was happy to entertain the travellers for that night—the preceding ones having been passed in a constable's but on the Campbell Town side of the river—and who shall now describe their delight on ar- riving at the lonely cottage in the bush, the home which had been the subject of their dreams through many a night, and day, too, of weary anticipation ? By the light of a cheerful fire—surrounded by a confused heap of bedding, chairs, tables, and everything else of household necessity—they sat and talked the hours away, related their mutual adventures, and congratulated one another on their escape from all dangers. Maxwell did not forget to thank his Creator for the daily mercies extended to him and his, and in a short time the inmates of this peaceful cottage were at rest. (To be continued.)