Chapter 36644371

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter TitleFARMING OPERATIONS AND JOHNSON JUNIPER.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36644371
Full Date1867-06-22
Page Number2
Corrections5
Word Count4022
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-01-24
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
article text

THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday's issue.) CHAPTER XII. FARMIING OPERATIONS AND JOHNSON JUNIPER " My name is Juniper—you may tell your mother ; I live on the other side of the river ; your father is not gone far, is he ?" " I think not," replied Eugene, " but walk in if you please, while I tell my mother." Mr. Juniper walked in accordingly, and sat down on the large chest, laying the basket down beside him, taking off his straw hat and elevating his grey hair with his fingers. He was not dressed like a gentleman, that is as gentlemen are generally supposed to be dressed. He wore an exceedingly strange and rough-looking shooting coat, with alter- nate bars of grey and black, closely resembling in everything but color the skin of a tiger ; a waistcoat made of real native cat skins ; a pair of expansive corduroy inexpressibles ; a check shirt with the collar turned down so as to exhibit a muscular and sun-burnt neck ; and a pair of newly greased stock-keepers' boots. He hummed a tune to himself as was his constant habit when not conversing, while his heels kept time against the side of the chest. Mrs. Maxwell soon made her appear- ance, and welcomed the visitor with her usual kindness. " It gives me great pleasure to be able to thank you personally, Mr. Juniper, for your attention and hospitality to Mr. Maxwell ; I am sure we are both very much indebted to you." " Don't mention it ma'am," said Juniper, as he rose and bowed low, for he was not without his share of politeness though unac- customed to the society of ladies. " It is only my duty—it is the duty of all Englishmen to help their countrymen in a strange land. I took the liberty of bringing you a small piece of fresh beef and a few apples." " Thank you, it is really very kind and considerate of you," said Mrs. Maxwell ; " I am sorry Mr. Maxwell is not at home just now ; Eugene, take a walk over to the pad- dock and see if your father is there." " Never mind," said Juniper, " I can wait till he comes, or I'll walk to the paddock my- self." " I beg you will not," said Mrs. Maxwell, " you have had a long walk already, and such a heavy basket to carry so great a distance ; run Eugene," and Eugene ran. " This is my daughter Griselda, Mr. Juniper; this is the gentleman, my dear, who has been so very kind to your father." Griselda came forward and shook hands with Mr. Juniper, and that gentleman asked her how she found herself that day, to which the young lady replied, " Pretty well, thank you." Mrs. Maxwell procured a dish, and placed upon it a respectable piece of fat beef, drawn from Juniper's basket. About four dozen large red apples were soon nicely arranged on one of the shelves of the dresser. But what chiefly came directly home to Mrs. Maxwell's ideas, and touched a sympatlhetic cord, was a large roll of fresh butter neatly wrapped up in white paper and cabbage leaves. She could not help again expressing her thanks to her visitor for his great kindness, and asked him if he had a cow or two to dispose of. " I have cows, ma'am," said he, " and could part with some of them, but I am afraid they are hardly quiet enough for you that is if you mean to milk them yourself ; a man that understands cows could easily manage them. I suppose you will soon be able to milk cows, Miss Maxwell ?" " I intend to try," answered Griselda. " It is as well to learn," said Juniper, " a milkman is not always to be got ; though I never did anything of the kind myself, yet I know many gentlmen who milk their own cows. My ploughman and his wife do all that business ; if it were not for them I would have no butter or milk, as I care nothing for butter, and am not in love with milk." " You must lead a very lonely life, Mr. Juniper?" said Mrs. Maxwell. " Yes, ma'am, lonely enough," he answered, " but I'm pretty well used to it now ; I've plenty to do and to think of, though I do feel lonely sometimes." " How do you pass your time in the mid- dle of summer ? I should think it is im- possible to go out under the burning sun." " We get used to it, ma'am ;" the sun is never so hot as to be beyond endurance, ex- cept to some very delicate people who have keen sensibilities and thin skulls. But when, in addition to a hot sun, we have a hot wind, the air thick with smoke like a London fog, a bush fire on one side, a bush fire on the other side, and fifty bush fires north, south, east and west, that's the pleasant time—warm work, then, Miss Maxwell." " Dear me I that must be frightful," said Mrs. Maxwell." " Bad enough while it lasts, ma'am," said Juniper; " but it's not the case every sum- mer. This summer has been very fine, with plenty of refreshing showers, but about three years ago we had a most distressing drought. The South Esk was more like a ditch than a river ; the grass was so dry and withered that you would have thought the heat of the sun above would have been sufficient to set fire to it ; the whole country, from Ben Lo- mlond to Ben Nevis, and from here to St. Patrick's Head, was a mass of fire for weeks together." " And how did you save your homestead ?" Mrs. Maxwell asked with breathless interest. " I saved mine, ma'am," replied Juniper, " by burning a train round it at night, so that instead of waiting till the flames swept me away, house, pigstyes, and all, I sent a fire to meet a fire, and they checked one an-

other, of course. But even at night you have to run from a fire when the wind changes. I have been nearly suffocated several times, and once had to run into the Esk, bury myself in water up to the chin, and bob may head underneath to draw breath ; —you laugh, Miss Maxwell, but it was no laughing matter, I assure you." " No, indeed, far front it," said Mrs. Max- well, smiling, nevertheless, at her daughter's merriment. She was about to continue the conversation, when Mr. Maxwell and his sons entered the cottage. " Glad to see you, Juniper," said he ; " how are you to-day ? I need not ask how Mrs. Juniper is ?" " Why, no," said the visitor ; " but where ever the good lady is I hope she is well." " Look, Bernard," said Mrs. Maxwell, " at those beautiful apples and this nice piece of fat fresh beef, and such a large roll of de- licious butter." Maxwell looked. " Ah," said he, taking one of the apples, while the two boys helped themselves, " I know where these grow ; many thanks, Juniper. What time is it, Elizabeth ? Let us have a cup of tea. Has Earlsley said anything more about his land ? I thought he was coming with a regiment of splitters and chain men to turn me out of this, and level this house with the ground." " O never mind, Sir, what he says," said Juniper, looking very important ; " he has found out that it is of no use swaggering and blustering any longer ; he is as bitter as gall against me for having shewn you this grant ; but I only did what the Surveyor- General told me to do, and my own duty, Sir ; a man must never be afraid of doing his duty, Sir." " Certainly not," said Maxwell ; " it was very kind of the Surveyor-General. He is a perfect gentleman ; and as for my opening my lips to him on the subject of fee, present, or bribe of any kind, upon my honor I never did." " What is all that about ?" said Mrs. Max- well, when she had partly laid the table for tea ; " you have secrets between you, I see ; what about Mr. Earlsley ?" " Nothing, love," replied her husband, " only that Mr. Earlsley was under the im- pression that all this land was his ; and it annoyed him excessively to find that he was really to have such near neighbors : poor man ! he has only about thirty thousand acres of land already, and we hope time will heal the wound. I do not blame him ; how is he to know but that I may steal his sheep and kill his fat cattle? He should put up public notices on the gum trees at various places, to the effect that no neighbors are re- quired within a radius of fifty miles at least." " Come, you are too severe, Bernard," said the lady ; " this damper that we are obliged to eat does not seem to possess the faculty of improving your already amiable temper. Do you take sugar, Mr. Juniper ? I think you said you were not in love with milk, and we have none to offer you." " I take sugar if you please ma'am," said the bachelor, " and as for milk, unless it is the milk of human kindness, which is a scarce article in these parts, its absence or presence does not affect me. If you do not like damper I can put you in the way of making good wholesome bread, if you have a pot with a lid to fit it exactly." " I declare you speak like an angel, Mr. Juniper," said Mrs. Maxwell, laughing ; " good bread is just the thing we want, even more than good butter ; and I have such a dear little pot with a cover, but I have no yeast ; I could make some, could I not ?" " Yes ma'am, but you would want some brewer's yeast to set yours going, or what will do just as well ; I will get some from Mrs. Rim and send it over to you by first opportunity." " Thank you, it is very kind of you," said Mrs. Maxwell ; " who is Mrs. Rim, is she a near neighbor ?" " She is ma'am, nearer than I am, she's my ploughman's wife." " Oh, I thought she might be a settler's wife. Please get her to send me a receipt for making yeast." " I can give you that myself ;" said Juni- per. " Boil two ounces of hops in six quarts of water for an hour and a half, add a pound and a half of bran, a pound of sugar, boil for another half hour, let it stand till milk warm, put in half a pint of good yeast, let it stand all night, then strain and bottle, but don't cork the bottles till it has done work- ing, unless you want them to be all broken, and your yeast rising to the ceiling instead of in the dough." A general laugh rewarded the jolly bache- lor's attempt at wit. " How do you like Johnnie cake, Miss Maxwell ?" said Juniper. " I never tasted any," answered Griselda. " Perhaps you mean Kangaroo Billy cake ?" interposed Maxwell. " No," said Juniper, " Johnnie cake ; lend me a frying pan and I'll make one, and Miss Maxwell shall mix the dough." A change from damper to Johnnie cake was acceptable, and the frying pan was handed to Mr. Juniper ; he forgot, however, that the house could not in its then forlorn condition produce mutton fat, an indispen- sable requisite for Johnnie cake. " Never mind," said he, " butter will do as well ;" and seizing the plate containing the large roll he (to Mrs. Maxwell's utter consternation) transferred about a pound of it to the hot pan, where it began to hiss and sputter in a most melodious manner. Acting under his direc- tions, Griselda was not long in making a cake with flour, water, and salt, which was speedily in the frying-pan covered with the boiling butter. In a few minutes Juniper turned it, saying as he did so—" I've seen the time, Miss Maxwell, when I could toss these up the chimney and catch them in the pan again outside the door—but I'm old and stiff now." A few minutes more and the

cake was pronounced done and turned out is upon a plate. " There," said Juniper, " now try it Mrs. Maxwell, will you, while I fry another." The tea was dispatched, and the Johnnie cakes approved of, although, as Mrs. Max- well said, they could hardly be recommended to people of impaired digestive powers. Juniper conversed with a good deal of quaint humor ; the settlers were not unusually op- pressed by care, and the party was very merry. The two boys and Griselda were much pleased with their new acquaintance— with his round, red face, garnished with white whiskers and beard, and his lively though not brilliant wit. A smart conversa- tion was kept up to a late hour, as the moon was up, and the visitor expressed no anxiety as to any difficulty in crossing the river on his way home. " How do you like the man I sent you, Mr. Maxwell ?" he enquired. " Pretty well, indeed," said Maxwell ; " he seems to be a plodding kind of man, rather slow and self-opinioned, but a passable work- man." " You can keep him altogether, if you like," said the Surveyor, " he is all the better, I suspect, for not having companions." " He will be here soon," said Mrs. Maxwell. " What an inconvenience it is, Mr. Juniper, not having a hut set apart for men servants." " It must be very great ma'am," answered Juniper. " Now, my cook, though there are no ladies in the house, gives me so much trouble sometimes that I am often inclined to turn him out of doors, and make him sleep in the hut—a proceeding which he would not be likely to approve of." " I am in constant dread," said the lady, " that he will turn round some day and rob us ; our few articles of plate are a great trouble to us." " Hide them, ma'am—bury them some- where." " I thought of that, but I have only one teapot, and that is a silver one." " Paint it black, ma'am, and robbers will not think it worth the trouble of carrying." " Mr. Baxter, the carrier," said Eugene, " told us a great many stories when coming up the country about kangaroos, natives, snakes, and an old lady who had a silver tea- pot, and how the burglars got it from her by stratagem." " And he told us," said Charles, " about a skeleton on the top of Mount Wellington fifteen feet long, and a shark in the South Esk that could not turn round." " Yes," said Juniper, " Baxter is a fine fellow at story-telling, but if you take all he says for gospel you will have enough to carry." " Have you that carpenter still, Juniper ?" asked Maxwell. " Yes, Sir, he is with me still." " You must let me have him again for a short time to build a hut." " You can have him as soon as you're ready. I suppose you'll want slabs ?" " No, I think a mud hut will do for the present." " You had better leave it to Jacob himself altogether ; he will build one in a couple of days." " You have not sent me in your bill yet for the survey, Juniper." " We can leave that, Sir, till you see the cows, mares, and pigs," said Juniper. " Baxter ought to make a fortune in a few years," said Maxwell, " especially if many more new settlers come to this part of the country : he charged me ninety pounds for a carriage alone." " It is too much," said Juniper; " but there is no competition, and you could not have brought your things up yourself. Baxter is a not a bad kind of fellow, but he's sharp, Sir ; in a country like this, Mr. Maxwell, we are obliged to be as sharp as needles, Sir." " I believe all that," answered Maxwell ; "but there ought to be such a thing as con- science." "I have been in this island," said Juniper, now ten years the twenty-fifth of next Octo- ber, and if I ever met with such a thing as conscience I was asleep and didn't see it. But I remember once, when carting a load of sawn timber out of the tiers, a beam fell on my head, and sent me off to a comfortable sleep. When I awoke, I saw, or thought I saw, a good, honest, consciencious man stand- ing beside my bed, with a lancet in one hand and a basin of blood in the other." " A doctor, I suppose ?" " Yes, Sir, a doctor; and strange to say he was the only man (present company always excepted) who ever to my knowledge pos- sessed any conscience at all." " O come, come now, Mr. Juniper," said Maxwell, " that will not do ; you are too hard on the colonists. I think you should not condemn all, even if there are a dozen or more selfish and grasping men to be found in the island. I fell in with a man at Bagdad —I think that was the name of the place named White, a good, honest, and hospitable man ; the owner of five hundred acres." " And I," interrupted Mrs. Maxwell, " will answer for Mrs. White, for I spent two nights there ; the very personification of generous hospitality." " As to that," said Juniper, " they are all hospitable enough. A man out here who is not hospitable must be a very bad number indeed. I have found a good many farmers who live by agriculture alone quite satisfied with the extent of their properties ; whereas, with the sheepowners who have large tracts of country, it is nearly always quite the re- verse. If you were the governor to-morrow, and gave an agricultural farmer five hundred acres, he would thank and bless you all the days of his life ; but give a sheep owner ten thousand acres, and he'll coolly ask you for five thousand more to square him off on some particular side." " I think it probable," said Maxwell, " that this weakness inhuman nature is rendered more prominent, or appears, as in sculpture

in alto relievo, on account of the thinness of the population here, and the comparatively low value of the land, to say nothing of the total unfitness of a great portion of it for agricultural purposes, by reason of sand stones, and water. It seems natural for a man to wish to enlarge his property when he sees land all round him given away for nothing. In England I should think there are many men just as selfish and as grasping as any here, perhaps a great deal more so, but you seldom hear of them, because they are absorbed in the dense population. In Eng- land also, landed proprietors are more apt to be content, because they know their estates amount to so much, neither more nor less ; they cannot depasture their stock on the adjoining crown lands at pleasure. If they want to increase their property they know it cannot be done without a great pecuniary sacrifice. Another important fact must not be lost sight of : the free settlers of this island are a picked race ; they have all, with very few exceptions, left their native land with the view of bettering their fortunes ; men who, stimulated by a strong dread of poverty, have become eager from habit in the pursuit of wealth. They appear to us to be selfish and grasping, while in their own eyes they are only moderately anxious to place themselves in an independent position, and when that position is gained the desire for yearly increasing wealth becomes confirmed. Their fear of striking on the rock of poverty drives them to the opposite rock—avarice. House must be added to house and field to field." " Upon my word, Sir," said Juniper, " I think your sentiments are quite correct. Henceforth as I dread poverty very much I will grow as selfish and as grasping as the largest landowner in the island." " There is, however," said Maxwell, when the general laugh at Mr. Juniper's humor had subsided, " a medium to be observed. A man may lawfully acquire a handsome estate with- out pressing upon his poorer neighbors, and publishing shamelessly to the world that he cares not who starves, provided he gets rich. There seems to be no limit to the acquisitive- ness of some men ; they have their excuses ; their sons, Tom, Jack, and Harry, must have estates ; their daughters, Mary, Jane, and Louisa must have fortunes. I know a case in point : there were two farmers, one rich with a large estate, the other poor with a large family ; between the two there lay a few hun- dred acres of poor sheep land, belonging to a wealthy proprietor, who lived at a distance, and he wishes to sell or let this small patch. There is immediately a contest. The poor man offers what the land is honestly worth, he can with difficulty provide for his family, the possession of this piece of land would, by enabling him to keep a few sheep, greatly assist him. His rich neighbor, not to be out- done, and to increase the boundaries of his property and self-importance, offer more than the land is worth. The consequence is that the highest bidder, flowing over with money, gets it and the poor man is shut out. The distant proprietor only reflects—So-and- so is a poor man, and in the name of heaven we'll keep him so. I am not bound to assist him, if I did he would be ungrateful. Smol- lett says somewhere—' There is no wretch so ungrateful as he whom you have most gene- rously obliged.' It is deep in human nature to be ungrateful." " 'Pon my life Sir," said Juniper, " I be- lieve it is ; from this moment, henceforward and for ever, I'll never do a good turn for any human being for fear of meeting with in- gratitude ; I hate ingratitude, Sir, as I hate the —." As Juniper laughed while he spoke, his auditors were led to suppose that he did not exactly mean to stick to what he said— " But it's time," he continued starting up, " it's time for me to be off. Riches some times make themselves wings and fly away when their worshippers least expect to lose them. You know, Miss Maxwell, what Byron says— O ever thus from childhood's hour, I've seen my fondest hopes decay ; I never loved a tree or flower, But 'twas the first to fade away. " Moore, I suppose you mean ?" said Max- well. " Did'nt I say Moore, Sir ?' " No, you said Byron." " Oh, it's all the same—Moore or Byron, it's no matter ; they were both tarred with one stick." So saying Mr. Juniper smiled pleasantly, bade his new friends good night and departed, striking up a verse of " Tom Bowling" as he went along. (To be continued.)