Chapter 36644654

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Chapter NumberXV
Chapter Url
Full Date1867-07-06
Page Number2
Word Count4376
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 XV. GRISELDA'S GOOD FORTUNE—WINTER IN TAS- MANIA. During the night the rain commenced fall- ing heavily, which added greatly to the anxi- eties of Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter, neither of whom could find any relief in slumber. Fears for her absent husband, and wild thoughts such as only a mother can pic- ture to herself of the poor lost child, kept the former awake, while the sympathies of Griselda for both were scarcely less power- fully excited. The morning came at length wet, cold, and comfortless, succeeding a long miserable night. The river had risen several feet, and had approached the cottage a con- siderable way up the grassy marsh formerly mentioned. Mrs. Maxwell's alarm and sus- pense were increased when she recollected that her husband had expressed his intention to follow the river down for some distance. She had heard that many people had been drowned in that river, that it was, in flood time especially, a treacherous and dangerous river. At length after struggling for a while with her painful thoughts she sat down with her children to breakfast, having made up her mind to endure with patience and wait for the realisation of her hopes or her fears. " Mother," said Griselda while they were at breakfast, " I am going to ask you to allow me to join in the search for this poor child." " You, Griselda !" said her astonished mother, " are you losing your wits ?" " No mother," said Griselda solemnly, " I am not losing my wits ; let me go at least as far as the Woody Sugar Loaf. I have par- ticular reasons for asking you ; Eugene or Charles can come with me—do not refuse me mother, or you will break my heart." " What folly, child !" said her mother, losing patience ; " is it not enough Griselda, that your father is gone, and who can tell if we shall ever see him again alive? Do you not hear the rain ; how can you find your way ? Perhaps you, too, will be lost, and perish with cold and hunger ;—no, content yourself ; I will not consent." " Listen to me, dear mother, for one moment—my heart tells me there is yet hope —my father is safe I am sure—at least, I earnestly trust he is. I shall not be away two hours ; I know the direction and the different hills to guide me home again. Oh, mother, let me go ; you will be the last in the world I know to put aside the hand of Providence." " Well, my child," said Mrs. Maxwell, weeping, " go if you are determined, but re- member if you are lost to me I shall never know happiness again." " Never fear, my own sweet mother," said Griselda, throwing her arms round her neck and kissing her passionately : " I will wrap myself up well and take a bottle of milk, and if I find poor little Mary Baxter, shall we not be happy ? Eugene, will you come ?" " Yes Griselda, I'll go," said Eugene ; " I'll put on my thick boots and top coat." " Promise me, Griselda," said Mrs. Max- well, " that you will only go as far as the Woody Sugar Loaf, and that you will not wander about from one hill to another. I am sure I shall go distracted if you do not return soon." " I promise you, mother, that if my mis- sion to the Woody Sugar Loaf is unsuccessful I will return. I can see the river and the cottage from the top of the hill." " But the fog, child, is getting thicker." " I am sure we shall find our way back," said Griselda ; " I think the fog will clear away soon and we must make haste." While she was speaking she had put on a pair of strong boots and wrapped herself in a warm cloak, throwing a spare one on her arm, and placing in her bosom a small bottle full of milk ; then kissing her mother again, she said, " The life of the poor child is at stake, mother ; one hour's exertion may save it. May God bless you and guide my footsteps." In another moment she and her brother were walking rapidly away. Griselda had been gone for upwards of an hour, when her father, to the great joy of his wife, returned. He was, as might have been expected, dripping wet and nearly perished with cold. To the anxious enquiries of his wife respecting the child's probable fate, he answered that the search had been unsuccess- ful ; that Jacob and he had travelled down the river for about six miles, visiting every clump of trees, and exploring every waterhole on the way ; that he got to Baxter's hut at eleven o'clock ; had found Mrs. Baxter in a very pitiable state of mind ; had sat by their fire till two, then started again ; and had been rambling about over since in the hope of find- ing the lost child, but in vain. " I greatly fear," added the goodman, " that she will never be found alive." As soon as he had taken off his wet clothes, and refreshed himself with a cup of tea, Maxwell continued—" All I could get from Mrs. Baxter was, that after they had eaten their dinner the day before yesterday Baxter went out to look for some stray cattle, and this little girl, who is particularly fond of her father, ran out after him ; he desired her to go home, and went on without taking further notice. The mother missed her child, but thought Baxter had taken her with him for a ride on his back, as he had often done before. You may imagine what their grief and terror were when he returned in the evening, and nothing of the child to he seen. It ought to be a lesson to all mothers how they trust their children out of their sight for a single mo- ment, especially in a place like this. Where's Griselda, love ?"

" She is gone—I allowed her to go as far as the Wooded Sugar Loaf. She had some- thing on her mind about the unfortunate child. I refused to let her go for a long time, but yielded at last to her impor- tunities." " The girl is insane, or her mother is," said Maxwell, " to allow her to go out in such weather. She has never been there, and does a not know the way ; but Eugene is with her, of course ?" " Of course, Bernard ; insane as I am I would not have allowed her to go without pro- tection." " Catch me the horse, Charles, as quickly as you can. I must endeavor to overtake her. I sent Tom off in that direction yesterday evening ; do you know if he has re- turned ?" " I have not seen him nor a single soul since you went away," said his wife. We will now follow Griselda. Impelled by an energy of spirit which nothing could daunt, she pursued her way by Eugene's side, and scarcely felt the heavy rain, which seemed to increase rather than diminish with every step. The large drops which fell from the leaves of the trees when agitated by the wind added to the weight of the remorseless shower ; but she seemed not to regard it. The long wet grass coiled about her feet, and impeded her progress considerably ; her garments were soon completely drenched. The nu- merous hollows were filled with water, but a she stepped lightly over them or walked boldly through if they were too wide. She passed without thinking of hidden enemies, the thick bolts of wattle scrub and the blackened stumps of the bush, nor did she even look around to see if the mist was dis- persing or growing thicker, so absorbed was she in the object which occupied her thoughts. Panting beneath the weight of their wet heavy clothes, the youthful travellers began to ascend the hill called the Woody Sugar Loaf, a somewhat steep and lofty hill, one of a series of similar hills at the back part of their father's estate. Its distance from the cottage was less than three miles, and in ad- dition to its steepness its sides were thickly, encumbered with prostrate withered trees, large gum and wattle trees that had been blown down by mighty storms, or burned by successive fires. Branches and sticks and tussacks of dark slippery grass made Griselda reel and pause frequently. The sharp and loose stones with which the hill was covered made many painful impressions upon her water-soaked boots, but still she pressed on with one hand upon her breast and the other holding up her dripping garments. She was obliged to pause, however, many times to draw breath, and then she found leisure to look behind and form her opinion of the weather. At last it gave her great delight to perceive that the heavy mist had partially cleared away, and a luminous spot in the driving clouds showed her the sun's place in the sky. With joy she exclaimed breath- lessly—" Now I know, Eugene, the direc- tion of our cottage—the sun at midday shines exactly opposite the door. We will go back towards the sun, and that will guide us home." " Yes," said Eugene, " and I see the top of this confounded hill ; there is nothing there, let us go back." "No," said Griselda, " we are not yet at the top. I must stand at the very top before I shall be satisfied." And mustering all her strength and energy she bounded to the top—to the very summit —impatient to be the first, like Balboa dis- covering the Pacific Ocean-—like him, too, she fell on her knees and murmured " Thank God—Oh, thank God, who has led me hither !" What did Griselda see there ? Wedged in between two projecting masses of rock, as if it had crept there to die and be at rest, lay the lost child. Cold and appa- rently lifeless, her face the color of lead, with one of her little arms drawn over it, the young creature lay, and Griselda, overjoyed indeed, but with a sorrowful face, took her up and pressed her to her bosom. She imme- diately took off the child's wet, torn clothes, rubbed her little limbs and wrapped her up in the cloak she had brought, which though damp might convey a little warmth, and after attempting to force some of the milk down her swollen throat, our happy heroine com- menced to descend the hill, carrying the child on her breast, having first assured her- self of the direction in which they ought to proceed. When Eugene saw his sister fall on her knees at the top of the hill he could scarcely believe his eyes, but when he actually saw the lost child lying in her arms his astonish- ment and awe were unspeakable. He felt sure that the child was dead and said so, but Griselda was of a different opinion. He then offered to carry it, but his sister said " Wait until it gets warm on my breast."* Thus with this heavy burden in her arms Griselda pursued her way down the hill and across the open bush, seeming to gain re- newed strength from the exciting nature of her expedition and its singularly fortunate result. When she had carried the child for at least a mile she permitted her brother to relieve her of her burden, but anxiously encouraged him to hasten on as every moment now was of the greatest importance. Suddenly they were greatly alarmed at hearing a prolonged "coo-ee," a sharp cry peculiar to the aborigines, and generally adopted by the settlers and their servants when calling one another in the bush. The sound proceeded from an adjacent thicket : afraid to answer it, the children stopped short and stood for awhile in painful suspense ; best their apprehensions were relieved on seeing a man emerge from the scrub whom Eugene immediately *This incident is founded upon a recent news- paper report. A child strayed from its father in one of the southern districts and was found the next day, after an active search, on the top of one of the highest hills in the neighborhood.

recognised as their own servant Tom. The man, as soon as he saw his master's son with the child in his arms, and his sister by his side, uttered a hoarse sound, expressive of astonishment, but came up quickly and insisted upon carrying the "swag," as he politely called the insensible child. " Keep to the left, miss," said he, " you're a goin' to the wrong end of the cultivation, and that'll bring you out two miles above the hut. What'll old Baxter say now, I wonder? In silence they proceeded towards home, and when within sight of the cottage, Griselda ran eagerly forward to tell her mother the joyful news. Her brother Charles was approaching from the opposite side with his father's horse. Griselda rushed into the cottage crying—" Mother, mother, she is found--the child is found !" and then running to her father embraced him fondly. Both her parents hastened to meet the man to assure themselves of the pleasing fact : Mrs. Maxwell took the child, and laid it upon a blanket spread on the table, which she drew away from the influence of the fire, being careful not to cause a sudden reaction by too much heat. She then commenced rubbing the be- numbed limbs with flannels dipped in cold water, administering from time to time spoonful of tea, while her husband saddled his horse and started to convey the intelligence to Baxter and his wife. After exerting themselves patiently for nearly two hours, Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda were re- joiced to perceive unmistakeable signs of returning animation. The vital stream gradually resumed its course through the arteries and veins, the little breast heaved, the eyes were slowly opened, then shut, then opened again, and the muscles of the face and arms quivered. As a finishing stroke to her operations, Mrs. Maxwell placed her patient in a tepid bath, the water being very slightly warm, then drying her carefully she resumed the rubbing until the child breathed freely, and was able to swallow a little food. In the afternoon Baxter arrived with his wife in a horse cart. It would be impossible to describe the scene that ensued between the parents and their restored child. Griselda tried in vain to escape from their over- whelming thanks, exclamations, protestations, and prayers. She told them that they should thank God, to whom belonged the glory of every meritorious action. To all the ques- tions put to her she constantly replied, " I thought of it as I lay awake ; my thoughts are not my own ; and as for exertion, it has done me good ; I therefore deserve no thanks." But Baxter loudly declared that if he had twenty lives he would lay then all down in the dust for her sake, and expressed his readiness to be burned with fire rather than allow a single hair of her head to re- ceive the slightest injury. Both Griselda and her mother exerted themselves to stop his ravings, giving him some tea, and desiring him to take better care of little Mary for the future ; and Maxwell, coming in just at the moment, gave him a good-natured lec- ture on his thoughtlessness. After a while they proceeded home, taking the child with them, the mother receiving from Mrs. Max- well many directions respecting its treat- ment until perfectly restored to health. The news soon spread far and near that Baxter's lost child had been found by Miss Maxwell, who had dreamed that it was on the top of the Woody Sugar Loaf, and on going thither she found it in the exact posi- tion indicated in her dream. Some went so far as to say that an angel had appeared to her while she lay awake, and given her the information on which she had so promptly acted. All who heard the story united in praising the courage and fortitude of Gri- selda, and many would doubtless have gone to see the interesting heroine herself, if they had not been prevented by the increasing severity of the season. In a few days, when the weather mode- rated, Mr. Johnson Juniper paid his neigh- bours a visit. Living as he did, at the other side of the river, and confined to his home by a high flood, he had heard nothing of the child hunt until it was over, and he now came to congratulate Miss Maxwell and her parents on their good fortune. Fond of talk- ing, even when he had nothing of any im- portance to say, Juniper was quite boistrous on this occasion, as it furnished him with an almost inexhaustible topic of conversation. He fairly bewildered Griselda with questions, then went on telling stories about lost child- ren ; without waiting to hear her replies. He told Mrs Maxwell that she possessed a treasure far more valuable than Mr. Earlsley's family and land all put together. He in- formed the ladies that he would be happy if he had such a daughter ; that he would have married long before, if he had not been un- fortunately frightened out of matrimony, or the thoughts of it, by a circumstance which he would not relate at present. He had asked, indeed, more than one lady to bless him for life, but they all, with the exception of one, with whom the circumstance which he would not relate was connected, thought proper to say ' no,' though he now believes that they only said so in play, and really meant to say 'yes ;' but it was his luck to take small words in their literal sense. Mr. Juniper wound up a long oration on the sweets, the delights, the comforts of matri- mony, and the happiness to be found in children, especially babies with musical talents, with the frank avowal that he was not particularly mad about music, and was quite contented with his 'possum rug and grumbling cook. Maxwell was always glad to see Juniper ; he felt acutely for a long time the loss of that congenial society to which he had been accus- tomed all his life in his native city. They had all become things of the past, this chat with his business friends in the day time, the meeting at dinner or tea with still more valued friends, the lectures at the Royal Dublin Society, and the pleasant walk

on Sundays to hear their favorite preacher. And now in exchange for these the jolly face of Mr. Juniper was the only one that wore the aspect of a friend. He accordingly made Juniper welcome to his glass of grog. The bachelor was particular in taking only one glass at a time : his face, he was of opinion was red enough without grog, and his ideas often obscure enough without being further muddled. In fact Maxwell had discovered that his ideas very seldom wandered from a certain beaten track : there was a sameness in them ; there was neither height nor depth, nor any greatness in his intellect. He was very far from being a simpleton, and yet was by no means a clever man. In his society the settler deplored a want of information and the absence of large and liberal ideas, and missed the expansive mind which, though so common amongst the friends he had left behind him, he now looked for in vain in the wilds of Tasmania. While ruminating on these subjects he consoled himself with the reflection that so long as he had but one honest neighbor, he ought to be satisfied and thankful. Enlarged ideas and depth of in- tellect are rare gifts, and a refined education is not the lot of all. Juniper was rough, simple, and honest ; a thousand times better, Maxwell thought, than a clever or cunning rogue. The winter months had nearly passed away. Maxwell had had his mind set at rest res- pecting Mr. Juniper's survey, and had been to Mr. Earlsley's to arrange about the fencing. That gentleman received him with civility pressed him to stay to dinner ; and with a surprising urbanity of manner introduced him to his wife and two daughters, the Misses Harriette and Caroline. He had also three other children, but they were of tender age. Mrs. Earlsley was a woman of superior attainments and affable manners. The young ladies were cheerful and well informed. Mr. Maxwell was told that Mrs. Earlsley would be most happy to see Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter : the fame of the latter had reached Clifton Hall, and her heroic exploit was the theme of every lip. Maxwell at length took his leave highly pleased with his reception. In the month of June several severe frosts whitened the ground, the only similitudes to the heavy snowdrifts of an English winter. In July a great deal of rain fell. It was an unusually wet season as it rained more or less nearly every day. The South Esk be- came a wide and resistless torrent, and the sound of its flowing waters or something else brought countless frogs upon the wild scene, whose gaping mouths joined together in that incessant chorus which is heard through many a long winter's night. On the evening of a certain day Maxwell remarked that though the rain had partially subsided the river continued to rise, and he was now tor- mented by a fear for the safety of his dwell- ing. He remained up till one o'clock watch- ing with anxious care the progress of the waters, and then thinking that they might possibly have risen to their maximum height, retired to rest. In three hours his man Jacob came thundering at the door, and roared out " that the river was coming into the house, and they would all be swept off right into the say." His master jumped out of bed and instantly found himself up to his knees in the cool refreshing element. Dis- mayed but not hopeless he struck a light, called the children, made shift to dress him- self, and hurried out to see or feel—for it was pitch dark—where a place of safety could be found. The mens' hut was inun- dated, the stable and cowshed in a similar state, and there was no shelter but what could be afforded by a spreading mimosa that grew on an ascent about thirty yards at the back of the cottage. To this harbor of refuge Maxwell carried his wife and then his daughter. The two boys waded out, laughing and shivering, with bundles of blankets, cloaks, and coats on their heads. A fire was kindled with some difficulty, a kettle of tea made, and the party, glad that they had escaped so easily, proceeded to make themselves as comfortable as they could. The pig and the calves were in great danger of being drowned, but were guided by the men to a place of safety. When morning dawned the river presented the appearance of an inland sea. The marshes, which the surrounding forest allowed to be visible, were covered with water. The hills on the opposite side seemed to rise abruptly from the waves. The scene was beautiful, for the sun shone upon the water and its rays sparkled on the snowy turrets of the distant Ben Lomond. But it gave rise to melancholy thoughts. Who could tell what ravages the river might yet make or what numbers it might drive away from their homes, perhaps level their homes with the ground or leave their inmates clapsed in the embrace of death ? Several hours were passed under the pro- tecting tree ; a rude tent had been erected to shelter the ladies from the wind, which now began to blow in cold gusts. Maxwell, with his boys and men, had taken a number of moveables out of the cottage, as he fully ex- pected it would shortly be carried away bodily. The flood, however, had reached its greatest height. As the day wore on the waters began to subside, and when evening came the family were able to return to the cottage, though the floor was still nine inches deep in water. They took their tea sitting on the table ; their beds were still dry, but how to get to them was the question. A row of chairs placed at certain distances answered the purposes of stepping-stones, and the second night of this remarkable flood passed away. The subsequent effects of this flood were not at all disastrous to Maxwell. The cows, calves, sheep, horse, mare, and pig were safe. The greatest inconvenience was experienced by Mrs. Maxwell, who found some of her boxes and lower drawers full of water, and the clothes and " things" completely saturated. Maxwell felt himself compelled to consider

the propriety of building a new house, and occupied himself in planning a suitable situa- tion. The remainder of the winter passed quietly over ; a few showers of hail and light snow, with a couple of thunderstorms, passed like momentary shadows over the land, and spring, with its " etherial mildness," consist- ing of rain, frequent high winds, croaking frogs, and influenza, commenced. (To be continued.)