|Chapter Title||THE ALARM.|
|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 Saturday, 7th inst.) CHAPTER XXIII. THE ALARM. FORGETTING their ordinary fear of the bush- rangers and natives, the Maxwell family had resolved themselves into a committee of the whole house, and decided on taking a walk along the banks of the river for the purpose of meeting Mrs. Earlsley and her daughters, who had accepted an invitation to an early tea to celebrate Griselda's birth-day. They set out in high spirits, Maxwell walking be- tween his wife and daughter, while Charles and Edwin, rambling at a little distance with their guns, sought for wattle-birds and any other small game that happened to be avail- able. The day, which had been obscured in the morning by a dense fog, had turned out exceedingly fine. The damp and cold vapors had disappeared before the warm rays of a brilliant sun. The grass, renewed in life by several refreshing autumnal showers, had thrown off its dull yellow color, and assumed the bright green it had worn in the early spring. The little blue-caps, ground-larks, and paroquets twittered constantly, undis- mayed by the noise of the guns and the smell of powder. Everything wore on that pleasant afternoon a gay aspect, except the face of Edwin Herbart. His face was the index of his heart, and that was wrought up to the highest pitch of mental misery—greater, almost, than even his strength of mind would enable him to endure. Our readers will scarcely thank us if we enter into a minute and didactic disquisition concerning the thoughts and feelings, the joys, sorrows, exaggerated imaginings, expectations, and disappointments of this young man. If (they may ask) he is a fictitious character—he is a type of many now rolling in carriages in Tasmania—why waste so many words about him ? The author who trifles with our patience in delineating the character of a mere imaginary phantom in terms which the super-excellent Scott himself would have hesitated to use in portraying that of a Louis XI. or a Cœur-de-Lion, deserves not our confidence, and we shut up your book, Mr. Impertinence, with contempt. Nay, but, kind reader, while we acknowledge the justice of your complaint, bear with us, we beseech you, a little longer. We explained on a former occasion that Herbart had come out to Tasmania upon Maxwell's own invitation. When his father's failure in business made him first think of leaving his native land to seek his fortune in the colonies, he spent some time in deliberat- ing with his friends in what part of the world he would be most likely to find it. He thought of India and America, but had no friends in either place, and when Australia was mentioned Mr. Herbart remembered his cousin and former friend, Maxwell, who had gone to Tasmania and got on pretty well, as his letters home had abundantly testified. The old gentleman thereupon wrote a letter to Maxwell on various subjects of general interest, casually mentioning his son as a can- didate for colonial prosperity. On receipt of this letter Maxwell immediately replied, in- viting Edwin to make his house his home until something should turn up to suit him, and promising to forward his young friend's interests as much as laid in his power. Edwin had now resided at Bremgarten for some months. He had hitherto been treated with uniform kindness by all the members of the Maxwell family, but though he applied repeatedly for some employment which would render him independent of Mr. Maxwell's hospitality, he could obtain none. He might indeed have obtained some low situation under Government, but was averse to accepting any that did not carry with it the stamp of respectability, on the principle that " evil communications corrupt good manners ; " and Maxwell had not sufficient influence at " Court " to procure for his relative a respectable situation. Edwin con- sequently turned his attention to farming pursuits, and in the capacity of an overseer made himself extremely useful to Maxwell, as we have already related. Maxwell, however, had never desired his services, and had entered into no engagement with him. He paid his self-constituted overseer no salary—merely gave his men general directions to obey Mr. Herbart as the overseer, and allowed him to reside at Bremgarten on sufferance. But Edwin was by no means satisfied with this arrangement. He had lived for some months in the hope that Maxwell would let him occupy a separate farm of one hundred acres, which had been already marked out as fit for cultivation, in point of fact, Maxwell had some time before promised to do. Whether he regretted having made this promise or saw sufficient grounds for delaying to fulfil it, it was quite evident to Edwin that he alluded to the subject with reluctamce. It was also evident to Edwin, or the peculiar nature of his situation made it appear evident to him, that both Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell had considerably abated their former confidential intimacy, and now (he thought) looked upon him with a degree of coldness which was not calculated to make his temporary home a happy one. As a set off to this it was some satisfaction to find that his cousin Charles acted towards him with the same unvarying friendship. He was fond of Edwin, and always treated him with kindness and consideration. He remained the same jovial, agreeable fellow, taking pleasure in bush-riding, kangaroo hunting, and opossum-shooting by moon- light ; and his pleasure was always heightened when Edwin was the companion of these excurions. There was still another individual—another member of the family who exercised an influence
perhaps greater than that of all the rest put together over the forlorn youth. This was the fair Griselda. What attitude did she assume towards the " unhappy outcast," as Edwin during his hours of mental depression frequently called himself. Her manner towards him had long since become one of cold and distrust politeness, lacking the affectionate freedom of a sister, and still more the gay familiarity of one totally indifferent to what her parents or he himself might say or think. She conversed with him but rarely, and when she did it was with gravity ; she treated him on all occasions, whether her parents were present or not, with a restrained civility, but she never advanced one single step beyond this, nor did she ever by word look, or gesture give him any reason to sup- pose that he occupied a higher place in her estimation than any other mere casual acquaintance. She was even at some pains, as he strongly sus- pected, to convince him to the contrary, if he could judge by sundry little performances which young ladies of eighteen generally know how to play off when they wish to repel the advances of a too forward indivi- dual. All this, he sometimes thought was got up by Griselda on purpose to please her father, for, he argued with himself, she must be aware that her father despises those who have the misfortune to be poor. At other times he suspected that his fair cousin pitied, although she might not love him, and that she wished him away, knowing he would be happier anywhere else. Perhaps she herself despised him for his poverty ! the thought was distracting. Revolving these ideas and suspicions in his mind without intermission by day, and too frequently on his sleepless bed by night, it is no wonder that Herbart became a most unhappy young man. His situation was made worse by the keenness of his perceptions, and the poetical sensitiveness of his disposition. He was now living under the same roof with a being who from his very childhood was associated with all the highly-colored visions which had ever pre- sented themselves to his romantic imagina- tion. To say simply that he loved Griselda would convey but a weak and slender idea of his passion. If we said that he worshipped at a distance her advancing or retreating figure—her shadow—her bonnet or her gloves, as they might lie on the parlor table —the paper upon which she had written her name ; or could have reverently knelt and kissed the tiny flower which bent beneath the slight pressure of her footstep : we might be accused of using periphrastic terms in stating at circumstance of trivial importance and everyday occurrence. Yet it was literally true. Edwin fell before his gentle conqueror an unresisting slave, and found that he loved Griselda with a love inferior only to that which he treasured in his heart for the Divine Author of his existence. Such being the case, and his love as he well knew being perfectly hopeless, it became expedient that Edwin should seek another home. He ac- cordingly determined within himself to leave Bremgarten on the first eligible oppor- tunity that should enable him to do so with decency. He had accompanied the family in their walk on the present occasion, at the request of Charles, who made the proposition on purpose to afford him the gratification of a little sport. But he was in no very pleasant state of mind. He saw Griselda walking with her father, and could scarcely remove his eyes from the fascinating object. The time had gone by when she was accustomed to walk by his side, and playfully take his arm. It was in vain that his friend Charles tried to amuse and encourage him ; in vain that his own good sense whispered frequently the single word ' patience.' The more he tried to reason himself out of his insanity the more strongly rooted it became. But why have we dwelt so long on this painful subject ? Because even now there may be other Herbarts, of real flesh and blood, placed in similar positions, whom we would warn to fly before it is too late—to content themselves with any employment however humble, so long as it raises their self-respect by making them independent—to escape before the silver chain with which it is possible they may be bound becomes too strong to be broken. They had extended their walk considerably farther than they had at first intended, every moment expecting to see their lady visitors approaching in their usual conveyance ; but they did not appear ; and the Maxwells, thinking it would be late by the time they got back, had just turned to go home, when they descried a horseman coming towards them at full speed. It was not usual for persons to travel on the track they were on, it being a private one through the paddocks, and Maxwell waited, in some perturbation, to hear the news, thinking that probably some- thing had occurred at Clifton Hall. His surprise and alarm became very great when he recognised in the horseman his acquaint- ance Baxter the carrier, who, before he came within a hundred yards, shouted, " Get back to your house, Sir, as fast as you can ; bar your doors and get your arms ready, for Mr. Ersey's house is attacked and surrounded by bushrangers ! The military is disarmed, and the constables is all tied to trees, and is all to be shot : for it's Brady's gang ! And when Brady meets with a constable he don't show him no mercy whatsomever." At the mention of this formidable bush- ranger the ladies grew pale, but Maxwell, when the carrier came nearer and allowed his excitement to cool down a little, questioned him as to how he had procured this astound- ing intelligence. " I had occasion," said Baxter, " to go to Mr. Ersey, bein' afeard that Bill Jinkins would grab him first when he came to the office, for to speak to him about some pigs o' mine that that tarnation villyan put in pound, as he says they wus rootin' up his taters, though I don't believe they never did ; and when I went up to the Hall, ridin' quite
easy and unsuspicious, and was about fifty yards off, it struck me as curious that I didn't see no sogers about, only five or six black lookin' fellows watchin' me round the corners ; and when I comes to a stop to see what they would do, I sees a man that looked like a constable tied to a tree not far off ; so I says to myself says I, ' It's Jem Crawford and Brady sure enough ;' and while I was thinkin' about what I should do, out comes two fellows—I'd swear one of 'em was the blood-thirsty McCabe —from their hidin' places, and walks towards me levelin' their guns, and callin' out, ' Come on here you cowardly thief, or we'll stop your gallop for life ;' and when they saw I was goin' to turn tail they banged away both barrels apiece, and depend on 't I walked my chalks like a mounted lamplighter, without waitin' for any more perlite languidge." " Did they fire at you ?" asked Maxwell, half inclined to doubt the carrier's veracity. " They did, Sir, in course." " Well, you are lucky they didn't hit you ; had we not better collect some friends and go to Mr. Earlsley's assistance ?" " Yes, Sir ;" said Baxter, " if you want to leave your wife a widdy and your children orphans, go ; why, there's thirty or forty on 'em, and where could we get a party ? If you go near 'em they'll shoot Ersey and the sogers first, then set fire to the house and burn the ladies, and then they'll come out and polish you right off to keep their hands in practice for the next job. No, no ; get home, Sir, and put yourself on the defen- sive ; and if they come to you, blow their heads off out of the windys if you can. I must be off to the township and tell the lieutenant ; but they won't stop long at Ersey's now since they know that somebody's away with the news." So saying the carrier set spurs to his horse and rode away, while Maxwell and his family returned with all expedition to their home, not without casting many anxious looks in the direction of Clifton Hall. The evening had advanced apace as they entered the house by the more convenient entrance, to wit, the back-door. Here they were met by the servant woman, who informed them, that two strange gentlemen had arrived, and were in the parlor. Maxwell was the first to go and see who the new comers were, but he had scarcely time to open the door before a loud voice, not in the least cracked by the weight of eighty years, roared out— " Well, Maxwell ! here we are, blown right out of a forty-inch mortar, and come to see you at last." " Colonel Arnott !" shouted the astounded settler; " is it possible ?—and Mr. Henry—a hundred thousand welcomes ! My dear and highly-respected old friend, how do you do ?" " I'm middling, Sir, I thank you," said the Colonel, returning the friendly pressure of Maxwell's hand, " although your infernal roads are enough to make the flesh fall off, and leave my broken bones exposed to public view." Henry then came in for his share of welcome and hand-shaking. Maxwell's eye then glanced at the two hats that lay on the table, and perceived that they were bound with crape up to the crowns. " My dear Colonel," he said " have you lost —have you to mourn the death of any dear member of your family ? have you sustained any sudden bereavement ?" "I have, Sir," said the Colonel, applying his handkerchief to the corner of one eye ; " I have lost my dear Charlotte, my second highly valued wife. She was a good soul while on earth, and now she is a saint in heaven, Sir, and stands by the door ready to open it, along with my first jewel, Henrietta, when their poor outrageous old sinner of a husband comes and knocks at it, begging to be allowed to come in and sit in a corner. Better, Sir, to be a crossing-sweeper there than a duke here, or a prince sitting upon a red-hot anvil down below, with two furies to blow the bellows." " Is it possible that Mrs. Arnott is dead ?" said Maxwell ; " so young, so accomplished, so brilliant." " It is true," said the Colonel, " and if she had not been brilliant she might now be alive and well. She was suddenly cut off while attending to her darling trees and flowers, by a coup de soliel—that scourge of hot countries which passes by those who have thick skulls and little brains, and, like a dainty epicure, seizes upon the really clever, sensible, and intellectual people. But where are the dear madam, and the young scraper of scabby sheep, and the lily of the happy valley ?" " The ladies will be hear directly, Colonel," replied Maxwell ; " as for my son I don't know where he is, he came in with me just now ; I have not yet enquired for Eugene, but I suppose he is well. We have, I under- stand, a large party of bushrangers close by at Mr. Earlsley's house, and came home in haste to put ourselves in a posture of de- fence. But I beg your pardon, have you had any refreshments'" " No, Sir," said the Colonel, " and if you had'nt come just as you did I'd have bom- barded the pantry, and devoured the kitchen wench. Ah ! my dear madam how are you to-day ! Not washed away by this black river yet,—you see I'm so fond of war and bloodshed that I must pop in just in time to defend you from a pack of murdering villains !" " This is indeed an unexpected surprise and pleasure," said Mrs. Maxwell, as she entered the room and shook hands with the old officer. " I need not say that you are most truly welcome. Mr. Henry I am ex- ceedingly happy to see you." " I rejoice, my dear Mrs. Maxwell, to see you looking so well," said Henry. " Ah ! you may say that Harry, so, she does look well," said his father, " I am begin- ning to think more favorably of this place already, and of your sense, too." Mrs. Maxwell immediately observing the
crape-covered hats on the table, turned in silence to her husband in search of an ex- planation. He saw the expression of her face, and said with emotion-- " Our highly respected and kind friend, Mrs. Arnott, has gone to her eternal rest, Elizabeth." Mrs. Maxwell had not expected this intel- ligence : her keen sensibilities and feminine sympathies were at ones aroused, and she hurriedly left the room weeping. " Now, my dear friends," said Maxwell, after a short silence ; " I think if we go into the next room we shall find something on the table to which I hope you will do justice. Why did you not, Colonel, as an old bushman and campaigner, get that woman to give you something to eat ?" " I would not have troubled her, Sir, she's too deep a thinker for me, I'd have got it my- self if you had been away five minutes longer ; but now let's fall to, and see that you haven't got any gunpowder in your pepper-box, for my nose will set fire to it." Proceeding into the dining-room the two visitors sat down to discuss a cold collation, which had been prepared for a little social party, consisting of the Earlsleys and Mr. Juniper, as a kind of friendly re union on Griselda's birthday, had not the bushrangers spoiled all by their ill-timed visit to Clifton Hall. Instead of troubling themselves about the visitors, Edwin and Charles immediately proceeded to their common room, which they facetiously styled " the barrack," and busied themselves in examining their fire-arms and ammunition. They found occupation for sometime in drawing charges of shot, and substituting ball, cleaning pistols, and making other necessary preparations for a vigorous de- fence. When these were completed they both des-. cended to the dining-room to hear what order would be issued, and to assist in a general council of war. The surprise of Charles was very great when he opened the door and found himself face to face with the Colonel. He had heard his mother and sister talking to- gether on the stairs in an earnest whisper, but never suspected the presence of the worthy old gentleman. The latter held out his hand while he raised a glass of wine to his lips, and after draining it off said—" Well, thou future father of consuls and senators, where hast thou been all this time ? Is this the respect thou payest thy general, never to come near him ? Get thy arms ready, thou scamp, and call the garrison together." " Just what we have been doing, Sir," said Charles, who shook hands with both the visitors. " We ?" said the Colonel : " what new re- cruit have you got there, a Ralph Mouldy, a Simon Shadow, or a what's his name ?" " My cousin, Colonel," said Maxwell ; " Edwin Herbart." " Herbart," said the Colonel ; " I once knew a brave man of that name, a colonel in the East India Company's service—was he a relative of yours, Sir ?" " My father had an uncle, who fought and died in India—a lieutentant-colonel of native cavalry, Sir," said Edwin. " The same, 'pon my honor ; glad to see you—make you my aide-de-camp this minute : this is my son Harry, a brave fellow, Sir, when behind a gum-tree." Edwin bowed and advanced with the inten- tion of shaking hands with Harry, but that young gentleman contented himself with a distant inclination of his head ; and turning to his father he said gravely— " For more than twenty years I have lived under your roof, Sir, and eaten your bread ; and I have yet to learn what occasion I ever gave you to doubt my courage. Had you not owned me for your son I would not have lived with you a single day." The old gentleman seemed ready for an explosion, but recollecting probably that he was now in Maxwell's house, not his own, he filled his glass again, drank the wine, looked keenly at Harry, and said— " For the sake of your mother who is in Heaven I spare you, you foolish boy ; but 'pon my faith you're enough to make a jackal grin from ear to ear." The attitude assumed by both father and son was too serious to permit laughter, and the subject was happily changed by the en- trance of Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter : both the visitors rose, and the Colonel ex- claimed— " Ha, here is my sweet rose of Lucerne her- self, my pretty lily of the delightful valley— image of my fair Henrietta how are you ?" Griselda advanced with a grave air and a heightened color ; taking the old officer's hand she kissed him on the cheek, and then pre- sented her hand to Henry, who pressed it in silence and resumed his seat. The young lady sat down beside her mother at a distance from the table, seeming absorbed in strange if not sad reflections. After a pause she recol- lected that she had not enquired for Isabel, and with an apology for her forgetfulness asked the Colonel how her dear friend his daughter was. " She is well, thank you, Miss Maxwell— very well ; at least she was when we left Hobart Town. She came over with us and is now with a friend." " I hope," said Mrs. Maxwell, "it will not be long before we have the pleasure of seeing her here." " You are very good, ma'am. If you have room I know she will be delighted to spend a month or two with you," said the Colonel. " We have plenty of room," said Mrs. Max- well, " and her society here will be a perfect blessing ; we are so very dull sometimes."' " And afford me an unspeakable pleasure and happiness," said Griselda. " I thank you on Isabel's behalf, my dear lily," said the Colonel. " Now, Maxwell, is it not your time for tea, are you not going to eat anything ? what are you thinking about ?" "I am thinking, Sir, of what is best to be done about these bushrangers," replied Max- well.
" True, 'pon my honor, I had forgotten the rascals ; you had better call your servants into the house, barricade the doors and windows, establish a look-out on the roof, till the enemy retreats. If he comes to-morrow in broad daylight we can make a sally, and give battle outside." " I hope and pray," said Mrs. Maxwell, "that you will not think of doing anything of the kind." " Really, my dear madam," said the Colonel, " I would sooner die than offend you, but I should like very well to know where you learnt your military experience ?" " I have none my dear Sir," replied the lady, " but I claim a voice in matters relating to the personal safety of my dearest friends." " Did you not say, Maxwell, that some man saw them, and rode off to alarm the town ?" " Yes, Baxter the carrier saw them and said that they fired four shots at him." " Well, Sir, if that is the case they won't stop long at your neighbor's house, nor are they likely to come here ; they are off to the mountains before this I'll bet a guinea. But we shall do well to be prepared for the worst : if you can find a man that can be trusted, one that will volunteer, to reconnoitre the scene of the late attack, send him, by all means : your neighbors may be all tied and helpless.' " I will go," said Edwin. " And I'll go with him," said Charles. " Very good," said the Colonel, but I think one will do ; it won't be wise to weaken the garrison too much, my well-looking aide-de- camp there can manage the business : if you have an old bushman that has any sense, Maxwell, let him go too, and if one happens to be shot the other can bring us the news." Mrs.Maxwell now addressing herself to Edwin hoped he would not go into unnecessary danger. Her husband went to summon his men, and Charles to bring down the arms. Edwin drew up to the table to partake of the creature comforts which were upon it, in order to fortify his inner man against the coldness of the night. Presently a confused stamping of feet was heard in the passage, the doors were shut and secured, Maxwell then entered the room followed by another individual, and said—" Colonel Arnott, allow me to introduce my very good friend and neighbor, Mr. Johnson Juniper—Juniper, Colonel Arnott ; Mr. Henry Arnott, Mr. Juniper." The surveyor bowed low, saying —" Very proud to know you and glad to see you gentle- men." (To be continued.)