|Chapter Title||EVENING CONVERSATION-ANOTHER VISITOR.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMIANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday) CHAPTER XXV. EVENING CONVERSATION—ANOTHER VISITOR. In the evening Mr. Juniper came with his arms, as he had promised, with the inten- tion of passing the night at Bremgarten, and helping to defend the premises in case of an attack. A party of constables also came, bringing the intelligence that five of the bushrangers had been captured by Lieutenant Dawlish and his party, but the rest had made their escape up inaccessible passes, from whence they could pick off their assailants one by one. The three most notorious out- laws then under arms—Crawford, Brady, and McCabe—were still at large. The four horses and a good deal of plunder had been recovered, but the articles of plate and jewellery were either concealed or carried off by a light company in advance. The soldiers had been so alert in the pursuit of the enemy that the latter were only able to escape by climbing over great rocks, and firing from behind them upon their pursuers, desperately wounding two soldiers, and killing one poor constable. In short, there seemed no doubt that had the bushrangers possessed the nerve and coolness appertaining to a good cause, the loss of life might have been far greater. The result of this skirmish was, however, but a momentary check. The settlers knew that so long as an efficient leader was left he would never be in want of recruits. Men were continually absconding from the diffe- rent stations, and in a short time an army might be equipped that could destroy every- thing, and every well-disposed person from north to south. It behoved the colonists, therefore, not to abate any of their vigilance. It was seldom that the bushrangers offered violence to the settlers, their families, or ser- vants, though their threats were often san- guinary and productive of great consterna- tion ; but the loss of their stores, which had been transported for many miles, at great risk, trouble, and expense, was a serious evil. It often happened likewise that a mere show of resistance was instrumental in saving a homestead. The outlaws, though certain to be hanged if taken, were very much afraid of being shot, and often surrendered without striking a blow ; perhaps their captors would find it convenient to hold out hopes to them of their lives being spared : but the majority were desperate, reckless fellows, displaying the usual variations of irresponsible power to be found in the heroes of past history, from the brigand to the emperor. When tea was over Colonel Arnott and his host closeted themselves together in the dining-room, while the rest, including Gri- selda and her mother, took possession of the parlor, to enjoy music and conversation. Griselda was asked by Henry to favor the company with a little music ; she complied, and played a few airs with taste and spirit. Edwin, in an insinuating tone, then asked her to oblige them with a song and she immediately warbled forth " Home, Sweet Home" in a very touching manner. Mr. Juniper asked Miss Maxwell if she could sing the song beginning with " Oh ! whistle and I'll come to you, my lad !" at which the room rang with laughter, while Griselda replied that she had not yet learnt it, but would be happy to hear him sing it, or any other song agreeable to him. Juniper wanted no second asking. The song he selected has not, we believe, been given to the public on any previous occasion, and our taste may be questioned for inserting it here. The singer sang it to the air of " The Blacksmith," substituting the whimsical chorus of ' Cock a doodle,' for the better known one of ' twankadillo.' For the sake of peace we do not like without provocation to rip up old sores, and we mean no more disrespect to France than she meant to England when a score of martial colonels implored Louis Na- poleon to send them into his ally's heart sword in hand ; and when the French press upon the termination of the Italian war, spoke the language of war and detestation against poor ' perfide Albion '— I. I'll sing of the soldier so famous in story, Who fought for the land of his love and his glory ; Who with brave Abercrombie on Egypt's red earth, Poured forth his heart's blood for the land of his birth. Cock a doodle, cock a doodle, cock a doodle doodle do, Here's a health to the heroes of famed Wa- terloo. II. And again of the sailor whom the rough ocean. Bravely handles his guns, though with painful emotion : For he sees his poor com(e)rades, the victims of war, Fall greatly like Nelson at dark Trafalgar, Cock a doodle, &c., And long life to the heroes of famed Waterloo III. I'll sing of the islands, the blest happy islands, Where liberty reigns from Cape Clear to the Highlands : Whence the voice of true glory comes over the sea, Proclaiming the strength of the land of the free. Cock a doodle, &c., And nine cheers for the heroes of famed Wa- terloo. Mr. Juniper concluded his song and many plaudits and a good deal of laughter. The idea of crowing like a bantam at the end of every verse was a new one, and was highly relished by the young gentlemen. Henry Arnott sang a sentimental ditty, and Edwin and Charles enlivened the company with the old English ballad about Bold Robin Hood.
While this course of entertainment was proceeding Maxwell entered the room and summoned Juniper, Edwin, and Charles to attend the Colonel and himself in the dining room. The old gentleman called their atten- tion to the paper to which he was about to attach his signature : it was, he said, his last will and testament. The gentlemen would take particular notice of the date, the 15th June, 18—, and watch him while he wrote his name. Juniper was called upon to sign first as a witness, Edwin and Charles fol- lowed. The Colonel then folded his will up in an envelope, sealed it carefully, and handed it to Maxwell, who called upon the gentlemen present to witness that he had taken it into his keeping. This business disposed of they all adjourned to the parlor. " I am given to understand, Mr. Juniper, that you are a bachelor," said the Colonel ; " is that true ?" " Quite true, Sir," said Juniper. " How was it, Sir, that you escaped the multitudinous temptations to which bewil- dered creatures of the male sex are exposed by the fascinating, gay, and beautiful indi- viduals of the female sex ?" " I hardly know, Sir," answered Juniper; " I have been nearly caught more than once —but once especially I had a most remark- able escape." " Of being married ?" " Yes Sir, and of having my head cut off into the bargain." " Your head cut off, Sir—bless my heart, what do you mean ?" " Just this, Sir," said Juniper. " It hap- pened long before I came to this country. I fell in love with a very pretty and amiable young lady. I had several conversations with her and popped the question at last. She accepted me, but gave me to understand that her father was a violent tempered man, who had declared a hundred times that if the first lover who proposed marriage to her was not worth a real estate of £500 a year, he would if he could catch him injure his person seriously. Well, though I was frightened to speak to papa, that did not prevent me from stealing occasionally into the old fellow's garden in the hope of having a few sweet words with Mary Anne ; and indeed she often came out to walk there by herself, when in passing by a thick lilac tree, I would softly call Mary Anne, and she would give a little scream, and be so surprised and fright- ened for my safety. I saw her in this way several times, and we exchanged vows of perpetual constancy. But the path of love is beset with thorns. I entered the garden one evening and ensconced myself behind my favorite tree, and had not been there two minutes when a great powdered head peeped over the bush, and a voice roared out, " Here he is, Sir—here's the rascal." " Hold him till I cut his head off," shouted another voice. I sprang to my feet, but John Thomas held me with the strength of an ogre, and I saw the old savage coming to us, sawing the air with a cane sword, and shouting " Hold him till I cut his head off," I made a fearful bound, gave the footman a blow in the stomach that knocked him heels over into a rose bush, and took to my own heels like lightning." And what became of the perpetual con- stancy, Sir; did it vanish like a blustering bully before the flash of cold steel ?" asked the Colonel. " Well, Sir," said Juniper, " I do not like cold steel, and I never troubled Mary Ann again : her father advertised me in a news- paper." " You would not like to kill a man in a duel ?" said the Colonel. " No, Sir," answered Juniper, " I was never fond of duelling." " I think," said Mrs. Maxwell, " Mr. Juniper was quite right ; I think duelling most dreadfiul : there is something very barbarous in grossly insulting a man and then taking his life in a duel." " You have never told me, Maxwell," said the Colonel, " where your amiable lady picked up her military experience : did she travel in Spain when Wellington was there ?" " Not that I know of," said Maxwell. " Well, I'll wager a pot of beer now that Mr. Juniper has some more nice stories to tell us. Did any obliging gentleman ever tweak your nose, Sir, or administer whole some correction with the toe of his boot ?" " No, Sir," said Juniper, drawing himself up ; " whoever tries that on may be soon convinced of his mistake." " O, yes ! I dare say," said the Colonel, with a well-bred sneer ; " do you know Max- well what would be a beautiful relic for the British Museum ?—this gentleman's hide stuffed with sawdust and white feathers." The party indulged in a laugh in which Juniper himself joined, and Maxwell, in order to remove erroneous impressions from the Colonel's mind, related in terms highly complimentary to Juniper his adventure with the bushranger at the time of the fire. Mrs. Maxwell also took that opportunity to acknowledge the services of Mr. Juniper in arresting the progress of the fire, as, were it not for him, their house would in all proba- bility have been burned down. " I believe, Colonel," she continued, " that the bush-fires in New South Wales are much more terrible than they are here ?" " I don't know, ma'am," said the officer, " what they are here, but I think I ought to know something about them there. I was once, ma'am, up at my station with my son Frederick, and took it into my head to go on an exploring expedition. We took a tent and some provisions with us, thinking probably to be out a few nights. It was in the middlel of summer, the heat was sufficient to broil a chop on a rock, and the grass was so dry that it would almost have taken fire if you walked upon it with nails in your boots. On the second day we found a dry creek, and rambling along it for some distance found a hole containing some pure-water, at which Fred was so delighted that he nearly tumbled
into it. Well, ma'am, I thought we would have tea, and in order to boil the kettle I to pulled out my flint and steel and began to strike a light ' What are you going to do, father ?' said Fred. ' To light a fire,' sir, said I.' ' For God's sake,' said he, ' don't, we can do without tea ; if the bush takes fire, it will leave us as bare as when we were born.' ' Hold your tongue, sir?' said I ; do you to think I havn't lived long enough in the world to know how to take care of a fire—as for being bare I shan't wonder at seeing you go out of the world as naked as you came into it.' " While I was speaking I struck a light and scraped a few twigs and bark together at the root of a big hollow gum-tree, and soon had a nice little fire that could not possibly do any damage, though that cautious son of mine was not satisfied but began to scrape away all round it to prevent its catching the grass, while I went to the water-hole and filled the kettle. When I came back the scamp was still scraping away, and I roared to him to take himself off, or I would throw the kettle of water all over him—when just at that moment, Sir, a lot of rubbish and dust shot down front the hollow tree, and bump and squash thundered a great hairy badger as big as a mastiff, which jumped right into the fire, then ran between my legs, knocking me down on Fred's back, so that we scrambled thus together for ten minutes before we could get up, and when we did the bush was in a blaze." " Dear me," said Mrs. Maxwell, " that was great misfortune; I hope your homesteal did not get burned." " No, ma'am, the manager had burnt a train round it before the hot summer came on —the only wise thing I ever knew him to do —but the grass on a hundred thousand acres was burnt as bare as the desert of Idumea." " What did the poor sheep do, Sir ?" asked Juniper. " The beat thing they could, Sir ; they had to watch the grass growing again and nibble at it the same way as you would in a time of famine at the tail of a rat after his body had been done for." Mr. Juniper laughed. " Your story, Colonel," said he, " puts me in mind of an adventure I had myself once with a wombat or badger. I was out once with a party on a surveying excursion on the Upper Mac- quarie, and as our provisions gave us a great deal of trouble to carry about we decided on planting the bulkiest of them in a large hollow tree, and then go forward in light marching order for a few days, with the intention of returning of course to spring the plant when the calls of hunger rendered it desirable to do so. We selected a fine large tree that was hollow for a long way up inside, put in our beef and biscuits comfortably, and built a strong wall of stones all round it to keep out the native cats and other vermin. Well, we went to carry on our business and came back in due course of time : the wall of stones was just as we had left it, but when we pulled it down we found our pro- visions in a most deplorable mess, the beef and biscuits scattered about, and the tea and sugar thoroughly mixed with filth and char- coal. We scraped them out as well as we could and then lit a fire under the tree. In a short time a great, big wombat tumbled down. So we had the pleasure of knowing that instead of keeping the plunderer out we had carefully fastened him in." * " Did you kill him ?" asked Edwin. "Yes—and roasted him and ate him too— quite as good as pork," said Mr. Juniper. " Did you live here when people had to pay two-and-sixpence a pound for kangaroo meat ?" asked the Colonel. " Yes, Sir, I did—not here at least, I lived at New Norfolk—and have myself paid one-and-sixpence a pound for it. I was out surveying for Mr. Humphrey when Michael Howe, the desperate bushranger, with twenty-eight men at his back, came and burnt the crops and barns of nearly all the settlers there. I was one of a party of civilians and soldiers who fought a pitched battle with them. Whitehead was the leader of the rangers, and Howe was his lieutenant. They hid behind trees, and we blazed away, but got the worst of it. The captain of a vessel, O'Birnie, was shot through both cheeks, and Mr. Carlisle was killed. They then went and destroyed Mr. Humphrey's homestead, and, intoxicated by success, fired a volley into a Mr. McCarty's house, where a number of soldiers were concealed ; they rose up and fired. Whitehead was wounded mortally, and ran to Howe, requesting him to cut his head off, which he obligingly did at once." " What did he do that for ?" asked the Colonel. " To prevent the soldiers getting the re- ward, Sir," answered Juniper. " And what did Howe do then ?" enquired the old gentleman. " He became captain of the gang, Sir, and led his army on from one victory to another —that is to arsons, robberies, and murders. He took up his quarters in a marsh near Oatlands with a native girl called Black Mary ; she was very useful to him, and after his comrades were all taken and hanged she still followed, and hunted and kept watch for him. He was hotly pursued—she retarded his flight, and he turned and shot her !" " Shot her !—the brute," interrupted the Colonel. " He said himself afterwards," continued Juniper, " that he did not intend to hurt her, but she was wounded and was taken by the soldiers ; he dropped his gun and knap- sack and made his escape in the scrub." " Was not Black Mary instrumental in capturing him, Mr. Juniper ?" enquired Mrs. Maxwell. * This adventure, with the exception of the eating part, was related to me by an esteemed friend, Dr. V., of C. Town, as having come within the range of his personal experience.
"No, ma'am, she was not ; but she pur- sued him so closely with the soldiers that he sent a message to Governor Sorell that he would surrender on certain conditions. He had been taken, I forget whether it was be- fore or after this, by two men, who professed friendship, bound and made to march to- wards town, one of his captors in front and the other behind with loaded guns. He had a knife in his possession, managed to cut the cords that tied his hands—sprang back upon the man behind and stabbed him to the heart —then, eizing his musket, shot the other, wounding him desperately, and then darted into the bush. The wounded man got to town, and was sent off to Sydney. Well, Governor Sorell accepted his terms, and he surrendered ; but he was not happy, and for his health's sake retired from the attractions of town into the country once more. After a while he was entrapped into a hut by a friend of his named Warburton, where he saw two men with guns pointed at him. ' Is that your game ?' said he, without laughing ; fired into the hut, and took to his heels ; the two men, Worrall and Pugh, ran after him. Howe outrun them, but unfortunately fell down a bank ; he got up again, stood at bay, and after shouting out—' Black beard against s grey beard for a million,' fired a pistol at Worrall, who, promptly returning the com- pliment shot him down, and Pugh beat out his brains with his musket." " He was quite a hero," said the Colonel. " Yes, and a very bloody one," said Max- well. At this moment a loud knock at the front door made every one start. The ladies grew pale ; the gentlemen stared at each other ; Juniper alone had the presence of mind to blow out the candles. He then went to the door and asked who was there ? " Does Mr. Maxwell live here ?" said a voice. " Yes, he does," said Juniper; " what do you want with him " " Tell him if you please that Thomas White, of Bagdad, is come to see him on business." " I ought to know his voice," said Max- well, who had followed Juniper, proceeding to unlock the door, but the surveyor stopped him saying— " Don't open the door yet Sir, it may be a bait ;" and then shouted through the key- hole, " are you by yourself, Mr. White ?" " I have a man with me, Sir, and two horses ; I came up to purchase cattle for a contract with the Government. If you're afraid of bushrangers there are none here." " Well," said Juniper to Maxwell, " I think we may open the door." " Of course," said the latter, " who would think of keeping the honest man out all night ?" The door was opened, and the features of the Bagdad farmer were instantly recog- nised by the light of a candle which Charles had relit and brought into the passage. The new arrival was cold and wet enough as the rain had been falling heavily for some hours. Maxwell shook hands with White and bid him welcome, directing his son to show the attendant into the kitchen. He then ushered his visitor into the dining room, where a cheerful fire and a substantial meal soon restored him to a satisfactory state both of mind and body. Mrs. Maxwell left her guests in the parlor and entered the dining room as soon as she could be persuaded that Michael Howe was not really come to plunder the house. She shook hands with Mr. White and kindly en- quired after his wife and children. " They are all well thank you, ma'am," said he, " and I hope to find them so when I go back ; but it is come to this, ma'am, as I used to say when I was a child—Love daddy, love mammy, love own self best. And the practical illustration is, in this country it's every man for himself and God for us all." Griselda just then came in and presented her hand to the sturdy farmer. " Bless me," said he, " is this the young lady who came up in the cart with you, ma'am, when you honored my cottage with a visit ?" " The very same, Mr. White." "Well, ma'am," said White, " you'll ex- cuse me, but you ought to be proud of her ; she's a heavenly vision and not an earthly one." Mrs. Maxwell laughed, as Griselda smilingly retreated, and said--" You have learned to flatter the ladies, I see ; but I am far more proud of her mental qualities than I am of her personal attractions." " Now, Elizabeth," said Maxwell, " run away and amuse the old Colonel ; if he takes it into his head that we are neglecting him, he would order out his gig at midnight and be off. I will stay with White for awhile— make my particular excuses." The Colonel, however, had no intention of allowing himself leisure to think whether he was neglected or not. When Mrs. Maxwell re-entered the parlor she found him just in the act of concluding one of his remarkable stories. His eyes were in a vivid state of excitement as they glanced with martial enthusiasm on Edwin's face—" knocked me down, Sir, and planted his great ugly foot on my chest—here—and was going to split my skull with his waddy, when I got his little toe in my mouth and bit it off at the root— you'd have laughed to see how he capered about, but I soon settled him with stones— regular nine-pounders—half-a-dozen of 'em." " And what became of his toe, Sir," asked Juniper after a hearty laugh. " When I looked for it in order to spit it out I found that I had swallowed it," said the Colonel. " I should not wonder, Miss Maxwell," said Henry, in a low voice, " if you are tired of these terrible tales of bloodshed—these blacks and bushrangers." " I must confess," said Griselda, " that I do feel a little fatigued with the subjects, but we must make allowance for your father's
excitement, more especially as we are really surrounded by the outlaws themselves in propria personæ. Could we command as many as twenty years to pass in a moment we might possibly find more agreeable subjects for conversation." " You think, then, that in twenty years this island will become more peaceful and civilized ?" said Henry. " I have very sanguine hopes that it will be greatly improved—and very different to what it is now," said Griselda. "I hope," replied Henry, " that your san- guine hopes will not be bitterly disappointed, but for my part I see neither extent, beauty, nor fertility in the island—there is no room for improvement, in fact." " O, how can you say so ?" said Griselda ; " you forget, Mr. Arnott, that you have seen but little of our island : I think it is extremely beautiful. You should not seek for beauty in cold, damp winter—nor yet in the cloudy heat of summer ; but in genial spring and and pleasant autumn, when the sky is clear and the dark shades of the mountains are dis- tinctly visible—then every scene is most lovely, and the mind in a proper state to enjoy what is good and bright." " Well, certainly," said Henry," a great deal does depend on the weather, and the state of a person's mind while travelling ; but Miss Maxwell has yet to use her eloquence in favor of it extent and fertility." " I am willing to allow," replied Griselda, " that the island, in the present state of human ambition, is almost too large for one pro- prietor, but is scarcely enough for three or four. As to fertility; I have heard a great deal of some districts where there are exten- sive plains of rich land." " But you have not seen them ?" " No, I have never left this valley since we came up from Hobart Town." " I cannot say much for the beauty of this valley," said Henry, " it is not equal, I imagine, to the Vale of Avoca in Ireland, upon which your poet Moore has conferred a large share of celebrity. These mountains at the back have a very wild and savage appear- ance." " It may seem strange," said Griselda, " that, though born in Ireland, I have never seen the Vale of Avoca. Our village here of that name is generally admired, especially when seen on a fine day from the hills on the Ben Lomond side. I suppose you have been at your father's station where my brother Eugene resides ?" " Yes, I have been to it once or twice with my father. In going to it we pass the Blue Mountains where there are many scenes of great beauty and grandeur. The general scenery of Australia is, however, of a more calm, un- ruffled nature." " I am a great admirer of mountain scenery," said Griselda ; " I should like very much to see the Blue Mountains, for I have heard a great deal of them." " They are well worth seeing," said Henry, and lowering his voice to a whisper, he con- tinued—" the time may yet arrive, Miss Max- well, when you will see them in the society of one who is capable of directing your attention to their greatest attractions." " You mean dear Isabel," said the young lady much confused, but unwilling to allow Henry to perceive it ; " yes, the society of lsa- bel, whether in a valley or on a mountain, will be always most truly welcome." At this moment Edwin approached Griselda with a glass of wine and cake ; and said—" You must be cold Griselda, at such a distance from the fire." Declining the wine she helped herself to a cake, and assured her cousin that she did not feel at all cold. In a few minutes she arose, and with her mother, after the usual adieux, retired. Henry now joined his father in discussing a glass of brandy punch. It was already late, and the old gentleman soon went to bed. Juniper occupied a sofa in the parlor, and White settled down upon that in the dining room : so leaving them to their respective dreams we will close this chapter and specu- late upon the probable contents of the next. (To be continued.)