|Chapter Title||A VISIT TO SKITTLE BALL HILL.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (AL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from Saturday, Oct 12. ) CHAPTER XXIX. A VISIT TO SKITTLE BALL HILL. The lion-hearted old soldier did not rise till a late hour on the succeeding day, and did not make his appearance in the parlor till long after White had concluded his busi- ness with Maxwell, eaten his breakfast, and departed on his journey. Entering into his usual cheerful conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda, he sat down to his morning meal with unimpaired appetite : what between eating, drinking, and talking, laying down the law and taking up the cud- gels for and against everybody, he was ac- tively employed for nearly an hour and a half. At the conclusion of his repast, and before the last morsel was well down his throat, he enquired of Maxwell— " What are we going to do to-day, Sir ?" " I hardly know, Colonel," was the reply ; " whatever you like. You see we are rather dull here ; no society but shepherds, sheep, and dogs." " Oh, the deuce take society, Sir, I'm heartily sick of it ; but people never should be idle." " There will be great difficulty in finding suitable employment for you, Colonel ;" said Maxwell, "and really I can't think of any- thing unless you dig in the garden or prac- tice rifle shooting." " I can't dig," said the Colonel, " and don't require to beg, thank my stars ; and as for rifle shooting I can't bear it, unless I march to the battle field and have the foe be- fore me. Where does that neighbor of yours live—that fellow who was going to have his head cut off for Mary Anne ?" " Oh, Mr. Juniper," said Maxwell, laugh- ing ; " he lives about three miles down the river, but it is five or six round by the ford ; if he were at home he might bring his canoe across and ferry us over. But it is too far for you to walk—three miles there and three miles back—we could take the gig and a man to clear the track, and pay him a visit." " Very well, Sir," said the Colonel, " do anything you like so as you keep me out of soul murdering idleness. This Juniper is a very queer fish ; he sang a song, did he not Miss Maxwell, about Waterloo and cock a doodle the other night ?" " Yes," replied Griselda, " and his manner of singing it was most extremely amus- ing." " Rather galling to our friends in France," said the Colonel, " this perpetual crowing about Waterloo." " Well," said Maxwell, who had been out to order the gig, " they can take their re- venge and crow about Foutenoy, Toulon, and their victorious defeat at Corunna." " Victorious defeat at Corunna," said the Colonel, " why they didn't lick us at Co- runna, Sir." " Well, Sir," said Maxwell, " granted that we did make a bit of a stand after run- ning away for ever so long, granted that we turned round and showed our teeth, that did not prevent us from scrambling on board our ships the best way we could, and galloping down to the beach such of us as had horses ; then when we got to the water's edge, after shooting our faithful horses on the spot, we jumped into the boats pell mell undercover of the guns of the fleet. Say what you will, that was a precious victory for Britons." " And I say," said the Colonel, his martial blood collecting at the point of his nose, " that Corunna was a glorious victory over an immensely superior force. Soult himself acknowledged it. And you would have us sooner than scramble to our ships, surrender ourselves prisoners of war and give up our horses to carry the enemy over our necks ! But I did'nt know before that you were at Corunna ?" " I never was there," said Maxwell. " And why do you say ' we galloped down to the beach, such of us as had horses' ?" " That is the usual way we Britons have of expressing ourselves on such matters, Sir. Our national pride is so great that we are fond of identifying ourselves with our brave soldiers and sailors. I was in Dublin when the news of Waterloo came over, and walking in Dame street I saw a knot of dandies stand- ing in front of Rudley's Coffee-house— ' Glorious news this, De Smith !' said one to another ; ' Haw, yes,' answered De Smith, ' I rather think we gave them a bit of a thrash- ing—I imagine we have clapped an extin- guisher on Bonaparte's meerschaum, and put a cold cinder into his brandy and water.' At the same time he was thanking the planet under which he was born that he had'nt been there." " Yes, very good—very good, Sir"—said the old gentleman. " French grapes in Mr. De Smith's stomach on the eighteenth of June would doubtless have disagreed with him." Maxwell and his guest now pursued their way to the famous Skittle-Ball Hill (where- ever it is now to be found we are in the pro- foundest ignorance), a man walking before them to clear the road of branches and sticks as it was but seldom used. Maxwell was careful in his driving, and avoided the roots which lay above ground as well as he could, so as to shake the old Colonel's bones as little as possible—thoughtful consideration which the energetic old officer was not slow to acknowledge. " I am glad to perceive that you know a little about driving in the bush," said he. " So I ought," said Maxwell. " That son of mine, Harry," said the Colonel, " is in such matters a careless and unfeeling rascal ; he would drive five yards out of his way just for the mere pleasure of taking my wheel over a stone, and if I swear
by the holy toe of Pope Alexander the Sixth that I'll disinherit him if only makes him worse. The young men of the age we live in, Sir, are an extraordinary set. Any one of them thinks that he knows more and can do more than a hundred old men like you and me. Give them invitations to dancing parties—ask them to go to pic-nics to uncork bottles and flutter round a bevy of animated dolls—supply them with money, brandy, and cigars, and place them in the front rank of battle round a billiard table, and, by Jove, there is no end to the praises you'll get : what a jolly old brick you will be. But do the reverse, make them stick to their duty—stop some of their fiddle-faddle dancing, and make them read useful books—limit them in brandy and cigars, and prohibit their going to do moralizing taverns and time-killing billiard- rooms, and what are you ?—An old fool—a drivelling old idiot who is not worth listen- ing to precisely because he cannot talk sense." " I hope you do not include all young men in that category, Colonel," said Maxwell ; " there is no doubt that there are good and bad of all kinds, men and women, of all ages and conditions ; it was thus before we were born, and will be so after we are dead—per- haps for centuries to come.". " Though I had'nt quite finished my catagraph I thank you for your information," said the Colonel in a peevish tone. " I have heard of old people growing young again ; I have heard of clever people growing down- wards like a cow's tail ; but I was'nt aware that it was time for me to go to school again, and have you, Sir, for my schoolmas- ter." The touchy old warrior paused and took snuff ; Maxwell made no reply, and the pause continued about ten minutes. " I don't doubt," resumed the Colonel, " that the observation you just made is as true as it is profound. We see good and bad in everything—good soldiers and bad soldiers, good washerwomen and bad washer- women ; the rule holds good with respect to princesses and chambermaids. We know there are some good roads in the world, and we feel there are infernally bad ones here. What is to be the future history of this island of yours ? Is there such a thing as a pile of stones representing an altar of classic antiquity in it ? Is there anything Roman or Grecian about it ? It is nothing but a gaol—your Governor is only a distributor- general of lashes and leg-irons ; your neigh- bor, that stuck up trombone whom we dined with yesterday, what's his rascally name ?" " Mr. Earlsley," answered Maxwell. " Mr. Earlsley—what is he ? A magis- trate and landed proprietor ! a narrow-souled, worldly, insensible coxcomb. If sensitive at all only so on the subject of his money. Did you see how his eyes sparkled when he spoke of the high rate of interest ; the increasing value of wool, and the best way of keeping down the laboring population, and lowering the rate of wages ? You have clergymen, too, who, I have heard, pay great attention to their flocks, provided they wear plenty of wool—I don't mean broadcloth. There's only one ruling principle in all this country, Sir, and you can't deny it—the all-absorbing and insatiable pocket." " I beg your pardon, Colonel," said Max- well, who, to his honor be it spoken, felt bound even at the risk of offending his friend, not to allow this sweeping denunciation to go unchecked ; " I beg your pardon, I am sorry to see you in such a censorious humor, and I cannot conceive why you should have so bad an opinion of us. The roads are cer- tainly bad in some places, and there may be a backwardness in the Government with the means at their command to make them better ; but with respect to the free settlers of Tasmania there is not a more honorable and generous people on the face of the earth : does a case of distress come before them they all press forward with their money ; they may be hard and cautious in business, but what is the reason ? Because they are obliged constantly to deal with rogues and sharpers, who were too sharp for Smithfield and Monmouth-street. What good can come of a high rate of wages when the retailers of rum, the promoters with perhaps one excep- tion out of twenty, of drunkenness and crime, reap all the benefit ? Mr. Earlsley has been a very good neighbor to me : has never given me any annoyance ; he has, on the contrary, given me in time of need great assistance and kind sympathy. As for clergymen I have never known but one since I've been in the country, and he, I believe, was and is still an honest and consciencious servant of God. We are not faultless. Let none but those who are perfect be ready to condemn. " It does not matter a button," said the Colonel, " what people's opinions are, and as for my own it may be tinctured with too great a share of asperity. I don't deny that I am sometimes liable to receive sudden, per- haps erroneous impressions ; but I think you will show decided wisdom, as soon as this weighty matrimonial business is concluded, by selling your property here and investing your money in a sheep station in New South Wales. I can not for the life of me see any thing to attract a man of taste like you in such a place as this. The country is on the whole well enough, I dare say, and there are good people in it, of course if you are only lucky enough to find them ; but over there there is more warm sun, better grass, and un- limited ranges of pasture. I'd wager a guinea that in ten years after you make the change your wealth will be quadrupled, and you yourself younger than you are now—in appearance." " That is a matter requiring careful con- sideration," replied Maxwell. " Consideration ?" said the Colonel con- temptuously, " that's always the cry with your weak undecided, men. Give me the man who will act first and consider after- wards. I recollect a circumstance that hap-
pened when I was in India ; it was immedi- ately after the storming of Seringapatam ;— there was a strong house, of which the enemy retained possession, and Wellesley thought it necessary to send for my senior captain whom he ordered to carry it with his com- pany at the point of the bayonet. The gentle- man, whose name was Rattlejaw, answered the Colonel, and said that the matter re- quired a little consideration, whereupon the latter turned to me with a pair of eyes like patent tooth extractors—' Captain Arnott take your company and drive the enemy out of that house while this gentleman is con- sidering the matter.' I said ' Yes, Sir,' of course, taking a side squint at Rattlejaw as I went away. You would have thought he had had an alligator's egg for his breakfast. Well, in an hour the thing was done ; seventy men properly led, mind you, brought four hundred to their marrow bones, and I went back to tell Wellesley that there was nothing more to do. ' Very well, Captain,' said he, ' or I may as well say Major Arnott, you can now go if you think proper and consider about it ;' then raising his voice, he continued —' Officers will be mistaken if they think the British army is a debating society.' " * " The two cases are hardly parallel," said Maxwell : " there is some difference between the simple discharge of his duty by a military man, and the sudden breaking up of a home —the selling of land and other property, and the removal of one's family to another and strange country. I never found happiness in changing about. That I may make a change in a few years is quite likely, but the time is scarcely come yet." " Men who have any ambition to be ser- viceable to their country in time of need," said the Colonel, " should never fall too much in love with one place, or become altogether wedded to a life of ' lettered indolence and ease.' I speak of Englishmen, whether en- gaged in civil or military affairs. Do you think would the name of Hampden have ever become a household word in English homes if he had staid at home admiring the flowers in his wife's hair, or playing hide and seek with her from the dinner table to the conser- vatory ? Compare the high-born king, Charles the First, with that untitled and un- assuming commonercompare him with Robert Blake. What did Charles do ? He played with loaded dice—made merry with the English nation by cheating their Parlia- ment—got their money by making promises he never intended to keep, and laughed in his sleeve while giving his mock assent to the Petition of Right, and signing treaties which he regarded as so much waste paper ; levied ship-money in the most arbitrary and offen- sive manner, and brought armed men to the House of Commons to arrest Hampden and other members who dared to lift up their voices for the liberties of the nation. And what did Blake do ? He was Cromwell's admiral. Ah ! I there was a pair of master minds then. He was sailing home on one occasion, and falling in with a French frigate of forty guns, he invited the captain to come on board, which the French captain did. ' Do you know,' says Blake, ' that war has been declared ?' ' No I don't,' says the Frenchman. ' Will you sur- render your sword ?' says Blake. ' Not I, by the tongs of St. Dunstan,' says the Frenchman, much to his honor. ' Well, Sir,' says Blake, ' go back to your ship and defend yourself as long as you have a stump to wave in the air or a rag to fly at the mast- head.' Away he went, and the battle began, and they pelted away for two hours, when the French captain hauled down his colors, came on board Blake's ship again, and gave up his sword saying, ' Admiral, I'd give every rap I'm possessed of if I could only call myself a countryman of yours.' 'I'll take you to my country,' said Blake, ' and we'll live like David and Jonathan for the rest of our lives.' Whereupon the French. man kissed Blake, and Blake hugged the Frenchman. So it should be to this day, France should kiss England, and England should hug France, and not allow them- selves to be gulled into war by the ambition of a vain piece of flesh and blood, and a rabid outcry raised by penny-a-liners in the news- papers to keep them going." " There seems to be no cure for national jealousy," said Maxwell. " A deeply-rooted spirit of animosity and the determination of one power not to let the other get the upper hand seem to be the causes of all the wars between France and England, and I am afraid that unless the Lord is pleased to change the nature of man it will never be otherwise until the power of either one of the two nations is altogether crippled or destroyed. As to which is to be ultimately ruined, that is, of courses a question of time. In ancient times Rome stood upon no ceremony with Carthage, but in modern it would seem those extreme measures would not be relished by other ' powers,' and the consequence is that the same France that lies bleeding and conquered in 1815, rises up ready, and only too willing, to cross the Channel with a hundred thousand men." " And let England be ready for them when they come," said the Colonel ; " let them train up their sons to the use of arms, and steal some little time from their factories, their counters, ledgers, and general worshipping of Mammon : let them save some of the money that they squander on foreign embassies, seinecurists, and super- annuated obstructors, and spend it in erect ing forts and casting cannons for self-defence only mind you, and they need not arrive at the dignity of another invasion panic." * The worthy Colonel's memory seems to be defective. At the battle of Assaye, as he said on a former session, he was only a captain, and now it appears he was promoted to the rank of major on the taking of Seringapatam : the latter event took place in 1799, and the former in 1803. The observation, he describes to Colonel Wellesley has been attributed to the late General Sir Charles Napier.
Here they came in sight of Mr. Juniper's residence, and the instructive conversation was interrupted by a most exciting event which just then took place, and which re- quired all the attention that Maxwell and the Colonel could well spare. This was nothing else than a vigorous and well con- tested race between our worthy friend Mr. Juniper himself and a black boy, a real native, arrayed in the sable habiliments with which dame Nature had thought proper to envelope his person even before he was born. Maxwell pulled up under the shelter of a tree so that he and his companion might wit- ness the race without being themselves seen, and the man who had walked before the horse crouched down beside a tussock of grass so as to conceal himself from observa- tion. On came the fugitive round Juniper's paddocks, making directly towards the river, now clearing at a single bound a high fence and tearing through a field of young grain, then again leaping with another furious bound over another fence, then out upon the bush land scampering through the long grass, and jumping over logs, rocks, and all other impediments until he reached the river's bank, and after running along for fifty or sixty yards until he came nearly opposite to where Maxwell's gig stood under the shady tree, he plunged boldly into the rapid cur- rent in the vain hope of escaping into the forest on the other side. After him came at the top of his speed, in all the plenitude of tiger coat, native cat- skin waistcoat, and corduroy breeches, but minus his hat, Mr. Johnson Juniper our re- doubtable bachelor. He puffed and panted with his round red face redder than ever, and swollen with the unwonted excitement of the chase, and roared out at irregular in- tervals in a voice rendered broken by the shortness of breath consequent upon the high rate of speed with which he spurned the ground—"Stop him—hold him—a pound of tobacco and six glasses of rum—to the man that catches him !I" Charmed by the re- freshing sounds of tobacco and rum three or four men had joined in the chase, and even Heffernan the grumbling cook was seen making his way in the distance at a cautious dog trot, in the hope perhaps of smacking his lips over each successive glass of his mas- ter's bright, sparkling, and delicious rum. The poor young savage, however, in making his escape from Scylla plunged directly into the open jaws of Charybdis. He crossed the river in safety and looked back at his baffled pursuers with a grin of satisfaction as he leisurely clambered up the bank. It hap- pened, perhaps fortunately for himself, though such good fortune he did not seem to desire particularly, that the landing place he selected was not more than two yards from the tus- sock behind which Maxwell's man had dropped, and that individual just at the precise moment when Mr. Blackey was making a fresh start into the woods, sprang upon him with a sudden bound and seized him by the hair. It was in vain the poor fellow struggled to get free ; he kicked, scratched, and plunged, but it was of no use ; then he opened his wide mouth, showed his teeth, and with horrid grins tried to bite his captor. In this mode of attack he might have been successful, but Maxwell having alighted from his gig, came up, seized the boy's hands, and with his handkerchief tied them together behind his back. Then, and only then, the terrified prisoner submitted sullenly to his fate. (To be continued.)