|Chapter Title||EDWIN'S ADVENTURES.|
|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 last Saturday.) CHAPTER XXXI. EDWIN'S ADVENTURES. The agitation of Edwin's mind did not permit him to enjoy a very refreshing slum- ber, and as the clock struck four he arose from his bed and prepared for his projected travels. He packed up a few necessary arti- cles of clothing in a handkerchief, and with a noiseless step left the room and stole down stairs, letting himself out by the front door without having, as he believed, disturbed any of the inmates of the house. With a hurried step he proceeded on his way, casting as he went a lingering look behind him at the house where dwelt in happiness and peace the object of his ardent love. The dim outline, just discernible in the starlight, seemed to him the fading shadow of a pleasant dream from which he was awaking to the stern realities of life. He pictured to him- self the surprise of Maxwell and the Colonel when they became acquainted with his sudden departure, and he flattered himself that it was likely he would bear with him in all his wanderings the secret sympathy of Griselda, and the good wishes of her mother. It would have added firmness to his purpose and strength to his heart, if he could have permitted himself to hope that he might one day return and woo the maiden he loved so dearly ; but this hope was now totally wrecked—its place was occupied by gloomy despair. He clenched his hand involuntarily and bit his lips, under the influence of a set- tled but still painful resolution, and wandered on almost heedless of what might be his fate. He was young and inexperienced, cast a one and friendless upon a world which he had not yet learned to encounter with anything like manly fortitude. He felt like a child sud- denly deprived of the leading strings that supported his tottering limbs. Many con- siderations combined to work up his imagi- nation to a state bordering on frenzy the gloomy twilight of the breaking day ; the al- most pathless forests of an obscure island at the antipodes, still tenanted by roving ruth- less savages ; the rising wind moaning amongst the giant trees—all these fell like the knell of death upon his senses. Con- scious of innocence, though knowing well that man is made of dust and must therefore suffer the doom of his race, he was tempted to repine, and complained bitterly that this cup of tribulation was held to his lips before it was merited by his evil works. What folly ! as if the very thoughts of our hearts from childhood as well as our hearts and souls themselves did not merit utter annihi- lation. At last weary of his troubles, which might have been magnified by the darkness of his mind and of the hour, a reaction took place—his fortitude deserted him. He lay down on the cold earth and wept. After spending about an hour in this painful reverie, and watching the gray tints of morning spreading themselves over the eastern sky, he arose and resumed his journey. To the cottage of the carrier, distant about six or seven miles, he now directed his steps. Though suffering from great mental agony and physical weakness he walked rapidly, for the morning was exceedingly cold, and he was not without the hope that the rapidity of his movements might possibly tend to check the fearful impetuosity of his thoughts. Knowing the road pretty well, having often travelled it before under happier circum- stances, he walked on determining within himself that he would as much as possible shut his eyes to the visions of the past, and look forward with hope and confidence to the future. He was now free : the step he had long contemplated taking he had taken at last. He reflected that if the door of recon- ciliation with Maxwell and his family was closed he might yet return to his native country and embrace again in joy those whom he had left in sorrow. The current of his thoughts underwent a gradual change, and it was under the influence of a returning ray of cheerfulness that he knocked at the door of Baxter's cottage just as that worthy man, with his wife and daughter Mary, was sitting down to a substantial breakfast. Baxter was astonished at the unexpected appearance of Mr. Herbart. " What's the matter, Sir ?" he exclaimed ; " come in, you're perished with cold and hunger ; your nose is as blue as a Proosian's, and your eyes is as red as brick-dust. Come, mother, put the fryin'-pan on again, and do a chop or a rasher and eggs ; get up, Mary, and let Mr. Herbart warm his skins." To this speech Edwin replied by thanking the worthy carrier, and asking him how he, his wife, and daughter were getting on. " Very well, thank you, sir," answered the carrier ; " we keep our health pretty well, especially the women ; there never is nothing the matter with them, it's only me is bad sometimes, as has to do the rough work and the frettin.' These women, Sir, has never nothin' to do except sit at home and keep the house in order, and they make more fuss about that nor if they had all the anxiety and responsibility of maintainin' a fam'ly ; and then after bein' worritted to death out- side in our barn or turmut field, we comes home for peace, and has to stop our ears on account of the grumblin' !" "You'd better not be troubling the gentle- man with that nonsense, Tim,' said Mrs. Baxter; "take a chair by the fire, Sir, and I'll have some more chops ready very soon." "I beg you will not put yourselves out of the way on my account," said Edwin, "there is meat enough on the table. Is this fine girl the same child who so nearly perished in the bush some years ago ?" "The very same, Sir," said Baxter, "Mary Baxter is her name, and England is her nation, and this here dirty hut is her dwellin'
place, and when she was near dyin' on the Woody Sugar-Loaf Miss Maxwell was her salvation, for she seed a angel as told her where she was." "She has reason to be thankful to Miss Maxwell," said Edwin, "but still more to the superior Power who directed that excel- lett young lady's footsteps." "And I hope there's nothin' the matter with Mr. Maxwell or his wife, or daughter, Sir?" said Baxter. "Nothing whatever," said Edwin, "they are all in excellent health and spirits." "And what may be the matter with you, Sir, if I may make so free?" said the carrier. "I am only on my way to Hobart Town," answered Edwin. "To Hobart Town !" said Baxter, with a whistle of surprise. "Yes," said Edwin, "there's nothing so very singular in that, is there ?—and I want to know when you are going, so that we may travel together." "Me !" said Baxter, "why I won't be goin' there this six months or more, unless some- body wants me for to go very particular, and that's not likely. "Well," said Edwin, "I am bound for the capital, and I must get there, and you must put me in the way how it's to be done, Mr. Baxter.' "Won't you stop talking, Tim, and let Mr. Herbart eat some breakfast?" said Mrs. Baxter, putting at the same time a plate of mutton chops and a hot cup of tea before their guest. "I never saw the likes of such perversity," said Baxter, "wont let a man talk, and your- self always a chatterin' like an empty headed magpie, and his name is not Hebbert, but Herbart—you'll be tellin' him presently that he's the son of old Mother Hubbard, that was so good to her dog." So saying Baxter grinned with a comical air at his wife, as they all made a joint attack upon the breakfast. While the meal was being despatched Edwin informed his entertainer that he had left Bremgarten for the purpose of seeking his fortune elsewhere, though without illus- trating his subject by any sentimental or poetic coloring ; and concluded by asking the carrier for his advice as to what had best be done under the circumstances. "I'll take the matter into consideration," was Baxter's reply, "and let you know the result of my deliberation in the course of the day. I'm a man, Sir, as knows a thing or two, and I've seen the day when Guvners King and Collins was glad to ask for my opinion : I used to give it 'em, too, without any bashfulness, and they always liked it so well that they invariably followed it, what ever it was. I remember once, in the year seven present century, when it notorious character as had committed thirteen murders was goin' to be hanged at Sydney, Guvner King sees me a walkin' in front of the Com- misary Stores, and he sings out to me— "Halloo, Baxter, I want you.' ' Happy to be of service, yer honor,' says I, pullin' off my hat. ' What do you think of Smith ?' says he, ' shall I give him another chance ?' ' Sir,' says I, ' if you let that man off ther'll be no security for life or property in the country I'd hang him, Sir, and no mistake, if I wus you.' ' You're quite right,' says he, ' I will hang him ; but there's one difficulty in the way—I want a hangman, Baxter, will you act ?' ' Sir,' says I, ' I beg to decline the honor ; but if you do want a hangman I'll fiil you one.' ' Do,' says he. And so I did, and Smith (I wont be sure that his name wasn't Brown) was hanged the next day ; but you see if it hadn't been for me he would have got off and done it few more murders, besides committin' about a hundred robberies, and burnin' haystacks that nobody could number." Baxter related this remarkable instance of the excellent consequences of his good advice with many profound shakes of his head ; and as he attempted to swallow large bites of mutton chop and mouthfuls of tea during the narration, it was accompanied by many coughs and sputterings, which called forth the in- dignant remontrances of his wife. " I wonder at you, Tim," said that lady, that you will be going on with this nonsense at breakfast time ; why you havn't got the manners of a pig, and can't Mr. Herbart go with you to the Heads when you take Mrs. Earlsley's butter ? He might get a passage in the vessel that takes the butter to town." " I don't thank you for nothin', ma'am," said her husband ; " I bet a dollar I thought of that before you did, though you're as sharp as a drivin' end of a ramrod ; but the women of this blessed country is so precious 'cute and clever. If you ever gets married in this island, Mr. Herbart, and don't find out that your wife is more cleverer than you in her own settled and determined opinion, I'll make you a present of a ton of 'tatoes, and find you a man to steal 'em while you'd be eatin' yer dinner." " He would be obliged to look sharp about it," said Edwin. " Have you got such a clever practitioner in your neighborhood ?" " Yes I have, Sir," replied the carrier ; " and Mr. William Jinkins is the man. He is called Bloody Bill Jinkins, from carryin' kangaroo and 'possums, and them things that says ' baa, on his back, makin' his shirt like a boiled lobster with blood. Just get that respectable individual for your neighbor, keep a few fat wethers or pigs, and see if they won't be well weeded. Get a nice sheepdog that'll mob the sheep up by moonlight or any other time, and that won't make no noise about it —take your eye off of him for half an hour, and where'll he be ? And then, as if that's not bad enough, you'll get up some fine mornin' with your character that you'd been pridin' yourself on ripped up to bits, with every mother's son of a settler within fifty mile and more comin' sneakin' round your place lookin for their stolen sheep and cattle. To lose your sheep and cattle, Sir, is bad enough, aint it ? but to have your good name stole from you, 'specially here where a good name
is worth its weight in goold, is above a joke. You know what the great playactor, Mr. Bard of Avon, says—you've read his produc- tions, in course— He that steals my purse steals rubbish.— I was mine, 'twasn't his, and he hadn't no business to steal it But he who filches from me my good character, Robs me of that what don't make him no richer, And makes me so poor as a ragged old crow. Here Edwin, in spite of his misfortunes, could not forbear laughing, and Baxter, join- ing in the laugh, observed that "he didn't see nothin' whatsomover to laugh at at all " That day passed as we suppose the days usually did with this versatile genius and his modest establishment. When he had finished his breakfast he filled and lit his pipe, stuck the remnant of an old white felt hat on one side of his head, and telling his guest to make himself at home and rest his bones after his walk, took himself off to his daily duties. Edwin needed rest but had some difficulty in finding it in Baxter's cottage. His wife and daughter, busy with their washing and other business matters, left him to sit by the fire or get up and walk out as he thought proper ; never dreaming that he needed some sleep and would have been glad of a shake down in a corner. To add to his vexations his ears were frequently sainted by the tones of Mrs. Baxter's voice, which was neither musical nor gentle, making divers remarks on the peculiarities of her husband's temper and habits, and rating her daughter soundly for her deficiencies in industry and fore- thought. Thinking that he might probably find a quieter resting place under some bush in the neighborhood, he left his seat by the fire and went out. The cool air now blowing in a fresh breeze revived his sinking spirits, and he walked about for some time absorbed in thought until the feeling of drowsiness became too strong to be longer resisted. With the view of stretching himself on a pallet of straw he entered a wooden building which had the appearance of a barn, and found it full of unthrashed grain. It took him but a short time to throw a few sheaves aside and make a nest wherein he might snugly lie, and laying himself down accord- ingly he was soon buried in a profound slumber. From this sleep, which had already lasted about four hours, Edwin was aroused by a rude shake, and on opening his eyes he was exceedingly alarmed to find himself con- fronted by a savage looking stranger whose belt, almost the first thing his eye rested upon, bristled with pistols. Half stupified with sleep and astonishment he rose up, rubbed his eyes and re-opened them upon the formidable figure who was, he now felt sure, no myth but a being of real flesh and blood. Comprehending at once the nature of his situation he had no doubt of the fact that this man was a bushranger—one of those unfortunate and misguided men who roamed at will over the whole island, plundering, burning, and spreading consternation ; and who were often the too willing instruments of death upon the innocent and unsuspicious. Edwin, by nature cautious, would not wil- lingly have flung himself into the jaws of destruction, but now being thus unexpectedly brought face to face with a real, and by no means contemptible danger, he prepared to meet it with a first and undaunted counte- nance. He calmly surveyed the visage and person of the intruder, who seemed in the prime of life, or rather verging a little to- wards its decline, with a light-colored elongated face and broad features, which wore a devil-may-care expression coupled with one of habitual cautions. His eyes were of a light blueish grey color, and were bloodshot from constant exposure to cold and the dews of night. His hair and whiskers, forming together a tangled mass, had a sandy hue. His dress was of coarse materials, rather more respectable than what Herbart would have expected a bushranger to wear, but still such as would well stand the wear and tear of the bush. It consisted of a cap made of opossum skins, a pilot coat, an under jacket and waist- coat of strong dark cloth, trousers of dusky moleskin, leggings of tanned kangaroo skin, and boots of extra strength and thickness. On the whole, with his tall, thick-set figure and well-knit frame—to all appearance of great muscular power—he was an apparition which few, except perhaps a grizzly bear or bull-dog, would like to meet in a lonely place or be shut up within the narrow compass of a barn. Edwin, as soon as he had recovered from his stupor of astonishment, asked the intruder who he was and what he wanted. " Fair questions," answered the man, " de- mand fair answers, but the proverb saith—' a still tongue showeth a wise head'—go, they are calling you to dinner : don't say you saw me here, say nothing about me at your peril, until I think proper to make myself known." He accompanied this peremptory injunc- tion by a resolute motion towards the door, which Edwin thought it best to obey without further question. As he left the place, how- ever, he turned to take another look at the strange visitor, and saw that personage taking instant possession of his place in the straw, where he soon altogether disappeared from view. Perplexed beyond measure, and entertain- ing serious doubts as to the propriety of allow- ing Baxter to remain in ignorance of this im- portant fact of which he was in possession, Edwin entered the cottage and sat down to a comfortable meal with the carrier and his family. The boiled pork and potatoes rapidly disappeared, washed down by copious pota- tions of tea ; and the hearty laughs at Baxter's rough and ready wit added considerably to the refreshing influence of the dinner. When the cloth was removed the facetious host, after a little playful sparring with his amiable lady, lit his pipe according to custom, and went out, followed on this occasion by his guest. The latter had come to the conclusion that it was his duty, at whatever amount of
personal risk, to disregard the injunctions of the mysterious stranger, and make Baxter acquainted with the real state of affairs. Ac- cordingly after proceeding for awhile along a newly-fenced paddock, he interrupted the talkative carrier, who, while laboriously puff- ing at his pipe, entertained him with a learned dissertation on the superior qualities of his " turmuts," and the proneness of Bill Jinkins's cattle and pigs to help themselves thereto, with the unexpected intelligence that there was a strange man, armed to the teeth, in his barn, concealed amongst the straw. Baxter stood still, drew his pipe from his mouth, and turning upon Edwin a look of vacant surprise, said— " What's that you say, Sir?" " I say there is a strange man, armed with several pistols, concealed under the wheat in your barn," replied Edwin. " A strange man, armed with pistols, in my barn. Did you see him?" said Baxter. " Yes, of course I did, else how should I know he was there ?" said Edwin. " What sort of a man is he ?" " Tall and stout, with thick, bushy, sandy hair and whiskers, restless grey ; blood-shot eyes, peremptory manner, and has the look of a sailor if it were not for his leather leggings." " What did he say to you ?" " He said very little. I asked him who he was and what he wanted, and he answered by telling me that a still tongue showeth a wise head, and ordered me to be off and say nothing about him to you or anyone else." " Did he talk like a furener or a Roosian ?" asked the carrier. " A foreigner or a Russian ?" replied Edwin, " why no I think not—I should take him to be a Yorkshireman or a Highlander ; but he spoke so little, that I, being a little embarrassed, could not make out any foreign accent." " I knows him," said Baxter, " leastways, I thinks I knows him—but it won't do for me to let on as I do. There's something up, de- pend on it, or that gentleman wouldn't be burrowing under my corn sheaves. We'll go back to the but and wait the progress of events. That man, Sir, if your description is correct, is not a robber, he's a constable, and the most determined thief-catcher in this here blessed island of thieves ; we must stand by for a squall." The carrier and his companion turned im- mediately towards the cottage, but their at- tention was soon arrested by the heavy tramp of a horse moving rapidly on the track behind them. They looked in the direction and dis- cried a gentleman approaching at a gallop. Edwin was the first to discover that it was his friend Charles Maxwell, who on arriving at the spot where they stood alighted from his horse, shook Edwin's hand warmly, and bid Mr. Baxter good afternoon. He asked the former to walk down the road a little way as he had some interesting news to com- municate, and requested the latter to excuse them for a few minutes. " Yes," said the carrier, with his usual grin, " I'll excuse ye—I'll be glad to see ye when your yarn is spun to the end, and don't say nothin', Mr. Herbart, that's likely to alarm the neighbors, or else we'll have old Eersy down upon us with a pile of light cavalry, the same as won the battle of the Nile by a dashin' charge." When Baxter was out of hearing Charles commenced the conversation by saying— " My father is much displeased, Edwin, that you have thought proper to leave his house in this clandestine manner. He thinks that common decency might have dictated a less questionable course of conduct, and considers that your impetuous temper has led you into errors both as regards his present attitude and ultimate intention." " I have always been and ever shall be sorry for my errors, Charles ; but in the pre- sent case I am not convinced of having com- mitted one, though my precipitation may have led me into a breach of etiquette requir- ing some apology. You can convey to your father my very humble apology, but I can- not express regret for the step I have taken ; and to return to Bremgarten unless under happier circumstances is entirely out of the question." " In that case," said Charles, " I am com- missioned to hand you this paper, and to say that my father will always be willing to serve you when such service does not inter- fere with his duties to those in whom he is bound to take a more immediate interest." " What am I to understand by that, Charles ?" asked Edwin hastily ; " does he think I want him to neglect the interests of his children for my sake ?" " You have it as I had it, Edwin, make what you like out of it ; if you can under- stand it its more than I can," said Charles with it smile. Edwin opened and looked at the paper which Charles had given him ; it was a cheque on a Hobart Town bank for forty pounds. Though such a sum was a small fortune to him in his present situation, and one to which by his services he might have con- sidered himself fairly entitled, he did not eagerly clutch at it and cram it into his deepest pocket as if fearful of being deprived of it again. No—the unpardonable sim- pleton ! His eyebrows contracted under the influence of some deep and settled purpose ; he deliberately folded the paper and handed it back to Charles. " Tell your father," said he emphatically, to reserve his charity for a more suitable object. If I accepted his money, years of bitter recollections and self-accusations would be the fruit of such a weakness. Had he given me on lease the farm which he pro- mised I might not now be a wandering out- cast and beggar—as it is, he may keep his money as well as his land. I do not despair of winning my way to independence." " What ?" said Charles, " you are not such a fool, Edwin, as to refuse this recompense
you have honorably earned, and in my opinion at least three times as much. What's to become of you if you throw the gifts of fortune thus recklessly back into her very teeth ?" " No matter," said Edwin, " I will not ac- cept your father's money. I am thankful for his good wishes and his esteem, and not a little proud that I have been able to requite his hospitality. I am sorry that I did not take a more polite leave of him and of your mother, whom I shall ever remember with respect and filial love." " I have another message for you," said Charles, " and it comes from my sister. I ought not to deliver it, perhaps, but being young and foolish, I am not supposed to understand these matters you know. She desired me to say that she is very sorry you have been driven to take the step you have taken ; she supposes—the little inno- cent ! that it cannot now be helped ; that she deeply sympathises with you, and that wherever you go you will bear with you the assurance of her affectionate regards." Edwin's face became red as fire, then pale as death ; before he could speak he was obliged to lean against the fence beside which they were walking. At length he said— " Did Griselda speak those very words ?" " Why of course she did—she's not dumb, neither am I an inventor of foolish romances about horse-devils, and spirits in ourang outang jackets, like some people," returned Charles. " Then tell her," said Edwin, " that I shall bear with me the remembrance of her affectionate regards to the very threshold of death ; and tell her not to let her knowledge of my fate, whatever it may be, disturb for a moment the peace of her guileless breast." " O, I see it all now," said Charles, " I see it all now, you love Griselda, and I have been blind to it up to this very moment,—but take a fool's advice, and forget all about it before you are a month older." " If I have presumed so far," said Edwin, " my love, though hopeless, is so far honorable that I would not for worlds ask her to forget her duty to her parents or to herself. You tell me to forget this love, and so I shall, when every other impression is likewise for- gotten." " This is a grave subject," said Charles, " and I am sure I would not have delivered the gipsy's message had I known it would thus effect you. You must not, Edwin, cherish this passion. It is not my place to bid you hope, but I recommend you to shake off these romantic aspirations, and you may yet be a rich and happy man, for I am confident that Griselda's destiny is already decided. Follow my example, I am not ambitious of love or glory—I go with Pope— ' Thus let me live, unseen, unknown, And unlamented let me die ; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.' Now let me light my cigar and I'm off,—you have my best wishes Edwin." So saying, Charles Maxwell entered Bax- ter's cottage, wished Mrs. B. and her daugh- ter good evening, lit his cigar and rode away, after again pressing his cousin's hand affec- tionately. (To be continued.)