|Chapter Title||A TENDER INTERVIEW.|
|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, 30th ultimo ) CHAPTER XXXIII. A TENDER INTERVIEW. We will go back with them and explain how it was that Brady was enabled to make his appearance at large in the woods armed to the teeth as usual, and to frighten the carrier nearly out of his wits. He had passed the night as we have seen in Baxter's hut, his hands secured with a rope, in com- pany with his betrayer and the constable. They were taking their breakfast when Baxter started on his journey, and when he had finished his repast the police officer an- nounced his intention of proceeding to the adjoining village and procuring a suitable escort, giving his coadjutor at the same time strict injunctions to watch the prisoner well and not leave him alone for a moment. Brady had refused his breakfast and had not risen. He complained of cold, and requested his former friend Jack to throw a rug over him. The unsuspecting Jack, who conde- scended to joke with his prisoner now and again, complied with this request. After a little more chat and a few more jokes, Brady complained of thirst and begged of Jack to get him a drink of water. The guard could not refuse this modest request ; he was in high spirits, and loved a joke, so he laid aside his gun and went forth to procure the cooling draught the prisoner required. His kindness surely deserved a better return. When he came back Brady stood on the floor, free, armed and equipped for the bush. He had slipped out of bed and held his hands over the fire until they were severely scorched and the rope burned, and his request for water was a mere ruse to get possession of the gun. The informer came in and found the muzzle of the gun pointed at his head : a moment more and his brains might be scat- tered on the ground : he fell on his knees and begged for mercy for God's sake. " Fiend of hell !" said the enraged bush- ranger, " did you not tell me last night that there was neither God nor devil ? Away with you, you hardened, scowling reprobate the bullet longs to be in your head, but my situation saves your cursed life :—be- ware our next meeting : if it's fifty years to come I'll be revenged." And without saying another word he walked away.* The informer when he had recovered from his astonishment and terror presented him- self at the door of the carrier's cottage, and in a whining tone informed Mrs. Baxter of the turn affairs had unluckily take. That good lady immediately banged the door in his face, saying in a loud and shrill voice that rang through the rafters of her humble dwelling—" You let him go, you villain, and now you're come to murder us. Mary, bring the gun, and I'll shoot him through the win- dow." On hearing this Amazonian clatter, the unpitied but pitiable Jack made a pre- cipitate retreat and did not trouble the car- rier's cottage again. In the course of another hour Baxter and Edwin made their appearance, hot and tired after their rapid walk. They were happy to find that no injury had been done to the in- mates of the cottage, and that neither the informer nor the constable had been mur- dered. After resting awhile and partaking of some refreshment they again set out on their journey, Baxter having previously desired his wife to explain matters as well as she could to the constable when he should return from the village. She pro- mised to do so, and the travellers started to overtake the bullock dray. " This here is a nice place," said Baxter to his companion ; " a man don't know here when he gets up whether he'll be dead or alive when he goes for to lie down. A rum place to bring wife and children to, aint it, Sir." " For those who love dangers and excite- ment it is about the best place in the world," replied Edwin; " but for peaceably disposed men like myself I confess it seems a little too hot." " Hot !" said the carrier, vehemently, " it bangs the world for hotness—Indy itself is a fool to it. The top o' Mount Vesuvus is a bed o' roses compared to it. Here are these rovin' vagabonds—it was only the other day they wus up to their chins in salt water and chains at Macquarie Harbor, and here they are ready to burn everything and massacree everybody they meets with. If I hadn't a pretty strong stake in the colony, and didn't expect to make enough in a year or two to keep me for the rest of my life, I'd sell off every leg o' stock and stick o' furniture and christen myself Walker before this day month." " To judge from your age and hardy ap- pearance," said Edwin, " you have been in worse predicaments before ; you could not, as I have heard you were, have been engaged in the American war without passing through strange vicissitudes of fortune, and witness- ing many scenes of stirring interest." " I've been through many ups and downs," answered Baxter, " but then I wus younger and better able to bear them than I am now. When a man, Mr. Herbart, gets to the shady side of fifty he begins to long for a little quietness and peace. I wus not married then, neither, as I am now : marriage, Sir, if it's the right sort o' marriage, makes a man fond of his home, and I wus fond o' mine. My wife wus once a good-tempered and kind- hearted woman,, now she is fretful and fidgety ; and what changed her ? The dangers of the country. I've seen fifty blacks walk * I have tortured the incident after the fashion of severists, two different versions of the same authenticated fact will be found in West's History, volume II., p. 205, and Benwick's 'Bush- rangers,' p. 76.
up to my cottage door, and I've gone out and I've shook hands with them all round : they used to bring 'possums, and try to make us eat 'em, too, but now they never comes, and if they does, it's spears and waddies they brings ; and what's the reason? Because these bushrangers and prisoner stock keepers have treated them and their wives in the most cruel manner. The missis thinks we'll be murdered some day. She gets vexed sometimes, but I saved her from starvin' once, and married her afterwards. Wives should consider the amount of care and responsibility their husbands has to stumble under, and not worrit 'em to death because their own tempers is bad." " I quite agree with you in that," said Edwin, " but then great allowances should be made for the ladies : they have their own troubles and vexations of which we know little or nothing. The disordered state of the country is of itself almost sufficient to disturb the tranquillity of anyone's mind. But may I ask under what circumstances you saved your wife from starving ?" " Yes, I'll tell you. I came to New South Wales in 1788 as part of the guard of a convict ship, and in two years our provisions was nearly all gone, for by reason of the ignorance of all on us, both officers and men, we had no crops, and nothin' was got out of the ground. My wife wus the daughter of a ser- geant, and in a delicate state of health. We expected a ship with provisions in every day, but she did'nt come. The ra- tions was reduced to two pounds flour, a pound and a half o' pork, and a pound o' rice a week for each man and woman—hardly enough to keep body and soul together. Well, Betsy Jones, my wife though we were'nt married then, sunk lower and lower every day ; she had been ill before but was recoverin', and for that reason required more food than other people, and I often used to hear her moanin' and groanin' with fair hun- ger ; and bein' very fond of her I could'nt abear to hear her groanin', so I gave her my ration and went out huntin' for such things as 'possums, kangaroo rats, and the like of them, and Betsy was glad to take some whenever I brought any home ; but I often came home without nothin' at all, and then had to go and do what the wolves does in America when they can't overhaul a man or a buffalo." " What was that ?" asked Edwin, much interested in Baxter's narrative. " The wolves," continued the carrier, goes into the swamps and fills their bellies with mud ; I used to go down to the rocks and fill mine with seaweed—it made me pre- cious bad though." " I should say it would," said Edwin ; " and how were you relieved from such an awful state ?" " I'm goin' to tell you," said the carrier. " We wus all nearly at the last gasp, the guv'nor had placed a party of men on the South Head with orders to hoist a flag when a ship appeared in sight, and we strained our eyes every hour in the day to see if the flag was up, but it never wus. I've heerd a officer say that whenever he dined with the guv'nor he always had to carry his bread in his pocket, and the size of it—you could kick it under a dollar. Then the guv'nor and his visitors used to toast their pork on forks and catch the drops of fat on their bread or in saucers of rice, the rice all the time walkin' out o' the saucer and right bang away over the floor. A ship was sent to China but she was wrecked on the passage : a prisoner stole some potatoes and wus punished with three hundred lashes, wus chained for six months to two other criminals, and had his ration of flour stopped for six months—'twould have been kinder to have shot him right off. I've heerd thunder rollin' at it distance and in an instant a hundred voices would roar and scream ' A ship—a ship ! A gun from a ship !' But the flag wasn't up, it wus no ship at all, but the men, women, and children ran about shoutin' and screamin' at first with joy and then with despair. You never seed such a lot of starved and miserable wretches, and pray to God that you never may. For me I used to dream constantly of two shops, a butcher's and a baker's stuck close together, and I, like a bottle imp, dartin' first into one, then into 'tother, helpin' myself. Betsy Jones was nearly dead—nothin' supported her but the flour, she couldn't abear to look at the rice ; but the flour was nearly done, and discipline couldn't be kept up no longer, when at last one evenin' some one roared out —' The flag's up—the flag's up !' The effect was astoundin'—the camp that wus before like a graveyard except for tears and groans, suddenly started into noise and life. I went out of Sergeant Jones's tent, where I was at the time, and saw the flag up with my own eyes. I ran back, took up Betsy in my arms, and carried her out to see the ship roundin' the Sow and Pigs, and we hadn't to wait long ; she hove in sight, and a beautiful sight she was, with her white sails like the wings of a blessed angel from Heaven. There was a shout, such as I never heard ; the people danced about, shook hands, and kissed one another for joy. The vessel wus the Lady Juliana, and she had two hundred and thirty-five women aboard. There wus no more hunger, Betsy soon got strong again, and she and I wus married." " And certainly," said Edwin, " you have had reason to remember your wedding." " Aye," said Baxter, " I've had reason to remember it, as you say ; but bless my eyes and heart who are these here ?— Mr. Charley Maxwell and his sister, I'd bet a dump !" They were in the act of debouching on the main track leading to Fingal, when a young lady on horseback, accompanied by a youth- ful cavllier, advanced to meet them, and was now within ten paces of the spot where Edwin stood transfixed in dumb and bashful mystification. It was indeed our fair Griselda mounted upon her father's gig horse. She reined in her steed when she recognised our
hero, and, " blushing like the dawning of morn," looked as if an unexpected apparition had suddenly risen from the earth. Recover- ing herself in a moment she advanced, hold- ing out her hand and saying, " Edwin—I am surprised—I am very glad to see you—I hope you are quite well." These words might convey to a stranger the impression that she cherished a too tender interest in his fortunes ; but she knew that though three times re- moved he was still her cousin, and felt that this relationship was a sufficient excuse for her. Edwin received the proffered hand in both his and kissed it fervently, gloved as it was. Griselda, blushing a deeper blush than before, quietly withdrew her hand, which the foolish youth attempted to retain. Charles now came up and took his place by her side, having alighted from his horse, and shaking Edwin s hand he said— " Well, Edwin, what's in the wind now ?— where are you off to ?" " To Falmouth, Charles." " Do you expect a vessel, then ?" " I do." " And what do you intend to do with your luggage ?" " Baxter will call for it." The individual hero mentioned had pro- ceeded on his way, having first taken off his hat to Miss Maxwell and said " God bless you, Miss"—his invariable habit whenever he met her. " Will it not be better to leave it where it is at present? You might get a grant of land, you know, somewhere in these parts, and in that case they would be handy for you," said Charles. " No, Charles," , said Edwin, smiling bitterly, " I expect no grant of land. I will ask Colonel Arthur for some situation, and if he refuses me I will leave the country for ever." " Edwin," said Griselda, " you have acted very unwisely as well as hastily. I have reason to believe that my father intended to carry out his promise to you, though perhaps not exactly in the manner you expected ; but now, though you have not gained an enemy, you have lost a friend. He is a man of very keen sensibilities, and the remembrance of a slight, however unintentional, sinks deeply into his mind, and makes a vivid and painful impression." " If I have done wrong, Griselda," an- swered Edwin, " I am ready to pay the penalty of the error : reproaches from your lips are daggers to my heart ;—you speak of slights, have I suffered none ? If your father is a man of keen sensibilities, am I an im- penetrable, unimpressible rock ? Ah ! Griselda, do not blame me, unless indeed your imagination can place you in my posi- tion : if it can, and you still condemn me, I will yield—I am a fool, and worse than a fool." " Oh, Edwin !" said the fair maiden, her tears beginning to follow each other down her cheeks, " do not use this language ; you are not certainly a fool, and my father does not think so. I do not blame you—I do not reproach you. You have taken a decided step, and God directs the steps of the true and the brave. As a relative I shall always pray for your welfare and happiness ; and do not, I pray you, make yourself unhappy by indulging in reflections arising from the remembrance of days gone by never to return." " Father thinks you were very foolish to send back the money," said Charles. " I do not despise money," said Edwin ; " it is as neceseary as bread in this world, for they who do not possess the one have little chance of obtaining the other. I did not refuse it with the intention of insulting your father,—on the contrary, I would gladly have accepted it if it had been accompanied by even one kind word." " You have been too precipitate, Edwin," said Griselda ; " your sudden flight without any apparent provocation has had the natural effect of offending my father,—indeed my mother, also, is very much grieved and dis- pleased at it." " I am sorry," replied the youth, " that she is displeasd, I could throw myself at her feet and ask her forgiveness. The provoca- tion at the tea table was not certainly suffi- cient to justify my course of conduct, at least in the eyes of any person a stranger to my feelings. Do you think, Griselda, that my resolution to depart was as suddenly taken as it was hastily executed ? No, it was con- ceived long ago ; I could not be indifferent to the silent jealousy which withered every green leaf in my existence. It was rendered necessary by thoughts and hopes presump- tuous and vain from which I cannot fly, and which have burned in my heart for years." Griselda, who could not pretend to misun- derstand the meaning of this last sentimental inuendo, turned her lead away as if to conceal her blushes, but it was in reality to hide her tears. She certainly did cry, the silly thing, for she herself told us all about it afterwards. These tears, or " waterworks,' as the piquant and talented author of " Vanity Fair" calls them, are very powerful arguments in the hands (or eyes) of the gentle sex, as every man, who is a man, knows or must find out some day to his cost. There are a few, to be sure, who are not to be moved by these or any other arguments short of a thrust of cold steel ; but we do not hesitate to say, Away with those monsters who can exclaim, " What ! crying again : upon my honor, Angelina, your tears will not avail you much ;" and " Dang my bones if I don't give un zummut to help un to stop up that pipe." But though so powerful and convenient, we would advise our fair friends to resort to them as seldom as possible—to keep them, in fact, as the very last and most to be depended upon of all resources, or else their astonish- ing effects will soon diminish and finally disappear. We say that Griselda wept and turned away her head ; if we said that Edwin wept
too, having caught the infection, that he pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it to his eyes we should scarcely expect to be be- lieved. Yet we have a slight suspicion of the real state of the case when we hear Charles exclaim— " Why Edwin, I am surprised at you, I thought you had more sterling sense ; 'pon my honor, I would not have believed it if Baxter himself had told me he saw you crying. For shame man. And you, too, Griselda ! I'd have you to know that in con- senting to be a party to this occidental inter- view I did not bargain for this display of sentimental romance. Edwin, I should be very sorry to say a word to give you pain, but I hope you will consider my sister's pecu- liar position, and make use of no more impas- sioned words." " I beg your sister's pardon, and yours young Sir," said Edwin drawing himself up ; " I have not forgotten that I am a beggar and a fugitive. Farewell Griselda, may the good God bless you my sweet cousin ; I am happy in that relationship, though so distant. In future years when you are bound by dearer and stronger ties, when the world with its cares and sorrows shall blanch your cheek and turn your hair to silver—think sometimes of the Edwin you had known in your youth, and remember him with a sister's love." " With a sister's love indeed, Edwin, I shall always remember you." So saying the maiden presented her hand and leaned for- ward (accidentally) until her face approached that of her cousin ; he pressed his lips to hers—another fervent " God bless you," and " good by," another kiss and pressure of hands, and she urged her horse from the spot. Before Edwin parted with Charles he ad- vised him to get home as soon as possible, as, Brady the famous bushranger was in the forest ; relating briefly the events of his cap- ture and escape. Charles thanked him and promised to profit by the information. (To be continued.)