|Chapter Title||DULL-WHICH THE READER MAY SKIP.|
|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, 9th May.) CHAPTER XLIV. DULL—WHICH THE READER MAY SKIP. ABOUT a fortnight after the celebrated battle, Edwin Herbart found himself sufficiently re- covered (and indeed could not help feeling that it would be conducive to the more speedy restoration of his health) to take daily exercise in the open air. Now that his affairs had taken a somewhat favorable turn his mind was more at ease than it had been for many months. Mrs. Maxwell's patient nurs- ing, Mr. Maxwell's renewed cordiality, the Colonel's sprightly conversation, and lsabel's graceful vivacity of manner, which her father never thought proper to check, combined together to keep him in a tranquil state of mind and accelerate his convalescence. He was pained to observe, however, that notwith- standing the events that had occurred, Griselda seemed more reserved and distant than ever. He knew that there was some secret treaty existing between her father and the Colonel, but could only guess in his imaginative and erroneous way at the nature of it. Henry Arnott, he remarked, was not over-assiduous in his attentions to Griselda ; on the contrary, it appeared as if he some- times treated her with a certain degree of coldness, as if he thought that an affectation of carelessness on the subject of matrimony was the best way of conquering any prejudices the young lady might have imbibed. But Henry was not always constant in his de- portment ; he would sometimes suddenly change his tactics, and apparently overwhelm Griselda with attentions and fine speeches ; but whether he did so from any extra ebulli- tion of love for the fair maiden, or to convince Edwin, whose chagrin he could not but observe, that the victory was already won, the love-stricken youth could not discover. Edwin's mother had written him an affec- tionate letter, enclosing, as we have said, a present of fifty pounds, and relating the cir- cumstance of his father's death, which happened four months before, after a few days' illness. The old gentleman, though latterly unfortunate, was most strictly honor- able in all his dealings, and had made two or three staunch friends, who wound up his affairs in such a creditable manner, that his creditors were paid in full, and a trifle left over and above for the benefit of his children. Mrs. Herbart, acting under the advice of her late husband's friends, now proposed to her son that if he was likely to do well in Tas- mania, and could offer her a home, she would undertake the voyage with pleasure ; she thought the change would be bene- ficial to the health of her eldest daughter Augusta, who was troubled with a chronic cough ; also probably to her own, as the severe winters of Britain were beginning to tell fearfully upon her constitu- tion. If on the other hand he found the country did not suit him, or if any circum- stances arose which would make it undesirable as a place of residence, she strictly enjoined him to return to his native land without delay, when arrangements would be made for giving him a fair start in business. She con- cluded by commending him to the care of a merciful God, and sending her kind regards to Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell and family, who received the same with due acknowledg- ments. Edwin did not like the idea of returning to Ireland so soon ; he had not, in fact, given Tasmania a fair trial. Any business in which he could possibly embark at home was but little likely to lead to fortune, or even to a comfortable living. Besides he disliked the confinement of a counting-house, and had a great horror of mercantile speculation. He reflected that if he could only gain a footing in the colony as a sheep-farmer he would surely in a few years realise a small indepen- dence ; and he was delighted at the idea of dabbling in agriculture—to have, in fact, a farm of his own and a small capital to work it. He made up his mind conse- quently to remain in the island a little longer at least until he had an opportunity of consulting the head of tile Government, Colonel Arthur, who had the power of giving grants of excellent land to whomsoever he pleased. The delightful climate of this island he thought would be good for both his mother and sister. We cannot, however, say with truth that his filial or fraternal affection supplied.the most powerful motive for his wishing to remain in Tasmania. We fear we must acknowledge that he was wicked enough to be so fascinated by his charming cousin that the idea of tearing himself away from the country that contained her, so long as she remained unmarried, was enough to an- nihilate him. He could not possibly think of doing anything of the kind ; he could not tell what chances might yet turn up in his favor. If, supposing he was absent, any re- mote chance might so turn up, how he would rave, how go distracted with anguish ! But the cankering thought that his hopes were all but crushed for ever, prevented the former ruddy glow of health from reappearing on his cheek. His spirits had not recovered their wonted elasticity. His eyes wandered rest- lessly from one object to another. In a word, he was unhappy. His old complaint, im- patience, came upon him with redoubled force ; this time accompanied by a more set- tled melancholy than before, and he deter- mined to speak to Maxwell immediately rela- tive to his intention of leaving Bremgarten and seeking his fortune once more. With this object in view he strolled out one day to where Maxwell superintended the labors of some men whom he had hired for the purpose of cutting down and burning the scrubs and thickets in which the bushrangers had lately found such convenient shelter.
Edwin approached and found the settler not only superintending but working hard himself in chopping up the young trees and feeding the numerous fires. " I am sorry, Mr. Maxwell," said he, " that the fortune of war has incapacitated me from being of any assistance to you." " Never mind, Edwin," replied Maxwell, " the fortune of war might have been worse ; as to the assistance you see I am not badly off, and I only work myself for amusement. Those rascally mountaineers won't be so well off for cover if they come again. What de- lightful weather it is, and how different the winters of this country are from those of the old country with their bleak snows, rheu- matic storms, and bespattering mud." " They are very different certainly," said Edwin, " and the balance may be safely car- ried to the credit of Tasmania, though it will be long before she will be comparable with the old country in external respectability, in good roads, well cleared parks, and baronial mansions whose outward appearance gives but a faint indication of the comfort and luxury that reign within." " Very true, though perhaps some of the baronial mansions you speak of may want harmony and happiness, an observation that can be applied to our humble cottages as well. We can have our comforts, however, —as for luxuries, I for one thank Heaven, never feel the want of them." " It is time that you should enjoy some of the comforts of life, Sir," said Edwin, " when you have been here so long battling with the world in the midst of dangers, and in dis- heartening solitude. Existence, in my opinion, is scarcely worth having if one can not hope that some day he will sit down in peace, and enjoy with a thankful heart the fruits of labors long past.". " To expect peace," replied Maxwell, " one must go and live on a desert island : it is rank folly to expect it in a community of human beings, and of all places in the world Tasmania seems as little likely to enjoy it for many years to come as any other that I know of. There are reasons for this belief apart from the fact that lit is a penal colony. The aborigines will not give us peace ; their inveterate hostility is becoming really alarming, and I see no remedy for this but to deprive them of their liberty, and send them to a smaller island—unless, indeed, we choose to resign all our advantages, and be take ourselves elsewhere. Could this great difficulty be overcome, and the island emerge from its undignified con- dition of a prison on a large scale, I would venture to predict that it may yet become a portion of the British empire of no small importance--" " It will be an extraordinary thing," said Edwin, " if |civilization and refinement have to beat a retreat before a few helpless and ignorant savages, who are neither amenable to discipline nor willing to receive instruction. The settlement of our differences with them is only a question of time ; and as the white population increases, means will be devised for putting a stop to the growing evil. There is no doubt, as the papers say, that the prisoner stockkeepers are the originators of the hatred and thirst for revenge which now burn with such fury in the breasts of the black people."' " Not only the storekeepers, but the sanguinary bushrangers," said Maxwell, " the vile and hardened men who are collected in this devoted island, dragged from the various sinks of iniquity in Great Britain and her numerous colonies. In the early days of this colony before I ever dreamed of coming hither, the prisoner population were let loose to find their own provisions as they best could in the bush ; many of them became, from their roving habits thus unguarded, ferocious bushrangers, and many are the stories which I have read of the shocking cruelties practised on the poor natives by these men. The subject is extremely pain- ful. Had you been murdered on the coast, and your murderers taken alive, they would be hanged by the present Governor, but such a proceeding would be only a mockery of justice, as these unfortunate people cannot be expected to discriminate between those who would injure and those who would be- friend them." " I think not," said Edwin ; " nevertheless a great many of the settlers seem to have escaped pretty well, and amongst the rest you, Mr. Maxwell, have not suffered much from their depredations." " It was a mercy of Providence," returned the settler, " that Charles and his sister were not murdered by them, and that their mother escaped death. With the ex- ception of that memorable visitation they have never molested me, yet how can I tell that should I ride over to Clifton Hall this afternoon a spear from an unseen hand may not strike me down. I have, indeed, a great deal to be thankful for, and but little to com- plain of. They were at first, we are told, a mild and inoffensive people, but now, tor- tured by tyrants of the worst class, they seem to be a set of incarnate devils, although the worst of them are not without some redeeming points. Not long since they burned the house of a man named Clarke, and he perished in the flames ; a woman escaped with her clothes on fire, and threw herself on her knees imploring the pity of the savages ; one of them extinguished the flames, and spared her life. But in general they are not so merciful. If things go on thus much longer the country will be ruined, for in addition to armed and open enemies, we have our secret, insidious foes, in the shape of sheep and cattle stealers. The com- plaints against badly disposed and refractory servants resound from all quarters. The editors of our newspapers add weekly fuel to the flames of discontent; and in addition to all these things we are assailed by writers and speechmakers in England, who profess to know more about us and our affairs than we do ourselves. According to their accounts we
are a bad lot ; we live amongst wicked people and are therefore wicked. Thus you see, Edwin, that because there are a few men in high situations who mix themselves up in disgraceful practices, and are not ashamed of the immorality in which they openly live, you, and I, and all who cherish the domestic virtue which they have known from child- hood, are denounced by time-serving place- hunters and eloquent miracle-mongers, who like to be thought as free from taint as angels in Heaven." " I heard also," said Edwin, " that it is the fashion for amateur book-makers to come and take bird's-eye views of the Australian colo- nies, and then give to the world the fruits of their experience of perhaps a month or two, in volumes filled with indiscriminate vitupera- tion of the unhappy colonists." " Yes," answered Maxwell, " I grieve to say that there are man who do such things ; they must, in fact, do something to gratify this craving for notoriety. They come as if they dropped from the clouds. If they are not civil or military functionaries they are unknown and remain unnoticed. They are disappointed, and consider the faults of those individuals who figure in police courts, and make a sensation in the world of insolvency, or blackguardism, as attributable to the en- tire community. An overbearing orator talks political abuse at everybody within his reach, and makes himself and his country unenviably notorious, and down goes the spleen of the refined visitor on paper. If the townspeople are unendurable to this critical observer, what must the settlers in the country be who are so far removed from the ameliorating influence of a paternal govern- ment, polite society, and a well regulated press. The settlers, it is true, have made their money by encountering many dangers, and working hard with head and hands, early and late ; but I deny that they are the selfish, brutal, and money-loving slave- drivers that some of these writers would lead the English people to suppose. Certainly it is possible that there may be a few landed proprietors who make slaves of their servants, and tyrannize over their neighbors, with the ferocity natural to bull-headed ignorance. But I am happy to say I have never been troubled by them. It is undeni- able that the servants, such as they are, give a great deal of trouble. I will give you an instance of the difficulties encountered in numberless instances by the well-disposed settlers in maintaining proper discipline on their establishments. I happened to visit a gentleman whilst he was very unpleasantly engaged in trying to make a mutinous laborer understand sense. The man defied his master and desired to be taken before a magistrate. It was harvest time, and the master had to work with other men, reaping under a hot sun, but he patiently expostula- ted with his rebellious servant, though, as I thought with very little prospect of success. By-and-by a party of eleven stock-keepers rode up to his door on horseback, bound for distant forests in search of lost cattle. They were accompanied by a bullock-dray bearing provisions in abundance and a cask of rum. This was a fine example for the peaceful settler's mutineer ; but strange to say the man keenly felt the kindness of his master and went to work the next morning before sunrise ; and I have since been in- formed that five out of the eleven stock- keepers who rode by so gallantly have since been hanged. * " It would be ungenerous of us to forget, however, that some works have been published in which the free settlers have been spoken of with kindness," said Edwin. '' Certainly," said Maxwell, " we will give credit where credit is due ; but if any such exist I never saw them. I have read a little book written by a highly respected friend of mine, Captain James Dixon, of Skelton Castle, River Isis. He was captain of a merchant vessel, and is now a settler, but whether he said anything in his book, about the colonists as they were when it was written I have forgotten long ago. He is a bachelor and very hospitable and will be very glad to see you if you should ever be in his neighborhood. "It will give me much pleasure to make his acquaintance," replied Edwin ; " indeed I have serious thoughts of paying a visit, not to the River Isis, but to the capital, and intro- ducing myself without delay to his Majesty's representative. My first attempt to do so was unfortunate ; can you advise me, Sir, so that my second may be finally success- ful ?" " You surely cannot mean to say that you have an idea of running away again so soon to seek your fortune ?" said Maxwell, looking up from his fires. " As to running away," answered Edwin, "I promise you I will not repeat that folly without the ceremony of taking leave ; but it is my fixed determination to go and seek my fortune again with as little delay as possible." " Why your health is not sufficiently restored, you cannot think of going yet—it would be madness. Be patient ; you don't know what may turn up in your favor." " I do believe," replied Edwin, " that patience is a virtue the true value of which I have yet to learn. I do not know what makes amy mind so restless, unless it is a strong desire to be independent—to be a burden, if I must be one, on myself rather than my friends. Something is perpetually at work in my brain spurring me to be up and doing. The best years of my life are passing away ; my spring, as it were, is already past, and my summer come. Tell me, Sir, what is likely to turn up in my favor unless I go forth boldly and seek it ?" * Dr. Roper's letter to the Archbishop of Dublin, January, 1831. + The above was written before the death of the brave and genial captain, which took place in 1865. The author will never forget the kindness and hospitality.
" You sought it boldly before to some purpose," answered Maxwell, with a smile. " But, if I may ask, with what expectations do you wish to have an interview with Colonel Arthur ?" " I will tell you frankly : I intend to ask him for a grant of land. It would be hard that a loyal British subject should starve while there are millions of acres of excellent land to be given away. It will not impove- rish the Lieutenant-Governor if he accedes to my request, and if he does not I will imme- diately leave the colony and return to Eng- land." " You need not," said Maxwell, " fret your- self to death, Edwin, on that account, as your case is already before him. I wrote to him myself, respectfully suggesting that you were a proper subject for the favorable, considera- tion of the Government, on account of the service you have rendered in capturing a bushranger captain, and the severe wound you received. Mr. Earlsley also wrote to Colonel Arthur, and told me confidentially that if his respected friend did not make you independent for life he would address the Secretary of State on your behalf." " Mr. Maxwell," said Edwin ; " I am under great obligations to you and to Mr. Earlsley. I always believed that you intended to be a true friend to me ; forgive me if I ever for a moment entertained a doubt of it. And now my impatience prompts me to ask, have you received any answer from his Excellency ?" " Not yet, but when I do I will lose no time, considering your impatience, in making you acquainted with it. In the meantime make yourself happy ; divest your mind of all foolish thoughts of independence, at least for the present—that will come in due time if you are fortunate. My books are all at your service, amuse yourself amongst them, and select valuable history or mathematics if you will. Above all things let not your imagina- tion carry you away in poetical flights and fancies concerning things far above your reach. I know from what I have read that what the world calls fame is nothing but childish vanity, and that the practical man who is contented with little, and who enjoys without abating what Providence has been pleased to give or lend to him (for the earth is not ours, but God's), is far happier than he who, like Lord Byron, places his talents conspicuously before the world, only to raise up a host of enemies whose constant attacks embitter his existence." Edwin laughed, " Your caution, Mr. Max- well is heedless. It surprises me to hear you talk of Lord Bryon and Edwin Herbart in the same breath." " I would rather know you," said Max- well, " as plain Edwin Herbart, farmer in Tasmania, than as the celebrated author of Don Juan. Not that I dislike poetry when it is good ; but I am not poetical as you are pro- bably aware, I prefer prose, and that of the prac- tical, useful kind. If you are fond of writing, turn your attention to history or agriculture, or anything by which the human race may be benefited in a solid manner. I sincerely hope you will never disgrace yourself by writing a trashy novel ; I really should not like to call myself the relative of a novelist." " That would depend I suppose, Sir, on the quality of the novel your relative could produce, and the quantity of money he got for the copyright," said Edwin. " In any case," replied Maxwell, " I would be ashamed of him. I am no patron of your Smolletts and Fieldings, Scotts and Bulwers ; men who pervert historical facts, and make us unfit for the matter-of-fact re- lations of life. A hero falls in love with a heroine, difficulties arise, an old father frowns, knock him on the head—a mother gets fiery, typhus fever steps in—the heavens themselves unite to prevent the marriage, and lo, the hero and heroine get married after all ; the author always forgetting to tell us that they fought like cat and dog after the wedding as obstinately as they billed and cooed before it. It is a sad pros- titution of the sublime to the ridiculous, be- tween which Napoleon said there was only a step, and I think he was right." " I never thought there was any harm in an innocent work of fiction," said Edwin, " but I suspect you are joking, Mr. Max- well !" " I am not addicted to joking," said Max- well, " did you ever hear me perpetrate a joke ? I trust I am made of sterner, or at least more sensible stuff. But to leave the painful subject of novels and novelists, I had it on my mind to tell you that you must not be disheartened should the reply of Colonel Arthur to my letter the unfavorable. I have lived here for a number of years. My health continues excellent, but I feel that the anxious cares consequent upon my isolated position here, and the fears lest some unforseen calamity should take place, are beginning to weigh me down. A change, though perhaps still distant, may be desirable. A pleasant cottage overlooking our Northern capital and the broad vale of the Tamar, would I think suit my declining years better than this region of dark hills and intermin- able forests. My son Charles will soon be naturally anxious to be doing something for himself, and a serious idea has entered my head of letting him this farm at a moderate rental and inviting you to assist him in the management of it as his partner. I merely mention this matter that you may consider about it, and talk it over with Charles. It is quite probable that as soon as my daugh- ter's marriage takes place, Mrs. Maxwell and myself will subside quietly into happy or hapless retirement as the case may be." When our weak hero heard the marriage of Griselda thus openly spoken of by her father himself, his spirits totally forsook him. The blood vanished from his face and in a moment came rushing back again from his heart Maxwell looked at him for a while with con- siderable surprise and then said in a kind tone—
" You are ill, Edwin." " No," he replied, " it is nothing—my shoulder is liable to sudden twitches of pain, which though momentary are severe. I will go now and stroll about till dinner-time, for I am dull, having slept but little last night. If Colonel Arthur's reply is not satisfastory I must see him, Sir, before I enter into any arrangement with Charles : nothing but a personal interview will satisfy me." " Very well," said Maxwell ; and he im- mediately pretended to be busy with his work as if he had taken no particular notice of anything ; but as the young man moved away he threw down his axe and followed. Edwin stopped until his relative came up with him, and as they paced slowly in the direction of the house, listened patiently to the following address— " It is not without pain, Edwin, that I have made up my mind to speak to you on a very delicate subject. I mentioned my daughter's approaching marriage just now, and it appears to me that by so doing I unwittingly raised up a conflict of emotions in your mind which I would gladly do all in my power to allay at once and for ever. I know your secret ; in- deed you have taken so few pains to conceal it that I did not require the eyes of Argus to find it out. I am grieved—greatly grieved— that I should have become the innocent cause of the feelings with which you evidently regard my daughter, more especially as know- ing the obligation under which I lie— " Do not mention any obligation or think about it, I beg of you," interrupted Edwin. " Pardon me," continued Maxwell, " I must think about it—knowing, I say, the obligation under which I lie, I feel compelled by circumstances to withhold my consent to any nearer relationship between you and Gri- selda. I do not tell you that you are too nearly related already, as that would be but a poor subterfuge ; neither do I say that you are beneath her in birth or worldly advantages or attainments ; but I may as well tell you plainly, if you have not been told it already, that my daughter's affections are engaged to another,—and that other I need not name, nor need you look upon him as your rival, as he has done you no injury whatever. Women, it is wisely enacted, are free to make their own choice, though they sometimes ap- pear to us to act from unaccountable motives. But leaving this matter to the decision of those who have their future wel- fare and happiness to consider, it is probable that the announcement of this fact coming from my lips may give you considerable pain. If such is the case I would wish you to reflect a little, and survey the entire subject with that strong good sense with which I know you to be favored by nature and education. I knew your father well, and a most excel- lent and conscientious man he was. I knew him when he was rich, but my opinion of him after be became unfortunate did not vary in the least. I look with great contempt upon those upstart minions who despise their fellow men because they are not wealthy, even though their characters bear no stain, and if you imagine that I am in the smallest degree hostile to you on account of your pre- sent poverty you do me a very great injustice. No, my young friend, I would not have you suppose such a thing for any earthly consider- ation. Rest assured that I shall always esteem you so long as you do your duty with honesty and truth to your fellow creatures. I am ready and willing to help you forward to the best of my ability, and it would give me great satisfaction to see you busy laying the foundations of an ample fortune ; then, indeed, your visions of domestic happiness and perhaps of worldly ambition may be par- tially realised. But let what will come to pass, remember that the subject to which I have alluded must not be again mentioned be- tween us, and I trust your high sense of honor will not permit you to converse with my daughter upon this topic ; one which is absolutely forbidden to her on pain of my most serious displeasure." " Mr. Maxwell," replied Edwin, " while I thank you for candor, permit me also to assure you that your caution is unnecessary. Were I so presumptuous as to think of your daughter in any other light than that of a valued sister my present situation, so singu- lar, so painful, would impose upon my lips the silence of the grave. No, it is not for me to sow the seeds of dissension on your domes- tic hearth. My path in life has not been strewed with roses ; I have ceased to hope that it might become less thorny and rugged ; but it is useless to repine ; for a few years, nay months of what I have lately encoun- tered will probably bring it to a termination." " You will get over it Edwin,"said Maxwell almost affectionately, " you can look this weakness in the face and conquer it. Be firm, be resolute, and live for your widowed mother.and unprotected sisters ; say, can I hope for this ? Will you promise to over- come this fascination which seems to weigh you down so much ?" " I will promise nothing, sir," answered Edwin, " except that I will not sow bitter- ness between you and your daughter." And he hurried away directing his steps towards the garden. (To be continued.)