Chapter 36697869

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXLV
Chapter TitleDREADFUL.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36697869
Full Date1868-05-28
Page Number2
Corrections7
Word Count4534
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-01-31
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
article text

THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from Thursday, 14th May.) CHAPTER XLV. DREADFUL. " Of what is the grave Mr. Herbart think- ing? Has he had unpleasant dreams, or is it to the pain of his wound we must attribute that sombre cloud upon his brow ?" These words were spoken by Isabel Arnott, who walking arm-in-arm with Griselda, had passed the garden gate as Edwin entered. " My thoughts were selfish, Miss Arnott," replied the young man, endeavoring to brighten his countenance a little, " and I as- sure you not worth repeating. As for dreams, if I related all that mystify me night after night, to say nothing of day after day, they would form a curious but not very in- structive subject of conversation : as for my wound, thank you, it troubles me but little." " Dreams are very mysterious things," said Isabel ; " to think that while we sleep, our thoughts, still active, should carry us away into scenes not less strange than incongruous and unreal. Do you dream, Griselda ?" " Sometimes," replied that young lady. " I mean, do you ever dream horrid, ter- rific dreams," Miss Arnott continued, " of frightful chasms and yourself struggling on the brink, trying to escape but quite unable ; of awful dark torrents, and yourself flying to some little hill which before you can reach it is engulphed and disappears ; of dungeons where " — " Oh, in pity spare us, dear Isabel," said Griselda playfully ; " surely your dreams never carry you to such terrible scenes ?" " I am a martyr to such visions, Griselda," answered Isabel, " and I am surprised that I have not alarmed the house by walking in my sleep and falling off the roof before now. I really think my mind is more active when I sleep than when I am awake. It must be a disease. What remedy would you suggest, Mr. Herbart ?" "As I am myself seriously afflicted with it," replied Edwin, " Miss Arnott would do well to add, 'Physician, heal thyself.' To young ladies of ardent temperaments I would respectfully suggest plenty of exercise, change of air and scene whenever practicable, and a rigid determination to avoid the world of romance, as it appears in books called romances." " And yet," said Isabel with a smile, " you are yourself a writer of romances, if I have been correctly informed, and you occasionally pay your devotions at the shrine of the Muses, albeit at the expense of severe head- aches. How do you account for your incon- sistent advice ?" " If you ask the question in a philosophic sense," returned Edwin, " I must make a suitable reply. Man is an inconsistent crea- ture. We see the emperor, the crowned governor of millions, armed with irrespon- sible power, proclaiming peace to the world and yet secretly meditating war. At one time he is the bosom friend of his nearest neighbor ; at another he is his deadly enemy, waging war upon him with all the cruelty and ferocity of a deadly serpent. When kings and emperors act thus, Miss Arnott need not be too severe with me if my harm- less advice should appear inconsistent ; which charge, however, I take leave to deny. I am not a writer of romances ; I have certainly written a few sketches for amusement, simple imaginative pieces, which have no in- trinsic merit or value." " My sweet friend Griselda," said Miss Arnott, " has given me the outline of a story you once read for her ; will you allow me to judge of its intrinsic merit, and lend me the manuscript for a few days ?" " I would indeed, with great pleasure," replied Edwin ; " but my manuscripts have been lost, and my own impression is that the world is no loser." " You are too much disposed to hide your light under a bushel, Mr. Herbart," said Isabel. " Now from what I have heard of that story I have the greatest curiosity to read it for myself. Will you do me the favor to recite it from memory ? Griselda spoke of it in very high terms of praise." " Isabel," said Griselda, " you should not say such a thing ; I spoke of it as well written and entertaining, and—really, Edwin will think we are flattering him in too forward a manner to his face, and you know every sensible young man despises flattery." A blush of youthful innocence, of the brightest and rosiest kind, stole over the fair speaker's features. Edwin saw it, and his countenance again fell, as he mentally ejacu- lated—" Does she love me, can it be possible she loves me, when I must not, dare not love her in return ?" " Very well," said Isabel, in a gay tone, " here we will sit corrected for a short half hour, and then I suppose to that tiresome dinner, to listen to papa's antiquated stories. Take a seat, Mr. Herbart ; sit near me, Gri- selda—come closer, it is so cold. What were we talking about ? O yes !—of that beautiful palace with golden spires, and of the lovely lady who wished to be but never became queen. I hope you will oblige me and write it over again, Mr. Herbart, and some of your poetry as well. I so idolise poetry—don't you, Griselda ?" We pause in our faithful report of this con- versation to explain that the happy trio— happy to all appearances, at least—had taken their seats in a summer-house situated in a secluded corner of the garden. It had been built by Charles at the request of his sister, who loved to sit there in the cool summer evenings, either reading to her mother or working in her company. Out heroine replied to the question put to her by Isabel, " Yes, I am fond of good poetry,

though having plenty to do I have not read much." " Now, Mr. Herbart," said Isabel, " you must really promise that you will write that story over again, and plenty of poetry as well, and give the papers to me. If I like them very well I shall not return them at all so if you do not get them again you will be con- soled by knowing that there are two young ladies who can appreciate your genius. Do you promise ?" " As you are so very pressing and compli- mentary, Miss Arnott," replied Edwin, " I cannot of course refuse compliance with your request : I will begin this very day, but I warn you beforehand that you will certainly be disappointed in your expectations of find- ing in my foolish productions genius or the smallest approach to it." " Of that," said Isabel, " I shall be my own judge and jury too. I flatter myself that I have an eye to perceive and a mind to dis- criminate between what is the work of genius and what is not. Nevertheless, I am aware that you lords of creation, as some of you have the insufferable insolence to call your- selves, have an opinion that we ladies, though posessing keen instinctive perceptions, are deficient in the high reasoning faculties by means of which individuals of the stronger sex have attained such dazzling superiority. This may be true in a general sense. It is possibly one of the sad results of the prevail- ing method of educating young ladies. But there are brilliant exceptions. If all the happy conceptions which have originated in the minds of women were known to the world, the world would certainly resound with our praise. You have doubtless heard of the lady who saved herself and her friends at a picnic by opening a parasol in the face of a tiger; and I will tell you what I myself did on one of the country roads near Sydney, while being driven in a gig one autumn evening by papa. We were passing a thick scrub, and not a single creature in sight either before or be- hind, when suddenly a man armed with a horse-pistol, and having a hideous mask on, sprang from the bush and told papa that if he did not stop he would shoot him dead. Papa, quite taken by surprise, was hurriedly trying to get out his own pistols, when I said, in as loud a voice as I could command—' Take care, your mask is falling off,' which happy, though false, assertion had the effect of frightening the bad man so much that he turned round to conceal his face, and papa had time to whip the horse into a gallop." " That was exceedingly clever and well timed, Miss Arnott," said Edwin. " It is quite possible that you saved your father's life by that simple device. The faculty of directing our thoughts aright in moments of danger and terror is certainly a valuable gift. Your remarkable escape leads me to the common-place reflection—what a world we inhabit ! what wickedness, what love of vio- lence, what deceit and turpitude have exist- ence in the human heart !" " I suppose you allude to my heart for tell- ing a falsehood on that occasion," said Isabel. Edwin replied laughingly that he did not think the Archbishop of Canterbury could find any sin in what Miss Arnott had said, although if he was a true Christian he might say—' You never said a word in your life but what was sinful—you never did a good action in your life that was not highly tainted with sin of some kind or other.' " " We shall have a sermon presently," said Isabel. " I should thank his Grace very much. Are those your opinions ? Why did you not enter the church ? What do you think, Griselda, of erecting a temporary pulpit for Mr. Herbart ? what a famous pet parson he would make !" " I would not certainly," said Edwin, " pre- sume to force my opinions upon anyone, more especially upon a young lady of such superior mental attainments as Miss Arnott ; but to the thoughtful person nothing is more obvious than—" " Oh !" interrupted Isabel, " we don't want what is obvious—we are not thoughtful per- sons ; pray do not be philosophic, Mr. Her- bart, or religious except on Sundays : and only think, Griselda, Miss Arnott is a young lady of such superior mental attainments ! Who is the flatterer now ? I declare I am growing giddy already ; my head is beginning to turn : I want change of scene—Mr. Her- bart recommends change of air and scene. Where am I to get change of scene ?" " You will certainly work yourself into hysterics, Isabel," said Griselda laughing ; " do be quiet, like a dear girl ; Edwin will excuse us, we had better go into the house." " No—no," answered Miss Arnott, " re- main here I beg of you, I am going to be quiet.—Now, tell me, Mr. Herbart, where I am to get change of scene ; or, rather, as I might possibly be able to say myself where, be so good as to inform me how am I to get it ?" " On that point you must excuse me," re- plied Edwin. " Then all I have to say is," said Isabel, with a slight affectation of offence, " gentle- men should not volunteer their advice unless they can point out how it is to be followed." " I have often wondered," said Griselda, " how your father, Isabel, can content him- self in an Australian colony where there are few attractions and no society ;—particularly after the active and useful life he led in India, and the splendid fortune he has at his com- mand. After making every allowance for his age and peculiar habits, it does seem most extraordinary that he should bury himself in the lonely bush where he can see nothing but she-oak hills, and hear nothing but what papa and Mr. Juniper can tell him." " You know very well Griselda," said Isabel, " that my father is a man of very sin- gular ideas. He tells us that he loves dan- gers and difficulties, but, between ourselves, I have often noticed that he was very glad to escape from them. Australia's great attrac- tion for him is its beautiful climate, which

he says is unequalled by that of any other country in the world, ' Of what use would it be, Bellum my dear (he calls ma Bellum when in good humor, and I believe it is either Latin or Greek for war or slaughter, or something of that kind), of what use would it be for us to go to England if we die of frost and snow or liver complaint before our time ? We should get into good society it is true, very good society no doubt, and I would soon acquaint the good society with my opinion of it, which is this--you are very fond of me and my family ladies and gentle- men because I have a trifling matter of six thousand a year coming in ; but remove the six thousand a year and where are we ? Now, Bellum, we could live in the south of France, but I don't love the French, though some of them are honest and good fellows enough ; and we might live in Italy if I could make sure of not getting my nose flattened for blundering out my opinion about political matters ; so I think we will content ourselves where we are for the present, and let the London luminaries, and fashionable whirli- gigs, and great sights, where great men from kings to lord-mayors are devoured by gaping toadies, take care of themselves, my dear.' " " That is all very well," replied Griselda ; but why does your father prefer our wild bush hero to his beautiful sunny villa at Port Jackson ? It is a most charming scene as I remember it ; the glancing water reflecting the brightest sky in the world, the surround- ing shores teeming with rich vegetation, and the quiet city with its hazy atmosphere in the distance. O I should so like to see Cook Villa again !" " Perhaps you may see it soon," said Isabel ; " it will depend probably upon your- self. My papa is very difficult to move, and it is only business of importance will move him at all. He came here on business of im- portance, and being here it is hard to say when he will take himself away again. Shall I tell you of the important business that brought him ?" " There is no occasion," answered Griselda with another deep blush. The smitten Ed- win did not fail to observe closely the frequent changes in his fair cousin's com- plexion, and he almost fancied that in them he could read the secret thoughts of her heart. He suspected, as we have already observed, the existence of a secret treaty between Colonel Arnott and Mr. Maxwell, in which Griselda's future fortunes were probably de- cided ; and felt that it did not add to his hap- piness to bear her speak of Cook Villa in such rapturous terms. " And now, Mr. Herbart," said Isabel, " as I perceive by your blank visage that we have touched upon a delicate subject, we will speak no more of domestic matters or impor- tant business, but amuse ourselves with the belles lettres. If there is one subject which enchants us more than another it is litera- ture. If there is one branch of literature I worship more than another it is poetry. I could consume hours in telling how delighted I have been with Lalia Rookh and Childe Harold, with Night Thoughts, Cowpers poems, and Pope's, and Paradise Lost. Do you contemplate writing any great work, Mr. Herbart, one that will carry your name down to posterity in a blaze of distinction. A series of tales in poetry on the model of the Corsair and the Bride of Abydos would make the name of Herbart perpetually famous. That puts me in mind of poor Lord Byron ; don't you think it a pity that his wife did not understand him properly ?" " I am somewhat puzzled which of your questions to answer first, Miss Arnott," said Edwin ; " my opinion of Lord Byron is and always has been that he possessed a very violent temper. Great geniuses are, I think, seldom endowed with the qualities of lambs. But what could we expect from him—a spoiled child, from his cradle ? As to writing tales like his you might as well ask the sparrow to soar to the clouds with the eagle. I have no such lofty pretentions ; I do not contemplate writing any great work. I only wish that I could believe that I possessed sufficient talent to carry me through this world in honor and competence. As for worldly fame I care nothing for it ; I almost despise and fear it, because first it shows a weakness in the minds of those great men who are allured by its attractions, and secondly, it leads its successful votaries into many grievous errors and follies from which they would have escaped had they been unknown to fame. I think it was Pope who said that notwithstanding his great success as a poet he would have been a much happier man if he had abstained from fol- lowing the bent of his genius." " I would give you credit for possessing very little sense indeed," replied Isabel, " if I could believe you capable of being in- fluenced by such considerations as these. I cannot believe it. Do you not think that the productions of a man possessing talent com- bined with taste and knowledge, have a very serious and excellent effect upon mankind in general ; so that if you possess the talent and do not put it to the best possible use you are as bad as that man who hid his Lord's money and gave it up again just as he had received it ?" " That's very true," answered Edwin, " but I have always been taught to think humbly of myself, and underrate rather than overrate my abilities. I do not believe I possess the gift you speak of, and am consequently determined to apply myself to some useful branch of business, and, if possible, excel in it." " And yet," said Isabel, " many great men have risen from very humble paths in life ; and men who had not received the tenth part of the education you have been favored with." " Doubtless," replied Edwin, " the literary and scientific world is full of the names of such men. Thus we read of Cap- tain Cook having been a cabin-boy ; Sir

Richard Arkwright, a barber ; of Ben Jonson, a bricklayer ; and amongst a host of others of the author of Don Quixote having been a private soldier, and deprived of his left hand in battle. What literary fame except Shakespeare's and Milton's can surpass that of Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Pro- gress, yet he was a poor tinker. After these examples there might be hope for Edwin Herbart if he only had the vital spark which education and perseverance might fan into a flame." " And why are you not ambitious for worldly fame ?" asked Isabel. " I think it is truly delightful." Miss Arnott's dark eyes sparkled as she spoke ; indeed it appeared as if obeying the dictates of some latent and powerful motive, she on the present occasion brought all their formidable artillery to bear upon our friend Herbart, as if he were a fortress which she designed to reduce to dust. If the eyes of Eucharis were only half as brilliant as they gazed of old on the enamoured Telemachus, we do not wonder at the jealousy of Calypso, or envy old Mentor his office of tutor to the son of Ulysses. In proportion as Isabel's spirits rose to a high flight of enthusiasm, Griselda's seemed to fall. The latter sat per- fectly still, nor did she manifest, except by occasional variations of color ; any sympathy with her volatile friend. " To think," continued Miss Arnott, " of the happiness of being known to fame, and elevated to the dignity of a magnate of the earth ! To see your name in books and news- papers continually, to be respected and sought after by all kinds of societies ; and to know that when you are dead your name will be held up as a guiding star to posterity like those of Cæsar Borgia, and Baron Trenck !" Edwin was almost guilty of the rudeness of bursting into laughter on hearing this un- happy simile, spoken so earnestly with the lustrous eyes elevated to the sky ; but a warning glance from Griselda which said as plainly as a glance could say, " do not notice it for the world," restrained him. Some per- sons are very sensitive and cannot bear to be corrected or laughed at ; perhaps Griselda was right—the Indian blood of the Arnott's might take fire. " Worldly fame," said Edwin, " has its inconveniences. The popular author, if he lives in a popular neighborhood, is besieged by society. He becomes the sport of curi- osity mongers, and the prey of time des- troyers ; his house becomes a post office. Heavy demands are made on his time to an- swer questions of no importance, and on his purse to pay postage. In such a place as London I should think the position of a great author is scarcely an enviable one, though I may be mistaken : I should scarcely think that Theodore Hook and Byron, from what I have read of them, were particularly happy." " But do not the fame and fortune which success is sure to bring, more than compen- sate for these evils ?" asked Isabel. " To a certain extent, yes," replied Edwin, " though fame is not always accompanied by fortune. I am convinced, however, that fame—I do not mean posthumous fame—is an evil. The world of fashion is composed chiefly of vain and giddy people amongst whom a successful author is said to be drawn ; and he must be a strong-minded man who can resist the fascinations of evil examples in high places. The paths to ruin are paved with frankinsense and myrrh. An inspired writer says—' The friendship of this world is enmity against God.' But God has permitted us to take our choice." " Your humility and religion will stand, I think, greatly in the way of your prosperity. Surely you do not mean to say that men should not advance themselves in a world, to inhabit which they were created ?" said Isabel. " To live in the world his full time," re- joined Edwin, " is certainly man's duty ; to advance himself in the world, by all honorable means, is, also his duty ; but is it not painful to contemplate a man perfect in his own eyes, full of arrogance and self-conceit—offensive by his pride of wealth to his fellow-creatures, and by his impudent self-glorification to his Creator ? A man, in short, who forgets that he is but dust and ashes, and who lives only for—But I beg your pardon, I see that my philosophy is disagreeable." " On the contrary," said Isabel, " I enjoy it very much. Do not you, Griselda ? To think of Mr. Herbart holding up an imaginary mirror for us to admire ourselves in ! We are certainly a set of wicked creatures. Mr. Herbart is not wicked ; he lives like a philo- sopher and poet in a world of his own. Have not poets a world of their own in which they dwell and soar through the boundless expanse from planet to planet, untrammelled by the things of this world, Mr. Philosopher ?" " I really cannot say, Miss Arnott," answered Edwin. " I know I am making myself excessively disagreeable. I believe poets are given to certain foolish wanderings of thought which might be much better em- ployed in managing their financial affairs. Still if their works are not pernicious they have my sympathy. I would sooner be a poor poet with perfect freedom from remorse and care, than a rich cheat who has amassed a fortune by driving hard bargains with poor struggling men. Aye, let me die poor, in the humble hope of a home in Heaven yet to come, rather than rich, possessing thousands, with a terrified miserable soul, and my heart in the treasure which, according to God's irrevocable decree, must be left behind." " Yes indeed," said Isabel, elevating her voice, " how happy should I be with such an one, whom I could really love, in a darling little cottage far away from the haunts of fashion and pleasure ! O how happy should I be, living thus in comparative poverty in a sweet little cottage covered with woodbine and multiflora roses where nothing but the purest love could—" " Just so !" interrupted an intruder, and

the wonder-stricken face of Henry Arnott pre- sented itself at the door of the summer house. " Just so !" said he, raising his eye- brows in astonishment, " and when poverty comes in at the door I need not tell you what flies out at the window." Isabel was evidently abashed and frightened ; Griselda turned pale ; but Edwin looked up calmly, and fixed his eyes upon Henry's in- dignant countenance. The latter was not alone for Edwin heard a half suppressed laugh, and turning a little he perceived his cousin Charles, who assailed him with a variety of nods, winks, and wry faces. " I am afraid," continued Henry with a sneer, " we are unwelcome intruders. Charles be good enough to take my sister in to dinner, Miss Maxwell will allow me. Mr. Herbart's conversation must be unusually charming to elicit the romantic speech it was our good fortune to hear." Those last words were spoken in such an offensive tone that Edwin felt the blood rush to his temples. " If," he said, " you mean to insinuate that I have said anything to Miss Arnott which a gentleman should not say, I deny the imputa- tion—it is false." " Pray Sir," returned Henry with a haughty frown, " be so kind as to reserve your defence until you are attacked. If I had heard you say anything which a gentle- man should not say, you may be sure I would not be slow in making you repent of your error. As it is—" " Mr. Arnott," said Griselda, " will I hope see the expediency of preserving peace ; and consider that quarrels will not increase the happiness of our isolated position, or show any great respect to my father whose life Edwin was recently the means of saving." " Miss Maxwell," replied Henry, " I defer to your wishes with great respect, and will tutor myself to respect all in whom you take so kind an interest." The conversation dropped and the party proceeded to the house with an unpleasant gloom hanging over them. The ladies rushed to their apartment to arrange their hair, and in a few moments all sat down to dinner. (To be continued.)