|Chapter Title||A PROPOSAL.|
|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, 13th June.) CHAPTER XLVIII. A PROPOSAL. If we could boast of a snow white or coal black charger that would go, we would also follow the Governor up hill and down dale in spite of jingling spurs and clashing sabres, and fierce mustachio into the bargain ; but being accustomed from the cradle to a purblind broken-winded donkey, we are obliged to take our time. The world would be a more wonderful one than it is if we all had the power of getting what we think would make us happy. When the great man called at Bremgarten according to promise the next morning he found Maxwell and the family ready to receive him. The whole party with the exception of Isabel were assembled in the parlor ; and chairs had to be borrowed from the dining-room before the Stapletons, and Rousals, and Smiths could be accommodated with seats. Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter welcomed his Excellency, the former with the engaging sweetness of manner and countenance for which she was already famous ; and the latter blushing deeply upon finding herself in the presence of so many of the ruder sex. As the Governor handed the two ladies to chairs on either side of him, they were glad to hide their faces partially in their handkerchiefs, the recent death of Colonel Arnott affording them a good excuse for doing so ; and Griselda immediately became impressed with the painful conviction that all the eyes in the room were gazing upon her. Mr. Stapleton saw her confusion, and whispered to his particular friend, Mr. Rousal—" Strike me into the earth with a tin pannican, Tom, but did you ever see such a color? What a wife for you my boy ! Never had the ghost of an idea that there was such at girl in the colony." " Nor I," said Rousal, " though I have heard of her before." After exchanging a few items of conversa- tion in an animated manner Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda rose, the former requesting that Colonel Arthur would be so kind as to ex- cuse her and her daughter, as they had a young friend in the house who was in deep affliction, and required their constant care ; adding, that she would be extremely happy if his Excellency would stay to dinner, if it did not interfere with his numerous engage- ments. " I thank you, Mrs. Maxwell, very much," replied the Governor, " but I must be at Campbell Town early this afternoon ; busi- ness of importance awaits me. I must ex- cuse you, of course, since you desire it ; but I do sincerely hope that Mrs. Arthur and I shall have the pleasure of seeing you and your daughter at Government House. The times I know are not favorable to travellers ; but really, it would give Mrs. Arthur great pleasure to be personally acquainted with you." " It would give me great pleasure too," said Mrs. Maxwell, " and if Mr. Maxwell should ever be able to take me to Hobart Town again, I shall be most happy to pay my respects to Mrs. Arthur." The good lady and her daughter then shook hands with the Governor and with Mr. Earlsley, and made their escape ; Mr. Rousal opening the door, and the rest of the gentlemen with one accord rising from their seats. Maxwell now took his seat beside the Go- vernor. " As my time is but short, Mr. axwell," said the latter, " I will just take the present opportunity of letting you know that in conjunction with the chief officers of my government, I have formed a plan, in the execution of which I calculate upon your hearty cooperation, as well as upon that of every loyal settler. What it is I need not mention now, as Mr. Earlsley will explain it when the time for action comes. I have every reason to think it will succeed, and if so, it will relieve the colony from an almost unendurable burden. Now, I have a request to make : it is, that you will allow me the gratification of inserting your name in the commission of the peace. It is the only honor we small governors are permitted to confer upon those gentlemen who diligently assist in the maintenance of law and order ; and insignificant as it is, it has been my con- stant care to exclude all from the honor whose private characters are not in strict ac- cordance with moral rectitude ; in fact, as unassailable as their public influence and ex- ample." " I should be but a surly fellow," answered Maxwell, " if I refused your Excellency the gratification, as you are pleased to call it, of doing what you say; but please understand that I am not ambitious of the honor. If you think I can be of any service to my adopted country—" " Decidedly I do think so," interrupted Colonel Arthur, " and so that matter is dis- posed of. Now, Mr. Arnott, a word, if you please. I am sorry I had not the pleasure of exchanging a single word with your late father, who I understand pursued almost from childhood a glorious career in arms. I honor and respect his memory. I shall also, if you will allow me, insert your name in the com- mission of the peace ; and would be most happy to show my sense of your gallant con- duct in the late affair with the bushrangers, by giving you a grant of land in this island, had I not been informed that your late father has left you in affluent circumstances." Henry bowed his acknowledgments. " Your son, Mr. Maxwell, where is he ?" continued Colonel Arthur. Charles rose up in a corner. " O, you are there, pray come hither, Sir. I have booked you for one thou- sand acres of land, which you may select wherever you can find it unlocated and good, if you will do me the favor to accept them." " Certainly, Sir," said Charles, with a polite bow ; " and I thank your Excellency too, for I have a brother who is a quarter of an hour older than I, and somebody may steal father's will." This reply caused a general, though quiet, laugh. " Now, gentlemen," said Colonel Arthur, " I think we may say as they do in France, au revoir—but stay, I had nearly forgotten your relative, Mr. Maxwell—Herbart I think his name is." Edwin emerged from behind somebody's back ; it was noticed that his countenance was very red, through what sin- gular emotions Heaven only knew. " I have partially learned your history, Mr. Herbart," said the Governor, " and in consi- deration of your promptitude and subsequent wound, I will make a distinction between you and your cousin. On my return to town I will direct a location order for two thousand acres to be forwarded to you from the Surveyor-General's office, and if you
want a friendly hint about the selection of your farm, you will go and look at the dis- trict of Norfolk Plains, where the soil is rich, and the beautiful scenery of the western mountains highly favourable in encouraging periodical visits from the Muses." The whole room burst into a laugh, which was imme- diately checked by the Governor, who said— " Nay, gentlemen, this a house of mourning —no thanks, Mr. Herbart ; good day, Mr. Maxwell, do not forget to bring your amiable lady and her blooming daughter to Govern- ment House on an early day." As the party were individually wishing Maxwell good by, Mr. Rousal and Henry Arnott found themselves standing side by side. "Beautiful weather for this time of the year," said the former. " Yes, very fine," said Henry. " I learned from Dawlish," continued Rousal, " that your late governor was pos- sessed of enormous property—does it lie in this colony ?" " No, in New South Wales." " Indeed ! By-the-by, what a splendid girl that daughter of Maxwell's is—has he only one ?" " Only one," replied Henry, perfectly un- moved. " Do you remain long in this country ?" " I leave immediately, but shall return again probably in a few months." " Well, good day, Sir ; my card—Thomas Wellesley Rousal, of Toppleton Cottage, Longford. If you should ever be in my neighborhood I shall be exceedingly happy to see you." Henry gave his card to Rousal, and they shook hands. When the Governor and his suite were gone, Edwin retired to the solitude of his sleeping apartment, and locking his door, gave himself up ton a torrent of powerful feel- ings which we can readily imagine, but can- not find words to express. The sudden change in his condition and prospects ; the consciousness that he was no longer the poor gentleman, despised for his poverty, and avoided as if his touch would contaminate ; and the knowledge that his great good for- tune was in reality likely to be the source of as much happiness to his mother and his sisters as to himself, filled his heart with unspeakable pleasure. It is without doubt the parent of many a glorious and noble thought, this cer- tainty of being elevated beyond the sting of poverty and the frowns of an indignant world, through possessing a small portion of mother earth of which nothing, save his own folly, foreign enemies, or internal revolutions, can deprive the possessor. Here he can sit down and be at rest, and build his house ac- cording to his taste and long cherished desires. His study may be the quietest and sweetest nook in the world, and his library the most select and highly valued. His sheep and cattle will he models of good condition and care : his stable, well filled with hay and corn, will exclude every cutting blast, and the favorite horse will be a gem of symmetry, gentleness, and speed. These, to say nothing of what he thought about his pantry, his comfortable bedroom, and his snug parlor, where a piano should afford amusement to any lady visitor who might chance to come with her father or brothers, formed the current of happy conceptions now passing in our hero's mind. He thanked, within his swelling heart, the apparently cold and un- impressible Arthur for his generous and well- timed gift ; and he also thanked God, of the least of whose mercies he acknowledged him- self to be altogether unworthy. The astonishment of Juniper when he heard of the sudden death of Colonel Arnott, and all the events connected with the Gover- nor's unexpected visit, was without bounds. Maxwell, with his usual consideration for others, thought that it would be unneighborly to leave the worthy bachelor in ignorance of these exciting events, and accordingly sent him a message on the day of the Colonel's death. But it happened, unfortunately, that he had just started on a surveying excursion over to the neigborhood of the rising town of Longford, and was not expected back for a fortnight. When he did come back he paid an immediate visit to his friends, and confi- dentially declared to Maxwell that he be- lieved he was the most unlucky devil that was ever born into the world or hanged out of it. Maxwell was surprised at this solemn declaration, and asked the crest-fallen sur- veyor for an explanation. " I have lost at least five hundred acres of the most beautiful land in the island, Sir," said Juniper. " That is a great misfortune, and I am very sorry for it," said Maxwell. " How did you lose them ?" " Why, Mr. Maxwell, in this way," answered Juniper. " Had I been at home I would have accompanied the Governor to St. Mary's Pass, and on the road his Excellency would no doubt have addressed me thus : ' Mr. Juniper, I was glad to hear that you distinguished yourself in the re- cent engagement with the bushrangers at Mr. Maxwell's place ; I have great pleasure in presenting you with an ad- ditional grant of five hundred acres.' Of course I should have thanked him and accepted the grant, and located it at Norfolk Plains, where I have been surveying—the most beautiful place you ever saw." Maxwell laughed, and attempted to per- suade Mr. Juniper that according to his notion he could not possibly have lost what he never possessed ; and also reminded him that he had not been offered an additional grant. But Juniper stuck manfully to his text ; he was a most unlucky dog ! He told Maxwell that he had entertained the idea of changing tired of living alone, he could not bear to his condition, and had ventured to cast his eyes upon a young lady who resided not a hundred miles from Clifton Hall, but though tired of living alone, he could not bear to draw down the genius of misfortune upon the head of any respectable female through an ill- omened connection with such an unlucky indi- vidual as himself. " You can write to his Excellency, and state your case in the form of a petition," said Maxwell. " So I may, Sir," said the surveyor, " and repeat it until a pair of asses' ears grow out of my head ! the opportunity is lost." Leaving the honest bachelor to settle this matter and digest his disappointment as he best might, we will take a cursory notice of the events which naturally happened after Colonel Arnott's death. When the funeral was over the deceased officer's will was read by Maxwell in the presence of all the inmates of Bremgarten except Edwin and Griselda. The son and daughter of the Colonel both expressed themselves satisfied with the dispo- sition their father had made of his large pro- perty ; the latter being so much overcome at what she called the extreme goodness of her dear father, that Mrs. Maxwell had to con- duct her to her room sobbing violently.
There she gave herself up to renewed paroxyms of grief, frantically embracing her sister Griselda, and receiving all the affection- ate consolation it was in this young lady's power to bestow. Henry being now left alone with Mr. Maxwell and Charles, frankly stated his views with respect to his late proposal for uniting the two families by marriage. He explained that although it was his father's proposition from the first, and the old gentleman had set his heart upon it with the vigor and obstinacy pertaining to his character, heightened by the peculiar views of a man so far advanced in years, he, the son, so far from having the most distant objection to the alliance, was in every respect most anxious to carry out his father's wishes, so soon as a decent time should have elapsed ; that he had observed Miss Maxwell with some degree of care, and thought she was highly qualified both in mind and person to be a suitable partner for him in wedded life ; that he had not yet addressed the young lady as a lover, but with the per- mission of her parents he would immediately declare his sentiment, as he considered that the recent death of his father need not be a bar to their engagement, though, of course, the marriage could not take place until after the expiration of twelve months at least, and that he proposed to spend the interval, sup- posing Miss Maxwell's answer to be favor- able, in travelling in New South Wales in search of an estate, in the purchase of which he intended to invest his capital. Maxwell, as in duty bound, made a neat speech, in reply to all this polite language. He owned that he had been taken by surprise when his late friend the Colonel first made the proposition referred to, and he had given his consent to the alliance at the earnest solicitation of his friend, not from any consideration for his daughter's welfare in a worldly point of view, but in the sincere hope and belief that Mr. Arnott would do all in his power to be happy and contented with her lot. He had ever faithfully promised the late Colonel that he would forward this matter to the utmost of his power, but would not have mentioned this had he noticed any reluctance in Mr. Arnott declaring his sentiments. He would not oppose Mr. Arnott's wishes to come to an understanding with his daughter ; but said his intention was to leave her to the freedom of her own unbiassed judgment, and he would venture to advise Mr. Arnott to say nothing to the young lady respecting inducements of a pecuniary nature, as she was not at all likely to be influenced by them. Henry's interview with Griselda speedily followed. He spoke to her in a calm business-like manner, and not in the voice or with the words of ardent passion. Announc- ing his intention of proceeding immediately to Sydney to settle his late father's affairs in conjunction with his brother, he proceeded to explain the nature of the business which brought himself and his father to Mr. Max- well's house. " It was no light matter, I assure you, Miss Maxwell," he said, " for my father and myself to undertake the voyage from Sydney in these days of slow sailing, and penetrate so far into this island exposed to so many dangers ; and when you know that you were the cause of that undertaking, you will not, I am sure, subject me to severe treatment. But say whether or not you are willing to meet my father's wishes and accept the hand and fortune which I hereby offer." This abrupt speech caused our heroine no little embarrassment, but after a great deal of maidenly hesitation she managed to say— " I am fully sensible of, and deeply appre- ciate, the honor intended me by your late father and yourself, Mr. Arnott, and conscious that I am unworthy of it ; but I cannot— that is, I mean I am not prepared to give a decided answer to a question so nearly affect- ing my future peace, and which I have not studied in all its bearings. My concurrence would involve a separation from my parents ; and being an only daughter, that of itself would involve infinite pain on both sides. If I have been the involuntary cause of your long journey I cannot believe that I am bound by that circumstance to comply imme- diately with your father's wishes, but with all due respect for his memory I claim the right of reserving for myself perfect freedom of choice." " Then," said Henry, with rather rude impetuosity, " by that expression I am to understand that Miss Maxwell has two strings to her bow ?" Griselda, in great confusion, replied— " The expression may have been unfortunate, but I distinctly deny the imputation. What I meant to say was, that I am free to accept or reject your offer independently of your father's wishes." " Certainly," said Henry, " no one can possibly doubt it." " Then," said Griselda, " all I have to say at present is that I neither accept nor de- cidedly reject your offer, and if this answer is not satisfactory to you I can give no other, I claim some consideration : confessing that I have had some intimation of this, still the subject is new, and I am not unreasonable in demanding time to make up my mind." " Rather confess, Miss Maxwell," said Henry ; " that I have a rival, and be pleased to name him." " Were I to name any person as a rival of yours, Mr. Arnott," replied the young lady, " I should be guilty of telling an untruth, as no such person exists. My early education, and latterly the advice of the most considerate of parents, have prevented me placing my affections lightly upon any individual of the opposite sex. Before doing so irrevocably I cannot be blamed if I pause to inquire what are my prospects of happiness in the married state. I am as happy now as I desire to be, and I entertain great doubts whether, by entering into the union you do me the honor to propose, I might not lose my present happiness in the pursuit of a phantom, too often considered by the world to be the great object of female ambition." " I think," said Henry, " that your want of worldly knowledge makes you too fasti- dious in this matter, Miss Maxwell. In obeying the wishes of my father I do no violence to my own feelings or inclination ; if I do not act the part of a distracted lover like Romeo, it is because I have been brought up in a sensible school, and natu- rally dislike all extravagant folly. I am not your inferior in birth or education, and I am not conscious of being either in manners or person what would be likely to inspire dis- gust. I am not a sighing poet, certainly ; but possessing the advantages of fortune, and with some reputation for good sense and keenness of critical judgment, I ask you to become my wife, and the mistress of my affections and future home ; and what is the answer I receive? An evasive one at the
best. You hesitate and temporise, and seem to wish to consign me, though I have com- mitted no offence, to a cruel probation of un- certainty." " I do not wish to temporise," answered Griselda, " I only wish to be free for some time longer ; and until I can give a decided answer, to hold you perfectly free to enter into any other engagement you think proper." " And why not give a decided answer now, Griselda ?" said Henry. " I have stated my reasons—if you press for an immediate answer it must be that I decline your offer with many thanks." " This is very unaccountable," said Henry, " I know both your parents are anxious to for- ward my views. Tell me, Miss Maxwell, why you pursue such an inexplicable course of conduct. If there is anything objectionable in me I will amend it : what is it you dread ?" Griselda cast her eyes on the floor, and the high color faded almost entirely from her cheeks as she replied after a pause— " I dread your temper, Mr. Arnott—you are passionate, proud, uncompromising. A word of unkindness from one around whom my affections clung would kill me ; I know it—I feel it." " You shall never hear one from me Griselda," said Henry ; " it will be for you to be always good and gentle, and my temper shall be that of a lamb." " Isabel is always good and gentle, and your deportment towards her is not that of a lamb," said Griselda. " Pardon me," replied Henry, " Isabel is not always as gentle as she ought to be, and if my conduct to her ever appears to you to be rough, I never mean it to be so. My sister sometimes speaks without due consider- ation, and hasty words beget irritation. You are different, and will not let fall foolish or unkind words." " I am not perfect Mr. Arnott," said Griselda, " and to prove to you that I am foolish, as far as a consideration for worldly advantages goes, I repeat my former decision, that I cannot listen to your proposal until one year at least has elapsed ; and then you need not renew it unless you think proper." So saying the fair speaker made a respectful obeisance and glided from the room. (To be continued.)