Chapter 36699871

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberLVI (Continued)
Chapter TitleGRISELDA'S DECISION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article36699871
Full Date1868-09-19
Page Number2
Corrections3
Word Count2826
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-02-02
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 Saturday, 12th September.) CHAPTER LVI. (Continued.) " Do you see a tempest in my face, Eugene ?" said Charles, " No," answered Eugene ; " what the deuce do you mean ?" " Then it's a sign it's not a patent retentive looking-glass, for 'pon my honor there's a thundering black one in Henry's, and he snapped the letters out of my hand as who should say—give them here and go to the kitchen fire for thanks." " It's only his way," said Eugene drily. During dinner Mrs. Maxwell observed the clouds that sat upon the countenances of Isabel and her brother, and concluded by the paleness of her daughter's face and the marks of recent tears that all was not right amongst the young people, but she did not make any remark upon the subject. Maxwell himself had gone away to look at an estate of five thousand acres of land which he had an idea of purchasing if the quality was good, and would not be back till night, Eugene was inclined to be as silent as the Arnotts, for he was a grave and steady young gentleman, very well behaved and fond of his book ; but Charles could not refrain from talking and laughing. He was the life of the dinner- table, as he was of every little company into which he happened to poke his nose. " Fine times," said he seizing a decanter ; " Miss Arnott, may I have the pleasure ?" Isabel bowed, and Eugene filled her glass. " Fine times—glorious times," said Charles. " A grand ball at Mr. Stapleton's next week and a wedding in a fortnight ; beautiful times. I suppose we'll have a christening in a month somewhere." Nobody spoke, as they all knew who was to be married. " Capital times," he continued, filling his mouth with roast mutton and potatoes ; " Juniper will have to mend his ways when he takes his bride home ; for Miss Leary is not accustomed to live in a pigstye. Do you know, Eugene, what Juniper loves better almost than himself ?" " I cannot tell, unless it is pork," replied Eugene. " Of course it is pork," said Charles. " You can't think what a capital joke I intend to have at the breakfast. Mrs. Earlsley has great respect for Miss Leary, and means to give a slap-up breakfast and invite you and me and fifty other handsome young people to it. I am going to enter into a conspiracy with Miss Earlsley, that is, Caroline, for Harriet married Lieutenant Dawlish a year ago, and is gone to India. I will get Caro- line to make me a nice pie, and I will make believe it is a ship in full sail with a mast, and a mainsail, and a bowsprit, and on the mainsail I'll write in capitals ' Pork Pie,' and set it before the happy bridegroom." " Well, there won't be much joke in that," said Eugene. " Won't there, though ? Wait till you see him : he'll say 'pork pie,—the very thing, Mrs. Earlsley ; I feel quite penetrated, ma'am, with your polite attention,' and in will go his knife into the very middle of it, and what do you think he'll find there ?" " Why, pork, I suppose." " Not a bit of pork—not as much as he could grease and stiffen up his hair with." " Wattle birds, then ?" " No, nor wattle birds neither ; guess again." " O, I have no breath to throw away in guessing, I might guess till doomsday." " And what do you intend to put in the pie, Mr. Joker ?" said Mrs. Maxwell. " Boiled eggs, mother," said Charles, bursting into a laugh ; " you know ever since he got a dose of boiled eggs in the black war he can't bear to look at an egg—won't it be superb ?" " I hope he'll give you a good beating," said Mrs. Maxwell with a smile. " And so he may if he can catch me," said Charles. Before they rose from the dinner-table Mrs. Maxwell, suggested that Mr. Arnott should drive his sister over to see Mrs. Earlsley, as he had not paid his respects to her since his arrival, and that Eugene and Charles, and Griselda, if she liked, should accompany them on horseback. Henry and his sister made no objection's, but the young men said their horses were tired, and Griselda pleaded indisposition. In a little time the gig was brought to the door, and the brother and sister set out to pay their visit. An hour had scarcely elapsed since they departed when the distant tumbling of thunder pro- claimed the approach of a storm, and it was not long before it came in visible reality. The rain fell heavily, and the lightning flashed along the gloomy hills with sudden and broken explosions, each resembling, albeit in miniature, the sometime expected crack of doom. Isabel and Henry were lucky enough to escape the full brunt of its fury, but they were obliged to avail them- selves of Mrs. Earlsley's hospitality for that night. Maxwell returned from his bush excursion in a pitiable plight, without a dry stitch of clothing upon him, his boots full of water, and feeling rather chilly and uncomfortable from having sat for three hours in a wet saddle. But he soon doffed his saturated habiliments and found himself sitting in his snug parlor before a cheerful fire, awaiting the invigorating tea and appetite-appeasing toast. He had decided upon not purchasing the five thousand acres of land as his estate, he thought, was already large enough ; and, indeed, we should be apt to think one of fifteen thousand acres a rather handsome gift of fortune if we could call ourselves its master. He had received from his wife all the news she had elicited from their daughter. How Henry Arnott had proposed in due form ; how Isabel had raved and threatened, and how Griselda had firmly rejected him to the great seeming dissatisfaction of both. Maxwell now sat looking gravely into the glowing fire as rich men in a state of abstraction will sometimes do. His mind was swayed alternately by two different feelings, one pleasurable, the other painful. He was glad that his daughter had rejected Henry, because he shared in her belief that Henry was a proud and self-loving man, who would not be likely to stoop from his high pedestal to promote the happiness of a mere woman ; and he was sorry that Griselda had so suddenly put herself in an attitude which totally deprived him of the hope of becoming the father-in-laws of a dashing and rich young man, son to a hero who, if it were not for fortuitous circumstances, might have been a field marshal—of one who might yet be the father of a line of Australian wool kings or colonial,

if not British, prime ministers. Roll up your dream of ambition, good settler, and place it on the shelf whence Shakspeare and Milton, Locke and Newton, and a host of noble fellows, shine to tell us what firm hearts and hands can do for posterity. Turn to your tea and toast, and compare such men to all the acre-mad wool-kings and moneyed princes you have ever heard of. For awhile the latter feeling seemed to gain the predominance. Maxwell was vexed ; and it was no ordinary vexation when Griselda was the cause of it—a daughter whom he idolized. He drank three cups of tea and ate four rounds of buttered toast in stern silence ; and then turning round sud- denly upon his daughter, so suddenly that she gave a violent start, said— " So I hear you have rejected Henry Arnott's offer of marriage !—have you taken the trouble to examine the matter in all its bearings ? It is not every maiden of your rank and expectations that is favored with an opportunity of declining so advantageous a match. Do you know the false position in which your refusal of his hand places me, when I promised the Colonel only a week before he died that I would use all the influ- ence I commanded as a father in his son's favor ? It was the old man's hobby and I gave the promise. Had his son been a sense- less fool, or a loathesome object, or a heart- less gambler or sensualist, I would not have given my word ; but when we can see he is exactly the reverse of these your decision surprises me ;—what is the meaning of it ?" Griselda, who thought her father was more angry than he really was, grew pale and stammered—" I cannot speak, father, if you are angry with me." " I am not so angry but I can sit patiently and hear your explanation why you have re- fused Henry Arnott's offer.of marriage," re- plied her father. " Dear papa," said Griselda, recovering a little of her wonted animation, " I can only say that I have studied the question deeply and carefully. I am very sorry that you should be placed in an unpleasant position, but I found that the more I became ac- quainted with Mr. Arnott the more my heart refused to love him. To become his wife would be unpardonable hypocrisy." " I don't see that," said Maxwell. " Love is a fickle master. Many a marriage has been contracted on the principles of the purest love imaginable, which resulted in nothing but strife and bitterness, and eventual sepa- ration ; while others entered into by sober, sensible persons, very little troubled with the passion, have proved of lasting benefit to both parties, who as they grow older learned to love each other more than they ever thought of doing before they married." " I not only cannot love him," said Griselda, " but I do not wish to leave you and mamma : I value my present happiness far too well to wish for change, and I know you would not wish me to marry Mr. Arnott if you studied his temper and disposition with critical eyes. Mamma has watched him closely, let her give her opinion. Eugene has had opportunities of observing him away from home ; ask Eugene for his experience of him, and if, when you have heard all, you will not justify me in the course I have adopted I shall be very unhappy indeed." " For my part, I must confess," said Mrs. Maxwell, " I would rather see Griselda the wife of a plain, honest man, who had suffi- cient transparency to allow people of ordinary mental capacity to examine his character and general disposition with some degree of satis- faction. I never could, and I am sure I never shall, be able to endure people who shroud themselves in unnecessary mysteries ; and with respect to Henry and his sister, I have been more than once made painfully aware that both of them think it good policy to ap- pear not what they really are. As to Henry I cannot understand him at all. He might possibly make a tender and affectionate hus- band, for as you observed, my dear Bernard, I have heard of many marriages turning out well where the prospects were not even half so favorable as this one now under discussion. I can adduce an instance of a cousin of mine, a mild, unassuming woman, who was roughly told by the man who proposed marriage to her that if a lamp-post was dressed in coat and trousers she would fall in loved with it, nevertheless she married him and I never heard that they quarrelled afterwards." " O, I'd bet a guinea, mother," said Charles, " that they went at it like cat and dog once a week, but took good care not to have a 'gentleman of the press' present." " Be quiet, Charles," said Maxwell, " and reserve your wit for a more fitting occasion. My dear, your anecdote about your cousin is a little wide of the subject, unless you can assert that the son of our good friend the Colonel ever insulted our daughter with such a speech." " I cannot say that," said Mrs. Maxwell, " I believe he has more self command, and would not be so rude, at least before mar- riage ; but I am afraid of him—he wraps himself up in a mantle of impenetrability. I was able to form a pretty just estimate of your mental qualifications and temper before I married you, but I cannot dive into his by any means. Isabel is just as reserved when she thinks proper, and is very uneven in her temper ; and then, did you ever notice the quantity of wine he drinks ? Glass after glass ! I hope I am not stingy—I don't grudge him the wine, but so much of it can not be good : if he ate a whole loaf of bread at every meal I would say nothing about it ; but wine is a different thing, and the habit is likely to grow stronger. I do not know how Griselda would like to be married to a drunkard, but if you were one, Bernard, I should have been in my grave twenty years ago." " And now, Eugene, let us have your opinion," said his father. " I take that to be unnecessary after what mother has said," replied Eugene. " Nevertheless," said Maxwell, " we will sift the matter at all points ; Henry Arnott must not say with truth that we rejected his alliance on imaginary or frivolous grounds, so let us have your experience." " In few words, then, I would not like to see Griselda married to Henry Arnott. To make him a good husband she should estab- lish a permanent influence over him, and that I do not think from her mildness she is capable of doing. He is headstrong and pas- sionate, and is undoubtedly, as mother has remarked, addicted to the use of wine in large quantities." " Did you ever see him in a passion ?" en- quired Maxwell. " I did, Sir," answered Eugene, "and that with a very excellent and inoffensive gentleman, his own half-brother Frederick, who is ten years older than he and entitled to respect. When Henry arrived in Sydney, after the death of his father, he fell immedi- ately into great dissipation, and soon laid

himself upon a bed of sickness, in the course of which he completely lost his senses, and raved like a madman about devils pulling him through keyholes with fishhooks. The doctors brought him round by giving him large doses of laudanum, and when he was strong enough, insisted that he should go into the country ; so he came up to the sheep station and lived with us for awhile. His brother had been made acquainted with the cause of his illness, and considered it his duty to remonstrate with him upon his weakness and folly—just as you might re- monstrate with me had I been guilty of such conduct. But Henry, instead of acknow- ledging his fault, and intimating that he would not be guilty of it again, flew into a furious passion with his brother, called him several disgusting names, consigned him to a hot place where there is doubtful company, and swore that he was his own master, and would not be tyrannized over by brother, sister, uncle, aunt, wife, or mother-in-law, or any other devil in crea- tion." When Eugene finished, Charles began to laugh immoderately, and his father again called him to order, saying, " Pray be quiet, Charles—the loss of a man's body and soul is a serious matter : I would not laugh if imps were pulling you through keyholes with fish- hooks." " I can't help laughing, father," said Charles, setting up an additional roar. " Did Henry make actual use of those ex- pressions you repeated just now, Eugene ?" said Maxwell. " Of course he did, Sir, and a great many more," answered Eugene ; " I should never have thought of inventing them for him, and putting them in his mouth." " Then," said Maxwell, turning to his daughter, " my dear Griselda, I approve of your decision ; you have acted wisely and well, and I would much sooner see you, young and fair as you are, safe in your lonely grave than the wife of Henry, even if for every six pence I possess he could lay down a guinea. And, my children, while it is our Christian duty to grieve for those who have fallen from a high and honorable position, to pity their state, and pray for their restoration, let us not forgot to cast our own weakness on the strength of our God, and thank Him that we have been guided away from the paths of temptation." The settler retired immediately after re- ceiving his daughter's kiss. The mother and her children sat up for a few hours, chatting, reading, and working. A cloud had been re- moved from all their hearts, even as the thunderstorm which raged so recently had now passed away, and permitted the romantic moon to shine with greater effulgence than before. The last pain, the dread of her father's serious displeasure, was removed with less difficulty than she had anticipated, and Griselda felt almost perfectly happy for the first time since the well remembered hour when, in Cook Villa, years ago, she suddenly became conscious that the dark piercing eyes of Henry Arnott were rivetted upon her face. (To be continued.)