|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Drops of Brandy|
On the undulating base of a lofty mountain, grassy, and lightly timbered with box, and that beautiful and umbra- geous tree, the currajong, near unto its summit, and there, rocky and pine clad, stood " Moreland House." ' ' "
The mountain, upon whose base it stood, is one of many similar in character and appearance which form a huge and tortuous chain round and through that vast and magnificent
plain, or series of plains, called-, a portion of which j formed the Moreland estate ; but its height is greater, and its outlines bolder and grander than those of the surround- ing hills. Round its base ran a noisy and brawling stream, which, on reaching the level of the plain, wound in a slower and wider current between precipitous banks, which, being thickly fringed with gigantic specimens of the sombre look- ing river oak of Australia, took the appearance of some vast avenue, which had been planted in those old days before the mummy in Belzoni's exhibition
" Had dropt a half-penny in Homer's hat,
Or doffd his owii to let Queen Dido pass."
and, when the noble (?) savage was alone lord of Australia's boundless plains and forests, and of these old oak trees also, amongst whose
" Dusk boughs, out-tressing
Like the hair of some giant's head,"
the genii of the forest had for ages poured forth their mournful requiem for departed and departing time-a requiem whose sounds are unequalled in sadness by any ^forest melody in the world,
" Even when the viewless air
May only stir the slightest leaf,"
the distant voice of ocean is mimicked in such billowy tones . that the wash of the waves upon a sandy beach may, in fancy, be distinctly heard.
" But when the rush of the mighty blast
Has bent every bough like a slender reed,"
then do^jbhose old oaks wail forth their agony in gusty sighs, rising at intervals to wailing shrieks, and anon sinking to hollow and shuddering groans, which are, in reality, inde- scribable, but which excite one's fancy to such an extent
" The listener, surely deems
That some woird spirit of the air
Hath made those boughs a lute of themes
Wilder,.darker than despair.
Some lonely spirit, who hath dwelt
For ages in one lonely tree ;
Some weary spirit, who hath felt
The burden of eternity."
At the foot of this grand old hill, and half encircled by the river, was an extensive deer park, which embraced a large tract of plain, and also some forest country.
The plain was dotted here and there with clumps of evergreen trees, bearing the characteristic sombre hue of Australian forest-trees, but here and "there a magnificent currajong spread its umbrageous and bright green arms * abroad, relieving the scenery of its monotony, and affording
refreshing shade in the sultry noon.,of our summer days. Here, too, might be seen, but younger, and not arrived at such perfection of ^jSrowth, the Norfolk Island pine, the Moreton Bay fig, thlrflame tree, the Moreton Bay chestnut, and numerous conifers, which had been planted by the owner of the estate, partly to hide the nakedness of the plain, and partly as a relief to the sameness common to
The park was divided from an extensive lawn By an iron railing, of neat design and workmanship, and the gates, which were of very elegant structure, were hung upon massive granite pillars, which were surmounted by statuettes in white marble. The lawn was stocked with ornamental shrubs and trees,-and was tastefully laid out.
The house, a spacious lofty building, displaying consider- able architectural beauty, was replete with everything that eye or heart could desire.
The Moreland Estate was one of the many fine properties which Archibald Moreland owned, and was the one which he had chosen for his country residence, and, to which he had, on the morning on which our tale re-opens, returned, after a year's sojourn in India, to which place he had gone
immediately after the hf th anniversary of his wedding, with the intention of returning within a period of four or five months ; but business complications arising from the death of a trusted agent, and the defalcations of an equally trusted clerk, caused him to prolong his stay until a year had passed ; and it may be imagined with what joy he at length, clasped to his heart his lovely wife, and her three rosy children, one of which was a stranger to him, having been born after his departure for India.
Moreland wTas indeed a happy man upon that day, and well might he be, for there are but few mortals upon whom Fortune has deigned to smile as she' has done upon him.
In the great drawing-room at Moreland House, seated upon a lounge, in slippers and dressing gown, with a hand some smoking cap set jauntily upon his crisp curls, sat Archibald Moreland, senior ; between his knees stood Archie, junior, a handsome bold boy of five years, who bore a mixed resemblance to his parents, having the form and features of his father, with the eyes and hair of his mother. Sunny tempered and joyous, full of life and spirits, he was a child easily governed by a kindly rule ; warm hearted and generous, he was quick to recognise and respond to a kindly word or action ; but if coercive measures were adopted, then would be seen the steadfast determination inherited from his mother, combined with the fiery rush of indignation, which was one of his father's characteristics, forecasting in him a combination of energy, fire, and forti- tude, all requisites in the formation of a perfect man.
If Moreland loved anything in this world to infatuation it was his bright eyed noble looking boy-his first-born, his heir ; the pride of his heart ; the apple of his eye ; and yet he was not deficient in love for any of his children, but Rose and Maude, being girls, and the latter only an infant, were, as he thought, more especially the property of their mother : Archie was his own, specially and particularly, and soon to be his companion in all his rides and rambles. The girls were to be loved and petted, teased and romped with, and considerably spoilt, but Archie was to be studied, planned for, worked for, and held in consideration only one degree less than his mother. Such were Moreland's feelings for his son ; and the child's love for him was that unquestioning, complete love, which we seldom find but in
Rose, a child of about three years of age, was a miniature of her mother ; a tiny fairy thing, full of life and fun ; frolicsome as a kitten, yet docile and easily managed ; a lover of innocent mischief, as her present occupation might prove, viz., filling her pa's slippers with beads, to the great
discomfort of the wearer.
On a low ottoman, placed so as to command a view of her husband's handsome sun-burnt face, on which her gaze would ever and anon rest lovingly, and with that excusable pride which is born of true affection, sat Mrs. Moreland ; not a whit less beautiful, though more matured, than when introduced to our readers. She was listening with evident amusement to the endless puzzling questions with which Master Archie is perplexing his papa ; at length, when a pause in the infantile chatter occurred, she asked,
"Did you see Fenton Milman in India; or has he re- turned to Englaud ? "
" Of course I did ; do you not remember the mauling he got from a tiger ? But no-I forget-I never mentioned that affair to you, for fear of rendering you uneasy about my precious self."
"How did it occur? Was he travelling through the jungle when attacked by the tiger? And what share had you in the adventure that should render me uneasy about you ? "
"It was at a tiger hunt in the kingdom of Oude, which was got up by the officers of -th, who were stationed there, and Milman, knowing my weakness for that sort of thing, sent me an invitation, which was thankfully
" Sou were very wrong, Archie, to engage in such danger- ous sport, which ought to be left for bachelors."
"The bachelors would feel flattered, did they hear you speak Lill ; doubtless you mean old bachelors."
" Now you are jesting, for you understand my meaning quite well. If bachelors chose to risk their lives in such dangerous sports, they have none to say them nay ; their lives are their own to throw away recklessly or foolishly, if ! such be their choice, unless indeed others are dependent
upon them, then the case is altered ; such cannot however be said of married men, whose children are dependent upon them, if not for support, for guidance, for precept, for example, as they tread the onward path, which opens into a wide, wide world; in which they have to fight the battle of life, and in which they may be wrecked for the want of a father's counsel and example. Such men's lives cannot be said to be their own ; they belong equally to their wives and children, and therefore should not be heedlessly
"From the time of Nimrod, and for ages before, down to the present time, dear Lilly, married men have been in the front ranks when danger was to be encountered ; yes, and it ever will be so, for it cannot be supposed that the marrying of a wife will change man's nature or make him shun danger which he would otherwise encounter. How many of our best and bravest, our ornaments of science, and of history, have been married men ? "
"Honoured be those mighty pioneers of science who, for the good of their fellows, have risked, nay, lost their lives, and left their wives and children a sacred legacy to the nations for whom their lives were sacrificed-honoured be the names of those gallant men, who on land and sea, have stood their country's bulwarks in time of danger, and shed their blood, and laid down their lives, for the honour and glory and welfare of their country, and, dying, left their children an undying fame. These men sought danger for a legitimate and most praiseworthy object, can this be said
of hunters ? "
"And yet, wife, some of our greatest men have been great hunters ; but apart from this, what better training can a nation's youth have than that of eugaging in hardy and dangerous field sports ? Sports such as tiger or lion hunting? What' will render the eye quicker, the nerves firmer, the hand steadier?"
" I will tell you, Archie, what will lead men more surely to victory than all these : the knowledge that they fight in a just and holy cause, and the steadfast and sure belief that the arm of God is with them. Cromwell's Iron Sides were not lion hunters, neither were the heroes who fought and died at Copenhagen and Trafalgar ; nor those who for hours held the field of Waterloo against the best and bravest soldiers in Europe."
"Admitting that you are correct in all that you advance, my dear, still there is much to 1 ie said in favour of the sport, as sport alone ; it is indeed glorious ; worth all the danger, and more too. I have felt my heart glow in the foxhunt, when a stone wall of more than ordinary height,
or a double-ditched hedge showed in front; or where, |
when our own game, the kangaroo, have led me over j chasms trying to the pluck of both man and horse ; but what are these to the excitement of seeing one's first tiger stealing through the undergrowth, viciously wagging his tail, or, with agility most marvellous, avoiding the stroke of the elephant's trunk, and springing right at the howdah ? This occurred at a hunt at which I was present, and mischief might have followed, had not the contents of half-a-dozen revolvers sent him to earth."
" You have been to more than one hunt then ? "
" Oh, yes, to several. But Milman's accident occurred at our first one, which was rather aa elaborate affair, and lasted for several days. A description of the hunt would not interest you, so I will confine my narrative to the incidents of Milman's adventure." We had already killed two tigers, when news was brought that a tiger of unusual size, and, as it proved, ferocity, was lodged in a jungle some short distance away ; to this jungle we we repaired, and spent some time in futile attempts to dis- lodge him. He soon convinced us that he was a mauvais sujet by killing one of the beaters, and by the way in which he cut up the dogs which ventured to invade his domain. Both beaters and dogs became demoralized, the former could not be persuaded by threats or bribes to again enter the jungle, and the latter evinced their sense of the precariousness of the pursuit by avoiding all direct attempts at hostility, anti by showing their respect for the prowess of their foe by keeping at a very safe distance from his lair. At length Milman became impatient, and declared his intention of 'bearding the tiger in his den.' Arguments and advice were thrown away ; he departed, saying : ' I'll soon have this fellow out, depend on it. Audaces fortuna juvaV ' Your quotation may be true enough, Milman,' said I, ' but audacia non semper succeedit is equally so, and I for one would rejoice to see you return with a whole skin.
'Ha! ha!' laughed Milman, 'Are you getting timid, Moreland? 1 hope not, because it was you upon whom I reckoned to fetch out my bones before the tiger had time to chew them up.' "
"How very rash and headstrong of Milman to enter th< jungle against the advice of his friends."
"Yes my dear, it was, but poor Fenton had imbibed to< much brandy, and it was to that he owed his foolhardiness No sooner had he gone than an uncontrollable desiri to follow him took possession of me. If he does ge' into a scrape, thought I, there may be a chance of my beinj of use to him, so I acted upon the impulse, and well it wai that 1 was so prompt in doing so, otherwise poor Milman'i number in the mess of the -th would have been a vacancy The jungle was so dense that one could not see twenty feet in advance of him, and it was often a difficult task t< push one's way through it. The whereabouts of the tige was known by the barking pi the dogs, which still con tinued to keep in his vicinity, but always at a respectable distance from his lair. ' I approached the spot as rapidl; as possible, consistent with the necessity of securing m; own safety, and had arrived within a few yards of the spo where the dogs were last heard to bark. Eye and ear wer on the alert, for none could tell how soon his tigershii might spring forth and make short work of me instead o Milman. That I wished myself and him both safe out o the jungle there is no denying, for the situation had tw many of the elements of danger in it to be anything but th reverse of agreeable. Suddenly, and but a short distanc from me, I heard a slight rustling sound, but whether Mil man, the tiger, or a dog, I could not tell ; my suspense wa not of long duration, for scarce ten seconds had elapse* before my ears were greeted by the sound of a rifle, follower by a short fierce growl, a rushing sound, as if of some larg body being hurled through the undergrowth, and then
wild cry of agony, such as can only be uttered by th human voice in moments of the deadliest suffering or peri My time for action had now arrived. Rushing forwar with all possible speed, I burst upon a scene which wa indeed terrible. There lay poor Milman upon his bael beneath the huge carcase of the largest tiger I had eve seen. The brute's teeth were fastened npon his shoulde and his claws were making sad havoc of his hip and thigl As soon as I caught sight of the body of the tiger I fire( and, as was subsequently proved, my bullet passed con pletely through him, without touching any organ whose di struction would cause instantaneous death. With a roar < rage or pain, or both combined, he quitted his hold upc Milman, and I saw a black looking ball flying through tl air in my direction, but apparently high above my hea< I ducked and darted past the bole of a tree, and not t( soon, for in passing the beast's claw ripped my shoulde inflicting a rather severe scratch ; before he could recovi himself to spring again, a bullet through his brain gave hi his quietus. He was certainly a magnificent animal ; h skin is in my traps, and shall be yours when they arriv I have brought you five tiger skins, all of my own shootin but none of them nearly so large as the skin of Milman tiger, as I call him. Poor Milman had a rough time of i his shoulder was fearfully lacerated, and the bones we crushed by the powerful jaws of the brute-his hip ai thigh were shocking to look at. He had enough tig hunting to last him his life. Mine was a mere scratch, ai yet it left an ugly mark, which you may see if you unbutt< my shirt collar and turn it down."
"Oh, gracious! Archie!" exclaimed Mrs. Morelan whose trembling fingers had been busily engaged unfaste ing her husband's shirt collar, " your shoulder must ha been frightfully torn, and yet you call it a scratch ! "
"Compared to poor Milman's wound it was but scratch, indeed, and-What ! tears, Lilly, darling ; wh you would not do for a soldier's wife if the sight of a trifli wound such as that distresses you so much."
" It is not the sight of the wound, Archie, though it mi have been a terrible one, to leave such a scar as that, b the thought of what might have been had the horrid bes not partially missed his grip. If you go again to Indis shall certainly go with you."
"It is unlikely that I shall again visit India, as a m< cantile firm in Calcutta has purchased all my interest thei and the sale has so materially added to my wealth thal have no desire to increase it by anything more than t
annual income from my Australian properties and invest
After a pause, Mrs. Moreland said: "You see, Arch you owe your escape from that ferocious beast to your h ab of total abstinence. Had you been as you say Fent Milman was, your steadiness of nerve would have be gone, and yon would, doubtless, have fallen a victim to t
"On the contrary, my love, I am of opinion that I o' my safety to the spirits which I had taken, which was jv enough to steady my nerves, and to dispel that unhealt!
and oppressive languor which, preys upon one in all such climates as that of India, where one rises from his night's rest totally unrefreshed, and incapable of energetic action, until he has restored the tone of his constitution by the aid
" You may be right, Archie, but I believe that men owe that excessive languor, that enervating depression, which weighs upon them in the morning, in the majority of cases, to the alcohol which they have consumed over night. Men of science assert, and there have been numerous instances in proof of the correctness of their assertion, that men of the most temperate habits are those who can best bear the extremes of temperature, and of bodily fatigue as well. Why should Oobbett, who drunk nothing but cold water, have been able to withstand the rigors of climate so much better than the soldiers of his regiment who drank spirits ? "
" His constitution may have been stronger."
"Amongst so many it is unlikely that such should have been the case, or that the facts should have been as they were with regard to his endurance of fatigue and extremes of temperature, had there been no other assignable cause for it than the one you have mentioned. He, himself, attri- butes it to his abstinence from the use of spirits."
" lu India, my love, practice and precept are, at least, in unison. Men say they cannot get on without brandy, ergo, they drink brandy ; and to a man like myself, whose habits are formed, the practice seems so very innocent that I have not scrupled to adopt it. I can take my glass of brandy at pleasure, and continue to do so all my life, without becoming inordinately addicted to it, or running any risk of evil consequences from the indulgence of the habit. I have the power, as you know, to give it up at any time, at any moment, at once, and for ever ; but, as the habit is, with me, totally innocuous, it would be folly to debar myself of
the use of that which has its advantages unclogged by any
"Speciously reasoned, Archie Moreland, but unsound, nevertheless. So, no doubt, had Coleridge and De Quincey the power to give up opium-eating, when the habit was in its infancy ; but the drug undermined the power so gradually indeed that the fact was unknown to them until the power itself was gone. We feel not the daily decrease of our bodily strength under the hand of time, yet it ceases not, but imperceptibly saps our vitality, and prepares us for the grave in which it must eventually lay us."
Poor Mrs. Moreland evidently did not think her husband's habits so completely formed to render him safe from danger. She remembered his taste for spirituous liquors in the old days, before they were married; and she had seen too much of its power over others not to dread its effects upon him ; therefore, a cloud came over her spirits-a cloud which, now only a speck on the distant horizon, was destined to spread itself like some vast pall over the whole sky ; to over- shadow her life so as to shut out all gleams of sunshine from it*; and. to fill her heart with desolation, the mort bitter that it must be borne alone.
This was the shadow of the cross which she must bear, and which she did bear, nobly and bravely, until God, ir His infinité mercy, relieved her of it.
. (To be continued.)