Chapter 36643954

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Chapter NumberXI
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Full Date1867-06-01
Page Number2
Word Count5571
Last Corrected2020-01-24
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
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THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (All RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) CHAPTER XI. OUR HEROINE'S TRAVELS AND TROUBLES BEGIN. On the next day at noon Mr. Baxter, the carrier, made his appearance. He addressed Mrs. Maxwell with great civility, and inti- mated that it was his intention, if suitable to her convenience, to load the drays early on the following morning, and start without further delay. She offered no objection, and soon found herself actively employed in finishing up the packing ; dispatching the boys here and there on various messages ; racking her brains to find if any article had been forgotten, or any item of business left undone. Having satisfied her mind respect- ing these matters she sat down to rest. Griselda sat with her, reading aloud a newly purchased volume. In this manner the last evening of their stay in Hobarton was passed, and the night closed over the pretty little city of the South. It is always with regret that we depart from a place endeared to us as having been a home however temporary. When the eyes are far removed the mind continues to linger over every beautiful scene and every object of interest—by the flowery path along which we strayed in the mellow twilight, or beside the tea-table of the friends known with plea- sure and parted from with sorrow. Of these social charms Mrs. Maxwell had tasted but little. Her time in the metropolis of Tas- mania had been too short to allow her to cultivate many acquaintances. She had had no letters of introduction, and her disposition forbade her to push herself forward. But she was fortunate in becoming the object of attention to an amiable clergyman of the Established Church, who, with a wife no less amiable, often visited her, and entertained her and her family at his house. By this gentleman she had been introduced to many respectable people ; and she saw with pleasure that there abounded on all sides a highly educated class of persons, famous for their hospitality, polite manners, and charitable dispositions : individuals, in fact, whom to know is a rare gratification to a solitary stranger—to forget when once known im- possible. The morning came, and with it the three drays and two and twenty bullocks, with a phalanx of formidable horns. The two larger drays were soon loaded with moveables and furniture of all descriptions, under the per- sonal inspection of Mr. Baxter, while the smallest one was fitted up with a feather bed and other comforts for the deportation of Mrs. Maxwell and the children. A basket well packed with refreshments was safely stowed away in the primitive coach. Everything being ready, and the clergyman and his wife, who had come to see them at the last moment, having taken their final farewell, the word was given. The bullock drivers cracked their whips and the drays began to move, Mrs. Maxwell agreeing with her daughter to walk until clear of the town. Gentle reader, fast young lady, or im- petuous young gentleman, did you ever travel in a bullock cart ? If not we would recom- mend you to do so immediately. The lesson in patience, especially if that amiable quality is wanting, will be undoubtedly beneficial. Here we are I clear of the town ; going forth into the broad, strange, and thickly wooded country, breathing the unadul- terated air; losing sight of the bay and the pretty ships, but not of their kindred associa- tions ; the scene new, the change sudden and refreshing to the care-worn spirits ; glancing at the broad river, gazing eagerly at the handsome dwellings shrouded amongst hills and thick forest—embowered in verdant lawns and gardens—reflected in the clear glassy stream, which with the silent tide ebbing or flowing flings back from its peaceful breast the gorgeous colors of earth and sky. We are fascinated by nature's majestic scenery —the grave and stately Mount Wellington, the distant rocks of giant size, the fields, the cultivated paddocks, the lazy cattle basking in the sun, the sheep running about and culling the sweetest bites in their luxuriant pasture. The slab hut is passed, with its grass roof and curling smoke, its little garden and diminutive stack of wheat, with the gaping woman at the door, and the eight or nine children staring and standing bareheaded in the sun. On, on, with the speed of a rheumatic snail, across the gurgling brook, along the rough, unmade track, down into a hole on one side, up upon a bank on the other; jolt, jolt, crack, crack, to the music of the driver's voice: " Gee whup, Drummer— Traveller. Snowball, Ise lookin' at tha. Tinker, ye desp'rate lazy thief, pull 't up, wilt the' ? Punch, I'll smash yer ribs in, ye scoundrel"—and so on. Mr. Baxter did not drive any of the teams: he superintended the expedition. He had the good sense not to intrude himself on Mrs. Maxwell's company, and generally kept in the rear watching the slow progress of his drays. The day wore on. At intervals, when some roadside cottage was to be passed, the bovicade halted to allow the bullocks to draw breath, and rest the weary men. On such occasions the ladies usually descended from their carriage, entered the cottage, and requested a glass of water. They were always received with respect, and were offered milk as in Ireland. In this manner the first day's journey was completed, and all hands pre- pared to pass the night at a house near a ferry over the Derwent. It was called Rose- neath Ferry. The travellers were hospitably provided for. The bullocks were unyoked and turned into a paddock. Watchdogs were chained under the loaded drays, and the three men,wrapping themselves up in a tar- paulin, slept in the empty one. The next morning was wet ; the rain

poured down rather heavily, and Mrs. Max- well was glad when the carrier announced his intention of remaining where he was with his charge, at least for that day. The time passed slowly, retarded as it always is by gloomy a weather, but enlivened occasionally by the cheerful conversation of the host and hostess, who were anxious to know everything about the state of Ireland, England, and the con- tinent of Europe generally. But the day closed, the second morning broke and the travellers started once more, though the weather was still unsettled. The sun shone occasionally, and helped to dry the road a little. At Rose- neath the teams were ferried across the Der- went in a large punt, and their course lay for some distance along the bank of the river. Eugene and Charles got out of the dray to stretch their legs. " Fine rain, young gentle- men," said Mr. Baxter, coming up behind them, " rain makes grass grow—sheep eat grass and get fat—boys and men eat sheep and get fat too, if so be that there's nothing wrong with their bread-baskets." " Your bullocks don't appear to be very fat," said Eugene. " No," said Baxter, puffing away at a black pipe, " I don't want them to be, they're all the better for work, but you'll see some fait bullocks along the South Esk. Like fat beef ?" " That depends on the state of my appe- tite," answered Eugene. " Well, I reckon so ; the very best thing in my opinion on a cold, frosty mornin' when you've got work to do is a nicely done fat beefsteak to line the ribs with." " Better, of course, than regular maho- gany,"* replied the boy. " Yes, you are riglht there," said the carrier, " but I've lived in this here country for months and months, and never tasted beef or mutton ; lived upon nothing but kangaroo and damper, and tea made from mulberry leaves dried along with duck-weed or some such stuff—I know it wasn't proper tea." " Is kangaroo nice ?" asked Charles. " Nice ? yes, I believe you, 'specially when you're lost in the bush and can't get nothin' else, and hardly that same. I was out once in the forests on the Tamar, ramblin' about for ten days, no gun, and almost starved to death : lay down on my back one mornin' to die. Big brush came smellin' up to my very face, made a sudden spring and caught him by the tail, cut his throat—drank his blood— tore the skin off, and ate him up raw from the nape o' the neck to the extremity of his fly-thrasher, exceptin' the bones and toe-nails, which wouldn't agree with my stomach : nice, by gum, wasn't it ?" " I should say it would have been nicer cooked," said Eugene. " ' Twould so," said the carrier ; " my wife now can cook kangaroo fit for the King, or Queen either, if she was in a longin' condition. We call them steamers, because they're stewed or steamed along with bits o' bacon chopped small, and they go down slick, without the trouble o' chewin'—slap up for supper when the jaws is tired of eatin' and talkin' all day, but for breakfist I prefer a fat beef-steak when the implements has been restin' all night." " Do they ever eat opossums ?" asked Charles. " In course they do, and likes 'em too. They gather round a fire about a dozen on 'em, and brings their 'possums as many as they've caught, sometimes two or three apiece, then they skin 'em and twirl them round in the smoke two or three times, so as to give 'em the ghost of a cookin', and to work they all goes, eats 'em all up, picks the bones as clean as if their tongues was a lot o' raspin' irons, and then throws 'em over their shoulders to their wives an' children behind. They eat snakes too; they pin 'em to the ground with forked sticks, cut their heads off, swing 'em round in the smoke, and eats 'em all up just as if they was conger ells. Then they goes to a creek and drink the water by quarts and gallons 'till they're ready to burst. I caught a boy once that had eaten three 'possums, two snakes, and a kangaroo rat, and washed 'em down with about six quarts o' water ; he was goin' to burst but I saved him by wrappin' him up in a pair of my own cast off pantaloons." " You don't mean to say that christians eat 'possums, snakes, and, kangaroo rats ?" said Eugene. " Christians !" answered Baxter, with a loud laugh, " Lord bless you no ; who's thinkin' of christians ? I'm talkin o' the black natives." " Shall we see any of them do you think ?" asked Charles, a little frightened. " See 'en," said the carrier, " my word won't you, and hear 'em too. You'll see 'em with a double row o' black heads stuck up on the top of a hill early in the mornin' with their spears and waddies, like a regiment from the middle of Africa. And you'll hear their captain, with a 'possum's tail gummed to his nose perpendicular ways like a cockade, roar out at the top of his voice—' Hoke poke wank fiun gibbalee gumble chokee ;' or some such gibbcish, the literal meanin' of which I understand to be—' Eyes right, shoulder um and choke them white scoundrels.' " "All, I see you are poking fun at us," said Eugene, " you don't want us to believe all that, do you ?" " Just as you like," said Baxter, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, " if you don't be- lieve me you may be unpleasantly convinced some fine mornin'." " Are there many wild animals here ?" en- quired Charles. " Yes, we're pretty well off for them. We have plenty of tigers in the mountains, but they only eat sheep and boys, they'd run away from a man. No lions have been seen as yet, though some people say they exist in great numbers up about the lakes. I heard a man say * Salt beef, or jerk.

once that he saw a crocodile and a hippo- potamus tearin' one another's throats in the Macquarie, opposite Ross, but I believe he told lies. He told me, too, that he saw a monkey as big as a man jump from a gum tree on to a big rock, a distance of thirty three feet five inches, and that he measured it himself ; but I know that was a big lie." " I always heard that there were no wild beasts in this country," said Eugene. " I don't believe, myself," said the carrier, " about the lions, crocodiles, or monkeys; but I've seen tigers, tiger-cats, and devils." " Devils ! what are they ?" " The most ugly things you ever saw. They have got teeth like baboons, and eat sheep and lambs by scores, though they are no bigger than smallish dogs. We catch them in pitfall traps, bated with 'possum bones ; they eat up bones, hair, wool, and everything, and would'nt they growl over a fat baby !" " Are there any other animals ?" said Charles. " Yes, plenty ; lots of small ones, bandi- coots, porcupines, wallabies, wombats, or badgers. These make good pets when caught young, and keep the feet warm in bed on cold nights, but they'd push and bite their way through a deal door ; they growl, too, and bite in their sleep, so if you was not careful they might bite your toes off in the middle of the night." " Curious bed-fellows they would be," said Charles. " More curious than them," said Baxter, " I can tell you of. I was out in the bush once sawin' and splittin', and some of my fellows set the bush on fire ; 'twas in I January, too, the hottest month o' the year. Well, I staid out all night at the fire, to keep my cut and split timber from bein' burnt, and went to my hut in the mornin' about three o'clock, to go to bed and have a snooze, but when I crept into my 'possum rug I felt somethin' move and slap hisself against my leg like the tail of a buffilo, when up I jumped and shook my rug, and out tumbled a yellow snake, six foot long." " Did you kill him ?" asked Eugene, with amazement. " Well, I reckon I either killed him or he killed me. Do I look like a dead man ?" " What would you have done if he had bitten you ?" asked Charles. " Done ? why, I'd 'ave done as other people do, sucked the bite if I could have got at it, or cut it out, or burnt it with gun powder ; and if I could have done nothin' else, laid down, said my prayers, and swelled up as big as a elephant afflicted with water cholic. I saw a young lady once, when she was pullin' somethin' out of a bush, and a brown snake fastened on her wrist. She screamed out, and I ran up to her, caught up her arm, sucked it and sucked it for two blessed hours, until she grew as white as a table cloth, and had'nt two ounces of blood left in her body. She was quite well the next day, only she looked'a little the color of chalk for about a month : to bring back the roses to her cheeks they was obligated to feed her on black puddins and bottled stout." " You don't mean to say she was really bitten !" said Eugene. " In course I do ; but it's no use tellin' you anything, you don't believe anything ; I might as well try and teach my bullocks how to dance the New Zealand cut-throat horn- pipe as to persuade you to believe anything. If I told you that there was a petrified skeleton of a black man fifteen feet three in- ches and three-quarters long, lyin' on his side with a grape shot inside of his skull, on the very top o' Mount Wellington—or if I told you that there was a freshwater shark in the South Esk, and whenever he tried to turn hisself round he caused a scarcity o' water down in Launceston, and set the people gapin' for rain and the papers ravin' about water works, and then caused a flood when he comes round to his 'riginal position, so that the good people is wonderin' what the dickins is to come next——you wouldn't believe me if I took my oath." " I should think not," said Eugene, laugh- ing. " Well," said the carrier, " all I can say is that I've been twenty years in this here country, for I wusn't born yesterday, and though I wus born in England I don't know what it is like, and have a very doubtful idea as to where it is on account of bein' shipped off to America when I was four year old. My old mammy was obligated for to go, as they said my stepfather, who was head cashier to a flyin' pieman, had walked away with all the tin he could lay his hands on. But I gave 'em both the slip myself soon after, and went as powder-monkey on board a English frigate, where I served durin' the whole war of independence, and was many a time taken up for dead and goin' to be pitched overboard, only that my tongue wouldn't stop waggin'. I've been to King- ston and Port Royal, to Pernambuco and up the Amazon and River Plate, and to hun- dreds of other places ; sometimes with a full belly and a good coat on, often without it rag to my back and nothin' under my jacket but raw wind ; and served my king like a brick from the coalhole to the main truck ; and if you don't believe me when I tell you a thing you're the most extraordinary pair of young fellows that ever I clapp'd my astonished eyes on." Having delivered himself of this racy speci- men of oratory, Mr. Baxter drew a stick of tobacco out of his pocket, bit off a pretty good quid, turned himself on his heel, and re- turned to the rear. They soon arrived at the village of Brighton, where it was found convenient to pass the night. The next morning the journey was resumed. The weather, however, again became unfavorable, and upon arriving at the inn at Bagdad the travellers halted, and Mrs. Maxwell anxious to see farmer White and his wife, who had been so kind to her hus- band, was shown to their cottage. Upon an-

nouncing her name she was received with rural politeness by Mrs. White, whose hus- band was away from home, and immediately offered every refreshment the house could afford. An invitation to remain all night was thankfully accepted, though with some hesitation, as Mrs. Maxwell did not readily perceive how Mrs. White could accommodate so many in her small cottage ; the latter ex- plained, however, that though her place looked small, she had two little apartments at the back where she and her children had often slept, thus without suffering the slightest in- convenience she could give up her own room to her lady visitors, and make up a com- fortable bed for the young gentlemen in the sitting-room. Having conversed for a time on various interesting topics, the good woman began to make preparations for the evening meal. Assisted by her eldest daughter, a girl about eleven years of age, she deprived a very fine ham of a number of slices, which were soon musically hissing on the kitchen fire. A dish of eggs was brought in from the model pantry, destined speedily to follow the doom of the ham. " Another frying-pan, Kitty, be alive girl ; bring fine flour and butter; beat up these eggs. Bring the sugar, Johnny ; place a dish by the fire to hold the pan-cakes; keep away, children, I never saw such a set of crows. Hand me that tea-pot ; why did'nt your make it brighter ? Jenny, put the tea in. Now keep away from the boiling-kettle ; take the baby away, Jenny. Is the table in the parlor laid for tea ?" " Yes, mother." " Well, take in the ham and eggs, the bread and the pancakes, don't forget the cream and butter, and I will follow with the tea." " Mother, here's Billy with his hand in the batter-pan !" " The naughty children, I really must whip some of you." " Mother, here's Tommy eating the sugar by handfuls !" " Mother, give me a pancake !" " Give me a fried egg, mother !" " I'll have a pancake and jam," said one. " I'll have some ham and honey on it," said another. Oh, Mr. Juniper, are you not a happy bache- lor with your grumbling cook ? With a vague threat to her tormentors that she would tell their father as soon as ever he came home Mrs. White made her escape from the throng, and entered the parlor, where the tea-table was neatly laid. Inviting her visitors to draw their chairs she cut the bread, helped the ham and eggs, and poured out the fragrant tea. To Mrs. Maxwell's expostulations relative to the trouble she was taking, she replied that the only trouble she had was with her children, adding that she really believed they would kill her if their father did not keep them in some kind of order. Our heroine and her brothers enjoyed their repast with the enviable ardor of youth, but their mother partook more sparingly of the good things set before her. She was anxious to improve her knowledge of her adopted country, so as to be able to act for herself in case any sudden emergency might arise; and with that laudable purpose in view she put some questions to her hostess. " Certainly, ma'am," said Mrs. White, in reply to the first of her visitor's queries, " we suffer sometimes both from bushrangers and natives ; but Colonel Sorell has nearly put an end to bushranging, and the natives only become dangerous at intervals, when they get provocation from the bad and ignorant stock- keepers and others away from proper control. We are not safe from either, and are in con- stant dread lest they should come upon us in arms when least expected. The natives are very cruel when bent on revenge, and will murder all, even helpless children. It is not long since an unfortunate lady, a Mrs. McAlister, was killed. She was wounded in her own cottage, ran bleeding and concealed herself in a field of corn. Her children had been carried off to a place of safety by her servants, but not knowing this she was unable to control her anxiety, and rushed from her hiding place. She was seen by the natives, and murdered." " That was very shocking," said Mrs. Max- well. " The poor creature ! Is it probable that they still retain their murderous pro- pensities ?" " If they receive an injury," replied Mrs. White, " I have no doubt they are fully capable of revenging it now as they were then. It is about sixteen months ago, for it happened just a week before Christmas, that one morn- ing my husband rose and went to the door to look at the sunrise as his custom was, when he came back to me in a terrible fright, and said, ' God protect us, Mary, the hill at the back of John Dennis's hut is covered with savages.' I got up in a moment, thinking that our last day had come, but I prayed to the good Lord to point out a way for us to escape, and I felt as strong and as quiet as I do now I took the children down to a low place beside the creek, and covered them up as well as I could with long green grass, and then I went with Thomas, with a loaded gun in my hand —for the mere sight of a gun frightens them very much—and kept watch over the cottage. We heard them shout their war cry, and knew that they were attacking poor old John Dennis. Thomas went towards them in order to drive them away, but I was terrified for the children, and called him back. We saw Dennis ad- vance up the hill towards them with his gun, but they made signs to him to put it down, and pretended to put down their spears. He did so, foolishly, and they attacked him with their waddies and beat him to death. My husband, with a loud shout, ran forward, but I called to him not to fire or else he would be killed. The natives heard him and ran away, leaving poor Dennis stone dead on the ground. Two or three other people soon came up and followed them into the bush. That was the last

murder they committed in this neighbor- hood." " They are treacherous, then, as well as cruel," said Mrs. Maxwell. " Yes, they are very treacherous ma'am. Still it cannot be denied that they have met with very unjust and cruel treatment from shepherds and stock-keepers. An unfortu- nate man was murdered not long ago by a black who came to him unarmed as he thought, and making signs of friendship ; but he speared his unsuspecting victim, and how do you think he contrived to carry his spear ?" " I have no idea." " He dragged it on the ground between his toes." " Who would have thought," said Mrs. Maxwell, " that they could be so cunning ?" " In a great many instances," said Mrs. White, " they have displayed great cunning and sagacity. I am greatly afraid that it they are not well treated in future they will yet prove more troublesome than they have been. You must be very careful, ma'am, when you get settled in your own house, and keep a watch- ful eye over your children—though if they are not under the care of the Almighty human exertions will be in vain." " I quite agree with you, Mrs. White,—in fact my Bible tells me so. I trust we shall always be kept safely in His holy keeping. Which do you think are more to be dreaded —the blacks or the bushrangers ?" "O, the blacks decidedly. Bushrangers seldom murder people unless in self-defence, though the plunder they take away is a serious loss and calamity to the honest indus- trious man. They do not always creep upon one as the natives do, with the stealthiness of a cat. You might pass close to the natives in a forest and think they were black burnt stumps all the time ; they can lie on the ground as if they were lumps of charcoal, and can climb up trees and conceal themselves in a moment." The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the farmer. He expressed great satisfaction at the honor done to him by Mrs. Maxwell in visiting his poor cottage. He made many apologies for the poverty of the accommodations his house could afford, and declared that nothing gave him greater pleasure than to become acquainted with an honest man as he knew Mr. Maxwell to be. " How do you know that, Mr. White ?" said Mrs. Maxwell smiling. " I know by his face, ma'am, I can always tell an honest man from a rogue—it's a faculty I've got ; I had it when a boy. My father was a market-gardener near Liverpool, and used to deal with and sorts of people, but not being very acute himself, whenever he was asked to give credit he always came to me with—' What do you think of that fellow, Tom ?' or ' How am I to manage with so and so ?' my decision whether—' He's all right, father,' or ' have nothing to do with him,' was always final. " It is a very useful faculty," said Mrs. Maxwell, "and must save you from many losses." " It has helped, ma'am, though I have met with some losses ; honest men are unfortunate sometimes. But with respect to your good husband I'd bet my life that if I lent him five hundred pounds and he were to become insolvent and white-washed as they say, he would never rest happily until he had paid me every farthing. I only hope he is well established on good property. " I believe so," replied the lady ; " he wrote me a very high-flown description of it upon one occasion, which looked very well on paper. What I may think about it when I see it is still a subject of speculation." " Well, ma'am," said the honest farmer, " my best wish is that you may agree both as to its beauty and value, and that you and your children may escape all the dangers of life in the bush. I should not like to frighten you by mentioning the natives and bush- rangers, our two greatest scourges—" " I heard from your wife," said Mrs. Max- well, interrupting him, that a poor man was murdered near this not long ago." " Yes ma'am, old John Dennis, I saw it done. His has been many a poor man's fate. I never leave this cottage but my head is filled with the fear lest I may find wife and children dead when I come back. In going through the bush, either on foot or on horse- back, I think of the ambuscade and the deadly spear. I start at the sight of every black stump that my fancy can represent as a savage, though there was a time when a cannon ball rushing pass me, and taking off the head of a mess-mate, only made my blood boil. Now, I believe these blacks make me the biggest poltroon that ever disgraced the name of Briton, but it is a fearful thing to leave one's family to such desperate chances." " The only remedy is to place implicit reliance upon the goodness of God," said Mrs. Maxwell. " That is true," said the farmer, " and I have found it so. But I did not enquire whether Mr. Maxwell met with any of these dangerous people in his journey up the coun- try. " Not that I know of," answered the visitor ; " he never mentioned them in his letters, ex- cept to say they were comparatively quiet. And I do not think he has fallen in with any bushrangers either." " They are another scourge," said White, " and will be as long as there is a penal settle- ment on the island, or as long as prisoners are sent here from England. We are pretty free from them now, but we don't know the mo- ment when a gang of lawless men may break away from all control and fill the whole coun- try with alarm and confusion ; if we should get another Michael Howe we shall be in a curious condition." " I heard of Howe when in Hobarton," said Mrs. Maxwell ; " was he as bad as he is gene- rally represented ?" " Well," replied White, " I can't exactly say

that he was as bad as he was painted. There is no doubt that he committed murder, but that was in regaining the liberty he had lost. Some say he was kind to the natives, and not unnecessarily cruel to the people he robbed. But he was a cool, sly, desperate, stop-at- nothing savage. He shot one of his comrades for discharging a pistol in sport near his per- son. He shot a poor black girl who had travelled through the bush with him, procured food for him, and watched for him while he slept. She was not killed, however, but she vowed revenge, and headed a party in pursuit of him. I knew the men who took him, it required three brave men ; and when he was taken, the breath was out of his body. A pity so much courage was not displayed in a better cause." Dark night now closed round the cottage of the Tasmanian farmer, who lived thus in the midst of so many dangers. It was fortunate that detached parties of soldiers and constables were scattered about the country at this period ; if it had not been for this check, the loss of life and property would have been immense. Mrs. White had completed her arrange- ments for the accommodation of her guests, and they retired for the night. How long they lay thinking of wild Robinson Crusoes armed with double-barrelled guns, rows of pis- tols, and polished tomahawks—and men Fri- days, black as coal, with spears and clubs in their hands—before sleep fell upon them, we do not find recorded by any of our numerous authorities. The following day, being Sun- day, was spent by the travellers in rest at far- mer White's cottage. (To be continued.)