Chapter 36644230

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXII
Chapter Url
Full Date1867-06-15
Page Number2
Word Count2418
Last Corrected2020-01-24
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
article text

THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.j (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. ) (Continued from last Saturdal's issue.) CHAPTER XII. FARMING OPERATIONS AND JOHNSON JUNIPER. THE sun shone cheerfully over the hills of Bremgarten when Griselda and her mother rose early and went forth to look at them. The estate was situated at a considerable distance to the eastward of Avoca, being farther from that township and nearer Fingal than the residence of Mr. Johnson Juniper ; but the bachelor's land being on the northern bank, and Maxwell's on the southern, the river South Esk necessarily flowed between them in a dark, though not a very wide current. Maxwell's cottage had been built at the edge of a green marsh some two miles distant from Juniper's, and about two hundred yards from the river's bank, on the recommendation of Mr. Juniper, who said that the river overflowed its banks frequently, and the farther the settlers were from it the better. Behind it a succession of grassy hills rose with gentle slope, dotted here and there with tall white gum trees, intermixed with thick shady groves of young wattles or mimosas whose countless branches were buried in small leaves of sombre green. From the tops of these hills, or rather banks, a level plain extended for some distance, em- bracing perhaps an area of two hundred acres, and covered with the coarse yellow grass peculiar to the marshes of Tasmania. At the other side of the river lay a chain of dark land heavily wooded hills, so thickly covered with forest that the surface of the soil was not distinguishable, except where some bare black rocks made a gap amongst the countless trees. Over these the top of Ben Lomond could be seen in fine weather, but to obtain a good view of it a walk of some distance from the river was requisite. To the eastward many a bold bluff and craggy peak rose up, rough and inhospitable certainly, but still not the least happy features in a landscape. On the south a row of wooded hills, similar to those on the opposite side, but terminated partially by a high conical mountain called St. Paul's Dome, presented themselves to view. A plain apparently narrow, partly open, and partly interspersed with belts of scrub and thick peppermint forest lay between these ridges. Not far from the cottage there was a lagoon or marsh into which a number of cattle bad found their way, and they appeared to Mrs. Maxwell's eyes a picture of rural content- ment as they stood knee deep in water cropping the green rushes that grew above the surface. From the position occupied by the homestead there was no enchanting view of the surrounding country to be ob- tained ; but by ascending the hills at the back of Maxwell's property a prospect of the western mountains and a splendid view of Ben Lomond might reward the lover of' romantic scenery. From the cottage itself no human dwelling place could be seen, although there were two in the immediate neighbourhood — that of Mr. Juniper, already mentioned, and the well ap- pointed mansion of Arthur Earlsley, Esq., J.P., a landed proprietor of some importance. Maxwell's farm was cut in two by the road leading from Campbell Town to Falmouth. It was not, it must be confessed, the most favorable specimen of Tasmanian farms. The situation was not so open and sunny as Mrs. Maxwell had pictured to her imagination, but she had made up her mind to be satisfied and not make their first day's residence in the bush uncomfortable by repining. * Returning to the house an examination was held of the architecture, extent, and available accommodations of that neat build- ing. The walls were composed of sods cut square from a neighbouring bank, raised to the height of five feet six, so that the grand entrance which faced the river was not a bit too high. The roof was formed of sheets of thick stringy bark obtained from the adjacent forest, supported on round green saplings de- prived of their bark before being put up. The window frames had been made by a bush carpenter of no very refined mechanical inge- nuity, so that they proved but slender barriers against the violent gales of the season. The interior was divided into four apartments by partitions of slabs placed perpendicularly and as close together as was judged necessary for such a temporary abode. The front door opened into the largest apartment, which was intended to serve as kitchen, parlor, and drawing-room all in one. An ample fire place, capable of receiving and comfortably roasting the carcase of an ox, occupied one end, wherein a fire of dry gum wood burned brightly. A white stringy-bark table of large size stood in the centre, and a rudely con- structed dresser was fixed at the back of the room. A few make shift chairs and a couple of rough stools completed the furniture of the dwelling ; but these articles were found very useful additions to those which had been brought up from Hobarton, and altogether when properly arranged made the room as- sume a happy and cheerful aspect. Besides this there was another but smaller apartment, which was entered from it by a narrow door- way, intended to serve as a bed-room for our settler and his wife. At the back of this was another small room destined to be Griselda's sleeping apartment, and adjoining it, and im- mediately at the back of the front room, the dormitory of her brothers was situated. Above them all a kind of loft had been made by slabs resting on the partition walls and * The description of Maxwell and Juniper's farms is principally drawn from imagination the general aspects of the country as seen from the Fingal road being adhered to as far as a hurried visit to the locality could enable the author to delineate them.

tie-beams, where the stores of tea and sugar, spare bedding, and other things were to be kept. The several rooms were lighted by small windows already glazed, and made to open for the admission of fresh air. Though the residence was not, as may be supposed, extremely comfortable, yet Mrs. Maxwell was surprised at her husband's energy in having it completed in so short a time. Her quick eye immediately detected room for improve- ment in every direction, and as soon as the numerous duties of unpacking furniture, opening and untying boxes, and putting things away in the places intended for them, were discharged, she set about completing her plan for keeping the weather out of doors as much as possible, in which her daughter of course assisted her. It is no new thing to our colonial readers to be told that Maxwell felt considerable pride as his eye wandered over the extensive portion of soil which he could now call his own. This pride, if arising from a consciousness of honest independence, from the foot of being placed in a position which enabled him to bid defiance to the chance of poverty, was commendable and faultless. If, on the contrary, it arose from the greedy lust of wealth—an insatiable desire for the perishable riches of this world it was, in our humble opinion, highly to be condemned. We hope the father of Griselda had none of this offensive selfishness, but our readers will be able to judge for themselves on this matter as our story proceeds. We have ourselves been frequently excessively amused at witnessing what a writer on Tas- mania designates as a " scramble after Mammon," and it almost in- variably happens that the moat lucky of Mam- mon's followers are the most eager in the scramble, putting us forcibly in mind of an overgorged wolf snatching the last bite from the mouth of a lean and half-starved one. But there was no time to be lost. A living if not Mammon, had to be scrambled for. Farming operations had to be commenced, stock had to be procured, working cattle, too. Mr. Baxter was persuaded to part with four of his best—very best—working bullocks for their fair value in money. He was also per- suaded, almost against his will, to plough a piece of ground, about fifteen acres, for Max- well's future wheat crop, at the moderate charge of two pounds per acre. A farm ser- vant was lent for awhile by Mr. Juniper to draw wood and water. A bullock cart and a cask mounted on wheels were purchased, and the bullocks were yoked up to bring home a load of wood. Maxwell yoked them up him- self in order to learn and teach his sons ; he also put them to the cart himself. He lifted up the pole and placed it in the ring, letting the bolt drop on the outside as was right, but the bullocks not knowing his voice thought proper to run away, taking the empty cart and the proprietor clinging to the pole, down the marsh towards the river. In this situa- tion he kept himself quiet in order to avoid running the risk of frightening the animals, and urging them on still faster ; but he man- aged to get astride on the pole, and with the help of one of the bullocks' tails he pulled himself backwards until he could catch the front rail, and thus draw himself up into the cart. Thence it was easy to drop out behind and return leisurely to the cottage, where his alarmed wife stood looking at him in silence, and his children wondering what would happen to them if he had been killed. The laboring man, Jacob Singlewood by name, laughed at his new master's misfortune, went for the bullocks, and brought the wood and water. The bullocks he said were quiet bullocks enough, but they did not like stran- gers, and master would know how to manage them next time. When a quantity of wood was laid in, Maxwell and his sons turned out to assist Jacob in putting up a fence round their new paddock which Baxter was plough- ing. They worked hard. The trees were cut down and lopped, dragged into the line by the bullocks, and piled up into their place with the aid of inclined skids and hand spikes ; but these novices in labor found the wood hard and tough. Their hands, too, were tender, and soon became covered with blisters, which Griselda and her mother gently bound up with the softest linen they could find. Their backs and sides also were sore from lifting heavy weights. Then Mrs. Maxwell had their dinner ready for them at 1 o'clock. It con- sisted of salt beef or salt pork, too, and damper—a close unleavened kind of bread baked in hot ashes, no oven having as yet been built. The salt meat and damper were unpalatable to the ladies, and they lived nearly upon tea, as yet unaccompanied by the luxury of milk. But it had been ar- ranged that Maxwell should take his horse and travel about a little in order to purchase a couple of cows and a few sheep, also some potatoes and a pig, Mrs. Maxwell sagaciously observing that a farm was not and could not be a farm without a pig. There were no out offices as yet upon the establishment, no stable, no barn or cowshed, no stye for pig or hut for Jacob ; but Maxwell's hands were full, he would have all these things in good time ; the farm was his own and nobody could sweep down like a well-fed hawk, de- mand more rent, or, failing that, turn him out away from his home and the fruits of his labor ; what a comfort that was ! As Jacob could not well be expected to sleep under a tree, his master was obliged to admit him into the house, and he slept in a corner of the kitchen on a large sea chest, filled with crockery, slops, and tobacco. How it would have amused their friends at home if they could have seen Maxwell and his family dining at their large table on the damper, salt beef, and tea, the man Jacob being simi- larly engaged at the same time in his own corner. As for the river it was still too high to be crossed at Kangaroo Billy's ford—so called, we have heard, from the fact of an old shepherd having been drowned there in former times ; thus all communication with

Mr. Johnson Juniper, save by boat, was cut off. But Juniper had a boat in which he could cross the river at any time ; it was the trunk of a large tree, formed into a primitive canoe by being hollowed out in the middle, and he came over one afternoon having first allowed his now neighbors a few days to get settled in their bush residence. Mr. Juniper, though a bachelor, was a very considerate man. He now sauntered up the marsh lead- ing to Maxwell's cottage with a good sized basket hanging on his arm. Eugene was out- side pointing rails for a stock.yard, and seeing the stranger yet at a distance he threw down his adze and ran into the cottage hastily, cry- ing out that a strange man was coming ; that he looked like a bushranger, and had a basket on his arm full, perhaps, of loaded pistols ! Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda felt alarmed for a moment, but quickly banished their fear on taking a view of the stranger. The former knew Mr. Juniper at once by the description her husband had given her of him. She reproved Eugene for causing so great an alarm on such slight grounds, and retired to change her apron and adjust her hair before the visitor should arrive ; Griselda did the same. Eugene returned to his work, and the stranger came up to him. "Are you Mr. Maxwell's son ?" said he. " Yes," replied Eugene. The visitor held out his hand" How do you do ?" said he, and after shaking hands he drew from his basket a large rosy apple and gave it to the boy, who took it with a ' thank you.' Mr. Juniper then asked if Mr. Max- well was at home, and Eugene answered " No, but my mother is." [The demands upon our space for English news compel us to divide this chapter, which is longer than usual.]