Chapter 36645343

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Chapter NumberXIX
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Full Date1867-08-10
Page Number2
Word Count4411
Last Corrected2020-01-27
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.j (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday.) CHAPTER XIX. MORE TROUBLES. Under the attentive care of Mr. Earlsley, who now seemed to take great interest in his new neighbors, although they had at first un- wittingly aroused his jealousy, Griselda ra- pidly recovered her usual health and spirits. A visit to Clifton Hall was planned and paid both by Mrs. Maxwell and her daughter, and the conversation of the two young ladies —the grave Harriet and her romping sister —was enjoyed both in and out of doors, on foot and on horseback, for two or three happy days. It was no slight cause of thankfulness with the settlers that they found themselves residing near such kind people, who were ever ready to offer help in time of need, and to bring consolation to the desolate hearth and the afflicted mind. From the time of Griselda's convalescence the operations and labors of the farm went on as usual. The visit of the natives had at least taught Maxwell the necessity of caution, and though his employments and responsi- bilities continued to increase, he did not diminish his watchfulness. He added two or three more men to the strength of his es- tablislment, still keeping Jacob Singlewood as shepherd and bullock driver, although he occasionally suffered considerable annoyance on account of that individuals tergiversa- tion and idleness. The first Tasmanian summer experienced by our settlers passed away without the oc- currence of any incident worthy of note ; and as the weather was mild and genial they en- joyed with suitable occupations the long plea- sant evenings, when the noontide heat had subsided, and the mellow twilight gradually darkened into more sombre shades. In ram- bles along the river's bank such hours were generally passed ; the young gentlemen armed with guns for protection, and fishing rods for amusement ; the ladies with their books or bags of work. The seasons for hay- making, shearing, and reaping passed ra- pidly away, adding greatly to the farming experience of Maxwell and his sons, but without bringing much pecuniary benefit. The glorious days of the golden fleece had not yet dawned, but to compensate for this the crop of wheat was good, although it was all but spoiled and its owner nearly driven out of his senses by the persevering visits of a herd of wild cattle belonging to nearly every settler in the island. All the corn that could be spared from the family was sold to the Government at a high price. As the value of wheat was then fluctuating between ten and twenty-five shillings per bushel, Maxwell exerted himself to fence in, plough, and sow additional paddocks. Mrs. Maxwell became fonder of cows and established a dairy on a small scale, employing a smart man to milk. Her butter began to get a good name, and she became ambitious to shine also in the article of cheese. In the course of the following year Eugene took his departure for Sydney : an arrange- ment having been entered into with Colonel Arnott that he should reside on the sheep station in New South Wales, and learn the profession of sheep farming in all its branches on a large scale, for a few years. This circumstance created a blank in the family circle at Bremgarten, and the mother of the absent member, of course, felt the loss of her son more keenly than anyone else. By Maxwell it was thought in some degree necessary for the en- largement of his son's experience, and the in- crease of his worldly knowledge ; especially as his friend the Colonel had announced his intention of acting in a very liberal manner. Should the climate, however, disagree with Eugene it was stipulated that no impediment should be thrown in the way of his imme- diate return home. From the date of this last event a gap of about four years occurs in our history. We could easily fill it up with extracts from a farm journal kept during the time by Max- well himself, which now lies on our library table, but we are obliged to press onward to topics of greater interest to the general reader. The journal bears the stamp of having been written by a sensible, practical man--one who, although worldly to the ex- tent of wishing to provide respectably for his family, was never forgetful of his great obligations of GRATITUDE to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. Though he did not often see a Church of England clergyman at his homestead, he made it his duty and con- sidered it a pleasure to transmit a certain portion of his annual income to the highest quarter, as his contribution towards the sup- port of those messengers of peace and a Divine Saviour's love ; while at the same time he was compelled to acknowledge that the aristocratic class in that church was over flowing with wealth and luxury, and the great bulk of the working men were obliged to struggle with heart-breaking poverty. The journal contains a pithy account of every day's transactions, being, in fact, an almost endless catalogue of small calamities, such as —Cattle, in wheat again—Bullocks lost— Jacob insufferably idle, cannot put up with him much longer—Rode to Avoca for letters —Juniper called and talked a great deal, forget all he said—Cheering letter from Eugene—Charles found bullocks ; Jacob could not find them, believe him to be asleep all day under trees—Sold 100 fat wethers to Mr. John Smith for £150, bill at three months—Charles was kicked by Blackbird while putting him in the pole of the dray, leg sore and swollen—Rode to Earlsley's and dined, coming home horse fell into a hole, was thrown, but not hurt—Sunday, family prayers and reading, circumstances are im- proving, dear wife and daughter in excellent

health, thank God !—Weather very hot— Hired laborers to quarry stone—Threatening fire broke out near the quarry, mustered all the men and put it out—Cattle in the wheat again, can hardly sleep at night thinking of them : and so on ad libilum. Thus we see that Maxwell and his wife were now expe- rienced colonists, and the annoyances and privations of a life in the bush were borne with cheerfulness under the expectation of a certain future independence. Their flock of sheep and herd of cattle had materially in- creased. The value of produce, from potatoes up to wool, had risen considerably, and the prices to be obtained for all kinds of stock were extremely encouraging. The pockets of the settler became well lined, in consequence of which an expression of something between self-complacency and benevolence dwelt upon his features. The new house was finished furnished, and this now occupied by the family ; while the old one was abandoned to the mercies of the winds and floods. It was an unpretending structure of freestone, but the interior was tastefully finished with the beautiful Huon pine and odoriferous cedar. The furniture had been purchased by Max- well in Launceston, the northern capital of Tasmania, which he had occasion to visit on business about once a year. A large-sized room, fitted up with superior elegance and taste, was designated, par excellence, the parlor : it could boast of a luxurious carpet, two easy chairs, a sofa, a large telescope table covered with books and periodicals, large windows fringed with hand- some curtains, and a cottage pianoforte, upon which our heroine practised in sweet solitude her favorite songs and pieces of music. We think we see her now in her simple and graceful morning dress, the charms of the fair and modest girl expanded into the more attrac- tive charms of the beautiful and modest woman. We think we hear her breathing forth strains, accompanied by the harmony of her delicately-touched instrument, entrancing our soul and raising us, albeit for a moment, far above this world of clay and stone. The new house had been built higher up on the banks of the river, so as to be secure from floods, and it faced the distant hills on the south, having in aspect the reverse of the old cottage, whose front looked upon the river and the dark mountains on the other side. The house was joined in the rear and on one side by a large garden, newly planted at considerable expense with fruit trees of various kinds. The front opened upon a small but handsome park, enclosed by a post-and- rail fence, in which a few horses and cows were permitted to graze, and through which partially gravelled walk conducted visitors from the entrance gate to the door. On the other side of the dwelling was a paddock, which had been in cultivation for a couple of years, and was now at the time of which we speak bearing a promising crop of wheat, which in another week would be ready for the sickle. Nothing separated the standing corn from the house except a few tall shady gum trees that had been left for the sake of shelter, and a narrow belt of land on which the tall, rank, yellow grass grew and flourished as such grass only can. Near one corner of the garden stood a well built four-stalled stable, and not far from the stable a wooden shed had been erected for shearing sheep in and pressing wool. Within a short distance of this there stood a barn built of timber, with a milking-shed attached, and a men's hut at some distance. There were only two men on the place just then, for Jacob was away with two more dressing sheep from one run to another. A female servant occupied the kitchen within the house. The comforts of country life were to be found in various directions : a carriage and pair was not yet set up, but a handsome gig, drawn by a high stepping good-looking hack, was often seen on the roads in the neighborhood; and the lady and gentleman in it were Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell. Charles had his well-fed hunter and his couple of kangaroo dogs—dogs that would never think of disturbing sheep, but would run down and kill their game while you were whistling a strain of Tom Moody ; while Griselda rejoiced in the possession of a beautiful side-saddle, and her spirited pony, Pompey, the highly-prized gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earlsley, was the admiration of all and the envy of a few of the neighboring Tasma- nian maidens. With respect to the social aspect and internal peace of the colony things did not go on quite so merrily as a marriage bell. The natives, though they showed no further dis- position to molest our friends at Bremgarton, committed various depredations at different times and places which filled the minds of the colonists with alarm, and kept them in a serious state of fear and uncertainty. Their ferocity, approaching in numerous instances to an inextinguishable thirst for blood, had its origin principally in the countless wrongs they from time to time received at the hands of lawless, ignorant, and wicked white men, whose detestable outrages were often visited with ten-fold vengeance on the heads of the innocent, the peaceful, and the conscientious. The terror caused by the onslaughts of these degraded savages had scarcely time to subside when the news would fly through the de- voted island that several gangs of still more degraded prisoners had broken through their bonds of control, betaken themselves to the bush, seized upon arms and ammunition, and a commenced an indiscriminate course of plun- der, accompanied in a few cases by barbarous beating and cold blooded murder. We may be permitted even at this distance of time to sympathise with the sufferers--whether the deeply injured savage or his innocent victim ; the over-punished outcast of Macquarie Harbor, or the unoffending settler who fell before his violence ; but it is no part of our purpose to encroach upon the domain of his- tory. That want, long severely felt, has been happily supplied : and the name of WEST will be treasured with no little venera- tion in future years, when some second ex-

patriated Marius, from New Caledonia, shall sit in solitary desolation amongst the ruins of Hobart Town. A complication of circumstances at this period rendered the situation of the Maxwell family both unfortunate and defenceless. The sheep-shearing being over, and the corn nearly fit for the sickle, as before stated, the absence of Griselda's father was in a measure a matter of necessity, in order that he might attend personally to the sale and delivery of his wool, and purchase supplies for the ensuing year. He had taken his gig with him at considerable risk, for he had received intima- tion that a young relative had just arrived from England, in pursuit, of that desirable object, fortune, to whom he had offered a tem- porary home. It devolved upon Charles in the absence of his father to procure men to get in the harvest, and in addition to this duty he had made arrangements for attending a sale of stock at Campbell Town, having a few hundred surplus sheep to dispose of ; his absence on this journey would probably ex- tend to three days. Thus were Mrs. Max- well and Griselda left without any protection save what could be expected from a single farm servant—Charles having taken the other man with him—and the very slightly capable of energetic action in case any emergency should arise. They had a female servant cer- tainly, but it was a matter of regret that she was very little to be depended upon. To add to Griselda's anxiety and responsibility under these circumstances, her mother was very ill. She had been attacked some time previously by rheumatism on the sciatic nerve, and so acutely painful did that com- plaint become before its progress could be arrested, that the slightest movement caused intolerable anguish. Indeed, the afflicted lady declared that she had no respite from pain—she could not sleep, to stir was agony, to lie still-was torture. Nothing could ex- cecd Griselda's grief as she witnessed the suf- fering of her mother ; and a visit from " the doctor " was looked forward to with intense interest, though dreaded at any other time, except in an unprofessional way, as much as a visit from a ghost. The summer of which we now speak had been from its commencement particularly hot and dry. Indeed, during the preceding winter scarcely any rain had fallen, though an occasional shower of very short duration served to keep life in the grass, and as the spring advanced to ripen the corn, which re- quired some favorable peculiarities both of soil and situation to prevent a total failure through unforeseen drought. The atmosphere both by night, and day was sultry and op- pressive in the extreme, and loaded with the thick smoke of distant fires, through which the rays of an overpowering sun fell upon the parched earth with a ruddy and scarcely natural tinge. The mountains, though at no great distance, were hidden from view as by a dense fog ; and the adjacent hills so wrapped in murky gloom that their proper color was completely changed, and their distance apparently more than doubled. A lively breeze, too, swept from the northward, but instead of clearing the air and driving the smoke away to other regions, it only added to the intense heat, and brought thicker gloom in its train. It was a hot wind but not quite so severe as a Sydney brickfielder,* and it rustled amongst the dry leaves of the forest with melancholy sound. The burning glow of the sun's rays was re- flected from the dry withered grass, in which if a single spark fell it would set the country on fire for miles around. The day on which Charles Maxwell drove his sheep to Camp- bell Town was just such an one as we have endeavored to describe—a by no means plea- sant one, it may be imagined, for such a dusty employment. During the course of that day Griselda's eyes wandered restlessly from point to point of the compass, scanning the country round in every direction with the harassing fore- boding that the dreaded bush fire might break out within the precincts of the farm. Her fears were unfortuinately but too fully realized, for about midday she saw with dismay a dark column of thick smoke rising from amongst the hills on the northern bank of the river, and shooting up into the sky. The locality of this new source of danger was, as nearly as she could judge, about half-way between Bremgarten and Mr. Juniper's residence. Her mind, which was distracted with anxiety for awhile, soon became sufficiently calm to comprehend in a few rapid thoughts the extent of the danger to which her helpless mother and their homestead, with crops and fences, were exposed. Unwilling either to alarm or leave her mother, her first thought was to send the female servant in search of the man, then to write a hurried note to Mr. Earlsley requesting assistance, intending to despatch it to him that very evening ; but the woman returned without being able to find the object of her search. Under these trying circumstances Griselda had no resource but in prayer and patience. She repaired to her mother's chamber, and explained to her as gently and hopefully as she was able the nature of affairs as they stood, at the same time revolving in her mind various plans for apprising the neighbors of the danger which threatened her father's farm. Mr. Juniper, she thought, would surely see the fire, and instantly comprehend the danger they were in. Mr. Earlsley would certainly see it, and send off a strong party of men from the station early in the morning-—men, indeed, whose presence she dreaded, while she was ready to fly for their assistance. At all events she decided to remain quiet until the morning, and then follow whatever plan the necessity of the case seemed to demand. But she could not divest her mind of the fear of a great impending calamity. She looked out upon the night to watch the progress of the flames as they rose over the * See General Mundy's "Our Antipodes," Chap. II ; and Frank Fowler's " Southern Lights and Shadows."

summits of successive hills, and descended to- wards the bank of the river, across which the slightest gust of wind could easily waft a burning leaf, or sheet of flaming bark. There was even no hope then in the scarcely percep- tible dews of night, as the fire burned furiously by night as well as by day, it being January—generally the hottest month in the year. " With her mind full of doubts and fears, mingled with many hopes and prayers that her Heavenly Father would not desert her in whatever trial she might be called upon to endure, Griselda sought her pillow, and fell into her untroubled rest, while half antici- pating the distracting cares which the follow- ing morning might reveal to her eyes. Arising at the earliest dawn her first care was to send directions to the man to go as quickly as possible down the river to see if the fire had crossed, and to ascertain how far it was from the homestead. Awaiting his return in some anxiety she passed away the time, after her morning duties were performed, in watching the rising sun, which looked as if his fierce rays were flung back in his face from the surface of a bright red mirror—a burning world. The atmosphere was still heavy with thick smoke, for the wind had subsided during the night, but it would probably rise again about ten o'clock, as had been its wont for some days ; and there was every likelihood of the fire springing up again about that time more furiously, perhaps, than before. Griselda stood watching, from the garden behind the house, the hills covered with blazing trees, and she could distinctly hear the sullen crashes, multiplied by a variety of echoes, of those which were brought to the ground by the raging element. After an absence of some hours the man re- turned and reported that the fire had not crossed the river—that it was nearly out, and was more than a quarter of a mile away from the bank on the other side—that he had gone nearly as far as Mr. Juniper's and had not seen a human being—finally, his opinion was that there was no danger whatever. Griselda knew, however, from having heard the stories of Mr. Juniper and others, that there was very little weight to be attached to the man's opinion, and determined not to abate her own vigilance in the least. She directed him to find employment on the spot, so that he might be ready to go for help should the necessity arise. She then went and sat down by her mother's bed, to wait with patience and see how matters were likely to turn. Between nine and ten o'clock, when the beams of the sun began to wax in- supportably hot, the wind arose as she ex- pected, and she again went forth with a heart full of trembling expectation, and saw through the sultry gloom the dreaded column of smoke rising from the banks of the river. Seeing that no time was to be lost she instantly decided upon despatching her note to Mr. Earlsley. She sent the man off without desiring him to see every exertion, and return soon. Her own course of action was quickly resolved upon. Her pony Pompey was graz- ing in the paddock : a little time was lost in catching him, but it took only a few moments to adjust the side-saddle and bridle, to don her summer hat, and gird her- self with a riding skirt. Leaving implicit directions with the female servant how to act in case the standing corn caught fire before she returned, and bidding her mother to be of good courage, she sprang lightly into her saddle and with her little whip urged her pony to a gallop. Griselda saw at a glance that if the fire crossed the river it would rage with fury through a thick belt of growing timber called the Peppermint Forest, and wold burn not only her father's fences but his standing corn also ; that if the corn once took fire, the timber barn at the back of the house, together with the stable and adjacent offices would certainly be consumed ; that this wind, blow- ing as it did from the barn to the house, would, in all probability, carry burning fragments to the shingled roof, and thereby cause the destruction of their dwelling ; and that her mother's life would pro- bably be placed in the greatest danger ; and under the influence of an indescribable agony she urged her horse to his greatest speed. The excitement of the exercise nerved her hand and gave courage to her heart, and she flew on over the scrubby path along the smoothly gliding river, be- tween the tall giants of the wood, now stoop- ing low to avoid a withered branch, now stretching forth her hand to push aside the thorny bushes that bent over the track, leap- ing the bush fences and prostrate trees that happened to lie across her path. Thus she pressed on until suddenly drawing bridle, she paused and gazed with renewed dismay on the scene before her. The fire had crossed the river and had ad- vanced considerably into the forest on the southern side. The smoke was suffocating ; and the noise made by the flames as they leaped amongst the brushwood, and rose and caught the green leaves of the wattles and stringy bark, resembled an incessant volley of musketry. Griselda, almost deprived of breath and presence of mind, half turned her horse with the intention of flying back, conveying her mother to a place of safety, and leaving the house to its fate. She considered, however, that she would have time to seek the assist- ace of Mr. Juniper in the hope of saving her father's property if it could be saved, and on she sped once more. But now she had to ride through the fire itself. With her eyes half blinded with the smoke, with flushed cheeks and scarcely daring to draw breath, she whipped her horse through the flame which left unscathed her cloth riding habit, and flew on over the smoking branches, until ar- riving opposite the cottage of the obliging surveyor, she drew rein and tried to alarm the inmates with the sound of her voice ; but this she soon round to be impracticable. Not

daring to trust herself to the river which was not passable at that place, she pressed on again for the ford. Her generous and sure footed pony, seeming to comprehend the necessity of the case, bore her safely on, and with rocking flanks sprang into the delicious water and buried his parched muzzle under the surface at once ; but his young mistress, though she would have given anything for a cooling draught herself, thought of her mother and urged him on. In breathless haste she rode into the farm yard and knocked loudly at the back door, the garden fence preventing her going to the front. The old cook, Hifferman, lazily presented himself. " Is your master at home ?" asked Griselda. " No, Miss," he replied ; " he's out on the hills checking the fire." " Can you go to him ? Have you anyone to send? Our place will be consumed—my father is in Launceston and my brother at Campbell Town." " I've nobody, Miss, barring myself and Mrs. Rim, but I'll get her to come an' mind the place an' go myself, if it was to be my last journey : have a drink of tay, Miss ?" " I would prefer water, if you please : thank you—now go as fast as you and tell Mr. Juniper, if he cannot come himself, to send us some assistance, and my father will thank him." Griselda now turned her horse's head and rode back by the same path. When she got home it was twelve o'clock. She had travelled a distance of ten miles ; and thank- ful to see that the raging fire was still at some distance from the wheat paddock, she sat down and partook of the refreshment the servant had prepared. (To be continued.)