Chapter 36646277

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXXIV
Chapter Url
Full Date1867-09-28
Page Number2
Word Count5495
Last Corrected2020-01-27
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 last Saturday ) CHAPTER XXIV. A NOCTURNAL EXPEDITION.—DINNER TALK. THE worthy bachelor of Skittle-Ball Hill seemed to be rather flurried. He had ridden over to Avoca, he said, to beg off his unfortu- nate cook for about the fiftieth time, and ex- pected to meet Mr. Earlsley there, it being the appointed day for the sitting of the weekly court ; but Mr. Earlsley did not make his appearance. He (Mr. Juniper) had spoken to another magistrate, however, concerning the besotted knight of the saucepan, and the delinquent was again let off with a sentence of ten days' solitary confinement. The absence of Earlsley created considerable dis- cussion and conjecture, but though many reasons were assigned for his non-appearance, the true one was never suspected. Mr. Juniper commenced his journey home with the intention of going on to Bremgarten if he heard no news by the way, but he luckily encountered the terrified carrier, who gave him the same information he had already im- parted to Mr. Maxwell. On the receipt of tlhis intelligence Juniper hastened home, " planted"—i.e., hid—his firearms and other valuables, and immediately started for Brem- garten with the determination of assisting Mr. Maxwell in the defence of his establish- ment. Upon his arrival there, and after he had explained these matters in an excited manner, the settler expressed his thanks, and Juniper sat down to partake of refreshment ; also to give his opinion on the state of affairs. He was very glad, he said, to see such a strong party mustered at Bremgarten, parenthetically laying down his knife and fork to count them upon his fingers. There were, in addition to Maxwell and his son, the Colonel—whose experience in military matters made him a valuable acquisition,—his son, Mr. Herbart, and four men,—altogether, with himself, ten fighting men. As for his own hut at home, he would never think of defending it ; it was not worth defending : he had left his shepherd in charge of the house, and the bushrangers were welcome to take all the stores they could find. But Maxwell's case was different. He had a large supply of tea, sugar, and other stores, as well as a wife and daughter to pro- tect. Juniper therefore thought it advisable to abandon his own place and help Maxwell to defend his. Far from taking any credit to himself for his chivalrous generosity, the simple-minded bachelor blamed himself for not having brought his arms : he had two ex- cellent guns, which he had planted, which would be of great service, although his opinion concerning the bushrangers coincided with that of Colonel Arnott—that they, having been seen by the carrier, and having allowed him to escape from them, would immediately beat a retreat to their hiding-places in the Ben Lomond Tier. With respect to the plan of sending scouts to ascertain how affairs stood at Clifton Hall, Juniper cordially approved of it, though he regretted the necessity of Her- bart's undertaking the duty, as his valuable assistance to them might be missed when most needed. It was, however, finally decided that Edwin and the head shepherd, Jacob Singlewood, each with a loaded pistol, should start immediately on the proposed expedition, and they set out accordingly just as the night was beginning to fall. The night was not only very cold, but very dark, and notwithstanding that he was well wrapped up Edwin felt chilly and nervous, while he heard Jacob's teeth chatter like an infant's rattle. But as the novelty of their employment began to wear off, and by reason of rapid walking the blood began to circulate, all uneasy feelings from cold quickly gave way to those of cheerful exhilaration. The moon was expected to rise about midnight ; it was therefore a point of prudence to recon- noitre the Hall before her light could dis- cover them to the enemy, supposing them to be still in occupation. Repressing his com- panion's tendency to enter into conversation, Edwin walked on rapidly, but not without meeting with a good many mishaps. He tumbled more than once head foremost over prostrate trees ; he frequently got entangled amongst thickets which he could not see ; he plunged several times into shallow holes full of water, and would have walked right into the South Esk if Jacob, who walked close behind him, had not pulled him back. It took him, therefore, three good hours to ac- complish the distance, about five miles, and at last he found himself within a short distance of Earlsley's mansion. He now halted to deliberate with his com- panion whether they should advance boldly or creep cautiously. There was no light or even sound to guide them ; and in case of alarming any sentinel, whether friend or foe, should they allow themselves to be taken prisoners, or, first making sure that he was a bushranger, blow his brains out on the spot, and then run away to a distance Jacob strongly advised this plan, but Edwin was afraid lest the outlaws should take vengeance on the family. Commending himself to the guidance of Providence he took out his pistol, and to avoid being too readily seen by any one on the watch, went down upon his knees and commenced a cautious advance towards the house. He ordered Jacob to imitate his movements in all respects, and not on any account to rise from his knees or discharge his pistol rashly. In this manner.they approached until they could see the doors and windows pretty plainly, but they did not hear or see a living soul. They lay thus for some time listening and watching, but could hear nothing except the croaking of the frogs in the neighboring marshes, nor could they see anything in the likeness of man or beast. At length Edwin decided on attracting attention, if possibly

there was any one to attract, and with that view took up a small stone and threw it for- cibly against the front door. The missile rattled upon the door with considerable noise and a dead silence followed which lasted about two minutes ; then Herbart dis- tinctly heard a voice evidently confined in a distant apartment call out, " Who's there ?" He now arose and advanced to the door and applying his lips to the keyhole, re- plied " A friend ! is there anything the matter inside !" The same voice immediately answered in a louder tone, " Yes ; come in if you can, we are all tied and cannot stir." Edwin tried the door and found it un- fasted. He walked in, but being quite be- wildered by the darkness called out again— " Where can I find you ?" " Who are you ?" enquired the voice. " Edwin Herbart, from Bremgarten." " Oh, you are like an angel from Heaven ; just step along the passage, Mr. Herbart, and feel for the second door on the right : only just cut this infernal rope and I'll soon get a light." Edwin did as he was directed and soon came to the door indicated. He found it locked, but the key fortunately had not been removed, and he stepped into a dark room. " Is that you, Mr. Earlsley ?" he said. " Yes, Sir," said the magistrate, " it is all the infernal murdering villains have left of me ; have you got a knife ! Guide yourself round the table, cut this rope here behind my back. I'll see them hanged yet, the foul inhuman devils, or I'm not made of flesh and blood." When the cords that bound the unhappy Earlsley were divided he could hardly make use of his limbs ; he arose, tottered, and sat down again muttering, " Good God ! I have hardly a whole bone left in my body." " Is it possible they have ill-used you, Sir ?" said Edwin. " Ill-used me !" said Earlsley; " they beat me till I was insensible. But we must go and release the others : did you come alone ?" " No, Sir ; Mr. Maxwell's head shepherd is with me." " How did you get the information !" " The carrier Baxter rode over from Avoca to complain of Jinkins the sawyer for im- pounding his pigs, and when he got near enough he saw the ruffians, who invited him to come on, and when he took flight fired four shots at him, so he says. He gave the alarm, so it is likely the soldiers from Avoca will be here presently." " They must be all asleep at Fingal, or else blind drunk ;" said Earlsley, groping his way into the passage and thence to the kitchen, where with some difficulty he man- aged to light a candle at the nearly extin- guished fire. He then opened the door of an adjoining apartment and entered it, followed by Edwin and Jacob. There they discovered a number of men, soldiers, constables, and farm servants, some sitting on chairs, some lying on the floor, but all tied so se- curely that not one of them found it possible to set himself at liberty. Even if able to free themselves they were overpowered by fear, for the bushlrangers had sworn with the most horrible oaths that they would set the place on fire if any of them moved hand or foot before the next morning. Their hands were now cut, much to their relief, and Earlsley proceeded up stairs to release his wife and daughters, who together with the young children, Miss Leary, and two female servants, had been locked up in an upper room. Beyond the severe fright and depri- vation of their liberty, they had not been molested by the outlaws. They had not un- dressed, and now came down to thank Mr. Herbart for his chivalrous exertions to relieve them, and to prepare refreshments, of which they now stood much in need. The magistrate, though stiff and sore from the ill-treatment he had received, commenced to investigate the amount of his losses. He took Edwin into his store-room, whence he found that quantities of tea, sugar, flour, and tobacco had been abstracted. Various articles of clothing had disappeared ; plate and jewellery had been seized wherever found ; the ladies' drawers and boxes had been rum- maged and plundered, and the whole house turned into a scene of the greatest confusion. The wine and spirits, too, and the contents of the larder had been carried off. In a word, poor Earlsley's mansion had been completely ransacked ; many things were wantonly broken, and everything knocked about into the wildest disorder. According to the statement of the sentinel on duty at the time of the attack, it took place about four o'clock on the preceeding morning, when as he stood in his box, enjoy- ing his pipe—for it was excessively cold— (he had no business to smoke while on guard), and just as the moon was obscured by black clouds, he was suddenly seized by a strong hand, a pistol held to his mouth, and told that if he stirred or spoke he should be a dead man that minute ; his musket was taken from him, and his hands were tied behind his back. In this condition he was ordered into the kitchen, which served as a guard room as well, where his two comrades reposed on a bench in their watch-coats. These men were instantly secured and their arms seized. The kitchen was now filled with about twenty of the dirtiest and most ferocious looking desperadoes imaginable, and the leader—a man who was said to have been in his better days a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, made immediate preparations to take entire possession of the house, and with this object in view ordered six of his men to go round to the huts, secure all the servants, and march them into the kitchen. A corporal and three men who slept in an ad- joining cottage, along with three constables, and half a dozen farm laborers were made prisoners, marched to the kitchen, and

threatened with death if they made either noise or resistance. The outlaws regaled themselves with whatever provisions they could find, waiting patiently, till the door leading from the kitchen to the interior of the house should be opened by the servant, for it was always locked at night. At 7 o'clock the step was heard, the door unlocked and opened, the woman, before she had time to comprehend how matters stood, laid hold of and the door shut again, the captain saying to her at the same time—" Keep silence at your peril, be obedient and nobody shall hurt you." What followed it is scarcely necessary to tell. Earlsley was made prisoner as soon as he emerged from his bedroom ; his wife, children, and female servants were locked up in it. He was widely known as an inflexibly severe magistrate, and hated accordingly by transgressors of the law. To their demand for money he denied that there was any in the house. They refused to believe him, beat him severely, calling it a just punishment for his unmerciful sentences, and advised him to be more lenient for the future. Leaving him tied to his chair and locked up in his study, they proceeded to search the house for valuables, and while so engaged were alarmed by the sudden appearance of Baxter. They then hastily loaded four of Earlsley's horses with plunder and took their departure ; had they taken or shot the carrier they would, as they told the soldiers, have visited Mr. Max- well on the following morning. It was now past midnight. The moon having risen, Edwin and his subordinate par- took of some refreshment, and were about to return home, when a loud knock at the front door re-awakened the half slumbering alarm of the magistrate's household. A challenge was given, a friendly answer returned, the door was opened, and a military officer in a cloak and with a drawn sword in his hand, fol- lowed by nearly a dozen soldiers and a few constables, entered. They had travelled from Avoca, and might have arrived some hours sooner, but bewildered by the darkness of the night they had lost their way repeatedly, and had they not been provided with a guide, although he was scarcely better than a blind one, they could not have found it before day- light. Edwin and Jacob now started on their return to Bremngarten. " It was a lucky job, Musther Hubburt," said Jacob, " that we come, old Earlsey would ha' been froze to death, or starved with hunger." Herbart assented that it was a lucky job, but he was not inclined for conversation. In due course they reached home, and on making themselves known were admitted by Maxwell who had not retired to rest. The Colonel and his son had gone to bed. Max- well, Charles, and Juniper lay in their clothes in the parlor ready for action at a moment's notice, while the men occupied the kitchen. Candles had not been lit and the fires were kept as low as possible lest the glare of light might attract the vigilant enemy. Edwin gave a history of his adventures and of the proceedings of the banditti, and was then allowed to retire to rest. On the following day, the de- parture of the bushrangers being taken for granted, things went on in their usual course, only a greater degree of watchfulness was observed. The settler and his guests assembled to breakfast, during which the conversation we may be sure was of a most exciting and animated character. The old Colonel, refreshed by a sound sleep, and burning with martial excitement, ate, drank, and talked in a manner which it would be in vain attempt to describe or re- port. Juniper was lively and agreeable ; Henry was very attentive to the ladies ; the ladies were in good spirits ; and Charles and Edwin listened with quiet enjoyment to the anecdotes of Clive, Hastings, and Wellesley, from the atrocities of Suraja Dowlah to the victory of Assaye, which teemed from the old warrior's lips. Breakfast over Juniper returned home, promising to come again in the evening, and bring his arms with him. Edwin and Charles rode over to Clifton Hall, and there learned that Lieutenant Dawlish had gone in pursuit of the robbers at the head of a strong party, but had not returned. The family were well excepting, of course, the magisterial victim of bushran- gers' vengeance ; whom, it was deemed fortu- nate, they had not despatched altogether. At two o'clock the family at Bremgarten set down to dinner. Maxwell paid the greatest possible attention to his guests. The Colonel seemed to have forgotten the two saints in heaven, who stood at the door in momentary expectation of hearing his well known knock, and exerted himself considera- bly to amuse his amiable hostess. Henry devoted his very particular attentions to Miss Maxwell, and we cannot say that Griselda seemed to manifest any very high displeasure at that circumstance, although her gaiety was tempered with a certain degree of reserve ; she conversed with Henry with her usual simple grace, but a close observer might easily discover a certain air of abstraction, which betrayed a deep, perhaps unhappy, train of thought. " My dear madam," said the Colonel, " you will confer infinite happiness on the roughest old dog in the world if you will condescend to take wine with him." " Do you know, Maxwell," he continued, when, the smiling, bowing, and sipping were over, " that to live in this world, and arrive at the dignity of eighty years, requires an immense amount of double-minded roguery, consummate impudence, and stoical hardness of heart." " That is new doctrine, Colonel," said Maxwell ; " I have yet to learn what on earth roguery has to do with longevity." " I'll state my premises by a short anec- dote, Sir, and you can arrive at the conclu- sion yourself. When I got tired of living in the bush in New South Wales, I came

and bought some land near Sydney, and built Cook Villa. The house was finished. I took possession. I had a beautiful watch- dog and two splendid horses. One evening three very old men came to my door, and begged hard for charity and a night's lodging. I went to them, ' What are you ?' said I, ' We're two old blind men, Sir, and one lame one, that's weary of our lives !' ' Where are you going to ?' ' Back to the towns, Sir !' ' Where have you been to ?' ' To the South Head, Sir !' ' What the deuce were your doing there ?" ' Why, Sir," said the spokesman with a whine like a dying crocodile, ' we are very unfortunate men ; we tried to get a living by asking charity from our fellow creatures who is stuffed up with the things of this life, yer honor, but it was no go, we could'nt move their stony hearts, Sir ; and sooner than die of starvation we agreed for to do something desperate, and we thought the best thing we could do, yer honor, would be to put our- selves out of the way as quietly as possible. So we bound ourselves by a solemn oath to go to the South Head, and take one another's hands and leap off the rock right into the sea. Well Sir, out we went, and when we came to the South Head we was conscience struck at the great sin we was going to com- mit ; so we agreed to go back and get abso- lution, and promise never to do it again.' ' What countryman are you ?' said I. ' I'm an Irishman, yer honor, from the town of Killemaule, in the bog of Allen, and this here is an Englishman from the mines o' Cornwall, and that there is a Scotchman from the Carne o' Gowrie.' ' How old are you ?' ' I'm eighty year this day, Sir, and this here is eighty-five, and that there is ninety- one.' ' Well,' said I, ' I think you are three of the most venerable rascals in the country;' and having so said I gave them five shil- lings apiece, and told my groom to shake down some straw in the gig shed, and let them sleep there ; but not to let them go in the morning till I gave them a letter to Mr. Blank, the secretary of the Benevolent So- ciety. Well, Sir, would you believe it ? my three conscientious old gentlemen walked off pretty early in the morning after having poisoned the watch dog ; and I never saw them again, nor yet the two fine horses that I took such pride in, from that day to this." " You don't mean to say they stole your horses ?" " They did, Sir." " That was a serious loss Colonel, they were were very great as well as venerable scoundrels—the pleasure of taking wine with you ? Perhaps they were young men in dis- guise. I suppose your prejudice against gentlemen of eighty years and upwards comes a little home to number one ?" " Why, Sir," answered the Colonel, " a man is not bound to say anything to crimi- nate himself ; but if you want my character you must go to Harry, he'll give it to you when I'm asleep, and I'll bet you a dozen of claret that it will be a nice one." " I can form a pretty good estimate for myself," said Maxwell. " Not you, Sir, by the cross of St. Patrick ; I beg a thousand pardons, my dear madam and fair rosebud, for presuming to swear in your angelic presence," said the Colonel, bobbing his nose down to the table. " You didn't live in the same house with me, sir, since you were a baby. I never called you a fool or an ass twenty times in one day : you hav'nt put up with the most abominable temper in the world for twenty years, like that picture of injured innocence there. I have lived a life of up-hill work for eighty years, and waded in the blood of the enemies of my country, but I never committed an act of base, delibe- rate meanness in my life. I havn't got the impudence to deny that I am a violent old fellow, but I am always led by the nose into it by the perverse folly or filthy cupidity of other people. If I made money I scattered it in proportion, reserving only what I thought would keep my children from want. I never made a god of it. When I was poor and met with a man still poorer, I shared my crust with him. I don't deny my unworthiness : I can't expect to live long. I've got some religion ; I believe in the Saviour ; I know that we are all such offenders that we could not be saved except through a Saviour who never offended. Bless your soul, sir, the good God would not notice us at all if we were not taken hold of by a Saviour. I know it, and knowing it as I do I trust to it, and am ready whenever the angel of death comes to me and says, ' Come, your main- spring is worn out, old fellow,' to die full of hope and happiness : and if I should die under your roof, Maxwell, you will bury me in a corner of your garden (I shall not want it consecrated by a bishop), and your fair daughter shall plant a willow or a cypress on the spot." " With your permission, father," said Henry, with some emotion, " when that event takes place, you shall be buried where my dear mother sleeps, and the willow or cypress may be planted by the same hand." As he spoke he turned his dark eyes on Griselda, who blushed deeply. At that mo- ment Edwin asked his fair cousin to take wine with him. Henry Arnott looked sur- prised, and smiled rather disdainfully as he filled her glass. " You have never told us, Colonel, where you were born ?" said Mrs. Maxwell. " No, ma'am, I believe I never have,—I was born in or near Woolwich dock- yard. The day was a remarlaible one, for a very singular and tragical event occurred upon it. My father was then a captain in the Artillery, and had received sudden orders to sail for India ; my mother had just come down from Edinburgh Castle. The fatigue

of the journey caused her to be taken ill, ma'am, before her time, and there being no place quite handy at the precise moment, but the quarters of a barrack sergeant, she was taken in there and laid on the sergeant's bed, with the sergeant's wife to wait on her until the regimental doctor made his appearance. It was dark night when my time came. The sergeant was a tyrant, and the men hated him. One of them had sworn to take his life, and for that purpose had loaded his musket and left his ramrod in the barrel. Just as I came squealing into the world, Sir, there took place a tremendous explosion outside the window, and the ramrod passing close to the doctor's elbow, actually stuck in the wall six inches above my mother's head !" "O, that was frightful—dreadful—shock- ing !" said Mrs. Maxwell. " Terrible indeed," said her husband. " Yes, ma'am," resumed the Colonel ; " but that was hardly the worst of it, for the ser- geant was in the next room at the time, and being a brave man rushed out to see what the matter was. He was instantly received on the point of a bayonet, and killed on the spot." " And what effect had it upon your poor mother, Colonel ?" said Mrs. Maxwell. " A very bad one, I believe, ma'am," answered the old officer; " but she got over it, and we all sailed for Calcutta in a fortnight. I never saw England since." Mrs. Maxwell, after expressing the utmost astonishment at the strange vicissitudes which had attended the Colonel from his very birth, arose and with her daughter left the room. The Colonel, who seemed anxious for a private conversation with his host, said—"Now, you youngsters, be off : make plenty of ball car- tridges, and practice a little ; some powder and lead thrown away on a gum-tree will not be wasted ; and look out that we are not taken by surprise. The young men departed accordingly. " Did you notice the conduct of that scamp of a son of mine, Maxwell," said the Colonel, " talking about taking your daughter to Syd- ney to plant a cypress on my grave ? The impudence of the vagabond ! Why in all probability he'll be dancing a hornpipe while she's planting the tree." " I noticed with surprise my daughter's confusion, Sir," said Maxwell, " but I had no idea he made any direct personal allusion to her." " Ah ! but he did though. I can never teach that fellow any sense, though I believe he is a good fellow at bottom, but he doesn't know the female heart as I do. He rushes blindly on, making himself sure of victory, forgetting or trampling upon the possibility of defeat. You are not ignorant, I hope, that our chief object in coming here was to arrange a matrimonial alliance between your amiable daughter and this impetuous young Romeo." " Until this moment," said the settler, much astonished, " I was profoundly ignorant of it." " Well, Sir, it is true. When he first saw her at Cook Villa he set his heart upon her. He has been pestering me about it ever since. He is the most stubborn and self-worshipping imp of Satan that ever was born, though I dare say he'll make a good husband enough. Now I have enlightened you, what are your sentiments ?" " My sentiments," replied Maxwell, " will be more or less guided by those of my daugh- ter." " Certainly, we must consult Miss Max- well's inclinations. But what do you say on your own account ? Will you advance his suit or retard it ? Do you see anything ob- jectionable in an alliance with my family ?" " On the contrary, my dear Colonel, I would hold it a distinguished honor, but I hope you or your son do not rush into this affair without due consideration. My daughter is not an heiress, and having two brothers her portion must necessarily be small, therefore I— " O who the deuce are you talking to with your heiresses and your portions ? I tell you, Sir, I am in earnest. I have set my heart on the match just as much as Harry has—the short wedded life of my gentle Henrietta, who never breathed a sneer or a reproach comes back to me again—and I do not mean to be choked off by your miserable stuff about money. I can give him his for- tune, what I always intended to give him, and not a rap more, if it was to save him from being hanged. And I can give her her fortune and settle it on herself, so that he can't touch it. This I will do, in case she consents to become my daughter-in-law." " I cannot but feel highly flattered, Colonel, by your unexpected and startling proposal, but I think my daughter should not be pressed for an immediate reply. The young people are almost strangers to each other. Time should be allowed for some insight into disposition and temper. I might answer for one,but know nothing of the other. If you are satisfied to wait a little the matter shall have my warmest support, provided that I think your son will be likely to make my daughter happy : I would not make her aware of Mr. Henry's sentiments just yet." " Well, Maxwell, I respect you for your caution, but as for Harry he won't wait long. I think Mrs. Maxwell might very well broach the subject to the young lady and ascertain her sentiments ; a dutiful daughter as she is will no doubt be guided by the opinions of her parents, and if you talk the good lady mamma over, I bet a dollar the thing is settled." " I will mention the subject, Sir, to Mrs. Maxwell, and be guided by her advice." " And to prove to you that my words are not mere vapor, I will make a fresh will this very night : your neighbor, Mr. Juniper, and my aid-de-camp, young Herbart, can sign it as witnesses." " No, Sir," said Maxwell, " I think it will be better not to mention the matter to him at all."

" Why, Sir, he need not know the contents, but he may witness the signatures." " True, I forgot that ; well, Colonel, just as you like, he is a well-conducted young man but is subject to strong depressions of spirits at times. He is very useful to me, but I wish he could get a more independent situa- tion elsewhere." " If he would go to Sydney I could get him a good situation at once ; you can men- tion the subject to him, and if he likes to go I'll give him a letter that will make his fortune." " I will seek an opportunity of doing so. The young man, Colonel, is of a very romantic disposition, and requires to be broken in to steady ideas and habits of business. I think there is some good stuff in him, and no des- picable quantity of poetical nonsense. His father was a clever man, but latterly he made several unfortunate speculations, and ruined himself. Edwin is poor, proud, good tem- pered, and industrious. I have been thinking of letting him cultivate a farm in this neigh- borhood, though there are certain weighty reasons against it. Still I esteem the poor lad, and should like to be of service to him." The conversation now turned upon Isabel, and the best method of getting her up from Hobart Town. In these days there was no mail coach, so that both the inconveniences and dangers of travelling in Tasmania were of a very formidable nature. After many plans had been proposed, it was at last de- cided to send her brother for her, on horse- back, leading Griselda's pony, and she could return with him by easy stages. Henry him- self, on being consulted, expressed his will- ingness to set out on the following morning. (To be continued.)