|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from last Saturday ) CHAPTER XXIX.—(Continued.) While all this was taking place Juniper had entered his canoe, which lay moored a little way down the river, and paddled him- self across. When he came up to where Maxwell and the Colonel stood, he had not recovered his breath, and the astonishing exertions he had made to outrun the runaway made him cough and puff in a very distress- ing manner. " How do (ugh ! ugh !) you do, Sir ?" said he, speaking with great diffi- culty; "good morning (ugh ! ugh !), Mr. Maxwell. Did you ever (ugh ! ah ! oh ! and a terrible fit of coughing and spitting) see s-such a young—rascal in your life ? Caught him on (ugh ! ugh !) the tier the day before yesterday, and fed him (O-o-o-o) on twenty-four 'possums and a suck- ing (ugh ! ugh !) pig, and look at the ingrati- tude of the scamp (ah ! oh! oh !)" " Twenty-four 'possums and a sucking-pig since the day before yesterday !" said the Colonel, with staring eyes ; " never knew before that natives would eat pig.'" Maxwell begged the distressed surveyor to sit down on the bank and not say anything more until he had recovered his breath. To show a good example he sat down himself, and entered into an animated conversation with the Colonel on the subject of ethnology—the possible causes of the great difference observa- ble between black men and white : on the curious organisation of the human race in general : and on the different shades of the pigment that gives the color to the epidermus,—which colloquy lasted nearly an hour. " What do you intend to do with this superior specimen of humanity, Sir?" asked the Colonel of Mr. Juniper, when his cough had in some degree subsided. " I'll tame him, Sir," answered Juniper, " and make a cook of him. He'll then be in a position to take the place of old Heffernan, who is rapidly descending into at state of per- petual drunkenness." The Colonel looked unutterable disgust. " A cook !" he muttered aside to Maxwell ; "' well, taste is a rich quality in some people, no doubt." The surveyor now bethought himself of inviting Maxwell and his guest to cross the river in his canoe, and on their assenting pro- ceeded to inform them, while making prepara- tions, that as he happened a day or two before to be walking over the hills with some of his men, looking for some good splitting trees, he had suddenly stumbled upon a fire round which a party of natives had evidently been seated a few moments before, but not a one could he or his men see in any direction, though their spears lay round the fire. Pro- secuting their search in a small circle all round for a short time without seeing a single native, they returned to the fire, and were astonished to find that the spears had most mysteriously vanished. Impressed with awe, if not terror, they immediately struck out for home, and as one of the men was in the act of stepping over a log the juvenile prisoner was surprised in the act of crouching under it. He was secured and brought home, in- stalled in Juniper's kitchen, and feasted as the reader knows ; but not being ambitious of a roof over his head, or cooked meat in his stomach, he watched his opportunity and took to his heels, in the hope, probably, of having the pleasure of guiding some of his roving associates into Juniper's kitchen on a future occasion. The canoe, scarcely large enough to con- tain one person, was found quite inadequate for the accommodation of four, and it was not without some hesitation that Maxwell finally consented to lie down in the bottom with the black boy secured between his knees, while Juniper should paddle them across, leave them on the opposite bank, and return for the Colonel. In this manner the river was crossed in safety, Maxwell's man remaining with the horse and gig, and the party proceeded up the hill to bachelor's hall. The hospitable host having delivered his pri- soner into the charge of one of his men, in- vited his visitors to enter his humble abode, which they did at once, and sat down to rest themselves. The conversation turned at first on that vast field of knowledge and speculation an- thropography, for an insight into which we beg to refer our curious readers to " Prit- chard on Man." Then it changed insensibly to the political aspects of the then respectable colony of Tasmania, a subject in which un- fortunately we take but little interest. The newspapers of the day were referred to, the shortcomings of the Governor, the errors and tyranny of ignorant and upstart secretaries of state, the management or mismanagement of prison labor, and other interesting matters were duly canvassed ; when Juniper thought it high time to admonish his cook that the dinner hour was approaching. That useful functionary answered his master by a low grunt. He had been talk- ing incessantly since the visitors entered, sos that they hearing him thought he was in conversation with somebody else, but this was not the case. He was engaged in an amicable discussion with himself as to the probability of his master ever paying the debt which he had just contracted to Mr. Maxwell's man, of the pound of tobacco and the six glasses of rum. By what cunning artifice could he, Mr. Heffernan, secure a moiety at least of the latter article for his own private and peculiar drinking ? He licked his lips in the pleasing anticipation, and answered his master gruffly when the latter interrupted his reverie by reminding him of the dinner. He entered the sitting room with a dingy cloth which had seen two months' service at least since it was last in the hands of the
laundress, and spread it on the table, leaving the corners the opposite of square, and the drooping sides anything but parallel. He then rattled down on the cloth with a noise like penny theatre thunder the requisite number of knives and forks, three pewter spoons, plates, and three cracked tumblers. Mr. Juniper opened his cupboard and pro- duced a bottle, the contents of which he in- vited Maxwell and the Colonel to taste. To oblige him they complied, and each took a little mixed with water. It was rum, the dear liquor on which Christian governments grow rich, and which transforms the wise man into the drivelling idiot. As the Colonel was about to wonder audibly what the deuce had become of the dinner, Mr. Heffernan en- tered groaning under the weight of at beau- tiful pie—such a good looking pie, that might contain at least, as Maxwell thought, one delicate morsel of lean meat for his friend the Colonel, who he knew was no Russian and disliked fat exceedingly. The pie was followed by a loaf of bread, three teacups with milk and sugar, though no tea- pot appeared as yet. " This is crackle pie, Sir," said Juniper, addressing the Colonel, and sticking his knife and fork into the crust—" will you take some ?" " I suppose I must or starve," said the Colonel ; what is crackle pie ?" He had scarcely asked the question when a powerful odour as if from a neighboring soap boiling manufactory suddenly pervaded the room. " Crackle pie, Sir, is very good," said Juniper, " at least in my opinion ; but per- haps you would prefer a chop ! I never thought of asking you before." " No, Sir," said the Colonel ; " give me a cup of tea and bit of bread and butter ; if you have no butter, a dry crust will be ac- ceptable, if you please." " Make haste with the tea, cook," said Juniper. " Coming with it," answered that official. " Will you take some pie, Mr. Maxwell." " Let me look at it," said that gentleman. He did look at it accordingly, and had his nose well rewarded for his pains. The crackle pie was made of nothing else than greaves or the remains of mutton fat after the candle tallow had been boiled and strained off and the inviting crust. Maxwell, who had not just arrived from under the Arora Australis in famished state, declined par- taking of the pie ; and Juniper perceiving that the odour was rather too powerful for the Colonel's olfactories, called in his servant and ordered him to remove it. He then re- quested him to sharpen up his faculties and bring in the tea, and then go down to Mrs. Riit for some fresh butter ; telling his visitors when Heffernan was gone that he was the most obstinate old scoundrel in the whole world ; he had told him to make a pork pie with a few toasted greaves in it to give it a relish and, confound him, he must have eaten the pork himself, for there was nothing in the pie but greaves. And yet why apologize, friend Juniper? Is not crackle pie a very good thing ? Would not many thousands of your starving im- poverished countrymen in London and else- where be delighted to partake of your ample odoriferous dish ? Was not Sir John Frank- lin obliged to eat his boots ? (Ah ! poor Sir John, you were once our respected governor, and how sadly do we think of you as you lie at rest in your mantle of snow !) We may sneer and turn up our nose at crackle pie ; we have never eaten any, certainly, but we may be gland of a pound or two yet before we die. Digesting as well as he could the steaming savor, together with his tea and bread and butter, the Colonel made up his mind to en- joy his visit and the good things with which he was surrounded to the utmost extent. The good-humored conversation of Juniper, who, conscious of the deficiencies of his cuisine, exerted himself to provide an intel- lectual feast by way of balance, made him laugh, though all the time he was wishing his host and his pie, or the latter at least, safe at the bottom of the river. Curbing, however, every inclination to give vent to his feelings in words, he sat, and with the utmost patience listened to the anecdotes with which the obliging Surveyor favored him :—" My whole life, Sir," said he, " has been altogether one tremendous and continued mistake. It was a mistake that I wasn't born into it noble family, heir to an earldom at least. It was a mistake that led me into this country at all, when I might be the proprietor of fifty thousand sheep in New South Wales if I had gone there instead. When I first came to this colony, Sir, Davey was Gorernor, and a precious Governor he was—that is of the town, for Mike Howe was governor of the country. He gave me a grant of five hundred acres on the southern side of the Derwent, where I settled down and made myself comfortable. I surveyed my property, marked the boundaries, and made improvements. Colonel Davey came up one day to see me with two or three of his old drunken cronies. I had just killed a sheep, and I can tell you sheep were sheep in those days, and Davey and his friends ate up half of it just as fast as I could cook it for them in chops, and they drank my rum, two bottles, all I had in the house. ' Well, Juniper,' says Davey, ' you're very snug here,—how would you like to be so well off, Leary ?' said he to a notorious pot-house chum of his. ' I'll be as pleased as (hiccup) Punch, you honor,' answers Leary. His Honor grinned horribly. ' And so, Juniper,' said he, ' you surveyed these five hundred acres yourself ?' ' Yes, Sir, I did,' said I. ' And you just made five hundred acres of them ?' said he. ' Just five hundred, your Honor,' said I : 'perhaps it might be an acre or two more or less.' ' Well,' said he, with it distortion of his countenance that really frightened me, ' I sent Mr. Greeneye to look at the grant, and I find by his report that you have just made sixteen hundred and
twenty-five acres of it, and as your theodolite is a little too powerful for the neighborhood of Government House, I'll give this property to my friend Leary, who is a jolly old cock, and I'll give you leave to survey a thousand acres for yourself somewhere else, but if I catch you within a hundred miles of this place I'll pitch you into the Derwent and treat you to a swim to the Iron Pot.' " " And did you clear out ?" asked the Colonel. " I was obliged to do it, Sir," replied Juniper ; " he was going to send a guard of soldiers to turn me out. I tried all means to keep possession, but couldn't. I had some revenge on Leary though, and if I ever see him again I'll have more."' " That's bad," said Maxwell. " Yes, Sir," said the Colonel, " knock a man down if he insults you, but don't bottle up malice and keep it corked. I should like to see Davey turn me out if I had been under your hat—if he was backed by a regi- ment of dragoons. And what did you do to Leary ?" " Why, Sir, it was done by means of a little mechanical invention. He appointed a day on which to come up and take possession, so I constructed a little three-cornered table, and put it standing on three legs in a corner of the hut : to the inside leg, which was made to double up under the table, I attached an invisible string, and secured it outside the door ; then I placed a large washing-tub on the table and filled it to the brim with water, it was very cold frosty weather, and the water was as cold as ice. I had previously dug a small hole in the corner under the table and placed in it a black bottle containing about a pint of strong Epsom salts, covering it over with a shingle. Quite punctual to his appointment Mr. Leary came, and a man with him, whom he intended to leave as hutkeeper ; he came up quite cheerfully, but rubbing his hands with cold—' You havn't got a fire, Sir ? ' said he. ' No, Sir,' said I, ' and my man is gone away with the things, we will send your man if you like down to Tom Walsh's hut for some fire !' And the man was sent— ' Devilish cold,' said Leary, blowing his fingers. ' It is cold, Sir,' said I very politely, ' sory I havn't got a fire, but that man of mine is so very stupid ; do you know that whenever he wants to yoke up the bullocks he invariably goes to the wrong side, and doesn't find out his mistake till he is kicked and butted right out of the yard !' 'Does he ?' said Leary—' This as a fine river of yours, Sir, is it salt or fresh ?' ' It's half-and-half, Sir,' said I, ' perhaps you'd like to taste it, Sir ?' ' No thank you, not the least desire, but Mr. ——— if you had just the least drop of rum in the world, just to put some life in a fellow you know—' ' Yes,' said I, ' I didn't forget you—in a hole under that table you'll find a bottle covered with a shingle, the stuff is very strong—be very careful.' He fairly rushed to the corner and kneeled down to catch the bait, while I tugged away at the string, and down went Leary with his head in the hole, the tub and five gallons of cold water all over him, bellowing and swearing, —off I went to a neighbor who had invited me to stop with him, splitting my sides all the way." " That was very clever of you," said the Colonel, " and very Christian conduct like- wise ; I have no doubt Mr. Leary remembers you with very grateful feelings. Did not Davey take vengeance and cancel your new grant ?" " Not he, Sir," replied Juniper " he enjoyed the joke, and said that I had played the avaricious horse-leech a capital trick. I was little obliged to them at the time but it is likely that they saved my life, though noth- ing was farther from their intention. It happened that about nine months after Leary took possession, the blacks came along the river with the intention of burning Hobart Town, planted themselves round the hut, called the unfortunate tenant out by a loud "coo-ee," and speared him dead when he got six yards away from the door." " Speared Leary dead !" said Maxwell in great astonislment. " Why I know the man well when I was in Hobart Town ; his daughter lives with Mrs. EarIsley, and he is fond of brandy to this day as ever Davey was of rum." " I didn't say Leary was speared, Sir," said Juniper, " but his tenant was, and if I had been in the hut you would never have heard me tell about Leary, and the cold shower bath he got." After the visitors had been sufficiently regaled with Mr. Juniper's tea and conversa- tion they rose to depart, but before proceed- ing down to the river they took a turn in the garden, and went to look at the cows and pigs which were feeding together in the marsh. Having satisfied themselves that everything was good and in a fair way of pro- gression, they took their way to the river in order to cross over the same way that they came ; but they were interrupted in their course by hearing some one shouting behind them, and turning round they beheld the bachelor's cook running after them at a cautious pace, and roaring something out vociferously. But not being able to make himself understood, he had to come consider- ably nearer, even to the bank of a dry ditch which Juniper and his visitors had just crossed ; then, indeed, his words came to be heard plainly as he called out for about the twentieth time " You forgot, Sir—Misther Max'ell's man —the pound o' tobacco and the six glasses o' rum." "So I did, by jinks !" said his master. " Here, take this key; bring me the bottle and the pound of tobacco that you'll find in the cupboard—don't be a minute, and I'll give you a glass for yourself." With a countenance indicative of the utmost eagerness to plunge into some antici- pated enjoyment, Heffernan picked up the
key which his master had thrown to him, and flew to execute his commission. Why had he not reminded his master of his forgetful- ness before the latter left the cottage. No, that would have interfered with a little plan which the artful servitor had concocted. He would wait until the two gentlemen were about to stop into the canoe on their return home, and then follow with the important intelligence, take his master by surprise so that he could not repudiate his engagements in the presence of strangers, and if possible gain possession of the key.This was Heffer- nan's dodge, and it succeeded to admiration. Rare talent ! Sublime intellect ! O Juniper, are you for ever destined to be a prey to such artful rogues ? Maxwell expostulated with Juniper. As for his man, he said, he was better without any rum ; he did not object to the tobacco, but did decidedly to the rum. He would not, in fact, allow his man to drink six glasses of rum before his eyes—the thing was prepos- terous. Mr. Juniper suggested that he could have it one glass at a time. Mr. Maxwell did not see any necessity for his getting it at all, he was very much opposed to the practice of giving rum to laboring men except under ex- traordinary circumstances; and the Colonel immediately commenced telling an interesting story to illustrate the maxim that rum was a very good thing when people understood the value of it and knew when they had enough— a lesson which our police magistrates, by in- flicting fines of ten shillings and a pound, try to impress upon drunkards, but in vain. Meanswhile Heffernan pursued his way back to the cottage at a pace which astonished his master, who never could have believed him capable of using such diligence had he not seen him with his own eyes. The old man literally swept over the ground with breathless haste, his head bare and his dirty grey locks elevated by the resisting current of air, assuming the appearance of a stable boy's mop. He gained the door, bounded into the little parlor, unlocked the cupboard, seized the tempting bottle, and pulling out one of the cracked tumblers which he filled nearly to the brim, he turned the liquor down his throat with a whiz in less time than it would take to kill a fly ; then holding the bottle to the window he applied his eye and noted the remaining contents. Having replaced the tumbler and locked the cupboard, he ran out with the bottle affectionately pressed to his breast, forgetting the pound of tobacco, and now relapsing into his former cautious pace for fear of meeting with an accident. His master had watched him into the house with some anxiety. His conscience began to reproach him for letting this in- veterate drunkard have the key, and placing him in a position of such temptation. But seeing him emerge with the bottle in his arms without any apparent delay he turned to his visitors and said with a little twang of triumph in his voice that he thought Heffernan might be trusted occasion- ally. To this Maxwell replied ' O !' and the Colonel ejaculated ' Ah !' The messenger advanced apace, clutching the darling still tighter and tighter, until he reached the dry ditch before mentioned, which he might have easily cleared at a stride. Instead of doing so, however, he stepped short, and doubtless through having miscalculated his distance, fell sidelong at full length into the drain, Juniper witnessed the fall and expected to see the trustworthy messenger emerge with- out delay from his temporary retirement, but in this he was disappointed. Running up to see to what extent his poor servant was hurt he beheld to his consternation that faithful follower with the mouth of the bottle glued to his lips. The bottom of it was elevated to the clouds, and it was handed up to him in that position by the gratified Heffernan, who heaved while doing so a profound sigh. With a shout of rage Juniper jumped into the ditch and administered several furious kicks to the back and shoulders of the prostrate anti-rechabite, who shouted " murdther" most lustily. We will not take it upon ourselves to say what might have been the result if Max- well had not come up and dragged the sur- veyor forcibly away. Thus the tobacco hav- ing been forgotten, and the rum finding a different destination, Mr. Maxwell's man had to go without his promised rewards ; and the two visitors, being ferried across the river by the excited Juniper, got into their gig and drove home. The delinquent Heffernan was carried to his bed by a couple of his fellow servants, where he lay in a state of partial insensibility for two days and three nights ; his justly offended and so often indulgent master breathing nothing but sanguinary threats of chains, triangles, and Macquarie Harbor. " It would put an angel in a rage," observed our friend to himself, " that I have to super- intend all the operations of the farm, go out into the bush and survey land for other people, cook my own victuals, and get the name of a fool amongst my neighbors for screening this incurable wretch from his just punishment so long ; but I swear that either he or I shall go the western hell, or work in chains on the roads. I have kept his head above water too long already."