|Chapter Title||BAXTER'S PRAYERS.|
|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 Saturday, 17th instant) CHAPTER XXXII. BAXTER'S PRAYERS. When his young friend was out of sight Edwin entered the cottage and sat down in a corner in one of his melancholy moods. The interview which had just terminated filled his mind with various contradictory emotions. He was gratified at perceiving that Maxwell was not altogether without some sense of justice, and some appreciation of his past ser- vices, as evidenced by his sending him what he considered so large a sum as forty pounds ; but he could not help feeling indignant when he reflected that even this pecuniary assist- ance was tendered in a cold and formal man- ner. There was no invitation to return, no distant hint that the promise of the farm would be fulfilled, no advance towards a re- conciliation. All was in Edwin's opinion heartless and selfish. It was too bad, he thought, that the only relative he possessed so far away from home should turn his back upon him in this shabby manner. If he were an idle, drunken scamp, his case could not be much worse than it was, or his treatment more severe. But in making these mental observations Edwin was himself unjust : he did not perceive how much Griselda was be- loved, nay, idolised by her parents; or with what amount of jealousy they endeavored to guard her from the fatal effects of misplaced affection. He did not understand the feel- ings of a father who no doubt felt keenly his heavy responsibility for the safety and hap- piness of his daughter. Thus if Maxwell's prudence was a little overstrained, and led him into measures apparently unjust and se- vere, Herbart's temper led him into a similar error. The one calmly left his relative whom he had promised to assist to sink or swim in life's stormy sea ; the other burned with in- dignation at what he considered falsehood and treachery. To Edwin's excited imagina- tion Maxwell had made matters worse by of- fering him money. " Does he think," said he to himself, " that I am one of those mean, mercenary wretches who worship money as an idol, as is salve for all wounds, as a cure for all disorders ? Can he imagine that his paltry gold can obliterate the remembrance of his broken promise or his cold and chil- ling reserve ? Oh Maxwell, Maxwell, I thought your nature was more noble ; you are certainly changed since you wrote your first kind letter to me inviting me to come to you : would to God that you had never written it." Revolving such thoughts as these in his aching head Herbart sat in gloomy silence in his corner. The evening was rapidly ad- vancing, for winter had already set in, and even now the hoarfrost seemed settling down on the earth. This frost, it may be observed in passing, may have its uses, but it is some- times seriously inimical to the prosperity of Tasmanian gardeners and agriculturists. The winter frosts do no harm ; but when the summer advances, when the corn is coming into ear, and the embryos of countless clusters of fruit promising a luxuriant crop are fully developed, you enter your garden some fine morning when the sun is shining, and behold the luxuriant promise is blasted—your apples, pears, cherries, and plums are as black as charcoal ! You examine your corn, it is half ruined ; your tobacco (for dressing sheep) and potatoes look as if they had been boiled ; the frost has done its work in the night silently but surely. We know of no remedy for this evil except selecting a site for your garden on some convenient hill with a southern or western aspect. From this ad- vantageous position you can watch your men at their labors ; invite your friends to visit you at Glen Sugarlip—hills are sometimes called glens in Tasmania—or whatever its name happens to be, and set the barbarous frost at defiance. The carrier tried with one or two pleasant remarks to rouse Edwin from his prostration of spirits, but perceiving the hopelessness of such an attempt he desired his daughter to hand him " The Seven Champions of Chris- tendom," and settled himself down to study that immortal work. Mary Baxter made preparations for tea, and these were nearly completed when the dogs begin suddenly to raise a loud outcry, and immediately two strangers entered the cottage without using the formality of a pre- liminary knock at the door. The first comer said " Good evenin; " as he entered : he was a middle-sized man with a dark dirty face, wearing a ruffianly scowl that seemed to be habitual. His black tangled locks, which hung down over his greasy coat collar, sur- rounded a set of pale gaunt features, the ex- pression of which was decidedly the reverse of amiable. The dress of this individual was of the roughest and coarsest description, and was torn in several places : his manner was insolently familiar, and his whole appearance calculated to fill the beholder with aversion. The other possessed more agreeable features ; he was taller and better made, was in com- parison infinitely better dressed, and seemed to enter the house, fearlessly it is true, but still with some faint traces of respect for the proprietor's family—a feeling of which his companion seemed totally destitute. He was a well-looking man apparently about thirty years of age, and as he entered the cottage he tried to appear as easy and unconcerned as if he had been already known to the inmates, but a close observer might have readily dis- covered that his dark eye had a wild untame- able expression, and that his livid lip quivered with a feeling of uneasiness which he could ill conceal. The first ill-looking intruder appeared to be without arms of any kind, but the other was heavily armed with double-barrelled gun and pistols.
The sudden entrance of these strangers caused great astonishment to Baxter and the inmates of his hut. He rose hastily, and gazed with intense bewilderment on the in- truders, but whether from mentally resolving to resign himself to his fate, or intimidated by a certain movement which the armed man made with his gun, he with apparent coolness resumed his seat. As for his daughter, who was in the act of laying cups and saucers on the table, she opened her eyes, her mouth, and her hand all at the same time, so that two cups and one saucer fell to the ground and were broken. Edwin, effectually roused from his gloomy reverie, but without rising from his seat, stared at the new comers. Mrs. Baxter was not present, having gone out to milk before the men came in. The scene in the cottage was eminently theatrical, and formed a very impressive tableau. " Good evenin'," said the first comer. " Good evenin'," replied Baxter. " Pick up tile pieces, Mary, what the dickens are you starin' at ?" " Any news ?" said the man with the ruffianly countenance. " What sort of news do you partic'larly require ?" said the carrier. " Why any sort o' news—anythink about the Guv'ner an' the last hell-fire proclamation ? When is the — ould scorpion-eyed villyan comin' up to these parts to enquire after my health, and give me a invite to call upon him at Government House ? Anythink about sojers or constubbles ? Where is the sojer-offisher who took Mike Howe to be hanged for that ere offence agin the laws o' nature and society ? When is ould Ears'ey to be prod- ded to death with red-hot pitchforks ? Seen any — sojers or constubbles lately ?" " I don't know nothin' about no sojors or constables," said the carrier ; " if you want em' there's plenty up at Ersey's or down on the township. What do you come here for disturbin' an honest man's place with your sojers and constables ?" " I'll tell you that soon," said the first speaker, and turning to his companion he re- ceived from him a pistol, which he imme- diately cocked. " The first man that stirs is a dead man. Come forward, Brady, and give yer captain's message to this here game-cock of a carrier ; make him bleed boy, he's got plenty." The man thus addressed came forward, and drawing himself up with an air of importance, said— " I suppose you know me, Baxter ?" " If your name is Brady, I've heerd tell on you," answered the carrier. " And you've heard tell of Jim Crawford, too, I suppose ?" said Brady. " Tell him what Jim Crawford said," said he of the hang-dog scowl, who was known to his comrades by the delicate soubriquet of Hell-fire Jack. " Leave me to manage the business ; I don't want your interference," said Brady, with severity. " Yes, I knows Crawford," said Baxter, " and he's not a bad sort of fellow neither. How does he get his health now ? I heerd he wasn't well." " He's getting better," replied the bush- ranger, " and it's very kind of you to enquire about him ; he was a little hurt in the last brush with the Mohawks, and he can't show out yet ; but he desired me to tell you, Captain Dawlish, and Mr. Earlsley, that he'd soon come down again and exchange a few more civilities with each of you." " He's very perlite," said Baxter. " Yes," answered Brady, " politeness is not lost on captains or carriers ; but Jim Craw- ford has at this present time sent me on a special message to you, considering that he's a very particular friend of yours, and that you have a great regard for and are always willing to serve and oblige him." " What is the message ?" asked Baxter. " He told me to tell you that he was in great want of money, not having got any at Earlsley's house ; that he understood you were pretty well in by this time, and got a good price for the last herd of cattle you sold. He don't trouble his head whether they were stolen cattle or not ; but he sends his compli- ments to you, and would feel obliged by your lending him two hundred pounds, for particu- lar purposes, till such time as he can pay them back without inconvenience." " He's very considerate," said Baxter. "And what did he say you wus to do if I told you there wusn't a stiver in the house, barrin' five Spanish dollars and a few shill- in's ?" " In that case," said Brady, " I have posi- tive orders to search the house, and if you hold up your finger, to blow out your brains on the spot." " This from a friend ?" said Baxter. " Yes, from Jem Crawford," answered Brady. " The very words, by the—" (we omit the profane oath), interrupted Brady's comrade Jack ; " come, Brady, and don't be palaverin' with this boar-constructer, let's throw 'em all on the fire ; let's break the bones in their bodies till tlhey're dead, and then roast em alive." These last words were spoken in an un- necessarily loud tone ; indeed it immediately struck Edwin that it was the intention of this villain to attract the attention of some- body outside. Brady angrily told Jack to be quiet, and not interfere again. " Are you," he said, " the lieutenant, or am I ? Do you think I'm not able to manage these people ? Be quiet, I tell you ; another word and I'll find means to gag you." At this moment Mary Baxter uttered a loud scream, and the bushranger Brady was suddenly seized by a pair of powerful hands. He attempted to use his gun, but it went off in the struggle, the ball passing harmlessly through the roof. The scream and the report brought Mrs. Baxter from the cow-yard, and she too began to scream violently. The con- fusion was at its height ; neither Edwin nor
Baxter interfered, further than jumping from their seats and witnessing the conflict. Brady had been rudely seized and thrown to the ground by the powerful constable who had disturbed Edwin's slumbers in the barn, while his feet were tightly held by his com- rade, our ferocious friend who had so valiantly talked about roasting the family alive. The hands of the astonished outlaw were quickly tied with strong rope, his arms were taken from him, and he was allowed to assume a sitting posture, while the triumphant constable recovered his breath and wiped his face. The crestfallen bushranger re- garded his late associate with a terrible ex- pression of countenance, with a look in which hate, scorn, and the desire of vengeance were strangely intermingled. " It is you, then," he exclaimed bitterly, " who have led me into this trap ?" " Yes," said the other carelessly, " it's done at last, Brady ; but you needn't fret about, —you'll only be hanged ; your miserable life will be ended, you needn't be afraid of heaven or hell, for it's my b'lief there's neither God nor devil." " If there's no God," said Brady, " there's a devil, and you are his vilest imp from Hell —stupid and double-dyed in all sorts of villainy. But your days are numbered—you think to take the blood-money and prosper with it ; but you'll find yourself mistaken. Crawford himself would have shot or burned you more than once if it had not been for me. You are a blood-drinking reptile, Jack, and you'll die the death of a dog." The scowling miscreant laughed—and such a laugh—angels on earth with rosy smiles and white teeth be near and defend us ! we shudder. " I take you to witness, Brady—I take everybody to witness," said the carrier, " that I know'd nothin' whatsomever about this constable bein' here. I'd sooner be hanged than touch blood-money ; I never did touch it, and I never will." " Hush, Tim," said Mrs. Baxter, " be quiet, can't you, you don't know what scrape they may get you into. How did this constable get upon our premises, and we did not know it ?" " Never mind, missus," said the constable, " you're all strangers to me, and I to you, of course, but you know people will talk, and constables aint deaf. I thought you'd be glad to see me—this gentleman, Mr. Brady, was talking about blowing your husband's brains out." " It's a good job he didn't, " answered the carrier's wife, " and we're very thankful to you for preventing him from doing such a thing ; but now as you have got your pri- soner take him away, he can't remain here— will you have a drink of tea, Brady, before you go ?" " It's too late to take the prisoner away," said the constable, " the night is going to be dark, and I suspect some more of the gang are in the neighborhood : I demand a lodging in the King's name, and by the right of law shan't budge an inch." " Well, constable," interposed the carrier— " Hush, Tim, I'm going to talk," said Mrs. Baxter. " Talk," said her husband, " you bang the world for talkin'—sit down and drink your tea ; I'm the master in my own house—I was sayin', constable, that I'm a dutiful subject of the King's, and minds my own business and don't interfere with nobody else's, and I say that if you say that there's a needcessity for this here gentle- man, Mr. Brady, should be kept here all night, I'm bound in course to submit my poor cottage to the service of the King ; but I don't see no needcessity why that other gen- tleman with the long hair should stop any longer either by night or day. He's a res- pectable sort o' character he is, I'm too hum- ble a individual to entertain the likes of him, and I now declare and protest that if he's not out of the house before I count five, I'll knock his hang-dog eyes into one and double him up like a rotten stick afterwards." Baxter accompanied these heroic words with preparations for immediate action. He took off his coat, turned up his shirt sleeves, and then stood with his legs apart eyeing the object of his threatened attack, who returned his stare with the same sneering scowl, and standing in the same careless attitude he had before assumed. The carrier commenced counting, and was on the very stroke of five when the constable, seeing his eye dilate, quietly pushed him back, saying at the same time half laughingly, half sternly—" Come, Mr. Baxter, we'll have no more rows—give us the loan of your men's hut for the night and let the men sleep in the barn ; we'll take ourselves off in the morning and not trouble you any more. I exonerate you from any participation in my being concealed on your premises. Lend us the hut and give us some bread and tea, for which provision set down the value thereof, and draw on the Commissariat chest at pleasure. Jack, have you got your barkers ready ? " To be sure I have ; why not ?" said Jack. " Watch the prisoner," said the constable ; "if he attempts to escape shoot him ; you have your orders." " Aye, aye," replied Jack. Baxter acquiesced in the proposed ar- rangement, and went out to give orders accordingly. In a short time the hut was ready and the prisoner and his captors left the cottage. Their supper, cooked by Mrs. Baxter as speedily as possible, was sent into them, and quietness being now restored, the carrier's family sat down to tea with their guest. The capture of Brady, the real though not the nominal chief of a formidable and despe- rate gang of robbers, was an event of no in- considerable importance, and Baxter was doubtless as much rejoiced at it as any one else could possibly be ; though from motives of prudence, in case of the bushranger's escape, he avoided committing himself by any
act which might draw down vengeance upon him hereafter. The very fact of the capture having taken place at his cottage might, he told Edwin, be productive of the worst conse- quences. He was glad in fact that Brady was taken, as what peaceable colonist would not ? but he would have given a hundred pounds if he had been taken somewhere else. " He didn't want no down on him," he said, " and now there would be a down and no mistake—the best thing we can do, Missus, is to shut up shop and be off." Mrs. Baxter made a reply which was not very complimentary to her husband's courage, and a matrimonial dispute arose which lasted the whole of tea time. Mrs. Baxter had a habit of talking too freely, and administering reproof to her husband, forgetting how much she needed it herself ; a habit which— need we say ? is extremely offensive to the strangers who may happen to be present. Edwin passed the evening in silence and great mental pain. He wondered what further deeds of violence he should be called upon to witness, and thought it a strange country in which a man, let him be ever so much inclined for peace, would not be per- mitted to live without war, and seeing arise on every side these hateful passions to which war gives birth in the human heart. He had no desire to fly from dangers to which his relatives at Bremgarten were con- tinually exposed. He wished on the con- trary that he might be allowed to remain near them so that fortune might possibly give him an opportunity of flying to their assistance in any time of danger or trouble. But if he did accept employment in the neighbourhood his motives might be misun- derstood, and instead of receiving any praise for his disinterested kindness, he might be rewarded in terms of insult or censure. If Maxwell had desired his presence and assistance, he had had it in his power to secure them. That his presence in the neighbourhood was not desired he was re- luctantly compelled to admit, and he had no idea of remaining where the fact of his doing so might cause the slightest uneasiness to his late friends. He accordingly decided to accompany Baxter on his journey to the new township of Falmouth on the eastern coast to meet the vessel which was expected from Hobart Town. Baxter had made preparations for commencing this journey on the following day. His bullock were ready in a secure paddock, his wife's butter, bacon, eggs, and other things were all packed up. In addition to these he would have to take Edwin's luggage from Brem- garten, and dairy produce from Clifton Hall. With his head full of this important business of the morrow he retired to bed soon after his daughter had removed the tea things, while Edwin slept not uncomfortably on a wooden bench near the fireplace. At eight o'clock Baxter started with his team, accompanied by our wandering hero and a bullock driver. Edwin bade Mrs. Baxter and Mary good by, thanking them for their kindness. The first place of call was Bremgarten, as considering that it was not likely he should ever return to that fasci- nating spot, Edwin had decided on taking his property with him to Hobart Town. He decided to walk quietly along the road, while the carrier went to the house and took the chests into his charge. It was a melancholy morning for Edwin. The weather was dull and cloudy, but the clouds of the sky were not half so gloomy as those which hung over the mind of our inexperienced traveller. He could scarcely believe that the ties which had hitherto bound him to the home of Griselda were severed for ever ; that she, the earthly idol of his heart, was henceforth to be com- templated from an unknown distance—to be regarded as a stranger; perhaps—oh ! shock- ing thought !—the wife of another. He wiped the clammy perspiration from his brow and tried to brace up his nerves to endure any amount of pain which it might please his Father in Heaven to inflict upon him. The dray rolled tediously along, the driver cracked his whip, swore at the bullock, and " whistled for want of thought." Baxter, contrary to his wont, seemed in low spirits, and walked after the dray dejectedly. In this order they had advanced about four miles, being about an hour and a half on the road, when a sudden rustling was heard in the scrub on one side, and a tall man, armed (always armed men in those times in this part of the world), crept from the bush and commanded the party to stand. The carrier glanced at the peremptory stranger, and his face grew as white as a summer cloud. It was Brady !—the same unscrupulous outlaw whom he had seen taken the evening before and securely bound in his men's hut on that very morning. His ap- pearance, so sudden, so utterly unexpected, and almost supernatural, had an overwhelm- ing effect upon the poor carrier, whose first thought was of the uncompromising vengeance of any bushranger who had the slightest reason to suspect any individual of treachery. He fell at once into a violent tremor ; his knees tottered and bent under him, and finally brought him down kneeling in the dust. " Come on one side here—say your prayers, you cowardly scoundrel of a carrier," said Brady sternly. " For the love of God, Brady," said Baxter, in most imploring accents, "don't hurt me. I didn't know nothin', so help me God ! about the constable bein' on the place : if I saw a constable on that day, or ever gave informa- tion to one about you or any one else, may the next bite I put in my mouth choke me for ever." " Get me to believe that if you can," said the angry bushranger. " You're a dog, Baxter, and deserve to die. What's to pre- vent me now from riddling your heart ?" " Pray don't hurt him," said Edwin who though considerably startled had not lost his presence of mind. " Remember his wife and
child—besides he is not to blame, you could not expect him to resist lawful authority and assist you." The attention of the robber was now forci- bly directed to the speaker ; he turned upon him a haughty and determined look, and said with a sneer—" Too young to command, yet impatient of control-—tell us what you know about it, Sir, were you aware that the con- stable was in concealment ?" This interrogatory was unexpected, but Edwin returned the stare of the outlaw, and folding his arms deliberately on his breast answered " I was." Brady fell back a couple of paces in feigned excitement—" You were," he said, " and what was your arrangement with him ?" " I had no arrangement with him," answered Edwin. " How did you come to know he was on the place ?" The young man recounted the circum- stances of the meeting in the barn already known to the reader. "Well," said Brady, " I believe I can get the truth out of you ; answer this one ques- tion—did this lying hound of a carrier know that the constable was in concealment on his place ?" Baxter, who had risen from his knees and now leaned against his dray, here gave a con- vulsive start, and cast on Edwin's look of in- tense interest ; his life depended, perhaps, on Herbart's answer. " Whether he did or did not know it," said Edwin, " I am convinced he intended you no harm." " That's no answer," said Brady ; "did he know it or not ?" " He knew there was a stranger on the place heavily armed, for I told him so," re- plied Edwin. " Yes," said Baxter, " but how was I to know he was a constable ? I never seed him —I never heard him—I didn't know no more than a child unborn whether he was a constable or a bushranger ! Would you think I'd go to him to ask the question for to have my interiors blown out at the barn- door ?" " Baxter," said Brady, " you are a marked man, I'll watch you, and I'd advise you to mind what you're about. Go on your journey ; —but stop, what of that money I was talking about last night ?" " I haven't got two hundred pounds," replied Baxter, " nor the half of it ; I couldn't raise it neither to please my old mother if she rose from the grave." " How much can you raise ?" said Brady, " make haste now, and tell the biggest lie you ever told in your life." " If I'm worth more nor twenty pound in the whole world, barrin' I sell my stock, may the ground open and swallow me on the spot, cart and all," said Baxter. " Don't include me," said Edwin, smiling in spite of his painful situation, " give me time to get out of the way." " Hark ye Baxter," said Brady cautiously approaching and speaking low, " I'll expect to find under the big rock at the Deadman's cor- ner in Murderer's Gully, fifty pounds on next Friday night. If the money is not there we'll know where to go, and if the red-coats and traps are there we'll know who sent them." " It's impossible," said the horrified carrier, " I can't do it—I haven't got it. Come and strip me of everything, burn my house over my head ; for a lot of blood-thirsty savages, —I haven't got it. I have to work hard for my bread, and when I've earned it away it goes to feed robbers. I'm a peaceable man and never meddled with you, Brady, and you ought to leave me alone." " Hold your tongue you dust-licking, snarl- ing cat," replied the outlaw, " you son and grandson of liars and hypocrites, hold your false tongue and remember Friday night." " I'm going to Falmouth, and won't be back till Monday," said Baxter. " I'll give you another week," said Brady. " Friday night week, and don't forget it." With these words the bushranger shouldered his gun and disappeared in the forest. Bax- ter, apparently much relieved, ordered his driver to go ahead, observing to Edwin, " that a miss was as good as a mile ; that ruffian might have a bullet through his head before Friday night week : but," he added, stopping suddenly, " we ought to go back and see how the homestead is left, he may have murdered somebody ; will you come ?" " Decidedly, if you wish it," replied Edwin. " Then, Tom," said the carrier, " stop the bullocks and wait here till I come or send for you," and back they both trudged. (To be continued.)