|Chapter Title||A GLOOMY JOURNEY.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.j (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED ) (Continued from Saturday 7th inst) CHAPTER XXXIV. A GLOOMY JOURNEY. Edwin and Baxter pursued their journey without further interruption. The boxes belonging to the former were carefully packed in the carrier's dray, as Edwin did not appear to have sufficient courage to visit Maxwell's residence again. As it was an ob- ject of intense interest to him, however, he gazed long and earnestly at it with that feeling of melancholy regret which arises when we have to force ourselves away from a house where happy days have once been spent. He sauntered slowly along the road until overtaken by the carrier, and the two walked on together conversing on divers subjects as the best means of beguiling the time and shortening the way. They aproached the picturesque village of Fingal, where a strong party of prisoners were employed in constructing a road to the Eastern Coast, over which the stern Earlsley held magisterial supervision. At any other time Edwin would have been highly delighted with the scenery of this pretty village and the dark hills by which it is surrounded. In fact he had seen and admired the rough beauty of this part of the island under happier circumstances, when his mind was not oppressed with reflections of deep and solemn gloom. The weight on his mind was not lessened by the dark and threatening ap- pearance of the sky, which was overcast with black, heavy clouds. It the distance a con- fused rumbling sound, resembling the mighty roar of a vast cataract, could be distinctly heard. Edwin thought it was thunder, but Baxter told him it was caused by the wind rising in a tempest on the Ben Lomond Tiers, and sweeping amongst the great forests lying around them in every direction. Edwin had never yet witnessed a great thunderstorm, properly so called, in Tasmania and we do not think he had any very great desire to do so : certainly he had no wish to be caught in one, with only the forest trees for his canopy. It is rather fortunate for this island that elemental war of all kinds is comparatively rare. Earthquakes are unknown, or were in former times, but recently an occasional rumbling felt in distant places would seem to warn us that we must no longer pride our- selves upon our immunity from them. Burn- ing mountains have to all appearance ex- hausted their fuel long ago, perhaps before the first novelist put his pen to paper and succeeded in turning the heads of romantic young ladies, and offending the dignity of sedate and philosophical old gentlemen. Thunder-storms are not frequent and scarcely ever do any damage. There arc floods some- times and bush fires, as we have seen and felt ; but all other sources of danger and calamity seem to have been knocked on the head by some powerful agency. Would it not be also fortunate for Tasmania if that ugly and unnatural child, political war, so lately born and so difficult to educate, were knocked on the head, too, by way of example to all other unruly children ! " This here part of the country," said Baxter, " used to be the quietest in the island ; now it's the most disturbedest part you ever seen. These bushrangin' blackguards has taken up their quarters in Ben Lomond, and it'll take a long time to root 'em out. They come with their guns and bay'nets and frightens people out of their wits, so that a fellow is afeared to say a word to a soldier or a constable ; if you're seen talkin' to a soldier it'll be booked against you for the rest o' your life. If a constable or a pair of handcuffs is found in your house, your premises is riddled with bullets, your barns and standin' corn burnt, and you yourself, if they lay hands on you, tied to a tree and flogged to death with sweet-briar twigs." " You don't mean to say," said Edwin, " that they are bad enough to do such things ?" " Bad enough !" replied Baxter. " You don't suppose that men whose feelins has been cut out o' them long ago, and who don't care the fortieth part of a farthing for God or man, is a goin' to stand nice about what they does when they has the power. There's a man in Crawford's gang now, named Mick Dunne, and what do you think they say he did once ? He fell in with a poor native and his gin ; the woman he thought would make him a useful housekeeper in the mountains, but he didn't want the man, so he shot him then and there. The woman cried, and wouldn't leave her husband's dead body. Dunn cut off his head, made a lashin fast to it, and hung it round her neck as sailors does their marline-spikes, and then he pushed her before him with the point of his knife." " Is it possible," said Edwin, " that our civilized England could send forth such a wretch ?" " Possible !" said the carrier, " and why not ? What is human natur' when you come to examine it ? What is a man who is not edicated ? A Dunne—a Jeffries. What is a man who is edicated in nine cases out of ten ? A rich rascal, unfeelin' selfish toad, bloated up with money and land, who frets more about the loss of a pound than he would if he saw fifty poor people sufferin' the last pangs of hunger. What does civilized Eng- land do with her money ? Supports high officers o' state, who live in luxury, ride about in chariots, and keep grand houses full of rich furnitur', and powdered flunkies to dance about after 'em ! And what does she do with all the ragged brats that's born in dens reeking with pisoned air, and rolls about all day long in gutters and kennels, swarmin' round a band o' music like flies round a empty beer-bottle ? What does the poor hard-working people get, that's taxed
over head and ears, and can hardly sleep o' nights for thinkin' how they are to provide for their families ? A dooced sight more kicks nor ha'pence. What I want to know is, why can't great people and rich people be contented with less ? Is not five thousand a year enough for any man, and would not the rest, properly divided, clothe and edicate a few hundred poor children, and relieve scores of poor distressed sinful women ?" " You touch," said Edwin, " on a very delicate subject, Baxter, and the same com- plaints may have been made since the days of Abraham. A great poet has said— Kill a man's family, and he may brook it, But keep your hands out of his breeches pocket. And a man best consults his own safety and reputation by letting great people alone. You and I are responsible to Heaven for our own sins and not for those of the English government. It does not trouble me much what England does with her money ; but how I am to get a living for myself does trouble me a great deal. For the present I am determined not to interfere in matters of which to confess the truth I un- understand but little, amid would recommend all aspiring amateur politicians to do the same." " Supposin' everybody in England and the noospapers as well took it as easy as you do sir," said Baxter, " what a fine scramble there would be for the good things goin'. Poor people, taxed and taxed, and groin' poorer ; rich people as feed on the public, groin' richer and richer and fatter and fatter. His Royal Highness the Duke of Bridge- watershire couldn't save nothin' out of £60,000 a year when he had it : he's a amiable man, and the hard workin' people must pay for his keep. He gives a good deal away in charity. He don't see no company ; he don't live like a prince, nor drink no wine. He dies, but he don't leave nothin' behind him to sons or brothers or nevays that's been prayin' for his death for years ; in course not ; he's a poor man an' always was." " It is quite true," said Edwin, " that the people of England are heavily taxed to support the enormous burdens of church and state, made awfully enormous indeed through the liberality of those who hold the public purse. The church has extensive property of her own from which large revenues are derived ; and church rates, I believe, are levied to build new churches and keep old ones in repair. I do not approve of exorbi- tantly paid functionaries myself, and think it a humiliating sight to see one family living in splendour in a palace, and a hundred families in the immediate neighbourhood in rags, starvation, and filth. Sinecurists who never did anything to serve their country or mankind, who do not work for the salaries they draw from the state, who have never added anything to the riches of literature, and who would not be missed from society at any time, I look upon to be vampires who suck the best blood of this nation. I agree with you in thinking that many an unfortu- nate wretch might have been saved from crime and premature death if he had been properly educated. Education may lessen crime, but it is nonsense to suppose that crime will ever be totally uprooted by it, however careful the schoolmasters may be." " And I agrees with you sir," said Baxter, " on the other part o' the indictment. I could hang the scoundrels that taxes the hard workin' people to the tune of millions, and squanders away thousands to support a body of fat idlers, and keep 'em in pomp and luxury for no other reason whatsoever than that the dignity of the church and state must be upheld. These idlers need'nt starve neither ; cut 'em down fifty per cent. except the small ones. If I was St. Paul I'd a wrote in the epistle to the Romans—' If any bishop, priest, parson, or other delinquent * o' the church, ever presumes to receive more than a thousand a year for wages let him suffer death.' " " Baxter," said Edwin, " you must not trifle with the name of St. Paul, or think for a moment that you or I, or any other person, can improve upon the sacred Scriptures. They are inspired writings and perfect in themselves ; ' Jest not with sacred truths.' " " I'm not a jestin' with the Bible," an- swered Baxter, " I'd be very sorry for to do it ; but I'd like to know what wages St. Paul had, or St. Peter, or St. John ? Did our blessed Saviour live in pomp and luxury on ten thousand a year when he wus in the world ?" " No," replied his fellow traveller, " He did not. He was otherwise employed, and His reward was accorded by the world in dis- grace and a painful death." Here a pause ensued, and both proceeded for some time in silence. At length Edwin said—" Did you not say you had to go to Mr. Earlsleys for some butter ?" " Yes I did," answered the carrier, " we will soon come to his gate. I don't know whether to tell Ersey about Brady or not ; a man don't know what to do or to say these times. If I opens my lips about him, down he comes with Crawford and McCabe and Dunne and the rest o' the gang, and good by to Tim Baxter, wife, daughter and all ; then if I don't say nothin' about him and it gets of to Ersey's ears as it's sure to do, down goes a dispatch to Guv'nor Arthur accusin' me of fraternisin' with bushrangers, and up comes another, to be read to me at the poliss office afore such sneerin' and grinnin' varmint as Bill Jinkins ; somethin' like this—' You we'll make it your special dooty to inform the licensed carrier Timothy Baxter, that the Lieutenant-Guv'nor has heerd with feelins of sublime indignation of his backwardness in reportin' the visit of the bushranger to his cottage on the evenin' of so and so to the proper authorities. Timothy Baxter may rely upon it that should this conduct be again * We suppose Buster meant to say 'digni- tary.'
brought under the notice of the Lieutenant- Guv'nor, his (that's my) license will be im- mediately cancelled, his grant of land re- sumed, and his 'signed servants withdrawn. The Lieutenant-Guv'nor denounces in the most emphatical manner the miserable fear of personal danger, and despises every man who don't despise the empty threats of bushran- gers, howsever heavily armed and desperate. Guv from our easy chair, surrounded by special constables and soldiers in Guv'ment House, Hobart Town, this so and so. George Arthur, Lieutenant-Guv'nor.' What would you think of that, Sir ?" " I would think it a hard case," replied Edwin laughing at Baxter's humor, " but I would advise you to give the proper infor- mation to the authorities and trust to Pro- vidence for the result." " Then in course," said Baxter, " you'll insure my safe passage to Heaven when my brains is blowed out ?" " That I think you can hardly expect," said Edwin, " as I cannot insure my own safe passage, but I would advise you to give the information notwithstanding. The bush- rangers may never visit you again, and you will thus screen yourself from the wrath of the Hobart Town potentate, who is we all know exceedingly despotic." " What would you think now of giving the information yourself in a quiet way ?" said Baxter, in a confidential whisper, " if Ersey don't hear it from either you or me he'll play up till top ropes. The constable that took Brady will tell his story in course, but it may be midnight before Ersey knows it, and when he does know it he'll send off soldiers and constables and make such a fluster about it that the very gullies will ring blue murder for a fortnight." " I have no objection in the world to give the information," said Edwin, " but I did not intend calling on Mr. Earlsley in my present condition ; however if you particularly wish it I will go and put him in possession of the facts, but as fair as I can see the bush- rangers will suspect you all the same." " Yes they may," said Baxter, " and that's just the reason why I wants you to do it, be- cause Brady seed you with me and you goes away safe to Hobart Town, where they can't hurt a hair o' your head. Very well—they comes to my place to be revenged, and says, ' You snivelin' hound of a carrier, you guv information to the beak abou uz ; say your prayers in five minutes.' Wel then I'll be able to tell 'em with truth that it was you as guv the information, in spite of all I could do to get you not to say nothin' about it." " That won't be truth," said Edwin. " Not so far from it," said the carrier, " these fellows needn't know everything, and conscience mustn't kick up no row." Edwin was silent, thinking it useless to try to convince Baxter of the advantages of truth over falsehood. They now approached the residence of Arthur Earsley, Esq., J.P. That potent official happening to be at home, issued from his private sanctum when he received Edwin's message desiring to see him on im- portant business. Earlsley tendered his hand to Edwin, requested him to walk in, and asked him to partake of refreshment, as it was now past noon. Our hero declined with thanks, and informed the magistrate that un- foreseen circumstances had compelled him to leave Mr. Maxwell's residence, and that he was now on his way to the capital to obtain if possible a situation under the government, or suitable employment in any capacity, it did not matter much whether public or pri- vate. Would Mr. Esrlsley—being intimate with the Lieutenant-Governor—be so good as to favor him with a short letter, only a line or two, stating that he knew the bearer, and considered him capable of filling any respect- able situation his Excellency might please to appoint him to, and he (Herbart) would con- sider himself under a very great obligation. On hearing this unexpected news and the re- quest with which it was accompanied, Earlsley looked at Edwin with a keen in- quiring glance, as much as to say—" So you have been misconducting yourself, my gentle- man ;" but after a pause (having apparently satisfied himself from the look of straight- forward integrity which appeared in Edwin's face, that his hasty suspicion was unfounded) he said—" I will do what you require, Mr. Herbart, with pleasure ; but I shall be very happy, that is if I am correct in supposing that you and Mr. Maxwell have had a difference, to do what I can in the way of mediation." Herbart thanked Mr. Earlsley, and was happy to acquaint him that he had had no difference of any importance with his relative, Mr. Maxwell. He was actuated only by motives arising from the love of independence. Mr. Earlsley was too well acquainted with the world not to be aware that the position he (Herbart) had hitherto occupied—namely, that of an as- sistant whose assistance did not seem to be wanted—was of all others the most distress- ing. Earlsley replied that he certainly could form an idea or two on the subject. He was not at all surprised, quite the reverse, ex- pected something of the kind, and so on. Edwin then gave the magistrate all the in- formation he was possessed of respecting the remarkable occurrences that took place at the carrier's cottage—the arrest of Brady, his ex- traordinary escape, the meeting in the wood, and other matters. When he had concluded the worthy dispenser of justice struck his desk violently with his clenched hand, and thundered out emphatically, " It was my plan, Sir, and —— the scoundrels, why didn't they keep him when they had him ? I'll stake my reputation that Brady will be a terror to the colony for years to come ; I know him well—a more determined black- guard does not exist." Boiling with rage, the disappointed Earlsley walked up and down his office with hasty strides, ejaculating, " The — scoundrels !—the infernal villains !—the ignorant and careless ruffians !"
and a great many more wrathful sentences, until at length his paroxysm partially sub- siding, he settled down in his chair and com- menced his note to Colonel Arthur on Her- bart's behalf. The note in question ran thus :— [Private.] Clifton Hall, Fingal. My Dear Colonel,—I am requested by the bearer, Mr. Edwin Herbart, to write these few lines introducing him to your favorable con- sideration. He is the young man who came in the dead of night and released myself and family, the guard having bean surprised and overpowered by the bushrangers under Crawford and Brady on the 17th ult. He is anxious for a situation under your Government, and I believe he will be found (should you think proper to give him an appointment) a trustworthy public servant. He has thought proper to leave the residence of his relative, Mr. Bernard Maxwell, of Brem- garten, for reasons to which I am a total stranger. You will receive, my dear Colonel, in due course of post, an official account of the capture of the bushranger Brady by the notorious Cir- cular Head thief-taker, Jorgen Jorgensen. It is my painful duty to report that this individual seems to have forgotten his duty, inasmuch as he left the prisoner with but one guard, and he a careless wretched informer, while he himself went to Avoca for an escort. The consequences might have been foreseen. Brady burned the rope with which his hands were tied, and over- powered his sentinel, threatened him with certain death in case they should ever meet again, and is, I grieve to say, once more at large. Mr. Herbart informs me that he witnessed the capture, —also an extraordinary interview between Brady and the carrier Baxter an hour after the former had effected his escape, wherein the bushranger threatened the carrier with death. My informant adds that Bax- ter was not at all to blame in any of this above- mentioned transactions. In other respects the district is tolerably quiet. I have the honor to be, My dear Colonel, Yours very sincerely, ARTHUR EARLSLEY. Colonel Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor, &c., &c., &c. After carefully depositing this missive in his breast-pocket, Edwin, declining a second offer of refreshment, took his leave, not for- getting to request that Mr. Earlsley would be good enough to present his (Herbart's) best respects to the ladies. The magistrate made a polite reply, and saw his visitor to the door. Five or six miles more of our travellers' journey were passed before nightfall. Baxter having previously made his calculations, drew up before a roadside hovel which an- swered the purpose of an inn, although the proprietor had no license to sell intoxicating drinks. It is indispensable, we suppose, that a great government should authorise the sale of intoxicating drinks to the hard-working bones and sinews of the nation, on purpose to keep their idle moments employed. But in- toxicating drink is a great instrument in the hands of the devil. It stultifies man's no- blest faculties, sears the conscience, engenders crimes of deepest dye and diseases of loathe- some complexion. Dost thou hear, great mother Britannia, the words thou speakest to thy loving children ?—" Whether you remain at home or go forth to my distant possessions you will find establishments licensed by me, where is sold almost unchecked and without limit to all who are willing to purchase, the fiery fluid that will scorch your brains and put an end to your lives in want, misery, and filth. My dear children, the temptation will assail you at every corner—drink freely and get drunk, but if you commit crimes I will punish you just as if you had been sober, and if you have not the strength of mind to resist the temptation, and come to rags and want, I will not assist you." And thus is the detestable vice of drunkenness fostered by the most civilised government in the world, a horrible enthralment of which even the savages of New Zealand are perfectly ashamed.* There resided in this hovel a man of rough exterior, a gaunt, raw-boned woman, and two poor dirty children. After supper the rum bottle was passed freely round. Edwin declined partaking of its contents, but could not avoid listening to a conversation by no means edifying, and devoutly wished himself in any other place. When bed time came the hostess threw a couple of blankets and an opossum rug to the travellers, telling them to do the best they could, and retired with her mate. Edwin, on the recommendation of Baxter, who was now rather mellow and very up- roarious, wrapped himself up in the rug and lying down in a corner was soon asleep. The carrier and his man, provided with a blanket each, likewise fell off into sound slumber. The morning came and the gloomy journey was resumed. The weather was still un- settled and lowering. The wind blew in a strong gale from the northward, while over the earth dense masses of dark clouds drifted sullenly, low enough to touch the topmost boughs of the tall forest trees which seemed to increase in number and in size as the travellers penetrated onward. They passed through some grassy tracks which Baxter called the Break o' Day Plains, still known by the same appellation. A river was crossed by a large wooden bridge constructed by convict labour. The village of Cullenswood, which could only boast of two or three little huts covered with stringy bark was reached, and some refreshments were obtained. The road now lay through a forest increasing in dark and mazy impenetrability, for trees of large size stood on both sides of the way as thick as they could well stand with conveni- ence to themselves. Gloomy, cold, and inhos- pitable appeared this terrible forest : dark and dismal to the sight—darker and more dismal still to the imagination of him who could fancy himself lost within its trackless labyrinths. Scarcely a blade of grass except of the coarsest kind was to be seen amongst the fragments of stone out of which the gigantic trees grew and flourished. An occasional crew is the only living thing to be seen or heard here, and even he could not * Colonel Mundy's "Our Antipodes."
be supposed to gain his livelihood in such a barren region as this. He has been, doubt- less, to the sea-side for a change of air, and is now making his way back to the midland plains, to refresh himself with a tender young lamb. Sensible crow ! let thy flight be speedy, and thy beak sharp. Wall may you wonder, Edwin, what can bring even a crow to such a place. As they travel on the forest becomes denser, the clouds grow blacker. The tempest rises and sweeps along in fierce gusts. Like the artillery of a great modern battle, the lightning flashes, throwing a strong illumination around, even in the light of day ; the thunder bursts with a sudden roar, and the long pent up rain, let loose at last, comes gushing to the ground in torrents. It was in vain that Baxter, seconded by his assistant, tried to urge on the weary cattle. Scared by the thunder, and bewildered by the fury of the tempest, the leaders, refusing to be controlled any longer by their driver, turned round, and buried their heads under the belly of the off-side pole bullock, which position they could not be prevailed upon to abandon. The deafening peals of thunder became louder, following each other in quick succession, and resounding through the impervious woods with awful and mysterious solemnity. The rain increased to such a volume that in the space of an hour the road became the bed of a con- siderable river. Boughs of great size were torn from the trees and hurled along scores of yards by the raging gale, and in some instances the trees themselves were wrenched from their rocky foundations, and levelled to the earth with fearful crashes. There was no clear space where the terrified wayfarers could find safety. The heavy branches loaded with green leaves and water, swayed to and fro with alarming sounds above their heads. They got under the dray and huddled to- gether, just as the bullocks had done, up to their knees in a stream of liquid mud, while Edwin audibly commended his companions and himself to the care of their Heavenly Father. If one single tree at their windward side, or even if a bough of more than usual size fell on the dray, it would have crushed it to pieces, and no more could be told of Edwin or of Baxter. In the course of another hour this paroxysm of passion on the part of the elements exhausted itself. Some fearful com- motion had raged in Dame Nature's breast, but now she condescended, if not to dry her eyes altogether, at least to behove herself less frantically than before. Her thunder ; receded to a distance ; her lightnings were less vivid, and she became comparatively quiet. What awe in thoughtful minds does she not inspire by her wrath ; and how great are the feelings of relief and pleasure when that wrath has harmlessly spent itself and is succeeded by a calm ? (To be continued.)