Chapter 36695244

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Chapter NumberXXXVI
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Full Date1868-01-04
Page Number2
Word Count5347
Last Corrected2020-01-29
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
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THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED) (Continued from last Saturday.) CHAPTER XXXVI. EDWIN HERBART'S ADVENTURES CONTINUED. THE rays of the rising sun shone cheerfully over the forests of St. Mary's Pass—all traces of the previous day's tempest having disap- peared from the sky—when the carrier and Edwin, being refreshed by a hearty breakfast, bade adieu to their respective entertainers, and resumed their toilsome journey. In ad- dition to a party of six prisoners to help them down the Pass, they were accompanied by four well armed soldiers to protect them from the attacks of the natives in case the latter showed themselves with any hostile inten- tions. The distance from the Heads of the Pass to the sea may be about five miles, but the difficulties of the route at the period of which we write were almost of an insur- mountable nature. The smooth and pleasant winding road which now conducts the traveller in his carriage down the beautiful and romantic glen was then only being com- menced, so that our hero and his conductor paused when they arrived at the heads They had good reason to pause and consider what next should be done. They found themselves at the top of a deep fissure between two high mountains over- hanging the Pacific Ocean. The vast expanse of water was, however, completely concealed from view by the thick foliage of the count- less trees which flourished in tropical luxuriance on the steep sides of the corres- ponding declivities. Edwin gazed with astonishment at the scene before him, sur- passing everything of the kind he had ever before witnessed. A ravine of apparently inaccessible depths lay at his feet, and on either hand arose interminable walls of densely-wooded hills, so dark and gloomy, although the sun shone upon them, that he was forcibly reminded of the fabled pit of Acheron and the valley of the River Styx. Far down at the bottom of the glen a rivulet, now swollen to a muddy torrent, was darkly shaded in its entire course through the glen by thick clusters of trees and shrubs, which reflected to the eyes of the gazers above beau- tifully variegated tints of the richest green glistering in the dews of the sunny morning. Here the numerous varieties of the dark leaved acacia are seen in tangled profusion, and the graceful and beautiful tree-fern flourishes beneath the protecting branches of the sassafras and blackwood, concealing both rock and ripple under a pile of glowing leaves. Here the enthusiastic botanist might sit down in despair while his eyes wandered from one tempting object to another, painfully unde- cided on which to bestow his first attention. Edwin, who was at all times a warm admirer of mountain and forest scenery, here found them combined on a scale of magnificence which, if not worthy of the Himalayas, was marvellous in a small island like Tasmania. He was once familiar with Powerscourt and the Dargle, with Bellevue and the Glen of the Downs, but here was a scene which might be sought for in vain in sweet Erin. Charac- terised by none of her sylvan beauties, it was grand, yet savage, choked up with mass upon mass of vegetation, yet the soil, except for the production of giant trees, dogwood scrub, and the thousands of curious parasites which cling to trees and rocks, and suck nourish- ment from yellow clay, was hopelessly barren. It was a scene well calculated to stir up the slumbering embers of poetic fire in the soul of a young man so romantic and susceptible as Edwin. This was St. Mary's Pass, the only acces- sible track from Fingal to the sea, and Edwin began to ask himself in some surprise how was it possible for Baxter to take his bul- locks and dray with a tolerably heavy load down to the water's edge by such a pre- cipitous route. He had not long to wait to have his doubts set at rest, for the carrier commenced operations as coolly as if such matters were an every-day's business. He directed his man to cut down a large and heavily branched tree, and having notched the trunk so that it would hold a ponderous chain he fastened it securely to the axle-tree of his dray, and then taking the whip him- self, gave the word to his cattle and com- menced the descent. A descent in such a place was fearful to eyes unaccustomed to see poor dumb beasts at work amidst mountains. The bullocks rolled and swayed to and fro, groaning as with an instinctive dread of ap- proaching destruction ; and had it not been for the tree to which the cart was chained their destruction would lave been inevitable. The track did not take them directly into the valley, but along the side of a steep mountain with a deep dark chasm on their left, and an almost perpendicular bank groaning with the weight of millions of large trees towering far above their heads on the right. The heavy rain of the preceding day added materially to the difficulties of the journey. The bullocks struggled painfillly down the steep incline half paralyzed with terror : now stumbling over sharp jagged rocks, now sinking up to their bellies in yellow quagmires At every available halting place, Baxter allowed them to take a little rest : besides being frequently compelled to stop while sundry impediments were removed from the track, in performing which services the six men lent him by Mr. Fitzfrizzle were of great assistance. At length, after passing through a deep branch ravine at the imminent peril of drowning to the whole party, for the turbid waters gushed with im- patient violence over stones and fallen timber, they arrived at a place where it was deemed expedient to detach the dray from its guar- dian drag. The men were then sent back to their station, and the carrier and Edwin, still accompanied by the four soldiers proceeded to the shore.

Here they found the ocean, rough after the recent storm, breaking along the sands and amongst blackened rocks : now rising in suc- cessive walls of emerald crowned with snowy wreaths ; anon, dashing against the shore in loud, ceaseless peals which reverberated along the adjacent heights. At a little distance, sheltered under the lee of a small island, lay the cutter Betty. The communication be- tween the vessel and the shore was in a tem- porary state of suspension in consequence of the high sea, and no convenient jetty being then in existence. Edwin had heard people talk of Falmouth, and with his usual prone- ness to invest everything with a higher value than it deserved, expected to see a thriving town with a marine hotel, a main street, and one banking establishnent at least, but there was no town to be seen. The coast was in its primitive state of wild bush. The town of Falmouth, at that time, existed only on the Surveyor's charts. There were certainly two or three wretched hovels round which a few cows and pigs picked up a plentiful supply of food. There might be seen here and there patches of ground en- closed for the cultivation of potatoes ; but anything like a respectable house or garden could not be found perhaps within twenty miles of the place. A detachment of soldiers, commanded by a sergeant, was stationed there to protect a few whalers and pensioner farmers, and to watch along the coast the tracks of absconders and the aborigines. The carrier took up his temporary quarters with the military guard, whom he enlivened with his fertile wit ; he unloaded his dray, unyoked his bullocks, and commended Ed- win to the care of the soldiers for a day or two until it became practicable for the master of the Betty to take him and the goods on board. They then proceeded to recruit exhausted nature, and make themselves as comfortable as they could. Having spent a night in this ocean-lashed wilderness, the carrier set out in the morn- ing on his return home. Edwin tendered him a pound in silver for the service he had done him, but the kind Baxter resolutely re- fused to accept of it, telling our hero to let it stand over until he came up a Commissary General at least to marry Miss Maxwell. Edwin sighed deeply as he thanked the carrier, and the latter probably found his way up the formidable pass without serious difficulty, as if any accident had happened we should doubtless have heard of, and cer- tainly recorded it. The weather, as luck would have it, continued fine ; but Edwin was informed by the soldiers that it was very changeable on the eastern coast, being on one day fine and beautifully mild ; on the next perhaps the wind blowing a hurricane, the rain pouring in floods, and the raging of the sea frightful to behold. He listened patiently to the conversation of his military enter- tainers, and was able to extract information as well as amusement from it. He ascer- tained that there were a few small settlers scattered along the coast in favorable spots, but they had great difficulties to contend with in heavily timbered land, and the want of easy communication with the interior. Carriage by water to Hobart Town was, however, an advantage which the settlers in the interior did not possess, but on the whole he considered that the interior was preferable, and afforded a wider field, as well as a milder climate, and finer pasturage for sheep and cattle. On the evening of the same day—and a singularly calm delightful evening it was—the turbulence of the sea had sufficiently subsided to allow a boat to come close to the landing place ; and the master of the Betty seized the favorable opportunity to get his passenger and the butter, &c., on board. He lost no time in getting under weigh, but the incon- stant breeze was scarcely sufficient to fill his sails ; nevertheless the little vessel glided away from the land at the rate of some three or four knots per hour, and before the night fell had made good a respectable distance. The night fell and with it also fell the much desired breeze, and the watchful master might have been observed to cast many anxious glances towards the eastern horizon, which was fringed with a long low bank of black clouds, whose upper margin reflected with snowy whiteness the beams of the sett- ing sun. The crew of the cutter consisted of the master and four able seamen. The former was an old weather-beaten sailor who had passed some fifty years in the tur- moil and dangers of life on the sea. He could neither read nor write--a sufficient reason why he had not risen to eminence in his profession,— but he was a thoughtful, careful man, fully alive to the responsibility of his position, and evidently possessing abilities that might not have disgraced a more respectable quarter deck. He spoke but little, and chewed his quid placidly as he stood by the tiller of his little vessel ; but his uneasy glances at the rising bank of cloud, growing every moment more dark and ominous, did not escape the observation of Edwin, who stood in a contemplative mood by his side. At length the master broke silence, and said to his passenger, laying a forcible emphasis on every word—" I thought to gain a good offing, Sir, before another gale came on, but I'm not far enough by forty knots ; it'll be a dirty black night, and a wild shore close under our lee for a hundred miles and more. But we may weather it—God is good as well as great, and men think themselves clever and 'cute,' when the snapping of a thread, as the saying is, either on sea or shore, may send 'em to be judged for their sins. Here, Jack, take the helm, and keep her head well up to wind'ard, if you can go in the teeth of the gale, it'll be all the better—and, Tom, send some cocoa aft—come below, Sir, this is my last trip ; give me a free leg ashore after this, and I'll coil up my ropes and cast anchor." They went down into the narrow cabin, which was furnished with a berth on each

side, and two fixed seats and a small table in the middle. The cocoa was brought scalding hot from the galley, and our adventurer par- took freely of it, making an attempt at the same time to swallow some cold pork and bread. But this attempt was nearly a failure, as he was ill and unhappy, and his mind was full of gloomy forebodings. While the master filled his pipe in silence and began to smoke, Edwin was glad to throw himself into the berth destined for his use, and in spite of his harassing thoughts and of the rapidly advancing tempest he soon full asleep. Towards midnight the prediction of the ex- perienced mariner was verified, and never was there a dirtier night known on the eastern coast. The wind arose in a fierce gale, blowing directly on to the land. The cutter was strongly built, and might have weathered even a fiercer gale in the open sea, but now a lee shore lay in terrible proximity; and though she had accomplished a distance of some twenty miles, yet compared with the extent of coast on which it was possible she might be blown, it was the next thing to no distance at all. The storm brought with it its usual accompaniments of thunder and rain. The agitation of the sea became terrific and awoke Edwin from his refreshing sleep. The master and his crew were at their posts on deck, doing all that human skill could accomplish to work their vessel out to sea. Her head was kept close to the wind, her sails close reefed ; her deck was swept by the waves. The anxious mariners could see nothing of the land as the night was impenetrably black ; but they felt that their efforts to work the vessel off would be in vain. Too truly, alas ! they heard the voice of the spirit of the storm shrieking in wild and remorseless accents—" You are in my power, and you shall not escape." The genius of misfortune seemed to pursue the footstops of the unfortunate Edwin. Reduced to the lowest state of wretchedness by sickness, and the anticipation of speedy destruction, he prayed that if only for the sake of the mother who loved him his life might be spared. Anon his imagination lost its vivid light, his memory its hitherto unbroken power. He lay in his berth scarcely able to move or think, listening to the wind roaring over his head and the waves boiling and hissing around him, until a fierce gust laid the vessel on her beam ends, and hurled him from his bed to the floor. The vessel righted imme- diately, to be again laid similarly prostrate ; and Edwin, bruised and bleeding, scrambled up the ladder upon deck. Here his plight became, if possible, worse than before, for he was instantly drenched from head to foot, and had not a sailor taken hold of him he must have been washed into the sea. The inexorable surges swept over him again and again, but he took no notice of the master's reiterated injunctions to go below. He felt before long that he had made a change for the better. The wind and water combined to exercise a sweet reviving influence over him, and he felt with pleasure the blood stealing back to his heart again, and inspiring it with courage to face the death which might destroy but could not terrify him. Under these painful circumstances it took but a short time to decide the fate of the cutter Betty. She was tossed on the waves like a feather, blown over like a rush when she mounted on the crest of a billow, but righting herself when she sank into each suc- cessive trough. Through the murky gloom nothing could be discerned. The mariners knew not where they were, and were obliged to abandon themselves to their relentless fate. Could they have regained their position under the lee of the little island they had left they would be safe, but that was now impossible. One seaman suggested that the vessel should be beached, and they might scramble on shore for their lives ; another that her head should be put to the nor'-east as affording a better chance of working off shore ; but the master preferred his previous arrangements in the hope that he might double the nearest head- land ; that then he would have more sea-room, and the wind might moderate a little. While the discussion continued a hoarse and sullen roaring, growing louder and louder, was heard in the direction of the land. " Breakers to leeward," shouted the master ; " it's all over. Now God have mercy on our souls !" In another moment the vessel struck, and her timbers were rent asunder like a tree splin- tered by lightning. The morning dawned as dismally as might be imagined, but still the storm had not abated. Three bruised and insensible crea- tures lay on the sand as they had been left by the receding tide. A stranger who might look upon their purple and scarred features would have pronounced them dead, as they lay for many hours without sense or motion ; but one of them, after the warm influence of the sun had penetrated the thick driving clouds, opened his eyes and looked incredu- lously about him. He sat up after several vain attempts, and gazed on the angry billows as they rolled in upon the shore and spent themselves in spray at his feet. Then with confused recollection of the calamity that had happened, he fell back into his former posi- tion. These movements were repeated several times, and as he turned his blood-shot eyes from the sea to the land, his heart died within him as he looked upon the inhospitable forest. He then turned to his companions in misfortune, and thought of arousing them from their death-like stupor. He rose up with some difficulty and staggered to where they lay close together, holding each other with a stiff grasp. Edwin—for the survivor was our pitiable friend—bent over them and used all the means in his power to arouse them. His efforts were at last successful with respect to one, a seaman of stalwart pro- portions ; the other sufferer, the master of the vessel, was beyond human help. The gale still continued to blow ; and the waves beating high upon the shore, it became

necessary for our shipwrecked hero and the surviving sailor to seek temporary shelter. All around was strange to them, and cold, barren, and desolate. Stiff and sore in every limb, their clothing torn, their throats swollen and painful from the effects of salt water, they made shift to retreat from their exposed situation, having covered the body of the master as well as they could with sand ; and taking possession of a dry spot under some coarse grass lay down together to rest. As the day advanced the weather grew more moderate, Edwin, whose mental energies rose in an inverse ratio with his sinking for- tunes, awoke out of a pleasant sleep much refreshed, and creeping out of his primitive bed stood up and considered his situation. It was time to think of making some move- ment ; it would not do to stay there and perish. He aroused his companion, and they both directed their steps to the beach, after slaking their thirst from a hole in the marshy ground. They hoped to find some fragments of provision with which to sustain life until a dwelling could be reached, and they were fortunate in finding half buried in sand a bag of soaked biscuit, for which Edwin returned his heartfelt thanks to the merciful Giver of all good. With this welcome store the two wanderers loaded themselves and set out on their journey along the coast. They pursued a northerly direction, judging that as the vessel had made for the southward they would soon arrive at the military station at Falmouth. For several hours they toiled painfully along without seeing a living creatures except an occasional kangaroo, and almost giving up in despair the hope of reaching a human habitation. The shade of night fell rapidly, but they were to all appearance nearer their desired goal. It seemed inevitable that the night must be passed by the noisy shore in the solitary woods. Suddenly the loud bark of a dog at no great distance revived their sinking spi- rits. But it was necessary to use great caution in approaching the spot from which the sound came lest they might find them- selves in the midst of enemies instead of friends. Accordngly they retired a little way into the bush and crept along in a stoop- ing posture. Soon they were rejoiced to perceive a column of smoke rising from the chimney of a hut perched on the top of a little hill. Rejoiced beyond measure at the welcome sight they pressed forward with ac- celerated pace and approached the lonely habitation. A woman of unprepossessing ex- terior stood at the door and uttered an ex- clamation of alarm when she first caught sight of the strangers; her cry brought forth a hairy visaged man, who after a moment's scrutiny exclaimed as Edwin and his com- panion commenced to ascend the hill— " You've bin shipwrecked I'm thinkin', or is you bolters* from the Pass ?" " We are not bolters," said Edwin in reply, much hurt by the imputation. " We have been shipwrecked—the cutter Betty is lost. This man was one of the crew and I was a passenger; will you shelter us ?" " Aye," said the man, " come in ; you'll want a warm and a bite an' sup—go up t' fire an' get a warm. Sling the billy, Kitt, an' make more tay, them sojers has'nt left us a drop. Did ye say the Betty wur lost, an' if it is whur's the skipper ?" " The skipper and three men is drownded," answered the surviving seaman. " Drownded be they ?" said the hairy man, " I'm sorry fur to hear it ; I knew the skipper, and a decent like mun he wur ; but I tell'd ye, Kitt, ther wur sumnmut in the wind last night—I feeled it myself, a regular scurvy like feelin' all over." The shipwrecked adventurers were perish- ing with cold and consequently pushed closely to the fire. It was not long before the good woman of the house had tea and kangaroo chops ready for them, and with the usual accompaniment of damper they made a hearty meal. The sailor then smoked a pipe, and gave his host and hostess a circumstantial account of the storm and wreck, while Edwin tlhrew himself on it bench and fell asleep. The next morning the sun rose brightly, and threw his truly golden glory over the broad ocean, still heaving and throbbing in wild foamy billows. Edwin walked out to breathe the fresh air and to think, now that he had time, over his hopes of a brighter for- tune thus at second time shivered to atoms. He was now destitute in every sense of the word : all his little property lost in the sea ; his bodily strength gone ; every movement accompanied by intense pain : yet he did not feel the reality so truly miserable a he often thought he should while anticipating the pos- sibility of such a reverse of fortune. A never dying hope bade him bear his fate bravely, and do all in his power to avert the fell whisperings of despair. He recalled to his memory many instances of men who suffered heroically, and ultimately triumphed over adverse fortune. " When things are at the worst," he repeated to himself, " they are almost sure to mend ; I have reached the crisis of my fate, and now must begin to look for better days." Poor fellow ! the better days were slow in coming. Returning to the hut he ate his breakfast, and enquired how far it was to Falmouth ? Five miles. Was the direction they had taken the correct one ? It was. He was also informed that he might remain where he was for two or three days, or as long as he liked, until his strength was sufficiently restored to enable him to pursue his journey. He thanked his hirsute and hospitable friend, who seemed to gain a scanty living by grow- ing potatoes and keeping a few cows and pigs. It was a wild and strange place for any human being to settle in, yet Edwin learned with surprise that this recluse couple preferred it to other spots on account of its loneliness and inaccessibility. He gathered from the con- versation of the woman that they seldom saw * Runaway prisoners.

anyone there except the blacks, and sometimes a couple of constables or soldiers. Scarcely ever the latter. Whenever the soldiers came something was sure to go wrong. Four of them had spent five hours in the hut the day before watching for the blacks. For her part, she said, the blacks had often come and had never done her any harm ; but if they know that soldiers came and planted there they might burn the hut and everyone in it. Edwin availed himself of the invitation of his host, and decided to remain where he was for that day. He reclined on a bench in the corner nearly the whole of the day revolving many different projects in his head, and won- dering how he could repay his kind enter- tainers for their attention. It was already late in the afternoon ; the owner of the cot- tage had gone out, and his wife was engaged in some occupation outside, the sailor sat by the fire smoking. Edwin lay dozing and had fallen into a delicious reverie. He was at Bremgarten once again, and thought he lay on the sofa in the well-known parlor, feverish and ill, Griselda was in the room with him, but she sat at a distance ; he breathed her name and she approached, he thought she bent over him like a protecting angel, and kissed his forehead. He imagined himself dying, and was conscious that his gen- tle relative wept, but she shrank back hastily, and in her place stood her father, with his brows contracted into an angry frown. The dreamer started and sat up. An appalling cry burst upon his senses, and the woman rushed into the hut exclaiming wildly—" Fly —fly—for your lives ?" He bounded from the bench to the door and looked eagerly out ; there was nothing to be seen but the sea in front and the forest on each side. He went out, looked all round the hut and out into the woods at the back. Did he dream still, or was the scene real ? Crowding together amongst the stunted trees he beheld groups of naked savages dancing with wild gestures, and striking their spears and waddies together as a declaration of war. They set up an unearthly scream when they saw Edwin, who thought it best to retreat into the hut again. " Fly," said the woman, " every minute is worth an hour—they mean mischief—I know by them soldiers—" " If we fly," said Edwin, " what is to become of you ?" " Never mind me," said the poor creature, " I may pacify them, but if they surround the hut you are lost ; your best chance is in the bush ; go, for God's sake." " Come then," said Edwin to the sailor, " we must run for it ; this way, they are behind the hill." And setting the example he ran down the eminence towards the sea, followed by the sailor. Starting in the direction of the town- ship they at first kept along the beach, but Edwin, thinking that the numerous trees would conceal them better from the view of their enemies, left the sands and made for the woods. In doing so he had to climb over a high bank of sand and shells, and at that moment the woods rang with a fierce shout. The fugitives were discovered, and an instant a pursuit commenced. For a while Edwin and the sailor kept well together, but the latter, a heavy man and not accustomed to much run- ning or walking on shore, soon fell behind. The pursuers seeing their victims run, became armed with sudden courage, and advanced im- petuously, headed by a tall, ferocious bar- barian. They thirsted for the blood of the a white men, and set up horrid shouts. The unfortunate sailor stretched his legs to their utmost power, but in vain ; a spear struck him in the back, and he screamed for help or mercy ; it was in vain. A second spear struck him, and remained sticking in the wound ; a third—a fourth struck him—still he ran on. Edwin, some fifty yards in advance, looked back at the doomed wretch, and was horrified to see him still running with a number of spears sticking in his back. The savages crowded after him with their waddies lifted high in the air, each eager for the first deadly blow. At length the unhappy man sank down and resigned himself to his fate. Edwin beholding this scene stood still for a a moment in paralyzed amazement. He was a scarcely able to believe the evidence of his senses. To fly to the rescue was his first im- pulse, but the utter inutility of such a proceed- ing immediately struck him, while at the same time the movements of the tall leader recalled him to a sense of his position. Once more he took to his heels, the single savage after him. Others immediately followed, shouting like so many demons their shocking yells of victory. His situation became desperate ; he heard the footsteps of the dark giant close be- hind him as he ran, and clutching eagerly at the faintest shadow of the forlorn hope of self- defence, he, after drawing his pursuers fully half-a-mile from where his late companion fell, picked up a dead branch and stood at bay. His assailant had no spear, but his arm was raised ready for striking down his victim with a heavy waddy. Edwin struck at him and hit him on the arm ; he struck at Edwin in fury. Our unfortunate hero fell back with a cloud before his eyes, and ten thousand bright stars dancing through his brain, and the savage, while about to strike the blow which would not require repeating, sprang suddenly into the air, and fell heavily over his prostrate foe—dead — with a rifle ball through his heart. (To be continued.)