Chapter 36695560

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXXXVII
Chapter Url
Full Date1868-01-23
Page Number2
Word Count2985
Last Corrected2020-01-29
Newspaper TitleLaunceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)
Trove TitleThe Maxwells of Bremgarten
article text

THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) (Continued from Saturday, 4th inst) CHAPTER XXXVII. ARRIVAL OF ISABEL—MR. JUNIPER BEGS LEAVE TO INTRODUCE A FRIEND. It is now time to enquire what our friends at Bremgarten have been doing since we last had the pleasure of being in their company. They have been doing nothing beyond at- tending to their usual business, and listening to the many stories and remarks of their ac- tive-minded guest the Colonel. Edwin's ab- sence seemed to be a relief to both Maxwell and his wife, and they now, to judge by ap- pearances at least, put off that garb of re- straint which they had so long worn. Charles wandered about for some time in an uneasy state of mind, and evidently missed his late companion very much. Griselda was deeply grieved, and would no doubt have settled quietly down into a melancholy despondiug state, were it not for her sense of duty to her parents, added to the rallying she was now and again subjected to at the hands of the lively Colonel. She felt bitterly that she was the cause of Edwin's banishment and of his subsequent misfortunes whatever they might be ; but it was not in her power to avert these calamities. Day succeeded day and her gay smile was not seen so frequently, while it might have been suspected from her grave demeanor and abstracted manner that she often thought of the friendless wan- derer. The story of the capture and escape of so desperate a bushranger as Brady caused great consternation in the neighborhood of Avoca, and the Maxwell family daily expressed their uneasiness on account of Henry and Isabel. The weather had also, as we have related, changed for the worse, and rendered travel- ling particularly fatiguing and unpleasant. Another source of anxiety existed in the constantly recurring atrocities committed by the aborigines. The newspapers of the period contained accounts almost every week of some fresh violence either by bushraugers or natives, sometimes exaggerated and some- times destitute of truth, but always more or less alarming to the residents in the country. Maxwell had often congratulated himself that he lived in a neighborhood less exposed than most others to the attacks of these fierce enemies ; but as he was not altogether safe he took every precaution that prudence could suggest to guard against surprise. In the midst of wonders as to where Henry and Isabel might be or how they might be, min- gled with many expressions of condolence and sympathy, they suddenly arrived one evening safe and sound to gladden both the hearts and eyes of their friends. Griselda flew with a bounding heart to welcome the weary Isabel, and they embraced each other with the affection of sisters. Both the wanderers were received by Maxwell and his wife with the attention their position in society commanded, and congratulated on their safe arrival after traversing the country in the midst of so many dangers. Isabel was delighted to find her father well. She ran into the room where he was seated and kissed him so often that he was obliged to push her away with some show of violence. She was dressed in deep mourning, but whether her dark habiliments became her dark eyes and complexion better than a light dress would have done, is we conceive a question of taste. She had evidently grown taller, while in her carriage there appeared a greater air of dignity than she had before been observed to assume. She noticed Mrs. Maxwell contem- plating her dark dress and thinking probably of her mother now dead ; and was led to her chamber by Griselda with her handkerchief pressed to her eyes. Henry being roughly welcomed by his father, now sat down to await refreshments, giving in the meantime to all the family, except the two young ladies, a short account of his travels. He had reached Hobart Town, he said, in less than three days, having been subjected to many delays and annoyances on the road. He had been stopped several times by constables who mistook him for a bush- ranger seeing life on horseback, and on one occasion he was actually fired at by a sentinel who had challenged him, and who mistook his signs of " all right" for those of defiance : on his riding up and expostulating with the man he was told that it was a pity the ball had not gone through him.* The fact of his leading a horse with a side-saddle was no protection from these inquisitorial proceed- ings, as the constables always suspected him to be some clever sharper and the horse a stolen one. On the return journey he was accompanied by several other persons journey- ing on horseback into the interior, and Isabel had been kindly accommodated with a seat in a gig ; for a considerable distance by a settler who resided somewhere on the banks of the River Macquarie. He had seen a party of the natives loitering about the road in the neighborhood of Hobart Town, but they seemed too much emaciated by disease and woe-begone laziness to be for- midable as enemies. They were probably driven into the neighborhood of the town by a scarcity of provisions in the country. He had heard of several atrocities committed by them at a distance, and was not without apprehensions on account of his sister ; but now that the perilous journey was over he thought they were fortunate in having escaped its dangers so well. This opinion was acquiesced in by his friends, and when tea was ready Isabel and Griselda came and took their seats at the table. Henry soon missed Herbart, and en- quired of Charles, sotto voce, what had become of him ? Charles, in reply, gave Henry a short account of the events that had * Fact.

taken place during his absence, at which he appeared surprised, but not at all grieved (why should he ?). On the contrary, he launched out into free and animated conver- sation ; addressed at great many confidential and witty observations to Griselda ; made himself, in fact, the life of the party, and put on the aspect of a gay young gentleman who had gained a victory of no mean importance. Yet we would not be understood to say that he absolutely rejoiced in the downfall of a competitor whom he so heartily despised. Ever since Edwin's departure the old Colonel had been more than usually silent and abstracted. He had evidently taken it liking to the youth, and now appeared to notice his continued absence and look upon it as a matter of regret. He startled Max- well one day by asking him abruptly when his relative Herbart was coming back ; and when Maxwell made some kind of confused, rambling reply, the Colonel said, " Why, you don't mean to say that he is not coming back at all ?" and then sank into an apparently sulky silence. This conduct annoyed Max- well exceedingly ; he thought the Colonel had no business to interfere in his domestic arrangements. The slightest allusion to his relative Herbart grated harshly on his feelings —a fact which was well known to Mrs. Max- well, who from feelings of respect for her hus- band never mentioned the young man's name. Griselda and Charles never spoke of him within hearing of their father, but to each other they were not so reserved. The increas- ing dejection of Colonel Arnott, whatever might be its cause, was a subject of great con- cern to his host ; but he consoled himself with the reflection that he was doing his duty by paying every attention to his guest, and that it was no fault of his if the vivacity of a man who had reached his eightieth year could not be kept in active play. The old gentleman seemed to enjoy very good health ; he rose punctually every day at the same hour, ate a hearty breakfast, took a walk in the garden for an hour, and then returned to his bedroom, from which he did not generally emerge until dinner was announced. After dinner he retired again to his bed or his book, came down to tea when called, and wound up the day by playing a game or two at chess with Griselda or her father. He was always very respectful to Mrs. Maxwell, and spoke with great kindness to her daughter. The arrival of Henry and Isabel aroused him for a while, and a portion of his former gaiety returned : but his gaiety was not so consistent as formerly, and he gradually re- lapsed into his late silent and morose fits of dejection. He sometimes even expressed himself in an unnecessarily peevish manner, hinting that he should return to Sydney, as he had been a trouble to his friends too long. The life he was leading was too monotonous to suit his active spirit, and his mind began, as a natural consequence to prey upon itself. Maxwell was very cautious in his expressions, but with all his caution he could scarcely avoid arousing at times the irritability of this inflammable octogenarian. Mrs. Maxwell, Isabel, and Griselda sat together one afternoon in their parlor, talking and working. The Colonel had retired to his bedroom as usual, Maxwell was probably dis- cussing the affairs of his farm with his shep- herds and stockmen, and Henry and Charles had gone out for a stroll in the bush. The weather, after a more than average quantity of rain had fallen, and more than the usual amount of fierce wind had blown, had at last settled down into quiet sunshine, though the coldness of the air outside rendered the bright wood fire that burned in the parlor grate a positive necessity. " I am very much delighted, Mrs. Max- well," said Isabel, " with the scenery of this island of yours, though I believe the winter is not the most suitable season in which to ap- preciate its beauties." " No, decidedly," said Mrs. Maxwell, " autumn is, I think, here as elsewhere the most agreeable season of the year. The sum- mer is too warm, and the universal bush-fires fill the air so with haze and smoke that you can scarcely see a distant hill, much less admire it. The spring is sometimes so bois- terous that you are generally glad to keep within doors. The winters are often very mild though the mountains are, as you have seen, capped with snow, but the severe frosts are very injurious to our gardens, and the high winds, when they do happen to blow, fill me with most painful apprehensions of rheuma- tism." " The climate is, I should say, much more agreeable to a permanent resident than that of New South Wales," said Isabel. " Undoubtedly I believe it to be one of the finest climates in the world," replied Mrs. Maxwell. " I passed one or two very fine rivers on my way up," said Isabel ; " the first was near Hobart Town, what is the name of that river ? I asked Henry, but he said he didn't know." " That is the Derwent," said Griselda, " it is a beautiful river indeed, especially up to- wards the new town of New Norfolk ; but I speak from hearsay, never having been higher up than where it is crossed by large boats. I have heard that the country about Norfolk Plains and Launceston is exceedingly pictur- esque." " You have some beautiful lakes, too, I have heard ?" said Miss Arnott. " Yes," replied Griselda, " but they are not, accessible except to shepherds and flocks of sheep, and some of them are situated in the most extraordinary manner you can conceive —at the tops of high mountains, and sur- rounded by high hills, just as we are here. They are very romantic and beautiful, we have heard." " I should say you are not very well situ- ated with respect to society,"' said Isabel. " We have a few neighbors," said Mrs. Maxwell, " with whom we hold occasionally a little social intercourse. Mrs. Earlsley and her daughters are very agreeable well-in- formed persons,—of superior stamp and

breeding. Mr. Earlsley is a well-educated man, and magistrate of the district but he is somewhat dictatorial in his manners to- wards his neighbors. There are other settlers further down the river who have been all kind and friendly to us when we have come in contact with them ; but visiting is nearly out of the question here, on account of the sanguinary disposition of the natives, though I have no doubt that the time will arrive when the reproach of transportation being wiped away, the tone of society will become far more healthy than it is at present. People are so situated here that they are obliged to be very exclusive : the majority of them have no time for anything but the advancement of their own interests, with the view of getting rich as fast as possible." " We have often wished, Isabel," said Griselda, " to know the particulars of your dear mother's sudden and lamented death, if the subject does not give you pain." " It is not more painful to speak of it than to think of it," answered Isabel, "and it is a constant subject of my thoughts. I received a shock on that occasion which I never shall be able to forget. It happened in the middle of February. The day was frightfully hot, and a sirocco of more than usual severity swept through Sydney and over the harbor, carrying with it clouds of dust and smoke. The surrounding country seemed to be all on fire. We were confined to the house of course, by the heat of the sun, and when the dinner hour arrived we were not able to eat anything ; mamma could not even sit at the table. In about an hour she rose up from the sofa, and desired me to accompany her into the garden in the hope that the perfume of the trees and flowers would enable her to shake off her dreadful lassitude. I remonstrated, but she persisted, and we went out together. We crept about a little, keeping in the shade as much as possible you may be sure, when mamma suddenly squeezed my arm tightly, and in a moment, with a slight exclamation, fell back to the ground. I screamed for help, and after a while Henry came with some of the servants : they carried her into the house, and medical assistance was immediately sent for, but she only opened her eyes once again, and when they rested on my face she smiled sadly, and went off to sleep—the sleep of death." Here Isabel gave way to her emotions of grief, and sobbed for some time in silence. " There is," she resumed when she was sufficiently recovered, and had been kissed and consoled by Griselda, " a strange fatality that seems to pursue the footsteps of our family wherever we go though I hope I am not wicked enough to believe that the decrees of fate are invariably carried out independently of the laws of God. This fatality, if I may so call it, pursues us in the form of the angel of death, not stealing upon us with slow and silent footsteps as it does generally upon most other families, but darting suddenly like a tiger on his prey, as if in anger or revenge. My father may have told you that his male ancestors for three or four generations died suddenly. The death of his first wife took place almost suddenly in childbirth of her only child, my brother Frederick. She was a fair woman very much like you ; Griselde, as papa has often said, and her son has light hair and blue eyes. When I was five years old I was taken by my nurse to see an old wise woman of the Hindoo race who had the reputation of being able to tell people's forrtunes with wonderful fidelity. It was reported, indeed, that a certain high officer of state had availed himself privately of her talents and information, and like Saul at Endor, had heard nothing to his advan- tage ; but without vouching for the truth of this, it is certain that my nurse and I pre- sented ourselves before this mysterious per- sonage--a most forbidding looking creature you must know. My nurse in a language above my comprehension, gave her as far as she knew it a history of our family for the ten or twelve years preceding, and asked the Sibyl to give her in return a history of the future. She foretold, amongst other matters which have not yet manifested themselves in reality, some things that have actually taken place as she said they would, and in the same order. For instance, she said that we would cross the great water, but not to the country of the Feringhees, and grow very rich. Now my father at this time had no intention of settling in Australia. Again, she said that three out of our number would die suddenly. one of them a violent death, but she declined to particularise individuals. My father being a soldier to her knowledge, she may have thought might be killed in battle, but as he escaped that danger the violent death has yet to take place. We were five in number then, my mother has been called first, and she died suddenly." (To be continued.)