|Chapter Title||A SANGUINARY ENGAGEMENT.|
|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 2nd May.) CHAPTER XLIII. A SANGUINARY ENGAGEMENT. Our friend Maxwell had been for some time back amusing himself in planning an addition to his homestead, which he per- suaded himself had been too small from the first. He wanted an occasional bed room to accommodate occasional visitors, and a pri- vate room for himself wherein he might sit undisturbed, keep his accounts, write his letters, and study his favorite authors. Having matured his plans he employed laborers to carry them into execution, and amongst others two sawyers, who had con- structed their pit within a stone's throw of a the house, and now worked upon it cutting their boards, never dreaming that they were destined for any other use than that for which their employer intended them. The day was fine and bracing, a severe frost having whitened the ground the night before, and the tops of St. Paul's Dome and the hills on the opposite side of the river still retained the snow which had lately fallen in consider- able quantities. A snow storm in Tasmania, except on the high table lands and lake country, is a curiosity ; for although high winds and heavy rains do sometimes occur, snow but ................................................ the valley, .............................................. touches the ................................................. .............................................................. opinion .............................................................. island may ................................................................ summer the ........................................................ too enervating, in winter the tips of his fingers and the point of his nose need never be blue. The family and their guests were seated at dinner when Mr. Juniper presented himself heated by rapid riding, overflowing with high spirits, and bringing a goodly budget of let- lers and newspapers which had arrived from England. There were letters for the Colonel, Henry, and Isabel ; letters for Maxwell and his wife, and several papers from friends in Ireland. There were also papers directed to Edwin Herbart, and one letter of ominous appearance sealed with black. Juniper was a welcome visitor, as who would not be when thus laden ? The dinner was half aban- doned, notwithstanding which Mrs. Maxwell did not neglect to help Mr. Juniper who had taken his place at the table. Edwin's letter and papers were carefully put aside by Charles : Maxwell and the Colonel did not stand upon ceremony, but opened and read their respective epistles. The papers were eagerly glanced at by the others until the first burst of curiosity was satisfied, when the despatching of the dinner was resumed. Conversation began to flow, and Juniper made the company smile by telling them that he also got a letter from England, but that he would not read it until he got home to-morrow, lest any maternal admonitions it contained (it was from his mother, who was seventy-three years old) should put him out of humor for enjoying himself that even- ing. " What about the state of Europe, Sir ?" enquired the Colonel of Juniper. " Don't know, Sir ; answered that gentle- man, withdrawing for a moment his eyes from his plate on which he had been staring intently—"had'nt time to enquire ; was afraid I should find you all gone, so made Buffalo sweat. I'll trouble you, ma'am, for a little more veal ; very excellent veal this ;" A and the lively speaker licked his lips and sent up his plate, and then swallowed a glass of wine. " Does nobody know anything about the state of Europe ?" asked the Colonel, looking round him with a dissatisfied air. " Yes, Sir," said Charles, " I have been looking over the papers, and amongst other items of intelligence I find that the Duke of York is dead, and the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, has followed his example in a of apoplexy. Mr. Canning succeeds, but is ill, and is not expected to live long ; the papers say that there are only two men of any talent in England, the Duke of Wel- lington and Mr. Peel. The peace of Europe is disturbed by war between the Turks and Greeks, wherein the latter are fearfully beaten ; England, France, and Russia are preparing to prevent the final destruction of the descendants of Cecrops : the occupation of Turkish waters is resolved upon, and a naval battle expected ; the allied fleet is com- manded by Sir Edward Codrington. The Russians have obtained great advantages over Persia, which has been compelled to give up Erivan, and the country as far as Araxes, as the price of a peace. The French people are dissatisfied with their government, and the Poles disposed to rebel against Russia, —and small blame to them either. In England there is nothing particular except Catholic emancipation, and a man brought up at the Mansion House charged with mar- rying seven wives ; all the injured ladies, some of them with babies in their arms, ap- peared against him at once, and there was each a jolly row." " Dear me," said Mrs. Maxwell, " who could have thought it ?—what an extraordi- nary head the boy has !" " Harry," said the Colonel in a bitter tone, " why couldn't you have told me some of that news ; you read the paper as well as Charles Maxwell—would to Heaven you could read * Thorsley, as related in Rowcroft's Tales of the Colonies, tracked a party to the snow from Pittwater to the Salt Pan Plains, a distance of eighty or ninety miles. To do such a thing within my nineteen years' experience was an im- possibility
that or anything else to half the profit, or advantage that he does." " I could have told you all that and more," replied Harry, " but, as he began first, it would not have been good manners in me to interrupt him." " And yet very good manners to interrupt me when I am speaking !—but we will hear what more you can tell us," said the Colonel. " Why I knew that—that"— " That what ?" said the old gentleman, fixing his eyes. " Why," blundered Harry, " that Man- chester—no Liverpool—was dead, and the Turks were going to loggerheads with every- body." " And that's your additional information, is it ?" roared his father ; " why you have an intellect of which any one of Maxwell's bell- wethers would be ashamed." But here Mrs. Maxwell adroitly turned off the Colonel's wrath by rising from the table and leaving the room, followed by Isabel and Griselda. The old officer rose and opened the door, as he generally did on such occa- sions, and as soon as he resumed his seat Maxwell took part in the conversation. " I find," said he, " in this paper published in the colony a short summary containing a few particles of interesting news—" A regatta took place on the river Derwent, at which the Governor and family attended, a military band played several beautiful airs ; a hundred and six persons executed at Hobart Town and Launceston in three years, quite account- able in a penal colony ; the cutter Ellen, of Pittwater seized by prisoners who succeeded in making their escape ; a public meeting in Hobart Town to petition the King and par- .................................................................... ........................................................... .................New Zealand prince and suite walked .......... Hobart Town it does not say what they look like ; the ship Hope totally wrecked in the Derwent between Betsy and Iron Pot islands, no lives lost ; the colonial treasury chest plundered of a thousand pounds ; the atrocities committed by the na- tives are becoming painfully frequent ; the cutter Betty lost in a heavy gale on the Eastern coast near Falmouth, the crew and one passenger, a young gentleman on his way to Hobart Town to seek employment under Government, are supposed to have perished." " I'd bet my life," said Charles hurriedly, " that that passenger was Edwin Herbart. I saw him on his way to the coast, and he told me there was a vessel ready to sail in which he should go to Hobart Town and offer his services to Colonel Arthur." " It is not at all likely," said Maxwell, changing color slightly, " that it could have been Edwin : how, for instance, could the news reach town so soon, get printed in a newspaper, and be sent back here before we know anything about it ? It is impossible." " I hope it is, Sir," said Charles ; " how the news got to Hobart Town I cannot imagine, but the coincidence seems most remarkable." The news of the wreck of the ill-fated cutter had, in fact, reached the capital much sooner than it could have been conveyed by the regular mail. A prisoner, who had heard a garbled account of the affair, absconded from St. Mary's Pass, and being remarkably swift of foot, made his appearance at Richmond in little more than two days, where—while in the act of compelling an old lady to take a seat on her kitchen-fire*—he was taken by constables, to whom he related his version of the mishap of the " Betty." After some conversation the gentlemen rose from the table, and adjourned to the next apartment, where the ladies had scarcely finished perusing the letters they had received. It was nearly three o'clock, and Juniper expressed great surprise to Henry Arnott that the ladies were not dressing themselves for the approaching festivities at Clifton Hall. Isabel sat by the window, letter in hand ; she had just finished reading it, and was absorbed in thought, whether of a tender or painful nature she did not choose to reveal. Suddenly her brilliant eye sparkled as it caught sight of several moving figures issuing from the thicket at the right of the lawn, of which the window commanded a view. Her startling exclamation of " Gracious Heavens, Mr. Maxwell, what can all those rough-looking men want ?" threw the company into confusion, and brought every one to the window. A large party of strange men were seen approaching the house. They were yet at some distance, but it was apparent that they carried knapsacks and guns. Before an opinion could be hazarded respecting their character and object, a voice was heard calling in the passage, " Master, master "—and upon Max- well going out he found one of the sawyers— " Got your arms, Sir," he exclaimed, " here's a gang of bushrangers—I know them well— I'll stand by you, or they'll gut the house, and may be burn it over your head." " Are you sure they are bushrangers ?" asked Maxwell. " Certain sure," said the sawyer ; " for God's sake lose no time ; bring out the guns !" Maxwell ran back to the parlor and told his son to bring down the arms instantly. Charles flew down stairs and came down with half a dozen loaded pieces. He desired Griselda to go up to his room, bring down all the cartridges she could find, and be ready to load the guns as they were dis- charged. Isabel offered her services, saying that she knew how to load guns very well. The Colonel seized his walking-stick in lieu of a sword, and said in a commanding voice —" Turn out now, gentlemen, and charge the scoundrels." He opened the front door and walked out deliberately followed by Juniper, Henry, and Charles, each armed with a gun. The valliant sawyer joined them with another. Maxwell, who had delayed, * An atrocity of this nature was actually per- petrated by a bushranger named Jones. The ruffian's object was to make the poor creature produce her hidden savings.
to say a word of comfort to his wife, now appeared, and seeing the martial Colonel still advancing with his stick called to him to come back and go inside as the ladies wanted somebody to superintend the loading of the guns. The old officer turned and said—" Go inside yourself Sir,--just say that again and by Heaven I'll have a private meeting with you round the corner when this battle is over." The advancing party when they saw the gentlemen issue from the house with arms in their hands halted ; and a stout man in front who seemed to be the leader shouted in a loud voice.—" Bail up or we won't leave a roof over you." A gesture of defiance from the Colonel and a shot from the sawyer replied to this haughty summons. Several of the bushrangers fired in return, but though the distance between the belligerent parties was scarcely more than sixty yards not one of their shots took effect. One ball struck and shattered the window from which Isabel had seen the men approaching. Another found its way into the passage and tore the plaster from the wall. The robbers who had come in the full expectation of obtaining possession of the house without firing a shot, evidently became nervous on perceiving their mistake, and fired at random. The sawyer returned to give in his gun to be reloaded, and was met by the heroic Isabel at the threshold with a fresh one. With a word of caution they exchanged weapons, and the sawyer as he returned to his place was asked by Charles where his mate was. " O," replied the brave fellow, " the devil knows— under his bed, perhaps." At this moment an extraordinary circum- stance took place, which, from its novelty, its being entirely unexpected, and consequently unpovided for, and the disastrous result that followed it, had the effect of completely para- lyzing the energies of the bushrangers and throwing a gloom over the minds of the gal- lant defenders. Maxwell, who had become separated from his party at the distance of three or four yards, now stood contemplating his adversaries with mute astonishment. After a moment's keen scrutiny he said to his son, who had just fired his piece,—" Charles, Edwin is not drowned, he has turned bush- ranger. Merciful Heaven ! is it possible I have lived to witness this ?" Almost while he was speaking the strange denouement which threw the ranks of the outlaws into confusion took place. James Crawford, the leader of the gang, saw Maxwell's isolation, and presenting his gun took deliberate aim at him. It is probable that from the coolness of the robber, owing to the first excitement being over, that day might have witnessed the close of the hardy settler's life ; but Ed- win, whose mental energy was on the qui vive, did not suffer the happy opportunity to pass. Disengaging himself in a moment from his cumbrous knapsack and his coat at the same time he threw himself violently upon the astonished bushranger, and both fell struggling to the ground. This was a signal for Maxwell and his party to advance, and for the outlaws to seek cover in the thicket. Juniper ran up with his piece presented, in- tending to shoot the robber and thereby release their friend, whoever he might be, that grappled with him. Crawford saw him- self in danger : he was almost overpowered by Edwin, who derived new strength and courage from the fact that he was fighting on the side of law and in defence of the old be- loved homestead. Before Juniper drew the trigger, however, the bushranger, by a prompt and dexterous effort of strength, brought his antagonist uppermost, and then turning par- tially on his side succeeded in sheltering him- self from the hostile weapon behind Edwin's person. At that moment the surveyor fired, and the ball struck Edwin on the left shoulder, passing through the muscles without injuring a bone. The sawyer, after firing two or three times at the retreating bushrangers, ran up to secure Crawford ; one of the gang saw the movement, and with the intention probably of rescuing his captain, turned and advanced to the spot. Juniper immediately clubbed his musket and rushed at him. The robber was not daunted, but avoiding the blow in- tended for him, seized our bachelor round the waist, and both fell panting to the ground. It is hard to say which would have ultimately got the better of the other if Maxwell had not decided the affair by coming up and pre- senting his gun at the outlaw's face ; but the fatal shot was not fired, for the doomed wretch shouted " I surrender" so lustily that Maxwell lowered his piece, and Juniper rose to his feet. But the victory was not yet won. Brady and the rest of the gang, now under cover of the thicket, kept up an irregular fire, which, thanks to the fortune which is said to favor the brave, did no injury to any one. A ball certainly struck the old Colonel's hat as he was cheering and gesticulating, and sent it spinning into the air. Several struck the house in various places. Henry Arnott and Charles displayed great courage and coolness : the former, after receiving a loaded gun from his sister's hand, was returning to the as- sistance of his friends when his quick eye discovered one of the outlaws sneaking along the back of the fence with the evident inten- tion of getting round to the rear of the pre- mises. If this movement had been thought of before, and executed by the robbers in a body the resistance of the settler and his friends would have been in vain ; but now Henry's weapon was at his shoulder in an instant, a terrible cry of agony followed the discharge, and the unfortunate rascal was seen running back to his comrades with his hand supporting his bleeding and broken jaw. Another retro- grade movement in the enemy's ranks was the consequence of this lucky shot and hor- rible yell. The retreat became a flight. Guns and knapsacks were thrown down and abandoned, and taking an oblique direction towards the river, the robbers fairly ran
away. In their course they ran close to a hut in which the two sawyers lived ; one of whom, a miserable poltroon, had fled when the first alarm was given into this hut, and concealed himself under his bed. Now as the firing had ceased he ventured to crawl from his hiding place, and opening the door cautiously looked out to see how the affair had terminated. Just then the discomfited outlaws ran past, and McCabe, the most ferocious of the gang, burning with the fury of disappointment and seeing a man at the open door, turned sharply round, plunged his bayonet into his stomach, and then ran on. The miserable wretch fell and died after a few brief struggles. A coffin was made for him in due time by his less pusillanimous fellow workman, out of the very boards they had been engaged in sawing that morning on the sawpit.* The settler and his friends were thus left in quiet possession of the field of battle. The two captured bushrangers were soon bound securely, and Edwin whose haggard appearance no less miserable than unex- pected, caused no little sympathy and aston- ishment, was led back into the house from which he had so lately fled. Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda could scarcely believe their eyes. When they saw Maxwell himself leading the wounded youth pale and bleeding into the house, they were so shocked and turned so very white that we have no doubt a very serious fit of fainting would have ensued, had not Isabel with characteristic presence of mind called the terrified servant for water to bathe the wounded shoulder, urged Mr. Maxwell to try and stop the bleeding and that a surgeon should he instantly sent for, as she could see that the wound was dangerous and might be mortal. Mrs. Maxwell and Griselda, though possessing more timid na- tures than their dark-eyed friend, rendered all the assistance and consolation in their power. A refreshing cup of tea and some hot buttered toast were made, and brought to the sufferer by Griselda herself. What pleasure on earth can be compared with that of being waited upon at such a time by a beloved being whose breath is fragrance and whose voice is music—and what in the name of wonder would the coarse, masculine world do without the ladies, God bless them ! A messenger was immediately despatched to acquaint Mr. Earlsley with the particulars of the attack and repulse, and to procure the attendance of a surgeon, if one could pos- sibly be found. In the meantime the Colonel, after scouring the neighboring thickets and scrubs at the head of his forces, and finding no enemy concealed, returned to the house; Charles Maxwell taking upon himself the safe custody of the two prisoners until con- stables should arrive to relieve him of the charge. When the gallant officer and Mr. Juniper found who the unknown individual was whose undaunted behaviour had excited their admiration, their surprise was un- bounded. The former began to ask him a dozen questions at once, and the latter shook him by the hand begging his pardon for having shot him, and apologising by protest- ing over and over again that it was all a mistake. At last Edwin said—" I do not certainly suspect you of shooting me on pur- pose, Mr. Juniper." " No, certainly not," said the surveyor, " it was at the other fellow—but he was so quick. I never saw such a thing in my life. I never intended to hit you, Mr. Herbart, it was all a mistake most decidedly." " There, Mr. Juniper," said Mrs. Max- well, " that will do, pray be quiet, and leave the patient alone, or inflammation and mortification will supervene." " Mortification, ma'am," said Juniper alarmed at the word. " Good Heavens ! it was all a mistake." " We know that, Sir," said the colonel authoritatively, " all men are liable to make mistakes—hear me out, Sir, if you please but mistakes are things I always particularly guard myself against, and I know the reason why. Would you believe me, Sir, that I saw an Indian Brahmin named Nuncomar hanged like a dog in the presence of thousands of his fellow-countrymen because he mistook Warren Hastings for a fool ?" " That was a fatal mistake," said Juniper. " Did he commit murder, Sir ? " " No, he did not commit murder, Sir ; he tried to muzzle Warren, and Warren muzzled him by a trumpery charge of forgery—that's how it was." The evening advanced apace. The mes- senger who had been despatched for the sur- geon came back and reported that he would have to go to Campbell Town for one, and he was desired to lose no time on the road. Mr. Earlsley soon made his appearance, followed by Lieutenant Dawlish and a party of soldiers. Edwin was of course subjected to numerous questions, and although the pain of his wound was very great, he gave a particular account of his mishaps and extraordinary adventures since leaving that house some two or three weeks previously. All his hearers wondered how strangely these complicated events seemed to work together to accomplish one object—the throwing back of the homeless wanderer on the hands of his friends again. Charles now recollected the letter that had been received that day directed to Edwin, and placed it in his hand : it was from his mother, announcing the melancholy intelligence of the death of his father, and enclosing a letter of credit for fifty pounds. Having perused this letter, he retired to the room prepared for him, from which he did not issue for several days ; he was completely prostrated both in mind and body, and it required some care on the part of the surgeon to prevent a summary * I received from the late Robert Taylor, Esq., of Valleyfield, a history of an attack on his own residence by Cranford, Brady, McCabe, and others ; the assistance attributed to Herbart was afforded by Mr.Robert Taylor himself, who had been made prisoner while at a distance from the house. The cowardly sawyer was bayoneted by McCabe as above described.
dissolution of partnership between body and soul. Mrs. Maxwell took a mother's place, and was constant in her attentions. Maxwell himself acknowledged that by Edwin's timely interposition his life had in all reasonable likelihood been saved. His solitary hours were relieved by the lively conversation of Charles ; and even Henry sometimes sat in his room for a while to relieve his own scarcely-supportable ennui. The Colonel told him amusing stories of his Indian campaigns, and crammed him with his military experience and advice. On the whole his situation was now far from pitiable ; indeed, we cannot help thinking that in some respects it was extremely enviable. The bushrangers spoiled Mrs. Earlsley's ball by depriving it of the presence of Lieute- nant Dawlish and his red coat. Mr. Juniper declared that he could not enjoy himself at it after having shot a gentleman through the body, so he declined to go. The Maxwell's and their visitors were put too much out of sorts to think of going ; and the guests who did go were regaled with such full and start- ling accounts of the attack on Bremgarten that on their return to their respective homes in the morning they expected from every little thicket an attack on themselves. The bush was scoured in all directions by soldiers and constables, but in vain. The next post brought an account that the party under Brady had appeared at Sorell, upwards of a hundred miles off, had surprised the town, disarmed the soldiers, shot an officer's arm off, and shut up the police magistrate in a cell. Several other armed parties started on a similar career about the same time, and for more than two years the entire colony was kept in a fever of anxiety and alarm. (To be continued.)