Chapter 36699028

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Chapter NumberLII
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Full Date1868-08-01
Page Number2
Word Count5539
Last Corrected2020-02-01
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 Saturday, 25th July.) CHAPTER LII. EDWIN GOES TO HOBART TOWN AND MEETS WITH OLD ACQUAINTANCES. On the termination of the black war Edwin Herbart returned to his estate of Belle Park, in company with his friend Mr. Benjamin Buffer. From the period at which he en- tered upon the occupation of his farm to that which we have now the pleasure of bringing under the notice of she reading public, he had been exceedingly busy, and by employ- ing two or three handy men and being un- sparing in his own exertions, he managed to make himself comfortable in a neat four roomed cottage, built upon the top of a grassy hill, which sloped in the easiest and prettiest manner possible down to the margin of the river. Here some fine specimens of the swamp gum tree added greatly to the beauty of the landscape, which was bounded in the distance by the beautiful western mountains on one side, and the Ben Lomond range, forty miles off, on the other. At intervals between these mountains arose numerous hills—Sugar Loaves, Saddles, and Hummocks, all well known by their respec- tive local designations—separated by flowery plains, through which the Lake, Macquarie, and South Esk rivers roll their invigorating water. As far as the eye can reach to the northward, the attractive landscape of blue hill, open plain, and well watered valley is visible, while the occasional thick clusters of honeysuckle and silver wattle afford admi- rable shelter to the sleek fat sheep and cattle when they become overpowered by the heat of summer. The highest eminence on Belle Park commanded a splendid prospect on all sides, and from it there was no desert or barren land to be seen, if we except the pre- cipitous sides of the Western Tier. All was bright, sunny, and beautiful ; the land was the richest in the island ; the forests were neither heavy nor dense ; the climate was, and is, second to none for favoring the growth of cereal crops ; and the land car- riage to Launceston apparently free from serious obstructions. It was no wonder, then, that Edwin felt a little pride and more pleasure when he looked around upon his two thousand acres, raised almost to priceless value in his estimation by advantages such as these. It is not necessary to enter into an elabo- rate description of Edwin's farm. Counter- parts of it may be seen in dozens by any curious traveller who takes the trouble to ride from Launceston to Deloraine, or from Longford to Cressy. There are nearly the same round of well fenced paddocks, bearing their abundant crops of sweet smelling hay and golden corn ; there is the eternal garden stocked with choice fruit trees in all the brilliancy of promising efflorescence ; there are the reserved marshes on which sheep and cattle are kept to fatten, and the open bush land beyond, thickly covered with native grass, on which the store and breeding sheep thrive well. Edwin had, it is true, to wait some time for these comforts : they did not grow up in a night, or an hour, like the palace of his Bornean hero. He had his troubles as all beginners have, but though they had a severe effect on his mind, he did not allow himself to be crushed by them ; and did not once forget the resolution he had at first adopted, namely, to provide a home for his mother and sisters, whom he tenderly loved. The greatest difficulty he had to contend with was the want of sufficient capital. Maxwell had indeed lent him five hundred pounds to commence with, but his expenses were heavy, and stock was unusually dear. His purchases of cart, bullocks, cows, sheep, farming implements, and furniture absorbed the whole of this sum. It was necessary to borrow more, and he did so from a bank, and was obliged to pay a high rate of interest for it. In addition to this he had to scrape and save to make up the sum he had borrowed from Maxwell, as it was his great ambition (even before shining as a poet) to be honor- able in his dealings, and punctual in his pay- ments. What with money continually going out, very little ever coming in, the prospect of being sold up by the bank if principal and interest were not forthcoming, the grumb- lings of farm servants, the agony of mind lest the growing crop should prove insuffi- cient to cover a certain engagement, our hero found that the horizon of his independence was still dark with many clouds. He was not without a companion and adviser, for Buffer was with him almost constantly, doing his best to cheer him and keep his countenance bright, although Buffer had the same difficulties to contend with himself. But he did not view the general aspect of affairs as Edwin did. With him financial ruin was nothing but a mere fall to rise again when the tables turned, or a good opportunity offered, and he could probably have smoked his pipe as happily in a debtor's prison as upon the open downs of Bella Park. But with Edwin it was des- truction, hopeless disgrace, and moral death. Insolvency was to him a terror, a falling never to rise again, so foolish and unsophis- ticated was he in the ways of the world. The old enemy of Australian squatters and landed proprietors, one summer fire, bore down upon Edwin's homestead once with terrific fury. The weather had been as dry and sultry as it could well be for a few weeks ; and the clear air of spring had be- taken itself elsewhere, leaving the Tasmanian plains and hills enveloped in a thick ruddy smoke which rose apparently from the earth at all points of the compass. Busy with his men fencing in a new paddock of fifty acres, Edwin went to work at five o'clock, resting for two hours in the heat of the day. One of the men, a careless and obstinate fellow, went to the hut to smoke, and returned leisurely to his work with the lighted pipe in his mouth. His smoke finished he knocked the ashes out of his pipe on the grass and passed on. In five minutes the grass was in a blaze, the flames rushing furiously over the ground as if fed by nothing less inflammable than gun- cotton. All hands were soon engaged in tying to save the paddock fences ; and though nearly stifled with smoke and over- powered with heat, they worked hard, and lest only about a mile of now fence. This in Edwin's present position was a serious loss ; but, as Buffer remarked, who came to the scene of the calamity puffing and blowing, and calling for water to drink, it might have been much worse. Herbart's homestead was not yet burnt as many a poor man's had been and would probably be again. All night they had to stay and watch that

fire lost it should break out again; and the whole of the next day was spent in walking round it and throwing in burning sticks and everything else which might possibly ignite the parched grass. Mr. Buffer was of great service to his friend Herbart both in extinguishing the fire and in helping him to keep his spirits above low water mark. The aim of the quondam Assistant-Superintendent was to pass through life as quietly as possible ; that of Edwin to gain a permanent independence, however small. How the former fared with his five hundred acres has nothing to do, properly speaking, with this history ; but it is no harm to note in passing that in the course of time he could boast of being the proprietor, with whatever assistance Edwin was able to afford him, of about five hundred sheep ; and he had also his cultivated paddocks and fruit garden. He was a jovial fellow and could drink his glass of grog, but did not appear altogether in love with the bottle, and he did not fail to communicate to any visitor who happened to call, the important intelligence, from a cloud of tobacco smoke, that he was a shrewd observer of passing events. There were other neighbors besides Buffer, but Edwin was remarkably fortunate, he was not yet cursed with a quarrelsome one. While thus busily occupied at home, the invitation to the free inhabitants to join in the grand effort to capture the hostile natives issued from Government House ; and Edwin, though not exactly compelled to respond to it, felt that it would be something like base ingratitude if he did not give all the assistance in his power to the execution of Colonel Arthur's pet scheme. We have seen how he and Buffer were present at the death of poor Baxter, who was buried in the barren wilderness called, by some heartless fiend, Paradise, where his penitent wife and affec- tionate daughter could not drop their tears upon his grave. The two friends had travelled more than one hundred miles, and the same distance had to be travelled back again before they could bathe their blistered feet in the Lake River opposite their respective doors. This happy time arrived at length,and they had now a little leisure to rest and prepare for the coming harvest. Edwin had made his house as comfortable as possible, though it was only built of slabs and plaster, and he looked forward impatiently for the time when he would be able to build a substantial one of stone worthy of his beautiful and valuable estate, and of the family of Herbart. At present, however, he was obliged to be con- tent with four small rooms and a hut outside for a servant, and in those he hoped one day to receive his mother and sisters, when they could summon up courage to commit them- selves to the winds and waves, to be borne to this far-off and almost savage place. And to judge from the letters which Mrs. Herbart wrote to her son, this very happy meeting was evidently not far distant. Her husband was dead. Her daughters, untrammelled by romantic attachments, were delighted with the prospect of a sea voyage ; her youngest son was growing up to manhood without any fixed object in view, and she yearned to em- brace her Edwin. She therefore made up her mind quickly, sold all her property, including the greater part of the furniture of the cottage on the banks of the Dodder, and on a windy morning in October sailed from the Mersey in a well-manned bark bound for Hobart Town direct. Edwin accordingly went to the capital about the time the vessel was expected to arrive. She had been out just four months, and his anxiety became intense. The feelings of the public had been wrought up a few months previously to the highest pitch of sorrow and humiliation by the loss of three noble vessels at the entrance of the harbor. The George the Third, the Enchantress, and the Wallace were dashed to pieces within a few miles of each other, and some hundreds of poor creatures consigned to a watery grave. It would be highly presumptuous on our part to question the decrees of Providence ; yet is there a man whose heart, as he reads of these terrible and frequent calamities, does not bleed? Edwin's anxiety was at last terminated. The good bark that bore his mother and her children arrived in safety, and tears naturally fell as he fondly embraced the kind guardian of his infancy, and the companions of his childhood. As they had no friends then in Hobart Town, they made immediate prepara- tions for their journey to Norfolk Plains. As the colony had made considerable advances in civilisation since Mrs. Maxwell travelled to Bremgarten, there was now no necessity for Mrs. Herbart to go in a bullock-cart. Edwin took places for her and his sisters in the mail coach to Campbell Town, having sent directions to Buffer to meet him there with a conveyance, he himself riding on horseback by their side, and his brother, whose name was Frank, a lively young gen- tleman of sixteen, occupying the seat beside the driver. But we are anticipating. Mrs. Herbart had attained her forty-eighth year, but her face was still comely, and her figure, although having some inclination towards stoutness, without fault. Her daugh- ters, Augusta and Rose, were charming young ladies of twenty and eighteen, with clustering brown curls, high foreheads, bright light- colored eyes, beautiful noses and lips, and white teeth. They were not very tall, but they were graceful and gay, and delighted and happy to see their brother Edwin looking so well. He had many questions to ask about his late father and his last mo- ments, and of the friends left at home whom he might probably never see again. And they enquired about their little cousin Griselda Maxwell, with whom they had played when children. He told them all he knew, and related the wonderful adventures and dangers which he had in a most miraculous manner survived ; but he did not tell them that the image of the fair Griselda was constantly in his thoughts, or that the first thing he did every morning when he opened his cottage door, was to gaze upon the distant Ben Lomond, whose craggy crest looked down, like a watchful sentinel, upon her sacred dwelling-place. Wrapped up as it were in mutual confi- dence and love they took many delightful walks in the suburbs of Hobart Town, in its most fashionable streets, and in the govern- ment domain, and horticultural gardens. Upon one occasion a sudden and heavy shower drove them for shelter into a watch- maker's shop, from the proprietor of which Edwin purchased some small articles of jewelry for his sisters. While so engaged, a stranger, muffled up to the ears, walked in, and leaning over the glass cases that contained the jewelry, so as to bring his nose within a few inches of the glass, gazed steadily at the proprietor, and engaged in the following sententious dialogue :—

" Done ?" " No." " When ?" " Friday—four." " Damage ?" " Crown." " Too much," said the stranger leaning with his elbow on the glass case, " too much by half—them holes don't want jules in them." " My friend," said Mrs. Herbart, who belonged to the order of universal benevolence, " you will break this glass if you are not careful." " Laws !" said the fellow starting back and holding up both hands with an indescribably ludicrous air of impudence, " what a sublime angelic countenance ? Air we gone to 'eaven or do we live still on yearth ?" But im- mediately removing his eyes from the coun- tenance which so charmed him, they rested upon Edwin's face, and the moment they did so their owner's demeanor instantly changed, and advancing to our hero with a great dirty hand stretched out, he said—" Hullo, Musthur Hubburd, how are ye, Sir ? how is every bone in yer body ?" Now, had Edwin been ambitious of parlia- mentary honors, and happened to be canvass- ing for votes at that time, he would probably have taken and squeezed the proffered hand, but as such was not the case he put both his hands behind his back with most provoking calmness, and stared at the gentleman. " Don't you know me ?" said the stranger, " yer old fellow laborer at the fence and the plough—Jacob Singlewood." " O yes," said Edwin, but without offering his hand, " I recollect you now, Jacob, you are very much altered ; what have you been doing since you left Mr. Maxwell !" " Always a doing of zummut, Musther Hubbard," said Jacob, with a heavy lunge from his post near the counter towards the middle of the shop, " always a doing of zummut. Jacob Singlewood was'nt born to starve for want of cuteness, and being able to drive a good bargain. No, Sir ; them people may live as thinks they got the best of Jacob, but if they live a little longer they may diskiver that they han't got no sich thing after all. And how do you be getting on, Sir, these times ?" " Pretty well, thank you," answered Edwin. " I am doing tolerably well, I am happy to say, and hope to do better as times improve." " You and me left Musther Maxwell about the same time, Sir," said Jacob. " I did'nt stop a fortnight after you left, and I told Musther the reason I wouldn't stop which was that I didn't consider he used you like a gentleman ; and I wouldn't countenance sich proceedings by staying any longer, though I had privately agreed with Musther Skinner- ton as a shepherd for a trifle more wages about three weeks previous. I heerd that the house was attacked by the bushrangers and a man killed ; but made no particular enquiries, as to tell you the truth I didn't much care whether anybody was killed or not. Well, Maxwell told me to musther my sheep and he would pay me off ; so I mus- thered e'm, me and my mate ; and we got just three thousand and twenty-one, when we should have three thousand four hundred and forty, leaving just four hundred and nineteen short as Musther Charles found when he counted them into the gathering paddock. Well, it was no use to ax for wages when all them sheep was away, so me and my mate hunts over the tiers for two days and couldn't find a ghost of them four hundred and nineteen sheep, and back I comes and tells Musther. ' Sir,' says I, ' I'll either find them sheep or come back in a week without legs.' ' You must look sharp, Jacob,' says he in his usual poker and kitchen bellows fashion, ' we cannot keep the sheep in the paddock much longer.' I went out again by myself to look for the sheep at one o'clock in the morning and back I comes at five o'clock the following evening, bringing two hundred and thirty-three sheep, leaving one hundred and eighty-six to find, and out I went the next night and brought home a hundred and seventy-two, leaving only four- teen not forthcoming, at which the cove looked as pleased as Punch. Now I'll bet you a penny you won't tell me in three guesses where I finds them sheep." " I am not likely," said Edwin, " being a bad hand at guessing—where did you find them ?" " In the gathering paddock, Sir." " You did not take them from the flock already counted, did you ?" said Edwin in surprise. " I just did," answered Mr. Singlewood, " what else could I do ? I wanted to get away—Musther was satisfied and turned the sheep out without counting them again, and he gave me a cheque that same afternoon and a invite to call upon him when I wanted em- ployment, and I went away singing— Here I go up, up, up, here I go down, down, downy, Here I go back'ards and for'ards and off to Missleton towney." " That was decidedly wrong, Jacob," said Edwin ; " I am very much surprised"— " Surprised, air you, Sir ?' interrupted Jacob, with a knowing lurch of his head. " I thought you was no' sich a child. How- er, people may be surprised or no, as they like, I am not bound to take notice of them. I never stole Musther Maxwell's sheep, and what I did I did for the sake of peace, as if I told him that four hundred of his sheep was lost, and couldn't be found no how, he would have kicked up a jolly dust. And talk about your fine silver-spun truth and honesty, do you think Maxwell himself is a clean tatur ?" " I know he is not a dishonest man, nor has he a lying tongue," said Edwin. " I wouldn't give a fig for his honesty or truth," said Jacob ; " I don't believe there is a man in this country but what would stoop to cheat his own father out of half-a-crown. What business has a honest man in a country like this ? It was made purposely for rogues and cheats, and them it's full of. What was Maxwell afore he came here ? Why did he come here ? He was in a bank, wasn't he, in Dublin or some sich hole ?" " Why, what has that to do with his coming out here ?" " Musther Hubburd," said Jacob, with a patronising wave of his hand, " I didn't think you was sich a flat as to ask that ques- tion : why, he robbed the bank by course and bolted here with the money, and he did right to sarve 'em out ; I would 'a done just the same myself." " You are decidedly in error, Jacob," said Edwin. " You will do well to be cautious how you allow your tongue to run too freely, for the character of an upright man is of some value in the eye of the law, and defa- mation of character is a serious offence." " The eye of the law !" said Jacob with contemptuous emphasis. " I might under- stand you if you talked about the eye of a

putrified vultur, or a carrion crow. I don't care a button for the eye of the law. If Maxwell was here this minit I'd tell him to his face that if he didn't rob the bank he in- tended to do it, but was found out and pre- vented ; there, that's a dromedary to go through the eye of the law—he, he." Edwin was rather annoyed, and somewhat disgusted at the tone of insolent familiarity assumed by this brilliant controversialist, and without condescending to notice his last piece of absurdity, at which he himself laughed immoderately, turned to his mother, and although the rain still pattered against the shop win- dows, proposed that they should go. Mrs. Herbart looked at her son in amazement, and refused to expose herself and daughters to that sort of weather, adding, rather sarcasti- cally, that if the weather was always so fine in the middle of summer, and Edwin was generally so fortunate in meeting with such agreeable acquaintances, Tasmania must be really the most delightful island in the world. " Delightful, mum," said Jacob, strongly suppressing an inclination to a violent roar of laughter, and not noticing the fact that the lady turned her back upon him the moment he addressed her. " Delightful island ! and so it is—the beautifulest place that ever got up out of the bed of the ocean, and when it did get up, shook itself with astonishment to find that it really had a pretty face in the glass ; and such nice people in it, too, what between the constables that clap a fellow in the watchhouse for doing nothing at all, and the traps that'll swear a man's life away for half a dollar ; overseers of gangs that can't tell the difference between a church and a grog shop ; government officers that thinks themselves little dooks and markisses ; and a Governor that lets the worst of ruffians out to private service on purpose to bolt and rob and murder innocent people ; to say nothing whatsomever about settlers up to their necks in money who would hardly give a pound to a charitable institootion sich as a hospital for the poor, and bushrangers that pints in scorn at the eye of the law, and magistrates ! Lor' isn't it a blessing that we live under British protection Mus- ther Hubburt—though I wish England, that sent me out here, was crammed full of French and Roosian soldiers and bagnets—so that when we meets a magistrate trotting along the road we're not exactly obliged to plant in a ditch till he goes by." * The speaker paused as if awaiting Edwin's reply, but that young gentleman merely folded his arms and looked out into the street. Jacob, who was above taking a hint to leave off, went on,— " It's a fine country mum, but the weather is uncommonly changeable ; and the people is as changeable as the weather. If you meets with a civil and polite gentleman who does you the favor to borrow twenty pounds on his note of hand for a month, he'll never take up his note ; and if you ax him for the money he'll blacken your character with the tongue of a snake. If you're fond of flowers, and of a green-house mum, you'll be quite pleased to perceive all your panes of glass broken some fine day in the middle of summer by a storm of thunder and hail. You'll be scorched one day with the heat of the sun, and a hot wind, and the next morning you'll be blowing your fingers to keep them warm.—Yes it's a changeable climate, and there are changeable tempers in it, as I know to my cost : what do you think, Musther Hubburt, of a man, a well-to-do, take-it-easy, matter-of-fact, and well disposed married man, being changed into a miserable, helpless, wretched old bachelor by marrying a wife, and ruined to an oudacious smash altogether by putting his money into a savings-bank." " Why," replied Edwin, laughing, " I should pity the condition of such an unfortu- nate man ; I hope the world has not treated you, Jacob, in that disreputable manner." " Indeed and it has, Sir," said Jacob, lowering his voice into a confidential tone. " I concentrate in my buzzom all the ill usage of which a ungrateful world is capable, and I'll tel you how it all come about, as you are a friend, though it didn't become a man to go blowing to everybody about his private and domestic affairs. Well, Sir, you see when I left Musther Maxwell I went to live with Musther Skinnerton, but as I found him an out-and-out brute altogether I didn't stop with him six months. And when I left him I laid out a few pounds in ribbons and laces and thread and them-things, and away I went trading on my own account, and in the course of a couple a' year what with one thing and what with another, with the help of a little traffic in sheep-skins and a little poking of my nose into other people's business, and taking a bottle of gin here and a keg of rum there, I managed to put together a matter of two hundred pound, which I put into the Savings Bank to be took care of. Well, I gets tired of roving, though I was as happy as the day was long, and though I had given up walking, and now drove myself in a neat spring-cart with ' Jacob Singlewood, Licensed Hawker,' painted in white and green on the first left side panel, from one township and farmhouse to another, until one day coming down from Oatlands to the Cross Marsh I overtook a not bad looking sort of woman carrying a bundle, so I thought it would be a charity in me to take her up beside me, and up she came. In the course of the drive she told me that she was a settler's servant, had a row with her missus and walked away there and then. Then I told her my name was Singlewood, and she said her name was Singlewoman, and she laughed and I laughed, and so what with laughing and talking you'd hardly believe that I was such a born fool as to marry her in a couple days afterwards." " You might have done worse," said Edwin. " Yes, Sir, and better as you shall hear, by being contented with my first lawful wife who is now, I hope and believe, earning a good living by grubbing among the cinders of Brummagen, where I left her eight year ago. But by marrying a new wife I was changed from a sober- going- cut - and - come - again widower, as it was, into a hopeful never- bother-myself married man. My wife was a 'cute sensible woman, fond of business and bustle, and she soon took the reins of management out of my hands ; I didn't resign them without murmuring, but what does a wilful woman care about murmuring? ' Jacob,' * The liberality of the Tasmanian community was conspicuous on the occasion of England's late war with Russia, when above £25,000 were subscribed to the Patriotic Fund ; hospitals and charitable institutions abound in town and coun- try, and complaints of want of support are not frequent—though in some respects the landed proprietors could afford to be more liberal than they are. It Is to be hoped that we have seen the last of the busbrangers, and the skulking assassins like Rocky Whelan, John Nash, and a others, shall not be again heard of.

says she after we'd been about six months married, ' you're a fool to be driving about the country losing more money than you make, when you could make more than you could count by staying at home and scarcely ever stirring off your stool.' ' How' says I, 'Tilda what do you mean ?' ' I mean,' says she, 'that you've got two hundred pound in the Saving-bank making nothing at all, when by stocking a shop in the general line, you could double your capital every three months. I knows a good little shop to let and a mer- chant that'll let us have the goods for one third cash and two thirds bills ; and before the bills becomes due most of the goods will be sold and you can give all your money to me as I am bone of your bone, and then turn insolvent, and the same thing over and over again until your fortune is made which will be in about two year.' Well, sir, I knew by experience that when Tilda proposed a thing she would carry it out and no mistake, and that it was no use talking of the whys and the wherefores, so I consents and gives her authority to draw all my money out of the Saving-bank which she did I heard after- wards in silver and gold, and I went with her and took the shop for a year, but she would not let me go with her to the merchant for fear, she said, he would be harder upon me in respect of price, as I could not talk him over as she could ; and when I went home full of confi- dence I thought over my pipe of Jacob Singlewood Esquire riding in his carriage with a coachman in front and a footman be- hind, when I suddenly heard, and when I heard it I could a torn down a mountain with rage and spite, that my Tilda had bolted—bolted off to New Zealand with as greasy and waxy a cobler as you could find if you turned all the human habitations of the world inside out." Edwin could hardly keep his countenance while listening to this melancholy history. He said he was sorry to hear of such a hard case, and observed that it was a good thing the bank had not broken, as in that case other poor people would have been ruined as well as Jacob. " I wish to 'eaven," said the disconsolate husband of Tilda, " that it was broke, I wish every bank in the island was in ruins, I wish everybody in the culyony was beggers, I'd like to see the rich settlers sweeping the streets up to their knees in mud ; what did they come here for ? to trample upon huz the proper proprietors of the land ; I'd like to see every purse proud haristocrat and magistrate with his neck under a wagon wheel, I would ; down with them I say, down with the haristocract and up with the genuine musheroons--them's the concentrated hessence of himpidence, the compound hunadulterated hextract of villyany, the double distilled rectified sperrit of spite, jalousy, and self adderlation, down with em. —Aye, there they go to refuse to shake, hands with a honester man than himself but pride will have a tumble yet, mark my words.' (To be continued.)