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A Colonial Reformer (Complete)

313 pages
Library of Alexandria
When Mr. Ernest Neuchamp, younger, of Neuchampstead, Bucks, quitted the ancient roof-tree of his race, for a deliberate conflict with fortune, in a far land, he carried with him a purpose which went far to neutralise doubt and depression. A crusader rather than a colonist, his lofty aims embraced far more than the ordinary sordid struggle with unkind nature, with reluctant success. Such might be befitting aspirations for eager and rude adventurers, half speculators, half buccaneers. They might fitly strive and drive—bargain and save—gamble, overreach, overwork themselves and one another, as he doubted not all colonists did in their proverbially hurried, feverish lives. But for a Neuchamp, of Neuchampstead, was reserved more chivalric exertion—a loftier destiny. As his ancestors had devoted themselves (with more energy than discretion, said tradition) to the refinement and elevation of the Anglo-Saxons—when first the banner of Tancred of Neuchamp floated over the Buckinghamshire meadows—so would his lineal descendant diffuse ‘sweetness and light’ among a vigorous but necessarily uncultured community, emerging from his unselfish toil, after a few years, with a modest competency, and the reputation of an Australian Manco Capac of the south. Ernest Neuchamp fully endorsed the dictum that ‘colonisation was heroic work.’ He superadded to this assent a conviction that he was among the heroes destined to leave a glorious memory in the annals of the colony which he intended to honour. For the somewhat exceptional though not obsolete character of reformer, he was fitted by natural tendency, derived probably from hereditary predisposition. The Neuchamps had always been leading and staunch reformers, from a period whence ‘the memory of man goeth not to the contrary.’ Of Merrie England they would have secured a much larger slice had they not been, after Hastings, more deeply concerned in inflicting reforms upon the stubborn or despondent Saxons than in hunting after manorial privileges with a view to extension of territory. Even in Normandy, old chroniclers averred that Balder-Ragnaiök, nicknamed Wünsche (or the wisher), who married the heiress of Neuchamp, and founded the family, converted a fair estate into a facsimile of a Norse grazing farm, maddening the peasantry, and strengthening his natural enemies by an everlasting tutelage as exasperating towards others as fascinating to himself. Mr. Courtenay Neuchamp, who inherited, in happier times, the ancestral hall, in Buckinghamshire, was an easy-going man of the world, combining a shrewd outlook upon his own affairs with the most perfect indifference as to how his neighbours managed theirs. He was a better man of business than Ernest, though he had not a tittle of his energy or fiery abstract zeal. So far from giving credit to his ancestors, and their spirited efforts, he bewailed their misdirected energies. ‘They were a lot of narrow-minded busybodies,’ he would often remark, ‘incapable of managing their own affairs with decent success, and what little power they ever possessed they devoted to the annoyance of their neighbours, people probably much wiser than themselves.’