Extracts from the letters and journals of George Fletcher Moore, now filling a judicial office at the Swan River Settlement/The colony (7)
April 15th, 1833.—I have received your letters and devoured them; have been buried in newspapers, busied in unpacking, airing, &c., and altogether bewildered, with the variety of occupations and amusements which have come upon me all at once, in addition to my ordinary avocations. I cannot bring my mind to a state of sober regularity without going back a little, getting on my old track, and so habituating myself, by degrees, to the novelties of the road.
I had just opened the chest on Saturday, when Mr. Mackie came for dinner; and soon after arrived Captain Irwin, to whom I handed his letters, which were packed up along with mine, and we made a regular evening's feast, whilst Mackie, in the meantime, picked fragments of old news out of the papers.
My first feelings are those of humiliation and shame—for having entertained even a passing doubt of the strength and constancy of your affections, and deep regret at the consciousness of being so undeserving of the affectionate terms in which you all express yourselves, and of the kind and considerate acts by which those expressions are confirmed and realised.
I sat down several times since to write, but could not arrange my ideas; I wanted to say something PARTICULAR to each of you; I still wish it; but how to do justice to my own feelings and your affections! * * * * * * * * * * *
The chest was admirably packed and secured, but the moths forced an entrance; and I am sorry to say their taste led them to some of the choisest morsels. It is remarkable that they do not appear to have touched anything of blue coloured cloth; that of olive colour has suffered wofully: a very handsome olive coat, which you sent me, has been sadly riddled by them, and I am not chemist enough to unriddle the cause of this preference. This, however, is all the material damage; but some of the light-coloured jackets have been deprived of their colour by damp, wherever it seems to have reached them.
I have already tried the fishing nets—without success—the trammel net is the only killing one in this part of the river.
19th.—I have sketched for you on paper a sort of section view of what my house is intended to be. It appears almost concealed by the verandah, like a man with a broad-brimmed hat drawn down over his face; but in this climate, shade in summer, and shelter in winter, are equally desirable. When the verandah shall have been made all round, I can enjoy a walk of 164 feet under it.
I have been busy laying out my boundary lines, and chaining my grant, which is more than half a mile in breadth along the river, and running several miles back. Mr. Wells came here in the evening, and I sold him six young pigs just weaned, at 15s. apiece, to be paid in wheat, delivered on my account, to the Government stores, at 13s. per bushel, to repay the advances which were some time ago made to us, in proportion to the quantity of ground in cultivation, and which were to be paid in colonial wheat, at 15s. per bushel: it costs nearly 10s. to grow it here, at the present price of labour.
20th.—A fire appeared in progress towards Hermitage to-day; and while I was busy watching it, three natives came to me: however, they did no harm, but went quietly away after I had given them some bread. All my men were absent kangaroo hunting, but without success. I have, however, myself caught a little turtle (about half the size of my hand) in the net—this is the extent of my success in fishing.
I got a bill to-day from our blacksmith for odds and ends, which I hardly knew of, amounting to nearly 3l.. Oh, for our ould Irish blacksmith! what would he say to 6s. for sharpening the plough-share, and 5s. for pointing a crowbar? I sent my praam to a carpenter for repairs, and when it came back it was all split and rent with nails, and it sunk in consequence the same day: for this job the said carpenter had the modesty to ask 30s. He is the same man who wanted from me 7l. for mending the wheels of my cart, and putting a bullock-pole to it, without the iron work, which would, perhaps, cost me 3l. more.
I have now two carpenters (including Robert) making gates, which will cost me 3l. 10s.; twenty-four hurdles have just cost me 7l. 4s.; think of these prices!
25th.—My people begin to grumble at not getting meat more than once, and only two glasses of rum in the day; but I find it quite enough to give them that allowance, and tell them that I shall not alter my system at present, and that in October, when their time of service with me will have concluded, they may better their condition if they can.
If hops were to be had here, I should try to brew some beer, which would be wholesomer than rum.
I had flattered myself, that, with the help of time and philosophy, the headlong current of my feelings would have been moderated and lowered down even to sluggishness; but some passing thought to-day opened a flood-gate which let them rush in upon me like an overwhelming current. I remembered the scenes of home, and the hour of parting, with a painful minuteness of detail, and a vividness of reality, which fell little short of reality itself. Vain philosophy! how easily and readily poor human nature resumes its sway when she finds you sleeping on your post! I wish some of you were here; I wish all of you were here:—no; 'tis a selfish wish; this life would not do for any of you. You would be obliged to forget, or at least dispense with, many comforts and refinements altogether; you must endeavour to lose the recollection of your former home, and if possible, of your former friends and feelings. What a task! how difficult! how impossible! yet otherwise no emigrant can be contented and happy here; he must not look back after having put his hand to the plough. Imagination paints this sunny clime as the land of fruits; so it is! but time, labour, money, skill, and judgment, must combine to raise them. The land of pastoral ease and simplicity; so it may be! but the flocks and herds must first be acquired; here again money! money! The land of agriculture and smiling harvests; true, it may be! but money is the manure to set them growing.
"Oh cives, cives quaerenda est pecunia primum."
A little will do to set things going, if managed judiciously, and persevering with skill and activity. Servants are so scarce and consequential, that we must serve ourselves as far as possible; so that a fine gentleman has no business here. I read your plan, last night, for supplying us with workmen; we have many projects among ourselves, but can do little in this respect, unless Government assist us. I should like to make some arrangement about getting out some of your labourers; but we are, at present in suspense, every day expecting to hear from England the result of the personal application of Governor Stirling; we scarce know on what ground we stand, whether we shall be better or worse. However, in a month or two we shall know our probable fate. I am prepared for any vicissitudes of fortune.
I wished this morning for you, father, to aid me in keeping the servants in working order; for you, J—, and W—, to advise and plan improvements, sowings, plantings, gardenings; for you, S—, to contrive machinery and woodwork; and for you, my dear sisters, to arrange the housekeeping department, and snuggify things; but you could not make things snug here, for I have as yet neither press nor table that you would call such. "Why do you not get carpenters?" you say. Answer "They are idle or inactive in proportion to the exorbitance of their charge, (10s. a day), and you can hardly notice a day's work." This is a regular grumble; so it is, and I must claim the privilege of an Englishman to grumble. But I conclude by saying that the weather at this season is the very perfection of weather, warm days, cool nights, and dewy mornings.
To-day I got security for some money due to me, and have the power of selling a grant if not paid within a given time. There is a short-cut mode of mortgaging land here, which will make it change hands with rapidity. However, as we have nothing to do with the old feudal reasons for making land unalienable, I don't see why we should not render it as transferable as any other property. I dug up a few new potatoes, which had remained deep sown in the ground since last season; they are good.
Another ship from Van Diemen's Land, the Eagle, with provisions and a general cargo; only a few sheep, and these for slaughter.
In the evening Mr. * * * came here on business. I do not well know what to think of him: he was a man of war (I don't mean a wooden one), his words are those of a man of peace; he speaks at times as if he were averse to litigation, yet he is continually involved in it; professing puerile simplicity, yet arguing with the casuistry of a Jesuit; a linguist; (he suddenly asked me the other day what I thought was the force of the particle "Eth," in the first verse of the Hebrew Bible?) a great financier, who has proposed a desirable scheme of a bank which was to enrich us all,—the only requisite being that the Government should lend us 100,000l.!! Yet with his varied talents, he is a mere boatman plying on our river.
27th.—Ten at night. I have drawn my chair near the fire, and have thrown on an additional log, that I may write my journal luxuriously. A boat having come up the river to-day from Perth, I got ready twenty bushels of wheat, and sent it to the Government store, as the first instalment in payment for advances.
My debt amounts to not much. About 60l. for beef, wheat oats, peas, oatmeal, tea and sugar. The advances were made at a time when these articles were scarcely to be had through any channel. We have had twelve months' credit, and it has been of the greatest assistance to us; indeed I know not what many of us could have done without some such aid. By the way, you wrote that "oatmeal would not keep,"—the Government meal is marked of the year 1829. I have a little of it yet, and it is as good as on the day it was exported. I believe there is some mode of packing it air-tight, and that this is the secret of its keeping so well.
I have observed, on a former occasion, that our wheat costs the grower 10s. per bushel; it has since been calculated at 15s. per bushel. Our neighbour, Mr. B., charges 4s. a bushel for grinding it; other expenses, of lost time, &c., are 1s. per bushel more. If we send it to Perth, where it is ground for 2s. per bushel, the distance makes the expense equal to Mr. B's. charge; or, if we grind it by hand, the time occupied, the first price of the mill, and its continued repairs, prevent any reduction in the expense of its manufacture. It occupied a very great part of the time of my two men, and they were constantly breaking the mill, which had cost me 5l.; so that you see our ground wheat (whole meal) costs about 28s. per cwt. I cannot help thinking of the beautiful fine American flour, some of which I bought at 13s. per cwt. As to oaten meal, none has ever been ground here, nor is it likely; so that even for medical purposes it would be in demand with us, setting aside the Irish and Scotch in its favour. I am sure it would sell at from 25s. to 28s. per cwt.
I had sent James to borrow a seed riddle, and was on the look out for some pigs that were trying to circumvent the garden, when I heard a jabbering, and lo! ten natives were in the act of admiring them at the river-side. As I thought they might carry their admiration to the inconvenient extent of carrying them off, I slipped into the house and got my guns in readiness, and in a convenient situation for instant use. I then went out and engaged the unwelcome visitors in most edifying conversation, walking them up through the gate, and past the house, on to the high plain above; and sending Johnny for bread, which I cut and distributed amongst them in due proportion, praying proper regard to old Yello-gonga, their chief. and to two of the fair sex by whom he was accompanied. I then shook hands with them, and bade them a most hearty farewell. They were very civil; but, to say the truth, I have no great desire ever to see their amiable faces again. Amongst them I recognised "Moley," the native whom I had in charge, on the day when we took seven prisoners, on my first coming to the colony. He did not seem to recognise me, nor did I recollect his face, until he told me his name,—one of the young women then present is his wife.
The next event was the finding one of the young pigs at the bottom of the well, rather past hope; however, as it bled freely under the operation of the butcher's knife, it may not altogether be a dead loss. It was a nice pig, which I intended to keep; but being of an inquiring nature, he went searching after truth (I suppose), which they say lies at the bottom of a well. It is well it is no worse.
I have sent off the six young pigs that were bought some time ago by Mr. Wells; our family is therefore diminished, but we have still fourteen of the hog species.
30th.—After dinner yesterday I set out to Redcliff, a delightful ride, by an unaccustomed way, and saw several locations higher up the Helena than I had before. Heard of two ships having been seen off the harbour—a matter of great excitement. Rode to Perth this morning, where I ascertained that the brig Dart had arrived from Sydney, bringing fifty tons of flour amongst other things. It is singular that, owing to monopoly, everything keeps up a high price yet. The enormous sum of 25l. per ton is demanded for potatoes, though they are rotting in the bags, people being unwilling to submit to such taxation, and the sellers refusing to lower the price. Another vessel has touched here, and inquired of the pilot if England was at war with the Dutch. On being informed of our blissful state of ignorance, she proceeded on her way to Batavia.
I left Perth about four o'clock, and rode the back way, and arrived here with a glimmering of light (between twilight and moonlight), distance about fourteen English miles. Both horse and man (the nobler animal first) were very hungry, neither having eaten from an early breakfast hour. No letter in this vessel that I have heard of.
Four of my sheep have had lambs; it is early yet, by six weeks, for this is the most trying season: we must manage better another time. My present shepherd is very attentive, but must not be interfered with in any way: he dresses the sheep frequently for the scab, which the new flock brought with them—spirits of turpentine and tobacco-water are his remedy.
After an early dinner, I rode back to the hills this day, to my northern boundary; got on a high hill, with a level top, and had great difficulty in descending by another route: I was quite surprised to find how much of my time it occupied to reach the summit, and how much more rugged and higher it is than I had fancied.
The soil to the very highest points is reddish loam. There is very little mahogany on my grant; and where there is any, it is much intermixed with red gums, which indicate that the sub-stratum is clay at no great depth. The trees are principally white and red gum. Towards the tops of the hills we find grass (kangaroo and other sorts), lucerne (so called here), chrysanthemum, &c., &c.
I saw two kangaroos; but it was when we were among the rocks, and they in the plains below. Juno stood on a jutting precipitous rock, and pointed them, a little frightened, yet half inclined to take a bound after them. Carlo had a run after a wallabee; but it requires a practised dog to kill one, and he is yet inexperienced.
May 1st.—Some natives—seven men, one pretty young woman, and two boys—have been here. I gave them some wheat, but they wanted bread very much, and stayed with me for it half an hour, then went to Mr. Shaw's, thence to the barracks, where shots were fired to frighten them; they were unarmed;—I hope we shall not suffer for the indiscretion of the soldiers.
2nd.—Captain Irwin came here to-day, and instituted an inquiry into this unprovoked and causeless firing at the unarmed natives, and issued strict orders.
A murder was committed by the natives the day before yesterday, on the road between Fremantle and the Canning, in consequence of the following provocation. Some time ago, a man who had come from Van Diemen's Land, when escorting a cart to the house of Mr. Phillips, on the Canning, saw some unoffending natives in the way. "D—n the rascals," said he, "I'll show you how we treat them in Van Diemen's Land," and immediately fired on them. That very cart, with two men who had been present at the transaction, was passing near the same spot the day before yesterday, when they were met by about fifty natives, who had lain in ambush, and the two men were deprived of life so suddenly, that Mr. Phillips (who was accompanying other carts about two hundred yards behind) was hardly in time to see Ya-gan thrust a spear into one of them as he lay on the ground. A reward has been offered for the head of this Ya-gan, whether dead or alive; and several others who were active in the affair, will probably be proclaimed also. A native was shot a few days since at Fremantle, in the act of breaking into a store at night.
In consequence of these horrible occurrences we have been very uneasy.
A party of natives have been at Mr. Bull's to-day again, and seem to impute blame to the soldiers alone.
Rain to-night—the first we have had for some time—it is very seasonable and refreshing.
3rd.—After breakfast I rode with Captain Irwin to lay out a line of road from the head of the river to Guildford. Messrs. Tanner, Peyton, and Mears called in the evening, and mentioned that the soldiers had shot a native, and taken three prisoners.
4th,—Two natives came here to-day: one of them is learning to speak English, and is very intelligent. I discovered the names of more than a dozen who were concerned in the recent murder; among others, two sons of Ya-gan, Narah and Willim, the latter a young imp not more than ten or eleven years of age: we are greatly in their power, and must keep on good terms with them, if possible. One of them had a number of frogs (which I think he called "dweep") nicely packed up in the bark of the tea-tree, and tied with grass; these he signified they roasted for food, with a long white root, growing like a parsnip, which they dig up in wet weather.
I have this day dismissed the sawyers, because, in addition to the stipulated price for sawing, they charged 3l. for merely making a saw-pit, and felling a few trees.
I have been obliged to pay 2l. for the woodwork of a pair of harrows; so you see how mechanics may thrive here; they are the sort of people to get on well, or those who have everything within themselves—a self-contained family, as it were, who can do without servants;—the father to plan, the boys to execute, and the girls to cook, wash, and transact all the household affairs—these are the persons calculated for this place; your gentleman will never do, unless he brings out a cheap, steady establishment, a capital to support it, and is willing to employ both himself and them in active labour.
A sad discovery—my rum cask is empty: I shall have to pay 27l. for refilling it; and this will be only one year's supply, even for my small establishment.
With you "grog" means a mixture of spirits and water, in the ratio of one to three, or one to four—no such thing here—it means unmixed ardent spirits. The habits which many of the English peasantry bring with them are ruinous; and every man's expenditure seems to be regulated by the highest standard; even men who but seldom taste meat at home, demand it here three times a day; and now talk of beer in addition to their grog.
Killed a lamb to-day, about six months old, small, but good; it weighed only six pounds a quarter.
5th.—After breakfast, Francis Whitfield, and shortly after ten natives, came here: among them were three women, such unlovely specimens of feminity as I never wish to see again. One of them carried a pretty chubby-faced boy on her back. Would that these visits, like angelic ones, were "few and far between," for they are a smart tax upon me, as I am obliged to distribute bread among the visitors. I try to make them understand that they should come only once a week, to levy their "black mail," as I call it; but they do not, or will not, understand, my hints.
My shepherd (unconscionable dog) wants to get the head and pluck as a perquisite for killing sheep, and a glass of grog, besides one every wet day. I fear I must part with him, though he is an excellent herdsman.
12th.—Oh, I have had such a week of it!—Sat in court on Tuesday from ten until it was dark, and so every successive day until Friday evening. There were forty-nine actions for trial, several motions for a new hearing, or for staying judgment, &c., &c. One law argument. Many of the other cases were of claims to a large amount; one for 569l., another for 2000l. damages. I had got a cold and swelling in my neck just before I went to Perth, which was greatly increased by sitting in court every day eight or nine hours, exposed to a draught of wind blowing about my head. I suffered great torture every evening, and passed sleepless nights, but fortunately did not feel pain during the day, probably on account of mental occupation. It was truly a relief to have the week over. I reached Red Cliff yesterday in time for dinner, when I found a merry party: among them, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Tanner, Mr. Drake, and Miss Parkes, Messrs. Yule, Erskine, and Dale.
I arrived at home this evening at nine o'clock; so you perceive I have lost no time in pulling up my arrear of diary.
13th.—Got another hundred of cabbages put down to-day, and had my potatoes moulded.
I must subjoin a list of articles which are essential to my little housekeeping, and which you can send out yearly, for we require annual remittances to keep up our stock, as our merchants do not themselves import, but buy up what arrives, which they sell out at exorbitant prices.
Four casks of pork; five barrels of American flour, 200 lbs. each: one dress suit of black cloth, one pair of dress boots, one pair of walking ditto, one pair of dancing-shoes; a web of coarse linen for ticking, ditto for sheets; calico sheets, blankets, and counterpanes; corduroy trowsers, slop shoes, jackets, and waistcoats; and twelve coarse cotton checkshirts; a small crate of crockery—strong delf—breakfast and dinner-services; milk pans; short worsted and cotton stockings. The crockery ware might be packed in grass. A little red clover seed will also be acceptable.
The articles named would not only enable me to keep out of the market myself, but to pay those servants whom I must employ and feed, at the rate of 60l. per annum each, as calculated by colonial prices. We have no flannel, blankets, counterpanes, nor scarcely any woollen thing in the colony. All our friends at home seem to act on the same persuasion, that in this climate there is no need of such things; yet in our winter we require them as much as you do.
Some things are selling for less money than at former periods, not because they are become more abundant, but because money is more scarce.
14th.—The weather is now very pleasant, but the variance of temperature is rather too much: in the middle of the day it is warm, at night cold; it is just the season for colds, on account of these vicissitudes.
I found several mushrooms to-day. Some natives have been here this evening—a family party—Yelloganga and his two wives, with the boys Parabang and "Nghnoonig." The latter word affords an instance of one of Lyon's "lost sounds;" and it would be a pity if ever it should be found again. Ngoonig, Nghnoonig—I cannot combine any form of letters which gives the sound correctly; it sounds as if you were going to blow your nose—rather nasal, "I guess."
Got some Swedish turnip seed sown, and transplanted almond trees, and one little apple tree, which I reared from a pippin. Mr. Shaw came here this evening, took tea with me, and stayed until nine o'clock—a dark and frosty-feeling evening.
15th.—There is very little specie here: and no private bill on England or elsewhere will be taken now, no matter how unexceptionable it may appear to be. Barter will do among ourselves, as we have plenty of property; but having no exports, we have but little specie to spare for the payment of any thing we procure from other countries. Emigrants should, therefore, bring out specie, which is now the best investment. Hitherto they have been laying out their capital in goods and merchandise.
Ten able-bodied natives were here to-day, none of whom I had ever seen before, with the exception of one.—Sturdy beggars—they will not easily be refused.
Walked to Mr. Bull's this evening, and engaged two bushels of seed barley, at 15s. per bushel, of 45 lbs. weight: this may make you stare; but these high prices are the difficulties first settlers have to contend with, until they can produce enough for the supply of the colony.
One of the parties which have been sent after Ya-gan have fallen in with some of the hostile tribe, and shot the brother of Midgegoroo, who is Ya-gan's father. Twenty-four natives made their appearance at the opposite side of the river, wishing to get across. I made signs that the boat was out of order, and that they must go round by the ford; which gave me time to get some wheat ground, and coarse cakes made, which I distributed amongst them. I had previously taken care that all my arms and ammunition should be in readiness, but they were very quiet. Among them were two very well-looking young women, one of whom suckled her child, supporting its body under her arm, whilst its legs were in the bag which hung at her back. Weeip gave me a very good knife, with a wedge of quartz. I was almost alone when this party came; but by good fortune a number of neighbours and runners happened to come immediately after.
20th.—Midgegoroo, one of the proclaimed natives, has been taken, and there is great perplexity as to what should be done with him: the populace cry loudly for his blood; but the idea of shooting him with the cool formalities of execution, is revolting: there is some intention of sending him into perpetual banishment.
22nd.—Midgegoroo, after having been fully indentified as a principal in three murders at least, has been shot at the gaol-door, by a party of the military. We are all anxious to see how the others will conduct themselves after this execution, if they discover it; there were none of them present at it. His son had been sent on board the Ellen previously.
23rd.—I came to Guildford to attend a meeting of agriculturists, to take into consideration the state of the circulating medium; went thence to Mr. Tanner's to luncheon, and immediately after, suffered such pain in my head that I was obliged to set out for home, and have had a succession of hot poultices to my poor caput ever since. I am almost afraid to go to bed, for there I suffer exquisite pain, without obtaining even a little sleep.
24th.—Oh! what an interval! I scarce know myself—torture unceasing and no sleep. I have been brought through so far; but I fear this attack will be succeeded by others. My public duties require me to visit Perth on Monday week, and I fear my inability to leave home, for I am literally as weak as a child, and have no appetite. I missed my dear father's advice sadly, for never having been ill before, I do not know how to treat myself.
I have got my old chimney snugged up for the winter. My new room will be 18 feet by 15 feet, with two recesses on either side of the fire-place for book-shelves, side-board, or whatever you please: it will be lighted by two French windows, opening into a verandah six feet wide, which runs round the house; and the lawn immediately in front will be green, I hope, all the year round, with lucerne, which I have sown in drills. The other seeds, which came in the chest by Van Diemen's Land, are all dead.
25th.—My men have unanimously declared against cocoa, which I lately bought for them during the present high price of tea: there is still, however, room for negociation on the disputed point. What a plague servants are!
My shepherd, as I have often said, is a queer fellow: only think of his having given 3l. for a set of sheep-bells; they are enchantingly musical, however, and the tinkling, as the sheep come home at night, is one of the most cheerful sounds I have ever heard. This man feels great pride in having his flock look well, and is very jealous of my being inquisitive about them. If I succeed in getting any of Downing's flock, I shall probably dispose of those among my old stock that are aged, as many of mine are; some having been brought from Mr. Trimmer's flock in England at the commencement of the colony. Those of Downing's are the only sheep to be purchased now.
26th.—A lovely day as to temperature. Mr. Yule and Mr. A. Trimmer called to see me, and stayed till two. Mr. Burgess came here in the evening, and took tea.
27th.—Have had a long, angry, and wholly unexpected conference to-day with the very spirit of evil himself, I mean the notorious Ya-gan. On seeing several natives approach the house, I went towards them as usual, thinking they were my old friends. To my surprise, the first I met was Migo, whom I had known well at Perth, as the servant of Captain Ellis, and the friend of the chieftain Mundy. On looking round, I then saw Munday himself (who is proclaimed, with a price on his head): this made me look still closer, and at last I saw Ya-gan standing a little aloof, scrutinising my countenance narrowly, and my manner of receiving them. I had been taxing Migo with having been present at the murder, which he energetically denied. When my eyes first fell upon Ya-gan, I said immediately "What name?" They all answered "Boolgat." I said "No; Ya-gan." At first he was inclined to persist in the assumed character; but seeing that I knew him perfectly, he came forward, avowed himself, and entered into a long argument and defence of his conduct, in a way that I can hardly make intelligible to you; and I confess he had almost as much of the argument as I had. Both parties seemed to consider us as respectively arguing the question. Ya-gan listened with respectful anxiety, and used bold and emphatic language and graceful gesture, with abundant action; he delivered himself boldly. I did not understand him, but replied, "If white man queeple (steal), white man shoot white man; if black man queeple, white man shoot black man; if black man no grydyell (kill) cow, no gydyell sheep, no gydyell pig, white man all same as brother to black man, shake hands plenty, co-robbery plenty." Here I advanced with open hands to them, which all ran eagerly to grasp, save the moody chief himself. They had grouped around, evidently attending to the arguments on both sides with great interest, and glad of anything like a friendly termination. Ya-gan again stepped forward, and leaning familiarly with his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with his right, delivered a sort of recitative, looking earnestly at my face. I regret that I could not understand him, but I conjectured, from the tone and manner, that the purport was this:—"You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations: as we walk in our own country, we are fired upon by the white men; why should the white men treat us so?"
This reminded me of a chorus in a Greek tragedy; and the other natives seemed to act as subordinate characters to Ya-gan. After a short interval, the chief approached again, and fixing his eyes as if he read my countenance, said inquiringly, "Midgegoroo shoot? walk?" (meaning was Midgegoroo dead or alive?) I felt that the question was full of personal hazard to me, and gave no reply. Even Weeip came, and anxiously asked the same question, putting his finger to my ear, to know if I heard or understood him. I answered slowly, "White man angry,—Governor angry." However my men assured them that both Midgegoroo and his son were gone on board a ship. Ya-gan still continued to read my countenance, and when he could obtain no answer from me, he said with extraordinary vehemence of manner, distinctness of utterance, and emphasis of tone, "White man shoot Midgegoroo, Ya-gan kill three" (holding up three fingers). I said, "Ya-gan kill all white man, soldier man and every man kill Ya-gan." He scowled a look of daring defiance, and turned on his heel with an air of ineffable contempt. During the latter part of this conference, he held a beautifully tapered and exquisitely pointed spear, grasped like a stiletto, about fourteen inches from the point, while the shaft lay over his shoulder, with a seeming carelessness. He evidently suspected treachery, and was on his guard against it, taking care not to let my men press on him too closely, and keeping some of the natives between myself and them.
Nothing short of an overpowering force (which I did not possess), or a cold-blooded deliberate treachery (of which I was incapable), would have enabled me to have secured him as he then stood: it was, perhaps, my duty to have attempted his arrest, dead or alive; however, consider the circumstances of my situation,—I had gone among them unarmed, little thinking that the "Wallace" of the tribe was there; he did not relinquish his spear till he was certain of my pacific intentions; and there were ten of them, and only three of us,—myself rather invalided.
I despatched a letter instantly to Mr. Bull, as a magistrate, apprising him of Ya-gan's vicinity. He went off for the soldiers; and in the meantime this proclaimed and dangerous outlaw, with a price on his head, and threats (not idle) on his tongue, in sight of the military quarters, and of a magistrate's residence, hemmed in between three or four settlements, and almost in presence of a large force of armed men, was suffered to escape unmolested. The truth is, every one wishes him taken, but no one likes to be the captor. How could any person, unless a professed blood-hunter, spring upon a man in cold blood, and lead him to the death? How could any one who has a heart fire upon him treacherously from a secure ambush, though he be an unfeeling and reckless savage? There is something in his daring which one is forced to admire.
28th.—A party was out last night after Ya-gan, but without success.
The Government have sent a band of resolute men here to do their utmost to take him. The man who commands this party is called "Hunt," a most appropriate name. On one occasion he followed a party of natives for thirteen days and nights, thinking it was Ya-gan's tribe; at last he got into such a situation that the natives attacked his party. He shot the most forward, who turned out to be Midgegoroo's brother. Hunt was a constable in London; he has just been here to request I would send him word if Ya-gan appears again in this quarter: his party is to lie "perdu" at Mr. Bull's for some time.
29th.—No appearance of the natives here to-day. I have heard that Ya-gan has been seen at a house four miles down the river, on the other side; so that strong hopes are entertained of his being shortly taken.
31st.—I have just returned from Mr. Brockman's, where I have been all the morning, settling an arbitration affair which had been referred to Mr. Brockman and myself. I hope we have finally settled it to the advantage and satisfaction of both parties; but I fear I have not served my health by exposure to the air.
While I was away the natives called at Hermitage, but not accompanied by Ya-gan. One of Midgegoroo's widows was among them, in great grief for the arrest of her son.
June 1st.—My shepherd has not ceased to tease me till I have consented to let him go to Perth, with a venture of ten sheep for sale. He is, I think, a trustworthy man; but I shall soon see how he has succeeded.
My head does not get on so quickly as I expected; it ought to have been plaistered enough by this time; my face looks as if there had been not only plaistering, but white-washing.
2nd.—My shepherd set out for Perth with his sheep early this morning, and James reigns in his stead.
Old Yellogonga, with three women and children, came here to-day. They begged hard for some sugar. I gave them a little each. The old man asked me to allow him to go down to the house. I led him down, showed him the kitchen, and then my room, in which I had spread out my guns, pistols, &c. "No, no, no," he said ; "no, no." He was quite surprised and puzzled at the looking-glass, peeping over and behind it. After he was gone, Weeip and four others came, one of whom was Ya-gan's son, and it is probable that Ya-gan himself was not far away; but aware of the danger of appearing. I am told they have since expressed their satisfaction at my conduct, saying, that "Mitzer Moore be very good man." Weeip has intimated that no injury shall be done in this neighbourhood; and altogether we hope for peace from this friendly intercourse with them. Weeip to-day received a blanket, which Captain Irwin sent to him,—the women were very inquisitive about Midgegoroo and his son. About the former I still shook my head, and said, he "kill white man."
I told them that if they were quiet, and committed no injury, the boy would soon come back to them. They seem to have an idea of a spirit, "Goodjot," and another "Manjut;" for when Naral asked me to-day how I got the wound in my head, I pointed upwards solemnly and said "Goodjot," intimating that it was a visitation from God; he seemed to understand but said "Manjut," as if it came from an evil power. I feel a great interest in them, and hope they will be quiet, and continue friendly. It seems to gratify them greatly when we use their words, as I do whenever I can recollect one. They were trying to describe "sister," when I said "woora" (their own term), with which they were greatly pleased.
We have hopes they will not continue to be troublesome: increase of the white population would no doubt be the most effectual remedy against them; but in our present state, fear of the evil may be the means of preventing the application of the remedy.
I do not gain strength rapidly, and have been weaker than before. I cannot bear exposure, and little exercise overcomes me; but I must go to Perth to-morrow,—would I were back again!
3rd.—A second swelling in my head is coming on, above the former; and yet my public duty obliges me to go to Perth. I must get through it as I can, and then come home and lay myself up "in ordinary" again."
We are now in a state of great suspense respecting the governor's mission, but a month or two must end it. You are, perhaps, now apprised of what is to be our fate; I mean so far as the intention of the British Government is concerned: lose no opportunity of writing to me on this and other subjects, for hearing from you is my only consolation in this distant solitude; for solitude such a condition as mine is, and must be.
The mail is just about to be made, via Mauritius. I can only add—love, love, love to you all.
- The chest had been sent, viá Van Diemen's Land, in the latter end of 1831, but did not reach its destination by that rout till April, 1833. It contained the letters of nearly twelve months; and owing to his not having received them before, our emigrant complained in some of his letters of having been neglected by his friends.
- 1=The following lines naturally suggest themselves here.—Ed.
"But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion's sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound—
A tone of music—summer's eve—or spring—
A flower—the wind—the ocean—which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
"And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind;
But feel the shock renew'd, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesign'd
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind,
The cold—the changed—perchance the dead—anew
The mourn'd, the loved, the lost—too many!—yet how few!"
- When this letter was written, the colonists were uncertain whether they were to receive any further assistance from the British Government, or to be left to themselves. It has been determined, however, to support the colony, as appears from a letter of Sir James Stirling, written in England. See the copy of this letter in Appendix.
- "Lignum super foco largè reponens."—M. Doyle, Jun.
- I suppose we are to understand by this word "associate in friendship,"…"co-robbery" to our ears conveys a somewhat discreditable meaning.