Page:Diary of ten years.djvu/445

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PREFACE.

There are few situations more unpleasant than when two individuals are suddenly and unexpectedly brought into collision, neither of whom is acquainted with one word of the language of the other. Amongst civilised people so situated, there are certain conventional forms of gesture or expression which are generally understood and received as indications of amity. But when it happens that one of the individuals is in a state of mere savage nature, knowing nothing of the habits and usages of civilised life, and perhaps never having even heard of any other people than his own, the situation of both becomes critical and embarassing. It was in this predicament that the early settlers of Western Australia found themselves, on their first taking possession of their lands in that colony. The aborigines, suspicious of treachery even amongst themselves, and naturally jealous of the intrusion of strangers, viewed with astonishment and alarm the arrival of persons differing in colour and appearance from anything they had hitherto seen. Ignorant alike of the nature, the power, and the intentions of this new people, and possessed of some vague idea of their being spirits, or reappearances of the dead, the natives were restrained, probably by superstitious awe alone, from attempting to repel the colonists at once by direct and open hostility . On the part of the settlers generally, there existed the most friendly