Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/132

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105
NATIVES AND THE MIRROR.

cause of alarm, as the wild tribes seldom or never are known to act on the offensive, except when they have met some of their persecutors singly." For this reason only could two persons armed with muskets traverse the land in safety.

The impression of their being disagreeable neighbours, and yet so powerless or cowardly as to be easily confronted, was pretty general from the earliest days. Old Kemp told me, that in 1821 he saw about three hundred of them "poking" after bandicoots. He immediately guessed that his hour was come, and thinking, he said, that he might as well die with a good heart as a bad one, he started his dogs into the mob, and, on their flight, took himself hastily off. A similar glorious feat is recorded by Mr. D. A. C. G. Lemprière, who was stationed at the first settlement of Macquarie Harbour, the entrance to which, the opening to the prisoners' place of torment, went by the name of Hell's Gates. A number of Natives visited the rude hut of a convict stationed there to bum shells for lime, but they were, as the prisoner informed the authorities, repulsed at the very sight of him; which must have been formidable, as Mr. Lemprière states that he was "a man four feet eleven inches in his shoes, armed with a rake."

At no time was there much correspondence between the two races; and this was apparent in the narrative of the honest castaway sailor Goodridge. "During the time," said he," I was at Compton Ferry (near Hobart Town), in 1824, fifteen or twenty of the Natives made their way into Mr. Earle's large room, and were much delighted at seeing themselves in the looking-glass, and commenced dancing and making all kinds of mimicry. They then essayed to get behind the glass, and appeared greatly confused at finding nothing but the wall. They were all quite naked; and, indeed, if clothes were given them when they appeared at Hobart Town, they seldom wore them after they left, throwing them off as a great encumbrance."

It was about that time that Mr. Roberts, of Bruni, went down the coast of the channel in search of coal; and, as he has since told me, the Natives were quite friendly, helping even to carry his swag, and procuring him some food. It was not long, however, before the violence and repetition of attacks alarmed the whole colony.

In one of my Victorian journeys I fell in with an "Old Hand,"