Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/157

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THE LAST OF THE TASMANIANS.

within four miles of the town, killing and destroying all before them. He had heard the constant firing of the savages, and the shrieks of their victims. The terror of Winchester now passed all bounds. Washington put himself at the head of about forty men, militia and recruits, and pushed for the scene of carnage. The result is almost too ludicrous for record. The whole cause of the alarm proved to be three drunken troopers, carousing, hallooing, uttering the most unheard-of imprecations, and ever and anon firing off their pistols. The reported attack on the house of Isaac Julian proved equally an absurd exaggeration. The ferocious party of Indians turned out to be a Mulatto and a Negro in quest of cattle. They had been seen by a child of Julian, who alarmed his father, who alarmed the neighbourhood."

But while several of the alarms of the settlers of Van Diemen's Land were quite as senseless and ridiculous, there were real occasions for anxiety. The travelling postman in the month of November was met by five Natives, who sent a spear through his jacket. Bother Tom's hut was attacked in Bother Tom's Marsh, and a man speared while feeding pigs. On the 8th of June, a number robbed a hut on the Macquarie, wounded a woman, and beat to death a young woman of sixteen years, who was carrying a child at her breast. Fifty confronted four stout stock-keepers near Lake Echo, but had to fly off with decreased force. A shepherd, when milking a cow, had his head broken by waddies. One person recommended settlers to raise a parapet on their walls, behind which they could fire. Another suggested an improvement on this scheme,—that each house should have a trap-door in the roof, so that the females might thence escape to the top.

There was reasonable cause for uneasiness in the minds of out-station settlers. One, writing from the Shannon, March 8, 1831, says: "The whole of the inhabitants of this district have been thrown into the greatest alarm, in consequence of the repeated incursions of the aboriginal tribes. Neither barn nor dwelling-house is safe from their attacks. No person dare go any distance from his home without arms and his faithful companion the dog, the latter to give notice of the approach of the savages."