Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/194

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167
JOYS AND SORROWS OF CAMP LIFE.

alarm, or interrupt the passage of the fugitive Natives." They were, furthermore, "to keep themselves within their homesteads, and to avoid collecting their cattle, lighting fires, hallooing, shouting, or otherwise making a noise in the Bush, in order that nothing may present itself to deter the Aborigines from entering the Peninsula." Unhappy settlers!

Still further to elevate the hopes of the sanguine ruler, a letter was brought to him, giving encouraging news from the prison depôt of Swan Island. Mr. Robinson thence announced his success with some people outside the Line, and not then intended to be trapped by the colonial forces, though a north-east expedition was resolved upon, if the southern one proved successful. The letter began: "I beg to acquaint your Excellency that a successful intercourse has been effected among those sanguinary tribes of Natives who have for so great a period infested the settled districts, and known as the Oyster Bay, Little Swanport. Ben Lomond, Cape Portland, and Piper's River Aborigines." Mr. Robinson further ventures to assert that" the whole aboriginal population could be brought together by the same means that has hitherto been adopted."

But the several members of the Line were not so inspirited. At first the novelty of the occasion, the fun of an encampment, the freedom of life, supported them in their march. But when the rain set in, and continued almost without intermission for some weeks, the chivalry of the expedition was not so apparent. A friend described to me the scene on the Blue Hills, near Bothwell, the first night of camp. The sky was so clear, the air was so bracing, the fellowship was so good, that laughter and song carried the hours away till midnight; but when, just before dawn, the mountain fog crept over the bivouac with its penetrating chill, and a steady, heavy, cold rain succeeded, all Nature's gloom was reflected in the faces of the campaigners. It did not surprise many to hear of such desertions from duty as a letter from the Macquarie River mentions, where the writer, who may have been one of the patriotic fair, indignantly exclaims: "I blush to the bone when I tell you that certain volunteers from this neighbourhood have crawled home from the Line within the last fortnight." Their ardour for the service had soon cooled, or they had lacked the spirit of the lame blacksmith of Sorell, who, being unable to carry his wooden legs