Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/23
THE LAST OF THE TASMANIANS.
least fancied I heard the sound of people upon the shore; but I saw nobody. All I met with worth observing was two trees, which were two fathoms or two fathoms and a half in girth, and sixty or sixty-five feet high from the roots to the branches. They had cut with a flint a sort of steps in the bark, in order to climb up to the birds'-nests. These steps were at the distance of five feet from each other; so that we must conclude that either these people are of prodigious size, or that they have some way of climbing trees that we are not used to. In one of the trees the steps were so fresh, that we judged they could not have been cut above four days. The noise we heard resembled the noise of some sort of trumpet; it seemed to be at no great distance, but we saw no living creature notwithstanding. I perceived also, in the sand, the marks of wild beasts' feet, resembling those of a tiger, or some such creature. I observed smoke in several places; however, we did nothing more than set up a post, on which every one cut his name or his mark, and upon which I hoisted a flag."
The steps cut in the bark were not, however, for the search after birds'-nests, but for the capture of opossums. The trumpet sound could be none other than the coo-ee of the foresters assembling the tribe, doubtless to consider the mysterious invasion of their land by the white-faced and pantalooned strangers.
As the Dutchmen sailed away in a day or two, they had no opportunity of intercourse with the wild men of the woods. But the visit was a memorable one; and posterity, in spite of the worthy old governor and his beautiful daughter, have recorded their estimate of the good fortune of the captain, by calling the southern isle Tasmania.
The first French navigator who came to the fair island was Marion du Fresne. He had heard of the discovery by Tasman, and paid a visit to the spot on which the Dutch had landed, Frederick Henry Bay. He arrived there in two vessels, on the 4th of March, 1772. The French author, Domény de Rienzi, informs us that "the Aborigines came with confidence down to the boats, and remained near the French, with their children and their wives." As this was the first time the Tasmanians had come in contact with Europeans, it is pleasing to record this evidence of their frank cordiality with the strangers. A number of presents, usually most esteemed by savage nations, were dis-