Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/The colony (16)
Jan. 2nd.—I have just arrived here from Perth, at nine o'clock at night, and sit down to pick up some dropped stitches. Our sessions were held yesterday; one man was sentenced to 10 years' transportation for stealing from a wreck. He was mate of the ship Elizabeth that was lost here some time ago, on her voyage from India to Sydney. A few nights since I was disturbed by the sheep rushing about in their yard, so I went out. The night was rather dark, but, upon walking in amongst them, I discovered a native dog, actually fastened on the hip of one of them. I could hardly believe my imperfect vision in the dark. At last I made a grasp at it, being literally only in my shirt and without any weapon, but it eluded my grasp and disappeared in some way that I could not account for. Several of the sheep were severely bitten. I had a letter a few days since from Capt. Grey, who is at King George's Sound. He is married to the youngest Miss Spencer, daughter of the late Sir Richard (a very fascinating girl). I was quizzed the other day and congratulated on my intention of being married this week, but I said, if it was to happen so soon, it was time that I should know something of it, which I did not. Grey says there is a great change for the better coming over the Sound, and expects large importations of settlers and of sheep within this summer. By the way, the colonial schooner is going to the northward to examine the coast near Moresby's flat-topped range, about lat. 29, and the neighbourhood of Houtman's Abrolhos. A large river is supposed to debouch on the coast thereabouts. I have serious thoughts of going in her to examine that part of the world—it will be something new; but I have not yet made up my mind finally. Busy getting in the harvest.
Friday night.—There was a meeting of the Agricultural Society to-day at Guildford. Schoales made a proposition to send for labourers to Ireland, and, if it goes on, I will either request you to send me one or more by that ship, or will send by him for some. I think I would pay the passage of any one who would agree to serve me at least one year at the rate of £18 a year (for a man), or for such a time in addition as would repay me any expense I had been put to on his account, or any advance made to him in the meantime.
Jan. 6th.—Oh, what a melting day! The thermometer has been up to 100, both yesterday and to-day, in the middle of the day. I have been measuring the ground which was reaped by the job—a troublesome business, for our fields are all sorts of shapes. I measured eleven irregular pieces to-day for two of the men, and paid them £25 for about three weeks work, or less indeed; they had done about 18 acres. We do want labourers sadly. I hear to-day that the Beagle surveying ship has returned. She was to have been here in three months from her last departure; it is now two years. Only think of going three degrees nearer the line in this weather; yet I intend taking this trip, if not prevented by some business. It is like going close to the fire in summer.
Feb. 1st.—After an absence of three weeks, I have once more reached my own home, and been able to enjoy the comfort of a day's rest on terra firma. We did not succeed in finding an entrance to a large estuary or lake which was seen by Capt. Grey some distance from the coast, nor did we see any river worth speaking of, but we saw a very extensive tract of fine pasture land, about Moresby's flat-topped range, and also we twice visited some of the islands of the Abrolhos, which is an exceedingly interesting group of coral islands and islets in a state of rapid growth. I have written rough notes of our little trip, and I shall probably send them for your amusement, or perhaps the substance of them will be inserted in our newspaper in some shape or other, but not in so familiar a style as written in the notes. On the whole the trip was interesting, though we had some rough weather at sea, and I had an interesting interview with a large body of natives who probably then for the first time came in contact with white men. This was near the flat-topped range already referred to. Their language differed materially from that of the people here, but many words were identical, or nearly so. I managed to make myself partly understood by them. We were also at Gantheaume Bay, and saw the whale boats lying, where Capt. Grey was wrecked, from which place he walked to Perth.
Feb. 3rd.—I feel myself as yet rather confused, and forget exactly how matters stood before I went away. I dare say I shall recollect by degrees. My grapes have ripened since I went away. I attacked them to-day with all the eagerness of appetite acquired by the exercise and salt fare of a sea trip, and I wish I had not taken so many. By the way, we got abundance of delicious rock oysters on the Abrolhos, and one day we had very nice soup made from the haliotis or aures marinæ, which you must know as the ear-shaped shell you have often seen. My former mention of the arrival of the Beagle was premature. Like coming events, she had, I suppose, "cast her shadow before." She arrived the day after we did. She came round from Sydney by Torres Straits, and has discovered on the main, in the neighbourhood of Port Essington, two rivers—one, the Victoria; their boats went up for perhaps 130 miles, and the ship itself went up the Adelaide for 10 or 12 miles, and their boats went further; but the land did not appear to be very available, and the climate was so hot as to make it almost uninhabitable for Europeans—at least so think they of the Beagle. These rivers were out of the limits of the colony—no great loss. There are still 300 miles of our North Western shore not examined. They are about to go there, and also, on their way, to examine the Abrolhos. It is astonishing how much persons may be deceived as to the nature of the country, or rather how little they may know about it, by a mere examination or view from a ship. It happens very singularly that the very part of the coast which I have returned from seeing—the flat-topped range which first Capt. Grey spoke of as an extensive grassy or fertile country is marked in my old map thus: "The shore here is steep and very barren;" and, again, on the same map, just about the place where the lakes are, that so many are now looking after, there is this observation—"The land here is very high." It is true of what you would see from the deck of a ship, certainly; you see little else but sandy hills. I have brought home new specimens of coral and other formations. The water in some places near the Abrolhos was smooth and very clear. The view of the growing coral—especially the groves, shrubberies, coppice—what shall I call them—of branch coral was very interesting and very beautiful. I often thought of the mermaid's song, "Come with me and we will go, where the rocks of coral grow." I was rather disappointed at not finding turtle. We found plenty of seals, and to my surprise a great number of an animal called here wallaby—about the size of a hare. How did they get there? It is 45 miles from land.
Feb. 7th.—Returned from Perth. Dined with the Governor yesterday, with Capt. Wickham and Lieut. Stokes, both of H.M.S. Beagle. They speak of enormous bats, in multitudes among the bamboos lining Adelaide river. They described the expanse of their wings as perhaps two feet. They saw also indigenous fruits which we have not here. We are soon to have another sitting of the Legislative Council, when I shall be busied with laws and amendments and such like things.
Feb. 8th.—Have I mentioned before that we have got out two protectors of the aborigines? One of them is the son of Sir John Barrow. I fear it will be only an additional difficulty in our way in obtaining redress or justice for wrongs done to us. Mr. Barrow has been at Sierra Leone, engaged in something of the same sort, but he seems quite despondent about the natives here, as he finds them so very different from what he had expected, and so much more difficult to make any impression upon.
Monday.—Major Irwin is in Perth, and Mr. Mitchell did not come, so I had to read two services yesterday.
Feb. 13th.—I was not able to send this by the Westmoreland, but some other vessel has come in the meantime, and is to go the same route in a week, so it cannot make much difference. We have news now from South Australia. People are coming here from that place with stock, and we expect soon to have great quantities poured in. There are strange accounts from that colony—great numbers arriving there, and some not even landing, but going off by shiploads to other colonies. New Zealand seems to be all the rage. S— has had a letter from Thomas B—, who is there. He says it has been altogether too much cried up. So long as people can be induced to come out there with plenty of money, and so long as the money lasts, things will go on well; but nothing is done there, nothing is produced, and when the money is at an end where will a renewal of it come from? Water, in South Australia, was selling at the port at 4d.—some say 1s. a glass. The Governor there and an exploring party were nearly lost in the bush. One young gentleman, a Mr. Bryan, was actually lost. This was in looking for some good land near the Murray River, above Lake Alexandrina. As to this colony we are getting on better every day, but we want labour sadly. Schoales is thinking of going for a shipload. He has near 100 bespoken, and the Government mean to spend £600 in getting out labourers also this year.
Feb. 14th.—I am much more occupied now than I was formerly. A vast number of questions are referred to me now by the Governor, and legal points of much nicety and difficulty are arising, especially in regard to the lands which are threatened to be resumed, the location duties not having been fulfilled, and the term of ten years for which they were originally lent or assigned being now about to expire. I dare say, upwards of 100,000 acres will be forfeited in a few months, belonging to persons not resident in the colony, and no mercy should be shown to them. This land is all situate in the very best districts, having been taken in the first years of the colony.
March 1st.—Several ships have disappointed us, for they were from America. We thought one of them surely would be the Black Swan. What can have become of her?
Monday.—I had all my sheep washed to-day, as the weather is very warm, and they are very dirty. I stayed three hours in the water myself, taking only the precaution to wear a hat to screen me from the sun. I have no recollection what is the price of grinding wheat with you, nor what difference there is between the price of the wheat and flour. I was not a little surprised a few days ago to find that 2d. a lb. is higher than the average price of wheat now; yet the price of flour is 4d. or even 5d. a lb. Surely there ought not to be such a difference. It is nearly as bad with fresh meat; the butcher offers the grazier about 9d. a lb. and charges the public 16d. a lb.
March 9th.—The servants are all speaking of striking for higher wages. I hear that J—— expects to get £3 a month for himself. This would have been a great part of a year's wages for him at home. Until more servants are brought by Schoales I know not what we shall do. All S——'s men have left him, as well as many others. The price of any work now is absurd. A man asked me £5 for the iron tyres of two cart wheels, and the carpenter asked £7 for the wood work, so that with the other expenses, a pair of wheels would cost about £13 or £14. I think of sending to India for a pair.
I met, at the Governor's, Col. Hazlewood, who has been in India for 50 years without going home. He has been in Van Diemen's Land, and is on his return now. He speaks of white-woolled sheep being sold there in some districts for 2s. and horses and cows for a few pounds; yet so little communication have we with them that we cannot get any of them. I am looking out for Singleton every moment, and just scribbling till his return. One of the Messrs. Burgess came here to breakfast this morning; he comes from near York, where they are now settled. He tells me he killed 103 emus since he went over there, about three years ago. I have had an interview with one of the natives, who escaped at the time I went to take them for killing my sheep. He and a number of his friends were brought to me at Perth by Weeip, after he had first asked my permission. We renewed our friendship, and ratified the treaty by giving them flour and rice. The tribe about Perth is in much better subjection now than formerly. They are prevented from carrying spears in the town and fighting. There was a grand encounter a week ago between them and the Murray River men, just outside of the town, when a man was killed on each side and many wounded. A woman has been killed in consequence of it, and there is great mustering of forces by the Perth men, who are going to seek the Murray men in their own country, and to carry war into the enemy's camp.
Friday.—Arrived here late last night, having got off from Perth a day earlier than usual, as I expect Mr. Stokes (Lieutenant of the Beagle) here to-morrow. I saw yesterday a sort of net for catching small animals, which was brought from a tribe of natives to the N.E. There is no such thing known or used hereabouts. It is as well made as any rabbit net, but stronger.
Saturday.—Mr. Stokes, Mr. Yule, and Capt. Scully came here yesterday, and went away in the evening again. Poor Mr. Stokes has not recovered completely since he was wounded by a native on the North Coast. I have been getting stacks thatched and preparations made for winter. The Governor and Mr. Symmons, one of the native protectors, are coming up here to have an interview with the natives as soon as I can gather them, as they are now gone to the Northward.
Sunday.—A sad piece of news has reached us to-day from King George's Sound. A Mr. Spencer (the eldest son of the late Sir Richard), and a Mr. Morley (of whom I made mention on my first visit to the Sound), have been drowned. Two others narrowly escaped the same fate at the same time Captain Grey had just sailed from that port with his wife, who was in very delicate health. Two ships had come there, bringing sheep and horses and cattle.
Monday.—Getting some potatoes planted. If they escape the frost, I expect to have as many as will last till they are ripe. Mr. Eden came this evening, and we took a ride about the country. He is a complete seaman. He was telling us at Major Irwin's that one of the loops for fastening a valise to the saddle had broken as he was riding up, and the way he expressed it was: "That he carried away the becket of the starboard side of the saddle."
Thursday night.—The Governor went to Rottnest yesterday in the Beagle. I finished all my business in Perth to-day, and have come home a day sooner than usual. The day has been extremely hot. The country is all on fire between Perth and this. It looks pretty at night, but the glare is very confusing, and makes it difficult to distinguish the bush road. I was so heated and dusty that I tumbled into the river to-night as soon as I came home, and felt quite refreshed.
March 29th.—A painter and glazier who was doing some of his work here has charged me 2s. 6d. a-piece for common 8 × 10 panes. I have been up at Ellen's Brook farm this evening, looking at the sheep. Have sold 21 wether lambs and wethers for £33, and a man has engaged to take 20 other wethers at 11d. a pound., weighed after the head and pluck and feet, &c., are taken away.
April 2nd.—The Governor and Mr. Symmons, one of the native protectors, have come up with me this evening to pay a visit and see the country, and in order that Mr. Symmons may have a formal introduction to the natives of this district. Yesterday our sessions were held. My old friend Coondebung, the native, received seven years' transportation for killing pigs; another, Yoinap, seven years for house-breaking and robbing at York; and two native boys got two years' transportation for killing sheep.
Friday.—A long interview with the natives. Had about 50 here. Afterwards we rode around all the settlements about here, and returned at three o'clock. The Governor is much pleased with this part of the country.
Monday.—For a novelty there was thunder and lightning and rain last night, and a good deal of rain to-day. Found a sheep lying torn to pieces by some dogs, natives, or otherwise, so the nux vomica is in requisition to-night. Three ships are said to have arrived, one from Van Diemen's Land, one from South Australia, and the Queen's ship, Britomart. So I have had a requisition for 30 sheep for an innkeeper in Fremantle, to supply the vessels.
Thursday.—The Britomart is to sail on Sunday, so, having brought this letter down on speculation, I shall be able to have it ready to put in the mail to-day. It appears that at Port Essington there was a very severe hurricane, which drove the Pelorus (ship of war) high and dry on land, and destroyed her, and prostrated or carried away almost all the houses at the settlement. Sir Gordon Bremer was not there, I believe, he is at Sydney. The Britomart is just come from Port Essington. Her people say that the climate there is too hot for Europeans to do anything in. The natives are numerous —a fine race of men, and have been friendly hitherto. The place was in great want of provisions.
April 15th.—I have been a considerable sufferer through natives and their dogs. In the course of these three days past on Ellen's Brook, the natives have carried off three ewes, a lamb, and a valuable ram, and at Millendon, their dogs have killed four ewes, a ram, and a wether. The ewes were all heavy in lamb. I consider the loss to amount at the present value of sheep to not less than £40. I went out on Monday evening with some of my own servants and two soldiers for a long way into the hills, and up the valley of the Swan River, where I was informed the party who did it, were camped; but I could not see anything of them. Perhaps they may have seen us, or our tracks. That may frighten them and prevent a repetition. I was glad I did not meet with them, for something unpleasant might have occurred. My flock there is lambing very fast. There are now 160 lambs, but it is a month too early for the grass.
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May 22nd.—I have for so long a time intermitted my journal entries as almost to have lost hope of recovering the habit of it. This has arisen rather from my being very much occupied than from want of incidents to make mention of. This is the period for our Legislative Council meetings, and Executive Councils are also very frequent and very important, so that I have been very little at home (i.e., in the country). Our last Legislative Council was on Monday. I left this at seven o'clock that morning, after an early breakfast. Waited on the Governor at eleven; went into Council at twelve, where we remained till near six, having had several long and rather dull speeches. Well, next day we were in the Executive Council till we could not see to do any more business. Then again on Wednesday another meeting of the Legislative Council, and, after that, a presentation of a remonstrance to the Governor from the agricultural body, about his regulations relating to land, &c.—another very long and unpleasant business, which lasted till six o'clock. On Thursday I transacted what I could of my routine official duties, and intended to have come off in the evening. Just as I was coming away, Mr. Logue came, so I put off my journey, determining to come off by daylight this morning.
Some time during the night I was roused by dreadful shrieks, and cries of natives sleeping near. I got up as fast as I could and went out, when a number clustered about me, saying that the natives of the Murray River had made an irruption on the unfortunate Perth natives at night, and had speared six of them whilst they were sleeping. I ran to the scene of action and found that none were killed, though two of them were very dangerously wounded, but it is probable they may survive—although one had four spears driven into his body. This cowardly attack was in revenge for the death of a Murray River man from a wound which he received in a fight with the Perth men some time ago. If they have always been in the habit of thinning down their numbers as we have seen since we came here, it is a wonder that there are any of them left. I was so occupied with them that I scarcely got to bed till it was daylight, and I had to rise again and communicate with the Governor, and send a surgeon to them and get them taken care of. After breakfast, business again, as I had to get ready the heads of two other Acts to be introduced into our Council, and I have brought them up here to try and make some progress in framing the Bills. So that, you see, in our kingdom of Lilliput, we have great doings.
I arrived at three o'clock, and found a native waiting to get a promised reward for arresting or apprehending another native, who has long escaped from justice.
Sunday.—This has been a most lovely day. My Hindoo servant (Motu) persuaded me to cut down the stem of a banana tree which was not thriving well, saying it would soon grow again. After some hesitation I cut it, when, to my utter amazement, the centre began to sprout up again visibly, so that in half an hour it had sprung up half an inch. Why, Jack's bean-stalk was nothing to this! He also pounded the clay firmly round about it, instead of leaving it loose and friable as I should have done.
Monday.—A blade of a pen-knife ran into my hand to-day up to the handle. I bled like a stuck pig; still I stopped the cut with my thumb, and then bandaged it, without anything further. It cannot be very bad, for I am writing with it now, but holding the pen very gingerly. It is rather unseasonable, for I have been obliged to write out the greater part of an Act to-day, getting it ready for to-morrow.
May 29th.—Returned to-night from Perth. A most melancholy occurrence has just been made known at Perth. A child of John Fleay, a tenant of mine near York, has been missing now for ten days, and no trace can be found of it. The child was about three years old. There are suspicions that it has been carried off and killed by the natives, but I do not think it is so. At present all is uncertain. I have been busied throughout the week about preparing different Acts. One very long one has been postponed for the present, to my great joy; this will relieve me considerably.
Saturday.—The business here is ploughing, sowing, harrowing, threshing, grubbing, and gardening—all at once. Two men are ploughing with six bullocks to one plough—very stiff land, never having been broke up before; one man harrowing with a pair of horses; two men thrashing, one grubbing bushes, one in the garden, one with the sheep, one with the cattle, and one helping in the kitchen. They all make a pretty good houseful. Three sheep a week are consumed about the establishment. I bought a barrel of salt beef a few days ago for eight guineas, and the men have become so saucy they will not eat it. There is no pork to be had. Persons who handle the wheat in which there has been any moth have been subject to a similar affection, something like stings of nettles, which turn to small itchy blisters; some are more subject to it than others. It was supposed to be from bites of flies, but I think it proceeded from some hairy exuviæ of the moths, which produce irritation like cowage.
June 5th.—On Monday last was held or commemorated the anniversary of the foundation of the colony. There were races, a regatta, dinners, balls, &c., &c. The Governor also had a party at dinner, and we went thence to the ball.
June 7th.—I have made an entry this evening in my books, which, I should think, is the first of the kind in the colony. It is this: "Hired Thomas Gear (a native boy) at 10s. a month, 1st June." This is the boy Tunagwert, the son of Gear of whom I have often spoken. He desires wages now to clothe himself, as I have hitherto clothed him. Mr. Preiss, the naturalist, has found over the hills a species of jerboa. I had often heard the natives speak of it by the name of daddaar, as abounding in the interior. It is abundant in the steppes of Tartary. Its shape is like a kangaroo, but more delicate and graceful, and scarcely so large as a squirrel. It has cost me about £45 for threshing wheat this year. I have been thinking very much about going home, and perhaps you will be glad to hear that I have "sounded" the Governor, and he is not averse to it if I can make arrangements with Nash or any one else to fill my place. It is odd that though I did this three or four days ago, I could not bring myself to tell you of it till now, from fear that I should not accomplish it. It is in suspense yet, you see; but I have not disburthened my mind so far.
June 29th.—My last to you went off, I hope, on Thursday last, by the Prima Donna, going, I believe, by Batavia. It is probable that the next opportunity will be by the troop ship, the Runnymede, on her voyage to Calcutta, direct from Sydney. I have not yet seen any of the officers, so I know nothing of them, but they are to be entertained on Thursday next at a dinner given by the officers of the 21st on their departure. This will be a busy week with me. To-morrow there will be an Executive Council; Wednesday will be our day of quarter sessions, when some natives will be tried for murders committed; Thursday will be our next meeting of the Legislative Council, with the dinner afterwards; and on Friday is the meeting of the Agricultural Society at Guildford, when I am anxious to be present, for several reasons—one being to mention that I have received from Mr. Manning, of London, two vols, or numbers of the transactions of the English Agricultural Society, with a receipt for a year's subscription, making me a member. This was done for the purpose, I suppose, of bringing our little society into correspondence with the English Agricultural Society. I do not know how he came to write to me and pay me the compliment. He thought me the chairman perhaps. Another reason is that I have just received from South Australia a letter requesting Mr. Roe, Mr. Leake, and myself to form a committee, to co-operate with one formed there for the purpose of exploring a route of overland communication between that colony and this. They have subscribed pretty largely there (on paper at least), and want us to do the same. Verily they seem to have more money at command than we have. I have received by the same conveyance a letter from W—, dated 23rd June, 1839—more than a year ago. The weather is exceedingly pleasant and bracing now. There is a slight frost every morning, but the middle of the day is like your good summer. I ventured to bathe to-day, and enjoyed it very much; yet this is the middle of our winter, past the shortest day. July and August, however, are wet. I do not know how I shall be able to endure the climate of home again, should I arrive there in the winter. I almost dread it. Non sum qualis cram, I'm not what I was in many respects; to say the truth you will see a great change in me. Time has not let me stand still; bald and old looking, I fear you will hardly recognise me. I often wonder if I shall perceive a similar change in any of you. It is surprising how the memory clings to the appearances which it last saw, and I fear this is one of the disappointments necessarily attendant upon a meeting after a long absence.
July 5th.—When I came to look for my horse to-night, at Major Irwin's, it had gone off, so I had no ready way of coming across the river without borrowing a horse, which I did not care to do, and I quietly walked through the river up to my neck, just opposite my own door, and slipped into the house unperceived to get a towel to dry myself. In the meantime the servants were on the look out to hear the footsteps of the horse, and when they heard me call out from the house without hearing the horse I believe they thought it was my ghost. As I came to the bank of the river I had some qualms about going in, thinking it would be cruelly cold, but I was very agreeably surprised to find it rather pleasant than otherwise. Now this is the middle of our winter. I had a discussion to-night about the propriety of going home by India. Irwin advised it, but Mr. Mitchell says the monsoons prevail from July till October, at which time it is not practicable to travel. I think the first ship might be an American one, so there is no knowing from what quarter I might drop in upon you.
Monday.—A native has unfortunately been wounded to-day on Ellen's Brook, on my farm there. A boy was charging a pistol when it went off, and shot the ramrod into a native who was with him. They know it to be accidental, but I fear they will not be easily reconciled if the man dies. It struck him about the loin.
July 17th.—I have delayed closing this letter in the hope that I may be able to give some more decisive information as to my movements, but I have learned nothing more definite. I think I may consider that I have obtained my leave, although in point of fact it is to be made a matter of consideration in Executive Council on Tuesday next, according to instructions now issued to Governors. I suppose I would not be allowed to go until the Legislative Councils are over, which may be three weeks or a month yet. After that I hope to go by the first opportunity which may offer.
July 18th.—I do not know how it is that one contracts a kind of liking for a letter so as to be unwilling to part with it, although written for that object. I feel myself lingering over it with a fondness which makes me unwilling to finish so long as there is the least space remaining to write upon, and yet it has often been spun out with but mere words. It is now eight o'clock; the sun shining brightly, and not a cloud in the sky; but there was a sharp frost in the night, so that I slept in the blanket, and my hands are this moment benumbed with cold. How shall I bear your winter? Oh, that I should ever say so of home! Ten years ago would I have believed it.
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Oct. 23rd.—I have been waiting here for some time in the most provoking state of suspense for an opportunity to leave the colony, but any ship that has come here seems determined not to go my way, and I cannot afford, out of my limited leave, the time to go their way. Within these few days past a ship called the Charlotte—belonging, I believe, to the McIntyres, of Derry—touched in here on her way to Calcutta, open for freight, as it turned out afterwards. But though there are 170 tons of oil ready, our merchants could not agree about the terms of chartering her.
H.M.S. Beagle has been here for a short time on her return from exploring the coast a second time on the Nor' West. No discoveries of any importance have been made, though the coast was examined in the vicinity of Depuche Island, which was always considered a promising place. There are still about 200 miles left unexplored, which have never yet been examined or seen. The Beagle was obliged to leave it for the present unexplored, but it is supposed she must return again to this coast for that purpose. In the meantime she goes to Sydney, but has to stop at King George's Sound, and it is probable will not reach Sydney for six weeks or two months, before which time I confidently expect that there may be a direct opportunity from this port. It is true she may touch in at South Australia, which might present an earlier opportunity.
The Beagle is to sail on Sunday next, so, upon the chance of this reaching you, to account for my delay, I send it by her. The state of suspense is very unpleasant to me, for I have vacated my house in town, and let it for two years to Captain Fisher, and I am in doubt what to do with my crops in the country, or how to get them managed. In the daily hope of my departure I have omitted for some time to continue my journal which I now regret very much, and I do not write this with much spirit, as I still hope that I may be with you before it. We have always had a ship here before this from England every year, and this is the first year that we have had sufficient to fill a vessel. The wool is all ready, and the oil also, so there will be no delay or waiting for freight.
I am obliged to close this letter hastily, as the Governor has called upon me to accompany him to visit the school for native children, which has lately been established. I think it likely that I shall take with me to England the materials of a native and English dictionary, to get it published in London, as we cannot manage it here without great delay and expense.
Nov. 10th.—Although I may probably be the bearer of this myself, yet I must write, as an unconquerable desire to do so has just seized upon me. Would that that desire had been equally unconquerable several months ago; for, in the almost daily expectation of my departure, I have omitted to continue my journal, and have thereby broken the continuity of the "thread of my story," and have lost the vivid recollection, of many little circumstances which I would gladly have retained. I can do no more now than try to pick up some dropped stitches, so as to fasten them, and prevent the whole work from running irrecoverably. I suppose it is a stocking that has furnished this illustrative metaphor; and this goes to show that Penelope's web must have been made by knitting, as she could so easily undo by night the work which she did in the day. I have forgotten the public events. I believe I mentioned the return of the Beagle, without any success in the discovery of anything important, but leaving still 200 miles of coast unexamined. By the bye, we have rumours here of some large lake discovered to the North of Spencer's Gulf, in such a direction and in such a country as to produce an impression on the mind of Mr. Eyre, the explorer, that a connection between Spencer's Gulf and the Gulf of Carpentaria did once exist. We shall know more of this presently, for he is gone to explore that part of the country, having had a flag presented to him which he was to erect on the central spot of Australia. This news we received by the Lady Emma, from Hobart Town, with stock. By her I have at last received a few letters which were sent in the unfortunate Black Swan. They are dated nearly two years ago, and are (some of them) productive of a very melancholy pleasure.
I have been twice over at Rottnest Island to examine and report upon the prisoners there. Three died there lately; one was poisoned by eating a "blow fish." I lost a fine young cow lately from a hurt given by some other cows. I have had a fine filly foal from a thoroughbred horse and a very good mare. I sold one horse to Government for £68.
Nov. 19th.—The Shepherd at last has arrived. She seems to have outrun the Heroine, which must have left London before her, as my goods (I find by a duplicate letter from Messrs. Luckie) are in the Heroine, and I suppose all letters also. By the Shepherd I have one letter dated so long ago as May, 1840; but no other letter. As the Heroine is looked for hourly, I must have a little patience.
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Nov. 27th.—As it is most likely that I shall take this letter home myself, I shall merely make entries to serve as memoranda I find myself much perplexed by having some of my goods mixed up in the same packages with goods of yours; for, as I must sell your things by auction, or dispose of them at once to some storekeeper, the packages must first be opened to take out my things. This gives the rest a ragged, tossed, unpacked appearance and injures their sale. I have no means of knowing the quality of your goods, as I have only seen the invoice. The tap and screw appear to be excessively dear, or they are not the thing we want here. It will cost me nearly £40 when erected, and no profit that we get on our wool will bear that.
Dec. 5th.—I have been busied all the week. The captain of the Shepherd will not take our wool except by measurement, at the rate of £6 a ton. This would amount actually to nearly £50 a ton weight! A bale measures 33 feet, packed without a screw. What can stand that? Our wool, with the enormous charges upon it, costs upwards of one shilling a pound weight to sell it in the London market, and by the last accounts we have got about 1s. 3d. a pound. If the settlers give this, the captain will load and sail early next month; if not he threatens to sail immediately. I asked the Governor to allow me to "retire on half pay" just now, so that I might make some preparation. He said there were so many important questions before the Council now that he would beg of me to remain as long as I could. As we were about to sit down to dinner the two Messrs. Lennard came here and dined with us. They were on their way to York. One of them has just arrived in the colony.
There is a French vessel here, the Ville de Bordeaux, which must be upon a smuggling expedition. Sometimes the captain talks of going to the Cape, sometimes to China. I suspect he was trying to smuggle tea, and was frightened by our ships of war in those seas. Common labourers in Perth have struck for 7s. a day, and mechanics of some sort are asking 15s. a day. Snug fellows these.
Dec. 12th.—Had a very long swim after a raft that had floated away. It is composed of two barrels, with poles fastened to them. It is easily made, and answers for crossing the river on an emergency. My flock of sheep scattered some days ago, whilst under the charge of a native boy, and got into a neighbour's corn. He wants to charge me £10 damages for what they have done—rather heavy that; and, besides, one sheep has died, and several are sick and one blind in consequence of eating the wheat.
Saturday, 26th.—Have been up at Menolup to-day to see the flock and cull some for sale. Hearing an unusual commotion amongst the natives this evening, I went out to them, and found that they expected the "Waylemen" and Perth men, and that there was great excitement among them, not knowing whether they would be for peace or for war.
Monday, Dec. 28th.—Mr. Samuel Burgess was here to-day. This place is beginning to look deserted and neglected.
Saturday night, 2nd January, 1841.—Have been kept in town all the week on business. I had arranged to withdraw from business on the last day of the year, but Nash was not ready, and our sessions came on the 1st of the month, so I did business for him.
The foundation stone of the first church in Perth was laid yesterday morning at eight o'clock by the Governor, and he gave us a long speech on the occasion. I had to remain in town to dine with him. I have been in great doubts which ship to go by. The Elizabeth is a bad sailor, but goes direct, while the Shepherd goes by the Isle of France, gets there first in the hurricane months, stays there three or four weeks (the dearest place in the world). The passage to that is £35, and perhaps £85 from thence home. The passage money by the Elizabeth is £80 in all.
Monday night, 11th July.—I was busied all last week putting Nash in harness. He was sworn into the Council on Tuesday.
In a supplement to-day, we give a last instalment of Mr. George Fletcher Moore's diary, written on the eve of his departure for England.
A celebrated American journalist, when lately giving his experience of the trade for the benefit of others, said that people did not so much care for news as to see, reproduced in print, what they already knew; they liked above all things to see accounts of occurrences which had taken place in their midst, and would be far more eager, for instance, to read a report of a meeting at which they had been present than of one at which they had not assisted. In the same way, though Mr. Moore's diary has no doubt had much interest for every one who belongs to the colony and cares to hear about its early history, it has, probably been appreciated most by those who took part in the scenes which it depicts, or whose recollection carries them back nearest to the period with which it deals. There is, now, a strong and growing disposition to be impatient of the "old settler" element in the colony. The old settler is supposed to be a man who, by reason of his long local residence, considers himself possessed of certain prescriptive rights which the younger generation objects to recognise. He is supposed to be ultra-conservative in his views; to be imbued with all those instincts and prejudices which grew up under old Crown colony government; to be opposed to progress, or at any rate, to the steps which lead to progress, and, generally, to be a drag upon the youthful energies of the present generation. Whether this idea is, or is not, well founded we do not pretend to say, though it is certain that some ground for it is occasionally given. But in their impatience of the attitude of the old settler of to-day, people should not forget that when that old settler was a young settler he was a particularly fine fellow, and that to him we owe the accomplishment of an arduous task of which we, who followed him, are now reaping the benefit. When we read of the difficulties, the trials, and privations which attended the settlement of New South Wales, South Australia, New Zealand—colonies possessing rich natural resources to assist the pioneers—it should be with a feeling of profoundest admiration that we turn to the story of the settlement of the Swan. The Pilgrim Fathers of Swan River lighted upon a corner of the continent more infertile probably than any other, where they had to contend against sand and scrub and poison, and nearly every drawback with which it was possible to meet. They laid the foundations of the colony amid hardships and harassment unknown elsewhere, deprived of those resources of nature which helped others in their contests with the wilds. It is a story of brave men, of indomitable pluck, of a patient, long continuing resistance to difficulties, and of steady determined effort to succeed. The old settlers, whatever new blood may think of them at present, were a body of Englishmen of whom we have every reason to be proud, a set of men, taking them all round, perhaps the best that has ever formed a first group of colonists. Certain it is that, had this not been so, the settlement of the southern part of the colony would have been abandoned or long retarded.
Mr. Moore's diary, written in somewhat quaint but graphic style, vividly brings the scenes of the early struggle before the eye, with a striking realism of detail. There is one thing about the pictures he paints which is particularly noticeable. Notwithstanding the privation, the poverty, the isolation, which those early colonists had to endure, their social life seems to have been full of compensation for their troubles. While they were digging and delving and toiling, on the one hand, on their little patches of ground, and looking after their small flocks of sheep, they were, on the other, dancing and dining, visiting and being visited, extending to one another a generous hospitality, and enjoying the pleasures of social intercourse in a "society" which, at that time, comprised nearly the whole of their number. The days of the early struggle were evidently by no means days wholly of gloom.
This journal, the publication of which we have just brought to a close, will be found of much value when the history of the colony comes to be written. And it certainly would be extremely desirable that there should be no delay in collecting materials for that history, and that the complete story of the early days of the colonization of Western Australia should be recorded before those who took part in it, and can assist by personal recollection, are departed. There is more than one "old settler" well fitted to undertake the task.