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 (9)
Perth, February 1834.
Feb. 20th.—We have had rather an anxious week. The natives have become troublesome again, having killed two pigs of Mr. Shaw's, one sheep of Mr. Brockman's, also attempted (and nearly succeeded) in spearing his shepherd, and on one occasion my old acquaintance Moley, and, in addition, stabbed Nat Shaw in the thigh with a spear. Some of us have determined not to receive them in a friendly way again till we have got some amends on the evil doers, either by their own or by our endeavours. Meantime we are in doubt, and, to crown our anxieties, the country has been fired by the natives, and we have been obliged to use great efforts to save our houses and property. The flames are quite terrific and overwhelming when driven through rank vegetation by a strong wind. The weather has been excessively hot. My poor cattle are scarcely able to find a mouthful of food; fortunately the grant which was purchased from Mr. Wright was partially burned about two months ago, and has now nearly recovered.
2lst.—Numbers of natives here to-day. One has been informing me of a large sheet of water, somewhere not far away, where there is abundance of game, a fine country, and several rivers to be seen. I rather doubt the latter, but think strongly of going to see it.
Monday, 24th.—I have this day received a letter from you dated 2nd June (now eight months ago), which came by a little vessel from Launceston, brought by one of the Hentys. That you were all in good health, I feel truly thankful, for to say the truth, I open every letter with fear and trembling at this distance of time and space. I think —, should he come out, is well fitted for the life of a settler, but there are many little inconveniences and annoyances here which it requires a schooled mind to eudure patiently: his presence will be a great comfort to me if he comes. I strongly suspect that the accounts of other places are exaggerated or highly coloured, that the advantages belonging to different places are nearer on a par than we think at first, and that "non omnia omnibus" holds good of place as well as person.
Monday, 3rd March.—Mackie came here on Saturday night and left me yesterday evening. We had great consultations about my holding the appointment (which had been offered to me) or not. Mr. Shaw called; Dr. and Mr. Harris with Miss Harris, and Mr. Stone also.
I recollect in the calculations made for Van Diemen's Land or Sydney, of the profit and loss of a flock of sheep, that the shepherds were reckoned at £30, and I fancied it must be exaggeration, but I have my shepherd just now on easy terms (comparatively), and he costs me £71 8s. 6d. a year. I am greatly dissatisfied about our grants on this side the hills. They are not capable of supporting large flocks without cultivation to a greater extent than we can afford or manage at present; this cuts short all our profits. At the very utmost that part of my grant on this side of the hills lying between the house and the hills would not support more, now, than 200 or 300 sheep. I am obliged to reduce my flock to nearly that number. Mr. Bland (who lies over the hills) has always about 700 of his own and others, but will not take a smaller number than about 100 into his charge. I wanted to send about 30 over, but he would not take them.
4th.—Was passing one part of the river to-day and heard a great splash. Was not a little amused to see my new boy in the water with a lot of natives, boys and girls, having rare fun. They are a merry race when they have their belly full.
5th.—Rode to Guildford to hire a servant—a man and his son for 50s. a month.
6th.—Have been beset all day by natives. They pull the blossoms of the red gum tree (now in flower), steep them in water, and drink the water, which acquires a taste like sugar and water by this process. Some came here, bringing a young kangaroo dog of a fine breed. I had often (in my own mind) contemplated poisoning him. To my surprise, the natives called my attention suddenly to the dog, when I saw that some one had been beforehand with me. I told them all manner of stories about our dogs going mad, and that their bite was then fatal. They were greatly alarmed. I put my hand cautiously over his mouth, put him into the boat, and carried him to the other side of the river, where he soon died. They thought a snake had bit him. In the evening, there was a crying of natives at a distance. I ran with Weeip and some others to see. A number of strangers had arrived; the child of one had died, and they must have some spearing match about it. I begged them not to throw spears, but it appeared to be a very friendly or ceremonious transaction—some spears having been thrown harmlessly. After a little, it was mentioned to the owner of the dog that it had died—that his dog was dead by the bite of a snake. He had not been at my place before during the day, and had not heard of it till then. Instantly, there was a change of scene—he and his brother seized their spears, and seemed about to commence in good earnest, when others threw their arms round them and held them with difficulty. Angry feeling seemed to spread among them: the vengeance of these two seemed directed against a woman, whose husband was held also. When I left them, one of the natives was walking round and round this woman, while two had placed themselves on either side of her, and walked round in a circle, so as to keep one still between his spear and her. It was a strange sight. I asked Weeip what it meant. He said the owner was a little angry, and he would only spear her a little on the lower part of the leg. I have heard their voices very loud ever since. They will have troubled rest. All parties seemed to look upon me as a friend—though I confess I felt a little afraid at one time when they began to pronounce my name with great vehemence; it was in asserting that I had seen the dog die of snake bite. I held Mauli for a while, when he first snatched his spear, till another came to the rescue. One part of the scene was singular—the mother of the child that had died clung to the knees of one old man and uttered a long weeping recitative, while he stood apparently unmoved; at other times she threw herself on the bosom of another and wept out the same sort of droning song, which, from some detached words I caught, reminds me of the Irish keen, as a sort of address to the departed. It is ringing in my ears even now, while I write, at the distance of half a mile from them.
7th.—A very warm day. Some natives have been here before sunrise begging some grease to smear themselves for a battle. One of them was afterwards slightly wounded in the side by a spear. One young woman was speared through the arm and in the leg, and that was the extent of all the mighty business. I shot some birds for them and killed two at one shot, which raised a shout from both armies—about 40 men.
9th.—Again troubled with natives all day. Mr. Whitfield came here to breakfast. A Mr. Smith and his son called afterwards for information about the land up the river. There is a singular belief supposed to be general now among the natives that we are the spirits of their deceased friends, and they call many by the names of men long dead. Of one old man who is fast declining, they say that he will soon become a white man, and then he will have plenty of bread. They hold opinion with Pythagoras as Gratiano says, of the transmigration.
Fifty head of cattle have been seen at the Murray river, I suppose that place will turn out to be our cow pasture plains—a fine river running most if not all the year; yet this was not even known to exist at the settlement of this place. * * * A whaling vessel has put in here on account of some misunderstanding among the crew—some call it mutiny.
15th.—Here I am, just arrived after a whole week's work and a walk to-night of 18 miles. I had twenty-three causes and about a dozen motions, &c. Two of the causes were for libel; in one, our old friend Mr. S—, laid his damages at £500, and got one farthing and a good lecture into the bargain. I got paid to-day for a pair of slippers by a piece of iron hard cash! and another wishes me to take a pig for some other things. Mr. B— wants me to take a goose! These are the modes of payment. There is not any news; but the natives are becoming everywhere more bold, the colonists more uneasy, the Government more puzzled, and I fear a rupture if the offending natives be not removed wholesale to some island—which might be done.
Tuesday, March 18th.—Yesterday being "St. Patrick's Day in the morning," the Messrs. Burgess invited me to dine with them. A pleasant day it was, marked by one appropriate feature—they had tried and succeeded in distilling a small quantity of "potheen," which was our beverage.
This day I have had a number of natives here. I went to-night to their bivouac, which is close to this place. Some of them were busy sucking the honey water which they extracted from the flowers of the red gum tree; others baking their flour into cakes. They had two large native dogs. I have the natives much more about me than usual. I was much amused with the agility displayed by my pretty young friend Doodyep, yesterday, in climbing trees to gather the red gum blossoms. "By-and-bye, tumble down," she would cry, clinging to a branch by one arm, and playing all manner of antics. Her admiration of herself in the glass also was worthy of any more civilised coquette. There is one thing we are greatly at a loss for here, and that is a copper, or a large vessel for boiling, for brewing, for washing clothes, and many other requisites. They are very dear here—£6 for a small one.
Sunday, 24th.—Yesterday I closed a long letter to you, walked to Guildford in the evening, and slept at Mr. Tanner's, not having arrived there till a late hour. At Perth a novelty occurred, One of the natives, "Goodyak," was found in the act of stealing at Guildford, taken prisoner and brought to Perth, a solemn-looking investigation made, soldiers paraded, and, in the presence of the Governor, he got a good round dozen on the back, with a warning against worse. Just before leaving, news arrived that a vessel, the Aurazan, had arrived from Madras. Dreadful mortality there from cholera, only 25 men left alive of one regiment. It sounds like exaggeration, but such is the shape in which I heard it.
On Thursday last, I prepared myself to go into the bush and see this "gabbee yandit" (freshwater lake) so often mentioned, and, on Friday, after due preparation, Nat Shaw and myself, accompanied by the native Tommy as our guide, set out, we thinking, in our simplicity, that it was about 14 miles or so distant, as the natives spoke of it as one day's journey, and that we should see it early next morning. We urged Tommy to his speed, and gave him a ride now and then, and at sunset we reached our destination with difficulty after ten hours riding, the distance being not less than 33 miles in a due N. direction. It is a long winding valley of bays, swamps, and lakes, numbers of deep but shrunk-up pools of water, surrounded by tea-tree, spear-wattle, and bulrush. There was grass on the borders, but the country had been recently burned. We slept alongside of a party of natives, who were rather indifferent than friendly, and had not been much in communication with Europeans before. Our native took sick, and we left him with his friend whilst we made our way home by ourselves. On Saturday at 12 we returned. I was resting myself towards evening when a letter from Mackie was handed in, saying that the Quebec had arrived with one of my brothers and his wife. Here was a fuss. Letty comes running: "Sir, which of them is it? what will you do? where will he stay? where will you sleep?" and other questions which I could not answer. However, on Monday morning I posted down to Perth, found they had left that the day before, on their way to me; wheeled about and rode home, and found that they had arrived a few minutes after I had left.
Friday, 2nd May.—The day before yesterday some natives were caught by the younger Burgess stealing wheat from his store in Mr. Tanner's house (near this). They seemed greatly inclined to come to a deadly rupture with him, but by great courage and presence of mind he kept them at bay till assistance came, when they made off. They came down to my place to grind their wheat as usual at my mill. I challenged some as stolen wheat (knowing nothing at the time of what had occurred above), and took it from them, as I have frequently done before. One of them, Yeedomira, raised his spear at me, saying I was a bad man. I immediately took down the mill and prevented any from grinding, and told Yeedomira he was a bad man, and that white men would shoot him. I little thought that his doom was so near him. As one of the most active against Burgess, he was this day taken prisoner by the soldiers, and in attempting to escape was shot dead.
Some of the Murray river tribe committed a most daring act near Perth a few days since—having gone to a mill lately erected by Mr. Shenton on the opposite side of the river from Perth. They seized Mr. Shenton and his servant, held them down, with spears at their breast, intimating that they would kill them if they made any alarm. Meantime they plundered the mill of all the wheat and flour. One of these men also has been shot. These are useful examples and requisite, for they begin to be very daring in their depredations.
Saturday, 3rd May.—Mr. Norcott, lieutenant of mounted police, came here to-day to say that he had seen the natives, and that they had desired him to tell all the white men that they were friendly and would take no revenge on us for what had occurred. He had not long gone when Nat Shaw came galloping to tell us to look out for ourselves and our stock, for the natives had just speared one of the soldiers. He galloped off for the Doctor. I have not heard since whether the man is dead or not. The soldier was standing alone at the Barracks, when a shower of spears was thrown in at the door; one entered his abdomen. I went to shoot a duck to-day on the river; and just as I had fired, while standing in the boat, the boy gave a pull with his oars. I fell on my back, and the gun fell overboard into the very middle of the river. Here was a predicament! I immediately stripped and dived, and, after a quarter of an hour's plunging and groping, I fortunately touched it with my foot and got it up.
Wednesday.—The poor soldier died yesterday (May 6). It appears that Weeip was the chief contriver of the murder, which was perpetrated in the most treacherous manner, after eating bread from the soldiers and shaking hands with them, to throw them off their guard. There were three soldiers there at the time, and a woman and child; both of the latter had a narrow escape for their lives, the spears having touched the woman's arm and grazed the skin of the child's temple. The natives disappeared immediately before a shot could be fired. The spear which killed the man went right through his body, struck the wall against which he was sitting, and in some extraordinary way rebounded so as to fall out of his body. It was an armed spear, serrated near the point with pieces of quartz. We are all in indecision as to what is the best course to pursue. Our Government seems so nervous as not to know what to do, but I am sure no settler will now feel any compunction in putting Weeip or his associates to death if they could be found. They have all vanished now, as if there were no such inhabitants in this part of the country.
Thursday.—Rode down to Perth. On my way kept a good look out for natives. At one place seeing a dark object, skulking (as it were) from bush to bush, I came to a "stand still" of observation. My hand was on my pistol, and my heart "was in my mouth," when out started a great emu, to my great satisfaction.
The natives in summer set fire to the grass and dry herbage for the purpose of their hunting, and after the fire has passed over the ground, you could hardly find as much green food as would feed a rabbit, till the herbage has time to grow again. Over the hills the grants in that locality are less burned, being less frequented by white or black people. The climate, I should think, is rather moister there, for I hear of their having green grass throughout the summer. Few sorts here remain green, but it is surprising how soon all grass shoots out again when a little moisture comes; and some sorts spring up in an incredibly short time even after the greatest fires.
Wednesday, 26th.—I have just returned from Perth. There is little news by the Merope. We have a strange rumour afloat, of which no one can trace the origin, namely, that our Governor, Sir James Stirling, has been lost in a vessel which was wrecked in the Channel. They expected to find him here.
Very bad harvests in Van Diemen's Land; no assistance to be expected from that quarter. It is thought that one detachment of the 63rd will proceed to India by this vessel.
Friday, 28th.—Was obliged to send my sheep back again to the Edwards, not being able to keep them on my own grant, which has been so recently burnt. A native dog killed six chickens last night and almost killed the mother. They are a sad nuisance, like foxes. One of them in daylight to-day killed four geese of Edwards. I must try to make away with them before lambing time. The nux vomica must have lost its strength; it seems to have no effect on them.
Saturday, 29th.—Natives still quarrelling. Poor little Jucobang (my former protegée)—her child has died, and, I suppose to appease its manes, her husband speared in the thigh a nice little girl called Wulatneen. They are now busy digging the root of a broad sort of flag which grows in a swamp near this; some people say that this makes sago, or rather arrowroot. I must examine. It is tasteless to me, being fibrous and farinaceous.
Sunday, 30th.—Easter. Time was when it was a matter of religion (to say nothing of the pleasure) to eat numberless eggs on this day at the Bond's Glen, where father lived and my early life was spent. This morning I killed a lamb for our entertainment. The natives have been feasting on a sort of grub or worm which they find in numbers under the bark of the red gum trees. Those that I have had cut down present a fine store for them to have easy access to. The grub is a sort of long four-sided white worm or maggot, with a thick flat square head and a small pair of strong brown forceps set on the end of the head.
Monday, 31st.—Mr. Butler is here. He has been out exploring. Came to a lake not far from this in a N.N.W direction, towards the sea, which he reckons is 15 miles round, with good feeding about it and limestone soil.
Wednesday, April 2nd.—Got from the natives a piece of bread made of the root of the flag which they called yandyett. It tastes like a cake of oatmeal. They peel the root, roast and pound it, and bake it. The root is as thick as your finger, and a foot long. Some say it is arrowroot, but I made nothing out of it by pouring boiling water on it and simmering,
Wednesday, 9th.—The Merope is about to sail for Madras, via Mauritius, and to take the detachment of the 63rd on to head quarters at Madras. I fortunately brought this letter down and now take the opportunity of a moment of repose.
June, 18th.—To-day I have been busy preparing wheat for sowing. I am getting the holes of the drake riddle made a little larger, by pushing the alternate wires close together; the drake or darnel did not pass through before * * * Acted as a shepherd for a little to-day; there are now 84 lambs. What confusion of sounds and voices as the sheep are driven out! Such bleating of lambs, such searching of the mothers for their young—such laughable mistakes—yet how soon discovered. A lamb is not very scrupulous, but will accommodate itself with almost any mother which will stand quiet. Not so the mother. Smelling, she soon detects and drives off the intruder, pushing it away unceremoniously with her head. Yet sometimes they commit mistakes, and take up with a wrong lamb, neglecting their own. I have no less than four instances of this among mine now, and we must rear them by hand.
June, 19th.—To-day Mr. Shaw and I took a walk up to Mr. Brown's grant to see the land. Everything looks beautiful. There we met eight or nine natives; among them were two of those connected with the death of the soldier, already referred to. They had the daring to go to the soldiers and get some wheat there. Their object I suppose is to lull suspicion in order to catch Weeip. Coming back we saw two turkeys, but could not get near them. My shepherd came to me with gloomy looks this evening, and in that mood he does not restrain his tongue. We have had a row, and I think I shall discharge him * * * I have now in my flock 240 sheep, independent of lambs, which it is too soon to count yet. I rejoice that I did not send them to the Canning River to Mr. Phillips, for the natives have killed some of his lately, and some also have died from a complaint which has been in many places prevalent among sheep.
June 20th.—Bought a pitch kettle, chafing dish, and some figure brands to-day * * * A number of natives were here again this morning. I made them useful in shooting crows on the wheat ground * * * The process of cleaning wheat for sowing is very tedious—perhaps not more than three bushels per day is cleaned by means of the drake sieve. I shall try to make a screen on a small scale. I have about eight acres of wheat now sown, and about four acres of land ready for being sown. I am busy making ready a piece of ground for the mixed clover and grass seeds which you forwarded; what you sent heretofore is looking well—when it grew on a suitable soil.
24th.—Plagued all day with natives coming to get wheat ground. Made two of them useful in shooting at crows, and in the evening they brought me a duck which they had shot. * * * Capt. Ellis, Superintendent of Natives, came here this evening in search of some delinquents among them; but though three of them were actually here at the time, he did not succeed in taking any. He intends to try and take Weeip to-night; perhaps this might keep them off us for a little.
June 25th.—Capt. Ellis has taken the natives Beelyimerra and Geear prisoners, and carried them to Perth to the great discomfiture of the other natives. Two of them have been with me all day, Tomghin and Winat. The former has made himself useful in the kitchen cleaning knives, sawing wood, etc. The latter went with me to shoot ducks and made himself very useful also. I got a brace, and my native friend Bolatman shot one yesterday, so that we have a very acceptable supply of fresh meat. Tomghin has begged to be allowed to stay here to-night, and is amusing the party in the kitchen by imitating "white men dance."
Thursday, 26th.—Had several men out all day searching in vain for my bullocks. They have joined Mr. Bull's herd, as I have now been informed * * * We have been much amused with Tomghin in the kitchen. After cleaning some brass candlesticks, a very dirty iron one was given him. He said it was "ugly old man." Lost a lamb last night, which was carried off by native dogs. A ewe and lamb are out to-night, and I fear we shall have a bad account of them also. Planted seven vine cuttings to-day, and as many peaches, which seem to grow by cuttings also.
Friday, 27th.—One of my best ewes was found dead to-day, torn by natives' dogs, I presume. I must count them all over, to ascertain whether it is one of J—'s or mine; if it be one of mine—which I suspect, from the relics of skin and bone—it was one of the largest of Van Diemen's Land ewes, and had a lamb yesterday, in which case they are much inclined to secrete themselves in a quiet place till the lamb is able to follow the mother; and so the shepherd misses them * * * Have tried transplanting potatoes to a considerable extent this year. They are self-sown from what remains in the ground—not sufficient to fill the ground properly yet too valuable to be lost. In this way I shall have a good number of potatoes self-sown and otherwise—perhaps half an acre. If I could procure seed now I have manure to plant an acre, but they are selling at 6d. a pound and very few to be had at the price.
Saturday 28th.—The native Geear has been flogged; the other is detained. Those in this neighbourhood have again been stealing from a man called Waller. I had upwards of twenty natives here to-day * * * Had a great piece of work branding sheep, but did not get the job finished. Counting my lambs I find there are 110 now, and 231 sheep in the fold. Several are to lamb yet * * * * Cabbage, onion, &c., seeds do not come. Apropos, I broke a piece of virgin ground to-day, ground probably not stirred since the Creation, or the last terrestial convulsion. It is a common circumstance here, but what a singular train of ideas it leads the mind into! Meanwhile, it looks rich black deep vegetable mould. There is only about an acre of it together at that spot; it is in a gentle hollow between two of those knolls of ground which I have so often described as forming a characteristic feature of this locality. * * *
Saturday, July 5th.—The Eagle schooner has arrived from Sydney bringing some flour and some stock, but no meat, which is very scarce now in the colony. The captain of the ship (Pratt) has been often here before trading between this and Sydney, and he has now brought his wife and family to settle here. I think this fact speaks for itself. He gives a gloomy account of the Sydney colony.
We have been trying to rig out a fishing net as a trammel net, in hopes of catching some fish, but there is so much delay in getting up some corks and leads which are still in Fremantle that I fear the winter floods may prevent us. You possibly do not understand what a "trammel net,"—or "wall-net" as others call it—is. I will describe it: a small meshed net, as long as you please but about 6 feet deep, is suspended perpendicularly in the water by ropes and corks; on either side of this net another net of the same length and depth is attached to the same ropes, but the mesh of these two outer nets is about six inches square, so that a fish coming up or down the river passes through the wide mesh of the nearest net without obstruction, strikes against the middle small-meshed net, and, pushing on a part of the middle net through the wide meshed net on the further side, it then gets itself entangled or detained in a purse or pocket which prevents its return or escape * * * Just fancy! Mr. B—, who lately got out some Irish beef to sell, asks now the moderate sum of twelve guineas a tierce for it. My men are all grumbling because I have ceased to give meat to them at breakfast whilst it is so scarce. Mr. Robert Brockman and Mr. N. Shaw have been here for tea this evening. * * * I noticed that one of my lambs had its stomach full of dry earth. I have often observed them eating clay; perhaps it is for the salt which it contains.
I left this on Monday after an early dinner, and rode to Guildford, where I did not arrive till sunset. Had a cool but dark walk thence to Perth, as I sent the mare back from Guildford for several reasons, one of which is that there is a ferry where you must pay a shilling; then, my stay in Perth is always uncertain, and horses are very badly taken care of there.
Friday, July 11.—To-day I find that a great sensation has been created in the colony by rumours which have come to us, only through the natives, of a vessel that was wrecked nearly six months ago (30 days journey, as they described it) to the North of this, which is conjectured to be about Sharks Bay. Further enquiries have been made from the natives; they say that "wayl-men"—men from a distance to the North—have told them of it, and that there are men and women and children still alive, inhabiting two larger and smaller tents made of poles and canvas; that the ship is quite destroyed by the sea; and that a large quantity of money, like dollars, is lying on the shore. Here is a matter of most painful and absorbing interest. There have been great discussions among the members of the Government about what is the best course to pursue, in which discussions I have been in some respects a participator. An expedition by land with horses was first thought of, but, from the great price of horses, &c., it was found that it would require nearly £500 to equip such an expedition. It is now determined to send off a vessel direct to Sharks Bay, and thence to commence a search north and south along the coast—which is of such a nature that it cannot be approached from sea except at two or three points all the way up there. It is awful to contemplate the sufferings of the wretched survivors. All here have been anxious about them, and I myself have not been idle so far as my thoughts and powers went; but I shall explain this in due order.
In the midst of our discussions, I suggested the possibility of forwarding a letter to the sufferers by means of the natives, and to get the Government to authorise me to offer the liberation of Billymera (Weeip's son) who is now in prison, as an inducement to any of them who would carry a letter there and bring an answer back. Full of this project I set out for home, but it was already night when I arrived at Guildford, and it began to rain very heavily; so I stopped at Mr. Tanner's, having first made enquiries everywhere in that neighbourhood for any natives, and greatly desiring to see my old friend Tomgkin; but the soldiers had unfortunately just begun a system of patrolling, which alarmed all the natives, and they had disappeared. This was rather a damper to my ardour, but with the dawn of day I set out for home, and, immediately after breakfast, mounted my mare and rode out on the forlorn hope of "looking for natives," wishing that Weeip could be seen for a moment, though I should compromise myself by holding intercourse with an outlawed proscribed murderer—that is, in the eye of our law.
Rode first to Mr. Shaw's; no sign there. Rode to Mr. Bull's; some natives had been there recently, and could not be far away. Followed and overtook some, and began to talk to them, but found they knew little of my language or manner. Suddenly recollecting that one of them had formerly called himself a son of Weeip's, I took him on one side and told him I wanted some one who could understand me. Sounded him about Weeip himself, when, at last, having assured himself of my intentions, he offered to take me to Weeip. I did not hesitate a moment, but went immediately along with him into some thick bush, where he stopped, whistled, and mentioned my name. Like a spectre, Weeip appeared from behind a bush, and came smiling to meet me, with his hand outstretched. I could not refuse it, and coming at once to the point with him, I related to him, in his own language and manner, that "black man" had told "white man" that other white men, our friends, were sitting on the ground at a distance, crying, and that the ship which had walked with them over the sea from England was broken upon the rocks, that the white men here were sorrowful, and that I would give black fellow a "paper talk," that black fellow should give that "paper talk " to the white fellow at a distance; that my "paper talk" should stop there, and that the white man at a distance should give another "paper talk to black fellow, who should come back soon and give it to Mr. Moore, and that Billymerra, his son, would then be a friend, and Governor would say, "walk away, friend."
I spent an hour trying to impress the urgency and importance of the mission upon him. He seemed doubtful about something, but I urged, explained, showed my earnestness by look, word, and gesture, and by sketches on the sand told him he could not deceive us; that the paper would tell whether he had seen white men, that Billymerra would be free if he did it, and that I would speak to the Governor in his favour. There seemed a discussion among the natives, who had now all joined us, and at last he said he would go away now, that if I brought him the letter when he walked a little space, and come to a spot which he pointed out, he would speak. I rode to Mr. Bull's, wrote a letter to the survivors, telling them of the ship going to their relief, requested them to look out make signals, hoist flags, raise beacons, make fires, &c., to send the bearer instantly with instructions where they were, &c. Wrote two or three placards to the same effect in large writing; folded or rolled the whole very tightly in a small piece of oiled skin, and returned at appointed hour to the spot we had agreed on. Looked round on all sides; nothing to my right, a valley to my left, an extensive plain in front. No living thing in sight. Called out, and was instantly answered from the opposite side of the valley—a vantage ground, from which four natives were observing all my movements, so that they could easily have avoided detection or escaped pursuit had they seen anything suspicious about my appearance. As it was, I dashed boldly down the side of the valley, crossed the creek, and, ascending on the other side, was quietly received by them, though I could not help observiong that they were furnished with a formidable quantity of war spears with which they had equipped themselves since my last visit.
I showed Weeip the small parcel—about as thick as a man's finger, and four inches long; and asked him if he would go? He readily said, Yes. All his scruples and demurs seemed to be at an end. He told me his plan. He should take two others with him, avoid some tribes who were not friendly, and keep near the coast; would reach his destination in 15 days, and come back in the same time. I made him calculate them over and over again; it was the same. I tied the parcel firmly to his belt, and he took his departure, again shaking hands, and twice looking back to say "Goodbye, Mr. Moore." I responded as often, "Good-bye, Weeip." As I turned away I felt a glow of satisfaction. I had thus been enabled to place a father in the way of earning liberty for his son, and probable redemption of himself, as well as relieving these poor fellow-creatures from the miseries of a state of lingering and hopeless proscription. I have dwelt long on this for it made a great impression upon me. It is not often that such an adventure comes in our way. Perhaps you will not grudge the space which I have devoted to it.
Conjecture is busy as to what vessel it can be. We have long expected a ship called the Mercury which is said to have sailed from Madras on 3rd of October. The time agrees, but nautical men consider it impossible, as no vessel from India should be near that part of the coast. On enquiry, I find the "wayl-men" long since brought some crowns and half crowns and other British coin here, but it was supposed that they had either stolen them or that some foolishly liberal person had given the money to them. The coin being all British, confirms the opinion that the vessel must be an outward bound Chinaman.
This evening I met Mr. B., who had been absent all day. He seemed nettled at the idea that I should have seen the native without his intervention, and I really am almost afraid that he may be interfering in some way, which will raise jealousy and alarm in the minds of the natives. I told him that the man's life and his son's liberty depended upon this act, and their blood must be on his head if he frustrated it.
Saturday.—Have just ridden down to Perth, and find that the Captain of the Eagle has suddenly declared his intention of sailing to-morrow morning, and that letters must be sent in within the hour. It is fortunate I brought my letters down with me.
[Another gap here occurs in the diary, and the result of Weeip's mission to Shark's Bay (already referred to) is not given by Mr. Moore. It would appear however, that he performed it satisfactorily, for in September he received a formal pardon from Sir James Stirling, and Billymerra was released from custody. The report of a wreck at Shark's Bay appears to have been incorrect.]