Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/34

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In the latter end of 1832, I had occasion to visit the capital of the province of Western Australia. It was one of those lovely spring mornings, which in the southern hemisphere, shed an indescribably balmy influence on all around. The acacia was in full bloom, the birds were chanting the notes of their morning hymn, and every creature, excepting man, seemed to rejoice in conscious innocence, gratefully acknowledging the goodness of a beneficent creator. The contemplation of a scene so cheering, as I passed along, beguiled my weary steps in a rather fatiguing journey of several miles.

When I emerged from the forest, and cast my eyes on the embryo capital, I beheld men, women, and children, running from all points towards its centre. Inquiring into the cause of a commotion so great and universal, one of the women, running along with a babe in her arms, cried, "O that terrible man is taken." I soon learned that a powerful chief had just been insnared by stratagem, and made prisoner; a chief on whose head, for the display of a feeling similar to that which immortalized Tell of Switzerland and Wallace of Scotland, the government had set a price. Two others that accompanied him, were taken with him. By the offer of bread, and feigned signs of honourable intentions, they had been inveigled into a boat, which, for this very purpose, had put off from the town to the opposite side of the water, where a number of natives, thinking themselves there secure, the river being from one to three miles broad, were observed to be employed in fishing. So soon as the men in the boat got their unsuspecting victims into their power, they seized, bound, and carried them off, in view of their respective tribes, who stood amazed, and mad with indignation at the perfidy thus practised upon them.

When I came within a few hundred yards of the governor's residence, I found a crowd collecting in the open air, in front of he guards-house, with the lieutenant-governor and council in the midst, assembled apparently for deliberation, and the three captive chiefs bound hand and foot, and lying on the ground, in fearful expectation of the doom that awaited them. Not a word of their language was known; nor did they know a syllable of that of the people whose captives they were. The principal chief maintained a stern silence, viewing all around him with sullen disregard. The other two, displaying a presence of mind, courage, and fortitude, not always possessed by the warrior under similar circumstances,