Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/39

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the first twinkling of the morning star, struggling through the haze, while ascending the horizon to proclaim the approach of "the day spring from on high" to Australia. So, at least, I earnestly prayed and fondly hoped.

Among the spars for the erection of the huts, were several of the melaluca, of which the natives make their weapons of war. These immediately attracted their attention; and they solicited leave to make a few spears, taking care to explain that it was only for the purpose of fishing. Compliance with such a request in the circumstances in which we were placed, would appear to many a dangerous experiment. In my mind, it excited no apprehensions. Desirous to afford them every innocent gratification, and to banish that distrust which is injurious to social intercourse, I granted them permission. Nor was this or any other indulgence ever abused. The guard, not being under the command of an officer, and not choosing to be under my control, instead of keeping watch at night always slept. There was therefore nothing to prevent the prisoners from at any time taking the lives of all on the island. Yet such a friendly and mutual confidence prevailed, on their part and mine, that though the soldiers thus passed every night in bed in their tents, I slept by the side of these savages in the open air, as safe and as tranquil as if I had been guarded by a thousand.

Things went on in every way to my satisfastion, and promised to realize my most sanguine expectations, till an incident occurred which interrupted the harmony that reigned in our little camp, and ultimately frustrated my grand design—their instruction in Christianity and its propagation, through their instrumentality, among their own and the adjacent tribes.

One morning the soldier—for there was only one on the island with me at the time—very injudiciously called Yagan to work before he had finished his breakfast. Yagan, still recollecting that he was a chief, did not choose to be so unceremoniously dealt with, and refused. The soldier threatened, till Yagan's temper began to rise, when the one ran for his musket and the other for his spear. I was at some distance, but providentially heard the noise; and, on looking towards the place whence it came, beheld the soldier with his firelock rushing to the combat and Yagan standing to receive him, with the passions of the savage in full play, and the spear quivering in his hand ready to heave. It was a critical moment. I ran to the spot and rushed in between them, not knowing but I might receive the bullet of the one and the spear of the other. But the moment I gained the dangerous position, Yagan, with a dignity and grace I shall never forget, surrendered, placing his spear, and with that his life, in my hands;