Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/44

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with them in token of friendship.' All immediately ran to seize my hands, save the moody chief himself. They had grouped around me, evidently attending to the argument, and glad of any thing like a friendly pause. Yagan stepped forward, and leaning with his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitation, looking earnestly in my face. I regret that I could not fully understand it. I thought, from the tone and manner that the purport of it was this:—'You came to our country—you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country, we are fired upon by the white men—why should the white men treat us so?' This song reminded me of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, and was commented upon and explained in this way by the other natives, who seemed all to act as subordinate characters to Yagan. After a short interlude, Yagan approached again; and fixing his eyes as if to read the countenance, said inquiringly, 'Is Midjegoorong shot? or, is he sent to Carnac?' I felt the question was full of hazard, and gave no reply. Weeup anxiously asked the same questions, putting his finger to my ear to know if I heard or understood him. I answered slowly: 'The white men are angry—the Governor is angry' My men, however, assured him that Mdjegoorong was sent to Carnac. Yagan continued to read my countenance; and when he could get no answer from me, said, with extraordinary vehemence of manner, distinctness of utterance, and emphasis of tone: 'If the white men shoot Midjegoorong Yagan will kill three,' holding up three fingers. I said, 'Were Yagan to kill all the white men, the soldiers would shoot Yagan.' He scowled a look of daring defiance, and turned on his heel with an air of ineffable disdain.

"He was accompanied by a select band from his own tribe, stood pre-eminent in height among those around him, and walked very erect. During the greater part of this conference he held a beautifully tapered and exquisitely pointed spear, grasped like a stiletto about fourteen inches from the point, while the shaft lay over his shoulder with a seeming carelessness. He evidently dreaded treachery; and was on his guard against it, taking care not to let the Europeans press on him too closely, and keeping generally some of the natives between him and them. Nothing short of an overpowering force, which I did not possess, or a cold-blooded deliberate treachery, of which I was not capable, would have sufficed to secure him as he then stood. I may be blamed by some for not having made an attempt; but, were he who finds fault placed in the same situation, he must be more or less than a man to act differently.