21 – 31 May

May 21.

A good passageway having been made, we crossed the watercourse and
proceeded towards Lake Stapylton as I understood that there we might
easily recross. I was informed by Burnett that when the journey commenced
this morning the gins in the bush had not responded to Piper’s call until
after such a search as convinced him that both intended to leave the
party. He said that in such cases the law of the aborigines was that the
two first attempts of a wife to leave her husband might be punished by a
beating, but that for the third offence he might put her to death. On the
way we traversed the head of a creek somewhat similar to the last, at a
place where it was nearly level with the plain although, just below, it
contained a fine reach of water obviously supplied by the river.

SERIOUS ACCIDENT; A CARTWHEEL PASSES OVER THE WIDOW’S CHILD.

Here an unfortunate accident befel the little native child Ballandella
who fell from a cart and, one of the wheels passing over, broke her
thigh. On riding up I found The Widow her mother in great distress,
prostrate in the dust with her head under the limb of the unfortunate
child. I made the doctor set it immediately; but the femora having been
broken very near the socket, it was found difficult to bandage the limb
so as to keep the bone in its place. Every care however was taken of the
poor little infant that circumstances would allow; and she bore the pain
with admirable patience though only four years old. In her cries on first
meeting with the accident she was heard to call for Majy, a curious
instance of this child’s sense at so early an age.

I found that the ground near the lake afforded so good a position for a
depot that I encamped upon it with the intention of ascertaining what
grass the neighbourhood afforded, and how the situation was likely to
answer this purpose in other respects. It had been latterly my intention
to leave the carts, boats, and most of the cattle in a depot at the
junction of the Murrumbidgee and Murray; and to proceed with two light
carts only and a month’s provisions to complete the survey of the
Darling. We were now, I considered, within three days’ journey, at most,
of that junction (according to Arrowsmith’s map) and as these rivers were
dangerous to the cattle, and their banks much frequented by the natives,
such a place as this seemed more convenient and secure for a temporary
depot.

GRAVES OF THE NATIVES.

On the rising ground near our camp were several graves, all inclosed in
separate parterres of exactly the same remarkable double or triple ridges
as those first seen on the lower part of the Lachlan. There were three of
these parterres all lying due east and west. On one, evidently the most
recent, the ashes of a hut appeared over the grave. On another, which
contained two graves (one of a small child) logs of wood mixed with long
grass were neatly piled transversely; and in the third, which was so
ancient that the enclosing ridges were barely visible, the grave had sunk
into a grassy hollow. I understood from The Widow that such tombs were
made for men and boys only, and that the ashes over the most recent one
were the remains of the hut which had been burnt and abandoned after the
murder of the person whose body was buried beneath had been avenged by
the tribe to whom the brother or relative keeping it company above ground
had belonged.

CHOOSE A POSITION FOR THE DEPOT.

May 22.

This morning the bullock-drivers gave so favourable an account of the

pasture that I determined to leave a depot there and to set out next

morning with the rest of the party for the Darling. The day was therefore

passed in making the necessary arrangements. I proposed leaving Mr.

Stapylton with eight trusty men; and to take with me the rest, consisting

of fifteen, including Burnett and Piper. I calculated on being absent

four weeks at most; and rations for the supply of the party for that time

were immediately weighed out and packed, along with our tents, in two

light carts which were to be drawn by five bullocks each. Thus I expected

to be able to travel fifteen miles a day; and to have the men in better

order for dealing with the fire-eaters of the Darling than when they were

all occupied as bullock-drivers, carters, etc. etc.

MY HORSE KILLED BY THE KICK OF A MARE.

May 23.

Before I got up this morning I was informed that the same unlucky mare

which had already caused the death of one of the horses had just broken

the thigh of my own horse; and thus I was forced to have it shot when it

was in better condition than usual, having been spared from working much

for some time that it might be fresh for this excursion. Such an

inauspicious event on the morning of my intended departure for the

Darling was by no means encouraging. I left The Widow at the depot camp,

having given directions that she should have rations and that every care

should be taken of the child whose broken limb had been set and bound to

a board in such a manner that the little patient could not, by moving,

disturb the bone in healing. Mr. Stapylton was aware of the necessity for

preventing The Widow from going back just then, lest she might have

fallen into the hands of any pilfering tribe likely to follow us. The

accident which had befallen Ballandella (of whom she was very fond) was

however likely to be a tie on her, at least until our return; for it

would have been very injurious to have moved the child in less than

several weeks. A stockyard was to be erected for the cattle that they

might be brought up there every night during our absence; and the men

appointed to remain at the depot were told off in watches for the cattle

and camp.

PROCEED TO THE DARLING WITH A PORTION OF THE PARTY.

Mr. Stapylton and I then separated with a mutual and most sincere wish

that we should meet again as soon as possible. The position of the camp

was excellent, being on the elevated edge of a plain overlooking an

extensive reach of water, and surrounded with grass in greater abundance

and variety than we had seen in any part for some time.

During our progress this day we were for some miles in danger of being

shut in by the creek extending from the lake, as it increased

prodigiously and at length resembled a still reach of the Murrumbidgee

itself. After crossing it several times I was fortunate enough to be able

to keep the right bank, by which we got clear, passing along the edge of

a slight fall which looked like the berg of the main stream.

REACH THE MURRAY.

At 7 1/2 miles we crossed ground of a more open character than any we had

seen for some days; and it appeared to belong to the river margin, as it

was marked by some yarra trees. On approaching this river I judged, from

the breadth of its channel, that we were already on the banks of the

Murray. Thus without making any detour, and much sooner than I had reason

to expect from the engraved map, we had reached the Murray, and our depot

thus proved to be in the best situation for subsequently crossing that

river at its junction with the Murrumbidgee, as originally intended.

Leaving a little plain on our right, we entered the goborro or box-forest

with the intention of keeping near the river; but from this we had to

recede on meeting with a small but deep branch of the stream with some

water in it. Proceeding next directly towards some high trees at the

western extremity of the plains, we reached a favourable bend of the

Murray and there encamped.

ITS BREADTH AT OUR CAMP. DESCRIPTION OF ITS BANKS.

This magnificent stream was 165 yards broad, its waters were whitish, as

if tinged with some flood; the height of the red bank, not subject to

inundation, was 25 feet and by comparing these measurements with the

Murrumbidgee, which at Weyeba was 50 yards wide, with banks 11 feet high

(and that seemed a fine river) some idea may be formed of the Murray.* At

the place where we encamped the river had no bergs, for its bank

consisted of the common red earth covered with the acacia bushes and

scrub of the interior plains. The land at the point opposite was lower

and sandy, and a slight rapid was occasioned in the stream by a ridge of

ironstone.

(*Footnote. See comparative sections of these and other rivers to one

scale on the General Map in Volume 1.)

May 24.

It was quite impossible to say on what part of the Murray, as laid down

by Captain Sturt, we had arrived; and we were therefore obliged to feel

our way just as cautiously as if we had been upon a river unexplored. The

ground was indeed a tolerable guide, especially after we found that this

river also had bergs which marked the line of separation between the

desert plain or scrub and the good grassy forest-land of which the

river-margin consisted. As we proceeded I found it best to keep along the

bergs as much as possible in order to avoid ana-branches* of the river.

Where the bergs receded forest land with the goborro or dwarf-box

intervened. In travelling over ground of this description we crossed, at

two miles from the camp, a dry creek or branch, and another at a mile and

a quarter further.

(*Footnote. Having experienced on this journey the inconvenient want of

terms relative to rivers I determined to use such of those recommended by

Colonel Jackson in his able paper on the subject, in the Journal of the

Royal Geographical Society for 1833, as I might find necessary. They are

these:

Tributary: Any stream adding to the main trunk.

Ana-branches: Such as after separation unite.

Berg, bergs: Heights now at some distance, once the immediate banks of a

river or lake.

Bank: That part washed by the existing stream.

Border: The vegetation at the water’s edge, forest trees, or quays of

granite, etc.

Brink: The water’s edge.

Margin: The space between the brinks and the bergs.)

MEET WITH A TRIBE.

Soon after we entered a small plain bounded on the west by another dry

channel, and beyond this we were prevented from continuing in the

direction in which I wished to travel by a creek full of water, obliging

us to turn northward and eastward of north until I at length found a

crossing-place, and just as we perceived smoke at some distance beyond

the other bank. To this smoke Piper had hastened, and when I reached a

plain beyond the creek I saw him carrying on a flying conversation with

an old man and several gins who were retiring in a north-west direction

to a wood about a mile distant.

LAKE BENANEE.

This wood we also at length reached, and we found that it encircled a

beautiful lake full sixteen miles in circumference and swarming with

natives both on the beach and in canoes.

The alarm of our arrival was then resounding among the natives whom I saw

in great numbers along its western shores. This lake, like all those we

had previously seen, was surrounded by a ridge of red earth, rather

higher than the adjacent plains, and it was evidently fed, during high

floods, by the creek we had crossed. I travelled due west from the berg

of this lake along the plain which extended in that direction a mile and

three-quarters. We then came to another woody hollow or channel in which

I could at first see only a field of polygonum, although we soon found in

it a broad deep reach of still water. In tracing it to the left or from

the lake towards the river, we found it increased so much in width and

depth, after tracing it three-quarters of a mile, that a passage in that

direction seemed quite out of the question. Many of the natives who had

followed us in a body from the lake overtook us here. They assured Piper

that we were near the junction of this piece of water with the Millewa

(Murray) and that in the opposite direction, or towards the lake, they

could show us a ford. We accordingly turned and we came to a narrow place

where the natives had a fish-net set across. On seeing us preparing to

pass through the ford, they told Piper that, at a point still higher up,

we might cross where the channel was dry. Thither therefore we went, the

natives accompanying us in considerable numbers, but each carrying a

green bough. Among them were several old men who took the most active

part and who were very remarkable from the bushy fulness and whiteness of

their beards and hair; the latter growing thickly on the back and

shoulders gave them a very singular appearance, and accorded well with

that patriarchal authority which the old men seem to maintain to an

astonishing degree among these native tribes. The aged chiefs from time

to time beckoned to us, repeating very often and fast at the same time

“goway, goway, goway,” which, strange to say, means “come, come, come.”

Their gesture and action being also precisely such as we should use in

calling out “go away!” We crossed the channel at length where the bed was

quite dry, and pitched our tents on the opposite side.

DISCOVER THE NATIVES TO BE THOSE LAST SEEN ON THE DARLING.

It will however be readily understood with what caution we followed these

natives when we discovered, almost as soon as we fell in with them, that

they were actually our old enemies from the Darling! I had certainly

heard, when still far up on the Lachlan, that these people were coming

down to fight us; but I little expected they were to be the first natives

we should meet with on the Murray, at a distance of nearly two hundred

miles from the scene of our former encounter. There was something so

false in a forced loud laugh, without any cause, which the more plausible

among them would frequently set up, that I was quite at a loss to

conceive what they meant by all this uncommon civility. In the course of

the afternoon they assembled their women and children in groups before

our camp, exactly as they had formerly done on the Darling; and one or

two small parties came in, whose arrival they seemed to watch with

particular attention, hailing them while still at a distance as if to

prevent mistakes. We now ascertained through Piper that the tribe had

fled precipitately from the Darling last year to the country westward,

and did not return until last summer, when they found the two bullocks we

left there; which, having become fat, they had killed and eaten. We also

ascertained that some of the natives then in the camp wore the teeth of

the slaughtered animals, and that they had much trouble in killing one of

them, as it was remarkably fierce. This we knew so well to the character

of one of the animals that we had always supposed it would baffle every

attempt of these savages to take it.

In the group before me were pointed out two daughters of the gin which

had been killed, also a little boy, a son. The girls exactly resembled

each other and reminded me of the mother. The youngest was the handsomest

female I had ever seen amongst the natives. She was so far from black

that the red colour was very apparent in her cheeks. She sat before me in

a corner of the group, nearly in the attitude of Mr. Bailey’s fine statue

of Eve at the fountain; and apparently equally unconscious that she was

naked. As I looked upon her for a moment, while deeply regretting the

fate of her mother, the chief who stood by, and whose hand had more than

once been laid upon my cap, as if to feel whether it were proof against

the blow of a waddy, begged me to accept her in exchange for a tomahawk!

HARASSING NIGHT IN THEIR PRESENCE.

The evening was one of much anxiety to the whole party. The fiendish

expression of some of these men’s eyes shone horribly, and especially

when they endeavoured to disguise it by treacherous smiles. I did not see

the tall man nor the mischievous old one of last year; but there were

here many disposed to act like them. One miserable-looking dirty aged man

was brought forward, and particularly pointed out to me by the tribe. I

accordingly showed him the usual attention of sitting down and smoothing

the ground for him.* But he soon requested me to strip, on which I arose,

mindful of a former vow, and perceiving the blacksmith washing himself, I

called him up and pointed out the muscles of his arm to the curious sage.

The successor and brother, as the natives stated, of king Peter, was also

looking on, and I made Vulcan put himself into a sparring attitude and

tip him a touch or two, which made him fall back one or two paces, and

look half angry. We distinctly recognised the man who last year threw the

two spears at Muirhead; while on their part they evidently knew again

Charles King who, on that occasion, fired at the native from whose spears

Tom Jones so narrowly escaped.

(*Footnote. Instead of handing a chair the equivalent of politeness with

Australian natives is to smooth down or remove with the foot any sharp

spikes or rubbish on the ground where you wish your friend to be seated

before you.)

Night had closed in and these groups hung still about us, having also

lighted up five large fires which formed a cordon around our camp. Still

I did not interfere with them, relying chiefly on the sagacity and

vigilance of Piper whom I directed to be particularly on the alert. At

length Burnett came to inform me that they had sent away all their gins,

that there was no keeping them from the carts, and that they seemed bent

on mischief.

PIPER ALARMED.

Piper also took alarm and came to me inquiring, apparently with a

thoughtful sense of responsibility, what the Governor had said to me

about shooting blackfellows. “These,” he continued, “are only Myalls”

(wild natives). His gin had overheard them arranging that three should

seize and strip him, while others attacked the tents. I told him the

Governor had said positively that I was not to shoot blackfellows unless

our own lives were in danger. I then went out–it was about eight

o’clock–and I saw one fellow, who had always been very forward, posted

behind our carts and speaking to Piper’s wife.

ROCKETS FIRED TO SCARE THEM AWAY.

I ordered him away, then drew up the men in line and when, as

preconcerted, I sent up a rocket and the men gave three cheers, all the

blacks ran off, with the exception of one old man who lingered behind a

tree. They hailed us afterwards from the wood at a little distance where

they made fires, saying they were preparing to corrobory and inviting us

to be present. Piper told them to go on, and we heard something like a

beginning to the dance, but the hollow sounds they made resembled groans

more than any sort of music, and we saw that they did not, in fact,

proceed with the dance. It was necessary to establish a double watch that

night and indeed none of the men would take their clothes off. The most

favourable alternative that we could venture to hope for was that a

collision might be avoided till daylight.

THEY AGAIN ADVANCE IN THE MORNING.

May 25.

The night passed without further molestation on the part of the natives;

but soon after daybreak they were seen advancing towards our camp. The

foremost was a powerful fellow in a cloak, to whom I had been introduced

by king Peter last year, and who was said to be his brother. Abreast of

him, but much more to the right, two of the old men, who had reached a

fallen tree near the tents, were busy setting fire to the withering

branches. Those who were further back seemed equally alert in setting

fire to the bush and, the wind coming from that quarter, we were likely

soon to be enveloped in smoke. I was then willing that the barbarians

should come again up, and anxious to act on the defensive as long as

possible; but when I saw what the old men were about I went into my tent

for my rifle and ordered all the men under arms. The old rascals, with

the sagacity of foxes, instantly observed and understood this movement

and retired.

MEN ADVANCE TOWARDS THEM HOLDING UP THEIR FIREARMS.

I then ordered eight men to advance towards the native camp, and to hold

up their muskets as if to show them to the natives, but not to fire

unless attacked, and to return at the sound of the bugle.

THEY RETIRE, AND WE CONTINUE OUR JOURNEY.

The savages took to their heels before these men who, following the

fugitives, disappeared for a time in the woods but returned at the bugle

call. This move, which I intended as a threat and as a warning that they

should not follow us, had at least the effect of giving us time to

breakfast, as Muirhead observed on coming back to the camp.

AGAIN FOLLOWED BY THE NATIVES. DANGER OF THE PARTY.

We afterwards moved forward on our journey as usual; but we had scarcely

proceeded a mile before we heard the savages in our rear and, on my

regaining the Murray, which we reached at about three miles, they were

already on the bank of that river, a little way above where we had come

upon it and consequently as we proceeded along its bank they were behind

us. They kept at a considerable distance; but I perceived through my

glass that the fellow with the cloak carried a heavy bundle of spears

before him.

He comes, not in peace, O Cairbar:

For I have seen his forward spear. Ossian.

LONG MARCH THROUGH A SCRUBBY COUNTRY.

We were then upon a sloping bank or berg,* which was covered backwards

with thick scrub; below it lay a broad reach of still water in an old

channel of the river and which I, for some time, took to be the river

itself. It was most painfully alarming to discover that the knowledge

these savages had acquired of the nature of our arms, by the loss of

several lives last year, did not deter them from following us now with

the most hostile intentions.

(*Footnote. See above.)

DISMAL PROSPECT.

We had endeavoured to prevent them, by the demonstration of sending the

men advancing with firearms, yet they still persisted; and Piper had

gathered from them that a portion of their tribe was still before us. Our

route lay along the bank of a river, peopled by other powerful tribes;

and at the end of 200 miles we could only hope to reach the spot where

the party already following in our rear had commenced the most unprovoked

hostility last season. I had then thought it unsafe to divide my party,

it was already divided now, and the cunning foe was between the two

portions; a more desperate situation therefore than this half of my party

was then in can scarcely be imagined. To attempt to conciliate these

people had last year proved hopeless. Our gifts had only excited their

cupidity, and our uncommon forbearance had only inspired them with a poor

opinion of our courage; while their meeting us in this place was a proof

that the effect of our arms had not been sufficient to convince them of

our superior strength. A drawn battle was out of the question, but I was

assured by Piper and the other young natives that we should soon lose

some of the men in charge of the cattle. Those faithful fellows, on whose

courage my own safety depended–some of them having already but narrowly

escaped the spears of these very savages on the former journey. We soon

discovered that the piece of water was not the river, by seeing the

barbarians passing along the other side of it; and I thereupon determined

to travel on as far as I could. The river taking a great sweep to the

southward, we proceeded some miles through an open forest of box or

goborro; and when I at length met with sandhills and the Eucalyptus

dumosa I continued to travel westward, not doubting but that I should

reach the Murray by pursuing that course. We looked in vain however

during the whole day for its lofty trees, and in fact crossed one of the

most barren regions in the world.

NIGHT WITHOUT WATER OR GRASS.

Not a spike of grass could be seen and the soil, a loose red sand, was in

most places covered with a scrub like a thick-set hedge of Eucalyptus

dumosa. Many a tree was ascended by Burnett, but nothing was to be seen

on any side different to what we found where we were. We travelled from

an early hour in the morning until darkness and a storm appeared to be

simultaneously drawing over us. I then hastened to the top of a small

sandhill to ascertain whether there was any adjacent open space where

even our tents might be pitched, and I cannot easily describe the

dreariness of the prospect that hill afforded. No signs of the river were

visible unless it might be near a few trees which resembled the masts of

distant ships on a dark and troubled sea; and equally hazardous now was

this land navigation, from our uncertainty as to the situation of the

river on which our finding water depended, and the certainty that,

wherever it was, there were our foes before us, exulting perhaps in the

thought that we were seeking to avoid them in this vile scrub. On all

sides the flat and barren waste blended imperceptibly with a sky as

dismal and ominous as ever closed in darkness. One bleak and sterile spot

hard by afforded ample room for our camp; but the cattle had neither

water nor any grass that night.

HEAVY RAIN.

A heavy squall set in and such torrents of rain descended as to supply

the men with water enough; and indeed this was not the only occasion

during the journey when we had been providentially supplied under similar

circumstances.

May 26.

It appeared that we had not, even in that desert, escaped the vigilance

of the natives, for Piper discovered, within three hundred yards of our

camp, the track of two who, having been there on the preceding evening,

had that morning returned towards the river. At an early hour we yoked up

our groaning cattle and proceeded, although the rain continued for some

time. I pursued by compass the bearing of the high trees I had seen,

though they were somewhat to the northward of west.

AGAIN MAKE THE MURRAY.

Exactly at five miles a green bank and, immediately after, the broad

expanse of the Murray, with luxuriantly verdant margins, came suddenly in

view on the horizon of the barren bush in which we had travelled upwards

of twenty-three miles, and which here approached the lofty bank of the

river. The green hill I had first seen afforded an excellent position for

our camp; and as the grass was good I halted for the rest of the day to

refresh the cattle.

STRANGE NATIVES VISIT THE CAMP AT DUSK.

Towards evening the natives were heard advancing along our track, and

seven came near the camp but remained on the river margin below, which

from our post on the hill we completely overlooked. Piper went to these

natives to ascertain if they were our enemies from the lake. He

recognised several whom he had seen there, and he invited them to come up

the hill; but when I saw them I could not, from their apparently candid

discourse, look upon them as enemies. They said that the tribe which we

had seen at Benanee did not belong to that part of the country, but had

come there to fight us, on hearing of our approach. One of them, who had

been seen at the lake, asked Piper several times why I did not attack

them when I had so good an opportunity, and he informed us that they were

the same tribe which intended to kill another white man (Captain Sturt)

in a canoe, at the junction of the rivers lower down. They also informed

us, on the inquiry being made, that the old man who then behaved so well

to the white men was lately dead, and that he had been much esteemed by

his tribe. I desired Piper to express to them how much we white men

respected him also. I afterwards handed to these people a fire-stick and,

pointing to the flat below, gave them to understand, through Piper, that

the tribe at Benanee had behaved so ill and riotously about our camp that

I could not allow any natives to sit down beside us at night.

CHAPTER 3.5.

New and remarkable shrub.

Darling tribe again.

Their dispersion by the party.

Cross a tract intersected by deep lagoons.

Huts over tombs.

Another division of the Darling tribe.

Barren sands and the Eucalyptus dumosa.

Plants which grow on the sand and bind it down.

Fish caught.

Aspect of the country to the northward.

Strange natives from beyond the Murray.

They decamp during the night.

Reach the Darling and surprise a numerous tribe of natives.

Piper and his gin explain.

Search for the junction with the Murray.

Return by night.

Followed by the natives.

Horses take fright.

Break loose and run back.

Narrow escape of some men from natives.

Failure of their intended attack.

Different modes of interment.

Reduced appearance of the Darling.

Desert character of the country.

Rainy morning.

Return of the party.

Surprise the females of the tribe.

Junction of the Darling and Murray.

Effect of alternate floods there.

NEW AND REMARKABLE SHRUB.

May 27.

In the scrub adjoining our camp we found a new and remarkably beautiful

shrub bearing a fruit, the stone of which was very similar to that of the

quandang (Fusanus acuminatus) although there was no resemblance either in

the form of the tree or of the flower. This shrub was not unlike the

weeping willow in its growth, and the fruit, which grew at the

extremities of the drooping branches, had the shape of a pear and a black

ring at the broad end. The crop then on the tree was unripe, and was

probably a second one; the flower was also budding, and we hoped to see

the full blossom on our return. Only three or four of these trees were

seen, and they were all on the hill near our encampment. Here likewise

grew a new shrubby species of Xerotes, with hard rush-like leaves, but

allied to X. gracilis.*

(*Footnote. X. effusa, Lindley manuscripts; acaulis, foliis linearibus

longissimis semiteretibus margine scabris dorso striatis: apice dentato

tabescente, panicula mascula effusa abbreviata, bracteis acuminatis

scariosis pedicello brevioribus.)

DARLING TRIBE AGAIN.

We proceeded on our journey as usual, but had not gone far when we heard

the voices of a vast body of blacks following our track, shouting

prodigiously, and raising war cries. It now became necessary for me to

determine whether I was to allow the party under my charge to be

perpetually subject to be cut off in detail by waiting until these

natives had again actually attacked and slain some of my people, or

whether it was not my duty, in a war which not my party, but these

savages, had virtually commenced, to anticipate the intended blow. I was

at length convinced that, unless I could check their progress in our rear

and prevent them from following us so closely, the party would be in

danger of being compelled to fight its way back against the whole savage

population, who would be assembled at that season of drought on the banks

of the large rivers. But in order to ascertain first whether this was the

hostile tribe I sent overseer Burnett with Piper and half the party into

the scrub which skirted our line of route. We were travelling along the

berg or outer bank of the river, a feature which not only afforded the

best defensive position but also guided me in tracing the river’s course.

It was also in many parts the only ground clear of timber or bushes and

therefore the best for travelling upon. I directed the men to allow the

tribes to pass along our track towards me, as I intended to halt with the

carts after crossing the low hill. Piper recognised from this scrub the

same people he had seen at Benanee.

DISPERSION OF THE DARLING TRIBE BY THE PARTY.

The natives however having immediately discovered our ambuscade by the

howling of one of their dogs, halted and poised their spears; but a man

of our party (King) inconsiderately discharging his carabine, they fled

as usual to their citadel, the river, pursued and fired upon by the party

from the scrub. The firing had no sooner commenced than I perceived from

the top of the hill which I ascended some of the blacks, who appeared to

be a very numerous tribe, swimming across the Murray. I was not then

aware what accidental provocation had brought on this attack without my

orders, but it was not the time to inquire; for the men who were with me,

as soon as they heard the shots of their comrades and saw me ascend the

hill, ran furiously down the steep bank to the river, not a man remaining

with the carts. The hill behind which these were posted was about a

quarter of a mile from the river, and was very steep on that side, while

on the intervening space or margin below lofty gum trees grew, as in

other similar situations. By the time I had also got down, the whole

party lined the riverbank, the men with Burnett being at some distance

above the spot at which I reached it. Most of the natives were then near

the other side, and getting out while others were swimming down the

stream. The sound of so much firing must have been terrible to them and

it was not without effect, if we may credit the information of Piper who

was afterwards informed that seven had been shot in crossing the river,

and among them the fellow in the cloak, who at Benanee appeared to be the

chief. Much as I regretted the necessity for firing upon these savages,

and little as the men might have been justifiable under other

circumstances for firing upon any body of men without orders, I could not

blame them much on this occasion; for the result was the permanent

deliverance of the party from imminent danger. Our men were liable in

turn to be exposed singly while attending the cattle, which often

unavoidably strayed far from the camp during the night; and former

experience had, in my mind, rendered the death of some of these men

certain. I was indeed satisfied that this collision had been brought

about in the most providential manner; for it was probable that, from my

regard for the aborigines, I might otherwise have postponed giving orders

to fire longer than might have been consistent with the safety of my men.

Such was the fate of the barbarians who, a year before, had commenced

hostilities by attacking treacherously a small body of strangers, which,

had it been sent from heaven, could not have done more to minister to

their wants than it did then, nor endured more for the sake of peace and

goodwill. The men had then been compelled to fire in their own defence

and at the risk of my displeasure. The hostility of these savages had

also prevented me from dividing my party, and obliged me to retire from

the Darling sooner than I might otherwise have done. It now appeared that

they had discovered this, judging from their present conduct, and

unappalled by the effect of firearms, to which they were no longer

strangers, they had boastingly invaded the haunts of other tribes, more

peaceably disposed than themselves, for the avowed purpose of meeting and

attacking us. They had persisted in following us with such bundles of

spears as we had never seen on other occasions, and they were on the

alert to kill any stragglers, having already, as they acknowledged,

destroyed two of our cattle.

This collision took place so suddenly that no man had thought of

remaining at the heads of the horses and cattle, as already stated; nor

was I aware of this until, on returning to them, I found the reins in the

hands of Piper’s gin; a tall woman who, wrapped in a blanket, with

Piper’s sword on her shoulder, and having a blind eye, opaque and white

like that of some Indian idol, presented rather a singular appearance as

she stood the only guardian of all we possessed. Her presence of mind in

assuming such a charge on such an occasion was very commendable, and

seemed characteristic of the female aborigines.

I gave to the little hill which witnessed this overthrow of our enemies

and was to us the harbinger of peace and tranquillity the name of Mount

Dispersion.

CROSS A TRACT INTERSECTED BY DEEP LAGOONS.

The day’s journey was still before us. On leaving the river we soon

encountered a small creek or ana-branch* and, though I made a practice of

avoiding all such obstructions by going round rather than crossing them,

yet in the present case I was compelled to deviate from my rule on

finding that this creek would take me too far northward. Soon after, we

approached a lagoon and during the whole day, turn wherever we would, we

were met by similar bodies of water or, as I considered them, pools left

in the turnings and windings of some ana-branch formed during high floods

of the river. Nevertheless I managed to preserve a course in the desired

direction; and at length we encamped on the bank of several deep ponds

which lay in the channel of a broad watercourse. I was anxious to avoid

if possible being shut up between ana-branches and the river lest, as the

river seemed rising, I might be at length surrounded by deep water. I was

in some uncertainty here about the actual situation of the Murray and our

position was anything but good; for it was in the midst of scrubby

ground, and did not command, in any way, the place where alone grass

enough was to be found for the cattle. The bergs of the river were not to

be seen, although the river itself could not be distant; for the whole

country traversed this day was of that description which belongs to the

margin of streams, being grassy land under an open forest containing

goborro and yarra trees. These are seldom found in that region at any

considerable distance from the banks of the river, the whole interior

country being covered with Eucalyptus dumosa and patches of the pine or

Callitris pyramidalis.

(*Footnote. See above.)

May 28.

A thick fog hung over us in the morning but it did not impede our

progress. For the first three miles our way was along the banks of the

channel or lagoon beside which we had passed the night. It then crossed a

polygonum flat and several dry hollows, beyond which I at length saw the

rising ground of the river-berg and, immediately after, the river itself,

flowing by the base of a precipitous red cliff in which the scrubby flat

country we were travelling upon abruptly terminated. We had cut off a

great bend of the Murray by our intricate journey among the lagoons; and

had again reached the river precisely at the point most desirable.

HUTS OVER TOMBS.

On this upper ground we observed several tombs, all enclosed within

parterres of the same boat-like shape first seen by us on the day we

traced the Lachlan into the basin of the Murrumbidgee. Two of the tombs

here consisted of huts, very neatly and completely thatched over, the

straw or grass being bound down by a well-wrought net. Each hut had a

small entrance on the south-west side, and the grave within was covered

with dry grass or bedding on which lay however some pieces of wood. There

was a third grave with coverings of the same kind, but it was not so

neatly finished, nor was it covered with net.* There were also graves

without any covering; one where it appeared to have been burnt; and two

old-looking graves were open, empty, and about three feet deep.

(*Footnote. Isaiah 45:4. Who remain among the graves.] “The old Hebrews

are charged by the prophet Isaiah with remaining among the graves and

lodging in the monuments.” See Lewis’ Origines Hebraeae volume 3 page

381.)

ANOTHER DIVISION OF THE DARLING TRIBE.

We had not proceeded far through the scrub on the top of the precipice

overhanging the river when the usual alarm term “the natives” was passed

along to me from the people in the rear of our party. Piper had been told

that we should soon see the other division of the Darling tribe, which

was still ahead of us; and I concluded that these natives belonged to it

and were awaiting us at this point where, as they had foreseen, we were

sure to come upon the river. Four or five advanced up to us while the

rest followed among the bushes behind. I recognised two men whom I saw

last year on the Darling. They begged hard for axes and held out green

boughs, but I had not forgotten the treachery of their burning boughs on

our former interview and, thinking I recognised the tall man who had been

the originator of the war, I went up to him with no very kind feeling;

but I was informed he was only that man’s brother. My altered manner

however was enough for their quick glance; and indeed one of the best

proofs that these natives belonged to the Darling tribe was the attention

with which they watched me when they asked for tomahawks, and their

speaking so much to Piper about Majy. Of the evil tendency of giving

these people presents I was now convinced, and fully determined not to

give more then. This resolution the natives having discovered very

acutely, their ringleaders vanished like phantoms down the steep cliffs,

and we heard no more of the rest. It is possible that this portion of the

tribe had not then received intelligence of what had befallen the others

or they would not have advanced so boldly up. Be that as it may they

followed us no more, having probably heard in the course of the day from

the division of the tribe which we had driven across the Murray.

BARREN SANDS AND THE EUCALYPTUS DUMOSA. PLANTS WHICH GROW ON THE SAND AND BIND IT DOWN.

The river taking a turn to the southward, we again entered the dumosa

scrub but it was more open than we had seen it elsewhere. The soil

consisted of barren sand; there was no grass, but there were tufts of a

prickly bush which tortured the horses and tore to rags the men’s clothes

about their ankles. I observed that this bush and the Eucalyptus dumosa

grew only where the sand seemed too barren and loose for the production

of anything else; so loose indeed was it that, but for this dwarf tree

and prickly grass, the sand must have drifted so as to overwhelm the

vegetation of adjacent districts, as in other desert regions where sand

predominates. Nature appears to have provided curiously against that evil

here by the abundant distribution of two plants so singularly adapted to

such a soil. The root of the Eucalyptus dumosa resembles that of a large

tree; but instead of a trunk only a few branches rise above the ground,

forming an open kind of bush, often so low that a man on horseback may

look over it for miles. The heavy spreading roots however of this dwarf

tree and the prickly grass together occupy the ground and seem intended

to bind down the sands of the vast interior deserts of Australia. Their

disproportioned roots also prevent the bushes from growing very close

together and, the stems being leafless except at the top, this kind of

eucalyptus is almost proof against the running fires of the bush. The

prickly grass resembles at a distance, in colour and form, an overgrown

bush of lavender; but the pedestrian and the horse both soon find that it

is neither lavender nor grass, the blades consisting of sharp spikes

which shoot out in all directions, offering real annoyance to men and

horses.

On ascending a small sandhill about three P.M. I perceived that I could

not hope to reach the river in the direction I was pursuing. Accordingly

I turned to the left and, entering a rather extensive valley which was

bounded on the south by the river-bergs at a distance of three or four

miles, we encamped on the immediate bank of the Murray shortly before

sunset. There was little grass about the river for the ferruginous

finely-grained sandstone formed still the riverbank, and was exactly

similar to the arenaceous rock on the eastern coast.

FISH CAUGHT.

The river had more the appearance of having a flood in it now than at the

time we first made it, and here we caught some good cod-perch (Gristes

peelii) one weighing seventeen pounds. As we came along the lagoons in

the morning of this day we shot a new kind of duck.

May 29.

The broad slopes of the river-berg, or second bank, were generally

distinguished by a strip of clear ground which we found the best for

travelling upon; and it afforded us also the satisfaction of overlooking

the friendly river at a greater or less distance on the left. The Murray

meandered between the opposite bergs of the valley or basin which was

here about four miles wide.

ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY TO THE NORTHWARD.

From a hill situated between the river and the scrub I this day saw, for

the first time since we left the Lachlan, a ridge on the horizon. It

appeared to the northward, the west end being distant about seven miles;

and it was long, flat, and not much higher than the surrounding country.

An extensive plain reminded us of those on the Darling and in the more

hollow part of it I perceived the dry bed of a lake, bordered by some

verdure. On proceeding I observed that the bergs fell off; and we

descended into a valley where a line of yarra trees enveloped a dry

creek, very much resembling the one seen by us on the Darling and named

Clover-creek. Crossing this dry course we soon regained the berg of the

river, and found it as favourable to our progress as before but, being of

red sand, I at length led the party along the firm clay at the base of

the higher ground.

STRANGE NATIVES FROM BEYOND THE MURRAY.

As the dogs were chasing a kangaroo across a bit of open flat four

natives appeared at the other side. They came frankly up to us and they

were well painted, broad white patches marking out the larger muscles of

the breasts, thighs, and arms, and giving their persons exactly the

appearance of savages as I have seen them represented in theatres. Their

hair was of a reddish hue and they were altogether men of a different

make from the tribe of the Darling. We accordingly allowed them to remain

in the camp which I took up on the margin of the Murray soon after our

meeting with them. They told us that a creek named Bengallo joined the

Murray amongst the numerous lagoons where we had been encamped two days

before; and they supposed it came from the hills near the Bogan, because

natives from that river sometimes came to the Murray by the banks of the

creek. They also informed us that the name of a river to the southward

was Perrainga; and (if we understood each other rightly by Piper’s

interpretation) their name for lake Alexandrina was Kayinga: a lake which

however had, according to them, a wide deep outlet to the sea.

THEY DECAMP DURING THE NIGHT.

During that night it rained heavily and the natives left us, without

notice, during an interval of fair weather. There was much scrub about

the river and I was not quite satisfied with the position of our camp,

but a strict watch was always kept up, and we had excellent watch-dogs,

no bad protection against the midnight treachery of the aborigines.

REACH THE DARLING AND SURPRISE A NUMEROUS TRIBE OF NATIVES.

May 30.

We heard our new acquaintance cooeying in the bush but we gave no

attention to them and proceeded on our journey. The smooth and verdant

escarp of the river-berg guided us, while the river itself was sometimes

at hand and sometimes four miles off. This day I recognised several

shrubs which I had seen before only on the Darling. At length the berg

terminated altogether in a smooth round hill beyond which lay a low woody

country, intersected by lines of yarra trees in almost every direction. I

thought I perceived in one of these lines the course of the Darling

coming into the extensive valley from the northward; and the old hands

exclaimed, when they saw the bare plains to the north-west of our camp,

that we had got upon the Darling at last. Beyond this valley to the

south-westward I perceived that the bergs of the opposite bank of the

Murray were continuous and advanced to a point about west-south-west.

Upon the whole I was satisfied that we were near the junction of the two

rivers; and we encamped on the lower extremity of the point, already

mentioned, which overlooked a small lagoon and was not above three

hundred yards from an angle of the Murray.

May 31.

I now ventured to take a north-west course in expectation of falling in

with the supposed Darling. We crossed first a plain about two miles in

breadth, when we came to a line of yarra trees which enveloped a dry

creek from the north-east, and very like Clover-creek. We next travelled

over ground chiefly open, and at four miles crossed a sandhill on which

was a covered tomb, after the fashion of those on the Murray. On

descending from the sand-ridge we approached a line of yarra trees which

overhung a reach of green and stagnant water. I had scarcely arrived at

the bank when my attention was drawn to a fire about a hundred yards

before us and from beside which immediately sprung up a numerous tribe of

blacks who began to jump, wring their hands, and shriek, as if in a state

of utter madness or despair.

PIPER AND HIS GIN EXPLAIN.

These savages rapidly retired towards others who were at a fire on a

further part of the bank, but Piper and his gin, going boldly forward,

succeeded at length in getting within hail and in allaying their fears.

SEARCH FOR THE JUNCTION WITH THE MURRAY.

While he was with these natives I had again leisure to examine the

watercourse upon which we had arrived. I could not consider it the

Darling as seen by me above, and so little did it seem the sister stream

to the Murray as described by Sturt that I at first thought it nothing

but an ana-branch of that river. Neither did these natives satisfy me

about Oolawambiloa, by which I had supposed the Darling was meant but

respecting which they still pointed westward. They however told Piper

that the channel we had reached contained all the waters of Wambool (the

Macquarie) and Callewatta (the upper Darling) and I accordingly

determined to trace it up at least far enough to identify it with the

latter. But I thought it right that we should endeavour first to

recognise the junction with the Murray as seen by Captain Sturt. The

natives said it was not far off; and I accordingly encamped at two

o’clock that I might measure back to that important point. Thirteen

natives set out as if to accompany us, for they begged that we would not

go so fast. Three of them however soon set off at full speed as if on a

message; and the remaining ten fell behind us. We had then passed the

camp of their gins and I supposed at the time that their only object was

to see us beyond these females, Piper being with us.

RETURN BY NIGHT.

I pursued the river through a tortuous course until sunset when I was

obliged to quit it and return to the camp by moonlight without having

seen anything of the Murray. I had however ascertained that the channel

increased very much in width lower down and, when it was filled with the

clay-coloured water of the flood then in the Murray, it certainly had the

appearance of a river of importance.