From the different circumstances that have been related of these people in the foregoing account, a general idea of their character and disposition may be gathered. They are revengeful, jealous, courageous, and cunning. I have never considered their stealing on each other in the night for the purposes of murder as a want of bravery, but have looked on it rather as the effect of the diabolical spirit of revenge, which thus sought to make surer of its object than it could have done if only opposed man to man in the field. Their conduct when thus opposed, the constancy with which they endured pain, and the alacrity with which they accepted a summons to the fight, are surely proofs of their not wanting courage. They disclaim all idea of any superiority that is not personal; and I remember when Bennillong had a shield, made of tin and covered with leather, presented to him by Governor Phillip, he took it with him down the harbour, whence he returned without it, telling us that he had lost it; but in fact it had been taken from him by the people of the north shore district and destroyed; it being deemed unfair to cover himself with such a guard.
They might have been honest before we came among them, not having much to covet from one another; but from us they often stole such things as we would not give them. While they pilfered what could gratify their appetites, it was not to be wondered at; but I have seen them steal articles of which they could not possibly know the use. Mr. White once being in the midst of a crowd of natives in the lower part of the harbour, one of them saw a small case of instruments in his pocket, which, watching an opportunity, he slyly stole, and ran away with; but, being observed, he was pursued and made to restore his prize. We were very little acquainted with them at this time, and therefore the native could not have known the contents of the case. Could he have been watched to his retreat, I have no doubt but he would have been seen to lay the case on his head, as an ornament, the place to which at first every thing we gave them was usually consigned.
That they are not strangers to the occasional practice of falsehood, is apparent from the words truth and falsehood being found in their language; but, independent of this, we had many proofs of their being adepts in the arts of evasion and lying; and I have seen them, when we have expressed doubts of some of their tales, assure us with much earnestness of the truth of their assertions; and when speaking to us of other natives they have as anxiously wished us to believe that they had told us lies.
Their talent for mimicry is very great. It was a favourite diversion with the children to imitate the peculiarities in any one’s gait, and they would go through it with the happiest success.
They are susceptible of friendship, and capable of feeling sorrow; but this latter sensation they are not in the habit of encouraging long. When Ba-loo-der-ry, a very fine lad who died among us, was buried, I saw the tears streaming silently down the sable cheek of his father Mau-go-ran; but in a little time they were dried, and the old man’s countenance indicated nothing but the lapse of many years which had passed over his head.