It was natural to suppose that the curiosity of these people would be attracted by observing, that, instead of quitting, we were occupied in works that indicated an intention of remaining in their country; but during the first six weeks we received only one visit, two men strolling into the camp one evening, and remaining in it for about half an hour. They appeared to admire whatever they saw, and after receiving each a hatchet (of the use of which the eldest instantly and curiously showed his knowledge, by turning up his foot, and sharpening a piece of wood on the sole with the hatchet) took their leave, apparently well pleased with their reception. The fishing-boats also frequently reported their having been visited by many of these people when hauling the seine, at which labour they often assisted with cheerfulness, and in return were generally rewarded with part of the fish taken.
Every precaution was used to guard against a breach of this friendly and desirable intercourse, by strictly prohibiting every person from depriving them of their spears, fizgigs, gum, or other articles, which we soon perceived they were accustomed to leave under the rocks, or loose and scattered about upon the beaches. We had however great reason to believe that these precautions were first rendered fruitless by the ill conduct of a boat’s crew belonging to one of the transports, who, we were told afterwards, attempted to land in one of the coves at the lower part of the harbour, but were prevented, and driven off with stones by the natives. A party of them, consisting of sixteen or eighteen persons, some time after landed on the island* where the people of the Sirius were preparing a garden, and with much artifice, watching their opportunity, carried off a shovel, a spade, and a pick-axe. On their being fired at and hit on the legs by one of the people with small shot, the pick-axe was dropped, but they carried off the other tools.
[* Since known by the name of Garden Island.]
To such circumstances as these must be attributed the termination of that good understanding which had hitherto subsisted between us and them, and which Governor Phillip laboured to improve whenever he had an opportunity. But it might have been foreseen that this would unavoidably happen: the convicts were every where straggling about, collecting animals and gum to sell to the people of the transports, who at the same time were procuring spears, shields, swords, fishing-lines, and other articles from the natives, to carry to Europe; the loss of which must have been attended with many inconveniences to the owners, as it was soon evident that they were the only means whereby they obtained or could procure their daily subsistence; and although some of these people had been punished for purchasing articles of the convicts, the practice was carried on secretly, and attended with all the bad effects which were to be expected from it. We also had the mortification to learn,