Several thefts were committed by and among the convicts. Wine was stolen from the hospital, and some of those who had the care of it were taken upon suspicion and tried, but for want of sufficient evidence were acquitted. There was such a tenderness in these people to each other’s guilt, such an acquaintance with vice and the different degrees of it, that unless they were detected in the fact, it was generally next to impossible to bring an offence home to them. As there was, however, little doubt, though no positive proof of their guilt, they were removed from the hospital, and placed under the direction of the officer who was then employed in constructing a small redoubt on the east side.
The natives, who had been accustomed to assist our people in hauling the seine, and were content to wait for such reward as the person who had the direction of the boat thought proper to give them, either driven by hunger, or moved by some other cause, came down to the cove where they were fishing, and, perceiving that they had been more successful than usual, took by force about half of what had been brought on shore. They were all armed with spears and other weapons, and made their attack with some show of method, having a party stationed in the rear with their spears poised, in readiness to throw, if any resistance had been made. To prevent this in future, it was ordered that a petty officer should go in the boats whenever they were sent down the harbour.
No precautions, however, that could be taken, or orders that were given, to prevent accidents happening by misconduct on our part, had any weight with the convicts. On the evening of the 27th one of them was brought in wounded by the natives. He had left the encampment with another convict, to gather vegetables, and, contrary to the orders which had been repeatedly given, went nearly as far as Botany Bay, where they fell in with a party of the natives, who made signs to them to go back, which they did, but unfortunately ran different ways. This being observed by the natives, they threw their spears at them. One of them was fortunate enough to escape unhurt, but the other received two spears in him, one entering a little above his left ear, the other in his breast. He took to an arm of the bay, which, notwithstanding his wounds, he swam across, and reported that the natives stood on the bank laughing at him.
Much credit, indeed, was not to be given to any of their accounts; but it must be remarked, that every accident that had happened was occasioned by a breach of positive orders repeatedly given.
Still, notwithstanding this appearance of hostility in some of the natives, others were more friendly. In one of the adjoining coves resided a family of them, who were visited by large parties of the convicts of both sexes on those days in which they were not wanted for labour, where they danced and sung with apparent good humour, and received such presents as they could afford to make them; but none of them would venture back with their visitors.