FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
Though their hair is smooth, they plaster it with grease and arrange it in curls. Then inserting in the middle a tuft of grass, they raise a strange and comical superstructure, surmounted by a few cockatoo feathers; or failing these, they fasten on, with the aid of a resinous gum, a few human teeth, or some bits of bone, a dog's tail, or one or two fish bones. Although the practice of tattooing is not much in favour among the natives of New Holland, some are occasionally to be seen who have succeeded by means of sharp shells in cutting symmetrical figures upon their skins. A more general custom is that of painting on their bodies monstrous designs in red and white colours which, on their dark skins, give them an almost diabolical aspect.
These savages formerly believed that after death they would take the form of children, and be transported to the clouds or to the summits of lofty trees, where, in a sort of aërial paradise, they would be regaled with plentiful repasts. But since the arrival of the Europeans their faith on this point has undergone some change, their present belief being, that metamorphosed into whites they will go to inhabit some far-off land. It is also an article of their creed that the whites themselves are no other than their own ancestors, who, having been killed in battle, have assumed the form of Europeans.
The census of 1819—one of the strictest hitherto instituted—gives the number of the colonists at 25,425; this return, it must be understood, does not take in the soldiers. The women being very much in the minority, the mother-country had made efforts to remedy the inconvenience resulting from this great disparity of the sexes, by promoting the immigration of young women, who soon married and founded families of a higher tone of morality than that of the convicts.
Freycinet devotes a very long chapter in his narrative to all matters connected with political economy. The various soils and the crops suited to them; industrial pursuits; the breeding of cattle; farming economy; manufactures; foreign trade; means of communication; government;—all these subjects are treated comprehensively on the authority of documents then newly compiled, and with an ability that could scarcely have been expected from a man who had not given special attention to questions of this nature. He has, moreover, added a close inquiry into the regimen which the convicts were subjected to from the time of their arrival in the colony, the punishments they had to undergo, as also the encouragements and rewards which were readily granted to them, when earned by good behaviour. The chapter concludes with reflections full of learning and sound judgment on the probable development and future prosperity of the Australian colony.
After this long and fruitful stay in New Holland, the Uranie put to sea on the 25th December, 1819, and steered so as to pass to the south of New Zealand and Campbell Island, with the view of doubling Cape Horn. A few days afterwards ten fugitive convicts were discovered on board; but the corvette had left the shores of Australia too far behind to allow of their restoration. The coast of Tierra del Fuego was reached without anything worthy of special notice having occurred during a very prosperous voyage, with a prevailing west wind. On the 5th February, Cape Desolation was sighted. Having doubled Cape Horn without any difficulty, the Uranie let go her anchor in the Bay of Good Success, where the shores, lined with grand forest-trees and echoing to the sound of waterfalls, presented a scene totally different from the sterile desolation generally characterizing this quarter of the globe. No long stay was, however, made there; the corvette resuming her voyage, lost no time in entering the Strait of Le Maire, notwithstanding a dense haze. Here she met with a heavy swell, a strong gale, and a mist so thick that land, sea, and sky were confounded in one general obscurity. The rain and the heavy spray raised by the storm, and the coming on of night, made it necessary to put the Uranie under a close-reefed topsail and jib, under which pressure of sail she behaved splendidly. The only available course was to run before the wind, and the travellers had just begun to feel thankful for their good fortune in being driven by the storm far away from the land, when the cry was heard, "Land close ahead!"
All hearts sunk with despair; shipwreck and death seemed inevitable. Freycinet alone, after a brief instant of hesitation, recovered his self-command. It was impossible that land could be ahead. He, therefore, kept on his northerly course, bearing a little east, and the correctness of his calculations was soon verified. On the next day but one the weather grew calmer; observations were taken, and as they proved the vessel to have run a great distance from the Bay of Good Success, the commander had to choose between a detention off the coast of South America, or off the Falkland Islands. The island of Conti, the Bay of Marville, and Cape Duras, were successively observed through the haze, whilst a favourable breeze speeded the corvette on her course to Berkeley Sound, fixed on as the best place for the next halt.