Wednesday, 13th June, Bishop Creek.
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Fourth Expedition
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Wednesday, 13th June, Bishop Creek. The horses still look very bad this morning; they have again stayed by the water nearly all night; they had been one hundred and one hours without a drop, and have accomplished a journey of one hundred and twelve miles; they will require a week to recover; one of them is very lame from a kick the little mare gave him in her madness. Thus ends my last attempt, at present, to make the Victoria River; three times have I tried it, and have been forced to retreat. About 11 o'clock I heard the voice of a native; looked round and could see two in the scrub, about a quarter of a mile distant. I beckoned to them to approach, but they kept making signs which I could not understand. I then moved towards them, but the moment they saw me move, they ran off immediately. About a quarter of an hour afterwards they again made their appearance on the top of the quartz reef, opposite our camp, and two others showed themselves in about the same place as the two first did. Thinking this was the only water, I made signs to the two on the reef to go to the water; but they still continued talking and making signs which I could not understand; it seemed as if they wished us to go away, which I was determined not to do. They then made a number of furious frantic gestures, shaking their spears, and twirling them round their heads, etc. etc., I suppose bidding us defiance. I should think the youngest was about twenty-five years of age. He placed a very long spear into the instrument they throw them with, and, after a few more gestures, descended from the reef, and gradually came a little nearer. I made signs of encouragement for him to come on, at the same time moving towards him. At last we arrived on the banks of the creek, he on one side, and I on the other. He had a long spear, a womera, and two instruments like the boomerang, but more the shape of a scimitar, with a very sharp edge, having a thick place at the end, roughly carved, for the hand. The gestures he was making were now signs of hostility, and he came fully prepared for war. I then broke a branch of green leaves from a bush, and held it up towards him, inviting him to come across to me. As he did not seem to fancy that, I crossed to where he was, and got within two yards of him. He thought I was quite near enough, and would not have me any nearer, for he kept moving back as I approached. I wished to get close up to him, but he would not have it; we then stood still, and I tried to make him understand, by signs, that all we wanted was water for two or three days. At last he seemed to understand, nodded his head, pointed to the water, then to our camp, and held up his five fingers. I then endeavoured to learn from him if there was water to the north or north-east, but I could make nothing of him. He viewed me very steadily for a long time, began talking, and seeing that I did not understand him, he made the sign that natives generally do of wanting something to eat, and pointed towards me. Whether he meant to ask if I was hungry, or to suggest that I should make a very good supper for him, I do not know, but I bowed my head as if I understood him perfectly. We then separated, I keeping a careful watch upon him all the time I was crossing the creek. Before I left him the other one joined. The first was a tall, powerful, well-made fellow, upwards of six feet; his hair was very long, and he had a red-coloured net tied round his head, with the ends of his hair lying on his shoulders. I observed nothing else that was peculiar about them. They had neither skins nor anything round their bodies, but were quite naked. They then took their departure. A short time afterwards I saw them joined by five others. We have seen nothing more of them to-day, and I hope they will not trouble us any more, but let me get my horses rested in peace. Wind south, all the clouds gone; nights and mornings very cold. Occupied during the day in shoeing horses, and repairing and making saddle-bags.