- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Fourth Expedition
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
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Saturday, 23rd June, Kekwick Ponds. Resting horses. About 1 o'clock we were visited by two natives, who presented us with four opossums and a number of small birds and parrots. They were much frightened at first, but after a short time became very bold, and, coming to our camp, wanted to steal everything they could lay their fingers on. I caught one concealing the rasp that is used in shoeing the horses under the netting he had round his waist, and was obliged to take it from him by force. The canteens they seemed determined to have, and it was with difficulty we could get them from them. They wished to pry into everything, until I lost all patience and ordered them off. In about half an hour two other young men approached the camp. Thinking they might be in want of water, and afraid to come to it on account of the horses, I sent Ben with a tin dishful, which they drank. They were very young men, and too much frightened to come any nearer. About an hour before sundown, one of the first that had come, returned, bringing with him three others, two of whom were young, tall, powerful, well made, and good-looking, and as fine specimens of the native as I have yet seen. On their heads they had a neatly-fitting hat or helmet close to the brow, and rising straight up to a rounded peak, three or four inches above the head and gradually becoming narrower towards the back part. The outside was net-work; the inside was composed of feathers very tightly bound together with cord until it was as hard as a piece of wood; it may be used as a protection from the sun, or as armour for the battle-field. One of them had a great many scars upon him, and seemed to be a leading man. Only two had helmets on, the others had pieces of netting bound round their foreheads. One was an old man, and seemed to be the father of these two fine young men. He was very talkative, but I could make nothing of him. I have endeavoured, by signs, to get information from him as to where the next water is, but we cannot understand each other. After some time, and having conferred with his two sons, he turned round, and surprised me by giving me one of the Masonic signs. I looked at him steadily; he repeated it, and so did his two sons. I then returned it, which seemed to please them much, the old man patting me on the shoulder and stroking down my beard. They then took their departure, making friendly signs until they were out of sight. We enjoyed a good supper from the opossums, which we have not had for many a day. The men are complaining of weakness from the want of sufficient nourishment. I find the quantity of rations is not enough; five pounds of flour per week is too little for many weeks together. It may do very well for a month or so, but when it comes to the length of time we have been out, we all feel it very much; and the dried meat that I brought with me being very young, it has not half the strength in it that old meat has.