July 29, 2007

12 January 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Children have been the centre of my day today. I do miss Jack but I love having Elizabeth and Edward back with me and school in England is reassuring, as education is our greatest hurdle here. Of course Penelope, Mrs. Lucas, has made a wonderful improvement in the school work for Mary, late though it is, and William and James the second. She has had Elizabeth in her tutelage for five years with French, Geography and Mathematics, along with a credible hand and some sewing, more attributes than I ever imagined in the young lassy going Home in the year '03.
For myself, I love having them in the vegetables as we did today, hoeing the weeds and bringing them water. We worked in the cool of the morning, until eleven o'clock when din-al-le-ong, meaning "many women" came to our gates and we gave them food. John has loaves baked at the barracks and we gave them many to take away, and Mary gave one young woman a bright red carrot and she ate the entire carrot with nary a wash, and then the green tops also! It was such fun, we can hardly understand a thing but my girls stand to have their skirts fingered and their ruffles felt, and their blonde hair compared to the black curls of the natives. Many of the women had been swimming, catching "yurong" or black ducks. It is wonderful how they do it, swimming below the water with a reed they breath through, then diving beneath the ducks and catching them by the claws of their feet, drowning that one and swimming on, unobserved. I have sat in the bushes near the creek and watched them.
Our nephew has joined us here in the Colony, who is a Hawkins, my sister's family, and he too is a blessing. Since John is returned I cannot imagine a happier time, if not for the actions of others who refuse to obey their orders, but here on the farm it is paradise, in our rather extended family setting at our very extended dining table, with two extra leaves John brought from England along with Mrs. Lucas and dear Mr. Hannibal Macarthur.
He was very taken by the charms of our visitor's today, which reminded me of a rather risque event when some young natives who visited us, asking for bread, naked as Mother Nature made them, and Elizabeth and I took loaves out to them and suddenly to a man these half dozen young men "stood to attention", so to speak. Elizabeth and I dropped the loaves at the gates and ran back to house, giggling like demented women. Such are the risques of the Colonial life. A pun, I perceive.
Today we gave food to din-al-lee-ong but they had no ducks for us. Their menfolk and boys have gone for a ceremony and taken all the ducks that could be caught with them - apparently tonight, when the ceremony is over, the boys and men fall upon the ducks, roast and eat them. The drawing I've attached was given to me by one of the French sailors, a Lieutenant who drew beautifully. I said yesterday that they can be demure even modest, but the opposite too.


Mousie/Paisible said...

that's really great...but just one question...I read nearly everything, but but my English isn't perfect...so could you tell me : is this the real story, the real diary ? or do you tell the story as if it was Elizabeth's diary???anyhow, it's so interesting...part of australia's history and women's history...I add you in my favorites
Coming back soon

Parramatta 1807 - A Fiction said...

Dear Mousie/Paisible,
Thank you for your comment. The story is fictional, which means I am making it up, but the people were real people and I try to only have them say what they really would have said. I am a man, but have a strong interest in Australian women's history.