August 23, 2007

4 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

I understand the concerns my far-away friends have for the circumstances of our lives here: do the natives camp in the streets, cooking their rudely caught game?; are Kangaroos and emus seen bounding around our property?; and what is it like to have highwaymen for one's doctor and robbers as the shopkeep? Mr. Macarthur tells a tale of being at some fine dinner in England when such questions were asked of him and he replied that he always employed murderers as his house servants, because he can't stand thieves in the house! Murderers he told the table, are generally quiet and most often scrupulously honest, making good servants providing one manages to keep them calm. Mr. Macarthur tells me he was believed but that one would never believe the horror on the faces of his listeners!
Our house servants are very fine people and none who sleep in the house are formerly prisoners; some of the people who work in and near the house during the day have been prisoners but are no worse for that (none are murderers!) while our field hands are all formerly prisoners, other than our Greek sailors. However, we are considered the best employers in the Colony - Mr. Marsden is often thought the next best - and we try to settle our employees in cottages near the farm where possible. What is different in the colony is that one may be thrown together with people one normally never meets - somewhat like in a coach, I imagine - so Mr. Macarthur at the cow pastures sleeps in a hut with the shepherds, all mingled together, and that would never happen at Home.
We do have emu and kangaroos on our property, but want neither as they are voracious eaters of the plants we love! The largest Emu I have seen stood well over 6 feet, and I have heard of kangaroos even larger.

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