October 01, 2007

1 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Some of us have recent fashions, some are quite out of fashion, yet the ball was a success nevertheless.

"How is business?", is the commonest greeting among a certain class of people here - the class to which we now belong. Opportunity may be responded to, or ignored, and Mr. Macarthur has very properly determined that a two-handed response brings the greatest benefit, and the greatest risks. On this we do not disagree - I support John's business ventures and wish him well in them all. We now own two good ships, one of which is sailing to Tahiti to collect the rare wood that grows there which is worth more than gold, when taken to China, and the other is returning to England, filled with oil and skins from the seal fishery, and some bales of our wool. We were so far caught by surprise with the seal fishery that John did not bring any lamps with him from England, so we still use candles in the main house and slush lights elsewhere. As well, John has shares in three more ships engaged in trade and fishing; we also have a shop in Sydney, although we might let that go soon. The Governor has permitted Mr. Palmer to expand the stores, in Sydney, at Green Hills and here in Parramatta, so they have as wide a range of goods as the people need, and they pay so little for their staff that it seems they will sell cheaper than we ever can. Mr. Palmer's sister has married Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Campbell has brought his nephew here, so a dynasty is forming. Such a shame that they cannot talk of anything but trade!
My circle is quite small - yet it was only a year or two ago, it seems, that eighteen ladies could gather for a very civilised lunch, while today there are less than a handful who can meet, and I am forced to rely on Mr. Harris for general gossip, Mr. Caley for scathing comment, and my little network of friends for all the other information I need to protect our interests! I hope Mrs. Patterson comes back soon, as it must be tiresome in van Diemen's land - still, she is with her husband and that is something. We couples must stick together.
Mr. Macarthur returned from the Seven Hills last night and today is away again to the Cowpastures: the sheep at the Seven Hills had been isolated by the rain, unwilling to cross the flooded stream to their shelters, but other than two or three lambs that appear to have been lost, all is fine. I hope to go there on Friday, to review the arrangements at that place. The bridge here that crosses the River, near where the Governor has granted Mrs. Putland her land, wasn't washed away but has lost several supports and must be repaired: in the past we have waited months for such work, but I understand that a gang is already there and the timbers are being cut as I write, so having Mrs. Putland as a neighbour has many benefits.
The Campbells and Palmers have invited Elizabeth junior and I to dinner tomorrow, and with John away, I'll accept their invitation.

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