Thursday 1 December 1836

[, on board the wrote. | Read source notes.]

DECEMBER 1.-This day we saw two of the natives, a man and a boy, for the first time in this part – the mainland. A gentleman of the name of Williams, a passenger by the Africaine, having proceeded alone about five miles up the country, accidentally met with them. Mr. Williams had a gun, and the blacks took up their spears, but immediately laid them down again. After some conversation by signs they resumed their spears and followed Mr. Williams to his tent, which was situated about two hundred yards from ours, where they dined. Mr. Williams afterwards took them round to most of the tents and brought them to us. I showed them several things which greatly astonished them, particularly a telescope, which they took to be a gun. They thought it would make a noise, but when I drew it out and with some difficulty induced them to look through it, for they seemed to be afraid of it, they exclaimed, “Mawny! Mawny!” which is their word for anything wonderful. But a lucifer match surprised them still more, for they could not imagine how fire could be so instantaneously produced, while they were at considerable trouble to obtain it by rubbing two sticks together. When they move from one place to another they carry lighted sticks with them, and with dry leaves and by blowing with their breath they generally succeed in soon having a good fire.

Of course, these natives did not understand English any more than we did their dialect, but they pronounced our language by repeating whatever was said to them with an accuracy that was surprising and with a far superior accent to that of many Europeans not English, though they may have studied it for years. Afterwards we found that we were comparatively no strangers to them, though they were to us, for they had seen and observed our landing, but kept aloof. Subsequently they paid us several visits, but never annoyed us. On more than one occasion they proved very serviceable by helping to extinguish the fires, which sometimes came so near to us as to be extremely dangerous, beating them out with boughs from the trees or treading them out with their naked feet.

Likewise, on one occasion I could not get my fire to burn, for not having been accustomed to cook out of doors I did not understand exactly how to place the wood. Two or three of them, who were standing near, laughed at my deficiency in such useful knowledge, and, taking it to pieces, reconstructed it after their own fashion. The fire then burned brightly, verifying a saying I had often heard when a girl, that “None are so ignorant but you may learn something of them.”

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