Wednesday 14 December 1836

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

DECEMBER 14.-We had now been here a month, and certainly enjoyed the freedom of the open air and our spacious tent, which was oblong and large enough to divide into two apartments, in preference to the confinement inseparable from a ship’s cabin. But we were not destined to have these conveniences without alloy. Fleas, flies, and mosquitoes were innumerable. One or the other annoyed us incessantly, the first both day and night, which, perhaps, may partly be accounted for by our being so near a sandhill. The flies tormented us to such a degree that when I wrote my letters to England I was obliged to be constantly fighting with one hand while I wrote with the other, and no sooner had these retired from the contest than in the evening the mosquitoes came in such swarms as sometimes literally to cover the inside of the tent. We were obliged to have recourse to burning them out by burning some dry grass in a baking-pot; but this was not all, for the place was also infested with rats, whether native or imported I cannot say. They certainly were there before we arrived, for we frequently found their holes. They were different from the native kangaroo rat, were generally of a large size, and so bold that they seemed disposed to cultivate our acquaintance with rather more freedom than was desirable, often appearing in open daylight. They would scarcely be driven away. I had sufficient proof that they paid us nightly visits as well, for once I felt one run over my face. Having no means of keeping them out of the tent, I endeavoured to keep out other intruders (at least, at night) by pinning the canvas door to opposite sides and then placing a pail of water near it, so that if anyone attempted to enter they might have a chance of falling over it. Though this never happened, not infrequently in the morning I found a drowned rat in the pail. On one occasion, also, when I awoke, two of these animals were quietly seated on a chestĀ of drawers, which stood at the foot of my bed, apparently watching me, and without attempting to move till I drove them away.

About this time our eyes became affected with ophthalmia, which was then so prevalent that I believe very few of the settlers entirely escaped it. Many of the natives had it, and even the dogs suffered. My son William became totally blind one Sunday while attending Divine Service in the open air, and was led back to the tent by his brother. For myself I was nearly so for three days, and could scarcely find my way about. We had a skilful physician, however, in Doctor Wright, who came out with his wife and family in the Cygnet, and was at that time the only medical practitioner in the colony. Excepting this disease, which was extremely painful while it lasted, we were generally in good health.

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