Chapter Twenty-Nine

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OLD HARRY BREWER, lucky to have any post at all and still working as provost-marshal and building supervisor without official confirmation from the home government, was conscientiously searching Pitt before it left to return to England and found a recently arrived convict woman stowed away, with the connivance of one of the mates, Mr. Tate. Tate was brought ashore and tried for the offence and acquitted, so that whether it was to escape New South Wales or for the love of that sailor that the girl was secreted on Pitt, we do not know.

Why would she and others not want to flee? For the funerals continued, and the stores were still proving inadequate to sustain healthy lives. “The convicts dying very fast, merely through want of nourishment,” wrote a newly arrived refugee from bankruptcy, Surgeon Richard Atkins. “The Indian corn served out is of little use in point of nourishment, they have no mills to grind it and many are so weak they cannot pound it. At present there is not more than eight weeks ration of flour at 3 pound per man at the store. Oh! Shame, shame!”

By now, desperately hungry men and women crept into the maize fields and stole the cobs from the centre of the crops, and being caught, were too weak to face punishment. The ration of salt meat remained as before, but Gorgon's flour was giving out, and the ration was reduced to 11/2 pounds, though 3 pounds of unmilled maize would be given instead to each adult, and to every child ten years of age. In the absence of proper grinding facilities, maize would become a byword for useless food, as it also would more than fifty years later, during the Irish famine. To make enough meal for each person's survival, “hand mills and querns were set to work to grind it coarse for every person both at Sydney and at Parramatta; and at this latter place, wooden mortars, with a lever and a pestle, were also used to break the corn, and these pounded it much finer than it could be ground by the hand mills; but it was effected with great labour.”

By May 1792, the flour Gorgon had brought, initially believed to be adequate for six months, was giving out, and could last the settlement only another twenty-four days at 11/2 pounds per week, and the salt meat provisions would be depleted within three months. “Had not such numbers died, both in the passage and since the landing of those who survived the voyage, we should not at this moment have had anything to receive from the public stores; thus strangely did we derive the benefits from the miseries of our fellow creatures!”

It was “afflicting,” said Collins, to observe the emaciation of those who remained. A fishery was set up at the South Head look-out station exclusively for the use of the sick. The bulk of game was directed towards the hospitals. The huntsmen were given a reward of 2 pounds of flour and the head, one fore quarter, and “the pluck” of any animal they brought in. Collins expressed the nature of the scurvy beginning to prevail in graphic terms—a very want of sufficient strength in the constitution to digest nourishment.

Phillip now found himself issuing maize from the store to supplement shortfalls in other items. Yet the threat of punishment for food theft could not prevent the strong inhabitants stealing from the more vulnerable when the chance presented, particularly since the weak, from the time of the Second Fleet onwards, had become so numerous.

Richard Atkins, newly arrived surgeon and deputy judge-advocate of New South Wales, was characteristic of the personnel from which many colonial governors had to fill their bureaucracies. He was the fifth son of baronet, and such men would frequently find themselves employed, for want of something better, in some post along one of the further tendrils of empire. Fleeing insolvency by resigning a commission as adjutant of the Isle of Man Corps, and sailing for Sydney in the Pitt, he would retain in the colony a reputation as a toper, a libertine, and an unreliable borrower of money. Despite his drinking, Phillip made him magistrate at Parramatta and then appointed him registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court, even though it soon became apparent that he could not be trusted to pay his bills. John Macarthur would ultimately describe Atkins as “a public cheater living in the most boundless dissipation.”

Yet there is something extremely amiable in the way he writes. When he went to breakfast at the governor's house the first time, Atkins came amply supplied with contrary opinions of Phillip by a number of gentlemen in the colony. But he decided, “His situation is by no means a desirable one in point of duty, for except the civil and military departments he has nothing but a set of rascals to deal with who require a watchful eye…. The overseers for themselves are convicts and are not to be depended on. At Parramatta some of them are rigid to a degree, which proceeds from a fear of being thought too indulgent, and probably from what will almost universally operate upon weak minds, a thirst for power and dominion over the rest of our fellow creatures. The lash is in their hands at present, they ought to use it with lenity, lest they themselves should fall under it. Their power here hangs by a thread.”

Nevertheless, Atkins remained loyal to Phillip, impressed by the energy with which he visited his farmers. Atkins accompanied the governor on a tour of the settlers at the ponds along the Parramatta River, and Atkins found them comfortably lodged, with plenty of vegetables and Indian corn, and able to keep two or three pigs and a few acres under wheat. “In short, they are in every particular much better situated than they could possibly be in England. Indeed too much praise can't be given to the governor for (I may say) the paternal care and encouragement he gives to all and each of them who deserve it.”

Atkins found that hunger was the general convict plea against accusations of theft, “but unfortunately in this country it cannot be admitted, for was it, no private property could be secure. Indeed, to act as a magis trate here with efficacy, you must in a great degree lay aside that philanthropy and goodwill towards men that adorns human nature.”

He noted that, just as earlier in the colony's history ships had been passionately waited for, now people were desperately hoping for the early arrival of the Atlantic and the Britannia, convict ships of the Third Fleet, which Phillip had sent on to Bengal for provisions.

By now the law of diminishing returns had hit New South Wales. “Few, however, in comparison with the measure of our necessities,” wrote Collins, “were the numbers daily brought into the field for the purpose of cultivation; and of those who could handle the hoe or the spade by far the greater part carried hunger in their countenances; independence of Great Britain was merely ‘a sanguine hope or visionary speculation.’”

Indeed, even the First Fleeters' resistance to disease had been depleted by years of poor and reduced rations. Augustus Alt, the settlement's surveyor, was in too bad a condition to attend to surveying farms. A young man named David Burton, whose appointment as superintendent of convicts Sir Joseph Banks had recommended and who had come out on the Gorgon, took up the task, and Phillip came to like him. Since Phillip was concerned that New South Wales had acquired a bad reputation internationally, he asked Burton to prepare a report on the agricultural potential of the Sydney basin, and Burton spent the summer of 1791–92 attending to this task. Phillip sent the result to Dundas with the note that Burton “may be supposed to be a much better judge of the good or bad qualities of the ground than any of those persons who have hitherto given their opinions.” Burton had already remitted sixty tubs of plants and sundry boxes of seeds and specimens to Sir Joseph Banks, his patron, via the Gorgon and the Pitt, and had many tubs ready to send on the Atlantic, whenever it should return to Sydney from Bengal.

But sadly the useful Burton was taken away from his grateful governor. He had been out with some soldiers of the New South Wales Corps to kill ducks on the Nepean River. He carried his gun awkwardly, Collins wrote, and the first time it went off, it “lodged its contents in the ground within a few inches of the feet of the person who immediately preceded him.” Then, on the river, resting the butt of his piece on the ground, he put his hand over the barrel to pull himself upright. The gun discharged,and the shot entered his wrist and forced its way up between the two bones of his shattered right arm to the elbow. It took till five o'clock the next day before his companions got him back to Parramatta, and by then there was an inflammation in the wound. In the opinion of the surgeons, amputation would have hastened his death, so he was allowed to die in what could be called peace. Phillip approached young Burton as he lay the evening before his death, and found him very collected. “If I die, Sir Joseph Banks knows my family, and my intentions towards them—I have brothers, and a father and mother—I wish everything to be sent to Sir Joseph Banks, for my father and mother.” In him, Phillip told Banks, “I lost one whom I cannot replace and whom I could ill spare.”

At last, on 20 June, “to the inexpressible joy of all ranks of people in the settlements,” the Atlantic store ship arrived, “with a cargo of rice, soujee and dholl from Calcutta.” She also brought two bulls and a cow with her, and twenty sheep and twenty goats, which Collins thought a very diminutive species. By way of the Atlantic news of the wreck of the Pandora and the recapture of William and Mary Bryant and their party reached Sydney Cove, as if to prove to its inhabitants that even an escape was no guarantee of freedom.

But the deliverance from hunger Atlantic seemed to offer was illusory. It had brought only grain and dholl—a species of split pea—and so the ration of salt meat had now to be reduced. Phillip had promised both soldiers and convicts that back rations “being the same as are allowed His Majesty's troops serving in the West-India Islands, excepting only the allowance of spirits,” would be made up to everyone once adequate provisions arrived. Atkins said that in lieu of 2 pounds of pork per week, the stores now gave out 1 pound of Indian corn and 1 pound of dholl. “The convicts dissatisfied with their ration, not thinking it adequate to what they had before; 'tis hard.”

Some were cheered at the mid-winter wheat crop in the Parramatta area, but there was need for more rain if the next harvest were to succeed. Though the yearly rainfall in the Sydney basin was approximately 48 inches, it was subject to what we now know as the El Niño southern oscillation, which, from the frequent references to drought made in Sydney from 1790 onwards, had an impact on the first European settlers. The Eora were used to this phenomenon: it was one of the factors which inhibited their transition to what the Europeans, at least in theory, would have desired them to be—farmers. When it rained in Sydney, as it did in the first days of the settlement, it rained torrentially and with massive energy, with the pyrotechnics of electricity thrown in. When it refused to rain, as in the winter of 1792, one pleasant blue-skied day succeeded another.

The women of New South Wales had been employed until now making clothes out of slops. But there was full enough employment for all the women as hut-keepers, mothers of small children, and at labour in the fields without the further task of manufacturing clothing, and in any case there were “many little abuses in the cutting out and making up of clothing” that could not be wiped out without superintendents. To free women for direct or indirect service to the production of crops, Phillip suggested to Evan Nepean that frocks, trousers, shirts, shifts, gowns, and petticoats be made in Calcutta, India, for the colony, but with a specific thread of a different colour being inserted into the convict provision, so that what was intended for the prisoners could not readily be sold to the soldiers or free settlers.

What sales there were, legal and illegal, still occurred by barter or by bills of various kinds—cheques or written orders which were re-endorsed by one payee to a further one. Sometimes there was a list of crossed-out payees' names on the back of a bill, with only the last legal recipient's name uncrossed. People did not always trust this sort of document as bills could be forged. Yet the specie of various kinds and nations brought to New South Wales by the Second Fleet did not cover all the necessary transactions even of a modestly commercial place, and so bills had to do. Then when the commissary, John Palmer, sent a subordinate aboard Atlantic with a money order for £5 to purchase articles, the purser devalued it to a mere 1 pound 4 shillings. Thus were all bills discounted, and all New South Wales prices hugely inflated.

Government intervention was clearly essential and Harry Brewer was sent to the master of Atlantic with a writ to enquire into the massive, usurious discounting of bills. But the problem remained.

• • •

IN MID-JULY, AS RAIN came and the last of the stores were being cleared from the Atlantic, another signal was made from the South Head look-out station, and the Britannia store ship, returning from India, came down the harbour and anchored in the cove. Even though Britannia sailed alone, aboard was twelve months' clothing for the convicts, four months of flour, and eight months' beef and pork, so that “every description of persons in the settlement” could be put back on full issue. Suddenly, Sydney Cove was redolent with the baking of flapjacks and the frying of salt beef. Britannia also brought news that Captain Donald Trail of the Neptune was being prosecuted, and people were cheered by that and thought that justice and reform were possible.

The restored rations gave Collins hope for the day when journal-keepers like himself would not need to “fill his page with comparisons between what we might have been and what we were; to lament the non-arrival of supplies … to paint the miseries and wretchedness which ensued; but might adopt a language to which he might truly be said to have been hitherto a stranger, and paint the glowing prospects of a golden harvest, the triumph of a well-filled store, and the increasing and consequent prosperity of the settlements.”

But, as usual, the prospects weren't as bright as they initially appeared. Not all the supplies Commissary Palmer received were of high quality. Phillip visited the storehouses and peeped into a series of casks. He was reduced to shaking his head, and told Palmer that only those provisions considered “merchantable” should be paid for. Many of the casks of beef were deficient in weight, and the meat lean, coarse and bony and “worse than they have ever been issued in His Majesty's service.” Such a claim meant the product was near inedible. “A deception of this nature would be more severely felt in this country … every ounce lost here was of importance.” Collins was reduced to considering this cargo from India as an experiment “to which it was true we were driven by necessity; and it had become the universal and earnest wish that no cause might ever again induce us to try it.”

It does not seem to have been a dodge to save rations when that month Phillip granted Elizabeth Perry, the possibly innocent wife of James Ruse, an absolute remission of her term of imprisonment. She was already supported by the industry of her husband, who also supplied his two convict labourers independently of the public store. Capacity to be off the rations and the Ruses' continuing good conduct were the reasons assigned in the document which gave her back the rights and privileges of a free woman.

But the governor felt the need to refine the regulations for that increasing minority of convicts whose sentences of transportation had expired. Having finished their time, “many of them seemed to have forgotten that they were still amenable to the regulations of the colony, and appeared to have shaken off, with the yoke of bondage, all restraints and dependence whatsoever.” For example, Benjamin Ingram, a man who had been sentenced for stealing a 1-shilling handkerchief in 1784 and whose sentence had now expired, was tried for breaking into the cottage of a female convict and packing up her belongings for removal. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, and was permitted to ascend the ladder under the infamous fig tree before he was informed that he had been pardoned on condition of transportation to Norfolk Island for the remainder of his life. Norfolk Island had been at the beginning a sanctuary for the less corrupted, but had grown to be, at least in part, a catchment for those who offended notably on the mainland. While waiting to go to the island, Ingram told Collins and other officials he was “frequently distressed for food.” This “depraved man” would eventually be returned to the main-land and would commit suicide while in prison charged with yet another burglary.

The food supplies from Atlantic and Britannia, deficient as they were, could not prevent some remarkable acts of food theft. In September all hands were busy bringing in the Indian corn, and even though the seed crop was steeped in tubs of urine to keep it from being pilfered, “some of the convicts cannot refrain from stealing and eating it.” In a letter to Dundas on 2 October, Phillip wrote of the persistent need for so many articles of food and industry amongst a population which had not eaten amply for four years. They needed iron cooking pots nearly as much as they needed provisions, he said, and all the cross-cut saws, axes, and various tools of husbandry were in short supply or disrepair. Further hunger was inevitable. He went through the sort of weary figures he had been remitting to London since the start: “There remains at present in this colony, of rice and flour and bread, sufficient for 96 days at 2 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of rice per man for seven days, salt [meat] provisions sufficient for 70 days on a full ration, and of pease and dholl, sufficient for 156 days at 3 pounds per week for each man.” But the last year's crop of maize, he said, injecting a soupçon of hope, was nearly 5,000 bushels, despite the drought. “Six hundred and ninety-five bushels reserved for seed and other purposes, and not less than 1500 bushels were stolen from the grounds, notwithstanding every possible precaution.” Salt meat provisions for New South Wales, he counselled, should only be acquired from Europe—since those from other sources, such as India, were appalling.

Phillip himself remained a victim of the rations and an earth which was only gradually being persuaded to submit to European expectations. The newly arrived son of one of his merchant friends wrote of the governor at this stage that his health “now is very bad. He fatigues himself so much he fairly knocks himself up and won't rest till he is not able to walk.”

In October 1792, Phillip was still awaiting explicit approval from England for his return home. He was anxious to be relieved, and there had never been any idea that he, the uncondemned, would choose to remain indefinitely in this temperate, beguiling, but harsh garden. He was enlivened when on 7 October, the largest ship to enter Port Jackson up to that hour, the 914-ton Royal Admiral, arrived with a large cargo of convicts. The ship also brought one of the last detachments of the New South Wales Corps, an agricultural expert, a master miller, and a master carpenter, along with its 289 male and forty-seven female convicts. The ship, owed by a London “husband” who frequently contracted his ships to the East India Company, Thomas Larkins, was the antithesis of some of the appallingly run transports of the past few years. The Royal Admiral had embarked considerably fewer convicts than the overcrowded Pitt, whose men had died in such numbers throughout the New South Wales autumn. The naval agent for Royal Admiral was the former surgeon of the notorious but healthy Lady Juliana, Richard Alley, and the master and the ship's surgeon collaborated well with him in matters of convict health. The Royal Admiral had made a very fast passage of 130 days from Torbay,even though she had spent twenty-one of those days in Simon's Bay at the Cape. Then, south of Africa, with the roaring forties in her sails, she had made over 3,000 miles in just sixteen days. “She brought in with her a fever, which had much abated by the extreme attention paid by Captain Bond and his officers to cleanliness,” Collins recorded. The officers had also supplied the prisoners “with comforts and necessities beyond what were allowed for their use during the voyage.” The master and officers were speculators nonetheless—they had freighted out over £4,000 worth of their own goods to sell ashore.

These days, the governor judged it necessary to send most newly arrived convicts straight up the river to Parramatta where work was to be done, since Sydney possessed “all the evils and allurements of a seaport of some standing.” Phillip felt there would be difficulties in removing prisoners from Sydney once they settled in there. Even within a penal universe, under conditions of hunger, Sydney was already taking on what it would never lose—the allure of a city of pleasures and vices.

One arrival on Royal Admiral, this one significant only in retrospect, was Mary Haydock, thirteen when put aboard the transport, and now assigned as nursemaid to the family of Major Grose. She had been convicted of stealing a horse, but her crime seems to have been the Georgian equivalent of joy-riding. She had already been courted on Royal Admiral by a young agent of the East India Company, an Irishman, Thomas Reibey, who was making his way to India via Port Jackson. He would ultimately return and marry her, and the Reibeys would become wealthy, beginning their mercantile career as civilian associates of the emergent trading force of the New South Wales Corps.

The newly arrived officers of the Corps were quick to sense the advantages of the place and dealt with their state of want by themselves chartering the Britannia to travel to Cape Town and Rio for supplies, including boots for the soldiers. Phillip was not easy about it, since it was an interruption to the duty the Britannia had in relation to collecting her cargo under East India Company charter. The officers also expected land grants, but Phillip feared that in giving them any, he would “increase the number of those who do not labour for the public, and lessen those who are to furnish the colony with the necessaries of life.” Phillip feared too much enterprise would make the penal community of New South Wales hard to control, and that barter would develop in spirits, for which the convicts were crazy. The shops set up in Parramatta and Sydney for the sale of private goods out of the Royal Admiral were permitted to sell porter, but they were found to be selling spirits as well, with deplorable results. “Several of the settlers, breaking out from the restraints to which they had been subject, conducted themselves with the greatest impropriety, beating their wives, destroying their stock, trampling on and injuring their crops in the ground, and destroying each other's property.” In New South Wales, all the rage of exile and want was unleashed by liquor, but the officers of the New South Wales Corps could sniff not a social crisis, but an opportunity.

Almost as a passing distraction, the little Kitty arrived, the last ship of that year, carrying ten male and thirty female convicts and various supplies. On the Kitty too came 870 ounces of silver in dollars to pay the wages of superintendents. Fifteen Quaker families who had made a proposal to be settled in New South Wales were also to have made their passage on Kitty and other ships, but the plan to leaven the convict mass of New South Wales fell through, perhaps because it demanded that 500 acres be allotted to each of the Quaker settlers.

SIR JOSEPH BANKS WOULD LATER say that “Governor Phillip … was so ill when he left Sydney as to feel little hope of recovery.” In dreaming of his return to England, Phillip must sometimes have imagined death coming from his exhaustion and chronic ailments, but at other, more energetic times, might have mused on the chance of military service arising from conflict with republican France. Being in such a remote place as New South Wales at such a crucial time could itself be a torment. Yet he hoped he had done enough not simply to satisfy his masters, but to validate his own honour as an officer, to recognise the demands of his culture, and to put its mark on the shore of New South Wales. Indeed, he would leave certain traditions indelibly implanted behind him—an insistence on the supremacy of law, an enlightened authoritarianism rather than republican rights, and a sense of community which the cynics would not have thought possible. Authority and equality were the two trees which Phillip planted in Sydney Cove, and perhaps too the tree of grudging cooperative endeavour, into which the convicts were forced by circumstance. He had never invoked happiness, but he had invoked cohesion and its benefits, and that tree too would grow to become a sense of commonwealth, from which, however, Bennelong and the clans he loved and hated would be excluded.

So now, despite merely ambiguous permission from Dundas, Phillip had decided. Regardless of the rationing problems, whose end he saw in sight if the government and private farms were successful, he would sail home on the Atlantic, due to leave Sydney in December 1792. By the time Phillip packed his papers and assembled his samples, he had imposed on this version of the previously unknown earth the European template. There were 3,470 acres under grant to various time-expired criminals and others. Some 417 acres were in private cultivation, but the timber had been cleared from 100 more, and 1,012 acres were in cultivation on public land at Sydney Cove and Farm Cove, Parramatta and Toongabbie. There was a good crop of corn and a summer harvest of wheat for cutting.

“A striking proof of what some settlers had themselves declared,” said David Collins, “on its being hinted to them that they had not always been so diligent when labouring for the whole, ‘We are now working for ourselves.’”

As well as livestock on farms under cultivation, the stock belonging to the public was kept at Parramatta and consisted of three bulls, two bull calves, fifteen cows, three calves, five stallions, six mares, 105 sheep, and 43 hogs. The governor gave each of the married convict settlers, and each settler from the marines and from the Sirius, one ewe for breeding purposes. Though it would later be argued that Australia's ancient, leached, thin soil was not well-suited to hard-hoofed European animals, such questions did not exist for Phillip. Livestock stood for a European imperative more profound than theology. The new place should be graced by such identifiable, biblical, and fruitful beasts. But convicts now lived in brick huts because of the good clays of the Sydney basin. Gradually, but relentlessly, the strange southland was adapted to European needs and ways.

There were a number of reasons the Sydney experiment seemed now,and despite all, in a promising condition. One was that the home government was still confronted with an epidemic of crime, and a growth of unrest and rebellious sentiment amongst Methodist radicals and Scottish and Irish seditionists. Thus New South Wales needed to be remembered and supplied. But Phillip's own stubborn certainties had a lot to do with the experiment's success-cum-survival as well. His insistence on equity in rationing must have been a new experience for many convicts used to the corrupt systems of supply in prison and hulk. His decision to elevate convicts to civic positions as superintendents, overseers, and settlers imbued in them a new sense of opportunity and potential influence. Only in New South Wales did land come to the convict who completed his time, and with it the sense of social order which accompanied ownership. Phillip had created a system of punishment and reward which, as repugnant as some of its elements might be to modern sensibilities, reliably delivered for the convict and soldier-settler.

IN HIS LAST DAYS in Sydney, soldiers, convicts, and servants carried Phillip's baggage down from his two-storey Government House past its garden and the edge of public farmland to the government wharf on the east side of Sydney Cove. When Phillip himself came down on 11 December, dressed for departure, full of unrecorded impulses and thoughts, unsure of his future but fairly sure of the survival of New South Wales's curious society, the red-coated New South Wales Corps under Major Grose presented arms. They dipped their colours and did him honour. Grose, whom Phillip got on with, would take over the management of New South Wales until the next governor arrived. (It would turn out to be John Hunter, former captain of Sirius, Phillip's Scots friend. )

Phillip must have hoped that, leaving a place so little understood by the world at large that it would always seem to others to be out of the known universe, he would have a chance to advance towards greater responsibility and higher glory. But in fact it was with the children of his convict, free, and military settlers, whom he was pleased to wave off, that his name would achieve its immortality. Though greater formal honours awaited him, his chief remembrance would be in this cove, in this harbour, and in the continent beyond. And even so, his abiding presence in the imagination would be more akin to that of a great totem than that of breathing flesh. He would not glisten for the children of this and other generations, he would not glow with the amiability or deeds of a Washington, a Jefferson, a Lafayette. He did not seek or achieve civic affection. He would forever be a colourless secular saint, the apostle of the deities Cook and Banks. He would be lodged not in our imaginations, but rather in our calculations of the meaning of the continent and its society forever. Yet his spirit, pragmatic and thorough, is still visible in Australia.

Thus the New South Wales Corps, which would acquire a questionable reputation, earned or not, saluted Phillip as he passed in his clouds of gravity.

ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE fears of the natives was, and would remain, that figures like Phillip would attract men and women out of their accustomed circuits and spirit them away from this world which for the Eora was the centre of things, the sole habitable universe. And it was happening with Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne, “two men who were much attached to his person; and who withstood at the moment of their departure the united distress of their wives, and the dismal lamentations of their friends, to accompany him to England.” They knew no map for where they were going, only that it was outer, at an unspeakable distance, and that it was a region of incomprehensible darkness. Bennelong's interest in Phillip would lead him profoundly away, and the risk that he could belong to neither world was one he bore relatively lightly on this high summer day as he sniffed the aroma of the eucalypts, tinged with smoke from western bushfires, and went aboard the Atlantic. It is likely that many of his people thought he was under an enchantment and thus vitiated forever. Some might have thought also that Abaroo's ultimate rejection of Yemmerrawanne as a suitor could have added to that handsome youth's readiness to travel with his kinsman Bennelong.

Early the next morning the Atlantic dropped down-harbour in semidarkness, past the now familiar sandstone headlands and dun bush, and took Phillip away from New South Wales, forever. The desert interior of the continent conjured a summer south-westerly to send him out of Eora land, past the Cameraigal headlands of the north shore towards a last sight of the beach at Manly, where he had taken the chief wound of his incumbency. As he left it, the state of the colony seemed far better than at any time since the settlement was made.

At Christmas, “Phillip gave every mess a joint of fresh pork and some pumpkin and half a pint of spirits to each man to celebrate the redeemer's natal day.” In January, off Cape Horn, “there were a great many islands of ice,” and many squalls, but rapid progress. They made Rio in February in time for Easty to express disapproval of the “grand and magnificent” Romish behaviour of candles, and statues of heads of patriarchs, and the Virgins at crossroads which people appealed to, “instead of looking to Jesus Christ as a complete Saviour of the world.”

They celebrated the crossing of the Equator with the normal ceremonies, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne being alarmed to see Neptune appear over the side of the ship. Within days, “David Thompson fell overboard and drowned, Private Jackson died of a violent purging”: two men who had survived strange waters to die in more accustomed ones. Finally, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne stepped ashore with Phillip at Falmouth towards the end of May 1793, to catch the London stagecoach. It was their turn to enter a mystery.

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