The following excerpt is from the first book published in Australia for children in 1841. The author is unknown although several people have made calculated guesses. Writers in those days used children's books to teach facts, as well as promote moral and spiritual virtues. The following is the concluding chapter and poem of Australia's first children's book.
ANECDOTES OF THE ABORIGINES OF NEW SOUTH WALES.
Mrs. S. - Little Sally the black child has been accidentally killed.
Clara. - Oh! Mamma, do you know how?
Mrs. S. - She was playing in the barn, which is only a temporary one; and pulled down a heavy prop of wood upon herself. It fell on her temple; and killed her immediately.
Emma. - Do you not think her mother will be very sorry, when she hears of it?
Mrs. S. - Alas! my dear children, her mother also met with an untimely death. These poor uncivilized people, most frequently meet with some deplorable end through giving way to unrestrained passions.
Julius. - Oh! do tell us all you know about little Sally and her mother; if you please, Mamma? It will make the evening pass so pleasantly; and I will be drawing plenty of animals, to fill the little managerie I am making.
Lucy (kissing her Mamma). - Do tell us dear Mamma? My sisters are going to work; and may I set your work-box in order; and then we shall all be so happy.
Mrs. S. warmly returned the fond embrace of her little Lucy; and after they were all seated, began the following narrative:-
HISTORY OF NANNY AND HER CHILDREN
The mother of the poor little black girl, who has lately met with so dreadful a death, was called Nanny. I do not know her native name. She was a remarkably fine, well-formed young woman.
Surely Clara and Emma you must remember Nanny coming occasionally, with other blacks?
The last time I saw her she had this same little Sally with her; who could just then run alone.
Clara. - Oh yes, Mamma! it was a pretty, fat, little brown girl, quite naked.
Emma. - And I remember we asked you to give her a little frock: but before you could get one they were gone.
Mrs. S. - That was the last time I saw the mother. The child was a half-cast, or brown child, as you call them; and soon after the time you speak of, Jane D....n, a young married woman, who had lost her only child sometime before, took a fancy to little Sally. And her mother agreed to leave the child; as soon as it was weaned. You know the black children are not weaned so soon as white children; most probably from the uncertainty and difficulty in procuring proper food. Though I have remarked that the babies will eat voraciously, at an age when a tender white babe would not touch such food.
Clara. - Mamma, I am sure some of the black children are more than four years old, when they are weaned.
Mrs. S. - They are my love. But we will continue our narrative.
When little Sally was about two years old, she was weaned; and taken to her future home. It was evening when the child was left; and she was naturally much distressed, when she found herself deserted by her mother. Jane was soon after, going to put her to bed: but she was greatly alarmed at the idea of being put into a bed; and said with much eagerness, "Bail nangarrie waddie" (not sleep in a bed) pointing to the bed. Nangarrie like-a-that," (sleep like that,) curling her little body round on the ground floor of the hut. To please her, Jane spread a blanket for her on the floor; and poor little sorrowing Sally covered it about her.
Several times during the night, Jane and her husband heard the poor little girl moaning; as if she were lying lamenting her deserted state.
The man, as was usual, opened the door of the hut very early; and little Sally went and stood outside; looking in all directions; and uttering the most piercing coo-ee-es imaginable. Jane assured me, that she was astonished that such a baby could utter such loud and piercing sounds. The forest echoed and rang with them; and Jane who is a kind-hearted young woman, felt her heart thrill with pity and fear.
Lucy. - Oh! Mamma that is just what I should do, if I lost you: cry as loud as ever I could; and be so very, very sorry! What did they do for the poor little girl?
Mrs. S. - They tried to console her; for she was very much distressed, when she found her mother did not reply to her coo-ee-es. She would frequently wander about; and call in this wild way; so peculiar to the aborigines: but her mother was far away.
At length time in some degree reconciled poor little Sally to her new parents and altered state of life: when the tribe came again; and with them her mother.
The child immediately recognised her; and you my dear children, can judge, better than I can describe, the joy she felt at again seeing her. The poor little babe rushed into its mother's arms; but the unnatural mother sent her child from her. Poor little Sally screamed and was refractory; when her mother whipt her severely, and left her.
Emma. - Oh! Mamma, this is too shocking! to leave her little child among strangers; and then whip it for being so glad to see her again; and for wishing to go with her. Ah! Mamma, I am very sorry for the poor little thing. I wish you had taken it from such a bad mother; and then we would have done all we could to have made it forget, it ever had such a naughty, cruel mother. Why did she go near, to teaze her poor little girl?
Mrs. S. - I quite agree with you Emma, that she was very blamable to go near the place; to unsettle her child; but she was not in many respects a bad mother; as I will tell you more about soon.
Jane treated her adopted child very kindly, and tenderly; dressed it well; and kept it very clean. I saw it when it was about four years old; and it was an interesting child; with large black eyes, black curling hair, a pleasant laughing countenance, fat, and had all the appearance of being happy. Perhaps her mother considered that she was better situated with Jane, than she could be wandering about the forests, in search of precarious food. You know at the best, the women and children are badly off.
Clara. - Notwithstanding, Mamma, it seems unnatural for a mother to part with her child. Though I know there is a little boy, who his parents wish you to take: but I think if I were ever so poor, I would not part with my children. Did Nanny ever go again, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - More than once, my dear: when the same scenes took place: affection and tears on the part of the child, and severity on that of the mother.
One time when the blacks were encamped in the neighbourhood of Mrs. D...n's hut, they heard a dreadful screaming in the night; and the husband arose and opened the door: he could not see any thing; and concluded the blacks had been drinking; and were fighting. Not wishing to interfere with them, while in that state; he closed the door; and the noise soon ceased: but in the morning they found poor Nanny had been murdered!
It appeared a black man named Woombi (Nanny's half-brother) had been quarrelling with her and was beating her: she fled for protection near the hut; when he threw a spear after her; which entered the back of her neck; she continued to run, with the spear in her neck: but was soon overtaken by the furious Woombi; who struck her on the head with his tomahawk; and soon dispatched her. I was told she was a dreadful sight in the morning!
Clara. - Poor thing! what became of her?
Mrs. S. - The blacks dug a grave near the spot; and buried her in a sitting posture: putting her tomahawk, pannikin, net, bangalee, and indeed, all her little possessions, with her in the grave.
Lucy. - How strange to bury all her things!
Mrs. S. - It is their custom, and they appear much shocked at the idea of the clothes, &c., of a deceased person being kept, after their interment. The tribe belonging to the neighbourhood where our property is situated, were very much attached to your dear lamented father.
You know they never mention the name of a deceased person; but they were giving me to understand, the regret and sympathy they felt at his loss. I had the locket with me at the time, which has a lock of all our hair in it. I showed this to them, pointing out his (to us) much valued brown curl; when they uttered a piercing cry; and all turned away; holding down their heads a short time: when they looked up I saw they were in tears. One of the women stepped aside; and whispered to me "Bail you show that to blacks ebber any more missus." This of course I promised to refrain from. I was much surprised and effected at their manner; having wished to give them pleasure. It was six years after our bereavement.
In a savage state they bury the living infant with its deceased mother: sometimes when several months old!
Emma. - How terrible!
Mrs. S. - Yes, They place the living child in the grave, by the side of its dead mother; and after covering it with earth, lay heavy stones upon it!
Clara. - Poor little creatures, how cruel! Do you think it is ever done now Mamma?
Mrs. S. - No doubt it is, far in the interior; where their ancient customs are still kept up. The poor babies, appear to be thought very little about.
Clara. - You know Jenny has left three infants to perish in the bush; because, she said, it was too much trouble to rear them: and when our cook asked her if native dogs had eaten them, she replied. "I believe." And I am almost sure she killed that little black baby girl, she had sometime ago; for it suddenly disappeared; and when we questioned her about it, she hung down her head and looked very foolish; and at last said, "Tumble down," It was buried in some of our paddocks; and some stones laid over the grave: when we were taking a walk, with our nurse, we met one of our men, who opened the grave; and it was evident the body had been burned; for there were remains of burnt bones, ashes, and hair.
Emma. - Billy the black man killed one of his little babies.
Mrs. S. - Yes, he took it by its feet and dashed its brains out against a tree. Some however, are very kind parents: but I do not think they are in general, to their infants. I remember a tall woman, quite a stranger, coming with a black infant, of less than a month old. It was so ugly and covered with long hair, as not to look like any thing human: but worse than all, the poor little creature had been terribly burned, by the mother putting it too near the fire; and falling asleep. From the ankle to the hip, on one side, it was nearly burned to the bone. It had been done some days; and the fire seemed out. I therefore had it dressed with lard spread on rags: soon after, I heard the bandages were off. The negligent mother had left it; and one of their hungry dogs, attracted by the smell of the lard, had torn off the rags; and dragged them away; notwithstanding they had been tied on carefully. They were replaced; but the cruel mother appeared quite indifferent to the sufferings of her tender babe.
About a week later, I understood it was dead: probably made away with.
Emma. - What tribe did she belong to, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - I do not recollect: there were a great many tribes collecting; to the number of perhaps 200 blacks onour estate: they were assembling to fight; and we found it a great nuisance. Bullocks and horses are very much frightened at them; and the men found it almost impossible to continue their ploughing.
Emma. - It is very odd, that animals should know the difference between black and white people.
Mrs. S. - I do not suppose that it is their color altogether. It may be the unpleasant smell which they have; from want of cleanliness; and constantly rubbing themselves with the fat of the animals which they kill.
Julius. - Did they fight, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - Yes; but their battle will furnish a subject for another evening: we will return to poor Nanny.
Emma. - Do you think the women were sorry for poor Nanny, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - Yes; I think they are kind to each other.
The son of a cottager residing at Wingelo, saw the ground had been lately dug up in the bush, not far from where they had lived: curiosity led him to examine into the cause: when he found the body of a little black infant: he ran home with it, saying, "Look, mother, I have found a little black baby." His mother made him take it back instantly; and bury it, as it was before. She then went to look for its mother; she soon found her, sitting with her chin resting between her knees; crouching before a fire: another woman sat near her; who was (according to their ideas on the subject) endeavouring to draw away the pain her friend felt. This was done, by laying a string across the body of the sick woman, where the pain was most violent; the other end was held by her friend; who kept drawing it across her lips, till they were sadly cut; and bled very profusely: while she was doing this, she kept up a mournful monotonous chaunt. The cottager left her to prepare some tea; she returned with it in about a quarter of an hour; when she found the woman was dead; and several black women were preparing her body for interment. They tied her knees to her chest; and her arms to her sides; by passing strips of stringy bark round her. A hole was then dug; and she was put into it; and her dead baby by her side.
Clara. - Poor woman! how very soon they buried her. Did they carve the trees about?
Mrs. S. - I do not know: but I think the blacks in the civilised parts of the country, are too indolent now to take so much trouble.
The grave on the side of our hill, must have been made at least 23 years ago; and yet the carving in many of the trees is quite visible: though we can only from that circumstance, conjecture where the grave was.
Lucy. - Did poor little Sally know her Mother was killed, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - I do not think she did my love. I believe it happened about a year after Mrs. D. had adopted her.
Emma. - It was very unnatural for her brother to kill her, Mamma: what do you think they quarrelled about?
Mrs. S. - The blacks have a great objection to their women living among white people. Nanny was particularly fond of this; and it made the blacks angry. Indeed Nanny would have married an overseer to a Mrs. J. several years ago. The man was very anxious to marry her: but Governor Darling would not allow it. At this time she had a little brown boy, whom she called George. He was a fine little boy; some months older than you are, Clara. One day she brought him for me to look at. I admired him very much; and gave her a few clothes for him. Clara was in long petticoats. Nanny asked me to let her see "piccaninnie's" head: accordingly the cap was put back and the little golden locks exhibited. Nanny was in exstacies; she clapped her hands and exclaimed "All same Georgey Missus."
Emma. - How droll. I dare say the babies heads were not at all alike: most likely Clara looked like a wax doll beside Georgey.
Julius. - What became of him, Mamma?
Mrs. S. When he was about three year or four years old, Nanny came one day without him; and told me Mrs. J. had sent for him to Sydney, to put him to school: he remained there some time.
Afterwards, I heard he was acting as a little shepherd at Bombarlowah; over a flock of sheep belonging to the person his mother would have married.
I believe he still lives with the same person; and I heard he had given George some sheep and cattle of his own.
Nanny was very fond and proud of her little George, before he went to school she used to wash him and comb his hair; which was light and curly.
Julius. - Where did she get a comb from, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - She used to carry a broken comb, which had probably been used to comb a horse's mane.
Clara. - Not a very fine one then: but better than none; and shewed she wished to keep her little boy clean.
Mrs. S. - One day when the tribe was encamped hear the house; and Nanny and her child nearer than any of the rest: I went into the store at the back of the house, with the cook and your nurse. Suddenly little George gave a piercing shriek. I sent the nurse to see what had happened; and found Nanny had bitten the child severely on the back of his arm. She looked very much ashamed, when we reproved her for it; and said, piccaninnie wanted to suck.
Lucy. - Mamma, that is just what pussy does, when she wishes to wean her kittens.
Mrs. S. - It reminded me of a cat Lucy; and I felt quite disgusted with Nanny: but upon the whole her children bore evident signs of her affection and care.
Clara. - How curious it is that the black children do not change their teeth, Mamma. (Editor's note: I can assure you, as a Dental Surgeon, this is not the case!)
Mrs. S. - It is very remarkable. I have taken a great deal of pains to question both parents and children; and they all have told me that they do not. This may account for the large size of their babies' teeth: which we have thought so extraordinary.
Some of the half caste children change their teeth; others do not.
Emma. - Jane must have been sadly distressed at poor little Sally's death; she was so much attached to her.
Mrs. S. - She was, my dear. She told me she would never take another child. Sally for some time had given her a good deal of trouble and additional work: but for the last few years her love for the child, who was very docile and affectionate, had quite overbalanced any trouble she might have had with her; and she found her a great comfort. I suppose the child was about six years old when the accident happened. Jane was from home; and her husband ran immediately for Dr. A., who told me the man was as much distressed, as if it had been his own child.
Emma. - Where was it buried, Mamma?
Mrs. S. - They opened poor Nanny's grave, and placed her by her mother.
Clara. - If the blacks had been about, they would have been very much terrified at this: you know they are fearful of even going near any place, where any one has been buried.
Mrs. S. - Yes, we had an instance of that, when Dr. F. wanted one of the blacks to dig up the bones of a black; who had been interred on our land many years before. The black man looked dreadfully shocked; and exclaimed "Too much gerun me:" (meaning frightened) "jump up white fellow long time ago." You know they think the white people have once been black.
Clara. - Yes; I have heard of two people, whom they think they recognise as their departed black friends; and call them by their names, when speaking of them.
Emma. - How odd: perhaps they think white people have once been black, because they see those who die look pale.
Mrs. S. - It would be difficult to ascertain what gave rise to such an idea.
Julius. - I wonder Sally was not buried in the Church Yard.
Mrs. S. - She was not a Christian, my dear. Jane had neglected to have her christened; though she told me she had intended it.
Another melancholy instance of procrastination. Oh! my children! how very, very fatal is this habit of putting off from day to day, what should be done immediately; for we know not the day, nor the hour, when time may cease for us; and we be summoned into eternity. Let us dear children, endeavour to profit by the frequent warnings we have, of the uncertainty of life. "For here we have no abiding place," but, "In the midst of life we are in death." May we be found watching! and may God in his mercy so renew a right spirit within us, through Jesus Christ, that in our anxiety to acquire temporal knowledge, we may not forget that "one thing is needful", and so pass through this life that we gain a knowledge of the things which belong to our peace; and become at last heirs of immortality!
"Then when the last, the closing hour draws nigh,
Almighty God, by whose command,