THE WHI'E WOMAN OF GIPPSLAND. AN EARLY SETTLER'S VERSION A version of the unexplained epi sode of a white woman said to have oeen held captive by Giippsland blacks of the year 1846 has been offered by an early settler now living in Fitzroy, Mr J. Hodges. He is franlkly con temptuous of any attitude of reserve toward the story and is emphatic that the episode was no myth. Aitnougn the incident ranks as an unsolved mystery of early Australian settlement, and very little hope of ever throwing fresh light upon the woman's fate exists, Mr. Hodges is positive that at one stage a white wo man was living with the blacks. In his own words, he is "now comfort ably over his one hundredth year," and, as a centenarian, his recollec tions of this strange episode are en titled to a respectful hearing. More over, he was a young settler in Gipps land when it was a part of New South Wales. Discounting the supposition that the white woman was a survivor from any ship wreck, Mr. Hodges relates that after that intrepid Scot, Angus McMilllan, had opened the way from New South Wales into Gippsland, a motley host followed his expedition, doubtless attracted by the glowing description of the country. Included in this human flotsam and jetsam were two brothers, accompanied by a young boy little more than a child in years. Among the settlers an impres sion was fostered that he was an or phan, but on being questioned more closely he said that his name was Jimmy King, and that his mother was living in Sydney. This disclosure an gered the father or protector, who one day rode out with the child, or dered him off the horse, and gave him a merciless thrashing with a stock whip. So severe and heartless was this flogging that the lad was perman ently deprived of one eye. Instead of being punished for the outrageous conduct, the father, who boasted that he was a relative of the then Gover nor of New South Wales, was never apprehended. The story of his bar barity, however, was brought to Syd ney by drovers and stockmen. It came to the ears of an anxious mother, who, under protection of stockmen, undertook the arduous journey to Gippsland. Suffering in tense privations and hardships, about to become a mother once more, and finding herself at the journey's end repulsed by a callous and brutal hus band, the woman sought sanctuary with a remnant of the Flooden Creek tribe of aboriginals. Some primal in stinct of sympathy for a human suf ferer in such a situation ensured her the friendly protection and help of the blacks, as she remained among them in secret during a critical time. Amid this terrible loneliness, broken only by the humanity and pity of abo riginals, an infant girl was born. The -
maimed boy left his "protector," but kept in touch with his mother, who, on recovering her strength, set out again over the hills for Sydney. Only af ter all this had happened did the white settlers learn of the presence of a white woman among the blacks at all. Official versions of the search expe ditions that set out from Melbourne are rejected by Mr. Hodges, who de clares that a battle between the native tribes took place near Sale. In this encounter muskets were used, and re sulted in a severe slaughter of the na tives, amounting to virtual annihila tion. Some armed attackers, accord ing to the centenarian, were "primed" in a way that soldiers were before go ing "over the top" in the war. A slaughter of the tribes was the di rect sequel of the interpretation offi cially placed upon this reported de tention of a white woman. The "fig urehead" theory is also scouted, and this early settler refused to believe that a few weak, old black men would hump about a wooden effigy of Bri tannia weighing about 100 lb., while superstitiously revering it as a fanci ful god or hero.