An Autobiography HTML version

Lovers And Friends
It is always supposed that thoughts of love and marriage are the chief concerns in a girl's
life, but it was not the case with me. I had only two offers of marriage in my life, and I
refused both. The first might have been accepted if it had not been for the Calvinistic
creed that made me shrink from the possibility of bringing children into the world with so
little chance of eternal salvation, so I said. "No" to a very clever young man, with whom I
had argued on many points, and with whom, if I had married him, I should have argued
till one of us died! I was 17, and had just begun to earn money. I told him why I had
refused him, and that it was final. In six weeks he was engaged to another woman. My
second offer was made to me when I was 23 by a man aged 55, with three children. He
was an artist, whose second wife and several children had been murdered by the Maoris
near Wanganui during the Maori insurrection of the forties, and he had come to Adelaide
with the three survivors. The massacre of that family was only one of the terrible
tragedies of that time, but it was not the less shocking. The Maoris had never been known
to kill a woman, and when the house was attacked, Mr. Gilfillan got out of a back
window to call the soldiers to their help. Though struck on the back of the head and the
neck and scarred for life--owing to which he was always compelled to wear his hair long-
-he succeeded in his mission. His wife put her own two children through the window, and
they toddled off hand in hand until they met their father returning with the soldiers. The
eldest daughter, a girl of 13, escaped with a neighbour's child, a baby in arms. She was
seen by the Maoris, struck on the forehead with a stone axe, and left unconscious. The
crying of the baby roused her, and she went to the cowyard and milked a cow to get milk
for the hungry child, and there she was found by the soldiers. She was queer in her ways
and thoughts afterwards, and, it was said, always remained 13 years old. She died in
November last, aged 74. Her stepmother and the baby and her own brother and sister
were murdered one by one as they tried to escape by the same window that had led the
rest of the family to safety. One of the toddling survivors still lives in New Zealand.
Now, these are all the chances of marriage I have had in my life. Dickens, in "David
Copperfield," speaks of an old maid who keeps the remembrance of some one who might
have made her an offer, the shadowy Pidger, in her heart until her death. I cannot forget
these two men. I am constantly meeting with the children, grandchildren, and even great-
grandchildren of the first. As for the other, Andrew Murray gave me a fine landscape
painted by John A. Gilfillan as a slight acknowledgment of services rendered to his
newspaper when he left it to go to Melbourne, and it hangs up in my sitting room for all
to see. Mr. Gilfillan had a commission to paint "The Landing of Capt. Cook" with the
help of Portraits and miniatures of the principal personages, and some sketches of his of
Adelaide in 1849 are in the Adelaide Art Gallery. If the number of lovers has been few,
no woman in Australia has been richer in friends. This narrative will show what good
friends--men as well as women--have helped me and sympathized in my work and my
aims. I believe that if I had been in love, especially if I had been disappointed in love, my
novels would have been stronger and more interesting; but I kept a watch over myself,
which I felt I knew I needed, for I was both imaginative and affectionate. I did not want
to give my heart away. I did not desire a love disappointment, even for the sake of
experience. I was 30 years old before the dark veil of religious despondency was
completely lifted from my soul, and by that time I felt myself booked for a single life.