It is said that many departed aborigines return to this earth in human form. A legend has already been written in which is the thought that blackfellows often slipped during their journey along the Milky Way through Magellan's Clouds, and came back here. Dense mists were supposed to envelop these returning people, for they were too considerate to make themselves visible suddenly and thus frighten their relatives. They remembered how frightened they themselves had been always when any not-understood phenomenon took place, and they took care not to willingly cause such consternation now that they were from the other world. Yet by inadvertence this was often done.
Aborigines were generally much frightened when mists came, and they often crouched in the shelter of crevasse or camp until they had cleared away. They feared the unseen, and they could not conjecture what fearsome thing might be hidden. They watched the curling, eddying vapour, and their imaginative and often artistic minds saw many fleeting shapes. There is a story of fire coming with a mist which is called "pouraller," and burnt stones near Appin were pointed out as a place where this particular mist often covered the country. No doubt the fact that volcanoes emitted fire with steam is responsible for this idea which has become somewhat distorted in its passage down the ages since Canobolas in New South Wales and Mount Fairy in Victoria and Mounts Gambier and Schanck in South Australia threw out their molten masses.
The strip of country between the Appin Creek and George's River was the home of a very powerf ul group. To-day the watershed drained by the Cataract and the Loddon rivers is one source of Sydney's Water Supply. The head of George's River is in the same locality, but it falls the opposite way and its waters do not flow into the Cataract Dam. On it are King's Falls; on the Loddon the Loddon Falls; on the other creek the Appin Falls. All are most picturesque, though the Appin Falls are now quite governed by the floodgates of the Dam. The real owners of this country roamed over the luxuriant forest. In our time the village of Sherbrooke was built there and Frank Knight's sawmill is responsible for the destruction of the beautiful woods. The natives travelled the peaty patch known to us as Madden's Plains in the days of their mastery, and from the edge of the Illawarra Range they saw the sight that we recognise as the most beautiful in the whole world. When they roamed towards the setting sun they went as far as the Nepean, which winds itself along the foot of the hills of the Blue Mountains.
Madden's Plains is the country of many mists. It was somewhere there that a pretty purple flower grew, and it was there that an old man died -an old man of story and of truth.
Before his burial his womenfolk sat in a little circle and manifested their grief. A son passed by in jaunty fashion just as if he did not care, and the old women ceased their lamentations and cornmenced upbraiding him in loud, angry, querulous voices. He answered them back, and it seemed as if a quarrel, bitter and vociferous, must ensue. Two other young men took sides with their comrade, and the whole camp would have been involved had not the undertakers come to bear away the body to its resting-place.
The spirit had gone. The Milky Way seemed to be closer than usual, and in the morning the whole county was enveloped in a thick mist. It swung up from the jungle at the foot of the range and swept by over the plains and the creeks and the scrub, and must have been lost in the clouds that surely hovered on the crests of the Blue Mountains.
No one stirred from the camp. But the women had not spent their desire to scold the man whom they knew was too callous to feel the death of his father. And he, of all the people, ventured forth into the mist. He had had enough of the tongues of the old mourners.
He had plucked a little stalk that bore several of the pretty violet flowers, and for want of something better to do, or in order to soothe his ruffled feelings, he sat beside a log and quietly and deftly tore the edge of the petals, making them nicely fringed.
Slowly the mist rolled away, and in its billowings was to be seen the form of a man. A short distance off he appeared again, only to be once more swallowed up in another wave. By this time the sorrowing women saw him and in frightened whispers they told the people. Then break after break occurred in the driven mist, and gradually the sun came through it. A short time after it had gathered itself together and had gone away, and the country was clear and crisp and damp, and the sunlight was warm. And slowly approaching from up the creek that we call Muddy Creek was a man. He had the form and the voice of the one for whom the women were grieving. His hands he carried behind his back.
Without a word he strode slowly to the young man, who still sat tearing the violet flowers. Of all the people he was the only one who was blind to the visitor. It was not given to him to see a spirit-man, just as it is not possible for white people to see what can be seen by the natives. Suddenly the hands came from behind the back and a nullah was swung down upon the head of the youth. Because the flower had three petals the spirit-man struck that many blows. There were three marks on the youth's head. The flower fell to the ground, and because it was damp and warm the seeds soon germinated and the resultant flowers had fringed petals. It is a lily. We know it as Thysanotus or Fringed Violet. Perhaps it is a pity it was ever called a violet. It is said by the blacks that it only opens in a mist, and that before the mist clears away the spirit of the slain youth has to tear every petal and make them fringed. The three blows are perpetuated in the wale or bruise-like mark on every petal. It is strange, surely, that so gruesome a story should have been told about such a delicate and beautiful flower.
There is a rather pretty story about the fringed gum-blossom, and in it is a reference to a sea and an island in the centre of Australia.