Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/247

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229
NOTES AND ANECDOTES.

garden, of course, down goes the wanna (yam-stick), and up comes the potato, which is at once put into the bag. Then you white men shoot at poor blackfellows. I will take life for life!"[1]

Retribution.

A law prevails, among some tribes at least, which renders it compulsory on the nearest male relative to take the life of some one of the tribe to which the slayer belongs. And even if a man dies a natural death, they believe he has been killed by some unseen hand, in which case they resort to divination, to ascertain the tribe from which the slayer came. The avenger is generally not actuated so much by personal ill-feeling as by the desire to perform a supposed duty, and thereby maintain his good name among his own people. He therefore sometimes kills the first of the tribe he meets, without for a moment considering whether or not his victim was even an accessory. Justice is then supposed to be vindicated. Blood for blood is their universal law; revenge becomes a sacred duty; and if a man withhold his hand from taking a life as a satisfaction for his brother's, he is ever after looked upon as a coward.

As the wild blacks supposed that all white men knew and approved of each other's deeds, they held it a sacred duty for the avenger to slay the first white person in his power, of whatever age or sex, as a satisfaction for his murdered relative.

In some of the Australian settlements the colonists for the most part evinced a very friendly feeling towards the sable occupants of the country. This was especially the case at Swan River after the first few years of the settlement, and in South Australia from its commencement. The natives on their part reciprocated the expression of good-will, and became most useful and faithful assistants to the colonists.

Instances are not wanting of kindness by wild Aborigines to white men when in their power. The surveying operations of the Beagle during the years 1837 to 1843 were confined chiefly to those parts of the northern coast which had not been visited by other navigators. At one time, when some of the crew lived ashore, one of the men always exhibited a great antipathy to the natives; but getting lost in the bush for three days, he lay down, as he supposed, to die. His great dread was that he should be found by the natives. To his horror, on awaking from a slumber, he saw a number of them armed and standing around him. They, however, led him to their camp, fed him and kept him until the following morning, when they took him in safety to his companions,[2] thus exhibiting a kindly disposition in one of those tribes which are deemed the most fierce of the Australians, when not actuated to deeds of violence by motives of fear or revenge.

  1. I published this anecdote some years ago in the Church News, signing myself "An Old Australian."—P. C.
  2. I am indebted to Capt. Pasco for this anecdote.