Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/318

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APPENDIX:

will return without having met with any one; then, again, they are sometimes repelled by those they attack. I remember an instance of this kind many years ago on the Goulburn. There were a large number of natives encamped close to the station at the time. One night about ten or eleven o'clock, just as I was going to bed, I heard a woman's shriek, followed by the excited cries of the men. In an instant the whole camp was in an uproar, and every man, snatching up a fire-brand and spear, rushed to the river, and they spread themselves over the fallen timber which choked the stream. It was a wild, weird scene—the dusky forms of the blacks holding their spears aloft, ready to strike the foe; their numerous torches, as they moved quickly over the fallen timber, reflected in the black water beneath, and lighting up the spreading trees above. As I stood wondering what it all meant, I heard some natives on the opposite bank of the river shouting defiance as they retreated. I then guessed the cause. Next morning I was told that the woman whose shriek I had heard had been sent to the river by her husband—too lazy or frightened to go himself—for water. On her way she was attacked by a "bucceening" party in ambush. Her shrieks at once brought the men to her rescue, who, being numerous, were bold. The "bucceeners" at once plunged into the river and swam across, and it was in the hope of intercepting them that the men spread themselves over the fallen trees. The unfortunate woman got off with a severe blow on her head from a waddy, but, no doubt used to such treatment, she seemed to care little about it, and was greatly rejoiced at having escaped with her life. I recollect a case on the Loddon where a camp was attacked; the men fled, and a number of unfortunate women were murdered. I could tell of cases where weak tribes have been almost annihilated by their stronger and treacherous neighbours.

The constant treachery practised prevents the different tribes from often leaving their own territory; if they do, they are never sure of their lives; for the same reason they do not like going about after dark, or leaving their camps, unless several are together;—there may be a lurking foe behind every tree or bush.

I have mentioned infanticide as being prevalent. This is not practised so much from want of affection for their offspring—on the contrary, those they rear they are very fond of—but simply as a matter of convenience. If a woman has a child before a former one can take care of itself, it stands but a poor chance of its life, especially if a girl. I once asked a young woman who shortly before had dashed her infant's brains out against a tree why she had done so. "Oh!" she coolly replied, "too much cry that fellow." On my telling her that was no reason for killing her infant, she said, pointing to a child of two years of age, "Oh, too much young fellow Jimmy; no good two fellow pickaninny."

The River or fish-eating tribes are the most numerous and the most robust. I have seen many six-foot men among them, well built and stout in proportion. The tribes who inhabit country with no rivers, and but little water, are miserable creatures, repulsive in appearance, stunted in growth, without vigor, having more primitive encampments, fewer appliances, and ruder weapons, and altogether inferior to the fish tribes. The dialects are indeed widely different; the