Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/339

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311
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

been great in his day was evident by the care taken on the subject, the ground having been marked out and raised for about three inches in the shape of a canoe, and in the centre stood a little house made of bark in and out, between the upright sheets of which were placed the nets of the deceased, and inside were the weapons used by him. There was also a bed made of nice soft grass inside, and, as I afterwards ascertained, the nearest male relation of the deceased had there to sleep, and keep watch and ward over the body of his kinsman till such time as it had become too far decomposed to admit of being removed by any enemy.

That cannibalism is sometimes practised by the blacks I have been often told; but I believe that in those cases the bodies of deceased persons only have been eaten, and not any one killed on purpose; and I knew one instance where the body of an old woman was eaten, and her own son partook of part of it. I have also on various occasions seen blacks during a corrobboree gnawing a human thigh-bone—doubtless of an enemy—and thereby exciting themselves to a pitch of madness. I have also known a lubra, as a punishment for her misconduct and negligence, made to carry about for months the body of her dead child, wrapped up in an opossum rug; and on one occasion I happened to sit down on a bundle near a wirley, and finding an unpleasant smell, I enquired what was in the bundle, and soon learned to my great disgust that it contained the body of a child which had died some months previous. The blacks, as a rule, avoid camping near any grave, and never mention the name of any deceased member of the tribe, and regard any enquiry after them by the whites as an insult. In parts of New South Wales, such as Bathurst, Goulburn, the Lachlan, or Macquarie, it was customary long ago for the first-born of every lubra to be eaten by the tribe, as part of a religious ceremony; and I recollect a blackfellow who had, in compliance with the custom, been thrown when an infant on the fire, but was rescued and brought up by some stock-keepers who happened accidentally to be passing at the time. The marks of the burns were distinctly visible on the man when I saw him, and his story was well known in the locality. In early years, when intercourse took place between the blacks and whites, and children were the result, the boys were invariably destroyed, but the girls kept; and it was not till the whites became numerous, and the blacks began to dwindle away, that the practice fell into disuse, and the boys were allowed to live.

As a general rule, both fathers and mothers are very kind to their children, and very rarely indeed strike them; and I have been often amused at seeing a rebellious urchin of perhaps eight or nine years of age take up his mimic spears, run a few yards away, and then hurl them with all his force at his mother, who, good woman, would make a buckler of her opossum rug, and thus ward them all off, laughing all the time at the harmless rage of the would-be warrior. That they are very fond of their children and will at any time venture their lives for them is also beyond a doubt; and I knew an instance where, in a skirmish which took place many years ago at New England, the blacks, after being worsted in the fight, swam across a river, leaving in their confusion a child behind them. A Maori who was living at the station, and had been