Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/47

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24
THE LAST OF THE TASMANIANS.

figure; others, much fewer in number, had a fierce and sombre look; but, in general, one remarked in all I know not what of inquietude and depression, which misfortune and slavery imprint on the features of all beings who bear the yoke. Almost all were covered with scars, sad fruits of ill-treatment from their ferocious husbands. One only, in the midst of all her companions, had preserved a dignified aspect, with much enjoyment and joviality; it was she who had imposed the conditions of which I have spoken before. After M. Bellefin had ended his song, she began to mimic with her gestures and her tone of voice in a very original and pleasant manner, which much diverted her companions. Then she began to sing herself in so rapid a way, that it would be difficult to apply such music to the ordinary principles of our own. Their song, nevertheless, is here in accordance with their language, for such is the volubility of speech in these people, that it is impossible, as we shall elsewhere show, to distinguish any precise sound in their pronunciation: it is a sort of trilling sentiment, for which we cannot find any terms of comparison or analogy in our European languages.

"Excited, so to speak, by her own singing, which we had not failed to applaud with warmth, and wishing, without doubt, to deserve our suffrages on other accounts, our jovial Diemenese commenced to execute various dance movements, some of which would have been regarded as excessively indecent, if that state of human society were not foreign to all that delicacy of sentiment and action which is for us but a fortunate product of the perfection of social order.

"Whilst all this passed, I employed myself accurately to collect and note the details that were presented, and which I now describe. It was remarked, doubtless, by the same woman who was dancing; for hardly had she finished her dance, than she approached me with an obliging air, took from a reed bag, similar to that I have described elsewhere, some charcoal which she found there, crushed it in her hand, and began to lay on me a plaster of the rouge of those regions. I willingly lent myself to this obliging caprice. M. Heirisson had the same complacency, and received a similar mask. We appeared to be then a great object of admiration to these women; they seemed to regard us with a sweet satisfaction, and to felicitate us upon the new adornments which we had just acquired."