Page:The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina.djvu/33
Food, however, is not so easily obtained, by reason of the aridity of the land. The scrub is not large enough to contain opossum, and the distance from water makes creatures of the reptile class very scarce. Thus they are compelled to look for grubs in the roots of the smaller kinds of shrubs. These root grubs, though, are so small it takes a considerable amount of bush grubbing to procure a satisfactory meal. During these meagre days infanticide and anthropophagy are of frequent occurrence. They have sense enough to feel a certain amount of shame because of this horrible practice; at least, when chance induces someone to ask of the whereabouts of a certain child which has been made food of, they give some evasive answer, whilst hanging their heads in a very guilt-stricken manner. In dress there is not the least difference between that of the male and the female. The opossum rug is the only covering of both sexes, and in both it is worn in exactly the same manner—that is, somewhat after the fashion (as seen in paintings) of the Roman Toga, across the shoulder, with one
even in the warmest weather. The roots of this tree grow near the surface, and run laterally, sometimes for thirty or forty feet, without any appreciable difference in diameter. These roots they tear up and break into short lengths, which pieces are placed on end in an improvised coolamen. In half-an-hour the roots will be drained quite dry. From half-a-dozen such roots—that is, twenty or thirty feet long—as much as three or four gallons of water will be procured. The water is very nice and cool, having the very faintest sub-acid flavour, which makes it a most delicious, as well as refreshing beverage for hot and thirsty travellers.