Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/62

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a limited authority, excepting in war or affairs of immemorial usage. Like them, they fight with the spear, are often found in the chase, and are fond of music and poetry. They resemble them, too, in their religious notions; for, though they seem to have some idea of the existence of a supreme being, it is accompanied with so much scepticism that they have neither priest nor altar, neither temple nor worship.

They are all perfectly naked. But the chiefs and the more elderly of the men carry a kangaroo skin thrown over their shoulders, to spread on the ground under them at night in cold damp weather; and the married women have one each, made into a convenient form to carry their infants on their backs. They are not remarkable for stature; and instances of corpulency are rare. The tribes in this part of the settlement, are well limbed and finer made than those to the south. But the women are utterly destitute of beauty of countenance and symmetry of person. I have seen but one that could be called a handsome woman.

There are instances of bigamy among them; and I believe polygamy is not uncommon. Consequently jealousy, the invariable attendant on such manners, frequently burns like fire in the breasts of the men; and, as they have no seraglio to guard the chastity of their wives, the life of the frail and unfortunate fair one, I fear, too often falls a sacrifice to her imprudence. The practice of spearing their females whenever they offend them, is cruel. How much is woman, in every part of the world where it prevails, indebted to the benign influence of Christianity.

The fingers, not enabling them to go farther than a single decimal in the process of arithmetic, their ideas of figures are limited to ten. For any number, definite or indefinite, beyond that, they hold up both hands.

The manner in which they count time, is worthy of observation. They do not, like European nations, compute by days but by nights. The distance from one place to another, is not with them a journey of so many days but of so many nights or sleeps, making the interval, or rather the act of repose the term of enumeration, and evidently reckoning the day not from sunrise to sunrise, but from sunset to sunset. This is perhaps one of the most remarkable instances of ancient manners now any where to be found; and exactly agrees with the account where the scriptures give us of the computation of time when it first began. It is not said "And the morning and the evening were the first day;" but, "And the evening and the morning were the first day."

The practice of polygamy, the custom of avenging every