Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/63

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visit which the king of terrors pays them on a neighboring tribe, thus causing a double mortality, together with the endless and sanguinary contests to which it gives rise, will account for their limited numbers compared with the extent of the country they occupy.

Greatly do philosophers err, when they eulogize the life led by a barbarian in a state of nature, as the perfection of human happiness. The uncontrolled freedom of the savage is embittered by the dangers, as well as the privations, to which he is ever exposed. The gleam of pleasure that occasionally breaks upon his countenance only resembles, in its momentary stay, the forked lightning which, darting from the cloud of darkness and of death in which he is enveloped, continually plays around him, as if sporting with his unhappy situation.

The profession of surgeon or physician is unknown among them. When they are sick, they sometimes resort to charms, rubbing the part afflicted, drawing the hand away, and snapping the finger and thumb. Their practical operations are confined to pressure and bleeding. If it be a pain in the head or bowels, the patient, lying down on his back, desires some one to stand on his forehead or belly, and press with so much weight as he is able to bear. They never open the veins; but topical bleeding, performed with a sharp stone, is common among them. There are few without scars from spear wounds, a proof of the frequency of their wars. Their flesh, however, heals rapidly; which may be attributed to the absence of spirituous liquors and their temperate mode of living.

I have already observed that they are formed into distinct tribes; and that the whole country is divided into districts. But, though they have places to which they are accustomed to resort for encampment,they have no fixed habitation, and therefore move about from place to place, generally in large bodies.

The only shelter they ever contrive from the weather in the most inclement season, consists of a few sticks thrust into the ground to windward of the fire-place, in the form of a semi-circle, gathered at the top like a bee-hive, and covered with green boughs or pieces of bark.

Private property seems to be utterly unknown among them. The game and the fish of the district are considered the common property of all its inhabitants; and, as every dispute between the different tribes relative to their respective boundaries or encroachments thereon, is decided by the spear, they are utter strangers to the quirks and quibbles of the law.