Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/365

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331
Western Australia.

which practically all scrub was cleared. In the centre of this was the camp-fire of grass, which was constantly being replenished by tiny black boys, who ran backwards and forwards to the rising ground around, getting fresh fuel. In all this corrobboree we saw only two black women, and they were quite outside the circle of light. The rising ground was covered with bushes, high grass, &c. Just round the fire were the musician and between twenty and thirty niggers, generally the older men and quite young boys. From the distended appearance of their stomachs they had evidently all had an enormous meal. After the music had commenced a minute or two—from his turning first to one side then to the other, I should think the musician was singing a description of the dance—there came stealing along with much hesitation and feigning to return, a long line of weird black figures out from the bushes, advancing to the light, and making as they came several sudden stoopings to earth (not bendings, but almost sitting on the heels), as if to avoid, perhaps, a flight of kylies. This movement was accompanied by shuddering sounds, and all the time their whole bodies appeared shaking all over, as first they turned to one side and then the other. Suddenly a twist, and all had disappeared again. Once more they appeared, and a second line came from the opposite direction, advancing, stooping, coming in towards the flickering firelight, turning to one side and then to the other; then suddenly they rushed away. By-and-by they circled round, looking like high-stepping horses, so high they raised their feet. Then they appeared to sing, but it required a quick ear to catch the sound, which was a mere whisper, accompanied by occasional nasal or guttural noises, the singers advancing to or retiring from the fire, beating the earth in parts with their feet to keep time. By-and-by a man rushed in among the dancers with a wisp of grass in each hand. By the laughter of the niggers round the fire and the sudden break-up and disappearance of the performers