Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/372

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Notes on the Aborigines of Roebuck Bay,

A Mr. Rowe who dined with us last week has made many notes on the ways of natives, and has said he will let us see them. Amongst other things he told us, if a big Kobba-Kobba was being held the natives could always tell what friends would join by just glancing round the horizon; and by the way the smoke from the fires rose they knew whether contingents from other parts would come to the invitation sent on talking-sticks some time before, say twenty days. Niggers cannot count to such a number, but the man who presents the stick puts up his hands and points to a certain joint. If he has been one day from his startingplace then he points to the second joint of the little finger, which means one day less than what the stick says. When he goes on to another tribe he is, perhaps, two days, and then he points to the first joint of the third finger (beginning always at the root of the finger), which means three days less, and so on, until he has taken the invitation all round. Again (this both from Mr. Rowe and Mr. Murphy), supposing anyone dies:—in one case it was a baby, the father and mother (both employed now at the hotel here) wept and howled and finally banged their heads together until the blood ran, which blood was allowed to drip on the dead child lying on the ground. Two friends, in this case women, who had not met for a long time, both sat down by the fire facing each other, neither taking any notice of the other, until either the younger or inferior one (that is, tribally inferior) rose, banged herself on the head with a stick and made blood run, then banged her friend; and there was a mingling of blood, which is a sign of renewal of friendship. According to Brother Daly, where his mission is at Lagrange Bay, until quite recently it was a very usual thing for the mothers to bury their (superfluous) babies alive, especially if female. . . . . .

Yesterday Billie brought me a lizard about the length of the whole size of this paper and half as broad—(sixteen inches by five)—which Maggie had found in bush. I asked him if he ate it. No, only old men and women ate that