Page:Life and Adventures of William Buckley.djvu/50

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came to the Barwin, which we crossed, and then could plainly see the black heads of a number of natives amongst the reeds: appearing to me like a large flock of crows. About a hundred men came to meet us, but the women remained digging for roots, which they use as food: their huts being situated near an extensive lagoon. My friendly natives, or rather new acquaintance whom I had accompanied, took me to their homes, which were merely branches of trees thrown across each other, with slips of tea-tree and pieces of bark placed over as an additional shelter. They motioned me to be seated, but I preferred at first keeping a standing position, in order to be the better able to watch their movements: in the mean time, the women behind the huts were all fighting with clubs and sticks. Presently the men, excepting the two with me, rushed toward them, in order to separate the combatants, after which they brought roots which they roasted and offered me. What the fight was about I could not understand, but think it must have originated in the unfair division of the food.

My presence now seemed to attract general attention; all the tribe, men and women, closed up around me, some beating their breasts and heads with their clubs, the women tearing off their own hair by handfulls. I was much alarmed, but they made me to understand these were the customs they followed, and that no harm to me was intended. This was the manner by which they evinced their sorrow when any of them died, or had been a long time absent; and, as they believed me