Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/103

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90 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

connection with their ideas of a future state, they hold the belief that for a certain period after death, and previous to migration to their final abode, the manes of the departed hover about the country in the neighbourhood of their mortal haunts, in the shape of little children. During the preparatory stage of spiritual existence they inhabit, according to the myth, the luxuriant foliage of the tallest trees, disporting themselves amongst the leaves and branches in their vernal and sunny retreats. Little fishes, with which they are plentifully supplied, are said to form the food of the youthful spirits while sojourning in their intermediate home — a rather strange description of provision for the inabitants of such a peculiarly sylvan abode as theirs! The seeming inconsistency can only be accounted for by the absence on Australian trees of almost every description of fruit.

Many circumstances and anecdotes tend to show that bravery is among the most prominent qualities of the aboriginal race. Although sometimes cautious and watchful in their first interviews with Europeans, they have uniformly on those occasions manifested a coolness and courage which have excited the admiration of the whites. Sometimes indviduals among them, who have never before seen a white man, have walked into the midst of a party of armed Europeans with a confidence and frankness which amounted almost to a reckless indifference. Among the numerous instances in which individual bravery has