Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/141

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128 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

but without moving from their position, and listening attentively and straining their eyes in the direction whence the noise had proceeded, soon perceived by the light of their fire, at the distance of some yards, the cause of their apprehensions. This was a very old black man, whom they had previously noticed among the retreating tribe, and who now appeared in a stooping attitude, his hands resting on his knees, staring through an opening in the trees at the scene before him. After having gazed for some time, and finding himself unmolested, he commenced a series of the most extraordinary contortions and gestures, accompanied by some unmusical sounds, by spitting, and every conceivable mode of giving effect to his necromancy, all of which appeared so ludicrous to the whites that, forgetting their possible danger, they at length gave vent to their mirth in loud laughter, which only grew louder as the old man, enraged at their mirth, redoubled his exertions to cast a spell round the party. Finding his enchantment powerless, after exhausting his entire stock of charms, and after expending his whole energy, the old man turned round, and with a peculiar mode of leave-taking, which only gave a climax to the uproarious mirth of the whites, darted into the bush to rejoin his companions. Leichhardt, in the journal of his first expedition, relates that, his party being one night quietly seated in their camp, a solitary black, mistaking their fire for that of his tribe, walked into the midst of them; and, terrified beyond all description