Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/70

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OPOSSUM CLOAKS. 57

the bush traveller deem himself who at night can envelope his body in the downy folds of such a covering, whose duplicate fold of fur and hide defies alike the keenest blast and the most pinching frost. This excellent and valuable article, as the name implies, is formed in general of the skin of the opossum. Although the skin of this little animal is that most generally used, it is not the only one used in the manufacture, the skin of the wallaby and other animals being sometimes applied to the purpose of forming those cloaks. The process of manufacture is thus described : — The skin is in the first instance scraped with a shell or sharp-edged stone until it is reduced to the requisite consistence, after which it is extended on pegs driven in the ground, and exposed to the sun till quite dry; it is then fit for use. The sewing is performed by the women, who make use of the tendons of the kangaroo and emu as thread, and a fish-bone supplies the place of a needle. This latter process exhibits a skill and neatness in the highest degree extraordinary, when the manner of the appliances available for the performance of the work is taken into consideration, so that one of these cloaks will wear for an incredible length of time. Sometimes they are ornamented on the inner or smooth side by a species of tattooing or figuring, more or less elaborate according to the taste or skill of the owner. The manner of wearing the opossum cloak is somewhat characteristic. A string or thong is run through the folds when doubled up, and being thus thrown on the