Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/82

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POWERS OF MIMICRY. 69

lence of an error regarding their inability to withstand the effects of intoxicating drinks, or anything bearing an affinity thereto. Nothing was more common, some few years since, than to see a number of aborigines, male and female, indulging in all sorts of bacchanal evolutions, staggering, swearing, and hallooing, after having imbibed plentiful potations of a drink formed from the washing of a sugar-bag or a rum-cask. The appearance of drunkenness, which they usually put on on these occasions, led most people to believe that such liquors had the effect of producing intoxication. It has been proved, however, beyond doubt that the appearances in these instances were only simulated.

Backhouse, in the elaborate account of his "Visit to the Australian Colonies," relates an anecdote by which the fallacy of the supposition is clearly proved. An aboriginal, coming into a house in the interior where a young man was engaged in making brine by boiling salt, asked the latter if the liquor were rum, to which the only reply received was an invitation jocularly given to drink. The black having responded by swallowing at a draught about a pint of the brine, commenced tossing about his head, arms, and legs, with all the appearances of inebriation. Being taunted with this false display, he replied, with considerable earnestness, "Me murry drunk, like a gentleman." Smoking — that habit which appears to be adopted by barbarous and semi-barbarous nations as naturally as the practice of eating or drinking — is