Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/87

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74 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

swimming, remaining under water for some minutes at a time, or swimming across bays and rivers with a speed and endurance altogether unknown among white men.

The law of retaliation universally obtains among the aborigines. The principle, however, appears to be carried to an extent which very often oversteps the bounds of strict justice. This is only what might be expected — for, while a strict observance of the rules of fair play will ever be found to characterize savage nations in their dealings with each other, it is natural to expect that their unguided discrimination will often err in deciding what is just or otherwise in seeking revenge or inflicting punishment. Thus an aboriginal will retaliate a personal injury received from some individual of his tribe or from one of his enemies by inflicting a spear wound on the gin or wife of the aggressor, when he finds that he cannot conveniently or safely punish the latter. Barbarities of this nature are very frequent among the blacks, the female expiating by a spear wound on the leg or arm the offences of her mate. When one black injures another accidentally it is no uncommon thing for the man inflicting the injury to hold out a leg or arm to give the injured party an opportunity of requiting himself by the infliction of a spear wound. Should the latter avail himself of the privilege thus afforded, the parties thereafter consider themselves bound to each other by the strongest ties of friendship. This mode of punishment,