Ralph Rashleigh, by James Tucker

Chapter 29

Untamed, as nature first formed free-born man,

When wild in woods the noble savage ran.

When our adventurer was restored to sense he found himself lying upon an arid beach, surrounded by a great number of aborigines, who seemed to have been using some kind of means for his resuscitation. The instant that their patient gave indication of returning life a quarrel arose among them, the object of which, so far as Rashleigh could divine it, seemed to be which should drag the white man off with him. And they were obviously about to appeal to the issue of arms to decide this contest when one of their number came up, whose arrival changed the whole course of action.

The black who now approached was one of the most revolting specimens of humanity that can possibly be conceived. A very few white hairs only remained upon his polished skull, forming a thin circle around it. His beard, however, was more luxuriant than usually falls to the lot of any Australian aboriginal. One of his organs of vision had been utterly extinguished, leaving in its room only a raw and bloody cavity. His other eye appeared to be more than half obscured by rheum. His body was emaciated by sickness until it scarcely possessed more substance than a shadow.

Add to the above that he was gashed and scarred all over, but particularly about the face, also that, though last not least among a race supereminent for uncleanliness, he appeared even more conspicuous for personal filth than any of his fellows, and you may conceive some idea of the unattractive appearance of this old black, for whom, notwithstanding, every facility was afforded by his compeers, who withdrew from around their prostrate prisoner, for whose possession they had been only an instant before quarrelling with the utmost excess of savage fury. And they permitted the senior to approach Rashleigh, who, upon his part, had been long expecting to receive the coup de grace among them, deeming it highly probable, amid the furious contention which had so long prevailed, that somebody, enraged at a repulse, might end the dispute by dashing out his brains with one of the clubs or nullah nullahs that were brandished so angrily upon all sides.

The scene was now entirely changed; all became so still and hushed around that the falling of a single leaf might with ease have been heard. The savages, as if surprised, suspended their weapons in the air in the midst of the explanatory, argumentative or threatening flourishes with which they had been erewhile assisting their oratory; and every man retaining the same posture he had occupied on the occurrence of this interruption to their unknown purpose, all eyes were now bent upon the decrepit savage.

Our adventurer, in the course of his rambles in New South Wales, had not omitted to satisfy his curiosity by enquiring of all whom he thought competent to afford information upon the various manners and customs of the nomadic races of Australia, and during the period of his investigations had received particular accounts of the personal appearance of, as well as the singular power and influence possessed by, the carandjies, even over the very wildest and most untamed tribes that had yet been heard of in the Colony. Among these rude bodies they appear to combine the characters of doctor, priest, magician and chief ruler. From the peculiarity of the marks made upon the parti-coloured personage who now drew nigh, as well as the great deference paid to him by the others, Rashleigh had no doubt but that this old savage was a carandjie of great eminence among his people.

The ancient black supported his tottering and feeble steps upon the rough limb of a tree. In his right hand he bore a green eucalyptus bough. Advancing to the white prisoner, he motioned with his hand, and all the other blacks fell back to a little distance, crowding together in a circle. The carandjie tottered several times round Rashleigh, waving his bough and chanting a kind of dull monotonous song, which seemed to our exile only a repetition of two or three words. At length he ceased to sing and sat down at the head of the captive, who silently watched his every motion. The old blackfellow next made a kind of speech, which was attentively listened to by the others, whose demeanour was perfectly altered and now appeared to be as pacific as a few moments before they had seemed animated by the wildest fury. A kind of guttural grunt hailed the termination of the carandjie’s harangue, who thereupon walked two or three more times round Rashleigh, waving his bough and chanting as before.

Two athletic black men now approached, who gently lifted Ralph from the ground and placed him on his feet, making signs that he should walk with them. Knowing the folly and inutility of resistance, our adventurer passively complied, and partly led, partly supported by his guides, reached the camp of the tribe, which, it being now fine weather, was in a piece of open forest land, and consisted of nothing more than a considerable number of little fires, beside each of which lay or sat the gin (wife) and dogs of the blackfellow to whom they belonged, watching, as it seemed, the dilleys (nets) that contained their fishing tackle and such weapons as the warrior did not carry with him. Rashleigh and his guards were guided to a resting-place by the decrepit old carandjie, who owned three fires, and of course, according to custom, three gins also; for no matter how many wives a blackfellow may have, each maintains her separate fire, and each provides a portion of food for her lord and master. Indeed, the latter always dispatches the former by the dawn of every day to fish, hunt for cockles and grubs, or to dig up swamp roots, according as either may be the usual kind of food for the season.

When the women depart, the men, in the mean time, unless urgently pressed by hunger, still lie asleep or lounge about the fires, making or repairing their weapons for war or of the chase until the return of their partners, when each man goes to his gin, or he who is rich enough to have two or more, visits them all, taking the lion’s share of what they may have brought, and rewarding them by caresses and praises for diligence, or punishing them by blows for the reverse, according as their researches have been successful or otherwise.

Thus, either in peace or in war, the gins of the aborigines in this part of Australia, at the time these incidents occurred, were no better than slaves to their men, who repaid them with the most haughty and imperious usage for all their exertions, and only left them the refuse of the provisions which they themselves had made to satisfy hunger. The male savages confined their labours to hunting the kangaroo or the opossum, which the women on no account were permitted to touch until they were presented with such portions as the men thought fit. Sometimes, too, the latter would go and spear fish; but this they did chiefly by way of amusement, as if it were beneath their dignity to follow it as a pursuit.

Rashleigh had been placed on the ground near the old carandjie’s fire, and in a short time one of the gins supplied his guards with a quantity of cordage, apparently spun from filaments of bark. His hands were bound fast to his side and his feet tied together, so that he could not stir by any exertion of his own, after which the warriors withdrew, leaving our adventurer alone with the ancient carandjie and his gin. The former now came and sat very close to his head again and continued to chatter without any intermission, using many extraordinary gesticulations; but not one word, of course, of all that he said was intelligible to our exile.

By and by another gin approached, bearing a few fern leaves in her hand, on which lay a large fish, apparently fresh roasted. A few words passed between herself and the old black, after which she placed Rashleigh in a sitting posture and began to tear the fish to pieces with her fingers, feeding the prisoner with these morsels, which, though rather insipid for want of salt, were yet very welcome after so many hours of abstinence. A draught of water from a calabash finished this novel repast, and Ralph was then replaced in his former recumbent position by his black mistress or attendant, for she might he either for aught he knew; and she lastly covered him with an opossum-skin cloak, directing him, still making use of signs, to go to sleep, which, in spite of his anxiety, he did in a short time.

When he again awoke it was night. No sound save the hoarse croaking of the frogs in a neighbouring swamp disturbed the silence; but the uneasiness of his position prevented any further sleep. At the dawning the gins all departed as usual. A very short time afterwards Rashleigh’s bonds were loosened, and he was motioned by one of the warriors to rise. He did so and perceived that the whole of the males belonging to the tribe were assembled close at hand, each being fully equipped as for war and most frightfully smeared with different earths, yellow, white and red being the predominant colours.

A sort of procession was now formed, the ancient carandjie leading the way, supported by two athletic men fully armed. These were followed by a body of about a dozen, who bore nothing in their hands but green boughs, which they waved to and fro, chanting in a low tone a formula of a few indistinct monosyllables. Behind these came the prisoner, walking between two other stout men, who, like the foremost, were equipped with spear, shield and waddy, having their hair most fancifully decorated by red and blue feathers, mixed with tufts of cotton grass. Large bones were also thrust through their ears and the cartilage of their noses. After these came more men with boughs, and the rear was brought up by the body of armed warriors attached to this tribe, of whom, in all, not less than 150 were present.

They walked on slowly until they arrived at a small open green space from which the sea was visible. It was not yet sunrise, but the eastern sky had begun to glow with the approaching presence of that glorious luminary. Nearly in the centre of the little plain was a sort of mount, apparently raised by art at some distant period and now covered over with grass. On this mound Rashleigh was placed in a sitting posture. The warriors then ranged themselves behind and on each side of him as he sat facing the sea. Those blacks who had borne the green boughs stuck them in their girdles behind them with the leaves pointing downwards like so many tails. They next began to jump about in a rude sort of dance, imitating, as it seemed, the motions of a kangaroo.

In the mean time the carandjie drew near our adventurer and placed on the ground before him a bundle tied up in a kind of cloth made of opossum skins dressed with the hair on. Then, taking a bough, he proceeded to wave it to and fro in a mysterious manner over the parcel, chanting or muttering all the time. At length he opened it with great caution, and Rashleigh now perceived that it contained a number of human teeth, all of them single, or such as grow in the front of the jaw. Beside these the packet enclosed an instrument made of green talc, bearing an imperfect resemblance to a chisel, and a flat, irregularly-shaped stone of considerable size.

At a motion from the old black, Rashleigh’s arms were secured by two of the bystanders, and the carandjie put on such an indescribably demoniac look that our exile now quite gave himself up for lost. His race was not yet run, however, for the ancient black magician, taking the implements of stone in his hand, approached, speaking very earnestly and pointing to the features of the others, making signs as if he wished the prisoner to open his mouth. Rashleigh at last complied with the direction, and the old man placed the chisel against one of his single teeth, looking round to the ocean as he did so. An instant after this the sun began to peer above the waves; and at the first glimpse of his body a smart tap on the chisel from the stone forced out the tooth, the patient’s head having been supported behind by, one of his guards.

A loud shout accompanied this operation, and the tooth was shortly afterwards handed round to each man present, all of whom, as Rashleigh observed, made a motion to spit upon it. It was at last restored to the carandjie, who placed it carefully among the others, tying up the parcel with great ceremony. A dance, called by the colonists a corroboree, now took place, in which only the unarmed men joined. It was, however, attended by much shouting and clashing of weapons among their armed brethren. At the conclusion of this dance Rashleigh was seized by his guards, who had before relaxed their grasp of him, and he was now laid on his face, being prevented from moving by numerous hands. Directly afterwards he felt several gashes inflicted on his back, and surely believing his end had now arrived, he resigned himself to his fate with as much composure as he could assume, and being almost indurated to torture by the cats of the Coal river, he did not betray by a groan any susceptibility to pain.

He was quickly turned over on the bleeding parts, and he now observed that each of the dancers bore a small sharp shell crimsoned with his blood. which flowed freely around. The operators, or as Ralph thought then, tormentors, now stooped towards him, their eyes glaring furiously on their victim. Again he felt the stabs, and a loud yell pealed around him. He was almost instantly raised from his recumbent position, when he found he had received no less than thirty-six deep cuts, regularly placed, before and behind him, in four rows of nine each, from his shoulders to the bottom of his ribs, but none lower than this. These gashes were, of course, now all streaming with gore, of which he also felt the warm current trickling down his back and legs. Another dance succeeded, after which the carandjie once more drew nigh with a shell full of some clammy styptic preparation, with which he anointed all the wounds, and they almost instantly ceased bleeding.

Rashleigh was then placed upon some boughs forming a sort of litter, which being hoisted upon the shoulders of four blackfellows, they returned to the camp in much the same order as they had left it, except that all the blacks made a great noise with shouting and beating their waddies against their shields, parties of them dancing along at times like so many mad furies.

When they arrived at the camp, the gins were all reassembled, busily roasting fish, roots and grubs, in short, apparently making preparations for a great feast. Two of their number were pounding some condiment between stones, which they afterwards put into a large calabash.

The men now squatted in a wide circle on the ground, the carandjie being placed next to Rashleigh; and directly afterwards the females presented to each some broiled roots and fish, also, by way of bon bons, a few of those large grubs that are found in rotten timber, which were now nicely roasted. The ancient black ate but very little himself, continually passing all that was handed to him over to our exile, who thought matters now began to look a little better. Still, the latter did not fancy the appearance of any of the food save the fish, which, though broiled without any kind of cleansing, just as they came out of the ocean, and eaten without salt, were nevertheless very good.

At various times during this repast calabashes full of some hot, moderately sweet drink were handed round to the festive group by their humble attendants, who were not allowed to sit down with them or to join in this rude revelry, but who, as soon as the men ceased eating, disappeared; nor did Rashleigh see anything more of a single gin during the remainder of the day.

To borrow a polite phrase, “after the ladies had retired”, the calabash before mentioned, which contained the pounded root, was put into requisition, being presented to the carandjie, and he divided its contents into a great many portions, which were put in other and smaller, calabashes or gourd skins, and the vessels having been filled up with water from a pond close by, their united contents were made to boil by having red-hot stones placed in them. The liquor was dipped out of these goblets with shells and eagerly drunk by the assembled blacks. Our exile partook of it and found it to have a taste something similar to fermented Spanish liquorice, but with a certain pungent acridity which it imparted to the palate after it had been swallowed. This drink speedily intoxicated the whole group. They danced, fought, sung and shouted away for several hours; and when at length Rashleigh was able to wrap himself in his opossum-skin cloak for the purpose of going to sleep, there was not one of his sable companions sensible. They all lay strewn about, completely dead drunk.

The next day our adventurer found himself very unwell, with all the symptoms of an overnight debauch, though he had drunk very little of this ardent mixture. But all the blacks really appeared more dead than alive. The old carandjie, in particular, lay like one in a torpor, and during the whole day he reposed with his head in the lap of his favourite gin, who ever and anon supplied him with some kind of cooling drink.

In a few days our exile’s wounds began to cicatrize; but over each gash a wavy sort of scar remained, of a very singular appearance and nearly as large in projection from the skin as his middle finger. One morning the old black doctor presented him with a dark-coloured kind of pigment with which he made signs for Rashleigh to anoint his skin. On compliance with this request the parts touched by the composition quickly assumed the tinge of rusty iron; and on repeating the application daily for about a fortnight, the whole of his body, save the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, was changed into a dull dark-brown hue. A ball of suet was next given to him to rub over his person. This appeared to deepen and even to fix the colour so much that Ralph Rashleigh, though naturally of a ruddy complexion, now really differed but little in colour from any of the sable sons of the forest among whom his lot appeared to be cast, especially after the latter, who were generally grimed with grease, filth and soot, had been bathing, which they frequently did in the summer season, either for pleasure or from necessity while following the chase.

The ancient black, who seemed to have adopted our adventurer, next presented him with a gin and gave him a good store of native weapons; but they still continued to eat together and always slept at a short distance from each other. One of the black warriors also, at the old carandjie’s request, now commenced initiating the new-comer into the mysteries of savage life, teaching Rashleigh the various modes of hunting, spearing fish, etc. Our exile, who feared that if he should return among his own countrymen his lot might be even worse than it was at present, applied himself to his instructions with great goodwill and soon became tolerably proficient in most of the simple arts of the aborigines, though nature and habit had denied to him the unerring eye and keen perception which are so common among them but appear never to be granted to any save savages. As he remained in this state of willing barbarism upwards of four years, it would be useless to attempt following his proceedings minutely during that period; but by giving a sketch of his mode of passing one day, an idea may be obtained of all the rest.

In the morning then, while Lorra his gin went out to dig roots, Rashleigh would go and hunt for bandicoots or kangaroo rats. if he met with a goanna or an opossum, he would follow him up any lofty tree, cutting notches in the bark with his stone tomahawk to enable him to ascend it. When at last the object of his chase got upon a bough that would not bear the pursuer, the latter, by cutting the limb through, would precipitate his prey to the ground, which seldom failed either to kill or very much to maim it. If, on the other hand, the animal or reptile took shelter in a hollow part, the white blackfellow would dig him out of his retreat, if he could not haul him from thence with a forked stick. In either case, he descended leisurely to the ground after accomplishing his purpose, secure of an ample breakfast.

If any of his dogs — of whom he bad a host, all of them either of the native breed domesticated or descended from such — pursued any of the smaller ground animals such as a bandicoot or a kangaroo rat until it took shelter in a log, the pack would stand baying and yelping around it until Ralph came up, either to cut into the hollow tree, or sometimes, if this seemed to be a hard task, to plug up the orifice and set fire to the other end of the log, certain that when he returned in an hour or two to reopen the hole, the animal would either be found dead close to it, or if living, would be forced by the heat to run out among the dogs, who never failed then to catch him.

After he had by any of these means secured sufficient food, he returned to the camp, having soon learned by unerring natural signs how to direct his steps so as to attain any wished-for point through the densest an most trackless parts of the wild Australian bush. In the camp Lorra would by this time have the fern roots washed, scraped and boiled or roasted, and some of the other gins would be provided with fish. Whatever our adventurer had obtained would now be added to the stock, all of which was prepared with more attention to cleanliness than usually obtains in aboriginal cookery. And when the repast was ready, the whole group of three gins, Rashleigh and the old carandjie sat down and shared alike. After this they reposed until evening in some shady spot, when fresh roots and fish or game being provided, they partook of another meal, seldom taking more than two daily.

At times Rashleigh and some of the blacks would go at night with their gins to a secluded bay or inlet not exposed to the fury of the open sea, the gins bearing large lighted torches made of resinous bark, and the males provided with fishing spears having four points slightly separated at the extremity. The whole party would wade up to their middles among the shallows, and the fish attracted by the glare would come swimming up around them quite close to their feet, where, dazzled and confounded, they fell an easy prey to their pursuers, who, thrusting them through with their weapons, cast them out upon the beach until they became fatigued.

In the winter season, when much of the undergrowth, such as vines, etc., that tend to render the scrubs inaccessible, had lost their leaves, so as to render a passage through such thickets possible to men and dogs, as well as opening the view into these at other seasons impenetrable fastnesses of the animal creation, the warriors of the tribe, appointing some detached place of this kind for a centre, would disperse themselves, forming a very wide circle of several miles in extent, having their dogs secured with leashes and held close. They would then advance towards the rendezvous, yelling and beating their more sonorous implements of the chase, blowing upon conch shells and in fact making as much noise as they could contrive.

The object of this was to make all the wild animals fly before them towards the middle, while the blacks kept on slowly advancing until night-fall. They then encamped, and one slept while another watched throughout the hours of darkness. At dawn they were again in motion until the scrub or thicket which formed their centre was full in sight, at which time the black warriors would be ranged in a close circular line around it, no person being perhaps more than six yards from another. Then some of the most expert, with all the dogs they could muster, beat the thicket, forcing the whole of the thus enclosed animals that could not ascend trees to fly out of their covert, when the MÊLÉE began, and the surrounding blacks slaughtered the kangaroos, bandicoots, etc., with their spears and waddies, after which, the game being carried home, a great feast ensued, lasting as long as the spoil they had taken would serve the assembled multitude for food, during which the liquor made from roots before mentioned, and a preparation of honey were drunk in great profusion, until serious quarrels invariably occurred, ending in furious fights, during which grievous wounds were freely given and received.

After some time Rashleigh acquired a competent knowledge of their lariguage — if their mode of expression could deserve to be dignified with such a name — which he described as being, like all else belonging to them, very inartificial and rude. In fact, they had no more words than were absolutely necessary to communicate one with the other on the few and simple subjects their mode of life rendered usual.

Of religion they had none whatever but many very ridiculous superstitions of supernatural appearances, chiefly relating to ghosts of slain warriors, transformed into cruel and malignant demons, continually endeavouring to kill the women and children or even the grown warriors if they could catch the latter asleep or unarmed. Many places were shunned with the wildest fear by these timorous creatures because they were supposed to be the haunt of these cowardly goblins, who, as it seemed, played their pranks by day as well as by night, in the former case terrifying the unlucky beings who saw them by their supernaturally demoniac forms, which required truly wild imaginations even to conceive. Nor would any temptation whatever induce them, when once they were lain down for the night, to remove from their fires even for the purpose of gathering a few sticks, though the flame should happen to be expiring, which took place the more frequently because they never would light a large log that might maintain them in warmth for a few hours, though such as these, consisting of huge trees uprooted by storms or age, lay around them in dozens; but owing to some ill-defined usage, derived also from superstition, they would only make use of boughs for this purpose not larger than a man’s wrist.

Their government, if such it may be called, was a species of patriarchal despotism. In the tribe to which our exile was so long attached, all the visible power was vested in the hands of the old carandjie, who appeared to have derived it from his eminence in feats of war during his youth; and he now maintained it by his dexterity in imposing himself upon his ignorant countrymen for a very great conjuror, since he had become decrepit. Of his power in this art, Rashleigh observed the following instance.

Lorra, who by the by had been the ancient carandjie’s favourite gin before our adventurer was taken captive, one day made a complaint to the former that Tumba, a powerful black, had beaten her because she had quarrelled with one of his wives while the two females were digging roots together. The old magician, having heard this plaintive tale, wrought himself up to a pitch of fury, and ordering Tumba into his presence, abused him with the most bitter virulence, which the other, so far from resenting, endured with the greatest humility, attempting to exculpate himself by throwing the whole blame of the quarrel upon Lorra, who, he said, had irritated him by her scolding tongue.

This defence by no means appeased the old man, who at last bade the culprit, “Begone and wither.” Now, upon enquiring from Lorra, Rashleigh found this meant to pine away and die; and the poor credulous gin added that several of the men who had before received this sentence had actually been taken sick, and two or three of them were dead, those who recovered, she added, only having done so because the old man had granted them his forgiveness. The credulity of the gin almost surprised the white man, but he afterwards saw enough to convince him that she had spoken the truth; because the old fellow, who, it must be remembered was doctor as well as magician-general to the tribe, always found some means of administering deleterious drugs by stealth to his enemies, which baneful potions, if not sufficiently strong to cause death, were at least potent enough to produce a painful and languishing sickness.

On this occasion Tumba no sooner heard the fatal sentence passed than he gave way to the wildest demonstrations of grief, tearing off all the fastenings which secured, and the feathers that decorated, his hair, so that it fell down over his back in confused disorder. He also cut severe gashes in many parts of his body, giving vent all the time to loud lamentations, in which demonstrations of grief he was joined by his two gins, who supplicated the old carandjie in vain for mercy. At length the suppliants withdrew in despair, and they appeared for about a week to be shunned by the whole tribe of blacks, every individual of which seemed to keep aloof from them as if they had been troubled with some infectious disorder. Tumba, during this period, lay about dejected and spiritless, while his gins endeavoured in vain to console him; but the placable Lorra never ceased to petition the old carandjie for a pardon in their behalf, until he granted it and was rewarded for it next day by the hind quarter of a most magnificent old man kangaroo, sent him as a present on this auspicious occasion by the heartily frightened object of his ban.

Very grave offences, such as murder or theft of a gin by one of the same tribe, are punished by a verdict of the general council consisting of all the warriors belonging to the sept, who, according to the nature of the case, sentence the offender to have a certain number of spears thrown at him; and on the day appointed for the execution of the award, just before sunrise, at which moment most of their ceremonies commence, all the warriors are assembled at the spot where our adventurer was, according to the aboriginal phrase, “made into a man”; such being the introductory usage to which each male is subject after he attains the age of puberty, in order to entitle him to assume the weapons and fulfil the duties of a grown warrior in these savage communities.

The tribe being thus assembled, the accused black, quite naked and unarmed save for the defensive weapon of a shield, is placed standing upon the mound before described. At a distance of seventy paces, the nearest relative of the deceased or aggrieved person waits the instant of the sun’s appearance above the horizon, when he throws the first spear at the culprit, who on his part uses as much dexterity to ward the weapon with his shield as the assailant exhibits in endeavouring to pierce him. After this party has thrown his one, two or three spears, according to the decision of the council, he withdraws, and every man in the tribe discharges a similar number of weapons at the condemned, on the conclusion of which the punishment is ended. And whether the prisoner die or escape with life, his offence is never again permitted to be spoken of. Such is the dexterity acquired by the blacks in the use of their shields, which are no more than from eight inches to a foot at the farthest in width, that Rashleigh knew several instances of criminals, after having had more than three hundred spears thrown at them one by one, who only received four or five wounds. and these all beneath their belts.

In very rare cases, when the crimes are considered unusually atrocious, the culprits are sentenced to receive twenty-one spears thrown at them at once. When this occurs, it is looked upon as equivalent to a certain doom of death, for should there be only two or three of the assailants revengefully inclined, the culprit is sure to be transfixed in a vital part, as almost any grown black can throw a spear with sufficient accuracy to strike a small bird at a distance of a hundred paces, and with force enough to penetrate the depth of four inches into the solid wood of a tree.

These aborigines have no marriage ceremony whatever. When a youth has undergone, his initiation and is declared to be a man, the first use he makes of the weapons he has prepared is to go upon a sort of foray to hunt for a wife. With this view he steals cautiously towards some swamp, near which he has lain in wait all night in readiness for this enterprise at day dawn, and from among the young gins belonging to another tribe, whom he thus surprises while searching for food, he selects one to his mind whom he perceives by her head-dress to be unmarried. Her he instantly pounces upon and bears off by force, maugre her struggles or the outcries of her companions. If he can succeed in conveying her safely to his camp before any of her male relatives can rescue her, she becomes his bride, never afterwards being owned by her own tribe, who will not even allow her to approach them.

The young gins, who seem to consider it a point of honour to offer as much resistance to this customary kind of abduction as they can, do not fail to bite, kick and scratch their captors as furiously as possible in their transit, which the latter retaliates by blows upon the female’s head, of force nearly enough to stagger a horse, for should any of them alight upon a leg or an arm it invariably breaks the limb; and thus, by the time they reach the camp the bride is at least insensible and the bridegroom streaming with blood from the effects of this truly savage courtship, to which there is no exception save in cases of black men like the carandjie so often spoken of, who, being too decrepit and feeble to man a gin for themselves in this manner, are obliged to depute the duty to others, of whom there are always many willing enough to oblige persons of their supposed supernatural power; and besides, this sort of affair is considered a very creditable exploit.

The death of a warrior, especially in his youth or prime, is regarded as a serious calamity by the whole tribe, who upon such occasions testify their grief by cutting great gashes on various parts of their bodies and by loud lamentations. The death of a chief or of a carandjie is attended by many superstitious observances; but that of a woman, or gin, is totally disregarded, as also is that of children of a tender age or of youths not made into men. But in any case, the name of the deceased must never again be spoken by the tribe, and they bury the whole of their dead, the men of ordinary rank in a sitting posture, great chiefs standing erect, women and children lying on their faces, heaping a mound of earth upon either, generally of an oval shape, neatly pressed down and sometimes planted over with an aromatic kind of small shrub.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00