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door over it which is always left open when he is at home and “ on hospitable cares intent.”
Reptiles are not at all in such numbers as are to be found in marshy countries. There are several varieties of snakes, a few of which are poisonous. They are attacked and killed by the settlers wherever they are seen, and are gradually becoming scarce in the settled districts. They are generally small, and always glide away as rapidly as possible at the approach of a human footstep. The only danger from them is by accidentally treading on them when in the bush, when they will turn and bite; but this is a danger easily avoided by not travelling without high boots.
Fish are plentiful along the coast, but few are found in the rivers, especially those on the east side of the Blue Mountains, owing perhaps to the rapidity of their currents. Whales frequently come into the bays to calve; and seals are found in many of the coves, especially to the southward. The cod-fish (so called) is taken in the fresh-water rivers west of the Blue Mountains in great quantities and of a large size, some of them weighing as much as 70 lbs. They are delicious eating, as are also the eels, which are caught of the weight of from 12 to 20 lbs. Perch, covered with scales and prickly fins, abound on the east coast rivers,
and in flavour and juiciness bear a great resemblance to the sole. There are many varieties of other fish, including an abundance of delicious oysters, which are so plentiful in the harbour of Port Jackson that the rocks are not only literally covered with them, but they are found adhering to the twigs of the trees which overhang the water; which has given rise to the statement that, in addition to the other anomalies which Australia presents to us, the oysters are there found growing on the trees.
The aboriginal inhabitants of Australia belong to the class of Papuas, or oriental negroes. They have the thick prominent lips, white teeth, and, in Van Diemen's Land, the woolly hair of the African negro; but the nose is less flat, and the limbs much leaner. The theories of those philosophers who have represented man in the savage state as in the perfection of his being, and his evils as arising from the artificial arrangements of society, find here their most ample refutation. All idea respecting the fabled innocence of the state of nature must vanish on beholding the New Hollander. The state of nature is indeed complete. There is no society, no government, no laws; each man acts according to his own fancy and caprice. The arts of life exist in their first and rudest elements. The people were found unacquainted
either with planting, or with the breeding of tame animals, and deriving their support solely from hunting and fishing. Those in the interior subsist by collecting the roots and berries which grow spontaneously, pursuing and laying snares for the squirrel and opossum, and even
of wild beasts; they consist often of the bark of a single tree, bent in the middle and placed on its two ends in the ground, affording shelter to only one miserable tenant; at other times two or three pieces of bark arranged upon a few sticks stuck into the ground, will afford a hovel into which six or eight persons may creep; these habitations they call “gungahs.” They often, however, content themselves with cavities in or under the shelter of rocks, which in well chosen situations form their most comfortable abodes. They are able to strike fire by rubbing two pieces of dry grass-tree together; and they light their fire, when they require one for cooking, opposite to the entrance of their gungah, which they take care to construct so that the smoke is driven in the opposite direction; should the wind shift, they immediately, and in a very few minutes' time, alter the position of their habitation accordingly.
They roam about entirely naked, with the exception of a girdle round the middle, and occasionally a skin thrown over the shoulders. In the neighbourhood of the towns, however, they are furnished by the Government with blankets, and also occasionally obtain from the settlers articles of left-off clothing, in which they envelope themselves. They are by no
means insensible to ornament, and will coat their skin thickly with fish oil, regardless of the horrible stench which it emits, and adorn themselves with such trinkets as the teeth of the kangaroo, the jaw-bones of large fishes, and the tails of dogs; and they also occasionally thrust a bone through the nose, which they believe to be efficacious in keeping away the “deble debel.”
The females are mere slaves, doing all the work which is essential for their “ lords”” comfort; and female children are looked upon with contempt, and very frequently destroyed, which is one great reason for the gradual diminution of their numbers. The ladies generally carry their infants in a bag thrown over the shoulder, but they occasionally dispense with the bag, and simply throw the child itself over the shoulder, holding it by one leg, while the head of the “ lovely innocent” hangs down at the back, swinging about like a human pendulum. At the age of fourteen or fifteen they attain puberty; and the young men undergo the important ceremony of having two of the front teeth of the upper jaw extracted or knocked out, which has the effect, according to their notions, of making “men” of them; and as a consolation for this barbarous infliction, they are then at liberty to take a wife; which latter