I was now startled to observe that some of the natives carried at their girdles a human skull, but I subsequently learned that these trophies were not, as I had at first supposed, the result of a massacre, but were the drinking-cups of these people, who appeared to be the most debased in the scale of humanity I had ever encountered.
During the morning, although I could see that a watch was kept upon me, I was allowed my liberty, and, in spite of my wretched plight, I became interested in observing the natives at their daily occupations, one of which consisted in the capture of wild-fowl from a lagoon close to the camp by the ingenious method of floating upon their quarry submerged up to their necks in water, their heads covered by a mass of weeds and bulrushes. When among the birds they suddenly drew some of them under the surface without appearing to disturb the others.
And now a loud noise made by the beating of spears and waddies attracted my attention, when I came to the conclusion some tribal ceremony was in progress, and shortly afterward a number of youths were led in procession through the camp. These young men presented a strong and muscular appearance. Their naked bodies bore evidence of ill-usage; purple weals and open sores upon their backs and shoulders appeared to have been inflicted by the severe and long-continued stroke of the lash.
After a dirge-like song had been sung, a number of the elder warriors stepped forward, and with a piece of quartz formed a deep incision in the nape or the neck of each youth, cutting broad gashes from shoulder to hip, all the while repeating rapidly the following curious incantation:
A bunch of green leaves was then fastened round each middle and above this a girdle of human hair. They then blackened with charcoal, and their wounds plastered with clay in order to form the hands of gristle which they regard as an ornament upon their flesh. During this performance the lads showed no sign of pain, although their sufferings must have been very severe. Further ceremonies then took place, in which the women played a part too degrading to be here set down.
That night a feast was held, with dancing, in honour of the morning’s ceremonies. The night was warm and the moon shone with a wonderful brilliancy, casting deep shadows upon the earth. In the distance rose a pillar of sparks and fire, which marked the place where the performers were preparing for the corroboree, a name given to their dancing by these savages, and presently 200 men and 60 boys in nudity came from among the forest trees. Each dancer was provided with a bunch of leaves fastened above the knee, which, as they stamped in unison, made a loud switching noise. These natives were painted from shoulder to hip, with five or six stripes rising from the breast, their faces streaked with white perpendicular