« PreviousContinue »
pins with diamond heads, or tortoise-shell combs inlaid with gold. They constantly wash their hair with lye, and render it glossy with cocoa-nut oil. The higher classes of females are seldom seen in public. They are distinguished by golden bracelets, expensive coral necklaces, and ornaments of copperwire around their arms and ankles. They are sometimes tattooed with figures representing flowers, made with an instrument dipped in indigo. They spend their time in frequent bathing, smoking, chewing betel, and sleeping, while slaves fan them to keep away the insects. Sometimes they amuse themselves by making trifling articles of rice straw, or leaves of the pandanus; but all occupation, except light fanciful work, is left to the poorer classes. They pay evening visits, drink tea together, and remain till late at night, entertained with the dancing and singing of slaves, accompanied by the Malay tambourine and the Chinese tamtam.
The ladies of Timor are extravagantly fond of perfumes. Their dress is impregnated with the odor of sandal-wood and gum-benjamin, their beds are strewed with fragrant flowers, and they often chew small Chinese cakes, highly aromatic, which perfume the breath for a long time. They likewise wear garlands about their head, neck, and arms. Their love-letters are composed of flowers, and betel leaves folded in different ways, according to the meaning they are intended to convey. When a girl bestows a wreath taken from her own person, it is an open avowal of affection.
Very little disgrace is attached to any indiscretions committed before marriage. When parents are satisfied with the price offered for a daughter, they cause animals to be killed and the entrails consulted for omens, before the wedding takes place. The people of Timor take as many wives as they can maintain, and sometimes sell their children in order to purchase them. Here, as in Java, girls are considered a source of wealth, because at their marriage parents are sure to receive a sum of gold, or a certain number of cattle. So long as any part of the price remains unpaid, they can take back their daughter without making restitution, or they may claim her children as property.
The inhabitants of New Guinea are frightfully ugly. Their skin is black and rough ; they color their hair a fiery red, and dress it like a huge mop. Both men and women pass rings, sticks, and pieces of bone through their noses, which render it difficult for them to breathe. While these savages are lounging about, or chasing wild hogs, their women cut wood, dig vegetables, and make pottery ware. The bachelors live in houses by themselves, built apart from the other cabins.
The natives of New Holland are nearly black, and but little more comely than their neighbors of New Guinea. They go without clothing, and rub themselves with fish oil, as a defence against musquitoes. They daub their hair with yellow gum, in order to fasten ornaments of feathers, fish-bones, and the tails of dogs. Both sexes have the back and arms deeply scarred by an operation performed with pieces of broken shell. Scarcely any woman has the two lower joints of the little finger; it is not known whether this sacrifice is made in mourning for relatives, or for some other reason. Before a girl is given to her husband, her two front teeth are knocked out. The lover then throws a kangaroo skin over her shoulders, spits in her face several times, marks her with painted stripes of different colors, orders her to march to his hut with his provision bag, and if she does not go fast enough to please him, he gives her a few kicks by the way. These savages generally steal wives from some tribe with whom they are at enmity. As soon as they observe a girl without any protector near, they rush upon her, stupefy her with blows of a club, and drag her through the woods with the utmost violence. Her tribe retaliate merely by committing a similar outrage. There are no wedding ceremonies. These wretched women spend much of their time in fishing. They chew muscles and cockles, and drop them in the water for bait. Their lines are made of fibres of bark, and their hooks of mother-of-pearl oyster shells, rubbed on stones till they assume the desired shape. They commonly beguile the time by singing; but they never dance, though the men spend a great deal of their time in that amusement. A woman will often be out with two or three children, in a miserable boat, on the very edge of a roll
208 wo M E N of v A N DI E M E N 's L A N D.
ing surf, that would frighten even an experienced mariner. If they have an infant, it lies across the mother's lap, without danger of falling; for while employed in fishing, she sits in the bottom of the shallow boat, with her knees up to her neck, and between the knees and the body her babe lies securely. When the New Hollanders are displeased with their wives, they spear them or knock them in the head. Neither men nor women appeared to have any sense of modesty; but when they found that white people, who visited the island, thought it indecent to go without clothing, the women grew more reserved, and seemed desirous of conforming to their ideas of propriety.
The people of Van Diemen's Land are in a state similar to that of New Holland. They rub their hair with red ochre, and decorate it with fish-bones and teeth. The dull black of their complexions is deepened with powder of charcoal. They likewise tattoo themselves in lines or points, which rise up in tubercles, of the same color as the rest of the skin. The women dive into the sea for shell-fish and lobsters, while their husbands sit by a fire cooking and eating the choicest morsels they procure; they likewise hunt game, and cut all the fuel. The men keep as many wives as they please, but treat them so badly, that they seize every opportunity to run away and place themselves under the protection of the British sailors, who come there to obtain seals. They are much handsomer, and more cleanly, than the women of New Holland, and are said to be remarkably kind and docile. Toward the sailors, who protect them, they are most faithful and affectionate. If a storm comes on while their mates are out engaged in the seal-fishery, these tender-hearted creatures constantly endeavor to propitiate the Good Spirit with songs, which they accompany with graceful and supplicating gestures. They have such a dread of returning to the power of their brutal husbands, that they are continually afraid the sailors will go away and leave them. If they are so unfortunate as to be seized by their tribe, they are treated most savagely, and their half European children are thrown into the fire. These children are said to be universally and remarkably beautiful. In their wild state these women wear little or no clothing. Infants sit on the shoulders of the mother, entwining their legs about her neck, and holding her fast by the hair of her head. Being accustomed to this position, they take care of themselves with grea dexterity. The women may often be seen at thi fishing stations, pursuing their occupation with babe, in this apparently dangerous situation.