« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
they immediately imitated us. Some of our party began to squint and look awry; but one of the young Fuegians (whose whole face was painted black, excepting a white band across his eyes) succeeded in making far more hideous grimaces. They could repeat with perfect correctness each word in any sentence we addressed them, and they remembered such words for some time. Yet we Europeans all know how difficult it is to distinguish apart the sounds in a foreign
language. Which of us, for instance, could follow an Amer ican Indian through a sentence of more than three words? All savages seem to have, to an uncommon degree, this power of mimicry: I was told, almost in the same words, of the same laughable habit among the South African Kaffirs; the Australians, likewise, have long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe the gait of any man so that he may be recognized. How can this faculty be explained? Does it come from the more practised habits of perception and
TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
keener senses common to all men in a savage state, as com pared with those long civilized?
The inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, living chiefly upon shell-fish, are obliged constantly to change their place of resi dence; but they return at intervals to the same spots, as is
evident from the piles of old shells, which must often amount to many tons in weight. These heaps can be recognized at a long distance by the bright green color of certain plants which always grow on them. Among these are the wild celery and scurvy-grass, two very serviceable plants, the use of which has not been discovered by the natives. The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a hay-cock.
TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
It consists merely of a few broken branches stuck in the ground, and very rudely thatched on one side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot be the work of an hour, and it is only used for a few days. On the west coast, however, the wigwams are rather better, for they are covered with seal-skins.
While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On the east coast the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and on the west they possess seal-skins. Among these central tribes the men generally have an otter-skin, or some small scrap, about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and, according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full-grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the fresh water, together with the spray, trickled down her body. In another harbor, not far distant, a woman who was suckling a newly-born child came one day alongside the vessel, and remained there, out of mere curiosity, while the sleet fell and thawed on her naked bosom and on the skin of her naked baby! These poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make one's self believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world. We