|Chapter Title||THE WOCKOGOS DECLARE WAR AGAINST THE MUTTA-MUTTAS-PREPARATIONS THEREFOR-THE BATTLE|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
Tales and Sketches.
A TALE OF EARLY SQUATTING LIFE IN
BY THE " AUTHOR OF ADVENTURES IN QUEENS-
[All right reserved.]
CHAPTER XXXIV.—THE WOCKOGOS DECLARE
WAR AGAINST THE MUTTA-MUTTAS.—PRE- PARATIONS THEREFOR.—THE BATTLE.
WE must now return to the blacks at Coong- broggie, and allow a period of three or four years to pass over, during which time things went on pretty much as usual in the monoto- nous life of the savages. They hunted, ate, drank, slept, and fought ; which was the sum of their life generally. Little Ron was a well- grown boy, and had quite forgotten the use of
clothing, and was almost equally oblivious of any other mother than Warrawarra, who thought a great deal of him, though she now had two boys of her own. He was quite as expert as any youngster of his age in the camp with their weapons, and was consequen- tly a great favourate with Molonga. Cooreelia was a happy woman, for she had succeeded in bewitching Giovanni, and was the mother of two little piebald piccaninnies, a girl and a boy. Giovanni was quite contented with his wife, and with his lot generally, for he could not show his face again amongst white people.
At this time, great bustle and excitement prevailed in the camp, for war had been
declared against a neighbouring tribe—the Mutta-muttas. The manufacture of spears, boomerangs, nulla nullas, shields, and yam- sticks was proceeding with unwonted activity —an activity that one unaccustomed to their ways would have pronounced to be indolence; nevertheless, they meant to be hard at work, and really thought they were carrying out their intentions. One thing is certain, that however slow they may have been in the making of their weapons, the most prejudiced observer must have given them unqualified praise for the extraordinary dexterity and endurance in the use of them. Their heely- mans, or shields, were of the wood of the coral tree, which is almost as light as cork, open in texture, but very tough. They were made oval in shape, averaging 2ft. long, by
about a foot wide. Some were not more than
6in. wide. A hollow is carved at the back, leaving a longitudinal bar for a hand-hold. All their other implements were slightly charred in the fire, scraped and greased, which hardens and toughen's them.
The fight was to be at a place about two miles down the lake from their camp. Old animosities were of course the prime movers in the affair, but the alleged casui belli was little Ron, whom the Mutta-muttas coveted and declared they would have.
About a week after the above preparations were commenced, some of Molonga's scouts ran into the camp in haste, and announced that a large body of the enemy were camped within a few hours' march of Coongbroggie. This piece of news created an awful dread amongst the Wockogas. They seized bundles of spears, and shook them with a sudden extension of their arms, making them rattle most suggestively, at the same time making a curious noise with their mouths, like "bur- r-r-rh," and shouting in a ferocious manner. They then all set to to paint themselves ; an operation requiring considerable time and trouble if the gentleman happened to be particular, otherwise it was dashed off quickly Their faces and backs were done by their gins or comrades. The ochres used were red, yellow, and white ; charcoal and grease being also freely laid on. Their hair was done up in all sorts of grotesque fashions, and adorned with native dogs' tails, bunches of cockatoos' yellow crests, or the large wing or tail feathers of the black or white birds of the same kind. Others had a plentiful sprinkling of fine white feathers mixed through their fiercely-combed locks. .Some had their bodies painted white on one side, and black or red the other. Others imitated skeletons, first being covered with charcoal, then picked out with pipeclay lines on the ribs, arms, and legs, and the faces all white, except black circles round the eyes, nose, and mouth, with red on the forehead ; a more hideous spectacle could hardly be imagined. Others were fancifully and neatly painted in various colours and devices. Molonga's decorations were severely simple. He was covered with charcoal and grease from head to foot. His hair was clubbed on top, and a large bunch
of pure white cockatoo's feathers was stuck
in the crown. There was a shout of admir-
ation, as the chief stalked out proudly and gracefully in his war paint, for he was truly a magnificent fellow.
When two parties of blacks are drawn up in battle array, there is always a vast amount of jaw and gesticulation before the real work of fighting commences. The Mutta-Muttas, arrived, and camped on the intended battle-
field. That night according to aboriginal custom, both tribes met and corrobboreed in a friendly way till near morning, and a nice noise they made. They did not rise with the lark, and when they shook off " dull sloth," were in no feverish haste to cross swords. They leisurely ate their breakfast, and then began to collect in mobs, and " blow " about the prodigies they were going to achieve that day. About 10 o'clock they began to mass at thc fighting ground ; the two parties keeping about one hundred yards apart. Then the herald—-ten or twelve picked young men of either side, proudly trotted off with all the pomp of war to carry messages from their respective chiefs. There is a degree of fascination in the beauty of form, and panther-like grace of the young untrammelled, Aborigines as most people feel who see them in their native wilds. By the time this pageantry had been
gone through many times, the whole strength of the forces was gathered. Then the old women of both tribes began to taunt in their brilliant style the warriors on the other side. Does any other language under the sun afford such a choice of abusive epithets ? Can woman of any other nation or people string them together so fluently ? Can they be communi- cated with greater rapidity, by means of electricity or any other modern time and space annihilator ? Oh, no !
The effect of the old women's volubility was at first entertaining, much laughter and many amused yells being raised by it. This, however, soon ceased, for however wild the statements may be in such a case, some are sure to stick, and from good humour, the warriors gradually changed to fierce hate. A boomerang was occasionally thrown. That wonderfully scientific, but unruly instrument in unpracticed hands, now performed astonishing circumgyrations, each of which was fore-known to the cunning projector. It ran along the ground, and then rose circling in the air, either to fall among the enemy, or return to the feet of the one who threw it ; or it skimmed along the ground, and was stopped by the shield or body of one of the enemy, or perhaps by a tree. There would be a breathless pause, as one of those beautiful but terrible implements sped, and every eye was focussed on it, for none could tell that he was quite out of its scope. When its career was stayed, from out each throat on both sides a shout of admiration pealed. Not a man in the great black throng, who did not «vJ b i«..,i;.a the boomerang, would have dared to brave the ridicule of the eight hundred throats that would have been only too ready to twit him for his awkwardness. Sorties were made from both sides, and showers of spears and nullanullas were launched ; but little execution was done, for the quick-sightcd fellows caught on their shields, or in their hands,what they could not avoid by jumping over, dodging sideways or breaking down. Through inured to long- sustained feats of activity, yet many were carried off fainting from the effects of their great exertions during the day.
Molonga was foremost of all danger, and many were the attempts to lower his proud form by the most expert of his enemies, but all to no purpose ; for, though some carried away in their persons proofs of their prowess, and of Molonga's dexterity, yet was he not even scratched. Many a spear's point was buried in his shield and snapped off, and numerous were the dinges it received in stopping mulla-nullas and goomerangs. So the fight went on for three days. A few were killed on each side and many wounded, the
lamentations over whom were doleful indeed. Giovanni was not allowed to join the fight, and had to content himself with being a spectator.
At the end of the third day the Mutta- Muttas endeavoured to obtain by strategy what they could not by hard fighting, namely to carry off little Ron. The boy had been left in the camp with little or no protection, for it never entered the Wockogo chief's head that the Mutta-Muttas would attempt to storm his camp Molonga kept all his wits about him, though, and told off scouts to watch the enemy's movements day and night to prevent surprise. It was near the close of the day that two of his scouts reported having seen a body of the enemy on the opposite side of the lake, sneaking round towards the camp, He instantly devised their object, and started off with about fifty of his men to beat them off. It was dusk when he got in sight of the camp, and of the body of the enemy. Each party discovered the other at the same time and made a simultaneous rush for the camp Molonga's enemies doubled his own party in number, but he was undaunted. He had a slight advantage in point of distance, and urging his band on, reached the camp first. There was no time to loose. He took little Ron up in his arm's said something to his men, and rushed towards the lake, closely followed by the enemy. It was an exciting race. Molonga did not consider himself in
the least disgraced in flying before such a superior force. He reached the bank from which he had disappeared on a previous occasion, and he and his men plunged in just in time,for the enemy had come to a stand- still for the purpose of throwing their spears and as the last of Molonga's men descended had first, a shower of spears flew over the ground they had just occupied, and fell harm- lessly into the water. When the Mutta- Muttas reached the bank, their astonishment was unbounded at seeing no trace of the fugitives. They searched along the bank : they scanned the lake far and near, but not a vestage of the divers could they see. At last they concluded that a devil-devil had swallowed them up. They did not care to stay too near such a dangerous place, and therefore moved off a little, stuck the butts of their spears in the ground, and held a council to consider what they should do. It was certain, said they, that the great chief and his followers had fallen into the claws of a " devil-devil," and that the victory would now be in the hands . the Mutta-Muttas, in which case they would surely slay the whole tribe of Wockogos, and take possession of the lake and adjacent country, for it was much better than their own. No other tribe would dare to fight them, so they would have every- thing their own way. The sounds of battle had died away with the deepening shades of night, and the band of Mutta-Muttas began to move off in the direction of the camp, which they concluded would be undefended, and they would be able to rifle it at leisure ; but, to their intense dismay, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by a superior force, which seemed to spring from the ground yelling like the furies, Molonga being the most active amongst them. They dared not run from enemies so close to them, more especially as they would have had to break through the cordon first, so they stood like brave men and fought. They were at a great disadvantage, being in a compact body, while the Wockogos were sheltered behind trees. Many fell. At length they were forced to retreat fighting. Still their enemies managed to keep round them, and harassed them at all points. A little further, and they would be clear of the wood. At a signal from their leader, they suddenly broke and fled, followed by a terrible shower of missiles from their watchful enemies, which laid many low. The remnant of the original band—scarcely one- third—fled towards their own camp. This was a decisive blow to the Mutta-Muttas, and and next morning they cleared out, fully impressed with the superiority of the Wockogos on their own ground.
There was a very grand corrobboree at the lake to celebrate the victory over the Mutta- Muttas, and the bodies of the principal men amongst the slain enemies were roasted 0n great fires piled for the occasion, and a few of the plumpest and most appetising were
eaten. A few days after the fight, all sobered down to the ordinary, uneventful life enjoyed
by savages, and for two years more nothing
occured to disturb the even tenor of their ways. Then the dark shadow of destiny again passed over the spirit of Molonga,
Ronald Walton had been to Talmugga to see his friend, Harry Throsby, who returned with him to Boorooma, where they fitted out an expedition for Coongbroggie, for the pur- pose of marking off a run. which they were now prepared to take up and stock.
(To be continued).