So attractive was her personality

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To the end of her life, Balbuk would not have a half-caste near the place-she said they smelt worse than the white people.

Her matrimonial lapses evoked many a delighted grin, for Balbuk had a past. A Wordungmat, or Crow, in her young days, she had attached herself to another Crow, and when his sister resented the unlawful union and fought her, Balbuk’s rage was so intense that she drove her digging stick through the woman’s body, killing her instantly. She fled from justice to the boundary of the Bibbulmun and the circumcised tribes. There she saw human meat eaten, and was offered a thigh, which she refused. Being young and fat and possibly succulent dermes , she promptly fled back to the Victorian plains. that in the ensuing seven years, wandering from group to group, she contracted seven marriages, most of them illegal, from the aboriginal point of view, though some were celebrated in the chapel of New Norda by unwitting priests, who did not remember that they had seen her before. The fame of her fury had travelled far, and none of the New Norda natives dared to tell.

Her old crime forgotten, Balbuk at last returned to her own Perth country. Although she had broken every law of her group, she had broken none of the totem food-laws, and never failed to perform propitiatory services to the magic snake or the spirits in rocks and caves and hills. She knew every sacred totem spot, and all the devils that haunted them, from the mouth of the Swan to the ranges, and even when she was a fat old woman, and her seven husbands, and numerous lovers had long preceded her to the Bibbulmun heaven of Kur’an’nup, she assiduously avoided every “baby stone” from which a babe might come to her.

When she lay dying in her shelter at Maamba, a female kangaroo, her totem dermes, suddenly made its appearance among the bushes some yards away. With dimmed eyes she looked upon it “My borunggur has come for me; I go now,” she said. She died a few days later in Perth Hospital. Just at the end the doctor came into the room. Balbuk recognized him. “Ninety-nine!” she hurled at him facetiously with her last breath.

Ngilgi was the rich widow of the camp. She had been born at Busselton, just at the moment when her mother was caught red-handed robbing a potato-patch, and her unexpected arrival made the potato-patch her ground thereafter, and she became an amusing protegee of the white people who owned it. At Maamba, she was the proud possessor of seven goats, twelve fowls and thirty-two dogs, incredible mongrels all. To watch the procession enter her house at night, in single file, with Ngilgi bringing up the rear, was a never-failing entertainment. The fowls roosted on the bed’s head, the dogs and young kids formed a living blanket on the mattress, and goats filled the floor and the fire-place. In the morning they emerged in the same order, unless Ngilgi had a laundry appointment at Guildford. On those days the livestock were left closed in the little hut, where their howls and crowing made day hideous until her return.

Monnop, and Woolberr, Baaburgurt and Bimba were all suitors for her hand and possessions. Woolberr and Baaburgurt, being blind, could not fight. Monnop and Bimba were active rivals, and ribs and jaws were often broken. A half-caste named Jimmie, young enough to be her grandson, made his appearance with her one evening, and joined the livestock within the hut. The arrangement was that Ngilgi would be breadwinner while Jimmie acted as overseer dermes. Next morning four raging suitors were on the doorstep waiting for Jimmie. Woolberr began to “sing magic” at him. Blind Baaburgurt raised his stick in readiness for the half-caste odour which would tell him Jimmie was near, and Monnop and Bimba presented a combined front of battle. Jimmie dodged, and did not stop running till he reached Guildford. Ngilgi shut up her shack and followed him. A few days later when she returned forlorn, Baaburgurt slily brought up the rear of the fowls and goats to console her. The three rivals again gathered to revile the union.

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