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A short time ago there were on exhibition at the Westminster Aquarium a family, or what purported to be a family, of natives of the island of Terra del Fuego, whose savage customs were for a time the talk of the town. It appears that on the termination of their engagement at the Aquarium one of the women was taken seriously ill, so ill, indeed, that when the troupe started for Brussels the poor creature was left behind. As she had no friends she was sent to the Infirmary of the St. George's Union. There she died at 5 o'clock on January 23.

Dr. Webster, the resident physician, regarded the circumstances of the case as so serious that he readily made known all the facts so far as he knew them, calling to his side for assistance in this purpose the nurse who had received and attended to the unfortunate woman. "When she came into the infirmary," said the nurse, " she had only an old rug on like a cloak, a rope tied round her waist, and a pair of slippers made of string. Not another stitch of clothing did she possess of any kind. She was filthily dirty ; the filth was in layers, and she objected by every sound and sign she could make to being washed. The stench from her body was horrible. She was quite ignorant of all the usages of civilisation, and her habits were generally of the rudest kind. We could not make her understand at first, as no one knew her language. She would not eat or drink anything we offered her, and we did not know how to feed her." " She did possess some intelligence, however," put in Dr. Webster, taking up the story, " for after a few days we got her to understand that she must use the spittoon. But it was not until we had written to the Aquarium that we could get her to eat. We were told from there that she fed upon raw horseflesh and raw fish. Well, we couldn't supply her with horseflesh, so we offered her some partly-cooked beef, and for the first time her eyes brightened a little, and she ate of it. Of course we could not communicate with her except by signs. I consider it a most shameful thing," the doctor added, "that these poor creatures should be permitted to be taken from their native land, and brought to this country, where they are almost sure to fall sick, when they are at once foisted upon the ratepayers."

The Rev. Father Herbert, who was the only person who had been able to obtain any kind of communication with the poor creature, told a reporter that he had very great difficulty in getting her to speak. "I tried her in many ways, and got a friend to address her, in Portuguese, which she seemed to understand a little. At last I spoke to her in a hotch-potch of Spanish and Italian, which seemed to be familiar to her ears. I spoke in a sing-song voice, which at once attracted her attention. She asked, in the same mixture of languages, if I was one of the 'Black Fathers,' and if I was a medicine man. From this fact I do not believe she was a Fuegian at all, but belonged to some tribe which had been near some civilised centre. Then I asked if she could pray, and she said at once, ' Si, pregia sompre.' I then repeated some simple prayer in Italian, which she at once said after me. I also showed her a crucifix, which she kissed. When I gave her my hand, she said in a pleading , voice, 'Bacio?' I said, 'Yes,' and she at once kissed it. From all I was able to gather, I am sure she had some  religious knowledge, and had very likely met some of Father Bosco's missionaries."

Source: "The Mercury" (Hobart, Tas.), 12 April 1890
Clipped: 22-IX-2012
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