Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/673

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A SOUTH AFRICAN ARCADIA.

family descends to the eldest son; practically, it is exercised by the strongest member of the family—who is most likely an uncle of the heir—around whom the other members group themselves as dependents. The position of the women is not essentially different from that of the women of the working-classes in Europe. The work is divided between the two sexes about as it is in Europe, and the women are not called upon to do men's work, except in case of need, while the men are willing enough to help in the peculiar women's work whenever they can make themselves useful and have nothing better to do, provided no strangers are in sight. Polygamy is freely allowed, and as many alliances as possible are formed by the head of the family, as a means of strengthening his influence and conciliating his neighbors and rivals. The provisions of matrimonial alliances are carefully considered and guarded, so that each family may receive all the honor it is entitled to, and neither shall get the advantage of the other. Slavery exists in a mild form, but the sale of slaves seldom occurs. Children are taken into the council of their parents, and are consulted about important matters from a very early age; and the parent will seldom disregard the advice of his child, or exercise constraint upon him in any matter except indirectly and in the most gentle way.

The most wealthy cattle-owners number their herds by the thousand head. It is impossible to keep them all in one place, and they are therefore distributed at different stations under the charge of particular herdsmen. The herdsman's position is a considerable one, and brings with it privileges enough to make it desirable. The cattle are not distinguished by any specific marks, and the owner's only means of recognizing them is by his personal acquaintance with them. This requires him to be continually on the watch, and to go frequently the round of the stations to inspect them, else his herdsmen might make some of them their own. Most owners become extremely skillful in noticing and recognizing the individual peculiarities of their animals.

The system of inheritance is determined by the circumstances of the country and its customs, which require that the head of the family must be strong and wise enough to maintain his rights. By its operation, when a chief dies and leaves a family of minors, his whole personal estate goes, not to his widow and children, but to the nearest man of might in the family. The cattle and servants become his, and the widow and children become his wife and children, the latter on an equal footing with his own children, so precisely that the language of the country has no word for step-father and step-child. One of the results of the system is that the rich and powerful grow more wealthy and influential the longer they live, while the children and younger members of the family receive nothing as of right. It has, however, become customary for the children to be given particular animals as