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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/254

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

conducted by the go-between, who is the sole medium of communication between the two families. When all details have been settled, a sum of money is carried from the parents of the groom to those of the bride, and the betrothal is completed. This pact can under no circumstances be legally broken by either party. Even the discovery of fraud on the part of the agent does not vitiate the contract.

When the bride knows that she is to be married, she must evince by word and manner the deepest melancholy, and she gains commendation and repute if her lamentations are poetical. An acquaintance of mine, who was spoken of with approval, always, from the time of her betrothal to that of her marriage, referred to the latter as to her funeral. To her little brother—the only member of a bride's family that may before the birth of her first child visit her in her husband's house—she said, "When I am buried, you must come frequently to burn incense at my grave." To her elder brothers and to her sister-in-law she said, "After I am dead, do not kill the lizards and the centipeds that may crawl about the house, for it may be that my spirit will come back and dwell in the vermin about my home rather than abide in the grave into which I shall have been put." A gifted girl makes many such allusions without instruction, while the stupid have to be privately taught what to say when they wail their adieus to maiden life. How much of a girl's distress is real and how much of it is piously feigned can be guessed only by those who understand how deeply Chinese character is affected by Chinese customs.

The vexations of a betrothal and a wedding are so great as to have given rise to the proverb, "Don't say you have had trouble until you shall have married off a daughter or brought home a daughter-in-law." The sum of money paid to the bride's parents is usually spent upon her marriage outfit. The smallest dowry is a few suits of new clothing. The wealthy give hundreds of garments, and sometimes one or two bondmaids, with a field that reverts to the bride's family upon her decease.

In this, the Swatow region, the bride is always carried from her father's house to that of her father-in-law in a sedan-chair that is carefully closed and covered with scarlet. She is accompanied by none of her own family. The go-betweens and a messenger from the house of the groom direct the bearers who carry her trousseau with her in a procession along the streets.

Early on the morning of the wedding, the bride is bathed in water in which twelve kinds of flowers have been steeped; has her hair stiffened with bandoline and wrought into a marvelous coiffure with many golden aigrettes; is attired in gorgeous apparel, which she puts on with an appearance of bitter unwillingness, and enters the red sedan-chair weeping loudly. The