Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/94

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tuting one of the best reasons for absolute divorce among the Ainu, as among savage and barbarous nations the world over.

Children are sometimes betrothed by their fathers when quite young, and this is done without the intervention of a middle-man. This is not usually a matter of commerce, but often occurs when two men, during a drinking-bout, conceive a great friendship for each other. It frequently happens, however, that two rich men, desirous of combining the wealth of their respective families, will betroth their children. But betrothal is not absolutely binding upon the young people, for the veto power remains with the children; and if, upon reaching marriageable age, either of the principal parties to the marriage feels any inclination to do so, he or she will annul the betrothal contract, in which event any presents that may have been given must be returned, or their value fully recompensed to the donors. It is sometimes a difficult matter for the girl to have her own way, for there are conventionalities even in Ainu society; but the boy simply takes the law into his own hands and consummates wedlock with the object of his affection, and, when her condition betrays the fact, opposition often ceases!

At the time of betrothal, if the choice be an independent one on the part of either the groom or bride, it is customary for the fathers to exchange presents, of no great value, to be sure, but sufficient to show their approval of the match. Long engagements are not popular, and when once a betrothal has been effected the pair are soon married, if they are of suitable age—that is, about eighteen or twenty for the man, and sixteen or eighteen for the woman. It will be noticed that there is a certain doubt expressed in all matters pertaining to age, time, etc. This is because the people have no record of time, except to mark the recurring seasons, and do not themselves know how old they are.

When two young people are married, the wedding-feast is usually held at the house of the groom's father. The village chief (or his representative if he can not attend in person) and all the members of the two families attend, with the immediate relatives and the nearest neighbors. Like all their social and religious meetings, the occasion is made an excuse for saké-drinking—the men drinking themselves into a state of intoxication. As they are hard-headed fellows, and take their liquor cold (instead of heated, as the Japanese do), the quantity of saké consumed is sometimes enormous. To give some idea of the Ainu excessive fondness for saké, I may mention the fact that many of the northern Ainu often refuse to work for money-wages, and stipulate that they shall receive saké in full payment before they will commence.

The mistress of the house superintends the preparation of the wedding-feast, and is assisted by all the assembled women in pounding the millet and making wedding-cakes, which are boiled,