Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/598

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of great position whose heroic deeds and winning manners made them adored by women of their own race, should have spoiled their prime, or inextricably entangled themselves, or wrecked their own roof-tree and incurred lifelong desertion by the wife of their youth. The bluest blood of Spain was not contaminated by an alliance with the Incas, but just ten years ago the direct line of an ancient English earldom was extinguished among the Kaffirs. The truth seems to be that while a woman will not as a rule accept a man who is her inferior in rank or refinement, a man easily contents himself for the time with almost any female. The Bantu woman and the Australian zubra are not alluring, but they have never lacked suitors. Colonial women shrink (or profess to shrink) from the Chinaman; all colors—black, brown, red, and yellow—seem to be alike to the undiscriminating male appetite. Yet it has its preferences. The high official who stands unmoved before the cloudy attractions of the Zulu, surrenders at discretion to the soft-voiced, dark-eyed, plump-limbed daughters of Maoriland. In the last case a perverse theory (of the future amalgamation of the races) may have been "the light that led astray"; it certainly was used to justify their acts to the consciences of the doers. Romance had its share: Browning's Waring (who was premier as well as poet) threw a poetic glamour over the miscegenation, as another hiinister found in the race the Ossianesque attributes of his own Highlanders. It sometimes, even now, rises into passion: the colonial schoolmaster who marries a native girl will declare that his is a love match. But the chief reason at all times was "the custom of the country." "It was the regular thing," remarked an old legislator, looking ruefully back on his past. Nor is it to be harshly censured. Corresponding to the Roman slave-concubinage which Cato Major did not disdain to practice, it repeated a stage in the history of the mother country when the invading Angles allied themselves (as anthropology abundantly proves) with the native Britons. While making a kind of atonement to the indigenes, it was a solatium to the pioneer colonists for a life of hardship and privation. A higher grade was the concubinage of convictism, which was with women of the same race and was capable of rising into normal marriage. In the early days of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land it seems to have been almost universal, and it lasted for many years. Not one in ten of the officials lived with his legally married wife. In the latter colony it was suppressed by the governor, who ordered them to marry the women by whom they had families. In the former, if Dr. Lang's account of his exertions is accepted, it was put down by the exposure of guilty parties. It was accompanied by other features of a low social state. The public and private sale of wives was not infrequent. The colonial equivalent for a wife, in the