Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/254

This page has been validated.
232
[ch.
Birth. Childhood. Marriage.

occasion and a pig is killed, and so always when an additional hole is made, and a Santa Cruz boy may be seen with more than thirty ear-rings. The Santa Cruz dress is ample, and is assumed with a feast and killing of a pig. The boy's assumption of a dress depends therefore on the ability and willingness of his friends to provide the feast, and some big boys go naked. The dress in the New Hebrides, at Lepers' Island, and Pentecost differs little from that of Santa Cruz. The boy puts on his malo dress when his parents think him big enough, and sooner or later as they can afford to make a feast. Before this he has lived at home, but now he eats and sleeps in the gamali club-house, and now begins his strange and strict reserve of intercourse with his sisters and his mother. This begins in full force towards his sisters; he must not use as a common noun the word which is the name or makes part of the name of any of them, and they avoid his name as carefully. He may go to his father's house to ask for food, but if his sister is within he has to go away before he eats; if no sister is there he can sit down near the door and eat. If by chance brother and sister meet in the path she runs away or hides. If a boy on the sands knows that certain footsteps are his sister's, he will not follow them, nor will she his. This mutual avoidance begins when the boy is clothed or the girl tattooed. The partition between boys and girls without which a school cannot be carried on is not there to divide the sexes generally, but to separate brothers and sisters. This avoidance continues through life. The reserve between son and mother increases as the boy grows up, and is much more on her side than his. He goes to the house and asks for food; his mother brings it out but does not give it him, she puts it down for him to take; if she calls him to come she speaks to him in the plural, in a more distant manner; 'Come ye,' she says, mim vanai, not 'Come thou.' If they talk together she sits at a little distance and turns away, for she is shy of her grown-up son. The meaning of all this is obvious. At Santa Cruz and the neighbouring islands the separation of the sexes in daily life is carried far,