Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/257

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Chastity. Harlots.

noticed before their betrothal and marriage are taken in hand. Considerable laxity of intercourse between boys and girls undoubtedly existed, and unchastity was not very seriously regarded; yet it is certain that in these islands generally there was by no means that insensibility in regard to female virtue with which the natives are so commonly charged. There is but too good a cause generally for the natives to present at once their unchaste females to white visitors, and these then speak from experience little creditable to those of their colour who have preceded them. There is a considerable difference however to be observed between one island and another in this matter, an example of which appears in the presence or absence of a word signifying a harlot. In Florida such a woman is called rembi, and occupied not long ago a recognized place in native life; but it was in consequence generally of misconduct, such as adultery or fornication within the kema kin, that a woman was condemned by the chief of her place to such a life. She belonged to the chief, lived in one of his houses, and most of her earnings were his. When she had accumulated porpoise teeth and money she would be allowed to marry, being well worth having, and then reference to her former career would not be proper. While rembi she was not particularly despised; no one would step over her legs, go too near to her, or talk to her without cause. At Wango in San Cristoval and in the neighbourhood girls were very loose before marriage, getting money for themselves privately by prostitution; and besides, there are harlots, repi, there, some girls not yet married, and some widows. They considered themselves much stricter at Saa in Malanta; a girl of family found pregnant before marriage would be killed, unless the paramour could pay enough to save her and make her his wife. A girl of no family, that is, not of the chief's family, would not be killed, but might be allowed to become a harlot if not married by her lover. Sometimes a man allows his daughter to become a harlot to gain money; and a chief at Ulawa will buy a girl from her father and keep her to earn money for him as well as for herself; but such a repi in either island is not