Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/259

This page has been validated.
Betrothal. Tattoo.

well conducted, and which are respectable accordingly, and everywhere there are families which are not respectable. Bastards are generally very rare.

Betrothal comes very early in the life of many Melanesian girls; a man with a son born to him looks out for the birth of a suitable girl to be his son's wife. This is especially the case with persons of consequence and wealth, and upon this begins the long series of payments and negotiations which come to their end at the marriage. The general character of these transactions may be understood from the ways in which matrimonial affairs are managed in the various islands. The first marriage of the young man may be taken to be in view; wives are added to the first with less to do about it, but not without a good deal of bargaining on the part of the men concerned, and a great deal of business and talking on that of the women. In Florida the girl who has been engaged as an infant, and for whom some payment has been made on the engagement, is tattooed when she comes to the proper age for it. This, uhuuhu, is done by a man whose profession it is to do it, and who receives much money, pigs, and food in the exercise of his art; a feast is made for him and for the company assembled of friends and relations, who help to bear the expense. The pattern is first marked out in circles with a bamboo, and the skin is cut with the bone of a bat's wing. The amount of tattooing varies, but the pain and swelling is always considerable. No girl would be considered marriageable unless tattooed, and the operation performed is a sign that the time is come when the father of the young man to whom one is engaged should pay something down with a view to the marriage. Further advance, however, may be delayed for months or even years before the future father-in-law goes with his party to pay down the whole sum of money agreed upon. Then after staying two days at least, with endless difficulties interposed, the girl is given up, and an extra sum of money has to be paid, na rongo ni nggoti kekesa, the money to break the post near the door used to take hold of in going in and out of the house, to finish her going in and out of her old