Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/262

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Birth. Childhood. Marriage.

When the matter is settled the bridegroom's friends make a feast, and the tail of the pig is given to the bride's father. After due payment of the money the girl is taken to wife without ceremony. If a girl were engaged to an old man or one she dislikes she might run off into the bush with the youth of her choice, and a pig given by his friends might settle the matter. The payments for a wife are not very heavy in this group, but vary in the different islands. A girl betrothed as a child is here often taken to her future home to be brought up there to know the people and, if she belongs to another island, the language of the place. Boys and girls, and young people generally, who are engaged are very shy about it, and will hardly look at one another; but as the time for marriage draws on it is correct for the youth to make little presents and otherwise shew attention.

In the Northern New Hebrides a girl betrothed in childhood is taken to her future father-in-law's house and brought up there; the boy often thinks she is his sister, and is much ashamed when he comes to know the relation in which he stands. This however is not the common way, for it is only the children of great people who are betrothed as infants. When the girl is old enough to be married in Araga she is sometimes tattooed, and always assumes her petticoat. There is some ceremony there when the marriage day arrives; people assemble in the middle of the village, and the father of the bride or some friend of consequence makes a speech. The bridegroom sticks a branch of a drac├Žna into the ground and brings up the pigs, food, and mats given for the bride. Then the orator exhorts him to feed his wife properly and treat her kindly, and not to be sulky with her, and he hands over the young woman, who is attired in a new petticoat and wrapped in a new mat. There follows a feast, and the bridegroom goes round about his father-in-law or the orator, stroking him, to thank him. A sort of sham-fight takes place on the occasion, in which sometimes men are hurt, the two sides being the kinsmen of the bridegroom and of the bride; if one of the bridegroom's