Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/266

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Birth. Childhood. Marriage.

throat; and a man jealous or quarrelling with his wife would do the like; but now it is easy to go off with another's wife or husband in a labour vessel to Queensland or Fiji.

Divorce is easy and common, and may be said to be effected at the will of either party, though it is naturally more easy for a man to dismiss his wife than for a woman to leave her husband. The great difficulty is the property given for the wife; a man does not wish to lose this, and will try many times to get back a runaway wife before he gives her up, giving presents to her relations. If the separation is amicable, the father of the woman will give back what he has received, having in view another son-in-law. After some time spent in wedlock the woman has worked out a good deal of what was given for her, and a pig or two on one side or the other settles all claims. It may be said that generally man and wife get on well together, and are united by their great fondness for their children.

The Levirate obtains as a matter of course. The wife has been obtained for one member of a family by the contributions of the whole, and if that member fails by death, some other is ready to take his place, so that the property shall not be lost; it is a matter of arrangement for convenience and economy whether a brother, cousin or uncle of the deceased shall take his widow. The brother naturally comes first; if a more distant relation takes the woman he probably has to give a pig. In Lepers' Island if a man who is a somewhat distant cousin of the deceased wishes to take the widow, he adds a pig to the death-feast of the tenth or fiftieth day to signify and support his pretensions, and he probably gives another pig to the widow's sisters to obtain their good-will. If two men contend for the widow she selects one, and the fortunate suitor gives a pig to the disappointed. In fact a woman, when once the proper payment has been made for her, belongs to those who have paid, the family generally; hence a man, as in the story of Ganviviris, will set up his sister's son in life by handing over to him one of his own wives; not because the young man has a right to his uncle's wives, but because the woman