Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/286

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272
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

gusted on hearing that in England a man has only one wife. This is a feeling by no means peculiar to them.

"An intelligent Kandyan chief, with whom Mr. Baily visited these Veddahs, was perfectly scandalized at the utter barbarism of living with only one wife, and never parting until separated by death. 'It was,' he said, 'just like the wanderoos' (monkeys)."[1]

Again, one would suppose that, as a matter of course, monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry, in its several varieties, exhausted the possible forms of marriage. An utterly unexpected form is furnished us by one of the African tribes. Marriage, among them, is for so many days in the week—commonly for four days in the week, which is said to be "the custom in the best families:" the wife during the off days being regarded as an independent woman who may do what she pleases. We are little surprised, too, on reading that, by some of the hill-tribes of India, unfaithfulness on the part of the husband is held to be a grave offence, but unfaithfulness on the part of the wife a trivial one. We assume, as self-evident, that good usage of a wife by a husband implies, among other things, absence of violence; and hence it seems scarcely imaginable that in some places the opposite criterion holds. Yet it does so among the Tartars.

"A nursemaid of mine left me to be married, and some short time after she went to the Natchalnick of the place to make a complaint against her husband. He inquired into the matter, when she coolly told him her husband did not love her. He asked her how she knew he did not love her; 'Because,' she replied, 'he never whipped me.'"[2]

A statement which might be rejected as incredible, were it not for the analogous fact that, among the South African races, a white master who does not thrash his men is ridiculed and reproached by them as not worthy to be called a master. Among domestic customs, again, who, if he had been set to imagine all possible anomalies, would have hit upon that which is found among the Basques, and has existed among other races the custom that on the birth of a child the husband goes to bed and receives the congratulations of friends, while his wife returns to her household work? Or who, among the results of having a son born, would dream of that which occurs among some Polynesian races, where the father is forthwith dispossessed of his property, and becomes simply a guardian of it on behalf of the infant? The varieties of filial relations and of accompanying sentiments continually show us things equally strange, and at first sight equally unaccountable. It seems hardly credible that it should anywhere be thought a duty on the part of children to bury their parents alive. Yet it is so thought among the Fijians; of whom we read also that the parents thus put out of the way, go to their graves with smiling

  1. Lubbock's "Prehistoric Times," p. 344 (first edition).
  2. Mrs. Atkinson's "Recollections of Tartar Steppes," p. 220.