Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/712

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



children?" When the Fingoes left the Gcalekas, whose slaves they were, to come under British rule, they brought with them numerous droves of cattle which they were allowed to possess in the land of their captivity. A slave's wives and children belong to his master and may be sold at any time. A headman who is in debt[1] sells first his slaves, then his sisters, next his mother, and finally his free wives, after which he resembles the proverbial Highlander; there is nothing more of which he can be stripped.

Closely connected with personal rights and liberty is the law of inheritance.[2] A man's heir is his brother, the son of his mother, failing that, his sister's son; his own children are excluded. This, as will be easily understood, is to make perfectly sure, in a land where every married woman has a lover, that the heir has the family blood in his veins. The succession to the chieftainship is based on the same principle, which is curious, considering the terrible severity with which known cases of adultery, in the case of chiefs' wives, are punished. A man succeeds to his deceased relative's wives as well as to his property and rights; they are a part of the estate. And here it may be mentioned that wives are obtained by inheritance, by purchase as slaves, by presentation, or by raiding and theft. Generally one wife only is free. An infant a few days old may be bought and betrothed, or even an unborn child, conditionally of course. In the case of infant betrothal the suitor provides her with clothes, which is the token of his pledge.

At an African village the work is done chiefly by the women;[3] they hoe the fields, sow the seed, and reap the harvest. To them, too, falls all the labor of house-building, grinding corn, brewing beer, cooking, washing, and caring for almost all the material interests of the community. The men tend the cattle, hunt, go to war, and, curiously enough, do all the sewing required on their own and the women's garments. Neater tailors than Africans it would be impossible to find anywhere. By means of an awl and tendons from animals of the chase they can sew small squares of skin together so as almost to defy an expert to find a seam without looking at the reverse side, nor are they mean artists as regards cut and fit according to African notions. Whether they would satisfy those who wear only "tailor-made gowns," is a question which the ethnologist is not called upon to solve.

The African can not always remain at his own village; he may be called upon to undertake a journey on his own account, or at the behest of his chief, and in either case it is necessary to take

  1. Notably among the Yao.
  2. Yao, Malemya's people at Zomba, Machingas, and many others.
  3. This is universal.