Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/806

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



outside the relation of brother and sister could marry, although marriage of first cousins was greatly disliked. Polygamy prevailed among those who could afford it, and whose circumstances or inclination led into it, "but as the tribe supported all in food, the mean men would be prevented, in some way or another, fromPSM V42 D806 Maori woman.jpgMaori Woman. having large establishments." Betrothal of children was common among people of high birth. "If no betrothal, there was generally a lot of talk and squabbling, every one in the tribe thinking he had a right to interfere, till at last the young couple, if lovers, would flee to the bush until their living together was agreed to. The girl generally began the courting. I have often seen the pretty little love letter fall at the feet of a lover—it was a little bit of flax made into a half knot; 'yes' was made by pulling the knot tight, 'no' by leaving the 'matrimonial noose' alone. . . . Sometimes in the whare matoro (the wooing-house), a building in which the young of both sexes assembled for play, songs, dances, etc., there would be at stated times a meeting; when the fires burned low, a girl would stand up in the dark and say, 'I love So-and-so—I want him for my husband.' If he coughed (sign of assent) or said 'yes,' it was well; if only dead silence, she covered her head with her robe and was ashamed. This was not often, as she generally had managed to ascertain (either by her own inquiry or by sending a girl friend) if the proposal was acceptable. On the other hand, sometimes a mother would attend, and say, 'I want So-and-so for my son.' If not acceptable, there was generally mocking, and she was told to let the young people have their house (the wooing-house) to themselves. Sometimes, if the unbetrothed pair had not secured the consent of the parents, a late suitor would appear upon the scene, and the poor girl got almost hauled to death between them all. . . . Girls have been injured for life in these disputes, or even murdered by the losing party. There was generally a show of force, more or less severe; but after she had been taken away, the parents came to see the pair, and when