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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 10 out of 19

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Jealousy is capable of converting even civilized women into fiends;
all the more these bush women, who have few opportunities for
cultivating the gentler feminine qualities. Indeed, so masculine are
these women that were it not for woman's natural inferiority in
strength their tyrants might find it hard to subdue them. Bulmer
says[172] that

"as a rule both husband and wife had fearful tempers;
there was no bearing and forbearing. When they
quarrelled it was a matter of the strongest conquering,
for neither would give in."

Describing a native fight over some trifling cause Taplin says (71):

"Women were dancing about naked, casting dust in the
air, hurling obscene language at their enemies, and
encouraging their friends. It was a perfect tempest of

Roth says of the Queensland natives that the women fight like men,
with thick, heavy fighting poles, four feet long.

"One of the combatants, with her hands between her
knees, supposing that only one stick is available,
ducks her head slightly--almost in the position of a
school-boy playing leap-frog, and waits for her
adversary's blow, which she receives on the top of her
head. The attitudes are now reversed, and the one just
attacked is now the attacking party. Blow for blow is
thus alternated until one of them gives in, which is
generally the case after three or four hits. Great
animal pluck is sometimes displayed.... Should a woman
ever put up her hand or a stick, etc., to ward a blow,
she would be regarded in the light of a coward" (141).

"At Genorminston, the women coming up to join a fray
give a sort of war-whoop; they will jump up in the air,
and as their feet, a little apart, touch the ground,
they knock up the dust and sand with the fighting-pole,
etc., held between their legs, very like one's early
reminiscences in the picture-books of a witch riding a

"The ferocity of the women when excited exceeds that of the men," Grey
informs us (II., 314); "they deal dreadful blows at one another," etc.

For some unexplained reason--possibly a vague sense of fair play which
in time may lead to the beginnings of gallantry--there is one
occasion, an initiation ceremonial, at which women are allowed to have
their innings while the men are dancing. On this occasion, says Roth

"each woman can exercise her right of punishing any man
who may have ill-treated, abused, or hammered her, and
for whom she may have waited months or perhaps years to
chastise; for, as each pair appear around the corner at
the entrance exposed to her view, the woman and any of
her female friends may take a fighting-pole and belabor
the particular culprit to their heart's content, the
delinquent not being allowed to retaliate in any way
whatsoever--the only occasion in the whole of her life
when the woman can take the law into her own hands
without fear or favor."


This last assertion is not strictly accurate. There are other
occasions when women take the law into their hands, especially when
men try to steal them, an every-day occurrence, at least in former
times. Thus W.H. Leigh writes of the South Australians (152):

"Their manner of courtship is one which would not be
popular among English ladies. If a chief, or any other
individual, be smitten by a female of a different
tribe, he endeavors to waylay her; and if she be
surprised in any quiet place, the ambushed lover rushes
upon her, beats her about the head with his waddy till
she becomes senseless, when she is dragged in triumph
to his hut. It sometimes happens, however, that she has
a thick skull, and resents his blows, when a battle
ensues, and not unfrequently ends in the discomfiture
of the Adonis."

Similarly G.B. Wilkinson describes how the young men go, usually in
groups of two or three, to capture brides of hostile tribes. They lurk
about in concealment till they see that the women are alone, when they
pounce upon them and, either by persuasion or blows, take away those
they want; whereupon they try to regain their own tribe before pursuit
can be attempted. "This stealing of wives is one cause of the frequent
wars that take place amongst the natives."

Barrington's _History of New South Wales_ is adorned with the picture
of a big naked man having beside him, on her back, a beautifully
formed naked girl whom he is dragging away by one arm. The monster, we
read in the text, has come upon her unawares, clubbed her on the head
and other parts of the body,

"then snatching up one of her arms, he drags her,
streaming with blood from her wounds, through the
woods, over stones, rocks, hills, and logs, with all
the violence and determination of a savage," etc.

Curr (I., 237) objects to this picture as a gross exaggeration. He
also declares (I., 108) that it is only on rare occasions that a wife
is captured from another tribe and carried off, and that at present
woman-stealing is not encouraged, as it is apt to involve a whole
tribe in war for one man's sake. From older writers, however, one gets
the impression that wife-stealing was a common custom. Howitt (351)
remarks concerning the "wild white man" William Buckley, who lived
many years among the natives, and whose adventures were written up by
John Morgan, that at first sight his statements "seem to record merely
a series of duels and battles about women who were stolen, speared,
and slaughtered;" and Brough Smyth (77) quotes John Bulmer, who says
that among the Gippsland natives

"sometimes a man who has no sister [to swap] will, in
desperation, steal a wife; but this is invariably a
cause of bloodshed. Should a woman object to go with
her husband, violence would be used. I have seen a man
drag away a woman by the hair of her head. Often a club
is used until the poor creature is frightened into

In South Australia there is a special expression for
bride-stealing--_Milla mangkondi,_ or force-marriage. (Bonwick, 65.)

Mitchell (I., 307) also observed that the possession of the women
"seems to be associated with all their ideas of fighting." The same
impression is conveyed by the writings of Salvado, Wilkes, and
others--Sturt, _e.g._, who wrote (II., 283) that the abduction of a
married or unmarried woman was a frequent cause of quarrel. Mitchell
(I., 330) relates that when some whites told a native that they had
killed a native of another tribe, his first thought and only remark
was, "Stupid white fellows! Why did you not bring away the gins
(women)?" It is unfortunate for a woman to possess the kind of
"beauty" Australians admire for, as Grey says (II., 231),

"The early life of a young woman at all celebrated for
beauty is generally one continued series of captivity
to different masters, of ghastly wounds, of wanderings
in strange families, of rapid flights, of bad treatment
from other females amongst whom she is brought a
stranger by her captor; and rarely do you see a form of
unusual grace and elegance but it is marked and scarred
by the furrows of old wounds; and many a female thus
wanders several hundred miles from the home of her

It is not only from other and hostile tribes that these men forcibly
appropriate girls or married women. Among the Hunter River tribes
(Curr, III., 353), "men renowned as warriors frequently attacked their
inferiors in strength and took their wives from them." The Queensland
natives, we are told by Narcisse Peltier, who lived among them
seventeen years, "not unfrequently fight with spears for the
possession of a woman" (Spencer, _P.S._, I., 601). Lumholtz says (184)
that "the majority of the young men wait a long time before they get
wives, partly for the reason that they have not the courage to fight
the requisite duel for one with an older man." On another page (212)
he relates:

"Near Herbert Vale I had the good fortune to be able to
witness a marriage among the blacks. A camp of natives
was just at the point of breaking up, when an old man
suddenly approached a woman, seized her by the wrist of
her left hand and shouted _Yongul ngipa_!--that is,
This one belongs to me (literally 'one I'). She
resisted with feet and hands, and cried, but he dragged
her off, though she made resistance during the whole
time and cried at the top of her voice. For a mile away
we could hear her shrieks.... But the women always make
resistance, for they do not like to leave their tribe,
and in many instances they have the best of reasons for
kicking their lovers. If a man thinks he is strong
enough, he will take hold of any woman's hand and utter
his _yongul ngipa_. If a woman is good-looking, all the
men want her, and the one who is most influential, or
who is the strongest, is accordingly generally the


It is obvious that when women are forcibly appropriated at home or
stolen from other tribes, their inclination or choice is not
consulted. A man wants a woman and she is seized, _nolens volens_,
whether married or single. If she gets a man she likes, it is a mere
accident, not likely to occur often. The same is true of another form
of Australian "courtship" which may be called swapping girls, and
which is far the most common way of getting a wife. Curr, after forty
years' experience with native affairs, wrote (I., 107) that "the
Australian male _almost invariably_ obtains his wife or wives, either
as the survivor of a married brother, or in exchange for his sisters
or daughters." The Rev. H.E.A. Meyer says (10) that the marriage

"may with great propriety be considered an exchange, for no
man can obtain a wife unless he can promise to give his
sister or other relative in exchange.... Should the father
be living he may give his daughter away, but generally she
is the gift of the brother ... the girls have no choice in
the matter, and frequently the parties have never seen each
other before.... If a man has several girls at his disposal,
he speedily obtains several wives,"

Eyre (II., 318) declares that

"the females, especially the young ones, are kept
principally among the old men, who barter away their
daughters, sisters, or nieces, in exchange for wives for
themselves or their sons."

Grey (II., 230) says the same thing in different words:

"The old men manage to keep the females a good deal
amongst themselves, giving their daughters to one
another, and the more female children they have, the
greater chance have they of getting another wife, by
this sort of exchange."

Brough Smyth thus sums up (II., 84) the information on this subject he
obtained from divers sources. A yam-stick is given to a girl when she
reaches the age of marriage; with this she drives away any young man
she does not fancy, for a mere "no" would not keep him at bay. "The
women never initiate matches;" these are generally arranged between
two young men who have sisters to exchange. "The young woman's opinion
is not asked." When the young man is ready to "propose" to the girl he
has bartered his sister for, he walks up to her equipped as for
war--ready to parry her "love-taps" if she feels inclined that way.
"After a little fencing between the pair the woman, if she has no
serious objections to the man, quietly submits." If she _has_ "serious
objections," what happens? The same writer tells us graphically (76):

"By what mode soever a man procures a bride, it is very
seldom an occasion of rejoicing by the female. The
males engross the privilege of disposing of their
female relatives, and it often happens that an old man
of sixty or seventy will add to his domestic circle a
young girl of ten or twelve years of age.... A man
having a daughter of thirteen or fourteen years of age
arranges with some elderly person for the disposal of
her, and when all are agreed, she is brought out of the
_miam-miam,_ and told that her husband wants her.
Perhaps she has never seen him, or seen him but to
loathe him. The father carries a spear and waddy, or a
tomahawk, and anticipating resistance, is thus prepared
for it. The poor girl, sobbing and sighing, and
uttering words of complaint, claims pity from those who
will show none. If she resists the mandates of her
father, he strikes her with his spear; if she rebels
and screams, the blows are repeated; and if she
attempts to run away, a stroke on the head from the
waddy or tomahawk quiets her.... Seizing the bride by
the hair the stern father drags her to the home
prepared for her by her new owner.... If she attempts
to abscond, the bridegroom does not hesitate to strike
her savagely on the head with his waddy; and the bridal
screams and yells make the night hideous.... If she is
still determined to escape and makes the attempt, the
father will at last spear her in the leg or foot, to
prevent her from running."

No more than girls are widows allowed the liberty of choice. Sometimes
they are disposed of by being exchanged for young women of another
tribe and have to marry the men chosen for them (95).

"When wives are from thirty-five to forty years of age,
they are frequently cast off by their husbands, or are
given to the younger men in exchange for their sisters
or near relatives, if such are at their disposal"
(Eyre, II., 322).

In the Murray tribes "a widow could not marry any one she chose. She
was the property of her husband's family, hence she must marry her
husband's brother or near relative; and even if he had a wife she must
become No. 2 or 3."


The evidence, in short, is unanimously to the effect that the
Australian girl has absolutely no liberty of choice. Yet the
astonishing Westermarck, ignoring, _more suo_, the overwhelming number
of facts against him, endeavors in two places (217, 223) to convey the
impression to his readers that she does largely enjoy the freedom of
choice, placing his sole reliance in two assertions by Howitt and
Mathew.[173] Howitt says that among the Kurnai, women are allowed free
choice, and Mathew "asserts that, with varying details, marriage by
mutual consent will be found among other tribes, also, though it is
not completed except by means of a runaway match." Now Hewitt's
assertion is contradicted by Curr, who, in addition to his own forty
years of experience among the natives had the systematized notes of a
large number of correspondents to base his conclusions on. He says
(I., 108) that "in no instance, unless Mr. Howitt's account of the
Kurnai be correct, which I doubt, has the female any voice in the
selection of a husband." He might have added that Hewitt's remark is
contradicted in his own book, where we are told that among the Kurnai
elopement is the rule. Strange to say, it seems to have occurred
neither to Howitt, nor to Westermarck, nor to Mathew that _elopement
proves the absence of choice_, for if there were liberty of choice the
couple would not be obliged to run away. Nor is this all. The facts
prove that marriage by actual elopement[174] is of rare occurrence;
that "marriage" based on such elopement is nearly always adulterous
(with another man's wife) and of brief duration--a mere intrigue, in
fact; that the guilty couple are severely punished, if not killed
outright; and that everything that is possible is done to prevent or
frustrate elopements based on individual preference or liking. On the
first of these points Curr gives us the most comprehensive and
reliable information (I., 108):

"Within the tribe, lovers occasionally abscond to some
corner of the tribal territory, but they are soon
overtaken, the female cruelly beaten, or wounded with a
spear, the man in most cases remaining unpunished. Very
seldom are men allowed to retain as wives their
partners in these escapades. Though I have been
acquainted with many tribes, and heard matters of the
sort talked over in several of them, I never knew _but
three instances of permanent runaway matches_; two in
which men obtained as wives women already married in
the tribe, and one case in which the woman was a

William Jackman, who was held as a captive by the natives for
seventeen months, tells a similar story. Elopements, he says (174),
are usually with wives. The couple escape to a distant tribe and
remain a few months--_rarely more than seven or eight_, so far as he
observed; then the faithless wife is returned to her husband and the
elopers are punished more or less severely. "At times," we read in
Spencer and Gillen (556, 558)

"the eloping couple are at once followed up and then,
if caught, the woman is, if not killed on the spot, at
all events treated in such a way that any further
attempt at elopement on her part is not likely to take

Sometimes the husband seems glad to have got rid of his wife, for when
the elopers return to camp he first has his revenge by cutting the
legs and body of both and then he cries "You keep altogether, I throw
away, I throw away."

It is instructive to note with what ingenuity the natives seek to
prevent matches based on mutual inclination. Taplin says (11) of the
Narrinyeri that "a young woman who goes away with a man and lives with
him as his wife without the consent of her relatives is regarded as
very little better than a prostitute." Among these same Narrinyeri,
says Gason, "it is considered disgraceful for a woman to take a
husband who has given no other woman for her." (Bonwick, 245.) The
deliberate animosity against free choice is emphasized by a statement
in Brough Smyth (79), that if the owner of an eloping female suspects
that she favored the man she eloped with, "he will not hesitate to
maim or kill her." She must have no choice or preference of her own,
under any circumstances. It must be remembered, too, that even an
actual elopement by no means proves that the woman is following a
special inclination. She may be merely anxious to get away from a
cruel or superannuated husband. In such cases the woman may take the
initiative. Dawson (65) once said to a native, "You should not have
carried Mary away from her husband"; to which the man replied, "Bael
(not) dat, massa; Mary come me. Dat husband wurry bad man: he waddy
(beat) Mary. Mary no like it, so it leabe it. Dat fellow no good,

Obviously, Australian elopement not only gives no indication of
romantic feelings, but even as an incident it is apt to be prosaic or
cruel rather than romantic, as our elopements are. In many cases it is
hard to distinguish from brutal capture, as we may infer from an
incident related by Curr (108-9). He was sleeping at a station on the

"During the night I was awoke by the scream of a woman,
and a general yell from the men in the camp. Not
knowing what could be the matter, I seized a weapon,
jumped out of bed, and rushed outside. There I found a
young married woman standing by her fire, trembling all
over, with a barbed spear through her thigh. As for the
men, they were rushing about, here and there, in an
excited state, with their spears in their hands. The
woman's story was soon told. She had gone to the river,
not fifty yards off, for water; the Darling black had
stolen after her, and proposed to her to elope with
him, and, on her declining to do so, had speared her
and taken to his heels."

A pathetic instance of the cruel treatment to which the natives
subject girls who venture to have inclinations of their own was
communicated by W.E. Stanbridge to Brough Smyth (80). The scene is a
little dell among undulating grassy plains. In the lower part of the
dell a limpid spring bursts forth.

"On one side of this dell, and nearest to the spring at
the foot of it, lies a young woman, about seventeen
years of age, sobbing and partly supported by her
mother, in the midst of wailing, weeping, women; she
has been twice speared in the right breast with a
jagged hand-spear by her brother, and is supposed to be


Besides the three ways already mentioned of securing a
wife--elopement, which is rare; capture, which is rarer still, and
_Tuelcha mura_, in which a girl is assigned to a man before she is
born, and while her prospective mother is still a girl herself--by far
the commonest arrangement--there is a fourth, charming by magic. Of
this, too, Spencer and Gillen have given the best description
(541-44). When a man, they tell us, wants to charm a woman belonging
to a distant tribe he takes a _churinga_, or sacred stick, and goes
with some friends into the bush, where

"all night long the men keep up a low singing of
Quabara songs, together with the chanting of amorous
phrases of invitation addressed to the woman. At
daylight the man stands up alone and swings the
_churinga_, causing it first to strike the ground as he
whirls it round and round and makes it hum. His friends
remain silent, and the sound of the humming is carried
to the ears of the far-distant woman, and has the power
of compelling affection and of causing her sooner or
later to comply with the summons. Not long ago, at
Alice Springs, a man called some of his friends
together and performed the ceremony, and in a very
short time the desired woman, who was on this occasion
a widow, came in from Glen Helen, about fifty miles to
the west of Alice Springs, and the two are now man and

The woman in this case need not be a widow, however. Another man's
wife will do just as well, and if her owner comes armed to stop
proceedings, the friends of the charmer stand by him.

Another method of obtaining a wife by magic is by means of a charmed
_chilara_, or head-band of opossum fur. The man charms it in secret by
singing over it. Then he places it on his head and wears it about the
camp so that the woman can see it. Her attention is drawn to it, and
she becomes violently attached to the man, or, as the natives say,
"her internal organs shake with eagerness." Here, again, it makes no
difference whether the woman be married or not.

Still another way of charming a woman is by means of a certain shell
ornament, which a man ties to his waist-belt at a corrobboree after
having charmed it.[175]

"While he is dancing the woman whom he wishes to
attract alone sees the lightning flashes on the
_Lonka-lonka_, and all at once her internal organs
shake with emotion. If possible she will creep into his
camp that night or take the earliest opportunity to run
away with him."

Here, at last, we have come across a method which

"allows of the breaking through of the hard and fast rule
which for the most part obtains, and according to which the
woman belongs to the man to whom she has been betrothed,
probably before her birth."

Yet these cases are rare exceptions, for, as the authors inform us,
"the woman naturally runs some risk, as, if caught in the act of
eloping, she would be severely punished, if not put to death;" and
again: these cases are not of frequent occurrence, for they depend on
the woman's consent, and she knows that if caught she will in all
probability be killed, or at least very roughly handled. Hence she is
"not very easily charmed away from her original possessor." Moreover,
even these adulterous elopements seldom lead to anything more than a
temporary liaison, as we have seen, and it would be comic to speak of
a "liberty of choice" in cases where such a choice can be exercised
only at the risk of being killed on the spot.


Looking back over the ground traversed in this chapter, we see that
Cupid is thwarted in Australia not only by the natural stupidity,
coarseness, and sensuality of the natives, but by a number of
artificial obstacles which seem to have been devised with almost
diabolical ingenuity for the express purpose of stifling the germs of
love. The selfish, systematic, and deliberate suppression of free
choice is only one of these obstacles. There are two others almost
equally fatal to love--the habit of marrying young girls to men old
enough to be their fathers or grandfathers, and the complicated
marriage taboos. We have already seen that as a rule the old men
appropriate the young girls, the younger men not being allowed to
marry till they are twenty-five or thirty, and even then being
compelled to take an old man's cast-off wife of thirty-five or forty
summers, "It is usual," says Curr (I., 110),

"to see old men with mere girls as wives, and men in the
prime of life married to widows.... Women have very
frequently two husbands during their life-time, the first
older and the second younger than themselves.... There are
always many bachelors in every tribe."[176]

Not to speak of love, this arrangement makes it difficult even for
animal passion to manifest itself except in an adulterous or
illegitimate manner.

"At present," we learn from Spencer and Gillen (104, 558),

"by far the most common method of getting a wife is by means
of an arrangement made between brothers or fathers of the
respective men and women whereby a particular woman is
assigned to a particular man."

This most usual method of getting a wife is also the most
extraordinary. Suppose one man has a son, another a daughter,
generally both of tender age. Now it would be bad enough to betroth
these two without their consent and before they are old enough to have
any real choice. But the Australian way is infinitely worse. It is
arranged that the girl in the case shall be, by and by, not the boy's
wife, but his mother-in-law; that is, the boy is to wed her daughter.
In other words, he must wait not only till she is old enough to marry
but till her daughter is old enough to marry! And this is "by far the
most common method"!


The marriage taboos are no less artificial, absurd, and fatal to free
choice and love. An Australian is not only forbidden to marry a girl
who is closely related to him by blood--sometimes the prohibition
extends to first, second, and even third cousins--but he must not
think of such a thing as marrying a woman having his family name or
belonging to certain tribes or clans--his own, his mother's or
grandmother's, his neighbor's, or one speaking his dialect, etc. The
result is more disastrous than one unfamiliar with Australian
relationships would imagine; for these relationships are so
complicated that to unravel them takes, in the words of Howitt (59),
"a patience compared with which that of Job is furious irritability."

These prohibitions are not to be trifled with. They extend even to war
captives. If a couple disregard them and elope, they are followed by
the indignant relatives in hot pursuit and, if taken, severely
punished, perhaps even put to death. (Howitt, 300, 66.) Of the
Kamilaroi the same writer says:

"Should a man persist in keeping a woman who is denied to
him by their laws, the penalty is that he should be driven
out from the society of his friends and quite ignored. If
that does not cure his fondness for the woman, his male
relatives follow him and kill him, as a disgrace to their
tribe, and the female relatives of the woman kill her for
the same reason."

It is a mystery to anthropologists how these marriage taboos, these
notions of real or fancied incest, could have ever arisen. Curr
(I.,236) remarks pointedly that

"most persons who have any practical knowledge of our
savages will, I think, bear me out when I assert that,
whatever their objections to consanguineous marriages may
be, they have no more idea of the advantages of this or that
sort of breeding, or of any laws of Nature bearing on the
question, than they have of differential calculus."[177]

Whatever may have been the origin of these prohibitions, it is obvious
that, as I have said, they acted as obstacles to love; and what is
more, in many cases they seem to have impeded legitimate marriage
only, without interfering with licentious indulgence. Roth (67) cites
O'Donnell to the effect that with the Kunandaburi tribe the _jus
primae noctis_ is allowed all the men present at the camp without
regard to class or kin. He also cites Beveridge, who had lived
twenty-three years in contact with the Riverina tribes and who assured
him that, apart from marrying, there was no restriction on
intercourse. In his book on South Australia J.D. Wood says (403):

"The fact that marriage does not take place between
members of the same tribe, or is forbidden amongst
them, does not at all include the idea that chastity is
observed within the same limits."

Brough Smyth (II., 92) refers to the fact that secret violations of
the rule against fornication within the forbidden classes were not
punished. Bonwick (62) cites the Rev. C. Wilhelmi on the Port Lincoln

"There are no instances of two Karraris or two Matteris
having been married together; and yet connections of a
less virtuous character, which take place between
members of the same caste, do not appear to be
considered incestuous."

Similar testimony is adduced by Waitz-Gerland (VI., 776), and others.


There is a strange class of men who always stand with a brush in hand
ready to whitewash any degraded creature, be he the devil himself. For
want of a better name they are called sentimentalists, and they are
among men what the morbid females who bring bouquets and sympathy to
fiendish murderers are among women. The Australian, unutterably
degraded, particularly in his sexual relations, as the foregoing pages
show him to be, has had his champions of the type of the "fearless"
Stephens. There is another class of writers who create confusion by
their reckless use of words. Thus the Rev. G. Taplin asserts (12) that
he has "known as well-matched and loving couples amongst the
aborigines" as he has amongst Europeans. What does he mean by loving
couples? What, in his opinion, are the symptoms of affection? With
amusing naivete he reveals his ideas on the subject in a passage (11)
which he quotes approvingly from H.E.A. Meyer to the effect that if a
young bride pleases her husband, "he _shows his affection_ by
frequently rubbing her with grease to improve her personal appearance,
and with the idea that it will make her grow rapidly and become fat."
If such selfish love of obesity for sensual purposes merits the name
of affection, I cheerfully grant that Australians are capable of
affection to an unlimited degree. Taplin, furthermore, admits that
"as wives got old, they were often cast off by their husbands, or
given to young men in exchange for their sisters or other relations at
their disposal" (XXXI.); and again (121):

"From childhood to old age the gratification of
appetite and passion is the sole purpose of life to the
savage. He seeks to extract the utmost sweetness from
mere animal pleasures, and consequently his nature
becomes embruted."

Taplin does not mention a single act of conjugal devotion or
self-sacrifice, such as constitutes the sole criterion of affection.
Nor in the hundreds of books and articles on Australia that I have
read have I come across a single instance of this kind. On the subject
of the cruel treatment of women all the observers are eloquent; had
they seen any altruistic actions, would they have failed to make a
record of them?

The Australian's attachment to his wife is evidently a good deal like
his love of his dog. Gason (259) tells us that the dogs, of which
every camp has from six to twenty, are generally a mangy lot, but

"the natives are very fond of them.... If a white man wants
to offend a native let him beat his dog. I have seen women
crying over a dog, when bitten by snakes, as if over their
own children."

The dogs are very useful to them, helping them to find snakes, rats,
and other animals for food. Yet, when mealtime comes, "the dog,
notwithstanding its services and their _affection_ for it, _fares very
badly_, receiving nothing but the bones." "Hence the dog is always in
very low condition."

Another writer[178] with a better developed sense of humor, says that
"It may be doubted whether the man does not value his dog, when alive,
quite as much as he does his woman, and think of both quite as often
and lovingly after he has eaten them."

As for the women, they are little better than the men. What Mitchell
says of them (I., 307) is characteristic. After a fight, he says, the

"do not always follow their fugitive husbands from the
field, but frequently go over, as a matter of course,
to the victors, even with young children on their
backs; and thus it was, probably, that after we had
made the lower tribes sensible of our superiority, that
the three girls followed our party, beseeching us to
take them with us."

The following from Grey (II., 230) gives us an idea of wifely
affection and fidelity: "The women have generally some favorite
amongst the young men, always looking forward to be his wife at the
death of her husband." How utterly beyond the Australian horizon was
the idea of common decency, not to speak of such a holy thing as
affection, is revealed by a cruel custom described by Howitt (344):

"The Kurnai and the Brajerak were not intermarrying
tribes, unless by capture, and in this case each man
took the woman whose husband he had been the first to

It would of course be absurd to suppose the widows in such cases
capable of suffering as our women would under such circumstances. They
are quite as callous and cruel as the men. Evidence is given in the
Jackman book (149) that, like Indian women, they torture prisoners of
war, breaking toes, fingers, and arms, digging out the eyes and
filling the sockets with hot sand, etc.

"Husbands rarely show much affection for their wives," wrote Eyre
(II., 214).

"After a long absence I have seen natives, upon their
return, go to their camp, exhibiting the most stoical
indifference, never taking the least notice of their

Elsewhere (321) he says, with reference to the fact that marriage is
not regarded as any pledge of chastity, which is not recognized as a
virtue: "But little real affection consequently exists between
husbands and wives, and younger men value a wife principally for her
services as a slave." And in a Latin footnote, in which he describes
the licentious customs of promiscuous intercourse and the harsh
treatment of women, he adds (320), "It is easy to understand that
there can hardly be much love among husbands and wives." He also gives
this particular instance of conjugal indifference and cruelty. In 1842
the wife of a native in Adelaide, a girl of about eighteen, was
confined and recovered slowly. Before she was well the tribe removed
from the locality. The husband preferred accompanying them, and left
his wife to die unattended. William Jackman, the Englishman who lived
seventeen months as a captive among the natives, says (118) that
"wife-killing, among the aborigines of Australia, is frequent and
elicits neither surprise nor any sort of animadversion." By way of
illustrating this remark he relates how, one day, he returned with a
native from an unsuccessful hunt. The native's twelve-year-old wife
had caught an opossum, roasted it, and, impelled by hunger, had begun
to eat it instead of saving it for her master--an atrocious crime. For
fifteen minutes the husband sat in silent rage which his features
betrayed. Presently he jumped up with the air of a demon,

"scooped his two hands full of embers and burning sand,
and flung the whole into the face and bosom of the
naked object of his vengeance; for I must repeat that
none of the natives wear any clothing, and that she was
sitting there as nude as when she was born. The devil
of his nature thus fairly aroused, he sprang for his
spear. It transfixed his frantic but irresisting
victim. She fell dead.... Save by the women of the
tribe, the affair was scarcely noticed."


Suppose this young wife had saved the opossum for her husband. He
would then have eaten it and, in accordance with their universal
custom, have thrown her the bones to share with the dog. After that he
might have rubbed her with grease and indulged in sensual caresses.
Would that have proved his capacity for affection? Would you call a
mother affectionate who fondled her child, but allowed it to starve
while she gratified her own appetite? The only sure test of affection
lies in disinterested actions of self-sacrifice; and even actions may
sometimes mislead us. Thus several authors have been led into absurdly
erroneous conclusions by a horrible custom prevalent among the
natives, and thus described by Curr (I., 89):

"In some cases a woman is obliged by custom to roll up
the remains of her deceased child in a variety of rags,
making them into a package, which she carries about
with her for several months, and at length buries. On
it she lays her head at night, and the odor is so
horrible that it pervades the whole camp, and not
unfrequently costs the mother her life."

Angas (I., 75) refers to this custom and exclaims, rapturously, "Oh!
how strong is a mother's love when even the offensive and putrid clay
can be thus worshipped for the spirit that once was its tenant"(!!).
Angas was an uneducated scribbler, but what shall we say on finding
his sentimental view accepted by the professional German
anthropologists, Gerland (VI., 780) and Jung (109)? Anyone familiar
with Australian life must suspect at once that this custom is simply
one of the horrible modes of punishment devised for women. Curr says
the woman is "_obliged by custom_" to carry her dead child, and he
adds: "I believe that this practice is insisted on when a young mother
loses her first born, as the death of the child is thought to have
come about by carelessness." To suppose that Australian mothers who
usually kill all but two of their six or more children could be
capable of such an act for sentimental reasons is to show a logical
faculty on a par with the Australian's own. This point has already
been discussed, but a further instance related by Dr. Moorehouse (J.D.
Wood, 390), will bring the matter home:

"A female just born was thus about to be destroyed for
the benefit of a boy about four years old, whom the
mother was nourishing, while the father was standing
by, ready to commit the deed. Through the kindness of a
lady to whom the circumstances became known, and our
joint interference, this one life was saved, and the
child was properly attended to by the mother, although
she at first urged the necessity of its death as
strenuously as the father." "In other parts of the
country," Wood adds, "the women do the horrible work
themselves. They are not content with destroying the
life of the infants, but they eat them."


Here, as in several of the alleged cases of African sentimentality, we
see the great need of caution and detective sagacity in interpreting
facts. To take another instance: Westermarck (503), in his search for
cases of romantic attachment and absorbing passion among savages,
fancies he has come across one in Australia, for he tells us that
"even the rude Australian girl sings in a strain of romantic

'I never shall see my darling again.'"

As a matter of fact this line has no more to do with the "true
monogamous instinct, the absorbing passion for one," than with Julius
Caesar. Eyre relates (310, 70) that when Miago, the first native who
ever quitted Perth, was taken away on the _Beagle_ in 1838, his
_mother_ sang during his absence:

Whither does that lone ship wander,
My young son I shall never see again.

Grosse, who often sides with Westermarck, here parts company with him,
being convinced that

"what is called love in Australia ... is no spiritual
affection, but a sensual passion, which is quickly
cooled in the enjoyment.... The only examples of
_sympathetic_ lyrics that have been found in Australia
are mourning songs, and even they relate only to
relatives by blood and tribal affinity" (_B.A.,_


A more subtle problem than those so far considered is presented by a
courtship custom described by Bulmer (Brough Smyth, 82-84). The
natives are very superstitious in regard to their hair. They carefully
destroy any that has been cut off and would be greatly frightened to
know it had fallen into another person's hands, as that would place
their health and life in jeopardy at the other's will. Yet a girl who
has a lover will not hesitate to give him a lock of her hair. It seems
impossible to deny that this is a touch of true sentiment, of romantic
love; and Bulmer accordingly calls this lock of hair a "token of
affection." But is it a token of affection? The sequel will show. In
due course of time the couple elope, in the black of the night they
take to the bush. Great excitement prevails in camp when they are
found missing. They are called "long-legged," "thin-legged,"
"squint-eyed," or "big-headed." Search is made, the pair are tracked
and caught, and both are cruelly beaten. They make a promise not to
repeat the offence, but do not keep it; another elopement follows,
with more beatings. At last the girl becomes afraid to elope again.
She alters her tactics, feigns a severe illness, and the parents are
alarmed. Then she remembers that her lover has a lock of her hair. He
is made to confess, and another fight follows. He is half killed, but
after that he is allowed to keep the girl.

Thus we see that the lock, instead of being a "token of affection," as
Bulmer would have us believe, and as it would be in our community, is
not even a sentimental sign of the girl's confidence in her lover, but
merely a detail of a foolish custom and stupid superstition.


As a matter of course Australian folk-lore, too, shows no traces of
the existence of love. The nearest approach to such a thing I have
been able to find is a quaint story about a man who wanted two wives
and of how he got them. It is taken from Mrs. K. Langloh Parker's
_Australian Legendary Tales_ and the substance of it is as follows:

Wurrunnah, after a long day's hunting, came back to the
camp tired and hungry. His mother had nothing for him
to eat and no one else would give him anything. He flew
into a rage and said: "I will go into a far country and
live with strangers; my people would starve me." He
went away and after divers strange adventures with a
blind man and emus, who were really black fellows, he
came to a camp where there was no one but seven young
girls. They were friendly, gave him food, and allowed
him to camp there during the night. They told him their
name was Meamei and their tribe in a far country to
which they would soon return.

The next day Wurrunnah went away as if leaving for
good; but he determined to hide near and watch what
they did, and if he could get a chance he would steal a
wife from among them. He was tired of travelling alone.
He saw them all start out with their yam-sticks in
hand. Following them he saw them stop by the nests of
some flying ants and unearth the ants. Then they sat
down, threw their yam-sticks aside, and ate the ants,
which are esteemed a great delicacy. While they were
eating Wurrunnah sneaked up to their yam-sticks and
stole two of them. When the girls had eaten all they
wanted only five of them could find their sticks; so
those five started off, expecting that the other two
would soon find their sticks and follow them.

The two girls hunted all around the ants' nests, but
could find no sticks. At last, when their backs were
turned toward him, Wurrunnah crept out and stuck the
lost yam-sticks near together in the ground; then he
slipped back to his hiding-place. When the two girls
turned round, there in front of them they saw their
sticks. With a cry of joyful surprise they ran to them
and caught hold of them to pull them out of the ground,
in which they were firmly stuck. As they were doing so,
out from his hiding-place jumped Wurrunnah. He seized
both girls round their waists, holding them tightly.
They struggled and screamed, but to no purpose. There
was none near to hear them, and the more they struggled
the tighter Wurrunnah held them. Finding their screams
and struggles in vain they quietened at length, and
then Wurrunnah told them not to be afraid, he would
take care of them. He was lonely, he said, and wanted
two wives. They must come quietly with him and he would
be good to them. But they must do as he told them. If
they were not quiet he would swiftly quieten them with
his moorillah. But if they would come quietly with him
he would he good to them. Seeing that resistance was
useless the two young girls complied with his wish, and
travelled quietly on with him. They told him that some
day their tribe would come and steal them back again;
to avoid which he travelled quickly on and on still
farther hoping to elude pursuit. Some weeks passed and
he told his wives to go and get some bark from two
pine-trees near by. They declared if they did so he
would never see them again. But he answered "Talk not
so foolishly; if you ran away soon should I catch you
and, catching you, would beat you hard. So talk no
more." They went and began to cut the bark from the
trees. As they did so each felt that her tree was
rising higher out of the ground and bearing her upward
with it. Higher and higher grew the pine-trees and up
with them went the girl until at last the tops touched
the sky. Wurrunnah called after them, but they listened
not. Then they heard the voices of their five sisters,
who from the sky stretched forth their hands and drew
the two others in to live with them in the sky, and
there you may see the seven sisters together. We know
them as the Pleiades, but the black fellows call them
the Meamei.

A few rather improper tales regarding the sun and moon are recorded in
Woods's _Native Tribes_ by Meyer, who thus sums up two of them (200);
the other being too obscene for citation here:

The sun they consider to be a female, who, when she
sets, passes the dwelling-places of the dead. As she
approaches the men assemble and divide into two bodies,
leaving a road for her to pass between them; they
invite her to stay with them, which she can only do for
a short time, as she must be ready for her journey for
the next day. For favors granted to some one among them
she receives a present of red kangaroo skin; and
therefore in the morning, when she rises, appears in a
red dress.

The moon is also a woman, and not particularly chaste.
She stays a long time with the men, and from the
effects of her intercourse with them, she becomes very
thin and wastes away to a mere skeleton. When in this
state, Nurrunduri orders her to be driven away. She
flies, and is secreted for some time, but is employed
all the time in seeking roots which are so nourishing
that in a short time she appears again, and fills out
and becomes fat rapidly.

Here we see how even such sublime and poetic phenomena as sun and moon
are to the aboriginal mind only symbols of their coarse, sensual
lives: the heavenly bodies are concubines of the men, welcomed when
fat, driven away when thin. That puts the substance of Australian love
in a nutshell.


In the absence of aboriginal love-stories let us amuse ourselves by
examining critically a few more of the alleged cases of romantic love
discovered by Europeans. The erudite German anthropologist Gerland
expresses his belief (VI., 755) that notwithstanding the degradation
of the Australians "cases of true romantic love occur among them," and
he refers for an instance to Barrington (I., 37). On consulting
Barrington I find the following incident related as a sample of
"genuine love in all its purity." I condense the unessential parts:

A young man of twenty-three, belonging to a tribe near
Paramatta, was living in a cave with two sisters, one
of fourteen, the other of twenty. One day when he
returned from his kangaroo hunt he could not find the
girls. Thinking they had gone to fetch water or roots
for supper, he sat down till a rain-storm drove him
into the cave, where he stumbled over the prostrate
form of the younger sister. She was lying in a pool of
blood, but presently regained consciousness and told
him that a man had come to carry off her sister, after
beating her on the head. She had seized the sister's
arm to hold her back when the brute knocked her over
with his club and dragged off the sister.

It was too late to take revenge that day, but next
morning the two set out for the tribe to which the
girl-robber belonged. As they approached the camp,
Barrington continues, "he saw the sister of the very
savage who had stolen his sister; she was leaving her
tribe to pick some sticks for a fire (this was indeed a
fine opportunity for revenge); so making his sister
hide herself, he flew to the young woman and lifted up
his club to bring her to the ground, and thus satisfy
his revenge. The victim trembled, yet, knowing his
power, she stood with all the fortitude she could;
lifting up her eyes, they came in contact with his and
such was the enchanting beauty of her form (!) that he
stood an instant motionless to gaze on it (!). The poor
thing saw this and dropped on her knees (!) to implore
his pity, but before she could speak, his revenge
softened into love (!); he threw down his club, and
clasping her in his arms (!) vowed eternal constancy
(!!!); his pity gained her love (!), thus each procured
a mutual return. Then calling his sister, she would
have executed her revenge, but for her brother, who
told her she was now his wife. On my hero asking after
his sister, his new wife said she was very ill, but
would soon be better; and she excused her brother (!)
because the means he had taken were the customary one
of procuring a wife (!!); 'but you,' said she, 'have
more white heart' (meaning he was more like the
English), 'you no beat me; me love you; you love me; me
love your sisters; your sisters love me; my brother no
good man.' This artless address won both their hearts,
and now all three live in one hut which I enabled them
to make comfortable within half a mile of my own

Barrington concludes with these words: "This little anecdote I have
given as the young man related it to me and perhaps I have _lost much
of its simplicity_." It is very much to be feared that he has. I have
marked with, exclamation points the most absurdly impossible parts of
the tale as idealized and embellished by Barrington. The Australian
never told him that he "gazed motionless" on the "enchanting beauty"
of the girl's form or that his "revenge softened into love;" he never
clasped her in his arms, nor "vowed eternal constancy." The girl never
dreamt of saying that his pity gained her love, or of excusing her
brother for doing what all Australian men do. These sentimental
touches are gratuitous additions of Barrington; native Australians do
not even clasp each other in their arms, and they are as incapable of
vowing eternal constancy as of comparing Herbert Spencer's philosophy
with Schopenhauer's. Yet on the strength of such dime novel rubbish an
anthropologist assures us that savages are capable of feeling pure
romantic love! The kernel of truth in the above tale reduces itself to
this, that the young man whose sister was stolen intended to take
revenge by killing the abductor, but that on seeing his sister he
concluded to marry her. These savages, as we have seen, always act
thus, killing the enemy's women only when unable to carry them off.


Lumholtz relates the following story to show that "these blacks also
may be greatly overcome by the sentiment of love" (213):

"A 'civilized' black man entered a station on Georgina
River and carried off a woman who belonged to a young
black man at the station. She loved her paramour and
was glad to get away from the station; but the whites
desired to keep her for their black servant, as he
could not be made to stay without her, and they brought
her back, threatening to shoot the stranger if he came
again. Heedless of the threat, he afterward made a
second attempt to elope with his beloved, but the white
men pursued the couple and shot the poor fellow."

If Lumholtz had reflected for a moment on the difference between love
as a sentiment and love as an appetite, he would have realized the
error of using the expression "the sentiment of love" in connection
with such a story of adulterous kidnapping, in which there is
absolutely nothing to indicate whether the kidnapper coveted the other
man's wife for any other than the most carnal reasons. It is not
unusual for an Australian to risk his life in stealing a woman. He
does that every time he captures one from another tribe. In men who
have so little imaginative faculty as these, the possibility of being
killed has no more deterrent effect than it has in two dogs or stags
fighting for a female. We must not judge such indifference to deadly
consequences from our point of view.


Gerstaecker, a German traveller, who traversed a part of Australia,
has a tale of aboriginal love which also bears the earmarks of
fiction. On his whole trip, he says, in his 514-page volume devoted to
Australia, he heard of only one case of genuine love. A young man of
the Bamares tribe took a fancy to a girl of the Rengmutkos. She was
also pleased with him and he eloped with her at night, taking her to
his hunting-ground on the river. The tribe heard of his escapade and
ordered him to return the girl to her home. He obeyed, but two weeks
later eloped with her again. He was reprimanded and informed that if
it happened again he would be killed. For the present he escaped
punishment personally, but was ordered to cudgel the girl and then
send her back home. He obeyed again; the girl fell down before him and
he rained hard blows on her head and shoulders till the elders
themselves interceded and cried enough. The girl was chased away and
the lover remained alone. For two days he refused to join in the
hunting or diversions of his companions. On the third day he ascended
an eminence whence the Murray Valley can be seen. In the distance he
saw two columns of smoke; they had been maintained for him all this
time by his girl. He took his spear and opossum coat and hastened
toward the columns of smoke. He was about to commit his third offence,
which meant certain death, yet on he went and found the girl. Her
wounds were not yet healed, but she hastened to meet him and put her
head on his bosom.

This tale is open to the same criticism as Lumholtz's. The man risks
his life, not for another, but to secure what he covets. It is a
romantic love-story, but there is no indication anywhere of romantic
love, while some of the details are fictitiously embellished. An
Australian girl does not put her head on her lover's bosom, nor could
she camp alone and keep up two columns of smoke for several days
without being discovered and kidnapped. The story is evidently one of
an ordinary elopement, embellished by European fancy.[180]


There is some quaint local color in Australian courtship, but usually
blows play too important a role to make their procedure acceptable to
anyone with a less waddy-proof skull than an Australian. Spencer and
Gillen relate (556) that in cases of charming, the initiative is
sometimes taken by the woman,

"who can, of course, imagine that she has been charmed,
and then find a willing aider and abettor in the man
whose vanity is flattered by this response to his magic
power, which he can soon persuade himself that he did
really exercise; besides which, an extra wife has its
advantages in the way of procuring food and saving him
trouble, while, if his other women object, the matter
is one which does not hurt him, for it can easily be
settled once and for all by a stand-up fight between
the women and the rout of the loser."

Quaintly Australian are the following details of Kurnai courtship
given by Howitt:

"Sometimes it might happen that the young men were
backward. Perhaps there might be several young girls
who ought to be married, and the women had then to take
the matter in hand when some eligible young men were at
camp. They consulted, and some went out in the forest
and with sticks killed some of the little birds, the
yeerung. These they brought back to the camp and
casually showed them to some of the men; then there was
an uproar. The men were very angry. The yeerungs, their
brothers, had been killed! The young men got sticks;
the girls took sticks also, and they attacked each
other. Heavy blows were struck, heads were broken, and
blood flowed, but no one stopped them.

"Perhaps this light might last a quarter of an hour,
then they separated. Some even might be left on the
ground insensible. Even the men and women who were
married joined in the free fight. The next day the
young men, the brewit, went, and in their turn killed
some of the women's 'sisters,' the birds djeetgun, and
the consequence was that on the following day there was
a worse fight than before. It was perhaps a week or two
before the wounds and bruises were healed. By and by,
some day one of the eligible young men met one of the
marriageable young women; he looked at her, and said
'Djeetgun!' She said 'Yeerung! What does the yeerung
eat?' The reply was, 'He eats so-and-so,' mentioning
kangaroo, opossum, or emu, or some other game. Then
they laughed, and she ran off with him without telling


Apart from magic and birds Australian lovers appear not to have been
without means of communicating with one another. Howitt says that if a
Kurnai girl took a fancy to a man she might send him a secret message
asking, "Will you find me some food?" And this was understood to be a
proposal--a rather unsentimental and utilitarian proposal, it must be
confessed. According to one of the correspondents of Curr (III., 176)
the natives along the Mary River even made use of a kind of
love-letters which, he says, "were peculiar."

"When the writer was once travelling with a black boy
the latter produced from the lining of his hat a bit of
twig about an inch long and having three notches cut on
it. The black boy explained that he was a _dhomka_
(messenger), that the central notch represented
himself, and the other notches, one the youth sending
the message, the other the girl for whom it was
intended. It meant, in the words of Dickens, 'Barkis is
willin'.' The _dhomka_ sewed up the love-symbol in the
lining of his hat, carried it for months without
divulging his secret to his sable friends, and finally
delivered it safely. This practice appeared to be
well-known, and was probably common."

Such a "love-letter," consisting of three notches cut in a twig,
symbolically sums up this whole chapter. The difference between this
bushman's twig and the love-letter of a civilized modern suitor is no
greater than the difference between aboriginal Australian "love" and
genuine romantic love.


Between the northern extremity of Australia and the southern extremity
of New Guinea, about ninety miles wide, lies Torres Strait, discovered
by a Spaniard in 1606, and not visited again by whites till Captain
Cook sailed through in 1770. This strait has been called a "labyrinth
of islands, rocks, and coral reefs," so complicated and dangerous that
Torres, the original discoverer, required two months to get through.


The larger islands in this strait are of special interest to students
of the phenomena of love and marriage, for on them it is not only
permissible but obligatory for women to propose to the men. Needless
to say that the inhabitants of these islands, though so near
Queensland, are not Australians. They are Melanesians, but their
customs are insular and unique. Curr (I., 279) says of them that they
are "with one exception, of the Papuan type, frizzle-haired people who
cultivate the soil, use the bow and arrow and not the spear, and,
un-Australian-like, treat their women with some consideration."

Luckily the customs of these islanders have been carefully and
intelligently studied by Professor A.C. Haddon, who published an
entertaining account of them in a periodical to which one usually
looks for instruction rather than amusement.[181] Professor Haddon
combines the two. On the island of Tud, he tells us, when boys undergo
the ordeal of initiation into manhood, one of the lessons taught them
is: "You no like girl first; if you do, girl laugh and call you
woman." When a girl likes a man, she tells his sister and gives her a
ring of string. On the first suitable opportunity the sister says to
her brother: "Brother, I have some good news for you. A woman loves
you." He asks who it is, and, if willing to go on with the affair,
tells his sister to ask the girl to keep an appointment with him in
some spot in the bush. On receipt of the message the enamoured girl
informs her parents that she is going into the bush to get some wood,
or food, or some such excuse. At the appointed time the man meets her;
and they sit down and yarn, without any fondling. The ensuing dialogue
is given by Haddon in the actual words which Maino, chief of Tud,

"Opening the conversation, the man says, 'You like me

"'Yes,' she replies, 'I like you proper with my heart
inside. Eye along my heart see you--you my man.'

"Unwilling to rashly give himself away, he asks,'How
you like me?'

"'I like your leg--you got fine body--your skin good--I
like you altogether,' replies the girl.

"After matters have proceeded satisfactorily the girl,
anxious to clench the matter, asks when they are to be
married. The man says, 'To-morrow, if you like.'

"Then they go home and inform their relatives. There is
a mock fight and everything is settled."

On the island of Mabniag, after a girl has sent an intermediary to
bring a string to the man she covets, she follows this up by sending
him food, again and again. But he "lies low" a month or two before he
ventures to eat any of this food, because he has been warned by his
mother that if he takes it he will "get an eruption all over his
face." Finally, he concludes she means business, so he consults the
big men of the village and marries her.

If a man danced well, he found favor in the sight of these island
damsels. His being married did not prevent a girl from proposing. Of
course she took good care not to make the advances through one of the
other wives--that might have caused trouble!--but in the usual way. On
this island the men never made the first advances toward matrimony.
Haddon tells a story of a native girl who wanted to marry a Loyalty
Islander, a cook, who was loafing on the mission premises. He did not
encourage her advances, but finally agreed to meet her in the bush,
where, according to his version of the story, he finally refused her.
She, however, accused him of trying to "steal" her. This led to a big
palaver before the chief, at which the verdict was that the cook was
innocent and that the girl had trumped up the charge in order to force
the marriage.

If a man and a girl began to keep company, he was branded on the back
with a charcoal, while her mark was cut into the skin (because "she
asked the man"). It was expected they would marry, but if they did not
nothing could be done. If it was the man who was unwilling, the girl's
father told the other men of the place, and they gave him a sound
thrashing. Refusing a girl was thus a serious matter on these islands!

The missionaries, Haddon was informed,

"discountenance the native custom of the women
proposing to the men, although there is not the least
objection to it from a moral or social point of view;
quite the reverse. So the white man's fashion is being
introduced. As an illustration of the present mixed
condition of affairs, I found that a girl who wants a
certain man writes him a letter, often on a slate, and
he replies in a similar manner."

On the island of Tud it often happened that the girl who was first
enamoured of a youth at his initiation, and who first asked him in
marriage, was one who "like too many men." The lad, being on his
guard, might get rid of her attentions by playing a trick on her,
making a bogus appointment with her in the bush, and then informing
the elder men, who would appear in his place at the trysting-place, to
the girl's mortification.

Various details given in the chapter on Australia indicated that if
the women on that big island did not propose, as a rule, it was not
from coyness but because the selfishness of the men and their
arrangements made it impossible in most cases. On these neighboring
islands the women could propose; yet the cause of love, of course, did
not gain anything from such an arrangement, which could serve only to
stimulate licentiousness. Haddon gathered the impression that
"chastity before marriage was unknown, free intercourse not being
considered wrong; it was merely 'fashion along we folk.'" Their excuse
was the same as Adam's: "Woman, he steal; man, how can he help

Nocturnal courtship was in vogue:

"Decorum was observed. Thus I was told in Tud a girl, before
going to sleep, would tie a string round her foot and pass
it under the thatched wall of the house. In the middle of
the night her lover would come, pull the string, and so
awaken the girl, who would then join him. As the chief of
Mabuiag said, 'What can the father do; if she wants the man
how can he stop her?'"

On Muralug Island the custom is somewhat different. There,
after the girl has sent her grass-ring to the man she wants,

"if he is willing to proceed in the matter, he goes to
the rendezvous in the bush and, not unnaturally, takes
every advantage of the situation. Every night
afterwards he goes to the girl's house and steals away
before daybreak. At length someone informs the girl's
father that a man is sleeping with his daughter. The
father communicates with the girl, and she tells her
lover that her father wants to see him--'To see what
sort of man he is?' The father then says, 'You like my
daughter, she like you, you may have her.' The details
are then arranged."

Sometimes, if a girl was too free with her favors to the men, the
other women cut a mark down her back, to make her feel ashamed. Yet
she had no difficulty on this account in subsequently finding a

Besides the existence of "free love," there are other customs arguing
the absence of sentiment in these insular affairs of the heart.
Infanticide was frequently resorted to, the babes being buried alive
in the sand, for no other reason than to save the trouble of taking
care of them. After marriage, in spite of the fact that the girl did
the proposing, she becomes the man's property; so much so that if she
should offend him, he may kill her and no harm will come to him. If
her sister comes to remonstrate, he can kill her too, and if he has
two wives and they quarrel, he can kill both. In that love-scene
reported by Maino, the chief of Tud, the girl gives us her
"sentimental" reasons why she loves him: because he has a fine leg and
body, and a good skin. The "romance" of the situation is further
aggravated when we read that, as in Australia, swapping sisters is the
usual way of getting a wife, and that if a man has no sister to
exchange he must pay for his wife with a canoe, a knife, or a glass
bottle. Chief Maino himself told Haddon that he gave for his wife
seven pieces of calico, one dozen shirts, one dozen singlets, one
dozen trousers, one dozen handkerchiefs, two dozen tomahawks, besides
tobacco, fish-lines and hooks and pearl shells. He finished his
enumeration by exclaiming "By golly, he too dear!"

How did these islanders ever come to indulge in the custom, so
inconsistent with their general attitude toward women, of allowing
them to propose? The only hint at an explanation I have been able to
find is contained in the following citation from Haddon:

"If an unmarried woman desired a man she accosted him,
but the man did not ask the woman (at least, so I was
informed), for if she refused him he would feel
ashamed, and maybe brain her with a stone club, and so
'he would kill her for nothing.'"


The islands of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent waters are almost
innumerable. To give an account of the love-affairs customary on all
of them would require a large volume by itself. In the present work it
is not possible to do more than select a few of the islands, as
samples, preference being given to those that show at least some
traces of feelings rising above mere sensualism. One of the largest
and best known of these islands is Borneo, and of its inhabitants the
Dyaks are of special interest from our point of view. Their customs
have been observed and described by St. John, Low, Bock, H. Ling Roth
and others.[183]

In some parts of Dutch Borneo the cruel custom prevails of locking up
a girl when she is eight to ten years old in a small, dark apartment
of the house, which she is not allowed to leave for about seven years.
She spends her time making mats and doing other handiwork, but is not
allowed to see anyone--not even of her own family--except a female
slave. When she is free from her prison she appears bleached a light
yellow, as though made out of wax, and totters along on small, thin
feet--which the natives consider especially attractive.


Dyak girls are not subjected to any such restraints, and in some
respects they enjoy more liberty than is good for them. As usual among
the lower races, they have to do most of the hard work. "It is a sad
sight," says Low (75), "to see the Dyak girls, some but nine or ten
years of age, carrying water up the mount in bamboos, their bodies
bent nearly double, and groaning under the weight of their burden."
Lieutenant Marryat found that the mountain Dyak girls, if not
beautiful, had some beautiful points--good eyes, teeth, and hair,
besides good manners, and they "knew how to make use of their eyes."
Denison (cited by Roth, I., 46) remarks that

"Some of the girls showed signs of good looks, but hard
work, poor feeding, and intermarriage and early marriage
soon told their tale, and rapidly converted them into ugly,
dirty, diseased old hags, and this at an age when they are
barely more than young women."

They marry sometimes as early as the age of thirteen, and in general
they are inferior in looks to the men. Marryat thought he saw
"something wicked in their dark furtive glances," while Earl found the
faces of Dyak women generally extremely interesting, largely on
account of "the soft expression given by their long eyelashes, and by
the habit of keeping the eyes half closed." "Their general
conversation is not wanting in wit," says Brooke (I., 70),

"and considerable acuteness of perception is evinced, but
often accompanied by improper and indecent language, of
which they are unaware when giving utterance to it. Their
acts, however, fortunately evince more regard for modesty
than their words."

Grant, in describing his tour among the Land Dyaks, remarks (97):

"It has been mentioned once or twice that we found the
women bathing at the village well. Although, generally
speaking, no lack of proper modesty is shown, certainly
rather an Adam and Eve like idea of the same is
displayed on such occasions by these simple people."


Concerning the sexual morality of the Dyaks, opinions of observers
differ somewhat. St. John (I., 52) observes that "the Sea Dyak women
are modest and yet unchaste, love warmly and yet divorce easily, but
are generally faithful to their husbands when married." It is agreed
that the morality of the Land Dyaks is superior to that of the Sea
Dyaks; yet with them,

"as among the Sea Dyaks, the young people have almost
unrestrained intercourse; but, if a girl prove with child a
marriage immediately takes place, the bridegroom making the
richest presents he can to her relatives" (I., 113). "There
is no strict law,"

says Mundy (II., 2),

"to bind the conduct of young married people of either
sex, and parents are more or less indifferent on those
points, according to their individual ideas of right
and wrong. It is supposed that every young Dyak woman
will eventually suit herself with a husband, and it is
considered no disgrace to be on terms of intimacy with
the youth of her fancy till she has the opportunity of
selecting a suitable helpmate; and as the unmarried
ladies attach much importance to bravery, they are
always desirous of securing the affections of a
renowned warrior. Lax, however, as this code may appear
before marriage, it would seem to be sufficiently
stringent after the matrimonial. One wife only is
allowed, and infidelity is punished by fine on both
sides--inconstancy on the part of the husband being
esteemed equally as bad as in the female. The breach of
the marriage vows, however, appears to be infrequent,
though they allow that, during the time of war, more
license is given."


Brooke Low relates that the Sea Dyak girls receive their male visitors
at night.

"They sleep apart from their parents, sometimes in the
same room, but more often in the loft. The young men
are not invited to sleep with them unless they are old
friends, but they may sit with them and chat, and if
they get to be fond of each other after a short
acquaintance, and wish to make a match of it, they are
united in marriage, if the parents on either side have
no objections to offer. It is in fact the only way open
to the man and woman to become acquainted with each
other, as privacy during the daytime is out of the
question in a Dyak village."

The same method of courtship prevails among the Land Dyaks. Some queer
details are given by St. John, Crossland and Leggatt (Roth, 110).
About nine or ten o'clock at night the lover goes on tiptoe to the
mosquito curtains of his beloved, gently awakens her and offers her
some prepared betel-nut. If she accepts it, he is happy, for it means
that his suit is prospering, but if she refuses it and says "Be good
enough to blow up the fire," it means that he is dismissed. Sometimes
their discourse is carried on through the medium of a sort of
Jew's-harp, one handing it to the other, asking questions and
returning answers. The lover remains until daybreak. After the consent
of the girl and her parents has been obtained, one more ordeal
remains; the bridal couple have to run the gauntlet of the mischievous
village boys, who stand ready with sooted hands to begrime their faces
and bodies; and generally they succeed so well that bride and groom
present the appearance of negroes.

Elopements also occur in cases where parental consent is withheld.
Brooke Low thus describes an old custom which permits a man to carry
off a girl:

"She will meet him by arrangement at the water-side and
step into his boat with a paddle in her hand, and both
will pull away as fast as they can. If pursued he will
stop every now and then to deposit some article of
value on the bank, such as a gun, a jar, or a favor for
the acceptance of her family, and when he has exhausted
his resources he will leave his own sword. When the
pursuers observe this they will cease to follow,
knowing he is cleared out. As soon as he reaches his
own village he tidies up the house and spreads the
mats, and when his pursuers arrive he gives them food
to eat and toddy to drink, and sends them home
satisfied. In the meanwhile he is left in possession of
his wife."


In one of the introductory chapters of this volume a brief account was
given of the Dyak head-hunters. Reference was made to the fact that
the more heads a man has cut off, the more he is respected. He cannot
marry until he has killed a man, woman, or child, and brought home the
head as a trophy, and cases are known of men having to wait two years
before they could procure the skull necessary to soften the heart of
the gentle beloved. "From all accounts," says Roth (II., 163),

"there can be little doubt that one of the chief
incentives to getting heads is the desire to please the
women ... Mrs. McDougall relates an old Sakaran legend
which says that the daughter of their great ancestor,
who resides in heaven near the great Evening Star,
refused to marry until her betrothed brought her a
present worth her acceptance. The man went into the
jungle and killed a deer, which he presented to her;
but the fair lady turned away in disdain. He went again
and returned with a _mias_, the great monkey [_sic_]
who haunts the forest; but this present was not more to
her taste. Then, in a fit of despair, the lover went
abroad, and killed the first man that he met, and
throwing his victim's head at the maiden's feet, he
exclaimed at the cruelty she had made him guilty of;
but to his surprise, she smiled, and said that now he
had discovered the only gift worthy of herself."

Roth cites a correspondent who says:

"At this moment there are two Dyaks in the Kuching jail
who acknowledge that they took the heads of two
innocent Chinese with no other object in view when
doing so than to secure the pseudo affections of women,
who refused to marry them until they had thus proved
themselves to be men."

Here is what a sweet Dyak maiden said to a young man who asked for her
hand and heart:

"Why don't you go to the Saribus Fort and there take
the head of Bakir (the Dyak chief), or even that of
Tuan Hassan (Mr. Watson), and then I will deign to
think of your desires with some degree of interest."

Says Captain Mundy (II., 222):

"No aristocratic youth dare venture to pay his
addresses to a Dyak demoiselle unless he throws at the
blushing maiden's feet a netful of skulls! In some
districts it is customary for the young lady to desire
her lover to cut a thick bamboo from the neighboring
jungle, and when in possession of this instrument, she
carefully arranges the _cadeau d'amour_ on the floor,
and by repeated blows beats the heads into fragments,
which, when thus pounded, are scraped up and cast into
the river; at the same time she throws herself into the
arms of the enraptured youth, and so commences the

Another account of Dyak courtship (Roth, II., 166) represents a young
warrior returning from a head-hunting expedition and, on meeting his
beloved, holding in each hand one of the captured heads by the hair.
She takes one of the heads, whereupon they dance round each other with
the most extravagant gestures, amidst the applause of the Rajah and
his people. The next step is a feast, at which the young couple eat
together. When this is over, they have to take off whatever clothes
they have on and sit naked on the ground while some of the old women
throw over them handfuls of paddy and repeat a prayer that they may
prove as fruitful as that grain.

"The warrior can take away any inferior man's wife at
pleasure, and is thanked for so doing. A chief who has
twenty heads in his possession will do the same with
another who may have only ten, and upwards to the
Rajah's family, who can take any woman at pleasure."


Though the Dyaks may be somewhat less coarse than those Australians
who make a captured woman marry the man who killed her husband, an
almost equal callousness of feeling is revealed by J. Dalton's
statement that the women taken on the head-hunting expedition "soon
became attached to the conquerors"--resembling, in this respect, the
Australian woman who, of her own accord, deserts to an enemy who has
vanquished her husband. Cases of frantic amorous infatuation occur, as
a matter of course. Brooke (II., 106) relates the story of a girl of
seventeen who, for the sake of an ugly, deformed, and degraded
workman, left her home, dressed as a man, and in a small broken canoe
made a trip of eighty miles to join her lover. In olden times death
would have been the penalty for such an act; but she, being a "New
Woman" in her tribe, exclaimed, "If I fell in love with a wild beast,
no one should prevent me marrying it." In this Eastern clime, Brooke
declares, "love is like the sun's rays in warmth." He might have added
that it is as fickle and transient as the sun's warmth; every passing
cloud chills it. The shallow nature of Dyak attachment is indicated by
their ephemeral unions and universal addiction to divorce. "Among the
Upper Sarawak Dyaks divorce is very frequent, owing to the great
extent of adultery," says Haughton (Roth, I., 126); and St. John

"One can scarcely meet with a middle-aged Dayak who has
not had two, and often three or more wives. I have
heard of a girl of seventeen or eighteen years who had
already had three husbands. Repudiation, which is
generally done by the man or woman running away to the
house of a near relation, takes place for the slightest
cause--personal dislike or disappointments, a sudden
quarrel, bad dreams, discontent with their partners'
powers of labor or their industry, or, in fact, any
excuse which will help to give force to the expression,
'I do not want to live with him, or her, any longer.'"

"Many men and women have married seven or eight times
before they find the partner with whom they desire to
spend the rest of their lives."

"When a couple are newly-married, if a deer or a
gazelle, or a moose-deer utters a cry at night near the
house in which the pair are living, it is an omen of
ill--they must separate, or the death of one would
ensue. This might be a great trial to an European
lover; the Dayaks, however, take the matter very

"Mr. Chalmers mentions to me the case of a young
Penin-jau man who was divorced from his wife on the
third day after marriage. The previous night a deer had
uttered its warning cry, and separate they must. The
morning of the divorce he chanced to go into the 'Head
House' and there sat the bridegroom contentedly at

"'Why are you here?' he was asked, as the 'Head House'
is frequented by bachelors and boys only; 'What news of
your new wife?'"

"'I have no wife, we were separated this morning
because the deer cried last night.'"

"'Are you sorry?'"

"'Very sorry.'"

"'What are you doing with that brass wire?'"

"'Making _perik_'--the brass chain work which the women
wear round their waists--'for a young woman whom I want
to get for my new wife,'" (I., 165-67; 55.)

Such is the love of Dyaks. Marriage among them, says the same keen
observer, "is a business of partnership for the purpose of having
children, dividing labor, and, by means of their offspring, providing
for their old age;" and Brooke Low remarks that "intercourse before
marriage is strictly to ascertain that the marriage will be fruitful,
as the Dyaks want children," In other words, apart from sensual
purposes, the women are not desired and cherished for their own sakes,
but only for utilitarian reasons, as a means to an end. Whence we
conclude that, high as the Dyaks stand above Australians and many
Africans, they are still far from the goal of genuine affection. Their
feelings are only skin deep.


Dyaks are not without their love-songs.

"I am the tender shoot of the drooping libau with its fragrant
scent." "I am the comb of the champion fighting-cock that never
runs away," "I am the hawk flying down the Kanyau Kiver, coming
after the fine feathered fowl." "I am the crocodile from the
mouth of the Lingga, coming repeatedly for the striped flower of
the rose-apple."

Roth (I., 119-21) cites forty-five of these verses, mostly expressive
of such selfish boasting and vanity. Not one of them expresses a
feeling of tenderness or admiration of a beloved person, not to speak
of altruistic feelings.


Is a Dyak capable of admiring personal beauty? Some of the girls have
fine figures and pretty faces; but there is no evidence that any but
the voluptuous (non-esthetic) qualities of the figure are appreciated,
and as for the faces, if the men really appreciated beauty as we do,
they would first of all things insist that the girls must keep their
faces clean. An amusing experiment made by St. John with some Ida'an
girls (I., 339) is suggestive from this point of view:

"We selected one who had the dirtiest face--and it was
difficult to select where all were dirty--and asked her
to glance at herself in a looking-glass. She did so,
and passed it round to the others; we then asked which
they thought looked best, cleanliness or dirt: this was
received with a universal giggle.

"We had brought with us several dozen cheap
looking-glasses, so we told Iseiom, the daughter of Li
Moung, our host, that if she would go and wash her face
we would give her one. She treated the offer with
scorn, tossed her head, and went into her father's
room. But about half an hour afterwards, we saw her
come into the house and try to mix quietly with the
crowd; but it was of no use, her companions soon
noticed she had a clean face, and pushed her to the
front to be inspected. She blushingly received her
looking-glass and ran away, amid the laughter of the

The example had a great effect, however, and before evening nine of
the girls had received looking-glasses.[184]


In the chapter on Personal Beauty I endeavored to show that if savages
who live near the sea or river are clean, it is not owing to their
love of cleanliness, but to an accident, bathing being resorted to by
them as an antidote to heat, or as a sport. This applies particularly
to the Melanesian and Polynesian inhabitants of the South Sea Islands,
whose chief pastimes are swimming and surf riding. Thomas Williams, in
his authoritative work on Fiji and the Fijians, makes some remarks
which entirely bear out my views:

"Too much has been said about the cleanliness of the
natives. The lower classes are often very dirty.... They ...
seldom hesitate to sink both cleanliness and dignity in what
they call comfort" (117).

We are therefore not surprised to read on another page (97) that

"of admiring emotion, produced by the contemplation of
beauty, these people seem incapable; while they remain
unmoved by the wondrous loveliness with which they are
everywhere surrounded.... The mind of the Fijian has
hitherto seemed utterly unconscious of any inspiration of
beauty, and his imagination has grovelled in the most vulgar

Sentimentalists have therefore erred in ascribing to the Fijian
cannibals cleanliness as a virtue. They have erred also in regard to
several other alleged refinements they discovered among these tribes.
One of these is the custom prohibiting a father from cohabiting with
his wife until the child is weaned. This has been supposed to indicate
a kind regard for the welfare and health of mother and child. But when
we examine the facts we find that far from being a proof of superior
morality, this custom reveals the immorality of the husband, and makes
an assassin of the wife. Read what Williams has to say (154):

"Nandi, one of whose wives was pregnant, left her to
dwell with a second. The forsaken one awaited his
return some months, and at last the child disappeared.
This practice seemed to be universal on Vanua
Levu--quite a matter of course--so that few women could
be found who had not in some way been murderers. The
extent of infanticide in some parts of this island
reaches nearer to two-thirds than half."

Williams further informs us (117) that "husbands are as frequently
away from their wives as they are with them, since it is thought not
well for a man to sleep regularly at home." He does not comment on
this, but Seeman (191) and Westermarck (151) interpret the custom as
indicating Fijian "ideas of delicacy in married life," which, after
what has just been said, is decidedly amusing. If Fijians really were
capable of considering it indelicate to spend the night under the same
roof with their wives, it would indicate their indelicacy, not their
delicacy. The utterly unprincipled men doubtless had their reasons for
preferring to stay away from home, and probably their great contempt
for women also had something to do with the custom.


In Fiji, says Crawley (225), women are kept away from participation in
worship. "Dogs are excluded from some temples, women from all." In
many parts of the group woman is treated, according to Williams,

"as a beast of burden, not exempt from any kind of labor,
and forbidden to enter any temple; certain kinds of food she
may eat only by sufferance, and that after her husband has
finished. In youth she is the victim of lust, and in old
age, of brutality."

Girls are betrothed and married as children without consulting their
choice. "I have seen an old man of sixty living with two wives both
under fifteen years of age." Such of the young women as are acquainted
with foreign ways envy the favored women who wed "the man to whom
their spirit flies." Women are regarded as the property of the men,
and as an incentive to bravery they are "promised to such as shall, by
their prowess, render themselves deserving." They are used for paying
war-debts and other accounts; for instance, "the people submitted to
their chiefs and capitulated, offering two women, a basket of earth,
whales' teeth, and mats, to buy the reconciliation of the Rewans."

"A chief of Nandy, in Viti Levu, was very desirous to
have a musket which an American captain had shown him.
The price of the coveted piece was two hogs. The chief
had only one; but he sent on board with it a young
woman as an equivalent."

At weddings the prayer is that the bride may "bring forth male
children"; and when the son is born, one of the first lessons taught
him is "to strike his mother, lest he should grow up to be a coward."
When a husband died, it was the national custom to murder his wife,
often his mother too, to be his companions. To kill a defenceless
woman was an honorable deed.

"I once asked a man why he was called Koroi. 'Because,' he
replied, 'I, with several other men, found some women and
children in a cave, drew them out and clubbed them and was
then consecrated.'"

So far have sympathy and gallantry progressed in Fiji.

"Many examples might be given of most dastardly cruelty,
where women and even unoffending children were abominably
slain." "I have labored to make the murderers of females
ashamed of themselves; and have heard their cowardly
cruelty defended by the assertion that such victims
were doubly good--because they ate well, and because of
the distress it caused their husbands and friends."
"Cannibalism does not confine itself to one sex." "The
heart, the thigh, and the arm above the elbow, are
considered the greatest dainties."

One of these monsters, whom Williams knew, sent his wife to
fetch wood and collect leaves to line the oven. When she had
cheerfully and unsuspectingly obeyed his orders, he killed her, put
her in the oven, and ate her. There had been no quarrel; he was simply
hungering for a dainty morsel. Even after death the women are
subjected to barbarous treatment.

"One of the corpses was that of an old man of seventy,
another of a fine young woman of eighteen.... All were
dragged about and subjected to abuse too horrible and
disgusting to be described."[185]


With these facts in mind the reader is able to appreciate the humor of
the suggestion that it is "ideas of delicacy" that prevent Fijian
husbands from spending their nights at home. Equally amusing is the
blunder of Wilkes, who tells us (III., 356) that

"though almost naked, these natives have a great idea of
modesty, and consider it extremely indelicate to expose the
whole person. If either a man or woman should be discovered
without the 'maro' or 'liku,' they would probably be

Williams, the great authority on Fijians, says that
"Commodore Wilkes's account of Fijian marriages seems to be compounded
of Oriental notions and Ovalan yarns" (147). Having been a mere
globe-trotter, it is natural that he should have erred in his
interpretation of Fijian customs, but it is unpardonable in
anthropologists to accept such conclusions without examination. As a
matter of fact, the scant Fijian attire has nothing to do with
modesty; quite the contrary. Williams says (147) "that young unmarried
women wear a _liku_ little more than a hand's breadth in depth, which
does not meet at the hips by several inches;" and Seeman writes (168)
that Fijian girls

"wore nothing but a girdle of hibiscus fibres, about six
inches wide, dyed black, red, yellow, white, or brown, and
put on in such a coquettish way that one thought it must
come off every moment."

Westermarck, with whom for once we can agree, justly observes
(190) that such a costume "is far from being in harmony with our ideas
of modesty," and that its real purpose is to attract attention. As
elsewhere among such peoples the matter is strictly regulated by
fashion. "Both sexes," says Williams (143), "go unclad until the tenth
year and some beyond that. Chiefs' children are kept longest without
dress." Any deviation from a local custom, however ludicrous that
custom may be, seems to barbarians punishable and preposterous. Thus,
a Fijian priest whose sole attire consisted in a loin-cloth (_masi_)
exclaimed on hearing of the gods of the naked New Hebrideans: "Not
possessed of masi and pretend to have gods!"

The alleged chastity of Fijians is as illusive as their modesty. Girls
who had been betrothed as infants were carefully guarded, and adultery
savagely punished by clubbing or strangling; but, as I made clear in
the chapter on jealousy, such vindictive punishment does not indicate
a regard for chastity, but is merely revenge for infringement on
property rights. The national custom permitting a man whose conjugal
property had been molested to retaliate by subjecting the culprit's
wife to the same treatment in itself indicates an utter absence of the
notion of chastity as a virtue. Like the Papuan, Melanesian, and
Polynesian inhabitants of the Pacific Islands in general, the Fijians
were utterly licentious. Young women, says Williams (145) are the
victims of man's lust;

"all the evils of the most licentious sensuality are
found among this people. In the case of the chiefs,
these are fully carried out, and the vulgar follow as
far as their means will allow. But here, even at the
risk of making the picture incomplete, there may not be
given a faithful representation" (115).

When a band of warriors returns victorious, they are met by the women;
but "the words of the women's song may not be translated; nor are the
obscene gestures of their dance, in which the young virgins are
compelled to take part, or the foul insults offered to the corpses of
the slain, fit to be described.... On these occasions the ordinary
social restrictions are destroyed, and the unbridled and
indiscriminate indulgence of every evil lust and passion completes the
scene of abomination" (43). Yet,

"voluntary breach of the marriage contract is rare in
comparison with that which is enforced, as, for
instance, when the chief gives up the women of a town
to a company of visitors or warriors. Compliance with
this mandate is compulsory, but should the woman
conceal it from her husband, she would be severely
punished" (147).


When Williams adds to the last sentence that "fear prevents
unfaithfulness more than affection, though I believe that instances of
the latter are numerous," we must not allow ourselves to be deceived
by a word. Fijian "affection" is a thing quite different from the
altruistic feeling we mean by the word. It may in a wife assume the
form of a blind attachment, like that of a dog to a cruel master, but
is not likely to go beyond that, since even the most primitive love
between parents and children is confessedly shallow, transient, or
entirely absent. Williams (154, 142) "noticed cases beyond number
where natural affection was wanting on both sides;" two-thirds of the
offspring are killed, "such children as are allowed to live are
treated with a foolish fondness"--and fondness is, as we have seen,
not an altruistic but an egoistic feeling. In writing about Fijian
friendships our author says (117):

"The high attainments which constitute friendship are known
to very few.... Full-grown men, it is true, will walk about
together, hand in hand, with boyish kindliness, or meet with
hugs and embraces; but their love, though specious, is
hardly real."

Obviously the keen-eyed missionary here had in mind the distinction
between sentimentality and sentiment. Sentimentality of a most
extraordinary kind is also found in the attitude of sons toward
parents. A Fijian considered it a mark of affection to club an aged
parent (157), and Williams has seen the breast of a ferocious savage
heave and swell with strong emotion on bidding a temporary farewell to
his aged father, whom he afterward strangled (117). Such are the
emotions of barbarians--shallow, fickle, capricious--as different from
our affection as a brook which dries up after every shower is from the
deep and steady current of a river which dispenses its beneficent
waters even in a drought.


In his article on Fijian poetry, referred to in the chapter on
Coyness, Sir Arthur Gordon informs us that among the "sentimental"
class of poems "there are not a few which are licentious, and many
more which, though not open to that reproach, are coarse and indecent
in their plain-spokenness." Others of the love-songs, he declares,
have "a ring of true feeling very unlike what is usually found in
similar Polynesian compositions, and which may be searched for in vain
in Gill's _Songs of the Pacific_." These songs, he adds, "more nearly
resemble European love-songs than any with which I am acquainted among
other semi-savage races;" and he finds in them "a ring of true passion
as if of love arising not from mere animal instinct but intelligent
association." I for my part cannot find in them even a hint at
supersensual altruistic sentiment. To give the reader a chance to
judge for himself I cite the following:


_He_.--I seek my lady in the house when the breeze blows,
I say to her, "Arrange the house, unfold the mats, bring the pillows,
sit down and let us talk together."

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