The birth of a son is immediately announced by a discharge of artillery, where cannon are kept; or by musketry in the lower grades of the Native population, even to the meanest peasant, with whom a single match-lock proclaims the honour as effectually as the volley of his superiors. The women say the object in firing at the moment the child is born, is to prevent his being startled at sounds by giving him so early an introduction to the report of muskets; but in this they are evidently mistaken, since we never find a musket announcing the birth of a female child. They fancy there is more honour attached to a house where are many sons. The men make them their companions, which in the present state of Mussulmaun society, girls cannot be at any age. Besides which, so great is the trouble and anxiety in getting suitable matches for their daughters, that they are disposed to be more solicitous for male than female children.
Amongst the better sort of people the mother very rarely nourishes her own infant; and I have known instances, when a wet-nurse could not be procured, where the infant has been reared by goals’ milk, rather than the good lady should be obliged to fatigue herself with her infant. The great objection is, that in Mussulmaun families nurses are required to be abstemious in their diet, by no means an object of choice amongst so luxurious a people. A nurse is not allowed for the first month or more to taste animal food, and even during the two years—the usual period of supporting infancy by this nourishment—the nurse lives by rule both in quality and quantity of such food only as may be deemed essential to the well-being of the child.
The lower orders of the people benefit by their superiors’ prejudices against nursing, and a wet-nurse once engaged in a family becomes a member of that house to the end of her days, unless she chooses to quit it herself.
On the fourth day after the birth of a son, the friends of both families are invited to share in the general joy testified by a noisy assembly of singing-women, people chattering, smell of savoury dishes, and constant bustle; which, to any other females in the world would be considered annoyances, but in their estimation are agreeable additions to the happiness of the mother, who is in most cases screened only by a curtain from the multitude of noisy visitors assembled to rejoice on the important event. I could not refrain,