The marriage ceremony, following a parental betrothal, or with parental acquiescence, is a very informal matter, and in fact both the bargaining for the wife and the ceremony of the marriage are in striking contrast to the elaborate system of bargaining and mock raiding by the girl’s family, and the wedding ceremonies, which are adopted in Mekeo. A day is fixed for the marriage, and on that day the boy goes to the house of the girl’s parents, after which he and she and her parents go to the house of the boy’s parents, and the girl is paid for then and there. After this the young people immediately live together as a married couple in the house of either his or her parents, until he has been able to build a house for himself. Neither are there any special ceremonies in connection with the fixing of the price. This is generally very small. Dogs’ teeth, pearl shell, necklaces, adzes, etc., are the usual things in which it is paid; but there is always a pig, which has been killed under, or on the site of, the grave platform above referred to. The price, in fact, depends upon the position and wealth of the girl’s parents, except that there is always only one pig. The price is paid to the father of the girl, or, if dead, to her eldest brother or other nearest male paternal relative.
A runaway marriage is still simpler. The boy has proposed to the girl through her friend, and she has consented; and they simply run off into the bush together, and remain in the bush, or the gardens, or a distant village, until the boy’s friends have succeeded in propitiating the girl’s father, and the price has been paid; and then the couple return to the village.
After marriage, the husband and wife are not as a rule faithful to each other, the marriage tie being only slight. Adultery on the part of the wife, but not of the husband, is regarded as a serious offence, if discovered. The injured husband will beat the guilty wife, and is entitled to kill the man with whom she has misconducted herself, and will usually do so; though nowadays he often dares not do so in districts where he fears Government punishment. Sometimes he will be content if the adulterer pays him a big price, say a pig; and this compensation is now commonly accepted in districts where the husband dares not kill. In either case, the husband generally keeps the wife.
Formal divorce or separation does not exist. A husband who wants to get rid of his wife will make her life so miserable that she runs away from him. But more usually the separation originates with the wife, who, not liking or being tired of her husband, or being in love elsewhere, will run away and elope altogether with another man. In such a case, the husband may retaliate on that other man in the way already mentioned; but that is rather the method adopted in cases of incidental adultery, and as a rule, when the wife actually elopes, she and her paramour go off to some other community, and the husband submits