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3-VII

Part 3

Chapter VII

Of their Lodging, Bedding,

Whoredom, Marriages, and Children.

Having been thus entertained with the fine Ladies abroad, it is time now to return home to our Lodging. And the night coming on, we will lead you to their Bed-Chambers, and shew you how they sleep. About which they are not very curious. If their house be but one room (as it often is) then the men sleep together at one end and the women at the other.

They have Bedsteads laced with Canes or Rattans, but no Testars to them, nor Curtains; that the King allows not of; neither have they nor care they for more than one Bedstead, which is only for the Master of the house to sit or sleep on. To this Bedstead belongs two mats and a straw Pillow. The Woman with the Children always lyes on the ground on mats by the fire-side. For a Pillow she lays a block or such like thing under her mat, but the Children have no Pillows at all. And for covering and other bedding they use the cloth they wear by day. But always at their feet they will have a fire burning all night. Which makes more work for the Women; who must fetch it all upon her head. For it is accounted a disgrace for the man to meddle or make with those affairs, that properly do belong unto the Woman.

The younger sort of Children, such as go naked by day, creep in under a corner of their mothers cloths. And if they feel themselves cold in the night, they rise and blow the fire with their mouths, having no Bellows in that Countrey, and so sit and warm themselves thereby.

They are so little given to sleep, that they do rise many times in the night to eat Beatel and to take Tobacco. Which done they lay them down, and sing songs until they fall a sleep again.

At their first going to bed, it is very seldom that they do pray to God, neither do they ever teach their Children so to do. But sometimes will say Auh Dio, which is God help or keep me. But they do instead of that, teach and bid their Children to sing songs when they go to bed.

Where their houses consist but of one room, the Children that are of any years always go and sleep in other houses among their neighbours. Which please them better than their own. For so they come to meet with bedfellows, nor doth it displease the Parents, if young men of as good quality as themselves become acquainted with their daughters, but rather like well of it; knowing that their daughters by this means can command the young men to help and assist them in any work or business that they may have occasion to use them in. And they look upon it so far distant from a disgrace, that they will among their consorts brag of it, that they have the young men thus at their command.

So that youth are bred up to Whoredom. Indeed here are no Publick Whores allowed by Authority. In the City some that have followed that Trade, have oftentimes by the King’s order been severely punished by Whipping, and having their Ears and Hair cut off. But in private few or none can exempt themselves. And for the matter of being with Child, which many of them do not desire, they very exquisitely can prevent the same.

Indeed the Publick Trade would be bad, and hardly maintain them that exercised it, the private one being so great. And tho I think they be all Whores, yet they abhor the Name of Vesou, which is Whore. Neither do they in their anger reproach one another with it, unless they should lay with a Man of an inferior quality to themselves, And the Woman reckons her self as much obliged to the Man for his Company, as he does to her for hers. In these affairs the Women are very expert (it being their continual practice) to keep their design from the Husbands knowledge: tho by his own Experience he cannot be ignorant of Womens devices. And unless he catch them in the act he doth not much trouble himself to prove himself a Cuckold; Cuckolds being so common, that it is not here regarded.

It is a Law here, that if a Man catch another in Bed with his Wife, he may, be it whosoever, kill him and her, if he please. It hath so happened that the Man hath come to the Door, when another hath been within with his Wife, there being no way to escape, the Woman has took a pan of hot ashes, and as she opened the Door, her Husband being entring, cast them in his Eyes, and so she and her Bedfellow made an escape.

To fetch wood out of the Woods to burn, and to fetch home the Cattle is the Woman’s work. If they cannot have their opportunities at home, now they appoint their meetings, while the Husband stays at home holding the Child. In the Evenings it is common for them with whom the Women be acquainted, to come and wait behind the House when it is dark to attend their coming forth to them. To which end they give them notice either by breaking of a stick, or by putting some Betelover the Wall to fall in such places as they have appointed, where she will look to find it. And when she has such notice, she cannot want an excuse to go forth to meet him.

They bear such love to their Bedfellows, that I have known this done, The Husband hath beset the House, and the Womans Friend in it, when she hath holpen him to make a hole thro the Thatch to get out at, which he hath done and made his Escape, and she remain behind to suffer all the blame her self. When other opportunities are wanting to enjoy the Company of their Paramours whole Nights together, they usually take occasion to be discontented and fall out with their Husbands, and so go home to their Friends houses, to get longer enjoyments. Who to shew their Friendship will not hinder but further them in what they delight in.

In some Cases the Men will permit their Wives and Daughters to lye with other Men. And that is, when intimate Friends or great Men chance to Lodge at their houses, they commonly will send their Wives or Daughters to bear them company in their Chamber. Neither do they reckon their Wives to be Whores for lying with them that are as good or better than themselves.

They do not matter or regard whether their Wives at the first Marriage be Maids or not. And for a small reward the Mother will bring her Daughter being a Maiden unto those that do desire her. But it is so much abhorred for Women of the high Cast or Descent to admit Men Page 93of the low Cast to have any thing to do with them, that I think they never do it.

But enough of this Ribaldry, let us turn away to more honest Practices. To speak of their Marriages, which make the Bed lawful. There are not many Ceremonies used in or about the same. Here is no wooing for a Wife. The Parents commonly make the Match, and in their choice regard more the Quality and Descent than the Beauty. If they are agreed, all is done. The Match being thus made, the Man carrieth or sends to the Woman her Wedding Cloths; which is a Cloth containing six or seven yards in length, and a Linnen Wast-coat wrought with Blew and Red. If the Man be so poor that he cannot buy a Cloth, it is the Custom to borrow one. In case the Man with his Friends goes and carries it himself, that Night they both sleep together to beget acquaintance one with the other. And then they appoint a day when he is to come and fetch her home; which is the Marriage-Day.

The day being come, he attended with his Friends goes to her house, which is always in the Evening, and brings Provisions and Sweet-meats with him according to his Ability, towards the Charges of the Wedding. Which is never more than two Meals. Whereof Supper is the first. Then the Bride and Bridegroom both eat together in one Dish, which is to intimate that they are both of one rank and quality, and sometimes they tye their Thumbs together, but not always: and that Night go to sleep together.

The next day having dined he taketh his Bride and departeth home with her, putting her before him, and he following her, with some of her Friends to Conduct her. For it is the constant Custom and Fashion in this Land for the Husband to follow his Wife. The reason whereof is a Tradition among them, that a Man once going foremost, it happened that his Wife was stoln away, and he not aware of it. Being come home the Bridegroom makes a Feast as he is able.

Some few days after, her Friends usually come to see her bringing a present of Provision with them. And sometimes they use this Ceremony, the Man is to stand with one end of the Woman’s Cloth about his Loins, and she with the other, and then they pour water on both their Heads, wetting all their Bodies: which being done, they are firmly Married to live together, so long as they can agree.

The Elder sorts of People usually woe and conclude their Marriages as they are in Bed together. For when they have lost their Maidenheads, they fear not much what Man comes to sleep with them, provided he be of as good quality as they, having nothing more to lose. And at the day appointed the Man gives the Woman her Cloths, and so takes her home.

But their Marriages are but of little force or validity. For if they disagree and mislike one the other; they part without disgrace. Yet it stands firmer for the Man than for the Woman; howbeit they do leave one the other at their pleasure. They do give according to their Ability a Portion of Cattle, Slaves and Money with their Daughters; but if they chance to mislike one another and part asunder, this Portion must be returned again, and then she is fit for another Man, being as they account never the worse for wearing.

In this Countrey each Man, even the greatest, hath but one Wife; but a Woman often has two Husbands. For it is lawful and common with them for two Brothers to keep house together with one Wife, and the Children do acknowledge and call both fathers.

So long as the Women have their Infirmities or Flowers upon them, they are accounted very unclean, insomuch that the very house is polluted in that degree that none will approach near it. And even she her self cares not to conceal it, but calls out to them that come near, that they may avoid her house. But after she hath washed her Head and Body all is purified again. It is lawful for no Woman, altho they be great Men’s Wives, to sit on a Stool in the presence of a Man. It is customary for Men upon any frivolous account to charge one another in the King’s Name to do or not to do, according as they would have it. This the Women upon Penalty of having their Tongues cut out, dare not presume to do.

As it is usual to punish Men for faults committed by Imprisonment and Chains, or by making them stand with a weight on their Backs, until they do pay such a Sum of Money as is demanded: which for ordinary faults may be five or ten Shillings. So the Punishment which is inflicted upon Women, is to make them stand with a Basket of Sand upon their Heads, so long as they shall think fitting, who appoint the Punishment. Punishment by stripes is never used either to Men or Women, but only to those on whom the King Commands them to be laid.

Lands of Inheritance which belong to Women are exempted from paying Harriots to the King. Women pay no Custom for things they carry to the Sea-Ports. Neither is any Custom paid for what is carried upon any Female Cattel, Cow or Buffalo.

They have no Midwives, but the neighbouring good Women come in and do that Office. As soon as the Child is born, the Father or some Friend apply themselves to an Astrologer to enquire, whether the Child be born in a prosperous Planet, and a good hour or in an evil. If it be found to be in an evil they presently destroy it, either by starving it, letting it lye and die, or by drowning it, putting its head into a Vessel of water, or by burying it alive, or else by giving it to some body of the same degree with themselves; who often will take such Children, and bring them up by hand with Rice and Milk; for they say, the Child will be unhappy to the Parents, but to none else. We have asked them why they will deal so with their poor Infants, that come out of their Bowels. They will indeed have a kind of regret and trouble at it. But they will say withal, Why should I bring up a Devil in my House? For they believe, a Child born in an ill hour, will prove a plague and vexation to his Parents by his disobedience and untowardliness.

But it is very rare that a First-born is served so. Him they love and make much of. But when they come to have many, then usual it is, by the pretence of the Childs being born under an unlucky Planet, to kill him. And this is reputed no fault, and no Law of the Land takes cognizance of it.

In their Infancy they have Names, whereby one may be called and distinguished from the other. But when they come to years it is an affront and shame to them either Men or Women, to be called by those Names. Which they say is to be like unto Dogs. Then they change their Names into Titles according to the Town wherein they were born or do dwell. Also they have other Names, which may be compared to Coats of Arms, properly and only belonging to that Family: by which likewise they are called.

This People are very Ambitious of their Titles having but little else that they can boast in; and of Names and Titles of respect they have great plenty in their Language; instances whereof shall be given afterwards.

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