Getting up housekeeping is not a very costly business in Malay. The husband, often a boy in his early teens, has to provide a hut, a cooking-pot, and other articles necessary for hut-keeping. Nor does the marriage settlement exacted by the bride's parents cut deeply into his resources. Four cubits of white cloth, a string of beads, a plate, and a drinking-cup may suffice.
The fiction of marriage by capture is kept up by most of the wild tribes of the peninsula. Sometimes the bridegroom pursues the bride in a canoe, sometimes he runs after her in the woods, she feebly flying before him until the moment she decides that she may give in, having run far enough to satisfy the demands of the local Mrs. Grundy. Sometimes-and it is the tamest of performances-he chases her round a heap of earth.
The ritual is as follows: A special palm-leaf building is erected for the ceremony, the shape being similar to the letter T. Before the doorway a pit is dug, and with the clay from it a mound is built some three feet high, and in the form of a bell, with two graduated balls on top. Flowers are scattered over the mound, and on the top are placed two dishes-one containing betel leaf and two portions of rice, the other cold water. All is made ready on the day before that fixed for the wedding. All through the night preceding the ceremony drums are beaten incessantly, and the din is deafening.
In the morning the bridegroom arrives with his friends, and the bride is carried outside her hut and placed near the mound. Her wedding attire consists of a black bark skirt, armlets of bark and fibre, and a necklace composed of the teeth of animals. In her short and woolly hair she wears carved bone or wooden combs.
The bridegroom's dress is even more sketchy than the bride's. Having taken up his position near the mound, he is asked by the bride's agent a series of questions, to all of which he replies in the affirmative:
Have you bought plates and cups?
Have you bought a jungle knife?
And so on through a long list of articles considered necessary for a well-appointed establishment. Then ensues a further catechism, he answering " I do " to each query.
"Do you know how to fell trees? How to climb for fruit? How to use the blowpipe? How to make cigarettes?"
After this the bride's man of business inquires:
" Is all this true? "
"It is true ! I could buy a mill at Singapore, or at Malacca, or at Penang. How much more, then, someone's daughter?"
But the agent persists: "Is this true, were a tree to fall upon you?" - this being the local form of oath. And, with a superb disdain, the bridegroom says: "Speak not of someone's daughter. Monkeys of all kinds do I search for and capture; how much more, then, somebody's daughter?"
After this the agent repeats a formula relating to the chase of the bride, whereupon she jumps up and runs round the mound, the bridegroom in pursuit. It sometimes, though rarely, happens that after the seventh round she is still uncaught. The excitement is then intense, and the noise terrific. Everyone shouts at once, and the crestfallen suitor goes home again, the marriage being postponed to a future date.
In ordinary cases the youth has little difficulty in catching the girl. She is willing enough, but to save appearances she runs her fastest for the first two or three rounds. When he catches her, the two eat the rice and betel together, and both drink water out of the other dish.
This completes the actual ceremony. Afterwards comes the wedding feast, already prepared in the marriage hall. A new hall has to be built for each wedding. While all are eating and drinking, laughing, talking, singing, both bride and bridegroom steal away to their own domicile.