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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The priest returns to his charge


After a great consumption of tea, sherbet, and sweets, the young man is publicly proclaimed suitable for the girl. Music and dancing (by professionals) are lavishly provided for the entertainment of guests, on a large or small scale, according to the position of the parents.

Some time elapses between this first stage of a young man's doom and the ceremony for the legal contract and actual wedding. There is no special period of time specified, and the parties can well please themselves as to the time when the nuptial union is to be finally effected.

When the day comes the parties do not go to the mosque nor the convenient registry office--Persia is not yet civilised enough for the latter--but a _Mujtehed_ or high priest is sent for, who brings with him a great many other Mullahs, the number in due proportion to the prospective backshish they are to receive for their services.

The wedding ceremony takes place in the bride's house, where on the appointed day bands, dancing, singing, and sweets in profusion are provided for the great number of guests invited.

The high priest eventually adjourns to the harem, where all the women have collected with the bride, the room being partitioned off with a curtain behind which the women sit. The bride and her mother (or other lady) occupy seats directly behind the curtain, while the priest with the bridegroom and his relations take places in the vacant portion of the room.

The priest in a stentorian voice calls out to the girl:--

"This young man, son of so-and-so, etc., etc., wants to be your slave. Will you accept him as your slave?"

(No reply. Trepidation on the bridegroom's part.)

The priest repeats his question in a yet more stentorian voice.

Again no reply. The women collect round the bride and try to induce her to answer. They stroke her on her back, and caress her face, but she sulks and is shy and plays with her dress, but says nothing. When the buzzing noise of the excited women-folk behind the curtain has subsided, the priest returns to his charge, while the expectant bridegroom undergoes the worst quarter of an hour of his life.

The third time of asking is generally the last, and twice the girl has already not answered. It is a terrible moment. Evidently she is not over anxious to bring about the alliance, or is the reluctance a mere feminine expedient to make it understood from the beginning that she is only conferring a great favour on the bridegroom by condescending to marry him? The latter hypothesis is correct, for when the priest thunders for the third time his former question, a faint voice--after a tantalizing delay--is heard to say "Yes."

The bridegroom, now that this cruel ordeal is over, begins to breathe again.

The priest is not yet through his work, and further asks the girl whether she said "Yes" out of her will, or was forced to say it. Then he appeals to the women near her to testify that this was so, and that the voice he heard behind the curtain was actually the girl's voice. These various important points being duly ascertained, in appropriate Arabic words the priest exclaims:


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