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with entertainments and rejoicings. It is the
great event in young Siamese life, and
resembles the coming out amongst young ladies
in other countries;—for in Siam, children are
supposed to reach years of discretion rather

After a girl marries, she gives up the wearing
of ornaments and trinkets. These are
set aside and reserved for her children in
their turn. Boys, as I have mentioned before,
have an opportunity of learning to read, by
entering themselves as neophytes, or attendants
on the priests. Whether girls have any
schools or persons authorised to teach them,
I do not know; but it is not uncommon in
Siam to find women able both to read and
write. I met with three or four myself, and
these were persons of the lower ranks.The
occupations of the females are various and
far less circumscribed than in many other
parts of the East. In fact, the women in
Siam occupy a moral position many degrees
superior to that of their sisters in neighbouring
countries. The wife of a Siamese has no
unimportant voice in the domestic arrangements
of the family. She is cash-keeper and
seems to possess the right to claim all her
husband's earnings. The women, as a race,
are very intelligent and observant; those
belonging to the higher classes seem to have
pleasing and modest manners. The head wife
of the prime minister, is a very interesting
woman: she is not young, but is by no means
wanting in personal attractions. She has
no children; but that does not seem to
disturb her husband's affection, or her influence
over him. She came with her attendants by
invitation, to lunch with us, and although
our talk was limited for lack of words, she
could contrive to make herself agreeable. It
was the first time that a Siamese lady of rank
had ever visited on equal terms a foreign family,
but it would have been difficult to guess this
from her perfectly easy and quiet demeanour.
She sat at the luncheon table, with the
gentlemen; and, although she had probably
never before used a knife and fork, or any of
the appliances of an English table, she
acquitted herself with perfect propriety and
good breeding, even to the overwhelming
act of taking wine with her host. Her
step-son (the Siamese admiral), accompanied
her, and she was attended by about thirty
maidens, two of whom were her younger
sisters, very pretty girls; the rest were
slaves. The whole party of attendants
remained sprawling on the ground during
her visit.

An absurd little incident will serve to show
how diligently these people observe the custom
of prostration. The lady requested permission
to visit the sleeping apartments, in order to
see how English people arrange rooms; she
was accordingly taken up-stairs, followed by
the entire body of maidens and her step-son,
who did not at all see why he should not have
the benefit of a peep as well. She expressed
her satisfaction at all the arrangements, and
especially her delight at a small iron crib
belonging to my child, which seemed to strike
them all as a device of luxury and refinement
not to be equalled. Finally, when everything
in the room had been duly handled and
examined, she inquired in a perplexed manner,
where we kept our money, as she could
not see a strong box of any kind. It should
be mentioned that on a previous visit to her
own house, I had been shown over her private
apartments, and in the sleeping room, saw
four large iron safes, which she pointed out
as seeming to add much to the honour of the
family. There happened to be a box of mine
in a corner, however, covered over with the
usual arrangement of cushions and frills;
this being shown her, she seemed greatly
relieved to find (judging from the size of the
box; which, however, was empty at the
time), that we had, or appeared to have, some
worldly pelf, and delighted at such a charming
way of covering it up. As she was
about to descend the stairs, a commotion
disturbed the whole bevy of damsels, to
whom it appeared suddenly to occur, that
by going down first, their mistress would
place herself beneath them; a thing not
to be tolerated for a moment. Accordingly,
with a sudden rush, the young ladies
passed her, on their hands and knees,
just as she was about to descend, and the
whole twenty scrambled down-stairs head
foremost, with a hurrying and scurrying,
a laughing and giggling, that was as amusing
as it was surprising.

The Siamese women as well as men are
terribly disfigured by the effects of constant
and excessive betel chewing. It is carried
to a disgusting extent amongst people of all
ranks and ages. Even little children may be
seen with their lips dyed red and the crimson
juice running out at each side. Their mouths
are never, by any chance, empty; as soon as
one quid is disposed of, another takes its place,
so that a Siamese always speaks as with a
pebble in his mouth, and that no small one.
The effect of the incessant chewing of large
quids, is, to enlarge the lips considerably, to
dye them a sort of black red, and entirely to
alter the shape of the lower part of the face.
The Siamese say that the chewing of betel
acts as a continual stimulant, and that they
could not exist without it. It is highly
injurious to the teeth, but I think it does
not destroy health to any great extent.
Smoking is another habit carried, to an
extreme in Siam: men, women, and children
seem to live upon cigarettes and tobacco
rolled up in palm-leaf. I was told as a fact
by a lady, that she had seen a nursing child
of two years old, taking whiffs of its mother's
cigar alternately with its own more natural
nourishment. For this, however, I will not
vouch. But I have frequently watched a very
pretty little girl of five years old, smoking a
cigarette, while she made mud-pies. Most