Page:Inside Canton.djvu/153

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152
INSIDE CANTON.

rins prefer a fine girl like A-Moun—industrious, intelligent, and educated—to their painted, hobbling dolls?"

"How can you think of such a thing?" exclaimed the old Chinaman, with a gesture of dismay. "Were such a thing to happen, it would be the overthrow of the laws of the Empire! A-Moun belongs to a reprobate class. The tanka-girls are very lucky that their mothers sometimes give birth to boys; but for that, no one would marry them. Oh! if you only knew how such people marry!"

"Come—let us hear. How do such people marry?" I inquired, indignant at A-Tchoun's prejudice.

"Like beasts! like beasts!" answered the old linguist. "Without any previous proposal; without a woman as go-between; without anything which is practised among well-educated persons. In harvest-time, any man of their class who wishes to marry, goes into the next field and gathers a little sheaf of rice, which he fastens to one of his oars. Then, when he is in the presence of the tanka-girl of his choice, he puts his oar into the water, and goes several times round the boat belonging to the object of his affections. The next day, if the latter accept his homage, she, in her turn, fastens a bunch of flowers to her oar, and comes rowing about near her betrothed. The relations then assemble in the young girl's bark.