Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/461

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453
SNUFF-TAKING—HANDKERCHIEFS.

The Bechuanas are great snuff-takers, and they indulge in the luxury to excess. Sharing the contents of your snuff-box with a stranger is almost the greatest compliment that can be paid to him. Knowing their propensity in this respect, I brought with me a large supply, but, on my arrival at the Lake, was astonished to find that they scarcely deigned to look at it. I soon discovered the cause of their singular abstinence, which arose simply from the article not being sufficiently pungent. Unless it forces tears into their eyes, they look upon snuff as worthless.

The way in which the Bechuanas themselves manufacture snuff is singular enough. A piece of tobacco being presented to a man, two stones are forthwith procured, between which the weed is carefully ground, and, when of sufficient fineness, a quantity of wood-ash is added, which, to their nostrils, constitutes the very perfection of snuff. When the amalgamation of the ingredients is perfected, every one present presses eagerly forward to have a pinch. Each fills the palm of his hand with the mixture, and scoops it into the nose with a peculiarly shaped iron or ivory spoon, hung round the neck, drawing every grain leisurely up into the nostrils in such abundance as to force big tears into the eyes, thus proving the extent of the enjoyment. "Worse than barbarian would that man be esteemed who would wantonly interrupt a social party so employed." Their greasy fingers constitute their handkerchiefs on such occasions, and their faces, after one of these "snuff-floods," may not inaptly be likened to a dewy and furrowed field. Their snuff-boxes are either the kernel of the palm-fruit, hollowed out, or a diminutive gourd, and, like the ladles, are suspended round the neck, though sometimes they are secured to the arm above the elbow.

The Bechuanas smoke, but it can hardly be said to be a fashionable vice among them. This is, at least, as regards the men, for the women, on the contrary, are inveterate