Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/564

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main post is finished, go on with the others, but be sure to do it in regular order, working round in circles from right to left, so as to follow the line of the dragon's body from head to tail. When it comes to the hoisting of the posts into position, the face must throughout be turned toward the back of the Nagah, a little inclining toward the tail, and the post must be heaved up toward this point of the compass. Thus in the first three months of the year you must face west-south-west, and haul up the beam from the northeast, and so on for the other quarters. It is also necessary to be very careful in the selection of the timber for the house. Trees especially to be avoided are those which have no flowers, those which have no leaves, trees which grow on anthills, trees with birds' nests on them, and those from which the bark has been torn off from whatever cause. Unhappily these distinctions are not obvious in timber which you have not cut yourself, and rascally Chinese carpenters will not hesitate to palm off upon the unwary wood from a tree on which scores of egrets--the Byeing, or sacred paddy-bird of the Talaings--have nested. Chinamen in their way are nearly as unscrupulous as Manchester piece-goods manufacturers, and have as little regard for the comfort and ultimate opinion of their customers. The beams for the house must all be measured with the standard of your own hand. This, however, is a detail which hardly needs to be strongly urged in a country where the three-foot rule is unknown. After you have got the posts up, the surface of the ground must be smoothed down, and then the posts are decorated with little bags of shells, coins, husked rice, and the like. These must be hung up by the hands of a maiden, and not by any rude male. The heads of the posts are also covered over with cloth, for the safe keeping of the guardian spirit of the house. It would be neither seemly nor safe to leave him exposed to the elements. The final ramming in of the posts is done at an hour fixed by the astrologers, the culminating point of some happy constellation. There is much shouting and feasting on the occasion.

With the foundation of his house settled satisfactorily, the sensibilities of the great world-dragon and the guardian spirit of the earth soothed and conciliated, and the house-posts raised and decorated with proper profusion, the house-builder may consider himself past all his troubles. If anything has been done wrong, it is now too late to repair the error. If everything has been carried out in seemly and orderly fashion, he may deem himself particularly fortunate. The putting on of the roof and the fitting up of the plank or split bamboo matting walls is a simple matter, and may be done according to the light of nature and with what dilatoriness and adornments the builder pleases, so long as he does not depart from the mundane laws of use and wont and infringe upon the sumptuary regulations. That is even a greater offense than flouting the great Nakh, or setting up posts in defiance of the angel of the soil. It certainly meets with swifter