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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/562

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

To be without a patron in Siam or Cambodia is to get your name put down on the list of royal slaves. Insulting the dragon's tail is even more calamitous, for the tail is a most touchy member, and would as soon create an earthquake and ruin the whole township as not. The reckless builder who did such a thing would, therefore, be stoned out of the community as a public enemy. Touching the dragon's back is simple lèse-majesté. The lord of the house will soon find out his crime, but the knowledge will come too late. He will die. The belly is the only safe part. If you choose that quarter toward which to heap up your earth, then, subject to a number of other precautions to be mentioned, you are comparatively safe. It is to be observed, however, that you have only three months to do your digging in. The Nagah, for all that he is so testy, sleeps during that period, or, rather, it is the disturbing him in his sleep that causes all the mischief. When the quarter-year has passed he rouses himself, and shifts round to the next point of the compass, and there, like the Norway kraken, composes himself to sleep again. Digging operations must then be conducted according to the new rules. Still, the time allowed is not unreasonable. Even an average Indo-Chinese can dig a hole for a house-post in three months. When you have settled generally how you ought to dig, there are a number of special rules to be observed in the digging itself. It will never do to go blindly ahead, for all the world as if you were a navvy on piece-work. In the first place, it is well to dig at large all over the space your house is intended to cover. In fact, if you have any regard for yourself, you certainly will. There are divers reasons for this. If you find costly articles, silver or gold, or the images of men and deities, it is a most happy sign, and will go far to counteract all but willful remissness in other matters. On the other hand, when bones or ashes or the figures of wild animals are found, the deductions are most unpropitious, and, if you persist in going on, the house will have neither luck nor peace. If the remains of previous house-posts are found still lying buried in the ground, they must be carefully dug out and carried away, for if this were not done, and a new building were to be run up over the old remains, sickness and quarrelings would be the certain result.

In addition to such elementary rules, which are matters of universal knowledge in Indo-China, there are so many others that every one but a very self-sufficient person will submit his surface soil to the inspection of a regular professional man, an expert in the science of foundation-digging, before he makes a final decision. For example, though it is undoubtedly most lucky to find silver or old bricks in your excavations, you may at the same time come upon a colony of ants or other living creatures settled upon the spot. It is one of the fundamental rules of Buddhism that the breath of no living thing is to be taken, and to dispossess them is not by any means a creditable proceeding. Moreover, irrespectively of this objection, ants can bite through even