Betel-Chewers and Tobacco-Smokers. 255
they sit or walk, they chew. Teeth or no teeth, every Laosian, from almost infancy to old age, chews betel. The toothless old folks assist nature by placing the betel-nut with the accompanying ingredients into a small mortaraa sort of hybrid between a childas popgun and a syringe, which they always carry with them; a few strokes of the rod suffice to crush the nuts and reduce them to a pulpy mass warranted not to hurt the softest gums.
This perpetual cramming of the mouth with betel is not conducive to ease in conversation, and the Laosians seem to seize on every occasion for conversation as an opportunity for replenishing the mouth. The habit is very unpleasant, owing to the blackness which it imparts to the teeth as much as to the incessant spitting it gives rise to, and to the necessity for ever and anon removing the remains of the a quid a from the mouth. It is said to assist digestion: but it seems to me to corrode and rot the teeth.
Tobacco is smoked, not only by men, but by women and children. How the men find time to smoke between the intervals of betel-chewing, and how they find time to chew between the intervals of smoking, it is hard to say. The women especially are hardly ever seen without a buree, or native cigarette, in the mouth. The finest burees are made of tobacco rolled up and encased in the thin white liber, or inner coating of the bark of the betel-tree, but those usually offered for sale in the markets are rolled in plantain or maize-leaves. The native tobacco is inferior to that grown in Siam. A few women smoke pipes, but these are not so popular among either men or women as cigarettes. The pipes are made of wood, with a bent bamboo stem.
On the conclusion of the reading of my letter, the chief remarked that it was a very strong,a and that heOn the conclusion of the reading of my letter, the chief remarked that it was a very strong,a and that he