Page:Inside Canton.djvu/102

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101
INSIDE CANTON.

these strange persons that the crowd presses; while they speak, a circle of wondering gabies surrounds them. There you may see coolies with their noses in the air, others with their mouths open, and even the old burgher of grave deportment, listening with avidity to the sentences they utter, and never forgetting to pay the astrologer a tribute more welcome than that of their admiration.

These venders of orvietan and miraculous balm have more respect for popular stupidity than European charlatans. They have recourse to none of our common tricks to assemble auditors; their proceedings are more scientific. It is usually a cock with the leg of a duck, that draws the idle together. The quack doctor holds in one hand ajar or rather a stick of his unguent, and explains to the spectators that it was with this marvellous preparation that he grafted the foot of the duck on the cock. Certainly in the midst of these noodles there are many who know that the cock's leg is merely glued to the membranous skin of a duck's foot; but this does not hinder them from buying the miraculous drug, whilst the majority believe fully in the truth of the gross imposture.

The public of the ambulant singers is not less numerous than that of their rivals; but its preference for actors testifies in favour of its intelligence: The old ballads the singer chaunts may have no