Page:Inside Canton.djvu/124

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123
INSIDE CANTON.

the edge, the lower part of its body fastened to the exterior, is trying to drink out of the empty cup. Tantalus, in his eternal bath, doubtless has the same piteous expression as my thirsty and disappointed jigger. This little composition did not cost the artist much labour: it is engraved very slightly in relief, but the effect is strikingly truthful. A hundred times have I seen this poor lotus leaf torn from its stalk, its edges eaten away, floating on the rivers of India; I recognise these aquatic worms—these nereïeds with their flexible waists; and this flat-bodied jigger, endeavouring to get to the edge of the cup again, is certainly that silent guest in the houses of Malacca and Singapore, who seems to be glued to the ceiling of the apartments by some viscine liquid. Every time I examine this little artistic gem, I call to mind a popular belief among the Malays: they say, that when the jigger falls upon the naked flesh of a man, it somehow buries itself in the skin, and nothing in the world, not even the death of one of the subjects, can separate them.

Formerly the tusks of the rhinoceros were only used for one purpose: cups were made of them, out of which the nobles drank. It was because of the marvellous properties attributed to this horny substance, that the high functionaries of the Celestial Empire adopted these utensils for their libations. A strange thing, which shows how weak and prone

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