Page:Inside Canton.djvu/125

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to error our nature is. It would seem that erroneous belief and foolish prejudices enjoy the privilege of universality in this world! Thus, the absurd opinion, which in China assigns valuable properties to cups of rhinosceros' tusk, exists also in Abyssinia and among the kings who govern the nations on the shores of the Nile. I will relate a conversation on this subject which I had on my last journey to Egypt with one of my best friends, Colonel Arnaud, the superintendent of the fortifications of Damietta, who went up the White Nile nearly to its source, and explored a hundred leagues farther than any one else. When I took leave of this learned man, he searched in a tortoiseshell, and drew out something wrapped in a silk bag, doubtless embroidered in a Stamboul harem, and presented it to me, saying, in the most solemn manner, "Here, my friend, examine the treasure I give you; I have waited till the moment of your departure to deprive myself, for your sake, of the most precious thing I possess in the world."

I took what Arnaud offered me, and drew it cautiously from its bright wrapper, but I was disappointed on finding in the charming little bag a kind of bowl,—a nasty little wooden cup,—brown streaked with white, which seemed to have been used for a century to quench the thirst of some wretched fellah family; the case was worth a hundred times as much as its contents. I turned it over every way, hoping