Page:Inside Canton.djvu/160

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159
INSIDE CANTON.

imaginings, and in presence of this vision of mystery, his spirit floats continually between the dream and the reality. If, in their intoxication, the opium-smokers of the Celestial Empire, retained any consciousness of the world without, they would discover that it is idle to be chasing, through the perils of a transient delirium, hallucinations which are incessantly enacted around them. They would forswear their daily poison-trance to share—free from its penalties of horror, and with all the peculiar intimacy of emotion which the real in life alone can give—in the indescribable spectacle of which we shall seek to convey some idea.

When darkness comes down, the belated boats return to their proper localities; the oars are silent in the populous streets; the floating cottage, made fast to its neighbour, is laid up for a quiet night; and all the family, seated under the roof of bamboo, before an enormous dish of rice, enjoys as it may the unsavoury meal of poverty, by the light of a little earthen lamp, which glimmers in the dark like a fire-fly. On board the habitations of the tradespeople, an illuminated globe, bearing the name of the proprietor, is hung up before the entry; while the proprietor himself, seated at table with his youngest child, and waited upon by his wife, or by his wives, is relishing the savoury viands which conjugal solicitude has prepared for him. The flower-boats now suspend from the mast-head