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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/52

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

cured. Cured of what, he did not know. Of burnings with sulphur and incisions with the iron he remembered nothing. The Comprachicos deadened the little patient by means of a stupefying powder which was thought to be magical, and which suppressed all pain. This powder has been known from time immemorial in China, and is still employed there. The Chinese have been in advance of us in all our inventions,—printing, artillery, aërostation, chloroform. The difference is that the discovery which at once takes life in Europe and becomes a prodigy and a wonder, in China remains a chrysalis and is preserved in a deathlike state. China is a museum of embryos.

As we are in China, let us linger a moment to note another peculiarity. In China, from time immemorial, they have displayed a marvellous refinement in industry and art. It is the art of moulding a living man. They take a child two or three years old, put him in a more or less grotesque porcelain vase, which is made without top or bottom to allow egress for the head and feet. During the day the vase is set upright, and at night is laid down to allow the child to sleep. Thus the child thickens without growing taller, filling up with his compressed flesh and distorted bones the depressions in the vase. This development in a bottle continues many years. After a certain time it becomes irreparable. When they consider that this is accomplished, and the monster made, they break the vase. The child comes out,—and, behold, there is a man in the shape of a mug!

This is convenient; by ordering your dwarf betimes, you are able to have him of any shape you wish.