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These tiny specimens of mankind are sufficiently interesting in themselves, but exhibitors can never be content without injuring by exaggeration the real value of their natural curiosities. I scarcely know whether indignation or amusement predominated, when I went to the Dime Museum in which the Earthmen were being exhibited. At the entrance was a very fair model of the empty white-ant hill, which serves as their usual habitation. Near it were two objects. One bore a label stating that it was the mantle by which the Earthmen disguise themselves when hunting the lion, while the other was described as one of their weapons. Now the "mantle" was a "tappa," or bark-cloth robe, made in the South Sea Islands, and the "weapon" was part of a whale's rib.
Another example of an abnormal race was Krao, the little Burmese hairy girl, who was most absurdly advertised as the "Missing Link" between man and monkey.
As to the sensational accounts, and still more sensational lithographs and posters, which purport to describe her capture, parentage, and the habits of her kinsfolk, the reader is at liberty to believe as much as he likes. Still, Krao is interesting as a member of one of the hairy races that are found in several parts of the globe, especially in Asia; but there is nothing about her or them which shows any relationship to the monkey tribe. The only monkey-like characteristic which can be seized upon is that the hair of the fore-arm points upwards, and that of the upper-arm downwards.
Next may be taken examples of abnormal individuals, without any question of race. Of fat boys and women, living skeletons and bearded ladies, there is always a stock on hand. As to the last, they are generally liable to suspicion, as small-featured and heavily-bearded men have deceived the public by allowing their hair to grow, and making themselves up as women. But genuine specimens are not uncommon, and there was no doubt as to the individual whom I saw. I afterwards ascertained that she had been married for several years. Such ladies, unlike Rosalind and Celia, might very well swear by their beards, and be forsworn.
Next in order come those unfortunate individuals who have either been born without limbs, or have been accidentally bereft of them, and yet contrive to perform many tasks which are considered as the special province of the hands.
There are armless men and women who can write and even draw fairly with the pen or pencil held in the mouth, while others can do the same with the toes. I do not look upon these persons as merely sights to amuse the curious, but as persons to be honored for their victory over untoward circumstances, which would have crushed those of less courage and perseverance.
At the Dime Museum to which our azure and silver giant belonged I saw a very remarkable young woman of twenty-two, or thereabouts. She had arms, but they were quite useless, and her hands were shriveled and turned inwards. So she had trained her feet and toes to do almost everything which can be accomplished by hands and fingers, and I only wish that I could write as well with my fingers as she did with her toes. I happened to be in the place during an intermission in the performances, and had an opportunity of watching her without appearing to do so.
Seated on a chair, she picked up a closed desk, opened it, and took out some writing-paper. Then she took a portable inkstand out of its compartment, held it with the toes of the left foot, and with those of the right unscrewed the top as rapidly as I could do with my fingers. Then, with the left foot, she took up a pen and placed it between the first and second toes of the right foot. She then tried the nib, dipped the pen in the ink, and began to write a letter. Not only could she write, but she could play the piano, with her feet! Toes cannot, of course, be made as long as fingers, however carefully they may be trained, and therefore their span of the keys is necessarily small. But Miss Sturgeon -- for such is her name -- played several airs, Silver Bells among them, with much taste.
While looking at this performance, I felt quite humiliated. Why have I allowed my toes to degenerate into mere vulgar instruments of locomotion, when they are capable of so much more? Their development as fingers does not preclude their ordinary use, for I met Miss Sturgeon on her way to the Dime Museum, and she walked like any other young woman.
I am told that she is thoroughly well educated, is a graduate of one of the ladies' colleges, and receives pupils. But she can earn so much more by exhibiting her powers in public than by teaching that for the present she has chosen the former mode of living. To such persons the Dime Museum is a positive Providence.
Sometimes, instead of being mulcted of limbs, the abnormal individual is gifted with one limb, or more, in excess of the usual number. For example, a "Three-Legged Man" was exhibited during my stay in Boston, and was pictorially represented as possessing three symmetrical legs in a row, all the three being fashionably attired. Suspecting what the third leg might be, I went to see the man. As I had anticipated, he had a third leg, but it was useless, shriveled, and so small that it could be easily concealed. Physiologically considered, it is an interesting fact, but by no means an uncommon one, and I possess a work in which several similar cases are figured.