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Catechism of Familiar Things; Their History, and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery, A

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_XIII" id="CHAPTER_XIII"></SPAN>CHAPTER XIII.</h2> <h3><span class="smcap">Soap, Candles, Tallow Tree, Spermaceti, Wax, Mahogany, Indian Rubber or Caoutchouc, Sponge, Coral, Lime, Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Gas, Hydrogen, Chalk, and Marble.</span></h3> <p><b>Of what is Soap composed?</b></p> <p>Of soda or potash, and various oily substances; it is so useful for domestic and other purposes, that it may be regarded as one of the necessaries of life; immense quantities of it are consumed in all civilized countries. Soft soap is generally made of a lye of wood-ashes and quicklime, boiled up with tallow or oil; common household soap of soda and tallow, or of potash and tallow; when potash is used, a large portion of common salt, which contains soda, is added to harden it. The finest white soaps are made of olive oil and a lye consisting of soda and quicklime; perfumes are sometimes added, or various coloring matters stirred in to give the soap a variegated appearance. The ancient Greeks and Hebrews appear to have been acquainted with the art of making soap, or a composition very similar to it; and also the ancient Gauls and Germans. A soap-boiler's shop, with soap in it, was found in the city of Pompeii, in Italy, which was overwhelmed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, A.D. 79.</p> <p><b>What is Soda?</b></p> <p>Soda, or barilla, is obtained from the ashes of marine plants, and by the decomposition of common salt; its great depository is the ocean, soda being the basis of salt. The marine plants from which the soda is obtained, are endowed with the property of decomposing the sea-salt which they imbibe, and of absorbing the soda which it contains. It is found native in Egypt, and is there called <i>natron</i>; a name similar to that which it bore among the Jews and Greeks.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_106" id="Page_106"></SPAN>[106]</span></p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Depository</i>, store-house, place where anything is lodged.</p> <p><i>Imbibe</i>, to drink in, to absorb.</p></div> <p><b>Of what are Candles made?</b></p> <p>Of Tallow, which means animal fat melted and clarified, that is, cleansed or purified from filth. Tallow is procured from many animals, but the most esteemed, and the most used, is that made from oxen, sheep, swine, goats, deer, bears, &amp;c.; some of which tallows or fats are used in medicine, some in making soap, and dressing leather; others in the manufacture of candles, &amp;c. For the last-mentioned article, that of sheep and oxen is most used; candles of a better sort are likewise made of wax and spermaceti. Candles are kept burning by means of a wick of cotton or rush, placed in the centre of the tallow, which is moulded into a cylindrical form.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Cylindrical</i>, having the form of a cylinder.</p></div> <p><b>Is there not a tree which yields a vegetable Tallow?</b></p> <p>Yes; China possesses a tree producing a substance like our tallow, of which the Chinese make their candles; this tallow is extracted from the stone of the fruit, the tallow being a white pulp which surrounds it. In America, likewise, there is a shrub, a native of the temperate parts, especially towards the sea-side, the seeds of which contain a waxy substance used for the same purpose, and which is extracted by boiling; this shrub is a species of myrtle, and does not attain to any great size.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Extracted</i>, drawn from.</p></div> <p><b>What is Spermaceti?</b></p> <p>A whitish, flaky, unctuous substance, prepared from an oil of the same name, drawn from a particular kind of whale, distinguished from the common whale by having teeth, and a hunch on its back.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Flaky</i>, having the nature of flakes.</p></div> <p><b>What is Wax?</b></p> <p>A soft, yellow, concrete matter, collected from vegetables by <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_107" id="Page_107"></SPAN>[107]</span>the bee, of which this industrious and useful insect constructs its cell. Wax forms a considerable article of trade; it is of two kinds, the yellow and the white; the yellow is the native wax as it is taken from the hive, and the white is the same washed, purified, and exposed to the air.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Concrete</i>, grown together, solid.</p></div> <p><b>What Tree produces the beautiful and well-known wood so much used in making the various articles of household furniture?</b></p> <p>The Mahogany Tree, growing in America, and the East and West Indies; it frequently grows in the crevices of rocks, and other places of the same description. This wood was not used for making furniture till near the end of the seventeenth century. A London physician had a brother, the captain of a West India ship, who, on his return to England, having on board several logs of mahogany for the purpose of ballast, made him a present of the wood, he being engaged in a building project; his carpenter, however, threw it aside, observing that it was too hard to be wrought. Some time after, the lady of the physician being in want of a box to hold candles, the cabinet-maker was directed to make it of this wood; he also made the same objection, and declared that it spoiled his tools. Being urged, however, to make another trial, he at length succeeded; when the box was polished, the beautiful color of the wood was so novel, that it became an object of great curiosity. Before this time, mahogany had been used partially in the West Indies for ship-building, but this new discovery of its beauty soon brought it into general use for making furniture.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Crevice</i>, a rent, a crack.</p> <p><i>Ballast</i>, the heavy matter placed in the hold of a vessel to keep it steady.</p></div> <p><b>What is India Rubber or Caoutchouc?</b></p> <p>An elastic, resinous substance, produced from a tree, growing abundantly at Cayenne, Quito, and other parts of South America; and also in some parts of the Indies. The tree which <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_108" id="Page_108"></SPAN>[108]</span>produces it is large, straight, and about sixty feet high. There is, however, a small species found in Sumatra and Java, and some of the neighboring islands.</p> <p><b>How is the Caoutchouc obtained from the Tree?</b></p> <p>By making incisions in the trunk of the tree, from which the fluid resin issues in great abundance, appearing of a milky whiteness at first, but gradually becoming of a dark reddish color, soft and elastic to the touch.</p> <p><b>To what use is this substance put?</b></p> <p>The Indians make of it boots, shoes, bottles, flambeaux, and a species of cloth. Amongst us it is combined with sulphur, forming the vulcanized rubber of commerce, which is used for many purposes. A greater proportion of sulphur, produces vulcanite, a hard black substance, resembling jet.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Flambeaux</i>, torches burnt to give light.</p></div> <p><b>What is Sponge?</b></p> <p>A marine substance, found adhering to rocks and shells under the sea-water, or on the sides of rocks near the shore. Sponge was formerly imagined by some naturalists to be a vegetable production; by others, a mineral, or a collection of sea-mud, but it has since been discovered to be the fabric and habitation of a species of worm, or polypus.</p> <p><b>What do you mean by Polypus?</b></p> <p>A species of animals called Zoophytes, by which are meant beings having such an admixture of the characteristics of both plants and animals, as to render it difficult to decide to which division they properly belong. They are animal in substance, possessed indeed of a stomach, but without the other animal characteristics of blood-vessels, bones, or organs of sense; these creatures live chiefly in water, and are mostly incapable of motion: they increase by buds or excrescences from the parent zoophyte, and if cut off will grow again and multiply; each part becoming a perfect animal. Myriads of the different species of zoophytes reside in small cells of coral, sponge, &amp;c., or in forms <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_109" id="Page_109"></SPAN>[109]</span>like plants, and multiply in such numbers as to create rocks and whole islands in many seas, by their untiring industry. Polypus signifies having many feet, or roots; it is derived from the Greek.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Myriads</i>, countless numbers.</p></div> <p><b>Whence are the best and greatest number of Sponges brought?</b></p> <p>From the Mediterranean, especially from Nicaria, an island near the coast of Asia: the collection of sponges forms, in some of these islands, the principal support of their inhabitants. They are procured by diving under water, an exercise in which both men, women, and children are skilled from their earliest years. The fine, small sponges are esteemed the best, and usually come from Constantinople; the larger and coarser sorts are brought from Tunis and Algiers, on the coast of Africa. Sponge is very useful in the arts, as well as for domestic purposes.</p> <p><b>What is Coral?</b></p> <p>A substance which, like sponge, was considered as a vegetable production, until about the year 1720, when a French gentleman of Marseilles commenced (and continued for thirty years,) a series of observations, and ascertained that the coral was a living animal of the Polypus tribe. The general name of zoophytes, or plant animals, has since been applied to them. These animals are furnished with minute glands, secreting a milky juice; this juice, when exuded from the animal, becomes fixed and hard.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Series</i>, a course or continued succession.</p> <p><i>Glands</i>, vessels.</p> <p><i>Exuded</i>, from exude, to flow out.</p></div> <p><b>Is this substance considered by naturalists as the habitation of the Insect?</b></p> <p>Not merely as the habitation, but as a part of the animal itself, in the same manner that the shell of a snail or an oyster is of those animals, and without which they cannot long exist. <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_110" id="Page_110"></SPAN>[110]</span>By means of this juice or secretion, the coral insects, at a vast but unknown depth below the surface of the sea, attach themselves to the points and ridges of rocks, which form the bottom of the ocean; upon which foundation the little architects labor, building up, by the aid of the above-mentioned secretion, pile upon pile of their rocky habitations, until at length the work rises above the sea, and is continued to such a height as to leave it almost dry, when the insects leave building on that part, and begin afresh in another direction under the water. Huge masses of rocky substances are thus raised by this wonderful little insect, capable of resisting the tremendous power of the ocean when agitated to the highest pitch by winds or tempests.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Architect</i>, one who builds.</p></div> <p><b>How do these Coral Rocks become Islands?</b></p> <p>After the formation of this solid, rocky base, sea-shells, fragments of coral, and sea-sand, thrown up by each returning tide, are broken and mixed together by the action of the waves; these, in time, become a sort of stone, and thus raise the surface higher and higher; meanwhile, the ever-active surf continues to throw up the shells of marine animals and other substances, which fill up the crevices between the stones; the undisturbed sand on its surface offers to the seeds of trees and plants cast upon it by the waves, a soil upon which they rapidly grow and overshadow the dazzling whiteness of the new-formed land. Trunks of trees, washed into the sea by the rivers from other countries and islands, here find a resting-place, and with these come some small animals, chiefly of the lizard and insect tribe. Even before the trees form a wood, the sea-birds nestle among their branches, and the stray land-bird soon takes refuge in the bushes. At last, man arrives and builds his hut upon the fruitful soil formed by the corruption of the vegetation, and calls himself lord and master of this new creation.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Surf</i>, the white spray or froth of the sea waves.</p></div> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_111" id="Page_111"></SPAN>[111]</span></p> <p><b>Where is the Coral Insect found?</b></p> <p>In nearly all great seas; but particularly in the Mediterranean, where it produces Corallines of the most beautiful forms and colors: it is in the Pacific Ocean, however, where these tiny workmen are effecting those mighty changes, which exceed the most wonderful works of man.</p> <p><b>What is that part of the Pacific called, where the Coral Rocks are most abundant?</b></p> <p>The Coral Sea, from the number of coral reefs and sunken islands, with which it abounds; it includes a region of many miles in extent, the whole of which is studded with numberless reefs, rocks, islands, and columns of coral, continually joining and advancing towards each other. All navigators who have visited these seas, state that no charts or maps are of any service after a few years, owing to the number of fresh rocks and reefs which are continually rising to the surface. The wonderful instinct of these animals leads them to continue working without ceasing, until their labors are finished, or their lives extinct.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Reef</i>, a chain or line of rocks lying near the surface of the water.</p> <p><i>Extinct</i>, at an end, dead.</p></div> <p><b>What are the names of the principal islands of Coral formation?</b></p> <p>The New Hebrides, the Friendly Isles, the Navigator's Isles, the Society Islands, the Marquesas, the Gambier group, and others. These groups are separated from each other by channels or seas, wider than those which divide the individual islands which form the respective groups; but all these waters abound with shoals and minor islets, which point out the existence of a common base, and show that the work by which they will afterwards be united above the level of the sea is continually going forward.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Shoals</i>, shallows; places where the water is of little depth.</p> <p><i>Minor</i>, less, smaller than others.</p> <p><i>Existence</i>, being.</p></div> <p><b>What is a singular characteristic of the Coral Islands?</b></p> <p>On all of them a plentiful supply of sweet and fresh water <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_112" id="Page_112"></SPAN>[112]</span>may be obtained by digging three or four feet into the coral; and even within one yard of high-water mark such a supply is to be found. They are mostly covered with a deep rich soil, and well wooded with trees and evergreens of different kinds. These islands vary in extent, as well as in the degree of finish to which they have arrived; some of the largest being about 30 miles in diameter, and the smallest something less than a mile;&mdash;all of various shapes, and all formed of living coral.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Diameter</i>, a straight line through the middle of a circle.</p></div> <p><b>Is Coral put to any use by man?</b></p> <p>White Coral, which is nowhere so abundant as about the shores of Ceylon, and others of the neighboring Indian coasts, is employed as lime by the inhabitants of that part of the world, for building houses, &amp;c., by burning it after the manner of our lime. This coral lies in vast banks, which are uncovered at low water. Coral, particularly the beautiful red sort, is likewise made into various ornaments, as necklaces, &amp;c.</p> <p><b>Of what is our Lime composed?</b></p> <p>Of a useful earth, which absorbs moisture and carbonic acid, and exists as limestone, or in marble and chalk, which, when burnt, become lime: in its native state it is called carbonate of lime, and is burnt to disengage the carbonic acid; when made into a paste, with one part water and three parts lime,<SPAN name="FNanchor_13_13" id="FNanchor_13_13"></SPAN><SPAN href="#Footnote_13_13" class="fnanchor">[13]</SPAN> and mixed with some other mineral or metallic substances, it forms plastic cements and mortars; and afterwards, imbibing carbonic acid from the atmosphere, it becomes again carbonate of lime, as hard as at first; and hence its use in building.</p> <div class="footnotes"><p><SPAN name="Footnote_13_13" id="Footnote_13_13"></SPAN><SPAN href="#FNanchor_13_13"><span class="label">[13]</span></SPAN> See Chapter XVI., article <SPAN href="#LIME">Lime</SPAN>.</p> </div> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Plastic</i>, yielding, capable of being spread out or moulded.</p></div> <p><b>What do you mean by Carbon?</b></p> <p>A simple substance, whose most common form is purified charcoal: it is, in fact, the base of charcoal, divested of all impurities; combined with oxygen, it forms <i>carbonic acid</i> gas, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_113" id="Page_113"></SPAN>[113]</span>formerly called fixed air. It is diffused through all animal and vegetable bodies; and may be obtained by exposing them to a red heat. In its pure, crystallized state, it constitutes the diamond, and as graphite, is used in making the so-called lead-pencils.<SPAN name="FNanchor_14_14" id="FNanchor_14_14"></SPAN><SPAN href="#Footnote_14_14" class="fnanchor">[14]</SPAN></p> <div class="footnotes"><p><SPAN name="Footnote_14_14" id="Footnote_14_14"></SPAN><SPAN href="#FNanchor_14_14"><span class="label">[14]</span></SPAN> See Chapter XIV., article <SPAN href="#DIAMOND">Diamond.</SPAN></p> </div> <p><b><SPAN name="OXYGEN" id="OXYGEN"></SPAN>What is Oxygen?</b></p> <p>Air, mentioned in the first chapter of this work as the gaseous substance which composes the atmosphere, is formed by a mixture of two distinct elements, one called Nitrogen, or Azote, the other Oxygen. Oxygen is, therefore, an element or simple substance diffused generally through nature, and its different combinations are essential to animal life and combustion. It is, in fact, the most active agent in nature, and the principle of acidity and combustion. So wholesome and necessary is oxygen to life, that it is often called vital air.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Agent</i>, an actor; a person or thing possessing the faculty of action.</p> <p><i>Essential</i>, necessary.</p></div> <p><b>What are the properties of Nitrogen or Azote?</b></p> <p>Nitrogen is a substance also generally diffused through nature, and particularly in animal bodies, and causes great changes in those absorbing or exposed to it. This gas, combined with oxygen and hydrogen, produces neither light, heat, nor combustion, but serves to dilute the others: of itself, it is hurtful to animal life. Nitrogen makes the principal part of the salt we call <i>nitre</i>.</p> <p><b>What is meant by Combustion?</b></p> <p>The decomposition of bodies by the action of fire; the union of combustible bodies with the oxygen of the atmosphere. The greater access the air has to a burning body, the more rapid and complete is the process.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Combustible</i>, capable of taking fire.</p> <p><i>Access</i>, the means or liberty of approach to anything.</p></div> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_114" id="Page_114"></SPAN>[114]</span></p> <p><b>Are all bodies equally combustible?</b></p> <p>No; some are more so than others, and burn with a bright flame; as wood, dry vegetables, resins, oils, fats, &amp;c.; others with difficulty, and without any sensible flame, as soot, coal, the ashes of plants, &amp;c. There are bodies, also, which are incombustible&mdash;that is, incapable of taking fire, as some alkalies, earths, &amp;c.</p> <p><b>What is Caloric?</b></p> <p>Caloric is that invisible agent which produces the sensation of heat. It exists in all bodies; it is a force we are ever in want of, and thus it is hid in everything around us, and penetrates all matter, however different may be its nature or properties.</p> <p><b>What is meant by Gas?</b></p> <p>All highly elastic fluids are called gases. Some are salutary, but many extremely noxious, especially such as those arising from the putrefaction of animal bodies; the burning of charcoal; corrupted air at the bottom of mines, cellars, &amp;c. The inflammable gas, which lights our streets, churches, shops, &amp;c., is procured chiefly from coal, burnt in furnaces for the purpose the gas being passed through metal pipes, conveyed underground to the places where the light is required: escaping at the orifice prepared for it, it is lighted when wanted, and burns with, a brilliant flame. This gas consists of hydrogen and carbon; and the oxygen of the air, combined with the hydrogen, causes light as long as hydrogen and oxygen exist and combine.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Salutary</i>, wholesome, healthful.</p> <p><i>Noxious</i>, hurtful, unwholesome.</p> <p><i>Putrefaction</i>, decay.</p> <p><i>Orifice</i>, opening, hole.</p></div> <p class="center"><ANTIMG src="images/image_11.jpg" alt="DIAMOND CUTTING AND POLISHING." width="534" height="299" /><br /> <span class="caption">DIAMOND CUTTING AND POLISHING.</span></p> <p><b>What is Hydrogen?</b></p> <p>One of the most abundant principles in nature; one part of it, and eight of oxygen, form water. It is only met with in a <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_115" id="Page_115"></SPAN>[115]</span>gaseous form; it is also very inflammable, and is the gas called the fire-damp, so often fatal to miners; it is the chief constituent of oils, fats, spirits, &amp;c.; and is produced by the decomposition of water.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Constituent</i>, that which forms an essential part of anything.</p></div> <p><b>What is Chalk?</b></p> <p>A white fossil substance, by some reckoned a stone, but of a friable kind, which cannot, therefore, be polished as marble; by others, more properly ranked among the earths. It is of two sorts, one a hard dry chalk, used for making lime; the other a soft, unctuous kind, used in manuring land, &amp;c. Chalk always contains quantities of flint-stone, and the fossil remains of shells, coral, animal bones, marine plants, &amp;c.; from which circumstance there can be no doubt that <i>chalk is the deposited mud of a former ocean</i>. The chemical name of chalk is carbonate of lime. It effervesces strongly with an acid.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Effervesce</i>, to froth or foam up.</p> <p><i>Deposited</i>, placed on anything.</p></div> <p><b>Where is Chalk found?</b></p> <p>In large beds or strata in the earth. Chalk, on account of its abundance in England, forms an important feature in the scenery and geology of that country; it causes the whiteness of its sea-cliffs. Scotland and Wales are entirely without chalk. The white chalk is found, with interruptions, over a space above eleven hundred miles long, extending from the north of Ireland, through England, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Southern Russia, to the Crimea, with a breadth of more than eight hundred miles. The Island of Crete, now called Candia, situated in the Mediterranean, was formerly noted for its chalk. This substance is very useful in many of the arts and manufactures.</p> <p><b>Where is the Crimea?</b></p> <p>The peninsula of the Crimea is a part of Russia, lying on the Black Sea, by which it is bounded on the west and south.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_116" id="Page_116"></SPAN>[116]</span></p> <p><b>Are there any other kinds of this earth besides the common white chalk?</b></p> <p>Yes; there are various kinds of chalk, distinguished by their different colors, as white, black, red, &amp;c., found in various parts of the world, of great use to the painter, both in oil and water colors, and for drawing on paper, &amp;c.</p> <p><b>What is Marble?</b></p> <p>A kind of stone remarkable for its hardness and firm grain, and for being susceptible of the finest polish. It is dug in great masses from pits or quarries; and is much used in ornamental buildings, and for statues, altars, tombs, chimney-pieces, &amp;c. The word is derived from the French <i>marbre</i>, marble. Marble is supposed to be formed, deep within the bowels of the earth, from a loose and porous carbonate of lime, subjected to enormous heat and pressure.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Susceptible</i>, easily admitting anything additional.</p> <p><i>Porous</i>, full of holes, or interstices.</p></div> <p><b>Are there different sorts of this Stone?</b></p> <p>Marbles are of many different kinds, usually named either from their color or country; some of one simple color, as white, or black; others streaked or variegated with different colors. They are classified as ancient and modern: the ancient are those found in quarries now lost or inaccessible to us, and of which there are only some wrought pieces remaining;&mdash;the modern, those from quarries still open, and out of which blocks of marble continue to be taken.</p> <p><b>In what countries is Marble found?</b></p> <p>The United States, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Africa, Egypt, and many other countries, produce marbles of different colors and qualities; some more beautiful, valuable, and more highly esteemed than others, as those of Egypt, Italy, &amp;c. Those, also, of different places in the same country frequently differ from each other in quality and appearance Of the European marbles, that of Italy is the most valuable.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_117" id="Page_117"></SPAN>[117]</span></p> <p><b>What kind appears to have been held in the greatest esteem by the ancients?</b></p> <p>A beautiful white marble, called the Parian; of which the Grecian statues were mostly made. By some, it is supposed to have taken its name from the Isle of Paros, in the Mediterranean; but by others from Parius, a famous statuary, who made it celebrated by cutting in it a statue of Venus. Parian marble is often mentioned by ancient authors.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Statues</i>, figures of men, animals, &amp;c., cut in stone or marble.</p> <p><i>Statuary</i>, one who makes statues.</p></div> <p><b>Who was Venus?</b></p> <p>The goddess of love and beauty, who was an object of adoration in the idolatrous ages, when men ignorantly knelt down and worshipped stocks and stones, which their own hands had fashioned after the likeness of things on the earth, or imaginary creations of their fancy;&mdash;or, again, the sun, moon, and stars, instead of the one and only true God. In those times, every nation had its peculiar deities, to whom were paid divine rites and honors, and to whose names costly temples were dedicated: these deities were divided into two classes, superior and inferior. Venus was one of the Grecian goddesses, supposed by them to have sprung from the froth of the sea. Kings and celebrated warriors, and sages too, after death, frequently received divine honors; as Confucius, the founder of the Chinese empire, who, after death, was worshipped by that people as a god. Romulus, the first king of Rome, likewise, was thus adored by the Romans; and many similar instances of the same species of idolatry amongst other nations might be recorded.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Deities</i>, fabulous gods or goddesses.</p> <p><i>Idolatrous</i>, given to the worship of idols.</p> <p><i>Superior</i>, higher in rank.</p> <p><i>Inferior</i>, of a lower rank.</p> <p><i>Sage</i>, a wise man.</p></div><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_118" id="Page_118"></SPAN>[118]</span></p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h2>
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