The camp immediately was thrown into confusion for Da-Ming, the cook, and the burden-bearers were jabbering excitedly at the top of their voices. The servants began to pack the loads at once and meanwhile we ate a roast chicken faster than good table manners would permit—in fact, we took it in our fingers. We were both delighted at the prospect of some excitement and talked almost as fast as the Chinese.
In just one hour from the time Harry’s letter had been received, we were on the way to Yen-ping. It was the hottest part of the day, and we were dripping with perspiration when we left the cool darkness of the ravine and struck across the open valley, which lay shimmering in a furnace-like heat. At the first rest house on the top of the long hill we waited nearly an hour for our bearers who were struggling under the heavy loads.
Three miles farther on a poor woman tottered past us on her peglike feet leaning on the arm of a man. A short distance more and we came to the second rest house. We had been there but a few moments when three panting women, steadying themselves with long staves and barely able to walk on feet not more than four inches long, came up the hill. With them were several men bearing household goods in large bundles and huge red boxes.
The exhausted women sank upon the benches and fanned themselves while the perspiration ran down their flushed faces. They looked so utterly miserable that we told the cook to give them a piece of cake which Mrs. Caldwell had sent us the day before. Their gratitude was pitiful, but, of course, they gave the larger share to the men.
It was not long before other women and children appeared on the hill path, all struggling upward under heavy loads, or tottering along on tightly bound feet. Probably these women had not walked so far in their entire lives, but the fear of the Northern soldiers and what would happen in the city if they took possession had driven them from their homes.
Farther on we had a clear view across the valley where a long line of people was filing up to a temple which nestled into the hillside. Half a mile beyond were two other temples both crowded with refugees and their goods. Hundreds of families were seeking shelter in every little house beside the road and were overflowing into the cowsheds and pigpens.
At six o’clock we stood on the summit of the hill overlooking the city and half an hour later were clambering up the ladder over the high wall of the compound, just behind Dr. Trimble’s house. We were wet through and while cooling off heard the story of the morning’s fighting. It seemed that a certain element in the city was in cooeperation with the representatives of the revolutionary organization. These men wished to obtain possession of Yen-ping and, after the rebellion was well started, to gather forces, march to Foochow, and force the Governor to declare the independence of the province.