Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Across China on Foot.

Next morning my three men were heavy.  The lean fellow—­I have christened him Shanks, a long, shambling human bag of bones—­moved about painfully in a listless sort of way, betokening severe rheumatics; his joints needed oil.  Four or five huge basins of steaming rice and the customary amount of reboiled cabbage, however, bucked him up a bit, and holding up a crooked, bony finger, he indicated intelligently that we had one hundred li to cover.  Whilst engaged in conversation thus, sounds of early morning revelry reached me from below.  My boy, his accustomed serenity now quite disturbed, held threateningly above the head of the yamen runner (who had given me a profound kotow the evening previous prior to taking on his duties) a length of three-inch sugar cane; he evidently meant to flatten him out.  This I learned was because this shadower of the august presence wished to take Yang-lin (about 60 li away) instead of going to Ch’ang-p’o (100 li) as I intended.  I got him in, looked him as squarely in the face as it is possible when a Chinese wants to evade your scrutiny, told him I wished to go to Ch’ang-p’o, and that I hoped I should have the pleasure of his company thus far.  He replied with a grinning smile, which one could easily have taken for a smiling grin—­

“Oh, yes, foreign mandarin, Ch’ang-p’o—­100 li—­foreign mandarin, foreign mandarin.”

And I thought the incident closed.  Such is the appalling gullibility of the Englishman in China.

We stopped for tea at a small hamlet ten li out.  The place was deserted save for a small starving boy, whose chief attention was given to laborious endeavors to make his clothing meet in certain necessary areas.  He evidently had never seen a foreigner.  As he directed his optics towards me he winced visibly.  He walked round me several times, fell over a grimy pail of soap-suds, stopped, gazed in enraptured enchantment with parted lips and outstretched arms as if he had begun to suspect what it was before him.  To the eye of the beholder, however, he gazed as yet only on vacancy, but just as I was about to attempt self-explanation he was gone, tearing away down the hill as fast as his legs could carry him, the ragged remains of his father’s trousers flapping gently in the breeze.  As I rose to leave crackers frightened my pony, followed, in a few moments by a howling, hooting, unreasonable rabble from a temple near by.  I found it was the result of a village squabble.  I could scarce keep the order of my march as I left the tea-shop, so roughly was I handled by the irritated and impatient crowd, and had much ado to refrain from responding wrathfully to the repeated jeers of impudent, half-grown beggars of both sexes who helped to swell the riotous cortege.  But through it all none of the insults were meant for me, so Lao Chang told me, and they did not mean to treat me with discourtesy.

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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