Trees hollowed out and spanned from field to field served as gutters for irrigation; shepherds clad in white felt blankets sat huddled upon the ground behind huge boulders, oblivious of time and of the boisterous wind, while their sheep and goats grubbed away on the scanty grass the moorland provided; high up we saw forest fires, making the earth black and desolate; ruins almost everywhere recalled to one’s mind the image of a past prosperity, which now were replaced by traces of misery, exterior influences which seemed to breed upon the traveler a deep discouragement. I came across some women mock-weeping for the dead: at their elbow two girls were washing clothes, and when little children, catching sight of me, ran to their mothers, the women stopped their hulla-baloo, had a good stare at me, exchanged a few words of mutual inquiry, and then resumed their bellowing.
Soon it became quite warm, and walking was pleasant. I was startled by the fu-song,[AB] who invited me to go to a neighboring town for tea. My men were far behind. I was at his mercy, so I went. Soon I found myself passing through the city gates of Yang-lin, the very town I was trying to keep away from. The yamen fellow turned back at me and chuckled rudely to himself. I insisted that I did not wish to take tea; he insisted that I should—I must. He led me to an inn in the main street, arrangements were made to house me, old men and young lads gathered to welcome me as a lost brother, and the fu-song told me graciously that he was going to the magistrate. In cruel English, with many wildly threatening gestures, did I protest, and the people laughed acquiescingly.
“Puh tong, puh tong, you gaping idiots!” I repeated, and it caused more glee.
Swinging myself past them all, I dragged my stubborn pony through the mob to the gate by which I had entered. My men were not to be found. I did not know the road nor much of the language. I sat down on a granite pillar to undergo an embarrassing half-hour. Presently my men hailed me, and approaching, swore with imposing loftiness at the discomfited guide. My bull-dog coolie dropped his loads, the fu-song somehow lost his footing, I yelled “Ts’eo” ("Go"), and with a cheer the caravan proceeded.
The following day we were at the capital.
[Footnote Z: I took a pony because I had made up my mind to return into China after I had reached Burma. In Tong-ch’uan-fu a good pony can be bought for, say, L3—in Burma, the same pony would sell for L10.
[Footnote AA: For further excellent descriptions of the Chinese nature I refer the reader to Chester Holcombe’s China: Past and Present.—E.J.D.]
[Footnote AB: i.e. Yamen escort.]
YUeN-NAN-FU, THE CAPITAL.