Later, the fellows pressed us to spend a good deal of time in the small, dingy, ill-lighted apartment they are pleased to call their club; and the skipper had to recommission his boat, get in provisions for the voyage, engage his crew, pay off debts, and attend to a thousand and one minute details—all to be done after the contract to carry the madcap passengers had been signed and sealed, added to the more practical triviality of three-fourths of the charge being paid down. And then our captain, to add to the dilemma, vociferously yelled to us, in some unknown jargon which got on our nerves terribly, that he was waiting for a “lucky” day to raise anchor.
However, we did, as the reader will be able to imagine, eventually get away, amid the firing of countless deafening crackers, after having watched the sacrifice of a cock to the God of the River, with the invocation that we might be kept in safety. Poling and rowing through a maze of junks, our little floating caravan, with the two magnates on board, and their picul of rice, their curry and their sugar, and slenderest outfits, bowled along under plain sail, the fore-deck packed with a motley team of somewhat dirty and ill-fed trackers, who whistled and halloed the peculiar hallo of the Upper Yangtze for more wind.
The little township of Ichang was soon left astern, and we entered speedily to all intents and purposes into a new world, a world untrammelled by conventionalism and the spirit of the West.
[Footnote A: This was written at the time I was in Hankow. When I revised my copy, after I had spent a year and a half rubbing along with the natives in the interior, I could not suppress a smile at my impressions of a great city like Hankow. Since then I have seen more native life, and—more native dirt!—E.J.D.]
[Footnote B: The Kinsha was the first British gunboat on the Upper Yangtze.]
ICHANG TO CHUNG-KING, THROUGH THE YANGTZE GORGES
Gloom in Ichang Gorge. Lightning’s effect. Travellers’ fear. Impressive introduction to the Gorges. Boat gets into Yangtze fashion. Storm and its weird effects. Wu-pan: what it is. Heavenly electricity and its vagaries. Beautiful evening scene, despite heavy rain. Bedding soaked. Sleep in a Burberry. Gorges and Niagara Falls compared. Bad descriptions of Yangtze. World of eternity. Man’s significant insignificance. Life on board briefly described. Philosophy of travel. Houseboat life not luxurious. Lose our only wash-basin. Remarks on the “boy.” A change in the kitchen: questionable soup. Fairly low temperature. Troubles in the larder. General arrangements on board. Crew’s sleeping-place. Sacking makes a curtain. Journalistic labors not easy. Rats preponderate. Gorges described statistically.