Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
and presumably a great fortune; but none of this offended me—­it was his contempt which hurt.  He seemed to splash me with mud as he passed, and was altogether badly disposed.  In his every act he heaped humiliation upon me, and insulted me silently and gratuitously with unbearable disdain.  Luckily, be it said to the credit of the Chinese Government, one does not often meet officials of this kind; such an atmosphere would nurture the worst feeling.  It is, of course, possible that had I been traveling with many men and in a style necessary for representatives of foreign Governments, this hog might have been more polite; but the fact that I had little with me, and made a poor sort of a show, allowed him to come out in his true colors and display his unveneered feeling towards the foreigner.  That he had no knowledge of the man crossing China on foot was evident.  He was great and rich—­that was the sentiment he breathed out to everyone—­and the foreigner was humble.  There is no wrong in enjoying a large superfluity, but it was not indispensable to have displayed it, to have wounded the eyes of him who lacked it, to have flaunted his magnificence at the door of my commonplace.

Had I been able to speak, I should have pointed out to this fellow that to know how to be rich is an art difficult to master, and that he had not mastered it; that as an official his first duty in exercising power was to learn that of humility; and that it is the irritating authority of such very lofty and imperious beings as himself, who say, “I am the law,” that provokes insurrection.  However, I was dumb, and could only return his contemptuous glance now and again.

To him I could have said, as I would here say also to every foreigner in the employ of the Chinese Government, “The only true distinction is superior worth.”  If foreigners in China are to have social and official rank respected, they must begin to be worthy of their rank, otherwise they help to bring it into hatred and contempt.  It is a pity some native officials have to learn the same lesson.

In several years of residence in the Far East I have noticed respect for the foreigner unhappily diminishing.  The root of the evil is in the mistaken idea that high station exempts him who holds it from observing the common obligations of life.  It comes about—­so often have I seen it in the Straits Settlements and in various parts of India—­that those who demand the most homage make the least effort to merit that homage they demand.  That is chiefly why respect for the foreigner in the Orient is diminishing, and I have no hesitancy in asserting that the average European in the East and Far East does not treat the Oriental with respect.  He considers that the Chinese, the Malay, the Burman, the Indian is there to do the donkey work only.  The newcomer generally discovers in himself an astounding personal omnipotence, and even before he can talk the language is so obsessed with it that as he grows older, his sense of it broadens

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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