They addressed me, but I cared not what they said. I pretended I could not speak Chinese, watched the quartet form a circle, and talk slowly and low, and it did not need the mind of a prophet to see that they were discussing how best they could capture me. Were they going to kill me? My boy and the other friends I had in the place were sleeping blissfully, ignorant that their master was in such trying straits. I was asked my name, and the inquirers, not over civil, were told. They again asked me for something, I knew not what, probably for my passport. I had none, and cursed my luck that I had forgotten to pack it when I had left Tong-ch’uan-fu.
To me it was quite evident that they were deciding my destiny, or so it seemed in the stillness of the night. Looking upwards, I wondered whether I was soon to learn the secret of the stars and sky, and those men seemed to watch the secret workings of my soul. Outside the wind made moan continuously.
Suddenly my door opened noisily, a light was flashed upon us, and I saw the bulky form of the landlord. Then all was well. Soon one of my men appeared, and explained that the soldiers were on their way to meet an official who was coming from Tali-fu, that their instructions were that they would meet him at Hungay. They took me for the “gwan.”
So my end was not yet. But now, months afterwards, when I stand and listen to the wind at midnight, there seems borne to me in every sob and wail a memory of that hateful night and the four soldiers with their guns.
It seemed not long afterwards that I was awakened by noises on the doorstep. Looking out, I found a bullock, its four feet tied together with a straw rope, writhing in its last agonies; the butcher, in his hand a cruel 24-inch bladed knife still red with blood, smiling the smile of ironic torture as he looked down upon his struggling victim. He straightway skinned the animal and cut up the carcass immediately in front of my door, where Lao Chang waited to get the best cut for my dinner. My three fellow-lodgers squatted alongside, going through their apologetic ablutions as if naught were happening. Their dirty face-rags were wrung and rewrung; they got to work with that universal tooth-brush (the forefinger!), and that the dead body of a bullock was being dissected two feet from the table at which they ate their steaming rice was a detail of not the slightest consequence in the world.
Hungay is an old-time capital of one of the original kingdoms, destroyed in the year A.D. 749. The road leading out towards Chao-chow was built some considerable time before that year, and has never been subject to any repairs whatever (for this fact I have drawn upon my imagination, but should be very much surprised to know that I am far out in my reckoning). Villagers have appropriated the public slabs and small boulders which comprised the wretched thoroughfare; reminiscent puddles tell you the tale, and the badness