Across China on Foot eBook

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

This morning, from the foot of a high spur, I saw a couple of gawky fellows shambling along in an imitation European dress, and I pricked up my ears—­it seemed as if Europeans were about.  One of the fellows had on a pair of long-legged khaki trousers ludicrously patched with Chinese blue, a tweed coat of London cut also patched with Chinese blue, and a battered Elswood topee.  I saw this through my field-glasses.  Soon after, coming out from a cup in the winding pathway, emerged a four-man chair, and I had no doubt then that it was a European on the road, and I began to get as curious as anyone naturally would in a country where in interior travel his own foreign kind are met with but seldom.  Hurrying on, I managed to pass the chair in a place where overhanging foliage shut out the light, so that I could not see through the windows, and as the front curtain was down I concluded that it must be a lady, probably a missionary lady.  I pushed on to the nearest tavern—­a tea tavern, of course—­buttoned up my coat so that she should not see my dirty shirt, and waited for the presence to approach.  From an inner apartment, through a window, I could see all that went on outside, but could not be seen.  What is it that makes a man’s heart go pit-a-pat when he is about to meet a European lady in mid-China?

Presently the chair approached.  From it came a person covered in a huge fur-lined, fur-collared coat many sizes too large for his small body—­it was a Chinese.  Several men were pushed out of his way as he strode towards me, extending his hand in a cordial “shake, old fellow” style, and yelling in purest accent, “Good morning, sir; good morning, sir!”

“Oh, good morning.  You speak English well.  I congratulate you.  Have you had a good journey?  How far are you going?  Very warm?” I waited.  “It is so interesting when one meets a gentleman who can speak English; it is a pleasant change.”  I waited again.  “Will you—­”

“Good morning, morning, morn—­he, he, he.”

“But pardon me, will—­”

“Morning, morning—­he, h-e-e.”

“Yes, you silly ass, I know it is morning, but—­”

“Yes, yes; morning, morning—­he-e-e-e-e.”

He then made for the door, not the least abashed.  Later he came back, and invited me to speak Chinese, probably thinking that I was wondering why he had made such an absolute fool of himself.  I learned that this august gentleman possessed a name in happy correspondence with a fowl ("Chi").  He pointed contemptuously to a member of that feather tribe as he told me.  Whether he could speak Chinese when he was or was not at Chen-tu, or whether he had a son whose knowledge of my language was vast, and who was at that moment at Chen-tu, I could not quite fathom, and he could not explain.  He had a look at my caravan generally, and then turned his scrutiny upon my common tweeds, informing me that the quality bore no comparison with his own.  He could travel in a four-man chair; I had to walk.  It was all very “pub hao.”

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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