After some time he cleared out with much empty swagger, and I followed leisurely on behind, feeling—yes, why not publish it?—pleased that this bolt from the blue had not been a lady.
This young fellow—a mere slip of a boy—wore every indication of perfect self-confidence, borne out in a multitude of ways common to his class. He, I presumed, was one of the fledglings who undertake responsibilities far beyond them, or I should not be surprised if he had been one of the army of young men who, having the merest smattering of English, wholly unable to converse, set up as teachers of English. I have found this quite common among the rising classes in Yuen-nan. The cool assumption of unblushing superiority evinced in discussing intellectual and philosophic problems is remarkable. The Chinese, in the area I speak of, are little people with little brain: this was a specimen. Yet, to be fair, in China to-day the work of reform is mainly the work of young men, who although but only partly equipped for their work, approach it with perfect confidence and considerable energy, not knowing sufficient to realize the difficulties they are undertaking. In Japan the same thing was done. The young men there undertook to dispute and doubt everything which came in the way of national reorganization, setting aside—as China must do if she is to take her place alongside the ideal she has set up for herself, Japan—parental teaching, ancestral authority, the customs of centuries. A large proportion of the population of China has a passion for reform and progress. This young fellow was a typical example. In the west of China, however, to conform with the spirit of reform and real progress—not the make-believe, which is satisfying them at the present moment—they must needs change their ways.
Seventeen memorial plates were passed at the entrance to Chao-chow, a particularly modern-looking place, as one approaches it from the hill.
A remarkably ungainly individual, with a hole in the top of his skull and his body one mass of sores, came to me here, addressed me as “Sien seng,” and then commenced an oration to the effect that he was a Szech’wanese, that he had known the missionaries down by the Yangtze, and that he knew he would be welcome to accompany me to Hsiakwan.[AT] He switched himself on the main line of my caravan. Here was a man who had been brought in contact with the missionary away down in another province, and he knew he was welcome. I liked that. In all my journeyings in Yuen-nan I was increasingly impressed with the value of the missionary, that man who of all men in the Far East is the most subject to malicious criticism, and generally, be it said, from those persons who know little or nothing about his work. You cannot measure the missionary’s work by conversions, by mere statistics. I venture to assert that it is through the missionary that the West applied pressure and supplied China with political ideas,