Like most of the small places which suffered from the ravishings of the Mohammedan destructions of the fifties, it has seen better days. Cottages hang clumsily together on ledges in the mountains, 7,400 feet above the sea, standing in their own vast uncultivated grounds. People are of the Lolo origin, but all speak Chinese; their ways of life, however, are aboriginal, and still far from the ideal to which they aspire. They are poor, poor as church mice, dirty and diseased and decrepit, and their existence as a consequence is dreary and dull and void of all enlightenment. The women—sad, lowly females—bind their feet after a fashion, but as they work in the fields, climb hills, and battle in negotiations against Nature where she is overcome only with extreme effort, the real “lily” is a thing possible with them only in their dreams. By binding, however, be it never so bad an imitation, they give themselves the greater chance of getting a Chinese husband.
I stayed here the Sunday, and as I went through my evening ablutions, among my admirers in the doorway was an old woman, who in gentlest confidences with my boy, explained awkwardly that her little daughter lay sick of a fever, and could he prevail upon his foreign master, in whom she placed implicit faith, to come with her and minister? Lao Chang advised that I should go, and I went. My shins got mutilated as I fell down the slippery stone steps in the dark into a pail of hog’s wash at the bottom. Having wiped the worst of the grease and slime onto the mud wall, by the aid of a flickering rushlight I saw the “child,” who lay on a mattress on the floor in the darkest corner of the room. I reckoned her age to be thirty-five, her black hair hung in tangled masses, the very bed on which she lay stank with vermin, two feet away was the fire where all the cooking was gone through, and everywhere around was filth. When she saw me the “child” raised her solitary garment, whispered that pains in her stomach were well-nigh unendurable, that her head ached, that her joints were stiff, that she was generally wrong, and—“Did I think she would recover?” I thought she might not.
Rushing back to my medicine chest, I brought along and administered a maximum dose of the oil called castor, and later dosed her with quinine. In the morning she was out and about her work, while the old mother was great in her praises for the passing European who had cured her child. After that came the deluge! They wanted more medicine—fever elixir, toothache cure, and so on, and so on—but I stood firm.
The tedium of the Sunday in that draughty inn gave me an insight into their common lives which I had not before, causing me to meditate upon their simple lives and their simple needs. They did not raise the forests in order to get gold; they did not squander their patrimony in youth, destroying in a day the fruit of long years. They held to simple needs; they had a simplicity of taste, which was also a peculiar