Upon arrival I immediately washed my feet, an excellent practice of the Chinese, changed my footgear, drank many cups of tea, and often went straight to my p’ukai. The roads of China take it out of the strongest man. There are no Marathon runners here; progress is a tedious toil, often on all fours.
My room at Hwan-lien-p’u was near a telegraph pole; there was a telegraph station there, where my men showed their admiration for the Governmental organization by at once hammering nails into the pole. It was close to their laundry, and served admirably for the clothes-line, a bamboo tied at one end with a string to a nail in the pole and the other end stuck through the paper in the window of the telegraph operator’s apartment. But this is nothing. Years ago, when the telegraph was first laid down, the people took turns to displace the wires and sell them for their trouble, and to chop the poles up for firewood. It continued for a considerable period, until an offender—or one whom it was surmised had done this or would have done it if he could—had his ears cut off, and was led over the main road to the capital, to be admired by any compatriot contemplating a deal in wiring or timber used for telegraphic communication purposes.
Just below the town the river ran peacefully down a gradual incline. I decided that a comfortable seat under a tree, spending an hour in preparing this copy, would be more pleasant than moping about a noisome and stench-ridden inn, providing precious little in the way of entertainment for the foreigner. Next door a wedding party was making the afternoon hideous with their gongs and drums and crackers, and everywhere the usual hue and cry went abroad because a European was spending the day there.
I imparted to my man my intentions for the afternoon. Immediately preparations were set on foot to get me down by the river, and it was publicly announced to the townspeople. The news ran throughout the town, that is Hwan-lien-p’u’s one little narrow street, a sad mixture of a military trench and a West of England cobbled court. And instead of going alone to my shady nook by that silvery stream, 1 was accompanied by nine adult members of the unemployed band, three boys, and sundry stark-naked urchins who seemed to be without home or habitation. One of these specimens of fleeting friendship was one-eyed, and a diseased hip rendered it difficult for him to keep pace with us; one was club-footed, one hair-lipped fellow had only half a nose, and they were nearly all goitrous. As I write now these people, curious but not uncouth, are crouched around me on their haunches, after the fashion of the ape, their more Darwinian-evolved companion and his shorthand notes being admired by an open-mouthed crowd. Down below my horse is entertaining the more hilarious of the party in his tantrums with the man who is trying to wash him—