That I impress the crowd everywhere is evident. But with all their questioning, they are rarely rude; their stare is simply the stare of little children seeing a thing for the first time in their lives. It is all so hard to understand. My silver and my gold they solicit not; they merely desire to see me and to feel me. A certain faction of the crowd, however, do solicit my silver.
Lao Chang has been buying vegetables, and has brought all the vegetable gardeners and greengrocers around me. The poultry rearers are here too, and the forage dealers and the grass cutters and the basket makers, and other thrifty members of the commercial order of Ch’u-tung humankind. When I came away the people dropped into line and strained their necks to get a parting smile. I was sped on my way with a public curiosity as if I were a penal servitor released from prison, a general home from a war, or something of that kind. And so this wonderful wonder of wonders was glad when he emerged from the labyrinthic, brain-confusing bewilderment of Chinese interior life of this town into somewhat clearer regions. I could not understand. And to the wisest man, wide as may be his vision, the Chinese mind and character remain of a depth as infinite as is its possibility of expansion. The volume of Chinese nature is one of which as yet but the alphabet is known to us.
My own men had got quite used to me, and their minds were directed more to working than to wondering. In China, as in other Asiatic countries, one’s companions soon accustom themselves to one’s little peculiarities of character, and what was miraculous to the crowd had by simple repetition ceased to be miraculous to them.
As I put away my notebook after writing the last sentence, I saw a mule slip, fall, roll for one hundred and fifty yards, losing its load on the down journey, and then walk up to the stream for a drink.[AZ]
We started for Shayung on February 2nd, 1910, going over a road literally uncared for, full of loose-jointed stones and sinking sand, down which ponies scrambled, while the Tibetans in charge covered themselves close in the uncured skins they wore. This was the first time I had ever seen Tibetans. They had huge ear-rings in their ears, and their antiquated topboots—much better, however, than the Yuen-nan topboot—gave them a peculiar appearance as they tramped downward in the frost.
Going up with us was a Chinese, on the back of a pony not more than eleven hands high, sitting as usual with his paraphernalia lashed to the back of the animal. He laughed at me because I was not riding, whilst I tried to solve the problem of that indefinable trait of Chinese nature which leads able-bodied men with sound feet to sit on these little brutes up those terrible mountain sides. Some parts of this spur were much steeper than the roof of a house—as perpendicular as can be imagined—but still this man held on all the way. And the Chinese