Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 330 pages of information about Across China on Foot.

I had great difficulty in getting a place to stay.  People allowed me to career about in search of a room, treating me with courteous indifference, but none offered to house me.  At last the headman of the village appeared, and with many kindly expressions of unintelligibility led me to his house.  A crowd had gathered in the street, and several women were taking from the front room the general stock-in-trade of the village ironmonger.  Scores of huge iron cooking pans were being passed through the window, tables were pushed noisily through the doorway, primitive cooking appliances were being hurled about in the air, bamboo baskets came out by the dozen, and there was much else.  Bags of paddy, old chairs (the low stool of the Shan, with a thirty-inch back), drawers of copper cash, brooms, a few old spears, pots of pork fat, barrels of wine (the same as I had blistered the foot of a pony with), two or three old p’u-kai, worn-out clothes, disused ladies’ shoes, babies’ gear, and last of all the man himself appeared.  Men and women set to to clean up, an old woman clasped me to her bosom, and I was bidden to enter.  New Year festivities were for the nonce neglected for the novel delight of gazing upon the inner domesticity of this traveling wonder, into his very holy of holies.  I received nine invitations to dinner.  I dined with mine host and his six sons.

Through the heavy evening murk a dull clangor stirred the air—­the tolling of shrill bells and the beating of dull gongs, and all the hideous paraphernalia of Eastern celebrations.  The populace—­Shan almost to a man—­were bent on seeing me, a task rendered difficult by the gathering darkness of night.  Soldiers guarded the way, and there were several broken heads.  They came, stared and wondered, and then passed away for others to come in shoals, laughingly, and seeming no longer to harbor the hostile feelings apparent as I entered the town.

My shaving magnifier amused them wonderfully.

There was an outcry as I entered the room after we had dined, followed by a scream of women in almost hysterical laughter.  When they caught sight of me, however, a brief pause ensued, and the solemn hush, that even in a callous crowd invariably attends the actual presence of a long-awaited personage, reigned unbroken for a while; then one spoke, then another ventured to address me, and the spell of silence gave way to noise and general excitability, and the people began speedily to close upon me, anxious to get a glimpse of such a peculiar white man.  Later on, when the shutters were up and the public thus kept off, the family foregathered unasked into my room, bringing with them their own tea and nuts, and laying themselves out to be entertained.  My whole gear, now reduced to most meager proportions, was scrutinized by all.  There were four men and five women, the usual offshoots, and the aged couple who held proprietary rights over the place.  They sat on my bed, on my boxes; one of the children sat on my knee, and the

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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