From Kweifu to Wan Hsien there was the same kind of scenery—the clear river winding among sand-flats and gravel-banks, with occasional stiff rapids. But after having been in a wu-pan for several days, suffering that which has been detailed, and much besides, the journey got a bit dreary. These, however, are ordinary circumstances; but when one has been laid up on a bench of a bed for three days with a high temperature, a legacy of several years in the humid tropics, the physical discomfort baffles description. Malaria, as all sufferers know, has a tendency to cause trouble as soon as one gets into cold weather, and in my case, as will be seen in subsequent parts of this book, it held faithfully to its best traditions. Fever on the Yangtze in a wu-pan would require a chapter to itself, not to mention the kindly eccentricities of a companion whose knowledge of malaria was most elementary and whose knowledge of nursing absolutely nil. But I refrain. As also do I of further talk about the Yangtze gorges and the rapids.
From Kweifu to Wan Hsien is a tedious journey. The country opens out, and is more or less monotonously flat. The majority of the dangers and difficulties, however, are over, and one is able to settle down in comparative peace. Fortunately for the author, nothing untoward happened, but travelers are warned not to be too sanguine. Wrecks have happened within a few miles of the destination, generally to be accounted for by the unhappy knack the Chinese boatman has of taking all precautions where the dangerous rapids exist, and leaving all to chance elsewhere. Some two years later, as I was coming down the river from Chung-king in December, I counted no less than nine wrecks, one boat having on board a cargo for the China Inland Mission authorities of no less than 480 boxes. The contents were spread out on the banks to dry, while the boat was turned upside down and repaired on the spot.
* * * * *
A hopeless cry is continually ascending in Hong-Kong and Shanghai that trade is bad, that the palmy days are gone, and that one might as well leave business to take care of itself.
And it is not to be denied that increased trade in the Far East does not of necessity mean increased profits. Competition has rendered buying and selling, if they are to show increased dividends, a much harder task than some of the older merchants had when they built up their businesses twenty or thirty years ago. There is no comparison. But Hong-Kong, by virtue of her remarkably favorable position geographically, should always be able to hold her own; and now that the railway has pierced the great province of Yuen-nan, and brought the provinces beyond the navigable Yangtze nearer to the outside world, she should be able to reap a big harvest in Western China, if merchants will move at the right time. More often than not the Britisher loses his trade, not on account of the alleged reason that business is not to be done, but because, content with his club life, and with playing games when he should be doing business, he allows the German to rush past him, and this man, an alien in the colony, by persistent plodding and other more or less commendable traits of business which I should like to detail, but for which I have no space, takes away the trade while the Britisher looks on.