And at last I melted. There was nothing else to do.
That no one ever walked to Sui-fu from this place the district potentate assured me in a private chit, which I could not read, when he laid his gunboat at my disposal.
This, he said, would take me up very quickly. In his second note, wherein he apologized that indisposition kept him from calling personally upon me—this, of course, was a lie—he said he would feel it an honor if I would be pleased to accept the use of his contemptible boat. But T’ong whispered that the law uses these terms in China, and that nobody would be more disappointed than the Chinese magistrate if I did take advantage of his unmeaning offer. So I took a wu-pan, and the following night, when pulling into the shadows of the Sui-fu pagoda, cold and hungry, I cursed my luck that I had not broken down the useless etiquette which these Chinese officials extend towards foreigners, and taken the fellow’s gunboat.
The wu-pan, they swore to me, would be ready to leave at 3:30 a.m. the day following. My boy did not venture to sleep at all. He stayed up outside my bedroom door—I say bedroom, but actually it was an apartment which in Europe I would not put a horse into, and the door was merely a wide, worm-eaten board placed on end. In the middle of the night I heard a noise—yea, a rattle. The said board fell down, inwards, almost upon me. A light was flashed swiftly into my eyes, and desultory remarks which suddenly escaped me were rudely interrupted by shrill screams. My boy was singing.
“Master,” he cried, pulling hard-heartedly at my left big toe to wake me, “come on, come on; you wantchee makee get up. Have got two o’clock. Get up; p’laps me no wakee you, no makee sleep—no b’long ploper. One man makee go bottomside—have catchee boat. This morning no have got tea—no can catch hot water makee boil.”
And soon we were ready to start. Punctually to the appointed hour we were at the bottom of the steep, dark incline leading down to the river bank.
But my reckonings were bad.