The laoban and the other two youthful members of the half-witted crew had not yet taken their “chow,” and this, added to many little discrepancies in their reckoning and in mine, kept me in a boiling rage until half-past six, when at last they pushed off, and nearly capsized the boat at the outset. The details of that early morning, and the happenings throughout the long, sad day, I think I can never forget—from the breaking of tow-lines to frequent stranding on the rocks and sticking on sandbanks, the orders wrongly given, the narrow escape of fire on board, the bland thick-headedness of the ass of a captain, the collisions, and all the most profound examples of savage ignorance displayed when one has foolish Chinese to deal with. We reached half-way at 4:30 p.m., with sixty li to do against a wind. Hour after hour they toiled, making little headway with their misdirected labor, wasting their energies in doing the right things at the wrong time, and wrong things always, and long after sundown Sui-fu’s pagoda loomed in the distance. At 11:00 p.m., stiff and hungry, and mad with rage, I was groping my way on all fours up the slippery steps through unspeakable slime and filth at the quayhead, only to be led to a disgusting inn as dirty as anything I had yet encountered. It was hard lines, for I could get no food.
An invitation, however, was given me by the Rev. R. McIntyre, who with his charming wife conducts the China Inland Mission in this city, to come and stay with them. The next morning, after a sleepless night of twisting and turning on a bug-infested bed, I was glad to take advantage of the missionary’s kindness. I could not have been given a kindlier welcome.
Sui-fu has a population of roughly 150,000, and the overcrowding question is not the least important. It is situated to advantage on the right bank of the Yangtze, and does an immense trade in medicines, opium, silk, furs, silverwork, and white wax, which are the chief exports. Gunboats regularly come to Sui-fu during the heavy rains.
Just outside the city, a large area is taken up with grave mounds—common with nearly every Chinese city. Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Herbert, who was passing through Sui-fu en route for Ta-chien-lu, where he is now working, showed me around the city one afternoon, and one could see everything typical of the social life of two thousand years ago. The same narrow lanes succeed each other, and the conviction is gradually impressed upon the mind that such is the general trend of the character of the city and its people. There were the same busy mechanics, barbers, traders, wayside cooks, traveling fortune-tellers, and lusty coolies; the wag doctor, the bane of the gullible, was there to drive his iniquitous living; now and then the scene’s monotony was disturbed by the presence of the chair and the retinue of a city mandarin. Yet with all the hurry and din, the hurrying and the scurrying in doing and driving for making money, seldom