At 5:00 a.m. a thick drizzly rain was falling, just sufficient to make the flagstones slippery as ice, and the European contrivances which covered my feet stood no chance at all compared with the straw sandals of the native. I could not get any big enough around here to put over my boots. My carriers had gone ahead, and as I was passing a paddy field one leg went from under me, and I was up to my middle in thin wet mud. In this I had to trudge seven miles before I could get other garments from the coolie, changing my trousers behind a piece of matting held up in front of me by my boy! All enjoyed the fun—except myself. Little boys tried to peer around the side of the matting, and, as T’ong tried to kick them away, the matting would drop and expose me to public view. But I had to change, and that was most important to me.
Later on, my ugly coolie—the ugliest man in or out of China, I should think, ugly beyond description—dropped my bedding as he was crossing the river, and I had the pleasure of sleeping on a wet bed at T’an-teo.
I must ask the reader’s pardon for again referring to Chinese inns. I should not have made any remark upon this awful hovel had not the man laid a scheme to charge me three times as much as he should—a scheme, be it said, in which my boy took no part. It was truly a fearful den, where man and beast lived in promiscuous and insupportable filth. The dung-heap charms the sight of this agricultural people, without in the slightest wounding their olfactory nerves, and these utilitarians think there is no use seeking privacy to do what they regard as beneficial and productive work. The bed here was the worst I had had offered me. The mattress, upon which every previous traveler for many years had left his tribute of vermin, was not fit for use, there were myriads of filthy insects, and I found myself obliged to stop and have some clothes boiled, and for comfort’s sake rubbed my body with Chinese wine. Filth there was everywhere. It seemed inseparable from the people, and a total apathy as regards matter in the wrong place pervaded all classes, from the highest to the lowest. The spring is opening, and my hard-worked coolies doff their heavy padded winter clothing, parade their naked skin, and are quite unconscious of any disgrace attending the exhibition of the itch sores which disfigure them.
I remember, however, that I am in China, and must not be disgusted.
And should any reader be disgusted at the disjointed character of this particular portion of my common chronicle, I would only say in apology that I am writing under the gaze of a mystified crowd, each of whom has a word to say about my typewriter—the first, undoubtedly, that he has ever seen. This machine has caused the greatest surprise all along the route, and it is on occasions when the Chinese sees for the first time things of this intimate mechanical nature that he gives one the impression that he is a little boy. The people crowd into my room; they cannot be kept out, although at the present moment I have stationed my two soldiers in the doorway where I am writing, so as to get a little light, to keep them from crowding actually upon me.