On this particular day, more than a customary morbid diversion was thus apparent among the motley-garbed mass of men and women, and the ignominious way in which that prisoner was treated was horrible to look upon. The perpetual hum of voices sounded like the noise made by a thousand swarming bees. The band of soldiers guarding the prisoner suddenly halted, whilst the mandarin conferred with the chief, after which he advanced slowly towards me.
I was on the point of telling him in English that I had done nothing against the law, so far as I knew.
He bowed solemnly, during which time I, attempting the same, had much trouble from bursting out laughing in his face. He beckoned to me, and then rushed me bodily into a house, where, in the best room, I found another official and his two sons. T’ong followed as interpreter. The mandarin explained that I was wanted to stay the night, that a theatrical entertainment had been arranged particularly for my benefit, that he wished I would take their photographs, that one of them would like a cigarette tin with some cigarettes in it, and that one of them would like to sell me a thoroughbred, hard-working, magnificently-shaped, without-a-single-vice black pony, which they would part with for my benefit for the consideration of one hundred taels down (four times its value), which awaited my inspection without. I stood up and fronted them, and replied, through T’ong, that I could not stay the night, that I would be pleased to tolerate the howling of the theatre for one half of an hour, that it would have given me the greatest pleasure to take their photographs, but, alas! my films were not many. I handed them a cigarette tin, but quite forgot that they asked for cigarettes as well (I had none), and I explained that horse-riding was not one of my accomplishments, so that their quadruped would be of no use to me.
They looked glum, I smiled serenely. This is Chinesey.
Szech-wan and Yuen-nan. Coolies and their loads. Exports and imports. Hints to English exporters. Food at famine rates. A wretched inn at Wuchai. Author prevents murder. Sleeping in the rain. The foreign cigarette trade. Poverty of Chao-t’ong. Simplicity of life. Possible advantages of Chinese in struggle of yellow and white races. Foreign goods in Yuen-nan and Szech’wan. Thousands of beggars die. Supposed lime poisoning. Content of the people. Opium not grown. Prices of prepared drug in Tong-ch’uan-fu compared. Smuggling from Kwei-chow. Opium and tin of Yuen-nan. Remarkable bonfire at Yuen-nan-fu. Infanticide at Chao-t’ong. Selling of female children into slavery. Author’s horse steps on human skull.
Were one uninformed, small observance would be necessary to detect the borderline of Szech’wan and Yuen-nan. The latter is supposed to be one of the most ill-nurtured and desolate provinces of the Empire, mountainous, void of cultivation when compared with Szech’wan, one mass of high hills conditioned now as Nature made them; and the people, too, ashamed of their own wretchedness, are ill-fed and ill-clad.