With one arm useless, it is still to me the one great wonder of my life how I escaped. Nothing short of miraculous; one of the times when one feels a special protection of Providence surrounding him.
Pulling the beast’s head, after I had given myself a momentary shake, I succeeded in making him give a mighty lurch—then another—then another, and in a few seconds, after terrible struggling, he reached the bank. We made a sorry spectacle as we walked shamefacedly back to the inn, under the gaze of half a dozen grinning rustics, where my man was preparing the evening meal.
In the evening, on the advice of my general confidential companion, I submitted to a poultice being applied to my arm. It was bruised, so we put on the old-fashioned, hard-to-be-beaten poultice of bread. Whilst it was hot it was comfortable; when it was cold, I unrolled the bandage, threw the poultice to the floor, and in two minutes saw glistening in the moonlight the eyes of the rats which ate it.
Then I bade sweet Morpheus take me; but, although the pain prevented me from sleeping, I remember fainting. How long I lay I know not. Shuddering in every limb with pain and chilly fear, I at length awoke from a long swoon. Something had happened, but what? There was still the paper window, the same greasy saucer of thick oil and light being given by the same rush, the same rickety table, the same chair on which we had made the poultice—but what had happened? I rubbed my aching eyes and lifted myself in a half-sitting posture—a dream had dazzled me and scared my senses. And then I knew that it was malaria coming on again, and that I was once more her luckless victim.
Malignant malaria, mistress of men who court thee under tropic skies, and who, like me, are turned from thee bodily shattered and whimpering like a child, how much, how very much hast thou laid up for thyself in Hades!
Thank Heaven, I had superabundant energy and vitality, and despite contorted and distorted things dancing haphazard through my fevered brain, I determined not to go under, not to give in. My mind was a terrible tangle of combinations nevertheless—intricate, incongruous, inconsequent, monstrous; but still I plodded on. For the next four days, with my arm lying limp and lifeless at my side, and with recurring attacks of malaria, I walked on against the greatest odds, and it was not till I had reached Tong-ch’uan-fu that I learnt that the limb was fractured. Men may have seen more in four days and done more and risked more, but I think few travelers have been called upon to suffer more agony than befell the lot of the man who was crossing China on foot.