At Lai-t’eo-po (see first section of the second book of this volume), malaria came back, and an abnormal temperature made me delirious. The following day I could not move, and it was not until I had been there six days that I was again able to be moved. During this time, Mr. and Mrs. Evans nursed me day and night, relieving each other for rest, in a terrible Chinese inn—not a single moment did they leave me. The third day they feared I was dying, and a message to that effect was sent to the capital, informing the consul. Meanwhile malaria played fast and loose, and promised a pitiable early dissolution. My kind, devoted friends were fearful lest the innkeeper would have turned me out into the roadway to die—the foreigner’s spirit would haunt the place for ever and a day were I allowed to die inside.
But I recovered.
It was a graver, older, less exuberant walker across China that presently arose from his flea-ridden bed of sickness, and began to make a languid personal introspection. I had developed a new sensitiveness, the sensitiveness of an alien in an alien land, in the hands of new-made, faithful friends. Without them I should have been a waif of all the world, helpless in the midst of unconquerable surroundings, leading to an inevitable destiny of death. I seemed declimatized, denationalized, a luckless victim of fate and morbid fancy.
It was malaria and her workings, from which there was no escape.
Malaria is supposed by the natives of the tropic belt to be sent to Europeans by Providence as a chastening for the otherwise insupportable energy of the white man. Malignant malaria is one of Nature’s watch-dogs, set to guard her shrine of peace and ease and to punish woeful intruders. And she had brought me to China to punish me. As is her wont, Nature milked the manhood out of me, racked me with aches and pains, shattered me with chills, scorched me with fever fires, pursued me with despairing visions, and hag-rode me without mercy. Accursed newspapers, with their accursed routine, came back to me; all the stories and legends that I had ever heard, all the facts that I had ever learnt, came to me in a fashion wonderfully contorted and distorted; sensations welded together in ghastly, brain-stretching conglomerates, instinct with individuality and personality, human but torturingly inhuman, crowded in upon me. The barriers dividing the world of ideas, sensations, and realities seemed to have been thrown down, and all rushed into my brain like a set of hungry foxhounds. The horror of effort and the futility of endeavor permeated my very soul. My weary, helpless brain was filled with hordes of unruly imaginings; I was masterless, panic-driven, maddened, and had to abide for weeks—yea, months—with a fever-haunted soul occupying a fever-rent and weakened body.
At Yuen-nan-fu, whither I arrived in due course after considerable struggling, dysentery laid me up again, and threatened to pull me nearer to the last great brink. For weeks, as the guest of my friend, Mr. C.A. Fleischmann, I stayed here recuperating, and subsequently, on the advice of my medical attendant, Dr. A. Feray, I went back to Tong-ch’uan-fu, among the mountains, and spent several happy months with Mr. and Mrs. Evans.