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James Alexander Allan
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 82 pages of information about Under the Dragon Flag.
of banners, as if the sacrilegious foot of a foeman could not be set on any spot rendered sacred by the dragon flag.  The town presented a very neat and compact aspect, and struck me very favourably as compared with Tientsin, the only other Chinese town I had been in, and which seemed to me to be for the most part composed of narrow, dirty, stinking lanes with one or two good streets in the centre.  Port Arthur, as might be expected of so recent a settlement, constructed to a large extent under European supervision, is very much better built, and altogether presents, or did present—­for to a melancholy and deplorable condition was it soon to be reduced—­a thriving and busy aspect.

At dusk I quitted the streets, with their bazaar-like shops and strange illuminations, and made my way back to the port under escort of my Chinese friend, who with Oriental politeness insisted on seeing me safe back on board.  A most unwelcome shock awaited me.  No Columbia was to be found, and Lin Wong’s inquiries elicited that she had left nearly an hour before.  We hunted up the pilot who had taken her out, and learned from him that she had steamed away south-east immediately; she could not, therefore, be awaiting me outside.  What on earth could be the meaning of it?  I could only conjecture that by some oversight the fact of my not being on board had been forgotten.  She possibly might return on its being discovered that I had been left ashore, but in the meantime what was I to do?  A suggestion by Lin solved the difficulty.  If the Columbia did not put back, I could obtain a passage to Tientsin on the vessel which was soon to convey him to that port, where I could arrange my future proceedings according to circumstances.  This seeming the only feasible plan, I, with many internal maledictions upon the stupid mischance, accompanied the agent to an hotel or inn where he had already chartered quarters for his short stay in the place.  There are some half-dozen of these establishments in Port Arthur.  Three or four of them are wretched hovels, which existed in the squalid infancy of the town; the newer ones are larger and fairly commodious and comfortable.  The one we occupied was near one of the gates of the approaches to the north-eastern forts.  Mine host was a square, thick-set Celestial named Sen.  Port Arthur being well accustomed to “foreign devils,” some of the servants had been engaged for their knowledge of that curious dialect “pidgin English,” which in the far East is pretty much what Lingua Franca is in the Levant.  With a little practice it is easily comprehended, although, under the chaperonage of Lin, my difficulties were largely reduced.  Fortunately I had a considerable sum of American money in my pockets, and with Lin’s aid was able to negotiate it at one of the banks, at a pretty smart loss, I may say.  Otherwise I was fairly content and comfortable, and had no human want but whisky.

CHAPTER IV

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