The agreement was brought me in the morning; all the afternoon I was busy, and at 8 p.m. I embarked from the Customs pontoon. The boat was a wupan (five boards), 28 feet long and drawing 8 inches. Its sail was like the wing of a butterfly, with transverse ribs of light bamboo; its stern was shaped "like a swallow's wings at rest." An improvised covering of mats amidships was my crib; and with spare mats, slipt during the day over the boat's hood, coverings could be made at night for'ard for my three men and aft for the other two. It seemed a. frail little craft to face the dangers of the cataracts, but it was manned by as smart a crew of young Chinese as could be found on the river. It was pitch dark when we paddled into the stream amidst a discharge of crackers. As we passed under the Kweili, men were there to wish me bon voyage, and a revolver was emptied into the darkness to propitiate the river god.

We paddled up the bank under the sterns of countless junks, past the walled city, and then, crossing to the other bank, we made fast and waited for the morning to begin our journey. The lights of the city were down the river; all was quiet; my men were in good heart, and there was no doubt whatever that they would make every effort to fulfil their contract.

At daylight we were away again and soon entered the first of the great gorges where the river has cleft its way through the mountains.

With a clear and sunny sky, the river flowing smoothly and reflecting deeply the lofty and rugged hills which fall steeply to the water's edge, a light boat, and a model crew, it was a pleasure to lie at ease wrapped in my Chinese pukai and watch the many junks lazily falling down the river, the largest of them "dwarfed by the colossal dimensions of the surrounding scenery to the size of sampans," and the fishing boats, noiseless but for the gentle creaking of the sheers and dip-net, silently working in the still waters under the bank.

At Ping-shan-pa there is an outstation of the Imperial Maritime Customs in charge of a seafaring man who was once a cockatoo farmer in South Australia, and drove the first team of bullocks to the Mount Brown diggings. He lives comfortably in a house-boat moored to the bank. He is one of the few Englishmen in China married in the English way, as distinct from the Chinese, to a Chinese girl. His wife is one of the prettiest girls that ever came out of Nanking, and talks English delightfully with a musical voice that is pleasant to listen to. I confess that I am one of those who agree with the missionary writer in regarding "the smile of a Chinese woman as inexpressibly charming." I have seen girls in China who would be considered beautiful in any capital in Europe. The attractiveness of the Japanese lady has been the theme of many writers, but, speaking as an impartial observer who has been both in Japan and China, I have never been able to come to any other decision than that in every feature the Chinese woman is superior to her Japanese sister. She is head and shoulders above the Japanese; she is more intellectual, or, rather, she is more capable of intellectual development; she is incomparably more chaste and modest. She is prettier, sweeter, and more trustworthy than the misshapen cackling little dot with black teeth that we are asked to admire as a Japanese beauty. The traveller in China is early impressed by the contrast between the almost entire freedom from apparent immorality of the Chinese cities, especially of Western China, and the flaunting indecency of the Yoshiwaras of Japan, with "their teeming, seething, busy mass of women, whose virtue is industry and whose industry is vice."

The small feet of the Chinese women, though admired by the Chinese and poetically referred to by them as "three-inch gold lilies," are in our eyes a very unpleasant deformity - but still, even with this deformity, the walk of the Chinese woman is more comely than the gait of the Japanese woman as she shambles ungracefully along with her little bent legs, scraping her wooden-soled slippers along the pavement with a noise that sets your teeth on edge. "Girls are like flowers," say the Chinese, "like the willow. It is very important that their feet should be bound short so that they can walk beautifully with mincing steps, swaying gracefully, and thus showing to all that they are persons of respectability." Apart from the Manchus, the dominant race, whose women do not bind their feet, all chaste Chinese girls have small feet. Those who have large feet are either, speaking generally, ladies of easy virtue or slave girls. And, of course, no Christian girl is allowed to have her feet bound.

Leaving Ping-shan-pa with a stiff breeze in our favour we slowly stemmed the current. Look at the current side, and you would think we were doing eight knots an hour or more, but look at the shore side, close to which we kept to escape as far as possible from the current, and you saw how gradually we felt our way along.

At a double row of mat sheds filled with huge coils of bamboo rope of all thicknesses, my laoban went ashore to purchase a towline; he took with him 1000 cash (about two shillings), and returned with a coil 100 yards in length and 600 cash of change. The rope he brought was made of plaited bamboo, was as thick as the middle finger, and as tough as whalebone.

The country was more open and terraced everywhere into gardens. Our progress was most satisfactory. When night came we drew into the bank, and I coiled up in my crib and made myself comfortable. Space was cramped, and I had barely room to stretch my legs. My cabin was 5 feet 6 inches square and 4 feet high, open behind, but with two little doors in front, out of which I could just manage to squeeze myself sideways round the mast. Coir matting was next the floor boards, then a thick Chinese quilt (a pukai), then a Scotch plaid made in Geelong. My pillow was Chinese, and the hardest part of the bed; my portmanteau was beside me and served as a desk; a Chinese candle, more wick than wax, stuck into a turnip, gave me light.

This, our first day's journey, brought us to within sound of the worst rapid on the river, the Hsintan, and the roar of the cataract hummed in our ears all night.

Early in the morning we were at the foot of the rapid under the bank on the opposite side of the river from the town of Hsintan. It was an exciting scene. A swirling torrent with a roar like thunder was frothing down the cataract. Above, barriers of rocks athwart the stream stretched like a weir across the river, damming the deep still water behind it. The shore was strewn with boulders. Groups of trackers were on the bank squatting on the rocks to see the foreign devil and his cockleshell. Other Chinese were standing where the side-stream is split by the boulders into narrow races, catching fish with great dexterity, dipping them out of the water with scoop-nets.

We rested in some smooth water under shelter and put out our towline; three of my boys jumped ashore and laid hold of it; another with his bamboo boat-hook stood on the bow; the laoban was at the tiller; and I was cooped up useless in the well under the awning. The men started hauling as we pushed out into the sea of waters. The boat quivered, the water leapt at the bow as if it would engulf us; our three men were obviously too few. The boat danced in the rapid. My men on board shrieked excitedly that the towrope was fouling - it had caught in a rock - but their voices could not be heard; our trackers were brought to with a jerk; the hindmost saw the foul and ran back to free it, but he was too late, for the boat had come beam on to the current. Our captain frantically waved to let go, and the next moment we were tossed bodily into the cataract. The boat heeled gunwale under, and suddenly, but the bowman kept his feet like a Blondin, dropped the boat-hook, and jumped to unlash the halyard; a wave buried the boat nose under and swamped me in my kennel; my heart stopped beating, and, scared out of my wits, I began to strip off my sodden clothes; but before I had half done the sail had been set; both men had miraculously fended the boat from a rock, which, by a moment's hesitation, would have smashed us in bits or buried us in the boiling trough formed by the eddy below it, and, with another desperate effort, we had slid from danger into smooth water. Then my men laughed heartily. How it was done I do not know, but I felt keen admiration for the calm dexterity with which it had been done.

We baled the water out of the boat, paid out a second towrope - this one from the bow to keep the stern under control, the other being made fast to the mast, and took on board a licensed pilot. Extra trackers, hired for a few cash, laid hold of both towlines, and bodily - the water swelling and foaming under our bows - the boat was hauled against the torrent, and up the ledge of water that stretches across the river. We were now in smooth water at the entrance to the Mi Tsang Gorge. Two stupendous walls of rock, almost perpendicular, as bold and rugged as the Mediterranean side of the Rock of Gibraltar seem folded one behind the other across the river. "Savage cliffs are these, where not a tree and scarcely a blade of grass can grow, and where the stream, which is rather heard than seen, seems to be fretting in vain efforts to escape from its dark and gloomy prison."In the gorge itself the current was restrained, and boats could cross from bank to bank without difficulty. It was an eerie feeling to glide over the sunless water shut in by the stupendous sidewalls of rock. At a sandy spit to the west of the gorge we landed and put things in order. And here I stood and watched the junks disappear down the river one after the other, and I saw the truth of what Hosie had written that, as their masts are always unshipped in the down passage, the junks seem to be "passing with their human freight into eternity."

An immensely high declivity with a precipitous face was in front of us, which strained your eyes to look at; yet high up to the summit and to the very edge of the precipice, little farmsteads are dotted, and every yard of land available is under cultivation.

So steep is it that the scanty soil must be washed away, you think, at the first rains, and only an adventurous goat could dwell there in comfort. My laoban, Enjeh, pointing to this mighty mass, said, "Pin su chiao;" but whether these words were the name of the place, or were intended to convey to me his sense of its magnificence, or dealt with the question of the precariousness of tenure so far above our heads, I had no means to determine.

My laoban knew twelve words of English, and I twelve words of Chinese, and this was the extent of our common vocabulary; it had to be carefully eked out with signs and gestures. I knew the Chinese for rice, flourcake, tea, egg, chopsticks, opium, bed, by-and-by, how many, charcoal, cabbage, and customs. My laoban could say in English, or pidgin English, chow, number one, no good, go ashore, sit down, by-and-by, to-morrow, match, lamp, alright, one piecee, and goddam. This last named exotic he had been led to consider as synonymous with "very good." It was not the first time I had known the words to be misapplied. I remember reading in the Sydney Bulletin, that a Chinese cook in Sydney when applying for a situation detailed to the mistress his undeniable qualifications, concluding with the memorable announcement, "My Clistian man mum; my eat beef; my say goddam."

There was a small village behind us. The villagers strolled down to see the foreigner whom children well in the background called "Yang kweitze" (foreign devil). Below on the sand, were the remains of a junk, confiscated for smuggling salt; it had been sawn bodily in two. Salt is a Government monopoly and a junk found smuggling it is confiscated on the spot.

Kueichow, on the left bank, is the first walled town we came to. Here we had infinite difficulty in passing the rapids, and crossed and recrossed the river several times. I sat in the boat stripped and shivering, for shipwreck seemed certain, and I did not wish to be drowned like a rat. For cool daring I never saw the equal of my boys, and their nicety of judgment was remarkable. Creeping along close to the bank, every moment in danger of having its bottom knocked out, the boat would be worked to the exact point from which the crossing of the river was feasible, balanced for a moment in the stream, then with sail set and a clipping breeze, and my men working like demons with the oars, taking short strokes, and stamping time with their feet, the boat shot into the current. We made for a rock in the centre of the river; we missed it, and my heart was in my mouth as I saw the rapid below us into which we were being drawn, when the boat mysteriously swung half round and glided under the lee of the rock. One of the boys leapt out with the bow-rope, and the others with scull and boat-hook worked the boat round to the upper edge of the rock, and then, steadying her for the dash across, pushed off again into the swirling current and made like fiends for the bank. Standing on the stern, managing the sheet and tiller, and with his bamboo pole ready, the laoban yelled and stamped in his excitement; there was the roar of the cataract below us towards which we were fast edging stern on, destruction again threatened us and all seemed over,. when in that moment we entered the back-wash and were again in good shelter. And so it went on, my men with splendid skill doing always the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, with unerring certainty.

At Yehtan rapid, which is said to be the worst on the river in the winter, as the Hsintan rapid is in summer, three of the boys went ashore to haul us up the ledge of water - they were plainly insufficient. While we were hanging on the cataract extra trackers appeared from behind the rocks and offered their services. They could bargain with us at an advantage. It was a case well known to all Chinese "of speaking of the price after the pig has been killed." But, when we agreed to their terms, they laid hold of the towrope and hauled us through in a moment. Here, as at other dangerous rapids on the river, an official lifeboat is stationed. It is of broad beam, painted red. The sailors are paid eighty cash (2d.) a day, and are rewarded with 1000 cash for every life they save, and 800 cash for every corpse.

Wushan Gorge, the "Witches' Gorge," which extends from Kuantukou to Wushan-hsien, a distance of twenty miles, is the longest gorge on the river.

Directly facing us as we emerged from the gorge was the walled town of Wushan-hsien. Its guardian pagoda, with its seven stories and its upturned gables, like the rim of an official hat, is down-stream from the city, and thus prevents wealth and prosperity being swept by the current past the city.

Beyond there is a short but steep rapid. Before a strong wind with all sail set we boldly entered it and determined which was the stronger, the wind or the current. But, while we hung in the current calling and whistling for the wind, the wind flagged for a moment; tension being removed, the bow swung into the rocks; but the water was shallow, and in a trice two of the boys had jumped into the water and were holding the boat-sides. Then poling and pulling we crept up the rapid into smooth water. Never was there any confusion, never a false stroke. To hear my boys jabber in their unintelligible speech you pictured disorder, and disaster, and wild excitement; to see them act you witnessed such coolness, skill, and daring as you had rarely seen before. My boys were all young. The captain was only twenty, and was a model of physical grace, with a face that will gladden the heart of the Chinese maiden whom he condescends to select to be the mother of his children.

Junks were making slow progress up the river. The tow-path is here on the left bank, sixty feet above the present level of the river. Barefooted trackers, often one hundred in a gang, clamber over the rocks "like a pack of hounds in full cry," each with the coupling over his shoulder and all singing in chorus, the junk they are towing often a quarter of a mile astern of them. When a rapid intervenes they strain like bondmen at the towrope; the line creaks under the enormous tension but holds fast. On board the junk, a drum tattoo is beaten and fire-crackers let off, and a dozen men with long ironshod bamboos sheer the vessel off the rocks as foot by foot it is drawn past the obstruction. Contrast with this toilsome slowness the speed of the junk bound down-stream. Its mast is shipped; its prodigious bow-sweep projects like a low bowsprit; the after deck is covered as far as midships with arched mat-roof; coils of bamboo rope are hanging under the awning; a score or more of boatmen, standing to their work and singing to keep time, work the yulos, as looking like a modern whaleback the junk races down the rapids.

Kweichou-fu, 146 miles from Ichang, is one of the largest cities on the Upper Yangtse. Just before it is the Fenghsiang Gorge the "Windbox Gorge" where the mountains nave been again cleft in twain to let pass the river; this is the last of the great gorges of the Yangtse.

We had left the province of Hupeh. Kueichou is the first prefectural city that the traveller meets in Szechuen; for that reason my laoban required me to give him my passport that he might take it ashore and have it viseed by the magistrate. While he was away two Customs officials searched my boat for contraband goods. When he returned, he had to pay a squeeze at the Customs station. We clawed with our hooked bamboos round the sterns of a hundred Szechuen junks, and were again arrested at a likin boat, and more cash passed from my laoban to the officials in charge. We went on again, when a third time we came face on to a likin barrier, and a third time my laoban was squeezed. After this we were permitted to continue our journey. For the rest of the day whenever the laoban caught my eye he raised three fingers and with a rueful shake of the head said "Kweichou haikwan (customs) no good ;" and then he swore, no doubt.

My little boat was the smallest on the river. In sailing it could hold its own with all but the long ferry boats or tenders which accompany the larger junks to land the trackers and towline. These boats carry a huge square sail set vertically from sheer legs, and are very fast. But in rowing, poling, and tracking we could beat the river.

Anping was passed - a beautiful country town in a landscape of red hills and rich green pastures, of groves of bamboo and cypress, of pretty little farmhouses with overhanging eaves and picturesque temples in wooded glens.

At Chipatzu there are the remains of a remarkable embankment built of huge blocks of dressed stone resting upon a noble brow of natural rock; deep Chinese characters are cut into the stone; but the glory is departed and there are now only a few straggling huts where there was once a large city.

The river was now at its lowest and at every point of sand and shingle, meagre bands of gold puddlers were at work washing for gold in cradle rockers. To judge, however, from the shabbiness of their surroundings there was little fear that their gains would disturb the equilibrium of the world's gold yield.