CHAPTER VII. SUIFU TO CHAOTONG; WITH SOME REMARKS ON THE PROVINCE OF YUNNAN - CHINESE PORTERS, POSTAL ARRANGEMENTS, AND BANKS.
I engaged three new men in Suifu, who undertook to take me to Chaotong, 290 miles, in thirteen days, special inducement being held out to them in the shape of a reward of one shilling each to do the journey in eleven days. Their pay was to be seven shillings and threepence each, apart from the bonus, and of course they had to find themselves. They brought me from the coolie-hong, where they were engaged, an agreement signed by the hong-master, which was to be returned to them in Chaotong, and remitted to their master as a receipt for my safe delivery.
Every condition detailed in the agreement they faithfully carried out, and they took me to Chaotong in ten days and a half, though the ordinary time is fourteen days.
One of the three was a convert, one of the six surviving converts made by the aggregate Inland Mission of Suifu in six years. He was an excellent good fellow, rather dull of wits, but a credit to the Mission. To him was intrusted the paying away of my money - he carried no load. When he wanted money he was to show me his empty hands, and say "Muta tsien! muta tsien!" (I have no money! I have no money!).
I knew that perfect confidence could be placed in the convert, apart from the reason of his conversion, because he had a father living in Suifu. Were he to rob me or do me a wrong and run away, we could arrest his father and have him detained in the yamen prison till his son returned. Nothing in China gives one greater protection against fraud and injury than the law which holds a father responsible for the wrongdoing of his son, or, where there is no father, an elder son culpable for the misdeed of the younger.
On the morning of March 22nd we started for Chaotong in Yunnan province. The Inland Missionary and a Brother from the American Baptist Mission kindly came with me for the first thirteen miles. My route lay west on the north bank of the Yangtse, but later, after crossing the Yangtse, would be nearly south to Chaotong.
Shortly before leaving, the chairen or yamen-runner - the policeman, that is to say - sent by the Magistrate to shadow me to Takwan-hsien, called at the Mission to request that the interpreter would kindly remind the traveller, who did not speak Chinese, that it was customary to give wine-money to the chairen at the end of the journey. The request was reasonable. All the way from Chungking I had been accompanied by yamen-runners without knowing it. The chairen is sent partly for the protection of the traveller, but mainly for the protection of the Magistrate; for, should a traveller provided with a passport receive any injury, the Magistrate of the district would be liable to degradation. It was arranged, therefore, with the convert that, on our arrival in Takwan-hsien, I was to give the chairen, if satisfied with his services, 200 cash (five pence); but, if he said "gowshun! gowshun!" (a little more! a little more !) with sufficient persistence, I was to increase the reward gradually to sevenpence half-penny. This was to be the limit; and the chairen, I was assured, would consider this a generous return for accompanying me 227 miles over one of the most mountainous roads in China.
It was a pleasant walk along the river-bank in the fertile alluvial, where the poppy in white flower and tobacco were growing, and where fields of yellow rape-seed, alternated with beds of rushes - the rape-seed yielding the oil, and the rushes the rushlights of Chinese lamps. Flocks of wild geese were within easy shot on the sandbanks - the "peaceful geese," whose virtues are extolled by every Chinaman. They live in pairs, and, if one dies, its mate will be for ever faithful to its memory. Such virtue is worthy of being recorded on the arch which here spans the roadway, whose Chinese characters, Shen (holy), Chi (will), show that it was erected by the holy decree of the Emperor to perpetuate the memory of some widow who never remarried.
As we walked along the missionary gave instructions to my men. "In my grace I had given them very light loads; hurry and they would be richly rewarded " - one shilling extra for doing fourteen stages in eleven days.
At an inn, under the branches of a banyan tree, we sat down and had a cup of tea. While we waited, a hawker came and sat near us. He was peddling live cats. In one of his two baskets was a cat that bore a curious resemblance to a tortoise-shell tabby, that till a week ago had been a pet in the Inland Mission. It had disappeared mysteriously; it had died, the Chinese servant said; and here it was reincarnated.
At the market town the missionaries left me to go on alone with my three men. I had seventeen miles still to go before night.
It was midday, and the sun was hot, so a chair was arranged for to take me the seventeen miles to Anpien. It was to cost 320 cash (eightpence), but, just before leaving, the grasping coolies refused to carry me for less than 340 cash. "Walk on," said the missionary, "and teach them a Christian lesson," so I walked seventeen miles in the sun to rebuke them for their avarice and save one halfpenny. In the evening I am afraid that I was hardly in the frame of mind requisite for conducting an evangelical meeting.
Anpien is a considerable town. It is on the Yangtse River just below where it bifurcates into two rivers, one of which goes north-west, the other south-west. Streets of temporary houses are built down by the river; they form the winter suburb, and disappear in the summer when the river rises in consequence of the melting of the snows in its mountain sources. At an excellent inn, with a noisy restaurant on the first floor, good accommodation was given me. No sooner was I seated than a chairen came from the yamen to ask for my Chinese visiting card; but he did not ask for my passport, though I had brought with me twenty-five copies besides the original.