By the following day we had crossed the mountains, and were walking along the level upland that leads to the plain of Chaotong. And on Sunday, April 1st, we reached the city. Cedars, held sacred, with shrines in the shelter of their branches, dot the plain; peach-trees and pear-trees were now in full bloom; the harvest was ripening in the fields. There were black-faced sheep in abundance, red cattle with short horns, and the ubiquitous water-buffalo. Over the level roads primitive carts, drawn by red oxen, were rumbling in the dust. There were mud villages, poor and falling into ruins; there were everywhere signs of poverty and famine. Children ran about naked, or in rags. We passed the likin-barrier, known by its white flag, and I was not even asked for my visiting card, nor were my boxes looked into - they were as beggarly as the district - but poor carriers were detained, and a few cash unjustly wrung from them. At a crowded-teahouse, a few miles from the city, we waited for the stragglers, while many wayfarers gathered in to see me. Prices were ranging higher. Tea here was 4 cash, and not 2 cash as hitherto. But even this charge was not excessive.

In Canton one day, after a weary journey on foot through the crowded streets, I was taken to a five-storied pagoda overlooking the city. At the topmost story tea was brought me, and I drank a dozen cups, and was asked threepence in payment. I thought that the cheapest refreshment I ever had. Yet here I was served as abundantly with better tea at a charge compared with which the Canton charge was twenty-five times greater. Previously in this province the price I had paid for tea in comparison with the price at Canton was as one to fifty.

Early in the afternoon we passed through the south gate into Chaotong, and, picking our way through the streets, were led to the comfortable home of the Bible Christian Mission, where I was kindly received by the Rev. Frank Dymond, and welcomed as a brother missionary of whose arrival he had been advised. Services were ended, but the neighbours dropped in to see the stranger, and ask my exalted age, my honourable name, and my dignified business; they hoped to be able to congratulate me upon being a man of virtue, the father of many sons; asked how many thousands of pieces of silver I had (daughters), and how long I proposed to permit my dignified presence to remain in their mean and contemptible city.

Mr. Dymond is a Devonshire man, and that evening he gave me for tea Devonshire cream and blackberry jam made in Chaotong, and native oatmeal cakes, than which I never tasted any better in Scotland.

Chaotong is a walled Fu city with 40,000 inhabitants. Roman Catholics have been established here for many years, and the Bible Christian Mission, which is affiliated to the China Inland Mission, has been working here since 1887.

There were formerly five missionaries; there are now only two, and one of these was absent. The missionary in charge, Mr. Frank Dymond, is one of the most agreeable men I met in China, broad-minded, sympathetic and earnest - universally honoured and respected by all the district. Since the mission was opened three converts have been baptised, one of whom is in Szechuen, another is in Tongchuan, and the third has been gathered to his fathers. The harvest has not been abundant, but there are now six promising inquirers, and the missionary is not discouraged. The mission premises are built on land which cost two hundred and ninety taels, and are well situated not far from the south gate, the chief yamens, the temples, and the French Mission. People are friendly, but manifest dangerously little interest in their salvation.

At Chaotong I had entered upon a district that had been devastated by recurring seasons of plague and famine. Last year more than 5000 people are believed to have died from starvation in the town and its immediate neighbourhood. The numbers are appalling, but doubt must always be thrown upon statistics derived from Chinese sources. The Chinese and Japanese disregard of accuracy is characteristic of all Orientals. Beggars were so numerous, and became such a menace to the community, that their suppression was called for; they were driven from the streets, and confined within the walls of the temple and grounds beyond the south gate, and fed by common charity. Huddled together in rags and misery, they took famine fever and perished by hundreds. Seventy dead were carried from the temple in one day. Of 5000 poor wretches who crossed the temple threshold, the Chinese say that 2000 never came out alive. For four years past the harvests had been very bad, but there was now hope of a better time coming. Opportune rains had fallen, and the opium crop was good. More than anything else the district depends for its prosperity upon the opium crop - if the crop is good, money is plentiful. Maize-cobs last harvest were four times the size of those of the previous harvest, when they were no larger than one's finger. Wheat and beans were forward; the coming rice crop gave every hope of being a good one. Food was still dear, and all prices were high, because rice was scarce and dear, and it is the price of rice which regulates the market. In a good year one sheng of rice (6.66lbs.) costs thirty-five cash (less than one penny), it now costs no cash. The normal price of maize is sixteen cash the sheng, it now cost sixty-five cash the sheng. To make things worse, the weight of the sheng had been reduced with the times from twelve catties to five catties, and at the same time the relation of cash to silver had fallen from 1640 to 1250 cash the tael.

The selling of its female children into slavery is the chief sorrow of this famine-stricken district. During last year it is estimated, or rather, it is stated by the Chinese, that no less than three thousand children from this neighbourhood, chiefly female children and a few boys, were sold to dealers and carried like poultry in baskets to the capital. At ordinary times the price for girls is one tael (three shillings) for every year of their age, thus a girl of five costs fifteen shillings, of ten, thirty shillings, but in time of famine children, to speak brutally, become a drug in the market. Female children were now offering at from three shillings and fourpence to six shillings each. You could buy as many as you cared to, you might even obtain them for nothing if you would enter into an agreement with the father, which he had no means of enforcing, to take care of his child, and clothe and feed her, and rear her kindly. Starving mothers would come to the mission beseeching the foreign teachers to take their babies and save them from the fate that was otherwise inevitable.

Girls are bought in Chaotong up to the age of twenty, and there is always a ready market for those above the age of puberty; prices then vary according to the measure of the girl's beauty, an important feature being the smallness of her feet. They are sold in the capital for wives and yato-ws; they are rarely sold into prostitution. Two important factors in the demand for them are the large preponderance in the number of males at the capital, and the prevalence there of goitre or thick neck, a deformity which is absent from the district of Chaotong. Infanticide in a starving city like this is dreadfully common. "For the parents, seeing their children must be doomed to poverty, think it better at once to let the soul escape in search of a more happy asylum than to linger in one condemned to want and wretchedness." The infanticide is, however, exclusively confined to the destruction of female children, the sons being permitted to live in order to continue the ancestral sacrifices.

One mother I met, who was employed by the mission, told the missionary in ordinary conversation that she had suffocated in turn three of her female children within a few days of birth; and, when a fourth was born, so enraged was her husband to discover that it was also a girl that he seized it by the legs and struck it against the wall and killed it.

Dead children, and often living infants, are thrown out on the common among the gravemounds, and may be seen there any morning being gnawed by dogs. Mr. Tremberth of the Bible Christian Mission, leaving by the south gate early one morning, disturbed a dog eating a still living child that had been thrown over the wall during the night. Its little arm was crunched and stript of flesh, and it was whining inarticulately - it died almost immediately. A man came to see me; who for a long time used to heap up merit for himself in heaven by acting as a city scavenger. Early every morning he went round the city picking up dead dogs and dead cats in order to bury them decently - who could tell, perhaps the soul of his grandfather had found habitation in that cat ? While he was doing this pious work, never a morning passed that he did not find a dead child, and usually three or four. The dead of the poor people are roughly buried near the surface and eaten by dogs.

An instance of the undoubted truth of the doctrine of transmigration occurred recently in Chaotong and is worth recording. A cow was killed near the south gate on whose intestine - and this fact can be attested by all who saw it - was written plainly and unmistakably the character "Wong," which proved, they told me, that the soul of one whose name was Wong had returned to earth in the body of that cow.

I stayed two days in Chaotong, and strolled in pleasant company through the city. Close to the Mission is the yamen of the Chentai or Brigadier-General, the Military Governor of this portion of the province, and a little further is the more crowded yamen of the Fu Magistrate. Here, as in all yamens, the detached wall or fixed screen of stone facing the entrance is painted with the gigantic representation of a mythical monster in red trying to swallow the sun - the Chinese illustration of the French saying "prendre la lune avec les dents." It is the warning against covetousness, the exhortation against squeezing, and is as little likely to be attended to by the magistrate here as it would be by his brother in Chicago. We visited the Confucian Temple among the trees and the examination hall close by, and another yamen, and the Temple of the God of Riches. In the yamen, at the time of our visit, a young official, seated in his four-bearer chair, was waiting in the outer court; he had sent in his visiting card, and attended the pleasure of his superior officer. China may be uncivilised and may yearn for the missionaries, but there was refined etiquette in China, and an interchange of many of the pleasantest courtesies of modern civilisation, when we noble Britons were grubbing in the forest, painted savages with a clout.

As we went out of the west gate, I was shown the spot where a few days before a young woman, taken in adultery, was done to death in a cage amid a crowd of spectators, who witnessed her agony for three days. She had to stand on tiptoe in the cage, her head projecting through a hole in the roof, and here she had to remain until death by exhaustion or strangulation ensued, or till some kind friend, seeking to accumulate merit in heaven, passed into her mouth sufficient opium to poison her, and so end her struggles.

On the gate itself a man not so long ago was nailed with red-hot nails hammered through his wrists above the hands. In this way he was exposed in turn at each of the four gates of the city, so that every man, woman, and child could see his torture. He survived four days, having unsuccessfully attempted to shorten his pain by beating his head against the woodwork, an attempt which was frustrated by padding the woodwork. This man had murdered and robbed two travellers on the high road, and, as things are in China, his punishment was not too severe.

No people are more cruel in their punishments than the Chinese, and obviously the reason is that the sensory nervous system of a Chinaman is either blunted or of arrested development. Can anyone doubt this who witnesses the stoicism with which a Chinaman can endure physical pain when sustaining surgical operation without chloroform, the comfort with which he can thrive amid foul and penetrating smells, the calmness with which he can sleep amid the noise of gunfire and crackers, drums and tomtoms, and the indifference with which he contemplates the sufferings of lower animals, and the infliction of tortures on higher?

Every text-book on China devotes a special chapter to the subject of punishment. Mutilation is extremely common. Often I met men who had been deprived of their ears - they had lost them, they explained, in battle facing the enemy! It is a common punishment to sever the hamstrings or to break the ankle-bones, especially in the case of prisoners who have attempted to escape. And I remember that when I was in Shanghai, Mr. Tsai, the Mixed Court Magistrate, was reproved by the papers because he had from the bench expressed his regret that the foreign law of Shanghai did not permit him to punish in this way a prisoner who had twice succeeded in breaking from gaol. The hand is cut off for theft as it was in England not so many years ago. I have seen men with the tendon of Achilles cut out, and it is worth noting that the Chinese say that this "acquired deformity" can be cured by the transplantation in the seat of injury of the tendon of a sheep. One embellishment of the Chinese punishment of flogging might with good effect be introduced into England. After a Chinese flagellation, the culprit is compelled to go down on his knees and humbly thank the magistrate for the trouble he has been put to to correct his morals.

There is a branch of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris in Chaotong. I called at the mission and saw their school of fifteen children, and their tiny little church. One priest lives here solitary and alone; he was reading, when I entered, the famous Chinese story, "The Three Kingdoms." He gave me a kindly welcome, and was pleased to talk in his own tongue. An excellent bottle of rich wine was produced, and over the glass the Father painted with voluble energy the evil qualities of the people whom he has left his beautiful home in the Midi of France to lead to Rome. "No Chinaman can resist temptation; all are thieves. Justice depends on the richness of the accused. Victory in a court of justice is to the richer. Talk to the Chinese of Religion, of a God, of Heaven or Hell, and they yawn; speak to them of business and they are all attention. If you ever hear of a Chinaman who is not a thief and a liar, do not believe it, Monsieur Morrison, do not believe it; they are thieves and liars every one."

For eight years the priest had been in China devoting his best energies to the propagation of his religion. And sorry had been his recompense. The best Christian in the mission had lately broken into the mission house and stolen everything valuable he could lay his impious hands on. Remembrance of this infamy rankled in his bosom and impelled him to this expansive panegyric on Chinese virtue.

Some four months ago the good father was away on a holiday, visiting a missionary brother in an adjoining town. In his absence the mission was entered through a rift made in the wall, and three hundred taels of silver, all the money to the last sou that he possessed, were stolen. Suspicion fell upon a Christian, who was not only an active Catholic himself, but whose fathers before him had been Catholics for generations. It was learned that his wife had some of the money, and that the thief was on his way to Suifu with the remainder. There was great difficulty in inducing the yamen to take action, but at last the wife was arrested. She protested that she knew nothing; but, having been triced up by the wrists joined behind her back, she soon came to reason, and cried out that, if the magistrate would release her hands, she would confess air. Two hundred taels were seized in her house and restored to the priest, and the culprit, her husband, followed to Tak-wan-hsien by the satellites of the yamen, was there arrested, and was now in prison awaiting punishment. The goods he purchased were likewise seized and were now with the poor father.