CHAPTER XXIII. CANTON AND MACAO TO SINGAPORE.
I remember the black wharves and the slips,
And the sea-tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ship
And the magic of the sea.
Saturday, March 3rd. - After our long day yesterday, I did not feel capable of acceding to our guide's proposition of being ready at half-past six for further explorations before breakfast; besides, I wanted to see Tom off by the nine o'clock boat to Hongkong, whither he is obliged to return in order to keep various engagements. The rest of our party have been persuaded to stay and see a little more of Canton and to go with some friends to a picnic in the White Cloud Mountains. A man brought home to-day some carved tortoiseshell brushes Tom has given me, with my name carved on them in Chinese. It was no good writing it down for the engraver's guidance, and after hearing it several times he wrote down two characters; but, as the 'r' is always a great difficulty with the Chinese, I much doubt whether the name is really spelt rightly.
It was a most lovely day, and after some little delay we started about eleven o'clock, a party of seventeen in chairs. There were five ladies and twelve gentlemen - a most unusual proportion for Canton. A few weeks ago they wanted to get up a fancy ball, but there were only five available ladies to be found in the city. At present one or two more are staying here on a visit, and it is hoped that another ball may be arranged during this week, which may boast of at least ten ladies. We made quite a procession, with all the servants, bearers, &c., and excited much commotion in the narrow streets, where everybody had to make room and squeeze up to the side as best they could. Men ran before to clear the way for us, shouting, yet we were more than an hour going right across the city. On our way we passed through the egg market, saw the pork fat market, and the poulterers' and fowlers' shops.
We managed to visit several shops for the sale of real Chinese furniture. It is very handsome, but curious in form, and, unless it is specially ordered, is made only for native use. Every Chinese reception-room is furnished in precisely the same manner, with very stiff high arm-chairs, arranged in two rows. A small four-legged square table stands between every two chairs, a larger table in the centre, and at the end an enormous sofa, big enough for six or eight people to lie full length across. The sofa and all the chairs have marble seats and backs, and the tops of the tables are also made of marble, or a sort of soapstone, on which may be distinguished natural landscapes slightly assisted by art.
In the bird market I saw numbers of little birds for sale, for the Chinese are very fond of pets, and often take their birds out in a cage with them when they go for a walk, just as we should be accompanied by a dog. They manage to tame them thoroughly, and when they meet a friend they will put the cage down, let the bird out, and give him something to eat while they have their chat. I saw this done several times.
Our road next led us through part of the butchers' quarter, where rats were hung up by their tails, and what looked very like skinned cats and dogs dangled beside them. Whole cages full of these animals were exposed for sale alive. Some travellers deny that the Chinese eat cats and dogs and rats, but there can be no question that they do so, though they may be the food only of the lower classes. Nor do 'puppy dogs' appear on the tables of the rich, except on one particular day in the year, when to eat them is supposed to bring good luck. We passed a restaurant where I was shown the bill of fare in Chinese of which this is a translation: -
BILL OF FARE FOR THE DAY.
One tael of black dog's flesh eight cash. One tael weight of black dog's fat three kandareems of silver. One large basin of black cat's flesh one hundred cash. One small basin of black cat's flesh fifty cash. One large bottle of common wine thirty-two cash. One small bottle of common wine sixteen cash. One large bottle of dark rice wine sixty-eight cash. One small basin of cat's flesh thirty-four cash. One large bottle of plum wine sixty-eight cash. One small bottle of plum wine thirty-four cash. One large basin of dog's flesh sixty-eight cash. One small bottle of pear wine thirty-four cash. One large bottle of timtsin wine ninety-six cash. One small bottle of timtsin wine forty-eight cash. One basin of congee three cash. One small plate of pickles three cash. One small saucer of ketchup or vinegar three cash. One pair of black cat's eyes three kandareems of silver.
The fish here, as at Hongkong, are almost always kept alive in large tubs of water, with a fountain playing over them. They even keep some sea-fish alive in salt water. But it is in the north of China that they excel in rearing fish in large quantities. At Foo-chow cormorant fishing may be seen to great perfection, and it is said to be a very amusing sight.