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Pei-Tai-Ho

donkey, look, boy, yellow and china

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PEI-TAI-HO Return from Japan—My Boy's Outfit—We Sail for the North—Wei-hai-wei—Port Arthur—Chinwangtao—The Umbrella—Arrival at Pei-tai-ho—Carts and Donkeys, Saddles and Bridles—" The Cruet "—Bathing—Signs of r9oo Troubles—Snipe-Shooting--A Giant Willow-Tree—The Village Blacksmiths —A Great Storm and Flood—Rock Temple—The Country Round.

On my return to Shanghai from Japan at the end of July, I found it still very hot and damp, but only spent a few days preparing for my departure north. When going to Japan I left my " boy " at Shanghai in charge of my friends. I now told him to get what might be necessary in the way of warmer clothing for the northern climate and colder weather to come later, because at that time I proposed to keep this " boy " with me right through, as he knew my ways. I was amused to see the way he fitted himself out. He was certainly a great swell in new clothes—dark satin jacket, white trousers with embroidery on the ankle ties, and very grand shoes— black satin with green edging above the soles , and last, but not least, a new umbrella of cheap European pattern, with a very fine white-metal handle. I was almost afraid to give orders to such a gorgeous person.

We were glAd, when the day came for us to embark on the China Engineering and Mining Company's S.S. Kaifiing, to get away from the heat, and the prospect of a few days at sea was rather inviting. In look ing round my cabin I found to my amusement that the " boy " had hidden his new umbrella in a corner— afraid, I suppose, to take it forward to his own quarters for fear a compatriot might annex it. We were lucky enough to have quite a fine passage up the treacherous Yellow Sea, well deserving its name, the water being distinctly yellow, thick and muddy, taking, as it does, the great waters of the Hoang-ho or Yellow River.

Our only call was at Wei-hai-wei, where we landed a few passengers for their holiday time. Wei-hai-wei, ostensibly a British naval station, is more important as a watering-place for foreigners from various parts of China. It seems to be pleasant and healthy in summer, but I do not envy those who are obliged to live in such an out-of-the-way place, which in winter must be bleak and cold.

Soon after leaving Wei-hai-wei we saw at some distance the famous Port Arthur, the scene of such a stern and long siege, and many fierce battles between the big Northerner and the little Yellow Man.

It was dull and wet when we arrived at Chin wangtao in the early morning. This port is quite new, and was made by the China Engineering and Mining Company to enable them to ship their products at all times of the year, Tahu and the Tientsin River and Newchang being closed up by ice for many months. Before the opening of Chinwangtao and the building of the Imperial North China Railway, Tientsin was almost cut off from the south during the winter, and no goods could be imported or exported now trade can go on uninterruptedly.

We had but a short journey by rail to our destina tion, Pei-tai-ho, and I told my " boy " to look after my baggage and that of the friends with whom I was travelling and while watching this found he was so much taken up with his umbrella that he was neglect ing his duty. I walked over to him, and taking the article said, " Now, boy, I look after your umbrella, you look after my baggage." Oh, the anxious look he gave me as I moved off, and the relief he showed when, all being ready, he received back his precious possession ! When we reached Pei-tai-ho station, we found donkeys for ourselves and carts for our baggage. These carts are very heavy, lumbering things, with clumsy wheels of solid wood, made in some cases without spokes they are not exactly circular, though no doubt meant to be so. Mules were in the shafts, with a donkey tied on at odd points to help pull. We were soon mounted and away over the rather shaky bridge spanning the river, and along the narrow and rough track called a road, about thee miles of which had to be covered before we reached the noted seaside place. The track winds about, at times almost lost in the fields, and we were hidden by the tall kowliang, a cereal much grown in this part. Up hill and down dale we went, the donkey coolies making much noise driving along the poor-looking animals, who nevertheless proved able and sure-footed. It is rather remarkable that when human beings have any difficult road to traverse, where almost no other animal can go, they at once turn to the despised donkey, the animal which to my mind shows almost human sense in its careful discrimination in picking out its way. traveller in almost any country finds this ; and even where the donkey through its small size is not strong enough, it is the mule, which joins to the size of the horse the sagacity and surefootedness of the donkey, that is used. The saddles and bridles of the animals we had were quite worthy of study. The saddle was nothing more than various pieces of padded cloth tied on with bits of raw hide and string. No two stirrups were alike : one of the pair I had was of the very large antique description, suitable for a warrior of old ; the other was a modern stirrup of the size fit for a child, so that only the toe of my boot could rest on it, whereas on the other side I had difficulty to keep the great iron in its place. The bridle was of rope and raw hide, with no bit, the reins of cord dirty and uncomfortable to hold. During my stay here many miles did I have to ride on these little animals, with such wretched accoutrements.

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