Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/104

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68
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

me they seemed to do very well, reading glibly down their pages of hieroglyphics.

At another stop I had a talk with the village headman. He was elected for one year, he told me, by the people of the hamlet, comprising about forty families. He confessed his inability to read or write, but his face was intelligent and his bearing showed dignity and self-respect. Petty disputes and breaches of the peace were settled by him according to unwritten custom and his native shrewdness; and he was also responsible for the collection of the land tax due from the village.

The people in this part of Szechuan seemed fairly prosperous, but the prevalence of goitre was very unpleasant. The natives account for it in various ways,—the use of white salt or the drinking of water made from melting snow.

On the 2oth of April we reached Hui-li-chou. The approach to the town or group of towns which make up this, the largest place in southern Szechuan, was charming, through high hedges gay with pink and white flowers. In the suburbs weaving or dyeing seemed to be going on in every house. Sometimes whole streets were given over to the dyers, naked men at work above huge vats filled with the inevitable blue of China. After crossing the half-dry bed of a small river we found ourselves under the great wall of Hui-li proper. Turning in at the South Gate