Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/105

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69
ACROSS YUNNAN

we rapidly traversed the town to our night's lodging-place near the North Gate, the crowds becoming ever denser, people swarming out from the restaurants and side streets, as the news spread of the arrival of a "yang-potsz" (foreign woman). The interest was not surprising, as I was only the third or fourth European woman to come this way, but it was my first experience alone in a large town, and the pressing, staring crowd was rather dismaying; however, I found comfortable companionship in the smiling face of a little lad running beside my chair, his swift feet keeping pace with the carriers. I smiled back, and when the heavy doors of our night's lodging-house closed behind us, I found the small gamin was inside, too,—self-installed errand boy. He proved quick and alert beyond the common run of boys, East or West, and made himself very useful, but save when out on errands he was always at my side, watching me with dog-like interest, and kowtowing to the ground when I gave him a small reward. The next morning he was on duty at dawn, and trotted beside my chair until we were well on our way, when I sent him back. I should have been glad to have borrowed or bought or stolen him.

Hui-li-chou, with a population of some forty thousand, is in the middle of an important mining region, both zinc and copper ore being found in the neighbouring hills in good quantity; but the bad roads and