Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/149

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107
ON THE MANDARIN ROAD

attached to the carrier's back, towers high over his head, and is usually surmounted by his wide-brimmed hat fastened at such an angle as to give him protection against rain and sun. Even Chinese ingenuity has failed to devise a way by which he can wear it properly on his head. Some of them fanned themselves vigorously as they walked, with respectable black, old-lady fans, and the contrast with their hard, begrimed faces and sturdy frames was very comical. The men looked worn and exhausted, and their work is killing, although I believe they outlast the chairbearers; but they were patient and cheerful like the rest, ready to laugh and share their cold lunch of corn-cake with the little foreign dog who begged so prettily.

I wondered how many of them were opium smokers. To the untrained eye the signs were not very plain. Among my coolies was one whom I dubbed "Mercury," so untiring and fleet of foot was he, carrying his load of eighty pounds or so with apparent ease, and showing much pride in keeping near my chair, while usually the carrier coolies lagged far behind. I was told he was the worst smoker of the whole lot. In my caravan of seventeen men, seven, including the fu t'ou, used opium. As a rule they limited themselves to one pipe at night, while five years ago travellers complained that a long halt at noon was demanded by the smokers. The fu t'ou was making a