Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/15

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ix
PREFACE

Of course I was told not to do it, it would not be safe, but that is what one is always told. A long, solitary summer spent a few years ago among the Himalayas of Western Tibet, in Ladakh and Baltistan, gave me heart to face such discouragement, and I found, as I had found before, that those who knew the country best were most ready to speed me onward. And as the following pages show, there was nothing to fear. I had no difficulties, no adventures, hardly enough to make the tale interesting.

It is true, I had some special advantages. I was an American and a woman, and no longer young. Chinese respect for grey hair is a very real thing; a woman is not feared as a man may be, and hostility is often nothing more than fear; and even in remote Szechuan I met men who knew that the American Government had returned the Boxer indemnity, and who looked kindly upon me for that reason. If the word of certain foreigners is to be trusted, I gained in not knowing the language; the people would not take advantage of my helplessness. That seems rather incredible; if it is true, the whole Western world has something to learn of China.

But I could not have done what I did without the wise and generous aid of many whom I met along the way, Europeans and Chinese, officials, merchants, and above all missionaries, everywhere the pioneers. To them all I tender here my grateful