Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/159

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115
ON THE MANDARIN ROAD

igable even for rafts. Thrust back by the land, offered only a watery grave by the river, it seemed no country for man to seek a home, and yet the scattered Chinese hamlets were gay and full of life, and the tea-houses at every turn were doing a good business.

At Leng Chi, where we stopped for breakfast, I fled from the noisy restaurant to a small temple across the road, its outer court filled full of coffins, whether occupied or not, I could not say. A nice old priest promptly found me out, and taking me into an inner room made me comfortable with cups of tea. The buzz of voices told that a school was in session near by, and at the request of the teacher, a good-looking young man, I paid it a visit. Some twenty boys were hard at work on the classics and mathematics, undisturbed by the weird-looking gods around them. They seemed wide awake, and showed real disappointment that I could not stop to see a display of their skill in gymnastics. Every good-sized village seems to boast a school of sorts, and not a few do something for the girls.

The rain was falling as we approached Lu Ting Ch'iao, and that meant a long evening cooped up in a noisy, ill-smelling inn, so in desperation I took refuge under a large tree just outside the town where bushes screened me from the passers on the road. My men had long since made up their minds that I was rather mad, so they left me in peace, only posting one