Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/165

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121
ON THE MANDARIN ROAD

for more than the narrow trail. There were a good many walnut trees and willows, and I occasionally saw a meagre patch of barley or Indian corn, but even the Chinese would be hard put to wring a living here were it not for the coolie trade. In fact, every other house seemed to be a restaurant or tea-house. At one the soldier who had escorted me from Ni T'ou covered himself with disgrace by getting into a quarrel. Rain was falling, so I stayed in my chair while the coolies were drinking their everlasting cups of tea. Suddenly there was a great outcry, every one pitching in, and I saw the soldier seize the innkeeper by the queue, belabouring him vigorously with the flat of his short broad sword. I called to the interpreter to interfere, but either he did not hear me or would not obey; so I scrambled out of my chair as best I could (a woman, as an inferior being, must always step over the side pole; to touch the pole that rests on the coolie's shoulder would cause him to have sores), and, throwing myself into the fray, hauled the soldier off. I knew, for I had tested it, that the edge of his sword was sharp. When the excitement had died down, I learned that the whole trouble rose from the innkeeper's demanding payment for four cakes, while the soldier insisted that he had eaten only three. Who had the right of it I do not know, but I read the man a lesson at so misbehaving himself when escorting a lady, a truly Western point of