Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/199

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149
THE LESSER TRAIL

rubbing Jack. The thoughtfulness and good will of my men during all the journey were unfailing, and I never found that friendliness on my part diminished in any way my authority over them.

After dinner the chair-bearers gathered round and with the aid of the interpreter I took down as best I could some of their calls and responses, a sort of antiphonal chorus handed down from generation to generation of coolies. Thus the men in front cry, "Lao di!" — "Something in the road!" — and those behind call back, "Ti chi!" — "Lift higher!" or maybe it is "Chiao kao!" — "Something overhead!" — and then the answer comes, "Keo yao!" — "Stoop lower!" When the way is very uneven, you hear "Leo puh ping!" — "The road is not level!" to which is replied, "Mon tien hsin!" — "There are stones like stars!" — followed by "Tien shan hsin To!" — "Many stars in the sky!" — with the response, "Ti hsia ken to!" — "Many holes in the ground." Or perhaps at a bridge, "Hsio mo lan chao!" — "Bridge bad, building for a thousand years!" to which comes the proverbial answer, "Chien mien wan lao!" — "Must last for ten thousand." When there is a steep bit, one calls out, "Deo shan deo!" — "Steeper and steeper!" and the others retort, "Kuan shan kuan!" — literally, "Official upon official," but the meaning is plain, "As steep as the ladder of promotion." In the vil-