Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/219

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165
ACROSS CHENGTU PLAIN

he had forgotten something,—me,—he went back for it, while pony and ma-fu waited. In true Chinese fashion the ma-fu accepted the inevitable and walked quietly at my side, but he had an anxious expression at first, as though he expected me at any moment to whip up my steed and vanish. I am not wise in horseflesh, but at least I try to be merciful to my beasts. When I got off, as I did now and then, to save the horse over a particularly bad place, the man began to cheer up, and finally when, according to my custom, I took the pony outside the village to graze a bit while the men had their breakfast,—a very unsuitable proceeding, I was later told,—his surprise broke forth. "What sort of a foreign woman was this?" At noon I sent the pony back, paying for the half day one hundred and forty cash, about seven cents gold.

Just before reaching Cheung-chou, where we were to spend the night, we crossed the Nan Ho by a fine stone bridge of fifteen arches. The Nan is one of the lesser waterways of West China connecting this corner of Szechuan with the Great River, and many cumbersome boats laden with produce were slipping down with the rapid current on their way eastwards.

I entered the gate of the town with some doubt as to my reception. Baron von Richthofen, who passed through here a generation ago, wrote of the place: "All the men are armed with long knives and use