Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/232

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176
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

really guardians of the peace. I had a chance to see the order that was kept one night when my chair-men lost their way taking me to a dinner at the house of the French Consul-General, quite across the city from where I was staying. For more than an hour we wandered about, poking into all sorts of dark corners, finally reaching the consulate at half-past nine instead of an hour earlier, and nowhere, either in thoroughfare or alley, was there any rowdyism, and this though it was the night of the Dragon Festival when all the people were making holiday. But then under ordinary conditions the Chinese is a peaceable man; he has his own interpretation of the rule of life: in order to live, let others live. I met an example of that in Peking. Opposite the hotel door stood a long line of rickshaws. You soon had a favourite man, and after that the others never thrust themselves forward, but, instead, at once set up a shout for him if he failed to note your appearance. However, the Chinese individual is one thing, the Chinese mob another. It was not many years since an infuriated crowd stormed through the streets of Chengtu seeking the lives of the foreigners, and in even fewer weeks after my visit other crowds would besiege the viceroy's yamen demanding justice for their wrongs. For even when I was there the undercurrent of discontent in the province was visible. The students of the university, like those in Yunnan-fu, had more than once got out of