Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/276

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218
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

merchant. The surprising thing, of course, is not that it is good—the Chinese have built many good roads—but that it is new. At present it stops at the Szechuan frontier, but there is talk of extending it across Hupeh.

The day and a half that I spent in going through the gorges of the Yangtse were the most exhausting part of my whole trip; from the mere strain of seeing and feeling, one's senses were all the time on the rack. Scenes of overpowering savagery and grandeur that held one spellbound, were relieved by beautiful bits of cultivation, little hamlets of brown houses and red temples half concealed in groves of golden bamboo and the glossy green of orange trees; moments when the boatmen lounged on the deck or hung exhausted over their oars were followed by grief, fierce struggles against the dreadful force of a whirlpool that threatened to engulf us.

But, after all, that which most often comes back to me as I recall those days is the feeling of the ruthless human will grappling with nature and winning the mastery. Who can call China aged and in decay face to face with her success in conquering a passage up these gorges? Who can question the vitality of the Chinese, that has watched the trackers at work pulling a huge junk against a current like the rapids of Niagara, clambering over wet, rough boulders, creeping like cats along a thread of a trail overhanging the