Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/285

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225
GREAT RIVER TO GREAT WALL

and wines from home, and French dishes skilfully prepared by Chinese hands. But the houses where they lived opened out of the strongly walled station enclosure; it would not take long to put it in condition to stand a siege. No one in China forgets the days of 1900.

The train was of the comfortable corridor sort. Most of the time I was the only European, and the only person in the first class, but the second and especially the third were crowded full, although the passengers did not seem about to flow out of the windows, feet foremost, as so often on an Indian railway. The Chinese is beset by many fears, superstitious fears or real mundane ones, but he has the wit to know a good thing when he sees it, and it does not take him long to overcome any pet fear that stands in the way of possessing it. In 1870 the first Chinese railway was built by the great shipowners of the East, Jardine, Mattheson & Co. It was only twelve miles long, connecting Shanghai with Woosung. At first there was no trouble, then certain native interests, fearing the competition, stirred up the people by the usual methods, finally clinching the opposition by a suicide (hired) under a train; so in the end the Government bought out the English firm and dismantled the railway. That was forty years ago, and to-day all that stands in the way of gridironing China with iron highways is the lack of home capital