Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/288

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228
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

swarming, toiling, ant-hill humanity. It was a nightmare.

On the second day we reached the Hoang Ho, China's sorrow and the engineer's despair. The much-discussed bridge is two miles long, crossing the river on one hundred and seven spans. As the train moved at snail's pace there was plenty of time to take in the desolate scene, stretches of mudflats alternating with broad channels of swirling, turbid water; and, unlike the Yangtse, gay with all sorts of craft, the strong current of the Yellow River rolled along undisturbed by sweep or screw.

Once across the Hoang Ho and you enter the loess country, dear to the tiller of the soil, but the bane of the traveller, for the dust is often intolerable. But there was little change in scenery until toward noon of the following day, when the faint, broken outlines of hills appeared on the northern horizon. As we were delayed by a little accident it was getting dark when we rumbled along below the great wall of Peking into the noisy station alive with the clamour of rickshaw boys and hotel touts. In fifteen minutes I was in my comfortable quarters at the Hôtel des Wagons Lits, keen for the excitement of the first view of one of the world's great historic capitals.

Peking is set in the middle of the large plain that stretches one hundred miles from the Gulf of Pechihli to the Pass of Nankow. On the north it is flanked by