Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/295

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233
GREAT RIVER TO GREAT WALL

top framing the gay dress and gayer faces of some Manchu women. And the kaleidoscopic scene moves against a background of shops and houses gay with paint and gilding. The life, the colour, the noise are bewildering; your head begins to swim. And then you look away from it all to the great wall. There it stands, massive, aloof, untouched by the petty life at its foot. And you think of all it has looked upon; what tales of men and their doings it could tell. And you ask the first European you meet, or the last,—it is always the same,—about the place and its history, and he says, "Oh, yes, Peking is full of historical memorials which you must not fail to see"; but they always turn out to be the spots made famous in the siege of the legations. To the average European, Peking's history begins in 1900; you cannot get away from that time, and after a while you tire of it, and you tire, too, of all the bustle and blaze of colour. And you climb again to the top of the wall that seems to belong to another world, and you look off toward the great break in the hills, to Nankow, the Gate of the South. On the other side the road leads straight away to the Mongolian uplands where the winds blow, and to the wide, empty spaces of the desert.

So you turn your back upon Peking, and the railway takes you to Kalgan on the edge of the great plateau. It is only one hundred and twenty-five miles away, but you spend nearly a whole day in the train,