Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/304

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242
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

while my kind young host of the British American Tobacco Company turned the place upside down in his efforts to provide for the comfort of my journey. My saddle was overhauled, a charming saddle-cloth of Mongolian work was supplied, a great package of cigarettes put up to cheer my men on the road, and for me a box of soda water.

One very important thing had been omitted from my stores. I had neglected to bring onions and potatoes from Peking, most desirable supplies in the country for which I was starting, a land where nothing is grown; and neither potatoes nor onions were to be had in Kalgan. Even my host could not help; he was out of them himself. But when I bewailed the omission to resourceful Wang he looked wise and said quietly, "Madam wants potatoes and onions; she shall have potatoes and onions"; and I had, a good bag of each, and such fine ones that a missionary lady, seeing my supplies, asked if she might inquire of my "boy" where he had got them; never had she seen the like in Kalgan. I hope she found out; I did not. Most likely it was one of those back-stair arrangements common in the East, and I hope no Chinese official or Russian merchant had to go short because of it, but I am sure my need was greater than his. They tell a delightful story in Peking of an occasion when a group of young men attached to a certain legation, as student interpreters, wishing to