Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/31

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5
ACROSS TONKING

Yunnan and Szechuan. The cook had come down the "Great River" from Chung-king with an English family returning home, and was glad to work his way back, even though by a round-about route. Although he spoke no English, he understood European ways and was quick to comprehend my wishes. And he proved a faithful, hard-working fellow, and a very passable cook.

By the end of March my preparations were complete. The boat for Haiphong was to leave at nine o'clock on the morning of the 29th, and the evening before two sampans took me and my kit, together with the interpreter and the cook, out to where she lay at her moorings. My belongings looked rather formidable as they lay heaped up on the deck of the Sikiang, of the Est Asiatique Français line, but, after all, there was only a moderate supply of stores, such as tea, jam, biscuit, sugar, cereals, tinned meats and tinned milk, together with a few enamelled iron dishes and the cook's stew-pans, all packed in wooden boxes. The bedding-roll and clothing were put in camp-bags of waterproof canvas, while the necessary maps and cameras and films were carried in suit-cases for safe-keeping. An English cross saddle brought from Shanghai proved more satisfactory for the small Yunnan ponies than would have been the Mexican saddle which I had tried in vain to secure. Acting on a timely word of warning I bought in Hong Kong a