Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/37

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11
ACROSS TONKING

the mistaken moderation of the Government in not acquiring at the same time a lease of the island of Hainan. Something is being done now to repair this unfortunate error by industriously developing French hold upon that territory, and the big consulate and the French post-office and hospital at Hoi-hou, the chief port, are significant of future hopes, even if not justified by present conditions.

The following noon, after we left Kwang-chou, we were approaching Haiphong through muddy red channels between the low-lying meadow lands which here border the river Cua-Cam, on the right bank of which lies the chief commercial centre of Tonking. But its days as a shipping port are said to be numbered, because of the difficult approach. Much money has been spent in efforts to improve the waterway, but with no satisfactory results, and now it is proposed to create a new port in the beautiful Baie d'Along, a little farther east. There was some doubt in my mind as to the reception awaiting us. We had been told that the customs inspection was severe, and we had many packages; no Chinese would be admitted without passports, and I had neglected to provide any for my men; there was a strict muzzling law on, and Jack had not even a collar. But the graceful courtesy of the French officials smoothed away every difficulty. We were bowed out of the custom-house with our packages unopened. At the police headquarters,