Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/43

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17
ACROSS TONKING

man who might have been a planter got in, followed by an attractive-looking Annamese woman carrying a little child. She cried bitterly as she waved goodbye to a group of natives on the station platform. The man seemed well known on the line, and was soon the centre of a group of his fellows who paid no attention to the woman. After a while the trio went to sleep, the man on the carriage bench, the woman and child on the floor. She was what is euphemistically called a "cook" in Tonking; just another name for an arrangement so often resulting from the lonely life of Europeans among a slack-fibred dependent alien population. It is the same thing that confronts the stray visitor to the isolated tea plantations of the Assam hills, where young English lads are set down by themselves, perhaps a day's journey from the next European. What wonder that they find it difficult to hold fast to the standards and principles of the home that seems so far away, or that if they once ignore their inherited traditions, no matter in how slight a thing, there seems to be no natural stopping-place short of the abyss. As once said to me an aged American missionary, who perhaps had never worn an evening coat a dozen times in his life, "A nice young fellow, clean in body and soul, comes out from England, and finds himself shut up for the year on one of these plantations, no one of his kind within reach. He means well, but the test is too great. First