Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/46

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20
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

versal headgear. In shape the Annamese hat resembles a tea-tray with edges three inches deep, and of the size of a bicycle wheel. In addition to the band passing under the chin a small crown fits the head snugly, and helps to keep the huge thing in place. Primarily it is a head-covering, a protection against sun or rain, but incidentally it serves as a windbreak, a basket-cover, a tray, or a cradle. Often French soldiers crossed with me, and I noticed that they usually spoke Annamese fluently, unlike Tommy Atkins in India, who rarely knows a word of the vernacular; also they seemed to be on a friendly, not to say familiar footing with the natives.

After a comfortable week-end's rest, I left Lao-kai in the early morning, helped on my journey by those courtesies that so often in strange lands convince one that "less than kin more than kind" quite understates the truth. An Italian on his way down the river wired the landlord of the best inn in Yunnan-fu of my coming, that I might be properly met. That I had already done so myself did not at all take from his kind thoughtfulness. Still another Italian of the Chinese customs service joined me as we left Lao-kai, having come over from Ho-k'ou to escort me across the frontier, that I might have no bother with my luggage. Yet another of these kind strangers wired ahead to warn the solitary American on the line of my coming, thus giving the two compatriots a chance to ex-