Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/87

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53
ACROSS YUNNAN

crowded, and my cook set my table perforce in the midst of the peering, pointing throng. I was the target of scores of black eyes, and I felt that every movement was discussed, every mouthful counted. As a first experience it was a little embarrassing, but the people seemed good-humoured and very ready to fall into place or move out of the way in obedience to my gestures when I tried to take some pictures, not too successfully. Here for a moment I was again in touch with my own world, as a runner, most thoughtfully sent by Mr. Stevenson with the morning's letters, overtook me. According to arrangement he had been paid beforehand, but not knowing that I knew that, he clamoured for more. The crowd pressed closer to listen to the discussion, and grinned with a rather malicious satisfaction when the man was forced to confess that he had already received what they knew was a generous tip. Chinese business instinct kept them impartial, even between one of their own people and a foreigner.

That night we stopped, after a stage of some sixty li, about nineteen miles, at Erh-tsun, a small, uninteresting village. The inn was very poor, and I would have consoled myself by thinking that it was well to get used to the worst at once, only I was not sure that it was the worst. My room, off the public gathering place, had but one window looking directly on the street. From the moment of my arrival the open-