Page:Inside Canton.djvu/136

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master of the place comfortably installed in the interior of the apartment, on the left of the entrance, just beneath the little altar, which is quite indispensable; he was seated before a table, on which bundles of paper were seen arranged in order, and which were surrounded by a magnificent calculating machine. The Chinese proprietor was handsome, radiant, and prepossessing; his head, taken altogether, was remarkably long, and was resting softly upon a handsome fur dress; finally, he had more the look of a jolly companion than of a usurer; but appearances are so awfully deceitful! When he saw us, our friend gave us a little patronising bow, as much as to say, "I know what brings you;" but when our Chinese interpreter explained to him that we were inquiring travellers and not customers, he rose and overwhelmed us with the warmest manifestations of Chinese politeness. The objects deposited with him were arranged on shelves, on which were inscribed the dates of the loans, and the time granted to the debtors for repaying them. Whilst we were examining, with interest, the room which contained this large collection of curiosities, our guide endeavoured to prove to us the morality of his profession, by persuading us that the pledges which had been left with him would gain considerably by passing through his hands.

"They generally bring us nothing but dirty and