Page:Inside Canton.djvu/147

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one to the other, representing the large squares in our cities on land. These are official vessels, clusters of shops, or armed barks. Among the first, you readily distinguish the boats belonging to the police, the customs, and the gabel. The police-boats are recognisable by a row of rattan shields which surround their sides. The reader will easily understand that, among this compact mass of human beings, there must be some to represent public order. There is no example of civilisation in the world which does not possess its armed force. These floating posts, filled with subordinate agents of the authorities, are, in the middle of the Tchou-kiang, what the guard-houses and the offices of the sergens-de-ville are in Paris; but the functionaries charged with protecting the maritime population of Canton have far less to occupy them than their colleagues in Europe. But as regards the custom-house officers, their intervention is required every instant by the junks arriving from all points of the empire. Their boats, which are continually ploughing the stream, are delicate and slim, and only inferior in speed to those of their rivals, the smugglers, who do not fear to anchor, so to say, in these waters. The grand convoys of salt, which come from the centres of production, consist of vessels of the same form, but of very light tonnage; they are called by the Chinese si-le-pen.