Page:Inside Canton.djvu/152

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151
INSIDE CANTON.

"You will not believe, Sir, so my master has assured me, that certain tanka-girls can read. I want to prove this to you, and we will go for that purpose to the boat of A-Moun."

When we had cast off and put out into the stream, A-Tchoun handed his book to the tanka-girl, who took it, read the title, and then returned it. This experiment was not quite decisive for me. A-Moun might have said to her compatriot:—"Good day," or, "How are you?" I immediately made a second experiment. I handed our pretty boat-girl a charming stone seal, given me, as a friendly memento, by my excellent friend, Dr. Macgowan, the medical missionary. The young girl scarcely glanced at it, and exclaimed:—

"Y-Van!"

Chinese is better adapted for punning than any other language; the engraved characters represented the consonance of my name, and indicated my profession, accompanied by an epithet my modesty forbids me from repeating. The young creature added, with a smile:—

"If I am ill, you will attend me, will you not?"

This little incident caused me extreme surprise, and inspired me with an exceedingly tender feeling for the learned boat-girl.

"What!" I exclaimed, addressing old A-Tchoun; "what! do not your big, stupid manda-