Page:Inside Canton.djvu/157

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of the oars; then, seizing a stone jug at her feet, she dipped it in the stream, and, taking it out again, said to me:

"Could you tell me how many drops of water there are in this vase?"

I laughed, in my turn, at her answer. Looking towards old A-Tchoun, I put the same question to him. He mumbled, for a few seconds, some words between his teeth, and at last said:

"There may be six hundred thousand souls!"

It was evident the old linguist knew no better than the boat-girl, but, in his character of a learned official, he wished it to appear that he did. I then applied to my habitual resource, to that particularly amiable and obliging man, Pan-se-Chen, who said with his usual good sense:

"We have not got an official return of the population of the Tchou-kiang; but we know, on sure authority and by an exact return, that the river accommodates more than eighty thousand boats, large and small. Now, admitting that, one with the other, each of these craft contains four inhabitants, which is very moderate, we obtain the enormous total of three hundred and twenty thousand, which does not strike me as exaggerated."

This total is precisely that given by Morrison; by the authors of the Chinese Repository; by the Catholic missionaries; and, in a word, by all those