Such matters are not mentioned in public in China, any more than in India. My own chair-men, so it happened, were all gay young bachelors, ready to squander their earnings on anything that took their fancy, beads or tobacco, hats or cakes, especially cakes. There was a particular sort, very sweet with pink frosting, that was a great delicacy, costing two cents Mexican apiece.
There was the usual noisy throng of coaches, chairs, people afoot, lackeys, chair-men, boys, and such, in front of the playhouse when we arrived, and though we scanned all faces on whom the light fell, we had our wonted disappointment regarding that of Captain Falconer.
I had a chance to see the order that was kept one night when my chair-men lost their way taking me to a dinner at the house of the French Consul-General, quite across the city from where I was staying.
But finally, when I bade the chair-men stop for a smoke at a rest-house, knowing they could easily overtake my slow-moving vehicle, he too disappeared, and only took up his station again at the head of the procession when I went back to my chair after dismissing the barrow with a payment of eighty cash for a ride of twenty-five li.
We have felt already this morning, even in coming straight from our very Western hotel here, how helpless we are in this land where the chair-men do not speak a word of English, and where even the street names are in Chinese characters. This little man is quite unassuming, he would certainly be no trouble and might be very useful.
A chair covered with red silk, borne on the shoulders of sixteen chair-men, passed up to the temple. "Who is in that chair?" asked Yung Pak of his companion. "The crown prince," was Kim Yong's reply. "He attends his royal father in all these ceremonies of state." Yung Pak drew a long breath, but said nothing.
Martin's Lane so as to come at last into Gerrard Street, and turning thence Northward into Dean Street. Here the maid led the chair-men along the West side of the way; but Philip and I kept the East side. At last the girl stopped before a door with a pillared porch, and the carriers set down the chair.
Of my caravan only three would go on with me, the interpreter, the cook, and the Yunnan coolie, who was ready to stay by me a little longer. The rest I had paid off, giving to all a well-earned tip, and receiving from each of my chair-men in turn a pretty, embarrassed "Thank you," learned from hearing me say it.
It was not her chair, but one that stood in solicitation of some passenger from the stage door; as was now shown by one of the chair-men asking her for directions. She bade her maid hire a boy with a light, and lead the way afoot; and told the chair-men to follow the maid. The chair door being then closed, and the men lifting their burden, her orders were carried out.
The rain kept on for some hours, and the road was alternately a brook or a sea of slippery red mud; the pony, with the cook on his back, rolled over, but fortunately neither was hurt; coolies slid and floundered, and the chair-men went down, greatly to their confusion, for it is deemed inexcusable for a chair-carrier to fall.