A Chinese Merchant.
Chinese fortune-tellers had for me a singular fascination. I found them everywhere - in temple courts, at gateways and beside the roads - invariably wearing spectacles, and usually seated at a table decorated with huge Chinese characters. Their services seemed to be in great demand. In every case the ceremony was the same. Each applicant in turn approached, and stated what he wished to know; for example, whether a certain day would be a lucky time for him to buy some real estate, or which of several girls his son would better marry. Upon the table stood a tin box full of bamboo sticks. One of these slips the customer drew at random, and from the sentence written on it the fortuneteller gave his answer in oracu- lar words - which could, as usual, be interpreted in various ways.
A Chinese Fortune - Teller.
A Wall Of Canton.
At length, however, leaving for a time the shops and dimly lighted alleys, we found ourselves approaching a huge gate. For Canton, like most other Chinese cities, is divided into certain districts, each of which is separated from the adjoining one by a wall. The gateways in these walls are always closed at night, and are of special use in case of fires or insurrections, since they are strong enough to hold in check a surging crowd till the police or soldiers can arrive.
Passing through this portal, we made our way along the wall until we arrived at a prominent point of observation, known as the Five-storied Pagoda. Whatever this may once have been, it is to-day a shabby, barn-like structure, marked here and there with traces of red paint, like daubs of rouge on a clown's face. All visitors to Canton, however, will recollect the building, with a certain amount of pleasure, as being the resting-place in which one eats the lunch brought from the steamer or hotel. Not that there is not food of certain kinds obtainable in Canton itself, but somehow what one sees of Chinese delicacies here does not inspire him with a desire to partake of them. In one of Canton's streets, for example, I entered a cat-restaurant. Before the door was a notice which Ah Cum translated thus: "Two fine black cats to-day, ready soon." On stepping inside, I heard some pussies mewing piteously in bamboo cages. Hardly had I entered when a poor old woman brought the proprietor some kittens for sale. He felt of them to test their plumpness, as we might weigh spring chickens. Only a small price was offered, as they were very thin, but the bargain was soon concluded, the woman took her money, and the cadaverous kittens went to swell the chorus in the cages. Black cats, by the way, cost more in China than cats of any other color, for the Chinese believe that the flesh of dark-coated felines makes good blood.
The Five - Storied Pagoda.
A Wayside Restaurant.
To some Chinamen, dogs fried in oil are also irresistible. In one untidy street, swarming with yellow-skinned humanity, we saw a kind of gipsy kettle hung over a wood fire. Within it was a stew of dog-meat. Upon a pole close by was hung a rump of uncooked dog, with the tail left on, to show the patrons of this open-air restaurant to what particular breed the animal had belonged. For it is said there is a great difference in the flesh of dogs. Bull-terriers, for example, would probably be considered tough. Around this kettle stood a group of coolies, each with a plate and spoon, devouring the canine stew as eagerly as travelers eat sandwiches at a railway restaurant after the warning bell has rung. Some hungry ones were looking on as wistfully as boys outside a bun-shop. One man had such a famished look that, through the medium of Ah Cum, I treated him at once. Moreover, hundreds of rats, dried and hung up by the tails, are exposed for sale in Canton streets, and shark's fins, antique duck eggs, and sea-slugs are considered delicacies.
We tried to bring back photographic proofs of all these horrors, but it was impossible. Whenever we halted in the narrow lanes, in fifteen seconds we would be encircled by a moving wall of hideous faces, whose foremost rank kept closing in on us until the atmosphere grew so oppressive that we gasped for breath and told our bearers to move on. Nor is this all. These crowds were sometimes positively hostile. A superstitious fear of being photographed by "foreign devils" made them dangerous. This fact was several times made disagreeably evident. Thus, in a garden adjoining a Chinese temple, I wished to photograph some "sacred" hogs which were attached to the sanctuary in some unknown capacity. But scarcely had the exposure been made, when a priest gave the alarm, and in three minutes a mob of men and boys were rushing toward us, uttering yells and throwing stones. Ah Cum himself turned pale. He sprang in front of us, and swore (may heaven forgive him!) that not a picture had been taken. Of course we offered money as indemnity, but the priests rejected it with scorn, claiming that by the pointing of the camera we had stopped the growth of the hogs. I do not think I exaggerate the situation when I say that if the politic Ah Cum had not been there to defend us, we should have suffered personal injury. Standing upon the summit of the Five-storied Pagoda, we looked out over the city of Canton. For widespread, unrelieved monotony, I never saw the equal of that view in any place inhabited by human beings. True, the confusion of the foreground was to be excused, since a tornado had recently blown down many of the native houses. But far beyond this mass of ruins, stretching on and on for miles, was the same monotonous, commonplace vista of low, uninteresting buildings, seamed with mere crevices in lieu of streets. Meantime, from this vast area came to us a dull, persistent hum, like the escape of steam from a locomotive, reminding us that here were swarming nearly two million human beings, almost as difficult for a foreigner to distinguish or identify as ants in a gigantic ant-hill.