Shaded by drooping banyan trees, stand many handsome houses inhabited by Englishmen, Germans, and Americans whom the necessities of business keep in banishment here. Their social life is said to be very pleasant, and I should think, indeed, that in so small a settlement the members of this little colony (if they did not hate) would love each other cordially. This pretty place, before the capture of Canton, in 1857, was nothing but a hideous mud-bank. But foreigners have transformed it almost as completely as they have Hong-Kong, and have built around it broad embankments made of solid granite, which form an agreeable promenade.
Chinese Boats, Canton.
The Floating Homes Of Thousands, Canton.
Unfortunately, however, Shameen boasts of only one hotel, and of this such dismal stories had been told us that we had half made up our minds to eat and sleep on the American steamers, changing from one to another every morning as they came and went. This seemed, however, so difficult, that we resolved to try the accommodations here. We did so, and discovered that in this case "the devil is not so black as he is painted." At all events, clean, comfortable rooms made some amends for a meager bill of fare.
Interior Of A European's House.
I cherish no delightful recollections of our meals on the island of Shameen. In fact, when a "globe-trotter" has reached India or China, the time has come for him to eat what he can get, and be devoutly thankful that he can get anything. Misguided souls who live to eat should never make a journey around the world. Of course, the foreign residents here live better than travelers at hotels; but a gentleman who entertained us apologized for his poor table, and said that it was especially difficult to get good beef, since Chinamen consider it extravagant to kill such useful animals as cows and oxen. "Accordingly," he added, "we classify the so - called beef that we consume as 'donkey beef,' ' c amel beef,' and 'precipice beef.'
"Precipice beef!" I exclaimed, " what in the world do you mean by 'precipice beef?' "
"That," he replied, "is nearest to the genuine article, for it is the product of a cow that has killed herself by falling over a precipice."
On one side of this island flows the Canton river, and on the other is a small canal which separates it from the city. Two bridges span this narrow stream, each having iron gates which are invariably closed at night and guarded by sentinels. No Chinese, save employees of the foreigners, may come within this reservation. In 1883, however, a Chinese mob attacked it fiercely, and swarmed across the bridges, as the legendary mice invaded Bishop Hatto's tower on the Rhine. The English, French, and German families escaped to steamers in the river, leaving their houses to be plundered or burned. During my stay here, every evening when this bridge was closed, and every morning when it was reopened, I heard a hideous din of drums and horns, concluding with the firing of a blunderbuss. Our consul told me that the object of all this was to inspire fear. "Tremble and obey!" are the words which close all Government proclamations in the Chinese empire.
The Jinrikisha In China.
Starting For Canton.
The morning after our arrival, we found awaiting us outside the hotel door some coolies with the sedan chairs in which we were to make our first excursion through Canton. Another party also was about to start, including several ladies, each of whom held in her hand either a flask of smelling-salts or a piece of camphor wrapped in a handkerchief. In fact, the druggists of Hong-Kong do quite a business in furnishing visitors to Canton with disinfectants and restoratives. Some of these ladies feared being insulted by the Canton populace, and told exciting stories of an English lady who had been recently spat upon, and of American ladies who had been followed by a hooting crowd. Ah Cum, however, smiled complacently.