The children were glad to climb down
from the cart and breathe the pure, fresh, country
air. No house was to be seen except the inn.
All around were stubbly fields, with trees in the
distance. The road along which they had come
ran in front of the inn, and was almost hidden by grass.
The inn itself was surrounded by a low wall. There
were several buildings, a large one in the centre
for the inn-keeper and his family, some sleeping-rooms,
and sheds for the carts and mules. Ku Nai-nai,
An Ching, and the children were shown into one of
the sleeping-rooms. Then the girls were allowed
to stroll about the yard. No one took any notice
of Nelly. Ku Nai-nai explained that she was a
southern child whom they had adopted. She forbade
Nelly to speak any English, and would not allow either
of the children to talk to the people of the inn.
Little Yi, she said, was her grandchild.
After supper (bowls of rice only)
the women went out and sat down on the side of the
road and chattered. The children came too, and
Nelly watched the sun set. It was the first time
in her life that she had ever seen it go right down
behind the earth and leave nothing but the fields in
front of them, all quite flat. She asked Ku Nai-nai
if they would be up in time to see it rise again in
the morning. Ku Nai-nai told her that they intended
to start very early, and she could come out and look
if An Ching would come with her. An Ching said
she would if she were not too sleepy. An Ching
had never thought of wanting to see the sun rise.
‘Foreigners had such funny ideas,’ she
When the sun had quite set they went
in to bed, all four on one kang, and slept well in
spite of the fleas.
Next morning, before daybreak, Hung
Li knocked at their door and asked for their bedding,
so that he could put it in the carts. Nelly remembered
the sun first thing, and as soon as she and Little
Yi had put on some of their clothes, they made An
Ching come out with her hair unbrushed. The children
ran in front to the spot where they were the night
before, but saw only a grey mist.
‘Why, there is no sun!’
said Little Yi. ‘We are too early.’
’I quite forgot that the sun
never rises in the same place as it sets. We
must go round to the other side of the inn,’
An Ching was quite puzzled, and thought
it wonderful for Nelly to know where to look for the
sun when she had never been there before.
They went round the inn and found
the sun just appearing like a golden ball. It
seemed to come up very quickly, and then all around
was quite light and bright. When they went back
to the inn An Ching was very anxious for Nelly to
explain all about the sun’s movements, but Ku
Nai-nai said it was time to go, at which Nelly was
not sorry, because she was not sure that she remembered
all there was in her geography book about the sun.
Ku Nai-nai said that the sun did the
same thing where she lived in the country when she
was a girl, and it used to set behind different trees
at different times of the year.
’When you are as old as I am,
An Ching, you will know more about things,’
said she. ’You would know more now if you
spent less time in looking into the glass.’
And then they certainly would have
quarrelled, if Hung Li had not appeared and scolded
them for not being ready; at which Ku Nai-nai turned
upon him and asked in a loud voice what he meant by
being rude to his parent in a public inn. As
no Chinaman likes to appear disrespectful to his mother,
Hung Li said no more.
At last they were ready to start again.
Nelly could scarcely climb into the cart, so stiff
and sore was she with her long cart ride of yesterday
and two nights on a stone kang with only a wadded quilt
to lie upon. But she did manage to get in, though
not without shedding some tears at the thought that
she was going farther away from her parents. And
somehow the cart did not seem to bump so badly to-day,
and the stiffness wore off instead of growing worse
as she had expected. She was getting used to
They went along very slowly all day,
and put up again that night at another inn. This
time it was a small village, and there was no open
space in front. The children were too tired even
to talk. They both went to sleep almost as soon
as they arrived, and slept until rather late the next
morning, for Hung Li did not now seem to be in such
great haste to reach Yung Ching. When they woke
they were quite fresh, and Little Yi was anxious to
be off once more; for An Ching said that there was
a river to cross, which she seemed to think rather
In about two hours’ time they
came to this river, which was after all only a muddy
stream with steep banks. There was a flat ferry-boat
with two men to manage it. These men, the carter,
and Hung Li took the mules out of the carts and made
the women and children sit well back in them.
Then they slid the carts slowly down the incline and
on to the boat, and took them over, after which they
fetched the mules and harnessed them again. Then
came the difficult part, to get the mules to pull the
carts up the incline at the other side, with the men
pushing behind and shouting and screaming at each
other and the poor mules, enough to deafen you.
The children’s cart was tilted so high that they
were looking up at their toes all the time: at
least Nelly and Little Yi were, for An Ching’s
toes had become claws some years ago. At last,
with a mighty pull from the sturdy mules, they got
up the bank, and the other cart was not long in following.
Two hours more and they were at Yung
Ching. As they entered the town Hung Li came
and pulled down the curtain, but not before Nelly had
peeped round the opening and noticed that the roads
were not black, like those of Peking, but proper dust
colour. Everything had a brownish look, she thought,
and it certainly was not a large city such as Peking.
‘Here we are at last,’
said An Ching, and the carts turned under an arch
and Hung Li knocked at a large door, which was opened
by a middle-aged woman, who was the only servant of
the Ku family, Nelly learnt afterwards. This
woman stared very hard upon seeing the children, but
Ku Nai-nai told her in a low voice not to ask any
questions while the carter was there, and said she
would tell her all about them when he was gone, which
she did, promising a portion (very small) of the reward
they were to get for the children when they were taken
The compound seemed clean and well
kept, and Nelly thought that the Kus ought to be far
too respectable and well-off people to steal children
for money. ‘But they are only heathen,’
she said to herself.
Nelly and Little Yi were given a small
room adjoining Ku Nai-nai’s in the centre or
chief building of the compound. An Ching and her
husband had their quarters at the right, across the
court. The children were sorry that they were
no longer to be with An Ching, but, as she said, it
was only at nights that they need be separated.
Nelly was the only European in Yung
Ching among thousands of Chinese. She never thought
of that. Had she done so she must have felt glad
that she was shut up in a compound, away from curious
eyes and fingers.