The story of the indentured servant trade and some of the conversation that followed cleared the mystery that surrounded the narrator and had given him the name by which he was known. He had been an active participant in the peculiar commerce of the East, which includes the violation of laws whenever they prove inconvenient, such as the smuggling of opium and the shipment of indentured servants to the countries where they are in demand. His latest venture was one that required considerable secrecy, as it involved the purchase of arms for the rebels in Japan. For this reason he had been very cautious in his movements around Yokohama and during his whole stay in Japan, and he had found it judicious to leave the country on the vessel that came so near being wrecked in the typhoon that overtook our friends. He was safely away from Japan now, and the arms that he had purchased for the rebels were in the hands of the government. He had made money by the operation, and was on the lookout for something new.
The Interpreters

"That man belongs to a class which is not at all rare in the far East," said Doctor Bronson to the boys when the subject of the conversation had left them. "A great many adventurers find their way here, some of them being men of ability which borders on genius, while the others are not far removed from rascals. Ward and Burgevine were of the better sort, and there are others whom I could name, but they are not so numerous as the other and worse variety. They are very often men of good manners, and not at all disagreeable as traveling companions, but it is not advisable to be intimate with them. Traveling, like poverty, makes us some strange acquaintances. We can learn a great deal from them if we proceed properly, and if we know where the line of familiarity should be drawn, we are not in any danger of suffering by it."

The morning after the above conversation the steamer arrived at Hong Kong, and dropped anchor in the harbor. She was immediately surrounded by a fleet of small boats, which competed eagerly among themselves for the patronage of the passengers. Our friends selected one which was rowed by a couple of women, and had a group of children in a little pen at the stern. Doctor Bronson explained to the boys that in Southern China a great deal of the boating is done by women, and that entire families live on board the little craft on which they earn their existence. The boat population of Guangzhou numbers more than sixty thousand persons. They are not allowed to live on shore, and their whole lives, from birth to death, are passed on the water. The most of the boatmen and boatwomen at Hong Kong come from Guangzhou, which is only ninety miles away, and as they have privileges at the former place which are denied them in the latter, they are quite satisfied to stay where they are.
A Hong Kong Mille

Hong Kong is a rocky island on the coast of China, and has an excellent harbor, sheltered from most of the winds that blow. The town of Victoria is built at the edge of this harbor, and the streets that lead back from the water are so steep that the effort of climbing them is liable to throw a stranger from the North into a violent perspiration. Fortunately, there is an abundance of sedan chairs, and anyone who wishes to take a promenade may do his walking by hiring a couple of chair-servants to do it for him. The chairs are everywhere, and it is generally desirable to hire one in order to be rid of the continual applications from those that are unemployed. At the wharf where they landed the Doctor engaged porters to carry the baggage to the hotel, and then took chairs for the transportation of himself and the boys. As they had the afternoon before them, the chairs were kept for making the ascent of the mountain just back of the town, and as soon as the rooms were secured, and a slight lunch had been served, they started on their excursion.
A Hong Kong Dime

At the highest point of the mountain, about eighteen hundred feet above the water-level, there is a signal-station, where all vessels coming into port are announced by means of flags. Our friends were carried along a zigzag road to this station, the servants stopping every few minutes to rest from the fatigue of ascending a steep road with a burden on their shoulders. At the station they had a view extending a long distance out to sea and over the coast of China, and the mountain was so nearly perpendicular that it seemed as if they could toss a penny on the town or into the harbor. Fred tried it, and so did Frank, but after throwing away several ounces of copper, and finding they only went a short distance, they abandoned the experiment. They returned well satisfied with the excursion, and agreed that no one who visits Hong Kong should omit the journey to the top of the mountain.
A Hong Kong Cent

Hong Kong, being an English colony, is governed after the English form, and consequently the laws enforced in China do not necessarily prevail on the island. The population includes four or five thousand English and other European nationalities, and more than a hundred thousand Chinese. The number of the latter is steadily increasing, and a very large part of the business of the place is in their hands. The money in circulation is made in England for the special use of the colony. It has the head of the Queen on one side, and the denomination and date on the other, and, for the accommodation of the Chinese, the denomination is given in Chinese characters. The smallest of the Hong Kong coins is made to correspond with the Chinese cash, and it takes ten of them to make a cent, or one thousand for a dollar. It has a hole in the center, like the Chinese coins generally, to facilitate stringing on a wire or cord, and is so popular with the natives that it is in free circulation in the adjacent parts of the empire.

There was not a great deal to be seen in the town, and so the next morning the three travelers started for Guangzhou. There is a boat each way daily, and the journey is made in seven or eight hours. The boys found that the boat in which they went was of American construction, and had an American captain, and so they felt at home, as they had felt on the Yangtze under similar circumstances.

Soon after they left the dock, Frank observed that the gangway leading to the lower deck was covered with a grating fastened with a padlock, and that a Malaysian sailor stood over it with a sword in his hand and a pistol at his belt. He called Fred's attention to the arrangement, and as soon as they found the captain at leisure they asked what it meant.

"It's a very simple matter," said Captain B—, "when you know about it. The fact is, that we were once very near losing our lives by Chinese pirates, and we don't propose to have another risk like it."

"Why, what could pirates have to do with this boat, I wonder?" said Frank.

"We didn't know at the time," was the reply, "but we found out."

"How was that?"

"Well, it seems that some Chinese pirates determined to capture this boat, murder all the foreigners on board, rob the Chinese passengers, and then get away on a junk that was to be ready to receive them. They made their plans, and on a certain day fifty of them took passage from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. When about half way, they were to meet a junk with more men, and as the junk hung out her signal and came near, the fellows were to fall upon us with their knives, and capture the boat. They intended to kill us all, but their scheme failed, as there were four ships at anchor that day close by the spot where the junk was to meet them, and so the junk took the alarm and left. There was no disturbance, and we did not have a suspicion of anything wrong. Finding they had failed with us, they went the next day and captured the steamer Spark, which runs between Guangzhou and Macao. They killed the captain and officers and the only European passenger who happened to be on board, plundered all the native passengers, and got away. Some of them were afterwards captured, and confessed to their part in the affair, and then the whole story came out that they had intended to rob this boat. Since then we always have the gratings down, so that the third-class passengers cannot come on deck, and we keep plenty of rifles and revolvers in the pilot-house and captain's cabin ready for use. They may never try it on us again, and we don't intend to give them a chance to do so."
Fort in Guangzhou River

The captain went on to say that there were many pirates in the waters around Guangzhou, and all along the southern coast. The government tries to suppress them, but it is not easy to do so, and hardly a day passes without the report of a robbery somewhere. All trading-junks are obliged to go heavily armed, and out of this fact comes a great deal of the piracy, as a junk may be a peaceful trader at one o'clock, a pirate at two, and a peaceful trader again at three. It takes very little to induce a Chinese captain to turn pirate when he sees a rich prize before him, and he has no trouble in winning over his crew. It is impossible to distinguish the pirate from the trader, and as the coast is seamed with island passages and indented with bays, it is easy for a junk to escape after she has committed a robbery.

The voyage from Hong Kong to Guangzhou is partly among islands and through a bay, and partly on the Pearl River. The navigation is easy in the first part of the course, but after the steamer has reached the narrower portion of the river the great number of junks and other craft compels a sharp lookout on the part of the pilots, to avoid accidents. They passed the famous Whampoa Anchorage, where the ocean-bound ships used to receive their cargoes before Hong Kong assumed its present importance. A few miles farther on, the great city of Guangzhou was brought into sight as the steamer swung around a bend in the river. In front was the island of Ho-nan, with its temple bowered in trees, and on the surface of the river there were thousands of boats of many kinds and sizes. The boys remembered what they had heard of the boat population of Guangzhou, and now they realized that they had reached a city where sixty thousand people make their homes on the water.

Before the steamer stopped she was surrounded by dozens of the smaller boats, and, as soon as they could do so, many of the boatwomen came on board. The captain recommended one of them who was known as "American Susan," and the trio were confided to her care for transfer to the hotel on Ho-nan Island. Susan and her attendant women shouldered the valises which the travelers had brought from Hong Kong, and led the way to her boat. The gallantry of the boys received a shock when they saw their baggage carried by women, while their own hands were empty, but the Doctor told them it was the custom of the country, and by carrying their own valises they would deprive the women of an opportunity of earning a few pennies. To this view of the matter they yielded, and before they had recovered their composure the boat was gliding across the river, propelled by the powerful arms of her feminine crew. Susan proposed to be in their employ during their stay at Guangzhou, and a bargain was speedily concluded. For fifty cents at day, the boat was to be at their disposal from morning until night to carry them over the river, or to any point they wished to visit along its banks. Frank thought they would be obliged to look a long time to find a boat with two men at the oars for a similar price in New York, and Fred thought they would have to look still longer to find one rowed by two women.
Gateway of Temple Near Guangzhou

They had three or four hours to spare before sunset, and at once set about the business of sightseeing. Their first visit was to the temple on the island, and they were followed from the landing by a crowd of idle people, who sometimes pressed too closely for comfort. There was an avenue of trees leading up to the temple, and before reaching the building they passed under a gateway not unlike those they had seen at the temples in Kyoto and Tokyo. The temple was not particularly impressive, as its architectural merit is not of much consequence, and, besides, it was altogether too dirty for comfort. There was quite a crowd of priests attached to it, and they were as slovenly in appearance as the building they occupied. In the yard of the temple the strangers were shown the furnaces in which the bodies of the priests are burned after death, and the little niches where their ashes are preserved. There were several pens occupied by the fattest pigs the boys had ever seen. The guide explained that these pigs were sacred, and maintained out of the revenues of the temple. The priests evidently held them in great reverence, and Frank intimated that he thought the habits of the pigs were the models which the priests had adopted for their own. Some of the holy men were at their devotions when the party arrived, but they dropped their prayer-books to have a good look at the visitors, and did not resume them until they had satisfied their curiosity.

From the temple they proceeded to a garden, where they had an opportunity of seeing some of the curious productions of the Chinese gardeners in the way of dwarfing trees and plants. There were small bushes in the shape of animals, boats, houses, and other things, and the resemblance was in many cases quite good. They do this by tying the limbs of the plants to little sticks of bamboo, or around wire frames shaped like the objects they wish to represent, and by tightening the bandages every morning, and carefully watching the development of the work, they eventually accomplish their purpose. If they represent a dog or other animal, they generally give it a pair of great staring eyes of porcelain, and sometimes they equip its mouth with teeth of the same material. Many of the Chinese gardens are very prettily laid out, and there are some famous ones near Guangzhou, belonging to wealthy merchants.

On their return from the garden they stopped at a place where eggs are hatched by artificial heat. They are placed over brick ovens or furnaces, where a gentle heat is kept up, and a man is constantly on watch to see that the fire neither burns too rapidly nor too slowly. A great heat would kill the vitality of the egg by baking it, while if the temperature falls below a certain point, the hatching process does not go on. When the little chicks appear, they are placed under the care of an artificial mother, which consists of a bed of soft down and feathers, with a cover three or four inches above it. This cover has strips of down hanging from it, and touching the bed below, and the chickens nestle there quite safe from outside cold. The Chinese have practiced this artificial hatching and rearing for thousands of years, and relieved the hens of a great deal of the monotony of life.

On the river, not far from the hatching establishment, they saw a man engaged in the novel occupation of herding ducks. A hundred or more ducks were on the water, and the man was near them in a small boat and armed with a long pole. The ducks were very obedient to him, but occasionally one would show a little opposition to the herder's wishes, and endeavor to stray from his companions. A rap from the pole brought him speedily to his senses, and back to the herd, and he was pretty certain not to stray again until the blow had been forgotten. Geese were herded in the same way, and both they and the ducks managed to pick up a good part of their living from the water. Ducks are an important article of food among the Chinese, and the rearing of them gives occupation to a great many persons in all parts of the empire.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Interpreter: One who listens to a speaker in one language and relates that utterance to the audience in a different language.
Harbor: A sheltered expanse of water, adjacent to land, in which ships may dock or anchor, especially for loading and unloading.
Wharf: A man-made landing place for ships on a shore or river bank. Also called a dock or a quay.
Colony: Region or governmental unit created by another country and generally ruled by another country.
Hatch: To emerge from an egg.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: The city of Guangzhou, China.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of China on the map of the world.
  • Find the cities of Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.