Chapter 7 – A Trip To China

Louisa May Alcott2016年11月04日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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"Come, little girl, I’ve got another dose for you. I fancy you won’t
take it as well as you did the last, but you will like it better after a
while," said Dr. Alec, about a week after the grand surprise.

Rose was sitting in her pretty room, where she would gladly have
spent all her time if it had been allowed; but she looked up with a
smile, for she had ceased to fear her uncle’s remedies, and was
always ready to try a new one. The last had been a set of light
gardening tools, with which she had helped him put the
flower-beds in order, learning all sorts of new and pleasant things
about the plants as she worked, for, though she had studied botany
at school, it seemed very dry stuff compared with Uncle Alec’s
lively lesson.

"What is it now?" she asked, shutting her work-box without a


"How must I take it?"

"Put on the new suit Miss Hemming sent home yesterday, and
come down to the beach; then I’ll show you."

"Yes, sir," answered Rose obediently, adding to herself, with a
shiver, as he went off: "It is too early for bathing, so I know it is
something to do with a dreadful boat."

Putting on the new suit of blue flannel, prettily trimmed with
white, and the little sailor-hat with long streamers, diverted her
mind from the approaching trial, till a shrill whistle reminded her
that her uncle was waiting. Away she ran through the garden,
down the sandy path, out upon the strip of beach that belonged to
the house, and here she found Dr. Alec busy with a slender red and
white boat that lay rocking on the rising tide.

"That is a dear little boat; and ‘Bonnie Belle’ is a pretty name," she
said, trying not to show how nervous she felt.

"It is for you; so sit in the stern and learn to steer, till you are ready
to learn to row."

"Do all boats wiggle about in that way?" she asked, lingering as if
to tie her hat more firmly.

"Oh, yes, pitch about like nutshells when the sea is a bit rough,"
answered her sailor uncle, never guessing her secret woe.

"Is it rough to-day?"

"Not very; it looks a trifle squally to the eastward, but we are all
right till the wind changes. Come."

"Can you swim, uncle?" asked Rose, clutching at his arm as he
took her hand.

"Like a fish. Now then."

"Oh, please hold me very tight till I get there! Why do you have the
stern so far away?" and, stifling several squeaks of alarm in her
passage, Rose crept to the distant seat, and sat there holding on
with both hands and looking as if she expected every wave to bring
a sudden shipwreck.

Uncle Alec took no notice of her fear, but patiently instructed her
in the art of steering, till she was so absorbed in remembering
which was starboard and which larboard, that she forgot to say
"OW!" every time a big wave slapped against the boat.

"Now where shall we go?" she asked, as the wind blew freshly in
her face, and a few, long swift strokes sent them half across the
little bay.

"Suppose we go to China?"

"Isn’t that rather a long voyage?"

"Not as I go. Steer round the Point into the harbour, and I’ll give
you a glimpse of China in twenty minutes or so."

"I should like that!" and Rose sat wondering what he meant, while
she enjoyed the new sights all about her.

Behind them the green Aunt-hill sloped gently upward to the grove
at the top, and all along the seaward side stood familiar houses,
stately, cosy, or picturesque. As they rounded the Point, the great
bay opened before them full of shipping, and the city lay beyond,
its spires rising above the tall masts with their gay streamers.

"Are we going there?" she asked, for she had never seen this aspect
of the rich and busy old city before.

"Yes. Uncle Mac has a ship just in from Hong Kong, and I thought
you would like to go and see it."

"Oh, I should. I love dearly to go poking about in the warehouses
with Uncle Mac; everything is so curious and new to me; and I’m
specially interested in China because you have been there."

"I’ll show you two genuine Chinamen who have just arrived. You
will like to welcome Whang Lo and Fun See, I’m sure."

"Don’t ask me to speak to them, uncle; I shall be sure to laugh at
the odd names and the pig-tails and the slanting eyes. Please let me
just trot round after you; I like that best."

"Very well; now steer toward the wharf where the big ship with the
queer flag is. That’s the ‘Rajah,’ and we will go aboard if we can."

In among the ships they went, by the wharves where the water was
green and still, and queer barnacles grew on the slippery piles. Odd
smells saluted her nose, and odd sights met her eyes, but Rose
liked it all, and played she was really landing in Hong Kong when
they glided up to the steps in the shadow of the tall "Rajah." Boxes
and bales were rising out of the hold and being carried into the
warehouse by stout porters, who tugged and bawled and clattered
about with small trucks, or worked cranes with iron claws that
came down and clutched heavy weights, whisking them aloft to
where wide doors like mouths swallowed them up.

Dr. Alec took her aboard the ship, and she had the satisfaction of
poking her inquisitive little nose into every available corner, at the
risk of being crushed, lost, or drowned.

"Well, child, how would you like to take a voyage round the world
with me in a jolly old craft like this?" asked her uncle, as they
rested a minute in the captain’s cabin.

"I should like to see the world, but not in such a small, untidy,
smelly place as this. We would go in a yacht all clean and
comfortable; Charlie says that is the proper way," answered Rose,
surveying the close quarters with little favour.

"You are not a true Campbell if you don’t like the smell of tar and
salt-water, nor Charlie either, with his luxurious yacht. Now come
ashore and chin-chin with the Celestials."

After a delightful progress through the great warehouse, peeping
and picking as they went, they found Uncle Mac and the yellow
gentlemen in his private room, where samples, gifts, curiosities,
and newly arrived treasures of all sorts were piled up in pleasing
pro-fusion and con-fusion.

As soon as possible Rose retired to a corner, with a porcelain god
on one side, a green dragon on the other, and, what was still more
embarrassing, Fun See sat on a tea-chest in front, and stared at her
with his beady black eyes till she did not know where to look.

Mr. Whang Lo was an elderly gentleman in American costume,
with his pig-tail neatly wound round his head. He spoke English,
and was talking busily with Uncle Mac in the most commonplace
way so Rose considered him a failure. But Fun See was
delightfully Chinese from his junk-like shoes to the button on his
pagoda hat; for he had got himself up in style, and was a mass of
silk jackets and slouchy trousers. He was short and fat, and
waddled comically; his eyes were very "slanting," as Rose said; his
queue was long, so were his nails; his yellow face was plump and
shiny, and he was altogether a highly satisfactory Chinaman.

Uncle Alec told her that Fun See had come out to be educated and
could only speak a little pigeon English; so she must be kind to the
poor fellow, for he was only a lad, though he looked nearly as old
as Mr. Whang Lo. Rose said she would be kind; but had not the
least idea how to entertain the queer guest, who looked as if he had
walked out of one of the rice-paper landscapes on the wall, and sat
nodding at her so like a toy Mandarin that she could hardly keep

In the midst of her polite perplexity, Uncle Mac saw the two young
people gazing wistfully at one another, and seemed to enjoy the
joke of this making acquaintance under difficulties. Taking a box
from his table, he gave it to Fun See, with an order that seemed to
please him very much.

Descending from his perch, he fell to unpacking it with great
neatness and despatch, while Rose watched him, wondering what
was going to happen. Presently, out from the wrappings came a
teapot, which caused her to clasp her hands with delight, for it was
made in the likeness of a plump little Chinaman. His hat was the
cover, his queue the handle, and his pipe the nose. It stood upon
feet in shoes turned up at the toes, and the smile on the fat, sleepy
face was so like that on Fun’s when he displayed the teapot, that
Rose couldn’t help laughing, which pleased him much.

Two pretty cups with covers, and a fine scarlet tray completed the
set, and made one long to have a "dish of tea," even in Chinese
style, without cream or sugar.

When he had arranged them on a little table before her, Fun
signified in pantomime that they were hers, from her uncle. She
returned her thanks in the same way, whereupon he returned to his
tea-chest, and, having no other means of communication, they sat
smiling and nodding at one another in an absurd sort of way till a
new idea seemed to strike Fun. Tumbling off his seat, he waddled
away as fast as his petticoats permitted, leaving Rose hoping that
he had not gone to get a roasted rat, a stewed puppy, or any other
foreign mess which civility would oblige her to eat.

While she waited for her funny new friend, she improved her mind
in a way that would have charmed Aunt Jane. The gentlemen were
talking over all sorts of things, and she listened attentively, storing
up much of what she heard, for she had an excellent memory, and
longed to distinguish herself by being able to produce some useful
information when reproached with her ignorance.

She was just trying to impress upon her mind that Amoy was two
hundred and eighty miles from Hong Kong, when Fun came
scuffling back, bearing what she thought was a small sword, till he
unfurled an immense fan, and presented it with a string of Chinese
compliments, the meaning of which would have amused her even
more than the sound, if she could have understood it.

She had never seen such an astonishing fan, and at once became
absorbed in examining it. Of course, there was no perspective
whatever, which only gave it a peculiar charm to Rose, for in one
place a lovely lady, with blue knitting-needles in her hair, sat
directly upon the spire of a stately pagoda. In another charming
view a brook appeared to flow in at the front door of a stout
gentleman’s house, and out at his chimney. In a third a zig-zag wall
went up into the sky like a flash of lightning, and a bird with two
tails was apparently brooding over a fisherman whose boat was
just going aground upon the moon.

It was altogether a fascinating thing, and she would have sat
wafting it to and fro all the afternoon, to Fun’s great satisfaction,
if Dr. Alec’s attention had not suddenly been called to her by a
breeze from the big fan that blew his hair into his eyes, and
reminded him that they must go. So the pretty china was repacked,
Rose furled her fan, and with several parcels of choice teas for the
old ladies stowed away in Dr. Alec’s pockets, they took their leave,
after Fun had saluted them with "the three bendings and the nine
knockings," as they salute the Emperor, or "Son of Heaven," at

"I feel as if I had really been to China, and I’m sure I look so,"
said Rose, as they glided out of the shadow of the "Rajah."

She certainly did, for Mr. Whang Lo had given her a Chinese
umbrella; Uncle Alec had got some lanterns to light up her
balcony; the great fan lay in her lap, and the tea-set reposed at her

"This is not a bad way to study geography, is it?" asked her uncle,
who had observed her attention to the talk.

"It is a very pleasant way, and I really think I have learned more
about China to-day than in all the lessons I had at school, though I
used to rattle off the answers as fast as I could go. No one
explained anything to us, so all I remember is that tea and silk
come from there, and the women have little bits of feet. I saw Fun
looking at mine, and he must have thought them perfectly
immense," answered Rose, surveying her stout boots with sudden

"We will have out the maps and the globe, and I’ll show you some
of my journeys, telling stories as we go. That will be next best to
doing it actually."

"You are so fond of travelling, I should think it would be very dull
for you here, uncle. Do you know, Aunt Plenty says she is sure you
will be off in a year or two."

"Very likely."

"Oh, me! what shall I do then?" sighed Rose, in a tone of despair
that made Uncle Alec’s face brighten with a look of genuine
pleasure as he said significantly

"Next time I go I shall take my little anchor with me. How will that

"Really, uncle?"

"Really, niece."

Rose gave a little bounce of rapture which caused the boat to
"wiggle" in a way that speedily quieted her down. But she sat
beaming joyfully and trying to think which of some hundred
questions she would ask first, when Dr. Alec said, pointing to a
boat that was coming up behind them in great style

"How well those fellows row! Look at them, and take notes for
your own use by and by."

The "Stormy Petrel" was manned by half a dozen jaunty looking
sailors, who made a fine display of blue shirts and shiny hats, with
stars and anchors in every direction.

"How beautifully they go, and they are only boys. Why, I do
believe they are our boys! Yes, I see Charlie laughing over his
shoulder. Row, uncle, row! Oh, please do, and not let them catch
up with us!" cried Rose, in such a state of excitement that the new
umbrella nearly went overboard.

"All right, here we go!" and away they did go with a long steady
sweep of the oars that carried the "Bonnie Belle" through the water
with a rush.

The lads pulled their prettiest, but Dr. Alec would have reached
the Point first, if Rose, in her flurry, had not retarded him by
jerking the rudder ropes in a most unseamanlike way, and just as
she got right again her hat blew off. That put an end to the race,
and while they were still fishing for the hat the other boat came
alongside, with all the oars in the air, and the jolly young tars ready
for a frolic.

"Did you catch a crab, uncle?"

"No, a blue-fish," he answered, as the dripping hat was landed on a
seat to dry.

"What have you been doing?"

"Seeing Fun."

"Good for you, Rose! I know what you mean. We are going to have
him up to show us how to fly the big kite, for we can’t get the hang
of it. Isn’t he great fun, though?"

"No, little Fun."

"Come, stop joking, and show us what you’ve got."

"You’d better hoist that fan for a sail."

"Lend Dandy your umbrella; he hates to burn his pretty nose."

"I say, uncle, are you going to have a Feast of Lanterns?"

"No, I’m going to have a feast of bread and butter, for it’s tea-time.
If that black cloud doesn’t lie, we shall have a gust before long, so
you had better get home as soon as you can, or your mother will be
anxious, Archie."

"Ay, ay, skipper. Good-night, Rose; come out often, and we’ll
teach you all there is to know about rowing," was Charlie’s modest

Then the boats parted company, and across the water from the
"Petrel’s" crew came a verse from one of the Nonsense songs in
which the boys delighted.

"Oh, Timballoo! how happy we are,

We live in a sieve and a crockery jar!

And all night long, in the starlight pale,

We sail away, with a pea-green sail,

And whistle and warble a moony song

To the echoing sound of a coppery gong.

Far and few, far and few

Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a sieve."


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