Britisher Meets Hong Kong Girl

The Britisher met the Hong Kong girl in neutral territory, Japan, and wooed her the same way he would have a hundred others.

“You’re like a diamond in a coal field.  Did anyone ever tell you, you’re beautiful?” he said looking long and hard into her eyes. 

And she fell for him, fell just the same as if he had been standing on a street corner in Hong Kong and she just one or two generations up from Canton had an unamorous brush with him, got entangled under his feet, with his blue trousers, his naval coat with the large gold buttons, got entangled with the stick he swung so freely in time with his walk, the stick that taught “the locals” a lesson.  Every street corner bore a story of someone getting hit, of the humiliation that took place.  For the British were allowed by law to administer corporeal punishment to the local inhabitants. 

She followed him and his blandishments, and submitted finally to the flattery, actually grew fond of him like an Imperial Power, and even proudly took him back to meet her parents in Kowloon who were still awed by the British, though privately suspicious of their daughter’s involvement. 

You wonder what he saw in her large teeth, her glasses, her two long greasy braids; maybe it was her intelligence, her quick-wittedness. Maybe it was that she saw him standing on the prow of some huge sailing ship uniformed in blue, the tricorn hat, his arm inserted between his chest buttons gleaming in the sun; the vessel ever so slowly maneuvering its way into Hong Kong harbor just before noon.

And maybe he saw beyond her vision of him aboard that ship a hundred years ago, past Hong Kong, past the tiny British protectorate.  He saw in her the vast mainland of China, the terraced rice fields, the mountains in the half mist like exaggerated humps of camels, the snakelike Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, Beijing and Shanghai; and he saw the great railroads that would carry them to outer Mongolia and Tibet, and he saw the Great Wall of China when she smiled, and the tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the thousands of warriors preserved with their horses.  All these things he saw in her, and the simple practical fact that her Chinese could get him to all these places in what was to be a trip of a lifetime, as opposed to the tours everyone else took.

She had expected they would stay together afterwards.  But needless to say they parted within only weeks after returning to Hong Kong, after he took his trip of a lifetime.