I first saw him in the port of Chongqing, in a navy-blue overcoat, hurrying on the wharf towards the Yangtze River ferry. He held a valise in one hand and clutched a book to his chest with the other. I stood by the rails on the upper deck and watched until he vanished in the melee of passengers crossing the gangway.
A light rain had begun falling. I moved back and settled on a bench in the passageway. The man I had seen on the wharf—I will call him G—hurried past and entered my cabin. Minutes later, he stepped back out, book in hand, and sat beside me. I glanced at the title: The Persimmon Tree and other Stories by Marjorie Barnard. I introduced myself and told him that I was from Melbourne, travelling in China after working in Guizhou province, and that I admired Barnard’s work.
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