Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/124

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86
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

the walls is almost impossible because of the dirt and crowds, while near the city all unoccupied land is usually given over to graves. In Ning-yüan really the only chance for exercise short of a half-day's excursion, perhaps, was on the city wall, where I had a delightful ride one afternoon.

It was the morning of April 29, when we finally started, my caravan being now increased to seventeen men, as I had advanced the interpreter to a three-bearer chair and given his old one to the cook, who as a Szechuan man should have been able to walk. But he seemed hardly up to it, — in fact he gave me the impression of an elderly man, although he owned to forty-one years only. It needs a trained eye, I imagine, to judge of the age of men of an alien race.

On passing out from the suburbs of the town, charmingly embowered in fruit orchards, we struck across the open, treeless plain. There was little land that could be cultivated that was not under cultivation, but as yet the fields lay bare and baked in the burning sun, waiting the belated rain, as this part of the valley cannot be irrigated, owing to the lie of the land. Rain fell the first night, and after that neither the soil nor I could complain of dryness. Our first stop was at Li-chou, a small, comfortable town at the head of the valley, with a bad inn. It, not Ning-yüan, which lies a little off the main trail, is the centre of the carrying business between Yunnan and the