Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/195

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145
THE LESSER TRAIL

saw no man to fill the post. Every one was good-tempered and friendly, and I was glad to exchange the tiresome seclusion of the town inns for the bustling scene in which I was willingly included, tasting each dish, watching the men at their games, making friends with the children.

The pouring rain of the night gave way to a soft drizzle at dawn, and we were off before seven. As we ascended the valley we faced a solid green wall flushed with masses of pink azaleas and cherry-red rhododendrons, and broken by half a dozen streams which flung themselves over the lip of the cliff to dash in feathery cascades from rock to rock below. Our way led back and forth over rushing mountain streams. Riding was of course out of the question, and I had long since left my chair-coolies behind; but one of the Tachienlu men, a strong, active fellow with bits of coral adorning his black queue, was very alert in looking out for me, always waiting at a difficult place with a helping hand. We crossed the Ma-An Shan Pass, about ten thousand feet high, by the middle of the forenoon, having climbed more than five thousand feet since leaving Lu Ting Ch'iao. Just before reaching the top we descended into a cuplike hollow, a huge dimple lined with the rich greens and gay reds of the rhododendron, and merry with the babble of many tiny waterfalls. I exclaimed with delight at the vision of beauty, and even the coolies