Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/197

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147
THE LESSER TRAIL

passable torrent. Now we crouched under overhanging ledges, now we slipped and sprawled down a rough rock staircase, constantly crossing the stream from side to side on planks placed from boulder to boulder, or on slippery logs with insecure handrails or none at all. I found the descent far more tiring than the climb on the other side. The soldier and the gallant coolie fortunately kept always with me, one in front and one behind, and I was often glad of a helping hand. At one time the path led straight into the torrent, but while I was wondering as to the depth of the water and the strength of the current, the coolie, hastily depositing his load, motioned to me to get on his back, and the sturdy fellow carried me safely around the projecting cliff. Still another time we were forced to take to the river, and as I could get no wetter than I was, I proposed to wade in, but again the man was at hand, insisting that I should ride, and the strength and agility with which he made his way over the slippery rocks, the swirling water rising above his knees, were really wonderful ; but then my weight was less than one hundred and thirty pounds, while the ordinary load of the teacarrier is two hundred. At our heels came the soldier carrying Jack, whose short legs could hardly have made headway against the strong current forcing him out into midstream.

About the middle of the afternoon we forerunners