Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/214

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162
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

groves and rice-fields on the lowland, afforded a charming picture at every turn.

My men were waiting for me at the appointed place, and ten minutes' precarious scrambling along the narrow dykes between the fields brought me to the great highway leading to the capital, four days' march away. All this day and the three succeeding ones we were travelling through a district park- or garden-like in its exquisite artificial beauty. The trail, which was at first fairly good, ran now along the top of an embankment some six feet broad constructed across the swimming paddy fields, then dropped into a little valley shaded with fine "namti" trees, and again it wound along a low ridge. Far off against the western horizon stretched the splendid snow-line of the Tibetan range from which I had just come, but now more than a hundred miles away. Every inch of land that could be irrigated was under cultivation, save where a substantial looking farmhouse set in groves of fine trees, bamboos, cypress, and namti, occupied a little knoll laboriously built up above the encircling marsh. Last year their crumbling walls testified to the security of the country, but I wonder what has been the fate of these solitary houses in the recent months of lawlessness. Toward the end of the day a soft mist settled down upon the earth, outlining the nearer hills and throwing up against the sky the distant peaks.