Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/244

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188
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

scrambled. Rain dripped from the branches, brooks dashed down the mountain-side. We had left behind the great heat of the plain, but within the walls of the forest the air was warm and heavy. But nothing could damp the ardour of the pilgrim horde. A few were in chairs; I had long since jumped out of mine, although as Liu complained, "Why does the Ku Niang hire one if she will not use it?" He dearly loved his ease, but had scruples about riding if I walked, or perhaps his bearers had. Some of the wayfarers, old men and women, were carried pick-a-back on a board seat fastened to the coolie's shoulders. It looked horribly insecure and I much preferred trusting to my own feet, but after all I never saw an accident, while I fell many times coming down the mountain.

The beginnings of Mount Omei's story go back to the days before writing was, and of myth and legend there is a great store, and naturally enough. This marvel of beauty and grandeur rising stark from the plain must have filled the man of the lowlands with awe and fear, and his fancy would readily people these inaccessible heights and gloomy forests with the marvels of primitive imagination. On the north the mountain rises by gentle wooded slopes to a height of nearly ten thousand feet above the plain, while on the south the summit ends in a tremendous precipice almost a mile up and down as though slashed off by the sword of a Titan.