Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/98

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62
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

fort to insure the safety of traffic along this way. Our stay that night was in a tiny hamlet, and a special guard was stationed at the door of the inn to defend us against real or fancied danger from marauders.

It was still early in April, but even on these high levels the flowers were in their glory, and each day revealed a new wonder. Roses were abundant, white and scentless, or small, pink, and spicy, and the ground was carpeted with yellow and blue flowers. From time to time we passed a group of comfortable farm buildings, but much of the country had a desolate look and the villages were nothing more than forlorn hamlets, and once we stopped for the night in a solitary house far from any settlement. A week after leaving Yunnan-fu we entered the valley of the Tso-ling Ho, a tributary of the Great River, and a more fertile region. As I had been warned, the weather changed here, and for the next twenty-four hours we sweltered in the steamy heat of the Yangtse basin. From now on, there was no lack of water. On all sides brooks large and small dashed down, swelling the Tso-ling almost to the size of the main river itself. At one spot, sending the men on to the village, I stopped on the river bank to bathe my tired feet, and was startled by the passing of a stray fisherman, but he seemed in no wise surprised, and greeting me courteously went on with his work. China shares with us the bad fame of being unpleasantly inquisitive.