and be pleasant. One old lady, indeed, did swear herself black in the face on seeing some of our rugs laid out on her roof; but by nightfall our grandeur had convinced her of her error, and in full audience of all the village she came upstairs and did lowly penance on her knees, repenting in a loud and lamentable voice with beatings of her forehead on the floor. Still no news, however, of great China behind; but we learned that there was a Chinese village under one of our longed-for mountains, which was the best news the moment could have brought us, especially as it proved that the village was wholly friendly, and contained a little old empty temple ready for our reception. To this, then, we joyously removed, demanding authority and sanction from the Governors of the Subprefectural City some forty miles away across the northward ranges. And in answer came the first hint of coming storm : Tufei’ (brigands) were in South Kansu—whether Wolves or not still seemed obscure, as did also their direction and whereabouts, so that the Subprefectural City was by no means yet in any alarm, but mildly begged us to retire betimes within its walls. We, however, preferred the security of our remoteness, and continued investigating the botanical wealth of the Alps from day to day, but little disturbed by the traffic of the shrine. For the temple was all collapsing to ruin, the roof unsound, the statues gone to pieces, and the dusty floor bestrewn with long-neglected mummingmasks. In the yard lived only one monk, a simple kindly soul, very old and meek and holy, busied all day with his prayers and beads and scriptures, sitting in his cell or in a sunny angle of the court, with a projecting fringe of red hairs fixed round his forehead to protect his eyes from the glare. He was only a visitor by invitation, full of a quiet and unobtrusive dignity. But more insistent was his vicar, a stout and squinting person in dim purple, whose duty it was to conduct the Office in the Shrine. At dawn and dusk he would come down from his cottage at the other end of the village; his acolyte unbarred the great doors, and the drum boomed forth its summons to worshippers who never

So in a minute or two the doors were locked again, and the service over, and the minister at leisurethis indeed was his unvarying condition—to come up


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and pester the strangers, with pattings and pokings and protestations of inordinate devotion. So the days passed; and each expedition into the hills concluded, according to the season, in torrential rains and hail. Finally, we were just upon removing to camp high up, when at midnight returned a messenger whom we had sent over the hill for mules. Through the pouring dark he returned, alone, over a high and stony pass; to the accompaniment of the splashing rain outside in the yard he crouched in a corner of the room, and, yellow in the vacillating light of the one candle, told his tale in husky whispers.

For those fatal hails had brought upon us again the fury of all the border peoples and their monks. And now, to the number of 3000 strong, this simple and pious peasantry was marching immediately up to our massacre, conceiving that the late devastation of their crops was due to nothing else but the annoyance of the mountain Gods at our unauthorised intrusion on their fastnesses, In this belief they were fortified by the clergy, anxious for their monopoly of gold and silver, and utterly deriding the notion that anybody could be so obstinate as we in penetrating the Alps, for any reason short of precious metal, much less for any motive so incredibly silly, so patently a pretence, as the mere discovery of plants and weeds of no value. Once more, then, we were to be harrowed up, and sent packing; for, though the attack came to nothing for the moment, it was obvious that further stay was impossible, if the border peoples had no scruple about invading Chinese territory. So we must fly. But whither?

Now came one of the times when local news and politics become of a vital importance inconceivable in England, where the utmost crisis merely begets an indecision as to whether one may dare dine with one's oldest and dearest friends; such indecision hinging on the uncertainty of human tempers, but not on any uncertain integrity of one's own throat. And a possible scant line at the bottom of an English newspaper column swelled to vast proportions as we were led on to learn that the problem of our flight was further complicated by the fact that terror now reigned throughout South Kansu, that the Wolf was sweeping through, that all the little

Vol. 223.-No. 443.

2 B


towns through which we had so lately passed had been put to sack within a few days of our own departure, and that the Subprefectural City itself was either in convulsions of panic fear, with its mandarin fled, or else actually already in the hands of the Wolf. The marvellous luck of our escape hitherto, the uncanny good-fortune of thus having everywhere just flown through in safety ahead of the advancing storm, now paled its lustre before the difficulties of the immediate situation. To the west of us lay the Tepo Tribes, Thibetans wilder and wickeder than most; to the south impassable Alps; to the east the valley was blocked by the Crusading Army athirst for our blood; and on the north lay the chance of running straight into the Wolf's arms, or of meeting his bands upon the road. In either case, with all our boxes and all our bullion, there could not be any great hope for our lives. However, the urgency of the problem demanded prompt decision. To stay was death, sooner or later; to go was only the risk of it. We finally decided to stake our all on the notorious uncertainty of rumour, and the fair chance that the Subprefectural City might prove in less desperate case than was represented. The comparatively small question of ways and means could not delay us long. No mules were to be got in the poor little place, and our big black boxes were of daunting weight. Nevertheless we chartered all the able-bodied villagers as bearers; and the endless stream went filing out at last over the mountains (looking like a string of square black beetles), dismissed with gentle blessings and farewells by the old monk, and with excessive protestations of love and innocence from Squint-eyes, whose disclaimers of all complicity in the Crusade were further discounted by the fact that we had hardly left the village when numbers of unsuspected monks emerged from his quarters and scattered in all directions to their monasteries with the news of our departure.

Through the golden day we travelled in anxiety, seeing no evil thing, but hearing tidings more and more terrible at each successive village that brought us nearer to the Subprefectural City-the Black Water bridge was gone, the city sacked, and the mandarin dead or bolted, or both. Finally, when we reached the river, the bridge


was there; and, as we advanced up the long dry valley towards our goal, firmer assurances met us, that the Subprefectural City stood intact where it did, and that in his accustomed seat the mandarin still sat undisturbed. Never was a place so defensible, indeed, as this. The way winds in and out by the river-bed, commanded by watchhouses and eminences, so that no enemy could get within three miles if these had each a good rifle or two. The city, snuggling into fat folds of hills beneath a huge limestone mountain, and girdled with golden fields of corn in a sunny bay beside the Black Water, with tangles of sweet roses embowering it all around, possesses from the rampart of its walls complete command for several miles of every line of approach, and could easily be kept clear of all attack by a mere armful of good guns. No such defences, however, had the mandarin to inspire him ; twenty odd tatterdemalions in blouses, armed with primeval muskets never cleaned and rarely fired except at imminent risk to their user, do not make for confidence against such an army as the Wolf's. Accordingly the Lord Jang had displayed, instead, the wisdom of the serpent, for his valley leads onward nowhere but only into Thibet some six miles west, and his city is poor as a bone. So with good heart he sent down men in disguise to where the valley merges into that of the main road going north to Minchow and Taochow. Along this in time came the ravening Wolves, and, seeing these apparent peasants, asked how far it was to the Subprefectural City. They answered, 60 li, instead of 30; the Wolves disdained to diverge so far for a place so poor, and swept onwards to their appalling sack of Taochow and Minchow. Thus it was that again we just eluded the Wolf, against every reasonable expectation, now following after in his track, and slipping aside into the only city of South Kansu which escaped his clutch.

Hardly any place resisted him successfully ; few places, defenceless and unarmed, could hope to do so; and none but two or three attempted it. The Subprefectural City must inevitably have gone with the rest, had it not been for that timely stratagem. As it was, we found it, when at last we wound our way through the gates and along the densely crowded streets, in a state of hysterical excitement. Our arrival marked the climax of emotion ; from afar tumultuous hordes came flocking to escort us in. Our coming created first of all a frantic terror, and then bewildered amazement--terror, lest we should prove robbers, and then amazement that we had not been robbed. The mandarins fell upon our necks, exulting in the prestige of our presence, no less than in the relief of having our precious persons comparatively safe under their own eye within the walls. Nor would they let us go again; we were carried off to stately quarters in the Military Governor's Yamen, and there preserved as a palladium of the City. Excitement began to subside, and the sight of a real rifle rekindled public confidence. But peace was not yet; and now we had a lively sample of what life must have been in the border-towns of England during the sixteenth century, for hardly had the alarm of the Wolves died down, than the Thibetans were known to be advancing on a raid from the west, according to their usual habit in early summer, when they replenish their exhausted stores by crossing the vague border and laying waste the villages, sometimes advancing against the Subprefectural City itself. So it now was; instantly the place went once more frantic. It is hardly possible to conceive the conditions from afar, unless the mind can fairly figure its circumstances of life and peril—that quiet little population of some two thousand peaceful, decent people, only asking (like all decent Chinese) to be let alone to drive their little trades and work their little cultures, not too much squeezed or worried by officials, but living orderly under perhaps the finest system of public justice and carefully graduated responsibility that the world has ever known-if only its performance could be kept at the level of its conception. This population still lives contentedly in the Middle Ages ; and the fall of the Manchus makes as little difference to it, and is as little realised by it, as that of the Mings. Their coinage is as primeval as their notions ; their defenders' few weapons are as old as either, and only fitted for a museum. But they are encircled by a noble battlemented wall of five-and-twenty feet or so, with a broad level ramp on which two motors could go abreast. This, indeed, is its only defence: for the garrison is a slouching Ragged Brigade, as disinclined to


fight as it is incapable, believing that, if you hold a gun and let it off,

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