CHAPTER XII. LI-CHIANG AND "THE TEMPLE OF THE FLOWERS"

We left a part of our outfit with Mr. Evans at Ta-li Fu and with a new caravan of twenty-five animals traveled northward for six days to Li-chiang Fu. By taking a small road we hoped to find good collecting in the pine forests three days from Ta-li, but instead there was a total absence of animal life. The woods were beautiful, parklike stretches which in a country like California would be full of game, but here were silent and deserted. During the fourth and fifth days we were still in the forests, but on the sixth we crossed a pass 10,000 feet high and descended abruptly into a long marshy plain where at the far end were the gray outlines of Li-chiang dimly visible against the mountains.

Wu and I galloped ahead to find a temple for our camp, leaving Heller and my wife to follow. A few pages from her journal tell of their entry into the city.

    We rode along a winding stone causeway and halted on the outskirts of
    the town to wait until the caravan arrived. Neither Roy nor Wu was in
    sight but we expected that the mafus would ask where they had gone
    and follow, for of course we could not speak a word of the language.
    Already there was quite a sensation as we came down the street, for our
    sudden appearance seemed to have stupefied the people with amazement.
    One old lady looked at me with an indescribable expression and uttered
    what sounded exactly like a long-drawn "Mon Dieu" of disagreeable
    surprise.

    I tried smiling at them but they appeared too astonished to appreciate
    our friendliness and in return merely stared with open mouths and eyes.
    We halted and immediately the street was blocked by crowds of men,
    women, and children who poured out of the houses, shops, and
    cross-streets to gaze in rapt attention. When the caravan arrived we
    moved on again expecting that the mafus had learned where Roy had
    gone, but they seemed to be wandering aimlessly through the narrow
    winding streets. Even though we did not find a camping place we
    afforded the natives intense delight.

    I felt as though I were the chief actor in a circus parade at home, but
    the most remarkable attraction there could not have equaled our
    unparalleled success in Li-chiang. On the second excursion through the
    town we passed down a cross-street, and suddenly from a courtyard at
    the right we heard feminine voices speaking English.

    "It's a girl. No, it's a boy. No, no, can't you see her hair, it's a
    girl!" Just then we caught sight of three ladies, unmistakably
    foreigners although dressed in Chinese costume. They were Mrs. A. Kok,
    wife of the resident Pentecostal Missionary, and two assistants, who
    rushed into the street as soon as they had determined my sex and
    literally "fell upon my neck." They had not seen a white woman since
    their arrival there four years ago and it seemed to them that I had
    suddenly dropped from the sky.

    While we were talking Wu appeared to guide us to the camp. They had
    chosen a beautiful temple with a flower-filled courtyard on the summit
    of a hill overlooking the city. It was wonderfully clean and when our
    beds, tables, and chairs were spread on the broad stone porch it seemed
    like a real home.

    The next days were busy ones for us all, Roy and Heller setting traps,
    and I working at my photography. We let it be known that we would pay
    well for specimens, and there was an almost uninterrupted procession of
    men and boys carrying long sticks, on which were strung frogs, rats,
    toads, and snakes. They would simply beam with triumph and enthusiasm.
    Our fame spread and more came, bringing the most ridiculous tame
    things - pigeons, maltese cats, dogs, white rabbits, caged birds, and I
    even believe we might have purchased a girl baby or two, for mothers
    stood about with little brown kiddies on their backs as though they
    really would like to offer them to us but hardly dared.

    The temple priest was a good looking, smooth-faced chap, and hidden
    under his coat he brought dozens of skins. I believe that his religious
    vows did not allow him to handle animals - openly - and so he would
    beckon Roy into the darkness of the temple with a most mysterious air,
    and would extract all sorts of things from his sleeves just like a
    sleight-of-hand performer. He was a rich man when we left!