CHAPTER XXXVIII. LAST DAYS IN CHINA
It was of paramount importance to pack our specimens before the beginning of the summer rains. They might be expected to break in full violence any day after June 1, and when they really began it would be impossible to get our boxes to Bhamo, for virtually all caravan travel ceases during the wet season. Therefore our second stay at Hui-yao was short and we returned to Teng-yueh on May 24, ending the active field work of the Expedition exactly a year from the time it began with our trip up the Min River to Yeng-ping in Fukien Province.
Mr. Grierson had kindly invited us again to become his guests and no place ever seemed more delightful, after our hot and dusty ride, than his beautiful garden and cool, shady verandah where a dainty tea was served. Our days in Teng-yueh were busy ones, for after the specimens were packed and the boxes sealed it was necessary to wrap them in waterproof covers; moreover, the equipment had to be sorted and sold or discarded, a caravan engaged, and nearly a thousand feet of motion-picture film developed. This was done in the spacious dark room connected with Mr. Grierson's house which offered a welcome change from the cramped quarters of the tent which we had used for so many months.
Much of the success of our motion film lay in the fact that it was developed within a short time after exposure, for had we attempted to bring or send it to Shanghai, the nearest city with facilities for doing such work, it would inevitably have been ruined by the climatic changes. Although cinematograph photography requires an elaborate and expensive outfit and is a source of endless work, nevertheless, the value of an actual moving record of the life of such remote regions is worth all the trouble it entails.
The Paget natural color plates proved to be eminently satisfactory and were among the most interesting results of the expedition. The stereoscopic effects and the faithful reproduction of the delicate atmospheric shading in the photographs are remarkable. Although the plates had been subjected to a variety of climatic conditions and temperatures by the time the last ones were exposed in Burma, a year and a half after their manufacture, they showed no signs of deterioration even when the ordinary negatives which we brought with us from America had been ruined. The other photographs, some of which are reproduced in this book, speak for themselves.
The entire collections of the Expedition were packed in forty-one cases and included the following specimens:
200 reptiles and batrachians
200 skeletons and formalin preparations for anatomical study
150 Paget natural color plates
500 photographic negatives
10,000 feet of motion-picture film.
Since the Expedition was organized primarily for the study of the mammalian fauna and its distribution, our efforts were directed very largely toward this branch of science, and other specimens were gathered only when conditions were especially favorable. I believe that the mammal collection is the most extensive ever taken from China by a single continuous expedition, and a large percentage undoubtedly will prove to represent species new to science. Our tents were pitched in 108 different spots from 15,000 feet to 1,400 feet above sea level, and because of this range in altitudes, the fauna represented by our specimens is remarkably varied. Moreover, during our nine months in Yuen-nan we spent 115 days in the saddle, riding 2,000 miles on horse or mule back, largely over small roads or trails in little known parts of the province.
In Teng-yueh we were entertained most hospitably and the leisure hours were made delightful by golf, tennis, riding, and dinners. Mr. Grierson was a charming host who placed himself, as well as his house and servants, at our disposal, utter strangers though we were, and we shall never forget his welcome.
We decided to take four man-chairs to Bhamo because of the rain which was expected every day, and the coolies made us very comfortable upon our sleeping bags which were swung between two bamboo poles and covered with a strip of yellow oil-cloth. They were the regulation Chinese "mountain schooner," at which we had so often laughed, but they proved to be infinitely more desirable than riding in the rain.
With the forty-one cases of specimens we left Teng-yueh on June 1, behind a caravan of thirty mules for the eight-day journey to Bhamo on the outskirts of civilization. Our chair-coolies were miserable specimens of humanity. They were from S'suchuan Province and were all unmarried which alone is almost a crime in China. Every cent of money, earned by the hardest sort of work, they spent in drinking, gambling, and smoking opium. As Wu tersely put it "they make how much - spend how much!"
About every two hours they would deposit us unceremoniously in the midst of a filthy village and disappear into some dark den in spite of our remonstrances. We would grumble and fume and finally, getting out of our chairs, peer into the hole. In the half light we would see them huddled on a "kang" over tiny yellow flames sucking at their pipes. At tiffin each one would stretch out under a tree with a stone for a pillow and his broad straw hat propped up to screen him from the wind. With infinite care he would extract a few black grains from a dirty box, mix them with a little water, and cook them over an alcohol lamp until the opium bubbled and was almost ready to drop. Then placing it lovingly in the bowl of his pipe he would hold it against the flame and draw in long breaths of the sickly-sweet smoke. The men could work all day without food, but opium was a prime necessity.