We went to the Foreign Office at half past ten and were ushered into a large room where a rather imposing lunch had already been spread. The Commissioner, a fat, jolly little man, who knew a few words of French but none of English, received us in the most cordial way and immediately opened several bottles of champagne in our honor. He asked why our passports had not been vised in Peking, and we pleased him greatly by replying that at the time we were in the capital Yuen-nan was an independent province and consequently the Peking Government had not the temerity to put their stamp upon our passports.
Inasmuch as Yuen-nan was infested with brigands we had expected some opposition to our plans for traveling in the interior, but none was forthcoming, and with the exception of an offer of a guard of soldiers for our trip to Ta-li Fu which we knew it would be impolitic to refuse, we left the Foreign Office with all the desired permits.
The Chinese Government appeared to be greatly interested in our zooelogical study of Yuen-nan, offered to assist us in every way we could suggest, and telegraphed to every mandarin in the north and west of the province, instructing them to receive us with all honor and to facilitate our work in every way. None of the opposition which we had been led to expect developed, and it is difficult to see how we could have been more cordially received.
ON THE ROAD TO TA-LI FU
On August 6, we dispatched half our equipment to Ta-li Fu, and three days later we ourselves left Yuen-nan Fu at eleven o’clock in the morning after an interminable wait for our caravan. Through the kindness of Mr. Page, a house boat was put at our disposal and we sailed across the upper end of the beautiful lake which lies just outside the city, and intercepted the caravan twenty-five li [Footnote: A li in this province equals one-third of an English mile.] from Yuen-nan Fu.
On the way we passed a number of cormorant fishers, each with ten or a dozen birds sitting quietly upon the boat with outspread wings drying their feathers. Every bird has a ring about its neck, and is thus prevented from swallowing the fish which it catches by diving into the water.
After waiting an hour for our caravan we saw the long train of mules and horses winding up the hill toward us. There were seventeen altogether, and in the midst of them rode the cook clinging desperately with both hands to a diminutive mule, his long legs dangling and a look of utter wretchedness upon his face. Just before the caravan reached us it began to rain, and the cook laboriously pulled on a suit of yellow oilskins which we had purchased for him in Yuen-nan Fu. These, together with a huge yellow hat, completed a picture which made us roar with laughter; Heller gave the caption for it when he shouted, “Here comes the ‘Yellow Peril.’”