In a town near Ta-li Fu we were in front of the caravan with Wu and Heller: Wu stopped to buy a basket of mushrooms but his horse refused to move ahead. Beat as he would, the animal only backed in a circle, ours followed, and in a few moments we were packed together so tightly that it was impossible even to dismount. There we sat, helpless, to the huge delight of the villagers until rescued by a mafu. As soon as he led Wu’s horse forward the others proceeded as quietly as lambs.
We paid forty cents (Mexican) a day for each animal while traveling, and fifteen or twenty cents when in camp, but the rate varies somewhat in different parts of the province, and in the west and south, along the Burma border fifty cents is the usual price. When a caravan is engaged the necessary mafus are included and they buy food for themselves and beans and hay for the animals.
Ever since leaving Yuen-nan Fu the cook we engaged at Paik-hoi had been a source of combined irritation and amusement. He was a lanky, effeminate gentleman who never before had ridden a horse, and who was physically and mentally unable to adapt himself to camp life. After five months in the field he appeared to be as helpless when the caravan camped for the night as when we first started, and he would stand vacantly staring until someone directed him what to do. But he was a good cook, when he wished to exert himself, and had the great asset of knowing a considerable amount of English. While we were in Ta-li Fu Mr. Evans overheard him relating his experiences on the road to several of the other servants. “Of course,” said the cook, “it is a fine way to see the country, but the riding! My goodness, that’s awful! After the third day I didn’t know whether to go on or turn back—I was so sore I couldn’t sit down even on a chair to say nothing of a horse!”
He had evidently fully made up his mind not to “see the country” that way for the day after we left Ta-li Fu en route to the Tibetan frontier he became violently ill. Although we could find nothing the matter with him he made such a good case for himself that we believed he really was quite sick and treated him accordingly. The following morning, however, he sullenly refused to proceed, and we realized that his illness was of the mind rather than the body. As he had accepted two months’ salary in advance and had already sent it to his wife in Paik-hoi, we were in a position to use a certain amount of forceful persuasion which entirely accomplished its object and illness did not trouble him thereafter.
The loss of a cook is a serious matter to a large expedition. Good meals and varied food must be provided if the personnel is to work at its highest efficiency and cooking requires a vast amount of thought and time. In Yuen-nan natives who can cook foreign food are by no means easy to find and when our Paik-hoi gentleman finally left us upon our return to Ta-li Fu we were fortunate in obtaining an exceedingly competent man to take his place through the good offices of Mr. Hanna.