We again turned a dwelling-house upside down. People did not at first wish to take me in, so I pushed past the quarrelsome man in the doorway, took possession, and set to work to get what I wanted. Soon the people calmed down and gave all they could. My bed I spread near the door, and to catch a glimpse of me as I lay resting, the inhabitants, in much the same manner as people at home visit and revisit the cage of jungle-bred tigers at a menagerie, assembled and reassembled with considerable confusion. But I was beneath my curtains. So they came again, and when I ate my food by candlelight many human and tangible products of the past glared in at the doorway. After dark we all foregathered in the middle of the room and round the camp fire, the conversation taking a pleasant turn from ordinary things, such as the varying distances from place to place, how many basins of rice each man could eat, and other Chinese commonplaces, to things military. Everybody warmed to the subject. My military bodyguard were the chief speakers, and cleverly brought round the smoky fire, for the benefit of the thick-headed rustics who made up the fascinated audience, a modern battlefield, and made their description horrible enough.
One carefully brought out his gun, waving it overhead to add to the tragedy, as he weaved a powerful story of shell splinters, blood-filled trenches, common shot, men and horses out of which all life and virtue had been blown by gunpowder. The picture was drawn around the Chinese village, and in the dim glimmer each man’s thought ran swiftly to his own homestead and the green fields and the hedgerows and dwellings all blown to atoms—left merely as a place of skulls. They spoke of great and horrible implements of modern warfare, invented, to their minds, by the devilry of the West. Each man chipped in with a little color, and the company broke up in fear of dreaming of the things of which they had heard, afraid to go to their straw to sleep.
As I lay in my draughty corner, my own mind turned to what the next day would bring, for I was to go down to the Valley of the Shadow of Death—the dreaded Salwen. I had read of it as a veritable death-trap.
To Lu-chiang-pa. Drop from 8,000 feet to 2,000 feet. Shans meet for the first time. Dangers of the Salwen Valley exaggerated. How reports get into print. Start of the climb from 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet. Scenery in the valley. Queer quintet of soldiers. Semi-tropical temperature. My men fall to the ground exhausted. A fatiguing day. Benighted in the forest. Spend the night in a hut. Strong drink as it affects the Chinese. Embarrassing attentions of a kindly couple. New Year festivities at Kan-lan-chai. The Shweli River and watershed. Magnificent range of mountains. Arrival at Tengyueh.