Traveling over a paved road, the explorers entered Ta-li in the middle of the afternoon. Their arrival was expected and a large crowd pressed about them, waking memories of the incidents earlier in the expedition’s journey when curiosity seekers had become a threat to safety. Followed by the crowd, but escorted by Muslim soldiers, they came to the center of the city. Here they halted in front of the Sultan’s palace, a grim fortified building. None of the Frenchmen was ready for the next development. As they stood expectantly below the palace walls, a soldier grasped de Carnés hair, jerking his face upward, apparently seeking to show the European’s face to a hidden watcher in the palace. De Carné struck out and the soldier retreated, his face bloodied. For an instant, it seemed that the French party might be overwhelmed. The crowd surged forward, only to hesitate before the expedition’s escort who stood with their long bayonets fixed to their rifles. Two Muslim officials hastily intervened to bring the incident to a close. It was an unhappy augury for the future.
The lake at Ta-Ly
A large paved road directly crosses the plain from Hiang kouan to Ta-ly. The mandarin of Hiang Kouan had given us an escort of ten soldiers, commanded by a young officer of a gentle and agreeable face, with whom my first relations were excellent. This escort went ahead of us, because of the too slow march of our luggage carriers. On the way, disturbing noises reached me again. All of the father’s Christians slipped away one by one. Our carriers themselves did not seem very reassured. I had to recommend the greatest supervision over them.
At half past three in the evening we arrived at the north gate of the city. We found our Mohammedan escort there and immediately entered with them. In a few moments a huge crowd gathered after us in the main street which crosses Ta-ly from north to south. In the center of the city, and in front of the Sultan’s house, a crenellated construction of a dark and severe aspect, we had to stop for a while to parley with two mandarins sent to meet us.
During this halt, we were surrounded and pressed by the crowd, and a soldier violently tore off the headdress of one of us, no doubt so that the Sultan, who was looking at us from the top of the balcony of his palace, could see his face better. . This insolence was immediately punished with a slap which bloodied the face of the aggressor, caused an indescribable uproar and almost led to a battle. The intervention of the two mandarins, the resolute attitude of our Annamites who had gathered around us and had drawn their saber-bayonets, put an end to the hostile demonstrations of the crowd, and we arrived without further accident at the yamen that was brought to us. assigned for lodging at the southern end of town, and outside the precincts.
Immediately after our installation, a mandarin higher in rank than any we had seen so far, introduced himself to us as the official envoy of the Sultan and asked me on his behalf who we were, where we came from and what was the purpose of our visit. I replied through Father Leguilcher, that we were sent by the French government to explore the land watered by Lan-tsang kiang; that arrived in Yun-nan a few months ago, we had learned that a new kingdom was being formed in Ta-ly and that we had wished to come and greet the chief, in order to prepare, if necessary, relations of commerce and friendship between France and him.
I gave some explanations on the scientific aim and the absolutely peaceful character of our work. I apologized, finally, for having only presents of little value to offer to the Sultan and for not being able to present myself to him with the officers of the Mission in suitable costume, the length and the difficulties of our journey.
Garnier, Vol.1: 512
The Tomb of de Lagree in Tong-tchouen
If the death of a justly respected leader always causes a painful impression, how can you paint the regrets that we feel when this leader shared with you two years of danger and suffering, alleviating for you some, braving others before you? , and that, in this intimacy of each hour, to the respect which he inspired was added a more affectionate feeling! To succumb after so many conquered difficulties, when the goal had been reached, that the privations and past struggles were to succeed the pleasures and triumphs of the return, seemed to us an unjust and cruel mockery of fate.
We could not think without a deep feeling of bitterness how irreparable this mourning was, how much it compromised the most fruitful and the most glorious results of the common work. We felt keenly how much the high moral and intellectual qualities of Commandant de Lagrée were going to fail us. Among the men of the escort, the feeling of the immense loss which we had just suffered was neither less lively nor less unanimous. No one had been able to appreciate better than they what there had been liveliness and gaiety in the courage of their leader, energy in his will, kindness and gentleness in his character. They remembered with what patient devotion M. de Lagrée had worked, throughout the journey, to provide for their needs and to reduce their fatigue.
So, as soon as I expressed my intention to take the body of their former leader with us, they offered to carry it themselves, despite their evident helplessness. The precarious situation of the country, the absence of any missionary, of any Christian who could see to the maintenance of the tomb or protect it against desecration, made me fear that after a few years there would be none of his remains left.
Garnier, Le Tour de Monde (series): 607