Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/309

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247
THE MONGOLIAN GRASSLAND

some fifteen hundred feet since leaving Kalgan. Before me stretched the great Mongolian plateau. The wind that cooled my face had blown over thousands of miles of prairie and desert. The long lines of stately, shambling camels, the great droves of sheep herded by wild-looking men on sturdy little ponies told of an open country. Each mile led deeper and deeper into the rolling grassland and the barren waste of Gobi, and between me and the next town lay nearly seven hundred miles of treeless plain and barren sand.

For four days we were crossing the grassland, wide stretches of gently undulating country covered with thick rich grass; wave upon wave it rolled like a great ocean up to the ramparts of China. As far as the eye could reach there was nothing but living green untouched by plough or spade, unbroken save where little lines of settlement stretched like clutching fingers into the sea of grass, the menacing advance of the Chinese, the tillers of the soil.

Much of the time I walked; the air of the uplands almost carried me along, and it was joy to feel my feet on real grass once more. Over the open country short cuts were easy to find, and I generally kept in advance of the others. The groups of Mongols hurrying to the town greeted me in friendly fashion; the look of the desert was in their faces, bold, hardy, burnt, and lined by sun and wind and biting cold.