Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/319

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THE MONGOLIAN GRASSLAND

is a Mongol failing. By preference he gets drunk on whiskey; failing that, on a sort of arrack of soured mare's milk. On the other hand, the opium habit does not seem to have crossed the frontier. Very rarely is a Mongol addicted to that. But they all smoke tobacco,—men, women, and children,—just as they all ride. To appreciate the Mongol you must see him on horseback,—and indeed you rarely see him otherwise, for he does not put foot to ground if he can help it. The Mongol without his pony is only half a Mongol, but with his pony he is as good as two men. It is a fine sight to see him tearing over the plain, loose bridle, easy seat, much like the Western cowboy, but with less sprawl.

The Mongol of to-day is the degenerate son of the conquering warriors of a thousand years ago. Once his name carried terror to the shores of the Midland Sea. Now those who do not like him can say with some truth that he lives the life of an animal, mating rather than marrying, his warlike spirit gone, his home a lair, his chief pleasures gorging and getting drunk; but those who do like him—and they are the ones who know him best—declare he is a good fellow, gay, good-tempered, independent, hospitable.