Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/326

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260
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

Two hundred miles from Kalgan we passed the telegraph station of Pongkiong manned by two Chinese. It is nothing but a little wooden building with a bit of a garden. The Chinese has his garden as surely as the Englishman, only he spends his energy in growing things to eat. At long intervals, two hundred miles, these stations are found all the way to Urga and always in the charge of Chinese, serviceable, alien, homesick. It must be a dreary life set down in the desert without neighbours or visitors save the roving Mongol whom the Chinese look down on with lofty contempt. Indeed, they have no use for him save as a bird to be plucked, and plucked the poor nomad is, even to his last feather. It is not the Chinese Government but the Chinese people that oppress the Mongol, making him ready to seek relief anywhere. Playing upon his two great weaknesses, lack of thrift and love of drink, the wandering trader plies the Mongol with whiskey, and then, taking advantage of his befuddled wits, gets him to take a lot of useless things at cut-throat prices—but no bother about paying, that can be settled any time. Only when pay-day comes the debts, grown like a rolling snowball, must be met, and so horses and cattle, the few pitiful heirlooms, are swallowed up, and the Mongol finds himself afoot and out of doors, another enemy of Chinese rule.

Whenever we halted near yurts, the women turned