Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/327

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261
ACROSS THE DESERT OF GOBI

out to see me, invading my tent, handling my things. They seemed to hold silk in high esteem. My silk blouses were much admired, and when they investigated far enough to discover that I wore silk "knickers," their wonder knew no bounds. In turn they were always keen to show their treasures, especially of course their headdresses, which were sometimes very beautiful, costing fifty, one hundred, or two hundred taels.

A wife comes high in Mongolia, and divorce must be paid for. A man's parents buy him a wife, paying for her a good sum of money which is spent in purchasing her headgear. If a husband is dissatisfied with his bargain he may send his wife home, but she takes her dowry with her. I am told the woman's lot is very hard, and that I can readily believe: it generally is among poor and backward peoples; but she did not appear to me the downtrodden slave she is often described. On the contrary, she appeared as much a man as her husband, smoking, riding astride, managing the camel trains with a dexterity equal to his. Her household cares cannot be very burdensome, no garden to tend, no housecleaning, simple cooking and sewing; but by contrast with the man she is hard-working. Vanity is nowise extinct in the feminine Mongol, and, let all commercial travellers take note, I was frequently asked for soap, and nothing seemed to give so much pleasure as when I doled