Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/328

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262
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

out a small piece. Perhaps in time even the Mongol will look clean. Asiatics as a rule know little about soap; they clean their clothes by pounding, and themselves by rubbing; but sometimes they put an exaggerated value upon it. A Kashmir woman, seeing herself in a mirror side by side with the fair face of an English friend of mine, sighed, "If I had such good soap as yours I too would be white."

But there is a good deal to be said against washing, at least one's face, when crossing Gobi. The dry, scorching winds burn and blister the skin, and washing makes things worse, and besides you are sometimes short of water; so for a fortnight my face was washed by the rains of heaven (if at all), and my hair certainly looked as though it were combed by the wind, for between the rough riding and the stiff breezes that sweep over the plateau, it was impossible to keep tidy. But, thanks to Wang, I could always maintain a certain air of respectability in putting on each morning freshly polished shoes.

Of wild life I saw little; occasionally we passed a few antelope, and twice we spied wolves not far off. These Mongolian wolves are big and savage, often attacking the herds, and one alone will pull down a good horse or steer. The people wage more or less unsuccessful war upon them and at times they organize a sort of battue. Men, armed with lassoes, are stationed at strategic points, while others, routing the