Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/330

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264
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

of the caravans were in charge of Chinese, and they thronged about us if a chance offered to inspect the strange trap; especially the light spider wheels aroused their interest. They tried to lift them, measured the rim with thumb and finger, investigated the springs, their alert curiosity showing an intelligence that I missed in the Mongols, to whom we were just a sort of travelling circus, honours being easy between the buggy, and Jack and me.

We were now in the Gobi. The rich green of the grassland had given way to a sparse vegetation of scrub and tufts of coarse grass and weeds, and the poor horses were hard put to get enough, even though they grazed all night. The country, which was more broken and seamed with gullies and rivers of sand, Sha Ho, had taken on a hard, sunbaked, repellent look, brightened only by splendid crimson and blue thistles. The wells were farther apart, and sometimes they were dry, and there were anxious hours when we were not sure of water for ourselves, still less for the horses. One well near a salt lake was rather brackish. This lake is a landmark in the entire region round; it seems to be slowly shrinking, and many caravans camp here to collect the salt, which is taken south. The weather, too, had changed; the days were hotter and dryer, but the nights were cool and refreshing always.

For eleven days we saw no houses but the two