Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/331

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265
ACROSS THE DESERT OF GOBI

telegraph stations, save once early in the morning when we came without warning upon a lamassery that seemed to start up out of the ground; the open desert hides as well as reveals. It was a group of flat-roofed, whitewashed buildings, one larger than the rest, all wrapped in silence. There was no sign of life as we passed except a red lama who made a bright spot against the white wall, and a camel tethered in a corner, and it looked very solitary and desolate, set down in the middle of the great, empty, dun-coloured plain.

I had now separated from my travelling companions, cheering the friendly Mongols with some of my bountiful supply of cigarettes. As they rode off they gave me the Mongol greeting, "Peace go with you." I should have been glad to have kept on the red lama to Urga, for he had been very helpful in looking after my wants, and had befriended poor Jack, who was quite done up for a while by the hot desert sands; but I let him go well pleased with a little bottle of boracic acid solution for his sore eyes. The Mongols, like so many Eastern peoples, suffer much from inflammation of the eyes, the result of dirt, and even more of the acrid argol smoke filling the yurts so that often I was compelled to take flight. I expect the stern old Jesuit would say of them as he did of the Red Indian, "They pass their lives in smoke, eternity in flames."