Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/337

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269
ACROSS THE DESERT OF GOBI

late, and we had not yet reached our camping-place, I did not linger long.

We camped that night in the shadow of the mountain. The ground was carpeted with artemisia, which when crushed gave out a pungent odour almost overpowering. Before turning in we received a visit from a Chinese trader who gave us a friendly warning to look out for horse-thieves; he had lost a pony two nights back. Here, then, were the brigands at last! For the next three nights we kept sharp watch, camping far off the road and bringing the ponies in around my tent before we went to sleep. One night, indeed, the two men took turns in sitting up. Fortunately my Chinese boy and the Mongol hit it off well, for the Mongol will not stand bullying, and the Chinese is inclined to lord it over the natives. But Wang was a good soul, anxious to save me bother, and ready to turn his hand to anything, putting up tents, saddling ponies, collecting fuel, willing always to follow the Mongol's lead—save only in the matter of getting up in the morning. Then it was Wang who got us started each day, lighting the fire before he fell upon Tchagan Hou and pulled him out of his sheepskin; but once up, the Mongol took quiet and efficient control.

At Tuerin country and weather changed. There was now abundance of grass, and the ponies could make up for the lean days past. Thousands of cattle