Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/365

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293
NORTH TO THE SIBERIAN RAILWAY

there was no fuel to be had, and we all went supperless to bed.

My first night in a tarantass was very comfortable. The body of the cart, made soft with rugs and sheepskins, was long enough for me to stretch out at full length if I lay cornerwise, and the hood protected me against rain and wind. When I waked in the morning the whole land was drenched, but the sun shone brilliantly. I started out on my own account to get a a little dry fuel from the Mongols, but was rather brusquely repulsed. And I now found out what was the matter. The people had objected the night before to our camping near the yurts, for it was their hayfield, theirs by the custom which forbids encroaching on the land near a settlement, but the Russians had persisted, and now, in their helpless anger,—they were an aged lama and an old woman,—they refused to sell us wood. They stood aloof looking ruefully at their trampled meadow as we made ready to start, hardly brightening up at all when I tried to make good their loss. An Englishman or an American would scarcely have asked my boy to sit at table with us, but on the other hand he would have spared the Mongol's poor little hayfield.

The experience of the first day was repeated all the following days; a late start in the morning, tedious halts at noon, getting into camp long after dark. Indeed, I do not know when we should have been off