Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/370

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298
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

bordered by willows. The grass was good, but the flies were so maddening that the poor ponies hardly grazed at all. Hot as it was, I thought they were better off moving than in this pestilential spot, but it was impossible to get Ivan started. For hours he slept and drank, while the horses twitched their skins and switched their tails and stamped their feet, and between times tried to snatch a bite. Poor-looking women and boys from some yurts crept over to our camp, and sought eagerly through the grass for any finds in the way of tins or bottles. They were quite the most miserable natives that I saw on my trip. As for me, I sat on the ground, comforting Jack and longing for a Chinese or a Mongol or anything that had learned to obey.

Finally at half-past five the driver roused from his drunken doze and we started off again. On and on we go, over a tedious, uninteresting stretch; the sun goes down, the twilight deepens into night, and the stars come out. At half-past eight I ask how much longer we must drive, and am told two hours. At half-past eleven I try to make the man understand he must stop, but he pays no attention. And it is one o'clock when I see the river in front of us, glimmering in the misty moonlight. In a minute we are in the water; two steps more and the swift current is up to the horses' sides, and the tarantass begins to turn over. Ivan, now thoroughly awake, jumps out, the other