Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/124

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112
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

gari, which is navigable for vessels of three or four feet draught as far as Kirin, and whose rich valley is every year attracting thousands of colonists from China. The drawback is brigandage, which is very rife in northern Manchuria, and on account of which the people have to collect, for their own protection, in large villages and towns, so that small hamlets and detached farm-houses are never seen. Though it is Manchuria, the country is not inhabited by Manchus. They have been drained off to China proper, and their places are taken by immigrants from the Chinese provinces. The people of the original race have lost their old warlike spirit, and are a laughing-stock to the Chinese colonists. Unable to make headway against the brigands, they depend on the Chinese regiments to do that work for them.

A great many things had to be thought of in preparing for a long journey over an almost unknown country, in which were included the crossing of the terrible Desert of Gobi and of the Himalaya Mountains. Bills could not be obtained on any town in Turkistan, and it was necessary to carry money in bulk. If the Chinese copper coinage were taken, it would require a train of mules to carry a sufficient sum. The problem was solved by taking sixty pounds of solid silver, stowed away in the baggage. Clothing must be provided in anticipation both of great heat and of intense cold; and medicines had to be laid in, for the people as well as for the traveler and his party, "for they are always useful for giving to the natives. It is well I did so, for Mr. Dalgleisch's fame as a medicine-man had spread throughout Turkistan, and the Turkis thought that I, being also English, must be able to cure them instantly of any illness they had."

Ascending the valley of the Yangho from Kalgan, "the country presented a desolate and deserted appearance, for the villages were half in ruins; numerous watch-towers, now falling in pieces, were scattered over the country; and the inhabitants, looking ill-fed and badly clothed, were attempting in a half-hearted way to cultivate fields which were constantly being covered with layers of dust by the horrible sand-storms that used to occur almost daily at this time of the year. The country is of the formation called loess — a light, friable soil which crumbles to dust when the slightest pressure is put upon it. In consequence of this the roads are sunk thirty to forty feet below the level of the surrounding country; for when a cart passes along a road the soil crumbles into dust, the wind blows the dust away, and a rut is formed. More traffic follows, more dust is blown away, and gradually the roadway sinks lower and lower below the surrounding level; for the Chinese here, as elsewhere, never think of repairing a road.
. . . On the 14th of April, 1886, I emerged on to the real steppes which are the characteristic features of Mongolia proper. Stretch-