Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/341

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273
ACROSS THE DESERT OF GOBI

river that flowed below Urga was very high and rising fast, hundreds of carts were waiting until the water went down, and they doubted if we could get across. This was not encouraging, but we pushed on. It was plain that we were nearing the capital, for the scene grew more and more lively. At first I thought it must be a holiday; but, no, it was just the ordinary day's work, but all so picturesque, so full of élan and colour, that it was more like a play than real life.

Now a drove of beautiful horses dashed across the road, the herdsmen in full cry after them. Then we passed a train of camels, guided by two women mounted on little ponies. They had tied their babies to the camels' packs, and seemed to have no difficulty in managing their wayward beasts. Here a flock of sheep grazed peacefully in the deep green meadows beside the trail, undisturbed by a group of Mongols galloping townwards, lasso poles in hand, as though charging. Two women in the charge of a yellow lama trotted sedately along, their quaint headdresses flapping as they rode. Then we overtook three camels led by one man on a pony and prodded along by another, actually cantering,—I felt I must hasten, too,—but unhurried, undisturbed, scarcely making room for an official and his gay retinue galloping towards the capital, a bullock caravan from Kalgan in charge of half a dozen blue-