Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/280

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А NIGHT OF SUSPENSE.

But it was midday, and the intense heat obliged us to halt for two or three hours. On resuming our march, with the aid of the compass we steered in the same direction as before, till at length we discerned a small group of hills to our right. These we supposed to be the landmark of the Shangin-dalai, but they were still a long way off, and the dust which pervaded the atmosphere the whole day prevented our seeing their outline distinctly even with a glass.

Evening fell and we halted for the night, fully confident that these hills were indeed those we were in search of But on projecting our line of march on the map, I became aware how far we had diverged to the right of our proper course, and doubts arose as to whether we were really in the right road or not. In the meanwhile, only five gallons of water[1] were left for the night; our horses had had none, and were suffering such agonies of thirst that they could hardly move their legs. The question of finding the well on the morrow became one of life and death. How can I describe our feelings as we lay down to rest! Fortunately the wind fell and the dust in the air cleared off. In the morning, with the first glimmer of light I climbed on to the top of the pile of boxes containing our collections, and carefully scanned the horizon with a glass. I could see distinctly the group of hills we had remarked the previous day,

  1. Water in wooden casks soon evaporates from the heat, so that a cask filled in the morning generally loses what would fill several bottles before evening.