Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/30

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ADVANTAGE OF BEING ARMED.

the teeth; and if in a moment of unusual audacity they had ventured on so rash a proceeding, our guns and revolvers would have taught them a good lesson. On the other hand, when travelling through populous districts, we were constantly exposed to all kinds of insults, against which there was no possible defence. Although our Peking Foreign Office passport set forth that in case of need help should be given us, this was a mere formula, and was of no practical advantage; we really experienced nothing but hostility from the Chinese, and their local authorities were always delighted at any inconvenience and annoyance that befell us. Our visits to the towns of Bautu and Ding-hu were marked by such scenes as could never have occurred had the Chinese functionaries been better disposed towards us. In proof of this assertion I will presently relate an accident which befell us in the earlier part of December. But now let us return to our narrative.

The valley of the left bank of the Hoang-ho at its northern bend presents a grassy aspect like that of the right bank. The clayey soil is covered with thick clumps of the high dirisun grass; beside the river there is a growth of bushes; whilst nearer the mountains the surface of the plain becomes shingly. The absolute height of this country, like Ordos, does not exceed 3,500 feet. The Chinese population is dense, particularly nearer the river, while at the foot of the mountains are the habitations of Mongols who have fled hither from the uplands and from Ordos. Chinese soldiery are quartered in the villages as a