Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/311

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ARRIVAL ON THE BANKS OF THE TOLA.

283

of rain to earth. But, not long before our arrival in the Central Gobi in July, there was a terrific downpour of rain, accompanied by large hail, which destroyed numbers of cattle and some people.

In August the weather was in general clear, but the winds, which frequently blew with violence, almost invariably lasted throughout the day and night, shifting several times in the twenty-four hours; westerly winds prevailed, with a northerly and southerly variation.

The beginning of September was marked by a sudden alternation from heat to cold, for on the 8th of this month at midday the thermometer stood at 79° Fahr. in the shade, whereas the next day it blew hard from the north-west with large flakes of snow, and the mercury fell to 32° Fahr. at sunrise.

Our impatience to reach Urga kept ever increasing as we approached it, and we counted the time no longer by months or weeks but by days. At length after crossing the Hangin-daban range we arrived on the banks of the Tola, the first river we had made acquaintance with in Mongolia. For 870 miles, i.e. between Kan-su and this river, we had not seen a single stream or lake, only stagnant pools of brackish rain-water. Forests now appeared, darkening the steep slopes of the Mount Khan-ola. Under these grateful circumstances we at last accomplished our final march, and on the 17th September entered Urga, where we received a warm welcome from our Consul, I will not undertake to describe the moment when we heard again our mother-tongue, when