Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/38

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UNSUCCESSFUL SEARCH; DESPERATE POSITION.

camel and two horses, whilst the steppe grass was so trodden under foot by the camels belonging to passing caravans as to afford no fodder whatever. Our poor beasts were dying of starvation, and one of the horses was frozen to death at night; the sick camel expired two days afterwards, and lay directly in front of the entrance of our tent, completing the picture of our misery. We were now left with only one horse, which could hardly move its legs. This beast was only saved from starvation owing to the fancy the Chinese took for satisfying their dainty appetites with our dead camel, which was tolerably fat, and which we exchanged for twenty-five trusses of good hay.

The Mongol and Cossack were sent off a second time in search of the missing animals, but returned after a few days, and declared that they had ridden a great distance and made many enquiries, but could learn nothing of the lost camels. Of course it was impossible to find them without the assistance of the local officials. I therefore decided on hiring some of the neighbouring Chinese to convey us to Kuku-khoto, whence we hoped to find means of conveyance to Kalgan. The Chinese however, notwithstanding their mercenary natures, were not tempted by the offer of a large sum of money, and would not agree to be our carriers at any price, fearing, of course, the responsibility which they might incur towards their authorities.

Our position now seemed a desperate one. Fortunately at this time we had two hundred lans in