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answered, “but I am not a doctor. I am a scientist in other branches.”

But the Prince did not understand this. In his simple directness a man who knows how to treat disease is a doctor.

“My wife has had constant trouble for two months with her eyes,” he announced. “Help her.”

I asked the Princess to show me her eyes and I found the typical conjunctivitis from the continual smoke of the yurta and the general uncleanliness. The Tartar brought me my medicine case. I washed her eyes with boric acid and dropped a little cocaine and a feeble solution of sulphurate of zinc into them.

“I beg you to cure me,” pleaded the Princess. “Do not go away until you have cured me. We shall give you sheep, milk and flour for all your company. I weep now very often because I had very nice eyes and my husband used to tell me they shone like the stars and now they are red. I cannot bear it, I cannot!”

She very capriciously stamped her foot and, coquettishly smiling at me, asked:

“Do you want to cure me? Yes?”

The character and manners of lovely woman are the same everywhere: on bright Broadway, along the stately Thames, on the vivacious boulevards of gay Paris and in the silk-draped yurta of the Soyot Princess behind the larch covered Tannu Ola.

“I shall certainly try,” assuringly answered the new oculist.

We spent here ten days, surrounded by the kindness and friendship of the whole family of the Prince. The eyes of the Princess, which eight years ago had seduced the already old Prince Lama, were now recovered. She was beside herself with joy and seldom left her looking-glass.

The Prince gave me five fairly good horses, ten sheep and a bag of flour, which was immediately transformed into dry bread. My friend presented him with a Romanoff five-hundred-rouble note with a picture of Peter the Great upon it, while I gave to him a small nugget of gold which I had picked up in the bed of a stream. The Prince ordered one of the Soyots to guide us to the Kosogol. The whole family of the Prince conducted us to the monastery ten kilometres from the “capital.” We did not visit the monastery but we stopped at the “Dugun,” a Chinese trading establishment. The Chinese merchants looked at us in a very hostile manner though they simultaneously offered us all sorts of goods, thinking especially to catch us with their round bottles (lanhon) of maygolo or sweet brandy made from aniseed. As we had neither lump silver nor Chinese dollars, we could only look with longing at these attractive bottles, till the Prince came to the rescue and ordered the Chinese to put five of them in our saddle bags.



In the evening of the same day we arrived at the Sacred Lake of Teri Noor, a sheet of water eight kilometres across, muddy and yellow, with low unattractive shores studded with large holes. In the middle of the lake lay what was left of a disappearing island. On this were a few trees and some old ruins. Our guide explained to us that two centuries ago the lake did not exist and that a very strong Chinese fortress stood here on the plain. A Chinese chief in command of the fortress gave offence to an old Lama who cursed the place and prophesied that it would all be destroyed. The very next day the water began rushing up from the ground, destroyed the fortress and engulfed all the Chinese soldiers. Even to this day when storms rage over the lake the waters cast up on the shores the bones of men and horses who perished in it. This Teri Noor increases its size every year, approaching nearer and nearer to the mountains. Skirting the eastern shore of the lake, we began to climb a snow-capped ridge. The road was easy at first but the guide warned us that the most difficult bit was there ahead. We reached this point two days later and found there a steep mountain side thickly set with forest and covered with snow. Beyond it lay the lines of eternal snow–ridges studded with dark rocks set in great banks of the white mantle that gleamed bright under the clear sunshine. These were the eastern and highest branches of the Tannu Ola system. We spent the night beneath this wood and began the passage of it in the morning. At noon the guide began leading us by zigzags in and out but everywhere our trail was blocked by deep ravines, great jams of fallen trees and walls of rock caught in their mad tobogganings from the mountain top. We struggled for several hours, wore out our horses and, all of a sudden, turned up at the place where we had made our last halt. It was very evident our Soyot had lost his way; and on his face I noticed marked fear.

“The old devils of the cursed forest will not allow us to pass,” he whispered with trembling lips. “It is a very ominous sign. We must return to Kharga to the Noyon.”

But I threatened him and he took the lead again evidently without hope or effort to find the way. Fortunately, one of our party, an Urianhai hunter, noticed the blazes on the trees, the signs of the road which our guide had lost. Following these, we made our way through the wood, came into and crossed a belt of burned larch timber and beyond this dipped again into a small live forest bordering the bottom of the mountains crowned with the eternal snows. It grew dark so that we had to camp for the night. The wind rose high and carried in its grasp a great white sheet of snow that shut us off from the horizon on every side and buried our camp deep in its folds. Our horses stood round like white ghosts, refusing to eat or to leave the circle round our fire. The wind combed their manes and tails. Through the niches in the mountains it roared and whistled. From somewhere in the distance came the low rumble of a pack of wolves, punctuated at intervals by the sharp individual barking that a favorable gust of wind threw up into high staccato.

As we lay by the fire, the Soyot came over to me and said: “Noyon, come with me to the obo. I want to show you something.”

We went there and began to ascend the mountain. At the bottom of a very steep slope was laid up a large pile of stones and tree trunks, making a cone of some three metres in height. These obo are the Lamaite sacred signs set up at dangerous places, the altars to the bad demons, rulers of these places. Passing Soyots and Mongols pay tribute to the spirits by hanging on the branches of the trees in the obo hatyk, long streamers of blue silk, shreds torn from the lining of their coats or simply tufts of hair cut from their horses’ manes; or by placing on the stones lumps of meat or cups of tea and salt.

“Look at it,” said the Soyot. “The hatyks are torn off. The demons are angry, they will not allow us to pass, Noyon. . . .”

He caught my hand and with supplicating voice whispered: “Let us go back, Noyon; let us! The demons do not wish us to pass their mountains. For twenty years no one has dared to pass these mountains and all bold men who have tried have perished here. The demons fell upon them with snowstorm and cold. Look! It is beginning already. . . . Go back to our Noyon, wait for the warmer days and then. . . .”

I did not listen further to the Soyot but turned back to the fire, which I could hardly see through the blinding snow. Fearing our guide might run away, I ordered a sentry to be stationed for the night to watch him. Later in the night I was awakened by the sentry, who said to me: “Maybe I am mistaken, but I think I heard a rifle.”

What could I say to it? Maybe some stragglers like ourselves were giving a sign of their whereabouts to their lost companions, or perhaps the sentry had mistaken for a rifle shot the sound of some falling rock or frozen ice and snow. Soon I fell asleep again and suddenly saw in a dream a very clear vision. Out on the plain, blanketed deep with snow, was moving a line of riders. They were our pack horses, our Kalmuck and the funny pied horse with the Roman nose. I saw us descending from this snowy plateau into a fold in the mountains. Here some larch trees were growing, close to which gurgled a small, open brook. Afterwards I noticed a fire burning among the trees and then woke up.

It grew light. I shook up the others and asked them to prepare quickly so as not to lose time in getting under way. The storm was raging. The snow blinded us and blotted out all traces of the road. The cold also became more intense. At last we were in the saddles. The Soyot went ahead trying to make out the trail. As we worked higher the guide less seldom lost the way. Frequently we fell into deep holes covered with snow; we scrambled up over slippery rocks. At last the Soyot swung his horse round and, coming up to me, announced very positively: “I do not want to die with you and I will not go further.”

My first motion was the swing of my whip back over my head. I was so close to the “Promised Land” of Mongolia that this Soyot, standing in the way of fulfilment of my wishes, seemed to me my worst enemy. But I lowered my flourishing hand. Into my head flashed a quite wild thought.

“Listen,” I said. “If you move your horses, you will receive a bullet in the back and you will perish not at the top of the mountain but at the bottom. And now I will tell you what will happen to us. When we shall have reached these rocks above, the wind will have ceased and the snowstorm will have subsided. The sun will shine as we cross the snowy plain above and afterwards we shall descend into a small valley where there are larches growing and a stream of open running water. There we shall light our fires and spend the night.”

The Soyot began to tremble with fright.

“Noyon has already passed these mountains of Darkhat Ola?” he asked in amazement.

“No,” I answered, “but last night I had a vision and I know that we shall fortunately win over this ridge.”

“I will guide you!” exclaimed the Soyot, and, whipping his horse, led the way up the steep slope to the top of the ridge of eternal snows.

As we were passing along the narrow edge of a precipice, the Soyot stopped and attentively examined the trail.

“Today many shod horses have passed here!” he cried through the roar of the storm. “Yonder on the snow the lash of a whip has been dragged. These are not Soyots.”

The solution of this enigma appeared instantly. A volley rang out. One of my companions cried out, as he caught hold of his right shoulder; one pack horse fell dead with a bullet behind his ear. We quickly tumbled out of our saddles, lay down behind the rocks and began to study the situation. We were separated from a parallel spur of the mountain by a small valley about one thousand paces across. There we made out about thirty riders already dismounted and firing at us. I had never allowed any fighting to be done until the initiative had been taken by the other side. Our enemy fell upon us unawares and I ordered my company to answer.

“Aim at the horses!” cried Colonel Ostrovsky. Then he ordered the Tartar and Soyot to throw our own animals. We killed six of theirs and probably wounded others, as they got out of control. Also our rifles took toll of any bold man who showed his head from behind his rock. We heard the angry shouting and maledictions of Red soldiers who shot up our position more and more animatedly.

Suddenly I saw our Soyot kick up three of the horses and spring into the saddle of one with the others in leash behind. Behind him sprang up the Tartar and the Kalmuck. I had already drawn my rifle on the Soyot but, as soon as I saw the Tartar and Kalmuck on their lovely horses behind him, I dropped my gun and knew all was well. The Reds let off a volley at the trio but they made good their escape behind the rocks and disappeared. The firing continued more and more lively and I did not know what to do. From our side we shot rarely, saving our cartridges. Watching carefully the enemy, I noticed two black points on the snow high above the Reds. They slowly approached our antagonists and finally were hidden from view behind some sharp hillocks. When they emerged from these, they were right on the edge of some overhanging rocks at the foot of which the Reds lay concealed from us. By this time I had no doubt that these were the heads of two men. Suddenly these men rose up and I watched them flourish and throw something that was followed by two deafening roars which re-echoed across the mountain valley. Immediately a third explosion was followed by wild shouts and disorderly firing among the Reds. Some of the horses rolled down the slope into the snow below and the soldiers, chased by our shots, made off as fast as they could down into the valley out of which we had come.

Afterward the Tartar told me the Soyot had proposed to guide them around behind the Reds to fall upon their rear with the bombs. When I had bound up the wounded shoulder of the officer and we had taken the pack off the killed animal, we continued our journey. Our position was complicated. We had no doubt that the Red detachment came up from Mongolia. Therefore, were there Red troops in Mongolia? What was their strength? Where might we meet them? Consequently, Mongolia was no more the Promised Land? Very sad thoughts took possession of us.

But Nature pleased us. The wind gradually fell. The storm ceased. The sun more and more frequently broke through the scudding clouds. We were traveling upon a high, snow-covered plateau, where in one place the wind blew it clean and in another piled it high with drifts which caught our horses and held them so that they could hardly extricate themselves at times. We had to dismount and wade through the white piles up to our waists and often a man or horse was down and had to be helped to his feet. At last the descent began and at sunset we stopped in the small larch grove, spent the night at the fire among the trees and drank the tea boiled in the water carried from the open mountain brook. In various places we came across the tracks of our recent antagonists.

Everything, even Nature herself and the angry demons of Darkhat Ola, had helped us: but we were not gay, because again before us lay the dread uncertainty that threatened us with new and possibly destructive dangers.



Ulan Taiga with Darkhat Ola lay behind us. We went forward very rapidly because the Mongol plains began here, free from the impediments of mountains. Everywhere splendid grazing lands stretched away. In places there were groves of larch. We crossed some very rapid streams but they were not deep and they had hard beds. After two days of travel over the Darkhat plain we began meeting Soyots driving their cattle rapidly toward the northwest into Orgarkha Ola. They communicated to us very unpleasant news.

The Bolsheviki from the Irkutsk district had crossed the Mongolian border, captured the Russian colony at Khathyl on the southern shore of Lake Kosogol and turned, off south toward Muren Kure, a Russian settlement beside a big Lamaite monastery sixty miles south of Kosogol. The Mongols told us there were no Russian troops between Khathyl and Muren Kure, so we decided to pass between these two points to reach Van Kure farther to the east. We took leave of our Soyot guide and, after having sent three scouts in advance, moved forward. From the mountains around the Kosogol we admired the splendid view of this broad Alpine lake. It was set like a sapphire in the old gold of the surrounding hills, chased with lovely bits of rich dark forestry. At night we approached Khathyl with great precaution and stopped on the shore of the river that flows from Kosogol, the Yaga or Egingol. We found a Mongol who agreed to transport us to the other bank of the frozen stream and to lead us by a safe road between Khathyl and Muren Kure. Everywhere along the shore of the river were found large obo and small shrines to the demons of the stream.

“Why are there so many obo?” we asked the Mongol.

“It is the River of the Devil, dangerous and crafty,” replied the Mongol. “Two days ago a train of carts went through the ice and three of them with five soldiers were lost.”

We started to cross. The surface of the river resembled a thick piece of looking-glass, being clear and without snow. Our horses walked very carefully but some fell and floundered before they could regain their feet. We were leading them by the bridle. With bowed heads and trembling all over they kept their frightened eyes ever on the ice at their feet. I looked down and understood their fear. Through the cover of one foot of transparent ice one could clearly see the bottom of the river. Under the lighting of the moon all the stones, the holes and even some of the grasses were distinctly visible, even though the depth was ten metres and more. The Yaga rushed under the ice with a furious speed, swirling and marking its course with long bands of foam and bubbles. Suddenly I jumped and stopped as though fastened to the spot. Along the surface of the river ran the boom of a cannon, followed by a second and a third.

“Quicker, quicker!” cried our Mongol, waving us forward with his hand.

Another cannon boom and a crack ran right close to us. The horses swung back on their haunches in protest, reared and fell, many of them striking their heads severely on the ice. In a second it opened up two feet wide, so that I could follow its jagged course along the surface. Immediately up out of the opening the water spread over the ice with a rush.

“Hurry, hurry!” shouted the guide.

With great difficulty we forced our horses to jump over this cleavage and to continue on further. They trembled and disobeyed and only the strong lash forced them to forget this panic of fear and go on.

When we were safe on the farther bank and well into the woods, our Mongol guide recounted to us how the river at times opens in this mysterious way and leaves great areas of clear water. All the men and animals on the river at such times must perish. The furious current of cold water will always carry them down under the ice. At other times a crack has been known to pass right under a horse and, where he fell in with his front feet in the attempt to get back to the other side, the crack has closed up and ground his legs or feet right off.

The valley of Kosogol is the crater of an extinct volcano. Its outlines may be followed from the high west shore of the lake. However, the Plutonic force still acts and, asserting the glory of the Devil, forces the Mongols to build obo and offer sacrifices at his shrines. We spent all the night and all the next day hurrying away eastward to avoid a meeting with the Reds and seeking good pasturage for our horses. At about nine o’clock in the evening a fire shone out of the distance. My friend and I made toward it with the feeling that it was surely a Mongol yurta beside which we could camp in safety. We traveled over a mile before making out distinctly the lines of a group of yurtas. But nobody came out to meet us and, what astonished us more, we were not surrounded by the angry black Mongolian dogs with fiery eyes. Still, from the distance we had seen the fire and so there must be someone there. We dismounted from our horses and approached on foot. From out of the yurta rushed two Russian soldiers, one of whom shot at me with his pistol but missed me and wounded my horse in the back through the saddle. I brought him to earth with my Mauser and the other was killed by the butt end of my friend’s rifle. We examined the bodies and found in their pockets the papers of soldiers of the Second Squadron of the Communist Interior Defence. Here we spent the night. The owners of the yurtas had evidently run away, for the Red soldiers had collected and packed in sacks the property of the Mongols. Probably they were just planning to leave, as they were fully dressed. We acquired two horses, which we found in the bushes, two rifles and two automatic pistols with cartridges. In the saddle bags we also found tea, tobacco, matches and cartridges– all of these valuable supplies to help us keep further hold on our lives.

Two days later we were approaching the shore of the River Uri when we met two Russian riders, who were the Cossacks of a certain Ataman Sutunin, acting against the Bolsheviki in the valley of the River Selenga. They were riding to carry a message from Sutunin to Kaigorodoff, chief of the Anti-Bolsheviki in the Altai region. They informed us that along the whole Russian-Mongolian border the Bolshevik troops were scattered; also that Communist agitators had penetrated to Kiakhta, Ulankom and Kobdo and had persuaded the Chinese authorities to surrender to the Soviet authorities all the refugees from Russia. We knew that in the neighborhood of Urga and Van Kure engagements were taking place between the Chinese troops and the detachments of the Anti-Bolshevik Russian General Baron Ungern Sternberg and Colonel Kazagrandi, who were fighting for the independence of Outer Mongolia. Baron Ungern had now been twice defeated, so that the Chinese were carrying on high-handed in Urga, suspecting all foreigners of having relations with the Russian General.

We realized that the whole situation was sharply reversed. The route to the Pacific was closed. Reflecting very carefully over the problem, I decided that we had but one possible exit left. We must avoid all Mongolian cities with Chinese administration, cross Mongolia from north to south, traverse the desert in the southern part of the Principality of Jassaktu Khan, enter the Gobi in the western part of Inner Mongolia, strike as rapidly as possible through sixty miles of Chinese territory in the Province of Kansu and penetrate into Tibet. Here I hoped to search out one of the English Consuls and with his help to reach some English port in India. I understood thoroughly all the difficulties incident to such an enterprise but I had no other choice. It only remained to make this last foolish attempt or to perish without doubt at the hands of the Boisheviki or languish in a Chinese prison. When I announced my plan to my companions, without in any way hiding from them all its dangers and quixotism, all of them answered very quickly and shortly: “Lead us! We will follow.”

One circumstance was distinctly in our favor. We did not fear hunger, for we had some supplies of tea, tobacco and matches and a surplus of horses, saddles, rifles, overcoats and boots, which were an excellent currency for exchange. So then we began to initiate the plan of the new expedition. We should start to the south, leaving the town of Uliassutai on our right and taking the direction of Zaganluk, then pass through the waste lands of the district of Balir of Jassaktu Khan, cross the Naron Khuhu Gobi and strike for the mountains of Boro. Here we should be able to take a long rest to recuperate the strength of our horses and of ourselves. The second section of our journey would be the passage through the western part of Inner Mongolia, through the Little Gobi, through the lands of the Torguts, over the Khara Mountains, across Kansu, where our road must be chosen to the west of the Chinese town of Suchow. From there we should have to enter the Dominion of Kuku Nor and then work on southward to the head waters of the Yangtze River. Beyond this I had but a hazy notion, which however I was able to verify from a map of Asia in the possession of one of the officers, to the effect that the mountain chains to the west of the sources of the Yangtze separated that river system from the basin of the Brahmaputra in Tibet Proper, where I expected to be able to find English assistance.



In no other way can I describe the journey from the River Ero to the border of Tibet. About eleven hundred miles through the snowy steppes, over mountains and across deserts we traveled in forty- eight days. We hid from the people as we journeyed, made short stops in the most desolate places, fed for whole weeks on nothing but raw, frozen meat in order to avoid attracting attention by the smoke of fires. Whenever we needed to purchase a sheep or a steer for our supply department, we sent out only two unarmed men who represented to the natives that they were the workmen of some Russian colonists. We even feared to shoot, although we met a great herd of antelopes numbering as many as five thousand head. Behind Balir in the lands of the Lama Jassaktu Khan, who had inherited his throne as a result of the poisoning of his brother at Urga by order of the Living Buddha, we met wandering Russian Tartars who had driven their herds all the way from Altai and Abakan. They welcomed us very cordially, gave us oxen and thirty- six bricks of tea. Also they saved us from inevitable destruction, for they told us that at this season it was utterly impossible for horses to make the trip across the Gobi, where there was no grass at all. We must buy camels by exchanging for them our horses and some other of our bartering supplies. One of the Tartars the next day brought to their camp a rich Mongol with whom he drove the bargain for this trade. He gave us nineteen camels and took all our horses, one rifle, one pistol and the best Cossack saddle. He advised us by all means to visit the sacred Monastery of Narabanchi, the last Lamaite monastery on the road from Mongolia to Tibet. He told us that the Holy Hutuktu, “the Incarnate Buddha,” would be greatly offended if we did not visit the monastery and his famous “Shrine of Blessings,” where all travelers going to Tibet always offered prayers. Our Kalmuck Lamaite supported the Mongol in this. I decided to go there with the Kalmuck. The Tartars gave me some big silk hatyk as presents and loaned us four splendid horses. Although the monastery was fifty-five miles distant, by nine o’clock in the evening I entered the yurta of this holy Hutuktu.

He was a middle-aged, clean shaven, spare little man, laboring under the name of Jelyb Djamsrap Hutuktu. He received us very cordially and was greatly pleased with the presentation of the hatyk and with my knowledge of the Mongol etiquette in which my Tartar had been long and persistently instructing me. He listened to me most attentively and gave valuable advice about the road, presenting me then with a ring which has since opened for me the doors of all Lamaite monasteries. The name of this Hutuktu is highly esteemed not only in all Mongolia but in Tibet and in the Lamaite world of China. We spent the night in his splendid yurta and on the following morning visited the shrines where they were conducting very solemn services with the music of gongs, tom-toms and whistling. The Lamas with their deep voices were intoning the prayers while the lesser priests answered with their antiphonies. The sacred phrase: “Om! Mani padme Hung!” was endlessly repeated.

The Hutuktu wished us success, presented us with a large yellow hatyk and accompanied us to the monastery gate. When we were in our saddles he said:

“Remember that you are always welcome guests here. Life is very complicated and anything may happen. Perhaps you will be forced in future to re-visit distant Mongolia and then do not miss Narabanchi Kure.”

That night we returned to the Tartars and the next day continued our journey. As I was very tired, the slow, easy motion of the camel was welcome and restful to me. All the day I dozed off at intervals to sleep. It turned out to be very disastrous for me; for, when my camel was going up the steep bank of a river, in one of my naps I fell off and hit my head on a stone, lost consciousness and woke up to find my overcoat covered with blood. My friends surrounded me with their frightened faces. They bandaged my head and we started off again. I only learned long afterwards from a doctor who examined me that I had cracked my skull as the price of my siesta.

We crossed the eastern ranges of the Altai and the Karlik Tag, which are the most oriental sentinels the great Tian Shan system throws out into the regions of the Gobi; and then traversed from the north to the south the entire width of the Khuhu Gobi. Intense cold ruled all this time and fortunately the frozen sands gave us better speed. Before passing the Khara range, we exchanged our rocking-chair steeds for horses, a deal in which the Torguts skinned us badly like the true “old clothes men” they are.

Skirting around these mountains we entered Kansu. It was a dangerous move, for the Chinese were arresting all refugees and I feared for my Russian fellow-travelers. During the days we hid in the ravines, the forests and bushes, making forced marches at night. Four days we thus used in this passage of Kansu. The few Chinese peasants we did encounter were peaceful appearing and most hospitable. A marked sympathetic interest surrounded the Kalmuck, who could speak a bit of Chinese, and my box of medicines. Everywhere we found many ill people, chiefly afflicted with eye troubles, rheumatism and skin diseases.

As we were approaching Nan Shan, the northeast branch of the Altyn Tag (which is in turn the east branch of the Pamir and Karakhorum system), we overhauled a large caravan of Chinese merchants going to Tibet and joined them. For three days we were winding through the endless ravine-like valleys of these mountains and ascending the high passes. But we noticed that the Chinese knew how to pick the easiest routes for caravans over all these difficult places. In a state of semi-consciousness I made this whole journey toward the large group of swampy lakes, feeding the Koko Nor and a whole network of large rivers. From fatigue and constant nervous strain, probably helped by the blow on my head, I began suffering from sharp attacks of chills and fever, burning up at times and then chattering so with my teeth that I frightened my horse who several times threw me from the saddle. I raved, cried out at times and even wept. I called my family and instructed them how they must come to me. I remember as though through a dream how I was taken from the horse by my companions, laid on the ground, supplied with Chinese brandy and, when I recovered a little, how they said to me:

“The Chinese merchants are heading for the west and we must travel south.”

“No! To the north,” I replied very sharply.

“But no, to the south,” my companions assured me.

“God and the Devil!” I angrily ejaculated, “we have just swum the Little Yenisei and Algyak is to the north!”

“We are in Tibet,” remonstrated my companions. “We must reach the Brahmaputra.”

Brahmaputra. . . . Brahmaputra. . . . This word revolved in my fiery brain, made a terrible noise and commotion. Suddenly I remembered everything and opened my eyes. I hardly moved my lips and soon I again lost consciousness. My companions brought me to the monastery of Sharkhe, where the Lama doctor quickly brought me round with a solution of fatil or Chinese ginseng. In discussing our plans he expressed grave doubt as to whether we would get through Tibet but he did not wish to explain to me the reason for his doubts.



A fairly broad road led out from Sharkhe through the mountains and on the fifth day of our two weeks’ march to the south from the monastery we emerged into the great bowl of the mountains in whose center lay the large lake of Koko Nor. If Finland deserves the ordinary title of the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” the dominion of Koko Nor may certainly with justice be called the “Country of a Million Lakes.” We skirted this lake on the west between it and Doulan Kitt, zigzagging between the numerous swamps, lakes and small rivers, deep and miry. The water was not here covered with ice and only on the tops of the mountains did we feel the cold winds sharply. We rarely met the natives of the country and only with greatest difficulty did our Kalmuck learn the course of the road from the occasional shepherds we passed. From the eastern shore of the Lake of Tassoun we worked round to a monastery on the further side, where we stopped for a short rest. Besides ourselves there was also another group of guests in the holy place. These were Tibetans. Their behavior was very impertinent and they refused to speak with us. They were all armed, chiefly with the Russian military rifles and were draped with crossed bandoliers of cartridges with two or three pistols stowed beneath belts with more cartridges sticking out. They examined us very sharply and we readily realized that they were estimating our martial strength. After they had left on that same day I ordered our Kalmuck to inquire from the High Priest of the temple exactly who they were. For a long time the monk gave evasive answers but when I showed him the ring of Hutuktu Narabanchi and presented him with a large yellow hatyk, he became more communicative.

“Those are bad people,” he explained. “Have a care of them.”

However, he was not willing to give their names, explaining his refusal by citing the Law of Buddhist lands against pronouncing the name of one’s father, teacher or chief. Afterwards I found out that in North Tibet there exists the same custom as in North China. Here and there bands of hunghutze wander about. They appear at the headquarters of the leading trading firms and at the monasteries, claim tribute and after their collections become the protectors of the district. Probably this Tibetan monastery had in this band just such protectors.

When we continued our trip, we frequently noticed single horsemen far away or on the horizon, apparently studying our movements with care. All our attempts to approach them and enter into conversation with them were entirely unsuccessful. On their speedy little horses they disappeared like shadows. As we reached the steep and difficult Pass on the Hamshan and were preparing to spend the night there, suddenly far up on a ridge above us appeared about forty horsemen with entirely white mounts and without formal introduction or warning spattered us with a hail of bullets. Two of our officers fell with a cry. One had been instantly killed while the other lived some few minutes. I did not allow my men to shoot but instead I raised a white flag and started forward with the Kalmuck for a parley. At first they fired two shots at us but then ceased firing and sent down a group of riders from the ridge toward us. We began the parley. The Tibetans explained that Hamshan is a holy mountain and that here one must not spend the night, advising us to proceed farther where we could consider ourselves in safety. They inquired from us whence we came and whither we were going, stated in answer to our information about the purpose of our journey that they knew the Bolsheviki and considered them the liberators of the people of Asia from the yoke of the white race. I certainly did not want to begin a political quarrel with them and so turned back to our companions. Riding down the slope toward our camp, I waited momentarily for a shot in the back but the Tibetan hunghutze did not shoot.

We moved forward, leaving among the stones the bodies of two of our companions as sad tribute to the difficulties and dangers of our journey. We rode all night, with our exhausted horses constantly stopping and some lying down under us, but we forced them ever onward. At last, when the sun was at its zenith, we finally halted. Without unsaddling our horses, we gave them an opportunity to lie down for a little rest. Before us lay a broad, swampy plain, where was evidently the sources of the river Ma-chu. Not far beyond lay the Lake of Aroung Nor. We made our fire of cattle dung and began boiling water for our tea. Again without any warning the bullets came raining in from all sides. Immediately we took cover behind convenient rocks and waited developments. The firing became faster and closer, the raiders appeared on the whole circle round us and the bullets came ever in increasing numbers. We had fallen into a trap and had no hope but to perish. We realized this clearly. I tried anew to begin the parley; but when I stood up with my white flag, the answer was only a thicker rain of bullets and unfortunately one of these, ricocheting off a rock, struck me in the left leg and lodged there. At the same moment another one of our company was killed. We had no other choice and were forced to begin fighting. The struggle continued for about two hours. Besides myself three others received slight wounds. We resisted as long as we could. The hunghutze approached and our situation became desperate.

“There’s no choice,” said one of my associates, a very expert Colonel. “We must mount and ride for it . . . anywhere.”

“Anywhere. . . .” It was a terrible word! We consulted for but an instant. It was apparent that with this band of cut-throats behind us the farther we went into Tibet, the less chance we had of saving our lives.

We decided to return to Mongolia. But how? That we did not know. And thus we began our retreat. Firing all the time, we trotted our horses as fast as we could toward the north. One after another three of my companions fell. There lay my Tartar with a bullet through his neck. After him two young and fine stalwart officers were carried from their saddles with cries of death, while their scared horses broke out across the plain in wild fear, perfect pictures of our distraught selves. This emboldened the Tibetans, who became more and more audacious. A bullet struck the buckle on the ankle strap of my right foot and carried it, with a piece of leather and cloth, into my leg just above the ankle. My old and much tried friend, the agronome, cried out as he grasped his shoulder and then I saw him wiping and bandaging as best as he could his bleeding forehead. A second afterward our Kalmuck was hit twice right through the palm of the same hand, so that it was entirely shattered. Just at this moment fifteen of the hunghutze rushed against us in a charge.

“Shoot at them with volley fire!” commanded our Colonel.

Six robber bodies lay on the turf, while two others of the gang were unhorsed and ran scampering as fast as they could after their retreating fellows. Several minutes later the fire of our antagonists ceased and they raised a white flag. Two riders came forward toward us. In the parley it developed that their chief had been wounded through the chest and they came to ask us to “render first aid.” At once I saw a ray of hope. I took my box of medicines and my groaning, cursing, wounded Kalmuck to interpret for me.

“Give that devil some cyanide of potassium,” urged my companions.

But I devised another scheme.

We were led to the wounded chief. There he lay on the saddle cloths among the rocks, represented to us to be a Tibetan but I at once recognized him from his cast of countenance to be a Sart or Turcoman, probably from the southern part of Turkestan. He looked at me with a begging and frightened gaze. Examining him, I found the bullet had passed through his chest from left to right, that he had lost much blood and was very weak. Conscientiously I did all that I could for him. In the first place I tried on my own tongue all the medicines to be used on him, even the iodoform, in order to demonstrate that there was no poison among them. I cauterized the wound with iodine, sprinkled it with iodoform and applied the bandages. I ordered that the wounded man be not touched nor moved and that he be left right where he lay. Then I taught a Tibetan how the dressing must be changed and left with him medicated cotton, bandages and a little iodoform. To the patient, in whom the fever was already developing, I gave a big dose of aspirin and left several tablets of quinine with them. Afterwards, addressing myself to the bystanders through my Kalmuck, I said very solemnly:

“The wound is very dangerous but I gave to your Chief very strong medicine and hope that he will recover. One condition, however, is necessary: the bad demons which have rushed to his side for his unwarranted attack upon us innocent travelers will instantly kill him, if another shot is let off against us. You must not even keep a single cartridge in your rifles.”

With these words I ordered the Kalmuck to empty his rifle and I, at the same time, took all the cartridges out of my Mauser. The Tibetans instantly and very servilely followed my example.

“Remember that I told you: ‘Eleven days and eleven nights do not move from this place and do not charge your rifles.’ Otherwise the demon of death will snatch off your Chief and will pursue you!”– and with these words I solemnly drew forth and raised above their heads the ring of Hutuktu Narabanchi.

I returned to my companions and calmed them. I told them we were safe against further attack from the robbers and that we must only guess the way to reach Mongolia. Our horses were so exhausted and thin that on their bones we could have hung our overcoats. We spent two days here, during which time I frequently visited my patient. It also gave us opportunity to bandage our own fortunately light wounds and to secure a little rest; though unfortunately I had nothing but a jackknife with which to dig the bullet out of my left calf and the shoemaker’s accessories from my right ankle. Inquiring from the brigands about the caravan roads, we soon made our way out to one of the main routes and had the good fortune to meet there the caravan of the young Mongol Prince Pounzig, who was on a holy mission carrying a message from the Living Buddha in Urga to the Dalai Lama in Lhasa. He helped us to purchase horses, camels and food.

With all our arms and supplies spent in barter during the journey for the purchase of transport and food, we returned stripped and broken to the Narabanchi Monastery, where we were welcomed by the Hutuktu.

“I knew you would come back,” said he. “The divinations revealed it all to me.”

With six of our little band left behind us in Tibet to pay the eternal toll of our dash for the south we returned but twelve to the Monastery and waited there two weeks to re-adjust ourselves and learn how events would again set us afloat on this turbulent sea to steer for any port that Destiny might indicate. The officers enlisted in the detachment which was then being formed in Mongolia to fight against the destroyers of their native land, the Bolsheviki. My original companion and I prepared to continue our journey over Mongolian plains with whatever further adventures and dangers might come in the struggle to escape to a place of safety.

And now, with the scenes of that trying march so vividly recalled, I would dedicate these chapters to my gigantic, old and ruggedly tried friend, the agronome, to my Russian fellow-travelers, and especially, to the sacred memory of those of our companions whose bodies lie cradled in the sleep among the mountains of Tibet– Colonel Ostrovsky, Captains Zuboff and Turoff, Lieutenant Pisarjevsky, Cossack Vernigora and Tartar Mahomed Spirin. Also here I express my deep thanks for help and friendship to the Prince of Soldjak, Hereditary Noyon Ta Lama and to the Kampo Gelong of Narabanchi Monastery, the honorable Jelyb Djamsrap Hutuktu.

Part II




In the heart of Asia lies the enormous, mysterious and rich country of Mongolia. From somewhere on the snowy slopes of the Tian Shan and from the hot sands of Western Zungaria to the timbered ridges of the Sayan and to the Great Wall of China it stretches over a huge portion of Central Asia. The cradle of peoples, histories and legends; the native land of bloody conquerors, who have left here their capitals covered by the sand of the Gobi, their mysterious rings and their ancient nomad laws; the states of monks and evil devils, the country of wandering tribes administered by the descendants of Jenghiz Khan and Kublai Khan–Khans and Princes of the Junior lines: that is Mongolia.

Mysterious country of the cults of Rama, Sakkia-Mouni, Djonkapa and Paspa, cults guarded by the very person of the living Buddha– Buddha incarnated in the third dignitary of the Lamaite religion– Bogdo Gheghen in Ta Kure or Urga; the land of mysterious doctors, prophets, sorcerers, fortune-tellers and witches; the land of the sign of the swastika; the land which has not forgotten the thoughts of the long deceased great potentates of Asia and of half of Europe: that is Mongolia.

The land of nude mountains, of plains burned by the sun and killed by the cold, of ill cattle and ill people; the nest of pests, anthrax and smallpox; the land of boiling hot springs and of mountain passes inhabited by demons; of sacred lakes swarming with fish; of wolves, rare species of deer and mountain goats, marmots in millions, wild horses, wild donkeys and wild camels that have never known the bridle, ferocious dogs and rapacious birds of prey which devour the dead bodies cast out on the plains by the people: that is Mongolia.

The land whose disappearing primitive people gaze upon the bones of their forefathers whitening in the sands and dust of their plains; where are dying out the people who formerly conquered China, Siam, Northern India and Russia and broke their chests against the iron lances of the Polish knights, defending then all the Christian world against the invasion of wild and wandering Asia: that is Mongolia.

The land swelling with natural riches, producing nothing, in need of everything, destitute and suffering from the world’s cataclysm: that is Mongolia.

In this land, by order of Fate, after my unsuccessful attempt to reach the Indian Ocean through Tibet, I spent half a year in the struggle to live and to escape. My old and faithful friend and I were compelled, willy-nilly, to participate in the exceedingly important and dangerous events transpiring in Mongolia in the year of grace 1921. Thanks to this, I came to know the calm, good and honest Mongolian people; I read their souls, saw their sufferings and hopes; I witnessed the whole horror of their oppression and fear before the face of Mystery, there where Mystery pervades all life. I watched the rivers during the severe cold break with a rumbling roar their chains of ice; saw lakes cast up on their shores the bones of human beings; heard unknown wild voices in the mountain ravines; made out the fires over miry swamps of the will- o’-the-wisps; witnessed burning lakes; gazed upward to mountains whose peaks could not be scaled; came across great balls of writhing snakes in the ditches in winter; met with streams which are eternally frozen, rocks like petrified caravans of camels, horsemen and carts; and over all saw the barren mountains whose folds looked like the mantle of Satan, which the glow of the evening sun drenched with blood.

“Look up there!” cried an old shepherd, pointing to the slope of the cursed Zagastai. “That is no mountain. It is HE who lies in his red mantle and awaits the day when he will rise again to begin the fight with the good spirits.”

And as he spoke I recalled the mystic picture of the noted painter Vroubel. The same nude mountains with the violet and purple robes of Satan, whose face is half covered by an approaching grey cloud. Mongolia is a terrible land of mystery and demons. Therefore it is no wonder that here every violation of the ancient order of life of the wandering nomad tribes is transformed into streams of red blood and horror, ministering to the demonic pleasure of Satan couched on the bare mountains and robed in the grey cloak of dejection and sadness, or in the purple mantle of war and vengeance.

After returning from the district of Koko Nor to Mongolia and resting a few days at the Narabanchi Monastery, we went to live in Uliassutai, the capital of Western Outer Mongolia. It is the last purely Mongolian town to the west. In Mongolia there are but three purely Mongolian towns, Urga, Uliassutai and Ulankom. The fourth town, Kobdo, has an essentially Chinese character, being the center of Chinese administration in this district inhabited by the wandering tribes only nominally recognizing the influence of either Peking or Urga. In Uliassutai and Ulankom, besides the unlawful Chinese commissioners and troops, there were stationed Mongolian governors or “Saits,” appointed by the decree of the Living Buddha.

When we arrived in that town, we were at once in the sea of political passions. The Mongols were protesting in great agitation against the Chinese policy in their country; the Chinese raged and demanded from the Mongolians the payment of taxes for the full period since the autonomy of Mongolia had been forcibly extracted from Peking; Russian colonists who had years before settled near the town and in the vicinity of the great monasteries or among the wandering tribes had separated into factions and were fighting against one another; from Urga came the news of the struggle for the maintenance of the independence of Outer Mongolia, led by the Russian General, Baron Ungern von Sternberg; Russian officers and refugees congregated in detachments, against which the Chinese authorities protested but which the Mongols welcomed; the Bolsheviki, worried by the formation of White detachments in Mongolia, sent their troops to the borders of Mongolia; from Irkutsk and Chita to Uliassutai and Urga envoys were running from the Bolsheviki to the Chinese commissioners with various proposals of all kinds; the Chinese authorities in Mongolia were gradually entering into secret relations with the Bolsheviki and in Kiakhta and Ulankom delivered to them the Russian refugees, thus violating recognized international law; in Urga the Bolsheviki set up a Russian communistic municipality; Russian Consuls were inactive; Red troops in the region of Kosogol and the valley of the Selenga had encounters with Anti-Bolshevik officers; the Chinese authorities established garrisons in the Mongolian towns and sent punitive expeditions into the country; and, to complete the confusion, the Chinese troops carried out house-to-house searches, during which they plundered and stole.

Into what an atmosphere we had fallen after our hard and dangerous trip along the Yenisei, through Urianhai, Mongolia, the lands of the Turguts, Kansu and Koko Nor!

“Do you know,” said my old friend to me, “I prefer strangling Partisans and fighting with the hunghutze to listening to news and more anxious news!”

He was right; for the worst of it was that in this bustle and whirl of facts, rumours and gossip the Reds could approach troubled Uliassutai and take everyone with their bare hands. We should very willingly have left this town of uncertainties but we had no place to go. In the north were the hostile Partisans and Red troops; to the south we had already lost our companions and not a little of our own blood; to the west raged the Chinese administrators and detachments; and to the east a war had broken out, the news of which, in spite of the attempts of the Chinese authorities at secrecy, had filtered through and had testified to the seriousness of the situation in this part of Outer Mongolia. Consequently we had no choice but to remain in Uliassutai. Here also were living several Polish soldiers who had escaped from the prison camps in Russia, two Polish families and two American firms, all in the same plight as ourselves. We joined together and made our own intelligence department, very carefully watching the evolution of events. We succeeded in forming good connections with the Chinese commissioner and with the Mongolian Sait, which greatly helped us in our orientation.

What was behind all these events in Mongolia? The very clever Mongol Sait of Uliassutai gave me the following explanation.

“According to the agreements between Mongolia, China and Russia of October 21, 1912, of October 23, 1913, and of June 7, 1915, Outer Mongolia was accorded independence and the Moral Head of our ‘Yellow Faith,’ His Holiness the Living Buddha, became the Suzerain of the Mongolian people of Khalkha or Outer Mongolia with the title of ‘Bogdo Djebtsung Damba Hutuktu Khan.’ While Russia was still strong and carefully watched her policy in Asia, the Government of Peking kept the treaty; but, when, at the beginning of the war with Germany, Russia was compelled to withdraw her troops from Siberia, Peking began to claim the return of its lost rights in Mongolia. It was because of this that the first two treaties of 1912 and 1913 were supplemented by the convention of 1915. However, in 1916, when all the forces of Russia were pre-occupied in the unsuccessful war and afterwards when the first Russian revolution broke out in February, 1917, overthrowing the Romanoff Dynasty, the Chinese Government openly retook Mongolia. They changed all the Mongolian ministers and Saits, replacing them with individuals friendly to China; arrested many Mongolian autonomists and sent them to prison in Peking; set up their administration in Urga and other Mongol towns; actually removed His Holiness Bogdo Khan from the affairs of administration; made him only a machine for signing Chinese decrees; and at last introduced into Mongolia their troops. From that moment there developed an energetic flow of Chinese merchants and coolies into Mongolia. The Chinese began to demand the payment of taxes and dues from 1912. The Mongolian population were rapidly stripped of their wealth and now in the vicinities of our towns and monasteries you can see whole settlements of beggar Mongols living in dugouts. All our Mongol arsenals and treasuries were requisitioned. All monasteries were forced to pay taxes; all Mongols working for the liberty of their country were persecuted; through bribery with Chinese silver, orders and titles the Chinese secured a following among the poorer Mongol Princes. It is easy to understand how the governing class, His Holiness, Khans, Princes, and high Lamas, as well as the ruined and oppressed people, remembering that the Mongol rulers had once held Peking and China in their hands and under their reign had given her the first place in Asia, were definitely hostile to the Chinese administrators acting thus. Insurrection was, however, impossible. We had no arms. All our leaders were under surveillance and every movement by them toward an armed resistance would have ended in the same prison at Peking where eighty of our Nobles, Princes and Lamas died from hunger and torture after a previous struggle for the liberty of Mongolia. Some abnormally strong shock was necessary to drive the people into action. This was given by the Chinese administrators, General Cheng Yi and General Chu Chi-hsiang. They announced that His Holiness Bogdo Khan was under arrest in his own palace, and they recalled to his attention the former decree of the Peking Government–held by the Mongols to be unwarranted and illegal–that His Holiness was the last Living Buddha. This was enough. Immediately secret relations were made between the people and their Living God, and plans were at once elaborated for the liberation of His Holiness and for the struggle for liberty and freedom of our people. We were helped by the great Prince of the Buriats, Djam Bolon, who began parleys with General Ungern, then engaged in fighting the Bolsheviki in Transbaikalia, and invited him to enter Mongolia and help in the war against the Chinese. Then our struggle for liberty began.”

Thus the Sait of Uliassutai explained the situation to me. Afterwards I heard that Baron Ungern, who had agreed to fight for the liberty of Mongolia, directed that the mobilization of the Mongolians in the northern districts be forwarded at once and promised to enter Mongolia with his own small detachment, moving along the River Kerulen. Afterwards he took up relations with the other Russian detachment of Colonel Kazagrandi and, together with the mobilized Mongolian riders, began the attack on Urga. Twice he was defeated but on the third of February, 1921, he succeeded in capturing the town and replaced the Living Buddha on the throne of the Khans.

At the end of March, however, these events were still unknown in Uliassutai. We knew neither of the fall of Urga nor of the destruction of the Chinese army of nearly 15,000 in the battles of Maimachen on the shore of the Tola and on the roads between Urga and Ude. The Chinese carefully concealed the truth by preventing anybody from passing westward from Urga. However, rumours existed and troubled all. The atmosphere became more and more tense, while the relations between the Chinese on the one side and the Mongolians and Russians on the other became more and more strained. At this time the Chinese Commissioner in Uliassutai was Wang Tsao- tsun and his advisor, Fu Hsiang, both very young and inexperienced men. The Chinese authorities had dismissed the Uliassutai Sait, the prominent Mongolian patriot, Prince Chultun Beyle, and had appointed a Lama Prince friendly to China, the former Vice-Minister of War in Urga. Oppression increased. The searching of Russian officers’ and colonists’ houses and quarters commenced, open relations with the Bolsheviki followed and arrest and beatings became common. The Russian officers formed a secret detachment of sixty men so that they could defend themselves. However, in this detachment disagreements soon sprang up between Lieutenant-Colonel M. M. Michailoff and some of his officers. It was evident that in the decisive moment the detachment must separate into factions.

We foreigners in council decided to make a thorough reconnaissance in order to know whether there was danger of Red troops arriving. My old companion and I agreed to do this scouting. Prince Chultun Beyle gave us a very good guide–an old Mongol named Tzeren, who spoke and read Russian perfectly. He was a very interesting personage, holding the position of interpreter with the Mongolian authorities and sometimes with the Chinese Commissioner. Shortly before he had been sent as a special envoy to Peking with very important despatches and this incomparable horseman had made the journey between Uliassutai and Peking, that is 1,800 miles, in nine days, incredible as it may seem. He prepared himself for the journey by binding all his abdomen and chest, legs, arms and neck with strong cotton bandages to protect himself from the wracks and strains of such a period in the saddle. In his cap he bore three eagle feathers as a token that he had received orders to fly like a bird. Armed with a special document called a tzara, which gave him the right to receive at all post stations the best horses, one to ride and one fully saddled to lead as a change, together with two oulatchen or guards to accompany him and bring back the horses from the next station or ourton, he made the distance of from fifteen to thirty miles between stations at full gallop, stopping only long enough to have the horses and guards changed before he was off again. Ahead of him rode one oulatchen with the best horses to enable him to announce and prepare in advance the complement of steeds at the next station. Each oulatchen had three horses in all, so that he could swing from one that had given out and release him to graze until his return to pick him up and lead or ride him back home. At every third ourton, without leaving his saddle, he received a cup of hot green tea with salt and continued his race southward. After seventeen or eighteen hours of such riding he stopped at the ourton for the night or what was left of it, devoured a leg of boiled mutton and slept. Thus he ate once a day and five times a day had tea; and so he traveled for nine days!

With this servant we moved out one cold winter morning in the direction of Kobdo, just over three hundred miles, because from there we had received the disquieting rumours that the Red troops had entered Ulankom and that the Chinese authorities had handed over to them all the Europeans in the town. We crossed the River Dzaphin on the ice. It is a terrible stream. Its bed is full of quicksands, which in summer suck in numbers of camels, horses and men. We entered a long, winding valley among the mountains covered with deep snow and here and there with groves of the black wood of the larch. About halfway to Kobdo we came across the yurta of a shepherd on the shore of the small Lake of Baga Nor, where evening and a strong wind whirling gusts of snow in our faces easily persuaded us to stop. By the yurta stood a splendid bay horse with a saddle richly ornamerited with silver and coral. As we turned in from the road, two Mongols left the yurta very hastily; one of them jumped into the saddle and quickly disappeared in the plain behind the snowy hillocks. We clearly made out the flashing folds of his yellow robe under the great outer coat and saw his large knife sheathed in a green leather scabbard and handled with horn and ivory. The other man was the host of the yurta, the shepherd of a local prince, Novontziran. He gave signs of great pleasure at seeing us and receiving us in his yurta.

“Who was the rider on the bay horse?” we asked.

He dropped his eyes and was silent.

“Tell us,” we insisted. “If you do not wish to speak his name, it means that you are dealing with a bad character.”

“No! No!” he remonstrated, flourishing his hands. “He is a good, great man; but the law does not permit me to speak his name.”

We at once understood that the man was either the chief of the shepherd or some high Lama. Consequently we did not further insist and began making our sleeping arrangements. Our host set three legs of mutton to boil for us, skillfully cutting out the bones with his heavy knife. We chatted and learned that no one had seen Red troops around this region but in Kobdo and in Ulankom the Chinese soldiers were oppressing the population, and were beating to death with the bamboo Mongol men who were defending their women against the ravages of these Chinese troops. Some of the Mongols had retreated to the mountains to join detachments under the command of Kaigordoff, an Altai Tartar officer who was supplying them with weapons.



We rested soundly in the yurta after the two days of travel which had brought us one hundred seventy miles through the snow and sharp cold. Round the evening meal of juicy mutton we were talking freely and carelessly when suddenly we heard a low, hoarse voice:

“Sayn–Good evening!”

We turned around from the brazier to the door and saw a medium height, very heavy set Mongol in deerskin overcoat and cap with side flaps and the long, wide tying strings of the same material. Under his girdle lay the same large knife in the green sheath which we had seen on the departing horseman.

“Amoursayn,” we answered.

He quickly untied his girdle and laid aside his overcoat. He stood before us in a wonderful gown of silk, yellow as beaten gold and girt with a brilliant blue sash. His cleanly shaven face, short hair, red coral rosary on the left hand and his yellow garment proved clearly that before us stood some high Lama Priest,–with a big Colt under his blue sash!

I turned to my host and Tzeren and read in their faces fear and veneration. The stranger came over to the brazier and sat down.

“Let’s speak Russian,” he said and took a bit of meat.

The conversation began. The stranger began to find fault with the Government of the Living Buddha in Urga.

“There they liberate Mongolia, capture Urga, defeat the Chinese army and here in the west they give us no news of it. We are without action here while the Chinese kill our people and steal from them. I think that Bogdo Khan might send us envoys. How is it the Chinese can send their envoys from Urga and Kiakhta to Kobdo, asking for assistance, and the Mongol Government cannot do it? Why?”

“Will the Chinese send help to Urga?” I asked.

Our guest laughed hoarsely and said: “I caught all the envoys, took away their letters and then sent them back . . . into the ground.”

He laughed again and glanced around peculiarly with his blazing eyes. Only then did I notice that his cheekbones and eyes had lines strange to the Mongols of Central Asia. He looked more like a Tartar or a Kirghiz. We were silent and smoked our pipes.

“How soon will the detachment of Chahars leave Uliassutai?” he asked.

We answered that we had not heard about them. Our guest explained that from Inner Mongolia the Chinese authorities had sent out a strong detachment, mobilized from among the most warlike tribe of Chahars, which wander about the region just outside the Great Wall. Its chief was a notorious hunghutze leader promoted by the Chinese Government to the rank of captain on promising that he would bring under subjugation to the Chinese authorities all the tribes of the districts of Kobdo and Urianhai. When he learned whither we were going and for what purpose, he said he could give us the most accurate news and relieve us from the necessity of going farther.

“Besides that, it is very dangerous,” he said, “because Kobdo will be massacred and burned. I know this positively.”

When he heard of our unsuccessful attempt to pass through Tibet, he became attentive and very sympathetic in his bearing toward us and, with evident feeling of regret, expressed himself strongly:

“Only I could have helped you in this enterprise, but not the Narabanchi Hutuktu. With my laissez-passer you could have gone anywhere in Tibet. I am Tushegoun Lama.”

Tushegoun Lama! How many extraordinary tales I had heard about him. He is a Russian Kalmuck, who because of his propaganda work for the independence of the Kalmuck people made the acquaintance of many Russian prisons under the Czar and, for the same cause, added to his list under the Bolsheviki. He escaped to Mongolia and at once attained to great influence among the Mongols. It was no wonder, for he was a close friend and pupil of the Dalai Lama in Potala (Lhasa), was the most learned among the Lamites, a famous thaumaturgist and doctor. He occupied an almost independent position in his relationship with the Living Buddha and achieved to the leadership of all the old wandering tribes of Western Mongolia and Zungaria, even extending his political domination over the Mongolian tribes of Turkestan. His influence was irresistible, based as it was on his great control of mysterious science, as he expressed it; but I was also told that it has its foundation largely in the panicky fear which he could produce in the Mongols. Everyone who disobeyed his orders perished. Such an one never knew the day or the hour when, in his yurta or beside his galloping horse on the plains, the strange and powerful friend of the Dalai Lama would appear. The stroke of a knife, a bullet or strong fingers strangling the neck like a vise accomplished the justice of the plans of this miracle worker.

Without the walls of the yurta the wind whistled and roared and drove the frozen snow sharply against the stretched felt. Through the roar of the wind came the sound of many voices in mingled shouting, wailing and laughter. I felt that in such surroundings it were not difficult to dumbfound a wandering nomad with miracles, because Nature herself had prepared the setting for it. This thought had scarcely time to flash through my mind before Tushegoun Lama suddenly raised his head, looked sharply at me and said:

“There is very much unknown in Nature and the skill of using the unknown produces the miracle; but the power is given to few. I want to prove it to you and you may tell me afterwards whether you have seen it before or not.”

He stood up, pushed back the sleeves of his yellow garment, seized his knife and strode across to the shepherd.

“Michik, stand up!” he ordered.

When the shepherd had risen, the Lama quickly unbuttoned his coat and bared the man’s chest. I could not yet understand what was his intention, when suddenly the Tushegoun with all his force struck his knife into the chest of the shepherd. The Mongol fell all covered with blood, a splash of which I noticed on the yellow silk of the Lama’s coat.

“What have you done?” I exclaimed.

“Sh! Be still,” he whispered turning to me his now quite blanched face.

With a few strokes of the knife he opened the chest of the Mongol and I saw the man’s lungs softly breathing and the distinct palpitations of the heart. The Lama touched these organs with his fingers but no more blood appeared to flow and the face of the shepherd was quite calm. He was lying with his eyes closed and appeared to be in deep and quiet sleep. As the Lama began to open his abdomen, I shut my eyes in fear and horror; and, when I opened them a little while later, I was still more dumbfounded at seeing the shepherd with his coat still open and his breast normal, quietly sleeping on his side and Tushegoun Lama sitting peacefully by the brazier, smoking his pipe and looking into the fire in deep thought.

“It is wonderful!” I confessed. “I have never seen anything like it!”

“About what are you speaking?” asked the Kalmuck.

“About your demonstration or ‘miracle,’ as you call it,” I answered.

“I never said anything like that,” refuted the Kalmuck, with coldness in his voice.

“Did you see it?” I asked of my companion.

“What?” he queried in a dozing voice.

I realized that I had become the victim of the hypnotic power of Tushegoun Lama; but I preferred this to seeing an innocent Mongolian die, for I had not believed that Tushegoun Lama, after slashing open the bodies of his victims, could repair them again so readily.

The following day we took leave of our hosts. We decided to return, inasmuch as our mission was accomplished; and Tushegoun Lama explained to us that he would “move through space.” He wandered over all Mongolia, lived both in the single, simple yurta of the shepherd and hunter and in the splendid tents of the princes and tribal chiefs, surrounded by deep veneration and panic-fear, enticing and cementing to him rich and poor alike with his miracles and prophecies. When bidding us adieu, the Kalmuck sorcerer slyly smiled and said:

“Do not give any information about me to the Chinese authorities.”

Afterwards he added: “What happened to you yesterday evening was a futile demonstration. You Europeans will not recognize that we dark-minded nomads possess the powers of mysterious science. If you could only see the miracles and power of the Most Holy Tashi Lama, when at his command the lamps and candles before the ancient statue of Buddha light themselves and when the ikons of the gods begin to speak and prophesy! But there exists a more powerful and more holy man. . .”

“Is it the King of the World in Agharti?” I interrupted.

He stared and glanced at me in amazement.

“Have you heard about him?” he asked, as his brows knit in thought.

After a few seconds he raised his narrow eyes and said: “Only one man knows his holy name; only one man now living was ever in Agharti. That is I. This is the reason why the Most Holy Dalai Lama has honored me and why the Living Buddha in Urga fears me. But in vain, for I shall never sit on the Holy Throne of the highest priest in Lhasa nor reach that which has come down from Jenghiz Khan to the Head of our yellow Faith. I am no monk. I am a warrior and avenger.”

He jumped smartly into the saddle, whipped his horse and whirled away, flinging out as he left the common Mongolian phrase of adieu: “Sayn! Sayn-bayna!”

On the way back Tzeren related to us the hundreds of legends surrounding Tushegoun Lama. One tale especially remained in my mind. It was in 1911 or 1912 when the Mongols by armed force tried to attain their liberty in a struggle with the Chinese. The general Chinese headquarters in Western Mongolia was Kobdo, where they had about ten thousand soldiers under the command of their best officers. The command to capture Kobdo was sent to Hun Baldon, a simple shepherd who had distinguished himself in fights with the Chinese and received from the Living Buddha the title of Prince of Hun. Ferocious, absolutely without fear and possessing gigantic strength, Baldon had several times led to the attack his poorly armed Mongols but each time had been forced to retreat after losing many of his men under the machine-gun fire. Unexpectedly Tushegoun Lama arrived. He collected all the soldiers and then said to them:

“You must not fear death and must not retreat. You are fighting and dying for Mongolia, for which the gods have appointed a great destiny. See what the fate of Mongolia will be!”

He made a great sweeping gesture with his hand and all the soldiers saw the country round about set with rich yurtas and pastures covered with great herds of horses and cattle. On the plains appeared numerous horsemen on richly saddled steeds. The women were gowned in the finest of silk with massive silver rings in their ears and precious ornaments in their elaborate head dresses. Chinese merchants led an endless caravan of merchandise up to distinguished looking Mongol Saits, surrounded by the gaily dressed tzirik or soldiers and proudly negotiating with the merchants for their wares.

Shortly the vision disappeared and Tushegoun began to speak.

“Do not fear death! It is a release from our labor on earth and the path to the state of constant blessings. Look to the East! Do you see your brothers and friends who have fallen in battle?”

“We see, we see!” the Mongol warriors exclaimed in astonishment, as they all looked upon a great group of dwellings which might have been yurtas or the arches of temples flushed with a warm and kindly light. Red and yellow silk were interwoven in bright bands that covered the walls and floor, everywhere the gilding on pillars and walls gleamed brightly; on the great red altar burned the thin sacrificial candles in gold candelabra, beside the massive silver vessels filled with milk and nuts; on soft pillows about the floor sat the Mongols who had fallen in the previous attack on Kobdo. Before them stood low, lacquered tables laden with many dishes of steaming, succulent flesh of the lamb and the kid, with high jugs of wine and tea, with plates of borsuk, a kind of sweet, rich cakes, with aromatic zatouran covered with sheep’s fat, with bricks of dried cheese, with dates, raisins and nuts. These fallen soldiers smoked golden pipes and chatted gaily.

This vision in turn also disappeared and before the gazing Mongols stood only the mysterious Kalmuck with his hand upraised.

“To battle and return not without victory! I am with you in the fight.”

The attack began. The Mongols fought furiously, perished by the hundreds but not before they had rushed into the heart of Kobdo. Then was re-enacted the long forgotten picture of Tartar hordes destroying European towns. Hun Baldon ordered carried over him a triangle of lances with brilliant red streamers, a sign that he gave up the town to the soldiers for three days. Murder and pillage began. All the Chinese met their death there. The town was burned and the walls of the fortress destroyed. Afterwards Hun Baldon came to Uliassutai and also destroyed the Chinese fortress there. The ruins of it still stand with the broken embattlements and towers, the useless gates and the remnants of the burned official quarters and soldiers’ barracks.



After our return to Uliassutai we heard that disquieting news had been received by the Mongol Sait from Muren Kure. The letter stated that Red Troops were pressing Colonel Kazagrandi very hard in the region of Lake Kosogol. The Sait feared the advance of the Red troops southward to Uliassutai. Both the American firms liquidated their affairs and all our friends were prepared for a quick exit, though they hesitated at the thought of leaving the town, as they were afraid of meeting the detachment of Chahars sent from the east. We decided to await the arrival of this detachment, as their coming could change the whole course of events. In a few days they came, two hundred warlike Chahar brigands under the command of a former Chinese hunghutze. He was a tall, skinny man with hands that reached almost to his knees, a face blackened by wind and sun and mutilated with two long scars down over his forehead and cheek, the making of one of which had also closed one of his hawklike eyes, topped off with a shaggy coonskin cap–such was the commander of the detachment of Chahars. A personage very dark and stern, with whom a night meeting on a lonely street could not be considered a pleasure by any bent of the imagination.

The detachment made camp within the destroyed fortress, near to the single Chinese building that had not been razed and which was now serving as headquarters for the Chinese Commissioner. On the very day of their arrival the Chahars pillaged a Chinese dugun or trading house not half a mile from the fortress and also offended the wife of the Chinese Commissioner by calling her a “traitor.” The Chahars, like the Mongols, were quite right in their stand, because the Chinese Commissioner Wang Tsao-tsun had on his arrival in Uliassutai followed the Chinese custom of demanding a Mongolian wife. The servile new Sait had given orders that a beautiful and suitable Mongolian girl be found for him. One was so run down and placed in his yamen, together with her big wrestling Mongol brother who was to be a guard for the Commissioner but who developed into the nurse for the little white Pekingese pug which the official presented to his new wife.

Burglaries, squabbles and drunken orgies of the Chahars followed, so that Wang Tsoa-tsun exerted all his efforts to hurry the detachment westward to Kobdo and farther into Urianhai.

One cold morning the inhabitants of Uliassutai rose to witness a very stern picture. Along the main street of the town the detachment was passing. They were riding on small, shaggy ponies, three abreast; were dressed in warm blue coats with sheepskin overcoats outside and crowned with the regulation coonskin caps; armed from head to foot. They rode with wild shouts and cheers, very greedily eyeing the Chinese shops and the houses of the Russian colonists. At their head rode the one-eyed hunghutze chief with three horsemen behind him in white overcoats, who carried waving banners and blew what may have been meant for music through great conch shells. One of the Chahars could not resist and so jumped out of his saddle and made for a Chinese shop along the street. Immediately the anxious cries of the Chinese merchants came from the shop. The hunghutze swung round, noticed the horse at the door of the shop and realized what was happening. Immediately he reined his horse and made for the spot. With his raucous voice he called the Chahar out. As he came, he struck him full in the face with his whip and with all his strength. Blood flowed from the slashed cheek. But the Chahar was in the saddle in a second without a murmur and galloped to his place in the file. During this exit of the Chahars all the people were hidden in their houses, anxiously peeping through cracks and corners of the windows. But the Chahars passed peacefully out and only when they met a caravan carrying Chinese wine about six miles from town did their native tendency display itself again in pillaging and emptying several containers. Somewhere in the vicinity of Hargana they were ambushed by Tushegoun Lama and so treated that never again will the plains of Chahar welcome the return of these warrior sons who were sent out to conquer the Soyot descendants of the ancient Tuba.

The day the column left Uliassutai a heavy snow fell, so that the road became impassable. The horses first were up to their knees, tired out and stopped. Some Mongol horsemen reached Uliassutai the following day after great hardship and exertion, having made only twenty-five miles in forty-eight hours. Caravans were compelled to stop along the routes. The Mongols would not consent even to attempt journeys with oxen and yaks which made but ten or twelve miles a day. Only camels could be used but there were too few and their drivers did not feel that they could make the first railway station of Kuku-Hoto, which was about fourteen hundred miles away. We were forced again to wait: for which? Death or salvation? Only our own energy and force could save us. Consequently my friend and I started out, supplied with a tent, stove and food, for a new reconnaissance along the shore of Lake Kosogol, whence the Mongol Sait expected the new invasion of Red troops.



Our small group consisting of four mounted and one pack camel moved northward along the valley of the River Boyagol in the direction of the Tarbagatai Mountains. The road was rocky and covered deep with snow. Our camels walked very carefully, sniffing out the way as our guide shouted the “Ok! Ok!” of the camel drivers to urge them on. We left behind us the fortress and Chinese dugun, swung round the shoulder of a ridge and, after fording several times an open stream, began the ascent of the mountain. The scramble was hard and dangerous. Our camels picked their way most cautiously, moving their ears constantly, as is their habit in such stress. The trail zigzagged into mountain ravines, passed over the tops of ridges, slipped back down again into shallower valleys but ever made higher and higher altitudes. At one place under the grey clouds that tipped the ridges we saw away up on the wide expanse of snow some black spots.

“Those are the obo, the sacred signs and altars for the bad demons watching this pass,” explained the guide. “This pass is called Jagisstai. Many very old tales about it have been kept alive, ancient as these mountains themselves.”

We encouraged him to tell us some of them.

The Mongol, rocking on his camel and looking carefully all around him, began his tale.

“It was long ago, very long ago. . . . The grandson of the great Jenghiz Khan sat on the throne of China and ruled all Asia. The Chinese killed their Khan and wanted to exterminate all his family but a holy old Lama slipped the wife and little son out of the palace and carried them off on swift camels beyond the Great Wall, where they sank into our native plains. The Chinese made a long search for the trails of our refugees and at last found where they had gone. They despatched a strong detachment on fleet horses to capture them. Sometimes the Chinese nearly came up with the fleeing heir of our Khan but the Lama called down from Heaven a deep snow, through which the camels could pass while the horses were inextricably held. This Lama was from a distant monastery. We shall pass this hospice of Jahantsi Kure. In order to reach it one must cross over the Jagisstai. And it was just here the old Lama suddenly became ill, rocked in his saddle and fell dead. Ta Sin Lo, the widow of the Great Khan, burst into tears; but, seeing the Chinese riders galloping there below across the valley, pressed on toward the pass. The camels were tired, stopping every moment, nor did the woman know how to stimulate and drive them on. The Chinese riders came nearer and nearer. Already she heard their shouts of joy, as they felt within their grasp the prize of the mandarins for the murder of the heir of the Great Khan. The heads of the mother and the son would be brought to Peking and exposed on the Ch’ien Men for the mockery and insults of the people. The frightened mother lifted her little son toward heaven and exclaimed:

“‘Earth and Gods of Mongolia, behold the offspring of the man who has glorified the name of the Mongols from one end of the world to the other! Allow not this very flesh of Jenghiz Khan to perish!’

“At this moment she noticed a white mouse sitting on a rock nearby. It jumped to her knees and said:

“‘I am sent to help you. Go on calmly and do not fear. The pursuers of you and your son, to whom is destined a life of glory, have come to the last bourne of their lives.’

“Ta Sin Lo did not see how one small mouse could hold in check three hundred men. The mouse jumped back to the ground and again spoke:

“‘I am the demon of Tarbagatai, Jagasstai. I am mighty and beloved of the Gods but, because you doubted the powers of the miracle- speaking mouse, from this day the Jagasstai will be dangerous for the good and bad alike.’

“The Khan’s widow and son were saved but Jagasstai has ever remained merciless. During the journey over this pass one must always be on one’s guard. The demon of the mountain is ever ready to lead the traveler to destruction.”

All the tops of the ridges of the Tarbagatai are thickly dotted with the obo of rocks and branches. In one place there was even erected a tower of stones as an altar to propitiate the Gods for the doubts of Ta Sin Lo. Evidently the demon expected us. When we began our ascent of the main ridge, he blew into our faces with a sharp, cold wind, whistled and roared and afterwards began casting over us whole blocks of snow torn off the drifts above. We could not distinguish anything around us, scarcely seeing the camel immediately in front. Suddenly I felt a shock and looked about me. Nothing unusual was visible. I was seated comfortably between two leather saddle bags filled with meat and bread but . . . I could not see the head of my camel. He had disappeared. It seemed that he had slipped and fallen to the bottom of a shallow ravine, while the bags which were slung across his back without straps had caught on a rock and stopped with myself there in the snow. This time the demon of Jagasstai only played a joke but one that did not satisfy him. He began to show more and more anger. With furious gusts of wind he almost dragged us and our bags from the camels and nearly knocked over our humped steeds, blinded us with frozen snow and prevented us from breathing. Through long hours we dragged slowly on in the deep snow, often falling over the edge of the rocks. At last we entered a small valley where the wind whistled and roared with a thousand voices. It had grown dark. The Mongol wandered around searching for the trail and finally came back to us, flourishing his arms and saying:

“We have lost the road. We must spend the night here. It is very bad because we shall have no wood for our stove and the cold will grow worse.

With great difficulties and with frozen hands we managed to set up our tent in the wind, placing in it the now useless stove. We covered the tent with snow, dug deep, long ditches in the drifts and forced our camels to lie down in them by shouting the “Dzuk! Dzuk!” command to kneel. Then we brought our packs into the tent.

My companion rebelled against the thought of spending a cold night with a stove hard by.

“I am going out to look for firewood,” said he very decisively; and at that took up the ax and started. He returned after an hour with a big section of a telegraph pole.

“You, Jenghiz Khans,” said he, rubbing his frozen hands, “take your axes and go up there to the left on the mountain and you will find the telegraph poles that have been cut down. I made acquaintance with the old Jagasstai and he showed me the poles.”

Just a little way from us the line of the Russian telegraphs passed, that which had connected Irkutsk with Uliassutai before the days of the Bolsheviki and which the Chinese had commanded the Mongols to cut down and take the wire. These poles are now the salvation of travelers crossing the pass. Thus we spent the night in a warm tent, supped well from hot meat soup with vermicelli, all in the very center of the dominion of the angered Jagasstai. Early the next morning we found the road not more than two or three hundred paces from our tent and continued our hard trip over the ridge of Tarbagatai. At the head of the Adair River valley we noticed a flock of the Mongolian crows with carmine beaks circling among the rocks. We approached the place and discovered the recently fallen bodies of a horse and rider. What had happened to them was difficult to guess. They lay close together; the bridle was wound around the right wrist of the man; no trace of knife or bullet was found. It was impossible to make out the features of the man. His overcoat was Mongolian but his trousers and under jacket were not of the Mongolian pattern. We asked ourselves what had happened to him.

Our Mongol bowed his head in anxiety and said in hushed but assured tones: “It is the vengeance of Jagasstai. The rider did not make sacrifice at the southern obo and the demon has strangled him and his horse.”

At last Tarbagatai was behind us. Before us lay the valley of the Adair. It was a narrow zigzagging plain following along the river bed between close mountain ranges and covered with a rich grass. It was cut into two parts by the road along which the prostrate telegraph poles now lay, as the stumps of varying heights and long stretches of wire completed the debris. This destruction of the telegraph line between Irkutsk and Uliassutai was necessary and incident to the aggressive Chinese policy in Mongolia.

Soon we began to meet large herds of sheep, which were digging through the snow to the dry but very nutritious grass. In some places yaks and oxen were seen on the high slopes of the mountains. Only once, however, did we see a shepherd, for all of them, spying us first, had made off to the mountains or hidden in the ravines. We did not even discover any yurtas along the way. The Mongols had also concealed all their movable homes in the folds of the mountains out of sight and away from the reach of the strong winds. Nomads are very skilful in choosing the places for their winter dwellings. I had often in winter visited the Mongolian yurtas set in such sheltered places that, as I came off the windy plains, I felt as though I were in a conservatory. Once we came up to a big herd of sheep. But as we approached most of the herd gradually withdrew, leaving one part that remained unmoved as the other worked off across the plains. From this section soon about thirty of forty head emerged and went scrambling and leaping right up the mountain side. I took up my glasses and began to observe them. The part of the herd that remained behind were common sheep; the large section that had drawn off over the plain were Mongolian antelopes (gazella gutturosa); while the few that had taken to the mountain were the big horned sheep (ovis argali). All this company had been grazing together with the domestic sheep on the plains of the Adair, which attracted them with its good grass and clear water. In many places the river was not frozen and in some places I saw great clouds of steam over the surface of the open water. In the meantime some of the antelopes and the mountain sheep began looking at us.

“Now they will soon begin to cross our trail,” laughed the Mongol; “very funny beasts. Sometimes the antelopes course for miles in their endeavor to outrun and cross in front of our horses and then, when they have done so, go loping quietly off.”

I had already seen this strategy of the antelopes and I decided to make use of it for the purpose of the hunt. We organized our chase in the following manner. We let one Mongol with the pack camel proceed as we had been traveling and the other three of us spread out like a fan headed toward the herd on the right of our true course. The herd stopped and looked about puzzled, for their etiquette required that they should cross the path of all four of these riders at once. Confusion began. They counted about three thousand heads. All this army began to run from one side to another but without forming any distinct groups. Whole squadrons of them ran before us and then, noticing another rider, came coursing back and made anew the same manoeuvre. One group of about fifty head rushed in two rows toward my point. When they were about a hundred and fifty paces away I shouted and fired. They stopped at once and began to whirl round in one spot, running into one another and even jumping over one another. Their panic cost them dear, for I had time to shoot four times to bring down two beautiful heads. My friend was even more fortunate than I, for he shot only once into the herd as it rushed past him in parallel lines and dropped two with the same bullet.

Meanwhile the argali had gone farther up the mountainside and taken stand there in a row like so many soldiers, turning to gaze at us. Even at this distance I could clearly distinguish their muscular bodies with their majestic heads and stalwart horns. Picking up our prey, we overtook the Mongol who had gone on ahead and continued our way. In many places we came across the carcasses of sheep with necks torn and the flesh of the sides eaten off.

“It is the work of wolves,” said the Mongol. “They are always hereabout in large numbers.”

We came across several more herds of antelope, which ran along quietly enough until they had made a comfortable distance ahead of us and then with tremendous leaps and bounds crossed our bows like the proverbial chicken on the road. Then, after a couple of hundred paces at this speed, they stopped and began to graze quite calmly. Once I turned my camel back and the whole herd immediately took up the challenge again, coursed along parallel with me until they had made sufficient distance for their ideas of safety and then once more rushed across the road ahead of me as though it were paved with red hot stones, only to assume their previous calmness and graze back on the same side of the trail from which our column had first started them. On another occasion I did this three times with a particular herd and laughed long and heartily at their stupid customs.

We passed a very unpleasant night in this valley. We stopped on the shore of the frozen stream in a spot where we found shelter from the wind under the lee of a high shore. In our stove we did have a fire and in our kettle boiling water. Also our tent was warm and cozy. We were quietly resting with pleasant thoughts of supper to soothe us, when suddenly a howling and laughter as though from some inferno burst upon us from just outside the tent, while from the other side of the valley came the long and doleful howls in answer.

“Wolves,” calmly explained the Mongol, who took my revolver and went out of the tent. He did not return for some time but at last we heard a shot and shortly after he entered.

“I scared them a little,” said he. “They had congregated on the shore of the Adair around the body of a camel.”

“And they have not touched our camels?” we asked.

“We shall make a bonfire behind our tent; then they will not bother us.”

After our supper we turned in but I lay awake for a long time listening to the crackle of the wood in the fire, the deep sighing breaths of the camels and the distant howling of the packs of wolves; but finally, even with all these noises, fell asleep. How long I had been asleep I did not know when suddenly I was awakened by a strong blow in the side. I was lying at the very edge of the tent and someone from outside had, without the least ceremony, pushed strongly against me. I thought it was one of the camels chewing the felt of the tent. I took my Mauser and struck the wall. A sharp scream was followed by the sound of quick running over the pebbles. In the morning we discovered the tracks of wolves approaching our tent from the side opposite to the fire and followed them to where they had begun to dig under the tent wall; but evidently one of the would-be robbers was forced to retreat with a bruise on his head from the handle of the Mauser.

Wolves and eagles are the servants of Jagasstai, the Mongol very seriously instructed us. However, this does not prevent the Mongols from hunting them. Once in the camp of Prince Baysei I witnessed such a hunt. The Mongol horsemen on the best of his steeds overtook the wolves on the open plain and killed them with heavy bamboo sticks or tashur. A Russian veterinary surgeon taught the Mongols to poison wolves with strychnine but the Mongols soon abandoned this method because of its danger to the dogs, the faithful friends and allies of the nomad. They do not, however, touch the eagles and hawks but even feed them. When the Mongols are slaughtering animals they often cast bits of meat up into the air for the hawks and eagles to catch in flight, just as we throw a bit of meat to a dog. Eagles and hawks fight and drive away the magpies and crows, which are very dangerous for cattle and horses, because they scratch and peck at the smallest wound or abrasion on the backs of the animals until they make them into uncurable areas which they continue to harass.



Our camels were trudging to a slow but steady measure on toward the north. We were making twenty-five to thirty miles a day as we approached a small monastery that lay to the left of our route. It was in the form of a square of large buildings surrounded by a high fence of thick poles. Each side had an opening in the middle leading to the four entrances of the temple in the center of the square. The temple was built with the red lacquered columns and the Chinese style roofs and dominated the surrounding low dwellings of the Lamas. On the opposite side of the road lay what appeared to be a Chinese fortress but which was in reality a trading compound or dugun, which the Chinese always build in the form of a fortress with double walls a few feet apart, within which they place their houses and shops and usually have twenty or thirty traders fully armed for any emergency. In case of need these duguns can be used as blockhouses and are capable of withstanding long sieges. Between the dugun and the monastery and nearer to the road I made out the camp of some nomads. Their horses and cattle were nowhere to be seen. Evidently the Mongols had stopped here for some time and had left their cattle in the mountains. Over several yurtas waved multi-colored triangular flags, a sign of the presence of disease. Near some yurtas high poles were stuck into the ground with Mongol caps at their tops, which indicated that the host of the yurta had died. The packs of dogs wandering over the plain showed that the dead bodies lay somewhere near, either in the ravines or along the banks of the river.

As we approached the camp, we heard from a distance the frantic beating of drums, the mournful sounds of the flute and shrill, mad shouting. Our Mongol went forward to investigate for us and reported that several Mongolian families had come here to the monastery to seek aid from the Hutuktu Jahansti who was famed for his miracles of healing. The people were stricken with leprosy and black smallpox and had come from long distances only to find that the Hutuktu was not at the monastery but had gone to the Living Buddha in Urga. Consequently they had been forced to invite the witch doctors. The people were dying one after another. Just the day before they had cast on the plain the twenty-seventh man.

Meanwhile, as we talked, the witch doctor came out of one of the yurtas. He was an old man with a cataract on one eye and with a face deeply scarred by smallpox. He was dressed in tatters with various colored bits of cloth hanging down from his waist. He carried a drum and a flute. We could see froth on his blue lips and madness in his eyes. Suddenly he began to whirl round and dance with a thousand prancings of his long legs and writhings of his arms and shoulders, still beating the drum and playing the flute or crying and raging at intervals, ever accelerating his movements until at last with pallid face and bloodshot eyes he fell on the snow, where he continued to writhe and give out his incoherent cries. In this manner the doctor treated his patients, frightening with his madness the bad devils that carry disease. Another witch doctor gave his patients dirty, muddy water, which I learned was the water from the bath of the very person of the Living Buddha who had washed in it his “divine” body born from the sacred flower of the lotus.

“Om! Om!” both witches continuously screamed.

While the doctors fought with the devils, the ill people were left to themselves. They lay in high fever under the heaps of sheepskins and overcoats, were delirious, raved and threw themselves about. By the braziers squatted adults and children who were still well, indifferently chatting, drinking tea and smoking. In all the yurtas I saw the diseased and the dead and such misery and physical horrors as cannot be described.

And I thought: “Oh, Great Jenghiz Khan! Why did you with your keen understanding of the whole situation of Asia and Europe, you who devoted all your life to the glory of the name of the Mongols, why did you not give to your own people, who preserve their old morality, honesty and peaceful customs, the enlightenment that would have saved them from such death? Your bones in the mausoleum at Karakorum being destroyed by the centuries that pass over them must cry out against the rapid disappearance of your formerly great people, who were feared by half the civilized world!”

Such thoughts filled my brain when I saw this camp of the dead tomorrow and when I heard the groans, shoutings and raving of dying men, women and children. Somewhere in the distance the dogs were howling mournfully, and monotonously the drum of the tired witch rolled.

“Forward!” I could not witness longer this dark horror, which I had no means or force to eradicate. We quickly passed on from the ominous place. Nor could we shake the thought that some horrible invisible spirit was following us from this scene of terror. “The devils of disease?” “The pictures of horror and misery?” “The souls of men who have been sacrificed on the altar of darkness of Mongolia?” An inexplicable fear penetrated into our consciousness from whose grasp we could not release ourselves. Only when we had turned from the road, passed over a timbered ridge into a bowl in the mountains from which we could see neither Jahantsi Kure, the dugun nor the squirming grave of dying Mongols could we breathe freely again.

Presently we discovered a large lake. It was Tisingol. Near the shore stood a large Russian house, the telegraph station between Kosogol and Uliassutai.



As we approached the telegraph station, we were met by a blonde young man who was in charge of the office, Kanine by name. With some little confusion he offered us a place in his house for the night. When we entered the room, a tall, lanky man rose from the table and indecisively walked toward us, looking very attentively at us the while.

“Guests . . .” explained Kanine. “They are going to Khathyl. Private persons, strangers, foreigners . . .”

“A-h,” drawled the stranger in a quiet, comprehending tone.

While we were untying our girdles and with difficulty getting out of our great Mongolian coats, the tall man was animatedly whispering something to our host. As we approached the table to sit down and rest, I overheard him say: “We are forced to postpone it,” and saw Kanine simply nod in answer.

Several other people were seated at the table, among them the assistant of Kanine, a tall blonde man with a white face, who talked like a Gatling gun about everything imaginable. He was half crazy and his semi-madness expressed itself when any loud talking, shouting or sudden sharp report led him to repeat the words of the one to whom he was talking at the time or to relate in a mechanical, hurried manner stories of what was happening around him just at this particular juncture. The wife of Kanine, a pale, young, exhausted-looking woman with frightened eyes and a face distorted by fear, was also there and near her a young girl of fifteen with cropped hair and dressed like a man, as well as the two small sons of Kanine. We made acquaintance with all of them. The tall stranger called himself Gorokoff, a Russian colonist from Samgaltai, and presented the short-haired girl as his sister. Kanine’s wife looked at us with plainly discernible fear and said nothing, evidently displeased over our being there. However, we had no choice and consequently began drinking tea and eating our bread and cold meat.

Kanine told us that ever since the telegraph line had been destroyed all his family and relatives had felt very keenly the poverty and hardship that naturally followed. The Bolsheviki did not send him any salary from Irkutsk, so that he was compelled to shift for himself as best he could. They cut and cured hay for sale to the Russian colonists, handled private messages and merchandise from Khathyl to Uliassutai and Samgaltai, bought and sold cattle, hunted and in this manner managed to exist. Gorokoff announced that his commercial affairs compelled him to go to Khathyl and that he and his sister would be glad to join our caravan. He had a most unprepossessing, angry-looking face with colorless eyes that always avoided those of the person with whom he was speaking. During the conversation we asked Kanine if there were Russian colonists near by, to which he answered with knitted brow and a look of disgust on his face:

“There is one rich old man, Bobroff, who lives a verst away from our station; but I would not advise you to visit him. He is a miserly, inhospitable old fellow who does not like guests.”

During these words of her husband Madame Kanine dropped her eyes and contracted her shoulders in something resembling a shudder. Gorokoff and his sister smoked along indifferently. I very clearly remarked all this as well as the hostile tone of Kanine, the confusion of his wife and the artificial indifference of Gorokoff; and I determined to see the old colonist given such a bad name by Kanine. In Uliassutai I knew two Bobroffs. I said to Kanine that I had been asked to hand a letter personally to Bobroff and, after finishing my tea, put on my overcoat and went out.

The house of Bobroff stood in a deep sink in the mountains, surrounded by a high fence over which the low roofs of the houses could be seen. A light shone through the window. I knocked at the