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Across Mongolian Plains by Roy Chapman Andrews

A few moments later Olufsen arrived


I

had an automatic pistol in my pocket, but it would have been suicide to shoot except as a last resort. When a Mongol "starts anything" he is sure to finish it; he is not like a Chinese, who will usually run at the first shot. We stood for at least three minutes with that wall of scowling brutes ten feet away. They were undecided what to do and were only waiting for a leader to close in. One huge beast over six feet tall was just in front of me, and as I stood with my fingers crooked about the trigger of the automatic in my pocket, I thought, "If you start, I'm going to nail you anyway."

Just at this moment of indecision our Mongol leaped on my wife's pony, shouted that he was going to Duke Loobitsan Yangsen, an influential friend of ours, and dashed away. Instantly attention turned from us to him. Fifty men were on horseback in a second, flying after him at full speed. I climbed into the cart, shouting to Yvette to jump on Kublai Khan and run; but she would not leave me. At full speed we dashed down the hill, the plunging horses scattering lamas right and left. Our young Mongol had saved us from a situation which momentarily might have become critical.

At the entrance to the main street of Urga below the Lama City I saw the black Mongol who had started all the trouble. I jumped to the ground, seized him by the collar and one leg, and attempted to throw him into the cart for I had a little matter to settle with

him which could best be done to my satisfaction where we were without spectators.

At the same instant a burly policeman, wearing a saber fully five feet long, seized my horse by the bridle. At the black Mongol's instigation (who, I discovered, was himself a policeman) he had been waiting to arrest us when we came into the city. Since it was impossible to learn what had caused the trouble, Yvette rode to Andersen, Meyer's compound to bring back Mr. Olufsen and his interpreter. She found the whole courtyard swarming with excited Mongol soldiers. A few moments later Olufsen arrived, and we were allowed to return to his house on parole. Then he visited the Foreign Minister, who telephoned the police that we were not to be molested further.

We could never satisfactorily determine what it was all about for every one had a different story. The most plausible explanation was as follows. Russians had been rather _persona non grata_ in Urga since the collapse of the empire, and the Mongols were ready to annoy them whenever it was possible to do so and "get away with it." All foreigners are supposed to be Russians by the average native and, when the black Mongol discovered us using a strange machine, he thought it an excellent opportunity to "show off" before the lamas. Therefore, he told them that we were casting a spell over the great temple by means of the motion picture camera which I was swinging up and down and from side to side. This may not be the true explanation of the trouble but at least it was the one which sounded most logical to us.

Our lama had been caught in the city, and it was with difficulty that we were able to obtain his release. The police charged that he tried to escape when they ordered him to stop. He related how they had slapped his face and pulled his ears before they allowed him to leave the jail, and he was a very much frightened young man when he appeared at Andersen, Meyer's compound. However, he was delighted to have escaped so easily, as he had had excellent prospects of spending a week or two in one of the prison coffins.

The whole performance had the gravest possibilities, and we were exceedingly fortunate in not having been seriously injured or killed. By playing upon their superstitions, the black Mongol had so inflamed the lamas that they were ready for anything. I should never have allowed them to separate me from my wife and, to prevent it, probably would have had to use my pistol. Had I begun to shoot, death for both of us would have been inevitable.


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