Beasts, Men and Gods
Part 3 out of 5
gate. A furious barking of dogs answered me and through the cracks
of the fence I made out four huge black Mongol dogs, showing their
teeth and growling as they rushed toward the gate. Inside the
court someone opened the door and called out: "Who is there?"
I answered that I was traveling through from Uliassutai. The dogs
were first caught and chained and I was then admitted by a man who
looked me over very carefully and inquiringly from head to foot. A
revolver handle stuck out of his pocket. Satisfied with his
observations and learning that I knew his relatives, he warmly
welcomed me to the house and presented me to his wife, a dignified
old woman, and to his beautiful little adopted daughter, a girl of
five years. She had been found on the plain beside the dead body
of her mother exhausted in her attempt to escape from the
Bolsheviki in Siberia.
Bobroff told me that the Russian detachment of Kazagrandi had
succeeded in driving the Red troops away from the Kosogol and that
we could consequently continue our trip to Khathyl without danger.
"Why did you not stop with me instead of with those brigands?"
asked the old fellow.
I began to question him and received some very important news. It
seemed that Kanine was a Bolshevik, the agent of the Irkutsk
Soviet, and stationed here for purposes of observation. However,
now he was rendered harmless, because the road between him and
Irkutsk was interrupted. Still from Biisk in the Altai country had
just come a very important commissar.
"Gorokoff?" I asked.
"That's what he calls himself," replied the old fellow; "but I am
also from Biisk and I know everyone there. His real name is
Pouzikoff and the short-haired girl with him is his mistress. He
is the commissar of the 'Cheka' and she is the agent of this
establishment. Last August the two of them shot with their
revolvers seventy bound officers from Kolchak's army. Villainous,
cowardly murderers! Now they have come here for a reconnaissance.
They wanted to stay in my house but I knew them too well and
refused them place."
"And you do not fear him?" I asked, remembering the different words
and glances of these people as they sat at the table in the
"No," answered the old man. "I know how to defend myself and my
family and I have a protector too--my son, such a shot, a rider and
a fighter as does not exist in all Mongolia. I am very sorry that
you will not make the acquaintance of my boy. He has gone off to
the herds and will return only tomorrow evening."
We took most cordial leave of each other and I promised to stop
with him on my return.
"Well, what yarns did Bobroff tell you about us?" was the question
with which Kanine and Gorokoff met me when I came back to the
"Nothing about you," I answered, "because he did not even want to
speak with me when he found out that I was staying in your house.
What is the trouble between you?" I asked of them, expressing
complete astonishment on my face.
"It is an old score," growled Gorokoff.
"A malicious old churl," Kanine added in agreement, the while the
frightened, suffering-laden eyes of his wife again gave expression
to terrifying horror, as if she momentarily expected a deadly blow.
Gorokoff began to pack his luggage in preparation for the journey
with us the following morning. We prepared our simple beds in an
adjoining room and went to sleep. I whispered to my friend to keep
his revolver handy for anything that might happen but he only
smiled as he dragged his revolver and his ax from his coat to place
them under his pillow.
"This people at the outset seemed to me very suspicious," he
whispered. "They are cooking up something crooked. Tomorrow I
shall ride behind this Gorokoff and shall prepare for him a very
faithful one of my bullets, a little dum-dum."
The Mongols spent the night under their tent in the open court
beside their camels, because they wanted to be near to feed them.
About seven o'clock we started. My friend took up his post as rear
guard to our caravan, keeping all the time behind Gorokoff, who
with his sister, both armed from tip to toe, rode splendid mounts.
"How have you kept your horses in such fine condition coming all
the way from Samgaltai?" I inquired as I looked over their fine
When he answered that these belonged to his host, I realized that
Kanine was not so poor as he made out; for any rich Mongol would
have given him in exchange for one of these lovely animals enough
sheep to have kept his household in mutton for a whole year.
Soon we came to a large swamp surrounded by dense brush, where I
was much astonished by seeing literally hundreds of white kuropatka
or partridges. Out of the water rose a flock of duck with a mad
rush as we hove in sight. Winter, cold driving wind, snow and wild
ducks! The Mongol explained it to me thus:
"This swamp always remains warm and never freezes. The wild ducks
live here the year round and the kuropatka too, finding fresh food
in the soft warm earth."
As I was speaking with the Mongol I noticed over the swamp a tongue
of reddish-yellow flame. It flashed and disappeared at once but
later, on the farther edge, two further tongues ran upward. I
realized that here was the real will-o'-the-wisp surrounded by so
many thousands of legends and explained so simply by chemistry as
merely a flash of methane or swamp gas generated by the putrefying
of vegetable matter in the warm damp earth.
"Here dwell the demons of Adair, who are in perpetual war with
those of Muren," explained the Mongol.
"Indeed," I thought, "if in prosaic Europe in our days the
inhabitants of our villages believe these flames to be some wild
sorcery, then surely in the land of mystery they must be at least
the evidences of war between the demons of two neighboring rivers!"
After passing this swamp we made out far ahead of us a large
monastery. Though this was some half mile off the road, the
Gorokoffs said they would ride over to it to make some purchases in
the Chinese shops there. They quickly rode away, promising to
overtake us shortly, but we did not see them again for a while.
They slipped away without leaving any trail but we met them later
in very unexpected circumstances of fatal portent for them. On our
part we were highly satisfied that we were rid of them so soon and,
after they were gone, I imparted to my friend the information
gleaned from Bobroff the evening before.
ON A VOLCANO
The following evening we arrived at Khathyl, a small Russian
settlement of ten scattered houses in the valley of the Egingol or
Yaga, which here takes its waters from the Kosogol half a mile
above the village. The Kosogol is a huge Alpine lake, deep and
cold, eighty-five miles in length and from ten to thirty in width.
On the western shore live the Darkhat Soyots, who call it Hubsugul,
the Mongols, Kosogol. Both the Soyots and Mongols consider this a
terrible and sacred lake. It is very easy to understand this
prejudice because the lake lies in a region of present volcanic
activity, where in the summer on perfectly calm sunny days it
sometimes lashes itself into great waves that are dangerous not
only to the native fishing boats but also to the large Russian
passenger steamers that ply on the lake. In winter also it
sometimes entirely breaks up its covering of ice and gives off
great clouds of steam. Evidently the bottom of the lake is
sporadically pierced by discharging hot springs or, perhaps, by
streams of lava. Evidence of some great underground convulsion
like this is afforded by the mass of killed fish which at times
dams the outlet river in its shallow places. The lake is
exceedingly rich in fish, chiefly varieties of trout and salmon,
and is famous for its wonderful "white fish," which was previously
sent all over Siberia and even down into Manchuria so far as
Moukden. It is fat and remarkably tender and produces fine caviar.
Another variety in the lake is the white khayrus or trout, which in
the migration season, contrary to the customs of most fish, goes
down stream into the Yaga, where it sometimes fills the river from
bank to bank with swarms of backs breaking the surface of the
water. However, this fish is not caught, because it is infested
with worms and is unfit for food. Even cats and dogs will not
touch it. This is a very interesting phemonenon and was being
investigated and studied by Professor Dorogostaisky of the
University at Irkutsk when the coming of the Bolsheviki interrupted
In Khathyl we found a panic. The Russian detachment of Colonel
Kazagrandi, after having twice defeated the Bolsheviki and well on
its march against Irkutsk, was suddenly rendered impotent and
scattered through internal strife among the officers. The
Bolsheviki took advantage of this situation, increased their forces
to one thousand men and began a forward movement to recover what
they had lost, while the remnants of Colonel Kazagrandi's
detachment were retreating on Khathyl, where he determined to make
his last stand against the Reds. The inhabitants were loading
their movable property with their families into carts and scurrying
away from the town, leaving all their cattle and horses to
whomsoever should have the power to seize and hold them. One party
intended to hide in the dense larch forest and the mountain ravines
not far away, while another party made southward for Muren Kure and
Uliassutai. The morning following our arrival the Mongol official
received word that the Red troops had outflanked Colonel
Kazagrandi's men and were approaching Khathyl. The Mongol loaded
his documents and his servants on eleven camels and left his yamen.
Our Mongol guides, without ever saying a word to us, secretly
slipped off with him and left us without camels. Our situation
thus became desperate. We hastened to the colonists who had not
yet got away to bargain with them for camels, but they had
previously, in anticipation of trouble, sent their herds to distant
Mongols and so could do nothing to help us. Then we betook
ourselves to Dr. V. G. Gay, a veterinarian living in the town,
famous throughout Mongolia for his battle against rinderpest. He
lived here with his family and after being forced to give up his
government work became a cattle dealer. He was a most interesting
person, clever and energetic, and the one who had been appointed
under the Czarist regime to purchase all the meat supplies from
Mongolia for the Russian Army on the German Front. He organized a
huge enterprise in Mongolia but when the Bolsheviki seized power in
1917 he transferred his allegiance and began to work with them.
Then in May, 1918, when the Kolchak forces drove the Bolsheviki out
of Siberia, he was arrested and taken for trial. However, he was
released because he was looked upon as the single individual to
organize this big Mongolian enterprise and he handed to Admiral
Kolchak all the supplies of meat and the silver formerly received
from the Soviet commissars. At this time Gay had been serving as
the chief organizer and supplier of the forces of Kazagrandi.
When we went to him, he at once suggested that we take the only
thing left, some poor, broken-down horses which would be able to
carry us the sixty miles to Muren Kure, where we could secure
camels to return to Uliassutai. However, even these were being
kept some distance from the town so that we should have to spend
the night there, the night in which the Red troops were expected to
arrive. Also we were much astonished to see that Gay was remaining
there with his family right up to the time of the expected arrival
of the Reds. The only others in the town were a few Cossacks, who
had been ordered to stay behind to watch the movements of the Red
troops. The night came. My friend and I were prepared either to
fight or, in the last event, to commit suicide. We stayed in a
small house near the Yaga, where some workmen were living who could
not, and did not feel it necessary to, leave. They went up on a
hill from which they could scan the whole country up to the range
from behind which the Red detachment must appear. From this
vantage point in the forest one of the workmen came running in and
"Woe, woe to us! The Reds have arrived. A horseman is galloping
fast through the forest road. I called to him but he did not
answer me. It was dark but I knew the horse was a strange one."
"Do not babble so," said another of the workmen. "Some Mongol rode
by and you jumped to the conclusion that he was a Red."
"No, it was not a Mongol," he replied. "The horse was shod. I
heard the sound of iron shoes on the road. Woe to us!"
"Well," said my friend, "it seems that this is our finish. It is a
silly way for it all to end."
He was right. Just then there was a knock at our door but it was
that of the Mongol bringing us three horses for our escape.
Immediately we saddled them, packed the third beast with our tent
and food and rode off at once to take leave of Gay.
In his house we found the whole war council. Two or three
colonists and several Cossacks had galloped from the mountains and
announced that the Red detachment was approaching Khathyl but would
remain for the night in the forest, where they were building
campfires. In fact, through the house windows we could see the
glare of the fires. It seemed very strange that the enemy should
await the morning there in the forest when they were right on the
village they wished to capture.
An armed Cossack entered the room and announced that two armed men
from the detachment were approaching. All the men in the room
pricked up their ears. Outside were heard the horses' hoofs
followed by men's voices and a knock at the door.
"Come in," said Gay.
Two young men entered, their moustaches and beards white and their
cheeks blazing red from the cold. They were dressed in the common
Siberian overcoat with the big Astrakhan caps, but they had no
weapons. Questions began. It developed that it was a detachment
of White peasants from the Irkutsk and Yakutsk districts who had
been fighting with the Bolsheviki. They had been defeated
somewhere in the vicinity of Irkutsk and were now trying to make a
junction with Kazagrandi. The leader of this band was a socialist,
Captain Vassilieff, who had suffered much under the Czar because of
Our troubles had vanished but we decided to start immediately to
Muren Kure, as we had gathered our information and were in a hurry
to make our report. We started. On the road we overtook three
Cossacks who were going out to bring back the colonists who were
fleeing to the south. We joined them and, dismounting, we all led
our horses over the ice. The Yaga was mad. The subterranean
forces produced underneath the ice great heaving waves which with a
swirling roar threw up and tore loose great sections of ice,
breaking them into small blocks and sucking them under the unbroken
downstream field. Cracks ran like snakes over the surface in
different directions. One of the Cossacks fell into one of these
but we had just time to save him. He was forced by his ducking in
such extreme cold to turn back to Khathyl. Our horses slipped
about and fell several times. Men and animals felt the presence of
death which hovered over them and momentarily threatened them with
destruction. At last we made the farther bank and continued
southward down the valley, glad to have left the geological and
figurative volcanoes behind us. Ten miles farther on we came up
with the first party of refugees. They had spread a big tent and
made a fire inside, filling it with warmth and smoke. Their camp
was made beside the establishment of a large Chinese trading house,
where the owners refused to let the colonists come into their amply
spacious buildings, even though there were children, women and
invalids among the refugees. We spent but half an hour here. The
road as we continued was easy, save in places where the snow lay
deep. We crossed the fairly high divide between the Egingol and
Muren. Near the pass one very unexpected event occurred to us. We
crossed the mouth of a fairly wide valley whose upper end was
covered with a dense wood. Near this wood we noticed two horsemen,
evidently watching us. Their manner of sitting in their saddles
and the character of their horses told us that they were not
Mongols. We began shouting and waving to them; but they did not
answer. Out of the wood emerged a third and stopped to look at us.
We decided to interview them and, whipping up our horses, galloped
toward them. When we were about one thousand yards from them, they
slipped from their saddles and opened on us with a running fire.
Fortunately we rode a little apart and thus made a poor target for
them. We jumped off our horses, dropped prone on the ground and
prepared to fight. However, we did not fire because we thought it
might be a mistake on their part, thinking that we were Reds. They
shortly made off. Their shots from the European rifles had given
us further proof that they were not Mongols. We waited until they
had disappeared into the woods and then went forward to investigate
their tracks, which we found were those of shod horses, clearly
corroborating the earlier evidence that they were not Mongols. Who
could they have been? We never found out; yet what a different
relationship they might have borne to our lives, had their shots
After we had passed over the divide, we met the Russian colonist D.
A. Teternikoff from Muren Kure, who invited us to stay in his house
and promised to secure camels for us from the Lamas. The cold was
intense and heightened by a piercing wind. During the day we froze
to the bone but at night thawed and warmed up nicely by our tent
stove. After two days we entered the valley of Muren and from afar
made out the square of the Kure with its Chinese roofs and large
red temples. Nearby was a second square, the Chinese and Russian
settlement. Two hours more brought us to the house of our
hospitable companion and his attractive young wife who feasted us
with a wonderful luncheon of tasty dishes. We spent five days at
Muren waiting for the camels to be engaged. During this time many
refugees arrived from Khathyl because Colonel Kazagrandi was
gradually falling back upon the town. Among others there were two
Colonels, Plavako and Maklakoff, who had caused the disruption of
the Kazagrandi force. No sooner had the refugees appeared in Muren
Kure than the Mongolian officials announced that the Chinese
authorities had ordered them to drive out all Russian refugees.
"Where can we go now in winter with women and children and no homes
of our own?" asked the distraught refugees.
"That is of no moment to us," answered the Mongolian officials.
"The Chinese authorities are angry and have ordered us to drive you
away. We cannot help you at all."
The refugees had to leave Muren Kure and so erected their tents in
the open not far away. Plavako and Maklakoff bought horses and
started out for Van Kure. Long afterwards I learned that both had
been killed by the Chinese along the road.
We secured three camels and started out with a large group of
Chinese merchants and Russian refugees to make Uliassutai,
preserving the warmest recollections of our courteous hosts, T. V.
and D. A. Teternikoff. For the trip we had to pay for our camels
the very high price of 33 lan of the silver bullion which had been
supplied us by an American firm in Uliassutai, the equivalent
roughly of 2.7 pounds of the white metal.
A BLOODY CHASTISEMENT
Before long we struck the road which we had travelled coming north
and saw again the kindly rows of chopped down telegraph poles which
had once so warmly protected us. Over the timbered hillocks north
of the valley of Tisingol we wended just as it was growing dark.
We decided to stay in Bobroff's house and our companions thought to
seek the hospitality of Kanine in the telegraph station. At the
station gate we found a soldier with a rifle, who questioned us as
to who we were and whence we had come and, being apparently
satisfied, whistled out a young officer from the house.
"Lieutenant Ivanoff," he introduced himself. "I am staying here
with my detachment of White Partisans."
He had come from near Irkutsk with his following of ten men and had
formed a connection with Lieutenant-Colonel Michailoff at
Uliassutai, who commanded him to take possession of this
"Enter, please," he said hospitably.
I explained to him that I wanted to stay with Bobroff, whereat he
made a despairing gesture with his hand and said:
"Don't trouble yourself. The Bobroffs are killed and their house
I could not keep back a cry of horror.
The Lieutenant continued: "Kanine and the Pouzikoffs killed them,
pillaged the place and afterwards burned the house with their dead
bodies in it. Do you want to see it?"
My friend and I went with the Lieutenant and looked over the
ominous site. Blackened uprights stood among charred beams and
planks while crockery and iron pots and pans were scattered all
around. A little to one side under some felt lay the remains of
the four unfortunate individuals. The Lieutenant first spoke:
"I reported the case to Uliassutai and received word back that the
relatives of the deceased would come with two officers, who would
investigate the affair. That is why I cannot bury the bodies."
"How did it happen?" we asked, oppressed by the sad picture.
"It was like this," he began. "I was approaching Tisingol at night
with my ten soldiers. Fearing that there might be Reds here, we
sneaked up to the station and looked into the windows. We saw
Pouzikoff, Kanine and the short-haired girl, looking over and
dividing clothes and other things and weighing lumps of silver. I
did not at once grasp the significance of all this; but, feeling
the need for continued caution, ordered one of my soldiers to climb
the fence and open the gate. We rushed into the court. The first
to run from the house was Kanine's wife, who threw up her hands and
shrieked in fear: "I knew that misfortune would come of all this!"
and then fainted. One of the men ran out of a side door to a shed
in the yard and there tried to get over the fence. I had not
noticed him but one of my soldiers caught him. We were met at the
door by Kanine, who was white and trembling. I realized that
something important had taken place, placed them all under arrest,
ordered the men tied and placed a close guard. All my questions
were met with silence save by Madame Kanine who cried: 'Pity, pity
for the children! They are innocent!' as she dropped on her knees
and stretched out her hands in supplication to us. The short-
haired girl laughed out of impudent eyes and blew a puff of smoke
into my face. I was forced to threaten them and said:
"'I know that you have committed some crime, but you do not want to
confess. If you do not, I shall shoot the men and take the women
to Uliassutai to try them there.'
"I spoke with definiteness of voice and intention, for they roused
my deepest anger. Quite to my surprise the short-haired girl first
began to speak.
"'I want to tell you about everything,' she said.
"I ordered ink, paper and pen brought me. My soldiers were the
witnesses. Then I prepared the protocol of the confession of
Pouzikoff's wife. This was her dark and bloody tale.
"'My husband and I are Bolshevik commissars and we have been sent
to find out how many White officers are hidden in Mongolia. But
the old fellow Bobroff knew us. We wanted to go away but Kanine
kept us, telling us that Bobroff was rich and that he had for a
long time wanted to kill him and pillage his place. We agreed to
join him. We decoyed the young Bobroff to come and play cards with
us. When he was going home my husband stole along behind and shot
him. Afterwards we all went to Bobroff's place. I climbed upon
the fence and threw some poisoned meat to the dogs, who were dead
in a few minutes. Then we all climbed over. The first person to
emerge from the house was Bobroff's wife. Pouzikoff, who was
hidden behind the door, killed her with his ax. The old fellow we
killed with a blow of the ax as he slept. The little girl ran out
into the room as she heard the noise and Kanine shot her in the
head with buckshot. Afterwards we looted the house and burned it,
even destroying the horses and cattle. Later all would have been
completely burned, so that no traces remained, but you suddenly
arrived and these stupid fellows at once betrayed us.'
"It was a dastardly affair," continued the Lieutenant, as we
returned to the station. "The hair raised on my head as I listened
to the calm description of this young woman, hardly more than a
girl. Only then did I fully realize what depravity Bolshevism had
brought into the world, crushing out faith, fear of God and
conscience. Only then did I understand that all honest people must
fight without compromise against this most dangerous enemy of
mankind, so long as life and strength endure."
As we walked I noticed at the side of the road a black spot. It
attracted and fixed my attention.
"What is that?" I asked, pointing to the spot.
"It is the murderer Pouzikoff whom I shot," answered the
Lieutenant. "I would have shot both Kanine and the wife of
Pouzikoff but I was sorry for Kanine's wife and children and I
haven't learned the lesson of shooting women. Now I shall send
them along with you under the surveillance of my soldiers to
Uliassutai. The same result will come, for the Mongols who try
them for the murder will surely kill them."
This is what happened at Tisingol, on whose shores the will-o'-the-
wisp flits over the marshy pools and near which runs the cleavage
of over two hundred miles that the last earthquake left in the
surface of the land. Maybe it was out of this cleavage that
Pouzikoff, Kanine and the others who have sought to infect the
whole world with horror and crime made their appearance from the
land of the inferno. One of Lieutenant Ivanoff's soldiers, who was
always praying and pale, called them all "the servants of Satan."
Our trip from Tisingol to Uliassutai in the company of these
criminals was very unpleasant. My friend and I entirely lost our
usual strength of spirit and healthy frame of mind. Kanine
persistently brooded and thought while the impudent woman laughed,
smoked and joked with the soldiers and several of our companions.
At last we crossed the Jagisstai and in a few hours descried at
first the fortress and then the low adobe houses huddled on the
plain, which we knew to be Uliassutai.
Once more we found ourselves in the whirl of events. During our
fortnight away a great deal had happened here. The Chinese
Commissioner Wang Tsao-tsun had sent eleven envoys to Urga but none
had returned. The situation in Mongolia remained far from clear.
The Russian detachment had been increased by the arrival of new
colonists and secretly continued its illegal existence, although
the Chinese knew about it through their omnipresent system of
spies. In the town no Russian or foreign citizens left their
houses and all remained armed and ready to act. At night armed
sentinels stood guard in all their court-yards. It was the Chinese
who induced such precautions. By order of their Commissioner all
the Chinese merchants with stocks of rifles armed their staffs and
handed over any surplus guns to the officials, who with these
formed and equipped a force of two hundred coolies into a special
garrison of gamins. Then they took possession of the Mongolian
arsenal and distributed these additional guns among the Chinese
vegetable farmers in the nagan hushun, where there was always a
floating population of the lowest grade of transient Chinese
laborers. This trash of China now felt themselves strong, gathered
together in excited discussions and evidently were preparing for
some outburst of aggression. At night the coolies transported many
boxes of cartridges from the Chinese shops to the nagan hushun and
the behaviour of the Chinese mob became unbearably audacious.
These coolies and gamins impertinently stopped and searched people
right on the streets and sought to provoke fights that would allow
them to take anything they wanted. Through secret news we received
from certain Chinese quarters we learned that the Chinese were
preparing a pogrom for all the Russians and Mongols in Uliassutai.
We fully realized that it was only necessary to fire one single
house at the right part of the town and the entire settlement of
wooden buildings would go up in flames. The whole population
prepared to defend themselves, increased the sentinels in the
compounds, appointed leaders for certain sections of the town,
organized a special fire brigade and prepared horses, carts and
food for a hasty flight. The situation became worse when news
arrived from Kobdo that the Chinese there had made a pogrom,
killing some of the inhabitants and burning the whole town after a
wild looting orgy. Most of the people got away to the forests on
the mountains but it was at night and consequently without warm
clothes and without food. During the following days these
mountains around Kobdo heard many cries of misfortune, woe and
death. The severe cold and hunger killed off the women and
children out under the open sky of the Mongolian winter. This news
was soon known to the Chinese. They laughed in mockery and soon
organized a big meeting at the nagan hushun to discuss letting the
mob and gamins loose on the town.
A young Chinese, the son of a cook of one of the colonists,
revealed this news. We immediately decided to make an
investigation. A Russian officer and my friend joined me with this
young Chinese as a guide for a trip to the outskirts of the town.
We feigned simply a stroll but were stopped by the Chinese sentinel
on the side of the city toward the nagan hushun with an impertinent
command that no one was allowed to leave the town. As we spoke
with him, I noticed that between the town and the nagan hushun
Chinese guards were stationed all along the way and that streams of
Chinese were moving in that direction. We saw at once it was
impossible to reach the meeting from this approach, so we chose
another route. We left the city from the eastern side and passed
along by the camp of the Mongolians who had been reduced to beggary
by the Chinese impositions. There also they were evidently
anxiously awaiting the turn of events, for, in spite of the
lateness of the hour, none had gone to sleep. We slipped out on
the ice and worked around by the river to the nagan hushun. As we
passed free of the city we began to sneak cautiously along, taking
advantage of every bit of cover. We were armed with revolvers and
hand grenades and knew that a small detachment had been prepared in
the town to come to our aid, if we should be in danger. First the
young Chinese stole forward with my friend following him like a
shadow, constantly reminding him that he would strangle him like a
mouse if he made one move to betray us. I fear the young guide did
not greatly enjoy the trip with my gigantic friend puffing all too
loudly with the unusual exertions. At last the fences of nagan
hushun were in sight and nothing between us and them save the open
plain, where our group would have been easily spotted; so that we
decided to crawl up one by one, save that the Chinese was retained
in the society of my trusted friend. Fortunately there were many
heaps of frozen manure on the plain, which we made use of as cover
to lead us right up to our objective point, the fence of the
enclosures. In the shadow of this we slunk along to the courtyard
where the voices of the excited crowd beckoned us. As we took good
vantage points in the darkness for listening and making
observations, we remarked two extraordinary things in our immediate
Another invisible guest was present with us at the Chinese
gathering. He lay on the ground with his head in a hole dug by the
dogs under the fence. He was perfectly still and evidently had not
heard our advance. Nearby in a ditch lay a white horse with his
nose muzzled and a little further away stood another saddled horse
tied to a fence.
In the courtyard there was a great hubbub. About two thousand men
were shouting, arguing and flourishing their arms about in wild
gesticulations. Nearly all were armed with rifles, revolvers,
swords and axes. In among the crowd circulated the gamins,
constantly talking, handing out papers, explaining and assuring.
Finally a big, broad-shouldered Chinese mounted the well combing,
waved his rifle about over his head and opened a tirade in strong,
"He is assuring the people," said our interpreter, "that they must
do here what the Chinese have done in Kobdo and must secure from
the Commissioner the assurance of an order to his guard not to
prevent the carrying out of their plans. Also that the Chinese
Commissioner must demand from the Russians all their weapons.
'Then we shall take vengeance on the Russians for their
Blagoveschensk crime when they drowned three thousand Chinese in
1900. You remain here while I go to the Commissioner and talk with
He jumped down from the well and quickly made his way to the gate
toward the town. At once I saw the man who was lying with his head
under the fence draw back out of his hole, take his white horse
from the ditch and then run over to untie the other horse and lead
them both back to our side, which was away from the city. He left
the second horse there and hid himself around the corner of the
hushun. The spokesman went out of the gate and, seeing his horse
over on the other side of the enclosure, slung his rifle across his
back and started for his mount. He had gone about half way when
the stranger behind the corner of the fence suddenly galloped out
and in a flash literally swung the man clear from the ground up
across the pommel of his saddle, where we saw him tie the mouth of
the semi-strangled Chinese with a cloth and dash off with him
toward the west away from the town.
"Who do you suppose he is?" I asked of my friend, who answered up
at once: "It must be Tushegoun Lama. . . ."
His whole appearance did strongly remind me of this mysterious Lama
avenger and his manner of addressing himself to his enemy was a
strict replica of that of Tushegoun. Late in the night we learned
that some time after their orator had gone to seek the
Commissioner's cooperation in their venture, his head had been
flung over the fence into the midst of the waiting audience and
that eight gamins had disappeared on their way from the hushun to
the town without leaving trace or trail. This event terrorized the
Chinese mob and calmed their heated spirits.
The next day we received very unexpected aid. A young Mongol
galloped in from Urga, his overcoat torn, his hair all dishevelled
and fallen to his shoulders and a revolver prominent beneath his
girdle. Proceeding directly to the market where the Mongols are
always gathered, without leaving his saddle he cried out:
"Urga is captured by our Mongols and Chiang Chun Baron Ungern!
Bogdo Hutuktu is once more our Khan! Mongols, kill the Chinese and
pillage their shops! Our patience is exhausted!"
Through the crowd rose the roar of excitement. The rider was
surrounded with a mob of insistent questioners. The old Mongol
Sait, Chultun Beyli, who had been dismissed by the Chinese, was at
once informed of this news and asked to have the messenger brought
to him. After questioning the man he arrested him for inciting the
people to riot, but he refused to turn him over to the Chinese
authorities. I was personally with the Sait at the time and heard
his decision in the matter. When the Chinese Commissioner, Wang
Tsao-tsun, threatened the Sait for disobedience to his authority,
the old man simply fingered his rosary and said:
"I believe the story of this Mongol in its every word and I
apprehend that you and I shall soon have to reverse our
I felt that Wang Tsao-tsun also accepted the correctness of the
Mongol's story, because he did not insist further. From this
moment the Chinese disappeared from the streets of Uliassutai as
though they never had been, and synchronously the patrols of the
Russian officers and of our foreign colony took their places. The
panic among the Chinese was heightened by the receipt of a letter
containing the news that the Mongols and Altai Tartars under the
leadership of the Tartar officer Kaigorodoff pursued the Chinese
who were making off with their booty from the sack of Kobdo and
overtook and annihilated them on the borders of Sinkiang. Another
part of the letter told how General Bakitch and the six thousand
men who had been interned with him by the Chinese authorities on
the River Amyl had received arms and started to join with Ataman
Annenkoff, who had been interned in Kuldja, with the ultimate
intention of linking up with Baron Ungern. This rumour proved to
be wrong because neither Bakitch nor Annenkoff entertained this
intention, because Annenkoff had been transported by the Chinese
into the Depths of Turkestan. However, the news produced veritable
stupefaction among the Chinese.
Just at this time there arrived at the house of the Bolshevist
Russian colonist Bourdukoff three Bolshevik agents from Irkutsk
named Saltikoff, Freimann and Novak, who started an agitation among
the Chinese authorities to get them to disarm the Russian officers
and hand them over to the Reds. They persuaded the Chinese Chamber
of Commerce to petition the Irkutsk Soviet to send a detachment of
Reds to Uliassutai for the protection of the Chinese against the
White detachments. Freimann brought with him communistic pamphlets
in Mongolian and instructions to begin the reconstruction of the
telegraph line to Irkutsk. Bourdukoff also received some messages
from the Bolsheviki. This quartette developed their policy very
successfully and soon saw Wang Tsao-tsun fall in with their
schemes. Once more the days of expecting a pogrom in Uliassutai
returned to us. The Russian officers anticipated attempts to
arrest them. The representative of one of the American firms went
with me to the Commissioner for a parley. We pointed out to him
the illegality of his acts, inasmuch as he was not authorized by
his Government to treat with the Bolsheviki when the Soviet
Government had not been recognized by Peking. Wang Tsao-tsun and
his advisor Fu Hsiang were palpably confused at finding we knew of
his secret meetings with the Bolshevik agents. He assured us that
his guard was sufficient to prevent any such pogrom. It was quite
true that his guard was very capable, as it consisted of well
trained and disciplined soldiers under the command of a serious-
minded and well educated officer; but, what could eighty soldiers
do against a mob of three thousand coolies, one thousand armed
merchants and two hundred gamins? We strongly registered our
apprehensions and urged him to avoid any bloodshed, pointing out
that the foreign and Russian population were determined to defend
themselves to the last moment. Wang at once ordered the
establishment of strong guards on the streets and thus made a very
interesting picture with all the Russian, foreign and Chinese
patrols moving up and down throughout the whole town. Then we did
not know there were three hundred more sentinels on duty, the men
of Tushegoun Lama hidden nearby in the mountains.
Once more the picture changed very sharply and suddenly. The
Mongolian Sait received news through the Lamas of the nearest
monastery that Colonel Kazagrandi, after fighting with the Chinese
irregulars, had captured Van Kure and had formed there Russian-
Mongolian brigades of cavalry, mobilizing the Mongols by the order
of the Living Buddha and the Russians by order of Baron Ungern. A
few hours later it became known that in the large monastery of
Dzain the Chinese soldiers had killed the Russian Captain Barsky
and as a result some of the troops of Kazagrandi attacked and swept
the Chinese out of the place. At the taking of Van Kure the
Russians arrested a Korean Communist who was on his way from Moscow
with gold and propaganda to work in Korea and America. Colonel
Kazagrandi sent this Korean with his freight of gold to Baron
Ungern. After receiving this news the chief of the Russian
detachment in Uliassutai arrested all the Bolsheviki agents and
passed judgment upon them and upon the murderers of the Bobroffs.
Kanine, Madame Pouzikoff and Freimann were shot. Regarding
Saltikoff and Novak some doubt sprang up and, moreover, Saltikoff
escaped and hid, while Novak, under advice from Lieutenant Colonel
Michailoff, left for the west. The chief of the Russian detachment
gave out orders for the mobilization of the Russian colonists and
openly took Uliassutai under his protection with the tacit
agreement of the Mongolian authorities. The Mongol Sait, Chultun
Beyli, convened a council of the neighboring Mongolian Princes, the
soul of which was the noted Mongolian patriot, Hun Jap Lama. The
Princes quickly formulated their demands upon the Chinese for the
complete evacuation of the territory subject to the Sait Chultun
Beyli. Out of it grew parleys, threats and friction between the
various Chinese and Mongolian elements. Wang Tsao-tsun proposed
his scheme of settlement, which some of the Mongolian Princes
accepted; but Jap Lama at the decisive moment threw the Chinese
document to the ground, drew his knife and swore that he would die
by his own hand rather than set it as a seal upon this treacherous
agreement. As a result the Chinese proposals were rejected and the
antagonists began to prepare themselves for the struggle. All the
armed Mongols were summoned from Jassaktu Khan, Sain-Noion Khan and
the dominion of Jahantsi Lama. The Chinese authorities placed
their four machine guns and prepared to defend the fortress.
Continuous deliberations were held by both the Chinese and Mongols.
Finally, our old acquaintance Tzeren came to me as one of the
unconcerned foreigners and handed to me the joint requests of Wang
Tsao-tsun and Chultun Beyli to try to pacify the two elements and
to work out a fair agreement between them. Similar requests were
handed to the representative of an American firm. The following
evening we held the first meeting of the arbitrators and the
Chinese and Mongolian representatives. It was passionate and
stormy, so that we foreigners lost all hope of the success of our
mission. However, at midnight when the speakers were tired, we
secured agreement on two points: the Mongols announced that they
did not want to make war and that they desired to settle this
matter in such a way as to retain the friendship of the great
Chinese people; while the Chinese Commissioner acknowledged that
China had violated the treaties by which full independence had been
legally granted to Mongolia.
These two points formed for us the groundwork of the next meeting
and gave us the starting points for urging reconciliation. The
deliberations continued for three days and finally turned so that
we foreigners could propose our suggestions for an agreement. Its
chief provisions were that the Chinese authorities should surrender
administrative powers, return the arms to the Mongolians, disarm
the two hundred gamins and leave the country; and that the Mongols
on their side should give free and honorable passage of their
country to the Commissioner with his armed guard of eighty men.
This Chinese-Mongolian Treaty of Uliassutai was signed and sealed
by the Chinese Commissioners, Wang Tsao-tsun and Fu Hsiang, by both
Mongolian Saits, by Hun Jap Lama and other Princes, as well as by
the Russian and Chinese Presidents of the Chambers of Commerce and
by us foreign arbitrators. The Chinese officials and convoy began
at once to pack up their belongings and prepare for departure. The
Chinese merchants remained in Uliassutai because Sait Chultun
Beyli, now having full authority and power, guaranteed their
safety. The day of departure for the expedition of Wang Tsao-tsun
arrived. The camels with their packs already filled the yamen
court-yard and the men only awaited the arrival of their horses
from the plains. Suddenly the news spread everywhere that the herd
of horses had been stolen during the night and run off toward the
south. Of two soldiers that had been sent out to follow the tracks
of the herd only one came back with the news that the other had
been killed. Astonishment spread over the whole town while among
the Chinese it turned to open panic. It perceptibly increased when
some Mongols from a distant ourton to the east came in and
announced that in various places along the post road to Urga they
had discovered the bodies of sixteen of the soldiers whom Wang
Tsao-tsun had sent out with letters for Urga. The mystery of these
events will soon be explained.
The chief of the Russian detachment received a letter from a
Cossack Colonel, V. N. Domojiroff, containing the order to disarm
immediately the Chinese garrison, to arrest all Chinese officials
for transport to Baron Ungern at Urga, to take control of
Uliassutai, by force if necessary, and to join forces with his
detachment. At the very same time a messenger from the Narabanchi
Hutuktu galloped in with a letter to the effect that a Russian
detachment under the leadership of Hun Boldon and Colonel
Domojiroff from Urga had pillaged some Chinese firms and killed the
merchants, had come to the Monastery and demanded horses, food and
shelter. The Hutuktu asked for help because the ferocious
conqueror of Kobdo, Hun Boldon, could very easily pillage the
unprotected isolated monastery. We strongly urged Colonel
Michailoff not to violate the sealed treaty and discountenance all
the foreigners and Russians who had taken part in making it, for
this would but be to imitate the Bolshevik principle of making
deceit the leading rule in all acts of state. This touched
Michailoff and he answered Domojiroff that Uliassutai was already
in his hands without a fight; that over the building of the former
Russian Consulate the tri-color flag of Russia was flying; the
gamins had been disarmed but that the other orders could not be
carried out, because their execution would violate the Chinese-
Mongolian treaty just signed in Uliassutai.
Daily several envoys traveled from Narabanchi Hutuktu to
Uliassutai. The news became more and more disquieting. The
Hutuktu reported that Hun Boldon was mobilizing the Mongolian
beggars and horse stealers, arming and training them; that the
soldiers were taking the sheep of the monastery; that the "Noyon"
Domojiroff was always drunk; and that the protests of the Hutuktu
were answered with jeers and scolding. The messengers gave very
indefinite information regarding the strength of the detachment,
some placing it at about thirty while others stated that Domojiroff
said he had eight hundred in all. We could not understand it at
all and soon the messengers ceased coming. All the letters of the
Sait remained unanswered and the envoys did not return. There
seemed to be no doubt that the men had been killed or captured.
Prince Chultun Beyli determined to go himself. He took with him
the Russian and Chinese Presidents of the Chambers of Commerce and
two Mongolian officers. Three days elapsed without receiving any
news from him whatever. The Mongols began to get worried. Then
the Chinese Commissioner and Hun Jap Lama addressed a request to
the foreigner group to send some one to Narabanchi, in order to try
to resolve the controversy there and to persuade Domojiroff to
recognize the treaty and not permit the "great insult of violation"
of a covenant between the two great peoples. Our group asked me
once more to accomplish this mission pro bono publico. I had
assigned me as interpreter a fine young Russian colonist, the
nephew of the murdered Bobroff, a splendid rider as well as a cool,
brave man. Lt.-Colonel Michailoff gave me one of his officers to
accompany me. Supplied with an express tzara for the post horses
and guides, we traveled rapidly over the way which was now familiar
to me to find my old friend, Jelib Djamsrap Huktuktu of Narabanchi.
Although there was deep snow in some places, we made from one
hundred to one hundred and fifteen miles per day.
THE BAND OF WHITE HUNGHUTZES
We arrived at Narabanchi late at night on the third day out. As we
were approaching, we noticed several riders who, as soon as they
had seen us, galloped quickly back to the monastery. For some time
we looked for the camp of the Russian detachment without finding
it. The Mongols led us into the monastery, where the Hutuktu
immediately received me. In his yurta sat Chultun Beyli. There he
presented me with hatyks and said to me: "The very God has sent
you here to us in this difficult moment."
It seems Domojiroff had arrested both the Presidents of the
Chambers of Commerce and had threatened to shoot Prince Chultun.
Both Domojiroff and Hun Boldon had no documents legalizing their
activities. Chultun Beyli was preparing to fight with them.
I asked them to take me to Domojiroff. Through the dark I saw four
big yurtas and two Mongol sentinels with Russian rifles. We
entered the Russian "Noyon's" tent. A very strange picture was
presented to our eyes. In the middle of the yurta the brazier was
burning. In the usual place for the altar stood a throne, on which
the tall, thin, grey-haired Colonel Domojiroff was seated. He was
only in his undergarments and stockings, was evidently a little
drunk and was telling stories. Around the brazier lay twelve young
men in various picturesque poses. My officer companion reported to
Domojiroff about the events in Uliassutai and during the
conversation I asked Domojiroff where his detachment was encamped.
He laughed and answered, with a sweep of his hand: "This is my
detachment." I pointed out to him that the form of his orders to
us in Uliassutai had led us to believe that he must have a large
company with him. Then I informed him that Lt.-Colonel Michailoff
was preparing to cross swords with the Bolshevik force approaching
"What?" he exclaimed with fear and confusion, "the Reds?"
We spent the night in his yurta and, when I was ready to lie down,
my officer whispered to me:
"Be sure to keep your revolver handy," to which I laughed and said:
"But we are in the center of a White detachment and therefore in
"Uh-huh!" answered my officer and finished the response with one
The next day I invited Domojiroff to walk with me over the plain,
when I talked very frankly with him about what had been happening.
He and Hun Boldon had received orders from Baron Ungern simply to
get into touch with General Bakitch, but instead they began
pillaging Chinese firms along the route and he had made up his mind
to become a great conqueror. On the way he had run across some of
the officers who deserted Colonel Kazagrandi and formed his present
band. I succeeded in persuading Domojiroff to arrange matters
peacefully with Chultun Beyli and not to violate the treaty. He
immediately went ahead to the monastery. As I returned, I met a
tall Mongol with a ferocious face, dressed in a blue silk
outercoat--it was Hun Boldon. He introduced himself and spoke with
me in Russian. I had only time to take off my coat in the tent of
Domojiroff when a Mongol came running to invite me to the yurta of
Hun Boldon. The Prince lived just beside me in a splendid blue
yurta. Knowing the Mongolian custom, I jumped into the saddle and
rode the ten paces to his door. Hun Boldon received me with
coldness and pride.
"Who is he?" he inquired of the interpreter, pointing to me with
I understood his desire to offend me and I answered in the same
manner, thrusting out my finger toward him and turning to the
interpreter with the same question in a slightly more unpleasant
"Who is he? High Prince and warrior or shepherd and brute?"
Boldon at once became confused and, with trembling voice and
agitation in his whole manner, blurted out to me that he would not
allow me to interfere in his affairs and would shoot every man who
dared to run counter to his orders. He pounded on the low table
with his fist and then rose up and drew his revolver. But I was
much traveled among the nomads and had studied them thoroughly--
Princes, Lamas, shepherds and brigands. I grasped my whip and,
striking it on the table with all my strength, I said to the
"Tell him that he has the honor to speak with neither Mongol nor
Russian but with a foreigner, a citizen of a great and free state.
Tell him he must first learn to be a man and then he can visit me
and we can talk together."
I turned and went out. Ten minutes later Hun Boldon entered my
yurta and offered his apologies. I persuaded him to parley with
Chultun Beyli and not to offend the free Mongol people with his
activities. That very night all was arranged. Hun Boldon
dismissed his Mongols and left for Kobdo, while Domojiroff with his
band started for Jassaktu Khan to arrange for the mobilization of
the Mongols there. With the consent of Chultun Beyli he wrote to
Wang Tsao-tsun a demand to disarm his guard, as all of the Chinese
troops in Urga had been so treated; but this letter arrived after
Wang had bought camels to replace the stolen horses and was on his
way to the border. Later Lt.-Colonel Michailoff sent a detachment
of fifty men under the command of Lieutenant Strigine to overhaul
Wang and receive their arms.
MYSTERY IN A SMALL TEMPLE
Prince Chultun Beyli and I were ready to leave the Narabanchi Kure.
While the Hutuktu was holding service for the Sait in the Temple of
Blessing, I wandered around through the narrow alleyways between
the walls of the houses of the various grades of Lama Gelongs,
Getuls, Chaidje and Rabdjampa; of schools where the learned doctors
of theology or Maramba taught together with the doctors of medicine
or Ta Lama; of the residences for students called Bandi; of stores,
archives and libraries. When I returned to the yurta of the
Hutuktu, he was inside. He presented me with a large hatyk and
proposed a walk around the monastery. His face wore a preoccupied
expression from which I gathered that he had something he wished to
discuss with me. As we went out of the yurta, the liberated
President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and a Russian officer
joined us. The Hutuktu led us to a small building just back of a
bright yellow stone wall.
"In that building once stopped the Dalai Lama and Bogdo Khan and we
always paint the buildings yellow where these holy persons have
The interior of the building was arranged with splendor. On the
ground floor was the dining-room, furnished with richly carved,
heavy blackwood Chinese tables and cabinets filled with porcelains
and bronze. Above were two rooms, the first a bed-room hung with
heavy yellow silk curtains; a large Chinese lantern richly set with
colored stones hung by a thin bronze chain from the carved wooden
ceiling beam. Here stood a large square bed covered with silken
pillows, mattresses and blankets. The frame work of the bed was
also of the Chinese blackwood and carried, especially on the posts
that held the roof-like canopy, finely executed carvings with the
chief motive the conventional dragon devouring the sun. By the
side stood a chest of drawers completely covered with carvings
setting forth religious pictures. Four comfortable easy chairs
completed the furniture, save for the low oriental throne which
stood on a dais at the end of the room.
"Do you see this throne?" said the Hutuktu to me. "One night in
winter several horsemen rode into the monastery and demanded that
all the Gelongs and Getuls with the Hutuktu and Kanpo at their head
should congregate in this room. Then one of the strangers mounted
the throne, where he took off his bashlyk or cap-like head
covering. All of the Lamas fell to their knees as they recognized
the man who had been long ago described in the sacred bulls of
Dalai Lama, Tashi Lama and Bogdo Khan. He was the man to whom the
whole world belongs and who has penetrated into all the mysteries
of Nature. He pronounced a short Tibetan prayer, blessed all his
hearers and afterwards made predictions for the coming half
century. This was thirty years ago and in the interim all his
prophecies are being fulfilled. During his prayers before that
small shrine in the next room this door opened of its own accord,
the candles and lights before the altar lighted themselves and the
sacred braziers without coals gave forth great streams of incense
that filled the room. And then, without warning, the King of the
World and his companions disappeared from among us. Behind him
remained no trace save the folds in the silken throne coverings
which smoothed themselves out and left the throne as though no one
had sat upon it."
The Hutuktu entered the shrine, kneeled down, covering his eyes
with his hands, and began to pray. I looked at the calm,
indifferent face of the golden Buddha, over which the flickering
lamps threw changing shadows, and then turned my eyes to the side
of the throne. It was wonderful and difficult to believe but I
really saw there the strong, muscular figure of a man with a
swarthy face of stern and fixed expression about the mouth and
jaws, thrown into high relief by the brightness of the eyes.
Through his transparent body draped in white raiment I saw the
Tibetan inscriptions on the back of the throne. I closed my eyes
and opened them again. No one was there but the silk throne
covering seemed to be moving.
"Nervousness," I thought. "Abnormal and over-emphasized
impressionability growing out of the unusual surroundings and
The Hutuktu turned to me and said: "Give me your hatyk. I have
the feeling that you are troubled about those whom you love, and I
want to pray for them. And you must pray also, importune God and
direct the sight of your soul to the King of the World who was here
and sanctified this place."
The Hutuktu placed the hatyk on the shoulder of the Buddha and,
prostrating himself on the carpet before the altar, whispered the
words of prayer. Then he raised his head and beckoned me to him
with a slight movement of his hand.
"Look at the dark space behind the statue of Buddha and he will
show your beloved to you."
Readily obeying his deep-voiced command, I began to look into the
dark niche behind the figure of the Buddha. Soon out of the
darkness began to appear streams of smoke or transparent threads.
They floated in the air, becoming more and more dense and
increasing in number, until gradually they formed the bodies of
several persons and the outlines of various objects. I saw a room
that was strange to me with my family there, surrounded by some
whom I knew and others whom I did not. I recognized even the dress
my wife wore. Every line of her dear face was clearly visible.
Gradually the vision became too dark, dissipated itself into the
streams of smoke and transparent threads and disappeared. Behind
the golden Buddha was nothing but the darkness. The Hutuktu arose,
took my hatyk from the shoulder of the Buddha and handed it to me
with these words:
"Fortune is always with you and with your family. God's goodness
will not forsake you."
We left the building of this unknown King of the World, where he
had prayed for all mankind and had predicted the fate of peoples
and states. I was greatly astonished to find that my companions
had also seen my vision and to hear them describe to me in minute
detail the appearance and the clothes of the persons whom I had
seen in the dark niche behind the head of Buddha.*
* In order that I might have the evidence of others on this
extraordinarily impressive vision, I asked them to make protocols
or affidavits concerning what they saw. This they did and I now
have these statements in my possession.
The Mongol officer also told me that Chultun Beyli had the day
before asked the Hutuktu to reveal to him his fate in this
important juncture of his life and in this crisis of his country
but the Hutuktu only waved his hand in an expression of fear and
refused. When I asked the Hutuktu for the reason of his refusal,
suggesting to him that it might calm and help Chultun Beyli as the
vision of my beloved had strengthened me, the Hutuktu knitted his
brow and answered:
"No! The vision would not please the Prince. His fate is black.
Yesterday I thrice sought his fortune on the burned shoulder blades
and with the entrails of sheep and each time came to the same dire
result, the same dire result! . . ."
He did not really finish speaking but covered his face with his
hands in fear. He was convinced that the lot of Chultun Beyli was
black as the night.
In an hour we were behind the low hills that hid the Narabanchi
Kure from our sight.
THE BREATH OF DEATH
We arrived at Uliassutai on the day of the return of the detachment
which had gone out to disarm the convoy of Wang Tsao-tsun. This
detachment had met Colonel Domojiroff, who ordered them not only to
disarm but to pillage the convoy and, unfortunately, Lieutenant
Strigine executed this illegal and unwarranted command. It was
compromising and ignominious to see Russian officers and soldiers
wearing the Chinese overcoats, boots and wrist watches which had
been taken from the Chinese officials and the convoy. Everyone had
Chinese silver and gold also from the loot. The Mongol wife of
Wang Tsao-tsun and her brother returned with the detachment and
entered a complaint of having been robbed by the Russians. The
Chinese officials and their convoy, deprived of their supplies,
reached the Chinese border only after great distress from hunger
and cold. We foreigners were astounded that Lt.-Colonel Michailoff
received Strigine with military honors but we caught the
explanation of it later when we learned that Michailoff had been
given some of the Chinese silver and his wife the handsomely
decorated saddle of Fu Hsiang. Chultun Beyli demanded that all the
weapons taken from the Chinese and all the stolen property be
turned over to him, as it must later be returned to the Chinese
authorities; but Michailoff refused. Afterwards we foreigners cut
off all contact with the Russian detachment. The relations between
the Russians and Mongols became very strained. Several of the
Russian officers protested against the acts of Michailoff and
Strigine and controversies became more and more serious.
At this time, one morning in April, an extraordinary group of armed
horsemen arrived at Uliassutai. They stayed at the house of the
Bolshevik Bourdukoff, who gave them, so we were told, a great
quantity of silver. This group explained that they were former
officers in the Imperial Guard. They were Colonels Poletika, N. N.
Philipoff and three of the latter's brothers. They announced that
they wanted to collect all the White officers and soldiers then in
Mongolia and China and lead them to Urianhai to fight the
Bolsheviki; but that first they wanted to wipe out Ungern and
return Mongolia to China. They called themselves the
representatives of the Central Organization of the Whites in
The society of Russian officers in Uliassutai invited them to a
meeting, examined their documents and interrogated them.
Investigation proved that all the statements of these officers
about their former connections were entirely wrong, that Poletika
occupied an important position in the war commissariat of the
Bolsheviki, that one of the Philipoff brothers was the assistant of
Kameneff in his first attempt to reach England, that the Central
White Organization in Russia did not exist, that the proposed
fighting in Urianhai was but a trap for the White officers and that
this group was in close relations with the Bolshevik Bourdukoff.
A discussion at once sprang up among the officers as to what they
should do with this group, which split the detachment into two
distinct parties. Lt.-Colonel Michailoff with several officers
joined themselves to Poletika's group just as Colonel Domojiroff
arrived with his detachment. He began to get in touch with both
factions and to feel out the politics of the situation, finally
appointing Poletika to the post of Commandant of Uliassutai and
sending to Baron Ungern a full report of the events in the town.
In this document he devoted much space to me, accusing me of
standing in the way of the execution of his orders. His officers
watched me continuously. From different quarters I received
warnings to take great care. This band and its leader openly
demanded to know what right this foreigner had to interfere in the
affairs of Mongolia, one of Domojiroff's officers directly giving
me the challenge in a meeting in the attempt to provoke a
controversy. I quietly answered him:
"And on what basis do the Russian refugees interfere, they who have
rights neither at home nor abroad?"
The officer made no verbal reply but in his eyes burned a definite
answer. My huge friend who sat beside me noticed this, strode over
toward him and, towering over him, stretched his arms and hands as
though just waking from sleep and remarked: "I'm looking for a
little boxing exercise."
On one occasion Domojiroff's men would have succeeded in taking me
if I had not been saved by the watchfulness of our foreign group.
I had gone to the fortress to negotiate with the Mongol Sait for
the departure of the foreigners from Uliassutai. Chultun Beyli
detained me for a long time, so that I was forced to return about
nine in the evening. My horse was walking. Half a mile from the
town three men sprang up out of the ditch and ran at me. I whipped
up my horse but noticed several more men coming out of the other
ditch as though to head me off. They, however, made for the other
group and captured them and I heard the voice of a foreigner
calling me back. There I found three of Domojiroff's officers
surrounded by the Polish soldiers and other foreigners under the
leadership of my old trusted agronome, who was occupied with tying
the hands of the officers behind their backs so strongly that the
bones cracked. Ending his work and still smoking his perpetual
pipe, he announced in a serious and important manner: "I think it
best to throw them into the river."
Laughing at his seriousness and the fear of Domojiroff's officers,
I asked them why they had started to attack me. They dropped their
eyes and were silent. It was an eloquent silence and we perfectly
understood what they had proposed to do. They had revolvers hidden
in their pockets.
"Fine!" I said. "All is perfectly clear. I shall release you but
you must report to your sender that he will not welcome you back
the next time. Your weapons I shall hand to the Commandant of
My friend, using his former terrifying care, began to untie them,
repeating over and over: "And I would have fed you to the fishes
in the river!" Then we all returned to the town, leaving them to
go their way.
Domojiroff continued to send envoys to Baron Ungern at Urga with
requests for plenary powers and money and with reports about
Michailoff, Chultun Beyli, Poletika, Philipoff and myself. With
Asiatic cunning he was then maintaining good relations with all
those for whom he was preparing death at the hands of the severe
warrior, Baron Ungern, who was receiving only one-sided reports
about all the happenings in Uliassutai. Our whole colony was
greatly agitated. The officers split into different parties; the
soldiers collected in groups and discussed the events of the day,
criticising their chiefs, and under the influence of some of
Domojiroff's men began making such statements as:
"We have now seven Colonels, who all want to be in command and are
all quarreling among themselves. They all ought to be pegged down
and given good sound thrashings. The one who could take the
greatest number of blows ought to be chosen as our chief."
It was an ominous joke that proved the demoralization of the
"It seems," my friend frequently observed, "that we shall soon have
the pleasure of seeing a Council of Soldiers here in Uliassutai.
God and the Devil! One thing here is very unfortunate--there are
no forests near into which good Christian men may dive and get away
from all these cursed Soviets. It's bare, frightfully bare, this
wretched Mongolia, with no place for us to hide."
Really this possibility of the Soviet was approaching. On one
occasion the soldiers captured the arsenal containing the weapons
surrendered by the Chinese and carried them off to their barracks.
Drunkenness, gambling and fighting increased. We foreigners,
carefully watching events and in fear of a catastrophe, finally
decided to leave Uliassutai, that caldron of passions,
controversies and denunciations. We heard that the group of
Poletika was also preparing to get out a few days later. We
foreigners separated into two parties, one traveling by the old
caravan route across the Gobi considerably to the south of Urga to
Kuku-Hoto or Kweihuacheng and Kalgan, and mine, consisting of my
friend, two Polish soldiers and myself, heading for Urga via Zain
Shabi, where Colonel Kazagrandi had asked me in a recent letter to
meet him. Thus we left the Uliassutai where we had lived through
so many exciting events.
On the sixth day after our departure there arrived in the town the
Mongol-Buriat detachment under the command of the Buriat Vandaloff
and the Russian Captain Bezrodnoff. Afterwards I met them in Zain
Shabi. It was a detachment sent out from Urga by Baron Ungern to
restore order in Uliassutai and to march on to Kobdo. On the way
from Zain Shabi Bezrodnoff came across the group of Poletika and
Michailoff. He instituted a search which disclosed suspicious
documents in their baggage and in that of Michailoff and his wife
the silver and other possessions taken from the Chinese. From this
group of sixteen he sent N. N. Philipoff to Baron Ungern, released
three others and shot the remaining twelve. Thus ended in Zain
Shabi the life of one party of Uliassutai refugees and the
activities of the group of Poletika. In Uliassutai Bezrodnoff shot
Chultun Beyli for the violation of the treaty with the Chinese, and
also some Bolshevist Russian colonists; arrested Domojiroff and
sent him to Urga; and . . . restored order. The predictions about
Chultun Beyli were fulfilled.
I knew of Domojiroff's reports regarding myself but I decided,
nevertheless, to proceed to Urga and not to swing round it, as
Poletika had started to do when he was accidentally captured by
Bezrodnoff. I was accustomed now to looking into the eyes of
danger and I set out to meet the terrible "bloody Baron." No one
can decide his own fate. I did not think myself in the wrong and
the feeling of fear had long since ceased to occupy a place in my
menage. On the way a Mongol rider who overhauled us brought the
news of the death of our acquaintances at Zain Shabi. He spent the
night with me in the yurta at the ourton and related to me the
following legend of death.
"It was a long time ago when the Mongolians ruled over China. The
Prince of Uliassutai, Beltis Van, was mad. He executed any one he
wished without trial and no one dared to pass through his town.
All the other Princes and rich Mongols surrounded Uliassutai, where
Beltis raged, cut off communication on every road and allowed none
to pass in or out. Famine developed in the town. They consumed
all the oxen, sheep and horses and finally Beltis Van determined to
make a dash with his soldiers through to the west to the land of
one of his tribes, the Olets. He and his men all perished in the
fight. The Princes, following the advice of the Hutuktu Buyantu,
buried the dead on the slopes of the mountains surrounding
Uliassutai. They buried them with incantations and exorcisings in
order that Death by Violence might be kept from a further
visitation to their land. The tombs were covered with heavy stones
and the Hutuktu predicted that the bad demon of Death by Violence
would only leave the earth when the blood of a man should he
spilled upon the covering stone. Such a legend lived among us.
Now it is fulfilled. The Russians shot there three Bolsheviki and
the Chinese two Mongols. The evil spirit of Beltis Van broke loose
from beneath the heavy stone and now mows down the people with his
scythe. The noble Chultun Beyli has perished; the Russian Noyon
Michailoff also has fallen; and death has flowed out from
Uliassutai all over our boundless plains. Who shall be able to
stem it now? Who shall tie the ferocious hands? An evil time has
fallen upon the Gods and the Good Spirits. The Evil Demons have
made war upon the Good Spirits. What can man now do? Only perish,
only perish. . . ."
THE STRAINING HEART OF ASIA
ON THE ROAD OF GREAT CONQUERORS
The great conqueror, Jenghiz Khan, the son of sad, stern, severe
Mongolia, according to an old Mongolian legend "mounted to the top
of Karasu Togol and with his eyes of an eagle looked to the west
and the east. In the west he saw whole seas of human blood over
which floated a bloody fog that blanketed all the horizon. There
he could not discern his fate. But the gods ordered him to proceed
to the west, leading with him all his warriors and Mongolian
tribes. To the east he saw wealthy towns, shining temples, crowds
of happy people, gardens and fields of rich earth, all of which
pleased the great Mongol. He said to his sons: 'There in the west
I shall be fire and sword, destroyer, avenging Fate; in the east I
shall come as the merciful, great builder, bringing happiness to
the people and to the land.'"
Thus runs the legend. I found much of truth in it. I had passed
over much of his road to the west and always identified it by the
old tombs and the impertinent monuments of stone to the merciless
conqueror. I saw also a part of the eastern road of the hero, over
which he traveled to China. Once when we were making a trip out of
Uliassutai we stopped the night in Djirgalantu. The old host of
the ourton, knowing me from my previous trip to Narabanchi,
welcomed us very kindly and regaled us with stories during our
evening meal. Among other things he led us out of the yurta and
pointed out a mountain peak brightly lighted by the full moon and
recounted to us the story of one of the sons of Jenghiz, afterwards
Emperor of China, Indo-China and Mongolia, who had been attracted
by the beautiful scenery and grazing lands of Djirgalantu and had
founded here a town. This was soon left without inhabitants, for
the Mongol is a nomad who cannot live in artificial cities. The
plain is his house and the world his town. For a time this town
witnessed battles between the Chinese and the troops of Jenghiz
Khan but afterwards it was forgotten. At present there remains
only a half-ruined tower, from which in the early days the heavy
rocks were hurled down upon the heads of the enemy, and the
dilapidated gate of Kublai, the grandson of Jenghiz Khan. Against
the greenish sky drenched with the rays of the moon stood out the
jagged line of the mountains and the black silhouette of the tower
with its loopholes, through which the alternate scudding clouds and
When our party left Uliassutai, we traveled on leisurely, making
thirty-five to fifty miles a day until we were within sixty miles
of Zain Shabi, where I took leave of the others to go south to this
place in order to keep my engagement with Colonel Kazagrandi. The
sun had just risen as my single Mongol guide and I without any pack
animals began to ascend the low, timbered ridges, from the top of
which I caught the last glimpses of my companions disappearing down
the valley. I had no idea then of the many and almost fatal
dangers which I should have to pass through during this trip by
myself, which was destined to prove much longer than I had
anticipated. As we were crossing a small river with sandy shores,
my Mongol guide told me how the Mongolians came there during the
summer to wash gold, in spite of the prohibitions of the Lamas.
The manner of working the placer was very primitive but the results
testified clearly to the richness of these sands. The Mongol lies
flat on the ground, brushes the sand aside with a feather and keeps
blowing into the little excavation so formed. From time to time he
wets his finger and picks up on it a small bit of grain gold or a
diminutive nugget and drops these into a little bag hanging under
his chin. In such manner this primitive dredge wins about a
quarter of an ounce or five dollars' worth of the yellow metal per
I determined to make the whole distance to Zain Shabi in a single
day. At the ourtons I hurried them through the catching and
saddling of the horses as fast as I could. At one of these
stations about twenty-five miles from the monastery the Mongols
gave me a wild horse, a big, strong white stallion. Just as I was
about to mount him and had already touched my foot to the stirrup,
he jumped and kicked me right on the leg which had been wounded in
the Ma-chu fight. The leg soon began to swell and ache. At sunset
I made out the first Russian and Chinese buildings and later the
monastery at Zain. We dropped into the valley of a small stream
which flowed along a mountain on whose peak were set white rocks
forming the words of a Tibetan prayer. At the bottom of this
mountain was a cemetery for the Lamas, that is, piles of bones and
a pack of dogs. At last the monastery lay right below us, a common
square surrounded with wooden fences. In the middle rose a large
temple quite different from all those of western Mongolia, not in
the Chinese but in the Tibetan style of architecture, a white
building with perpendicular walls and regular rows of windows in
black frames, with a roof of black tiles and with a most unusual
damp course laid between the stone walls and the roof timbers and
made of bundles of twigs from a Tibetan tree which never rots.
Another small quadrangle lay a little to the east and contained
Russian buildings connected with the monastery by telephone.
"That is the house of the Living God of Zain," the Mongol
explained, pointing to this smaller quadrangle. "He likes Russian
customs and manners."
To the north on a conical-shaped hill rose a tower that recalled
the Babylonian zikkurat. It was the temple where the ancient books
and manuscripts were kept and the broken ornaments and objects used
in the religious ceremonies together with the robes of deceased
Hutuktus preserved. A sheer cliff rose behind this museum, which
it was impossible for one to climb. On the face of this were
carved images of the Lamaite gods, scattered about without any
special order. They were from one to two and a half metres high.
At night the monks lighted lamps before them, so that one could see
these images of the gods and goddesses from far away.
We entered the trading settlement. The streets were deserted and
from the windows only women and children looked out. I stopped
with a Russian firm whose other branches I had known throughout the
country. Much to my astonishment they welcomed me as an
acquaintance. It appeared that the Hutuktu of Narabanchi had sent
word to all the monasteries that, whenever I should come, they must
all render me aid, inasmuch as I had saved the Narabanchi Monastery
and, by the clear signs of the divinations, I was an incarnate
Buddha beloved of the Gods. This letter of this kindly disposed
Hutuktu helped me very much--perhaps I should even say more, that
it saved me from death. The hospitality of my hosts proved of
great and much needed assistance to me because my injured leg had
swelled and was aching severely. When I took off my boot, I found
my foot all covered with blood and my old wound re-opened by the
blow. A felcher was called to assist me with treatment and
bandaging, so that I was able to walk again three days later.
I did not find Colonel Kazagrandi at Zain Shabi. After destroying
the Chinese gamins who had killed the local Commandant, he had
returned via Van Kure. The new Commandment handed me the letter of
Kazagrandi, who very cordially asked me to visit him after I had
rested in Zain. A Mongolian document was enclosed in the letter
giving me the right to receive horses and carts from herd to herd
by means of the "urga," which I shall later describe and which
opened for me an entirely new vista of Mongolian life and country
that I should otherwise never have seen. The making of this
journey of over two hundred miles was a very disagreeable task for
me; but evidently Kazagrandi, whom I had never met, had serious
reasons for wishing this meeting.
At one o'clock the day after my arrival I was visited by the local
"Very God," Gheghen Pandita Hutuktu. A more strange and
extraordinary appearance of a god I could not imagine. He was a
short, thin young man of twenty or twenty-two years with quick,
nervous movements and with an expressive face lighted and
dominated, like the countenances of all the Mongol gods, by large,
frightened eyes. He was dressed in a blue silk Russian uniform
with yellow epaulets with the sacred sign of Pandita Hutuktu, in
blue silk trousers and high boots, all surmounted by a white
Astrakhan cap with a yellow pointed top. At his girdle a revolver
and sword were slung. I did not know quite what to think of this
disguised god. He took a cup of tea from the host and began to
talk with a mixture of Mongolian and Russian.
"Not far from my Kure is located the ancient monastery of Erdeni
Dzu, erected on the site of the ruins of Karakorum, the ancient
capital of Jenghiz Khan and afterwards frequently visited by Kublai
Kahn for sanctuary and rest after his labors as Emperor of China,
India, Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia and half of Europe. Now only
ruins and tombs remain to mark this former 'Garden of Beatific
Days.' The pious monks of Baroun Kure found in the underground
chambers of the ruins manuscripts that were much older than Erdeni
Dzu itself. In these my Maramba Meetchik-Atak found the prediction
that the Hutuktu of Zain who should carry the title of 'Pandita,'
should be but twenty-one years of age, be born in the heart of the
lands of Jenghiz Khan and have on his chest the natural sign of the
swastika--such Hutuktu would be honored by the people in the days
of a great war and trouble, would begin the fight with the servants
of Red evil and would conquer them and bring order into the
universe, celebrating this happy day in the city with white temples
and with the songs of ten thousand bells. It is I, Pandita
Hutuktu! The signs and symbols have met in me. I shall destroy
the Bolsheviki, the bad 'servants of the Red evil,' and in Moscow I
shall rest from my glorious and great work. Therefore I have asked
Colonel Kazagrandi to enlist me in the troops of Baron Ungern and
give me the chance to fight. The Lamas seek to prevent me from
going but who is the god here?"
He very sternly stamped his foot, while the Lamas and guard who
accompanied him reverently bowed their heads.
As he left he presented me with a hatyk and, rummaging through my
saddle bags, I found a single article that might be considered
worthy as a gift for a Hutuktu, a small bottle of osmiridium, this
rare, natural concomitant of platinum.
"This is the most stable and hardest of metals," I said. "Let it
be the sign of your glory and strength, Hutuktu!"
The Pandita thanked me and invited me to visit him. When I had
recovered a little, I went to his house, which was arranged in
European style: electric lights, push bells and telephone. He
feasted me with wine and sweets and introduced me to two very
interesting personages, one an old Tibetan surgeon with a face
deeply pitted by smallpox, a heavy thick nose and crossed eyes. He
was a peculiar surgeon, consecrated in Tibet. His duties consisted
in treating and curing Hutuktus when they were ill and . . . in
poisoning them when they became too independent or extravagant or
when their policies were not in accord with the wishes of the
Council of Lamas of the Living Buddha or the Dalai Lama. By now
Pandita Hutuktu probably rests in eternal peace on the top of some
sacred mountain, sent thither by the solicitude of his
extraordinary court physician. The martial spirit of Pandita
Hutuktu was very unwelcome to the Council of Lamas, who protested
against the adventuresomeness of this "Living God."
Pandita liked wine and cards. One day when he was in the company
of Russians and dressed in a European suit, some Lamas came running
to announce that divine service had begun and that the "Living God"
must take his place on the altar to be prayed to but he had gone
out from his abode and was playing cards! Without any confusion
Pandita drew his red mantle of the Hutuktu over his European coat
and long grey trousers and allowed the shocked Lamas to carry their
"God" away in his palanquin.
Besides the surgeon-poisoner I met at the Hutuktu's a lad of
thirteen years, whose youthfulness, red robe and cropped hair led
me to suppose he was a Bandi or student servant in the home of the
Hutuktu; but it turned out otherwise. This boy was the first
Hubilgan, also an incarnate Buddha, an artful teller of fortunes
and the successor of Pandita Hutuktu. He was drunk all the time
and a great card player, always making side-splitting jokes that
greatly offended the Lamas.
That same evening I made the acquaintance of the second Hubilgan
who called on me, the real administrator of Zain Shabi, which is an
independent dominion subject directly to the Living Buddha. This
Hubilgan was a serious and ascetic man of thirty-two, well educated
and deeply learned in Mongol lore. He knew Russian and read much
in that language, being interested chiefly in the life and stories
of other peoples. He had a high respect for the creative genius of
the American people and said to me:
"When you go to America, ask the Americans to come to us and lead
us out from the darkness that surrounds us. The Chinese and
Russians will lead us to destruction and only the Americans can
It is a deep satisfaction for me to carry out the request of this
influential Mongol, Hubilgan, and to urge his appeal to the
American people. Will you not save this honest, uncorrupted but
dark, deceived and oppressed people? They should not be allowed to
perish, for within their souls they carry a great store of strong
moral forces. Make of them a cultured people, believing in the
verity of humankind; teach them to use the wealth of their land;
and the ancient people of Jenghiz Khan will ever be your faithful
When I had sufficiently recovered, the Hutuktu invited me to travel
with him to Erdeni Dzu, to which I willingly agreed. On the
following morning a light and comfortable carriage was brought for
me. Our trip lasted five days, during which we visited Erdeni Dzu,
Karakorum, Hoto-Zaidam and Hara-Balgasun. All these are the ruins
of monasteries and cities erected by Jenghiz Khan and his
successors, Ugadai Khan and Kublai in the thirteenth century. Now
only the remnants of walls and towers remain, some large tombs and
whole books of legends and stories.
"Look at these tombs!" said the Hutuktu to me. "Here the son of
Khan Uyuk was buried. This young prince was bribed by the Chinese
to kill his father but was frustrated in his attempt by his own
sister, who killed him in her watchful care of her old father, the
Emperor and Khan. There is the tomb of Tsinilla, the beloved
spouse of Khan Mangu. She left the capital of China to go to Khara
Bolgasun, where she fell in love with the brave shepherd Damcharen,
who overtook the wind on his steed and who captured wild yaks and
horses with his bare hands. The enraged Khan ordered his
unfaithful wife strangled but afterwards buried her with imperial
honors and frequently came to her tomb to weep for his lost love."
"And what happened to Damcharen?" I inquired.
The Hutuktu himself did not know; but his old servant, the real
archive of legends, answered:
"With the aid of ferocious Chahar brigands he fought with China for
a long time. It is, however, unknown how he died."
Among the ruins the monks pray at certain fixed times and they also
search for sacred books and objects concealed or buried in the
debris. Recently they found here two Chinese rifles and two gold
rings and big bundles of old manuscripts tied with leather thongs.
"Why did this region attract the powerful emperors and Khans who
ruled from the Pacific to the Adriatic?" I asked myself. Certainly
not these mountains and valleys covered with larch and birch, not
these vast sands, receding lakes and barren rocks. It seems that I
found the answer.
The great emperors, remembering the vision of Jenghiz Khan, sought
here new revelations and predictions of his miraculous, majestic
destiny, surrounded by the divine honors, obeisance and hate.
Where could they come into touch with the gods, the good and bad
spirits? Only there where they abode. All the district of Zain
with these ancient ruins is just such a place.
"On this mountain only such men can ascend as are born of the
direct line of Jenghiz Khan," the Pandita explained to me. "Half
way up the ordinary man suffocates and dies, if he ventures to go
further. Recently Mongolian hunters chased a pack of wolves up
this mountain and, when they came to this part of the mountainside,
they all perished. There on the slopes of the mountain lie the
bones of eagles, big horned sheep and the kabarga antelope, light
and swift as the wind. There dwells the bad demon who possesses
the book of human destinies."
"This is the answer," I thought.
In the Western Caucasus I once saw a mountain between Soukhoum Kale
and Tuopsei where wolves, eagles and wild goats also perish, and
where men would likewise perish if they did not go on horseback
through this zone. There the earth breathes out carbonic acid gas
through holes in the mountainside, killing all animal life. The
gas clings to the earth in a layer about half a metre thick. Men
on horseback pass above this and the horses always hold their heads
way up and snuff and whinny in fear until they cross the dangerous
zone. Here on the top of this mountain where the bad demon peruses
the book of human destinies is the same phenomenon, and I realized
the sacred fear of the Mongols as well as the stern attraction of
this place for the tall, almost gigantic descendants of Jenghiz
Khan. Their heads tower above the layers of poisonous gas, so that
they can reach the top of this mysterious and terrible mountain.
Also it is possible to explain this phenomenon geologically,
because here in this region is the southern edge of the coal
deposits which are the source of carbonic acid and swamp gases.
Not far from the ruins in the lands of Hun Doptchin Djamtso there
is a small lake which sometimes burns with a red flame, terrifying
the Mongols and herds of horses. Naturally this lake is rich with
legends. Here a meteor formerly fell and sank far into the earth.
In the hole this lake appeared. Now, it seems, the inhabitants of
the subterranean passages, semi-man and semi-demon, are laboring to
extract this "stone of the sky" from its deep bed and it is setting
the water on fire as it rises and falls back in spite of their
every effort. I did not see the lake myself but a Russian colonist
told me that it may be petroleum on the lake that is fired either
from the campfires of the shepherds or by the blazing rays of the
At any rate all this makes it very easy to understand the
attractions for the great Mongol potentates. The strongest
impression was produced upon me by Karakorum, the place where the
cruel and wise Jenghiz Khan lived and laid his gigantic plans for
overrunning all the west with blood and for covering the east with
a glory never before seen. Two Karakorums were erected by Jenghiz
Khan, one here near Tatsa Gol on the Caravan Road and the other in
Pamir, where the sad warriors buried the greatest of human
conquerors in the mausoleum built by five hundred captives who were
sacrificed to the spirit of the deceased when their work was done.
The warlike Pandita Hutuktu prayed on the ruins where the shades of
these potentates who had ruled half the world wandered, and his
soul longed for the chimerical exploits and for the glory of
Jenghiz and Tamerlane.
On the return journey we were invited not far from Zain to visit a
very rich Mongol by the way. He had already prepared the yurtas
suitable for Princes, ornamented with rich carpets and silk
draperies. The Hutuktu accepted. We arranged ourselves on the
soft pillows in the yurtas as the Hutuktu blessed the Mongol,
touching his head with his holy hand, and received the hatyks. The
host then had a whole sheep brought in to us, boiled in a huge
vessel. The Hutuktu carved off one hind leg and offered it to me,
while he reserved the other for himself. After this he gave a
large piece of meat to the smallest son of the host, which was the
sign that Pandita Hutuktu invited all to begin the feast. In a
trice the sheep was entirely carved or torn up and in the hands of
the banqueters. When the Hutuktu had thrown down by the brazier
the white bones without a trace of meat left on them, the host on
his knees withdrew from the fire a piece of sheepskin and
ceremoniously offered it on both his hands to the Hutuktu. Pandita
began to clean off the wool and ashes with his knife and, cutting
it into thin strips, fell to eating this really tasty course. It
is the covering from just above the breast bone and is called in
Mongolian tarach or "arrow." When a sheep is skinned, this small
section is cut out and placed on the hot coals, where it is broiled
very slowly. Thus prepared it is considered the most dainty bit of
the whole animal and is always presented to the guest of honor. It
is not permissible to divide it, such is the strength of the custom
After dinner our host proposed a hunt for bighorns, a large herd of
which was known to graze in the mountains within less than a mile
from the yurtas. Horses with rich saddles and bridles were led up.
All the elaborate harness of the Hutuktu's mount was ornamented
with red and yellow bits of cloth as a mark of his rank. About
fifty Mongol riders galloped behind us. When we left our horses,
we were placed behind the rocks roughly three hundred paces apart
and the Mongols began the encircling movement around the mountain.
After about half an hour I noticed way up among the rocks something
flash and soon made out a fine bighorn jumping with tremendous
springs from rock to rock, and behind him a herd of some twenty odd
head leaping like lightning over the ground. I was vexed beyond
words when it appeared that the Mongols had made a mess of it and
pushed the herd out to the side before having completed their
circle. But happily I was mistaken. Behind a rock right ahead of
the herd a Mongol sprang up and waved his hands. Only the big
leader was not frightened and kept right on past the unarmed Mongol
while all the rest of the herd swung suddenly round and rushed
right down upon me. I opened fire and dropped two of them. The
Hutuktu also brought down one as well as a musk antelope that came
unexpectedly from behind a rock hard by. The largest pair of horns
weighed about thirty pounds, but they were from a young sheep.
The day following our return to Zain Shabi, as I was feeling quite
recovered, I decided to go on to Van Kure. At my leave-taking from
the Hutuktu I received a large hatyk from him together with warmest
expressions of thanks for the present I had given him on the first
day of our acquaintance.
"It is a fine medicine!" he exclaimed. "After our trip I felt
quite exhausted but I took your medicine and am now quite
rejuvenated. Many, many thanks!"
The poor chap had swallowed my osmiridium. To be sure it could not
harm him; but to have helped him was wonderful. Perhaps doctors in
the Occident may wish to try this new, harmless and very cheap
remedy--only eight pounds of it in the whole world--and I merely
ask that they leave me the patent rights for it for Mongolia,
Barga, Sinkiang, Koko Nor and all the other lands of Central Asia.
An old Russian colonist went as guide for me. They gave me a big
but light and comfortable cart hitched and drawn in a marvelous
way. A straight pole four metres long was fastened athwart the
front of the shafts. On either side two riders took this pole
across their saddle pommels and galloped away with me across the
plains. Behind us galloped four other riders with four extra
About twelve miles from Zain we saw from a ridge a snakelike line
of riders crossing the valley, which detachment we met half an hour
later on the shore of a deep, swampy stream. The group consisted
of Mongols, Buriats and Tibetans armed with Russian rifles. At the
head of the column were two men, one of whom in a huge black
Astrakhan and black felt cape with red Caucasian cowl on his
shoulders blocked my road and, in a coarse, harsh voice, demanded
of me: "Who are you, where are you from and where are you going?"
I gave also a laconic answer. They then said that they were a
detachment of troops from Baron Ungern under the command of Captain
Vandaloff. "I am Captain Bezrodnoff, military judge."
Suddenly he laughed loudly. His insolent, stupid face did not
please me and, bowing to the officers, I ordered my riders to move.
"Oh no!" he remonstrated, as he blocked the road again. "I cannot
allow you to go farther. I want to have a long and serious
conversation with you and you will have to come back to Zain for
I protested and called attention to the letter of Colonel
Kazagrandi, only to hear Bezrodnoff answer with coldness:
"This letter is a matter of Colonel Kazagrandi's and to bring you
back to Zain and talk with you is my affair. Now give me your
But I could not yield to this demand, even though death were
"Listen," I said. "Tell me frankly. Is yours really a detachment
fighting against the Boisheviki or is it a Red contingent?"
"No, I assure you!" replied the Buriat officer Vandaloff,
approaching me. "We have already been fighting the Bolsheviki for
"Then I cannot hand you my weapon," I calmly replied. "I brought
it from Soviet Siberia, have had many fights with this faithful
weapon and now I am to be disarmed by White officers! It is an
offence that I cannot allow."
With these words I threw my rifle and my Mauser into the stream.
The officers were confused. Bezrodnoff turned red with anger.
"I freed you and myself from humiliation," I explained.
Bezrodnoff in silence turned his horse, the whole detachment of
three hundred men passed immediately before me and only the last
two riders stopped, ordered my Mongols to turn my cart round and
then fell in behind my little group. So I was arrested! One of
the horsemen behind me was a Russian and he told me that Bezrodnoff
carried with him many death decrees. I was sure that mine was
Stupid, very stupid! What was the use of fighting one's way
through Red detachments, of being frozen and hungry, of almost
perishing in Tibet only to die from a bullet of one of Bezrodnoff's
Mongols? For such a pleasure it was not worth while to travel so
long and so far! In every Siberian "Cheka" I could have had this
end so joyfully accorded me.
When we arrived at Zain Shabi, my luggage was examined and
Bezrodnoff began to question me in minutest detail about the events
in Uliassutai. We talked about three hours, during which I tried
to defend all the officers of Uliassutai, maintaining that one must
not trust only the reports of Domojiroff. When our conversation
was finished, the Captain stood up and offered his apologies for
detaining me in my journey. Afterwards he presented me a fine
Mauser with silver mountings on the handle and said:
"Your pride greatly pleased me. I beg you to receive this weapon
as a memento of me."
The following morning I set out anew from Zain Shabi, having in my
pocket the laissez-passer of Bezrodnoff for his outposts.
TRAVELING BY "URGA"
Once more we traveled along the now known places, the mountain from
which I espied the detachment of Bezrodnoff, the stream into which
I had thrown my weapon, and soon all this lay behind us. At the
first ourton we were disappointed because we did not find horses
there. In the yurtas were only the host with two of his sons. I
showed him my document and he exclaimed:
"Noyon has the right of 'urga.' Horses will be brought very soon."
He jumped into his saddle, took two of my Mongols with him,
providing them and himself with long thin poles, four or five
metres in length, and fitted at the end with a loop of rope, and
galloped away. My cart moved behind them. We left the road,
crossed the plain for an hour and came upon a big herd of horses
grazing there. The Mongol began to catch a quota of them for us
with his pole and noose or urga, when out of the mountains nearby
came galloping the owners of the herds. When the old Mongol showed
my papers to them, they submissively acquiesced and substituted
four of their men for those who had come with me thus far. In this
manner the Mongols travel, not along the ourton or station road but
directly from one herd to another, where the fresh horses are
caught and saddled and the new owners substituted for those of the
last herd. All the Mongols so effected by the right of urga try to
finish their task as rapidly as possible and gallop like mad for
the nearest herd in your general direction of travel to turn over
their task to their neighbor. Any traveler having this right of
urga can catch horses himself and, if there are no owners, can
force the former ones to carry on and leave the animals in the next
herd he requisitions. But this happens very rarely because the
Mongol never likes to seek out his animals in another's herd, as it
always gives so many chances for controversy.
It was from this custom, according to one explanation, that the
town of Urga took its name among outsiders. By the Mongols
themselves it is always referred to as Ta Kure, "The Great
Monastery." The reason the Buriats and Russians, who were the
first to trade into this region, called it Urga was because it was
the principal destination of all the trading expeditions which
crossed the plains by this old method or right of travel. A second
explanation is that the town lies in a "loop" whose sides are
formed by three mountain ridges, along one of which the River Tola
runs like the pole or stick of the familiar urga of the plains.
Thanks to this unique ticket of urga I crossed quite untraveled
sections of Mongolia for about two hundred miles. It gave me the
welcome opportunity to observe the fauna of this part of the
country. I saw many huge herds of Mongolian antelopes running from
five to six thousand, many groups of bighorns, wapiti and kabarga
antelopes. Sometimes small herds of wild horses and wild asses
flashed as a vision on the horizon.
In one place I observed a big colony of marmots. All over an area
of several square miles their mounds were scattered with the holes
leading down to their runways below, the dwellings of the marmot.
In and out among these mounds the greyish-yellow or brown animals
ran in all sizes up to half that of an average dog. They ran
heavily and the skin on their fat bodies moved as though it were
too big for them. The marmots are splendid prospectors, always
digging deep ditches, throwing out on the surface all the stones.
In many places I saw mounds the marmots had made from copper ore
and farther north some from minerals containing wolfram and
vanadium. Whenever the marmot is at the entrance of his hole, he
sits up straight on his hind legs and looks like a bit of wood, a
small stump or a stone. As soon as he spies a rider in the
distance, he watches him with great curiosity and begins whistling
sharply. This curiosity of the marmots is taken advantage of by
the hunters, who sneak up to their holes flourishing streamers of
cloth on the tips of long poles. The whole attention of the small
animals is concentrated on this small flag and only the bullet that
takes his life explains to him the reason for this previously
I saw a very exciting picture as I passed through a marmot colony
near the Orkhon River. There were thousands of holes here so that
my Mongols had to use all their skill to keep the horses from
breaking their legs in them. I noticed an eagle circling high
overhead. All of a sudden he dropped like a stone to the top of a
mound, where he sat motionless as a rock. The marmot in a few
minutes ran out of his hole to a neighbor's doorway. The eagle
calmly jumped down from the top and with one wing closed the
entrance to the hole. The rodent heard the noise, turned back and
rushed to the attack, trying to break through to his hole where he
had evidently left his family. The struggle began. The eagle
fought with one free wing, one leg and his beak but did not
withdraw the bar to the entrance. The marmot jumped at the
rapacious bird with great boldness but soon fell from a blow on the
head. Only then the eagle withdrew his wing, approached the
marmot, finished him off and with difficulty lifted him in his
talons to carry him away to the mountains for a tasty luncheon.
In the more barren places with only occasional spears of grass in
the plain another species of rodent lives, called imouran, about
the size of a squirrel. They have a coat the same color as the
prairie and, running about it like snakes, they collect the seeds
that are blown across by the wind and carry them down into their
diminutive homes. The imouran has a truly faithful friend, the
yellow lark of the prairie with a brown back and head. When he
sees the imouran running across the plain, he settles on his back,
flaps his wings in balance and rides well this swiftly galloping
mount, who gaily flourishes his long shaggy tail. The lark during
his ride skilfully and quickly catches the parasites living on the
body of his friend, giving evidence of his enjoyment of his work
with a short agreeable song. The Mongols call the imouran "the
steed of the gay lark." The lark warns the imouran of the approach
of eagles and hawks with three sharp whistles the moment he sees
the aerial brigand and takes refuge himself behind a stone or in a
small ditch. After this signal no imouran will stick his head out
of his hole until the danger is past. Thus the gay lark and his
steed live in kindly neighborliness.
In other parts of Mongolia where there was very rich grass I saw
another type of rodent, which I had previously come across in
Urianhai. It is a gigantic black prairie rat with a short tail and
lives in colonies of from one to two hundred. He is interesting
and unique as the most skilful farmer among the animals in his
preparation of his winter supply of fodder. During the weeks when
the grass is most succulent he actually mows it down with swift
jerky swings of his head, cutting about twenty or thirty stalks
with his sharp long front teeth. Then he allows his grass to cure
and later puts up his prepared hay in a most scientific manner.
First he makes a mound about a foot high. Through this he pushes
down into the ground four slanting stakes, converging toward the
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