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[[underlined]] Chapter XIV. [[/underlined]]   294.
they looked, in their rough sheepskin coats, red and green garments, and eared fur caps, flecked with snow. They offered us no molestation, however, though the spot where we met them seemed an ideal one for a robbery.
     Meanwhile the rocky, precipitous tableland of the Fang Shan kept looming up ever higher and closer on our left. Early in the afternoon we turned aside from the mail trail to Mongolia---which continued northward up the river-valley---and soon began ascending the barren and rugged eastern scarp of the plateau. Far above us we could see overhanging masses of dark igneous rock, with occasional extrusions of columnar basalt---sure evidence that vulcanism had once been active in this part of the world (see page 236).
   
[[underline]] We arrive at Hsi Ssŭ-erh Ts'un. [[/underline]]
     Half an hour's climb on our sturdy Mongol ponies brought us to our destination, the little hill-village of Hsi Ssŭ-erh Ts'un (Pl. 40, fig. 1). Situated about midway up the slope, it lay sprawled over a succession of natural terraces resembling a flight of gigantic stairs. On the flat roofs of its mud huts were piled stacks of newly threshed oat-straw, held down by stones to prevent their being blown away; while both here and at the other hamlets visible up and down the river-valley beneath us, flails were thumping lustily on the earthen threshing-floors and the wind was whirling away clouds of dust and chaff.
     I noticed that the swingles of the flails here were slung from their staves on a principle differing slightly from the one use in Occidental countries when hand-threashing was in vogue there; for in place of swinging freely in any direction, they rotated in but a single plane, at a right angle about a transverse peg passing through the upper (adjacent) ends of both swingle and staff. [[superscript]] (265-a) [[/superscript]] This method of coupling seemed to me
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[[superscript]] (265-a) [[/superscript]] I have seen flails, mounted in the same way, employed in the
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