L. 1500 in weight, equal at least to L. 15,000
of our modern money; a
most magnificent present to an itinerant beggar.—E.
Account of the Country under the Dominion of the Great Khan of the Manners and Customs of his Subjects; of a Wonderful Piece of Mechanism, constructed by a French Goldsmith; and of the Palace of the Khan at Caracarum.
From the time of our arrival at the court of Mangu-khan, the leskar or camp made only two days journey towards the south; and it then began its progress northwards, in the direction of Caracarum. In the whole of my journey I was convinced of the truth of what I had been informed by Baldwin de Hainault at Constantinople, that the whole way eastwards was by a continual ascent, as all the rivers run from the east towards the west, sometimes deviating towards the north or south, more or less directly, but never running east, but this was farther confirmed to me by the priests who came from Kathay. From the place where I found Mangukhan, it is twenty days journey south-east to Kathay, and ten days journey right east to Oman Kerule, the original country of the Moal and of Zingis. In those parts there are no cities, but the country is inhabited by a people called Su-Moall, or Mongols of the waters, who live upon fish and hunting, and have neither flocks nor herds. Farther north, likewise, there is no city, but a poor people of herdsmen, who are called Kerkis. The Orangin are there also, who bind smooth bones under their feet, and thrust themselves with such velocity over the ice and snow, as to overtake beasts in the chase. There are many other poor nations in those parts, inhabiting as far to the north as the cold will permit, who join on the west with the country of Pascatir, or the Greater Hungary, of which I have made mention before. In the north the mountains are perpetually covered with snow, and the bounds are unknown by reason of the extreme cold. All these nations are poor; yet they must all betake themselves to some employment, as Zingis established a law that none was to be free from service till so old as to be unable for work.
I was inquisitive about the monstrous men of whom Isidore and Solinus make mention; but no one had ever seen any such, and I therefore doubt whether it be true. Once a priest of Kathay sat by me, clothed in red, of whom I asked how that colour was procured. He told me that on certain high; craggy rocks in the east of Kathay there dwelt certain creatures like men, not above a cubit long, and all hairy, who leapt rather than walked, and dwelt in inaccessible caves. That those who go to hunt them carry strong drink, which they leave in holes of the rocks, and then hide themselves. These little creatures come out from their holes, and having tasted the drink, call out chin-chin, on which multitudes gather together, and drink till they are drunk, and fall asleep. Then the hunters come and bind them, after which they draw a few drops of blood from the veins of the neck of each of these creatures, and let them go free; and this blood is the most precious purple dye. He told me, likewise, that there is a province beyond Kathay, into which, if a man enters, he always continues of the same age at which he entered; but this I do not believe.