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Title: Overland through Asia; Pictures of Siberian, Chinese, and Tartar - Life
Author: Knox, Thomas Wallace, 1835-1896
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Overland through Asia; Pictures of Siberian, Chinese, and Tartar - Life" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

SIBERIAN, CHINESE, AND TARTAR LIFE***


      includes the original extraordinary illustrations.
      Two spellings, "Tunguse" and "Tunguze," are used throughout the
      book for the same tribe.
      The caption of Illustrations #55, 58, 103, 144 differ from the
      captions given in the table and were not changed.



OVERLAND THROUGH ASIA: PICTURES OF SIBERIAN, CHINESE, AND TARTAR LIFE

Travels and Adventures in Kamchatka, Siberia, China, Mongolia, Chinese
Tartary, and European Russia, with Full Accounts of the Siberian Exiles,
Their Treatment, Condition, and Mode of Life; a Description of the
Amoor River, and the Siberian Shores of the Frozen Ocean; with an
Appropriate Map, and Nearly 200 Illustrations

by

THOMAS W. KNOX.

Author of _Camp Fire And Cotton Field_

1871



[Illustration: FRONTISPIECE, THE AUTHOR IN SIBERIAN COSTUME]



PREFACE.


Fourteen years ago Major Perry McD. Collins traversed Northern Asia,
and wrote an account, of his journey, entitled "A Voyage Down the
Amoor." With the exception of that volume no other work on this little
known region has appeared from the pen of an American writer. In view
of this fact, the author of "Overland Through Asia" indulges the hope
that his book will not be considered a superfluous addition to the
literature of his country.

The journey herein recorded was undertaken partly as a pleasure trip,
partly as a journalistic enterprise, and partly in the interest of the
company that attempted to carry out the plans of Major Collins to make
an electric connection between Europe and the United States by way of
Asia and Bering's Straits. In the service of the Russo-American
Telegraph Company, it may not be improper to state that the author's
official duties were so few, and his pleasures so numerous, as to
leave the kindest recollections of the many persons connected with the
enterprise.

Portions of this book have appeared in Harper's, Putnam's, The
Atlantic, The Galaxy, and the Overland Monthlies, and in Frank
Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. They have been received with such
favor as to encourage their reproduction wherever they could be
introduced in the narrative of the journey. The largest part of the
book has been written from a carefully recorded journal, and is now in
print for the first time. The illustrations have been made from
photographs and pencil sketches, and in all cases great care has been
exercised to represent correctly the costumes of the country. To
Frederick Whymper, Esq., artist of the Telegraph Expedition, and to
August Hoffman, (Photographer,) of Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia, the
author is specially indebted.

The orthography of geographical names is after the Russian model. The
author hopes it will not be difficult to convince his countrymen that
the shortest form of spelling is the best, especially when it
represents the pronunciation more accurately than does the old method.
A frontier justice once remarked, when a lawyer ridiculed his way of
writing ordinary words, that a man was not properly educated who could
spell a word in only one way. On the same broad principle I will not
quarrel with those who insist upon retaining an extra letter in Bering
and Ohotsk and two superfluous letters in Kamchatka.

Among those not mentioned in the volume, thanks are due to Frederick
Macrellish, Esq., of San Francisco, Hon. F.F. Low of Sacramento,
Alfred Whymper, Esq., of London, and the many gentlemen connected with
the Telegraph Expedition. There are dozens and hundreds of individuals
in Siberia and elsewhere, of all grades and conditions in life, who
have placed me under numberless obligations. Wherever I traveled the
most uniform courtesy was shown me, and though conscious that few of
those dozens and hundreds will ever read these lines, I should
consider myself ungrateful did I fail to acknowledge their kindness to
a wandering American.

T.W.K.

ASTOR HOUSE, N.Y., Sept. 15, 1870.


[Illustration: LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS By TAY & COX 105 Nassau St. N.Y.]

  1. FRONTISPIECE, THE AUTHOR IN SIBERIAN COSTUME
  2. CHARACTER DEVELOPED
  3. ASPINWALL TO PANAMA
  4. SLIGHTLY MONOTONOUS
  5. MONTGOMERY STREET IN HOLIDAY DRESS
  6. SAN FRANCISCO, 1848
  7. CHINESE DINNER
  8. OVER SIX FEET
  9. STEAMSHIP WRIGHT IN A STORM
 10. A SEA SICK BOOBY
 11. WRECK OF THE SHIP CANTON
 12. ALEUTIANS CATCHING WHALES
 13. BREACH OF ETIQUETTE
 14. UNEXPECTED HONORS
 15. RUSSIAN MARRIAGE
 16. RUSSIAN POPE AT HOME
 17. A SCALY BRIDGE
 18. RUSSIAN TEA SERVICE
 19. CHANGE FOR A DOLLAR
 20. COW AND BEAR
 21. A KAMCHATKA TEAM
 22. REPULSE OF THE ASSAILANTS
 23. VIEW OF SITKA
 24. PLENTY OF TIME
 25. RUSSIAN OFFICERS AT MESS
 26. ASCENDING THE BAY
 27. TAKING THE CENSUS
 28. LIGHT-HOUSE AT GHIJIGA
 29. TOWED BY DOGS
 30. KORIAK YOURT
 31. DISCHARGING A DECK LOAD
 32. REINDEER RIDE
 33. TAIL PIECE, REINDEER
 34. WAGON RIDE WITH DOGS
 35. YEARLY MAIL
 36. DOGS FISHING
 37. TEACHINGS OF EXPERIENCE
 38. BOAT LOAD OF SALMON
 39. AN EFFECTIVE PROTEST
 40. NOTHING BUT BONES
 41. TAIL PIECE--NATIVE WOMAN
 42. SEEING OFF
 43. LIFE ON THE AMOOR
 44. A GILYAK VILLAGE
 45. ABOUT FULL
 46. TAIL PIECE--A TURN OUT
 47. ON THE AMOOR
 48. CASH ACCOUNT
 49. WOODING UP
 50. BEAR IN PROCESSION
 51. PRACTICE OF MEDICINE
 52. MANJOUR MERCHANT
 53. GILYAK MAN
 54. GILYAK WOMAN
 55. PEASANTS BY MOONLIGHT
 56. TAIL PIECE--THE NET
 57. TEN MILES AN HOUR
 58. GOLDEE HOUSE AT NIGHT
 59. THE HYPOCONDRIAC
 60. "NOT FOR JOE"
 61. TAIL PIECE--SCENE ON THE RIVER
 62. RECEPTION AT PETROVSKY
 63. ARMED AND EQUIPPED
 64. GENERAL ACTIVITY
 65. TAIL PIECE--FLASK
 66. MANJOUR BOAT
 67. A PRIVATE TEMPLE
 68. FISHING IMPLEMENTS
 69. CHINESE FAMILY PICTURE
 70. MANJOUR TRAVELING CARRIAGE
 71. TAIL PIECE--TOWARDS THE SUN
 72. THE AMMUNITION WAGON
 73. FINISHING TOUCH
 74. EMIGRANTS ON THE AMOOR
 75. SA-GA-YAN CLIFF
 76. RIFLE SHOOTING
 77. TAIL PIECE--GAME
 78. PREPARING FOR WINTER
 79. TAIL PIECE
 80. STRATENSK, EASTERN SIBERIA
 81. A SIBERIAN TARANTASS
 82. TAIL PIECE
 83. FAVORITE BED
 84. CONCENTRATED ENERGIES
 85. PRISONERS AT CHETAH
 86. ON THE HILLS NEAR CHETAH
 87. BOURIAT YOURTS
 88. A MONGOL BELL
 89. A MONGOL BELLE
 90. CATCHING SHEEP
 91. A COLD BATH
 92. TAIL PIECE
 93. OUR FERRY BOAT
 94. EQUAL RIGHTS
 95. AMATEUR CONCERT IN SIBERIA
 96. CHINESE MANDARIN
 97. INTERIOR OF CHINESE TEMPLE
 98. THROUGH ORDINARY EYES
 99.  THROUGH CHINESE EYES
100. LEGAL TENDER
101. RUSSIAN PETS
102. PONY EXPRESS
103. A DISAGREEABLE APPENDAGE
104. SUSPENDED FREEDOM
105. PUNISHMENT FOR BURGLARY
106. CHOPSTICK, FORK, AND SAUCER
107. CHINESE THEATRE
108. CHINESE TIGER
109. CHINESE PUNISHMENT
110. PROVISION DEALER
111. CHINESE MENDICANTS
112. THE FAVORITE
113. FEMALE FEET AND SHOE
114. A LOTTERY PRIZE
115. A PEKIN CAB
116. A CHINESE PALANQUIN
117. PRIEST IN TEMPLE OF CONFUCIUS
118. COMFORTS AND CONVENIENCES
119. FILIAL ATTENTION
120. TAIL PIECE--OPIUM PIPE
121. A MUSICAL STOP
122. NANKOW PASS
123. RACING AT THE KALGAN FAIR
124. STREET IN KALGAN
125. IN GOOD CONDITION
126. LOST IN THE DESERT OF GOBI
127. MONGOL DINNER TABLE
128. CROSSING THE TOLLA
129. THE SCHOOLMASTER
130. TAIL PIECE
131. WILD BOAR HUNT
132. A WIFE AT IRKUTSK
133. NO WIFE AT IRKUTSK
134. A SOUDNA
135. AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
136. LAKE BAIKAL IN WINTER
137. A SPECIMEN
138. TAIL PIECE--THE WORLD
139. GOV. GENERAL KORSACKOFF
140. VIEW--IRKUTSK
141. A COLD ATTACHMENT
142. QUEEN OF GREECE
143. EMPEROR OF RUSSIA
144. TAIL PIECE--TWIN BOTTLES
145. HOME OF TWO EXILES--REAL, IMAGINARY
146. TAIL PIECE--QUARTERS
147. TARTAR CAVALRY
148. SIBERIAN EXILES
149. TAIL PIECE
150. A VASHOK
151. A KIBITKA
152. FAREWELL TO IRKUTSK
153. OUR CONDUCTOR
154. JUMPING CRADLE HOLES
155. VALLEY OF THE YENESEI
156. WOLF HUNT
157. HYDRAULIC MINING
158. TAIL PIECE
159. DOWN HILL
160. DOGS AMONG ICE
161. JUMPING THE FISSURES
162. THE TEAM
163. TAIL PIECE
164. IN THE MINE
165. STRANGE COINCIDENCE
166. TAIL PIECE
167. THE ELOPEMENT
168. THE FIGHT
169. THE CATASTROPHE
170. TAIL PIECE
171. THE POLKEDOVATE
172. MAKING EXPLANATION
173. AFTER THE BATH
174. TAIL PIECE
175. THE DRIVER'S TOILET
176. WOMEN SPINNING
177. FLOGGING WITH STICKS
178. TAIL PIECE
179. LOST IN A SNOW STORM
180. FATAL RESULT
181. TAIL PIECE
182. EXCUSE MY FAMILIARITY
183. FROSTED HORSES
184. VIEW OF EKATERINEBURG
185. EUROPE AND ASIA
186. A RUSSIAN BEGGAR
187. BEGGARS IN KAZAN
188. THE IMMERSION
189. RUSSIAN PRIEST
199. TAIL PIECE
191. GREAT BELL OF MOSCOW
192. VIEW OF THE NEVSKI PROSPECT, ST. PETERSBURG
193. TAIL PIECE--MEETING AN OLD FRIEND



Contents

CHAPTER I.

Off from New York--Around the world by steam--Value of a letter of
credit--A cure for sea sickness--Doing the Isthmus--An exciting
porpoise race--Glimpse of San Francisco--Trip to the Yo Semite
Valley--From the Golden Gate into the Pacific

CHAPTER II.

A strange company--Difficulties of sea life--A tall man and a short
room--How the dog went to sleep--A soapy cabin--Catching a booby--Two
Sundays together--A long lost wreck--Incidents at sea--Manner of
catching whales in Alaska--A four footed pilot--Dog stories--How to
take an observation--Coast of Asia--Entering Avatcha bay--An
economical light keeper

CHAPTER III.

In a Russian port--Hail Columbia--Petropavlovsk--Volcanoes and
earth-quakes--Directions for making a Russian town--A Kamchadale
wedding--Standing up with the bride--A hot ceremony--A much married
pope--Russian religious practices--Drinking with the priest and what
came of it

CHAPTER IV.

Vegetation in Kamchatka--Catching salmon--A scaly bridge--An evening
on shore--Samovars and tea drinking--The fur trade--Bear hunting--What
a cow brought home one day--Siberian dogs--A musical town--The
adventures of Norcum--Training a team--Sledges and how to manage
them--A voyage under the Polish flag--Monument to Captain Clerke--The
allied attack--The battle of Petropavlovsk

CHAPTER V.

Bering's voyages--Discovery of Alaska--Shipwreck and death of
Bering--The Russian-American Company--The first governor of
Alaska--Promushleniks--Russian settlement in California--Account of
Russian explorations--Character of the country--Its extent and
resources--Advantages and disadvantages of the Alaska purchase

CHAPTER VI.

Leaving Kamchatka--Farewell to the ladies--A new kind of
telegraph--Entering the Ohotsk sea--From Steam to sail--Sleeping among
chronometers--Talking by-signs--A burial at sea--A Russian
funeral--Land in sight--Ghijiga bay

CHAPTER VII.

Baggage for shore travel--Much wine and little bread--A perplexing
dilemma--How to take the census--Siberian beds--Towed by
dogs--Encounter with a beast--Coaxing a team with clubs--The
Koriaks--Their manners and customs--Comical cap for a native--A four
footed currency--Yourts and Balagans--Curious marriage
ceremony--Lightening a boat in a storm--Very strong whisky--Riding on
a reindeer--An intoxicating mushroom--An electric devil--a Siberian
snow storm--How a party was lost

CHAPTER VIII.

How a pointer became a bull dog--Coral in high latitudes--Sending
Champagne to Neptune--Arrival at Ohotsk--Three kinds of natives--A
lunch with the ladies--A native entertainment--A mail once a year--A
lover's misfortune--An astonished American--Hunting a bear and being
hunted--An unfortunate ride

CHAPTER IX.

At sea again--Beauties of a Northern sky--Warlike news and preparing
for war--The coast of Japan--An exciting moment--A fog bell of sea
lions--Ready for fight--De Castries' bay--A bewildered fleet--Goodbye
to the Variag--In the straits of Tartary--A difficult sleeping
place--A Siberian mirage--Entering the Amoor river

CHAPTER X.

On shore at Nicolayevsk--An American Consul--Visiting the
Governor--Machine shops on the Amoor with American managers--The
servant girl question--A Gilyak boat full of salmon--An unfortunate
water carrier--The Amoor Company--Foreign and native
merchants--Raising sheep among tigers--Rats eating window
glass--Riding in a cart

CHAPTER XI.

Up the Amoor--Seeing off a friend--A Siberian steamboat--How the
steamboats are managed--Packages by post--Curiosities of the Russian
mail service--An unhappy bride--Hay barges--Gilyak villages--Visiting
a village--Bad for the nose--Native dogs--Interviewing a Gilyak
lady--A rapid descent

CHAPTER XII.

The monastery of Eternal Repose--Curious religious customs--Features
of the scenery--Passengers on our boat--An adventurous
merchant--Captured by the Chinese--A pretty girl and her fellow
passenger--Wooding up--An Amoor town--The telegraph--How it is built
and operated--A native school--Fighting the tiger--Religious practices
of the Gilyaks--Mistaken kindness

CHAPTER XIII.

Stepanoff and his career--A Manjour boat--Catching salmon--A sturgeon
pen--The islands of the Amoor--A night scene at a wooding station--A
natural cathedral--The birds of the Amoor--The natives of the
country--Interviewing a native Mandarin

CHAPTER XIV.

Entering a Goldee house--Native politeness--What to do with a tame
eagle--An intelligent dog team--An exciting race--A Mongol
belle--Visiting a Goldee house at night--A reception in a shirt--Fish
skin over-coats--Curious medical custom--Draw poker on the Amoor
river--Curiosity--Habarofka--"No turkey for me"--A visit on
shore--Experience with fleas

CHAPTER XV.

First view of China--A beautiful region--Petrovsky--Women in the
water--An impolite reception--A scanty population--Visiting a military
post--Division of labor for a hunting excursion--The Songaree--A
Chinese military station--Resources of the Songaree--Experience of a
traveler--Hunting a tiger--A perilous adventure

CHAPTER XVI.

Ekaterin--Nikolskoi--The Province of the Amoor--Character of the
Cossack--The Buryea Mountains--A man overboard--Passing a mountain
chain--Manjour boats--Bringing pigs to market--Women in the open
air--A new tribe of natives--Rest for a bath--Russian caviar--How it
is made--Feeding with a native--A heavy drink--A fleet of fishing
boats

CHAPTER XVII.

Scenery on the middle Amoor--A military colony--Among the Manjours--A
Manjour temple--A Chinese naval station--A crew of women--Strange ways
of catching fish--The city of Igoon--Houses plastered with
mud--Visiting a harem--Talking pigeon-Chinese--Visiting the prison

CHAPTER XVIII.

The mouth of the Zeya--Blagoveshchensk--Kind reception by the
governor--Attending a funeral--A polyglot doctor and his
family--Intercourse with the Chinese--A visit to Sakhalin-Oula--A
government office--A Chinese traveling carriage--Visiting a Manjour
governor--A polite official--A Russian Mongol reception--Curiosities
of the Chinese police system--Advice to the Emperor of China

CHAPTER XIX.

A deer-hunting picnic--Russian ploughing--Nursing a deer gazelle--A
shot and what came of it--The return and overturn--The Siberian
gazelle--A Russian steam bath--How to take it--On a new steamer--The
cabin of the Korsackoff--A horse opera--An intoxicated priest--Private
stock of provisions--The dove a sacred bird--Emigrant rafts--A
Celestial guard house

CHAPTER XX.

The upper Amoor--Sagayan cliff--- Hunting for gold--Rich gold mines in
the Amoor valley--The Tungusians--A goose for a cigar--An awkward
rifle--Albazin--The people in Sunday dress--The siege of
Albazin--Visiting the old fort

CHAPTER XXI.

A sudden change--Beef preserved with laurel leaves--A Russian
settler--New York pictures in a Russian house--The Flowery
Kingdom--Early explorations--The conquest of the Amoor--A rapid
expedition--The Shilka and the Argoon--An old settled country--A lady
in the case--Hotels for the exiles--Stratensk--A large crowd--- End of
a long steamboat ride

CHAPTER XXII.

A hotel at Stratensk--A romantic courtship--Starting overland--A
difficult ferry--A Russian posting carriage--Good substitute for a
trunk--"Road Agent" in Siberia--Rights of travelers--Kissing goes by
favor--Captain John Franklin's equipage--Value of a ball--Stuck in the
mud--The valley of the Nertcha--Reaching Nerchinsk

CHAPTER XXIII.

An extensive house--A Russian gold miner--Stories of the
exiles--Polish exiles--"The unfortunates"--The treatment of
prisoners--Attempts to escape--Buying a tarantass--Light marching
order--A bad road--Sleeping on a stove--The valley of the Ingodah--Two
hours in a mud hole--Recklessness of drivers--Arrival at Chetah


CHAPTER XXIV.

Location of Chetah--Prisoners in chains--Ingenuity of the
exiles--Learning Hail Columbia in two hours--A governor's mansion--A
hunting party--Siberian rabbits--Difficulties of matrimony--Religion
in Siberia--An artillery review--Champagne and farewells--Crossing a
frozen stream--Inconvenience of traveling with a dog--Crossing the
Yablonoi Mountains--Approaching the Arctic Ocean


CHAPTER XXV.

A cold night--Traveling among the Mongols--The Bouriats and their
dwellings--An unpleasant fire--The Bhuddist religion--Conversions
among the natives--An easy way of catching sheep--A Mongol bell--A
Mongol belle--A late hour and a big dog--Bullocks under saddle--An
enterprising girl--Sleeping in a carriage--Arrival at Verkne
Udinsk--Walking in the market place--Stories of Siberian robbers--An
enterprising murderer--Gold and iron mines on the Selenga


CHAPTER XXVI.

Crossing a river on the ice--A dangerous situation--Dining on soup and
caviar--Caravans of tea--The rights of the road--How the drivers treat
each other--Selenginsk--An old exile--Troubled by the nose--Lodged by
the police--A housekeeper in undress--An amateur
concert--Troitskosavsk and Kiachta--Crossing the frontier--Visiting
the Chinese governor


CHAPTER XXVII.

In the Chinese empire--A city without a woman--A Chinese court of
justice--Five interpretations--Chinese and Russian methods of tea
making--A Chinese temple--Sculpture in sand stone--The gods and the
Celestials--The Chinese idea of beauty--The houses in
Maimaichin--Chinese dogs--Bartering with the merchants--The Chinese
ideas of honesty--How they entertained us--The Abacus


CHAPTER XXVIII.

Russian feast days--A curious dinner custom--Novel separation of the
sexes--The wealth of Kiachta--The extent of the tea trade--Dodging the
custom house--Foreign residents of Kiachta--Fifteen dogs in one
family--The devil and the telegraph--Russian gambling--Dinner with the
Chinese governor--Chinese punishments--Ingredients of a Chinese
dinner--Going to the theatre in midday--Two dinners in one
day--Farewell to Kiachta


CHAPTER XXIX.

Trade between America and China--The first ship for a Chinese
port--Chinese river system--The first steamboat on a Chinese
river--The Celestials astonished--A nation of shop-keepers--Chinese
insurance and banking systems--The first letters of credit--Railways
in the empire--The telegraph in China--Pigeon-English--The Chinese
treaty

CHAPTER XXX.

The great cities of China--Pekin and its interesting features--The
Chinese city and the Tartar one--Rat peddlers, jugglers, beggars, and
other liberal professionals--The rat question in China--Tricks of the
jugglers--Mendicants and dwarfs--"The house of the hen's
feathers"--How small feet became fashionable--Fashion in America and
China--Gambling in Pekin--An interesting lottery prize--Executions by
lot--Punishing robbers--Opposition to dancing--The temple of
Confucius--Temples of Heaven and Earth--The famous Summer
Palace--Chinese cemeteries--Coffins as household ornaments--Calmness
at death

CHAPTER XXXI.

A journey through Mongolia--Chinese dislike to foreign travel--Leaving
Pekin--How to stop a mule's music--The Nankow Pass--A fort captured
because of a woman--The great wall of China--Loading the pack
mules--Kalgan--Mosques and Pagodas--A Mongol horse fair--How a
transaction is managed--A camel journey on the desert--How to arrange
his load--A Mongolian cart--A brisk trade in wood for coffins

CHAPTER XXXII.

Entering the desert of Gobi--Instincts of the natives--An antelope
hunt--Lost on the desert--Discovered and rescued--Character of the
Mongols--Boiled mutton, and how to eat it--Fording the Tolla river--An
exciting passage--Arrival at Urga--A Mongol Lamissary--The victory of
Genghis Khan--Chinese couriers--Sheep raising in Mongolia--Holy men in
abundance--Inconvenience of being a lama--A praying machine--Arrival
at Kiachta

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Departure from Kiachta--An agreeable companion--Making ourselves
comfortable--A sacred village--Hunting a wild boar--A Russian
monastery--Approaching Lake Baikal--Hunting for letters--"Doing"
Posolsky--A pile of merchandise--A crowded house--Rifle and pistol
practice--A Russian soudna--A historic building--A lake steamer in
Siberia--Exiles on shore--A curious lake--Wonderful journey over the
ice--The Holy Sea--A curious group--The first custom house--Along the
banks of the Angara--A strange fish--Arrival at Irkutsk

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Turned over to the police--Visiting the Governor General--An agreeable
officer in a fine house--Paying official visits--German in
pantomime--The passport system--Cold weather--Streets, stores, and
houses at Irkutsk--Description of the city--The Angara river--A novel
regulation--A swinging ferry boat--Cossack policeman--An alarm of
fire--"Running with the machine" in Russia--Markets at
Irkutsk--Effects of kissing with a low thermometer

CHAPTER XXXV.

Society in Irkutsk--Social customs--Lingual powers of the
Russians--Effect of speaking two languages to an infant--Intercourse
of the Siberians with Polish exiles--A hospitable people--A
ceremonious dinner--Russian precision--A long speech and a short
translation--The Amoorski Gastinitza--Playing billiards at a
disadvantage--Muscovite superstition--Open house and pleasant
tea-parties--A wealthy gold miner

CHAPTER XXXVI.

The exiles of 1825--The Emperor Paul and his eccentricities--Alexander
I.--The revolution of 1825--Its result--Severity of Nicholas--Hard
labor for life--Conditions of banishment--A pardon after thirty
years--Where the Decembrists live--The Polish question--Both sides of
it--Banishments since 1863--The government policy--Difference between
political and criminal exiles--Colonists--Drafted into the
army--Pension from friends--Attempts to escape--Restrictions find
social comforts--How the prisoners travel--The object of
deportation--Rules for exiling serfs

CHAPTER XXXVII.

Serfdom and exile--Peter I. and Alexander II.--Example of Siberia to
old Russia--Prisoners in the mines--A revolt--The trial of the
insurgents--Sentence and execution--A remarkable escape--Piotrowski's
narrative--Free after four years

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Preparing to leave Irkutsk--Change from wheels to runners--Buying a
suit of fur--Negotiations for a sleigh--A great many
drinks--Peculiarities of Russian merchants--Similarities of Russians
and Chinese--Several kinds of sleighs--A Siberian saint--A farewell
dinner--Packing a sleigh--A companion with heavy baggage--Farewell
courtesies--Several parting drinks--Traveling through a frost
cloud--Effect of fog in a cold night--A monotonous snow scape--Meals
at the stations--A jolly party--An honest population--Diplomacy with
the drivers

CHAPTER XXXIX.

A Siberian beverage--The wine of the country--An unhappy pig--Tea
caravans for Moscow--Intelligence of a horse--Champagne
frappé--Meeting the post--How the mail is carried--A lively shaking
up--Board of survey on a dead horse--Sleeping rooms in peasant
houses--Kansk--A road with no snow--Putting our sleighs on wheels--A
deceived Englishman--Crossing the Yenesei--Krasnoyarsk--Washing
clothes in winter--A Siberian banking house--The telegraph system--No
dead-heads--Fish from the Yenesei--A Siberian Neptune--Going on a wolf
hunt--How a hunt is managed--An exciting chase and a narrow escape

CHAPTER XL.

Beggars at Krasnoyarsk--A wealthy city--Gold mining on the
Yenesei--Its extent and the value of the mines--How the mining is
conducted--Explorations, surveys, and the preparation of the
ground--Wages and treatment of laborers--Machines for gold
washing--Regulations to prevent thefts--Mining in frozen
earth--Antiquity of the mines--The native population--An Eastern
legend--The adventures of "Swan's Wing"--Visit to lower regions--Moral
of the story

CHAPTER XLI.

A philosophic companion--Traveling with the remains of a
mammoth--Talking against time--Sleighs on wheels--The advantages of
"cheek"--A moonlight transfer--Keeping the feast days--Getting drunk
as a religious duty--A slight smash up--A cold night--An abominable
road--Hunting a mammoth--Journey to the Arctic Circle--Natives on the
coast--A mammoth's hide and hair--Ivory hunting in the frozen North--A
perilous adventure--Cast away in the Arctic ocean--Fight with a polar
bear--A dangerous situation--Frozen to the ice--Reaching the shore

CHAPTER XLII.

A runaway horse--Discussion with a driver--A modest breakfast--A
convoy of exiles--Hotels for the exiles--Charity to the
unfortunate--Their rate of travel--An encounter at night--No whips in
the land of horses--Russian drivers and their horses--Niagara in
Siberia--Eggs by the dizaine--Caught in a storm--A beautiful
night--Arrival at Tomsk--An obliging landlord--A crammed
sleigh--Visiting the governor--Description of Tomsk--A steamboat line
to Tumen--Schools in Siberia

CHAPTER XLIII.

A frozen river--On the road to Barnaool--An unpleasant night--Posts at
the road side--Very high wind--A Russian bouran--A poor hotel--Greeted
with American music--The gold mines of the Altai mountains--Survey of
the mining-district--General management of the business--The museum at
Barnaool--The imperial zavod--Reducing the ores--Government tax on
mines--A strange coincidence

CHAPTER XLIV.

Society at Barnaool--A native coachman--An Asiatic eagle--The
Kirghese--The original Tartars--Russian diplomacy among the
natives--Advance of civilization--Railway building in Central
Asia--Product of the Kirghese country--Fairs in Siberia--Caravans from
Bokhara--An adventure among the natives--Capture of a native prince--A
love story and an elopement--A pursuit, fight, and tragic end of the
journey

CHAPTER XLV.

Interview with a Persian officer--A slow conversation--Seven years of
captivity--A scientific explorer--Relics of past ages--An Asiatic
dinner--Cossack dances--Tossed up as a mark of honor--Trotting horses
in Siberia--Washing a paper collar--On the Baraba steppe--A
long-ride--A walking ice statue--Traveling by private
teams--Excitement of a race--How to secure honesty in a public
solicitor--Prescription for rheumatism

CHAPTER XLVI.

A monotonous country--Advantages of winter travel--Fertility of the
steppe--Rules for the haying season--Breakfasting on nothing--A
Siberian apple--Delays in changing horses--Universal tea
drinking--Tartars on the steppe--Siberian villages--Mode of spinning
in Russia--An unsuccessful conspiracy--How a revolt was organized--A
conspirator flogged to death--The city of Tobolsk--The story of
Elizabeth--The conquest of Siberia--Yermak and his career

CHAPTER XLVII.

Another snow storm--Wolves in sight--Unwelcome visitors--Going on a
wolf chase--An unlucky pig--Hunting at night--A hungry pack--Wolves in
every direction--The pursuers and the pursued--A dangerous turn in the
road--A driver lost and devoured--A narrow escape--Forest guards
against bears and wolves--A courageous horse--The story of David
Crockett

CHAPTER XLVIII

Thermometer very low--Inconvenience of a long beard--Fur clothing in
abundance--Natural thermometers--Rubbing a freezing nose--A beautiful
night on the steppe--Siberian twilights--Thick coat for horses--The
city of Tumen--Magnificent distances--Manufacture of carpets--A
lucrative monopoly--Arrival at Ekaterineburg--Christmas festivities
--Manufactures at Ekaterineburg--- The Granilnoi Fabric--Russian iron
and where it comes from--The Demidoff family--A large piece of
malachite--An emperor as an honest miner

CHAPTER XLIX.

Among the stone workers--A bewildering collection--Visit to a private
"Fabric"--The mode of stone cutting--Crossing the mountains--Boundary
between Europe and Asia--Standing in two continents at once--Entering
Europe by the back door--In the valley of the Kama--Touching appeal by
a beggar--The great fair at Irbit--An improved road--A city of
thieves--Tanning in Russia--Evidence of European
civilization--Perm--Pleasures of sleigh riding--The road fever--The
Emperor Nicholas and a courier--A Russian sleighing song

CHAPTER L.

Among the Votiaks--Malmouish--Advice to a traveler--Dress and habits
of the Tartars--Tartar villages and mosques--A long night--Overturned
and stopped--Arrival at Kazan--New Year's festivities--Russian
soldiers on parade--Military spirit of the Romanoff family--Anecdote
of the Grand Duke Michel--The conquest of Kazan--An evening in a
ball-room--Enterprise of Tartar peddlers--Manufactures and schools--A
police secret--The police in Russia

CHAPTER LI.

Leaving Kazan--A Russian companion--Conversation with a phrase book--A
sloshy street--Steamboats frozen in the ice--Navigation of the
Volga--The Cheramess--Pity the unfortunate--A road on the
ice--Merchandise going Westward--Villages along the Volga--A baptism
through the ice--Religion in Russia--Toleration and tyranny--The
Catholics in Poland--The Old Believers--The Skoptsi, or
mutilators--Devotional character of the Russian peasantry--Diminishing
the priestly power--Church and state--End of a long sleigh ride--Nijne
Novgorod--At the wrong hotel--Historical monuments--Entertained by the
police

CHAPTER LII.

Starting for Moscow--Jackdaws and pigeons--At a Russian railway
station--The group in waiting--The luxurious ride--A French governess
and a box of _bon-bons_--Cigarettes and tea--Halting at
Vladimir--Moscow through the frost--Trakteers--The Kremlin of
Moscow--Objects of interest--The great bell--The memorial
cannon--Treasures of the Kremlin--Wonderful churches of Moscow--The
Kitai Gorod--The public market--Imperial Theatre and Foundling
Hospital--By rail to St. Petersburg--Encountering an old friend



CHAPTER I.


It is said that an old sailor looking at the first ocean steamer,
exclaimed, "There's an end to seamanship." More correctly he might
have predicted the end of the romance of ocean travel. Steam abridges
time and space to such a degree that the world grows rapidly prosaic.
Countries once distant and little known are at this day near and
familiar. Railways on land and steamships on the ocean, will transport
us, at frequent and regular intervals, around the entire globe. From
New York to San Francisco and thence to our antipodes in Japan and
China, one may travel in defiance of propitious breezes formerly so
essential to an ocean voyage. The same untiring power that bears us
thither will bring us home again by way of Suez and Gibraltar to any
desired port on the Atlantic coast. Scarcely more than a hundred days
will be required for such a voyage, a dozen changes of conveyance and
a land travel of less than a single week.

The tour of the world thus performed might be found monotonous. Its
most salient features beyond the overland journey from the Atlantic to
the Pacific, would be the study of the ocean in breeze or gale or
storm, a knowledge of steamship life, and a revelation of the
peculiarities of men and women when cribbed, cabined, and confined in
a floating prison. Next to matrimony there is nothing better than a
few months at sea for developing the realities of human character in
either sex. I have sometimes fancied that the Greek temple over whose
door "Know thyself" was written, was really the passage office of some
Black Ball clipper line of ancient days. Man is generally desirous of
the company of his fellow man or woman, but on a long sea voyage he is
in danger of having too much of it. He has the alternative of shutting
himself in his room and appearing only at meal times, but as solitude
has few charms, and cabins are badly ventilated, seclusion is
accompanied by _ennui_ and headache in about equal proportions.

[Illustration: CHARACTER DEVELOPED.]

Wishing to make a journey round the world, I did not look favorably
upon the ocean route. The proportions of water and land were much like
the relative quantities of sack and bread in Falstaff's hotel bill.
Whether on the Atlantic or the Pacific, the Indian, or the Arctic, the
appearance of Ocean's blue expanse is very much the same. It is water
and sky in one place, and sky and water in another. You may vary the
monotony by seeing ships or shipping seas, but such occurrences are
not peculiar to any one ocean. Desiring a reasonable amount of land
travel, I selected the route that included Asiatic and European
Russia. My passport properly endorsed at the Russian embassy,
authorized me to enter the empire by the way of the Amoor river.

A few days before the time fixed for my departure, I visited a Wall
street banking house, and asked if I could obtain a letter of credit
to be used in foreign travel.

"Certainly sir," was the response.

"Will it be available in Asia?"

"Yes, sir. You can use it in China, India, or Australia, at your
pleasure." "Can I use it in Irkutsk?"

"Where, sir?"

"In Irkutsk."

"Really, I can't say; what _is_ Irkutsk?"

"It is the capital of Eastern Siberia."

The person with whom I conversed, changed from gay to grave, and from
lively to severe. With calm dignity he remarked, "I am unable to say,
if our letters can be used at the place you mention. They are good all
over the civilized world, but I don't know anything about Irkutsk.
Never heard of the place before."

I bowed myself out of the establishment, with a fresh conviction of
the unknown character of the country whither I was bound. I obtained a
letter of credit at the opposition shop, but without a guarantee of
its availability in Northern Asia.

In a foggy atmosphere on the morning of March 21, 1866, I rode through
muddy streets to the dock of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. There
was a large party to see us off, the passengers having about three
times their number of friends. There were tears, kisses, embraces,
choking sighs, which ne'er might be repeated; blessings and
benedictions among the serious many, and gleeful words of farewell
among the hilarious few. One party of half a dozen became merry over
too much champagne, and when the steward's bell sounded its warning,
there was confusion on the subject of identity. One stout gentleman
who protested that he _would_ go to sea, was led ashore much against
his will.

After leaving the dock, I found my cabin room-mate a gaunt,
sallow-visaged person, who seemed perfectly at home on a steamer. On
my mentioning the subject of sea-sickness, he eyed me curiously and
then ventured an opinion.

"I see," said he, "you are of bilious temperament and will be very
ill. As for myself, I have been a dozen times over the route and am
rarely affected by the ship's motion."

Then he gave me some kind advice touching my conduct when I should
feel the symptoms of approaching _mal du mer_. I thanked him and
sought the deck. An hour after we passed Sandy Hook, my new
acquaintance succumbed to the evils that afflict landsmen who go down
to the sea in ships. Without any qualm of stomach or conscience, I
returned the advice he had proffered me. I did not suffer a moment
from the marine malady during that voyage, or any subsequent one.[A]

[Footnote A: A few years ago a friend gave me a prescription which he
said would prevent sea-sickness. I present it here as he wrote it.

"The night before going to sea, I take a blue pill (5 to 10 grains) in
order to carry the bile from the liver into the stomach. When I rise
on the following morning, a dose of citrate of magnesia or some
kindred substance finishes my preparation. I take my breakfast and all
other meals afterward as if nothing had happened."

I have used this prescription in my own case with success, and have
known it to benefit others.]

The voyage from New York to San Francisco has been so often 'done' and
is so well watered, that I shall not describe it in detail. Most of
the passengers on the steamer were old Californians and assisted in
endeavoring to make the time pass pleasantly. There was plenty of
whist-playing, story telling, reading, singing, flirtation, and a very
large amount of sleeping. So far as I knew, nobody quarreled or
manifested any disposition to be riotous. There was one passenger, a
heavy, burly Englishman, whose sole occupation was in drinking "arf
and arf." He took it on rising, then another drink before breakfast,
then another between Iris steak and his buttered roll, and so on every
half hour until midnight, when he swallowed a double dose and went to
bed. He had a large quantity in care of the baggage master, and every
day or two he would get up a few dozen pint bottles of pale ale and an
equal quantity of porter. He emptied a bottle of each into a pitcher
and swallowed the whole as easily as an ordinary man would take down a
dose of peppermint. The empty bottles were thrown overboard, and the
captain said that if this man were a frequent passenger there would be
danger of a reef of bottles in the ocean all the way from New York to
Aspinwall. I never saw his equal for swallowing malt liquors. To quote
from Shakspeare, with a slight alteration:

    "He was a man, take him for half and half,
    I ne'er shall look upon his like again."

[Illustration: ASPINWALL TO PANAMA.]

We had six hours at Aspinwall, a city that could be done in fifteen
minutes, but were allowed no time on shore at Panama. It was late at
night when we left the latter port. The waters were beautifully
phosphorescent, and when disturbed by our motion they flashed and
glittered like a river of stars. Looking over the stern one could half
imagine our track a path of fire, and the bay, ruffled by a gentle
breeze, a waving sheet of light. The Pacific did not belie its name.
More than half the way to San Francisco we steamed as calmly and with
as little motion as upon a narrow lake. Sometimes there was no
sensation to indicate we were moving at all.

[Illustration: SLIGHTLY MONOTONOUS.]

Even varied by glimpses of the Mexican coast, the occasional
appearance of a whale with its column of water thrown high into the
air, and the sportive action of schools of porpoises which is
constantly met with, the passage was slightly monotonous. On the
twenty-third day from New York we ended the voyage at San Francisco.

On arriving in California I was surprised at the number of old
acquaintances I encountered. When leaving New York I could think of
only two or three persons I knew in San Francisco, but I met at least
a dozen before being on shore twelve hours. Through these individuals,
I became known to many others, by a rapidity of introduction almost
bewildering. Californians are among the most genial and hospitable
people in America, and there is no part of our republic where a
stranger receives a kinder and more cordial greeting. There is no
Eastern iciness of manner, or dignified indifference at San Francisco.
Residents of the Pacific coast have told me that when visiting their
old homes they feel as if dropped into a refrigerator. After learning
the customs of the Occident, one can fully appreciate the sensations
of a returned Californian.

[Illustration: MONTGOMERY STREET IN HOLIDAY DRESS.]

Montgomery street, the great avenue of San Francisco, is not surpassed
any where on the continent in the variety of physiognomy it presents.
There are men from all parts of America, and there is no lack of
European representatives. China has many delegates, and Japan also
claims a place. There are merchants of all grades and conditions, and
professional and unprofessional men of every variety, with a long
array of miscellaneous characters. Commerce, mining, agriculture, and
manufactures, are all represented. At the wharves there are ships of
all nations. A traveler would find little difficulty, if he so willed
it, in sailing away to Greenland's icy mountains or India's coral
strand. The cosmopolitan character of San Francisco is the first thing
that impresses a visitor. Almost from one stand-point he may see the
church, the synagogue, and the pagoda. The mosque is by no means
impossible in the future.

[Illustration: SAN FRANCISCO, 1848.]

In 1848, San Francisco was a village of little importance. The city
commenced in '49, and fifteen years later it claimed a population of a
hundred and twenty thousand.[B] No one who looks at this city, would
suppose it still in its minority. The architecture is substantial and
elegant; the hotels vie with those of New York in expense and luxury;
the streets present both good and bad pavements and are well
gridironed with railways; houses, stores, shops, wharves, all indicate
a permanent and prosperous community. There are gas-works and
foundries and factories, as in older communities. There are the
Mission Mills, making the warmest blankets in the world, from the wool
of the California sheep. There are the fruit and market gardens whose
products have a Brobdignagian character. There are the immense stores
of wine from California vineyards that are already competing with
those of France and Germany. There are--I may as well stop now, since
I cannot tell half the story in the limits of this chapter.

[Footnote B: I made many notes with a view to publishing two or three
chapters upon California. I have relinquished this design, partly on
account of the un-Siberian character of the Golden State, and partly
because much that I had written is covered by the excellent book
"Beyond the Mississippi," by Albert D. Richardson, my friend and
associate for several years. The particulars of his death by
assassination are familiar to many readers.]

[Illustration: CHINESE DINNER.]

During my stay in California, I visited the principal gold, copper,
and quicksilver mines in the state, not omitting the famous or
infamous Mariposa tract. In company with Mr. Burlingame and General
Van Valkenburg, our ministers to China and Japan, I made an excursion
to the Yosemite Valley, and the Big Tree Grove. With the same
gentlemen I went over the then completed portion of the railway which
now unites the Atlantic with the Pacific coast, and attended the
banquet given by the Chinese merchants of San Francisco to the
ambassadors on the eve of their departure. A Chinese dinner, served
with Chinese customs;--it was a prelude to the Asiatic life toward
which my journey led me.

I arrived in San Francisco on the thirteenth of April and expected to
sail for Asia within a month. One thing after another delayed us,
until we began to fear that we should never get away. For more than
six weeks the time of departure was kept a few days ahead and
regularly postponed. First, happened the failure of a contractor;
next, the non-arrival of a ship; next, the purchase of supplies; and
so on through a long list of hindrances. In the beginning I was vexed,
but soon learned complacency and gave myself no uneasiness. Patience
is an admirable quality in mankind, and can be very well practiced
when, one is waiting for a ship to go to sea.

On the twenty-third of June we were notified to be on board at five
o'clock in the evening, and to send heavy baggage before that hour.
The vessel which was to receive us, lay two or three hundred yards
from the wharf, in order to prevent the possible desertion of the
crew. Punctual to the hour, I left the hotel and drove to the place of
embarkation. My trunk, valise, and sundry boxes had gone in the
forenoon, so that my only remaining effects were a satchel, a bundle
of newspapers, a dog, and a bouquet. The weight of these combined
articles was of little consequence, but I positively declare that I
never handled a more inconvenient lot of baggage. While I was
descending a perpendicular ladder to a small boat, some one abruptly
asked if that lot of baggage had been cleared at the custom house.
Think of walking through a custom house with my portable property!
Happily the question did not come from an official.

It required at least an hour to get everything in readiness after we
were on board. Then followed the leave taking of friends who had come
to see us off and utter their wishes for a prosperous voyage and safe
return. The anchor rose slowly from the muddy bottom; steam was put
upon the engines, and the propeller whirling in the water, set us in
motion. The gang-way steps were raised and the rail severed our
connection with America.

It was night as we glided past the hills of San Francisco, spangled
with a thousand lights, and left them growing fainter in the distance.
Steaming through the Golden Gate we were soon on the open Pacific
commencing a voyage of nearly four thousand miles. We felt the motion
of the waves and became fully aware that we were at sea. The shore
grew indistinct and then disappeared; the last visible objects being
the lights at the entrance of the bay. Gradually their rays grew dim,
and when daylight came, there were only sky and water around us.

"Far upon the unknown deep,
With the billows circling round
Where the tireless sea-birds sweep;
   Outward bound.

"Nothing but a speck we seem,
In the waste of waters round,
Floating, floating like a dream;
   Outward bound."



CHAPTER II.


The G.S. Wright, on which we were embarked, was a screw steamer of two
hundred tons burthen, a sort of pocket edition of the new boats of the
Cunard line. She carried the flag and the person of Colonel Charles S.
Bulkley, Engineer in Chief of the Russo-American Telegraph Expedition.
She could sail or steam at the pleasure of her captain, provided
circumstances were favorable. Compared with ocean steamers in general,
she was a very small affair and displayed a great deal of activity.
She could roll or pitch to a disagreeable extent, and continued her
motion night and day, I often wished the eight-hour labor system
applied to her, but my wishing was of no use.

Besides Colonel Bulkley, the party in the cabin consisted of Captain
Patterson, Mr. Covert, Mr. Anossoff, and myself. Mr. Covert was the
engineer of the steamer, and amused us at times with accounts of his
captivity on the Alabama after the destruction of the Hatteras.
Captain Patterson was an ancient mariner who had sailed the stormy
seas from his boyhood, beginning on a whale ship and working his way
from the fore-castle to the quarter deck. Mr. Anossoff was a Russian
gentleman who joined us at San Francisco, in the capacity of
commissioner from his government to the Telegraph Company. For our
quintette there was a cabin six feet by twelve, and each person had a
sleeping room to himself.

Colonel Bulkley planned the cabin of the Wright, and I shall always
consider it a misfortune that the Engineer-in-Chief was only five feet
seven in his boots rather than six feet and over like myself. The
cabin roof was high enough for the colonel, but too low for me. Under
the skylight was the only place below deck where I could stand erect.
The sleeping rooms were too short for me, and before I could lie, at
full length in my berth, it was necessary to pull away a partition
near my head. The space thus gained was taken from a closet containing
a few trifles, such as jugs of whiskey, and cans of powder.
Fortunately no fire reached the combustibles at any time, or this book
might not have appeared.

[Illustration: OVER SIX FEET.]

There was a forward cabin occupied by the chief clerk, the
draughtsman, the interpreter, and the artist of the expedition, with
the first and second officers of the vessel. Sailors, firemen, cook
and cabin boys all included, there were forty-five persons on board.
Everybody in the complement being masculine, we did not have a single
flirtation during the voyage.

I never sailed on a more active ship than the Wright. In ordinary
seas, walking was a matter of difficulty, and when the wind freshened
to a gale locomotion ceased to be a pastime. Frequently I wedged
myself into my berth with books and cigar boxes. On the first day out,
my dog (for I traveled with a dog) was utterly bewildered, and
evidently thought himself where he did not belong. After falling a
dozen times upon his side, he succeeded in learning to keep his feet.
The carpenter gave him a box for a sleeping room, but the space was so
large that, his body did not fill it. On the second day from port he
took the bit of carpet that formed his bed and used it as a wedge to
keep him in position. From, that time he had no trouble, though he was
not fairly on his sea legs for nearly a week.

Sometimes at dinner our soup poured into our laps and seemed engaged
in reconstructing the laws of gravitation. The table furniture was
very uneasy, and it was no uncommon occurrence for a tea cup or a
tumbler to jump from its proper place and turn a somersault before
stopping. We had no severe storm on the voyage, though constantly in
expectation of one.

In 1865 the Wright experienced heavy gales with little interruption
for twelve days. She lost her chimney with part of her sails, and lay
for sixteen hours in the trough of the sea. The waves broke over her
without hindrance and drenched every part of the ship. Covert gave an
amusing account of the breaking of a box of soap one night during the
storm. In the morning the cabin, with all it contained, was thoroughly
lathered, as if preparing for a colossal shave.

Half way across the ocean we were followed by sea-birds that,
curiously enough, were always thickest at meal times. Gulls kept with
us the first two days and then disappeared, their places being taken
by boobies. The gull is a pretty and graceful bird, somewhat
resembling the pigeon in shape and agility. The booby has a little
resemblance to the duck, but his bill is sharp pointed and curved like
a hawk's. Beechey and one or two others speak of encountering the
Albatross in the North Pacific, but their statements are disputed by
mariners of the present day. The Albatross is peculiar to the south as
the gull to the north. Gulls and boobies dart into the water when any
thing is thrown overboard, and show great dexterity in catching
whatever is edible. At night they are said to sleep on the waves, and
occasionally we disturbed them at their rest.

[Illustration: STEAMSHIP WRIGHT IN A STORM.]

[Illustration: A SEA-SICK BOOBY.]

One day we caught a booby by means of a hook and line, and found him
unable to fly from the deck. It is said that nearly all sea-birds can
rise only from the water. We detained our prize long enough to attach
a medal to his neck and send him away with our date, location, and
name. If kept an hour or more on the deck of a ship these birds become
seasick, and manifest their illness just as an able-bodied landsman,
exhibits an attack of marine malady. Strange they should be so
affected when they are all their lives riding over the tossing waves.

About thirty miles from San Francisco are the Farralone Islands, a
favorite resort of sea-birds. There they assemble in immense numbers,
particularly at the commencement of their breeding season.

Parties go from San Francisco to gather sea-birds eggs at these
islands, and for some weeks they supply the market. These eggs are
largely used in pastry, omelettes, and other things, where their
character can be disguised, but they are far inferior to hens' eggs
for ordinary uses.

There were no islands in any part of our course, and we found but a
single shoal marked on the chart. We passed far to the north of the
newly discovered Brooks Island, and kept southward of the Aleutian
chain. Since my return to America I have read the account of a curious
discovery on an island of the North Pacific. In 1816, the ship Canton,
belonging to the East India Company, sailed from Sitka and was
supposed to have foundered at sea. Nothing was heard of her until
1867, when a portion of her wreck was found upon a coral island of the
Sybille group. The remaining timbers were in excellent preservation,
and the place where the crew had encamped was readily discernible. The
frame of the main hatchway had been cast up whole, and a large tree
was growing through it. The quarter board bearing the word "Canton,"
lay near it, and revealed the name of the lost ship. No writing or
inscription to reveal the fate of her crew, could be found anywhere.

[Illustration: WRECK OF THE SHIP CANTON.]

On Friday, July thirteenth, we crossed the meridian of 180° from
London, or half around the world. We dropped a day from our reckoning
according to the marine custom, and appeared in our Sunday dress on
the morrow. Had we been sailing eastward, a day would have been added
to our calendar. A naval officer once told me that he sailed eastward
over this meridian on Sunday. On the following morning the chaplain
was surprised to receive orders to hold divine service. He obeyed
promptly, but could not understand the situation. With a puzzled look
he said to an officer--

"This part of the ocean must be better than any other or we would not
have Sunday so often."

Sir Francis Drake, who sailed around the world in the time of Queen
Elizabeth, did not observe this rule of the navigator, and found on
reaching England that he had a day too much. In the Marquesas Islands
the early missionaries who came from the Indies made the mistake of
keeping Sunday on Saturday. Their followers preserve this chronology,
while later converts have the correct one. The result is, there are
two Sabbaths among the Christian inhabitants of the cannibal islands.
The boy who desired two Sundays a week in order to have more resting
time, might be accommodated by becoming a Marquesas colonist.

On the day we crossed this meridian we were three hundred miles from
the nearest Aleutian Islands, and about eight hundred from Kamchatka.

The boobies continued around us, but were less numerous than a week or
ten days earlier. If they had any trouble with their reckoning, I did
not ascertain it. A day later we saw three "fur seal" playing happily
in the water. We hailed the first and asked his longitude, but he made
no reply. I never knew before that the seal ventured so far from land.
Yet his movements are as carefully governed as those of the sea-birds,
and though many days in the open water he never forgets the direct
course to his favorite haunts. How marvelous the instinct that guides
with unerring certainty over the trackless waters!

A few ducks made their appearance and manifested a feeling of
nostalgia. Mother Carey's chickens, little birds resembling swallows,
began to flit around us, skimming closely along the waves. There is a
fiction among the sailors that nobody ever saw one of these birds
alight or found its nest. Whoever harms one is certain to bring
misfortune upon himself and possibly his companions. A prudent
traveler would be careful not to offend this or any other nautical
superstition. In case of subsequent danger the sailors might remember
his misdeed and leave him to make his own rescue.

Nearing the Asiatic coast we saw many whales. One afternoon, about
cigar time, a huge fellow appeared half a mile distant. His blowing
sounded like the exhaust of a western steamboat, and sent up a
respectable fountain of spray. Covert pronounced him a high pressure
affair, with horizontal engines and carrying ninety pounds to the
inch.

After sporting awhile in the misty distance, the whale came near us.
It was almost calm and we could see him without glasses. He rose and
disappeared at intervals of a minute, and as he moved along he rippled
the surface like a subsoil plough on a gigantic scale. After ten or
twelve small dives, he threw his tail in air and went down for ten
minutes or more. When he reappeared he was two or three hundred yards
from his diving place.

Once he disappeared in this way and came up within ten feet of our
bows. Had he risen beneath us the shock would have been severe for
both ship and whale. After this manoeuvre he went leisurely around us,
keeping about a hundred yards away.

"He is working his engines on the slow bell," said our engineer, "and
keeps his helm hard-a-port."

We brought out our rifles to try this new game, though the practice
was as much a trial of skill as the traditional 'barn at ten paces.'
Several shots were fired, but I did not see any thing drop. The sport
was amusing to all concerned; at any rate the whale didn't seem to
mind it, and we were delighted at the fun. When his survey was
finished he braced his helm to starboard, opened his throttle valves
and went away to windward.

We estimated his length at a hundred and twenty feet, and thought he
might register 'A 1,' at the proper office. Captain Patterson called
him a 'bow head,' good for a hundred barrels of oil and a large
quantity of bone. The Colonel proposed engaging him to tow us into
port. Covert wished his blubber piled in our coal bunkers; the artist
sketched him, and the draughtsman thought of putting him on a
Mercator's projection. For my part I have written the little I know of
his life and experiences, but it is very little. I cannot even say
where he lodges, whose hats he wears, when his notes fall due, or
whether he ever took a cobbler or the whooping cough. Of course this
incident led to stories concerning whales. Captain Patterson told
about the destruction of the ship Essex by a sperm whale thirty or
more years ago. The Colonel described the whale fishery as practiced
by the Kamchadales and Aleutians. These natives have harpoons with
short lines to which they attach bladders or skin bags filled with
air. A great many boats surround a whale and stick him with as many
harpoons as possible. If successful, they will so encumber him that
his strength is not equal to the buoyancy of the bladders, and in this
condition he is finished with a lance. A great feast is sure to follow
his capture, and every interested native indulges in whale-steak to
his stomach's content.

[Illustration: ALEUTIANS CATCHING WHALES.]

The day before we came in sight of land, my dog repeatedly placed his
fore feet upon the rail and sniffed the wind blowing from the coast.
His inhalations were long and earnest, like those of a tobacco smoking
Comanche. In her previous voyage the Wright carried a mastiff
answering to the name of Rover. The colonel said that whenever they
approached land, though long before it was in sight, Rover would put
his paws on the bulwarks and direct his nose toward the shore. His
demonstrations were invariably accurate, and showed him to possess the
instinct of a pilot, whatever his lack of training. He did not enjoy
the ocean and was always delighted to see land.

In 1865 an Esquimaux dog was domiciled on the barque Golden Gate, on
her voyage from Norton Sound to Kamchatka. He ran in all parts of the
vessel, and made himself agreeable to every one on board. At
Petropavlovsk a Kamchadale dog became a passenger for San Francisco.
Immediately on being loosed he took possession aft and drove the
Esquimaux forward. During the whole passage he retained his place on
the quarter deck and in the cabin. Occasionally he went forward for a
promenade, but he never allowed the other dog to go abaft the
mainmast. The Esquimaux endeavored to establish amicable relations,
but the Kamchadale rejected all friendly overtures.

I heard of a dog on one of the Honolulu packets that took his turn at
duty with the regularity of a sailor, coming on deck when his watch
was called and retiring with it to the forecastle. When the sails
flapped from any cause and the clouds indicated a sudden shower, the
dog gave warning with a bark--on the sea. I ventured to ask my
informant if the animal stood the dog watch, but the question did not
receive a definite answer.

What a wonderful thing is the science of navigation. One measures the
sun's height at meridian; looks at a chronometer; consults a book of
mystical figures; makes a little slate work like a school-boy's
problem; and he knows his position at sea. Twelve o'clock, if there be
neither fog nor cloud, is the most important hour of a nautical day. A
few minutes before noon the captain is on deck with his quadrant. The
first officer is similarly provided, as he is supposed to keep a log
and practice-book of his own. Ambitious students of navigation are
sure to appear at that time. On the Wright we turned out four
instruments, with twice as many hands to hold them. A minute before
twelve, _conticuere omnes_.

"Eight bells."

"Eight bells, sir."

The four instruments are briefly fixed on the sun and the horizon, the
readings of the scale are noted, and the quartette descend to the
practice of mathematics. A few minutes later we have the result.

"Latitude 52° 8' North, Longitude 161° 14' East. Distance in last
twenty-four hours two hundred forty-six miles."

The chart is unrolled, and a few measurements with dividers, rule and
pencil, end in the registry of our exact position. Unlike the
countryman on Broadway or a doubting politician the day before
election, we do know where we are. The compass, the chronometer, the
quadrant; what would be the watery world without them!

On the twenty-fourth of July we were just a month at sea. In all that
time we had spoken no ship nor had any glimpse of land, unless I
except a trifle in a flower pot. The captain made his reckoning at
noon, and added to the reading--

"Seventy-five miles from the entrance of Avatcha Bay. We ought to see
land before sunset."

About four in the afternoon we discovered the coast just where the
captain said we should find it. The mountains that serve to guide one
toward Avatcha Bay were exactly in the direction marked on our chart.
To all appearances we were not a furlong from our estimated position.
How easily may the navigator's art appear like magic to the ignorant
and superstitious.

The breeze was light, and we stood in very slowly toward the shore. By
sunset we could see the full outline of the coast of Kamchatka for a
distance of fifty or sixty miles. The general coast line formed the
concavity of a small arc of a circle. As it was too late to enter
before dark, and we did not expect the light would be burning, we
furled all our sails and lay to until morning.

By daybreak we were under steam, and at five o'clock I came on deck to
make my first acquaintance with Asia. We were about twenty miles from
the shore, and the general appearance of the land reminded me of the
Rocky Mountains from Denver or the Sierra Nevadas from the vicinity of
Stockton. On the north of the horizon was a group of four or five
mountains, while directly in front there were three separate peaks, of
which one was volcanic. Most of these mountains were conical and
sharp, and although it was July, nearly every summit was covered with
snow. Between and among these high peaks there were many smaller
mountains, but no less steep and pointed. As one sees it from, the
ocean, Kamchatka appears more like a desolate than a habitable
country.

It requires very good eyesight to discover the entrance of Avatcha Bay
at a distance of eight or ten miles, but the landmarks are of such
excellent character that one can approach without hesitation. The
passage is more than a mile wide. Guarding it on the right is a hill
nearly three hundred feet high, and standing almost perpendicular
above the water. At the left is a rock of lesser height, terminating a
tongue or ridge of land. On the hill is a light-house and signal
station with a flag staff. Formerly the light was only exhibited when
a ship was expected or seen, but in 1866, orders were given for its
maintainance every night during the summer months.

Years ago, on the coast of New Hampshire, a man from the interior was
appointed light keeper. The day he assumed his position was his first
on the sea-shore. Very soon there were complaints that his lights did
not burn after midnight. On being called to account by his superior,
he explained--

"Well, I thought all the ships ought to be in by midnight, and I
wanted to save the ile."



CHAPTER III.


As one leaves the Pacific and enters Avatcha Bay he passes high rocks
and cliffs, washed at their base by the waves. The loud-sounding ocean
working steadily against the solid walls, has worn caverns and dark
passages, haunted by thousands of screaming and fluttering sea-birds.
The bay is circular and about twenty miles in diameter; except at the
place of entrance it is enclosed with hills and mountains that give it
the appearance of a highland lake. All over it there is excellent
anchorage for ships of every class, while around its sides are several
little harbors, like miniature copies of the bay.

At Petropavlovsk we hoped to find the Russian ship of war, Variag, and
the barque Clara Bell, which sailed from San Francisco six weeks
before us. As we entered the bay, all eyes were turned toward the
little harbor. "There is the Russian," said three or four voices at
once, as the tall masts aird wide spars of a corvette came in sight.
"The Clara Bell, the Clara Bell--no, it's a brig," was our exclamation
at the appearance of a vessel behind the Variag.

"There's another, a barque certainly,--no, it's a brig, too," uttered
the colonel with an emphasis of disgust. Evidently his barque was on
the sea.

Rounding the shoal we moved toward the fort, the Russian corvette
greeting us with "Hail Columbia" out of compliment to our nationality.
We carried the American flag at the quarter and the Russian naval
ensign at the fore as a courtesy to the ship that awaited us. As we
cast anchor just outside the little inner harbor, the Russian band
continued playing Hail Columbia, but our engineer played the mischief
with the music by letting off steam. As soon as we were at rest a boat
from the corvette touched our side, and a subordinate officer
announced that his captain would speedily visit us. Very soon came the
Captain of The Port or Collector of Customs, and after him the
American merchants residing in the town. Our gangway which we closed
at San Francisco was now opened, and we once more communicated with
the world.

Petropavlovsk (Port of Saints Peter and Paul) is situated in lat. 53°
1' North, long. 158° 43' East, and is the principal place in
Kamchatka. It stands on the side of a hill sloping into the northern
shore of Avatcha Bay, or rather into a little harbor opening into the
bay. Fronting this harbor is a long peninsula that hides the town from
all parts of the bay except those near the sea. The harbor is well
sheltered from winds and furnishes excellent anchorage. It is divided
into an inner and an outer harbor by means of a sand spit that extends
from the main land toward the peninsula, leaving an opening about
three hundred yards in width. The inner harbor is a neat little basin
about a thousand yards in diameter and nearly circular in shape.

Some of the mountains that serve as landmarks to the approaching
mariner, are visible from the town, and others can be seen by climbing
the hills in the vicinity. Wuluchinski is to the southward and not
volcanic, while Avatcha and Korianski, to the north and east, were
smoking with a dignified air, like a pair of Turks after a champagne
supper. Eruptions of these volcanoes occur every few years, and during
the most violent ones ashes and stones are thrown to a considerable
distance. Captain King witnessed an eruption of Avatcha in 1779, and
says that stones fell at Petropavlovsk, twenty-five miles away, and
the ashes covered the deck of his ship. Mr. Pierce, an old resident of
Kamchatka, gave me a graphic description of an eruption in 1861. It
was preceded by an earthquake, which overturned crockery on the
tables, and demolished several ovens. For a week or more earthquakes
of a less violent character occurred hourly.

Besides the Variag we found in port the Russian brig Poorga and the
Prussian brig Danzig, the latter having an American captain, crew,
hull, masts, and rigging. Two old hulks were rotting in the mud, and
an unseaworthy schooner lay on the beach with one side turned upward
as if in agony. "There be land rats and water rats," according to
Shakspeare. Some of the latter dwelt in this bluff-bowed schooner and
peered curiously from the crevices in her sides.

[Illustration: BREACH OF ETIQUETTE.]

The majority of our visitors made their calls very brief. After their
departure, I went on shore with Mr. Hunter, an American resident of
Petropavlovsk. In every house I visited I was pressed to take
_petnatzet copla_ (fifteen drops,) the universal name there for
something stimulating. The drops might be American whisky, French
brandy, Dutch gin, or Russian vodka. David Crockett said a true
gentleman is one who turns his back while you pour whisky into your
tumbler. The etiquette of Kamchatka does not permit the host to count
the drops taken by his guest.

Take a log village in the backwoods of Michigan or Minnesota, and
transport it to a quiet spot by a well sheltered harbor of
Lilliputian size. Cover the roofs of some buildings with iron,
shingles or boards from other regions. Cover the balance with thatch
of long grass, and erect chimneys that just peer above the ridge
poles. Scatter these buildings on a hillside next the water; arrange
three-fourths of them in a single street, and leave the rest to drop
wherever they like. Of course those in the higgledy-piggledy position
must be of the poorest class, but you can make a few exceptions.
Whitewash the inner walls of half the buildings, and use paper or
cloth to hide the nakedness of the other half.

This will make a fair counterfeit of Petropavlovsk. Inside each house
place a brick stove or oven, four or five feet square and six feet
high. Locate this stove to present a side to each of two or three
rooms. In each side make an aperture two inches square that can be
opened or closed at will. The amount of heat to warm the rooms is
regulated by means of the apertures.

Furnish the houses with plain chairs, tables, and an occasional but
rare piano. Make the doors very low and the entries narrow. Put a
picture of a saint in the principal room of every house, and adorn the
walls with a few engravings. Make a garden near each house, and let a
few miscellaneous gardens cling to the hillside and strive to climb
it. Don't forget to build a church, or you will fail to represent a
Russian town.

Petropavlovsk has no vehicle of any kind except a single hand cart.
Consequently the street is not gashed with wheel ruts.

We were invited to 'assist' at a wedding that happened in the evening
after our arrival. The ceremony was to begin at five o'clock, and was
a double affair, two sisters being the brides. A Russian wedding
requires a master of ceremonies to look after the affair from
beginning to end. I was told it was the custom in Siberia (but not in
European Russia) for this person to pay all expenses of the wedding,
including the indispensable dinner and its fixtures. Such a position
is not to be desired by a man of limited cash, especially if the
leading characters are inclined to extravagance. Think of being the
conductor of a diamond wedding in New York or Boston, and then paying
the bills!

[Illustration: UNEXPECTED HONORS.]

The steward of the Variag told me he was invited to conduct a wedding
shortly after his arrival at Petropavlovsk. Thinking it an honor of
which he would hereafter be proud, he accepted the invitation. Much to
his surprise on the next day he was required to pay the cost of the
entertainment.

The master of ceremonies of the wedding under consideration was Mr.
Phillipeus, a Russian gentleman engaged in the fur trade. The father
of the brides was his customer, and doubtless the cost of the wedding
was made up in subsequent dealings. As the party emerged from the
house and moved toward the church, I could see that Phillipeus was the
central figure. He had a bride on each arm, and each bride was
clinging to her prospective husband. The women were in white and the
men in holiday dress.

Behind the front rank were a dozen or more groomsmen and bridesmaids.
Behind these were the members of the families and the invited
relatives, so that the cortége stretched to a considerable length.
Each of the groomsmen wore a bow of colored ribbon on his left arm and
a smaller one in the button hole. The children of the families--quite
a troop of juveniles--brought up the rear.

The church is of logs, like the other buildings. It is old, unpainted,
and shaped like a cross, lacking one of the arms. The doors are large
and clumsy, and the entrance is through a vestibule or hall. The roof
had been recently painted a brilliant red at the expense of the
Variag's officers. On the inside, the church has an antiquated
appearance, but presents such an air of solidity as if inviting the
earthquakes to come and see it.

There were no seats in the building, nor are there seats of any kind
in the edifices of the same character in any part of Russia. It is the
theory of the Eastern Church that all are equal before God. In His
service, no distinction is made; autocrat and subject, noble and
peasant, stand or kneel in the same manner while worshipping at His
altars.

As we entered, we found the wedding party standing in the center of
the church; the spectators were grouped nearer the door, the ladies
occupying the front. With the thermometer at seventy-two, I found the
upright position a fatiguing one, and would have been glad to send for
a camp stool. Colonel Bulkley had undertaken to escort a lady, and as
he stood in a conspicuous place, his uniform buttoned to the very chin
and the perspiration pouring from his face, the ceremony appeared to
have little charm for him.

The service began under the direction of two priests, each dressed in
a long robe extending to his feet, and wearing a chapeau like a
bell-crowned hat without a brim. "The short one," said a friend near
me, pointing to a little, round, fat, oily man of God, "will get very
drunk when he has the opportunity. Watch him to-night and see how he
leaves the dinner party."

Priests of the Greek Church wear their hair very long, frequently
below the shoulders, and parted in the middle, and do not shave the
beard. Unlike those of the Catholic Church, they marry and have homes
and families, engaging in secular occupations which do not interfere
with their religious duties. During the evening after the wedding, I
was introduced to "the pope's wife;" and learned that Russian priests
are called popes. As the only pope then familiar to my thoughts is
considered very much a bachelor, I was rather taken aback at this bit
of information. The drink-loving priest was head of a goodly sized
family, and resided in a comfortable and well furnished dwelling.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN MARRIAGE.]

At the wedding there was much recitation by the priests, reading from
the ritual of the Church, swinging of censers, singing by the chorus
of male voices, chanting and intonation, and responses by the victims.
There were frequent signs of the cross with bowing or kneeling. A ring
was used, and afterwards two crowns were held over the heads of the
bride and bridegroom. The fatigue of holding these crowns was
considerable, and required that those who performed the service should
be relieved once by other bridesmen. After a time the crowns were
placed on the heads they had been held over. Wearing these crowns and
preceded by the priests, the pair walked three times round the altar
in memory of the Holy Trinity, while a portion of the service was
chanted. Then the crowns were removed and kissed by each of the
marrying pair, the bridegroom first performing the osculation. A cup
of water was held by the priest, first to the bridegroom and then to
the bride, each of whom drank a small portion. After this the first
couple retired to a little chapel and the second passed through the
ordeal. The preliminary ceremony occupied about twenty minutes, and
the same time was consumed by each couple.

There is no divorce in Russia, so that the union was one for life till
death. Before the parties left the church they received
congratulations. There was much hand-shaking, and among the women
there were decorous kisses. Our party regretted that the custom of
bride kissing as practiced in America does not prevail in Kamchatka.

When the affair was ended, the whole cortége returned to the house
whence it came, the children carrying pictures of the Virgin and
saints, and holding lighted candles before them. The employment of
lamps and tapers is universal in the Russian churches, the little
flame being a representation of spiritual existence and a symbol of
the continued life of the soul. The Russians have adapted this idea so
completely that there is no marriage, betrothal, consecration, or
burial, in fact no religious ceremony whatever without the use of lamp
or taper.

In the house of every adherent to the orthodox Russian faith there is
a picture of the Virgin or a saint; sometimes holy pictures are in
every room of the house. I have seen them in the cabins of steamboats,
and in tents and other temporary structures. No Russian enters a
dwelling, however humble, without removing his hat, out of respect to
the holy pictures, and this custom extends to shops, hotels, in fact
to every place where people dwell or transact business. During the
earlier part of my travels in Russia, I was unaware of this custom,
and fear that I sometimes offended it. I have been told that
superstitious thieves hang veils or kerchiefs before the picture in
rooms where they depredate. Enthusiastic lovers occasionally observe
the same precaution. Only the eyes of the image need be covered, and
secrecy may be obtained by turning the picture to the wall.

The evening began with a reception and congratulations to the married
couples. Then we had tea and cakes, and then came the dinner. The
party was like the African giant imported in two ships, for it was
found impossible to crowd all the guests into one house. Tables were
set in two houses and in the open yard between them.

The Russians have a custom of taking a little lunch just before they
begin dinner. This lunch is upon a side table in the dining room, and
consists of cordial, spirits or bitters, with morsels of herring,
caviar, and dried meat or fish. It performs the same office as the
American cocktail, but is oftener taken, is more popular and more
respectable. After the lunch we sat down to dinner. Fish formed the
first course and soup the second. Then we had roast beef and
vegetables, followed by veal cutlets. The feast closed with cake and
jelly, and was thoroughly washed down with a dozen kinds of beverages
that cheer _and_ inebriate.

The fat priest was at table and took his lunch early. His first course
was a glass of something liquid, and he drank a dozen times before the
soup was brought. Early in the dinner I saw him gesturing toward me.

"He wants to take a glass with you," said some one at my side.

I poured out some wine, and after a little trouble in touching glasses
we drank each other's health.

Not five minutes later he repeated his gestures. To satisfy him I
filled a glass with sherry, as there was no champagne handy at the
moment, and again went through the clinking process. As my glass was
large I put it down after sipping a few drops, but the old fellow
objected. Draining and inverting his glass, he held it as one might
suspend a rat by the tail, and motioned me to do the same. Luckily he
soon after conceived a fondness for one of the Wright's officers, and
the twain fell to drinking. The officer, assisted by three men, went
on board late at night, and was reported attempting to wash his face
in a tar-bucket and dry it with a chain cable. About midnight the
priest was taken home on a shutter.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN POPE AT HOME.]

There were toasts in a large number, with a great deal of cheering,
drinking, and smoking. About ten o'clock the dinner ended, and
arrangements were made for a dance. Dancing was not among my
accomplishments, and I retired to the ship, satisfied that on my first
day in Asia I had been treated very kindly--and very often.

For two days more the wedding festivities continued, etiquette
requiring the parties to visit all who attended the dinner. On the
third day the hilarity ceased, and the happy couples were left to
enjoy the honeymoon with its promise of matrimonial bliss. May they
have many years of it.



CHAPTER IV.


The name of Kamchatka is generally associated with snow-fields,
glaciers, frozen mountains, and ice-bound shores. Its winters are long
and severe; snow falls to a great depth, and ice attains a thickness
proportioned to the climate. But the summers, though short, are
sufficiently hot to make up for the cold of winter. Vegetation is
wonderfully rapid, the grasses, trees and plants growing as much in a
hundred days as in six months of a New England summer. Hardly has the
snow disappeared before the trees put forth their buds and blossoms,
and the hillsides are in all the verdure of an American spring. Men
tell me they have seen in a single week the snows disappear, ice break
in the streams, the grass spring up, and the trees beginning to bud.
Nature adapts herself to all her conditions. In the Arctic as in the
Torrid zone she fixes her compensations and makes her laws for the
best good of her children.

It was midsummer when we reached Kamchatka, and the heat was like that
of August in Richmond or Baltimore. The thermometer ranged from
sixty-five to eighty. Long walks on land were out of question, unless
one possessed the power of a salamander. The shore of the bay was the
best place for a promenade, and we amused ourselves watching the
salmon fishers at work.

Salmon form the principal food of the Kamchadales and their dogs. The
fishing season in Avatcha Bay lasts about six weeks, and at its close
the salmon leave the bay and ascend the streams, where they are caught
by the interior natives. In the bay they are taken in seines dragged
along the shore, and the number of fish caught annually is almost
beyond computation.

Some years ago the fishery failed, and more than half the dogs in
Kamchatka starved. The following year there was a bountiful supply,
which the priests of Petropavlovsk commemorated by erecting a cross
near the entrance of the harbor. The supply is always larger after a
scarcity than in ordinary seasons.

The fish designed for preservation are split and dried in the sun. The
odor of a fish drying establishment reminded me of the smells in
certain quarters of New York in summer, or of Cairo, Illinois, after
an unusual flood has subsided. One of our officers said he counted
three hundred and twenty distinct and different smells in walking half
a mile.

In 1865 one of the merchants started the enterprise of curing salmon
for the Sandwich Island market. He told me he paid three roubles,
(about three greenback dollars,) a hundred (in number) for the fresh
fish, delivered at his establishment. Evidently he found the
speculation profitable, as he repeated it the following year.

[Illustration: A SCALY BRIDGE.]

When the salmon ascend the rivers they furnish food to men and
animals. The natives catch them in nets and with spears, while dogs,
bears, and wolves use their teeth in fishing. Bears are expert in this
amusement, and where their game is plenty they eat only the heads and
backs. The fish are very abundant in the rivers, and no great skill
is required in their capture. Men with an air of veracity told me they
had seen streams in the interior of Kamchatka so filled with salmon
that one could cross on them as on a corduroy bridge! The story has a
piscatorial sound, but it _may_ be true.

House gardening on a limited scale is the principal agriculture of
Kamchatka. Fifty years ago, Admiral Ricord introduced the cultivation
of rye, wheat, and barley with considerable success, but the
inhabitants do not take kindly to it. The government brings rye flour
from the Amoor river and sells it to the people at cost, and in case
of distress it issues rations from its magazines.

When I asked why there was no culture of grain in Kamchatka, they
replied: "What is the necessity of it? We can buy it at cost of the
government, and need not trouble ourselves about making our own
flour."

There is not a sawmill on the peninsula. Boards and plank are cut by
hand or brought from California. I slept two nights in a room ceiled
with red-wood and pine from San Francisco.

On my second evening in Asia I passed several hours at the governor's
house. The party talked, smoked, and drank tea until midnight, and
then closed the entertainment with a substantial supper. An
interesting and novel feature of the affair was the Russian manner of
making tea. The infusion had a better flavor than any I had previously
drank. This is due partly to the superior quality of the leaf, and
partly to the manner of its preparation.

The "samovar" or tea-urn is an indispensable article in a Russian
household, and is found in nearly every dwelling from the Baltic to
Bering's Sea. "Samovar" comes from two Greek words, meaning 'to boil
itself.' The article is nothing but a portable furnace; a brazen urn
with a cylinder two or three inches in diameter passing through it
from top to bottom. The cylinder being filled with coals, the water in
the urn is quickly heated, and remains boiling hot as long as the fire
continues. An imperial order abolishing samovars throughout all the
Russias, would produce more sorrow and indignation than the expulsion
of roast beef from the English bill of fare. The number of cups it
will contain is the measure of a samovar.

Tea pots are of porcelain or earthenware. The tea pot is rinsed and
warmed with hot water before receiving the dry leaf. Boiling water is
poured upon the tea, and when the pot is full it is placed on the top
of the samovar. There it is kept hot but not boiled, and in five or
six minutes the tea is ready. Cups and saucers are not employed by the
Russians, but tumblers are generally used for tea drinking, and in the
best houses, where it can be afforded, they are held in silver sockets
like those in soda shops. Only loaf sugar is used in sweetening tea.
When lemons can be had they are employed to give flavor, a thin slice,
neither rolled nor pressed, being floated on the surface of the tea.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN TEA SERVICE.]

The Russians take tea in the morning, after dinner, after lunch,
before bed-time, in the evening, at odd intervals in the day or night,
and they drink a great deal of it between drinks.

In rambling about Petropavlovsk I found the hills covered with
luxuriant grass, sometimes reaching to my knees. Two or three miles
inland the grass was waist high on ground covered with snow six weeks
before. Among the flowers I recognized the violet and larkspur, the
former in great abundance. Earlier in the summer the hills were
literally carpeted with flowers. I could not learn that any skilled
botanist had ever visited Kamchatka and classified its flora. Among
the arboreal productions the alder and birch were the most numerous.
Pine, larch, and spruce grow on the Kamchatka river, and the timber
from them is brought to Avatcha from the mouth of that stream.

The commercial value of Kamchatka is entirely in its fur trade. The
peninsula has no agricultural, manufacturing, or mining interest, and
were it not for the animals that lend their skins to keep us warm, the
merchant would find no charms in that region. The fur coming from
Kamchatka was the cause of the Russian discovery and conquest. For
many years the trade was conducted by individual merchants from
Siberia. The Russian American Company attempted to control it early in
the present century, and drove many competitors from the fields. It
received the most determined opposition from American merchants, and
in 1860 it abandoned Petropavlovsk, its business there being
profitless.

In 1866 I found the fur trade of Kamchatka in the control of three
merchants: W.H. Boardman, of Boston, J.W. Fluger, of Hamburg, and
Alexander Phillipeus, of St. Petersburg. All of them had houses in
Petropavlovsk, and each had from one to half a dozen agencies or
branches elsewhere. To judge by appearances, Mr. Boardman had the
lion's share of the trade. This gentleman's father began the Northwest
traffic sometime in the last century, and left it as an inheritance
about 1828. His son continued the business until bought off by the
Hudson Bay Company, when he turned his attention to Kamchatka.
Personally he has never visited the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Fluger had been only two years in Kamchatka, and was doing a
miscellaneous business. Boardman's agent confined himself to the fur
trade, but Fluger was up to anything. He salted salmon for market,
sent a schooner every year into the Arctic Ocean for walrus teeth and
mammoth tusks, bought furs, sold goods, kept a dog team, was attentive
to the ladies, and would have run for Congress had it been possible.
He had in his store about half a cord of walrus teeth piled against a
back entrance like stove wood. Phillipeus was a roving blade. He kept
an agent at Petropavlovsk and came there in person once a year. In
February he left St. Petersburg for London, whence he took the Red Sea
route to Japan. There he chartered a brig to visit Kamchatka and land
him at Ayan, on the Ohotsk Sea. From Ayan he went to Yakutsk, and from
that place through Irkutsk to St. Petersburg, where he arrived about
three hundred and fifty days after his departure. I met him in the
Russian capital just as he had completed the sixth journey of this
kind and was about to commence the seventh. If he were a Jew he should
be called the wandering Jew.

Trade is conducted on the barter principle, furs being low and goods
high. The risks are great, transport is costly, and money is a long
time invested before it returns. The palmy days of the fur trade are
over; the product has greatly diminished, and competition has reduced
the percentage of profit on the little that remains.

There was a time in the memory of man when furs formed the currency of
Kamchatka. Their employment as cash is not unknown at present,
although Russian money is in general circulation.

[Illustration: CHANGE FOR A DOLLAR]

There is a story of a traveler who paid his hotel bill in a country
town in Minnesota and received a beaver skin in change. The landlord
explained that it was legal tender for a dollar. Concealing this novel
cash under his coat, the traveler sauntered into a neighboring store.

"Is it true," he asked carelessly, "that a beaver skin is legal tender
for a dollar?" "Yes, sir," said the merchant; "anybody will take it."

"Will you be so kind, then," was the traveler's request, "as to give
me change for a dollar bill?"

"Certainly," answered the merchant, taking the beaver skin and
returning four muskrat skins, current at twenty-five cents each.

The sable is the principal fur sought by the merchants in Kamchatka,
or trapped by the natives. The animal is caught in a variety of ways,
man's ingenuity being taxed to capture him. The 'yessak,' or
'poll-tax' of the natives is payable in sable fur, at the rate of a
skin for every four persons. The governor makes a yearly journey
through the peninsula to collect the tax, and is supposed to visit all
the villages. The merchants go and do likewise for trading purposes.

Mr. George S. Cushing, who was long the agent of Mr. Boardman in
Kamchatka, estimated the product of sable fur at about six thousand
skins annually. Sometimes it exceeds and sometimes falls below that
figure. About a thousand foxes, a few sea otters and silver foxes, and
a good many bears, may be added, more for number than value. Silver
foxes and otters are scarce, while common foxes and bears are of
little account. A black fox is worth a great deal of money, but one
may find a white crow almost as readily.

Bears are abundant, but their skins are not articles of export. The
beasts are brown or black, and grow to a disagreeable size. Bear
hunting is an amusement of the country, very pleasant and exciting
until the bear turns and becomes the hunter. Then there is no fun in
it, if he succeeds in his pursuit. A gentleman in Kamchatka gave me a
bearskin more than six feet long, and declared that it was not
unusually large. I am very glad there was no live bear in it when it
came into my possession.

There is a story of a man in California who followed the track of a
grizzly bear a day and a half. He abandoned it because, as he
explained, "it was getting a little too fresh."

One day, about two years before my visit, a cow suddenly entered
Petropavlovsk with a live bear on her back. The bear escaped unhurt,
leaving the cow pretty well scratched. After that event she preferred
to graze in or near the town, and never brought home another bear.

[Illustration: COW AND BEAR.]

Kamchatka without dogs would be like Hamlet without Hamlet. While
crossing the Pacific my _compagnons du voyage_ made many suggestions
touching my first experience in Kamchatka. "You won't sleep any the
first night in port. The dogs will howl you out of your seven senses."
This was the frequent remark of the engineer, corroborated by others.
On arriving, we were disappointed to find less than a hundred dogs at
Petropavlovsk, as the rest of the canines belonging there were
spending vacation in the country. About fifteen hundred were owned in
the town.

Very few Kamchadale dogs can bark, but they will howl oftener, longer,
and louder than any 'yaller dog' that ever went to a cur pound or
became sausage meat. The few in Petropavlovsk made much of their
ability, and were especially vocal at sunset, near their feeding time.
Occasionally during the night they try their throats and keep up a
hailing and answering chorus, calculated to draw a great many oaths
from profane strangers.

In 1865 Colonel Bulkley carried one of these animals to California.
The dog lifted up his voice on the waters very often, and received a
great deal of rope's ending in consequence. At San Francisco Mr.
Covert took him home, and attempted his domestication. 'Norcum,' (for
that was the brute's name,) created an enmity between Covert and all
who lived within hearing distance, and many were the threats of
canicide. Covert used to rise two or three times every night and
argue, with a club, to induce Norcum to be silent. While I was at San
Francisco, Mr. Mumford, one of the Telegraph Company's directors,
conceived a fondness for the dog, and took him to the Occidental
Hotel.

On the first day of his hotel life we tied Norcum on the balcony in
front of Mumford's room, about forty feet from the ground. Scarcely
had we gone to dinner when he jumped from the balcony and hung by his
chain, with his hind feet resting upon a cornice.

A howling wilderness is nothing to the noise he made before his
rescue, and he gathered and amused a large crowd with his performance.
He passed the night in the western basement of the hotel, and spoiled
the sleep of a dozen or more persons who lodged near him. When we left
San Francisco, Norcum was residing in the baggage-room at the
Occidental, under special care of the porters, who employed a great
deal of muscle in teaching him that silence was a golden virtue.

The Kamchadale dogs are of the same breed as those used by the
Esquimaux, but are said to possess more strength and endurance. The
best Asiatic dogs are among the Koriaks, near Penjinsk Gulf, the
difference being due to climate and the care taken in breeding them.
Dogs are the sole reliance for winter travel in Kamchatka, and every
resident considers it his duty to own a team. They are driven in odd
numbers, all the way from three to twenty-one. The most intelligent
and best trained dog acts as a leader, the others being harnessed in
pairs. No reins are used, the voice of the driver being sufficient to
guide them.

[Illustration: A KAMCHATKA TEAM.]

Dogs are fed almost entirely upon fish. They receive their rations
daily at sunset, and it is always desirable that each driver should
feed his own team. The day before starting on a journey, the dog
receives a half ration only, and he is kept on this slender diet as
long as the journey lasts. Sometimes when hungry they gnaw their
reindeer skin harnesses, and sometimes they do it as a pastime. Once
formed, the habit is not easy to break. Two kinds of sledges are
used, one for travel and the other for transporting freight. The
former is light and just large enough for one person with a little
baggage. The driver sits with his feet hanging over the side, and
clings to a bow that rises in front. In one hand he holds an
iron-pointed staff, with which he retards the vehicle in descending
hills, or brings it to a halt. A traveling sledge weighs about
twenty-five pounds, but a freight sledge is much heavier.

A good team will travel from forty to sixty miles a day with favorable
roads. Sometimes a hundred a day may be accomplished, but very rarely.
Once an express traveled from Petropavlovsk to Bolcheretsk, a hundred
and twenty-five miles, in twenty-three hours, without change of dogs.

Wolves have an inconvenient fondness for dog meat, and occasionally
attack travelers. A gentleman told me that a wolf once sprang from the
bushes, seized and dragged away one of his dogs, and did not detain
the team three minutes. The dogs are cowardly in their dispositions,
and will not fight unless they have large odds in their favor. A pack
of them will attack and kill a single strange dog, but would not
disturb a number equaling their own.

Most of the Russian settlers buy their dogs from the natives who breed
them. Dogs trained to harness are worth from ten to forty roubles
(dollars) each, according to their quality. Leaders bring high prices
on account of their superior docility and the labor of training them.
Epidemics are frequent among dogs and carry off great numbers of them.
Hydrophobia is a common occurrence.

The Russian inhabitants of Kamchatka are mostly descended from
Cossacks and exiles. There is a fair but not undue proportion of half
breeds, the natural result of marriage between natives and immigrants.
There are about four hundred Russians at Petropavlovsk, and the same
number at each of two other points. The aboriginal population is about
six thousand, including a few hundred dwellers on the Kurile Islands.

No exiles have been sent to Kamchatka since 1830. One old man who had
been forty years a colonist was living at Avatcha in 1866. He was at
liberty to return to Europe, but preferred remaining.

In 1771 occurred the first voyage from Kamchatka to a foreign port,
and curiously enough, it was performed under the Polish flag. A number
of exiles, headed by a Pole named Benyowski, seized a small vessel and
put to sea. Touching at Japan and Loo Choo to obtain water and
provisions, the party reached the Portuguese colony of Macao in
safety. There were no nautical instruments or charts on the ship, and
the successful result of the voyage was more accidental than
otherwise.

Close by the harbor of Petropavlovsk there is a monument to the memory
of the ill-fated and intrepid navigator, La Perouse. It bears no
inscription, and was evidently built in haste. There is a story that a
French ship once arrived in Avatcha Bay on a voyage of discovery. Her
captain asked the governor if there was anything to commemorate the
visit of La Perouse.

"Certainly," was the reply; "I will show it to you in the morning."

During the night the monument was hastily constructed of wood and
sheet iron, and fixed in the position to which the governor led his
delighted guest.

Captain Clerke, successor to Captain Cook, of Sandwich Island memory,
died while his ships were in Avatcha Bay, and was buried at
Petropavlovsk. A monument that formerly marked his grave has
disappeared. Captain Lund and Colonel Bulkley arranged to erect a
durable memorial in its place. We prepared an inscription in English
and Russian, and for temporary purposes fixed a small tablet on the
designated spot. Americans and Russians formed the party that listened
to the brief tribute which one of our number paid to the memory of the
great navigator.

In the autumn of 1854, a combined English and French fleet of six
ships suffered a severe repulse from several land batteries and the
guns of a Russian frigate in the harbor. Twice beaten off, their
commanders determined an assault. They landed a strong force of
sailors and marines, that attempted to take the town in the rear, but
the Kamchadale sharpshooters created a panic, and drove the assailants
over a steeply sloping cliff two hundred feet high.

[Illustration: REPULSE OF THE ASSAILANTS.]

Naturally the natives are proud of their success in this battle, and
mention it to every visitor. The English Admiral committed suicide
early in the attack. The fleet retired to San Francisco, and returned
in the following year prepared to capture the town at all hazards, but
Petropavlovsk had been abandoned by the Russians, who retired beyond
the hills. An American remained in charge of a trading establishment,
and hoisted his national colors over it. The allies burned the
government property and destroyed the batteries.

There were five or six hundred dogs in town when the fleet entered the
bay. Their violent howling held the allies aloof a whole day, under
the impression that a garrison should be very large to have so many
watch-dogs.



CHAPTER V.


The first project for making discoveries in the ocean east of
Kamchatka was formed by Peter the Great. Danish, German, and English
navigators and _savans_ were sent to the eastern coast of Asia to
conduct explorations in the desired quarter, but very little was
accomplished in the lifetime of the great czar. His successors carried
out his plans.

In June, 1741, Vitus Bering, the first navigator of the straits which
bear his name, sailed from Avatcha Bay. Passing south of the islands
of the Aleutian chain, Bering steered to the eastward, and at length
discovered the American continent. "On the 16th of July," says
Steller, the naturalist and historian of the expedition, "we saw a
mountain whose height was so great as to be visible at the distance of
sixteen Dutch miles. The coast of the continent was much broken and
indented with bays and harbors."

The nearest point of land was named Cape St. Elias, as it was
discovered on St. Ellas' day. The high mountain received the name of
the saint, and has clung to it ever since.

When Bering discovered Russian America he had no thought it would one
day be sold to the United States, and there is nothing to show that he
ever corresponded with Mr. Seward about it. He sailed a short distance
along its coast, visited various islands, and then steered for
Kamchatka.

The commander was confined to his cabin by illness, and the crew
suffered severely from scurvy. "At one period," says Steller, "only
ten persons were capable of duty, and they were too weak to furl the
sails, so that the ship was left to the mercy of the elements. Not
only the sick died, but those who pretended to be healthy fainted and
fell down dead when relieved from their posts."

In this condition the navigators were drifted upon a rocky island,
where their ship went to pieces, but not until all had landed. Many of
the crew died soon after going on shore, but the transfer from the
ship appeared to diminish the ravages of the scurvy. Commander Bering
died on the 8th of December, and was buried in the trench where he
lay. The island where he perished bears his name, but his grave is
unmarked. An iron monument to his memory was recently erected at
Petropavlovsk.

No human dwellers were found on the island. Foxes were numerous and
had no fear of the shipwrecked mariners. "We killed many of them,"
Steller adds, "with our hatchets and knives. They annoyed us greatly,
and we were unable to keep them from entering our shelters and
stealing our clothing and food." The survivors built a small vessel
from the wreck, and succeeded in reaching Avatcha in the following
summer. "We were given up for dead," says the historian, "and the
property we left in Kamchatka had been appropriated by strangers."

The reports concerning the abundance of fur-bearing animals on
Bering's Island and elsewhere, induced private parties to go in search
of profit. Various expeditions were fitted out in ships of clumsy
construction and bad sailing qualities. The timbers were fastened with
wooden pins and leathern thongs, and the crevices were caulked with
moss. Occasionally the cordage was made from reindeer skins, and the
sails from the same material. Many ships were wrecked, but this did
not frighten adventurous merchants.

Few of these voyages were pushed farther than the Aleutian islands.
The natives were hostile and killed a fair proportion of the Russian
explorers. In 1781 a few merchants of Kamchatka arranged a company
with a view to developing commerce in Russian America. They equipped
several ships, formed a settlement at Kodiak and conducted an
extensive and profitable business. Their agents treated the natives
with great cruelty, and so bad was their conduct that the emperor
Paul revoked their privileges.

A new company was formed and chartered in July, 1779, under the title
of the Russian-American Company. It succeeded the old concern, and
absorbed it into its organization.

The Russian-American Company had its chief office in St. Petersburg,
where the Directors formed a kind of high court of appeal. It was
authorized to explore and place under control of the crown all the
territories of North-Western America not belonging to any other
government. It was required to deal kindly with the natives, and
endeavor to convert them to the religion of the empire. It had the
administration of the country and a commercial monopoly through its
whole extent. All other merchants were to be excluded, no matter what
their nationality. At one time so great was the jealousy of the
Company's officers that no foreign ship was allowed within twenty
miles of the coast.

The Imperial Government required that the chief officer of the company
should be commissioned in the service of the crown, and detailed to
the control of the American Territory. His residence was at Sitka, to
which the principal post was removed from Kodiak. In the early history
of the Company there were many encounters with the natives, the
severest battle taking place on the present site of Sitka. The natives
had a fort there, and were only driven from it after a long and
obstinate fight. The first colony that settled at Sitka was driven
away, and all traces of the Russian occupation were destroyed. After a
few years of conflict, peace was declared, and trade became
prosperous. The Company occupied Russian America and the Aleutian
Islands, and pushed its traffic to the Arctic Ocean. It established
posts on the Kurile Islands, in Kamchatka, and along the coast of the
Ohotsk Sea. It built churches, employed priests, and was quite
successful in converting the natives to Christianity.

Having a monopoly of trade and being the law giver to the natives, the
Company had things in pretty much its own way. The governor at Sitka
was the autocrat of all the American Russians. There was no appeal
from his decision except to the Directory at St. Petersburg, which was
about as accessible as the moon. The natives were reduced to a
condition of slavery; they were compelled to devote the best part of
their time to the company's labor, and the accounts were so managed as
to keep them always in debt.

Alexander Baranoff was the first governor, and continued more than
twenty years in power. He managed affairs to his own taste, paying
little regard to the wishes of the Directory, or even of the Emperor,
when they conflicted with his own. The Russians in the company's
employ were _Promushleniks_, or adventurers, enlisted in Siberia for a
term of years. They were soldiers, sailors, hunters, fishermen, or
mechanics, according to the needs of the service. Their condition was
little better than that of the natives they held in subjection. The
territory was divided into districts, each under an officer who
reported to the Chief at Sitka.

The Directory was not troubled so long as profits were large, but the
government had suspicions that the Company's reign was oppressive. An
exploring expedition under Admiral Krusenstern visited the North
Pacific in 1805; the reports of the Admiral exposed many abuses and
led to changes. A more rigid supervision followed, and produced much
good. The government insisted upon appointing officers of integrity
and humanity to the chief place at Sitka.

For many years the Company prospered. In 1812 it founded the colony of
Ross, on the coast of California, and a few years later prepared to
dispute the right of the Spanish Governor to occupy that region. The
natives were everywhere peaceable, and the dividends satisfied the
stockholders. The slaughter of the fur-bearing animals was
injudiciously conducted, and led to a great decrease of revenue. The
last dividend of importance (12 per cent.) was in 1853. After that
year misfortune seemed to follow the Company. Its trade was greatly
reduced, partly by the diminished fur production and partly by the
illicit traffic of independent vessels along the coast. Several ships
were lost, one in 1865, with a valuable cargo of furs. In 1866 the
Company's stock, from a nominal value of 150, had fallen to about 80,
and the Company was even obliged to accept an annual subsidy of
200,000 roubles from the Government. So late as February, 1867, it
received a loan of 1,000,000 roubles from the Imperial Bank. Probably
a few years more would have seen the total extinction of the Company,
and the reversion of all its rights and expenses to the Crown.

In 1866 the fleet of the Russian-American Company comprised two sea
steamers, six ships, two brigs, one schooner, and several smaller
craft for coasting and inland service. During the Crimean war the
Company's property was made neutral on condition of its taking no part
in hostilities. Two of its ships were captured and burned for an
alleged violation of neutrality.

The Company leased a portion of its territory to the Hudson Bay
Company, and allowed it to establish hunting and trading posts. A
strip of land bordering the ocean was thus in English hands, and gave
access to a wide region beyond the Coast Mountains. Not content with
what was leased, the Hudson Bay Company deliberately seized a locality
on the Yukon river when it had no right. It built Fort Yukon and
secured much of the interior trade of Russian America.

When our Secretary of State purchased the Emperor's title to the
western coast of America, there were various opinions respecting the
sagacity of the transaction. No one could say what was the intrinsic
value of the country, either actual or prospective. The Company never
gave much attention to scientific matters.

The Russian government had made some explorations to ascertain the
character and extent of the rivers, mountains, plains, and swamps that
form the country. In 1841 Lieutenant Zagoyskin commenced an
examination of the country bordering the rivers, and continued it for
two years. He traced the course of the Kuskokvim and the lower
portions of the Yukon, or Kvikpak. His observations were chiefly
confined to the rivers and the country immediately bordering them.
He made no discoveries of agricultural or mineral wealth. Fish and
deer-meat, with berries, formed the food of the natives, while furs
were their only articles of trade.

[Illustration: VIEW OF SITKA]

Russian America is of great extent, superficially. It is agreeably
diversified with mountains, hills, rolling country, and table land,
with a liberal amount of _pereval_ or undulating swamp. In the
northern portion there is timber scattered along the rivers and on the
mountain slopes; but the trees and their quantity are alike small. In
the southern parts there are forests of large trees, that will be
valuable when Oregon and Washington are exhausted. Along the coast
there are many bays and harbors, easy of access and well sheltered.
Sitka has a magnificent harbor, never frozen or obstructed with ice.

Gold is known to exist in several localities. A few placer mines have
been opened on the Stikeen river, but no one knows the extent of the
auriferous beds, in the absence of all 'prospecting' data. I do not
believe gold mining will ever be found profitable in Russian America.
The winters are long and cold, and the snows are deep. The working
season is very short, and in many localities on the mainland 'ground
ice' is permanent at slight depths. Veins of copper have been found
near the Yukon, but so far none that would pay for developing.

Building stone is abundant, and so is ice. Neither is of much value in
commerce.

The fur trade was the chief source of the Company's revenue. The
principal fur-bearing animals are the otter, seal, beaver, marten,
mink, fox, and a few others. There is a little trade in walrus teeth,
mammoth tusks, whalebone, and oil. The rivers abound in fish, of which
large quantities are annually salted and sent to the Pacific markets.
The fisheries along the coast are valuable and of the same character
as those on the banks of Newfoundland.

Agriculture is limited to a few garden vegetables. There are no fruit
trees, and no attempts have thus far been made to introduce them. The
number of native inhabitants is unknown, as no census has ever been
taken. I have heard it estimated all the way from twenty to sixty
thousand. The island and sea coast inhabitants are of the Esquimaux
type, while those of the interior are allied to the North American
Indians. The explorers for the Western Union Telegraph Company found
them friendly, but not inclined to labor. Some of the natives left
their hunting at its busiest season to assist an exploring party in
distress.

The change of rulers will prove a misfortune to the aboriginal. Very
wisely the Russian American Company prohibited intoxicating liquors in
all dealings with the natives. The contraband stuff could only be
obtained from, independent trading ships, chiefly American. With the
opening of the country to our commerce, whisky has been abundant and
accessible to everybody. The native population will rapidly diminish,
and its decrease will be accompanied by a falling off in the fur
product. Our government should rigidly continue the prohibitory law as
enforced by the Russian officials.

The sale of his American property was an excellent transaction on the
part of the Emperor. The country brought no revenue worth the name,
and threatened to be an expensive ornament in coming years. It
required a sea voyage to reach it, and was upon a continent which
Russia does not aspire to control. It had no strategic importance in
the Muscovite policy, and was better out of the empire than in it.

The purchase by ourselves may or may not prove a financial success.
Thus far its developments have not been promising. When the country
has been thoroughly examined, it is possible we may find stores of now
unknown wealth. Politically the acquisition is more important. The
possession of a large part of the Pacific coast, indented with many
bays and harbors, is a matter of moment in view of our national
ambition. The American eagle can scream louder since its cage has been
enlarged, and if any man attempts to haul down that noble bird, scoop
him from the spot.



CHAPTER VI.


Colonel Bulkley determined to sail on the 6th of August for Anadyr
Bay, and ordered the Variag to proceed to the Amoor by way of Ghijiga.
Early in the morning the corvette changed her moorings and shook a
reef from her telescopic smoke stack, and at nine o'clock I bade adieu
to the Wright and went on board the Variag, to which I was welcomed by
Capt. Lund, according to the Russian custom, and quartered in the room
specially designed for the use of the Admiral. The ladies were on the
nearest point of the beach, and just before our departure the Captain
and most of his officers paid them a farewell visit. Seizing the tow
line of the Danzig, which we were to take to sea, we steamed from the
harbor into the Pacific, followed by the cheers of all on board the
Wright and the waving of ladies' handkerchiefs till lost in the
distance. We desired to pass the fourth, or Amphitrite, channel of the
Kurile Islands; the weather was so thick that we could not see a
ship's length in any direction, and all night men stood with axes
ready to cut the Danzig's tow line in case any sudden danger should
appear. The fog lifted just as we neared the channel, and we had a
clear view on all sides.

We cast off the Danzig when fairly out of the Pacific. During the two
days the Variag had her in tow we maintained communication by means of
a log line and a junk bottle carefully sealed. Casting our bottle on
the waters, we allowed it to drift along side the Danzig, where it
could be fished up and opened. Answers were returned in the same mail
pouch. One response was in liquid form, and savored of gin cocktail,
fabricated by the American captain.

An hour after dropping the Danzig we stopped our engines and prepared
to run under sail. The whole crew was called on deck to hoist out the
screw, a mass of copper weighing twenty-five thousand pounds, and set
in a frame raised or lowered like a window sash. With strong ropes and
the power of three hundred men, the frame and its contents were lifted
out of water, and the Variag became a sailing ship. The Russian
government is more economical than our own in running ships of war.
Whenever possible, sails are used instead of steam. A few years ago a
Russian Admiral was transferred from active to retired service because
he burned too much coal.

The Variag was 2100 tons burthen, and carried seventeen guns, with a
crew of 306 men. She was of the fleet that visited New York in 1863,
and her officers recounted many pleasant reminiscences of their stay
in the United States. While wintering in Japanese waters she was
assigned to assist the telegraph enterprise, and reported as soon as
possible at Petropavlovsk; but the only service demanded was to
proceed to the mouth of the Amoor by way of Ghijiga and Ohotsk.

The officers of the Variag were, a captain, a commander, four
lieutenants, six sub-lieutenants, an officer of marines with a cadet,
a lieutenant of naval artillery, two sailing masters, two engineers, a
surgeon, a paymaster, and a priest. As near as I could ascertain,
their pay, including allowances, was about three-fourths that of
American officers of similar grades. They received three times as much
at sea as when awaiting orders, and this fact led them to seek
constant service. In the ward room they read, wrote, talked, smoked,
and could play any games of amusement except cards. Card playing is
strictly forbidden by the Russian naval regulations.

The sailors on the corvette were robust and powerful fellows, with
appetites to frighten a hotel keeper. Russian sailors from the
interior of the empire are very liable to scurvy. Those from Finland
are the best for long voyages. Captain Lund once told me the
experience of a Russian expedition of five ships upon a long cruise.
One ship was manned by Finlanders, and the others carried sailors from
the interior. The Finlanders were not attacked with scurvy, but the
rest suffered severely.

"All the Russians," said the captain, "make good sailors, but those
from the maritime provinces are the best seamen."

Early in the voyage it was interesting to see the men at dinner. Their
table utensils were wooden spoons and tubs, at the rate of ten spoons
and one tub to every ten men. A piece of canvas upon the deck received
the tub, which generally contained soup. With their hats off, the men
dined leisurely and amicably. Soup and bread were the staple articles
of food. Cabbage soup _(schee)_ is the national diet of Russia, from
the peasant up to the autocrat. Several times on the voyage we had
soup on the captain's table from the supply prepared for the crew, and
I can testify to its excellence. The food of the sailors was carefully
inspected before being served. When the soup was ready, the cook took
a bowl of it, with a slice of bread and a clean spoon, and delivered
the whole to the boatswain. From the boatswain it went to the officer
of the deck, and from him to the chief officer, who delivered it to
the captain. The captain carefully examined and tasted the soup. If
unobjectionable, the bowl was returned to the galley and the dinner
served at once.

A sailor's ration in the Russian navy is more than sufficient for an
ordinary appetite and digestion. The grog ration is allowed, and the
boatswain's call to liquid refreshment is longer and shriller than for
any other duty. At the grog tub the sailor stands with uncovered head
while performing the ceremonial abhorred of Good Templars. As of old
in our navy, grog is stopped as a punishment. The drink ration can be
entirely commuted and the food ration one half, but not more. Many
sailors on the Variag practiced total abstinence at sea, and as the
grog had been purchased in Japan at very high cost, the commutation
money was considerable. Commutation is regulated according to the
price of the articles where the ship was last supplied.

I was told that the sailor's pay, including ordinary allowances, is
about a hundred roubles a year. The sum is not munificent, but
probably the Muscovite mariner is no more economical than the American
one. In his liberty on shore he will get as drunk as the oft quoted
'boiled owl.' _En passant_ I protest against the comparison, as it is
a slander upon the owl.

At Petropavlovsk there was an amusing fraternization between the crews
of the Variag and the Wright. The American sailors were scattered
among the Russians in the proportion of one to six. Neither understood
a word of the other's language, and the mouth and eye were obliged to
perform the duties of the ear. The flowing bowl was the manual of
conversation between the Russians and their new friends. The Americans
attempted to drink against fearful odds, and the result was
unfortunate. They returned sadly intoxicated and were unfit for social
or nautical duties until the next day.

When the Variag was at New York in 1863, many of her sailors were
entrapped by bounty-brokers. When sailors were missing after liberty
on shore, a search through the proper channels revealed them converted
into American soldiers, much against their will. Usually they were
found at New York, but occasionally a man reached the front before he
was rescued. Some returned to the ship dressed as zouaves, others as
artillerists; some in the yellow of cavalry, and so on through our
various uniforms. Of course they were greatly jeered by their
comrades.

Everyone conversant with Russian history knows that Peter the Great
went to England, and afterward to Holland, to study ship building. He
introduced naval construction from those countries, and brought from
Holland the men to manage his first ships and teach his subjects the
art of navigation. As a result of his enterprise, the principal parts
of a Russian ship have English or Dutch names, some words being
changed a little to adapt them to Russian pronunciation. The Dutch
navigators exerted great influence upon the nautical language of
Russia. To illustrate this Captain Lund said: "A Dutch pilot or
captain could come on my ship and his orders in his own language would
be understood by my crew. I mean simply the words of command, without
explanations. On the other hand, a Dutch crew could understand my
orders without suspecting they were Russian."

Sitting among the officers in the ward-room, I endeavored to accustom
my ear to the sound of the Russian language and learn to repeat the
most needed phrases. I soon acquired the alphabet, and could count up
to any extent; I could spell Russian words much as a schoolboy goes
through his 'first reader' exercise, but was unable to attain rapid
enunciation. I could never get over the impression that the Muscovite
type had been set up by a drunken printer who couldn't read. The R's
looked the wrong way, the L's stood bottom upward, H's became N's, and
C's were S's, and lower case and small caps were generally mixed up.
The perplexities of Russian youth must be greater than ours, as they
have thirty-six letters in their alphabet and every one of them must
be learned. A brief study of Slavonic verbs and nouns convinced me
they could never be acquired grammatically in the short time I
proposed remaining in Russia, and so I gave them up.

What a hindrance to a traveler and literal man of the world is this
confusion of tongues! There is no human being who can make himself
verbally understood everywhere on this little globe. In the Russian
empire alone there are more than a hundred spoken languages and
dialects. The emperor, with all his erudition, has many subjects with
whom he is unable to converse. What a misfortune to mankind that the
Tower of Babel was ever commenced! The architect who planned it should
receive the execration of all posterity.

The apartment I occupied was of goodly size, and contained a large
writing desk. My bed was parallel to the keel, and hung so that it
could swing when the ship rolled. Previous to my embarkation the room
was the receptacle of a quantity of chronometers, sextants, charts,
and other nautical apparatus. There were seventeen chronometers in
one box, and a few others lay around loose. I never had as much time
at my command before or since. Twice a day an officer came to wind
these chronometers and note their variation. There were marine
instruments enough in that room to supply a dozen sea-captains, but if
the entire lot had been loan'd me, I never could have ascertained the
ship's position without asking somebody who knew it.

[Illustration: PLENTY OF TIME.]

The partition separating me from the ward-room was built after the
completion of the ship, and had a way of creaking like a thousand or
more squeaky boots in simultaneous action. Every time we rolled, each
board rubbed against its neighbor and waked the echoes of the cabin.
The first time I slept in the room the partition seemed talking in
Russian, and I distinctly remember that it named a majority of the
cities and many noble families throughout the empire. After the first
night it was powerless to disturb me. I thought it possible that on
leaving the ship I might be in the condition of the woman, whose
husband, a fearful snorer, was suddenly called from home. The lady
passed several sleepless nights, until she hit upon the expedient of
calling a servant with the coffee mill. The vigorous grinding of that
household utensil had the effect of a powerful opiate.

At eight o'clock every morning, Yakuff, (the Russian for Jacob,)
brought me a pitcher of water. When my toilet was over, he appeared
with a cup of tea and a few cakes. We conversed in the beginning with
a sign language, until I picked up enough Russian to ask for tea,
water, bread, and other necessary things. At eleven we had breakfast
in the captain's cabin, where we discussed steaks, cutlets, tea, and
cigars, until nearly noon. Dinner at six o'clock was opened with the
never failing zakushka, or lunch, the universal preparative of the
empire, and closed with tea and cigars. At eight o'clock tea was
served again. After it, any one who chose could partake of the cup
which cheers and inebriates.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN OFFICERS AT MESS.]

One morning during my voyage a sailor died. The ocean burial occurred
on the following day, and was conducted according to the ceremonial of
the Eastern Church. At the appointed time, I went with Captain Lund to
the place of worship, between decks. The corpse was in a canvas
coffin, its head and breast being visible. The coffin, partially
covered with the naval ensign, lay on a wide plank about two feet
above the deck. At its head the priest was reading the burial service,
while near him there was a group of sailors forming the choir. Captain
Lund and several officers stood at the foot of the coffin, each
holding a burning taper.

The service lasted about twenty minutes, and consisted of reading by
the priest and responses by the choir. The censer was repeatedly
swung, as in Catholic ceremonials, the priest bowing at the same time
toward the sacred picture. Simultaneously all the candles were
extinguished, and their several men advanced and kissed a small cross
lying upon the coffin. The priest read a few lines from a written
paper and placed it with the cross on the breast of the corpse. The
coffin was then closed and carried upon the plank to the stern of the
ship.

After a final chant by the choir, one end of the plank was lifted, and
a single splash in the water showed where the body went down. During
the service the flag floated at half mast. It was soon lowered amid
appropriate music, which ended the burial at sea.

On the third day after leaving the Pacific we were shrouded in fog,
but with it we had a fine southerly breeze that carried us rapidly on
our course. The fog was so dense that we obtained no observation for
four days, but so accurate was the sailing master's computation that
the difference between our observed and estimated positions was less
than two miles.

When the fog rose we were fairly in Ghijiga Bay, a body of water
shaped like a narrow V. Sharp eyes looking ahead discovered a vessel
at anchor, and all hoped it was the Clara Bell. As we approached she
developed into a barque, and gave us comfort, till her flag completed
our delight. We threw the lead and began looking for anchorage.

Nine, eight, seven fathoms were successively reported, and for some
minutes the depth remained at six and a half. A mile from the Clara
Bell we dropped anchor, the ship trembling from, stem to stern as the
huge chain ran through the hawse-hole. We were at the end of a nine
days voyage.



CHAPTER VII.


We were fifteen miles from the mouth of Ghijiga river, the shoals
forbidding nearer approach. The tide rises twenty-two feet in Ghijiga
Bay, and to reach the lighthouse and settlement near the river, even
with small boats, it is necessary to go with the tide. We learned that
Major Abasa, of the Telegraph service, was at the light-house awaiting
our arrival, and that we must start before midnight to reach the
landing at the proper time.

Captain Lund ordered a huge box filled with provisions and other table
ware, and threw in a few bottles of wine as ballast. I was too old a
traveler to neglect my blankets and rubber coat, and found that
Anossoff was as cautious as myself.

We prolonged our tea-drinking to ten o'clock and then started.
Descending the ship's side was no easy matter. It was at least three
feet from the bottom of the gang-way ladder to the water, and the boat
was dancing on the chopping sea like a pea on a hot shovel. Captain
Lund descended first, followed by Anossoff. Then I made my effort, and
behind me was a grim Cossack. Just as I reached the lowest step a wave
swung the boat from the ship and left me hanging over the water. The
Cossack, unmindful of things below, was backing steadily toward my
head. I could not think of the Russian phrase for the occasion and was
in some dilemma how to act. I shouted 'Look out' with such emphasis
that the man understood me and halted with his heavy boots about two
inches above my face. Clinging to the side ropes and watching my
opportunity, I jumped at the right moment and happily hit the boat.
The Cossack jumped into the lap of a sailor and received a variety of
epithets for his carelessness. There are fourteen ways in the Russian
language of calling a man a ---- fool, and I think all of them were
used.

[Illustration: ASCENDING THE BAY.]

Wind and tide opposed each other and tossed us rather uncomfortably.
The waves breaking over the bow saturated the Cossack and sprinkled
some of the sailors. At the stern we managed to protect ourselves,
though we caught occasionally a few drops of spray. Wrapped in my
overcoat and holding a bear-skin on my knees, I studied the summer
night in that high northern latitude. At midnight it seemed like day
break, and I half imagined we had wrongly calculated the hours and
were later than we supposed. Between sunset and sunrise the twilight
crept along the horizon from Occident to Orient. Further north the
inhabitants of the Arctic circle were enjoying the light of their long
summer day. What a contrast to the bleak night of cold and darkness
that stretches with faint glimmerings of dawn through nearly half the
year. The shores of the bay were high perpendicular banks, sharply
cut like the bluffs at Vicksburg. There are several head-lands, but
none project far enough to form harbors behind them. The bottom
furnishes good anchoring ground, but the bay is quite open to
southerly winds.

Captain Lund dropped his chin to his breast and slept soundly.
Anossoff raised his coat collar and drew in his head like a tortoise
returning into his shell, but with all his efforts he did not sleep. I
was wakeful and found that time dragged slowly. The light-house had no
light and needed none, as the darkness was far from profound. In
approaching the mouth of the river we discovered a cluster of
buildings, and close at hand two beacons, like crosses, marking the
direction of the channel.

There was a little surf breaking along the beach as our keel touched
the ground. Our blankets came dripping from the bottom of the boat,
and my satchel had taken water enough to spoil my paper collars and a
dozen cigars. My greatest calamity on that night was the sudden and
persistent stoppage of my watch. An occurrence of little moment in New
York or London was decidedly unpleasant when no trusty watchmaker
lived within four thousand miles.

Major Abasa and the Ispravnik of Ghijiga escorted us from the landing
to their quarters, where we soon warmed ourselves with hot tea, and I
took opportunity and a couple of bearskins and went to sleep. Late in
the day we had a dinner of soup, pork and peas, reindeer meat, and
berry pudding. The deer's flesh was sweet and tender, with a flavor
like that of the American elk.

In this part of Siberia there are many wide plains (_tundras_) covered
with moss and destitute of trees. The blueberry grows there, but is
less abundant than the "maroska," a berry that I never saw in America.
It is yellow when ripe, has an acid flavor, and resembles the
raspberry in shape and size. We ate the maroska in as many forms as it
could be prepared, and they told us that it grew in Scotland,
Scandinavia, and Northern Russia.

[Illustration: TAKING THE CENSUS.]

The ordinary residents at the mouth of Ghijiga river were the pilot
and his family, with three or four Cossacks to row boats on the bay.
The natives of the vicinity came there occasionally, but none were
permanent citizens. The arrival of the Variag and Clara Bell gave
unusual activity to the settlement, and the Ispravnik might have
returned a large population had he imitated the practice of those
western towns that take their census during the stay of a railway
train or a steamboat. There was once, according to a rural historian,
an aspiring politician in Tennessee who wanted to go to Congress.
There were not inhabitants enough in his district to send him, and so
he placed a couple of his friends at the railway station to take the
names of passengers as they visited the refreshment saloon and entered
or left the depot. In a short time the requisite constituency was
secured and sworn to, so that the aspirant for official honor
accomplished the wish of his heart.

[Illustration: LIGHT-HOUSE AT GHIJIGA.]

The light-house on the promontory is a hexagonal edifice ten feet in
diameter and height; it is of logs and has a flat top covered with
dirt, whereon to kindle a fire. The interior is entered by a low door,
and I found it floored with two sticks of wood and a mud puddle. One
could reach the top by climbing a sloping pole notched like an
American fence-post. The pilot resides at the foot of the bluff, and
is expected to visit this beacon daily. A cannon, old enough to have
served at Pultawa, stands near the light-house, in a condition of
utter helplessness.

The houses were furnished quite primitively. Beds were of bearskins
and blankets, and the floor was the only bedstead. There were rustic
tables of hewn boards, and benches without backs. In a storehouse
there was a Fairbanks' scale, somewhat worn and rusty, and I found a
tuneless melodeon from Boston and a coffee mill from New York.

The town of Ghijiga is on the bank of the river, twelve miles from the
light-house, and the route thither was overland or by water, at one's
choice. Overland there was a footpath crossing a hill and a wet
tundra. The journey by water was upon the Ghijiga river; five versts
of rowing and thirteen of towing by men or dogs. As it was impossible
to hire a horse, I repudiated the overland route altogether, and tried
a brief journey on the river, but could not reach the town and return
in time for certain engagements. Ghijiga has a population of less
than three hundred, and closely resembles Petropavlovsk. Two or three
foreign merchants go there annually with goods to exchange for furs
which the Russian traders gather. The inhabitants are Russians or half
breeds, the former predominating. The half breeds are said to possess
all the vices of both races with the virtues of neither.

Mr. Bilzukavitch, the Ispravnik of Ghijiga, was a native of Poland,
and governed seventy-two thousand square miles of territory, with a
population of sixteen hundred taxed males. His military force
comprised thirty Cossacks with five muskets, of which three were
unserviceable. The native tribes included in the district of Ghijiga
are the Koriaks and Chukchees; the Koriaks readily pay tribute and
acknowledge the Russian authority, but the Chukchees are not yet
fairly subdued. They were long in open war with the Russians, and
though peace is now established, many of them are not tributary. Those
who visit the Russian towns are compelled to pay tribute and become
Imperial subjects before selling or purchasing goods. The Ispravnik is
an artist of unusual merit, as evinced by an album of his sketches
illustrating life in Northern Siberia. Some of them appeared like
steel engravings, and testified to the skill and patience of the man
who made them.

On my second day at Ghijiga I tried a river journey with a dog team.
The bottom of the boat was on the 'dug-out' principle, and the sides
were two planks meeting in sharp and high points at the ends. I had a
seat on some bearskins on the plank flooring, and found it reasonably
comfortable. One man steered the boat, another in the bow managed the
towline, and a third, who walked on land, drove the dogs. We had seven
canines--three pairs and a leader--pulling upon a deerskin towline
fastened to a thole-pin. It was the duty of the man in the bow to
regulate the towline according to circumstances. The dogs were
unaccustomed to their driver, and balky in consequence. Two of them
refused to pull when we started, and remained obstinate until
persuaded with sticks. The driver used neither reins nor whip, but
liberally employed the drift wood along the banks. Clubs were trumps
in that day's driving. The team was turned to the left by a guttural
sound that no paper and ink can describe, and to the right by a rapid
repetition of the word 'ca.'

[Illustration: TOWED BY DOGS]

Occasionally the path changed from one bank to the opposite. At such
times we seated the dogs in the bow of the boat and ferried them over
the river. In the boat they were generally quiet, though inclined to
bite each other's legs at convenient opportunities. One muddy dog
shook himself over me; I forgave him, but his driver did not, the
innocent brute receiving several blows for making his toilet in
presence of passengers.

The Koriaks have a habit of sacrificing dogs to obtain a fortunate
fishery. The animals are hung on limbs of trees, and the sacrifice
always includes the best. Major Abasa urged them to give only their
worthless dogs to the evil spirit, assuring them the fishery would
result just as well, and they promised to try the experiment. Dogs
were scarce and expensive in consequence of a recent canine epidemic.
Only a day before our arrival three dogs developed hydrophobia and
were killed.

The salmon fishery was very poor in 1866, and the inhabitants of the
Ghijiga district were relying upon catching seals in the autumn. At
Kolymsk, on the Kolyma river, the authorities require every man to
catch one-tenth more than enough for his own use. This surplus is
placed in a public storehouse and issued in case of famine. It is the
rule to keep a three years supply always at hand. Several seasons of
scarcity led to the adoption of the plan.

We were frequently visited by the natives from a Koriak village near
the light-house. Their dress was of deer skin, and comprised a
kotlanka, or frock, pantaloons, and boots, or leggings. Winter
garments are of deer skin with its hair remaining, but summer clothing
is of dressed skins alone. These natives appear below the ordinary
stature, and their legs seemed to me very small. Ethnologists are
divided concerning the origin of the Koriaks, some assigning them to
the Mongol race and others to the Esquimaux. The Koriaks express no
opinion on the disputed point, and have none.

Both sexes dress alike, and wear ornaments of beads in their ears.
They have a curious custom of shaving the back part of the head, _a la
moine_. Fashion is as arbitrary among the Koriaks as in Paris or New
York, and dictates the cut of garments and the style of hair dressing
with unyielding severity.

Like savages everywhere, these natives manifest a fondness for
civilized attire. A party visited the Clara Bell and obtained some
American clothing. One man sported a cast-off suit, in which he
appeared as uneasy as an organ grinder's monkey in a new coat. Another
wore a sailor's jacket from the Variag, and sported the number '19'
with manifest pride. A third had a fatigue cap, bearing the letters
'U.S.' in heavy brass, the rest of his costume being thoroughly
aboriginal. One old fellow had converted an empty meat can into a hat
without removing the printed label "stewed beef." I gave him a pair of
dilapidated gloves, which he donned at once.

The Koriaks are of two kinds, wandering and settled. The wanderers
have great numbers of reindeer, and lead a migratory life in finding
pasturage for their herds. The settled Koriaks are those who have lost
their deer and been forced to locate where they can subsist by
fishing. The former are kind and hospitable; the latter generally the
reverse. Poverty has made them selfish, as it has made many a white
man. All are honest to a degree unusual among savages. When Major
Abasa traveled among them in the winter of 1865, they sometimes
refused compensation for their services, and were scrupulously careful
to guard the property of their guests. Once the Major purposely left
some trivial articles. The next day a native brought them forward, and
was greatly astonished when pay was offered for his trouble.

"This is your property," was the response; "we could not keep it in
our tents, and it was our duty to bring it to you."

The wandering Koriaks estimate property in deer as our Indians count
in horses. It is only among the thousands that wealth is eminently
respectable. Some Koriaks own ten or twelve thousand deer, and one
fortunate native is the possessor of forty thousand in his own name,
(O-gik-a-mu-tik.) Though the wealthiest of his tribe, he does not
drive fast horses, and never aspired to a seat in Congress. How much
he has missed of real life!

Reindeer form the circulating medium, and all values are expressed in
this four-footed currency. The animal supplies nearly every want. They
eat his meat and pick his bones, and not only devour the meat, but the
stomach, entrails, and their contents. When they stew the mass of meat
and half digested moss, the stench is disgusting. Captain Kennan told
me that when he arrived among the Koriaks the peculiar odor made him
ill, and he slept out of doors with the thermometer at -35° rather
than enter a tent where cooking was in progress.

[Illustration: KORIAK YOURT.]

The Koriaks build their summer dwellings of light poles covered with
skin, or bark. Their winter habitations are of logs covered with earth
and partly sunk into the ground, the crevices being filled with moss.
The summer dwellings are called _balagans_, and the winter ones
_yourts_, but the latter name is generally applied to both. A winter
yourt has a hole in the top, which serves for both chimney and door.
The ladder for the descent is a hewn stick, with holes for one's feet,
and leans directly over the fire. Whatever the outside temperature,
the yourt is suffocatingly hot within, and no fresh air can enter
except through the top. When a large fire is burning and a thick
volume of smoke pours out, the descent is very disagreeable. Russians
and other white men, even after long practice, never attempt it
without a shudder.

The yourt is generally circular or oblong, and its size is
proportioned to the family of the owner. The fire is in the center,
and the sleeping apartments are ranged around the walls. These
apartments, called 'polags,' are about six feet square and four or
five high, partitioned with light poles and skin curtains. Owing to
the high temperature the natives sleep entirely naked. Sometimes in
the coldest nights their clothing is hung out of doors to rid it of
certain parasites not unknown in civilization. Benumbed with, frost,
the insects lose their hold and fall into the snow, to the great
comfort of those who nursed and fed them. The body of a Koriak,
considered as a microcosm, is remarkably well inhabited.

Captain Kennan gave me a graphic description of the Koriak marriage
ceremonial. The lover must labor for the loved one's father, not less
than one nor more than five years. No courtship is allowed during this
period, and the young man must run the risk of his love being
returned. The term of service is fixed by agreement between the stern
parent and the youth.

At an appointed day the family and friends are assembled in a yourt,
the old women being bridesmaids. The bride is placed in one polag and
the bridegroom in the next. At a given signal a race commences, the
bride leading. Each must enter every polag, and the man must catch his
prize in a specified way before she makes the circuit of the yourt.

The bridesmaids, armed with long switches, offer every assistance to
the woman and equal hindrance to the man. For her they lift the
curtains of the polags, but hold them down against her pursuer and
pound him with their switches. Unless she stops voluntarily it is
utterly impossible to overtake her within the circuit. If she is not
overtaken the engagement is 'off,' and the man must retire or serve
again for the privilege of another love chase. Generally the pursuit
is successful; the lover doubtless knows the temper of the lovee
before becoming her father's apprentice. But coquettes are not
unknown in Koriakdom, and the pursuing youths are sometimes left in
the lurch--or the polags.

Should the lover overtake the maiden, before making the circuit, both
remain seven days and nights in a polag. Their food is given them
under the curtain during that period, and they cannot emerge for any
purpose whatever. The bridesmaids then perform a brief but touching
ceremonial, and the twain are pronounced one flesh.

Northeast of Ghijiga is the country of the Chukchees, a people
formerly hostile to the Koriaks. The feuds are not entirely settled,
but the ill feeling has diminished and both parties maintain a
dignified reserve. The Chukchees are hunters and traders, and have
large herds of reindeer but very few dogs. They are the most warlike
of these northern races, and long held the Russians at bay. They go
far from shore with their _baydaras_, or seal skin boats, visiting
islands along the coast, and frequently crossing to North America.
Their voyages are of a mercantile character, the Chukchee buying at
the Russian towns and selling his goods among the Esquimaux.

At Ghijiga I made a short voyage in a baydara. The frame appeared very
fragile, and the seal skin covering displayed several leaks. I was
unwilling to risk myself twenty feet from land, but after putting me
ashore the Koriak boatman pulled fearlessly into the bay.

The Chukchee trader has a crew of his own race to paddle his light
canoe. Occasionally the baydaras are caught in storms and must be
lightened. I have the authority of Major Abasa that in such case the
merchant keeps his cargo and throws overboard his crew. Goods and furs
are costly, but men are cheap and easily replaced. The crew is
entirely reconciled to the state of affairs, and drowns itself with
that resignation known only to pagans.

"But," I asked, "do not the men object to this kind of jettison?"

"I believe not," was the major's reply; "they are only discharging
their duty to their employer. They go over the side just as they would
step from an over-laden sledge."

[Illustration: DISCHARGING A DECK LOAD.]

I next inquired if the trader did not first throw out the men to whom
he was most indebted, but could not obtain information on that point.
It is probable that with an eye to business he disposes promptly of
his creditors and keeps debtors to the last. What a magnificent system
of squaring accounts!

The Chukchees have mingled much with whalemen along Anadyr Bay and the
Arctic Ocean, and readily adopt the white man's vices. They drink
whisky without fear, and will get very drunk if permitted. When
Captain Macrae's telegraph party landed at the mouth of the Anadyr the
natives supposed the provision barrels were full of whisky, and became
very importunate for something to drink. The captain made a mixture of
red pepper and vinegar, which he palmed off as the desired article.
All were pleased with it, and the hotter it was the better.

One native complained that its great heat burned the skin from his
throat before he could swallow enough to secure intoxication. The fame
of this whisky was wide-spread. Captain Kennan said he heard at
Anadyrsk and elsewhere of its wonderful strength, and was greatly
amused when he arrived at Macrae's and heard the whole story.

Many of these natives have learned English from whalemen and speak
enough to be understood. Gov. Bilzukavitch visited Anadyrsk in the
spring of 1866, and met there a Chukchee chief. Neither spoke the
other's language, and so the governor called his Koriak servant. The
same dilemma occurred, as each was ignorant of the other's vernacular.
There was an awkward pause until it was discovered that both Koriak
and Chukchee could speak English. Business then proceeded without
difficulty.

[Illustration: REINDEER RIDE.]

Among the Chukchees a deer can be purchased for a pound of tobacco,
but the price increases as one travels southward. With the Koriaks it
is four or five roubles, at Ohotsk ten or fifteen, and on the banks of
the Amoor not often less than fifty. South of the Amoor the reindeer
is not a native. I am inclined to discredit marry stories of the
wonderful swiftness of this animal. He sometimes performs remarkable
journeys, but ordinarily he is outstripped by a good dog team.
Reindeer have the advantage of finding their food under the snow,
while provision for dogs must be carried on the sledge. When turned
out in winter, the deer digs beneath the snow and seeks his food
without troubling his master. The American sailors when they have
liberty on shore in these northern regions, invariably indulge in
reindeer rides, to the disgust of the animals and their owners. The
deer generally comes to a halt in the first twenty yards, and nothing
less than building a fire beneath him can move him from his tracks.

There is a peculiar mushroom in Northeastern Siberia spotted like a
leopard and surmounted with a small hood. It grows in other parts of
Russia, where it is poisonous, but among the Koriaks it is simply
intoxicating. When one finds a mushroom of this kind he can sell it
for three or four reindeer. So powerful is this fungus that the
fortunate native who eats it remains drunk for several days. By a
process of transmission which I will not describe, as it might offend
fastidious persons, half a dozen individuals may successively enjoy
the effects of a single mushroom, each of them in a less degree than
his predecessor.

Like savages every where, these northern natives are greatly pleased
with pictures and study them attentively. I heard that several copies
of American illustrated papers were circulating among the Chukchees,
who handled them with great care. There is a superstitious reverence
for pictures mingled with childlike curiosity. People possessing no
written language find the pictorial representations of the civilized
world the nearest approach to savage hieroglyphics.

The telegraph was an object of great wonder to all the natives. In
Ghijiga a few hundred yards of wire were put up in the spring of 1866.
Crowds gathered to see the curiosity, and many messages were exchanged
to prove that the machine really spoke. At Anadyrsk Captain Kennan
arranged a small battery and held in his pocket the key that
controlled the circuit. Then the marvel began. The instrument told
when persons entered or left the room, when any thing was taken from
the table without permission, or any impropriety committed. Even
covered with a piece of deer skin, it could see distinctly. With the
human tendency to ascribe to the devil anything not understood, these
natives looked upon the telegraph as supernatural. As it showed no
desire to harm them, they exhibited no fear but abundance of respect.

The Chukchees and Koriaks are creditable workers in metals and ivory.
I saw animal representations rudely but well cut in ivory, and
spear-heads that would do credit to any blacksmith. Their hunting
knives, made from hoop-iron, are well fashioned, and some of the
handles are tastefully inlaid with copper, brass, and silver. In
trimming their garments they are very skillful, and cut bits of
deerskin into various fantastic shapes.

At Ghijiga I bought a kotlanka, intending to wear it in my winter
travel. Its sleeves were purposely very long, and the hood had a wide
fringe of dogskin to shield the face. I could never put the thing on
with ease, and ultimately sold it to a curiosity hunter. Gloves and
mittens, lined with squirrel skin, are made at Ghijiga, and worn in
all the region within a thousand miles.

A great hindrance to winter travel in Northeastern Siberia is the
prevalence of _poorgas_, or snow storms with wind. On the bleak
tundras where there is no shelter, the poorgas sweep with pitiless
severity. Some last but a few hours, with the thermometer ten or
twenty degrees below zero. Sometimes the wind takes up whole masses of
snow and forms drifts several feet deep in a few moments. Travelers,
dogs, and sledges are frequently buried out of sight, and remain in
the snow till the storm is over.

Dogs begin to howl at the approach of a poorga, long before men can
see any indication of it. They display a tendency to burrow in the
snow if the wind is cold and violent. Poorgas do not occur at regular
intervals, but are most prevalent in February and March.

A few years ago a party of Koriaks crossing the great tundra north of
Kamchatka encountered a severe storm. It was of unusual violence, and
soon compelled a halt. Dogs and men burrowed into the snow to wait the
end of the gale. Unfortunately they halted in a wide hollow that,
unperceived by the party, filled with a deep drift. The snow contains
so much air that it is not difficult to breathe in it at a
considerable depth, and the accumulation of a few feet is not
alarming. Hour after hour passed, and the place grew darker, till two
men of the party thought it well to look outside. Digging to the
surface, the depth proved much greater than expected.

Quite exhausted with their labor, they gained the open air, and found
the storm had not ceased. Alarmed for their companions they tried to
reach them, but the hole where they ascended was completely filled.
The snow drifted rapidly, and they were obliged to change their
position often to keep near the surface. When the poorga ended they
estimated it had left fifty feet of snow in that spot.

Again endeavoring to rescue their companions, and in their weak
condition finding it impossible, they sought the nearest camp. In the
following summer the remains of men and dogs were found where the
melting snow left them. They had huddled close together, and probably
perished from suffocation.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE, REINDEER]



CHAPTER VIII.


We remained four days at Ghijiga and then sailed for Ohotsk. For two
days we steamed to get well out of the bay, and then stopped the
engines aird depended upon canvas. A boy who once offered a dog for
sale was asked the breed of the pup.

"He _was_ a pointer," replied the youth; "but father cut off his ears
and tail last week and made a bull-dog of him."

Lowering the chimney and hoisting the screw, the Yariag became a
sailing ship, though her steaming propensities remained, just as the
artificial bull-dog undoubtedly retained the pointer instinct. The
ship had an advantage over the animal in her ability to resume her old
character at pleasure.

On the fourth day, during a calm, we were surrounded by sea-gulls like
those near San Francisco. We made deep sea soundings and obtained
specimens of the bottom from depths of two or three hundred fathoms.
Near the entrance of Ghijiga Bay we brought up coral from eighty
fathoms of water, and refuted the theory that coral grows only in the
tropics and at a depth of less than two hundred feet. The specimens
were both white and red, resembling the moss-like sprigs often seen in
museums. The temperature of the water was 47° Fahrenheit. Captain Lund
told me coral had been found in the Ohotsk sea in latitude 55° in a
bed of considerable extent.

Every day when calm we made soundings, which were carefully recorded
for the use of Russian chart makers. Once we found that the
temperature of the bottom at a depth of two hundred fathoms, was at
the freezing point of water. The doctor proposed that a bottle of
champagne should be cooled in the marine refrigerator. The bottle was
attached to the lead and thrown overboard.

"I send champagne to Neptune," said the doctor. "He drink him and he
be happy."

When the lead returned to the surface it came alone. Neptune drank the
champagne and retained the bottle as a souvenir.

One day the sailors caught a gull and painted it red. When the bird
was released he greatly alarmed his companions, and as long as we
could see them, they shunned his society. At least eighty miles from
land we had a dozen sparrows around us at once. A small hawk seized
one of these birds and seated himself on a spar for the purpose of
breakfasting. A fowling piece brought him to the deck, where we
examined and pronounced him of the genus _Falco_, species _NISUS_, or
in plain English, a sparrow hawk. During the day we saw three
varieties of small birds, one of them resembling the American robin.
The sailors caught two in their hands, and released them without
injury.

Approaching Ohotsk a fog bank shut out the land for an hour or two,
and when it lifted we discovered the harbor. A small sand-bar
intervened between the ocean and the town, but did not intercept the
view. As at Petropavlovsk, the church was the most prominent object
and formed an excellent landmark. With my glass I surveyed the line of
coast where the surf was breaking, but was long unable to discover an
entering place. The Ohota river is the only harbor, and entirely
inaccessible to a ship like the Variag.

Descending the ship's side after we anchored, I jumped when the boat
was falling and went down five or six feet before alighting. Both
hands were blistered as the gang-way ropes passed through them.
Keeping the beacons carefully in line, we rolled over the bar on the
top of a high wave, and then followed the river channel to the
landing.

Many years ago Ohotsk was the most important Russian port on the
waters leading to the Pacific. Supplies for Kamchatka and Russian
America were brought overland from Yakutsk and shipped to
Petropavlovsk, Sitka, and other points under Russian control. Many
ships for the Pacific Ocean and Ohotsk sea were built there. I was
shown the spot where Bering's vessel was constructed, with its cordage
and extra sails of deerskin, and its caulking of moss. Billings'
expedition in a ship called Russia's Glory, was organized here for an
exploration of the Arctic ocean. At one time the Government had
foundries and workshops at Ohotsk. The shallowness of water on the bar
was a great disadvantage, as ships drawing more than twelve feet were
unable to enter. Twenty years ago the government abandoned Ohotsk for
Ayan, and when the Amoor was opened it gave up the latter place. The
population, formerly exceeding two thousand, is now less than two
hundred.

We landed on a gravelly beach, where we were met by a crowd of
Cossacks and "Lamuti." The almond-shaped eyes and high cheek bones of
the latter betray their Mongolian origin. As I walked among them each
hailed me with _sdrastveteh_, the Russian for 'good-morning.' I
endeavored to reply with the same word, but my pronunciation was far
from accurate. Near these natives there were several Yakuts and
Tunguze, with physiognomies unlike the others. The Russian empire
contains more races of men than any rival government, and we
frequently find the population of a single locality made up from two
or more branches of the human family. In this little town with not
more than ten or twelve dozens of inhabitants, there were
representatives of the Slavonic, the Tartar, and the Mongolian races.

We found Captain Mahood, of the Telegraph service, in a quiet
residence, where he had passed the summer in comparitive idleness. He
had devoted himself to exploring the country around Ohotsk and
studying the Russian language. "We don't expect to starve at present,"
said the captain; "Providence sends us fish, the emperor sends us
flour, and the merchants furnish tea and sugar. We have lived so long
on a simple bill of fare that we are almost unfitted for any other."

We had a lunch of dried fish, tea, whisky, and cigars, and soon after
went to take tea at a house where most of the Variag's officers were
assembled. The house was the property of three brothers, who conducted
the entire commerce of Ohotsk. The floor of the room where we were
feasted was of hewn plank, fastened with enormous nails, and appeared
able to resist anything short of an earthquake. The windows were
double to keep out the winter's cold, but on that occasion they
displayed a profusion of flower pots. The walls were papered, and many
pictures were hung upon them. Every part of the room was scrupulously
clean.

[Illustration: WAGON RIDE WITH DOGS.]

Three ladies were seated on a sofa, and a fourth occupied a chair near
them. The three were the wives of the merchant brothers, and the
fourth a visiting friend. One with black eyes and hair was dressed
tastefully and even elaborately. The eldest, who acted as hostess, was
in black, and her case in receiving visitors would have done credit to
a society dame in St. Petersburg. By way of commencement we had tea
and _nalifka_, the latter a kind of currant wine of local manufacture
and very well flavored. They gave us corned beef and bread, each
person taking his plate upon his knee as at an American pic-nic, and
after two or three courses of edibles we had coffee and cigarettes,
the latter from a manufactory at Yakutsk. According to Russian
etiquette each of us thanked the hostess for her courtesy.

Out in the broad street there were many dogs lying idle in the
sunshine or biting each other. A small wagon with a team of nine dogs
carried a quantity of tea and sugar from the Variag's boats to a
warehouse. When the work was finished I took a ride on the wagon, and
was carried at good speed. I enjoyed the excursion until the vehicle
upset and left me sprawling on the gravel with two or three bruises
and a prejudice against that kind of traveling. By the time I gained
my feet the dogs were disappearing in the distance, and fairly running
away from the driver. Possibly they are running yet.

An old weather beaten church and equally old barracks are near each
other, an appropriate arrangement in a country where church and state
are united. The military garrison includes thirty Cossacks, who are
under the orders of the Ispravnik. They row the pilot boat when
needed, travel on courier or other service, guard the warehouses, and
when not wanted by government labor and get drunk for themselves. The
governor was a native of Poland, and it struck me as a curious fact
that the ispravniks of Kamchatka, Ghijiga, and Ohotsk were Poles.

Cows and dogs are the only stock maintained at Ohotsk. The former live
on grass in summer, and on hay and fish in whiter. Though repeatedly
told that cows and horses in Northeastern Siberia would eat dried fish
with avidity, I was inclined to skepticism. Captain Mahood told me he
had seen them eating fish in winter and appearing to thrive on it.
What was more singular, he had seen a cow eating fresh salmon in
summer when the hills were covered with grass.

There is a story that Cuvier in a fit of illness, once imagined His
Satanic Majesty standing before him.

"Ah!" said the great naturalist, "horns, hoofs; graniverous; needn't
fear him."

I wonder if Cuvier knew the taste of the cows at Ohotsk? No ship had
visited Ohotsk for nearly a year before our arrival, though half a
dozen whalers had passed in sight. A steamer goes annually from the
Amoor with a supply of flour and salt on government account. The mail
comes once a year, so that the postmaster has very little to do for
three hundred and sixty-four days. Sometimes the mail misses, and then
people must wait another twelvemonth for their letters. What a nice
residence it would be for a young man whose sweetheart at a distance
writes him every day. He would get three hundred and sixty-five
letters at once, and in the case of a missing mail, seven hundred and
thirty of them.

[Illustration: YEARLY MAIL.]

Bears are quite numerous around Ohotsk, and their dispositions do not
savor of gentleness. Only a few days before our visit a native was
partly devoured within two miles of town.

Many of the dogs are shrewd enough to catch their own fish, but have
not learned how to cure them for winter use. When at Ohotsk I went to
the bank of the river as the tide was coming in, and watched the dogs
at their work. Wading on the sand bars and mud flats till the water
was almost over their backs, they stood like statues for several
minutes. Waiting till a salmon was fairly within reach, a dog would
snap at him with such accuracy of aim that he rarely missed.

I kept my eye on a shaggy brute that stood with little more than his
head out of water. His eyes were in a fixed position, and for twelve
or fifteen minutes he did not move a muscle. Suddenly his head
disappeared, and after a brief struggle he came to shore with a
ten-pound salmon in his jaws. None of the cows are skilled in salmon
catching.

[Illustration: DOGS FISHING.]

Two or three years ago a mail carrier from Ayan to Yakutsk was visited
by a bear during a night halt. The mail bag was lying by a tree a few
steps from the Cossack, and near the bank of a brook. The bear seized
and opened the pouch, regardless of the government seal on the
outside. After turning the letter package several times in his paws,
he tossed it into the brook. The Cossack discharged his pistol to
frighten the bear, and then fished the letters from the water. It is
proper to say the package was addressed to an officer somewhat famous
for his bear-hunting proclivities.

When we left Ohotsk at the close of day, we took Captain Mahood and
the governor to dine with us, and when our guests departed we hoisted
anchor and steamed away. Captain Lund burned a blue light as a
farewell signal, and we could see an answering fire on shore. Our
course lay directly southward, and when our light was extinguished we
were barely visible through the distance and gloom.

"But true to our course, though our shadow grow dark,
  We'll trim our broad sail as before;
And stand by the rudder that governs the bark,
  Nor ask how we look from the shore."



CHAPTER IX.


On the Ohotsk Sea we had calms with light winds, and made very slow
progress. One day while the men were exercising at the guns, the look
out reported a sail. We were just crossing the course from Ayan to
Ghijiga, and were in the Danzig's track. The strange vessel shortened
sail and stood to meet us, and before long we were satisfied it was
our old acquaintance. At sunset we were several miles apart and
nearing very slowly. The night was one of the finest I ever witnessed
at sea; the moon full and not a cloud visible, and the wind carrying
us four or five miles an hour. The brig was lying to, and we passed
close under her stern, shortening our sail as we approached her.
Everybody was on deck and curious to learn the news.

"SDRASTVETEH," shouted Captain Lund when we were in hearing distance.

"SDRASTVETEH," responded the clear voice of Phillipeus; and then
followed the history of the Danzig's voyage.

"We had a good voyage to Ayan, and staid there four days. We are five
days out, and passed through a heavy gale on the second day. Going to
Ghijiga."

Then we replied with the story of our cruise and asked for news from
Europe.

"War in progress. France and Austria against Prussia, Italy, and
Russia. No particulars."

By this time the ships were separated and our conversation ended. It
was conducted in Russian, but I knew enough of the language to
comprehend what was said. There was a universal "eh!" of astonishment
as the important sentence was completed.

Here were momentous tidings; France and Russia taking part in a war
that was not begun when I left America. A French fleet was in Japanese
waters and might be watching for us. It had two ships, either of them
stronger than the Variag.

As the Danzig disappeared we went below. "I hoped to go home at the
end of this voyage," said the captain as we seated around his table;
"but we must now remain in the Pacific. War has come and may give us
glory or the grave; possibly both."

For an hour we discussed the intelligence and the probabilities of its
truth. As we separated, Captain Lund repeated with emphasis his
opinion that the news was false.

"I do not believe it," said he; "but I must prepare for any
emergency."

In the wardroom the officers were exultant over the prospect of
promotion and prize money. The next day the men were exercised at the
guns, and for the rest of the voyage they could not complain of ennui.
The deck was cleared of all superfluous rubbish, and we were ready for
a battle. The shotted case for the signal books was made ready, and
other little preparations attended to. I seemed carried back to my
days of war, and had vivid recollections of being stormed at with shot
and shell.

From Ohotsk to the mouth of the Amoor is a direct course of about four
hundred miles. A light draught steamer would have made short work of
it, but we drew too much water to enter the northern passage. So we
were forced to sail through La Perouse Straits and up the Gulf of
Tartary to De Castries Bay. The voyage was more than twelve hundred
miles in length, and had several turnings. It was like going from New
York to Philadelphia through Harrisburg, or from Paris to London
through Brussels and Edinboro'.

A good wind came to our relief and took us rapidly through La Perouse
straits. There is a high rock in the middle of the passage covered
with sea-lions, like those near San Francisco. In nearly all weather
the roaring of these creatures can be heard, and is a very good
substitute for a fog-bell. I am not aware that any government allows a
subsidy to the sea-lions.

We saw the northern coast of Japan and the southern end of Sakhalin,
both faint and shadowy in the fog and distance. The wind freshened to
a gale, and we made twelve knots an hour under double reefed mainsails
and topsails. In the narrow straits we escaped the heavy waves
encountered at sea in a similar breeze. Turning at right angles in the
Gulf of Tartary, we began to roll until walking was no easy matter.
The wind abated so that by night we shook out our reefs and spread the
royals and to'gallant sails to keep up our speed.

As we approached De Castries the question of war was again discussed.

"If I find only one French ship there," said the captain, "I shall
proceed. If there are two I cannot fight them, and must run to San
Francisco or some other neutral port."

Just then San Francisco was the last place I desired to visit, but I
knew I must abide the fortunes of war. We talked of the possibility of
convincing a French captain that we were engaged in an international
enterprise, and therefore not subject to capture. Anossoff joined me
in arranging a plan to cover contingencies.

As we approached De Castries we could see the spars of a large ship
over the islands at the entrance of the harbor. A moment later she was
announced.

"A corvette, with steam up."

She displayed her flag--an English one. As we dropped anchor in the
harbor a boat came to us, and an officer mounted the side and
descended to the cabin. The ship proved to be the British Corvette
Scylla, just ready to sail for Japan. Escaping her we did not
encounter Charybdis. The mission of the Scylla was entirely pacific,
and her officer informed us there had been war between Prussia and
Austria, but at last accounts all Europe was at peace. The war of
1866 was finished long before I knew of its commencement.

De Castries Bay is on the Gulf of Tartary, a hundred and thirty-five
miles from Nicolayevsk. La Perouse discovered and surveyed it in 1787,
and named it in honor of the French Minister of Marine. It is in Lat.
51° 28' N., Lon. 140° 49' E., and affords good and safe anchorage.
Near the entrance are several islands, which protect ships anchored
behind them. The largest of these islands is occupied as a warehouse
and coal depot, and has an observatory and signal station visible from
the Gulf. The town is small, containing altogether less than fifty
buildings. It is a kind of ocean port to Nicolayevsk and the Amoor
river, but the settlement was never a flourishing one.

Twelve miles from the landing is the end of Lake Keezee, which opens
into the Amoor a hundred and fifty miles from its mouth. It was
formerly the custom to send couriers by way of Lake Keezee and the
Amoor to Nicolayevsk to notify consigners and officials of the arrival
of ships. Now the telegraph is in operation and supercedes the
courier.

In 1855 an English fleet visited De Castries in pursuit of some
Russian vessels known to have ascended the Gulf. When the fleet came
in sight there were four Russian ships in port, and a few shots were
exchanged, none of them taking effect. During a heavy fog in the
following night and day the Russians escaped and ascended the Straits
of Tartary toward the Amoor. The Aurora, the largest of these ships,
threw away her guns, anchors, and every heavy article, and succeeded
in entering the Amoor. The English lay near De Castries, and could not
understand where the Russians had gone, as the southern entrance of
the Amoor was then unknown to geographers.

We reached this port on the morning of September eleventh. The Variag
could go no further owing to her draft of water, but fortunately the
Morje, a gunboat of the Siberian fleet, was to sail for Nicolayevsk at
noon, and we were happily disappointed in our expectations of waiting
several days at De Castries. About eleven o'clock I left the Variag
and accompanied Captain Lund, the doctor, and Mr. Anassoff into the
boat dancing at the side ladder. Half an hour after we boarded the
Morje she was under way, and we saw the officers and men of the
corvette waving us farewell.

The Morje drew eight feet of water, and was admirably adapted to the
sea coast service. There were several vessels of this class in the
Siberian fleet, and their special duty was to visit the ports of
Kamchatka, North Eastern Siberia, and Manjouria, and act as tow boats
along the Straits of Tartary. The officers commanding them are sent
from Russia, and generally remain ten years in this service. At the
end of that time, if they wish to retire they can do so and receive
half-pay for the rest of their lives. This privilege is not granted to
officers in other squadrons, and is given on the Siberian station in
consequence of the severer duties and the distance from the centers of
civilization.

In its military service the government makes inducements of pay and
promotion to young officers who go to Siberia. I frequently met
officers who told me they had sought appointments in the Asiatic
department in preference to any other. The pay and allowances are
better than in European Russia, promotion is more rapid, and the
necessities of life are generally less costly. Duties are more onerous
and privations are greater, but these drawbacks are of little
consequence to an enterprising and ambitious soldier.

The Morje had no accommodations for passengers, and the addition to
her complement was something serious. Captain Lund, the doctor, Mr.
Anassoff, and myself were guests of her captain. The cabin was given
to us to arrange as best we could. My proposal to sleep under the
table was laughed at as impracticable. I knew what I was about, having
done the same thing years before on Mississippi steamers. When you
must sleep on the floor where people may walk about, always get under
the table if possible. You run less risk of receiving boot heels in
your mouth and eyes, and whole acres of brogans in your ribs. The
navigation of the Straits of Tartary is very intricate, the water
being shallow and the channel tortuous. From De Castries to Cape
Catherine there is no difficulty, but beyond the cape the channel
winds like the course of the Ohio, and at many points bends quite
abruptly. The government has surveyed and buoyed it with considerable
care, so that a good pilot can take a light draught steamer from De
Castries to Nicolayevsk in twelve or fifteen hours. Sailing ships are
greatly retarded by head winds and calms, and often spend weeks on the
voyage. In 1857 Major Collins was nineteen days on the barque Bering
from one of these ports to the other.

[Illustration: TEACHINGS OF EXPERIENCE.]

In the straits we passed four vessels, one of them thirty days from De
Castries and only half through the worst of the passage. The water
shoals so rapidly in some places that it is necessary to sound on both
sides of the ship at once. Vessels drawing less than ten feet can pass
to the Ohotsk sea around the northern end of Sakhalin island, but the
channel is even more crooked than the southern one.

We anchored at sunset, and did not move till daybreak. At the hour of
sunset, on this vessel as on the corvette, we had the evening chant of
the service of the Eastern church. While it was in progress a sentinel
on duty over the cabin held his musket in his left hand and made the
sign of the cross with his right. Soldier and Christian at the same
moment, he observed the outward ceremonial of both. The crew, with
uncovered beads, stood upon the deck and chanted the prayer. As the
prayer was uttered the national flag, lowered from the mast, seemed,
like those beneath it, to bow in adoration of the Being who holds the
waters in the hollow of His hand, and guides and controls the
universe.

While passing the straits of Tartary we observed a mirage of great
beauty, that pictured the shores of Sakhalin like a tropical scene. We
seemed to distinguish cocoa and palm trees, dark forests and waving
fields of cane, along the rocky shores, that were really below the
horizon. Then there were castles, with lofty walls and frowning
battlements, cloud-capped towers, gorgeous palaces, and solemn
temples, rising among the fields and forests, and overarched with
curious combinations of rainbow hues. The mirage frequently occurs in
this region, but I was told it rarely attained such beauty as on that
occasion.

Sakhalin island, which separates the Gulf of Tartary from the Ohotsk
sea, extends through nine degrees of latitude and belongs partly to
Russia and partly to Japan. The Japanese have settlements in the
Southern portion, engaging in trade with the natives and catching and
curing fish. The natives are of Tunguze origin, like those of the
lower Amoor, and subsist mainly upon fish. The Russians have
settlements at Cape Dui, where there is excellent coal in veins
eighteen feet thick and quite near the coast. Russia desired the
entire island, but the Japanese positively refuse to negotiate. Some
years ago the Siberian authorities established a colony near the
Southern extremity, but its existence was brief.

At three o'clock in the afternoon of September eleventh we entered the
mouth of the Amoor, the great river of Asiatic Russia. The entrance is
between two Capes or headlands, seven miles apart and two or three
hundred feet high. The southern one, near which we passed, is called
Cape Pronge, and has a Gilyak village at its base. Below this cape the
hills border the Gulf and frequently show precipitous sides. The
shallow water at their base renders the land undesirable for
settlement. The timber is small and indicates the severity of the cold
seasons. In their narrowest part the Straits are eight miles wide and
frozen in winter. The natives have a secure bridge of ice for at least
four months of the year. De Castries Bay is generally filled with ice
and unsafe for vessels from October to March.

From the time we entered the Gulf of Tartary the water changed its
color, growing steadily dirtier until we reached the Amoor. At the
mouth of the river I found it a weak tea complexion, like the Ohio at
its middle stage, and was told that it varied through all the shades
common to rivers according to its height and the circumstances of
season. I doubt if it ever assumes the hue of the Missouri or the
Sacramento, though it is by no means impossible.

Passing Cape Pronge and looking up the river, a background of hills
and mountains made a fine landscape with beautiful lights and shadows
from the afternoon sun. The channel is marked with stakes and buoys
and with beacons along the shore. The pilots when steering frequently
turned their backs to the bow of the steamer and watched the beacons
over the stern. As we approached Nicolayevsk there was a mirage that
made the ships in port appear as if anchored in the town itself.

We passed Chinyrack, the fortress that guards the river, and is
surrounded, as if for concealment, with a grove of trees. Along the
bank above Chinyrack there are warehouses of various kinds, all
belonging to government. Soon after dark we anchored before the town,
and below several other vessels. My sea travel was ended till I should
reach Atlantic waters.



CHAPTER X.


At Nicolayevsk it is half a mile from the anchorage to the shore. A
sand spit projects from the lower end of the town and furnishes a site
for government workshops and foundries. Above this tongue of land the
water is shallow and allows only light draft and flat bottomed boats
to come to the piers. All sea-going vessels remain, in midstream,
where they are discharged by lighters. There is deeper water both
above and below the town, and I was told that a change of site had
been meditated. The selection of the spot where Nicolayevsk stands was
owing to the advantages of the sand spit as a protection to river
boats.

After dining on the Morje we went on shore, and landed at a flight of
wooden steps in the side of a pier. The piers of Nicolayevsk are
constructed with 'cribs' about twenty feet apart and strong timbers
connecting them. The flooring was about six feet above water, and wide
enough for two teams to pass.

Turning to the left at the end of the pier, we found a plank sidewalk
ascending a sloping road in the hillside. The pier reminded me of
Boston or New York, but it lacked the huge warehouses and cheerful
hackmen to render the similarity complete. "This is Natchez,
Mississippi," I said as we moved up the hill, "and this is Cairo,
Illinois," as my feet struck the plank sidewalk. The sloping road came
to an end sooner than at Natchez, and the sidewalk did not reveal any
pitfalls like those in Cairo a few years ago. The bluff where the city
stands is about fifty feet high, and the ascent of the road so gentle
that one must be very weak to find it fatiguing. The officers who
came on shore with me went to the club rooms to pass the evening. I
sought the residence of Mr. H.G.O. Chase, the Commercial Agent of the
United States, and representative of the house of Boardman. I found
him living very comfortably in bachelor quarters that contained a
library and other luxuries of civilization. In his sitting-room there
was a map of the Russian empire and one of Boston, and there were
lithographs and steel engravings, exhibiting the good taste of the
owner.

Rising early the next morning, I began a study of the town.
Nicolayevsk was founded in 1853 in the interest of the Russian
government, but nominally as a trading post of the Russian American
Company. Very soon it became a military post, and its importance
increased with the commencement of hostilities between Russia and the
Western powers in 1854. Foundries were established, fortifications
built, warehouses erected, and docks laid out from time to time, until
the place has attained a respectable size. Its population in 1866 was
about five thousand, with plenty of houses for all residents.

Nicolayevsk is emphatically a government town, five-sixths of the
inhabitants being directly or indirectly in the emperor's employ.
"What is this building?" I asked, pointing to a neat house on the
principal street. "The residence of the Admiral," was the reply.

"And this?"

"That is the Chancellerie."

"And this?"

"The office of the Captain of the Port."

So I questioned till three-fourths the larger and better
establishments had been indicated. Nearly all were in some way
connected with government. Many of the inhabitants are employed in the
machine shops, others in the arsenals and warehouses, and a goodly
number engage in soldiering. The multitude of whisky shops induces the
belief that the verb 'to soldier' is conjugated in all its moods and
tenses. The best part of the town is along its front, where there is
a wide and well made street called 'the Prospect.'

The best houses are on the Prospect, and include the residences of the
chief officials and the merchants. On the back streets is the
'_Slobodka_,' or poorer part of the town. Here the laborers of every
kind have their dwellings, and here the _lafka_ is most to be found.
Lafkas are chiefly devoted to liquor selling, and are as numerous in
proportion to the population as beer-shops in Chicago. I explored the
'_slobodka_,' but did not find it attractive. Dogs were as plentiful
and as dubious in breed and character as in the Sixth Ward or near
Castle Garden.

The church occupies a prominent position in the foreground of the
town, and, like nearly all edifices at Nicolayevsk, is built of logs.
Back of it is the chancellerie, or military and civil office, with a
flag-staff and semaphore for signalling vessels in the harbor. Of
other public buildings I might name the naval office, police office,
telegraph house, and a dozen others.

On the morning after my arrival I called on Admiral Fulyelm, the
governor of the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Siberia. The region he
controls includes Kamchatka and all the seacoast down to Corea, and
has an area of nearly seven hundred and fifty thousand square miles.
He had been only a few months in command, and was busily at work
regulating his department. He spoke English fluently, and was well
acquainted with America and American affairs. During my voyage on the
Variag I heard much of the charming manners of Madame Fulyelm, and
regretted to learn she was spending the summer in the country.

The machine shops, foundries, and dock-yard are described in Russian
by the single word 'port.' I visited the port of Nicolayevsk and found
it more extensive than one might expect in this new region. There were
machines for rolling, planing, cutting, casting, drilling, hammering,
punching, and otherwise treating and maltreating iron. There were
shops for sawing, planing, polishing, turning, and twisting all sorts
of wood, and there were other shops where copper and brass could take
any coppery or brassy shape desired. To sum up the port in a few
words, its managers can make or repair marine and other engines, and
produce any desired woodwork for house building or ship repairing.
They build ships and equip them with machinery ready for sea.

The establishment is under the direct supervision of Mr. Woods, an
American citizen of Scotch birth. Mr. Elliott, a Massachusetts Yankee,
and Mr. Laney, an Englishman, are connected with the affair. Mr.
Elliott had become a permanent fixture by marrying a Russian woman and
purchasing a commodious house. The three men appeared to take great
pride in what they had accomplished in perfecting the port.

It was a little curious to see at the mouth of the Amoor a steam fire
engine from the Amoskeag Works at Manchester, N.H. The engine was
labelled 'Amoor' in Russian characters, and appeared to be well
treated. A house was assigned it, and watchmen were constantly on
duty. The whole town being of wood it is highly important that the
engine should act promptly in case of fire. The supply of hose was
ample for all emergencies.

Several heavy guns were shown me, which were hauled overland from the
Ural Mountains during the Crimean war and brought in boats down the
Amoor. The expense of transporting them must have been enormous, their
journey by roads to the head of the river being fully three thousand
miles.

I spent a morning with Mr. Chase in calling upon several foreign
merchants and their families. The most prominent of the merchants is
Mr. Ludorf, a German, who went there in 1856, and has transacted a
heavy business on the Amoor and in Japan and China. Mrs. Ludorf
followed her husband in 1858, and was the first foreign lady to enter
Nicolayevsk.

The most interesting topic to Mr. Chase and the ladies was that of
cooks. Within two weeks there had been much trouble with the _chefs de
cuisine_, and every housekeeper was in deep grief. Servants are the
universal discomfort from the banks of the Hudson to those of the
Amoor. Man to be happy must return to the primitive stages of society
before cooks and housemaids were invented.

The hills around Nicolayevsk are covered with forests of small pines.
Timber for house building purposes is rafted from points on the Amoor
where trees are larger. Formerly the town was in the midst of a
forest, but the vicinity is now pretty well cleared. Going back from
the river, the streets begin grandly, and promise a great deal they do
not perform. For one or two squares they are good, the third square is
passable, the fourth is full of stumps, and when you reach the fifth
and sixth, there is little street to be found. I never saw a better
illustration of the road that commenced with a double row of shade
trees, and steadily diminished in character until it became a
squirrel-track and ran up a tree. There is very little agriculture in
the vicinity, the soil and climate being unfavorable. The chief supply
of vegetables comes from the settlements on the south bank of the
river up to Lake Keezee, and along the shores of the lake. All the
ordinary garden vegetables are raised, and in some localities they
attain goodly size.

Every morning there was a lively scene at the river's edge in front of
the town. Peasants from the farming settlements were there with
articles for sale, and a vigorous chaffering was in progress. There
were soldiers in grey coats, sailors from the ships in the harbor,
laborers in clothing more or less shabby, and a fair sprinkling of
aboriginals. To an American freshly arrived the natives were quite a
study. They were of the Mongol type, their complexions dark, hair
black, eyes obliquely set, noses flat, and cheek bones high. Most of
them had the hair plaited in a queue after the Chinese fashion. Some
wore boots of untanned skin, and a few had adopted those of Russian
make. They generally wear blouses or frocks after the Chinese pattern,
and the most of them could be readily taken for shabby Celestials.

Their hats were of two kinds, some of felt and turned up at the sides,
and others of decorated birch bark shaped like a parasol. These hats
were an excellent protection against sun and rain, but could hardly be
trusted in a high wind. All these men were inveterate smokers, and
carried their pipes and tobacco pouches at their waists. Most had
sheath knives attached to belts, and some carried flint, steel, and
tinder. They formed picturesque groups, some talking with purchasers
and others collected around fires or near their piles of fish.

[Illustration: BOAT LOAD OF SALMON.]

As I stood on the bank, a Gilyak boat came near me with a full cargo
of salmon. The boat was built very high at bow and stern, and its
bottom was a single plank, greatly curved. It was propelled by a woman
manipulating a pair of oars with blades shaped like spoon-bowls,
beaten flat, which she pulled alternately with a kind of
'hand-over-hand' process. This mode of rowing is universal among the
Gilyaks, but does not prevail with other natives along the Amoor.

Whenever I approached a group of Gilyaks I was promptly hailed with
_'reba! reba!'_ (fish! fish!) I shook my head and uttered _nierte_
(no,) and our conversation ceased. The salmon were in piles along the
shore or lying in the native boats. Fishing was not a monopoly of the
Gilyaks, as I saw several Russians engaged in the business. They
appeared on the best terms with their aboriginal neighbors.

Salmon are abundant in the Amoor and as much a necessity of life as in
Northern Siberia. They are not as good as in Kamchatka, and I believe
it is the rule that the salmon deteriorates as one goes toward the
south. Possibly the quality of the Amoor salmon is owing to the time
the fish remain in the brackish waters of the Straits of Tartary. The
fishing season is the only busy portion of the year with the natives.

[Illustration: AN EFFECTIVE PROTEST.]

The town is supplied with water by carts like those used in many
places along our Western rivers. For convenience in filling the driver
goes into the stream until the water is pretty well up his horse's
sides. A bucket attached to a long handle is used for dipping, and
moves very leisurely. I saw one driver go so far from shore that his
horse protested in dumb but expressive show. The animal turned and
walked to land, over-setting the cart and spilling the driver into the
water. There was a volley of Russian epithets, but the horse did not
observe them. At a photographic establishment I purchased several
views of the city and surrounding region. I sought a watch dealer in
the hope of replacing my broken time piece, but was unsuccessful. I
finally succeeded in purchasing a cheap watch of so curious
workmanship that it ran itself out and utterly stopped within a week.

One evening in the public garden a military band furnished creditable
music, and I was told that it was formed by selecting men from the
ranks, most of whom had never played a single note on any instrument.
Writers on Russia twenty years ago said that men were frequently
assigned to work they had never seen performed. If men were wanted for
any government service a draft was made, just as for filling the army,
and when the recruits arrived they were distributed. One was detailed
for a blacksmith, and straightway went to his anvil and began. Another
was told to be a machinist, and received his tools. He seated himself
at his bench, watched his neighbor at work, and commenced with little
delay. Another became a glass-blower, another a lapidary, another a
musician, and so on through all the trades.

I have heard that an Ohio colonel in our late war had a fondness for
never being outdone by rivals. One day his chaplain told him that a
work of grace was going on in the army. "Fifteen men," said he, "were
baptized last Sunday in Colonel Blank's regiment, and the reformation
is still going on." Without replying the colonel called his adjutant.

"Captain," was the command, "detail twenty men for baptism at once. I
won't be outdone by any other ---- regiment in the army."

Near the river there are several large buildings, formerly belonging
to the Amoor Company, an institution that closed its affairs in the
summer of 1866. After the opening of the Amoor this company was formed
in St. Petersburg with a paid up or guaranteed capital of nearly half
a million pounds sterling. Its object was the control of trade on the
Amoor and its tributaries, and the general development of commerce in
Northern Asia. It began operations in 1858, but was unfortunate from
the beginning. In 1859 it sent out three ships, two of which were lost
between De Castries and Nicolayevsk. Each of them had valuable
cargoes, and the iron and machinery for two river steamers. The third
ship arrived safely, and a steamer which she brought was put together
during the winter. It struck a rock and sunk on its first voyage up
the river. The misfortunes of the company in following years did not
come quite as thick, but their number was ample.

The company's dividends were invariably Hibernian. It lost money from
the beginning, and after spending two and a half million dollars,
closed its affairs and went up in a balloon.

The Russian government has been disappointed in the result of opening
the Amoor. Ten years ago it was thought a great commerce would spring
up, but the result has been otherwise. There can be no traffic where
there are no people to trade with, and when the Amoor was opened the
country was little better than a wilderness. The natives were not a
mercantile community. There was only one Manjour city on the bank of
the Amoor, and for some time its people were not allowed to trade with
Russians. Even when it was opened it had no important commerce, as it
was far removed from the silk, tea, or porcelain districts of China.
Plainly the dependence must be upon colonization.

The Amoor was peopled under government patronage, many settlers coming
from the Trans-Baikal province, and others from European Russia.
Nearly all were poor and brought very little money to their new homes.
Many were Cossacks and soldiers, and not reconciled to hard labor.
During the first two years of their residence the Amoor colonists were
supplied with flour at government expense, but after that it was
expected they could support themselves. Most of the colonies were half
military in their character, being composed of Cossacks, with their
families. On the lower part of the Amoor, outside the military posts,
the settlers were peasants. Flour was carried from St. Petersburg to
the Amoor to supply the garrison and the newly arrived settlers. The
production is not yet sufficient for the population, and when I was at
Nicolayevsk I saw flour just landed from Cronstadt. The settlers had
generally reached the self-sustaining point, but they did not produce
enough to feed the military and naval force. Until they do this the
Amoor will be unprofitable.

On the upper Amoor flour was formerly brought from the Trans-Baikal
province to supply the settlements down to Habarofka. In 1866 there
was a short crop in that province and a good one on the upper Amoor. A
large quantity of wheat and rye,--I was told fifty thousand
bushels,--was taken to the Trans-Baikal and sold there. On the whole
the Amoor country is very good for agriculture, and will sustain
itself in time.

The import trade is chiefly in American and German hands, and
comprises miscellaneous goods, of which they told me at least fifty
per cent. were wines and intoxicating liquors! The Russian emperor
should make intemperance a penal offence and issue an edict against
it.

A Boston house was the first foreign one opened here, and then came a
German one. Others followed, principally from America, the Sandwich
Islands, Hamburg, and Bremen. Most of the Americans have retired from
the field, two were closing when I was at the Amoor, and Mr.
Boardman's was the only house in full operation. There were three
German establishments, and another of a German-American character.

All the cereals can be grown on the Amoor, and the yield is said to be
very good. When its production is developed, wheat can be exported to
China and the Sandwich Islands at a good profit. Until 1864 the
government prohibited the export of timber, although it had
inexhaustible quantities growing on the Amoor and its tributaries. I
saw at Nicolayevsk and elsewhere oak and ash of excellent quality. The
former was not as tough as New England oak, but the ash could hardly
be excelled anywhere, and I was surprised to learn that no one had
attempted its export to California, where good timber for wagons and
similar work is altogether wanting. Pine trees are large, straight,
tough, and good-fibred. They ought to compete in Chinese ports with
pine lumber from elsewhere.

[Illustration: NOTHING BUT BONES.]

There is a peculiar kind of oak, the Maackia, suitable for cabinet
work. Some exports of wool, hides, and tallow have been made, but none
of importance. One cargo of ice has been sent to China, but it melted
on the way from improper packing. A Hong Kong merchant once ordered a
cargo of hams from the Amoor, and when he received it and opened the
barrels he found they contained nothing but bones. As the bone market
was low at that time he did not repeat his order.

Flax and hemp will grow here, and might become profitable exports.
There is excellent grazing land and no lack of pasturage, but at
present bears make fearful havoc among the cattle and sheep. In some
localities tigers are numerous, particularly among the Buryea
Mountains, where the Cossacks make a profession of hunting them. The
tiger is not likely to become an article of commerce, but on the
contrary is calculated to retard civilization.

With increased agriculture, pork can be raised and cured, and the
Russians might find it to their advantage to introduce Indian corn,
now almost unknown on the Amoor. At present hogs on the lower Amoor
subsist largely on fish, and the pork has a very unpleasant flavor.
The steward of the Variag told me that in 1865, when at De Castries,
he had two small pigs from Japan. A vessel just from the Amoor had a
large hog which had been purchased at Nicolayevsk.

The captain of the ship offered his hog for the two pigs, on the plea
that he wished to keep them during his voyage. As the hog was three
times the weight of the pigs the steward gladly accepted the proposal,
and wondered how a man who made so absurd a trade could be captain of
a ship. On killing his prize he found the pork so fishy in flavor that
nobody could eat it. The whole hog went literally to the dogs.

Nicolayevsk is a free port of entry, and there are no duties upon
merchandise anywhere in Siberia east of Lake Baikal. Since the opening
of commerce, in 1865, the number of ships arriving annually varies
from six or eight to nearly forty. In 1866 there were twenty-three
vessels on government, and fifteen on private account. The government
vessels brought flour, salt, lead, iron, machinery, telegraph
material, army and navy equipments, and a thousand and one articles
included under the head of 'government stores.' The private ones,
(three of them American,) brought miscellaneous cargoes for the
mercantile community. There were no wrecks in that year, or at any
rate, none up to the time of my departure.

At the Amoor I first began to hear those stories of peculation that
greet every traveler in Russia. According to my informants there were
many deficiencies in official departments, and very often losses were
ascribed to 'leakage,' 'breakage,' and damage of different kinds. "Did
you ever hear," said a gentleman to me, "of rats devouring
window-glass, or of anchors and boiler iron blowing away in the wind?"
However startling such phenomena, he declared they had been known at
Nicolayevsk and elsewhere in the empire. I think if all the truth were
revealed we might learn of equally strange occurrences in America
during the late war.

The Russians have explored very thoroughly the coast of Manjouria in
search of good harbors. Below De Castries the first of importance is
Barracouta Bay, in Latitude 49°. The government made a settlement
there in 1853, but subsequently abandoned it for Olga Bay, six degrees
further south. Vladivostok, or Dominion of the East, was occupied in
1857, and a naval station commenced. A few years later, Posyet was
founded near the head of the Corean peninsula, and is now growing
rapidly. It has one of the finest harbors on the Japan Sea, completely
sheltered, easily defended, and affording superior facilities for
repairing ships of war or commerce. It is free from ice the entire
year, and has a little cove or bay that could be converted into a dry
dock at small expense.

In 1865 Posyet was visited by ten merchant vessels; it exported
fifteen thousand poods of _beche de mer_, the little fish formerly the
monopoly of the Feejees, and of which John Chinaman is very fond. It
exported ten thousand poods of bean cake, and eleven times that
quantity of a peculiar sea-grass eaten by the Celestials. Ginseng root
was also an article of commerce between Posyet and Shanghae. Russia
appears in earnest about the development of the Manjourian coast, and
is making many efforts for that object. The telegraph is completed
from Nicolayevsk to the new seaport, and a post route has been
established along the Ousuree.

From San Francisco to the mouth of the Amoor I did not see a wheeled
vehicle, with the exception of a hand cart and a dog wagon. At
Nicolayevsk there were horses, carts, and carriages, and I had my
first experience of a horse harnessed with the Russian yoke. The
theory of the yoke is, that it keeps the shafts away from the animal's
sides, and enables him to exert more strength than when closely
hedged. I cannot give a positive opinion on this point, but believe
the Russians are correct. The yoke standing high above the horse's
head and touching him nowhere, has a curious appearance when first
seen. I never could get over the idea while looking at a dray in
motion, that the horse was endeavoring to walk through an arched
gateway and taking it along with him.

The shafts were wide apart and attached by straps to the horse's
collar. All the tension came through the shafts, and these were
strengthened by ropes that extended to the ends of the forward axle.
Harnesses had a shabby, 'fixed up' appearance, with a good deal of
rope in their composition. Why they did not go to pieces or crumble to
nothing, like the deacon's One Horse Shay, was a mystery.

Before leaving Nicolayevsk I enjoyed a ride in one of its private
carriages. The vehicle was open, its floor quite low, and the wheels
small. We had two horses, one between the shafts and wearing the
inevitable yoke. The other was outside, and attached to an iron
single-tree over the forward wheel. Three horses can be driven abreast
on this kind of carriage.

The shaft horse trotted, while the other galloped, holding his head
very low and turned outward. This is due to a check rein, which keeps
him in a position hardly natural. The orthodox mode in Russia is to
have the shaft horse trotting while the other runs as described; the
difference in the motion gives an attractive and dashy appearance to
the turnout. Existence would be incomplete to a Russian without an
equipage, and if he cannot own one he keeps it on hire. The gayety of
Russian cities in winter and summer is largely due to the number of
private vehicles in constant motion through the streets.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--NATIVE WOMAN]



CHAPTER XI.


I arranged to ascend the Amoor on the steamer Ingodah, which was
appointed to start on the eighteenth of September. My friend Anossoff
remained at Nicolayevsk during the winter, instead of proceeding to
Irkutsk as I had fondly hoped. I found a _compagnon du voyage_ in
Captain Borasdine, of General Korsackoff's staff. In a drenching rain
on the afternoon of the seventeenth, we carried our baggage to the
Ingodah, which lay half a mile from shore. We reached the steamer
after about twenty minutes pulling in a whale-boat and shipping a
barrel of water through the carelessness of an oarsman.

At Nicolayevsk the Amoor is about a mile and a half wide, with a depth
of twenty to thirty-five feet in the channel. I asked a resident what
he thought the average rapidity of the current in front of the town.

"When you look at it or float with it," said he, "I think it is about
three and a half miles. If you go against it you find it not an inch
less than five miles."

The rowers had no light task to stem the rapid stream, and I think it
was about like the Mississippi at Memphis.

The boat was to leave early in the morning. I took a farewell dinner
with Mr. Chase, and at ten o'clock received a note from Borasdine
announcing his readiness to go to the steamer. Anossoff, Chase, and
half a dozen others assembled to see us off, and after waking the
echoes and watchmen on the pier, we secured a skiff and reached the
Ingodah. The rain was over, and stars were peeping through occasional
loop-holes in the clouds.

[Illustration: SEEING OFF.]

'Seeing off' consumed much time and more champagne. As we left the
house I observed Chase and Anossoff each putting a bottle in his
pocket, and remarking the excellent character of their ballast. From
the quantity that revealed itself afterward the two bottles must have
multiplied, or other persons in the party were equally provided. To
send off a friend in Russia requires an amount of health-drinking
rarely witnessed in New York or Boston. If the journey is by land the
wayfarer is escorted a short distance on his route, sometimes to the
edge of the town, and sometimes to the first station. Adieus are
uttered over champagne, tea, lunch--and champagne. It was nearly
daybreak when our friends gave us the last hand-shake and went over
the side. Watching till their boat disappeared in the gloom, I sought
the cabin, and found the table covered with a beggarly array of empty
bottles and a confused mass of fragmentary edibles. I retired to
sleep, while the cabin boy cleared away the wreck.

The sun rose before our captain. When I followed their example we were
still at anchor and our boilers cold as a refusal to a beggar. Late in
the morning the captain appeared; about nine o'clock fire was kindled
in the furnace, and a little past ten we were under way. As our anchor
rose and the wheel began to move, most of the deck passengers turned
in the direction of the church and devoutly made the sign of the
cross. As we slowly stemmed the current the houses of Nicolayevsk and
the shipping in its front, the smoking foundries, and the
pine-covered hills, faded from view, and with my face to the westward
I was fairly afloat on the Amoor.

The Ingodah was a plain, unvarnished boat, a hundred and ten feet
long, and about fifteen feet beam. Her hull was of boiler iron, her
bottom flat, and her prow sharp and perpendicular. Her iron, wood
work, and engines were brought in a sailing ship to the Amoor and
there put together. She had two cabins forward and one aft, all below
deck. There was a small hold for storing baggage and freight, but the
most of the latter was piled on deck. The pilot house was over the
forward cabin, and contained a large wheel, two men, and a chart of
the river. The rudder was about the size of a barn door, and required
the strength of two men to control it. Had she ever refused to obey
her helm she would have shown an example of remarkable obstinacy.

Over the after cabin there was a cook-house, where dwelt a shabby and
unwholesome cuisinier. Between the wheels was a bridge, occupied by
the captain when starting or stopping the boat; the engines, of thirty
horse power, were below deck, under this bridge. The cabins, without
state rooms, occupied the whole width of the boat. Wide seats with
cushions extended around the cabins, and served as beds at night. Each
passenger carried his own bedding and was his own chambermaid. The
furniture consisted of a fixed table, two feet by ten, a dozen stools,
a picture of a saint, a mirror, and a boy, the latter article not
always at hand.

The cabins were unclean, and reminded me of the general condition of
transports during our late war. Can any philosopher explain why boats
in the service of government are nearly always dirty?

The personnel of the boat consisted of a captain, mate, engineer, two
pilots, and eight or ten men. The captain and mate were in uniform
when we left port, but within two hours they appeared in ordinary
suits of grey. The crew were deck hands, roustabouts, or firemen, by
turns, and when we took wood most of the male deck passengers were
required to assist. On American steamboats the after cabin is the
aristocratic one; on the Amoor the case is reversed. The steerage
passengers lived, moved, and had their being and baggage aft the
engine, while their betters were forward. This arrangement gave the
steerage the benefit of all cinders and smoke, unless the wind was
abeam or astern.

Steam navigation on the Amoor dates from 1854. In that year two wooden
boats, the Shilka and the Argoon, were constructed on the Shilka
river, preparatory to the grand expedition of General Mouravieff.
Their timber was cut in the forests of the Shilka, and their engines
were constructed at Petrovsky-Zavod. The Argoon was the first to
descend, leaving Shilikinsk on the 27th of May, 1854, and bringing the
Governor General and his staff. It was accompanied by fifty barges and
a great many rafts loaded with military forces to occupy the Amoor,
and with provisions for the Pacific fleet. The Shilka descended a few
months later. She was running in 1866, but the Argoon, the pioneer,
existed less than a decade. In 1866 there were twenty-two steamers on
the Amoor, all but four belonging to the government.

The government boats are engaged in transporting freight, supplies,
soldiers, and military stores generally, and carrying the mail. They
carry passengers and private freight at fixed rates, but do not give
insurance against fire or accidents of navigation. Passengers contract
with the captain or steward for subsistence while on board. Deck
passengers generally support themselves, but can buy provisions on the
boat if they wish. The steward may keep wines and other beverages for
sale by the bottle, but he cannot maintain a bar. He has various
little speculations of his own and does not feed his customers
liberally. On the Ingodah the steward purchased eggs at every village,
and expected to sell them at a large profit in Nicolayevsk. When we
left him he had at least ten bushels on hand, but he never furnished
eggs to us unless we paid extra for them.

One cabin was assigned to Borasdine and myself, save at meal times,
when two other passengers were present. One end of it was filled with
the mail, of which there were eight bags, each as large as a Saratoga
trunk and as difficult to handle. The Russian government performs an
'express' service and transports freight by mail; it receives parcels
in any part of the empire and agrees to deliver them in any other part
desired. From Nicolayevsk to St. Petersburg the charges are
twenty-five copecks (cents) a pound, the distance being seven thousand
miles. It gives receipts for the articles, and will insure them at a
charge of two per cent. on their value.

Goods of any kind can be sent by post through Russia just as by
express in America. Captain Lund sent a package containing fifty sable
skins to his brother in Cronstadt, and another with a silk dress
pattern to a lady in St. Petersburg. In the mail on the Ingodah there
were twelve hundred pounds of sable fur sent by Mr. Chase to his agent
in St. Petersburg. Money to any amount can be remitted, and its
delivery insured. I have known twenty thousand roubles sent on a
single order.

Parcels for transportation by post must be carefully and securely
packed. Furs, silks, clothing, and all things of that class are
enveloped in repeated layers of oil cloth and canvas to exclude water
and guard against abrasion. Light articles, like bonnets, must be
packed with abundance of paper filling them to their proper shape, and
very securely boxed. A Siberian lady once told me that a friend in St.
Petersburg sent her a lot of bonnets, laces, and other finery
purchased at great expense. She waited a long time with feminine
anxiety, and was delighted when told her box was at the post office.
What was her disappointment to find the articles had been packed in a
light case which was completely smashed. She never made use of any
part of its contents.

In crossing Siberian rivers the mail is sometimes wet, and it is a
good precaution to make packages waterproof. A package of letters for
New York from Nicolayevsk I enveloped in canvas, by advice of Russian
friends, and it went through unharmed.

[Illustration: SCENES ON THE AMOOR.]

The post wagons are changed at every station, and the mail while
being transferred is not handled with care. Frail articles must be
boxed so that no tossing will injure them. My lady friend told me of a
bride who ordered her trousseau from St. Petersburg and prepared for a
magnificent wedding. The precious property arrived forty-eight hours
before the time fixed for the ceremony. Moving accidents by flood and
field had occurred. The bridal paraphernalia was soaked, crushed, and
reduced to a mass that no one could resolve into its original
elements. The wedding was postponed and a new supply of goods ordered.

The mail is always in charge of a postillion, who is generally a
Cossack, and his duty is much like that of a mail agent in other
countries. He delivers and receives the sacks of matter at the post
offices, and guards them on the road. During our voyage on the Ingodah
there was no supervision over the mail bags after they were deposited
in our cabin. I passed many hours in their companionship, and if
Borasdine and I had chosen to rifle them we could have done so at our
leisure. Possibly an escape from the penalties of the law would have
been less easy.

Our cook was an elderly personage, with thin hair, a yellow beard, and
a much neglected toilet. On the first morning I saw him at his
ablutions, and was not altogether pleased with his manner. He took a
half-tumbler of water in his mouth and then squirted the fluid over
his hands, rubbing them meanwhile with invisible soap. He was quite
skillful, but I could never relish his dinners if I had seen him any
time within six hours. His general appearance was that of having slept
in a gutter without being shaken afterwards.

The day of our departure from Nicolayevsk was like the best of our
Indian summer. There was but little wind, the faintest breath coming
now and then from the hills on the southern bank. The air was of a
genial warmth, the sky free from clouds and only faintly dimmed with
the haze around the horizon. The forest was in the mellow tints of
autumn, and the wide expanse of foliferous trees, dotted at frequent
intervals with the evergreen pine, rivalled the October hues of our
New England landscape. Hills and low mountains rose on both banks of
the river and made a beautiful picture. The hills, covered with forest
from base to summit, sloped gently to the water's edge or retreated
here and there behind bits of green meadow. In the distance was a
background of blue mountains glowing in sunshine or dark in shadow,
and varying in outline as we moved slowly along. The river was ruffled
only by the ripples of the current or the motion of our boat through
the water. Just a year earlier I descended the Saint Lawrence from
Lake Ontario to Quebec. I saw nothing on the great Canadian river that
equaled the scenery of my first day's voyage on the Amoor.

Soon after leaving Nicolayevsk we met several loads of hay floating
with the current to a market at the town. On the meadows along the
river the grass is luxuriant, and hay requires only the labor of
cutting and curing. During the day we passed several points where
haymaking was in progress. Cutting was performed with an instrument
resembling the short scythe used in America for cutting bushes. After
it was dried, the hay was brought to the river bank on dray-like
carts. An American hay wagon would have accomplished twice as much,
with equal labor.

The hay is like New England hay from natural meadows, and is delivered
at Nicolayevsk for six or eight dollars a ton. Cattle and horses
thrive upon it, if I may judge by the condition of the stock I saw.
For its transportation two flat-bottomed boats are employed, and held
about twelve feet apart by timbers. A floor on these timbers and over
the boats serves to keep the hay dry. Men are stationed at both ends
of the boats, and when once in the stream there is little to do beside
floating with the current. A mile distant one of these barges appears
like a haystack which an accident has set adrift.

We saw many Gilyak boats descending the river with the current or
struggling to ascend it. The Gilyaks form the native population in
this region and occupy thirty-nine villages with about two thousand
inhabitants. The villages are on both banks from the mouth of the
river to Mariensk, and out of the reach of all inundations. Distance
lends enchantment to the view of their houses, which will not bear
close inspection.

[Illustration: A GILYAK VILLAGE.]

Some of the houses might contain a half dozen families of ordinary
size, and were well adapted to the climate. While we took wood at a
Gilyak village I embraced the opportunity to visit the aboriginals.
The village contained a dozen dwellings and several fish-houses. The
buildings were of logs or poles, split in halves or used whole, and
were roofed with poles covered with a thatch of long grass to exclude
rain and cold. Some of the dwelling houses had the solid earth for
floors, while others had floorings of hewn planks.

The store houses were elevated on posts like those of an American
'corn barn,' and were wider and lower than the dwellings. Each
storehouse had a platform in front where canoes, fishing nets, and
other portable property were stowed. These buildings were the
receptacles of dried fish for the winter use of dogs and their owners.
The elevation of the floor serves to protect the contents from dogs
and wild animals. I was told that no locks were used and that theft
was a crime unknown.

The dwellings were generally divided into two apartments; one a sort
of ante room and receptacle of house-keeping goods, and the other the
place of residence. Pots, kettles, knives, and wooden pans were the
principal articles of household use I discovered. At the storehouses
there were several fish-baskets of birch or willow twigs. A Gilyak
gentleman does not permit fire carried into or out of his house, not
even in a pipe. This is not owing to his fear of conflagrations, but
to a superstition that such an occurrence may bring him ill luck in
hunting or fishing.

It was in the season of curing fish, and the stench that greeted my
nostrils was by no means delightful. Visits to dwellings or magazines
would have been much easier had I possessed a sponge saturated with
cologne water. Fish were in various stages of preparation, some just
hung upon poles, while others were nearly ready for the magazine. The
manner of preparation is much the same as in Kamchatka, save that the
largest fish are skinned before being cut into strips. The poorest
qualities go to the dogs, and the best are reserved for bipeds.

Though the natives do the most of the fishing on the Amoor, they do
not have a monopoly of it, as some of the Russians indulge in the
sport. One old fellow that I saw had a boat so full of salmon, that
there was no room for more. Now and then a fish went overboard,
causing an expression on the boatman's face as if he were suffering
from a dose of astonishment and toothache drops in equal proportions.

There were dogs everywhere, some lying around loose, and others tied
to posts under the storehouses. Some walked about and manifested an
unpleasant desire to taste the calves of my legs. All barked, growled,
and whined in a chorus like a Pawnee concert. There were big dogs and
little dogs, white, black, grey, brown, and yellow dogs, and not one
friendly. They did not appear courageous, but I was not altogether
certain of their dispositions. Their owners sought to quiet them, but
they refused comfort.

[Illustration: ABOUT FULL.]

Those dogs had some peculiarities of those in Kamchatka, but their
blood was evidently much debased; they appeared to be a mixture of
Kamchadale, greyhound, bull dog, and cur, the latter predominating.
They are used for hunting at all seasons, and for towing boats in
summer and dragging sledges in winter. I was told that since the
Russian settlement of the Amoor the Gilyak dogs have degenerated, in
consequence of too much familiarity with Muscovite canines.
Nicolayevsk appeared quite cosmopolitan, in the matter of dogs, and it
was impossible to say what breed was most numerous. One day I saw
nineteen in a single group and no two alike.

Near the entrance of the village an old man was repairing his nets,
which were stretched along a fence. He did not regard us as we
scrutinized his jacket of blue cotton, and he made no response to a
question which Borasdine asked. Further along were two women putting
fish upon poles for drying, and a third was engaged in skinning a
large salmon. The women did not look up from their work, and were not
inclined to amiability. They had Mongol features, complexion, eyes,
and hair, the latter thick and black. Some of the men wear it plaited
into queues, and others let it grow pretty much at will. Each woman I
saw had it braided in two queues, which hung over her shoulders. In
their ears they wore long pendants, and their dresses were generally
arranged with taste.

When recalled by the steam whistle we left the village and took a
short route down a steep bank to the boat. In descending, my feet
passed from under me, and I had the pleasure of sliding about ten
yards before stopping. Had it not been for a Cossack who happened in
my way I should have entered the Amoor after the manner of an otter,
and afforded much amusement to the spectators, though comparatively
little to myself. The sliding attracted no special attention as it was
supposed to be the American custom, and I did not deem it prudent to
make an explanation lest the story might bring discredit to my
nationality.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--A TURN OUT]



CHAPTER XII.


I had a curiosity to examine the ancient monuments at Tyr, opposite
the mouth of the Amgoon river, but we passed them in the night without
stopping. There are several traditions concerning their origin. The
most authentic story gives them an age of six or seven hundred years.
They are ascribed to an emperor of the Yuen dynasty who visited the
mouth of the Amoor and commemorated his journey by building the
'Monastery of Eternal Repose.' The ruined walls of this monastery are
visible, and the shape of the building can be easily traced. In some
places the walls are eight or ten feet high.

Mr. Collins visited the spot in 1857 and made sketches of the
monuments. He describes them situated on a cliff a hundred and fifty
feet high, from which there is a magnificent view east and west of the
Amoor and the mountains around it. Toward the south there are dark
forests and mountain ridges, some of them rough and broken. To the
north is the mouth of the Amgoon, with a delta of numerous islands
covered with forest, while in the northwest the valley of the river is
visible for a long distance. Back from the cliff is a table-land
several miles in width.

This table-land is covered with oak, aspen, and fir trees, and has a
rich undergrowth of grass and flowers. On a point of the cliff there
are two monuments. A third is about four hundred yards away. One is a
marble shaft on a granite pedestal; a second is entirely granite, and
the third partly granite and partly porphyry. The first and third bear
inscriptions in Chinese, Mongol, and Thibetan. One inscription
announces that the emperor Yuen founded the Monastery of Eternal
Repose, and the others record a prayer of the Thibetans. Archimandrate
Avvakum, a learned Russian, who deciphered the inscriptions, says the
Thibetan prayer _Om-mani-badme-khum_ is given in three languages.[C]

[Footnote C: Abbe Hue in his 'Recollections of a journey through
Thibet and Tartary,' says:--

"The Thibetans are eminently religious. There exists at Lassa a
touching custom which we are in some sort jealous of finding among
infidels. In the evening as soon as the light declines, the Thibetans,
men, women, and children, cease from all business and assemble in the
principal parts of the city and in the public squares. When the groups
are formed, every one sits down on the ground and begins slowly to
chant his prayers in an undertone, and this religious concert produces
an immense and solemn harmony throughout the city. The first time we
heard it we could not help making a sorrowful comparison between this
pagan town, where all prayed in common, with the cities of the
civilized world, where people would blush to make the sign of the
cross in public.

"The prayer chanted in these evening meetings varies according to the
season of the year; that which they recite to the rosary is always the
same, and is only composed of six syllables, _om-mani-badme-khum_.
This formula, called briefly the _mani_, is not only heard from every
mouth, but is everywhere written in the streets, in the interior of
the houses, on every flag and streamer floating over the buildings,
printed in the Landzee, Tartar, and Thibetan characters. The Lamas
assert that the doctrine contained in these words is immense, and that
the whole life of man is not sufficient to measure its depth and
extent."]

The lowest of the monuments is five and the tallest eight feet in
height. Near them are several flat stones with grooves in their
surface, which lead to the supposition of their employment for
sacrificial purposes. Mr. Chase told me at Nicolayevsk that he thought
one of the monuments was used as an altar when the monastery
flourished. There are no historical data regarding the ruins beyond
those found on the stones.

Many of the Russians and Chinese believe the site was selected by
Genghis Khan, and the monastery commemorated one of his triumphs. The
natives look upon the spot with veneration, and frequently go there to
practice their mysterious rites.

Before leaving Nicolayevsk I asked the captain of the Irigodah how
fast his boat could steam. "Oh!" said he, "ten or twelve versts an
hour." Accustomed to our habit of exaggerating the powers of a
steamer, I expected no more than eight or nine versts. I was surprised
to find we really made twelve to fifteen versts an hour. Ten thousand
miles from St. Louis and New Orleans I at last found what I sought for
several years--a steamboat captain who understated the speed of his
boat! Justice to the man requires the explanation that he did not own
her.

[Illustration: ON THE AMOOR.]

My second day on the Amoor was much like the first in the general
features of the scenery. Hills and mountains on either hand; meadows
bounding one bank or the other at frequent intervals; islands dotted
here and there with pleasing irregularity, or stretching for many
miles along the valley; forests of different trees, and each with its
own particular hue; a canopy of hazy sky meeting ranges of misty peaks
in the distance; these formed the scene. Some one asks if all the
tongues in the world can tell how the birds sing and the lilacs smell.
Equally difficult is it to describe with pen upon paper the beauties
of that Amoor scenery. Each bend of the stream gave us a new picture.
It was the unrolling of a magnificent panorama such as no man has yet
painted. And what can I say? There was mountain, meadow, forest,
island, field, cliff, and valley; there were the red leaves of the
autumn maple, the yellow of the birch, the deep green of pine and
hemlock, the verdure of the grass, the wide river winding to reach the
sea, and we slowly stemming its current. How powerless are words to
describe a scene like this!

The passengers of our boat were of less varied character than those on
a Mississippi steamer. There were two Russian merchants, who joined us
at meal times in the cabin but slept in the after part of the boat.
One was owner of a gold mine two hundred miles north of Nicolayevsk,
and a general dealer in everything along the Amoor. He had wandered
over Mongolia and Northern China in the interest of commerce, and I
greatly regretted my inability to talk with him and learn of the
regions he had visited. He was among the first to penetrate the
Celestial Empire under the late commercial treaty, and traveled so far
that he was twice arrested by local authorities. He knew every fair
from Leipsic to Peking, and had been an industrious commercial
traveler through all Northern Asia.

Once, below Sansin, on the Songaree river, he was attacked by thieves
where he had halted for the night. With a single exception his crew
was composed of Chinese, and these ran away at the first alarm. With
his only Russian companion he attempted to defend his property, but
the odds were too great, especially as his gun could not be found. He
was made prisoner and compelled to witness the plundering of his
cargo. Every thing valuable being taken, the thieves left him.

In the morning he proceeded down the stream. Not caring to engage
another crew, he floated with the current and shared with his Russian
servant the labor of steering. The next night he was robbed again, and
the robbers, angry at finding so little to steal, did not leave him
his boat. After much difficulty he reached a native village and
procured an old skiff. With this he finished his journey unmolested.

There were fifteen or twenty deck passengers, a fair proportion being
women and children. Among the latter was a black eyed girl of fifteen,
in a calico dress and wearing a shawl pinned around a pretty face. On
Sunday morning she appeared in neat apparel and was evidently desirous
of being seen. There were two old men dressed in coarse cloth of a
'butternut' hue, that reminded me of Arkansas and Tennessee. The
morning we started one of them was seated on the deck counting a pile
of copper coin with great care. Two, three, four times he told it off,
piece by piece, and then folded it carefully in the corner of his
kerchief. In all he had less than a rouble, but he preserved it as if
it were a million.

[Illustration: CASH ACCOUNT.]

The baggage of the deck passengers consisted of boxes and household
furniture in general, not omitting the ever-present samovar. This
baggage was piled on the deck and was the reclining place of its
owners by day. In the night they had the privilege of the after cabin,
where they slept on the seats and floor.

'Wooding up' was not performed with American alacrity. To bring the
steamer to land she was anchored thirty feet from shore, and two men
in a skiff carried a line to the bank and made it fast. With this line
and the anchor the boat was warped within ten feet of the shore,
another line keeping the stern in position. An ordinary plank a foot
wide made the connection with the solid earth. These boats have no
guards and cannot overhang the land like our Western craft. Wood was
generally piled fifty, a hundred, or five hundred feet from the
landing place, wherever most convenient to the owner. No one seems to
think of placing it near the water's edge as with us; they told me
that this had been done formerly, and the freshets had carried the
wood away. The peasants, warned by their loss, are determined to keep
on the safe side.

When all was ready the deck hands went very leisurely to work. Each
carried a piece of rope which he looped around a few sticks of wood as
a boy secures his bundle of school books. The rope was then slung upon
the shoulder, the wood hanging over the back of the carrier and
occasionally coming loose from its fastenings. No man showed any sign
of hurrying, but all acted as if there were nothing in the world as
cheap as time. One day I watched the wooding operation from beginning
to end. It took an hour and a half and twelve men to bring about four
cords of wood on board. There was but one man displaying any activity,
and _he_ was falling from the plank into the river.

[Illustration: WOODING UP.]

The Russian measure of wood is the _sajene_ (fathom.) and a sajene of
wood is a pile a fathom long, wide, and high. The Russian marine
fathom measures six feet like our own, but the land fathom is seven
feet. It is by the land fathom that everything on solid earth is
measured. A stick seven feet long is somewhat inconvenient, and
therefore they cut wood half a fathom in length.

We landed our first freight at Nova Mihalofski, a Russian village on
the southern bank of the river. The village was small and the houses
were far from palatial. The inhabitants live by agriculture in summer,
sending their produce to Nicolayevsk, and by supplying horses for the
postal service in winter. I observed here and at other villages an
example of Russian economy. Not able to purchase whole panes of window
glass the peasants use fragments of glass of any shape they can get.
These are set in pieces of birch bark cut to the proper form and the
edges held by wax or putty. The bark is then fastened to the window
sash much as a piece of mosquito netting is fixed in a frame.

Near Springfield, Missouri, I once passed a night in a farmer's house.
The dwelling had no windows, and when we breakfasted we were obliged
to keep the door open to give us light, though the thermometer was at
zero, with a strong wind blowing. "I have lived in this house
seventeen years," said the owner; "have a good farm and own four
niggers." But he could not afford the expense of a window, even of the
Siberian kind!

Ten or fifteen miles above this village we reached Mihalofski,
containing a hundred houses and three or four hundred inhabitants.
From the river this town appeared quite pretty and thriving; the
houses were substantially built, and many had flower gardens in front
and neat fences around them. Between the town and the river there were
market gardens in flourishing condition, bearing most of the
vegetables in common use through the north. The town is along a ridge
of easy ascent, and most of the dwellings are thirty or forty feet
above the river. Its fields and gardens extend back from the river
wherever the land is fertile and easiest cleared of the forest. On the
opposite side of the river there are meadows where the peasants engage
in hay cutting. The general appearance of the place was like that of
an ordinary village on the lower St. Lawrence, though there were many
points of difference.

In several rye fields the grain had been cut and stacked. Near our
landing was a mill, where a man, a boy, and a horse were manufacturing
meal at the rate of seven poods or 280 pounds a day. The whole
machinery was on the most primitive scale.

Entering the house of the mill-owner I found the principal apartment
quite neat and well arranged, its walls being whitewashed and
decorated with cheap lithographs and wood-cuts. Among the latter were
several from the Illustrated London News and _L'Illustration
Universelle_. The sleeping room was fitted with bunks like those on
steamboats, though somewhat wider. There was very little clothing on
the beds, but several sheepskin coats and coverlids were hanging on a
fence in front of the house.

Borasdine had business at the telegraph station, whither I accompanied
him. The operator furnished a blank for the despatch, and when it was
written and paid for he gave a receipt. The receipt stated the hour
and minute when the despatch was taken, the name of the sender, the
place where sent, the number of words, and the amount paid. This form
is invariably adhered to in the Siberian telegraph service.

The telegraph on the lower Amoor was built under the supervision of
Colonel Romanoff and was not completed at the time of my visit. It
commenced at Nicolayevsk and followed the south bank of the Amoor to
Habarofka at the mouth of the Ousuree. At Mariensk there was a branch
to De Castries, and from Habarofka the line extended along the Ousuree
and over the mountains to Posyet and Vladivostok. From Habarofka it
was to follow the north bank of the Amoor to the Shilka, to join the
line from Irkutsk and St. Petersburg. Arrangements have been made
recently to lay a cable from Posyet to Hakodadi in Japan, and thence
to Shanghae and other parts of China. When the cable proposed by Major
Collins is laid across the Pacific Ocean, and the break in the Amoor
line is closed up, the telegraph circuit around the globe will be
complete.

The telegraph is operated on the Morse system with instruments of
Prussian manufacture. Compared to our American instruments the
Prussian ones are quite clumsy, though they did not appear so in the
hands of the operators. The signal key was at least four times as
large as ours, and could endure any amount of rough handling. The
other machinery was on a corresponding scale.

A merchant who knew Mr. Borasdine invited us to his house, where he
brought a lunch of bread, cheese, butter, and milk for our
entertainment. Salted cucumbers were added, and the repast ended with
tea. In the principal room there was a Connecticut clock in one
corner, and the windows were filled with flowers, among which were the
morning glory, aster, and verbena. Several engravings adorned the
walls, most of them printed at Berlin. We purchased a loaf of sugar,
and were shown a bear-skin seven feet long without ears and tail. The
original and first legitimate owner of the skin was killed within a
mile of town.

In addition to his commerce and farming, this merchant was
superintendent of a school where several Gilyak boys were educated. It
was then vacation, and the boys were engaged in catching their winter
supply of fish. At the merchant's invitation we visited the school
buildings.

The study room was much like a backwoods schoolroom in America, having
rude benches and desks, but with everything clean and well made. The
copy-books exhibited fair specimens of penmanship. On a desk lay a
well worn reading book containing a dozen of Æsop's fables translated
into Russian and profusely illustrated. It corresponded to an American
'Second Reader.'

There was a dormitory containing eight beds, and there was a
wash-room, a dining-room, and a kitchen, the latter separate from the
main building. Close at hand was a forge where the boys learned to
work in iron, and a carpenter shop with a full set of tools and a
turning lathe. The superintendent showed me several articles made by
the pupils, including wooden spoons, forks, bowls, and cups, and he
gave me for a souvenir a seal cut in pewter, bearing the word
'Fulyhelm' in Russian letters, and having a neatly turned handle.

The school is in operation ten months of each year. The superintendent
said the children of the Russian peasants could attend if they wished,
but very few did so. The teacher was a subordinate priest of the
Eastern church. The expense of the establishment was paid by
Government, with the design of making the boys useful in educating the
Gilyaks.

The Gilyaks of the lower Amoor are pagans, and the attempts to
Christianize them have not been very successful thus far. Their
religion consists in the worship of idols and animals, and their
priests or _shamans_ correspond to the 'medicine man' of the American
Indians. Among animals they revere the tiger, and I was told no
instance was known of their killing one. The remains of a man killed
by a tiger are buried without ceremony, but in the funerals of other
persons the Gilyaks follow very nearly the Chinese custom. The bear is
also sacred, but his sanctity does not preserve him from being killed.

[Illustration: BEAR IN PROCESSION.]

In hunting this beast they endeavor to capture him alive; once taken
and securely bound he is placed in a cage in the middle of a village,
and there fattened upon fish. On fete-days he is led, or rather
dragged, in procession, and of course is thoroughly muzzled and bound.
Finally a great day arrives on which Bruin takes a prominent part in
the festival by being killed. There are many superstitious ceremonies
carefully observed on such occasions. The ears, jawbones, and skull of
the bear are hung upon trees to ward off evil spirits, and the flesh
is eaten, as it is supposed to make all who partake of it both
fortunate and courageous.

I did not have the pleasure of witnessing any of these ursine
festivals, but I saw several bear cages and looked upon a bear while
he lunched on cold salmon. If the bear were more gentle in his manners
he might become a household pet among the Gilyaks; but at present he
is not in favor, especially where there are small children.

Ermines were formerly domesticated for catching rats, the high price
of cats confining their possession to the wealthy. Cats have a
half-religious character and are treated with great respect. Since the
advent of the Russians the supply is very good. Before they came the
Manjour merchants used to bring only male cats that could not trouble
themselves about posterity. The price was sometimes a hundred roubles
for a single mouser, and by curtailing the supply the Manjours kept
the market good.

The Gilyaks, like nearly all the natives of Northern Asia, are
addicted to Shamanism. The shaman combines the double function of
priest and doctor, ministering to the physical and spiritual being at
the same time. When a man is taken sick he is supposed to be attacked
by an evil spirit and the shaman is called to practice exorcism. There
is a distinct spirit for every disease and he must be propitiated in a
particular manner. While practicing his profession the shaman contorts
his body and dances like one insane, and howls worse than a dozen
Kamchadale dogs. He is dressed in a fantastic manner and beats a
tambourine during his performance. To accommodate himself to the
different spirits he modulates his voice, changes the character of his
dance, and alters his costume. Both doctor and patient are generally
decked with wood-shavings while the work is going on.

Sometimes an effigy of the sick person is prepared, and the spirit is
charmed from the man of flesh to the one of straw. The shaman induces
him to take up lodgings in this effigy, and the success of his
persuasion is apparent when the invalid recovers. If the patient dies
the shaman declares that the spirit was one over which he had no
control, but he does not hesitate to take pay for his services.

[Illustration: PRACTICE OF MEDICINE.]

A Russian traveler who witnessed one of these exorcisms said that the
shaman howled so fearfully that two Chinese merchants who were present
out of curiosity fled in very terror. The gentleman managed to endure
it to the end, but did not sleep well for a week afterward.

The Gilyaks believe in both good and evil spirits, but as the former
do only good it is not thought necessary to pay them any attention.
All the efforts are to induce the evil spirits not to act. They are
supposed to have power over hunting, fishing, household affairs, and
the health and well-being of animals and men. The shamans possess
great power over their superstitious subjects, and their commands are
rarely refused. I heard of an instance wherein a native caught a fine
sable and preserved the skin as a trophy. Very soon a man in the
village fell ill. The shaman after practicing his art announced that
the spirit commanded the sable skin to be worn by the doctor himself.
The valuable fur was given up without hesitation. A Russian traveler
stopping one night in a Gilyak house discovered in the morning that
his sledge was missing, and was gravely told that the spirit had taken
it.

In 1814 the small pox raged in one of the tribes living on the Kolyma
river, and the deaths from it were numerous. The shamans practiced all
their mysteries, and invoked the spirits, but they could not stop the
disease. Finally, after new invocations, they declared the evil
spirits could not be appeased without the death of Kotschen, a chief
of the tribe. This chief was so generally loved and respected that the
people refused to obey the shamans. But as the malady made new
progress, Kotschen magnanimously came forward and was stabbed by his
own son.

In general the shamans are held in check by the belief that should
they abuse their power they will be long and severely punished after
death. This punishment is supposed to occur in a locality specially
devoted to bad shamans. A good shaman who has performed wonderful
cures receives after death a magnificent tomb to his memory.

The Russians think that with educated Gilyaks they can succeed in
winning the natives to Christianity, especially when the missionaries
are skilled in the useful arts of civilized life. Hence the school in
Mihalofski, and it has so far succeeded well in the instruction of the
boys. Russian and Gilyak children were working in the gardens in
perfect harmony, and there was every indication of good feeling
between natives and settlers.



CHAPTER XIII.


On leaving Mihalofski we took the merchant and two priests and dropped
them fifteen miles above, at a village where a church was being
dedicated. The people were in their holiday costume and evidently
awaited the priests. The church was pointed out, nestling in the
forest just back of the river bank. It seemed more than large enough
for the wants of the people, and was the second structure of the kind
in a settlement ten years old. I have been told, but I presume not
with literal truth, that a church is the first building erected in a
Russian colony.

At night we ran until the setting of the moon, and then anchored. It
is the custom to anchor or tie up at night unless there is a good moon
or very clear starlight. An hour after we anchored the stars became so
bright that we proceeded and ran until daylight, reaching Mariensk at
two in the morning. I had designed calling upon two gentlemen and a
lady at Mariensk, but it is not the fashion in Russia to make visits
between midnight and daybreak. Borasdine had the claim of old
acquaintance and waked a friend for a little talk.

This town is at the entrance of Keezee lake, and next to Nicolayevsk
is the oldest Russian settlement on the lower Amoor. It was founded by
the Russian American Company in the same year with Nicolayevsk, and
was a trading post until the military occupation of the river.
Difficulties of navigation have diminished its military importance,
the principal rendezvous of this region being transferred to Sofyesk.

On an island opposite Mariensk is the trace of a fortification built
by Stepanoff, a Russian adventurer who descended the Amoor in 1654.
Stepanoff passed the winter at this point, and fortified himself to be
secure against the natives. He seems to have engaged in a general
business of filibustering on joint account of himself and his
government. In the winter of his residence at this fortress he
collected nearly five thousand sable skins as a tribute to his
emperor--and himself.

Morning found us at Sofyesk taking a fresh supply of wood. This town
was founded a few years ago, and has a decided appearance of newness.
There is a wagon road along the shore of Keezee lake and across the
hills to De Castries Bay. Light draft steamboats can go within twelve
miles of De Castries. Surveys have been made with the design of
connecting Keezee Lake and the Gulf of Tartary by a canal. A railway
has also been proposed, but neither enterprise will be undertaken for
many years. I passed an hour with the post commander, who had just
received a pile of papers only two months from St. Petersburg, the
mail having arrived the day before.

The steamer Telegraph lay at the landing when we arrived; among her
passengers was a Manjour merchant, who possessed an intelligent face,
quite in contrast with the sleepy Gilyaks. He wore the Manjour dress,
consisting of wide trowsers and a long robe reaching to his heels; his
shoes and hat were Chinese, and his robe was held at the waist with a
silk cord. His hair was braided in the Chinese fashion, and he sported
a long mustache but no beard.

[Illustration: MANJOUR MERCHANT.]

A few versts above Sofyesk we met a Manjour merchant evidently on a
trading expedition. He had a boat about twenty-five feet long by eight
wide, with a single mast carrying a square sail. His boat was full of
boxes and bales and had a crew of four men. A small skiff was towed
astern and another alongside. These Manjour merchants are quite
enterprising, and engage in traffic for small profits and large risks
when better terms are not attainable. Before the Russian occupation
all the trade of the lower Amoor was in Manjour hands. Boats annually
descended from San-Sin and Igoon bringing supplies for native use.
Sometimes a merchant would spend five or six months making his round
journey.

The merchants visited the villages on the route and bargained their
goods for furs. There was an annual fair at the Gilyak village of Pul,
below Mariensk, and this was made the center of commerce. The fair
lasted ten days, and during that time Pul was a miniature Nijne
Novgorod. Manjour and Chinese merchants met Japanese from the island
of Sakhalin, Tunguse from the coast of the Ohotsk Sea, and others
from, the head waters of the Zeya and Amgoon. There were Gilyaks from
the lower Amoor and various tribes of natives from the coast of
Manjouria.

A dozen languages were spoken, and traffic was conducted in a patois
of all the dialects. Cloth, powder, lead, knives, and brandy were
exchanged for skins and furs. A gentleman who attended one of these
fairs told me that the scene was full of interest and abounded in
amusing incidents. Of late years the navigation of the Amoor has
discontinued the fair of Pul. The Manjour traders still descend the
river, but they are not as numerous as of yore.

With a good glass from the deck of the steamer I watched the native
process of catching salmon. The fishing stations are generally, though
not always, near the villages. The natives use gill nets and seines in
some localities, and scoop nets in others. Sometimes they build a
fence at right angles to the shore, and extend it twenty or thirty
yards into the stream. This fence is fish-proof, except in a few
places where holes are purposely left.

The natives lie in wait with skiffs and hand-nets and catch the
salmon, as they attempt to pass these holes. I watched a Gilyak taking
fish in this way, and think he dipped them up at the rate of two a
minute; when the fish are running well a skiff can be filled in a
short time. Sometimes pens of wicker work are fixed to enclose the
fish after they pass the holes in the fence. The salmon in this case
has a practical illustration of life in general: easy to get into
trouble but difficult to get out of it.

[Illustration: GILYAK MAN.]

For catching sturgeon they use a circular net five feet across at the
opening, and shaped like a shallow bag. One side of the mouth is
fitted with corks and the other with weights of lead or iron. Two
canoes in mid stream hold this net between them, at right angles to
the current. The sturgeon descending the river enters the trap, and
the net proceeds of the enterprise are divided between the fishermen.

It requires vision or a guide to find a fishing station, but the sense
of smell is quite sufficient to discover where salmon are dressed and
cured. The offal from the fish creates an unpleasant stench and no
effort is made to clear it away. The natives and their dogs do not
consider the scent disagreeable and have no occasion to consult the
tastes or smell of others. The first time I visited one of their
fish-curing places I thought of the western city that had, after a
freshet, 'forty-five distinct and different odors beside several wards
to hear from.'

Above Mariensk the Amoor valley is often ten or twenty miles wide,
enclosing whole labyrinths of islands, some of great extent. These
islands are generally well out of water and not liable to overflow.
Very few have the temporary appearance of the islands of the lower
Mississippi. Here and there were small islands of slight elevation and
covered with cottonwoods, precisely like those growing between Memphis
and Cairo.

[Illustration: GILYAK WOMAN.]

The banks of this part of the Amoor do not wash like the alluvial
lands along the Mississippi and Missouri, but are more like the shores
of the Ohio. They are generally covered with grass or bushes down to
the edge of the water. There are no shifting sand-bars to perplex the
pilot, but the channel remains with little change from year to year. I
saw very little drift wood and heard no mention of snags. The general
features of the scenery were much like those below Mihalofski. The
numerous islands and the labyrinth of channels often permit boats to
pass each other without their captains knowing it. One day we saw a
faint line of smoke across an island three or four miles wide;
watching it closely I found it was in motion and evidently came from
a descending steamboat. On another occasion we missed in these
channels a boat our captain was desirous of hailing. Once while
General Monravieff was ascending the river he was passed by a courier
who was bringing him important despatches.

[Illustration: NIGHT SCENE--GROUP OF PEASANTS]

The pilot steers with a chart of the river before him, and relies
partly upon his experience and partly upon the delineated route.
Sometimes channels used at high water are not navigable when the river
is low, and some are favorable for descent but not for ascent. In
general the pilotage is far more facile than on the Mississippi, and
accidents are not frequent.

The peasants always came to the bank where we stopped, no matter what
the hour. At one place where we took wood at night there was a
picturesque group of twenty-five or thirty gathered around a fire; men
and women talking, laughing, smoking, and watching the crew at work.
The light, of the fire poured full upon a few figures and brought them
into strong relief, while others were half hidden in shadow. Of the
men some wore coats of sheepskin, others Cossack coats of grey cloth;
some had caps of faded cloth, and others Tartar caps of black
sheepskin. Red beards, white beards, black beards, and smooth faces
were played upon by the dancing flames. The women, were in hoopless
dresses, and held shawls over their heads in place of bonnets.

A hundred versts above Sofyesk the scenery changed. The mountains on
the south bank receded from the river and were more broken and
destitute of trees. Wide strips of lowland covered with forest
intervened between the mountains and the shore. On the north the
general character of the country remained. I observed a mountain,
wooded to the top and sloping regularly, that had a curious formation
at its summit. It was a perpendicular shaft resembling Bunker Hill
Monument, and rising from the highest point of the mountain; it
appeared of perfect symmetry, and seemed more like a work of art than
of nature. On the same mountain, half way down its side, was a mass of
rock with towers and buttresses that likened it to a cathedral. These
formations were specially curious, as there were no more of the kind
in the vicinity. Borasdine observed the rocks soon after I discovered
them, and at first thought they were ancient monuments.

There were many birds along the shore. Very often we dispersed flocks
of ducks and sent them flying over islands and forests to places of
safety. Snipe were numerous, and so were several kinds of wading and
swimming birds. Very often we saw high in air the wild geese of
Siberia flying to the southward in those triangular squadrons that
they form everywhere over the world. These birds winter in the south
of China, Siam, and India, while they pass the summer north of the
range of the Yablonoi mountains.

The birds of the Amoor belong generally to the species found in the
same latitudes of Europe and America, but there are some birds of
passage that are natives of Southern Asia, Japan, the Philippine
Islands, and even South Africa and Australia. Seven-tenths of the
birds of the Amoor are found in Europe, two-tenths in Siberia, and
one-tenth in regions further south. Some birds belong more properly to
America, such as the Canada woodcock and the water ouzel; and there
are several birds common to the east and west coasts of the Pacific.
The naturalists who came here at the Russian occupation found two
Australian birds on the Amoor, two from tropical and sub-tropical
Africa, and one from Southern Asia.

The number of stationary birds is not great, in consequence of the
excessive cold in winter. Mr. Maack enumerates thirty-nine species
that dwell here the entire year. They include eagles, hawks, jays,
magpies, crows, grouse, owls, woodpeckers, and some others. The birds
of passage generally arrive at the end of April or during May, and
leave in September or October.

It is a curious fact that they come later to Nicolayevsk than to the
town of Yakutsk, nine degrees further north. This is due to
differences of climate and the configuration of the country. The lower
Amoor is remarkable for its large quantities of snow, and at
Nicolayevsk it remains on the ground till the end of May. South of
the lower Amoor are the Shanalin mountains, which arrest the progress
of birds. On the upper Amoor and in Trans-Baikal very little snow
falls, and there are no mountains of great height.

The day after leaving Sofyesk I observed a native propelling a boat by
pulling both oars together. On my expressing surprise my companion
said:

"We have passed the country of the Gilyaks who pull their oars
alternately, and entered that of the Mangoons and Goldees. The manner
of rowing distinguishes the Gilyaks from all others."

The Mangoons, Goldees, and Gilyaks differ in much the same way that
the tribes of American Indians are different. They are all of
Tungusian or Mongolian stock, and have many traits and words in
common. Their features have the same general characteristics and their
languages are as much alike as those of a Cheyenne and Comanche. Each
people has its peculiar customs, such as the style of dress, the mode
of constructing a house, or rowing a boat. All are pagans and indulge
in Shamanism, but each tribe has forms of its own. All are fishers and
hunters, their principal support being derived from the river.

The Goldee boat was so much like a Gilyak one that I could see no
difference. There was no opportunity to examine it closely, as we
passed at a distance of two or three hundred feet.

Besides their boats of wood the Goldees make canoes of birch bark,
quite broad in the middle and coming to a point at both ends. In
general appearance these canoes resemble those of the Penobscot and
Canadian Indians. The native sits in the middle of his canoe and
propels himself with a double-bladed oar, which he dips into the water
with regular alternations from one side to the other. The canoes are
flat bottomed and very easy to overturn. A canoe is designed to carry
but one man, though two can be taken in an emergency. When a native
sitting in one of them spears a fish he moves only his arm and keeps
his body motionless. At the Russian village of Gorin there was an
Ispravnik who had charge of a district containing nineteen villages
with about fifteen hundred inhabitants. At Gorin the river is two or
three miles wide, and makes a graceful bend. We landed near a pile of
ash logs awaiting shipment to Nicolayevsk. The Ispravnik was kind
enough to give me the model of a Goldee canoe about eighteen inches
long and complete in all particulars. It was made by one Anaka
Katonovitch, chief of an ancient Goldee family, and authorized by the
emperor of China to wear the uniform of a mandarin. The canoe was
neatly formed, and reflected favorably upon the skill of its designer.
I boxed it carefully and sent it to Nicolayevsk for shipment to
America.

The Ispravnik controlled the district between Habarofka and Sofyesk on
both banks of the river, his power extending over native and Russian
alike. He said that this part of the Amoor valley was very fertile,
the yield of wheat and rye being fifteen times the seed. The principal
articles cultivated were wheat, rye, hemp, and garden vegetables, and
he thought the grain product of 1866 in his district would be thirty
thousand poods of wheat and the same of rye. With a population of
fifteen hundred in a new country, this result was very good.

The Goldees do not engage in agriculture as a business. Now and then
there was a small garden, but it was of very little importance. Since
the Russian occupation the natives have changed their allegiance from
China to the 'White Czar,' as they call the Muscovite emperor.
Formerly they were much oppressed by the Manjour officials, who
displayed great rapacity in collecting tribute. It was no unusual
occurrence for a native to be tied up and whipped to compel him to
bring out all his treasures. The Goldees call the Manjours 'rats,' in
consequence of their greediness and destructive powers.

The Goldees are superior to the Gilyaks in numbers and intelligence,
and the Manjours of Igoon and vicinity are in turn superior to the
Goldees. The Chinese are more civilized than the Manjours, and call
the latter 'dogs.' The Manjours take revenge by applying the epithet
to the Goldees, and these transfer it to Mangoons and Gilyaks. The
Mangoons are not in large numbers, and live along the river between
the Gilyaks and Goldees. Many of the Russian officials include them
with the latter, and the captain of the Ingodah was almost unaware of
their existence.

A peculiar kind of fence employed by the Russian settlers on this part
of the Amoor attracted my attention. Stakes were driven into the
ground a foot apart and seven feet high. Willow sticks were then woven
between these stakes in a sort of basket work. The fence was
impervious to any thing larger than a rat, and no sensible man would
attempt climbing it, unless pursued by a bull or a sheriff, as the
upper ends of the sticks were very sharp and about as convenient to
sit upon as a row of harrow-teeth.

It reminded me of a fence in an American village where I once lived,
that an enterprising fruit-grower had put around his orchard,--a
structure of upright pickets, and each picket armed with a nail in the
top. One night four individuals bent on stealing apples, were
confronted by the owner and a bull-dog and forced to surrender or leap
the fence. Three of them were "treed" by the dog; the fourth sprang
over the fence, but left the seat of his trousers and the rear section
of his shirt, the latter bearing in indelible ink the name of the
wearer. The circumstantial evidence was so strong against him that he
did not attempt an alibi, and he was unable to sit down for nearly a
fortnight.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--THE NET]



CHAPTER XIV.


I took the first opportunity to enter a Goldee house and study the
customs of the people. A Goldee dwelling for permanent habitation has
four walls and a roof. The sides and ends are of hewn boards or small
poles made into a close fence, which is generally double and has a
space six or eight inches wide filled with grass and leaves. Inside
and out the dwelling is plastered with mud, and the roofs are thatch
or bark held in place by poles and stones. Sometimes they are entirely
of poles. The doors are of hewn plank, and can be fastened on the
inside.

The dwellings are from fifteen to forty feet square, according to the
size of the family. In one I found a grandfather and his descendants;
thirty persons at least. There are usually two windows, made of fish
skin or thin paper over lattices. Some windows were closed with mats
that could be rolled up or lowered at will.

The fire-place has a deep pan or kettle fixed over it, and there is
room for a pot suspended from a rafter. Around the room is a divan, or
low bench of boards or wicker work, serving as a sofa by day and a bed
at night. When dogs are kept in the house a portion of the divan
belongs to them, and among the Mangoons there is a table in the center
specially reserved for feeding the dogs.

I found the floors of clay, smooth and hard. Near the fire-place a
little fire of charcoal is kept constantly burning in a shallow hole.
Pipes are lighted at this fire, and small things can be warmed over
it. Household articles were hung upon the rafters and cross beams, and
there was generally a closet for table ware and other valuables. The
cross-beams were sufficiently close to afford stowage room for
considerable property. Fish-nets, sledges, and canoes were the most
bulky articles I saw there.

Part of one wall was reserved for religious purposes, and covered with
bear-skulls and bones, horse-hair, wooden idols, and pieces of colored
cloth. Occasionally there were badly-painted pictures, purchased from
the Chinese at enormous prices. Sometimes poles shaped like small
idols are fixed before the houses.

A Goldee house is warmed by means of wooden pipes under the divan and
passing out under ground to a chimney ten or fifteen feet from the
building. Great economy is shown in using fuel and great care against
conflagrations. I was not able to stand erect in any Goldee houses I
entered.

Like all people of the Mongolian race, the natives pretended to have
little curiosity. When we landed at their villages many continued
their occupations and paid no attention to strangers. Above Gorin a
Goldee gentleman took me into his house, where a woman placed a mat on
the divan and motioned me to a seat. The man tendered me a piece of
dried fish, which I ate out of courtesy to my hosts. Several children
gathered to look at me, but retired on a gesture from _pater
familias_. I am not able to say if the fact that my eyes were
attracted to a pretty girl of seventeen had anything to do with the
dispersal of the group. Curiosity dwells in Mongol breasts, but the
Asiatics, like our Indians, consider its exhibition in bad taste.

Outside this man's house there were many scaffoldings for drying fish.
A tame eagle was fastened with a long chain to one of the scaffolds;
he was supposed to keep other birds away and was a pet of his owner.
There were many dogs walking or lying around loose, while others were
tied to the posts that supported the scaffolds.

The dogs of the Goldees are very intelligent. One morning Mr. Maack
missed his pots which he had left the night before full of meat. After
some search they were found in the woods near the village, overturned
and empty. Several dogs were prowling about and had evidently
committed the theft. Fearing to be interrupted at their meal they
carried the pots where they could eat at leisure.

While steaming up the river I frequently saw temporary dwellings of
poles and bark like our Indian wigwams. These were at the fishing
stations upon sand bars or low islands. The afternoon following our
departure from Gorin I counted about thirty huts, or _yourts_, on one
island, and more than fifty boats on the river.

For half a mile the scene was animated and interesting. Some boats
were near the shore, their inmates hauling seines or paddling up or
down the stream. In one heavily laden boat there was one man steering
with a paddle. Four men towed the craft against the current, and
behind it was another drawn by six dogs. Out in the river were small
skiffs and canoes in couples, engaged in holding nets across the
direction of the current. The paddles wore struck regularly and slowly
to prevent drifting down the stream.

[Illustration: TEN MILES AN HOUR.]

One boat with two men rowing and another steering attempted a race
with the steamer and fairly passed us, though we were making ten miles
an hour. All these natives are very skillful in managing their boats.

When we passed near a boat we were greeted with '_Mendow, mendow,'_
the Mongol word of welcome. Sometimes we were hailed with the Russian
salutation of '_sdrastveteh_.' In one boat I saw a Goldee belle
dressed with considerable taste and wearing a ring in the cartilage of
her nose. How powerful are the mandates of Fashion! This damsel would
scorn to wear her pendants after the manner of Paris and New York,
while the ladies of Broadway and the Boulevards would equally reject
the Goldee custom.

The natives of this part of the Amoor have a three-pronged spear like
a Neptune's trident, and handle it with much dexterity. The spear-head
is attached to a long line, and when a fish is struck the handle is
withdrawn. The fish runs out the line, which is either held in the
hand or attached to a bladder floating on the water.

Ropes and nets are made from hemp and the common sting nettle, the
latter being preferred. The nettle-stalks are soaked in water and then
dried and pounded till the fibres separate. Ropes and cords are equal
to those of civilized manufacture, though sometimes not quite as
smooth. Thread for sewing and embroidery comes from China, and is
purchased of Manjour traders.

The night after we left Gorin the boat took wood at the village of
Doloe. It was midnight when we arrived, and as I walked through the
village nearly all the inhabitants were sleeping. The only
perambulating resident was very drunk and manifested a desire to
embrace me, but as I did not know his language and could not claim
relationship I declined the honor. Near the river there was a large
building for government stores and a smaller one for the men guarding
it. A few hundred yards distant there was a Goldee village, and for
want of something better Borasdine proposed that we should call on one
of its inhabitants. We took a Russian peasant to guide and introduce
us, our credentials and passports having been left on the steamer.

As we approached the first house we were greeted by at least a dozen
dogs. They barked on all keys and our guide thought it judicious to
provide himself with a stick; but I must do the brutes the justice to
say that they made no attempt at dentistry upon our legs. Some of
them were large enough to consume ten pounds of beef at a sitting, and
some too small for any but ornamental purposes.

The door was not locked and the peasant entered without warning, while
we stood outside among the dogs. Our guide aroused the chief of the
establishment and made a light; a strip of birch bark was used, and it
took a good deal of blowing on the fire coals before a flame was
produced. When we entered we found the proprietor standing in a short
garment and rubbing his oblique eyes to get himself thoroughly awake.

Near the place he had vacated, the lady of the house was huddled under
a coverlid about as large as a postage stamp, and did not appear
encumbered with much clothing. Three or four others had waked and made
some attempt to cover themselves. At least a dozen remained asleep and
lay in a charming condition of nudity. The Goldee houses are heated to
a high degree, and their inmates sleep without clothing. The delay in
admitting us was to permit the head of the house to dress in reception
costume, which he did by putting on his shirt.

After wishing this aboriginal a long and happy life, and thanking him
for his courtesy, we departed. I bumped my head against the rafters
both in entering and leaving, and found considerable difference
between the temperature in the house and out of it. The peasant
offered to guide us to visit more Goldees, but we returned to the boat
and retired to sleep.

The Russian peasants and the natives live in perfect harmony and are
of mutual advantage and assistance. The peasant furnishes the native
with salt, flour, and other things, while the latter catches fish,
enough for both. Each has a peaceable disposition, and I was told that
quarrels were of rare occurrence.

The Chinese call the natives _Yu-pi-ta-tze_, which in English means
'wearers of fish-skins.' I saw many garments of fish-skins, most of
them for summer use. The operation of preparing them is quite simple.
The skins are dried and afterward pounded, the blows making them
flexible and removing the scales. This done they are ready to be sewn
into garments.

[Illustration: A GOLDEE HOUSE]

A coat of this material embroidered and otherwise decorated is far
from ugly, and sheds water like India rubber. Fish skins are used in
making sails for boats and for the windows of houses. A Russian who
had worn a Goldee coat said it was both warm and waterproof, and he
suggested that it would be well to adopt fish-skin garments in
America.

The Goldees and Mangoons practice Shamanism in its general features,
and have a few customs peculiar to themselves. At a Goldee village I
saw a man wearing a wooden representation of an arm, and learned that
it is the practice to wear amulets to cure disease, the amulet being
shaped like the part affected. A lame person carries a small leg of
wood, an individual suffering from dyspepsia a little stomach, and so
on through a variety of disorders. A hypochondriac who thought himself
afflicted all over had covered himself with these wooden devices, and
looked like a museum of anatomy on its travels. I thought the custom
not unknown in America, as I had seen ladies in New York wearing
hearts of coral and other substances on their watch-chains. Evidently
the fashion comes from l'Amour.

[Illustration: THE HYPOCHONDRIAC.]

The morning after leaving Doloe we had a rain-storm with high wind
that blew us on a lee shore. The river was four or five miles wide
where the gale caught us, and the banks on both sides were low. The
islands in this part of the river were numerous and extensive. At one
place there are three channels, each a mile and a half wide and all
navigable. From one bank to the other straight across the islands is a
distance of nineteen miles.

The wind and weather prevented our making much progress on that day;
as the night was cloudy we tied up near a Russian village and
economised the darkness by taking wood. At a peasant's house near the
landing four white-headed children were taking their suppers of bread
and soup under the supervision of their mother. Light was furnished
from an apparatus like a fishing jack attached to the wall; every few
minutes the woman fed it with a splinter of pine wood. Very few of the
peasants on the Amoor can afford the expense of candles, and as they
rarely have fire-places they must burn pine splinters in this way.

Along the Amoor nearly every peasant house contains hundreds, and I
think thousands, of cockroaches. They are quiet in the day but do not
fail to make themselves known at night. The table where these children
were eating swarmed with them, and I can safely say there wore five
dozen on a space three feet square. They ran everywhere about the
premises except into the fire. Walls, beds, tables, and floors were
plentifully covered with these disagreeable insects. The Russians do
not appear to mind them, and probably any one residing in that region
would soon be accustomed to their presence. Occasionally they are
found in bread and soup, and do not improve the flavor.

Life on the steamboat was a trifle monotonous, but I found something
new daily. Our steward (who is called _Boofetchee_ in Russian) brought
me water for washing when I rose in the morning, and the samovar with
tea when I was dressed. Borasdine rose about the time I did and joined
me at tea. Then we had breakfast of beef and bread with potatoes about
eleven or twelve o'clock, and dinner at six.

The intervals between meals were variously filled. I watched the land,
talked with Borasdine, read, wrote, smoked, and contemplated the
steward, but never imagined him a disguised angel. I looked at the
steerage passengers and the crew, and think their faces are pretty
well fixed in memory. Had I only been able to converse in Russian I
should have found much more enjoyment. As for the cook it is needless
to say that I never penetrated the mysteries of his realm. Little
games of cards wore played daily by all save myself; I used to look on
occasionally but never learned the games.

One of the Russian games at cards is called poker, and is not much
unlike that seductive amusement so familiar to the United States.
Whence it came I could not ascertain, but it was probably taken there
by some enterprising American. Some years ago a western actor who was
able to play Hamlet, Richelieu, Richard III., Claude Melnotte, and
draw-poker, made his way to Australia, where he delighted the natives
with his dramatic genius. But though he drew crowded houses his cash
box was empty, as the treasurer stole the most of the receipts. He did
not discharge him as there was little prospect of finding a better man
in that country; but he taught him draw-poker, borrowed five dollars
to start the game, and then every morning won from the treasurer the
money taken at the door on the previous night.

As we approached the Ousuree there was a superior magnificence in the
forest. The trees on the southern bank grew to an enormous size in
comparison, with those lower down the river. Naturalists say that
within a short distance in this region may be found all the trees
peculiar to the Amoor. Some of them are three or four feet in diameter
and very tall and straight. The elm and larch attain the greatest
size, while the ash and oak are but little inferior. The cork-tree is
two feet through, and the maackia--a species of oak with a brown, firm
wood--grows to the diameter of a foot or more.

In summer the foliage is so dense that the sun's rays hardly
penetrate, and there is a thick 'chapparel' that makes locomotion
difficult. Just below the Ousuree the settlers had removed the under
growth over a small space and left the trees appearing taller than
ever. In a great deal of travel I have never seen a finer forest than
on this part of the Amoor. I do not remember anything on the lower
Mississippi that could surpass it. Tigers and leopards abound in
these forests, and bears are more numerous than agreeable.
Occasionally one of these animals dines upon a Goldee, but the custom
is not in favor with the natives. It is considered remarkable that the
Bengal tiger, belonging properly to a region nearer the equator,
should range so far north. On some of its excursions it reaches 53°
North Latitude, and feeds upon reindeer and sables. The valley of the
Amoor is the only place in the world outside of a menagerie where all
these animals are found together. The tropical ones go farther north
and the Arctic ones farther south than elsewhere.

It is the same with the vegetable kingdom. The mahogany and cork tree
grow here, and the bark of the latter is largely used by the natives.
On the slopes of the mountains a few miles away are the Siberian pine,
the Ayan spruce, and here and there a larch tree. Cedars and fir trees
are abundant and grow to a great size. The whole appearance of the
region is one of luxuriance and fertility.

The mouth of the Ousuree is a mile wide, and the stream is said to be
magnificent through its whole length. Its sources are in Latitude 44°,
and its length is about five hundred miles. While I was at Nicolayevsk
Admiral Fulyelm said to me:

"I have just returned from a voyage on the Ousuree. It is one of the
loveliest rivers I ever saw. The valley bears such a resemblance to a
settled country with alternate parks and open country that I almost
looked to see some grand old mansion at every bend of the stream."

A little past noon we sighted the town and military post of Habarofka
at the mouth of the Ousuree. It stands on a promontory overlooking
both rivers, and presents a pleasing appearance from the Amoor. The
portion first visible included the telegraph office and storehouses,
near which a small steamer was at anchor. A Manjour trading boat was
at the bank, its crew resting on shore; a piece of canvas had been
spread on the ground and the men were lounging upon it. One grave old
personage, evidently the owner of the boat, waved his hand toward us
in a dignified manner, but we could not understand his meaning.

Coming to shore we narrowly missed running over a Goldee boat that
crossed our track. Our wheel almost touched the stern of the craft as
we passed it, but the occupants appeared no wise alarmed. Two women
were rowing and a man steering, while a man and a boy were idle in the
bow. A baby, strapped into a shallow cradle, lay in the bottom of the
boat near the steersman. The young Mongol was holding his thumb in his
mouth and appeared content with his position.

The town was in a condition of rawness like a western city in its
second year; there was one principal street and several smaller ones,
regularly laid out. As in all the Russian settlements on the Amoor the
houses were of logs and substantially built. Passing up the principal
street we found a store, where we purchased a quantity of canned
fruit, meats, and pickles.

[Illustration: "NONE FOR JOE."]

These articles were from Boston, New York, and Baltimore, and had
American labels. The pictures of poaches, strawberries, and other
fruits printed on the labels were a great convenience to the Russian
clerk who served us. He could not read English, but understood
pictorial representations. On the boat we gave the cans to the
steward, to be opened when we ordered. The pictures were especially
adapted to this youth as he read no language whatever, including his
own. On one occasion a quantity of devilled turkey was put up in cans
and sent to the Amoor, and the label was beautified with a picture of
His Satanic Majesty holding a turkey on the end of a fork. The natives
supposed that the devil was in the cans and refused to touch them. The
supply was sent back to Nicolayevsk, where it was eaten by the
American merchants.

Accompanying Borasdine I called upon the officer in command. We were
ushered through two or three small rooms into the principal apartment,
which contained a piano of French manufacture. Three or four officers
and as many ladies enabled us to pass an hour very pleasantly till the
steam whistle recalled us, but we did not leave until two hours after
going on board. Two or three men had been allowed on shore and were
making themselves comfortable in a _lafka_. Two others went for them,
but as they did not return within an hour the police went to search
for both parties. When all were brought to the steamer it was
difficult to say it the last were not first--in intoxication.

Several passengers left us at Habarofka, among them the black eyed
girl that attracted the eyes of one or two passengers in the cabin; as
we departed she stood on the bank and waved us an adieu. In the
freight taken at this point there were fifteen chairs of local
manufacture; they were piled in the cabin and did not leave us much
space, when we considered the number and size of the fleas. On my
first night on the Ingodah the fleas did not disturb me as I came
after visiting hours and was not introduced. On all subsequent nights
they were persevering and relentless; I was bitten until portions of
my body appeared as if recovering from a Polynesian tattoo. They used
to get inside my under clothing by some mysterious way and when there
they walked up and down like sentries on duty and bit at every other
step. It was impossible to flee from them, and they appointed their
breakfasts and lunches at times most inconvenient to myself.

If I were Emperor of Russia I would issue a special edict expelling
fleas from my dominions and ordering that the labor expended in
scratching should be devoted to agriculture or the mechanic arts. I
suggested that the engines should be removed from the Ingodah and a
treadmill erected for the fleas to propel the boat. There have been
exhibitions where fleas were trained to draw microscopic coaches and
perform other fantastic tricks; but whatever their ability I would
wager that the insects on that steamboat could not be outdone in
industry by any other fleas in the world.

One of my standard amusements was to have a grand hunt for these
lively insects just before going to bed, and I have no doubt that the
exercise assisted to keep me in good health. I used to remove my
clothing, which I turned inside out and shook very carefully. Then I
bathed from head to foot in some villainous brandy that no respectable
flea would or could endure; after this ablution was ended, I donned my
garments, wrapped in my blanket, and proceeded to dream that I was a
hen with thirteen chickens, and doomed to tear up an acre of ground
for their support.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--SCENE ON THE RIVER]



CHAPTER XV.


When I rose in the morning after leaving Habarofka the steward was
ready with his usual pitcher of water and basin. In Siberia they have
a novel way of performing ablutions. They rarely furnish a wash-bowl,
but in place of it bring a large basin of brass or other metal. If you
wish to wash hands or face the basin is placed where you can lean over
it. A servant pours from a pitcher into your hands, and if you are
skillful you catch enough water to moisten your face. Frequently the
peasants have a water-can attached to the wall of the house in some
out-of-the-way locality. The can has a valve in the bottom opened from
below like a trapdoor in a roof. By lifting a brass pin that projects
from this valve one can fill his hands with water without the aid of a
servant.

While I was arranging my toilet the steward pointed out of the cabin
window and uttered the single word "Kitie"--emphasizing the last
syllable. I looked where he directed and had my first view of the
Chinese empire.

"Kitie" is the Russian name of China, and is identical with the Cathay
of Marco Polo and other early travelers. I could not see any
difference between Kitie on one hand and Russia on the other; there
were trees and bushes, grass and sand, just as on the opposite shore.
In the region immediately above the Ousuree there are no mountains
visible from the river, but only the low banks on either hand covered
with trees and bushes. Here and there were open spaces appearing as if
cleared for cultivation. With occasional sand bars and low islands,
and the banks frequently broken and shelving, the resemblance to the
lower Mississippi was almost perfect.

Mr. Maack says of this region:

"In the early part of the year when the yellow blossoms of the
Lonicera chrysantha fill the air with their fragrance, when the
syringas bloom and the Hylonecon bedecks large tracts with a bright
golden hue, when corydales, violets, and pasque flowers are open, the
forests near the Ousuree may bear comparison in variety of richness
and coloring with the open woods of the prairie country. Later in the
year, the scarcity of flowers is compensated by the richness of the
herbage, and after a shower of rain delicious perfumes are wafted
towards us from the tops of the walnut and cork trees."

A little past noon we touched at the Russian village of Petrovsky. At
this place the river was rapidly washing the banks, and I was told
that during three years nearly four hundred feet in front of the
village had been carried away. The single row of houses forming the
settlement stands with a narrow street between it and the edge of the
bank. The whole population, men, women, and children, turned out to
meet us. The day was cool and the men were generally in their
sheepskin coats. The women wore gowns of coarse cloth of different
colors, and each had a shawl over her head. Some wore coats of
sheepskin like those of the men, and several were barefooted. Two
women walked into the river and stood with utter nonchalance where the
water was fifteen inches deep. I immersed my thermometer and found it
indicated 51°.

Walking on shore I was nearly overturned by a small hog running
between my legs. The brute, with a dozen of his companions, had pretty
much his own way at Petrovsky, and after this introduction I was
careful about my steps. These hogs are modelled something like
blockade runners: with great length, narrow beam, and light draft.
They are capable of high speed, and would make excellent time if
pursued by a bull-dog or pursuing a swill-bucket.

[Illustration: RECEPTION AT PETROVSKY.]

A peasant told us there were wild geese in a pond near by,
and as the boat remained an hour or more to take wood, Borasdine and I
improvised a hunting excursion. It proved in every sense a wild-goose
chase, as the birds flew away before we were in shooting distance. Not
wishing to return empty-handed we purchased two geese a few hundred
yards from the village, and assumed an air of great dignity as we
approached the boat. We subsequently ascertained that the same geese
were offered to the steward for half the price we paid.

Just above Petrovsky we passed the steamer Amoor, which left
Nicolayevsk a week before us with three barges in tow. With such a
heavy load her progress was very slow. Barges on the Amoor river are
generally built of iron, and nearly as large as the steamers. They are
not towed alongside as on the Mississippi, but astern. The rope from
the steamer to the first barge is about two hundred feet long, and the
barges follow each other at similar distances. Looking at this steamer
struggling against the current and impeded by the barges, brought to
mind Pope's needless Alexandrine:

"That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along."

Each barge has a crew, subordinate, of course, to the captain of the
tow-boat. This crew steers the barge in accordance with the course of
the steamer, looks after its welfare, and watches over the freight on
board. In case it fastens on a sand bar the crew remains with it, and
sometimes has the pleasure of wintering there. The barge is decked
like a ship, and has two or three hatchways for receiving and
discharging freight. Over each hatchway is a derrick that appears at a
distance not unlike a mast.

Above Petrovsky the banks generally retain their level character on
the Russian side. Cliffs and hills frequently extend to the water on
the Chinese shore, most of the land being covered with forests of
foliferous trees. Some of the mountains are furrowed along their sides
as regularly as if turned with a gigantic plow. Near the villages of
Ettoo and Dyrki the cliffs are precipitous and several hundred feet
high; at their base the water is deep and the current very strong. On
the north shore the plain is generally free from tall trees, but has a
dense growth of grass and bushes. Sand-banks are frequent, and the
islands are large and numerous.

This region is much frequented during the fishing season, and the huts
of the natives, their canoes and drying scaffolds are quite numerous.
There are but few fixed villages, the country not being desirable for
permanent habitation. Near one village there was a gently sloping
hillside about a mile square with a forest of oak so scattered that it
had a close resemblance to an American apple-orchard.

The treaty between Russia and China, fixing the boundaries between the
two empires, contains a strange oversight. Dated on the 14th of
November, 1860, it says:

"Henceforth the eastern frontier between the two empires shall
commence from the junction of the rivers Shilka and Argoon, and will
follow the course of the River Amoor to the junction of the river
Ousuree with the latter. The land on the left bank (to the north) of
the River Amoor belongs to the empire of Russia, and the territory on
the right bank (to the south) to the junction of the River Ousuree, to
the empire of China."

The treaty further establishes the boundaries from the mouth of the
Ousuree to the sea of Japan, and along the western region toward
Central Asia. It provides for commissioners to examine the frontier
line.

It declares that trade shall be free of duty along the entire line,
and removes all commercial restrictions. It gives the merchants of
Kiachta the right of going to Pekin, Oorga, and Kalgan; allows a
Russian consulate at Oorga, and permits Russian merchants to travel
anywhere in China. It annuls former treaties, and establishes a postal
arrangement between Pekin and Kiachta.

I presume the oversight in the treaty was on the part of the Chinese,
as the Russians are too shrewd in diplomacy to omit any point of
advantage. Nothing is said about the land in the Amoor. "The land on
the north bank is Russian, and on the south bank Chinese." What is to
be the nationality of the islands in the river? Some of them are large
enough to hold a population of importance, or be used, as the sites of
fortifications. There are duchies and principalities in Europe of less
territorial extent than some islands of the Amoor.

When Russia desires them she will doubtless extend her protection, and
I observed during my voyage that several islands were occupied by
Russian settlers for hay-cutting and other purposes. Why could not an
enterprising man of destiny like the grey-eyed Walker or unhappy
Maximilian penetrate the Amoor and found a new government on an island
that nobody owns? Quite likely his adventure would result like the
conquests of Mexico and Nicaragua, but this probability should not
cause a man of noble blood to hesitate.

Below the Ousuree the Russian villages were generally on the south
bank of the river, but after passing that stream I found them all on
the north side. The villages tributary to China consisted only of the
settlements of Goldees and Mangoons, or their temporary fishing
stations. The Chinese empire contains much territory still open to
colonization, and I imagine that it would be to the interest of the
Celestial government to scatter its population more evenly over its
dominions. Possibly it does not wish to send its subjects into regions
that may hereafter fall into the hands of the emperor of Russia.
There is a great deal of land in Manjouria adapted to agriculture,
richly timbered and watered, but containing a very small population.
Millions of people could find homes where there are now but a few
thousands.

A Russian village and military post seventeen miles below the mouth of
the Songaree is named Michael Semenof, in honor of the Governor
General of Eastern Siberia. We landed before the commandant's house,
where two iron guns pointed over the river in the direction of China.
However threatening they appeared I was informed they were
unserviceable for purposes of war, and only employed in firing
salutes. A military force was maintained there, and doubtless kept a
sharp watch over the Chinese frontier.

The soldiers appeared under good sanitary regulations, and the
quarters of the Commandant indicated an appreciation of the comforts
of life. The peasants that gathered on the bank were better dressed
than those of Petrovsky and other villages. The town is on a plain
covered with a scattered growth of oaks. Below this place the wood
furnished us was generally ash or poplar; here it was oak, somewhat
gnarly and crooked, but very good for steamboat fuel. One design of
the colonization of the Amoor is to furnish a regular supply of wood
to the government steamers. The peasants cut the wood and bring it to
the bank of the river. Private steamers pay cash for what they
purchase; the captains of the government boats gives vouchers for the
wood they take, and these vouchers are redeemed at the end of the
season of navigation. About sixty thousand roubles worth of wood is
consumed annually by government, and twelve thousand on private
account.

While the boat took wood Borasdine and I resumed our hunting, he
carrying a shot-gun and I an opera glass; with this division of labor
we managed to bag a single snipe and kill another, which was lost in
the river. My opera glass was of assistance in finding the birds in
the grass; they were quite abundant almost within rifle-shot of town,
and it seemed strange that the officers of the post did not devote
their leisure to snipe hunting.

Our snipe was cooked, for dinner, and equalled any I ever saw at
Delmonico's. We had a wild goose at the same meal, and after a careful
trial I can pronounce the Siberian goose an edible bird. He is not
less cunning than wild geese elsewhere, but with all his adroitness he
frequently falls into the hands of man and graces his dinner table.

On the northern horizon, twenty or thirty miles from Michael Semenof,
there is a range of high and rugged mountains. As we left the town,
near the close of day, the clouds broke in the west and the sunshine
lighted up these mountains and seemed to lift them above their real
position. With the red and golden colors of the clouds; the lights and
shadows of the mountains; the yellow forests of autumn, and the green
plains near the river; the stillness broken only by our own motion or
the rippling of the river, the scene was 'most fair to look upon.' I
have never seen sunsets more beautiful than those of the Amoor.

[Illustration: ARMED AND EQUIPPED.]

I rose early in the morning to look at the mouth of the Songaree.
Under a cloudy moon I could distinguish little beyond the outline of
the land and the long low water line where the Amoor and Songaree
sweep at right angles from their respective valleys. Even though it
was not daylight I could distinguish the line of separation, or union,
between the waters of the two streams, just as one can observe it
where the Missouri and Mississippi unite above Saint Louis. I would
have given much to see this place in full daylight, but the fates
willed it otherwise.

This river is destined at some time to play an important part in
Russian and Chinese diplomacy. At present it is entirely controlled by
China, but it appears on all the late maps of Eastern Siberia with
such minuteness as to indicate that the Russians expect to obtain it
before long. Formerly the Chinese claimed the Songaree as the real
Amoor, and based their argument on the fact that it follows the
general course of the united stream and carried a volume of water as
large as the other. They have now abandoned this claim, which the
Russians are entirely willing to concede. Once the fact established
that the Songaree is the real Amoor, the Russians would turn to the
treaty which gives them "all the land north of the Amoor." Their next
step would be to occupy the best part of Manjouria, which would be
theirs by the treaty.

By far the larger portion of Manjouria is drained by the Songaree and
its tributaries. The sources of this river are in the Shanalin
mountains, that separate Corea from Manjouria, and are ten or twelve
thousand feet high. They resemble the Sierra Nevadas in having a lake
twelve miles in circumference as high in air as Lake Tahoe. The
affluents of the Songaree run through a plateau in some places densely
wooded while in others it has wide belts of prairie and marshy ground.
A large part of the valley consists of low, fertile lands, through
which the river winds with very few impediments to navigation.

Very little is known concerning the valley, but it is said to be
pretty well peopled and to produce abundantly. M. De la Bruniere when
traveling to the country of the Gilyaks in 1845, crossed this valley,
and found a dense population along the river, but a smaller one
farther inland. The principal cities are Kirin and Sansin on the main
stream, and Sit-si-gar on the Nonni, one of its tributaries. The
Songaree is navigable to Kirin, about thirteen hundred versts from the
Amoor, and it is thought the Nonni can be ascended to Sit-si-gar. The
three cities have each a population of about a hundred thousand.

According to the treaty of 1860 Russian merchants with proper
passports may enter Chinese territory, but no more than two hundred
can congregate in one locality. Russian merchants have been to all the
cities in Manjouria, but the difficulties of travel are not small. The
Chinese authorities are jealous of foreigners, and restrict their
movements as much as possible.

The Russians desire to open the Songaree to commerce, but the Chinese
prefer seclusion. A month before my visit a party ascended the river
to ascertain its resources. A gentleman told me the Chinese used every
means except actual force to hinder the progress of the steamer and
prevent the explorers seeing much of the country. Whenever any one
went on shore the people crowded around in such numbers that nothing
else could be seen. Almost the whole result of the expedition was to
ascertain that the river was navigable and its banks well peopled.

In the dim light of morning I saw some houses at the junction of the
rivers, and learned they were formerly the quarters of a Manjour
guard. Until 1864 a military force, with two or three war junks, was
kept at the mouth of the Songaree to prevent Russian boats ascending.
Mr. Maximowicz, the naturalist, endeavored in 1859 to explore the
river as far as the mouth of the Nonni. Though his passport was
correct, the Manjour guard ordered him to stop, and when he insisted
upon proceeding the Celestial raised his matchlock. Maximowicz
exhibited a rifle and revolver and forced a passage.

He was not molested until within forty miles of San-Sin, when the
natives came out with flails, but prudently held aloof on seeing the
firearms in the boat. Finding he could not safely proceed, the
gentleman turned about when only twenty-five miles below the city.

After passing the Songaree I found a flat country with wide prairies
on either side of the river. In the forest primeval the trees were
dense and large, and where no trees grew the grass was luxuriant. The
banks were alluvial and evidently washed by the river during times of
freshet. There were many islands, but the windings of the river were
more regular than farther down. I saw no native villages and only two
or three fishing stations. Those acquainted with the river say its
banks have fewer inhabitants there than in any other portion.

On the Russian shore there were only the villages established by
government, but notwithstanding its lack of population, the country
was beautiful. With towns, plantations, and sugar-mills, it would
greatly resemble the region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I
could perceive that the volume of the river was much diminished above
its junction with the Songaree.

At long and rare intervals snags were visible, but not in the
navigable channel. We took soundings with a seven foot pole attached
to a rope fastened to the rail of the boat. A man threw the pole as if
he were spearing fish, and watched the depth to which it descended.
The depth of water was shouted in a monotonous drawl. "_Sheiste;
sheiste polivinnay; sem; sem polivinnay;_" and so on through the
various quantities indicated. I thought the manner more convenient
than that in use on some of our western rivers.

While smoking a cigar on the bridge I was roused by the cry of
"_tigre! tigre_!" from Borasdine. I looked to where he pointed on the
Chinese shore and could see an animal moving slowly through the grass.
It may have been a tiger, and so it was pronounced by the Russians who
saw it; I have never looked upon a real tiger outside of a menagerie,
and am not qualified to give an opinion. I brought my opera glass and
Borasdine Iris rifle, but the beast did not again show himself.
Provoked by this glimpse my companions retired to the cabin and made a
theoretical combat with the animal until dinner time.

The day was made memorable by a decent dinner; the special reason for
it was the fact that Borasdine had presented our caterer with an old
coat. I regretted I could not afford to reduce my wardrobe, else we
would have secured another comfortable repast. Both steward and cook
were somewhat negligently clad, and possibly a spare garment or two
might have opened their hearts and larders.

Of course the sight of the tiger led to stories about his kindred, and
we whiled away a portion of the evening in narrating incidents of a
more or less personal character. An officer, who was temporarily our
fellow-passenger, on his way to one of the Cossack posts, a few miles
above, gave an account of his experience with a tiger on the Ousuree.

I was out (said he) on a survey that we were making on behalf of the
government to establish the boundary between Russia and China. The
country was then less known than now; there were no settlements along
the river, and with the exception of the villages of the natives,
thirty or forty miles apart, the whole country was a wilderness. At
one village we were warned that a large tiger had within a month
killed two men and attacked a third, who was saved only by the sudden
and unexpected appearance of a party of friends. We prepared our
rifles and pistols, to avoid the possibility of their missing fire in
case of an encounter with the man-stealing beast. Rather reluctantly
some of the natives consented to serve us as guides to the next
village. We generally found them ready enough to assist us, as we paid
pretty liberally for their services, and made love to all the young
women that the villages contained. With an eye to a successful
campaign, I laid in a liberal supply of trinkets to please these
aboriginals, and found that they served their purposes admirably. So
the natives were almost universally kind to us, and their reluctance
to accompany us on this occasion showed the great fear they
entertained of the tiger.

We were camped on the bank of the Ousuree, about ten miles from the
village, and passed the night without disturbance. In the morning,
while we were preparing for breakfast, one of the natives went a few
hundred yards away, to a little pond near, where he thought it
possible to spear some salmon. He waded out till he was immersed to
his waist, and then with his spear raised, stood motionless as a
statue for several minutes. Suddenly he darted the spear into the
water and drew out a large salmon, which he threw to the shore, and
their resumed his stationary position. In twenty minutes he took three
or four salmon, and then started to return to camp. Just as he climbed
the bank and had gathered his fish, a large tiger darted from the
underbrush near by, and sprung upon him as a cat would spring upon a
mouse.

Stopping not a moment, the tiger ran up the hillside and disappeared.
I was looking toward the river just as the tiger sprang upon him, and
so were two of the natives; we all uttered a cry of astonishment, and
were struck motionless for an instant, though only for an instant. The
unfortunate man did not struggle with the beast, and as the latter did
not stop to do more than seize him, I suspected that the fright and
suddenness of the attack had caused a fainting fit. I and my Russian
companion seized our rifles, and the natives their spears, and started
in pursuit.

We tracked the tiger through the underbrush, partly by the marks left
by his feet, but mainly by the drops of blood that had fallen from his
victim. Going over a ridge, we lost the trail, and though we spread
out and searched very carefully, it was nearly an hour before we could
resume the pursuit. Every minute seemed an age, as we well knew that
the tiger would thus gain time to devour his prey. Probably I was less
agitated than the natives, but I freely and gladly admit that I have
never had my nerves more unstrung than on that occasion, though I have
been in much greater peril. We searched through several clumps of
bushes, and examined several thickets, in the hope of finding where
the tiger had concealed himself. The natives approached all these
thickets with fear and trembling, so that most of the searching was
done by the Russian members of the party.

Just as we were beating around a little clump of bushes, fifteen or
twenty yards across, my companion on the other side shouted:

"Look out; the tiger is preparing to spring upon you." Instantly I
cocked my rifle and fired into the bushes; they were so dense that I
could hardly discern the outline of the beast, who had me in full
view, and was crouching preparatory to making a leap. I called to my
friend to shoot, as the density of the thicket made it very probable
that my fire would be lost, by the ball glancing among the shrubbery.
But my friend was in the same predicament, and I quickly formed a plan
of operations.

[Illustration: GENERAL ACTIVITY.]

We were both good shots, and I thought our safety lay in killing the
beast as he rose in the air. Aiming at his head, I stepped slowly
backward, and shouted to my friend to cover the tiger and shoot as he
sprang. All this occurred in less time than I tell of it. Hardly had I
stepped two paces backward when the tiger leaped toward me. As he
rose, his throat was exposed for a moment, and I planted a bullet in
his breast. Simultaneously a ball from the other rifle struck his
side. We fired so closely together that neither of us heard the report
of the other's weapon. The tiger gave a roar of agony, and despite the
wounds he received, either of which would have been fatal, he
completed his spring so nearly that he caught me by the foot and
inflicted a wound that lamed me for several months, and left permanent
scars.

The natives, hearing the report of our rifles, came to our assistance,
and so great was their reverence for the tiger, that they prostrated
themselves before his quivering body, and muttered some words which I
could not understand.

Though assured that the beast was dead, they hesitated to enter the
thicket to search for the body of their companion, and it was only on
my leading the way that they entered it.

We found the remains of the poor native somewhat mutilated, though
less so than I expected. There was no trace of suffering upon his
features, and I was confirmed in my theory that he fainted the moment
he was seized, and was not conscious afterward. His friends insisted
upon burying the body where they found it, and said it was their
custom to do so. They piled logs above the grave, and after the
observance of certain pagan rites, to secure the repose of the
deceased, they signified their readiness to proceed.

The tiger was one of the largest of his kind. I had his skin carefully
removed, and sent it with my official report to St. Petersburg. A
Chinese mandarin who met me near Lake Hinka offered me a high price
for the skin, but I declined his offer, in order to show our Emperor
what his Siberian possessions contained.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--FLASK]



CHAPTER XVI.


On the morning of September 28th we arrived at Ekaterin-Nikolskoi, a
flourishing settlement, said to contain nearly three hundred houses.
It stood on a plateau forty feet above the river, and was the best
appearing village I had seen since leaving Habarofka. The people that
gathered on the bank were comfortably clad and evidently well fed, but
I could not help wondering how so many could leave their labor to look
at a steamboat. The country was considered excellent for agriculture,
yielding abundantly all the grains that had been tried.

On the Amoor the country below Gorin belongs to the Maritime province,
which has its capital at Nicolayevsk. Above Gorin is the Province of
The Amoor, controlled by the governor at Blagoveshchensk. In the
Maritime Province the settlers are generally of the civilian or
peasant class, while in the Amoor Province they are mostly Cossacks.
The latter depend more upon themselves than the former, and I was told
that this was one cause of their prosperity. Many peasants in the
Maritime Province do not raise enough flour for their own use, and
rely upon government when there is a deficiency.

It is my opinion that the Emperor does too much for some of his
subjects in the eastern part of his dominions. In Kamchatka and along
the coast of the Ohotsk sea the people are supplied with flour at a
low price or for nothing, a ship coming annually to bring it. It has
been demonstrated that agriculture is possible in Kamchatka. When I
asked why rye was not raised there, one reply was: "We get our flour
from government, and have no occasion to make it." Now if the
government would furnish the proper facilities for commencing
agriculture, and then throw the inhabitants on their own resources, I
think it would make a decided change for the better. A self-reliant
population is always the best.

Some of the colonists on the Amoor went there of their own accord,
induced by liberal donations of land and materials, while others were
moved by official orders. In Siberia the government can transfer a
population at its will. A whole village may be commanded to move ten,
a hundred, or a thousand miles, and it has only to obey. The people
gather their property, take their flocks and herds, and move where
commanded. They are reimbursed for losses in changing their residence,
and the expense of new houses is borne by government. A community may
be moved from one place to another, and the settlers find themselves
surrounded by their former neighbors.

The Cossacks are moved oftener than the peasants, as they are more
directly subject to orders. I found the Cossack villages on the Amoor
were generally laid out with military precision, the streets where the
ground permitted being straight as sunbeams, and the houses of equal
size. Usually each house had a small yard or flower garden in its
front, but it was not always carefully tended. Every village has a
chief or headman, who assigns each man his location and watches over
the general good of his people. When Cossacks are demanded for
government service the headman makes the selection, and all cases of
insubordination or dispute are regulated by him.

A Cossack is half soldier and half citizen. He owes a certain amount
of service to the government, and is required to labor for it a given
number of days in the year. He may be called to travel as escort to
the mail or to an officer, to watch over public property, to row a
boat, construct a house, or perform any other duty in his power. In
case of war he becomes a soldier and is sent wherever required. As a
servant of government he receives rations for himself and family, but
I believe he is not paid in money. The time belonging to himself he
can devote to agriculture or any other employment he chooses.

The Cossacks reside with their families, and some of them acquire
considerable property. A Russian officer told me there were many
wealthy Cossacks along the Argoon river on the boundary between Russia
and China. They trade across the frontier, and own large droves of
cattle, horses, and sheep. Some of their houses are spacious and
fitted with considerable attempt at luxury. The Amoor settlements are
at present too young to possess much wealth.

Soon after leaving Ekaterin-Nikolskoi we entered the Buryea or Hingan
mountains. This chain extends across the valley of the Amoor at nearly
right angles, and the river flows through it in a single narrow
defile. The mountains first reach the river on the northern bank, the
Chinese shore continuing low for thirteen miles higher up. There are
no islands, and the river, narrowed to about half a mile, flows with a
rapid current. In some places it runs five miles an hour, and its
depth is from fifty to a hundred feet. The mountains come to the river
on either bank, sometimes in precipitous cliffs, but generally in
regular slopes.

Their elevation is about a thousand feet, and they are covered to
their summits with dense forests of foliferous and coniferous trees.
Occasionally the slopes are rocky or covered with loose debris that
does not give clinging room to the trees. The undergrowth is dense,
and everything indicates a good vegetation.

The mountains are of mica-schist, clay-slate, and rocks of similar
origin resting upon an axis of granite. Porphyry has been found in one
locality. According to the geologists there are indications of gold
and other precious metals, and I would not be surprised if a thorough
exploration led to valuable discoveries.

As the boat struggled against the current in this mountain passage I
spent most of the time on deck. The tortuous course of the river added
much to the scenic effect. Almost every minute the picture changed.
Hill, forest, cliff, and valley assumed different aspects as we wound
our sinuous way up the defile. Here and there were tiny cascades
breaking over the steep rocks to the edge of the river, and
occasionally a little meadow peeped out from the mountain valleys.
Some features of the scenery reminded me of the Highlands of the
Hudson, or the Mississippi above Lake Pepin. At times we seemed
completely enclosed in a lake from which there was no escape save by
climbing the hills. Frequently it was impossible to discover any trace
of an opening half a mile in our front. Had we been ascending an
unexplored river I should have half expected to find it issuing like a
huge spring from the base of a high mountain.

The Russian villages in these mountains are located in the valleys of
streams flowing to the Amoor. In one bend we found a solitary house
newly-erected and waiting its occupants who should, keep the
post-station in winter. We sent a Cossack ashore in a skiff at this
point, and he came near falling into the river while descending the
steps at the steamer's side. While returning from the bank one of the
men in the skiff broke an oar and fell overboard, which obliged us to
back the steamer nearly half a mile down the river to pick him up. The
unlucky individual was arrayed in the only suit of clothes he
possessed, and was hung up to dry in the engine room.

A mile above this landing place we passed two Manjour boats ascending
the stream. These boats were each about twenty feet long, sitting low
in the water with the bow more elevated than the stern, and had a mast
in the center for carrying a small sail. In the first boat I counted
six men, four pushing with poles, one steering, and the sixth,
evidently the proprietor, lying at ease on the baggage. Where the
nature of the ground permits the crew walk along the shore and tow the
boat.

The men were in cotton garments and conical hats, and their queues of
hair hung like ships pennants in a dead calm, or the tails of a group
of scared dogs. They seemed to enjoy themselves, and were laughing
merrily as we went past them. They waved their hands up the stream as
if urging us to go ahead and say they were coming. The one reclining
was a venerable personage, with a thin beard fringing a sedate visage,
into which he drew long whiffs and comfort from a Chinese pipe.

These boats were doubtless from Kirin or San-Sin, on their way to
Igoon. The voyage must be a tedious one to any but a Mongol, much like
the navigation of the Mississippi before the days of steam-boats. In
spite of the great advantages to commerce, the Manjours resisted to
the last the introduction of steam on the Amoor just as they now
oppose it on the Songaree.

[Illustration: MANJOUR BOAT.]

In the language of the natives along its banks the Amoor has several
names. The Chinese formerly called the Songaree 'Ku-tong,' and
considered the lower Amoor a part of that stream. Above the Songaree
the Amoor was called 'Sakhalin-Oula,' (black water,) by the Manjours
and Chinese. The Goldees named it 'Mongo,' and the Gilyaks called it
'Mamoo.' The name Amoor was given by the Russians, and is considered a
corruption of the Gilyak word. When Mr. Collins descended, in 1857,
the natives near Igoon did not or would not understand him when he
spoke of the Amoor. They called the river 'Sakhalin,' a name which the
Russians gave to the long island at the mouth of the Amoor. As the
Mongolian maps do not reach the outside world I presume the Russian
names are most likely to endure with geographers. The upper part of
the defile of the Buryea Mountains is wider and has more meadows than
the lower portion. On one of these meadows, where there is a
considerable extent of arable land, we found the village of Raddevski,
named in honor of the naturalist Raddy, who explored this region. The
resources here were excellent, if I may judge by the quantity and
quality of edibles offered to our steward. The people of both sexes
flocked to the landing with vegetables, bread, chickens, butter, and
other good things in much larger quantity than we desired. There was a
liberal supply of pigs and chickens, with many wild geese and ducks.
We bought a pig and kept him on board three or four days. He squealed
without cessation, until our captain considered him a bore, and
ordered him killed and roasted.

Pigs were generally carried in bags or in the arms of their owners.
One day a woman brought a thirty pound pig suspended over her
shoulder. The noise and kicking of the brute did not disturb her, and
she held him as unconcernedly as if he were an infant. Finding no
market for her property, she turned it loose and allowed it to take
its own way home. Milk was almost invariably brought in bottles, and
eggs in boxes or baskets. Eggs were sold by the dizaine (ten,) and not
as with us by the dozen.

At Raddevski several kinds of berries were offered us, but only the
blackberry and whortleberry were familiar to my eyes. One berry, of
which I vainly tried to catch the Russian name, was of oblong shape,
three-fourths an inch in length, and had the taste of a sweet grape.
It was said to grow on a climbing vine. Cedar nuts were offered in
large quantities, but I did not purchase.

Here, as elsewhere on the lower Amoor, men and women labor together in
the fields and engage equally in marketing at the boats. I was much
amused in watching the commercial transactions between the peasants
and our steward. I could not understand what was said, but the
conversation in loud tones and with many words had much the appearance
of an altercation. Several times I looked around expecting to see
blows, but the excitement was confined to the vocal organs alone.

The passage of the Amoor through the Buryea mountains is nearly a
hundred miles in length. Toward the upper end the mountains are more
precipitous and a few peaks rise high above the others, like The
Sentinels in Yosemite valley. The last cliff before one reaches the
level country is known as Cape Sverbef, a bold promontory that
projects into the river and is nearly a thousand feet high. Not far
from this cliff is a flat-topped mountain remarkable for several
crevices on its northern side, from which currents of cold air
steadily issue. Ice forms around these fissures in midsummer, and a
thermometer suspended in one of them fell in an hour to 30°
Fahrenheit.

An hour after passing the mountains I saw a dozen conical huts on the
Chinese shore and a few dusky natives lounging in front of them. They
reminded me of the lodges of our noble red men as I saw them west of
the Missouri several years before. Instead of being Cheyennes or Sioux
they proved to be Birars, a tribe of wandering Tunguse who inhabit
this region. Their dwellings wore of light poles covered with birch
bark. One of the native gentlemen was near the bank of the river in
the attitude of an orator, but not properly dressed for a public
occasion. His only garments were a hat and a string of beads, and he
was accompanied by a couple of young ladies in the same picturesque
costume, minus the hat and beads.

These Tungusians lead a nomadic life. Above the mouth of the Zeya
there are two other tribes of similar character, the Managres and
Orochons. The principal difference between them is that the former
keep the horse and the latter the reindeer. The Birars have no beasts
of burden except a very few horses.

None of these people live in permanent houses, but move about wherever
attracted by fishing or the chase. During spring and summer they
generally live on the banks of the river, where they catch and cure
fish. Their scaffoldings and storehouses were like those of the
natives already described, and during their migrations are left
without guards and universally respected. Their fish are dried for
winter use, and they sell the roe of the sturgeon to the Russians for
making caviar.

My first acquaintance with caviar was at Nicolayevsk, and I soon
learned to like it. It is generally eaten with bread, and forms an
important ingredient in the Russian lunch. On the Volga its
preparation engages a great many men, and the caviar from that river
is found through the whole empire. Along the Amoor the business is in
its infancy, the production thus far being for local consumption. I
think if some enterprising American would establish the preparation of
caviar on the Hudson where the sturgeon is abundant, he could make a
handsome profit in shipping it to Russia.

The roe is taken from the fish and carefully washed. The membrane that
holds the eggs together is then broken, and after a second washing the
substance is ready for salting. One kind for long carriage and
preservation is partially dried and then packed and sealed in tin
cans. The other is put in kegs, without pressing, and cannot be kept a
long time.

In the autumn and winter the natives are hunters. They chase elk and
deer for their flesh, and sables, martens, and squirrels for their
furs. Squirrels are especially abundant, and a good hunter will
frequently kill a thousand in a single season. The Siberian squirrel
of commerce comes from this region by way of Irkutsk and St.
Petersburg. The natives hunt the bear and are occasionally hunted by
him.

At one landing a Birar exhibited an elk skin which he wished to
exchange for tobacco, and was quite delighted when I gave him a small
quantity of the latter. He showed me a scar on his arm where a bear
had bitten him two or three years before. The marks of the teeth and
the places where the flesh was torn could be easily seen, but I was
unable to learn the particulars of his adventure.

These Tungusians are rather small in stature, and their arms and legs
are thin. Their features are broad, their mouths large and lips
narrow, and their hair is black and smooth, the men having very little
beard. Their clothing is of the skins of elk and deer, with some
garments of cotton cloth of Chinese manufacture. Most of the men I saw
wore a belt at the waist, to which several articles of daily use were
attached.

At each Russian settlement above the mountains I observed a large post
painted in the official colors and supporting a board inscribed with
the name of the village. It was fixed close to the landing place, and
evidently designed for the convenience of strangers. One of my
exercises in learning the language of the country was to spell the
names on these signs. I found I could usually spell much faster if I
knew beforehand the name of a village. It was like having a Bohn's
translation of a Latin exercise.

At the village of Inyakentief I saw the first modern fortification
since leaving Nicolayevsk,--a simple lunette without cannon but with
several hundred cannon shot somewhat rusty with age. The governor of
this village was a prince by title, and evidently controlled his
subjects very well. I saw Madame the princess, but did not have the
pleasure of her acquaintance. She was dressed in a costume of which
crinoline, silk, and ribbons were component parts, contrasting sharply
with the coarse garments of the peasant women.

This village had recently sold a large quantity of wheat and rye to
the government. It had the best church I had seen since leaving
Nicolayevsk, and its general appearance was prosperous. Among the
women that came to the boat was one who recognized Borasdine as an old
acquaintance. She hastened back to her house and brought him two
loaves of bread made from wheat of that year's growth. As a token of
friendship he gave her a piece of sugar weighing a pound or two and a
glass of bad brandy that brought many tears to her eyes. I think she
was at least fifteen minutes drinking the fiery liquid, which she
sipped as one would take a compound of cayenne pepper and boiling
water. The worst 'tanglefoot' or 'forty-rod' from Cincinnati or St.
Louis would have been nectar by the side of that brandy.

The country for a hundred miles or more above the Buryea mountains was
generally level. Here and there were hills and ridges, and in the
background on the south a few mountains were visible. There were many
islands which, with the banks of alluvium, were evidently cut by the
river in high freshets. Where the beach sloped to the water there was
a little driftwood, and I could see occasional logs resting upon
islands and sand bars.

When taken in a tumbler the water of the Amoor appeared perfectly
clear, but in the river it had a brownish tinge. There were no snags
and no floating timber. I never fancied an iron boat for river travel
owing to the ease of puncturing it. On the Mississippi or Missouri it
would be far from safe, but on the Amoor there are fewer perils of
navigation. More boats have been lost there from carelessness or
ignorance than from accidents really unavoidable. The Amoor is much
like what the Mississippi would be with all its snags removed and its
channel made permanent.

While among the islands I saw a small flotilla of boats in line across
a channel, and after watching them through a glass discovered they
were hauling a net. There were ten or twelve summer huts on the point
of an island, and the boats were at least twice as many. A dozen men
on shore were hauling a net that appeared well filled with fish. I do
not think a single native looked up as we passed. Possibly they have a
rule there not to attend to outside matters when exercising their
professions.



CHAPTER XVII.


The second day above the mountains we passed a region of wide prairie
stretching far to the north and bearing a dense growth of rank grass
and bushes, with a few clumps of trees. On the Chinese side there were
hills that sloped gently to the river's edge or left a strip of meadow
between them and the water. Many hills were covered with a thin forest
of oaks and very little underbrush. At a distance the ground appeared
as if carefully trimmed for occupation, especially as it had a few
open places like fields. In the sere and yellow leaf of autumn these
groves were charming, and I presume they are equally so in the fresh
verdure of summer.

If by some magic the Amoor could be transferred to America, and change
its mouth from the Gulf of Tartary to the Bay of New York, a multitude
of fine mansions would soon rise on its banks.

Among the islands that stud this portion of the river we passed the
steamer Constantine with two barges in tow. She left Nicolayevsk
twelve days before us, and her impediments made her journey a slow
one. Her barges were laden with material for the Amoor telegraph, then
under construction. About the same time we met the Nicolai towing a
barge with a quantity of cattle destined for the garrison at the mouth
of the river. The Nicolai was the property of a merchant (Mr. Ludorf)
at Nicolayevsk.

The village of Poyarkof, where we stopped for wood, impressed me very
favorably. It was carefully laid out, and its single street had a wide
and deep ditch on each side, crossed by little bridges. The houses
were well built and had an air of neatness, while all the fences were
substantial. Very few persons visited the boat, most of the
inhabitants being at work in the fields. We walked through the
settlement, and were shown specimens of wheat and rye grown in the
vicinity. Four or five men, directed by a priest, were building a
church, and two others were cutting plank near by with a primitive
'up-and-down' saw. The officer controlling the village was temporarily
absent with the farm laborers. All around there were proofs of his
energy and industry.

This village was one of the military colonies of the Province of the
Amoor. When in proper hands the military settlement is preferable to
any other, as the men are more accustomed to obeying orders and work
in greater harmony than the peasants. What is most needed is an
efficient and energetic chief to each village, who has and deserves
the confidence of his people. With enough of the _fortiter in re_ to
repress any developments of laziness and prevent intemperance, such a
man can do much for the government and himself.

If His Imperial Majesty will take nine-tenths of his present military
force on the Amoor, place it in villages, allow the men to send for
their families, and put the villages in the hands of proper chiefs
under a general superintendent, he will take a long step toward making
the new region self-sustaining. We have ample proof in America that an
army is an expensive luxury, and the cost of maintaining it is
proportioned to its strength. The verb 'to soldier' has a double
meaning in English, and will bear translation. On distant stations
like the Amoor, the military force could be safely reduced to a small
figure in time of peace. Less play and more work would be better for
the country and the men.

As we proceeded up the river there was another change of the native
population. The tents of the Birars disappeared, and we entered the
region of the Manjours and Chinese. The captain called my attention to
the first Manjour village we passed. The dwellings were one story
high, their walls being of wood with a plastering of mud. The chimneys
were on the outside like those of the Goldees already described, and
the roofs of the houses were thatched with straw.

The Manjour villages are noticeable for the gardens in and around
them. Each house that I saw had a vegetable garden that appeared well
cultivated. In the corner of nearly every garden I observed a small
building like a sentry box. In some doubt as to its use, I asked
information of my Russian friends, and learned it was a temple where
the family idols are kept and the owners go to offer their prayers.

[Illustration: A PRIVATE TEMPLE.]

Near each village was a grove which enclosed a public temple on the
plan of a church in civilized countries. The temple was generally a
square house, built with more care and neatness than the private
dwellings. On entering, one found himself in a kind of ante-room,
separated from the main apartment by a pink curtain. This curtain has
religious inscriptions in Chinese and Manjour. In the inner apartment
there are pictures of Chinese deities, with a few hideous idols carved
in wood. A table in front of the pictures receives the offerings of
worshippers.

The Manjours appear very fond of surrounding their temples with trees,
and this is particularly noticeable on account of the scarcity of wood
in this region. Timber comes from points higher up the Amoor, where it
is cut and rafted down. Small trees and bushes are used as fuel and
always with the strictest economy. The grove around the temple is held
sacred, as among the Druids in England, and I presume a native would
suffer long from cold before cutting a consecrated tree.

Along the river near the first village several boats were moored or
drawn on the bank out of reach of the water. A few men and women stood
looking at us, and some of them shouted '_mendow_' when we were
directly opposite their position. Of course we returned their
salutation.

Unlike the aboriginals lower down the river, the Manjours till the
soil and make it their chief dependence. I saw many fields where the
grain was uncut, and others where it had been reaped and stacked. The
stacks were so numerous in proportion to the population that there
must be a large surplus each year. Evidently there is no part of the
Amoor valley more fertile than this. Horses and cattle were grazing in
the meadows and looked up as we steamed along. We passed a dozen
horses drinking from the river, and set them scampering with our
whistle.

The horse is used here for carrying light loads, but with heavy
burdens the ox finds preference. Along the Chinese shore I frequently
saw clumsy carts moving at a snail-like pace between the villages.
Each cart had its wheels fixed on an axle that generally turned with
them. Frequently there was a lack of grease, and the screeching of the
vehicle was rather unpleasant to tender nerves.

Near the village we met a Manjour boat, evidently the property of a
merchant. The difference between going with and against the current
was apparent by comparing the progress of this boat with the one I saw
in the Buryea mountains. One struggled laboriously against the stream,
but the other had nothing to do beyond keeping where the water ran
swiftest. This one carried a small flag, and was deeply laden with
merchandise. The crew was dozing and the man at the helm did not
appear more than half awake.

Villages were passed in rapid succession, and the density of the
population was in agreeable contrast to the desolation of many parts
of the lower Amoor. It was a panorama of houses, temples, groves, and
fields, with a surrounding of rich meadows and gentle hills. There
was a range of low mountains in the background, but on the Russian
shore the flat prairie continued.

In the middle of the afternoon we passed the town of Yah-tou-kat-zou,
situated on the Chinese shore where the river makes a bend toward the
north and east. It had nothing of special interest, but its gardens
were more extensive and more numerous than in the villages below. Just
above it there was a bay forming a neat harbor containing several
boats and barges. When the Chinese controlled the Amoor they occupied
this bay as a dock-yard and naval station. Had my visit been ten or
twelve years earlier I should have seen several war junks anchored
here. When the Russians obtained the river the Chinese transferred
their navy to the Songaree.

From this ancient navy yard the villages stretched in a nearly
continuous line along the southern bank, and were quite frequent on
the northern one. We saw three Manjour women picking berries on the
Russian shore. One carried a baby over her shoulders much after the
manner of the American Indians. These women wore garments of blue
cotton shaped much like the gowns of the Russian peasants. Near them a
boat was moving along the shore, carrying a crew consisting of a man,
a boy, and a dog. The boat, laden with hay, was evidently destined for
'cows and a market.' Near it was another boat rowed by two men,
carrying six women and a quantity of vegetables. Some of the women
were sorting the vegetables, and all watched our boat with interest.
From the laughter as we passed I concluded the remarks on our
appearance were not complimentary.

The scene on this part of the river was picturesque. There were many
boats, from the little canoe or 'dug-out,' propelled by one man, up to
the barge holding several tons of merchandise. The one-man boats were
managed with a double-bladed oar, such as I have already described.
Nearly every boat that carried a mast had a flag or streamer attached
to it, and some had dragons' heads on their bows. Would Lindley
Murray permit me to say that I saw one barge manned by ten women?

[Illustration: FISHING IMPLEMENTS.]

Though subsisting mainly by agriculture and pastoral pursuits, the
Manjours devote considerable time to fishing. One fishing implement
bore a faint resemblance to a hand-cart, as it had an axle with two
small wheels and long handles. A frame over the axle sustained a pole,
to which a net was fastened. The machine could be pushed into the
water and the net lowered to any position suitable for entrapping
fish.

Occasionally I saw a native seated on the top of a tripod about ten
feet high, placed at the edge of the river. Here he fished with pole,
net, or spear, according to circumstances. He always appeared to me as
if left there during a freshet and waiting for the river to rise and
let him off.

At one place two boys were seated cross-legged near the water and
fishing with long poles. They were so intent in looking at us that
they did not observe the swell of the steamer until thoroughly
drenched by it. As they stood dripping on the sand they laughed
good-naturedly at the occurrence, and soon seated themselves again at
their employment.

Late in the afternoon I saw a village larger than all the others,
lying in a bend of the river, stretching three or four miles along the
bank and a less distance away from it. This was Igoon, the principal
place of the Chinese on the Amoor, and once possessing considerable
power. Originally the fort and town of Igoon were on the left bank of
the river, four miles below the present site. The location was changed
in 1690, and when the new town was founded it grew quite rapidly. For
a long time it was a sort of Botany Bay for Pekin, and its early
residents were mostly exiles. At present its population is variously
estimated from twenty to fifty thousand. The Chinese do not give any
information on this point, and the Russian figures concerning it are
based upon estimates.

Igoon was formerly the capital of the Chinese 'Province of the
Arnoor,' but is now destitute of that honor. The seat of government
was removed about twenty years ago to Sit-si-gar.

As we approached Igoon I could see below it many herds of cattle and
horses driven by mounted men. There was every appearance of
agricultural prosperity. It was near the end of harvest, and most of
the grain was stacked in the fields. Here and there were laborers at
work, and I could see many people on the bank fronting the river.
Around the city were groves enclosing the temples which held the
shrines consecrated to Mongol worship, as the cross is reverenced by
the followers of the Christian faith.

The city had a sombre look, as all the houses were black. The
buildings were of wood plastered with mud, and nearly all of one
story. Over the temples in the city there were flag-staffs, but with
no banners hanging from them or on the outer walls. The governor's
house and the arsenals were similarly provided with tall poles rising
from the roofs, but here as elsewhere no flags were visible.

Along the beach there were many rafts of logs beside numerous boats
either drawn on shore or moored to posts or stakes. Fishermen and boys
were sitting cross-legged near the water, and the inattention of
several caused their drenching by our swell. Idle men stood on the
bank above the beach, nearly all smoking their little brass pipes with
apparent unconcern. Men and women, principally the latter, were
carrying water from the river in buckets, which they balanced from the
ends of a neck-yoke.

We dropped anchor and threw a line that was made fast by a young
Manjour. On shore we met several residents, who greeted us civilly and
addressed the captain in Russian. Most of the Manjour merchants have
learned enough Russian to make a general conversation, especially in
transacting business.

I was introduced as an American who had come a long distance purposely
to see Igoon. The governor was absent, so that it was not possible to
call on him. We were shown to a temple near at hand, a building
fifteen feet by thirty, with a red curtain at the door and a thick
carpet of matting over a brick pavement. The altar was veiled, but its
covering was lifted to allow me to read, if I could, the inscription
upon it. It stood close to the entrance, like the screen near the door
of a New York bar-room. There were several pictures on the walls, a
few idols, and some lanterns painted in gaudy colors. Outside there
were paintings over the door, some representing Chinese landscapes.
The windows were of lattice work, the roof had a dragon's head at each
end of the ridge, and a mosaic pavement extended like a sidewalk
around the entire building.

Our guide, who lived near, invited us to his house. We entered it
through his office, which contained a table, three or four chairs, and
a few account books. Out of this we walked into a large apartment used
for lounging by day and sleeping at night. Its principal furniture was
a wide divan, at one side, where the bed clothing of three or four
persons was rolled into neat bundles. It turned out on inquiry that
the man lived in two houses, the principal part of his family being
domiciled several squares away. As time pressed we did not stop longer
than to thank him for his attention.

The streets of Igoon reminded me of New York under the contract system
four or five years ago. We walked through one street upon a narrow log
fixed in the mud, and steadied ourselves against a high fence. On a
larger thoroughfare there were some dry spots, but as there were two
logs to walk upon we balanced very well. Chinese streets rarely have
sidewalks, and every pedestrian must care for himself the best way he
can. The rains the week before my visit had reduced the public ways to
a disagreeable condition. Were I to describe the measurement of the
Broadway of Igoon, I should say its length was two miles, more or
less, its width fifty feet, and its depth two feet.

Our captain carried a sword cane which confused him a little as the
lower part occasionally stuck in the mud and came off. This exposition
of weapons he evidently wished to avoid. On the principal street I
found several stores, and, true to the instinct of the American
abroad, stopped to buy something. The stores had the front open to the
street, so that one could stand before the counter and make his
purchases without entering. The first store I saw had six or seven
clerks and very little else, and as I did not wish a Chinese clerk I
moved to another shop.

For the articles purchased I paid only five times their actual value,
as I afterward learned. The merchants and their employees appeared to
talk Russian quite fluently, and were earnest in urging me to buy. One
of them imitated the tactics of Chatham street, and became very
voluble over things I did not want.

Holding up an article he praised its good qualities and named its
price.

"Five roubles; very good; five roubles."

I shook my head.

"Four roubles; yes; good; four roubles."

Again I made a negation.

"Three roubles; very good; yes."

I continued shaking my head as he fell to two and a half, two, and
finally to one rouble. I left him at that figure, or it is possible he
would have gone still lower.

"They are great rascals," said Borasdine as we walked away. "They ask
ten times the real price and hope to cheat you in some way. It is
difficult to buy anything here for its actual value."

We went through more streets and more mud, passing butchers' shops
where savage dogs growled with that amiable tone peculiar to butcher
dogs everywhere. We passed tea shops, shoe shops, drug stores, and
other establishments, each with a liberal number of clerks. Labor must
be cheap, profits large, or business brisk, to enable the merchants to
maintain so many employees.

At the end of a long street we came to the guard-house, near the
entrance of the military quarters. We entered the dirty barrack, but
saw nothing particularly interesting. I attempted to go inside the
room where the instruments of punishment were kept, but the guard
stood in the way and would not move. The soldiers in this
establishment had evidently partaken of a beverage stronger than tea,
as they were inclined to too much familiarity. One patted me on the
shoulder and pressed my hand affectionately, indulging the while in
snatches of Chinese songs.

In the prison were two or three unfortunates with their feet shackled
so as to prevent their stepping more than four inches at a time. While
we stood there a gaily dressed officer rode past us on a magnificent
horse, reminding me of an American militia hero on training day. We
looked at the fence of palisades, and stepped under the gateway
leading to the government quarter. Over the gate was a small room like
the drawbridge room in a castle of the middle ages. Twenty men could
be lodged there to throw arrows, hot water, or Chinese perfumery on
the invading foe.

A Manjour acquaintance of our captain invited us to visit his house.
We entered through the kitchen, where there was a man frying a kind of
'twisted doughnut' in vegetable oil. The flour he used was ground in
the Manjour mills, and lacked the fineness of European or American
flour. Judging by the quantity of food visible the family must have
been a large one.

The head of the household proclaimed himself a Tartar, and said he
was the proprietor of four wives. I smoked a cigar with him, and
during our interview Borasdine hinted that we would like to inspect
his harem. After a little decorous hesitation, he led us across an
open and muddy courtyard to a house where a dozen women were in the
confusion of preparing and eating supper. With four wives one must
have a proportionate number of servants and retainers, else he cannot
maintain 'style.'

Such a scene of confusion I never saw before in one man's family.
There were twelve or fifteen children of different ages and sexes, and
not one silent. Some were at table, some quarreling, some going to
sleep, and some waking. Two women were in serious dispute, and the
Tartar words poured out freely. The room was hot, stifling, and filled
with as many odors as the city of Cologne, and we were glad to escape
into the open air as soon as possible. I did not envy that Mongol
gentleman his domestic bliss, and am inclined to think he considered
it no joke to be as much married as he was.

I did not sec any pretty women at Igoon, but learned afterward that
they exist there. The Manjour style of hair-dressing attracts the eye
of a stranger. The men plait the hair after the Chinese manner,
shaving the fore part of the head. The women wind theirs in a peculiar
knot, in about the position of the French chignon. They pierce this
knot with two long pins like knitting needles, and trim it with bright
ribbons and real or artificial flowers. The fashion is becoming, and,
excluding the needles, I would not be surprised to see it in vogue in
Western civilization within half a dozen years.

The men wore long blue coats of cotton or silk, generally the former,
loose linen trousers, fastened at the knee or made into leggings, and
Chinese shoes or boots of skin. The women dress in pantaletts and blue
cotton gowns with short, loose sleeves, above which they wear at times
a silk cape or mantle. They have ear rings, bracelets, and finger
rings in profusion, and frequently display considerable taste in their
adornment. It was nearly sunset when we landed at Igoon, and when we
finished our visit to the Tartar family the stars were out. The delay
of the boat was entirely to give me a view of a Chinese-Manjour city.
Darkness put an end to sight-seeing, and so we hastened to the
steamer, followed by a large crowd of natives.

[Illustration: A CHINESE FAMILY PICTURE.]

We took three or four Manjour merchants as passengers to
Blagoveshchensk. One of them spent the evening in our cabin, but would
neither drink alcoholic beverages nor smoke. This appeared rather odd
among a people who smoke persistently and continually. Men, women, and
children are addicted to the practice, and the amount of tobacco they
burn is enormous.



CHAPTER XVIII.


At daylight on the morning after leaving Igoon, we were passing the
mouth of the Zeya, a river half a mile wide, flowing with a strong
current. It was along this river that the first white men who saw the
Amoor found their way. It is said to be practicable for steam
navigation three or four hundred miles from its mouth. At present four
or five thousand peasants are settled along the Zeya, with excellent
agricultural prospects. As I came on deck rubbing my half-opened eyes,
I saw a well-built town on the Russian shore.

"Blagoveshchensk," said the steward, as he waved his arm in that
direction.

I well knew that the capital of the Province of the Amoor was just
above the mouth of the Zeya. It stands on a prairie fifteen or twenty
feet above the river, and when approached from the south its
appearance is pleasing. The houses are large and well built, and each
has plenty of space around it. Some of them have flower gardens in
front, and a public park was well advanced toward completion at the
time of my arrival.

A wharf extended into the river at an angle of forty degrees with the
shore. The steamer Korsackoff was moored at this wharf, with a barge
nearly her own size. The Ingodah tied to the bank just below the
wharf, and was welcomed by the usual crowd of soldiers and citizens,
with a fair number of Manjours from the other bank.

On landing, I called upon Colonel Pedeshenk, the governor of the
Province, and delivered my letters of introduction. The Colonel
invited me to dine with him that day, and stated that several
officers of his command would be present. After this visit and a few
others, I went with Captain Borasdine to attend the funeral of the
late Major General Bussy. This gentleman was five years governor of
the Province of the Amoor, and resigned in 1866 on account of
ill-health. He died on his way to St. Petersburg, and the news of his
death reached Blagoveshchensk three days before my arrival. I happened
to reach the town on the morning appointed for the funeral service.

The church was crowded, everybody standing, according to the custom
prevailing in Russia. Colonel Pedeshenk and his officers were in full
uniform, and almost all present held lighted candles. Five or six
priests, with an Archbishop, conducted the ceremonies. The services
consisted of a ritual, read and intoned by the priests, with chanting
by the choir of male voices. The Archbishop was in full robes
belonging to his position, and his long gray beard and reverend face
gave him a patriarchal appearance. When the ceremony was finished the
congregation opened to the right and left to permit the governor and
officers to pass out first. From beginning to end the service lasted
about an hour.

Colonel Pedeshenk had been governor but a few months, and awaited
confirmation in his position. Having served long on the staff of
General Bussy, he was disposed to follow in the footsteps of his
predecessor and carry out his plans for developing the resources of
his district.

At the appointed hour I went to dine at the governor's, where I found
eight or ten officers and the young wife of Colonel Pedeshenk. We
spent a half-hour on the balcony, where there was a charming view of
the river and the Chinese shore with its background of mountains. The
governor's house was more like a mansion in a venerable town than in a
settlement less than ten years old. The reception hall would have made
a good ball-room anywhere out of the large cities.

The charming young madame did not speak English but was fluent in
French. She was from Irkutsk, and had spent several years in the
schools and society of St. Petersburg. She had many reminiscences of
the capital, and declared herself delighted with her home on the
Amoor. After dinner we retired to the balcony for prosaic tea drinking
and a poetical study of the glories of an autumn sunset behind the
hills of Manjouria.

There was no hotel in the town, and I had wondered where I should
lodge. Before I had been half an hour on shore, I was invited by Dr.
Snider, the surgeon in chief of the province, to make my home at his
house. The doctor spoke English fluently, and told me he learned it
from a young American at Ayan several years before. He was ten years
in government service at Ayan, and met there many of my countrymen.
Once he contemplated emigrating to New Bedford at the urgent
solicitation of a whaling captain who frequently came to the Ohotsk
sea.

Dr. Snider was from the German provinces of Russia, and his wife, a
sister of Admiral Fulyelm, was born in Sweden. They usually conversed
in German but addressed their children in Russian. They had a Swedish
housemaid who spoke her own language in the family and only used
Russian when she could not do otherwise. Madame Snider told me her
children spoke Swedish and Russian with ease, and understood German
very well. They intended having a French or English governess in
course of time.

"I speak," said the doctor, "German with my wife, Swedish to the
housemaid, Russian to my other servants, French with some of the
officers, English with occasional travelers, and a little Chinese and
Manjour with the natives over the river."

Blagoveshchensk has a pretty situation, and I should greatly prefer it
to Nicolayevsk for permanent habitation. In the middle of the Amoor
valley and at the mouth of the Zeya, its commercial advantages are
good and its importance increases every year. It was founded in 1858
by General Mouravieff, but did not receive any population worthy of
mention until after the treaty of Igoon in 1860. The government
buildings are large and well constructed, logs being the material in
almost universal use for making walls. A large unfinished house for
the telegraph was pointed out to me, and several warehouses were in
process of erection.

Late one afternoon the captain of the steamer Korsackoff invited me to
visit Sakhalin-Oula-Hotun (city of the black river) on the opposite
shore. Though called a city it cannot justly claim more than two
thousand inhabitants. There was a crowd on the bank similar to the one
at Igoon, most of the women and girls standing with their arms folded
in their sleeves. Several were seated close to the water and met the
same misfortune as those in similar positions at Igoon. The Korsackoff
made a much greater swell than the Ingodah, and those who caught its
effects were well moistened. We landed from, the steamer's boat and
ascended the bank to the village. Several fat old Manjours eyed us
closely and answered with great brevity our various questions.

Sakhalin-Oula stretches more than a mile along the bank, but extends
only a few rods back from the river. Practically it consists of a
single street, which is quite narrow in several places. The houses are
like those of Igoon, with frames of logs and coverings of boards, or
with log walls plastered with mud. The windows of stores and dwellings
are of lattice work covered with oiled paper, glass being rarely used.

The roofs of the buildings were covered with thatch of wheat straw
several inches thick, that must offer excellent facilities for taking
fire. Probably the character of this thatch accounts for the chimneys
rising ten or fifteen feet from, the buildings. I saw several men
arranging one of these roofs. On a foundation of poles they laid
bundles of straw, overlapping them as we overlap shingles, and cutting
the boards to allow the straw to spread evenly. This kind of covering
must be renewed every two or three years. Several thatches were very
much decayed, and in one of them there was a fair growth of grass. The
village was embowered in trees in contrast to the Russian shore where
the only trees were those in the park. I endeavored to ascertain the
cause of this difference, but could not. The Russians said there was
often a variation of three or four degrees in the temperature of the
two banks, the Chinese one being the milder. Timber for both Chinese
and Russian use is cut in the forests up the Amoor and rafted down.

Sakhalin-Oula abounded in vegetable gardens, which supplied the market
of Blagoveshchensk. The number of shops both there and at Igoon led me
to consider the Manjours a population of shop-keepers. Dr. Snider said
they brought him everything for ordinary table use, and would contract
to furnish at less than the regular price, any article sold by the
Russian merchants. In their enterprise and mode of dealing they were
much like the Jews of Europe and America, which may account for their
being called Manjours. Once a month during the full moon they come to
Blagoveshchensk and open a fair, which continues seven days. They sell
flour, buckwheat, beans, poultry, eggs, vegetables, and other edible
articles. The Russians usually purchase a month's supply at these
times, but when they wish anything out of the fair season the Manjours
are ready to furnish it.

We walked along a narrow street, less muddy than the streets of Igoon,
and passed several cattle yards enclosed with high fences, like
California corrals. In one yard there were cattle and horses, so
densely packed that they could not kick freely. Groups of natives
stared at us while smoking their little pipes, and doubtless wondered
why we came there. Several eyed me closely and asked my companions who
and what I could be. The explanation that I was American conveyed no
information, as very few of them ever heard of the land of the free
and the former home of the slave.

One large building with a yard in front and an inscription over its
gate was pointed out as a government office. Several employees of the
Emperor of China were standing at the gateway, all smoking and
enjoying the evening air. At a hitching post outside the gate there
were three saddled horses of a breed not unlike the 'Canadian.' The
saddles would be uncomfortable to an American, cavalry officer, though
not so to a Camanche Indian. According to my recollection of our
equestrian savage I think his saddle is not much unlike the
Mongolians'.

Beyond this establishment we entered a yard in front of a new and
well-built house. Near the door was the traveling carriage of the
governor of Igoon, who had arrived only an hour or two before. The
carriage was a two-wheeled affair, not long enough to permit one to
lie at full length nor high enough to sit bolt upright. It had no
springs, the frame resting fairly on the axles. The top was rounded
like that of a butcher's cart and the sides were curtained with blue
cloth that had little windows or peep-holes. I looked behind the
curtain and saw that the sides and bottom were cushioned to diminish
the effect of jolting. Two or three small pillows, round and hard,
evidently served to fill vacancies and wedge the occupant in his
place.

[Illustration: MANJOUR TRAVELING CARRIAGE.]

The shafts were like those of a common dray, and the driver's position
was on a sort of shelf within ten inches of the horse's tail. There
was room for a postillion on the shelf with the driver, the two
sitting back to back and their legs hanging over the side. The
wheel-tires were slightly cogged as if made for use in a machine, and
altogether the vehicle did not impress me as a comfortable one. Being
without springs it gives the occupant the benefit of all jolting, and
as the Chinese roads are execrable, I imagine one might feel after a
hundred miles in such a conveyance very much as if emerging from an
encounter with a champion prize-fighter.

Sometimes the Chinese officials set the wheels of their carts very far
aft so as to get a little spring from the long shafts. Even with this
improvement the carriage is uncomfortable, and it is no wonder that
the Chinese never travel when they can avoid it.

Entering a hall that led to a larger apartment, we reached the
presence of the governor of Igoon. He was seated on a mat near the
edge of a wide divan, his legs crossed like a tailor's at his work. He
was in a suit of light-colored silk, with a conical hat bearing a
crystal ball on the top. It is generally understood that the grade of
a Chinese official may be known by the ball he wears on his hat. Thus
there are red, blue, white, yellow, green, crystal, copper, brass, _et
cetera_, according to the rank of the wearer. These balls take the
place of the shoulder-strap and epaulettes of western civilization,
and it must be admitted that they occupy the most conspicuous position
one could select. As I am not versed in details of the orders of
Chinese rank I will not attempt to give the military and civil status
of my new acquaintance. I learned that he was a general in the army,
had displayed skill and bravery in subduing the rebellion, and been
personally decorated by the Emperor.

He was enjoying his pipe and a cup of tea, resting the latter on a
little table at his side. He was an old man,--of how many years I dare
not try to guess,--with a thin gray beard on his short chin, and a
face that might have been worn by the Knight of the Sorrowful
Countenance. I was introduced as an American who had come to see
China, and especially the portion bordering on the Amoor. We shook
hands and I was motioned to a seat at his side on the edge of the
divan.

Tea and cigars opened the way to a slow fire of conversation. I spoke
in French with Borasdine, who rendered my words in Russian to the
governor's interpreter. The principal remarks were that we were
mutually enchanted to see each other, and that I was delighted at my
visit to Igoon and Sakhalin-Oula.

Several officials entered and bowed low before the governor, shaking
their clenched hands at him during the obeisance. One wore a red and
another a yellow ball, the first being in a black uniform and the
second in a white one. The principal feature of each uniform was a
long coat reaching below the knees, with a cape like the capes of our
military cloaks. Both dresses were of silk, and the material was of
excellent quality.

The floor of the room was of clay, beaten smooth and cleanly swept.
The furniture consisted of the divan before mentioned, with two or
three rolls of bedding upon it, a Chinese table, and two Chinese and
three Russian chairs. The walls were covered with various devices
produced from the oriental brain; and an American clock and a French
mirror showed how the Celestials have become demoralized by commerce
with outside barbarians. The odor from the kitchen filled the room,
and as we thought the governor might be waiting for his supper, we
bade him good evening and returned to the boat and the Russian shore.

During my stay at Blagoveshchensk I was invited to assist at a visit
made by the governor of Igoon to Colonel Pedeshenk. The latter sent
his carriage at the appointed hour to bring the Chinese dignitary and
his chief of staff. A retinue of ten or twelve officers followed on
foot, and on entering the audience hall they remained standing near
the door. The greetings and hand-shakings were in the European style,
and after they were ended the Chinese governor took a seat and
received his pipe from his pipe-bearer. He wore a plain dress of grey
silk and a doublet or cape of blue with embroidery along the front. He
did not wear his decorations, the visit being unofficial.

In addition to the ball on his hat he wore a plume or feather that
stood in a horizontal position. His chief of staff was the most
elaborately dressed man of the party, his robes being more gaily
decorated than the governor's. The members of the staff wore mandarin
balls of different colors, and all had feathers in their hats. The
governor's hair was carefully done up, and I suspect his queue was
lengthened with black silk.

Conversation was carried on through the Colonel's interpreter, and ran
upon various topics. General Bussy's death was mentioned in terms of
regret, and then followed an interchange of compliments between the
two governors who met for the first time. After this the Chinese
governor spoke of my visit to Sakhalin-Oula, and said I was the first
American he ever met in his province.

"How did I come from America," he asked, "and how far had I traveled
to reach Blagoveshchensk?"

The interpreter named the distance and said I came to the Amoor in a
ship connected with the telegraph service.

"When would the telegraph be finished?"

He was told that within two or three years they would probably be able
to send messages direct to America.

Then he asked if the railway would not soon follow the telegraph. He
had never seen either, but understood perfectly their manner of
working. He expressed himself pleased at the progress of the telegraph
enterprise, but did not intimate that China desired anything of the
kind. The interview lasted about an hour, and ended with a
leave-taking after the European manner.

There is much complaint among the Russians that the treaty of 1860 is
not carried out by the Chinese. It is stipulated that trade shall be
free along the entire boundary between the two empires, and that
merchants can enter either country at will. The Chinese merchants are
not free to leave their own territory and visit Russia, but are
subject to various annoyances at the hands of their own officials. I
was repeatedly informed at Blagoveshchensk that the restrictions upon
commerce wore very serious and in direct violation of the
stipulations. One gentleman told me:

"Every Manjour trader that brings anything here pays a tax of twenty
to fifty per cent, for permission to cross the river. We pay now a
third more for what we purchase than when we first settled here. The
merchants complain of the restriction, and sometimes, though rarely,
manage to evade it. Occasionally a Manjour comes to me offering an
article twenty or thirty per cent, below his usual price, explaining
that he smuggled it and requesting me not to expose him."

I asked if the taxation was made by the Chinese government, and was
answered in the negative.

"Thee police of Igoon and Sakhalin-Oula regulate the whole matter. It
is purely a black-mail system, and the merchant who refuses to pay
will be thrown into prison on some frivolous charge. The police master
of Igoon has a small salary, but has grown very wealthy in a few
years. The Russian and Chinese governors have considered the affair
several times, but accomplish nothing. On such occasions the Chinese
governor summons his police-master and asks him if there is any truth
in the charges of the corruption of his subordinates. Of course he
declares everything correct, and there the matter ends."

How history repeats itself! Compare this with the conduct of certain
Treasury officials along the Mississippi during our late war. The
cases were exactly parallel. The government scandalized, trade
restricted, and merchants plundered, to fill the pockets of rapacious
officers! I began to think the Mongol more like the Anglo-Saxon than
ethnologists believe, and found an additional argument for the unity
of the human race.

If I knew the Emperor of China I should counsel him to open his
oblique eyes. If he does not he may find the conduct of the Igoon
police a serious affair for his dominions. Russia, like Oliver Twist,
desires more. When the opportunity comes she will quietly take
possession of Manjouria and hold both banks of the Amoor. If the
treaty of 1860 continues to be violated the Governor General of
Eastern Siberia will have an excellent excuse for taking the district
of Igoon and all it contains under his powerful protection.

On the day I reached Blagoveshchensk I saw an emigrant camp near the
town. The emigrants had just landed from the rafts with which they
descended the Amoor. They came from Astrachan, near the mouth of the
Volga, more than five thousand miles away, and had been two years on
their travels. They came with wagons to the head waters of the Amoor,
and there built rafts, on which they loaded everything, including
wagons and teams, and floated to their destination. I did not find
their wagons as convenient as our own, though doubtless they are
better adapted to the road.

The Russian wagon had a semi-circular body, as if a long hogshead were
divided lengthwise and the half of it mounted on wheels, with the open
part uppermost. There was a covering of coarse cloth over a light
framework, lower and less wide than our army wagons. Household goods
fill the wagons, and the emigrants walk for the most part during all
their land journey.

I spent a few minutes at the camp near the town, and found the picture
much like what I saw years ago beyond the Mississippi. Men were busy
with their cattle and securing them for the night; one boy was
bringing water from the river, and another gathering fuel for the
fire; a young woman was preparing supper, and an older one endeavored,
under shelter of the wagon-cover, to put a crying child to sleep.

Westward our star of empire takes its way. Russian emigration presses
eastward, and seeks the rising, as ours the setting sun.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--TOWARDS THE SUN]



CHAPTER XIX.


During my stay at Blagoveshchensk the governor invited me to assist at
a gazelle hunt.

At nine o'clock on the day appointed we assembled at the house of the
chief of staff. I breakfasted before going there, but it was necessary
to discuss the coming hunt over a second breakfast. Six or eight
ladies were of the party, and the affair had the general appearance of
a picnic. The governor seated me in his carriage at the side of Madame
Pedeshenk, and we led the company to the field of expected slaughter.

With four horses abreast,--two attached to a pole and two outside,--we
dashed over an excellent road leading back from the town. There were
three other carriages and two or three common wagons, in which the
occupants rode on bundles of hay. There was a little vehicle on two
wheels,--a sort of light gig with a seat for only one person,--driven
by a lady. Five or six officers were on horseback, and we had a
detachment of twenty mounted Cossacks to 'beat the bush.' Excluding
the Cossacks and drivers, there were about thirty persons in the
party. A mysterious wagon laden with boxes and kegs composed, the
baggage train. The governor explained that this wagon contained the
ammunition for the hunters. No gazelle could have looked upon those
kegs and boxes without trembling in his boots.

A range of low hills six miles from town was the spot selected for the
hunt. There were nine armed men to be stationed across this range
within shooting distance of each other. The Cossacks were to make a
circuitous route and come upon the hills two or three miles away,
where, forming a long line and making much noise, they would advance
in our direction. Any game that happened in the way would be driven to
us. We were to stand our ground with firmness and shoot any gazelle
that attacked us. I determined to fight it out on that line.

The road from Blagoveshchensk led over a birch-covered plain to the
bank of the Zeya, four miles away. We passed on the right a small
mill, which was to be replaced in the following year by a steam
flouring establishment, the first on the Amoor. On reaching the Zeya I
found a village named Astrachanka, in honor of Astrachan at the mouth
of the Volga. The settlers had lived there three or four years, and
were succeeding well in agriculture. They were of the class known as
German Mennonites, who settled on the steppes of Southern Russia at
the commencement of the present century. They are members of the
Lutheran church, and famed for their industry and their care in
managing their flocks and fields. The governor praised them warmly,
and expressed the kindest hopes for their prosperity.

[Illustration: THE AMMUNITION WAGON.]

We left the road near the village and passed through a field in the
direction of the hunting ground. Two men were at work with a yoke of
oxen and a plough, whose beam rested on the axle of a pair of wheels.
The yoke was like the one in use everywhere along the Amoor, and was
made of two pieces of thick plank, one above and the other below the
animals' necks, with wooden pins to join them and bear the strain. The
plough was quite primitive and did not stir the soil like an American
or English plough. At the hunting ground we alighted and took our
stations. The governor stood under a small oak, and the ladies rested
on the grass near him. I went to the next post up the hollow, and the
other hunters completed the line. Dr. Snider went to aid me in taking

                    "a dear gazelle,
To glad me with its soft black eye."

He was armed with a cigar, while I had a double-barreled gun, loaded
at (not to) the muzzle.

The Cossacks went to rouse the game, but their first drive resulted in
nothing beyond a prodigious noise. When they started for the second
drive I followed the doctor in a temporary visit to the ladies. During
this absence from duty a large gazelle passed within ten steps of my
station. I ran toward my post, but was not as nimble as the frightened
deer.

"_Tirez_" commanded the governor.

"Fire," shouted the doctor.

And I obeyed the double injunction. The distance was great and the
animal not stationary. I fired, and the governor fired, but the only
effect was to quicken the speed of our game. I never knew a gazelle to
run faster. Three weeks later I saw a beast greatly resembling him
running on a meadow a thousand miles from Blagoveshchensk. Whether it
was the same or another I will not attempt to say.

A few minutes after this failure the horn of the hunter was heard on
the hill, and two gazelles passed the line, but no game was secured.
The governor proposed a change of base, and led us where the
mysterious wagon had halted. The 'ammunition' was revealed. There were
carpets and cloths on the grass, plates, knives and forks, edibles in
variety, wine, ale, and other liquids, and the samovar steaming
merrily at our side. I think we acquitted ourselves better at this
part of the hunt than at any other. The picnic did not differ much
from an American one, the most noticeable feature being the
substantial character of solids and liquids. Most of us sat on the
grass and stumps, the number of camp-stools not exceeding half a
dozen.

Finishing the lunch we took a new hunting spot and managed to kill a
gazelle and a large hare. A fourth drive brought no game, and we
returned to enjoy another lunch and drink a Russian beverage called
'jonca.' In its preparation a pound or two of loaf sugar in a single
lump is fixed on a wire frame above a copper pan. A bottle of cognac
is poured over the sugar and set on fire. The sugar melts, and when
the fire is almost extinguished a bottle of claret and one of
champagne are added. The compound is taken hot, and has a sweet and
very smooth taste. The Russians are fond of producing this beverage
when they have foreign guests, and if taken freely it has a weakening
tendency. The captain of the Variag told me he had placed several
British officers under his table by employing this article, and there
was a rumor that the Fox embassy to St. Petersburg was quite severely
laid out by means of 'jonca.'

The lunch finished we discharged our guns and returned to town at a
rapid pace. While descending the bank of a brook our horses turned
suddenly and nearly overset the carriage. The doctor and I jumped out
to lighten the lower side, and were just in season to keep the wheels
on the ground. Madame Pedeshenk followed into the arms of the strong
doctor, but the governor, true to the martial instinct, remained in
his place and gave instructions to the driver. We did not re-enter the
carriage until it was across the brook; the horses were exercised
rather violently during the remainder of the journey.

I think the gazelle we killed was identical with the antelope of our
western plains. He had a skin of the same color and a white tail, that
retreating flag-of-truce so familiar to our overland emigrants. His
feet, head, and body were shaped like the antelope's, and his eye had
that liquid tenderness so often observed in the agile rover near the
foot of the Rocky Mountains. Gazelles abound through the Amoor valley
to within a hundred miles of the sea-coast. Many are killed every
autumn and winter in the valley of the Zeya and along the middle
Amoor. The flesh is eaten and the skin used for winter coats and
similar articles.

The commerce of Blagoveshchensk is in the hands of half a dozen
merchants, one French, one German, and the rest Russian. The Amoor
company before its affairs were ended kept there one of its principal
stores, which was bought, with stock and good will, by the company's
clerk. The wants of the officers, soldiers, and civilians in the town
and its vicinity are sufficient to create a good local trade. Prices
are high, nearly double those of Nicolayevsk, and the stocks of goods
on hand are neither large nor well selected. Officers complained to me
of combinations among the merchants to maintain prices at an
exorbitant scale.

I staid four days at Blagoveshchensk, and as the season was growing
late was quite anxious to depart. The days were charming,
corresponding to our Indian Summer, and the nights cool and frosty.
The passenger on our steamer from Igoon said ice would be running in
the river in twenty-five days unless the season should be unusually
mild. Russians and Chinese were preparing for cold weather, and I
wished to do the same farther westward. Borasdine contemplated a land
journey in case we were delayed more than five days. The Korsackoff
was the only steamer to ascend the river, and she was waiting for the
Constantine to bring her a barge. On the evening of the 5th October
the governor informed me the Korsackoff would start on the next day,
barge or no barge. This was cheering, and I celebrated the occasion by
boiling myself in a Russian bath.

I look upon the bath as one of the blessings of Russia. At the end of
a journey, when one is sore and stiff in the joints, it is an
effectual medicine. After it the patient sleeps soundly, and rises in
the morning thoroughly invigorated. Too much bathing deadens the
complexion and enfeebles the body, but a judicious amount is
beneficial. It is the Russian custom, not always observed, to bathe
once a week. The injury from the bath is in consequence of too high
temperature of steam and water, causing a severe shock to the system.
Taken properly the bath has no bad effects, and will cure rheumatism,
some forms of neuralgia, and several other acute diseases.

The bath-house is a building of two, and generally three, rooms. In
the outer room you undress, and your _chelavek_, or servant, does the
same. If there is but another room you are led directly into it, and
find a hot fire in a large stove. There is a cauldron of hot water and
a barrel of cold water close at hand. The tools of the operator are a
bucket, two or three basins, a bar of soap, a switch of birch boughs,
and a bunch of matting. If there are three apartments the second is
only an ante-room, not very warm and calculated to prepare you for the
last and hottest of all.

The chelavek begins by throwing a bucket of warm water over you. He
follows this with another, and then a third, fourth, and fifth, each a
little warmer than its predecessor. On one side of the room is a
series of benches like a terrace or flight of large steps. You are
placed horizontally on a bench, and with warm water, soap, and bunch
of matting the servant scrubs you from head to foot with a
manipulation more thorough than gentle. The temperature of the room is
usually about 110° Fahrenheit, but it may be more or less. It induces
vigorous perspiration, and sets the blood glowing and tingling, but it
never melts the flesh nor breaks the smallest blood vessel. The
finishing touch is to ascend the platform near the ceiling and allow
the servant to throw water upon hot stones from the furnace. There is
always a cloud of steam filling the room and making objects
indistinct. You easily become accustomed to the ordinary heat, but
when water is dropped upon the stones there is a rush of blistering
steam. It catches you on the platform and you think how unfortunate is
a lobster when he goes to pot and exchanges his green for scarlet.

I declined this _coup de grace_ after a single experience. To my view
it is the objectionable feature of the Russian bath. I was always
content after that to retire before the last course, and only went
about half way up the terrace. The birchen switch is to whip the
patient during the washing process, but is not applied with unpleasant
force. To finish the bath you are drenched with several buckets of
water descending from hot to cold, but not, as some declare,
terminating with ice water. This little fiction is to amuse the
credulous, and would be 'important if true.' Men have sometimes rushed
from the bath into a snow bank, but the occurrence is unusual.
Sometimes the peasants leave the bath for a swim in the river, but
they only do so in mild weather. In all the cities there are public
bath rooms, where men are steamed, polished, and washed in large
numbers. In bathing the Russians are more gregarious than English or
Americans. A Russian would think no more of bathing with several
others than of dining at a hotel table. Nearly every private house has
its bath room, and its frequent use can hardly fail to be noticed by
travelers.

[Illustration: FINISHING TOUCH.]

On the morning of the 6th the Constantine arrived, having left the
Korsackoff's barge hard aground below Igoon. So we were to start
unencumbered. I took my baggage to the Korsackoff, and was obliged to
traverse two barges before I reached the boat. Twelve o'clock was the
hour appointed for our departure, and at eleven the fires were burning
in the furnaces. A hundred men were transferring freight from the
Constantine to the Korsackoff, and made a busy scene. Four men
carrying a box of muskets ran against me on a narrow plank, and had
not my good friend the doctor seized me I should have plunged headlong
into the river. The hey-day in my blood was tame; I had no desire to
fall into _l'Amour_ at that season.

At eleven there came an invitation to lunch with the governor at two.
"How is this?" I said to the doctor; "start at twelve and lunch here
two hours later!" Smiling the doctor replied:

"I see you have not yet learned our customs. The governor is the
autocrat, and though the captain positively declares he will start at
noon you need not be uneasy. He will not go till you are on board, and
very likely you will meet him at lunch."

At two o'clock I was at the governor's, where I found the anxious
captain. When our lunch was finished Madame Pedeshenk gave me some
wild grapes of native production. They were about the size of peas,
and quite acid in taste. With cultivation they might be larger and
better flavored, just as many of our American grapes have improved in
the past twenty years. Some of the hardier grapes might be
successfully grown on the middle Amoor, but the cold is too long and
severe for tender vines. Attached to his dwelling the governor has a
hot-house that forms a pleasant retreat in winter. He hopes to
introduce vines and raise hot-house grapes in Siberia within a few
years.

I walked to the boat with Doctor and Madame Snider, our promenade
being enlivened by a runaway horse that came near dragging a cart over
us. The governor and his lady were there, with nearly all the
officers, and after saying adieu I stepped on board, and we left the
pier. We waved kerchiefs again and again as long as waves could be
seen.

There was a cabin on the Korsackoff about eight feet square, with four
small rooms opening out of it. Borasdine and I had two of these. My
apartment had two bunks and no bedding, but the deficiency was atoned
for by a large number of hungry and industrious fleas. Of my blankets
and pillow I made my own bed, and slept in it as on the Ingodah. My
only chair was a camp stool I carried from San Francisco with the
design of giving it away on reaching the end of my water travel.

Going on board the steamer I met a drunken priest endeavoring to walk
to the pier, and in the cabin I found another lying on a sofa, and, as
I supposed, very ill. Borasdine observed my look of compassion, and
indicated by signs the cause of the malady. The priest going ashore
had been saying farewell to the one on board, and their partings were
such as press the life from out young hearts and bottles. Our holy
passenger did not feel himself again until the next day.

There are many good men among the priests of the Eastern church in
Siberia, but it must also be admitted there are many bad ones. In a
country where the clergy wields as great power as in Russia the
authorities should take care that the representatives of the church
set a good example. The intemperance so prevalent among the peasantry
is partly due to the debaucheries of the priesthood. Where the people
follow their religious leaders with blind faith and obey their
commands in all the forms of worship, are they not in danger of
following the example of drunkenness? Russian officers frequently
spoke of the condition of the church in Eastern Siberia, and declared
with emphasis that it needed reformation. "Our priests," said one,
"have carried our religion wherever our armies have carried conquest,
and their efforts to advance Christianity deserve all praise. But
abuses exist and have grown up, and the whole system needs to be
arranged anew."

We had much freight on board, consisting chiefly of muskets for the
province of the Trans-Baikal. There were many passengers that lived
literally on deck. They were aft of the engines and above our cabin.
On deck we had the forward part of the boat as on the Ingodah. The
deck passengers were soldiers, and Cossacks in their long grey coats,
and peasants of all ages in garments of sheepskin. There were women
with infants, and women without infants, the former being the more
numerous. They were on deck day and night, unless when opportunity
offered to go on shore. They did their cooking at the galley or at a
stove near the stern of the boat. They never made any noise or
disturbance, beyond the usual confusion where many persons are
confined in a small space.

There were three horses tied just over my cabin with only a single
plank between their heels and my head. Nearly every night their horse
polkas and galops disturbed my sleep. Sometimes early in the morning,
when the frost was biting, they would have kicking matches of twenty
or thirty minutes, conducted with the greatest vigor. The temporary
stable was close to the cabin skylight, so that we had the odors of a
barn-yard without extra charge. This would have been objectionable
under other circumstances, but the cabin was so dirty that one could
not be fastidious about trifles.

The captain had a neat cabin of his own on the upper deck, and did not
trouble himself much about the quarters of his passengers, as the
regulations do not require him to look after their welfare. He was a
careful commander and prompt in discharging his duties. By law
steamboat captains cannot carry their wives on board. This officer had
a little arrangement by which he was able to keep the word of promise
to the ear and break it to the hope.

We were short of fuel at starting, and barely escaped trouble in
consequence. The first pile visible contained only a cord or two; we
took this and several posts that had been fixed in the ground to mark
the locality. When this supply was burned we cut up our landing planks
and all the spare bits of wood we could find. A court of inquiry was
held over the horse-troughs, but they were considered too much
water-soaked for our purpose. As a last resort I had a pound of
candles and a flask of brandy, but we happily reached a wood-station
without using my light baggage.

The Korsackoff was an iron boat of a hundred horse power, with hull
and engines of English make. Her cabins were very small and as dirty
as diminutive. There was no cabin steward, and I sincerely believe
there had never been one. We were warned of this before leaving
Blagoveshchensk, and by way of precaution purchased enough bread,
pickles, cheese, mustard, preserves, candles, etc., to stock a modest
grocery. We bought eggs at the landings, and arranged for the samovar
every morning. We engaged a Cossack passenger as our servant for the
voyage, and when we wished our eggs boiled we sent him with them to
the cook. Of course we had an arrangement with the latter functionary.
Our next move was to make terms with the captain's steward for a
dinner at the hour when he fed his chief. Our negotiations required
much diplomacy, but our existence depended upon it, and what will not
man accomplish when he wants bread and meat?

We spread our table in one of our rooms. For breakfast we took tea and
boiled eggs, and for dinner we had cabbage soup, roast beef or fowl,
and cutlets. The cook succeeded very well, and as our appetites were
pretty sharp we voted the dinners a success. We used our own bread,
tea, pickles, and preserves, employing the latter as a concluding
dish. Our Cossack was not very skillful at housework, and made many
blunders in serving. Frequently he brought the soup tureen before
arranging the table, and it took him some time to learn the
disadvantage of this practice.

Leaving Blagoveshchensk the country continued level near the river,
but the mountains gradually approached it and on the south bank they
came to the water fifteen or twenty miles above Sakhalin-Oula. On the
north the plain was wider, but it terminated about forty miles above
Blagoveshchensk,--a series of low hills taking its place. The first
day we ran twenty-five or thirty versts before sunset. The river was
less than a mile wide, and the volume of water sensibly diminished
above the Zeya. As the hills approached the river they assumed the
form of bluffs or headlands, with plateaus extending back from their
summits. The scenery reminded me of Lake Pepin and the region just
above it. On the northern shore, between these bluffs and the river,
there was an occasional strip of meadow that afforded clinging room to
a Russian village. At two or three settlements there was an abundance
of hay and grain in stacks, and droves of well fed cattle, that
indicated the favorable character of the country.

At most villages along the Amoor I found the crow and magpie abundant
and very tame. At Blagoveshchensk several of these birds amused me in
sharing the dinner of some hogs to the great disgust of the latter.
When the meal was finished they lighted on the backs of the hogs and
would not dismount until the latter rolled in the dirt. No one appears
to think them worth shooting, and I presume they do no damage.

One day walking on shore I saw a flock of pigeons, and returned to the
boat for Borasdine's gun. As I took it I remarked that I would shoot a
few pigeons for dinner.

"Never think of it," said my friend.

"And why?"

"Because you will make the peasants your enemies. The news would
spread that you had killed a pigeon, and every peasant would dislike
you."

"For what reason?"

"The pigeon or dove is held sacred throughout Russia. He is the living
symbol of the Holy Spirit in the faith of the Eastern church, and he
brought the olive branch to The Ark when the flood had ceased. No
Russian would harm one of these birds, and for you to do so would show
disrespect to the religion of the country."

I went on shore again, but without a gun.

Every day we saw rafts moving with the stream or tied along the shore.
They were of logs cut on the upper Amoor, and firmly fastened with
poles and withes. An emigrant piles his wagon and household goods on a
raft, and makes a pen at one side to hold his cattle. Two or three
families, with as many wagons and a dozen or twenty animals, were
frequently on one raft. A pile of earth was the fire place, and there
was generally a tent or shelter of some kind. Cattle were fed with
hay carried on board, or were turned ashore at night to graze.

[Illustration: EMIGRANTS ON THE AMOOR.]

Some rafts were entirely laden with cattle on their way to market or
for government use at Nicolayevsk. This is the most economical mode of
transportation, as the cattle feed themselves on shore at night, and
the rafts float with the current by day. A great deal of heavy freight
has been carried down the Amoor in this way, and losses are of rare
occurrence. The system is quite analogous to the flat-boat navigation
of the Mississippi before steamboats were established. We met a few
Russian boats floating or propelled by oars, one of them having a crew
of six Cossacks and making all haste in descending. We supposed it
contained the mail due at Blagoveshchensk when we left. The government
has not enough steamers to perform its service regularly, and
frequently uses row boats. The last mail at Blagoveshchensk before my
arrival came in a rowboat in fifteen days from Stratensk.

Ascending the river we made slow progress even without a barge. Our
machinery was out of order and we only carried half steam. We ran only
by day, and unfortunately the nights had a majority of the time. We
frequently took wood in the middle of the day, and on such occasions
lost from one to three hours. Our average progress was about sixty
miles a day. I could not help contrasting this with journeys I have
made on the Mississippi at the rate of two hundred miles in
twenty-four hours. A government boat has no occasion to hurry like a
private one, and the pilot's imperfect knowledge of the Amoor operates
against rapidity. In time I presume the Siberian boats will increase
their speed.

The second day from Blagoveshchensk we were where the Amoor flows
twenty-five versts around a peninsula only one verst wide. Just above
this, at the village of Korsackoff, was the foot of another bend of
twenty-eight versts with a width of three. Borasdine and I proposed
walking and hunting across the last neck of land, but the lateness of
the hour forbade the excursion, as we did not wish to pass the night
on shore, and it was doubtful if the boat could double the point
before dark. We should have crossed the first peninsula had it not
been in Chinese territory. To prevent possible intrusion the
Celestials have a guard-house at the bend.

At the guard-house we could see half a dozen soldiers with matchlocks
and lances. There was a low house fifteen or twenty feet square and
daubed with mud according to the Chinese custom. There was a quantity
of rubbish on the ground, and a couple of horses were standing ready
saddled near it. Fifty feet from the house was a building like a
sentry-box, with two flag-staffs before it; it was the temple where
the soldiers worshipped according to the ceremonies of their faith. I
have been much with the army in my own country, but never saw a
military post of two buildings where one structure was a chapel.

Above the village of Kazakavitch, at the upper extremity of the bend,
there was some picturesque scenery. On one side there were precipitous
cliffs two or three hundred feet high, and on the other a meadow or
plateau with hills in the background. The villages on this part of the
river are generally built twenty or thirty feet above high water mark.
They have the same military precision that is observed below the Zeya,
and each has a bath house set in the bank. Frequently we found these
bath houses in operation, and on one occasion two boys came out clad
in the elegant costume of the Greek Slave, without her fetters. They
gazed at the boat with perfect _sang froid_, the thermometer being
just above freezing point. The scene reminded me of the careless
manners of the natives at Panama.

Opposite Komarskoi the cliffs on the Chinese shore are perpendicular,
and continue so for several miles. At their base there is a strong
current, where we met a raft descending nearly five miles an hour. In
going against the stream our pilots did not seek the edge of the river
like their brethren of the Mississippi, but faced the current in the
center. Possibly they thought a middle course the safest, and
remembered the fate of the celebrated youth who took a short route
when he drove the sun.

Two miles above the settlement is Cape Komara, a perpendicular or
slightly overhanging rock of dark granite three hundred feet high.
Nothing but a worm or an insect could climb its face, and a fall from
its top into the river would not be desirable. The Russians have
erected a large cross upon the summit, visible for some distance up
and down the river. Above this rock, which appears like a sentinel,
the valley is wider and the stream flows among many islands.

We saw just below this rock a Manjour boat tied to the shore, the crew
breakfasting near a fire and the captain smoking in apparent unconcern
at a little distance. On the opposite bank there was a Chinese
custom-house and military station. It had the same kind of house and
temple and the same number of men and horses as the post farther down.
Had it possessed a pile of rubbish and a barking dog the similarity
would have been complete.

There is abundance of water in the Amoor except for drinking purposes.
I was obliged to adopt the plan of towing a bottle out of the cabin
window till it filled. The deck passengers used to look with wonder on
my foreign invention, and doubtless supposed I was experimenting for
scientific purposes. I have heard of a captain on the Ohio who forbade
water to his passengers on account of the low stage of the river.
Possibly the Russian captains are fearful that too much use of water
may affect navigation in future years.



CHAPTER XX.


There is a sameness and yet a variety in the scenery of the Amoor two
or three hundred miles above Komarskoi. The sameness is in the general
outlines which can be described; the variety is in the many little
details of distance, shadow, and coloring, which no pen can picture.
In the general features there are cliffs, hills, ravines, islands, and
occasional meadows, with forests of birch, pine, larch, and willow.
The meadows are not abundant, and the attractions to settlers
generally small. The hills are rugged and, though well timbered, not
adapted to agriculture. The pine forests are dark and gloomy, and the
leafless birches make the distant hills appear as if thinly snow-clad.
The willows are generally upon the islands, and grow with great
luxuriance. The large meadows are occupied by Russian settlers.

Many little streams enter the Amoor on both sides, but chiefly from
the north. There is a famous cliff called Sa-ga-yan, where the river
has washed and undermined the high bank so that portions fall away
every few years. The current strikes this hill with great force, and
where it is reflected the water is broken like the rapids above
Niagara. It is a dangerous spot for small boats, and very difficult
for them to ascend. When the expedition of 1854 descended the Amoor
several barges were drawn into an eddy at this cliff and nearly
swamped. Captain Fulyelm and Mr. Collins, in 1857, were in danger and
trouble, especially where the current rebounds from the shore.

When our steamer struck this rapid it required all the strength of our
engines to carry us through. I desired to examine the shore, but had
no opportunity. Mr. Collins found the bank composed of amygdaloid
sand, decomposed rock and sandstone, with many traces of iron. On the
beach were chalcedony, cornelian, and agate. Two veins of coal have
been traced in the cliff, and it is thought a large deposit exists
there. The natives have a story that the cliff smokes whenever a human
being approaches it, but I saw no indications of smoke as I passed.
They consider it the abode of evil spirits, and hold it in great
dread.

[Illustration: SA-GA-YAN CLIFF.]

The Russians told me that a few wreaths of smoke were visible in
summer, caused probably by the decomposition of several coal seams on
the upper side of the mountain.

Up to the present time no coal has been mined along the Amoor, though
enough is known to exist. The cheapness and abundance of wood will
render coal of little importance for many years to come. Nicolayevsk
is supplied with coal from Sakhalin Island, where it is abundant and
easily worked. Iron ore has been discovered on the upper Amoor and in
the Buryea Mountains. Captain Anossoff proposes to erect a smelting
establishment at Blagoveshchensk, supplying it with iron ore from the
Buryea region and with coal from the Zeya. Copper and silver exist in
several localities, but the veins have not been thoroughly examined.
The mountains are like those in the Nerchinsk district that have
yielded so richly in precious metals.

Captain Anossoff is the brother of my companion across the Pacific,
and has seen ten years service in Eastern Siberia. Most of that time
he has passed on the Amoor and its tributary streams. In many places
he found rich deposits of gold, the last and best being on the Oldoi
river, about a hundred miles north of Albazin. A ton of earth yielded
six hundred dollars worth of gold. I saw the specimens which the
captain took out in person. The gold was like the best gulch or scale
gold in California, with nuggets up to four or five ounces in weight.

Gold has been found in other localities. On several tributaries of the
Ousuree the Chinese have conducted washings for many years. The
Russian settlers near Posyet find gold in the streams flowing into the
sea. An engineer officer assured me the washings in that region could
be made profitable.

The government has recently opened the Amoor and its tributaries to
private enterprise and invited its citizens to search for gold where
they please. This is a concession in the right way, and partially
abandons the claim hitherto enforced that all mines belong to the
Imperial family. Some of the surveys of Captain Anossoff have been for
private parties at St. Petersburg, and the development of the mineral
resources of the Amoor is confidently expected in a few years. At
present the lack of laborers and machinery is a great drawback, but as
the country grows older the mining facilities will increase. It is not
impossible that a gold fever will sometime arise on the Amoor and
extend to America.

Much of the country I saw along the Amoor resembles the gold-bearing
regions on the Pacific coast. While we were taking wood at a village
above Sa-ga-yan I walked on shore and stopped at a little brook
flowing from the hills. Carelessly digging with a stick in the bottom
of this brook I brought up some black sand, which I washed on a piece
of bark. The washing left two or three shining particles that had
every appearance of gold. I wrapped them in a leaf to carry on board
the steamer, but as I afterward lost envelope and contents, the value
of my discovery is to this day unknown.

The original inhabitants along this part of the Amoor are wandering
Tungusians, in no great number and with little wealth. We saw their
huts on both banks, principally the southern one. At a Russian village
where we stopped there was a Managre hut or yourt of light poles
covered with birch bark. The covering was wound around the framework
in horizontal strips that overlapped at the edges like shingles on a
house-roof. Entering the hut I found a varied assortment of deer
skins, cooking and other utensils, dogs, dirt, and children. I gave a
small coin to one of the latter, and was immediately surrounded by
others who wished to be remembered. The mother of the infants sent one
of them to me with a freshly killed goose, which I declined accepting.

The head of the establishment examined my watch attentively, but I
think his curiosity was simulated, as he must have seen marry watches
among the Russians. Not to be outdone in curiosity, I admired the
trappings attached to his belt. These were a knife, a pipe, pouches
for bullets, tinder, powder, tobacco, and flints, a pointed iron for
cleaning a pipe, and two or three articles whose use I could not
ascertain. His dress was a deerskin frock and leggings, and his cap of
Chinese felt cloth was in several thicknesses and fitted close to his
head.

Outside the hut Borasdine gave the man a cigar, but the gift was not
appreciated. The native preferred tobacco and was better satisfied
when I gave him enough to fill his pipe. The Managres smoke the
Manjourian tobacco, which is raised in large quantities along the
middle Amoor and the Songaree. It is much like Connecticut leaf, but
has a more pungent flavor, and lacks the delicacy of Havana tobacco.
Men, women, and children are alike addicted to its use.

Our new acquaintance was a hunter, and allowed us, though with
hesitation, to look at his rifle. It had a flint lock of curious
construction, the hammer being drawn back to a horizontal position and
held in place by a notched piece of bone. The breech-pin was gone, and
a piece of stone fixed in the stock filled its place. The breech of
the stock was but little larger than the other part, and seemed very
awkwardly contrived. A forked stick is carried to form a rest, that
ensures the accuracy of aim. Powder and lead are so expensive that
great economy is shown in their use. I was told these natives were
excellent marksmen, and rarely missed a shot. When within proper
distance of their game they place their supporting sticks very quickly
and with such caution as to make no noise.

[Illustration: RIFLE SHOOTING.]

One intoxicated aboriginal stood in the group of Cossacks on the bank
and appeared quarrelsome, but found the Russians too good-natured for
his purpose. A light shower scattered the crowd and left the inebriate
addressing a horse and a wood-pile.

On the 11th of October the weather was like summer, the air still and
clear and my thermometer standing at 71 degrees. During the night I
found it necessary to take an extra blanket, and at noon of the 12th
the thermometer was at 45°, with a cloudy sky and a breeze from the
northeast. This change of twenty-six degrees was too much for comfort,
but of little consequence compared to my subsequent experience.
Instances have been known of a change of seventy degrees in twelve
hours from a sudden shifting of the wind. On the morning of the 13th
we had a light fall of snow, with the air at freezing point and the
water at 40°.[D]

[Footnote D: I here enter a protest against the Fahrenheit
thermometer, and think all who have used it to any extent will join me
in preferring the Centigrade or Reaumer scales. Centigrade has the
freezing point at zero and the boiling point at 100°. Reaumer freezes
at zero and boils at 80°. Fahrenheit very clumsily freezes at 32° and
boils at 212°. The difference in the graduation of the scale is of
much less consequence than the awkwardness of beginning the reading at
32°. The Russians use Reaumer's method, and I always envied them their
convenience of saying 'there are so many degrees of cold,' or 'so many
of heat,' while I was forced to count from 32° to use my national
scale.]

We passed a rock projecting far into the river, with precipitous sides
and a sharp summit visible for some distance along the Amoor. Below it
is a small harbor, where the Russian steamer Mala Nadeshda (Little
Hope) passed the winter of 1855. She was on her way to Stratensk,
carrying Admiral Puchachin on his return from a mission to Japan.
Caught by ice the Nadeshda wintered under shelter of this rock, while
the Admiral became a horse marine and mounted a saddle for a ride of
four hundred miles. Since that time the rock has borne the name of the
boat it protected.

In most of the villages there are schools for educating the boys of
the Cossacks and peasants. Some pupils are admitted free, while from
others a small fee is required. Occasionally I saw boys flocking to
the schools at sound of the master's bell, or coming out at recess or
dismissal. I had no opportunity to inspect one of these
establishments, but presume my description of the one at Mihalofski
will answer for all. The youths were as noisy as school-boys
everywhere, and when out of restraint indulged in the same hilarity as
if born on the banks of the Hudson or the Thames.

At noon on the 14th we stopped at Albazin to leave passengers and take
wood. It was Sunday, and the population appeared in its best clothing,
a few of the women sporting crinoline, and all wearing their best
calicoes. Among the men there were Cossacks and soldiers in their grey
coats or in plain cloth and sheepskin. I saw a few Yakuts with the
narrow eyes of the Tunguze and their clothing of deerskin.

A few Orochons stood apart from the Russians, but not less observant
of the boat and those on board. Outside the village were three or four
conical yourts belonging to the aboriginals. It is said this people
formerly lived in the province of Yakutsk, whence they emigrated to
the Amoor in 1825. One of their chiefs has a hunting knife with the
initials of the Empress Catherine. It was presented to an ancestor of
the present owner.

Albazin is finely situated on a plateau fifty feet high and extending
some distance back to the mountains. Opposite is a small river
abounding in fish, and in front an island several thousand acres in
extent and very fertile. Though less than seven years old, Albazin had
already begun to sell grain for transportation to Nerchinsk. A steamer
laden with grain left for Stratensk three days before our arrival.

Albazin is of historical interest to the Russians. In the year 1669 a
Polish adventurer named Chernigofsky built a fort at Albazin. That his
men might not be without the comforts of religion he brought a priest,
who founded a church at the new settlement. It is related that when
organizing his expedition he forcibly seized this priest and kept him
under guard during the journey to the Amoor. The Chinese twice
besieged Albazin, once with eighteen thousand men, and afterward with
nearly double that number. The Russians resisted a long time, and were
only driven from the Amoor by the famous treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689.

When I landed at Albazin, Captain Porotof, superintendent of the
Russian settlements between that point and Komarskoi, guided me
through the ruins. The present village of Albazin is inside the line
of Chinese works, and the church occupies the interior of the old
fort. All the lines of intrenchment and siege can be easily seen, the
fort being distinctly visible from the river. Its walls are about ten
feet high, and the ditch is partially filled from the washing of earth
during the many years since the evacuation. A drain that carries water
from the church has cut a hole through the embankment. In it I could
see the traces of the trees and brushwood used in making the fort.

In the fort and around it cannon shot, bullets, arrow heads, and
pieces of pottery are frequently found. A few years ago a magazine of
rye was discovered, the grains being perfect and little injured by
time. Captain Porotof gave me two Chinese cannon shot recently found
there and greatly roughened on the surface by the action of rust. The
position and arrangement of their batteries and lines of
circumvallation show that the Chinese were skilled in the art of war.

Albazin was valuable to the early adventurers on account of the fine
sables taken in its vicinity. It is important now for the same reason.
The Albazin sable is the best on the Amoor; that of the Buryea
mountains is next, and that from Blagoveshchensk is third in grade. At
several places I saw these furs, but found none of them equaling the
furs of Kamchatka.

Some interesting stories about the siege of Albazin are told by the
Russians. While the siege was progressing and the garrison was greatly
distressed for want of food, Chernigofsky sent a pie weighing forty or
fifty pounds to the Chinese commander to convince him that the fort
was abundantly supplied. The latter was so delighted with the gift
that he sent back for more, but his request was unheeded. He probably
saw through the little game they were attempting to play on him and
determined to beat them at it. History does not say whether the pie
was pork, mutton, or anything else. Possibly the curs of Albazin may
have entered into its composition.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--GAME]



CHAPTER XXI.


Above Albazin the Amoor steadily narrows; the hills are more rugged;
the trees less luxuriant; the meadows fewer, and the islands less
extensive. On the morning of the 15th my thermometer was at +16°, and
the trees on the shore were white with frost. The deck passengers
shivered around the engines and endeavored to extract heat from them.
The cabin passengers, excepting myself, were wrapped in their fur
coats as if it were midwinter. I walked about in my ordinary clothing,
finding the air bracing but not uncomfortable. I could not understand
how the Russians felt the cold when it did not affect me, and was a
little proud of my insensibility to frost. Conceit generally comes of
ignorance, and as I learned, wisdom I lost my vanity about resisting
cold.

Nearly every day on the Korsackoff I was puzzled at finding laurel
leaves in the soup, and did not understand it till I saw a barrel of
beef opened. There were lots of laurel leaves packed with the meat,
and I learned that they assist the preservative qualities of the salt
and give an agreeable flavor. I can speak in favor of the latter
theory, but know nothing about the former. The ancient Romans wore
laurel crowns, but they did not prevent the decline and fall of their
empire. Possibly the Russians may have better success in saving their
beef by the use of the laurel.

During a fog on the river we grazed a rock, slid upon a sandbar, and
then anchored, as we should have done at first. When in motion we
employed all possible time, and, considering the state of our engines,
made very good progress. Borasdine learned from our Cossack the
explanation of this haste.

"The pilots, firemen, and nearly all the crew," said the Cossack,
"have their wives at Stratensk, and are anxious to winter with them.
If the boat is frozen in below there they must remain till she thaws
out again. Consequently their desire to finish the voyage before the
ice is running."

At Igiratiena I met Colonel Shobeltsin, an officer identified with all
the movements for the final occupation of the Amoor. In 1852 he made a
journey from Irkutsk to Nicolayevsk, following a route up to that time
untraveled. He accompanied Mouravieff's expedition in 1854, and was
afterward intimately connected with colonization enterprises. A few
years ago he retired from service and settled at this village. His
face indicates his long and arduous service, and I presume he has seen
enough hardship to enjoy comfort for the rest of his days.

His house was the best on the Amoor above Blagoveshchensk and very
comfortably furnished. In the principal room there were portraits of
many Russian notabilities, with lithographs and steel engravings from
various parts of the world. Among them were two pictures of American
country life, bearing the imprint of a New York publisher. I had
frequently seen these lithographs in a window on Nassau street, little
thinking I should find them on the other side of the world. One room
was quite a museum and contained a variety of articles made by
Manjours and Tunguze. There were heads of deer, sable, and birds,
while a quantity of furs hung near the door.

With a spirit of hospitality the Colonel prepared us a breakfast
during our brief stay, and invited us to join him in the beverage of
the country. When we returned to the boat the steward was
superintending the killing of a bullock at the bank. Half a dozen
wolfish dogs were standing ready to breakfast as soon as the
slaughtering was over. A Cossack officer in a picturesque costume
stood on the bank near the boat. He wore an embroidered coat of
sheepskin, the wool inside, a shaggy cap of coal-black wool, and a
pair of fur-topped boots. All his garments were new and well fitting,
and contrasted greatly with the greasy and long used coats of the
Cossacks on the boat. Sheepskin garments can look more repulsive than
cloth ones with equal wearing. Age can wither and custom stale their
infinite variety.

Winding among the mountains and cliffs that enclose the valley we
reached in the evening a village four miles below the head of the
Amoor. I rose at daybreak on the 17th to make my adieus to the river.
The morning was clear and frosty, and the stars were twinkling in the
sky, save in the east where the blush of dawn was visible. The hills
were faintly touched with a little snow that had fallen during the
night. The trunks of the birches rose like ghosts among the pines and
larches of the forest, while craggy rocks pushed out here and there
like battlements of a fortress. The pawing steamer with her mane of
stars breasted the current with her prow bearing directly toward the
west.

"Just around that point," said the first officer of the Korsackoff as
he directed his finger toward a headland on the Chinese shore, "you
will see the mouth of the Argoon on the left and the Shilka on the
right;--wait a moment, it is not quite time yet."

When we rounded the promontory dawn had grown to daylight, and the
mountains on the south bank of the Argoon came into view. A few
minutes later I saw the defile of the Shilka. Between the streams the
mountains narrowed and came to a point a mile above the meeting of the
waters. On the delta below the mountains is the Russian village and
Cossack post of Oust-Strelka (Arrow Mouth,) situated in Latitude 53°
19' 45" North, and Longitude 121° 50' 7" East. It is on the Argoon
side of the delta and contains but a few houses. I knew by the smoke
that so gracefully curled in the cold atmosphere that the inhabitants
were endeavoring to make themselves comfortable.

The Amoor is formed by the union of these rivers, just as the Ohio is
formed by the Allegheny and Monongahela. Geographers generally admit
that the parent stream of a river is the one whose source is farthest
from the junction. The Argoon flows from the lake Koulon, which is
filled by the river Kerolun, rising in the Kentei Khan mountains in
Northern Mongolia. Together the Argoon and Kerolun have a development
of more than a thousand miles. There are many Cossacks settled along
the Argoon as a frontier guard. The river is not navigable, owing to
numerous rocks and rapids.

Genghis Khan, who subdued China and began that wonderful career of
Tartar conquest that extended to Middle Europe, was born on the banks
of the Kerolun. Some of his early battles were fought in its valley.

The Shilka is formed by the Onon and Ingodah, that rise in the region
north of the head waters of the Kerolun. From the sources of the Onon
to Oust-Strelka is a distance of seven hundred and fifty miles. There
are many gold mines along this river, and the whole mountain chain is
known to be rich in minerals. Including its tributaries on both sides
and at its formation, the Amoor as it flows into the Gulf of Tartary
drains a territory of 766,000 square miles.

There is a little island just below the point of land extending
between the two rivers. As we approached it the steamer turned to the
right and proceeded up the Shilka, leaving the Amoor behind us. I may
never see this great river again, but I shall never forget its
magnificent valley and its waters washing the boundaries of two
empires and bringing the civilization of the East and West in contact.
I shall never forget its many islands, among which we wound our
tortuous way; its green meadows, its steep cliffs, and its blue
mountains, that formed an ever-changing and ever beautiful picture. I
shall never forget its forests where the yellow hues of autumn
contrasted with the evergreen pine and its kindred, and which nature
has lavishly spread to shield the earth from the pitiless storm and
give man wherewith to erect his habitation and light his hearthstone
with generous fire. Mountain, hill, forest, island, and river will
rise to me hereafter in imagination as they rose then in reality. A
voyage along the entire course of the Amoor is one that the longest
lifetime cannot efface from the memory.

For a hundred and sixty years the little post of Oust-Strelka was the
most easterly possession of Russia in the Amoor valley. In 1847
Lieutenant General Mouravieff, having been appointed Governor General
of Eastern Siberia, determined to explore the river. In the following
spring he sent an officer with four Cossacks to descend the Amoor as
far as was prudent. The officer took a liberal supply of presents for
the people along the banks, and was instructed to avoid all collisions
with the natives and not to enter their towns. From the day of his
departure to the present nothing has ever been heard of him or his
men. Diligent inquiries have been made among the natives and the
Chinese authorities, but no information gained. It is supposed the
party were drowned by accident, or killed by hostile residents along
the river.

In 1850 and the three following years the mouth of the Amoor was
examined and settlements founded, as already described. The year 1854
is memorable for the first descent of the Amoor by a military
expedition. The outbreak of the Crimean war rendered it necessary to
supply the Russian fleet in the Pacific. The colonies on the Pacific
needed provisions, and the Amoor offered the only feasible route to
send them. General Mouravieff made his preparations, and obtained the
consent of his government to the important step. He asked the
permission of the Chinese, but those worthies were as dilatory as
usual, and Mouravieff could not wait. He left Shilikinsk on the 27th
of May, escorted by a thousand soldiers with several guns, and
carrying an ample supply of provisions for the Pacific fleet.

The Chinese made no actual opposition, but satisfied themselves with
counting the boats that passed. Mouravieff supplied the fleet at the
mouth of the Amoor, and then returned by way of Ayan to Irkutsk. The
troops were left to garrison the fortified points on or near the sea.
In 1855 three more expeditions left Shilikinsk with soldiers and
colonists. General Mouravieff accompanied the first of these
expeditions and went directly to Nicolayevsk. The allied fleet
attempted to enter the Amoor but could not succeed. The general sent
his compliments to the English Admiral and told him to come on if he
could and he should be warmly received. In 1856 a few Cossack posts
were established along the river, and in the next year nearly three
thousand Cossacks were sent there. The Chinese made a formal protest
against these movements, and there were fears of a hostile collision.
The reverses that China suffered from the English and French prevented
war with Russia, and in 1858 Mouravieff concluded a treaty at Igoon by
which the Russian claim to the country north of the Amoor and east of
the Ousuree was acknowledged. The Russians were thus firmly
established, and the development of the country has progressed
peacefully since that period.

As the Argoon from its mouth to Lake Kerolun forms the boundary
between the empires I lost sight of China when we entered the Shilka.
As I shivered on the steamer's bridge, my breath congealing on my
beard, and the hills beyond the Amoor and Argoon white with the early
snow of winter, I could not see why the Celestials call their land the
'Central Flowery Kingdom.'

The Shilka has a current flowing four or five miles an hour. The
average speed of the Korsackoff in ascending was about four miles. The
river wound among mountains that descended to the water without
intervening plateaus, and only on rare occasions were meadows visible.
The forests were pine and larch, with many birches. The lower part of
the Shilka has very little agricultural land, and the only settlements
are the stations kept by a few Cossacks, who cut wood for the steamers
and supply horses to the post and travelers in winter.

The first night after leaving the Amoor there was a picturesque scene
at our wooding station. The mountains were revealed by the setting
moon, and their outline against the sky was sharply defined. We had a
large fire of pine boughs burning on the shore, and its bright flames
lighted both sides of the river. The boatmen in their sheepskin coats
and hats walked slowly to and fro, and gave animation to the picture.
While I wrote my journal the horses above me danced as though
frolicking over a hornet's nest, and reduced sentimental thoughts to a
minimum. To render the subject more interesting two officers and the
priest grew noisy over a triple game of cards and a bottle of vodki. I
wrote in my overcoat, as the thermometer was at 30° with no fire in
the cabin.

We frequently met rafts with men and horses descending to supply the
post stations, or bound on hunting excursions. I was told that the
hunters float down the river on rafts and then make long circuits by
land to their points of departure. The Siberian squirrel is very
abundant in the mountains north of the Shilka, and his fur is an
important article of commerce.

We stopped at Gorbitza, near the mouth of the Gorbitza river, that
formerly separated Russia and China and was the boundary up to 1854.

Above this point the villages had an appearance of respectable age not
perceptible in the settlements along the Amoor. Ten or twelve miles
from our wooding place we met ice coming out of the Chorney river, but
it gave us no inconvenience. The valley became wider and the hills
less abrupt, while the villages had an air of irregularity more
pleasing than the military precision on the Amoor. I saw many
dwellings on which decay's effacing fingers were busy. The telegraph
posts were fixed above Gorbitza, but the wires had not been strung.

There were many haystacks at the villages, and I could see droves of
cattle and sheep on the cleared hills. At one landing I found a man
preparing his house for winter by calking the seams with moss. Under
the eaves of another house there were many birds that resembled
American swallows. I could not say whether they were migratory or not,
but if the former they were making their northern stay a late one.
Their twitterings reminded me of the time when I used to go at
nightfall, 'when the swallows homeward fly,' and listen to the music
without melody as the birds exchanged their greetings, told their
loves, and gossipped of their adventures.

[Illustration: PREPARING FOR WINTER.]

Just at sunset we reached Shilikinsk, a town stretching nearly two
miles along the river, on a plateau thirty feet high. We stopped in
the morning where there was abundance of wood, but only took enough to
carry us to Shilikinsk. There was a lady in the case. Our first
officer had a feminine acquaintance at the town, and accordingly
wished to stop for wood, and, if possible, to pass the night there.
His plan failed, as no wood could be discovered at Shilikinsk, though
our loving mate scanned every part of the bank. We had enough fuel to
take us a few miles farther, where we found wood and remained for the
night. The disappointed swain pocketed his chagrin and solaced himself
by playing the agreeable to a lady passenger.

I saw in the edge of the town a large building surrounded with a
palisaded wall. "What is that?" I asked, pointing to the structure new
to my eyes.

"It is a station for exiles," was my friend's reply, "when they pass
through the town. They generally remain here over night, and sometimes
a few days, and this is their lodging. You will see many such on your
way through Siberia."

"Is it also the prison for those who are kept here permanently?" "No;
the prison is another affair. The former prison at Shilikinsk has been
converted into a glass manufactory. Just behind it is a large tannery,
heretofore celebrated throughout Eastern Siberia for its excellent
leather."

As we proceeded the country became more open and less mountainous, and
I saw wide fields on either side. A road was visible along the
northern bank of the river, sometimes cut in the hillside where the
slope was steep. On the southern bank there was no road beyond that
for local use. The telegraph followed the northern side, but
frequently left the road to take short cuts across the hills.

We struck a rock ten miles from our journey's end, and for several
minutes I thought we should go gracefully to the bottom. We whirled
twice around on the rock before we left it, and our captain feared we
had sprung a leak. When once more afloat Borasdine and I packed our
baggage and prepared for the shore. We ate the last of our preserves
and gave sundry odds and ends to the Cossacks. As a last act we opened
the remaining bottles of a case of champagne, and joined officers and
fellow passengers in drinking everybody's health.

Late in the afternoon of the 20th October we were in sight of
Stratensk. The summer barracks were first visible, and a moment later
I could see the church dome. In nearly all Russian towns the churches
are the first objects visible on arriving and the last on departing.
Tho house of worship is no less prominent in the picture of a Russian
village than the ceremonies of religion in the daily life of the
people.

There was a large crowd on the bank to welcome us. Officers, soldiers,
merchants, Cossacks, peasants, women, children, and dogs were in
goodly numbers. Our own officers were in full uniform to make their
calls on shore. The change of costume that came over several
passengers was interesting in the extreme.

At last the steamer ceased her asthmatic wheeze and dropped her anchor
at the landing. We gave our baggage to a Cossack to take to the hotel.
Soon as the rush over the plank was ended I walked ashore from the
Korsackoff for the last time.

So ended, for the present, my water journeying. I had zig-zagged from
New York a distance, by my line of travel, not less than fifteen
thousand miles. The only actual land route on my way had been
forty-seven miles between Aspinwall and Panama. I had traveled on two
ocean passenger-steamers, one private steamer of miniature size, a
Russian corvette, a gunboat of the Siberian fleet, and two river boats
of the Amoor flotilla. Not a serious accident had occurred to mar the
pleasure of the journey. There had been discomforts, privations, and
little annoyances of sufficient frequency, but they only added
interest to the way.

The proverb well says there is no rose without a thorn, and it might
add that the rose would be less appreciable were there no thorn. Half
our pleasures have their zest in the toil through which they are
gained. In travel, the little hardships and vexations bring the
novelties and comforts into stronger relief, and make the voyager's
happiness more real. It is an excellent trait of human nature that the
traveler can remember with increased vividness the pleasing features
of his journey while he forgets their opposites. Privations and
discomforts appeal directly to the body; their effect once passed the
physical system courts oblivion. Pleasures reach our higher being,
which experiences, enjoys, and remembers.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XXII.


Stratensk is neither large nor handsome. The most I saw of it was near
the hotel whither we went from the boat. The rooms we were shown into
faced the river, and had high walls decorated with a few pictures. My
apartment had a brick stove in one corner, a table, three or four
chairs, and a wide sofa or cushioned bench without a back. This last
article served as bed by night and seat by day. No bed clothing is
furnished in a Siberian hotel, each traveler being expected to carry
his own supply.

The government has a foundry and repair shop two miles above the town,
where several steamers pass the winter and have their machinery
repaired. Immediately on arrival we sent to request Mr. Lovett, the
gentleman in charge of the works, to call upon us. He responded
promptly, and came while we were at supper. Being English and with a
slight tendency to _embonpoint_, he readily accepted several bottles
of 'Bass & Co.' that remained from our small stores. He was
accompanied by Captain Ivashinsoff, who spoke English easily and well.
His knowledge of it was obtained rather romantically as the story was
told me.

Two years earlier this officer happened in Hong Kong and during his
stay an American vessel arrived. Her captain had been seriously ill
for some weeks and totally incapable of duty. The first mate died on
the voyage, and the second was not equal to the difficulties of
navigation. The captain was accompanied by his daughter, who had been
several years at sea and learned the mysteries of Bowditch more as a
pastime than for anything else. In the dilemma she assumed control of
the ship, making the daily observation and employing the mate as
executive officer. When they reached Hong Kong the captain was just
recovering. The young woman came on shore, saw and conquered the
Russian. Neither spoke the other's language, and their conversation
was conducted in French. After their marriage they began to study, and
had made such progress that I found the captain speaking good English,
and learned that the lady was equally fluent in Russian. She was
living at Stratensk at the time of my visit, and I greatly regretted
that our short stay prevented my seeing her. She was a native of
Chelsea, Massachusetts, and was said to enjoy her home on the Amoor.

Three or four steamers were in winter quarters, and the Korsackoff was
to join them immediately. Both at Stratensk and Nicolayevsk it is the
custom to remove the machinery from steamers during winter. It is
carefully housed to prevent its rusting, and I presume to lessen the
loss in case of fire or damage from breaking ice.

We talked with our new friends till late in the evening, and then
prepared to continue our journey. Lovett gave me his blessing and a
feather pillow; the former to cover general accidents and the latter
to prevent contusions from the jolting vehicle. Borasdine obtained a
Cossack to accompany us on the road and ordered our baggage made
ready. The Cossack piled it into a wagon and it was transported to the
ferry landing and dumped upon the gravel. We followed and halted in
front of the palisaded hotel of the exiles. The ferry boat was on the
opposite shore, four or five hundred yards away. Borasdine called, but
the boatmen did not rise.

"Dai sloopka!" (send a boat.)

After a moment's pause he repeated:

"Dai sloopka!"

He added the usually magic word "courier!" but it had no effect. He
shouted repeatedly and grew hoarse. Then I lifted up my voice like a
pelican in the wilderness, but with no better effect. When we had
almost reached the pitch of despair a man appeared from behind a wood
pile and tried his vocal organs in our behalf. At his second call a
reply was given, and very soon a light twinkled at the ferry house.

[Illustration: STRATENSK, EASTERN SIBERIA.]

The boat was a long time coming, and while we waited its arrival a
drunken Bouriat made himself unpleasantly familiar. As often as I
changed my position he would come to my side and endeavor to rest his
dirty arm on my shoulder. I finally walked through a pile of brushwood
and crooked sticks, which was too much for the native with his weak
knees and muddy brain. After struggling with a persistency that would
have been commendable had the object to be attained been commensurate
to the effort, he became inextricably tangled, and I left him in the
loving embrace of a decayed tree-top.

The boat came with four shaggy ferrymen, who had some difficulty in
reaching land. It was a kind of large skiff, high at both ends and
having a platform, like that of a hay-scale, in the center. The
platform projected a foot or more beyond the sides of the boat, and
had no railing to prevent a frightened horse or drunken man going
overboard. This is the general style of river ferry boats in Siberia.
The boatmen do not appear very skillful in handling them, but I
learned that serious accidents were very rare.

We piled our baggage and left the shore, running upon two rocks and
colliding with a sandbar before getting fairly away. I fell asleep
during the crossing, satisfied that the crew did not need my
assistance. We landed where the road is cut into the rocky bank, and
were obliged to lift the baggage over a pile of stony debris. The
boatmen said it was impossible to go to the regular landing, but I
suspect they wished an extra gratuity for handling our impedimenta.
Before the work was finished they regretted their manoeuvre.

As we touched the shore one man went to the station to bring horses
and a vehicle. Borasdine and I scrambled over the rocks to the road
fifteen feet above the water, and by the time the crew brought up our
baggage the conveyance arrived. It was what the Russians call a
_telyaga_, drawn by three horses.

This carriage is of Quaker simplicity. There are four wheels on wooden
axles, with rough but strong 'reaches.' A body, shaped something like
an old-fashioned baby-cart, rests upon the reaches or on poles fixed
over them. The hood protects against wind and rain from behind, and
the best of the vehicles have boots buttoned in front and attached to
the hoods. The driver sits on the bow directly behind the shaft-horse,
and one part of his duty is to keep from falling off. The traveler
spreads his baggage inside as evenly as possible to form a bed or
cushion. Angular pieces should be discarded, as the corners are
disagreeable when jolted against one's sides. Two shafts are fixed in
the forward axle, and a horse between them forms a sort of _point
d'appui_. Any number from one to six can be tied on outside of him.

The fault of our baggage was that we, or rather I, had too much.
Worst of all, I had a wooden trunk that I proposed throwing away at
Nicolayevsk, but had been told I could carry to Irkutsk without
trouble. It could not ride inside, or if it did we could not. We
placed the small articles in the interior of the vehicle, and tied the
trunk and Borasdine's _chemadan_ on the projecting poles behind. The
_chemadan_ is in universal use among Siberian travelers, and admirably
adapted to the road. It is made of soft leather, fastens with a lacing
of deer-skin thongs, and can be lashed nearly water tight. It will
hold a great deal,--I never saw one completely filled,--and
accommodates itself to the shape of its aggregate contents. It can be
of any size up to three or four feet long, and its dimensions are
proportioned to each other about like those of an ordinary
pocket-book. A great advantage is the absence of sharp corners and the
facility of packing closely.

We acted contrary to the custom of the country in tying our baggage
behind. There are gentlemen of the road in Siberia as there are 'road
agents' in California. The Siberian highwaymen rarely disturb the
person of a traveler, but their chief amusement is to cut away outside
packages. As a precaution we mounted our Cossack on the trunk, but
before we went a mile he fell from his perch in spite of his utmost
efforts to cling to the vehicle. After that event he rode by the
driver's side.


On seeing Lovett at Stratensk my first question related to the
condition of the road. "Horrid," said he. "The worst time to travel.
There has been much rain and cold weather. You will find mud either
soft or frozen most of the way to Chetah."

Before we started the driver brought an additional horse, and after a
preliminary kick or two we took the road. For a few miles we went up
and down hills along the edge of the river, where the route has been
cut at much labor and expense. This was not especially bad, the worst
places being at the hollows between the hills where the mud was
half-congealed. When we left the river we found the mud that Lovett
prophesied. Quality and quantity were alike disagreeable. All roads
have length more or less; ours had length, breadth, depth, and
thickness. The bottom was not regular like that of the Atlantic, but
broken into inequalities that gave an uneasy motion to the telyaga.

To travel in Siberia one must have a _padaroshnia_, or road pass, from
the government authorities, stating the number of horses to which he
is entitled. There are three grades of padaroshnia; the first for high
officials and couriers; the second for officers on ordinary business;
and the third for civilian travelers. The first and second are issued
free to those entitled to receive them, and the third is purchased at
the rate of half a copeck a verst. These papers serve the double
purpose of bringing revenue to government and preventing unauthorized
persons traveling about the country. A traveler properly provided
presents his papers at a post-station and receives horses in his turn
according to the character of his documents.

A person with a courier's pass is never detained for want of animals;
other travelers must take their chance. Of course the second class of
passport precedes the third by an inflexible rule. Suppose A has a
second class and B a third class padaroshnia. A reaches a station and
finds B with a team ready to start. If there are no more horses the
_smotretal_ (station master) detaches the animals from B's vehicle and
supplies them to A. B must wait until he can be served; it may be an
hour, a day, or a week.

The stations are kept by contract. The government locates a station
and its lessee is paid a stipulated sum each year. He agrees to keep
the requisite horses and drivers, the numbers varying according to the
importance of the route. He contracts to carry the post each way from
his station to the next, the price for this service being included in
the annual payment. He must keep one vehicle and three horses at all
times ready for couriers. Couriers, officers, and travelers of every
kind pay at each station the rate fixed by law.

In Kamchatka and North Eastern Siberia the post route is equipped
with dog-teams, just as it has horses in more southerly latitudes. In
the northern part of Yakutsk the reindeer is used for postal or
traveling service. A padaroshnia calls for a given number of horses,
usually three, without regard to the number of persons traveling upon
it. Generally the names of all who are to use it are written on the
paper, but this is not absolutely necessary. Borasdine had a
padaroshnia and so had I, but mine was not needed as long as we kept
together.

The post carriages must be changed at every station. Constant changing
is a great trouble, especially if one has much baggage. In a wet or
cold night when you have settled comfortably into a warm nest, and
possibly fallen asleep, it is an intolerable nuisance to turn out and
transfer. To remedy this evil one can buy a _tarantass_, a vehicle on
the general principle of the telyaga, but larger, stronger, and better
in every way. When he buys there is a scarcity and the price is high,
but when he has finished his journey and wishes to sell, it is
astonishing how the market is glutted. At Stratensk I endeavored to
purchase a tarantass, but only one could be had. This was too
rheumatic for the journey, and very groggy in the springs, so at the
advice of Lovett I adhered to the telyaga.

The Russians apply the term 'equipage' to any vehicle, whether on
wheels or runners, and with or without its motive power. It is a
generic definition, and can include anything drawn by horses, dogs,
deer, or camels. The word sounds very well when applied to a
fashionable turnout, but less so when speaking of a dirt-cart or
wheelbarrow.

The same word, 'equipage,' is used in Russian as in French to denote a
ship's crew. In this connection I heard an amusing story, vouched for
as correct. A few years after the disappearance of Sir John Franklin
the English Admiralty requested the Russian government to make
inquiries for the lost navigator along the coast and islands of the
Arctic Ocean. An order to that effect was sent to the Siberian
authorities, and they in turn commanded all subordinates to inquire
and report. A petty officer some where in Western Siberia was puzzled
at the printed order to 'inquire concerning the English Captain, John
Franklin, and his equipage.' In due time he reported:

"I have made the proper inquiries. I can learn nothing about Captain
Franklin; but in one of my villages there is an old sleigh that no one
claims, and it may be his equipage."

We carried one and sometimes two bells on the yoke of our shaft-horse
to signify that we traveled by post. Every humbler vehicle was
required to give us the entire road, at least such was the theory.
Sometimes we obtained it, and sometimes the approaching drivers were
asleep, and the horses kept their own way. When this occurred our
driver generally took an opportunity to bring his whip lash upon the
sleeper. It is a privilege he enjoys when driving a post carriage to
strike his delinquent fellow man if in reach. I presume this is a
partial consolation for the kicks and blows occasionally showered upon
himself. Humanity in authority is pretty certain to give others the
treatment itself has received. Only great natures will deal charity
and kindness when remembering oppression and cruelty.

I was not consulted when our telyaga was built, else it would have
been wider and longer. When our small parcels were arranged inside
there was plenty of room for one but hardly enough for two. Borasdine
and I were of equal height, and neither measured a hair's breadth less
than six feet. When packed for riding I came in questionable shape, my
body and limbs forming a geometric figure that Euclid never knew.
Notwithstanding my cramped position I managed to doze a little, and
contemplated an essay on a new mode of triangulation. We rattled our
bones over the stones and frozen earth, and dragged and dripped
through the mud to the first station. As we reached the establishment
our Cossack and driver shouted "_courier!_" in tones that soon brought
the smotretal and his attendants. They rubbed their half-open eyes and
bestirred themselves to bring horses. The word 'courier' invigorates
the attachés of a post route, as they well know that the bearer of a
courier's pass must not be delayed. Ten minutes are allowed for
changing a courier's horses, and the change is often made in six or
eight minutes. The length of a journey depends considerably upon the
time consumed at stations.

[Illustration: A SIBERIAN TARANTASS.]

Here we found a tarantass, neither new nor elegant, but strong and
capacious. We hired it to Nerchinsk, and our Cossack transferred the
baggage while four little rats of ponies were being harnessed. The
harness used on this road was a combination of leather and hemp in
about equal proportions. There were always traces of ropes more or
less twisted. It is judicious to carry a quantity of rope in one's
vehicle for use in case of accident. A Russian _yemshick_ (driver) is
quite skillful in repairing breakages if he can find enough rope for
his purpose.

The horses, like many other terrestrial things, were better than they
appeared, and notwithstanding the bad road they carried us at good
speed. I was told that the horses between Stratensk and Lake Baikal
were strangers to corn and oats, and not over familiar with hay. Those
at the post stations must be fed in the stable, but nearly all others
hunt their own food. In summer they can easily do this, but in winter
they subsist on the dry grass standing on the hills and prairies.
There is little snow in this region, but when it falls on the pastures
the horses scrape it away to reach the grass. They are never
blanketed, in the coldest weather, and the only brushing they receive
is when they run among bushes.

In the government of Yakutsk there are many horses that find their own
living in winter as in summer. They eat grass, moss, fish, bushes, and
sometimes the bark of trees. Captain Wrangell tells of the great
endurance of these beasts, and says that like all other animals of
that region they shed their coats in the middle of summer.

At the second station the smotretal sought our horses among the
village peasants, as he had none of his own. He explained that a high
official had passed and taken the horses usually kept for the courier.
This did not satisfy Borasdine, who entered complaint in the
regulation book, stating the circumstances of the affair. At every
station there is a book sealed to a small table and open to public
inspection. An aggrieved traveler is at liberty to record a statement
of his trouble. At regular intervals an officer investigates the
affairs of every station. Complaints are examined, and offences
treated according to their character. This wholesome regulation keeps
the station masters in proper restraint.

Day had fairly opened through a dense fog when our delay ended. While
we descended a long hill one of our hinder wheels parted company and
took a tangent to the road side. We were in full gallop at the time,
but did not keep it up long. A pole from a neighboring fence, held by
a Pole from Warsaw, lifted the axle so that the wheel could be
replaced. I assisted by leaving the carriage and standing at the
roadside till all was ready. We had some doubts about the vehicle
holding together much longer, but it behaved very well. The tarantass
is a marvel of endurance. To listen to the creaking of its joints, and
observe its air of infirmity, lead to the belief that it will go to
pieces within a few hours. It rattles and groans and threatens prompt
analysis, but some how it continues cohesive and preserves its
identity hundreds of miles over rough roads.

We were merciless to the horses as they were not ours and we were in a
hurry. When the driver allowed them to lag, Borasdine ejaculated
'POSHOL!' with a great deal of emphasis and much effect. This word is
like 'faster' in English, and is learned very early in a traveler's
career in Russia. I acquired it before reaching the first station on
my ride, and could use it very skillfully. In the same connection are
the words '_droghi_' ('touch up,') '_skorey_' ('hurry,') and
'_stupie_' ('go ahead.') All these commands have the accent upon the
last syllable, and are very easy to the vocal organs. I learned them
all and often used them, but to this day I do not know the Russian
word for 'slower.' I never had occasion to employ it while in the
empire, except once when thrown down an icy slope with a heap of
broken granite at its base, and at another time when a couple of
pretty girls were standing by the roadside and, as I presumed, wanted
to look at me.

From Stratensk to Nerchinsk, a distance of sixty miles, our road led
among hills, undulating ground, meadows, and strips of steppe, or
prairie, sometimes close to the river, and again several miles away.
The country is evidently well adapted to agriculture, the condition of
the farms and villages indicating prosperity. I saw much grain in
stacks or gathered in small barns. As it was Sunday no work was in
progress, and there were but few teams in motion anywhere. The roads
were such that no one would travel for pleasure, and the first day of
the week is not used for business journeys.

From the top of a hill I looked into the wide and beautiful valley of
the Nertcha, which enters the Shilka from the north. On its left bank
and two or three miles from its mouth is the town of Nerchinsk with
five or six thousand inhabitants. Its situation is charming, and to me
the view was especially pleasing, as it was the first Russian town
where I saw evidences of age and wealth. The domes of its churches
glistened in the sunlight that had broken through the fog and warmed
the tints of the whole picture. The public buildings and many private
residences had an air of solidity. Some of the merchants' houses would
be no discredit to New York or London. The approach from the east is
down a hill sloping toward the banks of the Nertcha.

We entered the gateway of Nerchinsk, and after passing some of the
chief buildings drove to the house of Mr. Kaporaki, where we were
received with open arms. Borasdine and his acquaintance kissed
affectionately, and after their greeting ended I was introduced. We
unloaded from the tarantass, piled our baggage in the hallway, and
dismissed the driver with the borrowed vehicle. Almost before we were
out of our wrappings the samovar was steaming, and we sat down to a
comforting breakfast, with abundance of tea. And didn't we enjoy it
after riding eight or ten hours over a road that would have shaken
skimmilk into butter? You bet we did.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XXIII.


The heaviest fortunes at Nerchinsk have been made in commerce and gold
mining, principally the latter. I met one man reputed to possess three
million roubles, and two others who were each put down at over a
million. Mr. Kaporaki, our host, was a successful gold miner, if I may
judge by what I saw. His dwelling was an edifice somewhat resembling
Arlington House, but without its signs of decay. The principal rooms I
entered were his library, parlor, and dining-room; the first was neat
and cozy, and the second elaborately fitted with furniture from St.
Petersburg. Both were hung with pictures and paintings, the former
bearing French imprints. His dining-room was in keeping with the rest
of the establishment, and I could hardly realize that I was in
Siberia, five thousand miles from the Russian capital and nearly half
that distance from the Pacific Ocean. The realization was more
difficult when our host named a variety of wines ready for our use.
Would we take sherry, port, or madiera, or would we prefer
Johannisberg, Hockheimer, or Verzenay? Would we try Veuve Cliquot, or
Carte d'Or? A box of genuine Havanas stood upon his library table, and
received our polite attention. We arrived about ten in the morning,
and on consenting to remain till afternoon a half dozen merchants were
invited to join us at dinner.

Mr. Kaporaki's gold mines were on the tributaries of the Nertcha,
about a hundred miles away. From his satisfied air in showing
specimens and figures I concluded his claims were profitable. The
mining season had just closed, and he was footing up his gains and
losses for the year. The gold he exhibited was in coarse scales, with
occasional nuggets, and closely resembled the product I saw a few
months earlier of some washings near Mariposa.

The gold on the Nertcha and its tributaries is found in the sand and
earth that form the bed of the streams. Often it is many feet deep and
requires much 'stripping.' I heard of one _priesk_ (claim) where the
pay-dirt commenced sixty-five feet from the surface. Notwithstanding
the great expense of removing the superincumbent earth, the mine had
been worked to a profit. Twenty or thirty feet of earth to take away
is by no means uncommon. The pay-dirt is very rich, and the estimates
of its yield are stated at so many _zolotniks_ of gold for a hundred
poods of earth. From one pood of dirt, of course unusually rich, Mr.
Kaporaki obtained 24 zolotniks, or three ounces of gold. In another
instance ten poods of dirt yielded 90 zolotniks of gold. The ordinary
yield, as near as I could ascertain, was what a Californian would call
five or six cents to the pan.

Each of these merchant-miners pays to the government fifteen per cent.
of all gold he obtains, and is not allowed to sell the dust except to
the proper officials. He delivers his gold and receives the money for
it as soon as it is melted and assayed. It was hinted to me that much
gold was smuggled across the frontier into China, and never saw the
treasury of his Imperial Majesty, the Czar. The Cossacks of the Argoon
keep a sharp watch for traffic of this kind. "They either," said my
informant, "deliver a culprit over to justice or, what is the same
thing, compel him to bribe them heavily to say nothing."

Nerchinsk formerly stood at the junction of the Nertcha and Shilka, on
the banks of both rivers, but the repeated damage from floods caused
its removal. Even on its present site it is not entirely safe from
inundation, the lower part of the town having been twice under water
and in danger of being washed away.

Many of the present inhabitants are exiles or the descendants of
exiles, Nerchinsk having been a place of banishment for political and
criminal offenders during the last hundred years. Those condemned to
work in the mines were sent to Great Nerchinsk Zavod, about two
hundred miles away. The town was the center of the military and mining
district, and formerly had more importance than at present. Many
participants in the insurrection of 1825 were sent there, among them
the princes Trubetskoi and Volbonskoi. After laboring in the mines and
on the roads of Nerchinsk, they were sent to Chetah, where they were
employed in a polishing mill.

In many stories about Siberian exiles, published in England and
America, Nerchinsk has occupied a prominent position. As far as I
could observe it is not a place of perpetual frost and snow, its
summers being warm though brief. In winter it has cold winds blowing
occasionally from the Yablonoi mountains down the valley of the
Nertcha. The region is very well adapted to agriculture, and the
valley as I saw it had an attractive appearance.

The product of the Nerchinsk mines has been silver, gold, and lead.
The search for silver and lead has diminished since the mines were
opened to private enterprise. At one time 40,000 poods of lead were
produced here annually, most of it being sent to the Altai mountains
to be employed in reducing silver. In most places where explored the
country is rich in gold, and I have little doubt that thorough
prospecting would reveal many placers equaling the best of those in
California.

Very few exiles are now sent to Nerchinsk in comparison with the
numbers formerly banished there. Under the reign of Nicholas and his
father Nerchinsk received its greatest accessions, the Polish
revolutions and the revolt of 1825 contributing largely to its
population. Places of exile have always been selected with relation to
the offence and character of the prisoners. The worst offenders,
either political or criminal, were generally sent to the mines of
Nerchinsk, their terms of service varying from two to twenty years, or
for life. I was told that the longest sentence now given is for twenty
years. The condition of prisoners in former times was doubtless bad,
and there are many stories of cruelty and extortion practiced by
keepers and commandants. The dwellings of prisoners were frequently no
better than the huts of savages; their food and clothing were poor and
insufficient; they were compelled to labor in half frozen mud and
water for twelve or fourteen hours daily, and beaten when they
faltered.

The treatment of prisoners depended greatly upon the character of the
commandant of the mines. Of the brutality of some officials and the
kindness of others there can be little doubt. We have sufficient proof
of the varied qualities of the human heart in the conduct of
prison-keepers in America during our late war. There have been many
exaggerations concerning the treatment of exiles. I do not say there
has been no cruelty, but that less has occurred than some writers
would have us believe. Before leaving America I read of the rigorous
manner in which the sentence of the conspirators of 1825 was carried
out. According to one authority the men were loaded with chains and
compelled to the hardest labor in the mines under relentless
overseers. They were badly lodged, fed with insufficient food, and
when ill had little or no medical treatment.

Nearly all these unfortunates were of noble families and never
performed manual labor before reaching the mines. They had been
tenderly reared, and were mostly young and unused to the hardships of
life outside the capitals. Thrust at once into the mines of Siberia
they could hardly survive a lengthened period of the cruelty alleged.
Most of them served out their sentences and retained their health.
Some returned to Europe after more than thirty years exile, and a few
were living in Siberia at the time of my visit, forty-one years after
their banishment. I conclude they were either blessed with more than
iron constitutions, or there is some mistake in the account of their
suffering and privation.

Many attempts have been made to escape from these mines, but very few
were completely successful. Some prisoners crossed into China after
dodging the vigilant Cossacks on the frontier, but they generally
perished in the deserts of Mongolia, either by starvation or at the
hands of the natives. I have heard of two who reached the Gulf of
Pecheli after many hardships, where they captured a Chinese fishing
boat and put to sea. When almost dead of starvation they were picked
up by an English barque and carried to Shanghae, where the foreign
merchants supplied them with money to find their way to Paris.

A better route than this was by the Amoor, before it was open to
Russian navigation. Many who escaped this way lost their lives, but
others reached the seacoast where they were picked up by whalers or
other transient ships. In 1844 three men started for the Ohotsk sea,
traveling by way of the Yablonoi mountains. They had managed to obtain
a rifle, and subsisted upon game they killed, and upon berries, roots,
and the bark of trees. They escaped from the mines about midsummer,
and hoped by rapid travel to reach the coast before winter overtook
them.

One of the men was killed by falling from a rock during the first
month of the journey. The others buried their dead companion as best
they could, marking his grave with a cross, though with no expectation
it would again be seen by human eyes. Traversing the mountains and
reaching the tributaries of the Aldan river, they found their
hardships commencing. The country was rough and game scarce, so that
the fugitives were exhausted by fatigue and hunger. They traveled for
a time with the wandering Tunguze of this region, and were caught by
the early snows of winter when the coast was still two hundred miles
away. They determined to wait until spring before crossing the
mountains. Unluckily while with the Tunguze they were seen by a
Russian merchant, who informed the authorities. Early in the spring
they were captured and returned to their place of imprisonment.

The region around the Yablonoi mountains is so desolate that escape in
that direction is almost impossible. By way of the post route to Lake
Baikal it is equally difficult, as the road is carefully watched and
there are few habitations away from the post villages and stations.
No one can travel by post without a padaroshnia, and this can only be
procured at the chief towns and is not issued to an unknown applicant.

I heard a story of a young Pole who attempted, some years ago, to
escape from exile. He was teacher in a private family and passed his
evenings in gambling. At one time he was very successful at cards, and
gained in a single week three thousand roubles. With this capital he
arranged a plan of escape.

By some means he procured a padaroshnia, not in his own name, and
announced his intention to visit his friends a few miles away. As he
did not return promptly search was made, and it was found that a
person answering his description had started toward Lake Baikal.
Pursuit naturally turned in that direction, exactly opposite to his
real course of flight. He traveled by post with his padaroshnia and
reached the vicinity of Omsk without difficulty. Very injudiciously he
quarreled with the drivers at a post station about the payment of ten
copecks, which he alleged was an overcharge. The padaroshnia was
examined in consequence of the quarrel and found applicable to a
Russian merchant of the third class, and not for a nobleman, which he
claimed to be.

The station-master arrested the traveler and sent him to Omsk, when
his real character was ascertained. On the third day of captivity he
bribed his guards and escaped during the night. He remained free more
than a month, but was finally recaptured and sent to Irkutsk.

At Nerchinsk I resumed my efforts to purchase a tarantass, but my
investigations showed the Nerchinsk market 'out' of everything in the
tarantass line and no promise of a new crop. Fortune and Kaporaki
favored me, and found a suitable vehicle that I could borrow for the
journey to Irkutsk. I was to answer for its safety and deliver it to a
designated party on my arrival there.

The regulations did not permit, or at least encourage, Borasdine to
invest in vehicles. A courier is expected, unless in winter, to travel
by the post carriages. All breakages in that case are at the expense
of government, with the possible exception of the courier's bones and
head. If a carriage breaks down he takes another and leaves the wreck
for the station men to pick up. If he should buy a tarantass and it
gave out he would be forced to leave it till he came again, or sell it
at any price offered. Nothing that relates to his personal comfort is
allowed to detain a courier. He can stop only for change of team,
hasty meals, and when leaving or taking despatches on his route.
Sometimes a river gets high and refuses to respect his padaroshnia, or
a severe and blinding storm stops all travel. A courier's pass is
supposed to command everything short of the elements, and I have a
suspicion that some Russians believe it powerful _with_ the elements.

A courier ought to travel with only his baggage and servant, the
former not exceeding 200 pounds. Borasdine had Cossack and baggage in
proper quantity; adding me and my impedimenta, he was hardly in light
moving order. I suggested that he drop me and I would trust to luck
and my padaroshnia. I had confidence in the good nature of the
Russians and my limited knowledge of the language. I could exhibit my
papers, ask for horses, say I was hungry, and was perfectly confident
I could pay out money as long as it lasted. But my companion replied
that an extra day on the route would make no difference in his
catching the boat to cross Lake Baikal, and we would remain together
until new difficulties arose.

Having dined we visited the post-station and ordered horses sent to
the house of our host. The servants filled our tarantass with baggage,
while their master filled us with champagne. The vehicle displayed the
best carrying capacity, as it had room for more when our hearts were
too full for utterance, save in a half breathed sigh.

We rattled out of Kaporaki's yard and down to the Nertcha, where we
had a ferry-boat like the one at Stratensk, though a little larger.
The horses were detached and remained on the bank until the tarantass
was safely on board. There was not much room for them, but they
managed to find standing places.

By the time we were over the river it was night, and the sentinel
stars had set their watch in the sky. We found the road an unpleasant
combination of snow, dirt, and water. We had four weak little horses,
and the driver told us they had made one journey to the station and
back again since morning.

In the Russian posting system the horses carry loads only one way. The
driver takes your vehicle to the station, where he is allowed to rest
himself and horses one hour and then starts on his return. In ordinary
seasons when the traveling is good, each team of horses will make two
round trips in twenty-four hours. This gives them from fifty to
seventy miles daily travel, half of it without load and at a gentle
pace.

After the third station the road improved, the snow and mud
diminishing and leaving a comparatively dry track. The stations were
generally so uncomfortably hot as to put me in a perspiration, and I
was glad to get out of doors. The temperature was about 70°
Fahrenheit, and the air at night contained odors from the breath and
boots of dormant _moujiks_. The men sleep on the floor and benches,
but the top of the stove is the favorite couch. The stove is of brick
as already described, and its upper surface is frequently as wide as a
common bed. Sometimes the caloric is a trifle abundant, but I have
rarely known it complained of.

[Illustration: FAVORITE BED.]

I could never clearly understand the readiness and ability of the
Russians to endure contrasts of heat and cold with utter complacence
and without apparent ill effect. I have seen a yemshick roused at
midnight from the top of a stove where he was sleeping in a
temperature of eighty-five or ninety degrees. He made his toilet by
tightening his waist-belt and putting on his boots. When the horses
were ready he donned his cap and extra coat, thrust his hands into
mittens, and mounted the front of a sleigh. The cold would be anywhere
from ten to fifty degrees below zero, but the man rarely appeared to
suffer. In severe weather I hesitated to enter the stations on account
of the different temperature of the house and the open air, but the
Russians did not seem to mind the sudden changes.

All natives of Northern Siberia subject themselves without
inconvenience to extremes of heat and cold. Major Abasa told me that
when the cold was 40° below zero he had found the Koriaks in their
yourts with a temperature 75° above. They passed from one to the other
without a change of clothing and without perspiring. At night they
ordinarily slept in their warm dwellings, but when traveling they
rested in the snow under the open sky. In his exploration around
Penjinsk Gulf the major saw a woman sleep night after night on the
snow in the coldest weather with no covering but the clothing she wore
in the day. She would have slept equally well if transferred to a hot
room.

The Yakuts and Tunguze are equally hardy. Captain Wrangell gives
examples of their endurance, especially of living in warm rooms or
sleeping on the ice at a low temperature. Captain Cochrane, the
English Pedestrian, had a wonderful experience with some natives that
guided him from the Lena to the Kolyma. Though the Captain was an old
traveler and could support much cold and fatigue, he was greatly
outdone by his guides. He could never easily accommodate himself to
wide extremes of heat and cold, and I believe this is the experience
of nearly all persons not born and reared under a northern sky. The
road from Nerchinsk to Chetah is through an undulating country, the
hills in many places being high enough to merit the name of mountains.
Sometimes we followed the valley of the Ingodah, and again we left it
to wind over the hills and far away where the bluffs prevented our
keeping near the stream. When we looked upon the river from these
mountains the scene was beautiful, and I shall long retain my
impression of the loveliness of the Ingodah. Mr. Collins described
this valley nine years before me, and with one exception I can confirm
all he said of its charms. He had the good fortune to travel in spring
when the flowers were in bloom, whereas my journey was late in autumn.
My English friend at Stratensk spoke of this particular feature of the
country, and described the thick carpet of blossoms that in some
places almost hid the grass from view. To compensate for the long and
dreary winter Nature spreads her floral beauties with lavish hand, and
converts the once ice-bound region into a landscape of beautiful and
fragrant flowers.

The valley is fertile and well cultivated, villages and farm houses
being frequent. The road was excellent, wide, and well made; much
labor had been expended upon it during the last two years. Its up and
down-ishness was not to my liking, as the horses utterly refused to
gallop in ascending hills a mile or two long. The descent was less
difficult, but unfortunately we could not have it all descent. We had
equal quantities of rising and falling, with the difference against us
that we were ascending the valley. Fortunately the road was dry and in
some places we found it dusty.

Late in the afternoon we halted for dinner, ordering the samovar
almost before we stopped the tarantass. We ordered eggs and bread, and
in hopes of something substantial Borasdine consulted the mistress of
the house. He returned with disgust pictured on his countenance.

"Have they anything?" I asked.

"Nothing."

"Nothing at all?"

"No; nothing but mutton." Nothing but mutton! _I_ was entirely
reconciled. When it came I made a fine dinner, but he took very little
of it. There are great flocks of sheep belonging to the Bouriats in
Eastern Siberia, and they form the chief support of that people.
Curiously enough the Russians rarely eat mutton, though so abundant
around them. Borasdine told me it seldom appeared on a Siberian table,
and I observed that both nobles and peasants agreed in disliking it.
While at dinner we caught sight of a pretty face and figure, more to
my fellow traveler's taste than the _piece de resistance_ of our meal.

After dinner we passed over a hill and entered a level region where we
found plenty of mud. About midnight the yemshick exhibited his skill
by driving into a mudhole where there was solid ground on both sides.
We were hopelessly stuck, and all our cries and utterances were of no
avail. The Cossack and the driver could accomplish nothing, and we
were obliged to descend from the carriage. We required our
subordinates to put their shoulders to the wheels, though the
operation covered them with mud. While they lifted we shouted to the
horses, Borasdine in Russian and I in French and English.

Twenty minutes of this toil accomplished nothing. Then we unloaded all
our baggage down to the smallest articles. Another effort and we were
still in our slough of despond. I retreated to a neighboring fence and
returned with a stout pole. The Cossack brought another, and we
arranged to lift the fore wheels to somewhere near the surface. It was
my duty to urge the horses, and I flattered myself that I performed
it.

I had the driver's whip to assist my utterance; the others lifted,
while I struck and shouted. We had a long pull, a strong pull, and a
pull all together, and pulled out of the depths. I attributed no small
part of the success to the effect of American horse-vocabulary upon
Russian quadrupeds. When we reloaded it was refreshing to observe the
care with which the Cossack had placed our pillows on the wet ground
and piled heavy baggage over them. Borasdine expressed his objection
to this plan in such form that the Cossack was not likely to repeat
the operation.

The motion of the tarantass, especially its jolting over the rough
parts of the route, gave me a violent headache, the worst I ever
experienced. The journey commenced too abruptly for my system to be
reconciled without complaint. Nearly four months I had been almost
constantly on ships and steamboats, all my land riding in that time
not amounting to thirty miles. I came ashore at Stratensk and began
travel with a Russian courier over Siberian roads at the worst season
of the year. It was like leaving the comforts of a Fifth Avenue parlor
to engage in wood-sawing. At every bound of the vehicle my brain
seemed ready to burst, and I certainly should have halted had we not
intended delaying at Chetah.

[Illustration: CONCENTRATED ENERGIES.]

A Russian yemshick centers his whole duty in driving his team. He
gives no thought to the carriage or the persons inside; they must
look out for their own interest. Let him come to a hill, rough or
smooth, rocky or gravelly, provided there be no actual danger, he
descends at his best speed. Sometimes the horses trot, and again they
gallop down a long slope. Near the bottom they set out on a full run,
as if pursued by a pack of hungry wolves. They dash down the hill,
across the hollow, and part way up the opposite ascent without
slacking speed. The carriage leaps, bumps, and rattles, and the
contents, animate or inanimate, are tossed violently. If there is a
log bridge in the hollow the effect is more than electric. The driver
does not even turn his head to regard his passengers. If the carriage
holds together and follows it is all that concerns him.

At first I was not altogether enamored of this practice. But as I
never suffered actual injury and the carriages endured their rough
treatment, I came in time to like it. As a class the Russian yemshicks
are excellent drivers, and in riding behind more than three hundred of
them I had abundant opportunity to observe their skill. They are not
always intelligent and quick to devise plans in emergencies, but they
are faithful and know the duties of their profession. For speed and
safety I would sooner place myself in their hands than behind
professional drivers in New York. They know the rules of the road, the
strength and speed of their horses, and are almost uniformly good
natured.

We reached Chetah at five in the morning and roused the inmates of the
only hotel. The sleepy _chelavek_ showed us to a room containing two
chairs, two tables, and a dirty sofa. The Cossack brought our baggage
from the tarantass, and we endeavored to sleep. When we rose Borasdine
went to call upon the governor while I ordered breakfast on my own
account. Summoning the _chelavek_ I began, "_Dai samovar, chi, saher e
kleb_," (give the samovar, tea, bread, and sugar.) This accomplished,
I procured beefsteaks and potatoes without difficulty. I spoke the
language of the country in a fragmentary way, but am certain my
Russian was not half as bad as the beefsteak.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Chetah stands on the left bank of the Ingodah, nearly three hundred
miles above Stratensk, and is the capital of the Trans-Baikal
province. For many years it was a small town with a few hundred
inhabitants, but the opening of the Amoor in 1854 changed its
character. Below this point the Ingodah is navigable for boats and
rafts, and during the early years of the Amoor occupation much
material was floated down from Chetah. In 1866 its population,
including the garrison, was about five thousand. Many houses were
large and well fitted, and all were of wood. The officers lived
comfortably, but complained of high rents.

The governor's mansion is the largest and best, and near it is the
club-house where weekly soirees are held. I attended one of these and
found a pleasant party. There was music and dancing, tea-drinking and
card-playing, gossip and silence at varied and irregular intervals.
Some of the officers read selections from Russian authors, and others
recited pieces of prose and poetry. There were dialogues, evidently
humorous to judge by the mirth they produced, and there was a paper
containing original contributions. The association appeared
prosperous, and I was told that its literary features were largely due
to the efforts of the governor.

There is a _gastinni-dvor_ or row of shops and a market-place
surrounded with huckster's stalls, much like those near Fulton Ferry.
Desiring to replace a broken watch-key I found a repair shop and
endeavored to make my inquiries in Russian. "_Monsieur parle le
Francais, je crois_," was the response to my attempt, and greatly
facilitated the transaction of business. Before I left New York an
acquaintance showed me a photograph of a Siberian, who proved to be
the watchmaker thus encountered.

Walking about the streets I saw many prisoners at work under guard,
most of them wearing fetters. Though I became accustomed during my
Siberian travels to the sight of chains on men, I could never hear
their clanking without a shudder. The chains worn by a prisoner were
attached at one end to bands enclosing his ankles and at the other to
a belt around his waist. The sound of these chains as the men walked
about was one of the most disagreeable I ever heard, and I was glad to
observe that the Russians did not appear to admire it. The prisoners
at Chetah were laboring on the streets, preparing logs for
house-building, or erecting fences. Most of the working parties were
under guard, but the overseers did not appear to push them severely.
Some were taking it very leisurely and moved as if endeavoring to do
as little as possible in their hours of work. I was told that they
were employed on the eight hour system. Their dress was coarse and
rough, like that of the peasants, but had no marks to show that its
wearer was a prisoner.

[Illustration: PRISONERS AT CHETAH.]

There were between three and four thousand prisoners in the province
of the Trans-Baikal. About one-sixth of them were at Chetah and in
its vicinity. The prisoners were of two classes--political and
criminal--and their punishment varied according to their offence. Some
were sentenced to labor in chains, and others to labor without chains.
Some could not go out without a guard, while others had more freedom.
Some were sentenced to work in prison and others were imprisoned
without labor. Some were exiled to Siberia but enjoyed the liberty of
a province, a particular district, or a designated town or village.
Some were allowed a certain amount of rations and others supported
themselves. In fact there were all grades of prisoners, just as we
have all grades in our penitentiaries.

The Polish revolution in 1863 sent many exiles to the country east of
Lake Baikal. Among the prisoners at the time of my journey there was a
Colonel Zyklinski confined in prison at a village north of Chetah. He
had a prominent part in the Polish troubles, and was captured at the
surrender of the armies. He served in America under M'Clellan during
the Peninsular campaign, and was in regular receipt of a pension from
our government.

The Trans-Baikal Province is governed by Major General Ditmar, to whom
I brought letters of introduction. When Borasdine returned from his
visit he brought invitation to transfer our quarters to the
gubernatorial mansion, where we went and met the governor. I found him
an agreeable gentleman, speaking French fluently, and regretting the
absence of Madame Ditmar, in whose praise many persons had spoken. At
dinner I met about twenty persons, of whom more than half spoke French
and two or three English.

A military band occupied the gallery over the dining-room. When
General Ditmar proposed "the United States of America," my ears were
greeted with one of our national airs. It was well played, and when I
said so they told me its history. On hearing of my arrival the
governor summoned his chief musician and asked if he knew any American
music. The reply was in the negative. The governor then sent the
band-master to search his books. He soon returned, saying he had
found the notes of "Hail Columbia."

"Is that the only American tune you have?" asked the general.

"Yes, sir."

"Have your band learn to play it by dinner time."

The order was obeyed, and the American music accompanied the first
regular toast. It was repeated at the club-rooms and on two or three
other occasions during my stay in Chetah, and though learned so
hastily it was performed as well as by any ordinary band in our army.

The principal rooms in General Ditmar's house had a profusion of green
plants in pots and tubs of different sizes. One apartment in
particular seemed more like a greenhouse than a room where people
dwelt. Whether so much vegetation in the houses affects the health of
the people I am unable to say, but I could not ascertain that it did.
The custom of cultivating plants in the dwellings prevails through
Siberia, especially in the towns. I frequently found bushes like small
trees growing in tubs, and I have in mind several houses where the
plants formed a continuous line half around the walls of the principal
rooms. The devotion to floriculture among the Siberians has its chief
impulse in the long winters, when there is no out-door vegetation
visible beyond that of the coniferous trees. I can testify that a
dwelling-which one enters on a cold day in midwinter appears doubly
cheerful when the eye rests upon a luxuriance of verdure and flowers.
Winter seems defeated in his effort to establish universal sway.

The winters in this region are long and cold, though very little snow
falls. Around Chetah and in most of the Trans-Baikal province there is
not snow enough for good sleighing, and the winter roads generally
follow the frozen rivers. Horses, cattle, and sheep subsist on the
dead and dry grass from October to April, but they do not fare
sumptuously every day.

North and south of the head-waters of the Ingodah and Orion there are
mountain ranges, having a general direction east and west. Away to the
north the Polar sea and the lakes and rivers near it supply the rain
and snow-clouds. As they sweep toward the south these clouds hourly
become less and their last drops are wrung from them as they strike
the slopes of the mountains and settle about their crests. The winter
clouds from the Indian Ocean and Caspian Sea rarely pass the desert of
Gobi, and thus the country of the Trans-Baikal has a climate peculiar
to itself.

During my stay at Chetah a party was organized to hunt gazelles. There
were ten or fifteen officers and about twenty Cossacks, as at
Blagoveshchensk. Up to the day of the excursion the weather was
delightful, but it suddenly changed to a cloudy sky, a high wind, and
a freezing temperature. The scene of action was a range of hills five
or six miles from town. We went there in carriages and wagons and on
horseback, and as we shivered around a fire built by the Cossacks near
an open work cabin, we had little appearance of a pleasure party.

[Illustration: ON THE HILLS NEAR CHETAH.]

The first drive resulted in the death of two rabbits and the serious
disability of a third. One halted within twenty steps of me and
received the contents of my gun-barrel. I reloaded while he lay
kicking, and just as I returned the ramrod to its place the beast
rose and ran into the thick bushes. I hope he recovered and will live
many years. He seemed gifted with a strong constitution, and I heard
several stories of the tenacity of life displayed by his kindred.

The rabbit or hare (_lepus variabilis_) abounds in the valley of the
Amoor and generally throughout Siberia. He is much larger than the New
England rabbit I hunted in my boyhood, and smaller than the long-eared
rabbit of the Rocky Mountains and California. He is grey or brown in
summer and white in winter, his color changing as cold weather begins.
No snow had fallen at Chetah, but the rabbits were white as chalk and
easily seen if not easily killed. The peasants think the rabbit a
species of cat and refuse to eat his flesh, but the upper classes have
no such scruples. I found him excellent in a roast or stew and
admirably adapted to destroying appetites. Our day's hunt brought us
one gazelle, six rabbits, one lunch, several drinks, and one smashed
wagon.

I saw at Chetah a chess board in a box ten inches square with a
miniature tree six inches high on its cover. The figure of a man in
chains leaning upon a spade near a wheelbarrow, stood under the tree.
The expression of the face, the details of the clothing, the links of
the chains, the limbs of the tree, and even the roughness of its bark,
were carefully represented. It was the work of a Polish exile, who was
then engaged upon something more elaborate. Chessmen, tree, barrow,
chains, and all, were made from black bread! The man took part of his
daily allowance, moistened it with water, and kneaded it between his
fingers till it was soft like putty. In this condition he fashioned it
to the desired shape.

When I called upon the watchmaker he told me of an American recently
arrived from Kiachta. Two hours later while writing in my room I heard
a rap at my door. On opening I found a man who asked in a bewildered
air, "_Amerikansky doma?_"

"_Dah_," I responded.

"_Parlez vous Francais_?" was his next question. "_Oui, Monsieur,
Francais ou Anglais_."

"Then you are the man I want to find. How do you do?"

It was the American, who had come in search of me. He told me he was
born in England and was once a naturalized citizen of the United
States. He had lived in New York and Chicago, crossed the Plains in
1850, and passed through all the excitements of the Pacific coast,
finishing and being finished at Frazer's River. After that he went to
China and accompanied a French merchant from Shanghae across the
Mongolian steppes to Kiachta. He arrived in Chetah a month before my
visit, and was just opening a stock of goods to trade with the
natives.

He was about to begin matrimonial life with a French lady whose
acquaintance he made in Kiachta. He had sent for a Catholic priest to
solemnize the marriage, as neither of the high contracting parties
belonged to the Russian church. The priest was then among the exiles
at Nerchinsk Zavod, three hundred miles away, and his arrival at
Chetah was anxiously looked for by others than my new acquaintance.
The Poles being Catholics have their own priests to attend them and
minister to their spiritual wants. Some of these priests are exiles
and others voluntary emigrants, who went to Siberia to do good. The
exiled priests are generally permitted to go where they please, but I
presume a sharp watch is kept over their actions. When there is a
sufficient number of Poles they have churches of their own and use
exclusively the Romish service.

The Germans settled in Russia, as well as Russians of German descent,
usually adhere to the Lutheran faith. The Siberian peasants almost
invariably speak of a Lutheran church as a 'German' one, and in like
manner apply the name 'Polish' to Catholic churches. The government
permits all religious denominations in Siberia to worship God in their
own way, and makes no interference with spiritual leaders. Minor sects
corresponding to Free Lovers, Shakers, and bodies of similar
character, are not as liberally treated as the followers of any
recognized Christian faith. Of course the influence of the government
is for the Greek Church, but it allows no oppression of Catholics and
Lutherans. So far as I could observe, the Greek Church in Siberia and
the Established Church in England occupy nearly similar positions
toward dissenting denominations.

Three days after my arrival General Ditmar started for Irkutsk,
preceded a few hours by my late traveling companion. In the afternoon
following the general's departure I witnessed an artillery parade and
drill, the men being Cossacks of the Trans-Baikal province. The
battery was a mounted one of six guns, and I was told the horses were
brought the day before from their summer pastures. The affair was
creditable to officers and men, the various evolutions being well and
rapidly performed. The guns were whirled about the field, unlimbered,
fired, dismounted, and passed through all the manipulations known to
artillerists.

At the close of the review the commanding officer thanked his men and
praised their skill. He received the response, simultaneously spoken,
"We are happy to please you," or words of like meaning. At every
parade, whether regular or Cossack, this little ceremony is observed.
As the men marched from the field to their quarters they sang one of
their native airs. These Cossacks meet at stated intervals for drill
and discipline, and remain the balance of the time at their homes. The
infantry and cavalry are subject to the same regulation, and the
musters are so arranged that some part of the Cossack force is always
under arms.

After the review I dined with a party of eighteen or twenty officers
at the invitation of Captain Erifayeff of the governor's staff. The
dinner was given in the house where my host and his friend, Captain
Pantoukin, lived, _en garcon_. The Emperor of Russia and the President
of the United States were duly remembered, and the toasts in their
honor were greeted with appropriate music. In conversation after
dinner, I found all the officers anxious to be informed concerning the
United States. The organization of our army, the relations of our
people after the war, our mode of life, manners, and customs, were
subjects of repeated inquiry.

On the morning of the 26th October, Captain Molostoff, who was to be
my companion, announced his readiness to depart. I made my farewell
calls, and we packed our baggage into my tarantass, with the exception
of the terrible trunk that adhered to me like a shadow. As we had no
Cossack and traveled without a servant, there was room for the
unwieldy article on the seat beside the driver. I earnestly advise
every tourist in Siberia not to travel with a trunk. The Siberian
ladies manage to transport all the articles for an elaborate toilet
without employing a single 'dog house' or 'Saratoga.' If they can do
without trunks, of what should not man be capable?

Our leave-taking consumed much time and champagne, and it was nearly
sunset before we left Chetah. It is the general custom in Siberia to
commence journeys in the afternoon or evening, the latter extending
anywhere up to daybreak. As one expects to travel night and day until
reaching his destination, his hour of starting is of no consequence.
Just before leaving he is occupied in making farewell calls, and is
generally 'seen off' by his friends. In the evening he has no warm bed
to leave, no hasty toilet to make, and no disturbed household around
him. With a vehicle properly arranged he can settle among his furs and
pillows and is pretty likely to fall asleep before riding many miles.
I was never reconciled to commencing a journey early in the morning,
with broken sleep, clothing half arranged, and a 'picked-up' breakfast
without time to swallow it leisurely.

On leaving Chetah we crossed a frozen stream tributary to the Ingodah,
and proceeded rapidly over an excellent road. We met several carts,
one-horse affairs on two wheels, laden with hay for the Chetah market.
One man generally controlled three or four carts, the horses
proceeding in single file. The country was more open than on the other
side of Chetah, and the road had suffered little in the rains and
succeeding cold. For some distance we rode near two lines of
telegraph; one was a temporary affair erected during the insurrection
of 1866, while the other was the permanent line designed to connect
America with Europe by way of Bering's Straits. The poles used for
this telegraph are large and firmly set, and give the line an
appearance of durability.

The Captain was fond of dogs and had an English pointer in his
baggage. During the day the animal ran near the carriage, and at night
slept at his master's feet. He was well inclined toward me after we
were introduced, and before the journey ended he became my personal
friend. He had an objectionable habit of entering the tarantass just
before me and standing in the way until I was seated. Sometimes when
left alone in the carriage he would not permit the yemshicks to attach
the horses. On two or three occasions of this kind the Captain was
obliged to suspend his tea-drinking and go to pacify his dog. Once as
a yemshick was mounting the box of the tarantass, 'Boika' jumped at
his face and very nearly secured an attachment to a large and ruddy
nose. Spite of his eccentricities, he was a good dog and secured the
admiration of those he did not attempt to bite.

We passed the Yablonoi mountains by a road far from difficult. Had I
not been informed of the fact I could have hardly suspected we were in
a mountain range. The Yablonoi chain forms the dividing ridge between
the head streams of the Amoor and the rivers that flow to the Arctic
Ocean.

On the south we left a little brook winding to reach the Ingodah, and
two hours later crossed the Ouda, which joins the Selenga at Verkne
Udinsk. The two streams flow in opposite directions. One threads its
way to the eastward, where it assists in forming the Amoor; the other
through the Selenga, Lake Baikal, and the Yenesei, is finally
swallowed up among the icebergs and perpetual snows of the far north.

"One to long darkness and the frozen tide;
  One to the Peaceful Sea."



CHAPTER XXV.


Beyond the mountains the cold increased, the country was slightly
covered with snow, and the lakes were frozen over. In the mountain
region there is a forest of pines and birches, but farther along much
of the country is flat and destitute of timber. Where the road was
good our tarantass rolled along very well, and the cold, though
considerable, was not uncomfortable. I found the chief inconvenience
was, that the moisture in my breath congealed on my beard and the fur
clothing near it. Two or three times beard and fur were frozen
together, and it was not always easy to separate them.

From the Yablonoi mountains to Verkne Udinsk there are very few houses
between the villages that form the posting stations. The principal
inhabitants are Bouriats, a people of Mongol descent who were
conquered by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century and made a
respectable fight against the Russians in the seventeenth. Since their
subjugation they have led a peaceful life and appear to have forgotten
all warlike propensities. Their features are essentially Mongolian,
and their manners and customs no less so.

Some of them live in houses after the Russian manner, but the yourt is
the favorite habitation. The Bouriats cling to the manners of their
race, and even when settled in villages are unwilling to live in
houses. At the first of their villages after we passed the mountains I
took opportunity to visit a yourt. It was a tent with a light frame of
trellis work covered with thick felt, and I estimated its diameter at
fifteen or eighteen feet. In the center the frame work has no
covering, in order to give the smoke free passage. A fire, sometimes
of wood and sometimes of dried cow-dung, burns in the middle of the
yourt during the day and is covered up at night. I think the tent was
not more than five and a half feet high. There was no place inside
where I could stand erect. The door is of several thicknesses of
stitched and quilted felt, and hangs like a curtain over the entrance.

[Illustration: BOURIAT YOURTS.]

The eyes of the Bouriats were nearly always red, a circumstance
explainable by the smoke that fills their habitations and in which
they appear to enjoy themselves. In sleeping they spread mats and
skins on the ground and pack very closely. Two or three times at the
stations in the middle of the night I approached their dwellings and
listened to the nasal chorus within. Tho people are early risers, if I
may judge by the hours when I used to find them out of floors.

As to furniture, they have mats and skins to sit upon by day and
convert into beds at night. There are few or no tables, and little
crockery or other household comforts. They have pots for boiling meat
and heating water, and a few jugs, bottles, and basins for holding
milk and other liquids. A wooden box contains the valuable clothing of
the family, and there are two or three bags for miscellaneous use. In
the first yourt I entered I found an altar that was doubtless hollow
and utilized as a place of storage. A few small cups containing grain,
oil, and other offerings were placed on this altar, and I was careful
not to disturb them.

Their religion is Bhudistic, and they have their lamas, who possess a
certain amount of sanctity from the Grand Lama of Thibet. The lamas
are numerous and their sacred character does not relieve or deprive
them of terrestrial labor and trouble. Many of the lamas engage in the
same pursuits as their followers, and are only relieved from toil to
exercise the duties of their positions. They perform the functions of
priest, physician, detective officer, and judge, and are supposed to
have control over souls and bodies, to direct the one and heal the
other. Man, woman, child, or animal falling sick the lama is summoned.
Thanks to the fears and superstitions of native thieves he can
generally find and restore stolen articles, and has the power to
inflict punishment.

The Russian priests have made very few converts among the Bouriats,
though laboring zealously ever since the conquest of Siberia. In 1680
a monastery was founded at Troitsk for the especial purpose of
converting the natives. The number who have been baptized is very
small, and most of them are still pagans at heart. Two English
missionaries lived a long time at Selenginsk, but though earnest and
hard working I am told they never obtained a single proselyte.

It is a curious fact in the history of the Bouriats that Shamanism was
almost universal among them two hundred years ago; practically it
differed little from that of the natives on the Amoor. Toward the end
of the seventeenth century a mission went from Siberia to Thibet, and
its members returned as lamas and bringing the paraphernalia of the
new religion which they at once declared to their people. The
Bhudistic faith was thus founded and spread over the country until
Shamanism was gradually superseded. Traces of the old superstition are
still visible in certain parts of the lama worship.

Most of their religious property, such as robes, idols, cups, bells,
and other necessaries for the Bhudhist service come from Thibet. A
Russian gentleman gave me a bell decorated with holy inscriptions and
possessing a remarkably fine tone. Its handle was the bust and crown
of a Bhudhist idol, and the bell was designed for use in religious
services; it was to be touched only by a disciple of the true faith,
and its possession prophesied good fortune. Since my return to America
it occupied a temporary place on the dining-table of a New England
clergyman.

[Illustration: A MONGOL BELL.]

The Bouriats manufacture very few articles for their own use; they
sell their sheep to the Russians, and buy whatever they desire. Their
dress is partly Mongol and partly Russian, the inconvenient portions
of the Chinese costume being generally rejected. Their caps were
mostly conical in shape, made of quilted cloth and ornamented with a
silken tassel attached to the apex. Their trowsers had a Chinese
appearance, but their coats were generally of sheepskin, after the
Russian model. Their waist-belts were decorated with bits of steel or
brass. They shave the head and wear the hair in a queue like the
Chinese, but are not careful to keep it closely trimmed. A few are
half Mongol and half Russian, caused no doubt by their owners being
born and reared under Muscovite protection. I saw many pleasing and
intelligent countenances, but few that were pretty according to
Western notions. There is a famous Bouriat beauty of whose charms I
heard much and was anxious to gaze upon. Unfortunately it was two
o'clock in the morning when we reached the station where she lived.
The unfashionable hour and a big dog combined to prevent my visiting
her abode.

[Illustration: A MONGOL BELLE.]

From the mountains to Verkne Udinsk most of our drivers were Bouriats.
They were quite as skillful and daring as the Russian yemshicks, and
took us at excellent speed where the road was good. The
station-masters were Russian, but frequently all their employees were
of Mongol blood. Some part of the carriage gave way on the road, and
it was necessary to repair it at a station. A Bouriat man-of-all-work
undertook the job and performed it very well. While waiting for the
repairs I saw some good specimens of iron work from the hands of
native blacksmiths. The Bouriats engage in very little agriculture.
Properly they are herdsmen, and keep large droves of cattle, horses,
and sheep, the latter being most numerous. I saw many of their flocks
near the road we traveled or feeding on distant parts of the plain.
The country was open and slightly rolling, timber being scarce and the
soil more or less stony. Each flock of sheep was tended by one or more
herdsmen armed with poles like rake-handles, and attached to each pole
was a short rope with a noose at the end. This implement is used in
catching sheep, and the Bouriats are very skillful in handling it. I
saw one select a sheep which became separated from the flock before he
secured it. The animal while pursued attempted to double on his track.
As he turned the man swung his pole and caught the head of the sheep
in his noose. It reminded me of lasso throwing in Mexico and
California.

[Illustration: CATCHING SHEEP.]

In looking at these flocks I remembered a conundrum containing the
inquiry, "Why do white sheep eat more hay than black ones?" The answer
was, "Because there are more of them." In Siberia the question and its
reply would be incorrect, as the white sheep are in the minority. In
this the sheep of Siberia differ materially from those I ever saw in
any other country. The flocks presented a great variety of colors, or
rather, many combinations of white and black. Their appearance to an
American eye was a very peculiar and novel one.

At one station a beggar crouched on the ground near the door asked
alms as we passed him. I threw him a small coin, which he acknowledged
by thrice bowing his head and touching the earth. I trust this mode of
acknowledging courtesy will never be introduced in my own country.

We frequently met or passed small trains of two-wheeled carts, some
laden with merchandise and others carrying Bouriat or Russian
families. Most of these carts were drawn by bullocks harnessed like
horses between shafts. Occasionally I saw bullocks saddled and ridden
as we ride horses, though not quite as rapidly. A few carts had roofs
of birch bark to shield their occupants from the rain; from
appearances I judged these carts belonged to emigrants on their way to
the Amoor.

At the crossing of a small river we found the water full of floating
ice that drifted in large cakes. There was much fixed ice at both
edges and we waited an hour to have it cut away. When the smotretal
announced that all was ready we proceeded to the river and found it
anything but inviting. The Bouriat yemshick pronounced it safe, and as
he was a responsible party we deferred to his judgment. While we
waited a girl rode a horse through the stream without hesitation.

[Illustration: A COLD BATH.]

We had four horses harnessed abreast and guided by the yemshick. Two
others were temporarily attached ahead under control of a Bouriat. As
we drove into the river the horses shrank from the cold water and ice
that came against their sides. One slipped and fell, but was soon up
again. The current drifted us with it and I thought for a moment we
were badly caught. The drivers whipped and shouted so effectively that
we reached the other side without accident.

On the second evening we had a drunken yemshick who lost the road
several times and once drove us into a clump of bushes. As a partial
excuse the night was so dark that one could not see ten feet ahead.
About two o'clock in the morning we reached the station nearest to
Verkne Udinsk. Here was a dilemma. Captain Molostoff had business at
Verkne Udinsk which he could not transact before nine or ten in the
morning. There was no decent hotel, and if we pushed forward we should
arrive long before the Russian hour for rising. We debated the
question over a steaming samovar and decided to remain at the station
till morning. By starting after daylight we might hope to find the
town awake.

The travelers' room at the station was clean and well furnished, but
heated to a high temperature. The captain made his bed on a sofa, but
I preferred the tarantass where the air was cool and pure. I arranged
my furs, fastened the boot and hood of the carriage, and slept
comfortably in a keen wind. At daylight the yemshicks attached horses
and called the captain from the house. He complained that he slept
little owing to the heat. Boika was in bad humor and opened the day by
tearing the coat of one man and being kicked by another.

The ground was rougher and better wooded as we came near the junction
of the Ouda and Selenga, and I could see evidences of a denser
population. On reaching the town we drove to the house of Mr.
Pantoukin, a brother of an officer I met at Chetah. The gentleman was
not at home and we were received by his friend Captain Sideroff. After
talking a moment in Russian with Captain Molostoff, our new
acquaintance addressed me in excellent English and inquired after
several persons at San Francisco. He had been there four times with
the Russian fleet, and appeared to know the city very well.

Verkne Udinsk is at the junction of the Ouda and Selenga rivers, three
hundred versts from Irkutsk and four hundred and fifty from Chetah. It
presents a pretty appearance when approached from the east, when its
largest and best buildings first catch the eye. It has a church nearly
two hundred years old, built with immensely thick walls to resist
occasional earthquakes. A large crack was visible in the wall of a
newer church, and repairs were in progress.

In its earlier days the town had an important commerce, which has been
taken away by Irkutsk and Kiachta. It has a few wealthy merchants, who
have built fine houses on the principal street. I walked through the
_gastinni-dvor_ but found nothing I desired to purchase. There were
many little articles of household use but none of great value. Coats
of deerskin were abundant, and the market seemed freshly supplied with
them. My costume was an object of curiosity to the hucksters and their
customers, especially in the item of boots. The Russian boots are
round-toed and narrow. I wore a pair in the American fashion of the
previous year and quite different from the Muscovite style. There were
frequent touches of elbows and deflections of eyes attracting
attention to my feet.

A large building overlooking the town was designated as the jail, and
said to be rapidly filling for winter. "There are many vagabonds in
this part of the country," said my informant. "In summer they live by
begging and stealing. At the approach of winter they come to the
prisons to be housed and fed during the cold season. They are
generally compelled to work, and this fact causes them to leave as
early as possible in the spring. Had your journey been in midsummer
you would have seen many of these fellows along the road."

While speaking of this subject my friend told me there was then in
prison at Verkne Udinsk a man charged with robbery. When taken he made
desperate resistance, and for a long time afterward was sullen and
obstinate. Recently he confessed some of his crimes. He was a robber
by profession and acknowledged to seventeen murders during the last
three years! Once he killed four persons in a single family, leaving
only a child too young to testify against him. The people he attacked
were generally merchants with money in their possession. Robberies are
not frequent in Siberia, though a traveler hears many stories designed
to alarm the timorous. I was told of a party of three persons attacked
in a lonely place at night. They were carrying gold from the mines to
the smelting works, and though well armed were so set upon that the
three were killed without injury to the robbers.

I was not solicitous about my safety as officers were seldom molested,
and as I traveled with a member of the governor's staff I was pretty
well guarded. Officers rarely carry more than enough money for their
traveling expenses, and they are better skilled than merchants in
handling fire arms and defending themselves. Besides, their
molestation would be more certainly detected and punished than that of
a merchant or chance traveler.

My tarantass had not been materially injured in the journey, but
several screws were loose and there was an air of general debility
about it. Like the deacon's one-horse shay in its eightieth year, the
vehicle was not broken but had traces of age about it. As there was
considerable rough road before me I thought it advisable to put
everything in order, and therefore committed the carriage to a
blacksmith. He labored all day and most of the night putting in bolts,
nuts, screws, and bits of iron in different localities, and astonished
me by demanding less than half I expected to pay, and still more by
his guilty manner, as if ashamed at charging double.

The iron used in repairing my carriage came from Petrovsky Zavod,
about a hundred miles southeast of Verkne Udinsk. The iron works were
established during the reign of Peter the Great, and until quite
recently were mostly worked by convicts. There is plenty of mineral
coal in the vicinity, but wood is so cheap and abundant that charcoal
is principally used in smelting. I saw a specimen of the Petrovsky
ore, which appeared very good. The machine shops of these works are
quite extensive and well supplied. The engines for the early steamers
on the Amoor were built there by Russian workmen.

There are several private mining enterprises in the region around
Yerkne Udinsk. Most of them have gold as their object, and I heard of
two or three lead mines.

During the night of my stay at this town Captain Sideroff insisted so
earnestly upon giving up his bed that politeness compelled me to
accept it. My blankets and furs on the floor would have been better
suited to my traveling life especially as the captain's bed was
shorter than his guest. I think travelers will agree with me in
denouncing the use of beds and warm rooms while a journey is in
progress. They weaken the system and unfit it for the roughness of the
road. While halting at night the floor or a hard sofa is preferable to
a soft bed. The journey ended, the reign of luxuries can begin.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XXVI.


When we left Verkne Udinsk we crossed the Selenga before passing the
municipal limits. Our ferry-boat was like the one at Stratensk, and
had barely room on its platform for our tarantass. A priest and an
officer who were passengers on the steamer from Blagoveshchensk
arrived while we were getting on board the ferry-boat. They had been
greatly delayed on the way from Stratensk, and waited two days to
cross the Nercha.

The Selenga was full of ice, some cakes being larger than the platform
of our boat. The temperature of the air was far below freezing, and it
was expected the river would close in a day or two. It might shut
while we were crossing and confine us on the wretched flat-boat ten or
twelve hours, until it would be safe to walk ashore. However, it was
not my craft, and as there were six or eight Russians all in the same
boat with me, I did not borrow trouble.

The ice-cakes ground unpleasantly against each other and had things
pretty much their own way. One of them grated rather roughly upon our
sides. I do not know there was any danger, but I certainly thought I
had seen places of greater safety than that. When we were in the worst
part of the stream two of the ferrymen rested their poles and began
crossing themselves. I could have excused them had they postponed this
service until we landed on the opposite bank or were stuck fast in the
ice. The Russian peasants are more dependant on the powers above than
were even the old Puritans. The former abandon efforts in critical
moments and take to making the sign of the cross. The Puritans
trusted in God, but were careful to keep their powder dry.

[Illustration: OUR FERRY BOAT.]

A wide sand bank where we landed was covered with smooth ice, and I
picked my way over it much like a cat exercising on a mirror. The
tarantass was pushed ashore, and as soon as the horses were attached a
rapid run took them up the bank to the station.

A temporary track led across a meadow that furnished a great deal of
jolting to the mile. Eight versts from Verkne Udinsk the road divides,
one branch going to Kiachta and the other to Lake Baikal and Irkutsk.
A pleasing feature of the route was the well-built telegraph line, in
working order to St. Petersburg. It seemed to shorten the distance
between me and home when I knew that the electric current had a
continuous way to America. Puck would put a girdle round the earth in
forty minutes. From China to California, more than half the circuit of
the globe, we can flash a signal in a second of time, and gain by the
hands of the clock more than fourteen hours.

From the point of divergence the road to Kiachta ascends the valley of
the Selenga, while that to Irkutsk descends the left bank of the
stream. I found the Kiachta route rougher than any part of the way
from Chetah to Verkne Udinsk, and as the yemshick took us at a
rattling pace we were pretty thoroughly shaken up.

At the second station we had a dinner of _stchee_, or cabbage soup,
with bread and the caviar of the Selenga. This caviar is of a golden
color and made from the roe of a small fish that ascends from Lake
Baikal. It is not as well liked as the caviar of the Volga and Amoor,
the egg being less rich than that of the sturgeon, though about the
same size. If I may judge from what I saw, there is less care taken in
its preparation than in that of the Volga.

The road ascended the Selenga, but the valley was so wide and we kept
so near its edge that the river was not often visible. The valley is
well peopled and yields finely to the agriculturalist. Some of the
farms appeared quite prosperous and their owners well-to-do in the
world. The general appearance was not unlike that of some parts of the
Wabash country, or perhaps better still, the region around Marysville,
Kansas. Russian agriculture does not exhibit the care and economy of
our states where land is expensive. There is such abundance of soil in
Siberia that every farmer can have all he desires to cultivate. Many
farms along the Selenga had a 'straggling' appearance, as if too large
for their owners. _Per contra_, I saw many neat and well managed
homesteads, with clean and comfortable dwellings.

With better implements of husbandry and a more thorough working of the
soil, the peasants along the Selenga would find agriculture a sure
road to wealth. Under the present system of cultivation the valley is
pleasing to the eye of a traveler who views it with reference to its
practical value. There were flocks of sheep, droves of cattle and
horses, and stacks of hay and grain; everybody was apparently well fed
and the houses were attractive. We had good horses, good drivers, and
generally good roads for the first hundred versts. Sometimes we left
the Selenga, but kept generally parallel to its course. The mountains
beyond the valley were lofty and clearly defined. Frequently they
presented striking and beautiful scenery, and had I been a skillful
artist they would have tempted me to sketch them.

The night came upon us cold and with a strong wind blowing from the
north. We wrapped ourselves closely and were quite comfortable, the
dog actually lolling beneath our sheepskin coverlid. Approaching
Selenginsk we found a few bits of bad road and met long caravans laden
with tea for Irkutsk.

These caravans were made up of little two-wheeled carts, each drawn by
a single horse. From six to ten chests of tea, according to the
condition of the roads, are piled on each cart and firmly bound with
cords. There is one driver to every four or five carts, and this
driver has a dormitory on one of his loads. This is a rude frame two
and a half by six feet, with sides about seven inches high. With a
sheepskin coat and coverlid a man contrives to sleep in this box while
his team moves slowly along the road or is feeding at a halting place.

All the freight between Kiachta and Lake Baikal is carried on carts in
summer and on one-horse sleds in winter. From Kiachta westward tea is
almost the only article of transport, the quantity sometimes amounting
to a million chests per annum. The tea chests are covered with raw
hide, which protects them, from rain and snow and from the many thumps
of their journey. The teams belong to peasants, who carry freight for
a stipulated sum per pood. The charges are lower in winter than in
summer, as the sledge is of easier draft than the cart.

The caravans travel sixteen hours of every twenty-four, and rarely
proceed faster than a walk. The drivers are frequently asleep and
allow the horses to take their own pace. The caravans are expected to
give up the whole road on the approach of a post carriage, and when
the drivers are awake they generally obey the regulation. Very often
it happened that the foremost horses turned aside of their own accord
as we approached. They heard the bells that denoted our character,
and were aware of our yemshick's right to strike them if they
neglected their duty. The sleeping drivers and delinquent horses
frequently received touches of the lash. There was little trouble by
day, but at night the caravan horses were less mindful of our comfort.
Especially if the road was bad and narrow the post vehicles, contrary
to regulation, were obliged to give way.

[Illustration: EQUAL RIGHTS.]

It was three or four hours before daylight when we reached Selenginsk,
and the yemshick removed his horses preparatory to returning to his
station. I believe Selenginsk is older than Verkne Udinsk, and very
much the senior of Irkutsk. The ancient town is on the site of the
original settlement, but frequent inundations caused its abandonment
for the other bank of the river, five versts away. New Selenginsk,
which has a great deal of antiquity in its appearance, is a small town
with a few good houses, a well built church, and commodious barracks.

During the troubles between China and Russia concerning the early
occupation of the Amoor and encroachments on the Celestial frontier,
Selenginsk was an important spot. It was often threatened by the
Chinese, and sustained a siege in 1687. A convention was held there in
1727, and some provisions of the treaty then concluded are still in
force. Mr. Bestoujeff, one of the exiles of 1825, was living at
Selenginsk at the time of my visit. There were two brothers of this
name concerned in the insurrection, and at the expiration of their
sentences to labor they were settled at this place. Subsequently they
were joined by three sisters, who sacrificed all their prospects in
life to meet their brothers in Siberia. The family was permitted to
return to Europe when the present emperor ascended the throne, but
having been so long absent the permission was never accepted.

The river was full of floating ice and could not be crossed in the
night, and we ordered horses so that we might reach the bank at dawn.
Both banks of the river were crowded with carts, some laden and others
empty. A government officer has preference over dead loads of
merchandise, and so we were taken in charge without delay. To prevent
accidents the horses were detached, and the carriage pushed on the
ferry-boat by men. The tamed unfiery steeds followed us with some
reluctance, and shivered in the breeze during the voyage. We remained
in the tarantass through the whole transaction. The ice ran in the
river as at Verkne Udinsk, but the cakes were not as large. Our chief
ferryman was a Russian, and had a crew of six Bouriats who spoke
Mongol among themselves and Russian with their commander.

From Selenginsk to Kiachta, a distance of ninety versts, the road is
hilly and sandy. We toiled slowly up the ascents, and our downward
progress was but little better. We met several caravans where the road
was narrow and had but one beaten track. In such cases we generally
found it better to turn aside ourselves than to insist upon our rights
and compel the caravan to leave the road. The hills were sandy and
desolate, and I could not see any special charm in the landscape. I
employed much of the day in sleeping, which may possibly account for
the lack of minute description of the road.

The only point where the cold touched me was at the tip of my nose,
where I left my _dehar_ open to obtain air. The Russian dehar is
generally made of antelope or deer skin, and forms an admirable
defence against cold. Mine reached to my heels, and touched the floor
when I stood erect. When the collar was turned up and brought together
in front my head was utterly invisible. The sleeves were four or five
inches longer than my arms, and the width of the garment was enough
for a man and a boy. I at first suspected I had bought by mistake a
coat intended for a Russian giant then exhibiting in Moscow.

This article of apparel is comfortable only when one is seated or
extended in his equipage. Walking is very difficult in a dehar, and
its wearer feels about as free to move as if enclosed in a
pork-barrel. It was a long time before I could turn my collar up or
down without assistance, and frequently after several efforts to seize
an outside object I found myself grasping the ends of my sleeves. The
warmth of the garment atones for its cumbersome character, and its
gigantic size is fully intentional. The length protects the feet and
legs, the high collar warms the head, and the great width of the dehar
allows it to be well wrapped about the body. The long sleeves cover
the hands and preserve fingers from frost bites. Taken as a whole it
is a mental discomfort but a physical good, and may be considered a
necessary nuisance of winter travel in Siberia.

At Ust Kiachta, the last station before reaching our journey's end, we
were waited upon by a young and tidy woman in a well-kept room. It was
about nine in the evening when we reached Troitskosavsk, and entered
town among the large buildings formerly occupied as a frontier custom
house. As there was no hotel we drove to the house of the Police
Master, the highest official of the place. I had letters to this
gentleman, but did not find him at home. His brother took us in charge
and sent a soldier to direct us to a house where we could obtain
lodgings.

It is the custom in Siberian towns to hold a certain number of lodging
places always ready for travelers. These are controlled by the Police
Master, to whom strangers apply for quarters. Whether he will or no, a
man who has registered lodging rooms with the police must open them
to any guest assigned him, no matter what the hour. It was ten o'clock
when we reached our destined abode. We made a great deal of noise that
roused a servant to admit us to the yard. The head of the household
came to the door in his shirt and rubbed his eyes as if only half
awake. His legs trembled with the cold while he waited for our
explanations, and it was not till we were admitted that he thought of
his immodest exposure.

I would not wish it inferred that no one can find lodgings until
provided by the police. On the contrary, it is rarely necessary to
obtain them through this channel. Travelers are not numerous, and the
few strangers visiting Siberia are most cordially welcomed. Officers
are greeted and find homes with their fellow officers, while merchants
enjoy the hospitalities of men of their class.

We ordered the samovar, and being within Parrott-gun range of China we
had excellent tea. I passed the night on a sofa so narrow that I found
it difficult to turn over, and fairly rolled to the floor while
endeavoring to bestow myself properly. While finishing my morning
toilet I received a visit from Major Boroslofski, Master of Police,
who came to acknowledge General Ditmar's letter of introduction. He
tendered the hospitalities of the place, and desired me to command his
services while I remained.

We had two rooms with a bedstead and sofa, besides lots of chairs,
mirrors, tables, and flower pots. Then we had an apartment nearly
thirty feet square, that contained more chairs, tables, and flower
pots. In one corner there was a huge barrel-organ that enabled me to
develop my musical abilities. I spent half an hour the morning after
our arrival in turning out the national airs of Russia. Molostoff
amused himself by circulating his cap before an invisible audience and
collecting imperceptible coin. While dancing to one of my liveliest
airs he upset a flower pot, and the crash that followed brought our
concert to a close. Two sides of the large room were entirely
bordered with horticultural productions, some of them six or eight
feet high.

[Illustration: AMATEUR CONCERT IN SIBERIA.]

Troitskosavsk and Kiachta have a sort of husband and wife singleness
and duality. They are about two miles apart, the former having five or
six thousand inhabitants and the latter about twelve hundred. In
government, business, and interest the two places are one, the Master
of Police having jurisdiction over both, and the merchants living
indifferently in one or the other. Many persons familiar with the name
of Kiachta never heard of the other town. It may surprise London
merchants who send Shanghai telegrams "via Kiachta" to learn that the
wires terminate at Troitskosavsk, and do not reach Kiachta at all.

The treaty which established trade between Russia and China at Kiachta
provided that no one should reside there except merchants engaged in
traffic. No officer could live there, nor could any person whatever
beyond merchants and their employees and families remain over night.
No stone buildings except a church could be erected, and visits of
strangers were to be discouraged. Kiachta was thus restricted to the
business of a trading post, and the town of Troitskosavsk, two miles
away, was founded for the residence of the officials, outside traders,
and laborers. Most of the restrictions above mentioned exist no
longer, but the towns have not quite lost their old relations. There
is an excellent road from one to the other, and the carriages, carts,
and pedestrians constantly thronging it present a lively scene.

The police master tendered his equipage and offered to escort me in
making calls upon those I wished to know. Etiquette is no less rigid
in Siberian towns and cities than in Moscow and St. Petersburg. One
must make ceremonial visits as soon as possible after his arrival,
officials being first called upon in the order of rank and civilians
afterward. Officers making visits don their uniforms, with epaulettes
and side arms, and with all their decorations blazing on their
breasts. Civilians go in evening dress arranged with fastidious care.
The hours for calling are between eleven A.M. and three P.M. A
responsive call may be expected within two days, and must be made with
the utmost precision of costume.

Arrayed for the occasion I made eight or ten visits in Kiachta and
Troitskosavsk. The air was cold and the frost nipped rather severely
through my thin boots as we drove back from Kiachta. After an early
dinner we went to Maimaichin to visit the _sargootchay_, or Chinese
governor. We passed under a gateway surmounted with the double-headed
eagle, and were saluted by the Cossack guard as we left the borders of
the Russian empire. Outside the gateway we traversed the neutral
ground, two hundred yards wide, driving toward a screen or short wall
of brick work, on which a red globe was represented. We crossed a
narrow ditch and, passing behind the screen, entered a gateway into
Maimaichin, the most northern city of China.



CHAPTER XXVII.


From 1727 to 1860 nearly all the trade between Russia and China was
transacted at Kiachta and Maimaichin. The Russians built the one and
the Chinese the other, exclusively for commercial purposes. To this
day no Chinese women are allowed at Maimaichin. The merchants consider
themselves only sojourners, though the majority spend the best part of
their lives there. Contact with Russians has evidently improved the
Celestials, as this little frontier city is the best arranged and
cleanest in all China.

After passing the gateway, the street we entered was narrow compared
to our own, and had but a single carriage track. On the sidewalks were
many Chinese, who stopped to look at us, or rather at me. We drove
about two hundred yards and turned into an enclosure, where we
alighted. Near at hand were two masts like flag-staffs, gaily
ornamented at the top but bearing no banners. Our halting place was
near the Temple of Justice, where instruments of punishment were piled
up. There were rattans and bamboos for flogging purposes by the side
of yokes, collars, and fetters, carefully designed for subduing the
refractory. There was a double set of stocks like those now obsolete
in America, and their appearance indicated frequent use. To be
cornered in these would be as unpleasant as in Harlem or Erie.

From this temple we passed through a covered colonnade and entered an
ante-room, where several officers and servants were in attendance.
Here we left our overcoats and were shown to another apartment where
we met the sargootchay. His Excellency shook hands with me after the
European manner. His son, a youth of sixteen, was then presented, and
made the acquaintance of Major Boroslofski. The sargootchay had a
pleasing and interesting face of the true Chinese type, with no beard
beyond a slight mustache, and a complexion rather paler than most of
his countrymen. He wore the dress of a Mandarin, with the universal
long robe and a silk jacket with wide sleeves.

[Illustration: A CHINESE MANDARIN.]

After the ceremony of introduction was ended the sargootchay signed
for us to be seated. He took his own place on a divan, and gave the
'illustrious stranger' the post of honor near him. Tea and cigars were
brought, and we had a few moments of smoky silence. The room was
rather bare of furniture, and the decorations on the walls were
Russian and Chinese in about equal proportion. I noticed a Russian
stove in one corner and a samovar in the adjoining room. The
sargootchay had been newly appointed, and arrived only a week before.
I presume his housekeeping was not well under way.

The interview was as interesting as one could expect where neither
party had anything important to say to the other. We attempted
conversation which expressed our delight at meeting and the good-will
of our respective countries toward each other. The talk was rather
slow, as it went through many translations in passing between me and
my host. Tea and smoke were of immense service in filling up the
chinks.

When I wished to say anything to the sargootchay I spoke in French to
Major Boroslofski, who sat near me.

The major then addressed his Bouriat interpreter in Russian.

This interpreter turned to a Mongol-Chinese official at his side and
spoke to him in Mongol.

The latter translated into Chinese for the understanding of his chief.

The replies of the sargootchay returned by the same route. I have a
suspicion that very little of what we really said ever reached its
destination. His reply to one remark of mine had no reference to what
I said, and the whole conversation was a curious medley of
compliments. Our words were doubtless polarized more than once in
transmission.

We had tea and sweetmeats, the latter in great variety. The manner of
preparing tea did not please me as well as the Russian one. The
Chinese boil their tea and give it a bitter flavor that the Russians
are careful to avoid. They drink it quite strong and hot, using no
milk or sugar. Out of deference to foreign tastes they brought sugar
for us to use at our liking. After the tea and sweetmeats the
sargootchay ordered champagne, in which we drank each other's health.
At the close of the interview I received invitation to dine with His
Excellency two days later and witness a theatrical performance.

Our adieus were made in the European manner, and after leaving the
sargootchay we visited a temple in the northern part of the town. We
passed through a large yard and wound among so many courts and
colonnades that I should have been sorely puzzled to find my way out
alone. The public buildings of Maimaichin are not far from each other,
but the routes between them are difficult for one whose ideas of
streets were formed in American cities. On passing the theatre we were
shown two groups larger than life in rooms on opposite sides of a
covered colonnade. They were cut in sand-stone, one representing a
rearing horse which two grooms were struggling to hold. The other was
the same horse walking quietly under control of one man.

The figures evidently came from Greek history, and I had little doubt
that they were intended to tell of Alexander and Bucephalus. I learned
that the words 'Philip of Macedon' were the literal translation of the
Chinese title of the groups. How or when the Celestials heard the
story of Alexander, and why they should represent it in stone, I
cannot imagine. No one could tell the age and origin of these works of
art.

On the walls of buildings near the temple there were paintings from
Chinese artists, some of them showing a creditable knowledge of
perspective. 'John' can paint very well when he chooses, and any one
conversant with his skill will testify that he understands
perspective. Why he does not make more use of it is a mystery that
demands explanation.

When we entered the temple it was sunset, and the gathering shadows
rendered objects indistinct. From the character of the windows and the
colonnades outside I suppose a 'dim religious light' prevails there at
all times. The temple contains several idols or representations of
Chinese deities in figures larger than life, dressed with great skill
and literally gotten up regardless of expense. Their garments were of
the finest silk, and profusely ornamented with gold, silver, and
precious stones. There were the gods of justice, peace, war,
agriculture, mechanics, love, and prosperity. The god of love had a
most hideous countenance, quite in contrast to that of the gentle
Cupid with whom the majority of my readers are doubtless familiar. The
god of war brandished a huge sword, and reminded me of the leading
tragedian of the Bowery Theatre ten years ago. The temple was crowded
with idols, vases, censers, pillars, and other objects, and it was not
easy for our party to move about. In the middle of the apartment there
were tables supporting offerings of cooked fowls and other edibles.
These articles are eaten by the attendants at the temple, but whether
the worshippers, know this fact or believe their gods descend to
satisfy their appetites, I cannot say.

To judge from what I saw the Chinese are accustomed to decorate their
houses of worship at great cost. There were rich curtains and a
thousand and one articles of more or less value filling the greater
part of the temple. Lanterns and chandeliers displayed the skill and
patience of the Chinese in manipulating metals. There were imitations
of butterflies and other insects, and of delicate leaves and flowers
in metal, painted or burnished in the color of the objects
represented. The aggregate time consumed in the manufacture of these
decorations must be thousands of years. In a suspended vase I saw one
boquet which was a clever imitation of nature, with the single
exception of odor. The Chinese make artificial roses containing little
cups which they fill with rose-water.

On our return we found the gate closed, and were obliged to wait until
the ponderous key was brought to open it. The officer controlling the
gate made no haste, and we were delayed in a crowd of Chinese men and
dogs for nearly fifteen minutes. It was a peculiar sensation to be
shut in a Chinese town and fairly locked in. It is the custom to close
the gates of Kiachta and Maimaichin and shut off all communication
between sunset and sunrise. The rule is less rigidly enforced than
formerly.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CHINESE TEMPLE]

After this introduction I visited Maimaichin almost every day until
leaving for Irkutsk. Maimaichin means 'place of trade,' and the name
was given by the officer who selected the site. The town is occupied
by merchants, laborers, and government employees, all dwelling without
families. The sargootchay is changed every three years, and it was
hinted that his short term of office sufficed to give him a fortune.

The houses were only one story high and plastered with black mud or
cement. The streets cross at right angles, but are not very long, as
the town does not measure more than half a mile in any direction. At
the intersection of the principal streets there are towers two or
three stories high, overlooking the town, and probably intended for
use of the police. Few houses are entered directly from the street,
most of them having court yards with gateways just wide enough for a
single cart or carriage. The dwelling rooms and magazines open upon
the court yards, which are provided with folding gates heavily barred
at night.

Apart from the public buildings the houses were pretty much alike.
Every court yard was liberally garnished with dogs of the short-nosed
and wide-faced breed peculiar to China. They were generally chained
and invariably made an unpleasant tumult. The dwelling rooms,
kitchens, and magazines had their windows and doors upon the yards,
the former being long and low with small panes of glass, talc, or
oiled paper. In the magazines there were generally two apartments, one
containing most of the goods, while the other was more private and
only entered by strangers upon invitation. At the end of each room
there was a divan, where the inmates slept at night or sat by day.
Near the edge of the divan, was a small furnace, where a charcoal fire
burned constantly. The rooms were warmed by furnaces with pipes
passing beneath the divans or by Russian stoves.

In every place I visited there were many employees, and I did not
understand how all could be kept busy. Everything was neat and well
arranged, and the Chinese appeared very particular on the subject of
dust. I attempted to buy a few souvenirs of my visit, but very little
was to be purchased. Few strangers come to Maimaichin, and the
merchants have no inducement to keep articles rarely called for.

I found they were determined to make me pay liberally. "How much?" I
asked on picking up an article in one of their shops. "_Chetira
ruble_" (four roubles) was the reply. My Russian companion whispered
me not to buy, and after a few moments chaffering we departed. In a
neighboring shop I purchased something precisely similar for one
rouble, and went away rejoicing. On exhibiting my prize at Kiachta I
learned that I paid twice its real value.

The Chinese merchants are frequently called scoundrels from their
habit of overreaching when opportunity occurs. In some respects they
are worse and in others better than the same class of men in Western
nations. The practice of asking much more than they expect to receive
prevails throughout their empire, and official peculation confined in
certain limits is considered entirely consistent with honesty. Their
cheating, if it can be called by that name, is conducted on certain
established principles. A Chinese will 'beat about the bush,' and try
every plan to circumvent the man with whom he deals, but when he once
makes a bargain he adheres to it unflinchingly. Among the merchants I
was told that a word is as good as a bond. Their slipperiness is
confined to preliminaries.

China contains good and bad like other countries, but in some things
its merchants rank higher than outside barbarians. When the English
were at war with the Viceroy of Canton, the foreigners were driven out
and compelled to leave much property with Chinese merchants. These
Chinese never thought of repudiation, but on the contrary made their
way to Hong Kong during the blockade of the Canton river for the
purpose of settling with the foreigners.

Old John Bell of Antermony, who traveled to Pekin in the reign of
Peter the Great, in the suite of a Russian Ambassador, makes the
following observations on the Chinese:

"They are honest, and observe the strictest honor and justice in
their dealings. It must, however, be acknowledged that not a few of
them are much addicted to knavery and well skilled in the art of
cheating. They have, indeed, found many Europeans as great proficients
in that art as themselves."

In the shops at Maimaichin there is no display of goods, articles
being kept in closets, drawers, show-cases, and on shelves, whence
they are taken when called for. This arrangement suggests the
propriety of the New York notice: "If you don't see what you want, ask
for it." Many things are kept in warerooms in other parts of the
building, and brought when demanded or the merchant thinks he can
effect a sale. In this way they showed me Thibet sheep skins, intended
for lining dressing-gowns, and of the most luxurious softness. There
were silks and other goods in the piece, but the asking prices were
very high. I bought a few small articles, but was disappointed when I
sought a respectable assortment of knick-knacks.

One of the merchants admired my watch and asked through my Russian
friend how much it cost. I was about to say in Russian, 'two hundred
roubles,' when my friend checked me.

"_Dites un enorme prix; deux mille roubles au moins_"

Accordingly I fixed the price at two thousand roubles. Probably the
Chinaman learned the real value of the watch from this exaggerated
figure better than if I had spoken as I first intended.

The merchants were courteous and appeared to have plenty of time at
command. They brought sweetmeats, confectionery, and tea, in fact the
latter article was always ready. They gave us crystalized sugar,
resembling rock candy, for sweetening purposes, but themselves drank
tea without sugar or milk. They offered us pipes for smoking, and in a
few instances Russian cigarettes. I found the Chinese tobacco very
feeble and the pipes of limited capacity. It is doubtless owing to the
weakness of their tobacco that they can smoke so continuously. The
pipe is in almost constant requisition, the operator swallowing the
smoke and emitting it in a double stream through his nostrils. They
rarely offered us Chinese wine, as that article is repugnant to any
but Celestials. Sometimes they brought sherry and occasionally
champagne.

[Illustration: THROUGH ORDINARY EYES.]

I was interested in studying the decorations on window screens and
fans, and the various devices on the walls. The Chinese mind runs to
the hideous in nearly everything fanciful, and most of its works of
art abound in griffins and dragons. Even the portrait of a tiger or
other wild beast is made to look worse than the most savage of his
tribe. If there ever was a dog with a mouth such as the Chinese
artists represent on their canines, he could walk down his own throat
with very little difficulty.

[Illustration: THROUGH CHINESE EYES]

The language spoken in the intercourse of Russians and Chinese at
Kiachta is a mongrel tongue in which Russian predominates. It is a
'pigeon-Russian' exactly analagous to the 'pigeon English' of
Shanghai, Hong Kong, and San Francisco. The Chinese at Maimaichin can
reckon in Russian and understand the rudiments of that language very
well. I observed at Maimaichin, as at San Francisco, the tendency to
add an 'o' sound to monosyllabic consonant words. A Chinese merchant
grew familiar during one of my visits, and we exchanged lingual
lessons and cards. He held up a tea-spoon and asked me its name. I
tried him repeatedly with 'spoon,' but he would pronounce it 'spoonee'
in spite of my instructions. When I gave him a card and called it
such, he pronounced it 'cardee.' His name was Chy-Ping-Tong, or
something of the kind, but I was no more able to speak it correctly
than was he to say 'spoon.' He wrote his name in my note-book and I
wrote mine in his. Beyond the knowledge of possessing chirographic
specimens of another language, neither party is wiser.

Whoever has visited St. Petersburg or Moscow has doubtless seen the
_abacus_, or calculating machine used in Russian shops. It is found
throughout the empire from the German frontier to Bering's Straits,
not only in the hands of merchants but in many private houses. It
consists of a wooden frame ordinarily a foot long and six inches wide.
There are ten metal wires strung across this frame, and ten balls of
wood on each wire. The Russian currency is a decimal one, and by means
of this machine computations are carried on with wonderful rapidity. I
have seen numbers added by a boy and a machine faster than a New York
bank teller could make the same reckoning. It requires long practice
to become expert in its use, but when once learned it is preferred by
all merchants, whether native or foreign.

I saw the same machine at Maimaichin, and learned that it was invented
by the Chinese. The Celestials of San Francisco employ it in precisely
the same manner as their countrymen in Mongolia.

Beside the Chinese dwellers in Maimaichin there are many Mongol
natives of the surrounding region, most of them engaged in
transporting merchandise to and from the city. I saw several trains of
their little two-wheeled carts bringing tea from the southward or
departing with Russian merchandise, and in one visit I encountered a
drove of camels on the neutral ground.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


I have already mentioned the prevalence of feast-days, both national
and personal. During my stay in Kiachta there were several of these
happy occasions, and I was told they would last the entire winter. One
man opened his house on his name's day, and another on that of his
wife. A third received friends on the anniversary of his daughter's
birth, and a fourth had a regular house-warming. Each kept open
mansion in the forenoon and greeted all who came. There was a grand
dinner in the afternoon, followed by a _soiree dansame_ and a supper
at a late hour. In a population like that of Kiachta there is a weekly
average of at least three feast days for the entire year. During my
stay Major Boroslofski had a morning reception on the anniversary of
the death of a child, but there was naturally neither dinner nor dance
after it.

The dinner and dancing parties were much alike, the same company being
present at all. Even the servants were the same, there being a regular
organization to conduct household festivities. At the first dinner I
attended there were about forty persons at table, all of the sterner
sex. According to the custom among Russian merchants the ladies were
by themselves in another room. Between their apartment and ours there
was a large room, corresponding, as I thought, to the neutral ground
between Kiachta and Maimaichin. Doors were open, and though nobody
occupied the _terre neutrale_ during dinner, both parties retired to
it at the end of the meal.

The dinner would have been a success in St. Petersburg or Paris; how
much more was it a triumph on the boundary between China and Siberia.
Elegant and richly furnished apartments, expensive table ware, and a
profusion of all procurable luxuries, were the attractions of the
occasion. We had apples from European Russia, three thousand miles
westward, and grapes from Pekin, a thousand miles to the south. There
were liberal quantities of dried and preserved fruits, and the wines
were abundant and excellent. Of the local productions we had many
substantials, till all appetites were satisfied.

According to Russian custom the host does not partake of the dinner,
but is supposed to look after the welfare of his guests. At Kiachta I
found this branch of etiquette carefully observed. Two or three times
during the dinner the host passed around the entire table and filled
each person's glass with wine. Where he found an unemptied cup he
urged its drainage.

After we left the table tea was served, and I was fain to pronounce it
the best I ever tasted. The evening entertainments for those who did
not dance consisted of cards and conversation, principally the former.
Tea was frequently passed around, and at regular intervals the
servants brought glasses of iced champagne.

The houses of the Kiachta merchants are large and well built, their
construction and adornment requiring much outlay. Nearly all the
buildings are of two stories and situated in large court yards. There
is a public garden, evidently quite gay and pretty in summer. The
church is said to be the finest edifice of the kind in Eastern
Siberia. The double doors in front of the altar are of solid silver,
and said to weigh two thousand pounds avoirdupois. Besides these doors
I think I saw nearly a ton of silver in the various paraphernalia of
the church. There were several fine paintings executed in Europe at
heavy cost, and the floors, walls, and roof of the entire structure
were of appropriate splendor. The church was built at the expense of
the Kiachta merchants. Troilskosavsk contains some good houses, but
they are not equal in luxury to those at Kiachta. Many dwellings in
the former town are of unpainted logs, and each town has its
gastinni-dvor, spacious and well arranged. I visited the market place
every morning and saw curious groups of Russians, Bouriats, Mongols,
and Chinese, engaged in that little commerce which makes the
picturesque life of border towns.

From 1727 to 1860 the Kiachta merchants enjoyed almost a monopoly of
Chinese trade. Fortunes there are estimated at enormous figures, and
one must be a four or five-millionaire to hold respectable rank.
Possibly many of these worldly possessions are exaggerated, as they
generally are everywhere. The Chinese merchants of Maimaichin are also
reputed wealthy, and it is quite likely that the trade was equally
profitable on both sides of the neutral ground. Money and flesh have
affinities. These Russian and Chinese Astors were almost invariably
possessed of fair, round belly, with good capon lined. They have the
spirit of genuine hospitality, and practice it toward friends and
strangers alike.

The treaty of 1860, which opened Chinese ports to Russian ships, was a
severe blow to Kiachta and Maimaichin. Up to that time only a single
cargo of tea was carried annually into Russia by water; all the rest
of the herb used in the empire came by land. Unfortunately the treaty
was made just after the Russian and Chinese merchants had concluded
contracts in the tea districts; these contracts caused great losses
when the treaty went into effect, and for a time paralized commerce.
Kiachta still retains the tea trade of Siberia and sends large
consignments to Nijne Novgorod and Moscow. There is now a good
percentage of profit, but the competition by way of Canton and the
Baltic has destroyed the best of it. Under the old monopoly the
merchants arranged high prices and did not oppose each other with
quick and low sales.

The Kiachta teas are far superior to those from Canton and Shanghae.
They come from the best districts of China and are picked and cured
with great care. There is a popular notion, which the Russians
encourage, that a sea voyage injures tea, and this is cited as the
reason for the character of the herb brought to England and America. I
think the notion incorrect, and believe that we get no first class
teas in America because none are sent there. I bought a small package
of the best tea at Kiachta and brought it to New York. When I opened
it I could not perceive it had changed at all in flavor. I have not
been able to find its like in American tea stores.

Previous to 1850 all trade at Kiachta was in barter, tea being
exchanged for Russian goods. The Russian government prohibited the
export of gold and silver money, and various subterfuges were adopted
to evade the law. Candlesticks, knives, idols, and other articles were
made of pure gold and sold by weight. Of course the goods were "of
Russian manufacture."

Before 1860 the importation of tea at Kiachta was about one million
chests annually, and all of good quality and not including brick tea.
The "brick tea" of Mongolia and Northern China is made from stalks,
large leaves, and refuse matter generally. This is moistened with
sheep's or bullock's blood and pressed into brick-shaped cakes. When
dried it is ready for transportation, and largely used by the Mongols,
Bouriats, Tartars, and the Siberian peasantry. In some parts of
Chinese Tartary it is the principal circulating medium of the people.
Large quantities are brought into Siberia, but "brick-tea" never
enters into the computation of Kiachta trade.

[Illustration: LEGAL TENDER.]

Since 1860 the quantity of fine teas purchased at Kiachta has greatly
fallen off. The importation of brick-tea is undiminished, and some
authorities say it has increased.

None of the merchants speak any language but Russian, and most of them
are firmly fixed at Kiachta. They make now and then journeys to
Irkutsk, and regard such a feat about as a countryman on the Penobscot
would regard a visit to Boston. The few who have been to Moscow and
St. Petersburg have a reputation somewhat analogous to that of Marco
Polo or John Ledyard. Walking is rarely practiced, and the numbers of
smart turnouts, compared to the population, is pretty large. There is
no theatre, concert-room, or newspaper office at Kiachta, and the
citizens rely upon cards, wine, and gossip for amusement. They play
much and win or lose large sums with perfect nonchalance. Visitors are
rare, and the advent of a stranger of ordinary consequence is a great
sensation.

Kiachta and Maimaichin stand on the edge of a Mongolian steppe seven
or eight miles wide. Very little snow falls there and that little does
not long remain. Wheeled carriages are in use the entire year. The
elevation is about twenty-five hundred feet above sea level.

There was formerly a custom house at Troitskosavsk, where the duties
on tea were collected. After the occupation of the Amoor the
government opened all the country east of Lake Baikal to free trade.
The custom house was removed to Irkutsk, where all duties are now
arranged.

There were two Englishmen and one Frenchman residing at Kiachta. The
latter, Mr. Garnier, was a merchant, and was about to many a young and
pretty Russian whose mother had a large fortune and thirteen dogs. The
old lady appeared perfectly clear headed on every subject outside of
dogs. A fortnight before my visit she owned fifteen, but the police
killed two on a charge of biting somebody. She was inconsolable at
their loss, took her bed from grief, and seriously contemplated going
into mourning. I asked Garnier what would be the result if every dog
of the thirteen should have his day. "Ah!" he replied, with a sigh,
"the poor lady could never sustain it. I fear it would cause her
death."

One Englishman, Mr. Bishop, had a telegraph scheme which he had vainly
endeavored for two years to persuade the stubborn Chinese to look upon
with favor. The Chinese have a superstitious dread of the electric
telegraph, and the government is unwilling to do anything not in
accordance with the will of the people.

A few years ago some Americans at Shanghae thought it a good
speculation to construct a telegraph line between that city and the
mouth of the river. The distance was about fifteen miles, and the line
when finished operated satisfactorily. The Chinese made no
interference, either officially or otherwise, with its construction.

[Illustration: RUSSIAN PETS.]

They did not understand its working, but supposed the foreigners
employed agile and invisible devils to run along the wires and convey
intelligence. All went well for a month or two. One night a Chinese
happened to die suddenly in a house that stood near a telegraph pole.
A knowing Celestial suggested that one of the foreign devils had
descended from the wire and killed the unfortunate native. A mob very
soon destroyed the dangerous innovation.

The other Englishman, Mr. Grant, was the projector and manager of a
Pony Express from Kiachta to Pekin. He forwarded telegrams between
London and Shanghae merchants, any others who chose to employ him. He
claimed that his Mongol couriers made the journey to Pekin in twelve
days, and that he could outstrip the Suez and Ceylon telegraph and
steamers. He seemed a permanent fixture of Kiachta, as he had married
a Russian lady, the daughter of a former governor. All these
foreigners placed me under obligations for various favors, and the two
Britons were certainly more kind to me than to each other.

[Illustration: PONY EXPRESS.]

I spent an evening at the club-rooms, where there was some heavy
card-playing. One man lost nine hundred roubles in half an hour, and
they told me that such an occurrence was not uncommon. In all card
playing I ever witnessed in Russia there was 'something to make it
interesting.' Money is invariably staked, and the Russians were
surprised when I said, in answer to questions, that people in America
generally indulged in cards for amusement alone. Ladies had no
hesitation in gambling, and many of them followed it passionately.
'_Chaque pays a sa habitude_,' remarked a lady one evening when I
answered her query about card playing in America. It was the Russian
fashion to gamble, and no one dreamed of making the slightest
concealment of it. Though I saw it repeatedly I could never rid myself
of a desire to turn away when a lady was reckoning her gains and
losses, and keeping her accounts on the table cover. Russian card
tables are covered with green cloth and provided with chalk pencils
and brushes for players' use. Cards are a government monopoly.

[Illustration: CHINESE COLLAR]

[Illustration: SUSPENDED FREEDOM.]

On the day fixed for my dinner with the sargoochay I accompanied the
Police Master and Captain Molostoff to Maimaichin. As we entered the
court yard of the government house several officers came to receive
us. In passing the temple of Justice I saw an unfortunate wretch
undergoing punishment in a corner of the yard. Ho was wearing a collar
about three feet in diameter and made of four inch plank. It was
locked about his neck, and the man was unable to bring his hand to his
head. A crowd was gazing at the culprit, but he seemed quite
unconcerned and intent upon viewing the strangers. The Chinese have a
system of yokes and stocks that seem a refinement of cruelty. They
have a cheerful way of confining a man in a sort of cage about three
feet square, the top and bottom being of plank and the sides of square
sticks. His head passes through the top, which forms a collar
precisely like the one described above, while the sides are just long
enough to force him to stand upon the tip of his toes or hang
suspended by his head. In some instances a prisoner's head is passed
through a hole in the bottom of a heavy cask. He cannot stand erect
without lifting the whole weight, and the cask is too long to allow
him to sit down. He must remain on his knees in a torturing position,
and cannot bring his hands to his head. He relies on his friends to
feed him, and if he has no friends he must starve. The jailers think
it a good joke when a man loses the number of his mess in this way.

[Illustration: PUNISHMENT FOR BURGLARY.]

The sargoochay met us in the apartment where our reception took place.
He seated us around a table in much the same manner as before. While
we waited dinner I exhibited a few photographs of the Big Trees of
California, which I took with me at Molostoff's suggestion. I think
the representative of His Celestial Majesty was fairly astonished on
viewing these curiosities. The interpreter told him that all trees in
America were like those in the pictures, and that we had many
cataracts four or five miles high.

To handle our food we had forks and chopsticks, and each guest had a
small saucer of _soy_, or vinegar, at his right hand. The food was
roast pig and roast duck, cut into bits the size of one's thumb nail,
and each piece was to be dipped in the vinegar before going into the
mouth. Then there were dishes of hashed meat or stew, followed by
minced pies in miniature. I was a little suspicious of the last
articles and preferred to stick to the pig.

[Illustration: CHOPSTICKS, FORK, & SAUCER.]

We had good claret and bad sherry, followed by Chinese wine. Champagne
was brought when we began drinking toasts. Chinese wine, _sam-shoo,_
is drank hot, from cups holding about a thimbleful. It is very strong,
one cup being quite sufficient. The historic Bowery boy drinking a
glass of Chinese wine might think he had swallowed a pyrotechnic
display on Fourth of July night.

We conversed as before, going through English, French, Russian,
Mongol, and Chinese, and after dinner smoked our pipes and cigars. The
sargoochay had a pipe with a slender bowl that could be taken out for
reloading, like the shell of a Remington rifle. A single whiff served
to exhaust it, and the smoke passing through water became purified. An
attendant stood near to manage the pipe of His Excellency whenever his
services were needed. We endeavored to smoke each others' pipes and
were quite satisfied after a minute's experience. His tobacco was very
feeble, and I presume mine was too strong for his taste.

The sargoochay had ordered a theatrical display in my honor, though it
was not 'the season,' and the affair was hastily gotten up. When all
was ready he led the way to the theatre; the pipe-bearer came
respectfully in our rear, and behind him was the staff and son of the
sargoochay. The stage of the theatre faced an open court yard, and was
provided with screens and curtains, but had no scenery that could be
shifted. About thirty feet in front of the stage was a pavilion of
blue cloth, open in front and rear. We were seated around a table
under this pavilion, and drank tea and smoked while the performance
was in progress. There was a crowd of two or three hundred Chinese
between the pavilion and the stage. The Mongol soldiers kept an open
passage five or six feet wide in front of us so that we had an
unobstructed view.

[Illustration: CHINESE THEATRE.]

A comedy came first, and I had little difficulty in following the
story by the pantomime alone. Female characters were represented by
men, Chinese law forbidding women to act on the stage. Certain parts
of the play were open to objections on account of immodesty, but when
no ladies are present I presume a Chinese audience is not fastidious.
The comedy was followed by something serious, of which I was unable to
learn the name. I supposed it represented the superiority of the
deities over the living things of earth.

First, there came representations of different animals. There were the
tiger, bear, leopard, and wolf, with two or three beasts whose genera
and species I could not determine. There was an ostrich and an
enormous goose, both holding their heads high, while a crocodile, or
something like it, brought up the rear. Each beast and bird was made
of painted cloth over light framework, with a man inside to furnish
action. While the tiger was making himself savage the mask fell off,
and revealed the head of a Chinese. A rent in the skin of the ostrich
disclosed the arm of the performer inside. The animals were not very
well made, and the accident to the tiger's head reminded me of the
Bowery elephant whose hind legs became very drunk and fell among the
orchestra, leaving the fore legs to finish the play.

[Illustration: CHINESE TIGER.]

Each animal made a circuit of the stage, bowed to the sargoochay, and
retired. Then came half a dozen performers, only one being visible at
a time. They were dressed, as I conjectured, to represent Chinese
divinities, and as each appeared upon the stage he made a short
recitation in a bombastic tone. The costumes of these actors were
brilliantly decorated with metal ornaments, and there was a luxuriance
of beard on most of the performer's faces, quite in contrast to the
scanty growth which nature gave them. When the deities were assembled
the animals returned and prostrated themselves in submission. A second
speech from each actor closed the theatrical display. During all the
time we sat under the pavilion the crowd looked at me far more
intently than at the stage. An American was a great curiosity in the
city limits of Maimaichin.

The performance began about two o'clock and lasted less than an hour.
At its close we thanked the sargoochay for his courtesy, and returned
to Kiachta. One of my Russian acquaintances had invited me to dine
with him; "you can dine with the sargoochay at one o'clock," he said,
"and will be entirely able to enjoy my dinner two hours later." I
found the dinner at Maimaichin more pleasing to the eye than the
stomach, and returned with a good appetite.

Some years ago the Russian government abolished the office of Governor
of Kiachta and placed its military and kindred affairs in the hands of
the Chief of Police. Diplomatic matters were entrusted to a
'Commissary of the Frontier,' who resided at Kiachta, while the Chief
of Police dwelt at Troitskosavsk. When I arrived there, Mr. Pfaffius,
the Commissary of the Frontier, was absent, though hourly expected
from Irkutsk.

Mr. Pfaffius arrived on the third day of my visit, and invited me to a
dinner at his house on the afternoon of my departure for Irkutsk. As
the first toast of the occasion he proposed the President of the
United States, and regretted deeply the misfortune that prevented his
drinking the health of Mr. Lincoln. In a few happy remarks he touched
upon the cordial feeling between the two nations, and his utterance of
good-will toward the United States was warmly applauded by all the
Russians present. In proposing the health of the Emperor I made the
best return in my power for the courtesy of my Muscovite friends.



CHAPTER XXIX.


In the year 1786 a vessel of three hundred and fifty tons burden
sailed from an American port for Canton. She was the first to carry
the flag of the United States to the shores of Cathay, and to begin a
commerce that has since assumed enormous proportions. European nations
had carried on a limited trade with the Chinese before that time, but
they were restricted to a single port, and their jealousy of each
other prevented their adopting those measures of co-operation that
have recently proved so advantageous. China was averse to opening her
territory to foreign merchants, and regarded with suspicion all their
attempts to gain a foothold upon her soil. On the north, since 1727,
the Russians had a single point of commercial exchange. In the south
Canton was the only port open to those who came to China by sea, while
along the coast-line, facing to the eastward, the ports were sealed
against foreign intrusion. Commerce between China and the outer world
was hampered by many restrictions, and only its great profits kept it
alive. But once fairly established, the barbarian merchants taught the
slow-learning Chinese that the trade brought advantage to all engaged
in it. Step by step they pressed forward, to open new ports and extend
commercial relations, which were not likely to be discontinued, if
only a little time were allowed to show their value.

As years rolled on, trade with China increased. For a long time the
foreigners trading with China had no direct intercourse with the
General Government, but dealt only with the local and provincial
authorities. It was not until after the famous "Opium War" that
diplomatic relations were opened with the court at Pekin, and a common
policy adopted for all parts of the empire, in its dealings with the
outer world. Considering the extremely conservative character of the
Chinese, their adherence to old forms and customs, their general
unwillingness to do differently from their ancestors, and the not
over-amiable character of the majority of the foreigners that went
there to trade, it is not surprising that many years were required for
commercial relations to grow up and become permanent. The wars between
China and the Western powers did more than centuries of peace could
have done to open the Oriental eyes. Austria's defeat on the field of
Sadowa advanced and enlightened her more than a hundred years of peace
and victory could have done, at her old rate of progress. The
victories of the allied forces in China, culminating in the capture of
Pekin and dictation of terms by the foreign leaders, opened the way
for a free intercourse between the East and West, and the immense
advantages that an unrestricted commerce is sure to bring to an
industrious, energetic, and economical people.

With a river-system unsurpassed by that of any other nation of the
world, China relied upon navigation by junks, which crept slowly
against the current when urged by strong winds, and lay idle or were
towed or poled by men when calms or head-breezes prevailed. Of steam
applied to propulsion, she had no knowledge, until steamboats of
foreign construction appeared in her waters and roused the wonder of
the oblique-eyed natives by their mysterious powers. The first
steamboat to ascend a Chinese river created a greater sensation than
did the Clermont on her initial voyage along the Hudson or her Western
prototype, several years later, among the Indians of the upper
Missouri.[E] In 1839 the first steam venture was made in China. An
English house placed a boat on the route between Canton and Macao, and
advertised it to carry freight and passengers on stated days. For the
first six months the passengers averaged about a dozen to each
trip--half of them Europeans, and the rest natives. The second
half-year the number of native patrons increased, and by the end of
the second year the boat, on nearly every trip, was filled with
Chinese. The trade became so lucrative that another boat was brought
from England and placed on the route, which continued to be a source
of profit until the business was overdone by opposition lines. As soon
as the treaties permitted, steamers were introduced into the
coasting-trade of China, and subsequently upon the rivers and other
inland waters. The Chinese merchants perceived the importance of rapid
and certain transportation for their goods in place of the slow and
unreliable service of their junks, and the advance in rates was
overbalanced by the increased facilities and the opportunities of the
merchants to make six times as many ventures annually as by the old
system.

[Footnote E: A gentleman once described to me the sensation produced
by the first steam vessel that ascended one of the Chinese rivers. "It
was," said he, "a screw steamer, and we were burning anthracite coal
that made no smoke. The current was about two miles an hour, and with
wind and water unfavorable, the Chinese boats bound upward were slowly
dragged by men pulling at long tow-lines. We steamed up the middle of
the stream, going as rapidly as we dared with our imperfect knowledge,
and the necessity of constant sounding. Our propeller was quite
beneath the water, and so far as outward appearance went there was no
visible power to move us. Chinamen are generally slow to manifest
astonishment, and not easily frightened, but their excitement on that
occasion was hardly within bounds. Men, women, and children ran to see
the monster, and after gazing a few moments a fair proportion of them
took to their heels for safety. Dogs barked and yelped on all the
notes of the chromatic scale, occasional boats' crews jumped to the
shore, and those who stuck to their oars did their best to get out of
our way."]

Probably there is no people in the world that can be called a nation
of shop-keepers more justly than the Chinese; thousands upon thousands
of them are engaged in petty trade, and the competition is very keen.
Of course, where there is an active traffic the profits are small, and
any thing that can assist the prompt delivery of merchandise and the
speedy transmission of intelligence, money, credits, or the merchant
himself, is certain to be brought into full use. No accurate
statistics are at hand of the number of foreign steamers now in China,
but well-informed parties estimate the burden of American coasting
and river-vessels at upward of thirty thousand tons, while that of
other nationalities is much larger. Steamboats, with a burden of more
than ten thousand tons, are owned by Chinese merchants, and about half
that quantity is the joint property of Chinese and foreigners. In
managing their boats and watching the current expenses, the Chinese
are quite equal to the English and Americans, and are sometimes able
to carry freight upon terms ruinous to foreign competitors.

Foreign systems of banking and insurance have been adopted, and work
successfully. The Chinese had a mode of banking long before time
European nations possessed much knowledge of financial matters; and it
is claimed that the first circulating-notes and bills-of-credit ever
issued had their origin during a monetary pressure at Pekin. But they
were so unprogressive that, when intercourse was opened with the
Western World, they found their own system defective, and were forced
to adopt the foreign innovation. Insurance companies were first owned
and managed by foreigners at the open ports, and as soon as the plan
of securing themselves against loss by casualties was understood by
the Chinese merchants, they began to form companies on their own
account, and carry their operations to the interior of the empire. All
the intricacies of the insurance business--even to the formation of
fraudulent companies, with imaginary officers, and an explosion at a
propitious moment--are fully understood and practised by the Chinese.

By the facilities which the advent of foreigners has introduced to the
Chinese, the native trade along the rivers and with the open ports has
rapidly increased. On the rivers and along the coast the steamers and
native boats are actively engaged, and the population of the open
ports has largely increased in consequence of the attractions offered
to the people of all grades and professions. The greatest extension
has been in the foreign trade, which, from small beginnings, now
amounts to more than nine hundred millions of dollars annually. Where
formerly a dozen or more vessels crept into Canton yearly, there are
now hundreds of ships and steamers traversing the ocean to and from
the accessible points of the coast of the great Eastern Empire.
America has a large share of this commerce with China, and from the
little beginning, in 1786, she has increased her maritime service,
until she now has a fleet of sailing ships second to none in the
world, and a line of magnificent steamers plying regularly across the
Pacific, and bringing the East in closer alliance with the West than
ever before.

[Illustration: CHINESE PUNISHMENT.]

Railways will naturally follow the steamboat, and an English company
is now arranging to supply the Chinese with a railway-system to
connect the principal cities, and especially to tap the interior
districts, where the water communications are limited. There is no
regular system of mail-communication in China; the Government
transmits intelligence by means of couriers, and when merchants have
occasion to communicate with persons at a distance they use private
expresses. Foreign and native merchants, doing an extensive business,
keep swift steamers, which they use as despatch-boats, and sometimes
send them at heavy expense to transmit single messages. It has
happened that, on a sudden change of markets, two or more houses in
Hong Kong or Shanghae have despatched boats at the same moment; and
some interesting and exciting races are recorded in the local
histories.

The barriers of Chinese exclusion were broken down when the treaties
of the past ten years opened the empire to foreigners, and placed the
name of China on the list of diplomatic and treaty powers. The last
stone of the wall that shut the nation from the outer world was
overthrown when the court at Pekin sent an embassy, headed by a
distinguished American, to visit the capitals of the Western nations,
and cement the bonds of friendship between the West and the East. It
was eminently fitting that an American should be selected as the head
of this embassy, and eminently fitting, too, that the ambassador of
the oldest nation should first visit the youngest of all the great
powers of the world. America, just emerged from the garments of
childhood, and with full pride and consciousness of its youthful
strength, presents to ruddy England, smiling France, and the other
members of the family of nations, graybeard and dignified China, who
expresses joy at the introduction, and hopes for a better acquaintance
in the years that are to come.

During his residence at Pekin, Mr. Burlingame interested himself in
endeavoring to introduce the telegraph into China, and though meeting
with opposition on account of certain superstitions of the Chinese, he
was ultimately successful. The Chinese do not understand the working
of the telegraph--at least the great majority of them do not--and like
many other people elsewhere, with regard to any thing incomprehensible,
they are inclined to ascribe it to a satanic origin. In California,
the Chinese residents make a liberal use of the telegraph; though
they do not trouble themselves with an investigation of its
workings, they fully appreciate its importance. John, in California,
is at liberty to send his messages in "pigeon-English," and very
funny work he makes of it occasionally. Chin Lung, in Sacramento,
telegraphs to Ming Yup, in San Francisco, "You me send one piecee
me trunk," which means, in plain language, "Send me my trunk." Mr.
Yup complies with the request, and responds by telegraph, "Me you
trunkee you sendee." The inventor of pigeon-English is unknown, and it
is well for his name that it has not been handed down; he deserves the
execration of all who are compelled to use the legacy he has left. It
is just as difficult for a Chinese to learn pigeon-English as it would
be to learn pure and honest English, and it is about as intelligible
as Greek or Sanscrit to a newly-arrived foreigner. In Shanghae or Hong
Kong, say to your Chinese _ma-foo_, who claims to speak English,
"Bring me a glass of water," and he will not understand you. Repeat
your order in those words, and he stands dumb and uncomprehending, as
though you had spoken the dialect of the moon. But if you say, "You go
me catchee bring one piecee glass water; savey," and his tawny face
beams intelligence as he obeys the order.

In the phrase, "pigeon-English," the word pigeon means "business,"
and the expression would be more intelligible if it were
"business-English." Many foreigners living in China have formed the
habit of using this and other words in their Chinese sense, and
sometimes one hears an affair of business called "a pigeon." A
gentleman whom I met in China used to tell, with a great deal of
humor, his early experiences with the language.

"When I went to Shanghae," said he, "I had an introduction to a
prominent merchant, who received me very kindly, and urged me to call
often at his office. A day or two later I called, and inquired for
him. 'Won't be back for a week or two,' said the clerk; 'he has gone
into the country, about two hundred miles, after a little pigeon.' I
asked no questions, but as I bowed myself out, I thought, 'He must be
a fool, indeed. Go two hundred miles into the country after a pigeon,
and a little one at that! He has lost his senses, if he ever possessed
any.'"

Nearly all the trade with China is carried on at the Southern and
Eastern ports, and comparatively few of the foreign merchants in China
have ever been at Pekin, which was opened only a few years ago. But
the war with the allied powers, the humiliation of the government, the
successes of the rebels, and the threatened extinction of the ruling
dynasty, led to important changes of policy. The treaty of Tientsin,
in 1860, opened the empire as it had never been open before.
Foreigners could travel in China where they wished, for business or
pleasure, and the navigable rivers were declared free to foreign
boats. Pekin was opened to travelers but not to foreign merchants; but
it is probable that commerce will be carried to that city before long.
There is an extensive trade at Tientsin, ninety miles south of the
capital, and when it becomes necessary to carry it to the doors of the
palace of the Celestial ruler, the diplomats will not be slow to find
a sufficient pretext for it.



CHAPTER XXX.


The great cities of China are very much alike in their general
features. None of them have wide streets, except in the foreign
quarters, and none of them are clean; in their abundance of dirt they
can even excel New York, and it would be worth the while for the
rulers of the American metropolis to visit China and see how filthy a
city can be made without half trying. The most interesting city in
China is Pekin, for the reason that it has long been the capital, and
contains many monuments of the past greatness and the glorious history
of the Celestial empire. Its temples are massive, and show that the
Chinese, hundreds of years ago, were no mean architects; its walls
could resist any of the ordinary appliances of war before the
invention of artillery, and even the tombs of its rulers are monuments
of skill and patience that awaken the admiration of every beholder.
Throughout China Pekin is reverentially regarded, and in many
localities the man who has visited it is regarded as a hero. Though
the capital, it is the most northern city of large population in the
whole empire.

Pekin is divided into the Chinese city and the Tartar one, the
division was made at the time of the Tartar conquest, and for many
years the two people refused to associate freely. A wall separates the
cities; the gates through it are closed at night, and only opened when
sufficient reason is given. If the party who desires to pass the gate
can give no verbal excuse he has only to drop some money in the hands
of the gate-keeper, and the pecuniary apology is considered entirely
satisfactory. Time has softened the asperities of Tartar and Chinese
association, so that the two people mingle freely, and it is
impossible for a stranger to distinguish one from the other. Many
Chinese live in the Tartar town and transact business, and I fancy
that they would not always find it easy to explain their pedigree, or,
at all events, that of some of their children. The foreign legations
are in the Tartar city, for the reason that the government offices are
there, and also for the reason that it is the most pleasant, (or the
least unpleasant,) part of Pekin to reside in. All the embassies have
spacious quarters, with the exception of the Russian one, which is the
oldest; when it was established there it was a great favor to be
allowed any residence whatever.

[Illustration: PROVISION DEALER.]

From the center gate between the Chinese and Tartar cities there is a
street two or three miles long, and having the advantages of being
wide, straight, and dirty. It is blocked up with all sorts of
huckster's stalls and shops, and is kept noisy with the shouts of the
people who have innumerable articles for sale. Especially in summer
is there a liberal assemblage of peddlers, jugglers, beggars, donkey
drivers, merchants, idlers, and all the other professions and
non-professions that go to make up a population. The peddlers have
fruit and other edibles, not omitting an occasional string of rats
suspended from bamboo poles, and attached to cards on which the
prices, and sometimes the excellent qualities of the rodents, are set
forth. It is proper to remark that the Chinese are greatly slandered
on the rat question. As a people they are not given to eating these
little animals; it is only among the poorer classes that they are
tolerated, and then only because they are the cheapest food that can
be obtained. I was always suspicious when the Chinese urged me to
partake of little meat pies and dumplings, whose components I could
only guess at, and when the things were forced upon me I proclaimed a
great fondness for stewed duck and chicken, which were manifestly all
right. But I frankly admit that I do not believe they would have
inveigled me into swallowing articles to which the European mind is
prejudiced, and my aversion arose from a general repugnance to hash in
all forms--a repugnance which had its origin in American hotels and
restaurants.

The jugglers are worth a little notice, more I believe than they
obtain from their countrymen. They attract good audiences along the
great street of Pekin, but after swallowing enough stone to load a
pack-mule, throwing up large bricks and allowing them to break
themselves on his head, and otherwise amusing the crowd for half an
hour or so, the poor necromancer cannot get cash enough to buy himself
a dinner. Those who feel disposed to give are not very liberal, and
their donations are thrown into the ring very much as one would toss a
bone to a bull-dog. Sometimes a man will stand with a white painted
board, slightly covered with thick ink, and while talking with his
auditors he will throw off, by means of his thumb and fingers,
excellent pictures of birds and fishes, with every feather, fin, and
scale done with accuracy. Such genius ought to be rewarded, but it
rarely receives pecuniary recognition enough to enable its possessor
to dress decently. Other slight-of-hand performances abound; the
Chinese are very skillful at little games of thimble-rig and the like,
and when a stranger chooses to make a bet on their operations they are
sure to take in his money. In sword-swallowing and knife-throwing, the
natives of the Flowery Kingdom are without rivals, and the uninitiated
spectator can never understand how a man can make a breakfast of
Asiatic cutlery without incurring the risk of dyspepsia.

[Illustration: CHINESE MENDICANTS.]

China is the paradise of beggars--I except Italy from the mendicant
list--so far as numbers are concerned, though they do not appear to
flourish and live in comfort. There are many dwarfs, and it is
currently reported at Pekin that they are produced and cultivated for
the special purpose of asking alms. One can be very liberal in China
at small expense, as the smallest coin is worth only one-fifteenth of
a cent, and a shilling's worth of "cash" can be made to go a great
way if the giver is judicious. Many of the beggars are blind, and they
sometimes walk in single file under the direction of a chief; they are
nearly all musicians, and make the most hideous noises, which they
call melody. Anybody with a sensitive ear will pay them to move on
where they will annoy somebody beside himself. Many of the beggars are
almost naked, and they attract attention by striking their hands
against their hips and shouting at the top of their voices. One day
the wife of the French minister at Pekin gave some garments to those
who were the most shabbily dressed; the next morning they returned as
near naked as ever, and some of them entirely so.

Outside of the Tartar city there is a beggar's lodging house, which
bears the name of "the House of the Hen's Feathers." It is a hall,
with a floor of solid earth and a roof of thin laths caulked and
plastered with mud. The floor is covered with a thick bed of feathers,
which have been gathered in the markets and restaurants of Pekin,
without much regard to their cleanliness. There is an immense quilt of
thick felt the exact size of the hall, and raised and lowered by means
of mechanism. When the curfew tolls the knell of parting day, the
beggars flock to this house, and are admitted on payment of a small
fee. They take whatever places they like, and at an appointed time the
quilt is lowered. Each lodger is at liberty to lie coiled up in the
feathers, or if he has a prejudice in favor of fresh air, he can stick
his head through one of the numerous holes that the coverlid contains.

A view of this quilt when the heads are protruding is suggestive of an
apartment where dozens of dilapidated Chinese have been decapitated.
All night long the lodgers keep up a frightful noise; the proprietor,
like the individual in the same business in New York, will tell you,
"I sells the place to sleep, but begar, I no sells the sleep with it."
The couch is a lively one, as the feathers are a convenient warren for
a miscellaneous lot of living things not often mentioned in polite
society. In the southern cities of China one sees fewer women in the
street than in the north. Those that appear in public are always of
the poorer classes, and it is rare indeed that one can get a view of
the famous small-footed women. The odious custom of compressing the
feet is much less common at Pekin than in the southern provinces. The
Manjour emperors of China opposed it ever since their dynasty ascended
the throne, and on several occasions they issued severe edicts against
it. The Tartar and Chinese ladies that compose the court of the
empresses have their feet of the natural size, and the same is the
case with the wives of many of the officials. But such is the power of
fashion that many of these ladies have adopted the theatrical slipper,
which is very difficult to walk with. No one can tell where the custom
of compressing the feet originated, but it is said that one of the
empresses was born with deformed feet, and set the fashion, which soon
spread through the empire. The jealousy of the men and the idleness
and vanity of the women have served to continue the custom. Every
Chinese who can afford it will have at least one small-footed wife,
and she is maintained in the most perfect indolence. For a woman to
have a small foot is to show that she is of high birth and rich
family, and she would consider herself dishonored if her parents
failed to compress her feet.

[Illustration: THE FAVORITE.]

When remonstrated with about the practice, the Chinese retort by
calling attention to the compression of the waist as practiced in
Europe and America. "It is all a matter of taste," said a Chinese
merchant one day when addressed on the subject. "We like women with
small feet and you like them with small waists. What is the
difference?"

And what _is_ the difference?

The compression is begun when a girl is six years old, and is
accomplished with strong bandages. The great toe is pressed beneath
the others, and these are bent under, so that the foot takes the shape
of a closed fist. The bandages are drawn tighter every month, and in a
couple of years the foot has assumed the desired shape and ceased to
grow.

[Illustration: FEMALE FEET AND SHOE.]

Very often this compression creates diseases that are difficult to
heal; it is always impossible for the small-footed woman to walk
easily, and sometimes she cannot move without support. To have the
finger-nails very long is also a mark of aristocracy; sometimes the
ladies enclose their nails in silver cases, which are very convenient
for cleansing the ears of their owner or tearing out the eyes of
somebody else.

Walking along the great street of Pekin, one is sure to see a fair
number of gamblers and gambling houses. Gambling is a passion with the
Chinese, and they indulge it to a greater extent than any other people
in the world. It is a scourge in China, and the cause of a great deal
of the poverty and degradation that one sees there. There are various
games, like throwing dice, and drawing sticks from a pile, and there
is hardly a poor wretch of a laborer who will not risk the chance of
paying double for his dinner on the remote possibility of getting it
for nothing. The rich are addicted to the vice quite as much as the
poor, and sometimes they will lose their money, then their houses,
their lands, their wives, their children, and so on up to themselves,
when they have nothing else that their adversaries will accept. The
winter is severe at Pekin, and it sometimes happens that men who have
lost everything, down to their last garments, are thrust naked into
the open air, where they perish of cold. Sometimes a man will bet his
fingers on a game, and if he loses he must submit to have them chopped
off and turned over to the winner.

[Illustration: A LOTTERY PRIZE.]

There is a tradition that one of the Chinese emperors used to get up
lotteries, in which the ladies of the court were the prizes. He
obtained quite a revenue from the business, which was popular with
both the players and the prizes, as the latter were enabled to obtain
husbands without the trouble of negotiation.

The lottery has a place in the Chinese courts of justice. There is one
mode of capital punishment in which a dozen or twenty knives are
placed in a covered basket, and each knife is marked for a particular
part of the body. The executioner puts his hand under the cover and
draws at random. If the knife is for the toes, they are cut off one
after another; if for the feet, they are severed, and so on until a
knife for the heart or neck is reached. Usually the friends of the
victim bribe the executioner to draw early in the game a knife whose
wound will be fatal, and he generally does as he agrees. The
bystanders amuse themselves by betting as to how long the culprit will
stand it. Facetious dogs, those Chinese.

To enumerate all the ways of inflicting punishment in China would be
to fill a volume. Punishment is one of the fine arts, and a man who
can skin another elegantly is entitled to rank as an artist. The
bastinado and floggings are common, and then they have huge shears,
like those used in tin shops, for snipping off feet and arms, very
much as a gardener would cut off the stem of a rose.

Some years ago the environs of Tientsin were infested by bands of
robbers who were suspected of living in villages a few miles away. The
governor was ordered by the imperial authority to suppress these
robberies, and in order to get the right persons he sent out his
soldiers and arrested everybody, old and young, in the suspected
villages. Of course there were innocent persons among the captives,
but that made no difference; some of them were blind, and others
crippled, but the police had orders to bring in everybody. The
prisoners were summarily tried; some of them had their heads cut off,
others were imprisoned, and others were whipped. Nobody escaped
without some punishment; the result was that the robber bands were
broken up and the robberies ceased.

[Illustration: A CHINESE PALANQUIN.]

[Illustration: A PEKIN CAB.]

It is not easy to go about Pekin. It is a city of magnificent
distances, and the sights which one wants to see are far apart. The
streets are bad, being dusty in dry weather and muddy when it rains,
and the carriage way is cut up with deep ruts that make riding very
uncomfortable. The cabs of Pekin are little carts, just large enough
for two persons of medium size. They are without springs, and not very
neatly arranged inside. If one does not like them he can walk or take
a palanquin--there are plenty of palanquins in the city, and they do
not cost an exorbitant sum. They are not very commodious, but
infinitely preferable to the carts. The comforts of travel are very
few in China. A Chinese never travels for pleasure, and he does not
understand the spirit that leads tourists from one end of the world to
the other in search of adventure. When he has nothing to do he sits
down, smokes his pipe, and thinks about his ancestors. He never rides,
walks, dances, or takes the least exercise for pleasure alone. It is
business and nothing else that controls his movements.

When an English ship touched at Hong Kong some years ago, the captain
gave a ball to the foreign residents, and invited several Chinese
merchants to attend the festivities. One heavy old merchant who had
never before seen anything of the kind, looked on patiently, and when
the dance was concluded he beckoned the captain to his side and asked
if he could not get his servants to do that work and save him the
trouble.

[Illustration: PRIEST IN TEMPLE OF CONFUCIUS.]

One of the great curiosities of Pekin is the temple of Confucius,
where once a year the Emperor worships the great sage without the
intervention of paintings or images. In the central shrine there is a
small piece of wood, a few inches long, standing upright and bearing
the name of Confucius in Chinese characters. The temple contains
several stone tablets, on which are engraved the records of honor
conferred on literary men, and it is the height of a Chinese
scholar's ambition to win a place here. There are several fine trees
in the spacious court yard, and they are said to have been planted by
the Mongol dynasty more than five hundred years ago. The building is a
magnificent one, and contains many curious relics of the various
dynasties, some of them a thousand years old. The ceiling is
especially gorgeous, and the tops of the interior walls are ornamented
with wooden boards bearing the names of the successive emperors in
raised gilt characters. As soon as an emperor ascends the throne he at
once adds his name to the list.

The Temple of Heaven and the Temple of Earth are also among the
curiosities of Pekin. The former stands in an enclosed space a mile
square, and has a great central pavilion, with a blue roof, and a gilt
top that shines in the afternoon sun like the dome of St. Isaac's
church at St. Petersburg. The enclosed space includes a park,
beautifully laid out with avenues of trees and with regular, well
paved walks. In the park are some small buildings where the priests
live, that is to say, they are small compared with the main structure,
though they are really fine edifices. The great pavilion is on a high
causeway, and has flights of steps leading up to it from different
directions. The pavilion is three stories high, the eaves of each
story projecting very far and covered with blue enameled tiles. An
enormous gilt ball crowns the whole, and around the building there is
a bewildering array of arches and columns, with promenades and steps
of white marble, evincing great skill and care in their construction.
Unfortunately, the government is not taking good care of the temple,
and the grass is growing in many places in the crevices of the
pavements.

The Temple of Earth is where the emperor goes annually to witness the
ceremony of opening the planting season, and to inaugurate it by
ploughing the first furrow. The ceremony is an imposing one, and never
fails to draw a large assemblage.

One of the most interesting objects in the vicinity of Pekin previous
to 1860 was "Yuen-ming Yuen," or the summer palace of the emperor,
Kien Loong. It was about eight miles northwest of the city, and bore
the relation to Pekin that Versailles does to Paris. I say _was_,
because it was ravaged by the English and French forces in their
advance upon the Chinese capital, and all the largest and best of the
buildings were burned. The country was hilly, and advantage was taken
of this fact, so that the park presented every variety of hill, dale,
woodland, lawn, garden, and meadow, interspersed with canals, pools,
rivulets, and lakes, with their banks in imitation of nature. The park
contained about twelve square miles, and there were nearly forty
houses for the residence of the emperor's ministers, each of them
surrounded with buildings for large retinues of servants. The summer
palace, or central hall of reception, was an elaborate structure, and
when it was occupied by the French army thousands of yards of the
finest silk and crape were found there. These articles were so
abundant that the soldiers used them for bed clothes and to wrap
around other plunder. The cost of this palace amounted to millions of
dollars, and the blow was severely felt by the Chinese government. The
park is still worth a visit, but less so than before the destruction
of the palace.

In the country around Pekin there are many private burying grounds
belonging to families; the Chinese do not, like ourselves, bury their
dead in common cemeteries, but each family has a plot of its own.
Sometimes a few families combine and own a place together; they
generally select a spot in a grove of trees, and make it as attractive
as possible. The Chinese are more careful of their resting places
after death than before it; a wealthy man will live in a miserable
hovel, but he looks forward to a commodious tomb beneath pretty shade
trees. The tender regard for the dead is an admirable trait in the
Chinese character, and springs, no doubt, from that filial piety which
is so deeply engraved on the Oriental mind.

[Illustration: COMFORTS AND CONVENIENCES.]

[Illustration: FILIAL AFFECTION.]

In Europe and America it is the custom not to mention coffins in
polite society, and the contemplation of one is always mournful. But
in China a coffin is a thing to be made a show of, like a piano. In
many houses there is a room set apart for the coffins of the members
of the family, and the owners point them out with pride. They practice
economy to lay themselves out better than their rivals, and sometimes
a man who has made a good thing by swindling or robbing somebody, will
use the profits in buying a coffin, just as an American would treat
himself to a gold watch or diamond pin. The most elegant gift that a
child can make to his sick father is a coffin that he has paid for out
of his own labor; it is not considered a hint to the old gentleman to
hand in his checks and get out of the way, but rather as a mark of
devotion which all good boys should imitate. The coffins are finely
ornamented, according to the circumstances of the owner, and I have
heard that sometimes a thief will steal a fine one and commit
suicide--first arranging with his friends to bury him in it before
his theft is discovered. If he is not found out he thinks he has made
a good thing of it.

Whenever the Chinese sell ground for building purposes they always
stipulate for the removal of the bones of their ancestors for many
generations. The bones are carefully dug up and put in earthen jars,
when they are sealed up, labeled, and put away in a comfortable room,
as if they were so many pots of pickles and fruits. Every respectable
family in China has a liberal supply of potted ancestors on hand, but
would not part with them at any price.

Nothing can surpass the calm resignation with which the Chinese part
with life. They die without groans, and have no mental terror at the
approach of death. Abbe Hue says that when they came for him to
administer the last sacraments to a dying convert, their formula of
saying that the danger was imminent, was in the words, "The sick man
does not smoke his pipe."

When a Chinese wishes to revenge himself upon another he furtively
places a corpse upon the property of his enemy. This subjects the man
on whose premises the body is found to many vexatious visits from the
officials, and also to claims on the part of the relations of the dead
man. The height of a joke of this kind is to commit suicide on another
man's property in such a way as to appear to have been murdered there.
This will subject the unfortunate object of revenge to all sorts of
legal vexations, and not unfrequently to execution. Suicide for
revenge would be absurd in America, but is far from unknown at the
antipodes.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--OPIUM PIPE]



CHAPTER XXXI.


It was my original intention to make a journey from Kiachta to Pekin
and back again, but the lateness of the season prevented me. I did not
wish to be caught in the desert of Gobi in winter. I talked with
several persons who had traversed Mongolia, and among them a gentleman
who had just arrived from the Chinese capital. I made many notes from
his recital which I found exceedingly interesting.

For a time the Chinese refused passports to foreigners wishing to
cross Mongolia; but on finding their action was likely to cause
trouble, they gave the desired permission, though accompanying it with
an intimation that the privilege might be suspended at any time. The
bonds that unite Mongolia to the great empire are not very strong, the
natives being somewhat indifferent to their rulers and ready at any
decent provocation to throw off their yoke. Though engaged in the
peaceful pursuits of sheep-tending, and transporting freight between
Russia and China, they possess a warlike spirit and are capable of
being roused into violent action. They are proud of tracing their
ancestry to the soldiers that marched with Genghis Khan, and carried
his victorious banners into Central Europe; around their fires at
night no stories are more eagerly heard than those of war, and he who
can relate the most wonderful traditions of daring deeds may be
certain of admiration and applause.

The first "outside barbarian," other than Russians, who attempted this
overland journey, was a young French Count, who traveled in search of
adventure. Proceeding eastward from St. Petersburg, he reached Kiachta
in 1859. After some hesitation, the governor-general of Eastern
Siberia appointed him secretary to a Russian courier _en route_ for
Pekin. He made the journey without serious hindrance, but on reaching
the Chinese capital his nationality was discovered, and he was forced
to return to Siberia.

From Pekin the traveller destined for Siberia passes through the
northern gate amid clouds of dust or pools of mud, according as the
day of his exit is fair or stormy. He meets long strings of carts
drawn by mules, oxen, or ponies, carrying country produce of different
kinds to be digested in the great maw of the Imperial city. Animals
with pack-saddles, swaying under heavy burdens, swell the caravans,
and numerous equestrians, either bestriding their steeds, or sitting
sidewise in apparent carelessness, are constantly encountered. Now and
then an unruly mule causes a commotion in the crowd by a vigorous use
of his heels, and a watchful observer may see an unfortunate native
sprawling on the ground in consequence of approaching too near one of
the hybrid beasts. Chinese mules _will_ kick as readily as their
American cousins; and I can say from experience, that their hoofs are
neither soft nor delicate. They can bray, too, in tones terribly
discordant and utterly destructive of sleep. The natives have a habit
of suppressing their music when it becomes positively unbearable, and
the means they employ may be worth notice. A Chinaman says a mule
cannot bray without elevating his tail to a certain height; so to
silence the beast he ties a stone to that ornamental appendage, and
depends upon the weight to shut off the sound. Out of compassion to
the mule, he attaches the stone so that it rests upon the ground and
makes no strain as long as the animal behaves himself.

[Illustration: A MUSICAL STOP.]

A Chinese pack-mule will carry about four hundred pounds of dead
weight, if properly adjusted. The loads are not lashed on the animals'
backs, but simply balanced; consequently, they must be very nicely
divided and arranged on each side of the saddles.

On the road from Pekin the track is so wretched, and the carts so
roughly made, that journeying with wheeled vehicles is next to an
impossibility. Travelers go on horseback--if their circumstances
allow--and by way of comfort, especially if there be ladies in the
party, they generally provide themselves with mule-litters. The
mule-litter is a goodly-sized palanquin, not quite long enough for
lying at full length, but high enough to allow the passenger to sit
erect. There is a box or false flooring in the bottom, to accommodate
baggage in small parcels that can be easily stowed. A good litter has
the sides stuffed to save the occupant from bruises; and with plenty
of straw and a couple of pillows, he generally finds himself quite
comfortable. The body is fastened to two strong and flexible poles
that extend fore and aft far enough to serve as shafts for a couple of
mules. At the ends of the shafts their points are connected by stout
bands of leather that pass over the saddles of the respective mules;
each band is kept in place by an iron pin fixed in the top of the
saddle, and passing through a hole in the leather. As the shafts are
long enough to afford the animals plenty of walking room, there is a
good deal of spring to the concern, and the motion is by no means
disagreeable. Sometimes the bands slip from the shafts, and in such
case the machine comes to the ground with a disagreeable thump; if the
traveler happens to be asleep at the time he can easily imagine he is
being shot from a catapult.

Just outside of Pekin there is a sandy plain, and beyond it a fine
stretch of country under careful cultivation, the principal cereal
being millet, that often stands ten or twelve feet high. Some cotton
is grown, but the region is too far north to render its culture
profitable.

About twenty miles from Pekin is the village of Sha-ho, near two old
stone bridges that span a river now nearly dried away. The village is
a sort of half-way halting place between. Pekin and the Nankow pass, a
rocky defile twelve or fifteen miles long. The huge boulders and
angular fragments of stone have been somewhat worn down and smoothed
by constant use, though they are still capable of using up a good many
mule-hoofs annually. With an eye to business, a few traveling farriers
hang about this pass, and find occasional employment in setting shoes.
Chinese shoeing, considered as a fine art, is very much in its
infancy. Animals are only shod when the nature of the service requires
it; the farriers do not attempt to make shoes to order, but they keep
a stock of iron plates on hand, and select the nearest size they can
find. They hammer the plate a little to fit it to the hoof and then
fasten it on; an American blacksmith would be astonished at the
rapidity with which his Chinese brother performs his work.

The pass of Nankow contains the remains of several old forts, which
were maintained in former times to protect China from Mongol
incursions. The natural position is a strong one, and a small force
could easily keep at bay a whole army. Just outside the northern
entrance of the pass there is a branch of one of the "Great Walls" of
China. It was built some time before _the_ Great Wall. Foreigners
visiting Pekin and desiring to see the Great Wall are usually taken to
Nankow, and gravely told they have attained the object they seek.
Perhaps it is just as well for them to believe so, since they avoid a
journey of fifty miles farther over a rough road to reach the real
Great Wall; besides, the Chinese who have contracted to take them on
the excursion are able to make a nice thing of it, since they charge
as much for one place as for the other.

The country for a considerable distance is dotted with old forts and
ruins, and the remains of extensive earthworks. Many battles were
fought here between the Chinese and the Mongols when Genghis Khan made
his conquest. For a long time the assailants were kept at bay, but one
fortress after another fell into their hands, and finally the capture
of the Nankow pass by Che-pee, one of Genghis Khan's generals, laid
Pekin at their mercy.

[Illustration: NANKOW PASS.]

There is a tradition that the loss of the first line of northern forts
was due to a woman. Intelligence was transmitted in those days by
means of beacon fires, and the signals were so arranged as to be
rapidly flashed through the empire. Once a lady induced the Emperor to
give the signal and summon his armies to the capital. The Mandarins
assembled with their forces, but on finding they had been simply
employed at the caprice of a woman, they returned angrily to their
homes. By-and-by the enemy came; the beacon fires were again lighted;
but this time the Mandarins did not heed the call for assistance.

The Great Wall--the real one--crosses the road at Chan-kia-kow, a
large and scattered town lying in a broad valley, pretty well enclosed
by mountains. The Russians call the town Kalgan (gate), but the
natives never use any other than the Chinese name. In maps made from
Russian authorities, Kalgan appears, while in those taken from the
Chinese, the other appellation is used. Kalgan (I stick to the Russian
term, as more easily pronounced, though less correct) is the centre of
the transit trade from Pekin to Kiachta, and great quantities of tea
and other goods pass through it annually. Several Russians are
established there, and the town contains a population of Chinese from
various provinces of the empire, mingled with Mongols and Thibetans in
fair proportion. The religion is varied, and embraces adherents to all
the branches of Chinese theology, together with Mongol lamas and a
considerable sprinkling of Mahommedans. There are temples,
lamissaries, and mosques, according to the needs of the faithful; and
the Russian inhabitants have a chapel of their own, and are thus able
to worship according to their own faith. The mingling of different
tribes and kinds of people in a region where manners and morals are
not severely strict, has produced a result calculated to puzzle the
present or future ethnologist. Many of the merchants have grown
wealthy, and take life as comfortably as possible; they furnish their
houses in the height of Chinese style, and some of them have even sent
to Russia for the wherewith to astonish their neighbors.

The Great Wall runs along the ridge of hills in a direction nearly
east and west; where it crosses the town it is kept in good repair,
but elsewhere it is very much in ruins, and could offer little
resistance to an enemy. Many of the towers remain, and some of them
are but little broken. They seem to have been better constructed than
the main portions of the wall, and, though useless against modern
weapons, were, no doubt, of importance in the days of their erection.
The Chinese must have held the Mongol hordes in great dread, to judge
by the labor expended to guard against incursions.

As Kalgan is the frontier town between China and Mongolia, many
Mongols go there for all purposes, from trading down to loafing. They
bring their camels to engage in transporting goods across the desert,
and indulge in a great deal of traffic on their own account. They
drive cattle, sheep, and horses from their pastures farther north, and
sell them for local use, or for the market at Pekin. Mutton is the
staple article of food, and nearly always cheap and abundant. The
hillsides are covered with flocks, which often graze where nothing
else can live. In the autumn, immense numbers of sheep are driven to
Pekin, and sometimes the road is fairly blocked with them.

Every morning there is a horse-fair on an open space just beyond the
Great Wall, and on its northern side. The modes of buying and selling
horses are very curious, and many of the tricks would be no discredit
to American jockeys. The horses are tied or held wherever their owners
can keep them, and in the centre of the fair grounds there is a space
where the beasts are shown off. They trot or gallop up and down the
course, their riders yelling as if possessed of devils, and holding
their whips high in air. These riders are generally Mongols; their
garments flutter like the decorations of a scarecrow in a morning
breeze, and their pig-tails, if not carefully triced up, stand out at
right angles like ships' pennants in a northeast gale. Notwithstanding
all the confusion, it rarely happens that anybody is run over, though
there are many narrow escapes.

[Illustration: RACING AT THE KALGAN FAIR.]

The fair is attended by two classes of people--those who want to trade
in horses, and those who don't; between them they manage to assemble a
large crowd. There are always plenty of curbstone brokers, or
intermediaries, who hang around the fair to negotiate purchases and
sales. They have a way of conducting trades by drawing their long
sleeves over their hands, and making or receiving bids by means of the
concealed fingers. This mode of telegraphing is quite convenient when
secrecy is desired, and prevails in many parts of Asia. Taverneir and
other travelers say the diamond merchants conduct their transactions
in this manner, even when no one is present to observe them.

[Illustration: STREET IN KALGAN.]

Unless arrangements have been made beforehand, it will be necessary to
spend three or four days at Kalgan in preparing for the journey over
the desert. Camels must be hired, carts purchased, baggage packed in
convenient parcels, and numerous odds and ends provided against
contingencies. Of course, there is generally something forgotten, even
after careful attention to present and prospective wants.

But we are off at last. The start consumes the greater part of a day,
as it is best to have nothing done carelessly at the outset. The heavy
baggage is loaded upon the camels, the animals lying down and
patiently waiting while their cargoes are stowed. Pieces of felt cloth
are packed between and around their humps, to prevent injury from the
cords that sustain the bundles. The drivers display much ingenuity in
arranging the loads so that they shall be easily balanced, and the
sides of the beasts as little injured as possible. Spite of
precautions, the camels get ugly sores in their sides and backs, which
grow steadily worse by use. Occasionally their hoofs crack and fill
with sand, and when this occurs, their owner has no alternative but to
rest them a month or two, or risk losing their services altogether.
The principal travel over the desert is in the cold season. In the
autumn, the camels are fat, and their humps appear round and hard.
They are then steadily worked until spring, and very often get very
little to eat. As the camel grows thin, his humps fall to one side,
and the animal assumes a woe-begone appearance. In the spring, his
hair falls off; his naked skin wrinkles like a wet glove, and he
becomes anything but an attractive object.

[Illustration: IN GOOD CONDITION.]

As a beast of burden, the camel is better than for purposes of draft.
He can carry from six hundred to eight hundred pounds, if the load be
properly placed on his back; but when he draws a cart the weight must
be greatly diminished. In crossing Mongolia, heavy baggage is carried
on camels, but every traveler takes a cart for riding purposes, and
alternates between it and his saddle horse. The cart is a sort of
dog-house on two wheels; its frame is of wood, and has a covering of
felt cloth, thick enough to ward off a light fall of rain, and
embarrass a heavy one. It is barely high enough to allow a man to sit
erect, but not sufficiently long to enable him to lie at full length.
The body rests directly upon the axle, so that the passenger gets the
full benefit of every jolt. The camel walks between the shafts, and
his great body is the chief feature of the scenery when one looks
ahead. The harness gives way occasionally, and allows the shafts to
fall to the ground; when this happens, the occupant runs the risk of
being dumped among the ungainly feet that propel his vehicle. One
experience of this kind is more than satisfactory.

After passing a range of low mountains north of Kalgan, the road
enters the table-land of Mongolia, elevated about five thousand feet
above the sea. The country opens into a series of plains and gentle
swells, not unlike the rolling prairies of Kansas and Nebraska, with
here and there a stretch of hills. Very often not a single tree is
visible, and the only stationary objects that break the monotony of
the scene are occasional yourts, or tents of the natives. All the way
along the road there are numerous trains of ox-carts, and sometimes
they form a continuous line of a mile or more. Those going southward
are principally laden with logs of wood from the valley of the Tolla,
about two hundred miles from the Siberian frontier. The logs are about
six or seven feet long, and their principal use is to be cut into
Chinese coffins. Many a gentleman of Pekin has been stowed in a coffin
whose wood grew in the middle of Mongolia; and possibly when our
relations with the empire become more intimate, we shall supply the
Chinese coffin market from the fine forests of our Pacific coast.



CHAPTER XXXII.


North of Kalgan the native habitations are scattered irregularly over
the country wherever good water and grass abound. The Mongols are
generally nomadic, and consult the interest of their flocks and herds
in their movements. In summer they resort to the table-land, and stay
wherever fancy or convenience dictates; in winter they prefer the
valleys where they are partially sheltered from the sharp winds, and
find forage for their stock.

The desert is not altogether a desert; it has a great deal of sand and
general desolation to the day's ride, but is far from being a forsaken
region where a wolf could not make a living. Antelopes abound, and are
often seen in large droves as upon our Western plains; grouse will
afford frequent breakfasts to the traveler if he takes the trouble to
shoot them; there are wild geese, ducks, and curlew in the ponds and
marshes; and taken for all in all, the country might be much worse
than it is--which is bad enough.

The flat or undulating country is, of course, monotonous. Sunset and
sunrise are not altogether unlike those events on the ocean, and if a
traveler wishes to feel himself quite at sea, he has only to wander
off and lose his camp or caravan. The natives make nothing of straying
out of sight, and seem to possess the instincts which have been often
noted in the American Indian. Without landmarks or other objects to
guide them, they rarely mistake their position, even at night, and can
estimate the extent of a day's journey with surprising accuracy. Where
a stranger can see no difference between one square mile of desert and
a thousand others, the Mongol can distinguish it from all the rest,
though he may not be able to explain why. Perception is closely allied
to instinct, and as fast as we are developed and educated the more we
trust to acquired knowledge and the less to the unaided senses.

Of course it is quite easy for a stranger to be lost in the Mongolian
desert beyond all hope of finding his way again, unless some one comes
to his aid. A Russian gentleman told me his experience in getting lost
there several years ago. "I used," said he, "to have a fondness for
pursuing game whenever we sighted any, which was pretty often, and as
I had a couple of hardy ponies, I did a great deal of chasing. One
afternoon I saw a fine drove of antelopes, and set out in pursuit of
them. The chase led me further than I expected: the game was shy, and
I could not get near enough for a good shot; after a long pursuit I
gave up, and concluded to return to the road. Just as I abandoned the
chase the sun was setting. My notion of the direction I ought to go
was not entirely clear, as I had followed a very tortuous course in
pursuing the antelopes.

"I was not altogether certain which way I turned when I left the road.
It was my impression that I went to the eastward and had been moving
away from the sun; so I turned my pony's head in a westerly direction
and followed the ridges, which ran from east to west. Hour after hour
passed away, the stars came out clear and distinct in the sky, and
marked off the progress of the night as they, slowly moved from east
to west. I grew hungry, and thirsty, and longed most earnestly to
reach the caravan. My pony shared my uneasiness, and moved
impatiently, now endeavoring to go in one direction and now in
another. Thinking it possible that he might know the proper route
better than I, I gave him free rein, but soon found he was as much at
fault as myself. Then I fully realized I was lost in the desert.

"Without compass or landmark to guide me, there was no use in further
attempts to find the caravan. Following the Mongol custom, I carried a
long rope attached to my saddle-bow, and with this I managed to
picket the pony where he could graze and satisfy his hunger. How I
envied his ability to eat the grass, which, though scanty, was quite
sufficient. I tried to sleep, but sleeping was no easy matter. First,
I had the consciousness of being lost. Then I was suffering from
hunger and thirst, and the night, like all the nights in Mongolia,
even in midsummer, was decidedly chilly, and as I had only my ordinary
clothing, the cold caused me to shiver violently. The few snatches of
sleep I caught were troubled with many dreams, none of them pleasant.
All sorts of horrible fancies passed through my brain, and I verily
believe that though I did not sleep half an hour in the whole night,
the incidents of my dreams were enough for a thousand years.

[Illustration: LOST IN THE DESERT OF GOBI.]

"Thoughts of being devoured by wild beasts haunted me, though in truth
I had little of this fate to fear. The only carnivorous beasts on the
desert are wolves, but as game is abundant, and can be caught with
ordinary exertion, they have no occasion to feed upon men. About
midnight my fears were roused by my pony taking alarm at the approach
of some wild beast. He snorted and pulled at his rope, and had it not
been for my efforts to soothe him, he would have broken away and fled.
I saw nothing and heard nothing, though I fancied I could discover
half a dozen dark forms on the horizon, and hear a subdued howl from
an animal I supposed to be a wolf.

"Morning came. I was suffering from hunger, and more from thirst. My
throat was parched, my tongue was swollen, and there was a choking
sensation as if I were undergoing strangulation. How I longed for
water! Mounting my horse, I rode slowly along the ridge toward the
west, and after proceeding several miles, discovered a small lake to
my right. My horse scented it earlier than I, and needed no urging to
reach it. Dismounting, I bent over and drank from the edge, which was
marked with the tracks of antelopes, and of numerous aquatic birds.
The water was brackish and bitter, but I drank it with eagerness. My
thirst was satisfied, but the water gave me a severe pain in my
stomach, that soon became almost as unendurable as the previous
dryness. I stood for some minutes on the shore of the lake, and
preparing to remount my horse, the bridle slipped from my hand. Mongol
ponies are generally treacherous, and mine proved no exception to the
rule. Finding himself free, he darted off and trotted back the way we
had come.

"I know that search would be made for me, and my hope now lay in some
one coming to the lake. It did not require long deliberation to
determine me to remain in the vicinity of the water. As long as I was
near it I could not perish of thirst; and moreover, the Mongols, who
probably knew of the lake, might be attracted here for water, and, if
looking for me, would be likely to take the lake in the way. Tying my
kerchief to my ramrod, which I fixed in the ground, I lay down on the
grass and slept, as near as I could estimate, for more than two hours.

"Seeing some water-fowl a short distance away, I walked in their
direction, and luckily found a nest among the reeds, close to the
water's edge. The six or eight eggs it contained were valuable prizes;
one I swallowed raw, and the others I carried to where I left my gun.
Gathering some of the dry grass and reeds, I built a fire and roasted
the eggs, which gave me a hearty meal. The worst of my hardships
seemed over. I had found water--bad water, it is true--but still it
was possible to drink it; by searching among the reeds I could find an
abundance of eggs; my gun could procure me game, and the reeds made a
passable sort of fuel. I should be discovered in a few days at
farthest, and I renewed my determination to remain near the lake.

"The day passed without any incident to vary the monotony. Refreshed
by my meal and by a draught from a small pool of comparatively pure
water, I was able to sleep most of the afternoon, so as to keep awake
during the night, when exercise was necessary to warmth. About sunset
a drove of antelopes came near me, and by shooting one I added venison
to my bill of fare. In the night I amused myself with keeping my fire
alive, and listening to the noise of the birds that the unusual sight
threw into a state of alarm. On the following morning, as I lay on my
bed of reeds, a dozen antelopes, attracted by my kerchief fluttering
in the wind, stood watching me, and every few minutes approaching a
few steps. They were within easy shooting distance, but I had no
occasion to kill them. So I lay perfectly still, watching their
motions and admiring their beauty.

"All at once, though I had not moved a muscle, they turned and ran
away. While I was wondering what could have disturbed them I heard the
shout of two Mongol horsemen, who were riding toward me, and leading
my pony they had caught a dozen miles away. A score of men from the
caravan had been in search of me since the morning after my
disappearance, and had ridden many a mile over the desert."

The Mongols are a strong, hardy, and generally good-natured race,
possessing the spirit of perseverance quite as much as the Chinese.
They have the free manners of all nomadic people, and are noted for
unvarying hospitality to visitors. Every stranger is welcome, and has
the best the host can give; the more he swallows of what is offered
him, the better will be pleased the household. As the native habits
are not especially cleanly, a fastidiously inclined guest has a
trying time of it. The staple dish of a Mongol yourt is boiled mutton,
but it is unaccompanied with capers or any other kind of sauce or
seasoning. A sheep goes to pot immediately on being killed, and the
quantity that each man will consume is something surprising. When the
meat is cooked it is lifted out of the hot water and handed, all
dripping and steamy, to the guests. Each man takes a large lump on his
lap, or any convenient support, and then cuts off little chunks which
he tosses into his mouth as if it were a mill-hopper. The best piece
is reserved for the guest of honor, who is expected to divide it with
the rest; after the meat is devoured they drink the broth, and this
concludes the meal. Knives and cups are the only aids to eating, and
as every man carries his own "outfit," the Mongol dinner service is
speedily arranged. The entire work consists in seating the party
around a pot of cooked meat.

[Illustration: MONGOL DINNER TABLE.]

The desert is crossed by various ridges and small mountain chains,
that increase in frequency and make the country more broken as one
approaches the Tolla, the largest stream between Pekin and Kiachta.
The road, after traversing the last of these chains, suddenly reveals
a wide valley which bears evidence of fertility in its dense forests,
and the straggling fields which receive less attention than they
deserve.

The Tolla has an ugly habit of rising suddenly and falling
deliberately. When at its height, the stream has a current of about
seven miles an hour, and at the fording place the water is over the
back of an ordinary pony. The bottom of the river consists of large
boulders of all sizes from an egg up to a cotton bale, and the footing
for both horses and camels is not specially secure. The camels need a
good deal of persuasion with clubs before they will enter the water;
they have an instinctive dread of that liquid and avoid it whenever
they can. Horses are less timorous, and the best way to get a camel
through the ford is to lead him behind a horse and pound him
vigorously at the same time. When the river is at all dangerous there
is always a swarm of natives around the ford ready to lend a hand if
suitably compensated. They all talk very much and in loud tones; their
voices mingle with the neighing of horses, the screams of camels, the
roaring of the river, and the laughter of the idlers when any mishap
occurs. The confused noises are in harmony with the scene on either
bank, where baggage is piled promiscuously, and the natives are
grouped together in various picturesque attitudes. Men with their
lower garments rolled as high as possible, or altogether discarded,
walk about in perfect nonchalance; their queues hanging down their
backs seem designed as rudders to steer the wearers across the stream.

[Illustration: CROSSING THE TOLLA]

About two miles from the ford of the Tolla there is a Chinese
settlement, which forms a sort of suburb to the Mongol town of Urga.
The Mongols have no great friendship for the Chinese inhabitants, who
are principally engaged in traffic and the various occupations
connected with the transport of goods. Between this suburb and the
main town the Russians have a large house, which is the residence of a
consul and some twenty or thirty retainers. The policy of maintaining
a consulate there can only be explained on the supposition that Russia
expects and intends to appropriate a large slice of Mongolia whenever
opportunity offers. She has long insisted that the chain of mountains
south of Urga was the "natural boundary," and her establishment of an
expensive post at that city enables her to have things ready whenever
a change occurs. In the spirit of annexation and extension of
territory the Russians can fairly claim equal rank with ourselves. I
forget their phrase for "manifest destiny," and possibly they may not
be willing that I should give it.

Urga is not laid out in streets like most of the Chinese towns; its
by-ways and high-ways are narrow and crooked, and form a network very
puzzling to a stranger. The Chinese and Russian settlers live in
houses, and there are temples and other permanent buildings, but the
Mongols live generally in yourts, which they prefer to more extensive
structures. Most of the Mongol traffic is conducted in a large
esplanade, where you can purchase anything the country affords, and at
very fair prices.

The principal feature of Urga is the lamissary or convent where a
great many lamas or holy men reside. I have heard the number estimated
at fifteen thousand, but cannot say if it be more or less. The
religion of the Mongols came originally from Thibet, by direct
authority of the Grand Lama, but a train of circumstances which I have
not space to explain, has made it virtually independent. The Chinese
government maintains shrewd emissaries among these lamas, and thus
manages to control the Mongols and prevent their setting up for
themselves. As a further precaution it has a lamissary at Pekin, where
it keeps two thousand Mongol lamas at its own expense. In this way it
is able to influence the nomads of the desert, and in case of trouble
it would possess a fair number of hostages for an emergency.

About the year 1205 the great battle between Timoujin and the
sovereign then occupying the Mongol throne was fought a short distance
from Urga. The victory was decisive for the former, who thus became
Genghis Khan and commenced that career of conquest which made his name
famous.

Great numbers of devotees from all parts of Mongolia visit Urga every
year, the journey there having something of the sacred character which
a Mahommedan attaches to a pilgrimage to Mecca. The people living at
Urga build fences around their dwellings to protect their property
from the thieves who are in large proportion among the pious
travelers.

From Urga to the Siberian frontier the distance is less than two
hundred miles; the Russian couriers accomplish it in fifty or sixty
hours when not delayed by accidents, but the caravans require from
four to eight days. There is a system of relays arranged by the
Chinese so that one can travel very speedily if he has proper
authority. Couriers have passed from Kiachta to Pekin in ten or
twelve days; but the rough road and abominable carts make them feel at
their journey's end about as if rolled through a patent
clotheswringer. A mail is carried twice a month each way by the
Russians. Several schemes have been proposed for a trans-Mongolian
telegraph, but thus far the Chinese government has refused to permit
its construction.

The desert proper is finished before one reaches the mountains
bordering the Tolla; after crossing that stream and leaving Urga the
road passes through a hilly country, sprinkled, it is true, with a
good many patches of sand, but having plenty of forest and frequently
showing fertile valleys. These valleys are the favorite resorts of the
Mongol shepherds and herdsmen, some of whom count their wealth by many
thousand animals. In general, Mongolia is not agricultural, both from
the character of the country and the disposition of the people. A few
tribes in the west live by tilling the soil in connection with stock
raising, but I do not suppose they take kindly to the former
occupation. The Mongols engaged in the caravan service pass a large
part of their lives on the road, and are merry as larks over their
employment. They seem quite analogous to the teamsters and
miscellaneous "plainsmen" who used to play an important part on our
overland route.

A large proportion of the men engaged in this transit service are
lamas, their sacred character not excusing them, as many suppose, from
all kinds of employment. Many lamas are indolent and manage in some
way to make a living without work, but this is by no means the
universal character of the holy men. About one-fifth of the male
population belong to the religious order, so that there are
comparatively few families which do not have a member or a relative in
the pale of the church. If not domiciled in a convent or blessed by
fortune in some way, the lama turns his hand to labor, though he is
able at the same time to pick up occasional presents for professional
service. Many of them act as teachers or schoolmasters. Theoretically
he cannot marry any more than a Romish priest, but his vows of
celibacy are not always strictly kept. One inconvenience under which
he labors is in never daring to kill anything through fear that what
he slaughters may contain the soul of a relative, and possibly that of
the divine Bhudda. A lama will purchase a sheep on which he expects to
dine, and though fully accessory before and after the fact, he does
not feel authorized to use the knife with his own hand. Even should he
be annoyed by fleas or similar creeping things (if it were a township
or city the lama's body could return a flattering census,) he must
bear the infliction until patience is thoroughly exhausted. At such
times he may call an unsanctified friend and subject himself and
garments to a thorough examination.

[Illustration: THE SCHOOLMASTER.]

Every lama carries with him a quantity of written prayers, which he
reads or recites, and the oftener they are repeated the greater is
their supposed efficacy. Quantity is more important than quality, and
to facilitate matters they frequently have a machine, which consists
of a wheel containing a lot of prayers. Sometimes it is turned by hand
and sometimes attached to a wind-mill; the latter mode being
preferred.

Abbe Hue and others have remarked a striking similarity between the
Bhuddist and Roman Catholic forms of worship and the origin of the two
religions. Hue infers that Bhuddism was borrowed from Christianity; on
the other hand, many lamas declare that the reverse is the case. The
question has caused a great deal of discussion first and last, but
neither party appears disposed to yield.

The final stretch of road toward the Siberian frontier is across a
sandy plain, six or eight miles wide. On emerging from the hills at
its southern edge the dome of the church in Kiachta appears in sight,
and announces the end of Mongolian travel. No lighthouse is more
welcome to a mariner than is the view of this Russian town to a
traveler who has suffered the hardships of a journey from Pekin.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XXXIII.


The week I remained at Kiachta was a time of festivity from beginning
to end. I endeavored to write up my journal but was able to make
little more than rough notes. The good people would have been
excusable had they not compelled me to drink so much excellent
champagne. The amiable merchants of Kiachta are blessed with such
capacities for food and drink that they do not think a guest satisfied
until he has swallowed enough to float a steamboat.

I found an excellent _compagnon du voyage_, and our departure was
fixed for the evening after the dinner with Mr. Pfaffius. A change
from dinner dress to traveling costume was speedily made, and I was
_gotovey_ when my friend arrived with several officers to see us off.
About eight o'clock we took places in my tarantass, and drove out of
the northern gate of Troitskosavsk.

My traveling companion was Mr. Richard Maack, Superintendent of Public
Instruction in Eastern Siberia. He was just finishing a tour among the
schools in the Trans-Baikal province, and during fourteen years of
Siberian life, he had seen a variety of service. He accompanied
General Mouravieff oil the first expedition down the Amoor, and wrote
a detailed account of his journey. Subsequently he explored the
Ousuree in the interest of the Russian Geographical Society. He said
that his most arduous service was in a winter journey to the valley of
the Lena, and along the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The temperature
averaged lower than in Dr. Kane's hibernation on the coast of
Greenland, and once remained at -60° for nearly three weeks. Of five
persons comprising the party, Maack is the only survivor. One of his
companions fell dead in General Mouravieff's parlor while giving his
account of the exploration.

We determined to be comfortable on the way to Irkutsk. We put our
baggage in a telyaga with Maack's servant and took the tarantass to
ourselves. The road was the same I traveled from Verkne Udinsk to
Kiachta, crossing the Selenga at Selenginsk. We slept most of the
first night, and timed our arrival at Selenginsk so as to find the
school in session. During a brief halt while the smotretal prepared
our breakfast, Maack visited the school-master at his post of duty.

Over the hills behind a lake about a day's ride from Selenginsk there
is a Bouriat village of a sacred character. It is the seat of a large
temple or lamisary whence all the Bouriats in Siberia receive their
religious teachings. A grand lama specially commissioned by the great
chief of the Bhuddist faith at Thibet, presides over the lamisary. He
is supposed to partake of the immortal essence of Bhudda, and when his
body dies, his spirit enters a younger person who becomes the lama
after passing a certain ordeal.

The village is wholly devoted to religious purposes, and occupied
exclusively by Bouriats. I was anxious to visit it, but circumstances
did not favor my desires.

We made both crossings of the Selenga on the ice without difficulty.
It was only a single day from the time the ferry ceased running until
the ice was safe for teams. We reached Verkne Udinsk late in the
evening, and drove to a house where my companion had friends. The good
lady brought some excellent nalifka of her own preparation, and the
more we praised it the more she urged us to drink. What with tea,
nalifka, and a variety of solid food, we were pretty well filled
during a halt of two hours.

It was toward midnight when we emerged from the house to continue our
journey. Maack found his tarantass at Verkne Udinsk, and as it was
larger and better than mine we assigned the latter to Evan and the
baggage, and took the best to ourselves. Evan was a Yakut whom my
friend brought from the Lena country. He was intelligent and active,
and assisted greatly to soften the asperities of the route. With my
few words of Russian, and his quick comprehension, we understood each
other very well.

During the first few hours from Verkne Udinsk the sky was obscured and
the air warm. My furs were designed for cold weather, and their weight
in the temperature then prevailing threw me into perspiration. In my
dehar I was unpleasantly warm, and without it I shivered. I kept
alternately opening and closing the garment, and obtained very little
sleep up to our arrival at the first station. While we were changing
horses the clouds blew away and the temperature fell several degrees.
Under the influence of the cold I fell into a sound sleep, and did not
heed the rough, grater-like surface of the recently frozen road.

From Verkne Udinsk to Lake Baikal, the road follows the Selenga
valley, which gradually widens as one descends it. The land appears
fertile and well adapted to farming purposes but only a small portion
is under cultivation. The inhabitants are pretty well rewarded for
their labor if I may judge by the appearance of their farms and
villages. Until reaching Ilyensk, I found the cliffs and mountains
extending quite near the river. In some places the road is cut into
the rocks in such a way as to afford excitement to a nervous traveler.

The villages were numerous and had an air of prosperity. Here and
there new houses were going up, and made quite a contrast to the old
and decaying habitations near them. My attention was drawn to the
well-sweeps exactly resembling those in the rural districts of New
England. From the size of the sweeps, I concluded the wells were deep.
The soil in the fields had a loose, friable appearance that reminded
me of the farming lands around Cleveland, Ohio.

One of the villages where we changed horses is called Kabansk from the
Russian word '_Kaban_' (wild boar). This animal abounds in the
vicinity and is occasionally hunted for sport. The chase of the wild
boar is said to be nearly as dangerous as that of the bear, the brute
frequently turning upon his pursuer and making a determined fight. We
passed the Monastery of Troitska founded in 1681 for the conversion of
the Bouriats. It is an imposing edifice built like a Russian church in
the middle of a large area surrounded by a high wall. Though it must
have impressed the natives by its architectural effects it was
powerless to change their faith.

[Illustration: WILD BOAR HUNT.]

As it approaches Lake Baikal the Selenga divides into several
branches, and encloses a large and very fertile delta. The afternoon
following our departure from Verkne Udinsk, we came in sight of the
lake, and looked over the blue surface of the largest body of fresh
water in Northern Asia. The mountains on the western shore appeared
about eight or ten miles away, though they were really more than
thirty. We skirted the shore of the lake, turning our horses' heads to
the southward. The clear water reminded me of Lake Michigan as one
sees it on approaching Chicago by railway from the East. Its waves
broke gently on a pebbly beach, where the cold of commencing winter
had changed much of the spray to ice.

There was no steamer waiting at Posolsky, but we were told that one
was hourly expected. Maack was radiant at finding a letter from his
wife awaiting him at the station. I enquired for letters but did not
obtain any. Unlike my companion. I had no wife at Irkutsk.

[Illustration: A WIFE AT IRKUTSK.]

[Illustration: NO WIFE AT IRKUTSK.]

The steamboat landing is nine versts below the town, and as the post
route ended at Posolsky, we were obliged to engage horses at a high
rate, to take us to the port. The alternate freezing and thawing of
the road--its last act was to freeze--had rendered it something like
the rough way in a Son-of-Malta Lodge. The agent assured us the
steamer would arrive during the night. Was there ever a steamboat
agent who did not promise more than his employers performed?

According to the tourist's phrase the port of Posolsky can be 'done'
in about five minutes. The entire settlement comprised two buildings,
one a hotel, and the other a storehouse and stable. A large quantity
of merchandise was piled in the open air, and awaited removal.

It included tea from Kiachta, and vodki or native whiskey from
Irkutsk. There are several distilleries in the Trans-Baikal province,
but they are unable to meet the demand in the country east of the
lake. From what I saw _in transitu_ the consumption must be enormous.
The government has a tax on vodki equal to about fifty cents a gallon,
which is paid by the manufacturers. The law is very strict, and the
penalties are so great that I was told no one dared attempt an evasion
of the excise duties, except by bribing the collector.

The hotel was full of people waiting for the boat, and the
accommodations were quite limited. We thought the tarantass preferable
to the hotel, and retired early to sleep in our carriage. A teamster
tied his horses to our wheels, and as the brutes fell to kicking
during the night, and attempted to break away, they disturbed our
slumbers. I rose at daybreak and watched the yemshicks making their
toilet. The whole operation was performed by tightening the girdle and
rubbing the half-opened eyes.

Morning brought no boat. There was nothing very interesting after we
had breakfasted, and as we might be detained there a whole week, the
prospect was not charming. We organized a hunting excursion, Maack
with his gun and I with my revolver. I assaulted the magpies which
were numerous and impertinent, and succeeded in frightening them.
Gulls were flying over the lake; Maack desired one for his cabinet at
Irkutsk, but couldn't get him. He brought down an enormous crow, and
an imprudent hawk that pursued a small bird in our vicinity. His last
exploit was in shooting a partridge which alighted, strange to say, on
the roof of the hotel within twenty feet of a noisy crowd of
yemshicks. The bird was of a snowy whiteness, the Siberian partridge
changing from brown to white at the beginning of winter, and from
white to brown again as the snow disappears.

A "soudna" or sailing barge was anchored at the entrance of a little
bay, and was being filled with tea to be transported to Irkutsk. The
soudna is a bluff-bowed, broad sterned craft, a sort of cross between
Noah's Ark and a Chinese junk. It is strong but not elegant, and might
sail backward or sidewise nearly as well as ahead. Its carrying
capacity is great in proportion to its length, as it is very wide and
its sides rise very high above the water. Every soudna I saw had but
one mast which carried a square sail. These vessels can only sail
with the wind, and then not very rapidly. An American pilot boat could
pass a thousand of them without half trying.

About noon we saw a thin wreath of smoke betokening the approach of
the steamer. In joy at this welcome sight we dined and bought tickets
for the passage, ours of the first class being printed in gold, while
Evan's billet for the deck was in Democratic black. It cost fifteen
roubles for the transport of each tarantass, but our baggage was taken
free, and we were not even required to unload it.

[Illustration: A SOUDNA.]

There is no wharf at Posolsky and no harbor, the steamers anchoring in
the open water half a mile from shore. Passengers, mails, and baggage
are taken to the steamer in large row boats, while heavy freight is
carried in soudnas. The boat that took us brought a convoy of exiles
before we embarked. They formed a double line at the edge of the lake
where they were closely watched by their guards. When we reached the
steamer we found another party of prisoners waiting to go on shore.
All were clad in sheepskin pelisses and some carried extra garments.
Several women and children accompanied the party, and I observed two
or three old men who appeared little able to make a long journey. One
sick man too feeble to walk, was supported by his guards and his
fellow prisoners.

Though there was little wind, and that little blew from shore, the
boat danced uneasily on the waves. Our carriages came off on the last
trip of the boat, and were hoisted by means of a running tackle on one
of the steamer's yards.

While our embarkation was progressing a crew of Russians and Bouriats
towed the now laden soudna to a position near our stern. When all was
ready, we took her hawser, hoisted our anchor and steamed away. For
some time I watched the low eastern shore of the lake until it
disappeared in the distance. Posolsky has a monastery built on the
spot where a Russian embassador with his suite was murdered by
Bouriats about the year 1680. The last objects I saw behind me were
the walls, domes, and turrets of this monastery glistening in the
afternoon sunlight. They rose clear and distinct on the horizon, an
outwork of Christianity against the paganism of Eastern Asia.

The steamer was the _Ignalienif_, a side wheel boat of about 300 tons.
Her model was that of an ocean or coasting craft, she had two masts,
and could spread a little sail if desired. Her engines were built at
Ekaterineburg in the Ural Mountains, and hauled overland 2500 miles.
She and her sister boat, the _General Korsackoff_, are very profitable
to their owners during the months of summer. They carry passengers,
mails, and light freight, and nearly always have one or two soudnas in
tow. Their great disadvantage at present is the absence of a port on
the eastern shore.

The navigation of Lake Baikal is very difficult. Storms arise with
little warning, and are often severe. At times the boats are obliged
to remain for days in the middle of the lake as they cannot always
make the land while a gale continues. There was very little breeze
when we crossed, but the steamer was tossed quite roughly. The winds
blowing from the mountains along the lake, frequently sweep with great
violence and drive unlucky soudnas upon the rocks.

The water of the lake is so clear that one can see to a very great
depth. The lake is nearly four hundred miles long by about thirty or
thirty-five in width; it is twelve hundred feet above the sea level,
and receives nearly two hundred tributaries great and small. Its
outlet, the Angara, is near the southwestern end, and is said to carry
off not more than a tenth of the water that enters the lake. What
becomes of the surplus is a problem no one has been able to solve. The
natives believe there is an underground passage to the sea, and sonic
geologists favor this opinion. Soundings of 2000 feet have been made
without finding bottom. On the western shore the mountains rise
abruptly from the water, and in some places no bottom has been found
at 400 feet depth, within pistol shot of the bank. This fact renders
navigation dangerous, as a boat might be driven on shore in even a
light breeze before her anchors found holding ground.

The natives have many superstitions concerning Lake Baikal. In their
language it is the "Holy Sea," and it would be sacrilege to term it a
lake. Certainly it has several marine peculiarities. Gulls and other
ocean birds frequent its shores, and it is the only body of fresh
water on the globe where the seal abounds. Banks of coral like those
in tropical seas exist in its depths.

[Illustration: AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE.]

The mountains on the western shore are evidently of volcanic origin,
and earthquakes are not unfrequent. A few years ago the village of
Stepnoi, about twenty miles from the mouth of the Selenga, was
destroyed by an earthquake. Part of the village disappeared beneath
the water while another part after sinking was lifted twenty or thirty
feet above its original level. Irkutsk has been frequently shaken at
the foundations, and on one occasion the walls of its churches were
somewhat damaged. Around Lake Baikal there are several hot springs,
some of which attract fashionable visitors from Irkutsk during the
season.

[Illustration: LAKE BAIKAL IN WINTER]

The natives say nobody was ever lost in Lake Baikal. When a person is
drowned there the waves invariably throw his body on shore.

The lake does not freeze until the middle of December, and sometimes
later. Its temperature remains pretty nearly the same at all seasons,
about 48° Fahrenheit. In winter it is crossed on the ice, the passage
ordinarily occupying about five hours. The lake generally freezes when
the air is perfectly still so that the surface is of glossy smoothness
until covered with snow. A gentleman in Irkutsk described to me his
feelings when he crossed Lake Baikal in winter for the first time. The
ice was six feet thick, but so perfectly transparent that he seemed
driving over the surface of the water. The illusion was complete, and
not wholly dispelled when he alighted. "Starting from the western
side, the opposite coast was not visible, and I experienced" said my
friend, "the sensation of setting out in a sleigh to cross the
Atlantic from Liverpool to New York."

In summer and in winter communication is pretty regular, but there is
a suspension of travel when the ice is forming, and another when it
breaks up. This causes serious inconvenience, and has led the
government to build a road around the southern extremity of the lake.
The mountains are lofty and precipitous, and the work is done at vast
expense. The road winds over cliffs and crags sometimes near the lake
and again two thousand feet above it. Largo numbers of peasants,
Bouriats, and prisoners have been employed there for several years,
but the route was not open for wheeled vehicles at the time I crossed
the lake.

One mode of cutting the road through the mountains was to build large
bonfires in winter when the temperature was very low. The heat caused
the rock to crack so that large masses could be removed, but the
operation was necessarily slow. The insurrection of June, 1866,
occurred on this road.

Formerly a winter station was kept on the ice half-way across the
lake. By a sudden thaw at the close of one winter the men and horses
of a station were swallowed up, and nothing was known of them until
weeks afterward, when their bodies were washed ashore. Since this
catastrophe the entire passage of the lake, about forty miles, is made
without change of horses.

We left Posolsky and enjoyed a sunset on the lake. The mountains rise
abruptly on the western and southeastern shores, and many of their
snow covered peaks were beautifully tinged by the fading sunlight. The
illusion regarding distances was difficult to overcome, and could only
be realized by observing how very slowly we neared the mountains we
were approaching. The atmosphere was of remarkable purity, and its
powers of refraction reminded me of past experience in the Rocky
Mountains. We had sunset and moon-rise at once. 'Adam had no more in
Eden save the head of Eve upon his shoulder.'

The boat went directly across and then followed the edge of the lake
to Listvenichna, our point of debarkation. There was no table on
board. We ordered the samovar, made our own tea, and supped from the
last of our commissary stores. Our fellow passengers in the cabin were
two officers traveling to Irkutsk, and a St. Petersburg merchant who
had just finished the Amoor Company's affairs. We talked, ate, drank,
smoked, and slept during the twelve hours' journey.

Congratulate us on our quick passage! On her very next voyage the
steamer was eight days on the lake, the wind blowing so that she could
not come to either shore. To be cooped on this dirty and ill-provided
boat long enough to cross the Atlantic is a fate I hope never to
experience.

There is a little harbor at Listvenichna and we came alongside a
wharf. Maack departed with our papers to procure horses, and left me
to look at the vanishing crowd. Take the passengers from the steerage
of a lake or river steamer in America, dress them in sheepskin coats
and caps, let them talk a language you cannot understand, and walk
them into a cloud of steam as if going overboard in a fog, and you
have a passable reproduction of the scene. A bright fire should be
burning on shore to throw its contrast of light and shadow over the
surroundings and heighten the picturesque effect.

Just as the deck hands were rolling our carriages on shore my
companion returned, and announced our horses ready. We sought a little
office near the head of the wharf where the chief of the '_tamojna_'
(custom house) held his court. This official was known to Mr. Maack,
and on our declaring that we had no dutiable effects we were passed
without search.

As before remarked all the country east of Lake Baikal is open to free
trade. This result has been secured by the efforts of the present
governor general of Eastern Siberia. Under his liberal and enlightened
policy he has done much to break down the old restrictions and develop
the resources of a country over which he holds almost autocratic
power. It was about three in the morning when we started over the
frozen earth. Two miles from the landing we reached the custom house
barrier where a pole painted with the government colors stretched
across the road. Presenting our papers from the chief officer we were
not detained. On the steamer when we were nearing harbor our
conversation turned upon the custom house. It was positively asserted
that the officials were open to pecuniary compliments, much, I presume
like those in other lands. The gentleman from the Amoor had
considerable baggage, and prepared a five rouble note to facilitate
his business. Evidently he gave too little or did not bribe the right
man, as I left him vainly imploring to be let alone in the centre of a
pile of open baggage, like Marius in the ruins of Carthage.

The road follows the right bank of the Angara from the point where it
leaves the lake. The current here is very strong, and the river rushes
and breaks like the rapids of the St. Lawrence. For several miles from
its source it never freezes even in the coldest winters. During the
season of ice this open space is the resort of many waterfowl, and is
generally enveloped in a cloud of mist. At the head of the river rises
a mass of rock known as _Shaman Kamen_ (spirit's rock). It is held in
great veneration by the natives, and is believed to be the abode of a
spirit who constantly overlooks the lake. When shamanism prevailed in
this region many human sacrifices were made at the sacred rock. The
most popular method was by tying the hands of the victim and tossing
him into the 'hell of waters' below.

Many varieties of fish abound in the lake, and ascend its tributary
rivers. The fishery forms quite a business for the inhabitants of the
region, who find a good market at Irkutsk. The principal fish taken
are two or three varieties of sturgeon, the herring, pike, carp, the
_askina_, and a white fish called _tymain_. There is a remarkable fish
consisting of a mass of fat that burns like a candle and melts away in
the heat of the sun or a fire. It is found dead on the shores of the
lake after violent storms. A live one has never been seen.

[Illustration: A SPECIMEN.]

The distance to Irkutsk from our landing was about forty miles, and we
hoped to arrive in time for breakfast. A snow storm began about
dayliglit, so that I did not see much of the wooded valley of the
river. We met a train of sixty or seventy carts, each carrying a cask
of vodki. This liquid misery was on its way to the Trans-Baikal, and
the soudna which brought a load of tea would carry vodki as a return
cargo.

The clouds thinned and broke, the snow ceased falling, and the valley
became distinct. While I admired its beauty, we reached the summit of
a hill and I saw before me a cluster of glittering domes and turrets,
rising from a wide bend in the Angara. At first I could discern only
churches, but very soon I began to distinguish the streets, avenues,
blocks, and houses of a city. We entered Irkutsk through its eastern
gate, and drove rapidly along a wide street, the busiest I had yet
seen in Asiatic Russia.

Just as the sun burst in full splendor through the departing clouds, I
alighted in the capital of Oriental Siberia, half around the world
from my own home.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--THE WORLD]



CHAPTER XXXIV.


As we entered the city a Cossack delivered a letter announcing that I
was to be handed over to the police, who had a lodging ready for me.
On learning of my presence at Kiachta the Governor General kindly
requested an officer of his staff to share his rooms with me. Captain
Paul, with whom I was quartered, occupied pleasant apartments
overlooking the _gastinni-dvor_. He was leading a bachelor life in a
suite of six rooms, and had plenty of space at my disposal. That I
might lose no time, the Chief of Police stationed the Cossack with a
letter telling me where to drive.

I removed the dust and costume of travel as soon as possible, and
prepared to pay my respects to the Governor General. My presentation
was postponed to the following day, and as the Russian etiquette
forbade my calling on other officials before I had seen the chief,
there was little to be done in the matter of visiting.

The next morning I called upon General Korsackoff, delivered my
letters of introduction, and was most cordially welcomed to Irkutsk.
The Governor General of Eastern Siberia controls a territory larger
than all European Russia, and much of it is not yet out of its
developing stage. He has a heavy responsibility upon his shoulders in
leading his subjects in the way best for their interests and those of
the crown. Much has been done under the energetic administration of
General Korsackoff and his predecessor, and there is room to
accomplish much more. The general has ably withstood the cares and
hardships of his Siberian life. He is forty-five years of age, active
and vigorous, and capable of doing much before his way of life is
fallen into the sere and yellow leaf. Like Madame De Stael, he
possesses the power of putting visitors entirely at their ease. To my
single countrywomen I will whisper that General Korsackoff is of about
medium height, has a fair complexion, blue eyes, and Saxon hair, and a
face which the most crabbed misanthrope could not refuse to call
handsome. He is unmarried, and if rumor tells the truth, not under
engagement.

[Illustration: GOV. GEN'L KORSACKOFF.]

The Governor General lives in a spacious and elegant house on the bank
of the Angara, built by a merchant who amassed an immense fortune in
the Chinese trade. On retiring from business he devoted his time and
energies to constructing the finest mansion in Eastern Siberia. It is
a stone building of three stories, and its halls and parlors are of
liberal extent. Furniture was brought from St. Petersburg at enormous
cost, and the whole establishment was completed without regard to
expense. At the death of its builder the house was purchased by
government, and underwent a few changes to adapt it to its official
occupants. On the opposite bank of the river there is a country seat,
the private property of General Korsackoff, and his dwelling place in
the hot months.

It was my good fortune that Mr. Maack was obliged by etiquette to
visit his friends on returning from his journey. I arranged to
accompany him, and during that day and the next we called upon many
persons of official and social position. These included the Governor
and Vice Governor of Irkutsk, the chief of staff and heads of
departments, the mayor of the city, and the leading merchants.
Succeeding days were occupied in receiving return visits, and when
these were ended I was fairly a member of the society of the Siberian
capital.

The evening after my arrival I returned early to my lodgings to
indulge in a Russian bath. Captain Paul was absent, but his servant
managed to inform me by words and pantomime that all was ready. On the
captain's return the man said he had told me in German that the bath
was waiting.

"How did you speak German?" asked the captain, aware that his man knew
nothing but Russian.

"Oh," said the servant, "I rubbed my hands over my face and arms and
pointed toward the bath-room."

On the morning after my arrival the proprietor of the house asked for
my passport; when it returned it bore the visa of the chief of police.
There is a regulation throughout Russia that every hotel keeper or
other householder shall register his patrons with the police. By this
means the authorities can trace the movements of '_suspects_' and
prevent unlicensed travel. In Siberia the plan is particularly
valuable in keeping exiles on the spots assigned them.

At St. Petersburg and Moscow the police keep a directory and hold it
open to the public. When I reached the capital and wished to find some
friends who arrived a few days before me, I obtained their address
from this directory. Those who sought my whereabouts found me in the
same way.

The weather was steadily cold--about zero Fahrenheit--and was called
mild for the season by the residents of Irkutsk. I brought from New
York a heavy overcoat that braved the storms of Broadway the winter
before my departure. My Russian friends pronounced it _nechevo_
(nothing,) and advised me to procure a '_shooba,_' or cloak lined with
fur. The shooba reaches nearly to one's feet, and is better adapted to
riding than walking. It can be lined according to the means and
liberality of the wearer. Sable is most expensive, and sheepskin the
least. Both accomplish the same end, as they contain about equal
quantities of heat.

The streets of Irkutsk are of good width and generally intersect at
right angles. Most of the buildings are of wood, and usually large and
well built. The best houses are of stone, or of brick covered with
plaster to resemble stone. Very few dwellings are entered directly
from the street, the outer doors opening into yards according to the
Russian custom. To visit a person you pass into an enclosure through a
strong gateway, generally open by day but closed at night. A
'_dvornik_' (doorkeeper) has the control of this gate, and is
responsible for everything within it. Storehouses and all other
buildings of the establishment open upon the enclosure, and frequently
two or more houses have one gate in common.

The stores or magazines are numerous, and well supplied with European
goods. Some of the stocks are very large, and must require heavy
capital or excellent credit to manage them. Tailors and milliners are
abundant, and bring their modes from Paris. Occasionally they paint
their signs in French, and display the latest novelties from the
center of fashion. Bakers are numerous and well patronized.
'_Frantsooski kleb_,' (French bread,) which is simply white bread made
into rolls, is popular and largely sold in Irkutsk.

One of my daily exercises in Russian was to spell the signs upon the
stores. In riding I could rarely get more than half through a word
before I was whisked out of sight. I never before knew how convenient
are symbolic signs to a man who cannot read. A picture of a hat, a
glove, or a loaf of bread was far more expressive to my eye than the
word _shapka_, _perchatki_, or _kleb_, printed in Russian letters.

The Russians smoke a great deal of tobacco in paper cigarettes or
'_papiros_.' Everywhere east of Lake Baikal the papiros of Irkutsk is
in demand, and the manufacture there is quite extensive. In Irkutsk
and to the westward the brand of Moscow is preferred. The consumption
of tobacco in this form throughout the empire must be something
enormous. I have known a party of half a dozen persons to smoke a
hundred cigarettes in an afternoon and evening. Many ladies indulge in
smoking, but the practice is not universal. I do not remember any
unmarried lady addicted to it.

Irkutsk was founded in 1680, and has at present a population of
twenty-eight or thirty thousand. About four thousand gold miners spend
the winter and their money in the city. Geographically it is in
Latitude 52° 40' north, and Longitude 104° 20' east from Greenwich.
Little wind blows there, and storms are less frequent than at Moscow
or St. Petersburg. The snows are not abundant, the quantity that falls
being smaller than in Boston and very much less than in Montreal or
Quebec. In summer or winter the panorama of Irkutsk and its
surroundings is one of great beauty.

[Illustration: VIEW IN IRKUTSK.]

There are twenty or more churches, of which nearly all are large and
finely placed. Several of them were planned and constructed by two
Swedish engineer officers captured at Pultawa and exiled to Siberia.
They are excellent monuments of architectural skill, and would be
ornamental to any European city.

The Angara at Irkutsk is about six hundred yards wide, and flows with
a current of six miles an hour. It varies in height not more than ten
or twelve inches during the entire year. It does not freeze until the
middle of January, and opens early in May. There are two swinging
ferries for crossing the river. A stout cable is anchored in
mid-stream, and the ferry-boat attached to its unanchored end. The
slack of the cable is buoyed by several small boats, over which it
passes at regular intervals. The ferry swings like a horizontal
pendulum, and is propelled by turning its sides at an angle against
the current. I crossed on this ferry in four minutes from bank to
bank.

There are many public carriages in the streets, to be hired at thirty
copecks the hour; but the drivers, like their profession everywhere,
are inclined to overcharge. Every one who thinks he can afford it,
keeps a team of his own, the horses being generally of European stock.
A few horses have been brought from St. Petersburg; the journey
occupies a full year, and the animals, when safely arrived, are very
costly. Private turnouts are neat and showy, and on a fine afternoon
the principal drives of the city are quite gay. General Korsackoff has
a light wagon from New York for his personal driving in summer.

I found here a curious regulation. Sleighs are prohibited by municipal
law from carrying bells in the limits of the city. Reason: in a great
deal of noise pedestrians might be run over. In American cities the
law requires bells to be worn. Reason: unless there is a noise
pedestrians might be run over.

"You pays your money and you takes your choice."

Cossack policemen watch the town during the day, and at night there
are mounted and foot patrols carrying muskets with fixed bayonets.
Every block and sometimes every house has its private watchman, and at
regular intervals during the night you may hear these guardians
thumping their long staves on the pavement to assure themselves and
others that they are awake. The fire department belongs to the police,
and its apparatus consists of hand engines, water carts, and hook and
ladder wagons. There are several watch towers, from which a semaphore
telegraph signals the existence of fire. An electric apparatus was
being arranged during my stay.

During my visit there was an alarm of fire, and I embraced the
opportunity to see how the Russians 'run with the machine.' When I
reached the street the engines and water carts were dashing in the
direction of the fire. The water carts were simply large casks mounted
horizontally on four wheels; a square hole in the top served to admit
a bucket or a suction hose. Those carts bring water from the nearest
point of supply, which may be the river or an artificial reservoir,
according to the locality of the fire. Engines and carts are drawn by
horses, which appear well selected for strength and activity. All the
firemen wore brass helmets.

The burning house was small and quite disengaged from others, and as
there was no wind there was no danger of a serious conflagration. The
Chief of Police directed the movements of his men. The latter worked
their engines vigorously, but though the carts kept in active motion
the supply of water was not equal to the demand. For some time it
seemed doubtful which would triumph, the flames or the police. Fortune
favored the brave. The building was saved, though in a condition of
incipient charcoalism.

The Chief of Police wore his full uniform and decorations as the law
requires of him when on duty. During the affair he was thoroughly
spattered with water and covered with dirt and cinders. When he
emerged he presented an appearance somewhat like that of a butterfly
after passing through a sausage machine. A detachment of soldiers came
to the spot but did not form a cordon around it. Every spectator went
as near the fire as he thought prudent, but was careful not to get in
the way. Two or three thousand officers, soldiers, merchants, exiles,
moujiks, women, boys, and beggars gathered in the street to look at
the display.

The Russian fire engines and water carts with their complement of men,
and each drawn by three horses abreast, present a picturesque
appearance as they dash through the streets. The engines at Irkutsk
are low-powered squirts, worked by hand, less effective than the hand
engines used in America twenty or thirty years ago, and far behind our
steamers of the present day. In Moscow and St. Petersburg the fire
department has been greatly improved during the past ten years, and is
now quite efficient.

The markets of Irkutsk are well supplied with necessaries of life.
Beef is abundant and good, at an average retail price of seven copecks
a pound. Fish and game are plentiful, and sell at low figures. The
_rebchik_, or wood-hen, is found throughout Siberia, and is much
cheaper in the market than any kind of domestic fowl. Pork, veal, and
mutton are no more expensive than beef, and all vegetables of the
country are at corresponding rates. In fact if one will eschew
European luxuries he can live very cheaply at Irkutsk. Everything that
comes from beyond the Urals is expensive, on account of the long land
carriage.

Champagne costs five or six roubles a bottle, and a great quantity of
it is drank. Sherry is from two to seven roubles according to quality,
and the same is the case with white and red wines. The lowest price of
sugar is thirty copecks the pound, and it is oftener forty-five or
fifty. Porter and ale cost two or three roubles a bottle, and none but
the best English brands are drank. The wines are almost invariably
excellent, and any merchant selling even a few cases of bad wine would
very likely lose his trade. Clothes and all articles of personal wear
cost about as much as in St. Louis or New Orleans. Labor is neither
abundant nor scarce. A good man-servant receives ten to fifteen
roubles a month with board.

Wood comes in soudnas from the shores of Lake Baikal and is very
cheap. These vessels descend the river by the force of the current,
but in going against it are towed by horses. The principal market
place is surrounded with shops where a varied and miscellaneous lot of
merchandise is sold. I found ready-made clothing, crockery, boots,
whisky, hats, furniture, flour, tobacco, and so on through a long list
of saleable and unsaleable articles. How such a mass could find
customers was a puzzle. Nearly all the shops are small and plain, and
there are many stalls or stands which require but a small capital to
manage. A great deal of haggling takes place in transactions at these
little establishments, and I occasionally witnessed some amusing
scenes.

The best time to view the market is on Sunday morning, when the
largest crowd is gathered. My first visit was made one Sunday when the
thermometer stood at -15° Fahrenheit. The market houses and the open
square were full of people, and the square abounded in horses and
sleds from the country. A great deal of traffic was conducted on these
sleds or upon the solid snow-packed earth. The crowd comprised men,
women, and children of all ages and all conditions in life. Peasants
from the country and laborers from the city, officers, tradesmen,
heads of families, and families without heads, busy men, and idlers,
were mingled as at a popular gathering in City Hall Park. Everybody
was in warm garments, the lower classes wearing coats and pelisses of
sheepskin, while the others were in furs more or less expensive.
Occasionally a drunken man was visible, but there were no indications
of a tendency to fight. The intoxicated American, eight times out of
ten, endeavors to quarrel with somebody, but our Muscovite neighbor is
of a different temperament. When drunk he falls to caressing and gives
kisses in place of blows.

[Illustration: A COLD ATTACHMENT.]

The most novel sight that day in the market at Irkutsk was the
embrace of two drunken peasants. They kissed each other so tenderly
and so long that the intense cold congealed their breath and froze
their beards together. I left them as they were endeavoring to arrange
a separation.

A few beggars circulated in the crowd and gathered here and there a
copeck.

The frost whitened the beards of the men and reddened the cheeks of
the women. Where hands were bared to the breeze they were of a
corned-beefy hue, and there were many persons stamping on the ground
or swinging their arms to keep up a circulation. The little horses,
standing, were white with frost, but none of them covered with
blankets. The Siberian horses are not blanketed in winter, but I was
told they did not suffer from cold. Their coats are thick and warm and
frequently appear more like fur than hair.

Everything that could be frozen had succumbed to the frost. There were
frozen chickens, partridges, and other game, thrown in heaps like
bricks or stove wood. Beef, pork, and mutton, were alike solid, and
some of the vendors had placed their animals in fantastic positions
before freezing them. In one place I saw a calf standing as if ready
to walk away. His skin remained, and at first sight I thought him
alive, but was undeceived when a man overturned the unresisting beast.
Frozen fish were piled carelessly in various places, and milk was
offered for sale in cakes or bricks. A stick or string was generally
frozen into a corner of the mass to facilitate carrying. One could
swing a quart of milk at his side or wrap it in his kerchief at
discretion.

There were many peripatetic dealers in cakes and tea, the latter
carrying small kettles of the hot beverage, which they served in
tumblers. Occasionally there was a man with a whole litter of sucking
pigs frozen solid and slung over his shoulder or festooned into a
necklace. The diminutive size of these pigs awakened reflections upon
the brevity of swinish life.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Custom is the same at Irkutsk as in all fashionable society of the
empire. Visits of ceremony are made in full dress-uniform for an
officer and evening costume for a civilian. Ceremonious calls are
pretty short, depending of course upon the position and intimacy of
the parties. The Russians are very punctilious in making and receiving
visits. So many circumstances are to be considered that I was always
in dread of making a mistake of etiquette somewhere.

Nearly all my acquaintances in Irkutsk spoke French or English, though
comparatively few conversed with me in the latter tongue. The facility
with which the Russians acquire language has been often remarked.
Almost all Russians who possess any education, are familiar with at
least one language beside their own. Very often I found a person
conversant with two foreign languages, and it was no unusual thing to
find one speaking three. I knew a young officer at Irkutsk who spoke
German, French, English, and Swedish, and had a very fair smattering
of Chinese, Manjour, and Japanese. A young lady there conversed well
and charmingly in English, French, and German and knew something of
Italian. It was more the exception than the rule that I met an officer
with whom I could not converse in French. French is the society
language of the Russian capital, and one of the first requisites in
education.

Children are instructed almost from infancy. Governesses are generally
French or English, and conversation with their charges is rarely
conducted in Russian. Tutors are generally Germans familiar with
French. There is no other country in the world where those who can
afford it are so attentive to the education of their children. This
attention added to the peculiar temperament of the Russians makes them
the best linguists in the world.

An English gentleman and lady, the latter speaking Russian fluently,
lived in Siberia several years. During their sojourn a son was born to
them. It was a long time before he began talking, so long in fact,
that his parents feared he would be dumb. When he commenced he was
very soon fluent in both English and Russian. His long hesitation was
doubtless caused by the confusion of two languages.

[Illustration: QUEEN OF GREECE.]

The present emperor is an accomplished linguist, but no exception in
this particular to the Imperial family in general. The Queen of
Greece, a niece of the Emperor of Russia, is said to be very prompt to
learn a new language whenever it comes in her way, and when she was
selected for that royal position she conquered the greek language in a
very short time. French is the leading foreign language among the
Russians, and the second rank is held by the German. Of late years
English has become very popular, and is being rapidly acquired. The
present _entente cordiale_ between Russia and the United States is
exerting an influence for the increased study of our language. Why
should we not return the compliment and bestow a little attention upon
the Slavonic tongue?

Most persons in society at Irkutsk were from European Russia or had
spent some time in Moscow at St. Petersburg. Of the native born
Siberians there were few who had not made a journey beyond the Ural
Mountains. Among the officials, St. Petersburg was usually the
authority in the matter of life and habit, while the civilians turned
their eyes toward Moscow. Society in Irkutsk was not less polished
than in the capitals, and it possessed the advantage of being somewhat
more open and less rigid than under the shadow of the Imperial palace.
Etiquette is etiquette in any part of the empire, and its forms must
everywhere be observed. But after the social forms were complied, with
there was less stiffness than in European Russia.

Some travelers declare that they found Siberian society more polished
than that of Old Russia. On this point I cannot speak personally, as
my stay in the western part of the empire was too brief to afford much
insight into its life. There may be some truth in the statement.
Siberia has received a great many individuals of high culture in the
persons of its political exiles. Men of liberal education, active
intellects, and refined manners have been in large proportion among
the banished Poles, and the exiles of 1825 included many of Russia's
ablest minds. The influence of these exiles upon the intelligence,
habits, and manners of the Siberians, has left an indelible mark. As a
new civilization is more plastic than an old one, so the society of
Northern Asia may have become more polished than that of Ancient
Russia.

I could learn of only six of my countrymen who had been at Irkutsk
before me. Of these all but two passed through the city with little
delay, and were seen by very few persons. I happened to reach Siberia
when our iron-clad fleet was at Cronstadt, and its officers were being
feasted at St. Petersburg and elsewhere. The Siberians regretted that
Mr. Fox and his companions could not visit them, and experience their
hospitality. So they determined to expend their enthusiasm on the
first American that appeared, and rather unexpectedly I became the
recipient of the will of the Siberians toward the United States. Two
days after my arrival I was visited by Mr. Hamenof, one of the
wealthiest merchants of Irkutsk. As he spoke only Russian, he was
accompanied by my late fellow-traveler who came to interpret between
us, and open the conversation with--

"Mr. Hamenof presents his compliments, and wishes you to dine with him
day after to-morrow."

I accepted the invitation, and the merchant departed. Maack informed
me that the dinner would be a ceremonious one, attended by the
Governor General and leading officials.

About forty persons were present, and seated according to rank. The
tables were set on three sides of a square apartment, the post of
honor being in the central position facing the middle of the room. The
dinner was served in the French manner, and but for the language and
uniforms around me, and a few articles in the bill of fare, I could
have thought myself in a private parlor of the _Trois Freres_ or the
_Cafe Anglais_.

Madame Ditmar, the wife of the governor of the Trans-Baikal, was the
only lady present. When the champagne appeared, Mr. Hamenof proposed
"The United States of America," and prefaced his toast with a little
speech to his Russian guests. I proposed the health of the Emperor,
and then the toasts became irregular and applied to the Governor
General, the master of the house, the ladies of Siberia, the
Russo-American Telegraph, and various other persons, objects, and
enterprises.

From the dinner table we adjourned to the parlors where tea and coffee
were brought, and most of the guests were very soon busy at the card
tables. On reaching my room late at night, I found a Russian document
awaiting me, and with effort and a dictionary, I translated it into an
invitation to an official dinner with General Korsackoff. Five minutes
before the appointed hour I accompanied a friend to the Governor
General's house. As we entered, servants in military garb took our
shoobas, and we were ushered into a large parlor. General Korsackoff
and many of the invited guests were assembled in the parlor, and
within two minutes the entire party had gathered. As the clock struck
five the doors were thrown open, and the general led the way to the
dining hall.

I found at Irkutsk a great precision respecting appointments. When
dinners were to come off at a fixed hour all the guests assembled from
three to ten minutes before the time specified. I never knew any one
to come late, and all were equally careful not to come early. No one
could be more punctual than General Korsackoff, and his example was no
doubt carefully watched and followed. It is a rule throughout official
circles in Russia, if I am correctly informed, that tardiness implies
disrespect. Americans might take a few lessons of the Russians on the
subject of punctuality.

[Illustration: EMPEROR OF RUSSIA.]

The table was liberally decorated with flowers and plants, and the
whole surroundings were calculated to make one forget that he was in
cold and desolate Siberia. A band of music was stationed in the
adjoining parlor, and furnished us with Russian and American airs. At
the first toast General Korsackoff made a speech in Russian,
recounting the amity existing between the two nations and the visit of
our special embassy to congratulate the Emperor on his escape from
assassination. He thought the Siberians felt no less grateful at this
mark of sympathy than did the people of European Russia, and closed by
proposing, "The President, Congress, and People of the United States."
The toast was received with enthusiasm, the band playing Yankee
Doodle as an accompaniment to the cheering.

The speech was translated to me by Captain Linden, the private
Secretary of the Governor General, who spoke French and English
fluently. Etiquette required me to follow with a toast to the emperor
in my little speech. I spoke slowly to facilitate the hearing of those
who understood English. The Captain then translated it into Russian.

General Korsackoff spoke about four minutes, and I think my response
was of the same length. Both speeches were considered quite elaborate
by the Siberians, and one officer declared it was the longest
dinner-table address the general ever made. Two days later at another
dinner I asked a friend to translate my remarks when I came to speak.
He asked how long I proposed talking.

"About three minutes," was my reply.

"Oh," said he, "you had better make it one or two minutes. You made a
long speech at the Governor General's, and when you dine with a person
of less importance he will not expect you to speak as much."

I had not taken this view of the matter, as the American custom tends
to brevity on the ascending rather than on the descending scale.

Ten years earlier Major Collins dined with General Mouravieff in the
same hall where I was entertained. After dinner I heard a story at the
expense of my enterprising predecessor. It is well known that the
Major is quite a speech maker at home, and when he is awakened on a
favorite subject he has no lack either of ideas or words.

On the occasion just mentioned, General Mouravieff gave the toast,
"Russia and America," Major Collins rose to reply and after speaking
six or eight minutes came to a pause. Captain Martinoff, who
understood English, was seated near the Major. As the latter stopped,
General Mouravieff turned to the Captain and asked:

"Will you be kind enough to translate what has been said?"

"_Blagodariete_," (he thanks you) said the captain. The Major
proceeded six or eight minutes more and paused again.

"Translate," was the renewed command of the Governor General.

"He thanks you very much."

Again another period of speech and the address was finished.

"Translate if you please," the general suggested once more to his aid.

"He thanks you very much indeed."

The Major was puzzled, and turning to Captain Martinoff remarked that
the Russian language must be very comprehensive when a speech of
twenty minutes could be translated in three or four words.

On days when I was disengaged I dined at the _Amoorski Gastinitza_ or
Amoor Hotel. The hotel comprised two buildings, one containing the
rooms of lodgers, and the other devoted to restaurant, dining and
billiard rooms. In the dining department there were several rooms, a
large one for a restaurant and table d'hote, and the rest for private
parties. Considering the general character of Russian hotels the one
at Irkutsk was quite creditable. In its management, cookery, and
service it would compare favorably with the establishments on
Courtlandt Street or Park Row.

In the billiard room there were two tables on which I sometimes
complied with a request to 'show the American game.' The tables had
six pockets each, and as the cues had no leather tips, there was an
unpleasant clicking whenever they wore used. The Russian game of
billiards is played with five balls, and the science consists in
pocketing the balls. The carom does not count.

The first time I dined at the hotel the two candles burned dimly, and
we called for a third. When it was brought the servant drew a small
table near us and placed the extra candle upon it. I asked the reason
for his doing so, and it was thus explained.

There is a superstition in Russia that if three lighted candles are
placed upon a table some one in the room will die within a year.
Everybody endeavors to avoid such a calamity. If you have two candles
and order another, the servant will place the third on a side table or
he will bring a fourth and make your number an even one.

There was formerly a theatre at Irkutsk, but it was burned a few years
ago, and has not been rebuilt. During my stay there was a musical
concert in the large hall of the officers' club, and a theatrical
display was prepared but not concluded before my departure. At the
concert a young officer, Captain Lowbry, executed on the piano several
pieces of his own composition, and was heartily applauded by the
listeners. Once a week there was a social party at the club house
where dancing, cards, billiards, and small talk continued till after
midnight.

Nearly every one in society kept 'open house' daily. In most of the
families where I was acquainted tea was taken at 8 P.M., and any
friend could call at that hour without ceremony. The samovar was
placed on the table, and one of the ladies presided over the tea.
Those who wished it could sit at table, but there was no formal
spreading of the cloth. Tea was handed about the room and each one
took it at his liking. I have seen in these social circles a most
pleasing irregularity in tea drinking. Some were seated on sofas and
chairs, holding cups and saucers in their hands or resting them upon
tables; other stood in groups of two, three, or more; others were at
cards, and sipped their tea at intervals of the games; and a few were
gathered around the hostess at the samovar. The time passed in
whatever amusements were attainable. There were cards for some and
conversation for others, with piano music, little dances and general
sports of considerable variety. Those evenings at Irkutsk were
delightful, and I shall always remember them with pleasure.

What with visits, dinners, balls, suppers, social evenings, and sleigh
rides, I had little time to myself, and though I economized every
minute I did not succeed in finishing my letters and journal until
the very day before my departure. The evening parties lasted pretty
late. They generally closed with a supper toward the wee small hours,
and the good nights were not spoken until about two in the morning.

There is a peculiarity about a Russian party,--whether a quiet social
assemblage or a stately ball,--that the whole house is thrown open. In
America guests are confined to the parlors and the dancing and supper
apartments, from the time they leave the cloaking rooms till they
prepare for departure. In Russia they can wander pretty nearly where
they please, literally "up stairs, down stairs, or in my lady's
chamber." Of course all the rooms are prepared for visitors, but I
used at first to feel a shrinking sensation when I sauntered into the
private study and work room of my official host, or found myself among
the scent bottles and other toilet treasures of a lady acquaintance.
This literal keeping of 'open house' materially assists to break the
stiffness of an assemblage though it can hardly be entirely convenient
to the hosts.

Immediately after my entertainment with General Korsackoff, the mayor
of Irkutsk invited me to an official dinner at his house. This was
followed a few days later by a similar courtesy on the part of Mr.
Trepaznikoff, the son of a wealthy merchant who died a few years ago.
Private dinners followed in rapid succession until I was qualified to
speak with practical knowledge of the Irkutsk cuisine. No stranger in
a strange land was ever more kindly taken in, and no hospitality was
ever bestowed with less ostentation. I can join in the general
testimony of travelers that the Russians excel in the ability to
entertain visitors.

Mr. Kartesheftsoff, the Mayor, or _Golovah_ as he is called, resided
in a large house that formerly belonged to Prince Trubetskoi, one of
the exiles of 1825. My host was an extensive owner of gold mines, and
had been very successful in working them. He was greatly interested in
the means employed in California for separating gold from earth, and
especially in the 'hydraulic' process. On my first visit Madame
Kartesheftsoff spoke very little French. She must have submitted her
studies to a thorough revision as I found her a week later able to
conduct a conversation with ease. There were other instances of a
vigorous overhauling of disused French and English that furnished
additional proof of the Russian adaptability to foreign tongues.

To reach the golovah's house we crossed, the Ouska-kofka, a small
river running through the northern part of Irkutsk; it had been
recently frozen, and several rosy-cheeked boys were skating on the
ice. The view from the bridge is quite picturesque, and the little
valley forms a favorite resort in certain seasons of the year. The
water of the Ouska-kofka is said to be denser than that of the Angara,
and on that account is preferred for culinary purposes.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--TWIN BOTTLES]



CHAPTER XXXVI.


I have made occasional mention of the exiles of 1825, and it may be
well to explain how they went to Siberia. In the early part of the
present century Russia was not altogether happy. The Emperor Paul,
called to the throne by the death of Catherine II., did not display
marked ability, but, 'on the contrary, quite the reverse.' What his
mother had done for the improvement of the country he was inclined to
undo. Under his reign great numbers were banished to Siberia upon
absurd charges or mere caprice. The emperor issued manifestoes of a
whimsical character, one of which was directed against round hats, and
another against shoe strings. The glaring colors now used upon
bridges, distance posts, watch boxes, and other imperial property,
were of his selection, and so numerous were his eccentricities that he
was declared of unsound mind. In March, 1801, he was smothered in his
palace, which he had just completed. It is said that within an hour
after the fact of his death was known round hats appeared on the
street in great numbers.

Alexander I. endeavored to repair some of the evils of his father's
reign. He recalled many exiles from Siberia, suppressed the secret
inquisition, and restored many rights of which the people had been
deprived. His greatest abilities were displayed during the wars with
France. After the general peace he devoted himself to inspecting and
developing the resources of the country, and was the first, and thus
far the only, emperor of Russia to cross the Ural Mountains and visit
the mines of that region. His death occurred during a tour through the
southern provinces of the empire. Some of his reforms were based upon
the principles of other European governments, which he endeavored to
study. On his return from England he told his council that the best
thing he saw there was the opposition in Parliament. He thought it a
part of the government machinery, and regretted it could not be
introduced in Russia.

Constantine, the eldest brother of Alexander I., had relinquished his
right to the crown, thus breaking the regular succession. From the
time of Paul a revolutionary party had existed, and once at least it
plotted the assassination of Alexander. There was an interregnum of
three weeks between the death of Alexander and the assumption of power
by his second brother, Nicholas. The change of succession strengthened
the revolutionists, and they employed the interregnum to organize a
conspiracy for seizing the government.

The conspiracy was wide spread, and included many of the ablest men of
the day. The army was seriously implicated. The revolutionists desired
a constitutional government, and their rallying cry of "CONSTITUTIA!"
was explained to the soldiers as the name of Constantine's wife. The
real design of the movement was not confided to the rank and file, who
supposed they were fighting for Constantine and the regular succession
of the throne.

Nicholas learned of the conspiracy the day before his ascension; the
Imperial guard of the palace was in the plot, and expected to seize
the emperor's person. The guard was removed during the night and a
battalion from Finland substituted. It is said that on receiving
intelligence of the assembling of the insurgents, the emperor called
his wife to the chapel of the palace, where he spent a few moments in
prayer. Then taking his son, the present emperor, he led him to the
soldiers of the new guard, confided him to their protection, and
departed for St. Isaac's Square to suppress the revolt. The soldiers
kept the boy until the emperor's return, and would not even surrender
him to his tutor.

The plot was so wide-spread that the conspirators had good promise of
success, but whole regiments backed out at the last moment and left
only a forlorn hope to begin the struggle. Nicholas rode with his
officers to St. Isaac's square, and twice commanded the assembled
insurgents to surrender. They refused, and were then saluted with "the
last argument of kings." A storm of grape shot, followed by a charge
of cavalry, put in flight all who were not killed, and ended the
insurrection.

A long and searching investigation followed, disclosing all the
ramifications of the plot. The conspirators declared they were led to
what they undertook by the unfortunate condition of the country and
the hope of improving it. Nicholas, concealed behind a screen, heard
most of the testimony and confessions, and learned therefrom a
wholesome lesson. The end of the affair was the execution of five
principal conspirators and the banishment of many others to Siberia.
The five that suffered capital punishment were hanged in front of the
Admiralty buildings in St. Petersburg. One rope was broken, and the
victim, falling to the ground, suffered such agony that the officer in
charge of the execution sent to the emperor asking what to do. "Take a
new rope and finish your duty," was the unpitying answer of Nicholas.

The accession of Nicholas and the attempted revolt occurred on the
14th December, (O.S.) 1825. Within six months from that date the most
of the conspirators reached Siberia. They were sent to different
districts, some to labor in the mines for specified periods, and
others to become colonists. They included some of the ablest men in
Russia, and were nearly all young and enterprising. Many of them were
married, and were followed into exile by their wives, though the
latter were only permitted to go to Siberia on condition of never
returning. Each of the exiles was deprived of all civil or political
rights, and declared legally dead. His property was confiscated to the
crown, and his wife considered a widow and could marry again if she
chose. To the credit of the Russian women, not one availed herself of
this privilege. I was told that nearly every married exile's family
followed him, and some of the unmarried ones were followed by their
sisters and mothers.

I have previously spoken of the effect of the unfortunates of the 14th
December upon the society and manners of Siberia. These men enjoyed
good social positions, and their political faults did not prevent
their becoming well received. Their sentence to labor in the mines was
not rigorously enforced, and lasted but two or three years at
farthest. They were subsequently employed at indoor work, and, as time
wore on and passion subsided, were allowed to select residences in
villages. Very soon they were permitted to go to the larger towns, and
once there, those whose wives possessed property in their own right
built themselves elegant houses and took the position to which their
abilities entitled them.

[Illustration: HOME OF TWO EXILES.]

General Korsackoff told me that when he first went to serve in Siberia
there was a ball one evening at the Governor General's. Noticing one
man who danced the Mazurka splendidly, he whispered to General
Mouravieff and asked his name. "That," said Mouravieff, "is a
revolutionist of 1825. He is one of the best men of society in
Irkutsk."

After their first few years of exile, the Decembrists had little to
complain of except the prohibition to return to Europe. To men whose
youth was passed in brilliant society and amid the gayeties of the
capital, this life in Siberia was no doubt irksome. Year after year
went by, and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their banishment they
looked for pardon. Little else was talked of among them for some
weeks, but they were doomed to disappointment. Nicholas had no
forgiving disposition, and those who plotted his overthrow were little
likely to obtain favor, even though a quarter of a century had elapsed
since their crime.

But the death of Nicholas and the coronation of Alexander II. wrought
a change for the exiles. Nicholas began his reign with an act of
severity; Alexander followed his ascension with one of clemency. By
imperial ukase he pardoned the exiles of 1825, restored them to their
civil and political rights, and permitted their return to Europe. As
the fathers were legally dead when sent into exile, the children born
to them in Siberia were illegitimate in the eye of the law and could
not even bear their own family name. Properly they belonged to the
government, and inherited their father's exile in not being permitted
to go to Europe. The ukase removed all these disabilities and gave the
children full authority to succeed to their father's hereditary titles
and social and political rights.

These exiles lived in different parts of Siberia, but chiefly in the
governments of Irkutsk and Yeneseisk. But the thirty years of the
reign of Nicholas were not uneventful. Death removed some of the
unfortunates. Others had dwelt so long in Siberia that they did not
wish to return to a society where they would be strangers. Some who
were unmarried at the time of their exile had acquired families in
Siberia, and thus fastened themselves to the country. Not more than
half of those living at the time of Alexander's coronation availed
themselves of his permission to return to Russia. The princes
Trubetskoi and Volbonskoi hesitated for some time, but finally
concluded to return. Both died in Europe quite recently. Their
departure was regretted by many persons in Irkutsk, as their absence
was quite a loss to society. I heard some curious reminiscences
concerning the Prince Volbonskoi. It was said that his wife and
children, with the servants, were the occupants of the large and
elegant house, the prince living in a small building in the court
yard. He had a farm near the town and sold the various crops to his
wife. Both the princes paid great attention to educating their
children and fitting them for ultimate social position in Europe.

While in Irkutsk I saw one of the Decembrists who had grown quite
wealthy as a wine merchant. Another of these exiles was mentioned, but
I did not meet him. Another resided at Selenginsk, a third near Verkne
Udinsk, and a fourth near Lake Baikal. There are several at other
points, but I believe the whole number of the Decembrists now in
Siberia is less than a dozen. Forty-two years have brought them to the
brink of the grave, and very soon the active spirits of that unhappy
revolt will have passed away.

The other political exiles in Siberia are almost entirely Poles. Every
insurrection in Poland adds to the population of Asiatic Russia, and
accomplishes very little else. The revolt of 1831 was prolific in this
particular, and so was that of 1863. Revolutions in Poland have been
utterly hopeless of success since the downfall and division of the
kingdom, but the Poles remain undaunted.

I do not propose entering into a discussion of the Polish question, as
it would occupy too much space and be foreign to the object of my
book; but I will briefly touch a few points. The Russians and Poles
were not inclined to amiability when both had separate governments.
Europe has never been converted to Republican principles, and however
much the Western powers may sympathize with Poland, they would be
unwilling to adopt for themselves the policy they desire for Russia.
England holds India and Ireland, regardless of the will of Indians
and Irish. France has her African territory which did not ask to be
taken under the tri-color, and we are all aware of the relations once
held by her emperor toward Mexico. It is much easier to look for
generosity and forbearance in others than in ourselves.

Those who are disposed to shed tears over the fate of Poland, should
remember that the unhappy country has only suffered the fortune of
war. When Russia and Poland began to measure swords the latter was the
more powerful, and for a time overran a goodly portion of the
Muscovite soil. We all know there has been a partition of Poland, but
are we equally aware that the Russia of Rurik and Ivan IV. was
partitioned in 1612 by the Swedes (at Novgorod) and the Poles (at
MOSCOW?) In 1612 the Poles held Moscow. The Russians rose against them
in that year, just as the Poles have since risen against the Russians,
but with a different result.

The Polish exiles of 1881 and previous years were pardoned by the same
ukase that liberated the Russian exiles of 1825. Just before the
insurrection of 1863 there were not many Poles in Siberia, except
those who remained of their own free will. The last insurrection
caused a fresh deportation, twenty-four thousand being banished beyond
the Ural Mountains. Ten thousand of these were sent to Eastern
Siberia, the balance being distributed in the governments west of the
Yenesei. The decree of June, 1867, allowed many of these prisoners to
return to Poland.

The government has always endeavored to scatter the exiles and prevent
their congregating in such numbers as to cause inconvenience. The
prime object of deportation to Siberia is to people the country and
develop its natural wealth. Though Russia occupies nearly an eighth of
the land on the face of the globe, her population numbers but about
seventy millions. It is her policy to people her territory, and she
bends her energies to this end. She does not allow the emigration of
her subjects to any appreciable extent, and she punishes but few
crimes with death. Notwithstanding her general tolerance on religious
matters, she punishes with severity a certain sect that discourages
propagation. There are other facts I might mention as illustrations
were it not for the fastidiousness of the present age. Siberia is much
more in need of population than European Russia, and exiles are sent
thither to become inhabitants.

So far as the matter of sentence goes there is little difference
between political and criminal exiles. The sentence is in accordance
with the offence to be punished, and may be light or severe. Some
exiles are simply banished to Siberia, and can do almost anything
except go away. They may travel as they choose, engage in business,
and even hold official position. It is no bar to their progress that
they emigrated involuntarily. If they forget their evil ways and are
good citizens, others will be equally oblivious and encourage them.
They have special inducements to become colonists and till the soil or
develop its mineral wealth. With honesty and industry they have at
least a fair chance in life.

Some exiles are confined to certain districts, governments, towns, or
villages, and must report at stated intervals to the Chief of Police.
These intervals are not the same in all cases, but vary from one day
to a month, or even more. Some are not allowed to go beyond specified
limits without express permission from the authorities, while others
may absent themselves as they choose during the intervals of reporting
to the police. Some can engage in whatever business they find
advantageous, while others are prohibited certain employments but not
restricted as to others.

If a man is sentenced to become a colonist, the government gives him a
house or means to build it, a plot of ground, and the necessary tools.
He is not allowed to be any thing else than a colonist. Criminals of a
certain grade cannot engage in commerce, and the same restriction
applies to 'politiques.' No criminal can be a teacher, either in a
public or private school, and no politique can teach in a public
school. While I was in Siberia an order was issued prohibiting the
latter class engaging in any kind of educational work except music,
drawing, and painting.

Many criminal and political offenders are 'drafted in the army' in
much the same manner that our prisons sent their able-bodied men into
military service during our late war. Their terms of enlistment are
various, but generally not less than fifteen years. The men receive
the pay and rations of soldiers, and have the possibility of promotion
before them. They are sent to regiments stationed at distant posts in
order to diminish the chances of desertion. The Siberian and Caucasian
regiments receive the greater portion of these recruits. Many members
of the peculiar religious sect mentioned elsewhere are sent to the
Caucasian frontier. They are said to be very tractable and obedient,
but not reliable for aggressive military operations.

An exile may receive from his friends money to an amount not exceeding
twenty-five roubles a month. If his wife has property of her own she
may enjoy a separate income. Those confined in prisons or kept at
labor may receive money to the same extent, but it must pass through
the hands of the officials. Of course the occupants of prisons are fed
by government, and so are those under sentence of hard labor. The men
restricted to villages and debarred from profitable employment receive
monthly allowances in money and flour, barely enough for their
subsistence. There are complaints that dishonest officials steal a
part of these allowances, but the practice is not as frequent as
formerly. A prisoner's comfort in any part of the world depends in a
great measure upon the character of the officer in charge of him.
Siberia offers no exception to this rule.

Formerly the Polish exiles enjoyed more social freedom than at
present. The cause of the change was thus explained to me:

Five or six years ago a Polish noble who had been exiled lived at
Irkutsk and enjoyed the friendship of several officers. The Amoor had
been recently opened, and this man asked and obtained the privilege of
visiting it, giving his parole not to leave Siberia. At Nicolayevsk
he embraced the opportunity to escape, and advised others to do the
same. This breach of confidence led to greater circumspection, and the
distrust was increased by the conduct of other exiles. Since that time
the Poles have been under greater restraint.

Many books on Russia contain interesting stories of the brutality
toward exiles, both on the road and after they have reached their
destination. Undoubtedly there have been instances of cruelty, just as
in every country in Christendom, but I do not believe the Russians are
worse in this respect than other people. I saw a great many exiles
during my journey through Siberia. Frequently when on the winter road
I met convoys of them, and never observed any evidence of needless
severity. Five-sixths of the exiles I met on the road were in sleighs
like those used by Russian merchants when traveling. There were
generally three persons in a sleigh, and I thought them comfortably
clad. I could see no difference between them and their guards, except
that the latter carried muskets and sabres. Any women among them
received special attention, particularly when they were young and
pretty. I saw two old ladies who were handled tenderly by the soldiers
and treated with apparent distinction. When exiles were on foot, their
guards marched with them and the women of the party rode in sleighs.

The object of deportation is to people Siberia; if the government
permitted cruelties that caused half of the exiles to die on the road,
as some accounts aver, it would be inconsistent with its policy. As
before mentioned, the ripe age to which most of the Decembrists lived,
is a proof that they were not subjected to physical torture. In the
eyes of the government these men were the very worst offenders, and if
they did not suffer hardships and cruelties it is not probable that
all others would be generally ill-used. I do not for a moment suppose
exile is either attractive or desirable, but, so far as I know, it
does not possess the horrors attributed to it. The worst part of exile
is to be sent to hard labor, but the unpleasant features of such
punishment are not confined to Siberia. Plenty of testimony on this
point can be obtained at Sing Sing and Pentonville.

It is unpleasant to leave one's home and become an involuntary
emigrant to a far country. The Siberian road is one I would never
travel out of pure pleasure, and I can well understand that it must be
many times disagreeable when one journeys unwillingly. But, once in
Siberia, the worldly circumstances of many exiles are better than they
were at home. If a man can forget that he is deprived of liberty, and
I presume this is the most difficult thing of all, he is not, under
ordinary circumstances, very badly off in Siberia. Certainly many
exiles choose to remain when their term of banishment is ended. A
laboring man is better paid for his services and is more certain of
employment than in European Russia. He leads a more independent life
and has better prospects of advancement than in the older
civilization. Many Poles say they were drawn unwillingly into the acts
that led to their exile, and if they return home they may be involved
in like trouble again. In Poland they are at the partial mercy of
malcontents who have nothing to lose and can never remain at ease. In
Siberia there are no such disturbing influences.

About ten thousand exiles are sent to Siberia every year. Except in
times of political disturbance in Poland or elsewhere, nearly all the
exiles are offenders against society or property. The notion that they
are generally 'politiques,' is very far from correct. As well might
one suppose the majority of the convicts at Sing Sing were from the
upper classes of New York. The regular stream of exiles is composed
almost entirely of criminal offenders; occasional floods of
revolutionists follow the attempts at independence.

I made frequent inquiries concerning the condition of the exiles, and
so far as I could learn they were generally well off. I say
'generally,' because I heard of some cases of poverty and hardship,
and doubtless there were others that I never heard of. A large part of
the Siberian population is made up of exiles and their descendants. A
gentleman frequently sent me his carriage during my stay at Irkutsk.
It was managed by an intelligent driver who pleased me with his skill
and dash. One evening, when he was a little intoxicated, my friend and
myself commented in French on his condition, and were a little
surprised to find that he understood us. He was an exile from St.
Petersburg, where he had been coachman to a French merchant.

The clerk of the hotel was an exile, and so was one of the waiters.
_Isvoshchiks_, or hackmen, counted many exiles in their ranks, and so
did laborers of other professions. Occasionally clerks in stores,
market men, boot makers, and tailors ascribed their exile to some
discrepancy between their conduct and the laws. I met a Polish
gentleman in charge of the museum of the geographical society of
Eastern Siberia, and was told that the establishment rapidly improved
in his hands. Two physicians of Irkutsk were 'unfortunates' from
Warsaw, and one of them had distanced all competitors in the extent
and success of his practice. Then there were makers of cigarettes,
dealers in various commodities, and professors of divers arts. Some of
the educated Siberians I met told me they had been taught almost
entirely by exiles.

Before the abolition of serfdom a proprietor could send his human
property into exile. He was not required to give any reason, the
record accompanying the order of banishment stating only that the serf
was exiled "by the will of his master." This privilege was open to
enormous abuse, but happily the ukase of liberty has removed it. The
design of the system was no doubt to enable proprietors to rid
themselves of serfs who were idle, dissolute, or quarrelsome, but had
not committed any act the law could touch.

A proprietor exiling a serf was required to pay his traveling expenses
of twenty-five roubles, and to furnish him an outfit of summer and
winter clothing. A wife was allowed to follow her husband, with all
their children not matured, and all their expenses were to be paid.
The abuse of the system consisted in the power to banish a man who had
committed no offence at all. The loss of services and the expense of
exiling a serf may have been a slight guarantee against this, but if
the proprietor were an unprincipled tyrant or a sensualist, (and he
might be both,) there was no protection for his subjects. It has
happened that the best man on an estate incurred the displeasure of
his owner and went to Siberia in consequence. Exile is a severe
punishment to the Russian peasant, who clings with enduring tenacity
to the place where his youthful days were passed.

Every serf exiled for a minor offense or at the will of his master was
appointed on his arrival in Siberia to live in a specified district.
If he could produce a certificate of good behavior at the end of three
years, he was authorized to clear and cultivate as much land as he
wished. If single he could marry, but he was not compelled to do so.
He was exempt from taxes for twelve years, and after that only paid a
trifle. He had no master and could act for himself in all things
except in returning to Russia. He was under the disadvantage of having
no legal existence, and though the land he worked was his own and no
one could disturb him, he did not hold it under written title. The
criminal who served at labor in the mines was placed, at the
expiration of his sentence, in the same category as the exile for
minor offences. Both cultivated land in like manner and on equal
terms. Some became wealthy and were able to secure the privileges of
citizenship.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE--QUARTERS]



CHAPTER XXXVII.


The descendants of exiles are in much greater number than the exiles
themselves. Eastern Siberia is mainly peopled by them, and Western
Siberia very largely so. They are all free peasants and enjoy a
condition far superior to that of the serf under the system prevalent
before 1859. Many of them have become wealthy through gold mining,
commerce, and agriculture, and occupy positions they never could have
obtained had they lived in European Russia. I know a merchant whose
fortune is counted by millions, and who is famous through Siberia for
his enterprise and generosity. He is the son of an exiled serf and has
risen by his own ability. Since I left Siberia I learn with pleasure
that the emperor has honored him with a decoration. Many of the
prominent merchants and proprietary miners were mentioned to me as
examples of the prosperity of the second and third generation from
banished men. I was told particularly of a wealthy gold miner whose
evening of life is cheered by an ample fortune and two well educated
children. Forty years ago his master capriciously sent him to Siberia.
The man found his banishment 'the best thing that could happen.'

The system of serfdom never had any practical hold in Siberia. There
was but one Siberian proprietor of serfs in existence at the time of
the emancipation. This was Mr. Rodinkoff of Krasnoyarsk, whose
grandfather received a grant of serfs and a patent of nobility from
the empress Catherine. None of the family, with a single exception,
ever attempted more than nominal exercise of authority over the
peasants, and this one paid for his imprudence with his life. He
attempted to put in force his full proprietary rights, and the result
was his death by violence during a visit to one of his estates.

The difference between the conditions of the Russian and Siberian
peasantry was that between slavery and freedom. The owner of serfs had
rarely any common interest with his people, and his chief business was
to make the most out of his human property. Serfdom was degrading to
master and serf, just as slavery degraded owner and slave. The moujik
bore the stamp of servility as the negro slave bore it, and it will
take as much time to wear it away in the one as the other. Centuries
of oppression in Russia could not fail to open a wide gulf between the
nobility and those who obeyed them. Thanks to Alexander the work of
filling this gulf has begun, but it will require many years and much
toil to complete it.

The comparative freedom enjoyed in Siberia was not without visible
result. The peasants were more prosperous than in Russia, they lived
in better houses and enjoyed more real comforts of life. The absence
of masters and the liberty to act for themselves begat an air of
independence in the peasant class that contrasted agreeably with the
cringing servility of the serf. Wealth was open to all who sought it,
and the barriers between the different ranks of society were partially
broken down. The peasants that acquired wealth began to cultivate
refined tastes. They paid more attention to the education of their
children than was shown by the same class in Russia, and the desire
for education rapidly increased. The emancipation of the serfs in
Russia was probably brought about by the marked superiority of the
Siberian population in prosperity and intelligence.

In coming ages the Russians will revere the name of Alexander not less
than that of Peter the Great. To the latter is justly due the credit
of raising the nation from barbarism; the former has the immortal
honor of removing the stain of serfdom. The difficulties in the way
were great and the emperor had few supporters, but he steadily pursued
his object and at length earned the eternal gratitude of his people.
Russia is yet in her developing stage. The shock of the change was
severe and not unattended with danger, but the critical period is
passed, and the nation has commenced a career of freedom. The serf has
been awakened to a new life, and his education is just commencing.
Already there is increased prosperity in some parts of the empire,
showing that the free man understands his new condition. The
proprietors who were able to appreciate and prepare for the change
have been positively benefited, while others who continued obstinate
were ruined. On the whole the derangement by the transition has been
less than many friends of the measure expected, and by no means equal
to that prophesied by its opponents. But the grandest results in the
nation's progress are yet to come, and it is from future generations
that Alexander will receive his warmest praise.

The working of mines on government account has greatly diminished in
the past few years, and the number of hard labor convicts in Siberia
more than equals the capacity of the mines. When the political exiles,
after the revolution of 1863, arrived at Irkutsk, the mines were
already filled with convicts. The 'politiques' sentenced to hard labor
were employed in building; roads, most of them being sent to the
southern end of Lake Baikal. In June, 1866, seven hundred and twenty
prisoners were sent to this labor, and divided into eight or ten
parties to work on as many sections of the road. Before the end of the
month a revolt occurred. Various accounts have been given and
different motives assigned for it. I was told by several Poles that
the prisoners were half starved, and the little food they received was
bad. Hunger and a desire to escape were the motives to the
insurrection. On the other hand the Russians told me the prisoners
were properly fed, and the revolt must be attributed entirely to the
hope of escaping from Siberia.

I obtained from an officer, who sat on the court-martial which
investigated the affair, the following particulars:

On the 24th of June, (O.S.,) the working party at Koultoukskoi, the
western end of the road, disarmed its guard by a sudden and bloodless
attack. The insurgents then moved eastward along the line of the road,
and on their way overpowered successively the guards of the other
parties. Many of the prisoners refused to take part in the affair and
remained at their work. A Polish officer named Sharamovitch assumed
command of the insurgents, who directed their march toward Posolsky.

[Illustration: TARTAR CAVALRY.]

As soon as news of the affair reached Irkutsk, the Governor General
ordered a battalion of soldiers by steamer to Posolsky. On the 28th of
June a fight occurred at the river Bestriya. The insurgents were
defeated with a loss of twenty-five or thirty men, while the force
sent against them lost five men and one officer. The Polish leader was
among the killed. After the defeat the insurgents separated in small
bands and fled into the mountains. They were pursued by Tartar
cavalry, who scoured the country thoroughly and retook all the
fugitives. The insurrection caused much alarm at its outbreak, as it
was supposed all prisoners in Siberia were in the conspiracy.
Exaggerated reports were spread, and all possible precautions taken,
but they proved unnecessary. The conspiracy extended no farther than
the working parties on the Baikal road.

The prisoners were brought to Irkutsk, where a court-martial
investigated the affair. A Russian court-martial does not differ
materially from any other in the manner of its proceedings. It
requires positive evidence for or against a person accused, and, like
other courts, gives him the benefit of doubts. My informant told me
that the court in this case listened to all evidence that had any
possible bearing on the question. The sitting continued several weeks,
and after much deliberation the court rendered a finding and sentence.

In the finding the prisoners were divided into five grades, and their
sentences accorded with the letter of the law. The first grade
comprised seven persons, known to have been leaders in the revolt.
These were sentenced to be shot. In the second grade there were a
hundred and ninety-seven, who knew the design to revolt and joined in
the insurrection. One-tenth of these were to suffer death, the choice
being made by lot; the remainder were sentenced to twenty years labor.
The third grade comprised a hundred and twenty-two, ignorant of the
conspiracy before the revolt, but who joined the insurgents. These
received an addition of two or three years to their original sentences
to labor. The fourth grade included ninety-four men, who knew the
design to revolt but refused to join the insurgents. These were
sentenced "to remain under suspicion." In the fifth and last grade
there were two hundred and sixty, who were ignorant of the conspiracy
and remained at their posts. Their innocence was fully established,
and, of course, relieved them from all charge.

It was found that the design of the insurgents was to escape into
Mongolia and make their way to Pekin. This would have been next to
impossible, for two reasons: the character of the country, and the
treaty between China and Russia. The region to be traversed from the
Siberian frontier toward Pekin is the Mongolian steppe or desert. The
only food obtainable on the steppe is mutton from the flocks of the
nomad inhabitants. These are principally along the road from Kiachta,
and even there are by no means numerous. The escaping exiles in
avoiding the road to ensure safety would have run great risk of
starvation. The treaty between China and Russia requires that
fugitives from one empire to the other shall be given up. Had the
exiles succeeded in crossing Mongolia and reaching the populous parts
of China, they would have been once more in captivity and returned to
Russian hands.

The finding of the court-martial was submitted to General Korsackoff
for approval or revision. The general commuted the sentence of three
men in the first grade to twenty years labor. Those in the second
grade sentenced to death were relieved from this punishment and placed
on the same footing as their companions. In the third grade the
original sentence (at the time of banishment) was increased by one or
two years labor. Other penalties were not changed.

During my stay in Irkutsk the four prisoners condemned to death
suffered the extreme penalty, the execution occurring in the forest
near the town. A firing party of forty-eight men was divided into four
squads. According to the custom at all military executions one musket
in each squad was charged with a blank cartridge. The four prisoners
were shot simultaneously, and all died instantly. Two of them were
much dejected; the others met their deaths firmly and shouted "_Vive
la Pologne_" as they heard the order to fire.

I was told that the crowd of people, though large, was very quiet,
and moved away in silence when the execution was over. Very few
officers and soldiers were present beyond those whose duty required
them to witness or take part in the affair.

One of the most remarkable escapes from Siberia was that of Rufin
Piotrowski, a Polish emigrant who left Paris in 1844 to return to his
native country, with impossible plans and crude ideas for her relief.
The end of his journey was Kamimetz, in Podolia, where he gave himself
out as a Frenchman, who had come to give private lessons in foreign
languages, and received the usual permit from the authorities without
exciting any suspicion. He was soon introduced into the best society;
and the better to shield his connections, he chose the houses of
Russian employés. His security rested upon his not being supposed to
understand the Polish language; and, during the nine months that he
remained, he obtained such command over himself, that the police had
not the slightest suspicion of his being a Pole. The warning voice
came from St. Petersburg, through the spies in Paris.

Early one winter's morning he was roughly shaken out of slumber by the
director of police, and carried before the governor of the province,
who had come specially on this errand. His position was represented to
him as one of the greatest danger, and he was recommended to make a
full confession. This for many days he refused to do, until a large
number of those who were his accomplices were brought before him; and
their weary, anxious faces induced him to exclaim loudly, and in his
native tongue--"Yes, I am a Pole, and have returned because I could
not bear exile from my native land any longer. Here I wished to live
inoffensive and quiet, confiding my secret to a few countrymen; and I
have nothing more to say." An immediate order was made out for the
culprit's departure to Kiev. According to the story he has published
his sufferings were frightful, and were not lessened when they stopped
at a hut, where some rusty chains were brought out, the rings of which
were thrust over his ankles: they proved much too small, and the rust
prevented the bars from turning in the sockets, so that the pain was
insupportable. He was rudely carried and thrown into the carriage, and
thus arrived in an almost insensible condition at the fortress of
Kiev.

After many months' detention in this prison, being closely watched and
badly treated, he was sentenced to hard labor in Siberia for life,
degraded from his rank as a noble, and ordered to make the journey in
chains. As soon as this was read to him, he was taken to a kibitka,
with three horses, irons were put on, and he was placed between two
armed soldiers; the gates of the fortress were shut, and the road to
Siberia was before him. An employee came up to M. Piotrowski, and
timidly offered him a small packet, saying--"Accept this from my
saint." The convict not understanding, he added, "You are a Pole, and
do not know our customs. It is my fête-day, when it is above all a
duty to assist the unfortunate. Pray, accept it, then, in the name of
my saint, after whom I am called." The packet contained bread, salt,
and money.

Night and day the journey continued, with the utmost rapidity, for
about a month, when, in the middle of the night, they stopped at the
fortress of Omsk, where he was placed for a few hours with a young
officer who had committed some breach of discipline. They talked on
incessantly until the morning, so great was the pleasure of meeting
with an educated person. A map of Siberia was in the room, which
Piotrowski examined with feverish interest. "Ah!" said his companion,
"are you meditating flight? Pray, do not think of it: many of your
fellow-countrymen have tried it, and never succeeded."

At midday he was brought before Prince Gortchakoff, and the critical
moment of his fate arrived: he might either be sent to some of the
government factories in the neighborhood, or to the mines underground.
An hour passed in cruel suspense while this was debated. At length one
of the council announced to him that he was to be sent to the
distillery of Ekaterinski, three hundred miles to the north of Omsk.
The clerks around congratulated him on his destination, and his
departure was immediate.

On a wintry morning he reached a vast plain near the river Irtish, on
which a village of about two hundred wooden huts was built around a
factory. When introduced into the clerks' office, a young man who was
writing jumped up and threw himself into his arms: he also was a Pole
from Cracow, a well-known poet, and sent away for life as "a measure
of precaution." Soon they were joined by another political criminal:
these spoke rapidly and with extreme emotion, entreating their new
friend to bear everything in the most submissive and patient manner,
as the only means of escaping from menial employment, and being
promoted to the clerks' office. Not long was he permitted to rest. A
convict came and ordered him to take a broom and sweep away a mass of
dirt that some masons had left; a murderer was his companion; and thus
he went on until nightfall, when his two friends were permitted to
visit him, in the presence of the soldiers and convicts, most of the
latter of whom had been guilty of frightful crimes.

Thus day after day passed on, in sweeping, carrying wood and water,
amid snow and frost. His good conduct brought him, in a year and a
half, to the office, where he received ten francs a month and his
rations, and the work was light. During this time he saw and conversed
with many farmers and travelers from a distance, and gained every
information about the roads, rivers, etc., with a view to the escape
he was ever meditating. Some of the natives unite with the soldiers in
exercising an incessant supervision over the convicts, and a common
saying among the Tartars is: "In killing a squirrel you get but one
skin, whilst a convict has three--his coat, his shirt, and his skin."

Slowly and painfully he collected the materials for his journey. First
of all, a passport was an essential. A convict who had been sentenced
for making false money, still possessed an excellent stamp of the
royal arms; this Piotrowski bought for a few francs. The sheet of
paper was easily obtained in the office, and the passport forged.
After long waiting, he procured a Siberian wig--that is, a sheepskin
with the wool turned in, to preserve the head from the cold--three
shirts, a sheepskin bournouse, and a red velvet cap bordered with
fur--the dress of a well-to-do peasant. On a sharp frosty night he
quitted Ekaterinski for Tara, having determined to try the road to the
north for Archangel, as the least frequented. A large fair was shortly
to be held at Irbit, at the foot of the Urals, and he hoped to hide
himself in the vast crowd of people that frequented it. Soon after he
had crossed the river a sledge was heard behind him. He trembled for
his safety--his pursuers were perhaps coming.

"Where are you going?" shouted the peasant who drove it.

"To Tara."

"Give me ten sous, and I will take you."

"No; it is too much. I will give eight."

"Well, so let it be. Jump in quickly."

He was set down in the street; and knocking at a house, inquired in
the Russian fashion--"Have you horses to hire?"

"Yes--a pair. Where to?"

"To Irbit. I am a commercial traveler, and going to meet my master. I
am behind my time, and wish to go as quickly as possible."

No sooner had they set off than a snow-storm came on, and the driver
lost his way. They wandered about all night in the forest, and it was
impossible to describe the anguish and suffering Piotrowski endured.

"Return to Tara," said he, as the day broke; "I will engage another
sledge; and you need not expect any money from me, after the folly you
have shown in losing your way."

They turned, but had hardly gone a mile before the driver jumped up,
looked around, and cried--"This is our road." Then making up for lost
time, he set him down at a friend's house, where he procured some tea
and fresh horses. On he went in safety, renewing his horses at small
expense, until late at night, when he suffered from a most unfortunate
robbery. He had not money at hand to pay the conductor. They turned
into a public-house, where a crowd of drunken people were celebrating
the carnival. He drew out some paper-money to get change, when the
crowd coming round, some one seized his papers, among which were
several rouble notes, his invaluable passport, and a note in which he
had minutely inscribed all the towns and villages he must pass through
on the road to Archangel. He was in despair. The very first day, a
quarter of his money was gone, and the only thing by which he hoped to
evade suspicion, his passport. He dare not appeal to the police, and
was obliged to submit.

Regret and hesitation were not to be thought of. He soon found himself
on the high-road to Irbit, crowded with an innumerable mass of
sledges, going or returning to the fair. It is the season of gain and
good humor, and the people show it by unbounded gaiety. Piotrowski
took courage, returned the salutations of the passers-by--for how
could he be distinguished in such a crowd? The gates of Irbit were
reached on the third day. "Halt, and shew your passport," cried an
official; but added in a whisper--"Give me twenty copecks, and pass
quickly." The demand was willingly gratified, and with some difficulty
he procured a night's lodging, lying on the floor amidst a crowd of
peasants, who had previously supped on radish-soup, dried fish,
oatmeal gruel, with oil and pickled cabbage.

Up at daybreak, he took care to make the orthodox salutations, and
passing rapidly through the crowded town, he walked out of the
opposite gate, for, henceforwards, his scanty funds demanded that the
journey should be made on foot. In the midst of a heavily falling
snow, he managed to keep the track, avoiding the villages, and, when
hungry, drawing a piece of frozen bread from his bag. At nightfall, he
buried himself in the forest, hollowed a deep hole in the snow, and
found a hard but warm bed, where he gained the repose he so greatly
needed. Another hard day, with a dry cutting wind, forced him to ask
for shelter at night in a cottage, which was granted without
hesitation. He described himself as a workman, going to the
iron-foundries at Bohotole, on the Ural Mountains. Whilst the supper
was preparing, he dried his clothes, and stretched himself on a bench
with inexpressible satisfaction. He fancied he had neglected no
precautions; his prayers and salutations had been made; and yet
suspicion was awakened, as it appeared, by the sight of his three
shirts, which no peasant possesses. Three men entered, and roughly
shook him from sleep, demanding his passport.

"By what right do you ask for it? Are you police?"

"No; but we are inhabitants of the village."

"And can you enter houses, and ask for passports! Who can say whether
you do not mean to rob me of my papers? But my answer is ready. I am
Lavrenti Kouzmine, going to Bohotole; and it is not the first time I
have passed through the country."

He then entered into details of the road and the fair at Irbit, ending
by showing his permission to pass, which, as it bore a stamp,
satisfied these ignorant men.

"Forgive us," said they. "We thought you were an escaped convict; some
of them pass this way."

Henceforward, he dared not seek the shelter of a house. From the
middle of February to the beginning of April, in the midst of one of
the severest winters ever known, his couch was in the snow. Frozen
bread was his food for days together, and the absence of warm aliments
brought him face to face with the terrible spectres of cold and
hunger. The Urals were reached, and he began to climb their wooded
heights. On passing through a little village at nightfall, a voice
cried: "Who is there?"

"A traveler."

"Well, would you like to come and sleep here?"

"May God recompense you, yes; if it will not inconvenience you."

An aged couple lived there--good people, who prepared a meagre repast,
which seemed a feast to Piotrowski: the greatest comfort of all being
that he could take off his clothes.

[Illustration: SIBERIAN EXILES.]

They gave him his breakfast, and would not accept any remuneration
but his warm and cordial thanks.

One evening Piotrowski's life was nearly extinct. The way was lost,
the hail pierced his skin, his supply of bread was exhausted, and
after vainly dragging his weary limbs, he fell into a kind of torpor.
A loud voice roused him--"What are you doing here?"

"I am making a pilgrimage to the monastery of Solovetsk, but the storm
prevented my seeing the track, and I have not eaten for several days."

"It is not surprising. We who live on the spot often wander away.
There, drink that."

The speaker gave him a bottle containing some brandy, which burned him
so fearfully, that in his pain he danced about.

"Now try to calm yourself," said the good Samaritan, giving him some
bread and dried fish, which Piotrowski ate ravenously, saying--"I
thank you with all my heart. May God bless you for your goodness."

"Ah, well, do not say so much; we are both Christians. Now, try to
walk a little."

He was a trapper; and led him into the right path, pointing out a
village inn where he could get rest and refreshment. Piotrowski
managed to crawl to the place, and then fainted away. When he
recovered himself, he asked for radish-soup, but could not swallow it;
and toward noon he fell asleep on the bench, never awaking until the
same time on the next day, when the host roused him. Sleep, rest, and
warmth restored him, and he again started on his long pilgrimage.

The town of Veliki-Ustiug was reached, where he determined to change
his character and become a pilgrim, going to pray to the holy images
of Solovetsk, on the White Sea. There are four of these holy places to
which pious Russians resort, and everywhere the wayfarers are well
received, hospitality and alms being freely dispensed to those who are
going to pray for the peace of the donor. Passports are not rigorously
exacted, and he hoped to join himself to a company, trusting to be
less marked than if alone. As he was standing irresolute in the
market-place, a young man accosted him, and finding that they were
bound to the same place, invited him to join their party. There were
about twenty; but no less than two thousand were in the city on their
way, waiting until the thaw should have opened the Dwina for the rafts
and boats which would transport them to Archangel, and then to
Solovetsk. It was a scene for Chaucer: the half-idiot, who sought to
be a saint; the knave who played upon the charity of others; and the
astute hypocrite. The rafts are loaded with corn, and the pilgrims
receive a free passage; or a small sum of money is given them, if they
consent to row; from forty to sixty sailors being required for each,
the oars consisting of a thin fir-tree. Piotrowski was only too happy
to increase his small store of money by working. At the break of day,
before starting, the captain cried--"Seat yourselves, and pray to
God." Every one squatted down like a Mussulman for a moment, then rose
and made a number of salutations and crossings; and next, down to the
poorest, each threw a small piece of money into the river to secure a
propitious voyage.

Fifteen days passed, during which Piotrowski learned to be an expert
oarsman. Then the golden spires of Archangel rose before them; a cry
of joy was uttered by all; and the rowers broke off the lower parts of
their oars with a frightful crash, according to the universal custom.
It was a heartfelt prayer of gratitude that Piotrowski raised to God
for having brought him thus far in safety. How pleasant was the sight
of the ships, with their flags of a thousand colors, after the snow
and eternal forests of the Urals! But there was again disappointment.
He wandered along the piers, but could not find a single vessel bound
for France or Germany, and not daring to enter the cafes, where
perhaps the captains might have been, he left Archangel in sadness,
determined to skirt the coast towards Onega. He would thus pass the
celebrated monastery without the necessity of stopping, and pretend
that he was proceeding to Novgorod and Moscow on the same pious
pilgrimage.

Through marshes and blighted fir-plantations the weary wayfarer sped,
the White Sea rising frequently into storms of the utmost grandeur;
but the season was lovely, and the sun warm, so that camping out
offered less hardship. The wolves howled around him, but happily he
never saw them. Many soldiers, who were Poles, were established at
different points to take charge of the canals.

Having reached Vytegra, he was accosted on the shore by a peasant, who
asked where he was going. On hearing his story, he said--"You are the
man I want. I am going to St. Petersburg. My boat is small, and you
can assist me to row."

The crafty fellow evidently intended to profit by the pilgrim's arms
without wages; but, after long debate, he agreed to supply Piotrowski
with food during the transport. It seemed strange, indeed, to go to
the capital--like running into the jaws of the lion--but he seized
every occasion to pass on, lest his papers should be asked for. As
they coasted down through Lake Ladoga and the Neva, they took in some
women as passengers, who were servants, and had been home to see their
parents. One of them, an aged washerwoman, was so teased by the
others, that Piotrowski took her part, and in return she offered him
some very useful assistance.

"My daughter," she said, "will come to meet me, and she will find you
a suitable lodging."

It will be guessed with what joy he accepted the proposal; and during
all the time spent in the boat, no one came to ask for passports. The
house she took him to was sufficiently miserable; as the Russians say,
"It was the bare ground, with the wrist for a pillow." He asked his
hostess if he must see the police to arrange the business of his
passport. "No," she said. "If you only stay a few days, it is useless.
They have become so exacting, that they would require me to accompany
you, and my time is too precious."

As he passed along the quays, looking for a ship, his eyes rested on
one to sail for Riga on the following morning. He could scarcely
master his emotion. The pilot on board called out--"If you want a
place to Riga, come here."

"I certainly want one; but I am too poor to sail in a steamer. It
would cost too much."

He named a very small sum, and said--"Come; why do you hesitate?"

"I only arrived yesterday, and the police have not _visé_ my
passport."

"That will occupy three days. Go without a visé. Be here at seven
o'clock, and wait for me."

Both were to their time. The sailor said, "Give me some money," and
handed him a yellow paper; the clock struck; the barrier was opened,
and, like a dream, he was safely on the ocean.

From Riga he went through Courland and Lithuania. The difficulty of
crossing the Russian frontier into Prussia was still to be managed. He
chose the daytime; and when sentinels had each turned their backs, he
jumped over the wall of the first of the three glacis. No noise was
heard. The second was tried, and the firing of pistols showed that he
was perceived. He rushed on to the third, and, breathless and
exhausted, gained a little wood, where for many hours he remained
concealed. He was in Prussia. Wandering on through Mernel, Tilsit, and
Konigsberg, he decided at the last place to take a ship the next
morning to Elbing, where he would be near to Posen, and among his
compatriots. Sitting down on a heap of stones, he intended taking
refuge for the night in a corn-field; but sleep overcame him, and he
was rudely awakened in the darkness by a policeman. His stammering and
confused replies awakened suspicion, and to his shame and grief, he
was carried off to prison. He announced himself as a French
cotton-spinner, but returning from Russia, and without a passport. Not
a word he said was believed. At length, after a month's detention,
weary of being considered a concealed malefactor, he asked to speak to
M. Fleury, a French advocate, who assisted at his trial. To him he
confessed the whole truth. Nothing could equal his advocate's
consternation and astonishment.

"What a misfortune!" he said. "We must give you up to the Russians;
they have just sent many of your countrymen, across the frontier.
There is but one way. Write to Count Eulenberg; tell your story, and
trust to his mercy."

After ten days he received a vague reply, desiring him to have
patience. The affair got wind in the town, and a gentleman came to
him, asking if he would accept him as bail. Efforts had been made in
his favor, and the police were ready to set him free. M. Kamke, his
kind friend, took him home, and entertained him for a week; but an
order came from Berlin to send the prisoner back to Russia, and he
received warning in time to escape. Letters to various friends on the
way were given him, to facilitate his journey; and just four years
after he had left Paris he reached it in safety again, after having
crossed the Urals, slept for months in the snow, jumped over the
Russian frontier in the midst of balls, and passed through so many
sufferings and privations.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


I remained in Irkutsk until snow fell, and the winter roads were
suitable for travel. One day the moving portion of the city was on
wheels: the next saw it gliding on runners. The little sleighs of the
_isvoshchiks_ are exactly like those of St. Petersburg and
Moscow,--miniature affairs where you sit with your face within six
inches of the driver's back, and cannot take a friend at your side
without much crowding. They move rapidly, and it is a fortunate
provision that they are cheap. In all large cities and towns of Russia
many _isvoshchiks_ go to spend the winter. With a horse and little
sleigh and a cash capital sufficient to buy a license, one of these
enterprising fellows will set up in business. Nobody thinks of walking
in Moscow or St. Petersburg, unless his journey or his purse is very
short. It is said there are thirty thousand sleighs for public hire in
St. Petersburg alone, during the winter months, and two-thirds that
number in Moscow. The interior towns are equally well supplied in
proportion to their population.

One may naturally suppose that accidents are frequent where there are
many vehicles and fast driving is the fashion. Accidents are rare from
the fact that drivers are under severe penalties if they run over any
one. Furthermore the horses are quick and intelligent, and being
driven without blinkers, can use their eyes freely. To my mind this
plan is better than ours, and most foreigners living in Russia are
inclined to adopt it. Considered as an ornament a blinker decorates a
horse about as much as an eye shade does a man.

With the first fall of snow, I began preparations for departure. I
summoned a tailor and gave orders for a variety of articles in fur and
sheep-skin for the road. He measured me for a coat, a cap, a pair of
stockings, and a sleigh robe, all in sheep-skin. He then took the size
of my ears for a pair of lappets, and proposed fur socks to be worn
under the stockings. When the accumulated result of his labors was
piled upon the floor of my room, I was alarmed at its size, and
wondered if it could ever be packed in a single sleigh. Out of a bit
of sable skin a lady acquaintance constructed a mitten for my nose, to
be worn when the temperature was lowest. It was not an improvement to
one's personal appearance though very conducive to comfort.

To travel by _peraclodnoi_ (changing the vehicle at every station) is
bad enough in summer but ten times bad in winter. To turn out every
two or three hours with the thermometer any distance below zero, and
shift baggage and furs from one sleigh to another is an absolute
nuisance. Yery few persons travel by _peraclodnoi_ in winter, and one
does not find many sleighs at the post stations from the fact that
they are seldom demanded. Nearly all travelers buy their sleighs
before starting, and sell them when their journeys are ended.

I surveyed the Irkutsk market and found several sleighs 'up' for sale.
Throughout Siberia a sleigh manufactured at Kazan is preferred, it
being better made and more commodious than its rivals. My attention
was called to several vehicles of local manufacture but my friends
advised me not to try them. I sought a _Kazanski kibitka_ and with the
aid of an intelligent _isvoshchik_ succeeded in finding one. Its
purchase was accomplished in a manner peculiarly Russian.

The seller was a _mischanin_ or Russian merchant of the peasant class.
Accompanied by a friend I called at his house and our negotiation
began over a lunch and a bottle of nalifka. We said nothing on the
subject nearest my heart and his, for at least a half hour, but
conversed on general topics. My friend at length dropped a hint that I
thought of taking up my residence at Irkutsk. This was received with
delight, and a glass of nalifka, supplementary to at least half a
dozen glasses I had already swallowed.

"Why don't you come to sleighs at once, and settle the matter?" I
asked. "He probably knows what we want, and if we keep on at this rate
I shall need a sleigh to go home in."

"Don't be impatient," said my friend; "you don't understand these
people; you must angle them gently. When you want to make a trade,
begin a long way from it. If you want to buy a horse, pretend that you
want to sell a cow, but don't mention the horse at first. If you do
you will never succeed."

We hedged very carefully and finally reached the subject. This was so
overpowering that we took a drink while the merchant ordered the
sleigh dragged into the court yard. We had another glass before we
adjourned for the inspection, a later one when we returned to the
house, and another as soon as we were seated. After this our
negotiations proceeded at a fair pace, but there were many vacuums of
language that required liquid filling. After endeavoring to lower his
price, I closed with him and we clenched the bargain with a drink.
Sleighs were in great demand, as many persons were setting out for
Russia, and I made sure of my purchase by paying on the spot and
taking a glass of nalifka. As a finale to the transaction, he urged me
to drink again, begged my photograph, and promised to put an extra
something to the sleigh.

The Siberian peasant classes are much like the Chinese in their manner
of bargaining. Neither begins at the business itself, but at something
entirely different. A great deal of time, tea, and tobacco is consumed
before the antagonists are fairly met. When the main subject is
reached they gradually approach and conclude the bargain about where
both expected and intended. An American would come straight to the
point, and dealing with either of the above races his bluntness would
endanger the whole affair. In many matters this patient angling is
advantageous, and nowhere more so than in diplomacy. Every one will
doubtless acknowledge the Russians unsurpassed in diplomatic skill.
They possess the faculty of touching gently, and playing with their
opponents, to a higher degree than any nation of Western Europe.
Other things being equal, this ability will bring success.

There are several descriptions of sleigh for Siberian travel. At the
head, stands the _vashok_, a box-like affair with a general
resemblance to an American coach on runners. It has a door at each
side and glass windows and is long enough for one to lie at full
length.

[Illustration: A VASHOK.]

Three persons with limited baggage can find plenty of room in a
vashok. A _kibitka_ is shaped much like a tarantass, or like a New
England chaise stretched to about seven feet long by four in width.
There is a sort of apron that can be let down from the hood and
fastened with straps and buckles to the boot. The boot can be buttoned
to the sides of the vehicle and completely encloses the occupants. The
vashok is used by families or ladies, but the kibitka is generally
preferred by men on account of the ability to open it in fine weather,
and close it at night or in storms.

A sleigh much like this but less comfortable is called a _povoska_. In
either of them, the driver sits on the forward part with his feet
hanging over the side. His perch is not very secure, and on a rough
road he must exercise care to prevent falling off. "Why don't you have
a better seat for your driver?" I asked of my friend, when negotiating
for a sleigh. "Oh," said he, "this is the best way as he cannot go to
sleep. If he had a better place he would sleep and lose time by slow
traveling."

A sleigh much used by Russian merchants is shaped like an elongated
mill-hopper. It has enormous carrying capacity, and in bad weather
can be covered with matting to exclude cold and snow. It is large,
heavy, and cumbersome, and adapted to slow travel, and when much
luggage is to be carried. All these concerns are on runners about
thirty inches apart, and generally shod with iron. On each side there
is a fender or outrigger which serves the double purpose of
diminishing injury from collisions and preventing the overturn of the
sleigh. It is a stout pole attached to the forward end of the sleigh,
and sloping downward and outward toward the rear where it is two feet
from the runner, and held by strong braces. On a level surface it does
not touch the snow, but should the sleigh tilt from any cause the
outrigger will generally prevent an overturn. In collision with other
sleighs, the fender plays an important part. I have been occasionally
dashed against sleds and sleighs when the chances of a smash-up
appeared brilliant. The fenders met like a pair of fencing foils, and
there was no damage beyond the shock of our meeting.

[Illustration: A KIBITKA.]

The horses are harnessed in the Russian manner, one being under a yoke
in the shafts, and the others, up to five or six, attached outside.
There is no seat in the interior of the sleigh. Travelers arrange
their baggage and furs to as good a level as possible and fill the
crevices with hay or straw. They sit, recline, or lie at their option.
Pillows are a necessity of winter travel.

I exchanged my trunk for a chemadan of enormous capacity, and long
enough to extend across the bottom, of my sleigh. For the first
thousand versts, to Krasnoyarsk, I arranged to travel with a young
officer of engineers whose baggage consisted of two or three hundred
pounds of geological specimens. For provisions we ordered beef,
cabbage soup, little cakes like 'mince turnovers,' and a few other
articles. Tea and sugar were indispensable, and had a prominent place.
Our soups, meat, pies, _et cetera_ were frozen and only needed thawing
at the stations to be ready for use.

The day before my departure was the peculiar property of Saint
Inakentief, the only saint who belongs especially to Siberia.
Everybody kept the occasion in full earnest, the services commencing
the previous evening when nearly everybody got drunk. I had a variety
of preparations in the shape of mending, making bags, tying up bundles
and the like, but though I offered liberal compensation neither
man-servant nor maid-servant would lend assistance. Labor was not to
be had on any terms, and I was obliged to do my own packing. There are
certain saints' days in the year when a Russian peasant will no more
work than would a Puritan on Sunday. All who could do so on the day
above mentioned visited the church four miles from Irkutsk, where
Saint Inakentief lies buried.

I occupied the fashionable hours of the two days before my departure
in making farewell visits according to Russian etiquette. Not
satisfied with their previous courtesy my friends arranged a dinner at
the club rooms for the last evening of my stay at Irkutsk. The other
public dinners were of a masculine character, but the farewell
entertainment possessed the charm of the presence of fifteen or twenty
ladies. General Shelashnikoff, Governor of Irkutsk, and acting
Governor General during the absence of General Korsackoff, presided at
the table. We dined directly before the portraits of the last and
present emperors of Russia, and as I looked at the likeness of
Nicholas I thought I had never seen it half as amiable.

After the dinner the tables disappeared with magical rapidity and a
dance began. While I was talking in a corner behind a table, a large
album containing views of Irkutsk was presented to me as a souvenir of
my visit. The _golovah_ was prominent in the presentation, and when it
was ended he urged me to be his _vis a vis_ in a quadrille. Had he
asked me to walk a tight rope or interpret a passage of Sanscrit, I
should have been about as able to comply. My education in 'the light
fantastic' has been extremely limited, and my acquaintances will
testify that nature has not adapted me to achievements in the
Terpsichorean art.

I resisted all entreaties to join the dance up to that evening. I
urged that I never attempted it a dozen times in my life, and not at
all within ten years. The golovah declared he had not danced in
twenty-five years, and knew as little of the art as I did. There was
no more to be said. I resigned myself to the pleasures awaiting me,
and ventured on the floor very much as an elephant goes on a newly
frozen mill-pond. Personal diffidence and a regard for truth forbid a
laudatory account of my success. I did walk through a quadrille, but
when it came to the Mazurka I was as much out of place as a blind man
in a picture gallery.

My arrangement to travel with the geologic officer and his heavy
baggage fell through an hour before our starting time. A now plan was
organized and included my taking Captain Paul in my sleigh to
Krasnoyarsk. Two ladies of our acquaintance were going thither, and I
gladly waited a few hours for the pleasure of their company. When my
preparations were completed, I drove to the house of Madame Rodstvenny
whence we were to set out. The madame and her daughter were to travel
in a large kibitka, and had bestowed two servants with much baggage
and provisions in a vashok. With our three vehicles we made a
dignified procession.

We dined at three o'clock, and were ready to start an hour later. Just
before leaving the house all were seated around the principal room,
and for a minute there was perfect silence. On rising all who
professed the religion of the Greek Church bowed to the holy picture
and made the sign of the cross. This custom prevails throughout
Russia, and is never omitted when a journey is to be commenced.

There was a gay party to conduct us to the first station,
conveniently situated only eight miles away. At the ferry we found
the largest assemblage I saw in Irkutsk, not excepting the crowd at
the fire. The ferry boat was on the other side of the river, and as I
glanced across I saw something that caused me to look more intently.
It was a little past sunset, and the gathering night showed somewhat
indistinctly the American and Russian flags floating side by side on
the boat. My national colors were in the majority.

The scene was rendered more picturesque by a profusion of Chinese
lanterns lighting every part of the boat. The golovah stood at my side
to enjoy my astonishment. It was to his kindness and attention that
this farewell courtesy was due. He had the honor of unfurling the
first American flag that ever floated over the Angara--and his little
surprise raised a goodly sized lump in the throat of his guest.

[Illustration: FAREWELL TO IRKUTSK.]

Our party was so large that the boat made two journeys to ferry us
over the water. I remained till the last, and on the bank of the river
bade adieu to Irkutsk and its hospitable citizens. I may not visit
them again, but I can never forget the open hearted kindness I
enjoyed. The Siberians have a climate of great severity, but its
frosts and snows have not been able to chill the spirit of genuine
courtesy, as every traveler in that region can testify. Hospitality is
a custom of the country, and all the more pleasing because heartily
and cheerfully bestowed.

The shades of night were falling fast as I climbed the river bank, and
began my sleigh ride toward the west. The arched gateway at Irkutsk
close by the ferry landing, is called the Moscow entrance, and is said
to face directly toward the ancient capital. As I reached the road, I
shouted "_poshol_" to the yemshick, and we dashed off in fine style.
At the church or monastery six versts away, I overtook our party. The
ladies were in the chapel offering their prayers for a prosperous
journey. When they emerged we were ready to go forward over a road not
remarkable for its smoothness.

At the first station our friends joined us in taking tea. Cups,
glasses, cakes, champagne bottles, cakes and cold meats, crept somehow
from mysterious corners in our vehicles. The station master was
evidently accustomed to visits like this, as his rooms were ready for
our reception. We were two hours in making our adieus, and consuming
the various articles provided for the occasion. There was a general
kissing all around at the last moment.

We packed the ladies in their sleigh, and then entered our own. As we
left the station our friends joined their voices in a farewell song
that rang in our ears till lost in the distance, and drowned by nearer
sounds. Our bells jingled merrily in the frosty air as our horses sped
rapidly along the road. We closed the front of our sleigh, and settled
among our furs and pillows. The night was cold, but in my thick
wrappings I enjoyed a tropical warmth and did not heed the low state
of the thermometer.

Our road for seventy versts lay along the bank of the Angara. A thick
fog filled the valley and seemed to hug close to the river. In the
morning every part of our sleigh except at the points of friction, was
white with frost. Each little fibre projecting from our cover of
canvas and matting became a miniature stalactite, and the head of
every nail, bolt, and screw, buried itself beneath a mass like
oxydised silver. Everything had seized upon and congealed some of the
moisture floating in the atmosphere. Our horses were of the color, or
no color, of rabbits in January; it was only by brushing away the
frost that the natural tint of their hair could be discovered, and
sometimes there was a great deal of frost adhering to them.

During my stay at Irkutsk I noticed the prevalence of this fog or
frost cloud. It usually formed during the night and was thickest near
the river. In the morning it enveloped the whole city, but when the
sun was an hour or two in the heavens, the mist began to melt away. It
remained longest over the river, and I was occasionally in a thick
cloud on the bank of the Angara when the atmosphere a hundred yards
away was perfectly clear. The moisture congealed on every stationary
object. Houses and fences were cased in ice, its thickness varying
with the condition of the weather. Trees and bushes became masses of
crystals, and glistened in the sunlight as if formed of diamonds. I
could never wholly rid myself of the impression that some of the trees
were fountains caught and frozen when in full action. The frost played
curious tricks of artistic skill, and its delineations were sometimes
marvels of beauty.

Any one who has visited St. Petersburg in winter remembers the effect
of a fog from the Gulf of Finland after a period of severe cold. The
red granite columns of St. Isaac's church are apparently transformed
into spotless marble by the congelation of moisture on their surface.
In the same manner I have seen a gray wall at Irkutsk changed in a
night and morning to a dazzling whiteness. The crystalline formation
of the frost had all the varieties of the kaleidoscope without its
colors.

I slept well during the night, awaking occasionally at the stations or
when the sleigh experienced an unusually heavy thump. In the morning I
learned we had traveled a hundred and sixty versts from Irkutsk. The
road was magnificent after leaving the valley of the Angara, and the
sleigh glided easily and with very little jolting.

"No cloud above, no earth below;
A universe of sky and snow."

I woke to daylight and found a monotonous country destitute of
mountains and possessing few hills. It was generally wooded, and where
under cultivation near the villages there was an appearance of
fertility. There were long distances between the clusters of houses,
and I was continually reminded of the abundant room for increase of
population.

We stopped for breakfast soon after sunrise. The samovar was ordered,
and our servants brought a creditable supply of toothsome little cakes
and pies. These with half a dozen cups of tea to each person prepared
us for a ride of several hours. We dined a little before sunset, and
for one I can testify that full justice was done to the dinner.

Very little can be had at the stations on this road, so that
experienced travelers carry their own provisions. One can always
obtain hot water, and generally bread, and eggs, but nothing else is
certain. In winter, provisions can be easily carried as the frost
preserves them alike from decaying or crushing. Soup, meats, bread,
and other edibles can be carried on long routes with perfect facility.
There is a favorite preparation for Russian travel under the name of
_pilmania_. It is a little ball of minced meat covered with dough, the
whole being no larger than a robin's egg. In a frozen state a bag full
of pilmania is like the same quantity of walnuts or marbles, and can
be tossed about with impunity. When a traveler wishes to dine upon
this article he orders a pot of boiling water and tosses a double
handful of pilmania into it. After five minutes boiling the mass is
ready to be eaten in the form of soup. Salt, pepper, and vinegar can
be used with it to one's liking.

Our _diner du voyage_ consisted of pilmania, roast beef, and partridge
with bread, cakes, tea, and quass. Our table furniture was somewhat
limited, and the room was littered with garments temporarily
discarded. The ladies were crinolineless, and their coiffures were
decidedly not Parisian. My costume was a cross between a shooting
outfit and the everyday dress of a stevedore, while my hair appeared
as if recently dressed with a currant bush. Captain Paul was equally
unpresentable in fastidious parlors, but whatever our apparel it did
not diminish the keenness of our appetites. The dinner was good, and
the diners were hungry and happy. Fashion is wholly rejected on the
Siberian road, and each one makes his toilet without regard to French
principles and tastes.

According to Russian custom, somebody was to be thanked for the meal.
As the dinner came from the provisions in the servants' sleigh we
presented our acknowledgments to Madame Rodstvenny. With the
forethought of an experienced traveler the lady had carefully provided
her edibles and so abundant was her store that my supply was rarely
drawn upon. We were more like a pic-nic party than a company of
travelers on a long journey in a Siberian winter. Mademoiselle was
fluent in French, and charming in its use. The only drawback to
general conversation was my inability to talk long with Madame except
by interpretation. In our halts we managed to pass the time in
tea-drinking, conversation, and sometimes with music of an impromptu
character. I remember favoring air appreciative audience with a solo
on a trunk key, followed by mademoiselle and the captain in a duett on
a tin cup and a horn comb covered with letter paper.

There was very little scenery worthy of note. The villages generally
lay in single streets each containing from ten to a hundred houses.
Between these clusters of dwellings there was little to be seen beyond
a succession of wooded ridges with stretches of open ground. The
continued snow-scape offered no great variety on the first day's
travel, and before night I began to think it monotonous. The villages
were from ten to twenty miles apart, and very much the same in general
characteristics. The stations had a family likeness. Each had a
travelers' room more or less comfortable, and a few apartments for the
smotretal and his attendants. The travelers' room had some rough
chairs, one or two hard sofas or benches, and the same number of
tables. While the horses were being changed we had our option to enter
the station or stay out of doors. I generally preferred the latter
alternative on account of the high temperature of the waiting rooms,
which necessitated casting off one's outer garment on entering. During
our halts I was fain to refresh myself with a little leg stretching
and found it a great relief.

The first movement at a station is to present the padaroshnia and
demand horses. Marco Polo says, that the great Khan of Tartary had
posting stations twenty-five miles apart on the principal roads of his
empire. A messenger or traveler carried a paper authorizing him to
procure horses, and was always promptly supplied. The padaroshnia is
of ancient date, if Marco be trustworthy. It is not less important to
a Russian traveler at present than to a Tartar one in earlier times.
Our documents were efficacious, and usually brought horses with little
delay. The size of our party was a disadvantage as we occasionally
found one or two sets of horses ready but were obliged to wait a short
time for a third. Paul had a permit to impress horses in the villages
while I carried a special passport requesting the authorities to 'lend
me all needed assistance.' This was generally construed into
despatching me promptly, and we rarely failed with a little persuasion
and money, to secure horses for the third sleigh.

When we entered the stations for any purpose the sleighs and their
contents remained unguarded in the streets, but we never lost anything
by theft. With recollections of my experience at stage stations in
America, I never felt quite at ease at leaving our property to care
for itself. My companions assured me that thefts from posting vehicles
seldom occur although the country numbers many convicts among its
inhabitants. The native Siberians have a reputation for honesty, and
the majority of the exiles for minor offences lead correct lives. I
presume that wickedly inclined persons in villages are deterred from
stealing on account of the probability of detection and punishment. So
far as my experience goes the inhabitants of Siberia are more honest
that those of European Russia. In Siberia our sleighs required no
watching when we left them. After passing the Ural mountains it was
necessary to hire a man to look after our property when we breakfasted
and dined.

The horses being the property of the station we paid for them at every
change. On no account was the _navodku_ or drink-money to the driver
forgotten, and it varied according to the service rendered. If the
driver did well but made no special exertion we gave him eight or ten
copecks, and increased the amount as we thought he deserved. On the
other hand if he was obstinate and unaccommodating he obtained
nothing. If he argued that the regulations required only a certain
speed we retorted that the regulations said nothing about drink-money.
In general we found the yemshicks obliging and fully entitled to their
gratuities. We went at breakneck pace where the roads permitted, and
frequently where they did not. A travelers' speed depends considerably
on the drink-money he is reported to have given on the previous stage.
If illiberal to a good driver or liberal to a bad one he cannot expect
rapid progress.

The regulations require a speed of ten versts (6-2/3 miles) per hour
for vehicles not on government service. If the roads are bad the
driver can lessen his pace, but he must make all proper exertion to
keep up to the schedule. When they are good and the driver is thirsty
(as he generally is), the regulations are not heeded. We arranged for
my sleigh to lead, and that of the servants to bring up the rear.
Whatever speed we went the others were morally certain to follow, and
our progress was frequently exciting. Money was potent, and we
employed it. Fifteen copecks was a liberal gratuity, and twenty
bordered on the munificent. When we increased our offer to twenty-five
or thirty it was pretty certain to awaken enthusiasm. Sometimes the
pecuniary argument failed, and obliged us to proceed at the legal
rate. In such cases we generally turned aside and placed the ladies in
advance.

We made twelve, fourteen, or sixteen versts per hour, and on one
occasion I held my watch, and found that we traveled a trifle less
than twenty-two versts or about fourteen and a half miles in sixty
minutes. I do not think I ever rode in America at such a pace (without
steam) except once when a horse ran away with me. Ordinarily we
traveled faster than the rate prescribed by regulation, and only when
the roads were bad did we fall below it. We studied the matter of
drink-money till it became an exact science.

About noon on the first day from Irkutsk we took a yemshick who proved
sullen in the highest degree. The country was gently undulating, and
the road superb but our promises of navodku were of no avail. We
offered and entreated in vain. As a last resort we shouted in French
to the ladies and suggested that they take the lead. Our yemshick
ordered his comrade to keep his place, and refused to turn aside to
allow him to pass. He even slackened his speed and drew his horses to
a walk. Our stout-armed _garcon_ took a position on our sleigh, and by
a fistic argument succeeded in turning us aside. We made only fair
progress, and were glad when the drive was ended.

When we began our rapid traveling, I had fears that the sleigh would
go to pieces in consequence, but was soon convinced that everything
was lovely. The sport was exciting, and greatly relieved the monotony
of travel. We were so protected by furs, pillows, blankets, and hay,
that our jolting and bounding had no serious result. The ladies
enjoyed it as much as ourselves, and were not at all inconvenienced by
any ordinary shaking. Once at the end of a furious ride of twenty
versts, I found the madame asleep and learned that she had been so
since leaving the last station.

I have ridden much in American stage coaches, and witnessed some fine
driving in the west and in California. But for rapidity and dash,
commend me always to the Siberian yemshicks.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


On the second morning we stopped at Tulemsk to deliver several boxes
that encumbered the sleighs. The servants have a way of putting small
articles, and sometimes large ones, in the forward end of the vehicle.
They are no special annoyance to a person of short stature, but in my
own case I was not reconciled to the practice. A Russian sleigh is
shaped somewhat like a laundry smoothing-iron, much narrower forward
than aft, so that a traveler does not usually find the space beneath
the driver a world too wide for his shrunk shanks.

We thawed out over a steaming samovar with plenty of hot tea. The lady
of the house brought a bottle of nalifka of such curious though
agreeable flavor that I asked of what fruit it was made. "Nothing but
orange peel," was the reply. Every Siberian housewife considers it her
duty to prepare a goodly supply of nalifka during the autumn. A glass
jar holding two or three gallons is filled to the neck with any kind
of fruit or berries, currants and gooseberries being oftenest used.
The jar is then filled with native whisky, and placed in a southern
window where it is exposed to the sunlight and the heat of the room
for ten days. The whisky is then poured off, mixed with an equal
quantity of water, placed in a kettle with a pound of sugar to each
gallon, and boiled for a few minutes. When cooled and strained it is
bottled and goes to the cellar. Many Siberians prefer nalifka to
foreign wines, and a former governor-general attempted to make it
fashionable. He eschewed imported wine and substituted nalifka, but
his example was not imitated to the extent he desired.

Our halt consumed three or four hours. After we started an unfortunate
pig was found entangled in the framework of my sleigh, and before we
could let him out he was pretty well bruised and shaken up. How he
came there we were puzzled to know, but I do not believe he ever
willingly troubled a sleigh again.

We encountered many caravans of sleds laden with merchandise. They
were made up much like the trains I described between Kiachta and Lake
Baikal, there being four or five sleds to each man. The horses
generally guided themselves, and followed their leaders with great
fidelity. While we were stopping to make some repairs near the foot of
a hill, I was interested in the display of equine intelligence. As a
caravan reached the top of the hill each horse stopped till the one
preceding him had descended. Holding back as if restrained by reins he
walked half down the descent, and then finished the hill and crossed
the hollow below it at a trot. One after another passed in this manner
without guidance, exactly as if controlled by a driver.

I noticed that the horses were quite skillful in selecting the best
parts of the road. I have occasionally seen a horse pause when there
were three or four tracks through the snow, and make his choice with
apparent deliberation. I recollect a school boy composition that
declared in its first sentence, 'the horse is a noble animal,' but I
never knew until I traveled in Siberia how much he is entitled to a
patent of nobility.

In the daytime we had little trouble with these caravans, as they
generally gave us the road on hearing our bells. If the way was wide
the horses usually turned aside of their own accord; where it was
narrow they were unwilling to step in the snow, and did not until
directed by their drivers. If the latter were dilatory our yemshicks
turned aside and revenged themselves by lashing some of the sled
horses and all the drivers they could reach. In the night we found
more difficulty as the caravan horses desired to keep the road, and
their drivers were generally asleep. We were bumped against
innumerable sleds in the hours of darkness. The outriggers alone
prevented our sleighs going to pieces. The trains going eastward
carried assorted cargoes of merchandise for Siberia and China. Those
traveling westward were generally loaded with tea in chests, covered
with cowhide. The amount of traffic over the principal road through
Siberia is very large.

When we halted for dinner I brought a bottle of champagne from, my
sleigh. It was the best of the 'Cliquot' brand and frozen as solid as
a block of ice. It stood half an hour in a warm room before thawing
enough to drip slowly into our glasses and was the most perfect
_champagne frappé_ I ever saw. A bottle of cognac was a great deal
colder than ordinary ice, and when we brought it into the station the
moisture in the warm room congealed upon it to the thickness of
card-board. After this display I doubted the existence of latent heat
in alcohol.

Just as we finished dinner the post with five vehicles was announced.
We hastened to put on our furs and sprang into the sleighs with the
least possible delay. There was no fear that we should lose the first
and second set of horses, but the last one might be taken for the post
as the ladies had only a third-class padaroshnia. The yemshicks were
as anxious to escape as ourselves, as the business of carrying the
mail does not produce navodka. The post between Irkutsk and
Krasnoyarsk passes twice a week each way, and we frequently
encountered it. Where it had just passed a station there was
occasionally a scarcity of horses that delayed us till village teams
were brought.

A postillion accompanies each convoy, and is responsible for its
security. Travelers sometimes purchase tickets and have their vehicles
accompany the post, but in so doing their patience is pretty severely
taxed. The postillion is a soldier or other government employé, and
must be armed to repel robbers. One of these conductors was a boy of
fourteen who appeared under heavy responsibility. I watched him
loading a pistol at a station and was amused at his ostentatious
manner. When the operation was completed he fixed the weapon in his
belt and swaggered out with the air of the heavy tragedian at the Old
Bowery. Another postillion stuck around with pistols and knives looked
like a military museum on its travels.

[Illustration: THE CONDUCTOR.]

From our dining station we left the main road, and traveled several
versts along the frozen surface of the Birusa river. The snow lay in
ridges, and as we drove rapidly over them we were tossed like a yawl
in a hopping sea. It was a foretaste of what was in store for me at
later periods of my journey. The Birusa is rich in gold deposits, and
the government formerly maintained extensive mining establishments in
its valley.

About nine o'clock in the evening we voted to take tea. On entering
the station I found the floor covered with a dormant mass, exhaling an
odor not altogether spicy. I bumped my head against a sort of wide
shelf suspended eighteen or twenty inches from the ceiling, and
sustaining several sleepers.

"Here" said Paul, "is another _chambre á coucher_" as he attempted to
pull aside a curtain at the top of the brick stove. A female head and
shoulders were exposed for an instant, until a stout hand grasped and
retained the curtain. The suspended shelf or false ceiling is quite
common in the peasant houses, and especially at the stations. The
yemshicks and other attachés of the concern are lodged here and on the
floor, beds being a luxury they rarely obtain. Frequently a small
house would be as densely packed as the steerage of a passenger ship,
and I never desired to linger in these crowded apartments. A Russian
house has little or no ventilation, and the effect of a score of
sleepers on the air of a room is 'better imagined than described.'

On the road west of Irkutsk the rules require each smotretal to keep
ten teams or thirty horses, ready for use. Many of them have more than
that number, and the villages can supply any ordinary demand after the
regular force is exhausted. Fourteen yemshicks are kept at every
station, and always ready for service. They are boarded at the expense
of the smotretal, and receive about five roubles each per month, with
as much drink-money as they can obtain. Frequently they make two
journeys a day to the next station, returning without loads. They
appeared on the most amiable terms with each other, and I saw no
quarreling over their work.

On our first and second nights from Irkutsk the weather was cold, the
thermometer standing at fifteen or twenty degrees below zero. On the
third day the temperature rose quite rapidly, and by noon it was just
below the freezing point. Our furs designed for cold weather became
uncomfortably warm, and I threw off my outer garments and rode in my
sheepskin coat. In the evening we experienced a feeling of suffocation
on closing the sleigh, and were glad to open it again. We rode all
night with the wind beating pleasantly against our faces, and from
time to time lost our consciousness in sleep. For nearly two days the
warm weather continued, and subjected us to inconveniences. We did not
travel as rapidly as in the colder days, the road being less
favorable, and the horses diminishing their energy with the increased
warmth. Some of our provisions were in danger of spoiling as they were
designed for transportation only in a frozen state.

Between Nijne Udinsk and Kansk the snow was scanty, and the road
occasionally bad. The country preserved its slightly undulating
character, and presented no features of interest. Where we found
sufficient snow we proceeded rapidly, sometimes leaving the summer
road and taking to the open ground, and forests on either side. We
pitched into a great many _oukhabas_, analagous to American "hog
wallows" or "cradle holes." To dash into one of these at full speed
gives a shock like a boat's thumping on the shore. It is only with
pillows, furs, and hay that a traveler can escape contusions. In mild
doses _oukhabas_ are an excellent tonic, but the traveler who takes
them in excess may easily imagine himself enjoying a field-day at
Donnybrook Fair.

[Illustration: JUMPING CRADLE HOLES.]

An hour before reaching Kansk one of our horses fell dead and brought
us to a sudden halt. The yemshick tried various expedients to discover
signs of life but to no purpose. Paul and I formed a board of survey,
and sat upon the beast; the other sleighs passed us during our
consultation, and were very soon out of sight. When satisfied that the
animal, as a horse, was of no further use, the yemshick pulled him to
the roadside, stripped off his harness, and proceeded with our reduced
team. I asked who was responsible for the loss, and was told it was no
affair of ours. The government pays for horses killed in the service
of couriers, as these gentlemen compel very high speed. On a second or
third rate padaroshnian the death of a horse is the loss of its owner.
Horses are not expensive in this region, an ordinary roadster being
worth from fifteen to twenty roubles.

Within a mile of Kansk the road was bare of snow, and as we had but
two horses to our sleigh I proposed walking into town. We passed a
long train of sleds on their way to market with loads of wood and
hay. Tea was ready for us when we arrived at the station, and we were
equally ready for it. After my fifth cup I walked through the public
square as it was market day, and the people were in the midst of
traffic. Fish, meat, hay, wood, and a great quantity of miscellaneous
articles were offered for sale. In general terms the market was a sort
of pocket edition of the one at Irkutsk. I practiced my knowledge of
Russian in purchasing a quantity of rope to use in case of accidents.
Foreigners were not often seen there if I may judge of the curiosity
with which I was regarded.

Kansk is a town of about three thousand inhabitants, and stands on the
Kan, a tributary of the Yenesei. We were told there was little snow to
the first station, and were advised to take five horses to each
sleigh. We found the road a combination of thin snow and bare ground,
the latter predominating. We proceeded very well, the yemshicks
maintaining sublime indifference to the character of the track. They
plied their whips vigorously in the probable expectation of
drink-money. The one on my sleigh regaled us with an account of the
perfectly awful condition of the road to Krasnoyarsk.

About sunset we changed horses, thirty versts from Kansk, and found no
cheering prospect ahead. We drowned our sorrows in the flowing
tea-cup, and fortified ourselves with a large amount of heat. Tea was
the sovereign remedy for all our ills, and we used it most liberally.
We set out with misgivings and promised liberal rewards to the
yemshicks, if they took us well and safely. The road was undeniably
bad, with here and there a redeeming streak of goodness.
Notwithstanding the jolts I slept pretty well during the night. In the
morning we took tea fifty versts from Krasnoyarsk, and learned there
was absolutely no snow for the last thirty versts before reaching the
city. There was fortunately a good snow road to the intervening
village where we must change to wheels. Curiously enough the snow
extended up to the very door of the last station, and utterly
disappeared three feet beyond. Looking one way we saw bare earth,
while in the other direction there was a good road for sleighing.

At this point we arranged our programme over the inevitable cakes and
tea. The ladies were to leave their vashok until their return to
Irkutsk ten or twelve days later. The remaining sleighs were unladen
and mounted upon wheels. We piled our baggage into telyagas with the
exception of a few articles that remained in the sleighs. The ladies
with their maid took one wagon, while Paul and myself rode in another,
the man servant conveying the sleighs. The whole arrangement was
promptly effected; the villagers scented a job on our arrival, and
were ready for proposals. My sleigh was lifted and fastened into a
wagon about as quickly as a hackman would arrange a trunk. _Place aux
dames toujours._ We sent away the ladies half an hour in advance of
the rest of the party.

Our telyaga was a rickety affair, not half so roomy as the sleigh, but
as the ride was short the discomfort was of little consequence. We had
four ill conditioned steeds, but before we had gone twenty rods one of
the brutes persistently faced about and attempted to come inside the
vehicle, though he did not succeed. After vain efforts to set him
right, the yemshick turned him loose, and he bolted homeward
contentedly.

We climbed and descended a long hill near the village, and then found
a level country quite free from snow, and furnishing a fine road. I
was told that very little snow falls within twenty miles of
Krasnoyarsk, and that it is generally necessary to use wheels there in
the winter months. The reason was not explained to me, but probably
the general configuration of the country is much like that near
Chetah. Krasnoyarsk lies on the Yenesei which has a northerly course
into the Arctic Ocean. The mountains bounding the valley are not
lofty, but sufficiently high to wring the moisture from the snow
clouds. Both above and below Krasnoyarsk, there is but little snow
even in severe seasons.

Our animals were superbly atrocious, and made good speed only on
descending grades. We were four hours going thirty versts, and for
three-fourths that distance our route was equal to the Bloomingdale
Road. Occasionally we saw farm houses with a dejected appearance as if
the winter had come upon them unawares. From the quantity of ground
enclosed by fences I judged the land was fertile, and well cultivated.

Toward sunset we saw the domes of Krasnoyarsk rising beyond the frozen
Yenesei. We crossed the river on the ice, and passed near several
women engaged in rinsing clothes.

A laundress does her washing at the house, but rinses her linen at the
river. In summer this may be well enough, but it seemed to me that the
winter exercise of standing in a keen wind with the thermometer below
zero, and rinsing clothes in a hole cut through the ice was anything
but agreeable. It was a cold day, and I was well wrapped in furs, but
these women were in ordinary clothing, and some had bare legs. They
stood at the edges of circular holes in the ice, and after 'swashing'
the linen a short time in the water, wrung it with their purple hands.
How they escaped frost bites I cannot imagine.

The Yenesei is a magnificent river, one of the largest in Siberia. It
is difficult to estimate with accuracy any distance upon ice, and I
may be far from correct in considering the Yenesei a thousand yards
wide at Krasnoyarsk. The telegraph wires are supported on tall masts
as at the crossing of the Missouri near Kansas City. In summer there
are two steamboats navigating the river from Yeneseisk to the Arctic
Ocean. Rapids and shoals below Krasnoyarsk prevent their ascending to
the latter town. The tributaries of the Yenesei are quite rich in gold
deposits, and support a mining business of considerable extent.

Krasnoyarsk derives its name from the red hills in its vicinity, and
the color of the soil where it stands. It is on the left bank of the
Yenesei, and has about ten thousand inhabitants. It was nearly night
when we climbed the sloping road in the hillside, and reached the
level of the plateau. The ladies insisted that we should occupy their
house during our stay, and utterly forbade our going to the hotel.
While walking up the hill the captain hailed a washerwoman, and asked
for the residence of Madame Rodstvenny. Her reply was so voluminous,
and so rapidly given that my friend was utterly bewildered, and
comprehended nothing. To his astonishment I told him that I understood
the direction.

"_C'est impossible_," he declared.

"By no means," I replied. "The madame lives in a stone house to the
left of the gastinni dvor. The washerwoman said so."

Following my advice we found the house. As we entered the courtyard,
the captain begged to know by what possibility I understood in his own
language what he could not.

I explained that while the woman spoke so glibly I caught the words
"_doma, kamen, na leva, gastinni dvor_." I understood only the
essential part of her instruction, and was not confused by the rest.

I was somewhat reluctant to convert a private house into a hotel as I
expected to remain four or five days. But Siberian hospitality does
not stop at trifles, and my objections were promptly overruled. After
toilet and dinner, Paul and I were parboiled in the bath house of the
establishment. An able-bodied moujik scrubbed me so thoroughly as to
suggest the possibility of removing the cuticle.

In the morning I went to the bank to change some large bills into
one-rouble notes for use on the road. Horses must be paid for at every
station, and it is therefore desirable to carry the smallest notes
with abundance of silver and copper to make change. The bank was much
like institutions of its class elsewhere, and transacted my business
promptly. The banks in Siberia are branches of the Imperial Bank at
St. Petersburg. They receive deposits, and negotiate exchanges and
remittances just like private banks, but do not undertake risky
business. The officers are servants of the government, and receive
their instructions from the parent bank.

My finances arranged, I went to the telegraph office to send a message
to a friend. My despatch was written in Russian, and I paid for
message and response. A receipt was given me stating the day, hour,
and minute of filing the despatch, its destination, address, length,
and amount paid. When I received the response I found a statement of
the exact time it was filed for transmission, and also of its
reception at Krasnoyarsk. This is the ordinary routine of the Russian
telegraph system. I commend it to the notice of interested persons in
America.

There is no free telegraphing on the government lines, every despatch
over the wires being paid for by somebody. If on government business
the sender pays the regular tariff and is reimbursed from the
treasury. I was told that the officers of the telegraph paid for their
own family messages, but had the privilege of conversing on the lines
free of charge. High position does not confer immunity. When the
Czarevitch was married, General Korsackoff sent his congratulations by
telegraph, and received a response from the Emperor. Both messages
were paid for by the sender without reduction or trust.

I found the general features of Krasnoyarsk much like those of
Irkutsk. Official and civilian inhabitants dressed, lived, walked,
breathed, drank, and gambled like their kindred nearer the east. It
happened to be market day, and the public square was densely crowded.
I was interested in observing the character and abundance of the fish
offered for sale. Among those with a familiar appearance were the
sturgeon, perch, and pike, and a small fish resembling our alewife.
There was a fish unknown to me, with a long snout like a duck's bill,
and a body on the extreme clipper model. All these fish are from the
Yenesei, some dwelling there permanently while others ascend annually
from the Arctic Ocean. All in the market were frozen solid, and the
larger ones were piled up like cord-wood.

From the bank overlooking the river there is a fine view of the valley
of the Yenesei. There are several islands in the vicinity, and I was
told that in the season of floods the stream has a very swift current.
It is no easy work to ferry across it, and the boats generally descend
a mile or two while paddling over. A few years ago a resident of
Krasnoyarsk made a remarkable voyage on this river. He had been
attending a wedding several miles away on the other bank, and started
to return late at night so as to reach the ferry about daybreak. His
equipage was a wooden telyaga drawn by two powerful horses. Having
partaken of the cup that inebriates, the man fell asleep and allowed
his horses to take their own course. Knowing the way perfectly they
came without accident to the ferry landing, their owner still wrapped
in his drunken slumber.

[Illustration: VALLEY OF THE YENESEI.]

The boat was on the other side, and the horses, no doubt hungry and
impatient, plunged in to swim across. The telyaga filled with water,
but had sufficient buoyancy not to sink. The cold bath waked and
sobered the involuntary voyager when about half way over the river. He
had the good sense, aided by fright, to remain perfectly still, and
was landed in safety. Those who saw him coming in the early dawn were
struck with astonishment, and one, at least, imagined that he beheld
Neptune in his marine chariot breasting the waters of the Yenesei. My
informant vouched for the correctness of the story, and gave it as an
illustration of the courage and endurance of Siberian horses.
According to the statement of the condition of the river, the beasts
could have as easily crossed the Mississippi at Memphis in an ordinary
stage of water.

Wolves are abundant in the valley of the Yenesei, though they are not
generally dangerous to men. An officer whom I met there told me they
were less troublesome than in Poland, and he related his experience
with them in the latter country while on a visit to the family of a
young lady to whom he was betrothed. I give his story as nearly as
possible in his own words.

"One day my friend Rasloff proposed a wolf hunt. We selected the best
horses from his stable; fine, quick, surefooted beasts, with a driver
who was unsurpassed in all that region for his skill and dash. The
sleigh was a large one, and we fitted it with a good supply of robes
and straw, and put a healthy young pig in it to serve as a decoy. We
each had a gun, and carried a couple of spare guns, with plenty of
ammunition, so that we could kill as many wolves as presented
themselves.

"Just as we were preparing to start, Christina asked to accompany us.
I suggested the coldness of the night, and Rasloff hinted that the
sleigh was too small for three. But Christina protested that the air,
though sharp, was clear and still, and she could wrap herself warmly;
a ride of a few hours would do her more good than harm. The sleigh,
she insisted, was a large one, and afforded ample room. 'Besides,' she
added, 'I will sit directly behind the driver, and out of your way,
and I want to see a wolf-hunt very much indeed.'

"So we consented. Christina arrayed herself in a few moments, and we
started on our excursion.

"The servants were instructed to hang out a light in front of the
entrance to the courtyard. It was about sunset when we left the
chateau and drove out upon the plain, covered here and there with
patches of forest. The road we followed was well trodden by the many
peasants on their way to the fair at the town, twenty-five miles away.
We traveled slowly, not wishing to tire our horses, and, as we left
the half dozen villages that clustered around the chateau, we had the
road entirely to ourselves. The moon rose soon after sunset, and as it
was at the full, it lighted up the plain very clearly, and seemed to
stand out quite distinct from the deep blue sky and the bright stars
that sparkled everywhere above the horizon. We chatted gayly as we
rode along. The time passed so rapidly that I was half surprised, when
Rasloff told me to get ready to hunt wolves.

"The pig had been lying very comfortably in the bottom, of the sleigh,
and protested quite loudly as we brought him out. The rope had been
made ready before we started from home, and so the most we had to do
was to turn the horses around, get our guns ready, and throw the pig
upon the ground. He set up a piercing shriek as the rope dragged him
along, and completely drowned our voices. Paul had hard work to keep
the horses from breaking into a run, but he succeeded, and we
maintained a very slow trot. Christina nestled in the place she had
agreed to occupy, and Rasloff and I prepared to shoot the wolves.

"We drove thus for fifteen or twenty minutes. The pig gradually became
exhausted, and reduced his scream to a sort of moan that was very
painful to hear. I began to think we should see no wolves, and return
to the chateau without firing our guns, when suddenly a howl came
faintly along the air, and in a moment, another and another.

"'There,' said Rasloff; 'there comes our game, and we shall have work
enough before long.'

"A few moments later I saw a half dozen dusky forms emerging from the
forest to the right and behind us. They seemed like moving spots on
the snow, and had it not been for their howling I should have failed
to notice them as early as I did. They grew more and more numerous,
and, as they gathered behind us, formed a waving line across the road
that gradually took the shape of a crescent, with the horns pointing
toward our right and left. At first they were timid, and kept a
hundred yards or more behind us, but as the hog renewed his scream,
they took courage, and approached nearer.

"By the time they were within fifty yards there were two or three
hundred of them--possibly half a thousand. I could see every moment
that their numbers were increasing, and it was somewhat impatiently
that I waited Rasloff's signal to fire. At last he told me to begin,
and I fired at the center of the pack. The wolf I struck gave a howl
of pain, and his companions, roused by the smell of blood, fell upon
and tore him to pieces in a moment. Rasloff fired an instant after me,
and then we kept up our firing as fast as possible. As the wolves
fell, the others sprung upon them, but the pack was so large that they
were not materially detained by stopping to eat up their brethren.
They continued the pursuit, and what alarmed me, they came nearer, and
showed very little fear of our guns.

"We had taken a large quantity of ammunition--more by half than we
thought would possibly be needed--but its quantity diminished so
rapidly as to suggest the probability of exhaustion. The pack steadily
came nearer. We cut away the pig, but it stopped the pursuit only for
a moment. Directly behind us the wolves were not ten yards away; on
each side they were no further from the horses, who were snorting with
fear, and requiring all the efforts of the driver to hold them. We
shot down the beasts as fast as possible, and as I saw our danger I
whispered my thoughts to Rasloff.

"He replied to me in Spanish, which Christina did not understand, that
the situation was really dangerous, and we must prepare to get out of
it. 'I would stay longer,' he suggested, 'though there is a good deal
of risk in it; but we must think of the girl, and not let her suspect
anything wrong, and, above all, must not risk her safety.'

"Turning to the driver, he said, in a cheery tone:

"'Paul, we have shot till we are tired out. You may let the horses go,
but keep them well in control.'

"While he spoke a huge wolf sprang from the pack and dashed toward
one of the horses. Another followed him, and in twenty seconds the
line was broken and they were upon us. One wolf jumped at the rear of
the sleigh and caught his paws upon it. Rasloff struck him with the
butt of his gun, and at the same instant he delivered the blow, Paul
let the horses have their way. Rasloff fell upon the edge of the
vehicle and over its side. Luckily, his foot caught in one of the
robes and held him for an instant--long enough to enable me to seize
and draw him back. It was the work of a moment, but what a moment!

"Christina had remained silent, suspecting, but not fully
comprehending our danger. As her brother fell she screamed and dropped
senseless to the bottom of the sleigh. I confess that I exerted all my
strength in that effort to save the brother of my affianced, and as I
accomplished it, I sank powerless, though still conscious, at the side
of the girl I loved. Rasloff's right arm was dislocated by the fall,
and one of the pursuing wolves had struck his teeth into his scalp as
he was dragging over the side, and torn it so that it bled profusely.
How narrow had been his escape!

"'Faster, faster, Paul!' he shouted; 'drive for your life and for
ours.'

"Paul gave the horses free rein, and they needed no urging. They
dashed along the road as horses rarely ever dashed before. In a few
minutes I gained strength enough to raise my head, and saw, to my
unspeakable delight, that the distance between us and the pack was
increasing. We were safe if no accident occurred and the horses could
maintain their pace.

"One horse fell, but, as if knowing his danger, made a tremendous
effort and gained his feet. By-and-by we saw the light at the chateau,
and in a moment dashed into the courtyard, and were safe."

[Illustration: A WOLF HUNT.]



CHAPTER XL.


I found at Krasnoyarsk more beggars than in Irkutsk, in proportion to
the population. Like beggars in all parts of the empire, they made the
sign of the cross on receiving donations. A few were young, but the
great majority were old, tattered, and decrepid, who shivered in the
frosty air, and turned purple visages upon their benefactors. The
peasantry in Russia are liberal to the poor, and in many localities
they have abundant opportunities to practice charity.

With its abundance of beggars Krasnoyarsk can also boast a great many
wealthy citizens. The day before my departure one of these Siberian
Croesuses died, and another was expected to follow his example before
long. A church near the market place was built at the sole expense of
this deceased individual. Its cost exceeded seven hundred thousand
roubles, and its interior was said to be finely decorated. Among the
middle classes in Siberia the erection of churches is, or has been,
the fashionable mode of public benefaction. The endowment of schools,
libraries, and scientific associations has commenced, but is not yet
fully popular.

The wealth of Krasnoyarsk is chiefly derived from gold digging. The
city may be considered the center of mining enterprises in the
government of Yeneseisk. Two or three thousand laborers in the gold
mines spend the winter at Krasnoyarsk, and add to the volume of local
commerce. The town of Yeneseisk, three hundred versts further north,
hibernates an equal number, and many hundreds are scattered through
the villages in the vicinity. The mining season begins in May and ends
in September. In March and April the clerks and superintendents
engage their laborers, paying a part of their wages in advance. The
wages are not high, and only those in straitened circumstances, the
dissolute, and profligate, who have no homes of their own, are
inclined to let themselves to labor in gold mines.

Many works are extensive, and employ a thousand or more laborers each.
The government grants mining privileges to individuals on certain
conditions. The land granted must be worked at least one year out of
every three, else the title reverts to the government, and can be
allotted again. The grantee must be either a hereditary nobleman or
pay the tax of a merchant of the second guild, or he should be able to
command the necessary capital for the enterprise he undertakes. His
title holds good until his claim is worked out or abandoned, and no
one can disturb him on any pretext. He receives a patent for a strip
of land seven versts long and a hundred fathoms wide, on the banks of
a stream suitable for mining purposes. The claim extends on both sides
of the stream, and includes its bed, so that the water may be utilized
at the will of the miner.

Sometimes the grantee desires a width of more than a hundred fathoms,
but in such case the length of his claim is shortened in proportion.

It requires a large capital to open a claim after the grant is
obtained. The location is often far from any city or large town, where
supplies are purchased. Transportation is a heavy item, as the roads
are difficult to travel. Sometimes a hundred thousand roubles will be
expended in supplies, transportation, buildings, and machinery, before
the work begins. Then men must be hired, taken to the mines, clothed,
and furnished with, proper quarters. The proprietor must have at hand
a sufficient amount of provisions, medical stores, clothing, and
miscellaneous goods to supply his men during the summer. Everything
desired by the laborer is sold to him at a lower price than he could
buy elsewhere, at least such is the theory. I was told that the mining
proprietors make no profits from their workmen, but simply add the
cost of transportation to the wholesale price of the merchandise. The
men are allowed to anticipate their wages by purchase, and it often
happens that there is very little due them at the end of the season.

Government regulations and the interest of proprietors require that
the laborers should be well fed and housed and tended during sickness.
Every mining establishment maintains a physician either on its own
account or jointly with a neighbor. The national dish of Russia,
_schee_, is served daily, with at least a pound of beef. Sometimes the
treatment of the men lapses into negligence toward the close of the
season, especially if the enterprise is unfortunate; but this is not
the case in the early months. The mining proprietors understand the
importance of keeping their laborers in good health, and to secure
this end there is nothing better than proper food and lodging. Vodki
is dealt out in quantities sufficiently small to prevent intoxication,
except on certain feast-days, when all can get drunk to their liking.
No drinking shops can be kept on the premises until the season's work
is over and the men are preparing to depart.

Every laborer is paid for extra work, and if industrious and prudent
his wages will equal thirty-five or forty roubles a month beside his
board. While in debt he is required by law to work every day, not even
resting on Saints' days or Sundays. The working season lasting only
about four months, early and late hours are a necessity. When the
year's operations are ended the most of the men find their way to the
larger towns, where they generally waste their substance in riotous
living till the return of spring. As in mining communities everywhere,
the prudent and economical are a minority.

The mines in the government of Yeneseisk are generally on the
tributaries of the Yenesei river. The valley of the Pit is rich in
gold deposits, and has yielded large fortunes to lucky operators
during the past twenty years. Usually the pay-dirt begins twenty or
thirty feet below the surface, and I heard of a mine that yielded
handsome profits though the gold-bearing earth was under seventy feet
of soil. Prospecting is conducted with great care, and no mining
enterprise is commenced without a thorough survey of the region to be
developed. Wells or pits are dug at regular intervals, the exact depth
and the character of the upper earth being noted. This often involves
a large expenditure of money and labor, and many fortunes have been
wasted, by parties whose lucky star was not in the ascendant, in their
persistent yet unsuccessful search for paying mines.

Solid rock is sometimes struck sooner or later after commencing work,
which renders the expense of digging vastly greater. In such cases,
unless great certainty exists of striking a rich vein of gold beneath,
the labor is suspended, the spot vacated, and another selected with
perhaps like results.

Occasionally some sanguine operator will push his well down through
fifty feet of solid rock at a great outlay, and with vast labor, to
find himself possessed of the means for a large fortune, while another
will find himself ruined by his failure to strike the expected gold.

When the pay-dirt is reached, its depth and the number of zolotniks of
gold in every pood taken out are ascertained. With the results before
him a practical miner can readily decide whether a place will pay for
working. Of course he must take many contingent facts into
consideration, such as the extent of the placer, the resources of the
region, the roads or the expense of making them, provisions, lumber,
transportation, horses, tools, men, and so on through a long list.

The earth over the pay-dirt is broken up and carted off; its great
depth causes immense wear of horseflesh. A small mine employs three or
four hundred workmen, and larger ones in proportion. I heard of one
that kept more than three thousand men at work. The usual estimate for
horses is one to every two men, but the proportion varies according to
the character of the mine.

The pay-dirt is hauled to the bank of the river, where it is washed in
machines turned by water power. Various machines have been devised for
gold-washing, and the Russians are anxious to find the best invention
of the kind. The one in most general use and the easiest to construct
is a long cylinder of sheet iron open at both ends and perforated with
many small holes. This revolves in a slightly inclined position, and
receives the dirt and a stream of water at the upper end. The stones
pass through the cylinder and fall from the opposite end, where they
are examined to prevent the loss of 'nuggets.' Fine dirt, sand, gold,
and water pass through the perforations, and are caught in suitable
troughs, where the lighter substance washes away and leaves the black
sand and gold.

Great care is exercised to prevent thefts, but it does not always
succeed. The laborers manage to purloin small quantities, which they
sell to contraband dealers in the larger towns. The government forbids
private traffic in gold dust, and punishes offences with severity; but
the profits are large and tempting. Every gold miner must send the
product of his diggings to the government establishment at Barnaool,
where it is smelted and assayed. The owner receives its money value,
minus the Imperial tax of fifteen per cent.

The whole valley of the Yenesei, as far as explored, is auriferous.
Were it not for the extreme rigor of its climate and the disadvantages
of location, it would become immensely productive. Some mines have
been worked at a profit where the earth is solidly frozen and must be
thawed by artificial means. One way of accomplishing this is by piling
wood to a height of three or four feet and then setting it on fire.
The earth thawed by the heat is scraped off, and fresh fires are made.
Sometimes the frozen earth is dug up and soaked in water. Either
process is costly, and the yield of gold must be great to repay the
outlay. A gentleman in Irkutsk told me he had a gold mine of this
frozen character, and intimated that he found it profitable. The
richest gold mines thus far worked in Siberia are in the government of
Yeneseisk, but it is thought that some of the newly opened placers in
the Trans-Baikal province and along the Amoor will rival them in
productiveness.

[Illustration: HYDRAULIC MINING.]

In Irkutsk I met a Russian who had spent some months in California,
and proposed introducing hydraulic mining to the Siberians. No quartz
mines have been worked in Eastern Siberia, but several rich leads are
known to exist, and I presume a thorough exploration would reveal many
more. I saw excellent specimens of gold-bearing quartz from the
governments of Irkutsk and Yeneseisk. One specimen in particular, if
in the hands of certain New York operators, would be sufficient basis
for a company with a capital of half a million. In the Altai and Ural
mountains quartz mills have been in use for many years.

The Siberian gold deposits were made available long before Russia
explored and conquered Northern Asia. There are many evidences in the
Ural mountains of extensive mining operations hundreds of years ago.
Large areas have been dug over by a people of whom the present
inhabitants can give no account. It is generally supposed that the
Tartars discovered and opened these gold mines shortly after the time
of Genghis Khan.

The native population of the valley of the Yenesei comprises several
distinct tribes, belonging in common to the great Mongolian race. In
the extreme north, in the region bordering the Arctic Ocean, are the
Samoyedes, who are of the same blood as the Turks. The valley of the
Lena is peopled by Yakuts, whose development far exceeds that of the
Samoyedes, though both are of common origin. The latter are devoted
entirely to the chase and the rearing of reindeer, and show no
fondness for steady labor. The Yakuts employ the horse as a beast of
burden, and are industrious, ingenious, and patient. As much as the
character of the country permits they till the soil, and are not
inclined to nomadic life. They are hardy and reliable laborers, and
live on the most amicable terms with the Russians.

Before the opening of the Amoor the carrying trade from Yakutsk to
Ohotsk was in their hands. As many as forty thousand horses used to
pass annually between the two points, nearly all of them owned and
driven by Yakuts.

Most of these natives have been converted to Christianity, but they
still adhere to some of their ancient practices. On the road, for
example, they pluck hairs from their horse's tails and hang them upon
trees to appease evil spirits. Some of the Russians have imbibed
native superstitions, and there is a story of a priest who applied to
a shaman to practice his arts and ward off evil in a journey he was
about to make. Examples to the natives are not always of the best, and
it would not be surprising if they raised doubts as to the
superiority of Christian faith. A traveler who had a mixed party of
Cossacks and natives, relates that the former were accustomed to say
their prayers three or four times on evenings when they had plenty of
leisure and omit them altogether when they were fatigued. At Nijne
Kolymsk Captain Wrangell found the priests holding service three times
on one Sunday and then absenting themselves for two weeks.

South of Krasnoyarsk are the natives belonging to the somewhat
indefinite family known as Tartars. They came originally from Central
Asia, and preserve many Mongol habits added to some created by present
circumstances. Some of them dwell in houses, while others adhere to
yourts of the same form and material as those of the Bouriats and
Mongols. They are agriculturists in a small way, but only adopt
tilling the soil as a last resort. Their wealth consists in sheep,
cattle, and horses, and when one of them has large possessions he
changes his habitation two or three times a year, on account of
pasturage. A gentleman told me that he once found a Tartar, whose
flocks and herds were worth more than a million roubles, living in a
tent of ordinary dimensions and with very little of what a European
would call comfort. These natives harmonize perfectly with the
Russians, of whom they have a respectful fear.

Like their kindred in Central Asia, these Tartars are excellent
horsemen, and show themselves literally at home in the saddle.
Dismounted, they step clumsily, and are unable to walk any distance of
importance. On horseback they have an easy and graceful carriage, and
are capable of great endurance. They show intense love for their
horses, caressing them constantly and treating their favorite riding
animals as household pets. In all their songs and traditions the horse
occupies a prominent place.

One of the most popular Tartar songs, said to be of great antiquity,
relates the adventures of "Swan's Wing," a beautiful daughter of a
native chief. Her brother had been overpowered by a magician and
carried to the spirit laird. According to the tradition the horse he
rode came to Swan's Wing and told her what had occurred. The young
girl begged him to lead her by the road the magician had taken, and
thus guided, she reached the country of the shades. Assisted by the
horse she was able to rescue her brother from the prison where he was
confined. On her return she narrated to her people the incidents of
her journey, which are chanted at the present time. The song tells how
one of the supernatural guardians was attracted by her beauty and
became her _valet de place_ during her visit.

Near the entrance of the grounds she saw a fat horse in a sandy field,
and a lean one in a meadow. A thin and apparently powerless man was
wading against a torrent, while a large and muscular one could not
stop a small brook.

"The first horse," said her guide, "shows that a careful master can
keep his herds in good condition with scanty pasturage, and the second
shows how easily one may fail to prosper in the midst of plenty. The
man stemming the torrent shows how much one can accomplish by the
force of will, even though the body be weak. The strong man is
overpowered by the little stream, because he lacks intelligence and
resolution."

She was next led through several apartments of a large building. In
the first apartment several women were spinning incessantly, while
others attempted to swallow balls of hemp. Next she saw women holding
heavy stones in their hands and unable to put them down. Then there
were parties playing without cessation upon musical instruments, and
others busy over games of chance. In one room were men and dogs
enraged and biting each other. In a dormitory were many couples with
quilts of large dimensions, but in each couple there was an active
struggle, and its quilt was frequently pulled aside. In the last hall
of the establishment there were smiling couples, at peace with all the
world and 'the rest of mankind.' The song closes with the guide's
explanation of what Swan's Wing had seen.

"The women who spin now are punished because in their lives they
continued to spin after sunset, when they should be at rest.

"Those who swallow balls of hemp were guilty of stealing thread by
making their cloth too thin.

"Those condemned to hold heavy stones were guilty of putting stones in
their butter to make it heavy.

"The parties who make music and gamble did nothing else in their life
time, and must continue that employment perpetually.

"The men with the dogs are suffering the penalty of having created
quarrels on earth.

"The couples who freeze under ample covering are punished for their
selfishness when mortals, and the couples in the next apartment are an
example to teach the certainty of happiness to those who develop
kindly disposition."

The region of the Lower Yenesei contains many exiles whom the
government desired to remove far from the centers of population. These
include political and criminal prisoners, whose offences are of a high
grade, together with the members of a certain religious order, known
as "The Skoptsi." The latter class is particularly obnoxious on
account of its practice of mutilation. Whenever an adherent of this
sect is discovered he is banished to the remotest regions, either in
the north of Siberia or among the mountains of Circassia. It is the
only religious body relentlessly persecuted by the Russian government,
and the persecution is based upon the sparseness of population. Some
of these men have been incorporated into regiments on the frontier,
where they prove obedient and tractable. Those who become colonists in
Siberia are praised for their industry and perseverance, and
invariably win the esteem of their neighbors. They are banished to
distant localities through fear of their influence upon those around
them. Most of the money-changers of Moscow are reputed to believe in
this peculiar faith.

Many prominent individuals were exiled to the Lower Yenesei and
regions farther eastward, under former sovereigns. Count Golofkin, one
of the ministers of Catherine II., was banished to Nijne Kolymsk,
where he died. It is said that he used to put himself, his servants,
and house in deep mourning on every anniversary of Catherine's
birthday. Two officers of the court of the emperor Paul were exiled to
a small town on the Yenesei, where they lived until recalled by
Alexander I.

The settlers on the Angara are freed from liability to conscription,
on condition that they furnish rowers and pilots to boats navigating
that stream. The settlers on the Lena enjoy the same privilege under
similar terms. On account of the character of the country and the
drawbacks to prosperity, the taxes are much lighter than in more
favored regions. In the more northern districts there is a
considerable trade in furs and ivory. The latter comes in the shape of
walrus tusks, and the tusks and teeth of the mammoth, which are
gathered on the shores of the Arctic Ocean and the islands scattered
through it. This trade is less extensive than it was forty or fifty
years ago.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLI.


I spent three days in Krasnoyarsk, chiefly employed upon my letters
and journal. My recent companions were going no farther in my
direction, and knowing this beforehand, I arranged with a gentleman at
Irkutsk to travel with him from Krasnoyarsk. He arrived two days
behind me, and after sending away a portion of his heavy baggage, was
ready to depart. There was no snow to the first station, and so we
sent our sleighs on wheels and used the post carriages over the bare
ground. A peasant who lived near the station sought me out and offered
to transport my sleigh for three roubles and a little drink-money. As
I demurred, he proposed to repair, without extra charge, one of my
fenders which had come to grief, and we made a bargain on this
proposition.

My companion, Dr. Schmidt, had recently returned from a
mammoth-hunting expedition within the Arctic circle. He had not
secured a perfect specimen of this extinct beast, but contented
himself with some parts of the stupendous whole, and a miscellaneous
collection of birds, bugs, and reptiles. He despatched a portion of
his treasures by post; the balance, with his assistant, formed a
sufficient load for one sleigh. The doctor was to ride in my sleigh,
while his assistant in another vehicle kept company with the relicts.
The kegs, boxes, and bundles of Arctic zoology did not form a
comfortable couch, and I never envied their conductor.

On the day fixed for our departure we sent our papers to the station
in the forenoon, and were told we could be supplied at sunset or a
little later. This was not to our liking, as we desired to reach the
first station before nightfall. A friend suggested an appeal to the
Master of the post, and together we proceeded to that functionary's
office. An amiable, quiet man he was, and listened to our complaint
with perfect composure. After hearing it he summoned the smotretal
with his book of records, and an animated discussion followed. I
expected to see somebody grow indignant, but the whole affair abounded
in good nature.

The conversation was conducted with the decorum of a school dialogue
on exhibition day. In half an hour by the clock I was told I could
have a troika at once, in consideration of my special passport. "Wait
a little," whispered my friend in French, "and we will have the other
troika for Schmidt."

So I waited, kicking my heels about the room, studying the posters on
the walls, eyeing a bad portrait of the emperor, and a worse one of
the empress, and now and then drawing near the scene of action. The
clerks looked at me in furtive glances. At every pronunciation of my
name, coupled with the word "Amerikansky," there was a general stare
all around. I am confident those attachés of the post office at
Krasnoyarsk had a perfect knowledge of my features.

In exactly another half hour our point and the horses were gained.
When we entered the office it was positively declared there were no
horses to be had, and it was a little odd that two troikas and six
horses, could be produced out of nothing, and each of them at the end
of a long talk. I asked an explanation of the mystery, but was told it
was a Russian peculiarity that no American could understand.

The horses came very promptly, one troika to Schmidt's lodgings and
the other to mine. The servants packed my baggage into the little
telyaga that was to carry me to the first station. Joining Schmidt
with the other team, we rattled out of town on an excellent road, and
left the red hills of Krasnoyarsk. The last object I saw denoting the
location of the town was a church or chapel on a high cliff
overlooking the Yenesei valley. The road lay over an undulating
region, where there were few streams and very little timber. The snow
lay in little patches here and there on the swells least exposed to
the sun, but it did not cover a twentieth part of the ground. In
several hollows the mud had frozen and presented a rough surface to
our wheels. Our telyaga had no springs, and when we went at a rapid
trot over the worst places the bones of my spinal column seemed
engaged in a struggle for independence. A thousand miles of such
riding would have been too much for me. A dog belonging to Madame
Radstvenny's house-keeper followed me from Krasnoyarsk, but did not
show himself till we were six or eight versts away. Etiquette, to say
nothing of morality, does not sanction stealing the dog of your host,
and so I arranged for the brute's return. In consideration of fifty
copecks the yemshick agreed to take the dog on his homeward trip and
deliver him in good order and condition at Krasnoyarsk.

Just before reaching the first station we passed through a village
nearly four miles long, but only a single street in width. The station
was at the extreme end of the village; our sleighs were waiting for
us, and so were the men who brought them from Krasnoyarsk. There was
no snow for the next twenty versts, and consequently the sleighs
needed further transportation. Schmidt's sleigh was dragged empty over
the bare ground, but mine, being heavier, was mounted upon wheels.

Other difficulties awaited us. There was but one troika to spare and
only one telyaga. We required two vehicles for ourselves and baggage,
but the smotretal could not accommodate us. We ordered the samovar,
and debated over our tea. I urged my friend to try the effect of my
special passport, which had always been successful in Paul's hands. He
did so after our tea-drinking, but the document was powerless, the
smotretal doubtless arguing that if the paper were of consequence we
should have shown it on our arrival. We sent it to the _starost_, or
head man of the village, but that worthy declined to honor it, and we
were left to shift for ourselves. Evidently the power of the Governor
General's passport was on the wane.

The document was a request, not an order, and therefore had no real
force. Paul always displayed it as if it were an Imperial ukase. His
manner of spreading the double page and exhibiting seal and signature
carried authority and produced horses. The amiable naturalist had none
of the quality called 'cheek,' and the adoption of an authoritative
air did not accord with his character. He subsequently presented the
passport as if he thought it all-powerful, and on such occasions it
generally proved so. A man who wishes to pass a doorkeeper at a
caucus, enter a ladies' car on a railway, or obtain a reserved seat in
a court room, is much more certain of success if he advances with a
confident air than if he hesitates and appears fearful of ejection.
Humanity is the same the world over, and there is more than a shadow
of truth in the saying that society values a man pretty much as he
appears to value himself. I can testify that the smotretals in Siberia
generally regarded our papers according to our manner of showing them.

We took tea a second time, parlayed with the yemshicks and their
friends, and closed by chartering a team at double the regular rates.
Just before reaching the snow we passed the sleighs, and halted for
them to come up. My sleigh was very soon ready, and we rejoiced at our
transfer of baggage. During the change a bottle of cognac disappeared
mysteriously, and I presume we shall never see it again. The other and
more cumbersome articles preserved their numbers faithfully. Our party
halting in the moonlight and busy about the vehicles, presented a
curiously picturesque appearance. Schmidt was in his Arctic costume,
while I wore my winter dress, minus the dehar. The yemshicks were
wrapped in their inevitable sheepskins, and bustled about with
unwavering good humor.

In the sleigh we were at home, and had a roof to cover us; we made
very good speed to the station, where we found no horses. The floor of
the travelers' room was covered with dormant figures, and after
bumping my head over the doorway, I waded in a pond of bodies, heads,
and legs. The moon was the only light, and its beams were not
sufficient to prevent my stepping on several sleepers, and extracting
Russian oaths for my carelessness.

"Now for it," I whispered to the good-natured doctor, as we waked the
smotretal. "Make him think our papers are important."

The official rubbed his eyes over the passport, and then hastened to
arouse the starost. The latter ordered horses from the village without
delay.

It had been a fete-day in honor of the Emperor, and most of the
villagers were drunk, so that it required some time to assemble the
requisite yemshicks and horses. A group of men and women from an
evening party passed the station, and amused us with native songs. An
inebriated moujik, riding on a small sled, turned from the road to
enter the station yard. One side of the sled passed over a log, and as
the man had not secured his balance, he rolled out of sight in a snow
drift. I watched him as he emerged, much as Neptune might appear from
the crest of a foamy wave.

The Siberians keep all the Imperial fete-days with scrupulous
exactness, and their loyalty to the emperor is much akin to religious
awe. The whole Imperial family is the object of great respect, and
whatever is commanded in the name of the emperor meets the most
cheerful acquiescence. One finds the portrait of Alexander in almost
every house, and I never heard the name of that excellent ruler
mentioned disrespectfully. If His Majesty would request that his
subjects abstain from vodki drinking on Imperial fete-days, he would
do much toward their prosperity. It would be an easy beginning in the
cause of temperance, as no one could consider it out of place for the
emperor to prescribe the manner of celebrating his own festivals. The
work once begun in this way, would be likely to lead to good results.
Drunkenness is the great vice of the Russian peasant, and will never
be suppressed without the active endeavors of the government.

[Illustration: DOWN HILL.]

When we started from the station we ran against the gate post, and
were nearly overturned in consequence. My head came against the side
of the sleigh with a heavy thump that affected me more than it did the
vehicle. We descended a long hill at a full run, and as our yemshick
was far from sober I had a lively expectation of a general smash at
the bottom.

About half way down the descent we met a sleigh and dashed our fenders
against it. The strong poles rubbed across each other like fencing
foils, and withstood the shock finely.

At sunset there were indications of a snow storm, in the gradual
ascent of the thermometer. An hour past midnight the temperature was
above freezing point, and the sleigh runners lost that peculiar
ringing sound that indicates cold weather. I threw off my furs and
endeavored to sleep, but accomplished little in that direction. My
clothing was too thick or too thin. Without my furs I shivered, and
with them I perspired. My sleigh robe was too much for comfort, and
the absence of it left something to be desired. Warm weather is a
great inconvenience in a Siberian winter journey. The best temperature
for travel is from five to fifteen degrees below the freezing point.

The road was abominable, though it might have been worse. It was full
of drifts, bare spots, and _oukhabas_, and our motion was as varied as
a politician's career. Sometimes it was up, then down, then sidewise,
and then all ways at once. We pitched and rolled like a canoe
descending the Lachine rapids, or a whale-boat towed by a
hundred-barrel "bow-head." In many places the snow was blown from the
regular road, and the winter track wound through fields and forests
wherever snow could be found. There was an abundance of rocks, stumps,
and other inequalities to relieve the monotony of this mode of travel.
We went much out of our way to find snow, and I think we sometimes
increased, by a third or a half, the distance between stations. The
road was both horizontally and vertically tortuous.

My companion took every occurrence with the utmost coolness, and
taught me some things in patience I had not known before. He was long
accustomed to Siberian travel, having made several scientific journeys
through Northern Asia. In 1859 the Russian Geographical Society sent
him to visit the Amoor valley and explore the island of Sakhalin. His
journey thither was accomplished in winter, and when he returned he
brought many valuable data touching the geology and the vegetable and
animal life of the island. He told me he spoke the American language,
having learned it among my countrymen at Nicolayevsk, but had never
studied English. His journey to the Arctic Circle was made on behalf
of the Russian Academy of Science, of which he was an active member.

In 1865 the captain of a Yenesei steamer learned that some natives had
discovered the perfectly preserved remains of a mammoth in latitude
67°, about a hundred versts west of the river. He announced the fact
to a _savant_, who sent the intelligence to St. Petersburg. Scientific
men deemed the discovery so important that they immediately
commissioned Dr. Schmidt to follow it up. The doctor went to Eastern
Siberia in February, and in the following month proceeded down the
Yenesei to Turuhansk, where he remained four or five weeks waiting for
the season of warmth and light. He was accompanied by Mr. Lopatin, a
Russian geologist, and a staff of three or four assistants. They
carried a photographic apparatus, and one of the sensations of their
voyage was to take photographs at midnight in the light of a blazing
sun.

When the Yenesei was free of ice the explorers, in a barge, descended
from Turuhansk to the landing place nearest the mammoth deposit.
Several Cossacks accompanied the party from Turuhansk, and assisted in
its intercourse with the natives. The latter were peacefully inclined,
and gladly served the men who came so recently from the emperor's
dwelling place. They brought their reindeer and sledges, and guided
the explorers to the object of their search. The country in the Arctic
Circle has very little vegetation, and the drift wood that descends
the Yenesei is an important item to the few natives along the river.
The trees growing north of latitude 66° are very small, and as one
nears the coast of the Frozen Ocean they disappear altogether. The
principal features of the country are the wide _tundras_, or
moss-covered plains, similar to those of North Eastern Siberia.

The scattered aboriginals are Tunguse and Samoyedes. Their chief
employment is the chase in winter, fishing in summer, and the care of
their reindeer at all seasons. Reindeer form their principal wealth,
and are emphatically the circulating medium of the country. Dr.
Schmidt told me he rode in a reindeer sledge from the river to within
a short distance of the mammoth. It was the month of June, but the
snow had not disappeared and nothing could be accomplished. A second
visit several weeks later was more successful. In the interval the
party embarked on the steamer which makes one or two journeys every
summer to the Arctic Ocean in search of fish, furs, and ivory. A
vigorous traffic is maintained during the short period that the river
remains open.

On the return from the Arctic Ocean, the season was more favorable to
mammoth-hunting. Unfortunately the remains were not perfect. The
skeleton was a good deal broken and scattered, and some parts were
altogether lacking. The chief object of the enterprise was to obtain
the stomach of the mammoth so that its contents could be analyzed. It
is known that the beast lived upon vegetable food, but no one has yet
ascertained its exact character. Some contend that the mammoth was a
native of the tropics, and his presence in the north is due to the
action of an earthquake. Others think he dwelt in the Arctic regions,
and never belonged in the tropics.

"If we had found his stomach," said the doctor, "and ascertained what
kind of trees were in it, this question would have been decided. We
could determine his residence from the character of his food."

Though making diligent search the doctor found no trace of the
stomach, and the great point is still open to dispute. He brought away
the under jaw of the beast, and a quantity of skin and hair. The skin
was half an inch thick, and as dry and hard as a piece of sole
leather. The hair was like fine long bristles, and of a reddish brown
color. From the quantity obtained it is thought the animal was pretty
well protected against ordinary weather. The doctor gave me a cigar
tube which a Samoyede fabricated from a small bone of the mammoth. He
estimated that the beast had been frozen about ten thousand years in
the bank where he found him, and that his natural dwelling place was
in the north. The country was evidently much warmer when the mammoth,
roamed over it than now, and there is a belief that some convulsion of
the earth, followed by a lowering of the temperature, sealed the
remains of the huge beasts in the spots where they are now discovered.

In the year 1799 a bank of frozen earth near the mouth of the Lina, in
Latitude 77° broke away and revealed the body of a mammoth. Hair,
skin, flesh and all, had been completely preserved by the frost. In
1806 a scientific commission visited the spot, but the lapse of seven
years proved of serious consequence. There had been a famine in the
surrounding region, and the natives did not scruple to feed their dogs
from the store of flesh which nature had preserved. Not supposing the
emperor desired the bones of the beast they carried away such as they
fancied. The teeth of the bears, wolves, and foxes were worse than
the tooth of Time, and finished all edible substance the natives did
not take. Only the skeleton remained, and of this several bones were
gone. All that could be found was taken, and is now in the Imperial
collection at St. Petersburg.

The remains of the mammoth show that the beast was closely akin to the
elephant, but had a longer and more compressed skull, and wore his
tusks in a different manner. Tusks have been found more than nine feet
long, and I am told that one discovered some years ago, exceeds ten
feet in length. The skull from the Lena mammoth weighed four hundred
and some odd pounds. Others have been found much larger. The mammoth
was evidently an animal that commanded the respect of the elephant,
and other small fry quadrupeds.

Bones of the rhinoceros and hippopotamus abound in Northern Siberia,
and like those of the mammoth are found in the frozen earth. In the
last century the body of a rhinoceros of an extinct species was found
on the river Vilouy, a tributary of the Lena. In the museum at St.
Petersburg there is a head of the Arctic rhinoceros on which the skin
and tendons remain, and a foot of the same animal displays a portion
of its hair. The claws of an enormous bird are also found in the
north, some of them three feet long, and jointed through their whole
length like the claws of an ostrich.

Captain Wrangell and other explorers say the mammoth bones are smaller
on the Arctic islands than on the main land, but are wonderfully
increased in quantity. For many years the natives and fur traders have
brought away large cargoes, but the supply is not yet exhausted. The
teeth and tusks on the islands are more fresh and white than those of
the Continent. On the Lachoff Islands the principal deposit was on a
low sand bank, and the natives declared that when the waves receded
after an easterly wind, a fresh supply was always found. One island
about latitude 80° was said to be largely composed of mammoth bones. I
presume this statement should be received with a little caution.
During the doctor's expedition the supply of provisions was not
always abundant, but there was no absolute scarcity. The party lived
for some time on fish, and on the flesh of the reindeer. A story was
told that the explorers were reduced to subsisting on the mammoth they
discovered, and hence their failure to bring away portions of the
flesh. Mammoth cutlets and soup were occasionally proposed for the
entertainment of the _savants_ on their return to Irkutsk.

One of my acquaintances had a narrow escape from death on the ice
during an expedition toward Kotelnoi Island, and the chain lying to
the east of it, generally known as New Siberia. It was early in the
spring--somewhat later than the time of the ordinary winter
journeys--that he set out from the mouth of the Lena, hoping to reach
Kotelnoi Island, and return before the weather became warm. He had
four dog teams, and was accompanied by a Russian servant and two Yakut
natives, whom he engaged for a voyage down the Lena, and the
expedition across the ice. It was known that a quantity of ivory had
been gathered on the island, and was waiting for transportation to the
Lena; to get this ivory was the object of the journey. I will tell the
story in the words of the narrator, or as nearly as I can do so from
recollection.

"We reached the island without serious trouble; the weather was clear
and cold, and the traveling quite as good as we expected. Where the
ice was level we got along very well, though there were now and then
deep fissures caused by the frost, and which we had some difficulty in
crossing. Frequently we were obliged to detach the dogs from the sleds
and compel them to jump singly across the fissures. The sledges were
then drawn over by hand, and once on the other side the teams were
re-harnessed, and proceeded on their way. The ice was seven or eight
feet thick, and some of the fissures were a yard wide at the surface,
and tapered to a wedge shape at the bottom. It was not absolutely
dangerous, though very inconvenient to fall into one of the crevices,
and our dogs were very careful to secure a good foothold on the edges
where they jumped.

[Illustration: DOGS AMONG ICE.]

"The second day out we got among a great many hummocks, or detached
pieces of bergs, that caused us much trouble. They were so numerous
that we were often shut out from the horizon, and were guided solely
by the compass. Frequently we found them so thick that it was
impossible to break a road through them, and after working for an hour
or two, we would be compelled to retrace our steps, and endeavor to
find a new route. Where they formed in ridges, and were not too high,
we broke them down with our ice-hatchets; the work was very exhausting
to us, and so was the task of drawing the sledges to the poor dogs.

"Just as we left the level ice, and came among these hummocks, the
dogs came on the fresh track of a polar bear, and at once started to
follow him. My team was ahead, and the dogs set out in full chase, too
rapidly for me to stop them, though I made every effort to do so. The
other teams followed close upon us, and very soon my sledge
overturned, and the dogs became greatly mixed up. The team of Nicolai,
my servant, was likewise upset close to mine, and we had much trouble
to get them right again. Ivan and Paul, the two Yakuts, came up and
assisted us. Their dogs following on our track had not caught the
scent of the bear so readily as ours, and consequently were more
easily brought to a stop.

"We set the sledges right, and when we were ready to start, the sharp
eyes of Ivan discovered the bear looking at us from behind a hummock,
and evidently debating in his mind whether to attack us or not.
Leaving the teams in charge of Paul, I started with Nicolai and Ivan
to endeavor to kill the bear. Nicolai and myself were armed with
rifles, while Ivan carried a knife and an ice-hatchet.

"The bear stood very patiently as we approached; he was evidently
unaccustomed to human visitors, and did not understand what we were
about. The hummock where he stood was not very steep, and I thought it
best to get a position a little above him for better safety, in case
we had a sharp fight after firing our first shot. We took our stand on
a little projection of ice a few feet higher than where he was, and
about thirty paces distant; I arranged that Nicolai should fire first,
as I was a better shot than he, and it would be best for me to have
the reserve. Nicolai fired, aiming at the bear's heart, which was well
protected, as we knew, by a thick hide and a heavy mass of flesh.

"The shot was not fatal. The bear gave a roar of pain, and sprang
toward us. I waited until he placed his huge fore paws over the edge
of the little ridge where we stood, and exposed his throat and chest.
He was not more than ten feet away, and I buried the bullet exactly
where I wished. But, notwithstanding both our shots, the animal was
not killed, but lifted himself easily above the shelf, and sprang
toward us.

"We retreated higher up to another shelf, and as the bear attempted to
climb it, Nicolai struck him with the butt of his rifle, which the
beast warded off with his paw, and sent whirling into the snow. But at
the same instant Ivan took his opportunity to deal an effective blow
with his ice-hatchet, which he buried in the skull of the animal,
fairly penetrating his brain. The blow accomplished what our shots had
not. Bruin fell back, and after a few convulsive struggles, lay dead
at our feet.

"We hastened back to the teams, and brought them forward. We were not
absent more than twenty minutes, but by the time we returned several
Arctic foxes had made their appearance, and were snuffing the air,
preparatory to a feast. We drove them off, and very soon, the dogs
were enjoying a meal of fresh meat, that we threw to them immediately
on removing the skin of the bear, which the Yakuts accomplished with
great alacrity. The beast was old and tough, so that most of his flesh
went to the dogs, part of it being eaten on the spot, while the rest
was packed on the sledges for future use.

"We had no other incidents of importance until our return from the
island. The weather suddenly became cloudy, and a warm wind set in
from the southward. The snow softened so that the dogs could with
difficulty draw the sledges, even when relieved of our weight. We
walked by their side, encouraging them in every possible way, and as
the softness of the snow increased, it became necessary to throw away
a part of the loads. Our safety required that we should reach the land
as soon as possible, since there were many indications that the ice
was about to break up. After sixteen hours of continuous dragging, we
stopped, quite exhausted, though still thirty miles from land, as it
was absolutely impossible for men or dogs to proceed further without
rest. I was so utterly worn out that I sank upon the snow, hardly able
to move. The Yakuts fed the dogs, and then lay down at their side,
anxiously waiting the morning to bring us relief.

"Just as the day was opening, I was awakened by a rumbling noise, and
a motion below me, followed by a shout from Ivan.

"'The ice is breaking up!'

"I sprang to my feet, and so did my companions. The dogs were no less
sensible of their danger than ourselves, and stirred uneasily while
giving vent to plaintive whines. The wind from the south had
increased; it was blowing directly off the land, and I could see that
the ice was cracking here and there under its influence, and the whole
field was in motion. Dark lanes appeared, and continued to increase in
width, besides growing every minute more numerous. I ordered all the
loads thrown from the sledges, with the exception of a day's
provisions for men and dogs, and a few of our extra garments. When
this was done--- and it was done very speedily--- we started for the
shore.

[Illustration: JUMPING THE FISSURES.]

"We jumped the dogs over the smaller crevices without serious
accident, but the larger ones gave us a great deal of trouble. On
reaching them, we skirted along their edges till we could find a cake
of ice large enough to ferry us over. In this way we crossed more than
twenty openings, some of them a hundred yards in width. Do not suppose
we did so without being thrown several times in the water, and on one
occasion four of the dogs were drowned. The poor brutes became tangled
in their harness, and it was impossible to extricate them. All the
dogs seemed to be fully aware of their danger, and to understand that
their greatest safety lay in their obeying us. I never saw them more
obedient, and they rarely hesitated to do what we commanded. It
grieved me greatly to see the dogs drowning when we were unable to
help them, but could only listen to their cries for help, until
stifled by the water.

"We toiled all day, and night found us five miles from shore, with a
strip of open water between us and land. Here and there were floating
cakes of ice, but the main body had been blown off by the wind and
promised to be a mile or two further to the north before morning.

"I determined to wait for daylight, and then endeavor to reach the
shore on cakes of ice. The attempt would be full of danger, but there
was nothing else to be done. Reluctantly I proposed abandoning the
dogs, but my companions appealed to me to keep them with us, as they
had already saved our lives, and it would be the basest ingratitude to
desert them. I did not require a second appeal, and promised that
whatever we did, the dogs should go with us if possible.

"Imagine the horror of that night! We divided the little food that
remained, men and dogs sharing alike, and tried to rest upon the ice.
We had no means of making a fire, our clothing was soaked with water,
and, during the night, the wind shifted suddenly to the northward and
became cold. I was lying down, and fell asleep from utter exhaustion;
though the cold was severe, I did not think it dangerous, and felt
quite unable to exercise to keep warm. The Yakuts, with Nicolai,
huddled among the dogs, and were less wearied than I. When they
shouted to me at daybreak, I slowly opened my eyes, and found that I
could not move. I was frozen fast to the ice!

"Had I been alone there would have been no escape. My companions came
to my relief, but it was with much difficulty that they freed me from
my unpleasant situation. When we looked about, we found that our
circumstances had greatly changed during the night. The wind had
ceased, and the frost had formed fresh ice over the space where there
was open water the day before. It was out of the question to ferry to
land, and our only hope lay in driving the sledges over the new ice. I
ordered the teams to be made ready, and to keep several hundred yards
apart, so as to make as little weight as possible on one spot. I took
one sledge, Nicolai another, and the Yakuts the third. Our fourth
sledge was lost at the time of our accident the day before.

[Illustration: THE TEAM.]

"Our plan was to drive at full speed, to lessen the danger of breaking
through. Once through the ice, there would have been no hope for us.
We urged the dogs forward with loud cries, and they responded to our
wishes by exerting all their strength. We went forward at a gallop. I
reached the shore in safety, and so did Nicolai, but not so the poor
Yakuts.

"When within a mile of the land I heard a cry. I well knew what it
meant, but I could give no assistance, as a moment's pause would have
seen me breaking through our frail support. I did not even dare to
look around, but continued shouting to the dogs to carry them to land.
Once there, I wiped the perspiration from my face, and ventured to
look over the track where I came.

"The weight of the two men upon one sledge had crushed the ice, and
men, dogs and sledge had fallen into the water. Unable to serve them
in the least, we watched till their struggles were ended, and then
turned sorrowfully away. The ice closed over them, and the bed of the
Arctic Ocean became their grave."



CHAPTER XLII.


In the morning after our departure from Krasnoyarsk we reached a third
station, and experienced no delay in changing horses. The road greatly
improved, but we made slow progress. When we were about two versts
from the station one of our horses left the sleigh and bolted
homeward. The yemshick went in pursuit, but did not overtake the
runaway till he reached the station. During his absence we sat
patiently, or rather impatiently, in our furs, and I improved the
opportunity to go to sleep.

When we wore properly reconstructed we moved forward, with my equipage
in the rear. The mammoth sleigh went at a disreputably low speed. I
endeavored to persuade our yemshick to take the lead, but he refused,
on the ground that the smotretal would not permit it. Added to this,
he stopped frequently to make pretended arrangements of the harness,
where he imagined it out of order. To finish my irritation at his
manoeuvres, he proposed to change with a yemshick he met about half
way on his route. This would bring each to his own station at the end
of the drive, and save a return trip. The man had been so dilatory and
obstinate that I concluded to take my opportunity, and stubbornly
refused permission for the change. This so enraged him that he drove
very creditably for the rest of the way.

"Both of them Jews," he said to the attendants at the station when we
arrived. His theory as to our character was something like this. Of
the male travelers in Siberia there are practically but two
classes--officers and merchants. We could not be officers, as we wore
no uniform; therefore we were merchants. The trading class in Siberia
comprises Russians of pure blood and Jews, the former speaking only
their own language and never using any other. As the yemshick did not
understand our conversation, he at once set us down as Israelites in
whom there was any quantity of guile.

We breakfasted on pilmania, bread, and tea while the horses were being
changed, and I managed to increase our bill of fare with some boiled
eggs. The continual jolting and the excessive cold gave me a good
appetite and excellent digestion. Our food was plain and not served as
at Delmonico's, but I always found it palatable. We stopped twice a
day for meals, and the long interval between dinner time and breakfast
generally made me ravenously hungry by morning. The village where the
obstinate yemshick left us, had a bad reputation on the scale of
honesty, but we suffered no loss there. At another village said to
contain thieves, we did not leave the sleigh.

About noon we met a convoy of exiles moving slowly along the snowy
road. The prisoners were walking in double column, but without
regularity and not attempting to 'keep step.' Two soldiers with
muskets and fixed bayonets marched in front and two others brought up
the rear. There were thirty or more prisoners, all clad in sheepskin
garments, their heads covered with Russian hoods, and their hands
thrust into heavy mittens. Behind the column there were four or five
sleighs containing baggage and foot-sore prisoners, half a dozen
soldiers, and two women. The extreme rear was finished by two
soldiers, with muskets and fixed bayonets, riding on an open sledge.
The rate of progress was regulated by the soldiers at the head of the
column. Most of the prisoners eyed us as we drove past, but there were
several who did not look up.

At nearly every village there is an _ostrog_, or prison, for the
accommodation of exiles. It is a building, or several buildings,
enclosed with a palisade or other high fence. Inside its strong gate
one cannot easily escape, and I believe the attempt is rarely made.
Generally the rooms or buildings nearest the gate are the residences
of the officers and guards, the prisoners being lodged as far as
possible from the point of egress. The distance from one station to
the next varies according to the location of the villages, but is
usually about twenty versts. Generally the ostrog is outside the
village, but not far away. The people throughout Siberia display
unvarying kindness to exiles on their march. When a convoy reaches a
village the inhabitants bring whatever they can spare, whether of food
or money, and either deliver it to the prisoners in the street or
carry it to the ostrog. Many peasants plant little patches of turnips
and beets, where runaway prisoners may help themselves at night
without danger of interference if discovered by the owner.

In every party of exiles, each man takes his turn for a day in asking
and receiving charity, the proceeds being for the common good. In
front of my quarters in Irkutsk a party of prisoners were engaged
several days in setting posts. One of the number accosted every passer
by, and when he received any thing the prisoners near him echoed his
'thank you.' Many couples were engaged, under guard, in carrying water
from the river to the prison. One man of each couple solicited
'tobacco money' for both. The soldiers make no objection to charity
toward prisoners. I frequently observed that when any person
approached with the evident intention of giving something to the water
carriers, the guards halted to facilitate the donation.

Very often on my sleigh ride I met convoys of exiles. On one occasion
as we were passing an ostrog the gate suddenly opened, and a dozen
sleighs laden with prisoners emerged and drove rapidly to the
eastward. Five-sixths of the exiles I met on the road were riding, and
did not appear to suffer from cold. They were well wrapped in
sheepskin clothing, and seated, generally three together, in the
ordinary sleighs of the country. Formerly most exiles walked the
entire distance from Moscow to their destination, but of late years it
has been found better economy to allow them to ride. Only certain
classes of criminals are now required to go on foot. All other
offenders, including 'politiques,' are transported in vehicles at
government expense. Any woman can accompany or follow her husband into
exile.

Those on foot go from one station to the next for a day's march. They
travel two days and rest one, and unless for special reasons, are not
required to break the Sabbath. Medical officers are stationed in the
principal towns, to look after the sanitary condition of the
emigrants. The object being to people the country, the government
takes every reasonable care that the exiles do not suffer in health
while on the road. Of course those that ride do not require as much
rest as the pedestrians. They usually stop at night at the ostrogs,
and travel about twelve or fourteen hours a day. Distinguished
offenders, such as the higher class of revolutionists, officers
convicted of plotting against the state or robbing the Treasury, are
generally rushed forward night and day. To keep him secure from
escape, an exile of this class is sometimes chained to a soldier who
rides at his side.

One night, between Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk, I was awakened by an
unusual motion of the sleigh. We were at the roadside passing a column
of men who marched slowly in our direction. As I lifted our curtain
and saw the undulating line of dark forms moving silently in the dim
starlight, and brought into relief against the snow hills, the scene
appeared something more than terrestrial. I thought of the array of
spectres that beleaguered the walls of Prague, if we may trust the
Bohemian legend, and of the shadowy battalions described by the old
poets of Norseland, in the days when fairies dwelt in fountains, and
each valley was the abode of a good or evil spirit. But my fancies
were cut short by my companion briefly informing me that we were
passing a convoy of prisoners recently ordered from Irkutsk to
Yeneseisk. It was the largest convoy I saw during my journey, and
included, as I thought, not less than two hundred men.

In the afternoon of the first day from Krasnoyarsk we reached Achinsk,
a town of two or three thousand inhabitants, on the bank of the Chulim
river. We were told the road was so bad as to require four horses to
each sleigh to the next station. We consented to pay for a horse
additional to the three demanded by our padaroshnia, and were carried
along at very good speed. Part of the way was upon the ice, which had
formed during a wind, that left disagreeable ridges. We picked out the
best places, and had not our horses slipped occasionally, the icy road
would not have been unpleasant. On the bare ground which we traversed
in occasional patches after leaving the river, the horses behaved
admirably and made little discrimination between sand and snow.
Whenever they lagged the yemshick lashed them into activity.

I observed in Siberia that whip cracking is not fashionable. The long,
slender, snapping whips of Western Europe and America are unknown. The
Siberian uses a short stock with a lash of hemp, leather, or other
flexible substance, but never dreams of a snapper at its end. Its only
use is for whipping purposes, and a practiced yemshick can do much
with it in a short time.

The Russian drivers talk a great deal to their horses, and the speech
they use depends much upon the character and performance of the
animals. If the horse travels well he may be called the dove or
brother of his driver, and assured that there is abundance of
excellent hay awaiting him at home. Sometimes a neat hint is given
that he is drawing a nice gentleman who will be liberal and enable the
horse to have an extra feed. Sometimes the man rattles off his words
as if the brute understood everything said to him. An obstinate or
lazy horse is called a variety of names the reverse of endearing. I
have heard him addressed as '_sabaka_,' (dog); and on frequent
occasions his maternity was ascribed to the canine race in epithets
quite disrespectful. Horses came in for an amount of profanity about
like that showered upon army mules in America. It used to look a
little out of place to see a yemshick who had shouted _chort!_ and
other unrefined expressions to his team, devoutly crossing himself
before a holy picture as soon as his beasts were unharnessed.

A few versts from Achinsk we crossed the boundary between Eastern and
Western Siberia. The Chulim is navigable up to Achinsk, and during the
past two years steamers have been running between this town and Tomsk.
The basin of the Ob contains nearly as many navigable streams as that
of the Mississippi, and were it not for the severity of the climate,
the long winter, and the northerly course of the great river, this
valley might easily develop much wealth. But nature is unfavorable,
and man is powerless to change her laws.

On changing at the station we again took four horses to each sleigh,
and were glad we did so. The ground was more bare as we proceeded, and
obliged us to leave the high road altogether and seek a track wherever
it could be found. While we were dashing through a mass of rocks and
stumps one of our horses fell dead, and brought us to a sudden halt.
In his fall he became entangled with the others, and it required some
minutes to set matters right. The yemshick felt for the pulse of the
beast until fully satisfied that no pulse existed. Happily we were not
far from a station, so that the reduction of our team was of no
serious consequence. In this region I observed cribs like roofless log
houses placed near the roadside at intervals of a few hundred yards.
They were intended to hold materials for repairing the road.

On the upper waters of the Chulim there is a cascade of considerable
beauty, according to the statement of some who never saw it. A few
years ago a Siberian gold miner discovered a cataract on the river
Hook, in the Irkutsk government, that he thought equal to Niagara, and
engaged an artist to make a drawing of the curiosity. On reaching the
spot, the latter individual found the cascade a very small affair.
Throughout Russia, Niagara is considered one of the great wonders of
the world, and nothing could have been more pleasing to the Siberians
than to find its rival in their own country.

When I first began traveling in Siberia a gentleman one day expressed
the hope of seeing America before long, but added, "much pleasure of
my visit will be lacking now that you have lost Niagara." I could not
understand him, and asked an explanation.

"Why," said he, "since Niagara has been worn away to a continuous
rapid it must have lost all its grandeur and sublimity. I shall go
there, but I cannot enjoy it as I should have enjoyed the great
cataract."

I explained that Niagara was as perfect as ever, and had no indication
of wearing itself away. It appeared that some Russian newspaper,
misled, I presume, by the fall of Table Rock, announced that the whole
precipice had broken down and left a long rapid in place of the
cataract. Several times during my journey I was called upon to correct
this impression.

At the third station beyond Achinsk we found a neat and well kept room
for travelers. We concluded to dine there, and were waited upon by a
comely young woman whose _coiffure_ showed that she was unmarried. She
brought us the samovar, cooked our pilmania, and boiled a dizaine of
eggs. Among the Russians articles which we count by the dozen are
enumerated by tens. "_Skolka stoit, yieetsa_?" (How much do eggs
cost), was generally answered, "_Petnatzet capecka, decetu_" (fifteen
copecks for ten.) Only among the Western nations one finds the dozen
in use.

While we were at dinner the cold sensibly increased, and on exposing
my thermometer I found it marking -18° Fahrenheit. Schmidt wrapped
himself in all his furs, and I followed his example. Thus enveloped we
filled the entire breadth of our sleigh and could not turn over with
facility. A sharp wind was blowing dead ahead, and we closed the front
of the vehicle to exclude it. The snow whirled in little eddies and
made its way through the crevices at the junction of our sleigh-boot
with the hood. I wrapped a blanket in front of my face for special
protection, and soon managed to fall asleep. The sleigh poising on a
runner and out-rigger, caused the doctor to roll against me during the
first hour of my slumber, and made me dream that I was run over by a
locomotive. When I waked I found my breath had congealed and frozen
my beard to the blanket. It required careful manipulation to separate
the two without injury to either.

When we stopped to change horses after this experience, the stars were
sparkling with a brilliancy peculiar to the Northern sky. The clear
starlight, unaided by the moon, enabled us to see with great
distinctness. I could discover the outline of the forest away beyond
the village, and trace the road to the edge of a valley where it
disappeared. Every individual star appeared endeavoring to outshine
his rivals, and cast his rays to the greatest distance. Vesta, Sirius,
and many others burned with a brightness that recalled my first view
of the Drummond light, and seemed to dazzle my eyes when I fixed my
gaze upon them.

The road during the night was rough but respectable, and we managed to
enjoy a fair amount of slumber in our contracted _chambre a deux_.
Before daylight we reached a station where a traveling bishop had just
secured two sets of horses. Though outside the jurisdiction of General
Korsackoff, I exhibited my special passport knowing it could not, at
all events, do any harm. Out of courtesy the smotretal offered to
supply us as soon as the bishop departed. The reverend worthy was
dilatory in starting, and as we were likely to be delayed an hour or
two, we economized the time by taking tea. I found opportunity for a
short nap after our tea-drinking was over, and only awoke when the
smotretal announced, "_loshadi gotovey"_

In the forenoon we entered upon the steppe where trees were few and
greatly scattered. Frequently the vision over this Siberian prairie
was uninterrupted for several miles. There was a thin covering of snow
on the open ground, and the dead grass peered above the surface with a
suggestion of summer fertility.

Shortly after noon I looked through the eddies of snow that whirled in
the frosty air, and distinguished the outline of a church. Another and
another followed, and very soon the roofs and walls of the more
prominent buildings in Tomsk were visible. As we entered the eastern
gate of the city, and passed a capacious powder-magazine, our
yemshick tied up his bell-tongues in obedience to the municipal law.
Our arrival inside the city limits was marked by the most respectful
silence.

We named a certain hotel but the yemshick coolly took us to another
which he assured us was "_acleechny_" (excellent). As the exterior and
the appearance of the servants promised fairly, we made no objection,
and allowed our baggage unloaded. The last I saw of our yemshick he
was receiving a subsidy from the landlord in consideration of having
taken us thither. The doctor said the establishment was better than
the one he first proposed to patronize, so that we had no serious
complaint against the management of the affair. Hotel keepers in
Siberia are obliged to pay a commission to whoever brings them
patrons, a practice not unknown, I believe, in American cities.

We engaged two rooms, one large, and the other of medium size. The
larger apartment contained two sofas, ten or twelve chairs, three
tables, a boy, a bedstead, and a chamber-maid. The boy and the maid
disappeared with a quart or so of dirt they had swept from the floor.
We ordered dinner, and took our ease in our inn. Our baggage piled in
one corner of the room would have made a creditable stock for an
operator in the "Elbow Market" at Moscow. We thawed our beards,
washed, changed our clothing, and pretended we felt none the worse for
our jolting over the rough road from Krasnoyarsk.

The hotel, though Asiatic, was kept on the European plan. The landlord
demanded our passports before we removed our outer garments, and
apologized by saying the regulations were very strict. The documents
went at once to the police, and returned in the morning with the visa
of the chief. Throughout Russia a hotel proprietor generally keeps the
passports of his patrons until their bills are paid, but this landlord
trusted in our honor, and returned the papers at once. The visa
certified there were no charges against us, pecuniary or otherwise,
and allowed us to remain or depart at our pleasure. It is a Russian
custom for the police to be informed of claims against persons
suspected of intent to run away. The individual cannot obtain
authority to depart until his accounts are settled. Formerly the law
required every person, native and foreign, about to leave Russia, to
advertise his intention through a newspaper. This formula is now
dispensed with, but the intending traveler must produce a receipt in
full from his hotel keeper.

At the hotel we found a gentleman from Eastern Siberia on his way to
St. Petersburg. He left Irkutsk two days behind me, passed us in
Krasnoyarsk, and came to grief in a partial overturn five miles from
Tomsk. He was waiting to have his broken vehicle thoroughly repaired
before venturing on the steppe. He had a single vashok in which he
stowed himself, wife, three children, and a governess. How the whole
party could be packed into the carriage I was at a loss to imagine.
Its limits must have been suggestive of the close quarters of a can of
sardines.

We used our furs for bed clothing and slept on the sofas, less
comfortably I must confess than in the sleigh. The close atmosphere of
a Russian house is not as agreeable to my lungs as the open air, and
after a long journey one's first night in a warm room is not
refreshing. There was no public table at the hotel; meals were served
in our room, and each item was charged separately at prices about like
those of Irkutsk.

In the morning we put on our best clothes, and visited the
gubernatorial mansion. The governor was at St. Petersburg, and we were
received by the Vice-Governor, an amiable gentleman of about fifty
years, who reminded me of General S.R. Curtis. Before our interview we
waited ten or fifteen minutes at one end of a large hall. The
Vice-Governor was at the other end listening to a woman whose
streaming eyes and choked utterance showed that her story was one of
grief. The kind hearted man appeared endeavoring to soothe her. I
could not help hearing the conversation though ignorant of its
purport, and, as the scene closed, I thought I had not known before
the extent of pathos in the Russian language.

We had a pleasant interview with the vice-governor who gave us
passports to Barnaool, on learning that we wished to visit that place.
Among those who called during our stay was the golovah of Tomsk, a man
whose physical proportions resembled those of the renowned Wouter Van
Twiller, as described by Washington Irving. Every golovah I met in
Siberia was of aldermanic proportions, and I wondered whether physical
developments had any influence in selections for this office. Just
before leaving the governor's residence, we were introduced to Mr.
Naschinsky, of Barnaool, to whom I had a letter of introduction from
his cousin, Paul Anossoff. As he was to start for home that evening,
we arranged to accompany him. Our visit ended, we drove through the
principal streets, and saw the chief features of the town.

Tomsk takes its name from the river Tom, on whose banks it is built.
It stands on the edge of the great Baraba steppe, and has about twenty
thousand inhabitants of the usual varied character of a Russian
population. I saw many fine houses, and was told that in society and
wealth the city was little inferior to Irkutsk. Here, as at other
places, large fortunes have been made in gold mining. Several heavy
capitalists were mentioned as owners of concessions in the mining
districts. Many of their laborers passed the winter at Tomsk in the
delights of urban life. The city is of considerable importance as it
controls much of the commerce of Siberia. The site is picturesque,
being partly on the low ground next the river, and partly on the hills
above it. In contemplating the location, I was reminded of Quebec. I
found much activity in the streets and market places, and good
assortments of merchandise in the shops.

Near our hotel, over a wide ravine, was a bridge, constantly traversed
by vehicles and pedestrians, and lighted at night by a double row of
lamps. Some long buildings near the river, and just outside the
principal market had a likeness to American railway stations, and the
quantities of goods piled on their verandas aided the illusion. About
noon the market-place was densely crowded, and there appeared a brisk
traffic in progress. There was a liberal array of articles to eat,
wear, or use, with a very fair quantity for which no use could be
imagined.

In summer there is a waterway from Tomsk to Tumen, a thousand miles to
the westward, and a large amount of freight to and from Siberia passes
over it. Steamers descend the Tom to the Ob, which they follow to the
Irtish. They then ascend the Irtish, the Tobol, and the Tura to Tumen,
the head of navigation. The government proposes a railway between Perm
and Tumen to unite the great water courses of Europe and Siberia. A
railway from Tomsk to Irkutsk is among the things hoped for by the
Siberians, and will be accomplished at some future day. The arguments
urged against its construction are the length of the route, the
sparseness of population, and the cheap rates at which freight is now
transported. Probably Siberia would be no exception to the rule that
railways create business, and sustain it, but I presume it will be
many years before the locomotive has a permanent way through the
country.

Some years ago it was proposed to open a complete water route between
Tumen and Kiachta. The most eastern point that a steamer could attain
in the valley of the Ob is on the river Ket. A canal about thirty
miles long would connect the Ket with the Yenesei, whence it was
proposed to follow the Angara, Lake Baikal, and the Selenga to Oust
Kiachta. But the swiftness of the Angara, and its numerous rapids,
seventy-eight in all, stood in the way of the project. At present no
steamers can ascend the Angara, and barges can only descend when the
water is high. To make the channel safely navigable would require a
heavy outlay of money for blasting rocks, and digging canals. I could
not ascertain that there was any probability of the scheme being
realized.

In 1866 twelve steamers were running between Tumen and Tomsk. These
boats draw about two feet of water, and tow one or more barges in
which freight is piled. No merchandise is carried on the boats.
Twelve days are consumed in the voyage with barges; without them it
can be made in a week. All the steamers yet constructed are for towing
purposes, the passenger traffic not being worth attention. The golovah
of Tomsk is a heavy owner in these steamboats, and he proposed
increasing their number and enlarging his business. A line of smaller
boats has been started to connect Tomsk with Achinsk. The introduction
of steam on the Siberian rivers has given an impetus to commerce, and
revealed the value of certain interests of the country. An active
competition in the same direction would prove highly beneficial, and
bye and bye they will have the railway.

During my ride about the streets the isvoshchik pointed out a large
building, and explained that it was the seminary or high school of
Tomsk. I was told that the city, like Irkutsk, had a female school or
"Institute," and an establishment for educating the children of the
priests. The schools in the cities and large towns of Siberia have a
good reputation, and receive much praise from those who patronize
them. The Institute at Irkutsk is especially renowned, and had during
the winter of 1866 something more than a hundred boarding pupils. The
gymnasium or school for boys was equally flourishing, and under the
direct control of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Eastern
Siberia. The branches of education comprise the ordinary studies of
schools everywhere--arithmetic, grammar, and geography, with reading
and writing. When these elementary studies are mastered the higher
mathematics, languages, music, and painting follow. In the primary
course the prayers of the church and the manner of crossing one's self
are considered essential.

Most of those who can afford It employ private teachers for their
children, and educate them at home. The large schools in the towns are
patronized by the upper and middle classes, and sometimes pupils come
from long distances. There are schools for the peasant children, but
not sufficiently numerous to make education general. It is a
lamentable fact that the peasants as a class do not appreciate the
importance of knowledge. Hitherto all these peasant schools have been
controlled by the church, the subordinate priests being appointed to
their management.

Quite recently the Emperor has ordered a system of public instruction
throughout the empire. Schools are to be established, houses built,
and teachers paid by the government. Education is to be taken entirely
from, the hands of the priests, and entrusted to the best qualified
instructors without regard to race or religion. The common school
house in the land of the czars! Universal education among the subjects
of the Autocrat! Well may the other monarchies of Europe fear the
growing power and intelligence of Russia. May God bless Alexander, and
preserve him many years to the people whose prosperity he holds so
dearly at heart.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLIII.


When we left Tomsk in the evening, the snow was falling rapidly, and
threatened to obliterate the track along the frozen surface of the
river. There were no post horses at the station, and we were obliged
to charter private teams at double the usual rates. The governor
warned us that we might have trouble in securing horses, and requested
us to refer to him if the smotretal did not honor our pada ashnia. We
did not wish to trespass further on his kindness, and concluded to
submit to the extortion and say nothing. The station keeper owned the
horses we hired, and we learned he was accustomed to declare his
regular troikas "out" on all possible occasions. Of course, a traveler
anxious to proceed, would not hesitate long at paying two or three
roubles extra.

We dashed over the rough ice of the Tom for a few versts and then
found a road on solid earth. We intended to visit Barnaool, and for
this purpose left the great road at the third station, and turned
southward. The falling snow beat so rapidly into our sleigh that we
closed the vehicle and ignored the outer world. Mr. Naschinsky started
with us from Tomsk, but after a few stations he left us and hurried
away at courier speed toward Barnaool. He proved an _avant courier_
for us, and warned the station masters of our approach, so that we
found horses ready.

On this side road the contract requires but three troikas at a
station. Three sleighs together were an unusual number, so that the
smotretals generally obtained one or both our teams from the village.
On the last half of the route the yemshicks did not take us to the
stations but to the houses of their friends where we promptly obtained
horses at the regular rates. The peasants between Tomsk and Barnaool
own many horses, and are pleased at the opportunity to earn a little
cash with them.

Snow, darkness, and slumber prevented our seeing much of the road
during the night. In the morning, I found we were traveling through an
undulating and generally wooded country, occasionally crossing rivers
and small lakes on the ice. The track was a wonderful improvement over
that between Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. The stations or peasant houses
where we changed horses, were not as good as those on the great road.
The rooms were frequently small and heated to an uncomfortable degree.
In one house, notwithstanding the great heat, several children were
seated on the top of the stove, and apparently enjoying themselves.
The yemshicks and attendants were less numerous than on the great
road, but we could find no fault with their service. On one course of
twenty versts our sleigh was driven by a boy of thirteen, though
seemingly not more than ten. He handled the whip and reins with the
skill of a veteran, and earned an extra gratuity from his passengers.

The road was marked by upright poles ten or twelve feet high at
distances of one or two hundred feet. There were distance posts with
the usual black and white alternations, but the figures were generally
indistinct, and many posts were altogether wanting. On the main road
through the whole length of Siberia, there is a post at every verst,
marking in large numbers the distance to the first station on either
side of it. At the stations there are generally posts that show the
distance to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the provincial or 'government'
capitals on either side.

For a long time I could never rid myself of a sensation of 'goneness'
when I read the figures indicating the distance to St. Petersburg.
Above seven thousand they were positively frightful; between six and
seven thousand, they were disagreeable to say the least. Among the
five thousand and odd versts, I began to think matters improving, and
when I descended below four thousand, I felt as if in my teens. The
proverb says, "a watched pot never boils." I can testify that these
distance figures diminished very slowly, and sometimes they seemed to
remain nearly the same from day to day.

The snow storm that began when we left Tomsk, continued through the
night and the following day. The air was warm, and there was little
wind, so that our principal inconvenience was from the snow flakes in
our faces, and the gradual filling of the road. Toward sunset a wind
arose. Every hour it increased, and before midnight there was good
prospect of our losing our way or being compelled to halt until
daybreak. The snow whirled in thick masses through the air, and
utterly blinded us when we attempted to look out. The road filled with
drifts, and we had much difficulty in dragging through them. The
greatest personal inconvenience was the sifting of snow through the
crevices of our sleigh cover. At every halt we underwent a vigorous
shaking to remove the superfluous snow from our furs.

A storm with high winds in this region takes the name of _bouran_. It
is analogous to the _poorga_ of Northeastern Siberia and Kamchatka,
and may occur at any season of the year.

Bourans are oftentimes very violent, especially in the open steppe.
Any one who has experienced the norther of Texas, or the _bora_ of
Southern Austria, can form an idea of these Siberian storms. The worst
are when the thermometer sinks to twenty-five degrees or more below
zero, and the snow is dashed about with terrific fury. At such times
they are almost insupportable, and the traveler who ventures to face
them runs great risk of his life. Many persons have been lost in the
winter storms, and all experienced voyagers are reluctant to brave
their violence. In summer the wind spends its force on the earth and
sand which it whirls in large clouds. A gentleman told me he had seen
the dry bed of a river where there were two feet of sand, swept clean
to the rock by the strength of the wind alone. A little past daylight
the sleigh came to a sudden stop despite the efforts of all concerned.
The last hundred versts of our ride we had four horses to each sleigh,
and their united strength was not more than sufficient for our
purpose. The drift where we stopped was at least three feet deep, and
pretty closely packed. We, that is to say, the horses and yemshicks,
made several efforts but could not carry the sleigh through. The
mammoth sleigh came up and the two yemshicks trod a path through the
worst part of the drift. The doctor and I descended from the vehicle,
and assisted by looking on. The sleigh thus lightened, was dragged
through the obstruction but unfortunately turned on its beam ends, and
filled with snow before it could be righted.

The bouran was from the south, and raised the temperature above the
freezing point. The increasing heat became uncomfortable after the
cold I had experienced. The horses did not turn white from
perspiration as in colder days, and the exertion of travel set them
panting as in summer. The drivers carefully knotted their (the
horses') tails to prevent them (the tails) from filling with snow, but
the precaution was not entirely successful. The snow was of the right
consistency for a school boy's frolic, and would have thrown a group
of American urchins into ecstacies. Whenever our pace quickened to a
trot or gallop, the larboard horse threw a great many snowballs with
his feet. He seemed to aim at my face, and every few minutes I
received what the prize ring would call 'plumpers in the peeper, and
sockdolagers on the potato-trap.'

We drove into Barnaool about forty-four hours after leaving Tomsk. At
the hotel we found three rooms containing chairs and tables in
profusion, but not a bed or sofa. Of course we were expected to supply
our own bedding, and need not be particular about a bedstead. The
worst part of the affair was the wet condition of our furs. My
sheepskin sleigh robe was altogether too damp for use, and I sent it
to be dried in the kitchen. Several of my fur garments went the same
way. Even my shooba, which I carried in a bag, had a feeling of
dampness when I unfolded it, and in fact the only dry things about us,
were our throats. We set things drying as best we could, and then
ordered dinner. Before our sleighs were unloaded, a policeman took our
passports and saved us all trouble of going to the station.

In the evening I accompanied Dr. Schmidt on a visit to a friend and
fellow member of the Academy of Science. We found a party of six or
eight persons, and, as soon as I was introduced, a gentleman
despatched a servant to his house. The man returned with a roll of
sheet music from which our host's daughter favored us with the "Star
Spangled Banner," and "Hail Columbia," as a greeting to the first
American visitor to Barnaool. On our return to our lodgings we made
our beds on the floor, and slept comfortably. The dampness of the furs
developed a rheumatic pain in my shoulder that stiffened me somewhat
inconveniently.

We breakfasted upon cakes and tea at a late hour in the morning, and
then went to pay our respects to General Freeze, the Nachalnik or
Director of Mines, and to Colonel Filoff, chief of the smelting works.
Both these officers were somewhat past the middle age, quiet and
affable, and each enjoyed himself in coloring a meerschaum. They have
been engaged in mining matters during many years, and are said to be
thoroughly versed in their profession. After visiting these gentlemen
we called upon other official and civilian residents of the city.

Barnaool is the center of direction of the mining enterprises of the
Altai mountains, and has a population of ten or twelve thousand.
Almost its entire business is in someway connected with mining
affairs, and there are many engineer officers constantly stationed
there. I met some of these gentlemen during my stay, and was indebted
to them for information concerning the manner of working mines and
reducing ores. The city contains a handsome array of public buildings,
including the mining bureau, the hospital, and the zavod or smelting
establishment. General Freeze, the Nachalnik, is director and chief,
not only of the city but of the entire mining district of which
Barnaool is the center. The first discoveries of precious metals in
the Altai regions were made by one of the Demidoffs who was sent there
by Peter the Great. A monument in the public square at Barnaool
records his services, in ever during brass. I was shown an autograph
letter from the Empress Elizabeth giving directions to the Nachalnik
who controlled the mines during her reign. The letter is kept in an
ivory box on the table around which the mining board holds its
sessions. The mines of this region are the personal property of the
Emperor, and their revenues go directly to the crown. I was told that
the government desires to sell or give these mines into private hands,
in the belief that the resources of the country would be more
thoroughly developed. The day before my departure from Barnaool, I
learned that my visit had reference to the possible purchase of the
mining works by an American company. I hastened to assure my informant
that I had no intention of buying the Altai mountains or any part of
them.

The Nachalnik visits all mines and smelting works in his district at
least once a year, and is constantly in receipt of detailed reports of
operations in progress. His power is almost despotic, and like the
governors of departments throughout all Siberia, he can manage affairs
pretty much in his own way. There are no convict laborers in his
district, the workmen at the mines and zavods being peasants subject
to the orders of government. Each man in the district may be called
upon to work for the Emperor at fixed wages of money and rations. I
believe the daily pay of a laborer is somewhat less than forty
copecks. A compromise for saints days and other festivals is made by
employing the men only two weeks out of three. Relays are so arranged
as to make no stoppage of the works except during the Christmas
holidays.

I saw many sheets of the geological map of the Altai region, which has
been a long time in preparation, and will require several years to
complete. Every mountain, hill, brook, and valley is laid down by
careful surveyors, and when the map is finished it will be one of the
finest and best in the world. One corps is engaged in surveying and
mapping while another explores and opens mines.

When the snows are melted in the spring, and the floods have receeded
from the streams, the exploring parties are sent into the mountains.
Each officer has a particular valley assigned him, and commands a well
equipped body of men. He is expected to remain in the mountains until
he has finished his work, or until compelled to leave by the approach
of winter. The party procures meat from game, of which there is nearly
always an abundant supply.

Holes are dug at regular intervals, on the system I have already
described in the mines of the Yenesei. The rocks in and around the
valley are carefully examined for traces of silver, and many specimens
have been collected for the geological cabinet at Barnaool. Maps are
made showing the locality of each test hole in the valley, and the
spot whence every specimen of rock is obtained. On the return of the
party its reports and specimens are delivered to the mining bureau.
The ores go to the laboratory to be assayed, and the specimens of rock
are carefully sorted and examined.

Gold washings are conducted on the general plan of those in the
Yeneseisk government, the details varying according to circumstances.
A representation of the principal silver mine--somewhat on the plan of
Barnum's "Niagara with Real Water"--was shown me in the museum. In
general features the mines are not materially unlike silver mines
elsewhere. There are shafts, adits, and levels just as in the mines of
Colorado and California. The Russians give the name of _priesk_ to a
mine where gold is washed from the earth. The silver mine with its
shafts in the solid rock is called a _roodnik._ As before stated, the
word _zavod_ is applied to foundries, smelting works, and
manufactories in general.

Colonel Filoff invited the doctor and myself to visit the zavod at
Barnaool on the second day after our arrival. As he spoke no language
with which I was familiar, the colonel placed me in charge of a young
officer fluent in French, who took great pains to explain the _modus
operandi_. The zavod is on a grand scale, and employs about six
hundred laborers. It is enclosed in a large yard with high walls, and
reminded me of a Pennsylvania iron foundry or the establishment just
below Detroit. A sentry at the gate presented arms as we passed, and I
observed that the rule of no admittance except on business was rigidly
enforced.

[Illustration: IN THE MINE.]

In the yard we were first taken to piles of ore which appeared to an
unpracticed eye like heaps of old mortar and broken granite. These
piles were near a stream which furnishes power for moving the
machinery of the establishment. The ore was exposed to the air and
snow, but the coal for smelting was carefully housed. There were many
sheds for storage within easy distance of the furnaces. The latter
were of brick with tall and substantial chimneys, and the outer walls
that surrounded the whole were heavily and strongly built. Charcoal
is burned in consequence of the cheapness and abundance of wood. I was
told that an excellent quality of stove coal existed in the vicinity,
and would be used whenever it proved most economical. Nearly all the
ore contains copper, silver, and lead, while the rest is deficient in
the last named article. The first kind is smelted without the addition
of lead, and sometimes passes through six or seven reductions. For the
ore containing only copper and silver the process by evaporation of
lead is employed. Formerly the lead was brought from Nerchinsk or
purchased in England, the land transport in either case being very
expensive. Several years ago lead was found in the Altai mountains,
and the supply is now sufficient for all purposes.

The lead absorbs the silver, and leaves the copper in the refuse
matter. This was formerly thrown away, but by a newly invented process
the copper is extracted and saved. The production of silver in the
Altai mines is about a thousand and fifty poods annually, or forty
thousand pounds avoirdupois. The silver is cast into bars or cakes
about ten inches square, and weighing from seventy to a hundred pounds
each.

Colonel Filoff showed us into the room where the silver is stored. Two
soldiers were on guard and six or eight others rested outside. A
sergeant brought a sealed box which contained the key of the safe.
First the box and then the safe were opened at the colonel's order,
and when we had satisfied our curiosity, the safe was locked and the
key restored to its place of deposit. The colonel carried the seal
that closed the box, and the sergeant was responsible for the
integrity of the wax.

The cakes had a dull hue, somewhat lighter than that of lead, and were
of a convenient shape for handling. Each cake had its weight, and
value, and result of assay stamped upon it, and I was told that it was
assayed again at St. Petersburg to guard against the algebraic process
of substitution. About thirty poods of gold are extracted from every
thousand poods of silver after the treasure reaches St. Petersburg.
The silver is extracted from the lead used to absorb it, the latter
being again employed while the former goes on its long journey to the
banks of the Neva.

The ore continues to pass through successive reductions until a pood
of it contains no more than three-fourths a zolotink of silver; less
than that proportion will not pay expenses. I was told that the annual
cost of working the mines equaled the value of the silver produced.
The gold contained in the silver is the only item of profit to the
crown. About thirty thousand poods of copper are produced annually in
this district, but none of the copper zavods are at Barnaool.

[Illustration: STRANGE COINCIDENCE.]

All gold produced from the mines of Siberia, with the exception of
that around Nerchinsk, is sent to Barnaool to be smelted. This work is
performed, in a room about fifteen feet square, the furnaces being
fixed in its centre like parlor stoves of unusual size. The smelting
process continues four months of each year, and during this time about
twelve hundred poods of gold are melted and cast into bars. This work,
for 1866, was finished a few days before my arrival, and the furnaces
were utterly devoid of heat. In the yard at the zavod, I saw a dozen
or more sleds, and on each of them there was an iron-bound box filled
with bars of gold. This train was ready to leave under strong guard
for St. Petersburg.

The morning after my visit to the zavod it was reported that a soldier
guarding the sled train had been killed during the night. The incident
was a topic of conversation for the rest of my stay, but I obtained no
clear account of the affair. All agreed that a sentinel was murdered,
and one of the boxes plundered of several bars of gold, but beyond
this there were conflicting statements. It was the first occurrence of
the kind at Barnaool, and naturally excited the peaceful inhabitants.

The doctor trusted that the affair would not be associated with our
visit, and I quite agreed with him. It is to be hoped that the future
historian of Barnaool will not mention, the murder and robbery in the
same paragraph with the distinguished arrival of Dr. Schmidt and an
American traveler.

The rich miners send their gold once a year to Barnaool, the poorer
ones twice a year. Those in pressing need of money receive
certificates of deposit as soon as their gold is cast into bars, and
on these certificates they can obtain cash at the government banks.
The opulent miners remain content till their gold reaches the capital,
and is coined. Four or six months may thus elapse after gold has left
Barnaool before its owner obtains returns.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE.]



CHAPTER XLIV.


The society of Barnaool consists of the mining and other officers,
with a larger proportion of families than at Irkutsk. It had a more
quiet and reserved character than the capital of Eastern Siberia, but
was not the less social and hospitable. Many young officers of the
mining and topographical departments pass their summers in the
mountains and their winters in Barnaool. The cold season is therefore
the gayest, and abounds in balls, parties, concerts, and amateur
theatricals. The former theatre has been converted into a club-room.

There is a good proportion, for a Siberian town, of elegant and
luxuriant houses. The furniture and adornments were quite as extensive
as at Irkutsk or Tomsk, and several houses that I visited would have
been creditable in Moscow or St. Petersburg. It is no little wonder to
find all the comforts and luxuries of Russian life in the southern
part of Siberia, on the borders of the Kirghese steppes.

The large and well arranged museum contained more than I could even
glance over in a single day. There were models of machines used in
gold-washing, quartz mills fifty years old, and almost identical with
those of the present day; models of furnaces and zavods in various
parts of Siberia, and full delineations of the principal silver mines
of the Altai. There was a curious steam engine, said to have been made
at Barnaool in 1764, and used for blowing the furnaces. I saw a fine
collection of minerals, birds, beasts, and other curiosities of the
Altai. Particular attention was called to the stuffed skins of two
enormous tigers that were killed several years ago in the southern
part of the district. One of them fell after a long fight, in which he
killed one of his assailants and wounded two others.

The museum contains several dead specimens of the bearcoot, or eagle
of the Altai. I saw a living bird of this species at the house of an
acquaintance. The bearcoot is larger than the American eagle, and
possesses strength enough to kill a deer or wolf with perfect ease.
Dr. Duhmberg, superintendent of the hospitals, told me of an
experiment with poison upon one of these birds. He began by giving
half a grain of _curavar_, a poison from South America. It had no
perceptible effect, the appetite and conduct of the bird being
unchanged. A week later he gave four grains of strychnine, and saw the
bird's feathers tremble fifteen minutes after the poison was
swallowed. Five hours later the patient was in convulsions, but his
head was not affected, and he recovered strength and appetite on the
next day. A week later the bearcoot swallowed seven grains of curavar,
and showed no change for two days. On the second evening he went into
convulsions, and died during the night.

The Kirghese tame these eagles and employ them in hunting. A gentleman
who had traveled among the Kirghese told me he had seen a bearcoot
swoop down upon a full grown deer and kill him in a few minutes.
Sometimes when a pack of wolves has killed and begun eating a deer,
the feast will be interrupted by a pair of bearcoots. Two birds will
attack a dozen wolves, and either kill or drive them away.

Barnaool is quite near the Kirghese steppes. One of my acquaintances
had a Kirghese coachman, a tall, well formed man, with thick lips and
a coppery complexion. I established a friendship with this fellow, and
arranged that he should sit for his portrait, but somehow he was never
ready. He brought me two of his kindred, and I endeavored to persuade
the group to be photographed. There was a superstition among them that
it would be detrimental to their post mortem repose if they allowed
their likenesses on this earth when they themselves should leave it. I
offered them one, two, three, and even five roubles, but they
stubbornly refused. Their complexions were dark, and their whole
physiognomy revealed the Tartar blood. They wore the Russian winter
dress, but had their own costume for state occasions. In this part of
Siberia Kirghese are frequently found in Russian employ, and are said
to be generally faithful and industrious. A considerable number find
employment at the Altai mines, and a great many are engaged in taking
cattle and sheep to the Siberian markets.

The Kirghese lead a nomadic life, making frequent change of residence
to find pasturage for their immense flocks and herds. The different
tribes are more or less hostile to each other, and have a pleasant
habit of organizing raids on a colossal scale. One tribe will suddenly
swoop down upon another and steal all portable property within reach.
They do not mind a little fighting, and an enterprise of this kind
frequently results in a good many broken heads. The chiefs believe
themselves descended from the great warriors of the ancient Tartar
days, and boast loudly of their prowess. The Kirghese are brave in
fighting each other, but have a respectful fear of the Russians.
Occasionally they plunder Russian traders crossing the steppes, but
are careful not to attack unless the odds are on their own side.

The Russians have applied their diplomacy among the Kirghese and
pushed their boundaries far to the southward. They have purchased
titles to districts controlled by powerful chiefs, and after being
fairly settled have continued negotiations for more territory. They
make use of the hostility between the different tribes, and have
managed so that nearly every feud brought advantages to Russia. Under
their policy of toleration they never interfere with the religion of
the conquered, and are careful not to awaken prejudices. The tribes in
the subjugated territory are left pretty much to their own will. Every
few years the chain of frontier posts is pushed to the southward, and
embraces a newly acquired region. Western Siberia is dotted over with
abandoned and crumbling forts that once guarded the boundary, but are
now far in the interior. Some of these defences are near the great
road across the Baraba steppe.

The Kirghese do not till the soil nor engage in manufactures, except
of a few articles for their own use. They sell sheep, cattle, and
horses to the Russians, and frequently accompany the droves to their
destination. In return for their flocks and herds they receive goods
of Russian manufacture, either for their own use or for traffic with
the people beyond. Their wealth consists of domestic animals and the
slaves to manage them. Horses and sheep are legal tender in payment of
debts, bribes, and presents.

In the last few years Russian conquest in Central Asia has moved so
fast that England has taken alarm for her Indian possessions. The last
intelligence from that quarter announces a victory of the Russians
near Samarcand, followed by negotiations for peace. If the Muscovite
power continues to extend over that part of Asia, England has very
good reason to open her eyes.

I never conversed with the Emperor on this topic, and cannot speak
positively of his intentions toward Asia, but am confident he has
fixed his eye upon conquest as far south of the Altai as he can easily
go. That his armies may sometime hoist the Russian flag in sight of
the Indo-English possessions, is not at all improbable. But that they
will either attempt or desire an aggressive campaign against India is
quite beyond expectation.

It is but a few years ago that English travelers were killed for
having made their way into Central Asia in disguise, and Vambery, the
Hungarian traveler, was considered to have performed a great feat
because he returned from there with his life. There is now the
Tashkend _Messenger_, a Russian paper devoted to the interests of that
rich province. Moscow merchants are establishing the Bank of Central
Asia, having its headquarters at Tashkend and a branch at Orenburg,
and Tashkend will soon be in telegraphic communication with the rest
of the world.

A plan has been proposed to open Central Asia to steam boat
navigation. The river Oxus, or Amoo-Daria, which flows through Bakhara
and Khiva, emptying into the Aral sea, was once a tributary of the
Caspian. Several steamers have been placed upon it, and others are
promised soon. The dry bed of the old channel of the Oxus is visible
in the Turcoman steppe at the present day. The original diversion was
artificial, and the dikes which direct it into the Aral are said to be
maintained with difficulty. It has been proposed to send an expedition
to remove these barriers and turn the river into its former bed.

Coupled with this project is another to divert the course of the
Syr-Daria and make it an affluent of the Oxus. This last proposition
was half carried out two hundred years ago, and its completion would
not be difficult.

By the first project, Russia would obtain a continuous water-way from
Nijne Novgorod on the Volga to Balkh on the Amoo-Daria, within two
hundred miles of British India. The second scheme carried out would
bring Tashkend and all Central Asia under commercial control, and have
a political effect of no secondary importance. A new route might thus
be opened to British India, and European civilization carried into a
region long occupied by semi-barbarian people. Afghanistan would be
relieved from its anarchy and brought under wholesome rule. The
geographical effect would doubtless be the drying up of the Aral sea.
A railway between Balkh and Delhi would complete an inland steam route
between St. Petersburg and Calcutta.

Surveys have been ordered for a Central Asiatic Railway from Orenburg
or some point farther south, and it is quite possible that before many
years the locomotive will be shrieking over the Tartar steppes and
frightening the flocks and herds of the wandering Kalmacks and
Kirghese. A railway is in process of construction from the Black Sea
to the Caspian, and when this is completed, a line into Central Asia
is only a question of time.

The Russians have an extensive trade with Central Asia. Goods are
transported on camels, the caravans coming in season for the fairs of
Irbit and Nijne Novgorod. The caravans from Bokhara proceed to
Troitska, (Lat. 54° N., Lon. 61° 20' E.,) Petropavlovsk, (Lat. 54° 30'
N., Lon. 69° E.,) and Orenburg, (Lat. 51° 46' N., Lon. 55° 5' E.)
There is also a considerable traffic to Sempolatinsk, (Lat. 50° 30'
N., Lon. 80° E.) The Russian merchandise consists of metals, iron and
steel goods, beads, mirrors, cloths of various kinds, and a
miscellaneous lot "too numerous to mention." Much of the country over
which these caravans travel is a succession of Asiatic steppes, with
occasional salt lakes and scanty supplies of fresh water.

After passing the Altai mountains and outlying chains the routes are
quite monotonous. Fearful bourans are frequent, and in certain parts
of the route they take the form of sand storms. A Russian army on its
way to Khiva twenty-five years ago, was almost entirely destroyed in
one of these desert tempests. Occasionally the caravans suffer
severely.

The merchandise from Bokhara includes raw cotton, sheepskins, rhubarb,
dried fruits, peltries, silk, and leather, with shawl goods of
different kinds. Cotton is an important product, and in the latter
part of my journey I saw large quantities going to Russian factories.
Three hundred years ago a German traveler in Russia wrote an account
of 'a wonderful plant beyond the Caspian sea.' "Veracious people,"
says the writer, "tell me that the _Borauez_, or sheep plant, grows
upon a stalk larger than my thumb; it has a head, eyes, and ears like
a sheep, but is without sensation. The natives use its wool for
various purposes."

I heard air interesting story of an adventure in which one of the
Kirghese, who was living among the Russians at the time of my visit to
Barnaool, played an important part. He was a fine looking fellow,
whose tribe lived between the Altai Mountains and Lake Ural, spending
the winters in the low lands and the summers in the valleys of the
foot-hills. He was the son of one of the patriarchs of the tribe, and
was captured, during a baranta or foray, by a chief who had long been
on hostile terms with his neighbors. The young man was held for
ransom, but the price demanded was more than his father could pay, and
so he remained in captivity.

He managed to ingratiate himself with the chief of the tribe that
captured him, and as a mark of honor, and probably as an excuse for
the high ransom demanded, he was appointed to live in the chief's
household. He was allowed to ride with the party when they moved, and
accompany the herdsmen; but a sharp watch was kept on his movements
whenever he was mounted, and care was taken that the horses he rode
were not very fleet. The chief had a daughter whom he expected to
marry to one of his powerful neighbors, and thereby secure a permanent
friendship between the tribes. She was a style of beauty highly prized
among the Asiatics, was quite at home on horseback, and understood all
the arts and accomplishments necessary to a Kirghese maiden of noble
blood. It is nothing marvelous that the young captive, Selim, should
become fond of the charming Acson, the daughter of his captor. His
fondness was reciprocated, but, like prudent lovers everywhere, they
concealed their feelings, and to the outer world preserved a most
indifferent exterior.

Selim thought it best to elope, and broached his opinion to Acson, who
readily favored it. They concluded to make the attempt when the tribe
was moving to change its pasturage, and their absence would not be
noticed until they had several hours start and were many miles on
their way. They waited until the chief gave the order to move to
another locality, where the grass was better. Acson managed to leave
the tent in the night, under some frivolous pretext, and select two of
her father's best horses, which she concealed in a grove not far away.
By previous arrangement she appeared sullen and indignant toward
Selim, who, mounted on a very sorry nag, set off with a party of men
that were driving a large herd of horses. The latter were
ungovernable, and the party became separated, so that it was easy for
Selim to drop out altogether and make his way to the grove where the
horses were concealed. In the same way Acson abandoned the party she
started with, and within an hour from the time they left the _aool_,
or encampment, the lovers met in the grove.

[Illustration: THE ELOPEMENT.]

It was a long way to Selim's tribe, but he knew it was somewhere in
the mountains to the north and west, having left its winter quarters
in the low country. The pair said their prayers in the true Mahommedan
style, and then, mounting their horses, set out at an easy pace to
ascend the valley toward the higher land. Their horses were in
excellent condition, but they knew it would be necessary to ride hard
in case they were pursued, and they wished to reserve their strength
for the final effort. An hour before nightfall, they saw, far down the
valley, a party in pursuit. The party was riding rapidly, and from
appearances had not caught sight of the fugitives. After a brief
consultation the latter determined to turn aside at the first bend of
the valley, and endeavor to cross at the next stream, while leaving
the pursuers to go forward and be deceived.

They turned aside, and were gratified to see from a place of
concealment the pursuing party proceed up the valley. The departure of
the fugitives was evidently known some time earlier than they
expected, else the pursuit would not have begun so soon. Guided by the
general course of the hills, the fugitives made their way to the next
valley, and, as the night had come upon them, they made a camp beneath
a shady tree, picketing their horses, and eating such provisions as
they had brought with them.

In the morning, just as their steeds were saddled and they were
preparing to resume their journey, they saw their pursuers enter the
valley a mile or two below them, and move rapidly in their direction.
Evidently they had turned back after losing the track, and found it
without much delay. But their horses wore more weary than those of the
fleeing lovers, so that the latter were confident of winning the race.

Swift was the flight and swift the pursuit. The valley was wide and
nearly straight, and the lovers steadily increased the distance
between them and their pursuers. They followed no path, but kept
steadily forward, with their faces toward the mountains. Their
pursuers, originally half a dozen, diminished to five, then to four,
and as the hours wore on Selim found that only two were in sight. But
a new obstacle arose to his escape.

[Illustration: THE FIGHT]

He knew that the valley he was ascending was abruptly enclosed in the
mountains, and escape would be difficult. Further to the east was a
more practicable one, and he determined to attempt to reach it.
Turning from the valley, he was followed by his two pursuers, who were
so close upon him that he determined to fight them. Acson had brought
away one of her father's scimetars, and with this Selim prepared to do
battle. Finding a suitable place among the rocks, he concealed his
horses, and with Acson made a stand where he could fight to advantage.
He took his position on a rock just over the path his pursuers were
likely to follow, and watched his opportunity to hurl a stone, which
knocked one of them senseless. The other was dismounted by his horse
taking fright, and before he could regain his saddle, Selim was upon
him. A short hand-to-hand fight resulted in Selim's favor.

Leaving his adversaries upon the ground, one of them dead and the
other mortally wounded, Selim called Acson and returned to his horses.
Both the fugitives were thoroughly exhausted on reaching the valley,
and found to their dismay that a stream they were obliged to cross was
greatly swollen with recent rains in the mountains.

They were anxious to put the stream between them and their remaining
pursuers, and after a brief halt they plunged in with their horses.
Selim crossed safely, his horse stemming the current and landing some
distance below the point where he entered the water. Acson was less
fortunate.

While in the middle of the stream her horse stumbled upon a stone, and
sprang about so wildly as to throw her from the saddle. Grasping the
limb of a tree overhanging the water, she clung for a moment, but the
horse sweeping against her, tore the support from her hand. With a
loud cry to her terror-stricken lover, she sank beneath the waters and
was dashed against the rocks a hundred yards below.

[Illustration: THE CATASTROPHE.]

Day became night, the stars sparkled in the blue heavens; the moon
rose and took her course along the sky; the wind sighed among the
trees; morning tinged the eastern horizon, and the sun pushed above
it, while Selim paced the banks of the river and watched the waters
rolling, rolling, rolling, as they carried his heart's idol away from
him forever, and it was not until night again approached that he
mounted his steed and rode away, heart-broken, and full of sadness. He
ultimately made his way to his own tribe, but years passed before he
recovered from the crushing weight of that blow; and when I saw him
there was still upon his countenance a deep shadow which will never be
removed. Such is the story of Selim and Acson. A more romantic one is
hardly to be found.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLV.


One morning while I was in Barnaool the doctor left me writing, and
went out for a promenade. In half an hour he returned accompanied by a
tall, well-formed man with a brunette complexion, and hair and
mustache black as ebony. His dress was Russian, but the face impressed
me as something strange.

"Let me introduce you," said the doctor, "to an officer of the Persian
army. He has been eight years from home, and would like to talk with
an American."

We shook hands, and by way of getting on familiar footing, I opened
my cigar case. Dr. Schmidt translated our conversation, the Persian
speaking Russian very fairly. His story was curious and interesting.
He was captured in 1858 near Herat, by a party of predatory Turcomans.
His captors sold him to a merchant at Balkh where he remained
sometime. From Balkh he was sold to Khiva, and from Khiva to Bokhara,
whence he escaped with a fellow captive. I asked if he was compelled
to labor during his captivity, and received a negative reply. Soldiers
and all others except officers are forced to all kinds of drudgery
when captured by these barbarians. Officers are held for ransom, and
their duties are comparatively light.

Russian slaves are not uncommon in Central Asia, though less numerous
than formerly. The Kirghese cripple their prisoners by inserting a
horse hair in a wound in the heel. A man thus treated is lamed for
life. He cannot use his feet in escaping, and care is taken that he
does not secure a horse.

The two fugitives traveled together from Bokhara, suffering great
hardships in their journey over the steppes. They avoided all towns
through fear of capture, and subsisted upon whatever chance threw in
their way. Once when near starvation they found and killed a sheep.
They ate heartily of its raw flesh, and before the supply thus
obtained was exhausted they reached the Russian boundary at Chuguchak.
One of the twain died soon afterward, and his companion in flight came
to Barnaool. The authorities would not let him go farther without a
passport, and he had been in the town nearly a year at the time of my
visit.

Through the Persian ambassador at St. Petersburg, he had communicated,
with his government at Teheran, and expected his passport in a few
weeks.

During the eight years that had elapsed since his capture this
gentleman heard nothing from his own country. He had learned to speak
Russian but could not read it. I told him of the completion of the
Indo-European telegraph by way of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf,
and the success of electric communication between England and India.
Naturally he was less interested concerning the Atlantic cable than
about the telegraph in his own country. We shook hands at parting, and
mutually expressed a wish to meet again in Persia and America.

After his departure, the doctor commented upon the intelligent bearing
and clear eye of the Persian, and then said:

"I have done several strange and unexpected things in my life, but I
never dreamed I should be the interpreter between a Persian and an
American at the foot of the Altai mountains."

I met at Barnaool, a Prussian gentleman Mr. Radroff, who was sent to
Siberia by the Russian Academy of Science. He knew nearly all the
languages of Europe, and had spent some years in studying those of
Central Asia. He could converse and read in Chinese, Persian, and
Mongol, and I don't know how many languages and dialects of lesser
note. His special mission was to collect information about the present
and past inhabitants of Central Asia, and in this endeavor he had
made explorations in the country of the Kirghese and beyond Lake
Balkask. He was preparing for a journey in 1867 to Kashgar.

Mr. Radroff possessed many archaeological relics gathered in his
researches, and exhibited drawings of many tumuli. He had a curious
collection of spear heads, knives, swords, ornaments, stirrup irons,
and other souvenirs of ancient days. He discoursed upon the ages of
copper, gold, and iron, and told the probable antiquity of each
specimen he brought out. He gave me a spear head and a knife blade
taken from a burial mound in the Kirghese country. "You observe," said
he, "they are of copper and were doubtless made before the discovery
of iron. They are probably three thousand years old, and may be more.
In these tumuli, copper is found much better preserved than iron,
though the latter is more recently buried."

At this gentleman's house, I saw a Persian soldier who had been ten
years in captivity among the Turcomans, where he was beaten and forced
to the lowest drudgery, and often kept in chains. After long and
patient waiting he escaped and reached the Siberian boundary. Having
no passport, and unable to make himself understood, he was sent to
Barnaool and lodged in prison where he remained nearly two years! The
Persian officer above mentioned, heard of him by accident, and
procured his release. Mr. Radroff had taken the man as a house servant
and a teacher of the Persian language. I heard him read in a sonorous
voice several passages from the Koran. His face bore the marks of deep
suffering, and gave silent witness to the story of his terrible
captivity in the hands of the Turcomans. His incarceration at Barnaool
was referred to as an "unfortunate oversight." Escaping from barbarian
slavery he fell into a civilized prison, and must have considered
Christian kindness more fanciful than real. He expected to accompany
his countryman on his return to Persia.

The day before our departure, we were invited to a public dinner in
honor of our visit. It took place at the club rooms, the tables being
set in what was once the parquet of the theatre. The officials, from
General Freeze downward, were seated in the order of their rank, and
the post of honor was assigned to the two strangers. No ladies were
present, and the dinner, so far as its gastronomic features went, was
much like a dinner at Irkutsk or Kiachta.

At the second course my attention was called to an excellent fish
peculiar to the Ob and Yenesei rivers. It is a species of salmon under
the name of Nalma, and ascends from the Arctic Ocean. Beef from the
Kirghese steppes elicited our praise, and so did game from the region
around Barnaool. At the end of the dinner I was ready to answer
affirmatively the inquiry, "all full inside?"

At the appearance of the champagne, Colonel Taskin of the mining
engineers made a brief speech in English, and ended by proposing the
United States of America and the health of the American stranger. Dr.
Schmidt translated my response as well as my toast to the Russian
empire, and especially the inhabitants of Barnaool. The doctor was
then honored for his mammoth hunt, and made proper acknowledgment.
Then we had personal toasts and more champagne with Russian and
American music, and champagne again, and then we had some more
champagne and then some champagne.

When the tables were removed, we had impromptu dancing to lively
music, including several Cossack dances, some familiar and others new
to me. There is one of these dances which usually commences by a woman
stepping into the centre of the room and holding a kerchief in her
right hand. Moving gracefully to the music, she passes around the
apartment, beckoning to one, hiding her face from another,
gesticulating with extended arms before a third, and skilfully
manipulating the kerchief all the while. When this sentimental
pantomime is ended, she selects a partner and waves the kerchief over
him. He pretends reluctance, but allows himself to be dragged to the
floor where the couple dance _en deux_. The dance includes a great
deal of entreaty, aversion, hope, and despair, all in dumb show, and
ends by the lady being led to a seat. I saw this dance introduced in
a ballet at the Grand Theatre in Moscow, and wondered why it never
appeared on the stage outside the Russian empire.

One of the gentlemen who danced admirably had recovered the use of his
legs two years before, after being unable to walk no less than
twenty-eight years. He declared himself determined to make up for lost
time, and when I left the hall, he continued entertaining himself.

During the dancing, a party gathered around where I stood and I
observed that every lady was assembling as if to witness some fun. "Be
on your watch," a friend whispered, "they are going to give you the
_polkedovate_."

The _polkedovate_ is nothing more nor less than a tossing up at the
hands of a dozen or twenty Russians. It has the effect of intoxicating
a sober man, but I never heard that it sobered a drunken one. Major
Collins was elevated in this way at Kiachta, and declares that the
effect, added to the champagne he had previously taken, was not at all
satisfactory. Remembering his experience, and fearing I might go too
high or come too low, I was glad when a diversion was made in my favor
by a gentleman coming to bid me good night.

[Illustration: THE POLKEDOVATE.]

The custom of tossing up a guest is less prevalent in Siberia than ten
or twenty years ago. It was formerly a mark of high respect, but I
presume few who were thus honored would have hesitated to forego the
distinguished courtesy.

One of the gentlemen I met at dinner had a passion for trotting
horses. He asked me many questions about the famous race horses in
America, from Lady Suffolk down to the latest two-twenties. I answered
to the best of my abilities, but truth required me to say I was not
authority in equine matters. The gentleman treated me to a display of
trotting by a Siberian horse five years old, and carefully trained. I
forget the exact figures he gave me, but believe they were something
like two-thirty to the mile. To my unhorsy eye, the animal was pretty,
and well formed, and I doubt not he would have acquitted himself
finely on the Bloomingdale Road. The best horses in Siberia are
generally from European Russia, the Siberian climate being unfavorable
to careful breeding. Kirghese horses are excellent under the saddle,
but not well reputed for draught purposes.

I gave out some washing at Barnaool, and accidentally included a paper
collar in the lot. When the laundress returned the linen, she
explained with much sorrow the dissolution of the collar when she
attempted to wash it. I presume it was the first of its kind that ever
reached the Altai mountains.

[Illustration: MAKING EXPLANATION.]

We arranged to leave Barnaool at the conclusion of the dinner at the
club room. First we proceeded to the house of Colonel Taskin where we
took 'positively the last' glass of champagne. Our preparations at our
lodgings were soon completed, and the baggage carefully stowed. A
party of our acquaintances assembled to witness our departure, and
pass through a round of kissing as the yemshick uttered 'gotovey.'
They did not make an end of hand-shaking until we were wrapped and
bundled into the sleigh.

It was a keen, frosty night with the stars twinkling in the clear
heavens as we drove outside the yard of our hotel. Horses, driver, and
travelers were alike exhilarated in the sharp atmosphere and we dashed
off at courier pace. The driver was a musical fellow, and endeavored
to sing a Russian ballad while we were galloping over the glistening
snow.

We had a long ride before us. The wide steppe of Baraba, or
Barabinsky, lies between Barnaool and the foot of the Ural mountains.
There was no town where we expected to stop before reaching Tumen,
fifteen hundred versts away. As the luxuries of life are not abundant
on this road we stored our sleighs with provisions, and hoped to add
bread and eggs at the stations. Our farewell dinner was considered a
sufficient preparation for at least a hundred and fifty versts. I
nestled down among the furs and hay which formed my bed, leaned back
upon the pillows and exposed only a few square inches of visage to the
nipping and eager air.

A few versts from town we stuck upon an icy bank where the smooth feet
of our horses could not obtain holding ground. After a while we
attached one horse to a long rope, and enabled him to pull from the
level snow above the bank. I expected the yemshick would ask us to
lighten the sleigh by stepping out of it. An American driver would
have put us ashore without ceremony, but custom is otherwise in
Siberia. Horses and driver are engaged to take the vehicle and its
burden to the next station, and it is the traveler's privilege to
remain in his place in any emergency short of an overturn.

The track was excellent, having been well trodden since the storm. We
followed our former road a hundred versts from Barnaool, and then
turned to the left to strike the great post route near Kiansk. It was
necessary to cross the river Ob, and as we reached the station near it
during the night, we waited for daylight. The ice was sufficiently
thick and firm, but the danger arose from holes and thin places that
could not be readily discovered in the dark. While crossing we met a
peasant who had tumbled into one of these holes, and been fished out
by his friends. He looked unhappy, and no doubt felt so. His garments
were frozen stiff, and altogether he resembled a bronze statue of
Franklin after a freezing rain storm.

[Illustration: AFTER THE BATH.]

The thermometer fell on the first night to fifteen degrees below zero,
and to about -20° just before sunrise. The colder it grew the better
was our speed, the horses feeling the crisp air and the driver being
anxious to complete his stage in the least time possible. With uniform
roads and teams one can judge pretty fairly of the temperature by the
rate at which he travels. From Barnaool we did not have the horses of
the post, but engaged our first troikas of a peasant who offered his
services. Our yemshick took us to his friend at the first station, and
this operation was regularly repeated. Occasionally our two yemshicks
had different friends, and our sleighs were separately out-fitted.
When this was the case the teams were speedily attached out of a
spirit of rivalry. We frequently endeavored to excite the yemshicks to
the noble ambition of a race by offering a few copecks to the winner.
When the teams were furnished from different houses the temper of
emulation roused itself spontaneously.

Twice we left the post route to make short cuts that saved thirty or
forty miles travel. On those side roads we found plenty of horses,
and were promptly served. The inhabitants of the steppe are delighted
at the opportunity to carry travelers at post rates. The latter are
saved the trouble of exhibiting their _padarashnia_ at every station,
and generally prefer to employ private teams. The horses were small,
wiry beasts of Tartar breed, and utter strangers to combs and brushes.

While at breakfast on the second morning we were accosted by an old
and decrepid beggar. The fellow wore a decoration consisting of a box
six or seven inches square, suspended on his breast by a strap around
his neck. Though seedy enough to set up business on his own account,
he explained that he was begging for the church. His honesty was
evidently in question as the box was firmly locked and had an aperture
in the top for receiving money. We each gave ten copecks into his
hand, and I observed that he did not drop the gratuity into the box. I
was reminded of the man who owed a grudge against a railroad line, and
declared that the company should never have another cent of his money.
A friend asked how he would prevent it, as he frequently traveled over
the road.

"Easy enough," was the calm reply, "I shall hereafter pay my fare to
the conductor."

The morning after reaching Barnaool, I had a fine twinge of rheumatism
that adhered during my stay. Quite to my surprise it left me on the
second day after our departure, and like the bad boy in the story
never came back again. The medical faculty can have the benefit of my
experience, and prescribe as follows for their rheumatic patients.

    "st. nt. o. lg. sl. S. r. = ther. - z

"Start at night on a long sleigh ride over a Siberian road with the
thermometer below zero."

A bouran arose in the afternoon of the second day, but was neither
violent nor very cold. At Barnaool I had my sleigh specially prepared
to exclude drifting snow. I ordered a liberal supply of buttons and
straps to fasten the boot to the hood, besides an overlapping flap of
thick felt to cover the crevice between them. The precaution was well
taken, and with our doors thoroughly closed we were not troubled with
much snow. The drivers were exposed on the outside of the sleigh, and
had the full benefit of the wind. At the end of the first drive after
this storm commenced our yemshick might have passed for an animated
snow statue. The road was tolerable, and a great improvement upon that
from Krasnoyarsk to Tomsk.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLVI.


The great steppe of Baraba is quite monotonous, as there is very
little change of scenery in traveling over it. Whoever has been south
or west from Chicago, or west from Leavenworth, in winter, can form a
very good idea of the steppe. The winter appearance is much like that
of a western prairie covered with snow. Whether there is equal
similarity in summer I am unable to say. The country is flat or
slightly undulating, and has a scanty growth of timber. Sometimes
there were many versts without trees, then there would be a scattered
and straggling display of birches, and again the growth was dense
enough to be called a forest. The principal arboreal productions are
birches, and I found the houses, sheds, and fences in most of the
villages constructed of birch timber. The open part of the steppe, far
more extensive than the wooded portion, was evidently favorable to the
growth of grass, as I saw a great deal protruding above the snow.
There are many marshy and boggy places, covered in summer with a dense
growth of reeds. They are a serious inconvenience to the traveler on
account of the swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, and other tormenting
insects that they produce.

While crossing the Baraba swamps in summer, men and women are obliged
to wear veils as a protection against these pests. Horses are
sometimes killed by their bites, and frequently became thin in flesh
from the constant annoyance. A gentleman told me that once when
crossing the swamps one of his horses, maddened by the insects, broke
from the carriage and fled out of sight among the tall reeds. The
yemshicks, who knew the locality, said the animal would certainly be
killed by his winged pursuers in less than twenty-four hours.

There is much game on the steppe in summer, birds being more numerous
than beasts. The only winter game we saw was the white partridge,
(_kurupatki_,) of which we secured several specimens.

The steppe is fertile, and in everything the soil can produce the
people are wealthy. They have wheat, rye, and oats in abundance, but
pay little attention to garden vegetables. In 1866 the crops were
small in all parts of Siberia west of Lake Baikal, and I frequently
heard the peasants complaining of high prices. They said such a season
was almost unprecedented. On the steppe oats were forty copecks, and
wheat and rye seventy copecks a pood; equaling about thirty cents and
seventy-five cents a bushel respectively. In some years wheat has been
sold for ten copecks the pood, and other products at proportionate
prices. We paid twelve copecks the dizaine for eggs, which frequently
sell for one-third that sum.

The fertility of the soil cannot be turned to great account, as there
is no general market. Men and horses engaged in the transportation and
postal service create a limited demand, but there is little sale
beyond this. With so small a market there are very few rich
inhabitants on the steppe; and with edibles at a cheap rate, there are
few cases of extreme poverty. We rarely saw beggars, and on the other
hand we found nobody who was able to dress in broadcloth and fine
linen and fare sumptuously every day.

Hay is abundant, and may be cut on any unclaimed part of the steppe. I
was told that in some places the farmers of a village assemble on
horseback at an appointed time. At a given signal all start for the
haying spots, and the first arrival has the first choice. There is
enough for all, and in ordinary seasons no grass less than knee high
is considered worth cutting.

At the villages we generally obtained excellent bread of unbolted
wheat flour, rye being rarely used. There were many windmills of
clumsy construction, the wheels having but four wings, and the whole
concern turning on a pivot to bring its face to the wind. No bolting
apparatus has been introduced, and the machinery is of the simplest
and most primitive character. It was a period of fasting, just before
Christmas, and our whole obtainable bill of fare comprised bread and
eggs. As we reached a certain station we asked what we could get to
eat.

"Everything," was the prompt reply of the smotretal. We were hungry,
and this information was cheering.

"Give us some _schee_, if you please," said the doctor.

An inquiry in the kitchen showed this edible to be 'just out.'

"Some beef, then?"

There was no beef to be had. Cutlets were alike negatived.

"Any pilmania?" was our next inquiry.

"_Nierte; nizniu_."

The 'everything' hunted down consisted of eggs, bread, and hot water.
We brought out a boiled ham, that was generally our _piece de
resistance_, and made a royal meal. If _trichina spiralis_ existed in
Siberian ham, it was never able to disturb us. We found no fruit as
there are no orchards in Siberia. Attempts have been made to cultivate
fruit, but none have succeeded. A little production about the size of
a whortleberry was shown me in Eastern Siberia, where it was pickled
and served up as a relish with meat. "This is the Siberian apple,"
said the gentleman who first exhibited it, "and it has degenerated to
what you see since its introduction from Europe." On dissecting one of
these little berries, I found it possessed the anatomy of the apple,
with seeds smaller than pin-heads.

Kotzebue and other travelers say there are no bees in Siberia, but the
assertion is incorrect. I saw native honey enough to convince me on
this point, and learned that bees are successfully raised in the
southern part of Asiatic Russia.

We were not greatly delayed in our team changing, though we lost
several hours in small instalments. We had two sleighs, and although
there were anywhere up to a dozen men to prepare them, the harnessing
of one team was generally completed before the other was led out. When
the horses were ready, the driver often went to fetch his dehar and
make his toilet. In this way we would lose five or ten minutes, a
small matter by itself, but a large one when under heavy
multiplication.

[Illustration: THE DRIVER'S TOILET.]

We took breakfast and dinner daily in the peasants' houses, which we
found very much like the stations. We carried our own tea and sugar,
and with a fair supply of provisions, added what we could obtain. Tea
was the great solace of the journey, and proved, above all others, the
beverage which cheers. I could swallow several cups at a sitting, and
never failed to find myself refreshed. It is far better than vodki or
brandy for traveling purposes, and many Russians who are pretty free
drinkers at home adhere quite closely to tea on the road. The merchant
traveler drinks enormous quantities, and I have seen a couple of these
worthies empty a twenty cup samovar with no appearance of surfeit. So
much hot liquid inside generally sets them into a perspiration.
Nothing but loaf sugar is used, and there is a very common practice of
holding a lump in one hand and following a sip of the unsweetened tea
with a nibble at the sugar. When several persons are engaged in this
rasping process a curious sound is produced.

There are many Tartars living on the steppe, but we saw very little of
them, as our changes were made at the Russian villages. Before the
reign of Catherine II. there was but a small population between Tumen
and Tomsk, and the road was more a fiction than a fact. The Governor
General of Siberia persuaded Catherine to let him have all conscripts
of one levy instead of sending them to the army. He settled them in
villages along the route over the steppe, and the wisdom of his policy
was very soon apparent. The present population is made up of the
descendants of these and other early settlers, together with exiles
and voluntary emigrants of the present century. Several villages have
a bad reputation, and I heard stories of robbery and murder. In
general the dwellers on the steppe are reputable, and they certainly
impressed me favorably.

I was told by a Russian that Catherine once thought of giving the
Siberians a constitution somewhat like that of the United States of
America, but was dissuaded from so doing by one of her ministers.

[Illustration: WOMEN SPINNING.]

The villages were generally built each in a single street, or at most,
in two streets. The largest houses had yards, or enclosures, into
which we drove when stopping for breakfast or dinner. The best windows
were of glass or talc, fixed in frames, and generally made double. The
poorer peasants contented themselves with windows of ox or cow
stomachs, scraped thin and stretched in drying. There were no iron
stoves In any house I visited, the Russian _peitcha_ or brick stove
being universal. Very often we found the women and girls engaged in
spinning. No wheel is used for this purpose, the entire apparatus
being a hand spindle and a piece of board. The flax is fastened on an
upright board, and the fingers of the left hand gather the fibres and
begin the formation of a thread. The right hand twirls the spindle,
and by skillful manipulation a good thread is formed with considerable
rapidity.

A great deal of hemp and flax is raised upon the steppe, and we found
rope abundant, cheap, and good. I bought ten fathoms of half-inch rope
for forty copecks, a peasant bringing it to a house where we
breakfasted. When I paid for it the mistress of the house quietly
appropriated ten copecks, remarking that the rope maker owed her that
amount. She talked louder and more continuously than any other woman I
met in Siberia, and awakened my wonder by going barefooted into an
open shed and remaining there several minutes. She stood in snow and
on ice, but appeared quite unconcerned. Our thermometer at the time
showed a temperature of 21° below zero.

The only city on the steppe is Omsk, at the junction of the Om and
Irtish, and the capital of Western Siberia. It is said to contain
twelve thousand inhabitants, and its buildings are generally well
constructed. We did not follow the post route through Omsk, but took a
cut-off that carried us to the northward and saved a hundred versts of
sleigh riding. The city was founded in order to have a capital in the
vicinity of the Kirghese frontier, but since its construction the
frontier line has removed far away.

In 1834 a conspiracy, extending widely through Siberia, was organized
at Omsk. M. Piotrowski gives an account of it, from which I abridge
the following:

It was planned by the Abbe Sierosiuski, a Polish Catholic priest who
had been exiled for taking part in the rebellion of 1831. He was sent
to serve in the ranks of a Cossack regiment in Western Siberia, and
after a brief period of military duty was appointed teacher in the
military school at Omsk. His position gave him opportunity to project
a rebellion. His plan was well laid, and found ready supporters among
other exiles, especially the Poles. Some ambitious Russians and
Tartars were in the secret. The object was to secure the complete
independence of Siberia and the release of all prisoners. In the event
of failure it was determined to march over the Kirghese steppes to
Tashkend, and attempt to reach British India.

Everything was arranged, both in Eastern and Western Siberia. The
revolt was to begin at Omsk, where most of the conspirators were
stationed, and where there was an abundance of arms, ammunition,
supplies, and money. The evening before the day appointed for the
rising, the plot was revealed by three Polish soldiers, who confessed
all they knew to Colonel Degrave, the governor of Omsk. Sierosiuski
and his fellow conspirators in the city were at once arrested, and
orders were despatched over the whole country to secure all
accomplices and suspected persons. About a thousand arrests were made,
and as soon as news of the affair reached St. Petersburg, a commission
of inquiry was appointed. The investigations lasted until 1837, when
they were concluded and the sentences confirmed.

[Illustration: FLOGGING WITH STICKS.]

Six principal offenders, including the chief, were each condemned to
seven thousand blows of the _plette_, or stick, while walking the
gauntlet between two files of soldiers. This is equivalent to a death
sentence, as very few men can survive more than four thousand blows.
Only one of the six outlived the day when the punishment was
inflicted, some falling dead before the full number of strokes had
been given. The minor offenders were variously sentenced, according to
the extent of their guilt, flogging with the stick being followed by
penal colonization or military service in distant garrisons.

It is said that the priest Sierosiuski while undergoing his punishment
recited in a clear voice the Latin prayer, "Misere mei, Deus, secundum
magnam misericordium tuam."

On approaching the Irtish we found it bordered by hills which
presented steep banks toward the river. The opposite bank was low and
quite level. It is a peculiarity of most rivers in Russia that the
right banks rise into bluffs, while the opposite shores are low and
flat. The Volga is a fine example of this, all the way from Tver to
Astrachan, and the same feature is observable in most of the Siberian
streams that reach the Arctic Ocean. Various conjectures account for
it, but none are satisfactory to scientific men.

Steamboats have ascended to Omsk, but there is not sufficient traffic
to make regular navigation profitable. We crossed the Irtish two
hundred and seventy versts south of Tobolsk, a city familiar to
American readers from its connection with the "Story of Elizabeth."
The great road formerly passed through Tobolsk, and was changed when a
survey of the country showed that two hundred versts might be saved.
Formerly all exiles to Siberia were first sent to that city, where a
"Commission of Transportation" held constant session. From Tobolsk the
prisoners were told off to the different governments, provinces,
districts, and 'circles,' and assigned to the penalties prescribed by
their sentences.

Many prominent exiles have lived in the northern part of the
government of Tobolsk, especially at Beresov on the river Ob.
Menshikoff, a favorite of Peter the Great, died there in exile, and so
did the Prince Dolgorouki and the count Osterman. It is said the body
of Menshikoff was buried in the frozen earth at Beresov, and found
perfectly preserved a hundred years after its interment. In that
region the ground never thaws more than a foot or two from the
surface; below to an unknown depth it is hardened by perpetual frost.
Many Poles have been involuntary residents of this region, and
contributed to the development of its few resources.

North of Tobolsk, the Ostiaks are the principal aboriginals, and
frequently wander as far south as Omsk. Before the Russian occupation
of Siberia the natives carried on a trade with the Tartars of Central
Asia, and the abundance and cheapness of their furs made them
attractive customers. Marco Polo mentions a people "in the dark
regions of the North, who employ dogs to draw their sledges, and trade
with the merchants from Bokhara." There is little doubt he referred to
the Ostiaks and Samoyedes.

A Polish lady exiled to Beresov in 1839, described in her journal her
sensation at seeing a herd of tame bears driven through the streets to
the market place, just as cattle are driven elsewhere. She records
that while descending the Irtish she had the misfortune to fall
overboard. The soldier escorting her was in great alarm, at the
accident, and fairly wept for joy when she was rescued. He explained
through his tears that her death would have been a serious calamity to
him.

"I shall be severely punished," he said, "if any harm befalls you,
and, for my sake, I hope you won't try to drown yourself, but will
keep alive and well till I get rid of you."

Tobolsk is on the site of the Tartar settlement of Sibeer, from which
the name of Siberia is derived. In the days of Genghis Khan northern
Asia was overrun and wrested from its aboriginal inhabitants. Tartar
supremacy was undisputed until near the close of the sixteenth
century, when the Tartars lost Kazan and everything else west of the
Urals. During the reign of Ivan the Cruel, a difficulty arose between
the Czar and some of the Don Cossacks, and, as the Czar did not choose
to emigrate, the Cossacks left their country for their country's good.
Headed by one Yermak, they retired to the vicinity of the Ural
mountains, where they started a marauding business with limited
liability and restricted capital. Crossing the Urals, Yermak
subjugated the country west of the Irtish and founded a fortress on
the site of Sibeer. He overpowered all the Tartars in his vicinity,
and received a pardon for himself and men in return for his conquest.
The czar, as a mark of special fondness, sent Yermak a suit of armor
from his own wardrobe. Yermak went one day to dine with some Tartar
chiefs, and was arrayed for the first time in his new store clothes.
One tradition says he was treacherously killed by the Tartars on this
occasion, and thrown in the river. Another story says he fell in by
accident, and the weight of his armor drowned him. A monument at
Tobolsk commemorates his deeds.

No leader rose to fill Yermak's place, and the Russians became divided
into several independent bands. They had the good sense not to
quarrel, and remained firm in the pursuit of conquest. They pushed
eastward from the Irtish and founded Tomsk in 1604. Ten years later
the Tartars united and attempted to expel the Russians. They
surrounded Tomsk and besieged it for a long time. Russia was then
distracted by civil commotions and the war with the Poles, and could
not assist the Cossacks. The latter held out with great bravery, and
at length gained a decisive victory. From that time the Tartars made
no serious and organized resistance.

Subsequent expeditions for Siberian conquest generally originated at
Tomsk. Cossacks pushed to the north, south, and east, forming
settlements in the valley of the Yenesei and among the Yakuts of the
Lena. In 1639 they reached the shores of the Ohotsk sea, and took
possession of all Eastern Siberia to the Aldan mountains.

I believe history has no parallel to some features of this conquest. A
robber-chieftain with a few hundred followers,--himself and his men
under ban, and, literally, the first exiles to Siberia--passes from
Europe to Asia. In seventy years these Cossacks and their descendants,
with, little aid from others, conquered a region containing nearly
five million square miles. Everywhere displaying a spirit of adventure
and determined bravery, they reduced the Tartars to the most perfect
submission. The cost of their expeditions was entirely borne by
individuals who sought remuneration in the lucrative trade they
opened. The captured territory became Russian, though the government
had neither paid for nor controlled the conquest.

I saw the portrait and bust of Yermak, but no one could assure me of
their fidelity. The face was thoroughly Russian, and the lines of
character were such as one might expect from the history of the man.
He was represented in the suit of armor he wore at his death.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLVII.


The evening after we passed the Irtish, a severe bouran arose. As the
night advanced the wind increased. The road was filled and apparently
obliterated. The yemshicks found it difficult to keep the track, and
frequently descended to look for it. Each interval of search was a
little longer than the preceding one, so that we passed considerable
time in impatient waiting. About midnight we reached a station, where
we were urged to rest until morning, the people declaring it unsafe to
proceed. A slight lull in the storm decided us and the yemshicks to go
forward, but as we set out from the station it seemed like driving
into the spray at the foot of Niagara. Midway between the station, we
wandered from the route and appeared hopelessly lost, with the
prospect of waiting until morning.

Just before nightfall, we saw three wolves on the steppe, pointing
their sharp noses in our direction, and apparently estimating how many
dinners our horses would make. Whether they took the mammoth into
account I cannot say, but presume he was not considered. Wolves are
numerous in all Siberia, and are not admired by the biped inhabitants.
When our road seemed utterly lost, and our chances good for a bivouac
in the steppe, we heard a dismal howl in a momentary lull of the wind.

"VOLK," (wolf,) said the yemshick, who was clearing away the snow near
the sleigh.

Again we heard the sound, and saw the horses lift their ears uneasily.

An instant later the fury of the wind returned. The snow whirled in
dense clouds, and the roaring of the tempest drowned all other sounds.
Had there been fifty howling wolves, within a hundred yards of us, we
could have known nothing until they burst upon us through the curtain
of drifting snow.

It was a time of suspense. I prepared to throw off my outer garments
in case we were attacked, and roused the doctor, who had been some
time asleep. At the cry of "wolf," he was very soon awake, though he
did not lose that calm serenity that always distinguished him. The
yemshicks continued their search for the road, one of them keeping
near the sleigh and the other walking in circles in the vicinity. Our
position was not enviable.

[Illustration: LOST IN A SNOW STORM.]

To be served up _au natural_ to the lupine race was never my ambition,
and I would have given a small sum, in cash or approved paper, for a
sudden transportation to the Astor House, but with my weight and
substance, all the more desirable to the wolves, a change of base was
not practicable. Our only fire-arms were a shot-gun and a pistol, the
latter unserviceable, and packed in the doctor's valise. Of course the
wolves would first eat the horses, and reserve us for dessert. We
should have felt, during the preliminaries, much like those unhappy
persons, in the French revolution, who were last in a batch of victims
to the guillotine.

After long delay the road was discovered, and as the wolves did not
come we proceeded. We listened anxiously for the renewal of their
howling, but our ears did not catch the unwelcome sound. The doctor
exhibited no alarm. As he was an old traveler, I concluded to follow
his example, and go to sleep.

In ordinary seasons wolves are not dangerous to men, though they
commit more or less havoc among live stock. Sheep and pigs are their
favorite prey, as they are easily captured, and do not resist. Horses
and cattle are overpowered by wolves acting in packs; the hungry
brutes displaying considerable strategy. A gentleman told me he once
watched a dozen wolves attacking a powerful bull. Some worried him in
front and secured his attention while others attempted to cut his
ham-strings. The effort was repeated several times, the wolves
relieving each other in exposed positions. At length the bull was
crippled and the first part of the struggle gained. The wolves began
to lick their chops in anticipation of a meal, and continued to worry
their expected prey up to the pitch of exhaustion. The gentleman shot
two of them and drove the others into the forest. He could do no more
than put the bull out of his misery. On departing he looked back and
saw the wolves returning to their now ready feast.

The best parts of Russia for wolf-hunting are in the western
governments, where there is less game and more population than in
Siberia. It is in these regions that travelers are sometimes pursued
by wolves, but such incidents are not frequent. It is only in the
severest winters, when driven to desperation by hunger, that the
wolves dare to attack men. The horses are the real objects of their
pursuit, but when once a party is overtaken the wolves make no nice
distinctions, and horses and men are alike devoured. Apropos of
hunting I heard a story of a thrilling character.

"It had been," said the gentleman who narrated the incident, "a severe
winter in Vitebsk and Vilna. I had spent several weeks at the country
residence of a friend in Vitebsk, and we heard, during the latter part
of my stay, rumors of the unusual ferocity of the wolves.

"One day Kanchin, my host, proposed a wolf-hunt. 'We shall have capital
sport,' said he, 'for the winter has made the wolves hungry, and they
will be on the alert when they hear our decoy.'

"We prepared a sledge, one of the common kind, made of stout withes,
woven like basket-work, and firmly fastened to the frame and runners.
It was wide enough for both of us and the same height all around so
that we could shoot in any direction except straight forward. We took
a few furs to keep us warm, and each had a short gun of large bore,
capable of carrying a heavy load of buck-shot. Rifles are not
desirable weapons where one cannot take accurate aim. As a precaution
we stowed two extra guns in the bottom of the sledge.

"The driver, Ivan, on learning the business before him, was evidently
reluctant to go, but as a Russian servant has no choice beyond obeying
his master, the man offered no objection. Three spirited horses were
attached, and I heard Kanchin order that every part of the harness
should be in the best condition.

"We had a pig confined in a strong cage of ropes and withes, that he
might last longer than if dragged by the legs. A rope ten feet long
was attached to the cage and ready to be tied to the sledge.

"We kept the pig in furs at the bottom of the sledge, and drove
silently into the forest. The last order given by Kanchin was to open
the gates of the courtyard and hang a bright lantern in front. I asked
the reason of this, and he replied with a smile: 'If we should be
going at full speed on our return, I don't wish to stop till we reach
the middle of the yard.'

"As by mutual consent neither uttered a word as we drove along. We
carried no bells, and there was no creaking of any part of the sledge.
Ivan did not speak but held his reins taut and allowed the horses to
take their own pace. In his secure and warm covering the pig was
evidently asleep. The moon and stars were perfectly unclouded, and
there was no motion of anything in the forest. The road was excellent,
but we did not meet or pass a single traveler. I do not believe I ever
_felt_ silence more forcibly than then.

"The forest in that region is not dense, and on either side of the road
there is a space of a hundred yards or more entirely open. The snow
lay crisp and sparkling, and as the country was but slightly
undulating we could frequently see long distances. The apparent
movement of the trees as we drove past them caused me to fancy the
woods rilled with animate forms to whom the breeze gave voices that
mocked us.

"About eight versts from the house we reached a cross road that led
deeper into the forest. '_Naprava,_' in a low voice from my companion
turned us to the right into the road. Eight or ten versts further
Kanchin, in the same low tone, commanded '_Stoi._' Without a word Ivan
drew harder upon his reins, and we came to a halt. At a gesture from
my friend the team was turned about.

"Kanchin stepped carefully from the sledge and asked me to hand him the
rope attached to the cage. He tied this to the rear cross-bar, and
removing his cloak told me to do the same. Getting our guns,
ammunition, and ourselves in readiness, and taking our seats with our
backs toward the driver, we threw out the pig and his cage and ordered
Ivan to proceed.

"The first cry from the pig awoke an answering howl in a dozen
directions. The horses sprang as if struck with a heavy hand, and I
felt my blood chill at the dismal sound. The driver with great
difficulty kept his team from breaking into a gallop. Five minutes
later, a wolf came galloping from the forest on the left side where I
sat.

"'Don't fire till he is quite near,' said Kanchin, 'we shall have no
occasion to make long shots.'

"The wolf was distinctly visible on the clean snow, and I allowed him
to approach within twenty yards. I fired, and he fell. As I turned to
re-load Kanchin raised his gun to shoot a wolf approaching the right
of the sledge. His shot was successful, the wolf falling dead upon the
snow.

"I re-loaded very quickly, and when I looked up there were three wolves
running toward me, while as many more were visible on Kanchin's side.
My companion raised his eyes when his gun was ready and gave a start
that thrilled me with horror. Ivan was immovable in his place, and
holding with all his might upon the reins.

"'_Poshol!_' shouted Kanchin.

"The howling grew more terrific. Whatever way we looked we could see
the wolves emerging from the forest;

    "'With their long gallop, which can tire,
    The hounds' deep hate, the hunter's fire.'

"Not only behind and on either side but away to the front, I could see
their dark forms. We fired and loaded and fired again, every shot
telling but not availing to stop the pursuit.

"The driver did not need Kanchin's shout of '_poshol_!' and the horses
exerted every nerve without being urged. But with all our speed we
could not outstrip the wolves that grew every moment more numerous. If
we could only keep up our pace we might escape, but should a horse
stumble, the harness give way, or the sledge overturn, we were
hopelessly lost. We threw away our furs and cloaks keeping only our
arms and ammunition. The wolves hardly paused over these things but
steadily adhered to the pursuit.

"Suddenly I thought of a new danger that menaced us. I grasped
Kanchin's arm and asked how we could turn the corner into the main
road. Should we attempt it at full speed the sledge would be
overturned. If we slackened our pace the wolves would be upon us.

"I felt my friend trembling in my grasp but his voice was firm.

"'When I say the word,' he replied, giving me his hunting knife, 'lean
over and cut the rope of the decoy. That will detain them a short
time. Soon as you have done so lie down on the left side of the sledge
and cling to the cords across the bottom.'

"Then turning to Ivan he ordered him to slacken speed a little, but
only a little, at the corner, and keep the horses from running to
either side as he turned. This done Kanchin clung to the left side of
the sledge prepared to step upon its fender and counteract, if
possible, our centrifugal force.

"We approached the main road, and just as I discovered the open space
at the crossing Kanchin shouted,--

"'Strike!'

"I whipped off the rope in an instant and we left our decoy behind us.
The wolves stopped, gathered densely about the prize, and began
quarreling over it. Only a few remained to tear the cage asunder. The
rest, after a brief halt, continued the pursuit, but the little time
they lost was of precious value to us.

"We approached the dreaded turning. Kanchin placed his feet upon the
fender and fastened his hands into the net-work of the sledge. I lay
down in the place assigned me, and never did drowning man cling to a
rope more firmly than I clung to the bottom of our vehicle. As we
swept around the corner the sledge was whirled in air, turned upon its
side and only saved from complete oversetting by the positions of
Kanchin and myself.

"Just as the sledge righted, and ran upon both runners, I heard a
piercing cry. Ivan, occupied with his horses, was not able to cling
like ourselves; he fell from his seat, and hardly struck the snow
before the wolves were upon him. That one shriek that filled my ears
was all he could utter. The reins were trailing, but fortunately
where they were not likely to be entangled. The horses needed no
driver; all the whips in the world could not increase their speed. Two
of our guns wore lost as we turned from the by-road, but the two that
lay under me in the sledge were providentially saved. We fired as fast
as possible into the dark mass that filled the road not twenty yards
behind us. Every shot told but the pursuit did not lag. To-day I
shudder as I think of that surging mass of gray forms with eyes
glistening like fireballs, and the serrated jaws that opened as if
certain of a feast.

[Illustration: FATAL RESULT.]

"A stern chase is proverbially a long one. If no accident happened to
sledge or horses we felt certain that the wolves which followed could
not overtake us.

"As we approached home our horses gave signs of lagging, and the
pursuing wolves came nearer. One huge beast sprang at the sledge and
actually fastened his fore paws upon it. I struck him over the head
with my gun and he released his hold. A moment later I heard the
barking of our dogs at the house, and as the gleam of the lantern
caught my eye I fell unconscious to the bottom of the sledge. I woke
an hour later and saw Kanchin pacing the floor in silence. Repeatedly
I spoke to him but he answered only in monosyllables.

"The next day, a party of peasants went to look for the remains of poor
Ivan. A few shreds of clothing, and the cross he wore about his neck,
were all the vestiges that could be found. For three weeks I lay ill
with a fever and returned to St. Petersburg immediately on my
recovery. Kanchin has lived in seclusion ever since, and both of us
were gray-haired within six months."

Before the construction of the railway between Moscow and Nijne
Novgorod there were forest guards at regular intervals to protect the
road from bears and wolves. The men lived in huts placed upon
scaffoldings fifteen or twenty feet high. This arrangement served a
double purpose; the guards could see farther than on the ground and
they were safe from nocturnal attacks of their four-footed enemies.

One evening at a dinner party, I heard several anecdotes about wolves,
of which I preserve two.

"I was once," said a gentleman, "pursued by ten or twelve wolves. One
horse fell and we had just time to cut the traces of the other,
overturn our sleigh and get under as in a cage, before the wolves
overtook us. We thought the free horse would run to the village and
the people would come to rescue us. What was our surprise to see him
charge upon the wolves, kill two with his hoofs and drive away the
rest. When the other horse recovered we harnessed our team and drove
home."

"And I," said another, "was once attacked when on foot. I wore a new
pelisse of sheep-skin and a pair of reindeer-skin boots. Wolves are
fond of deer and sheep, and they eat skin and all when they have a
chance. The brutes stripped off my pelisse and boots without harming
my skin. Just as I was preparing to give them my woolen trousers, some
peasants came to my relief." Although I feared my auditors would be
incredulous, I told the story of David Crockett when treed by a
hundred or more prairie wolves. "I shot away all my ammunition, and
threw away my gun and knife among them, but it was no use. Finally, I
thought I would try the effect of music and began to sing 'Old
Hundred.' Before I finished the first verse every wolf put his fore
paws to his ears and galloped off."

My story did not produce the same results upon my audience, but almost
as marked a one, for all appreciated its humor, and before I had
fairly finished a burst of laughter resounded through the room, and it
was unanimously voted that Americans could excel in all things, not
excepting Wolf Stories.

[Illustration: TAIL PIECE]



CHAPTER XLVIII.


The many vehicles in motion made a good road twelve hours after the
storm ceased. The thermometer fell quite low, and the sharp frost
hardened the track and enabled the horses to run rapidly. I found the
temperature varying from 25° to 40° below zero at different exposures.
This was cold enough, in fact, too cold for comfort, and we were
obliged to put on all our furs. When fully wrapped I could have filled
the eye of any match-making parent in Christendom, so far as quantity
is concerned. The doctor walked as if the icy and inhospitable North
had been his dwelling-place for a dozen generations, and promised to
continue so a few hundred years longer. We were about as agile as a
pair of prize hogs, or the fat boy in the side show of a circus.

My beard was the greatest annoyance that showed itself to my face, and
I regretted keeping it uncut. It was in the way in a great many ways.
When it was outside my coat I wanted it in, and when it was inside it
would not stay there. It froze to my collar and seemed studying the
doctrine of affinity. A sudden motion in such case would pull my chin
painfully and tear away a few hairs. It was neither long nor heavy,
but could hold a surprising quantity of snow and ice. It would freeze
into a solid mass, and when thawing required much attention. The
Russian officers shave the chin habitually, and wear their hair pretty
short when traveling. I made a resolution to carry my beard inviolate
to St. Petersburg, but frequently wished I had been less rash. A
mustache makes a very good portable thermometer for low temperatures.
After a little practice one can estimate within a few degrees any
stage of cold below zero, Fahrenheit. A mustache will frost itself
from the breath and stiffen slowly at zero, but It does not become
solid. It needs no waxing to enable it to hold its own when the scale
descends to -10° or thereabouts, and when one experiences -15° and so
on downward, he will feel as if wearing an icicle on his upper lip.
The estimate of the cold is to be based on the time required for a
thorough hardening of this labial ornament, and of course the rule is
not available if the face is kept covered.

There is a traveler's story that a freezing nose in a Russian city is
seized upon and rubbed by the bystanders without explanation. In a
winter's residence and travel in Russia I never witnessed that
interesting incident, and am inclined to scepticism regarding it. The
thermometer showed -53° while I was in St. Petersburg, and hovered
near that figure for several days. Though I constantly hoped to see
somebody's nose rubbed I was doomed to disappointment. I did observe
several noses that might have been subjected to friction, but it is
quite probable the operation would have enraged the rub_bee_.

[Illustration: EXCUSE MY FAMILIARITY.]

During our coldest nights on the steppe we had the unclouded heavens
in all their beauty. The stars shone in scintillating magnificence,
and seemed nearer the earth than I ever saw them before. In the north
was a brilliant aurora flashing in long beams of electric light, and
forming a fiery arch above the fields of ice and snow. Oh, the
splendor of those winter nights In the north! It cannot be forgotten,
and it cannot be described.

Twilight is long in a Siberian winter, both at the commencement and
the close of day. Morning is the best time to view it. A faint glimmer
appears in the quarter where the sun is to rise, but increases so
slowly that one often doubts that he has really seen it. The gleam of
light grows broader; the heavens above it become purple, then scarlet,
then golden, and gradually change to the whiteness of silver. When the
sun peers above the horizon the whole scene becomes dazzlingly
brilliant from the reflection of his rays on the snow. In the coldest
mornings there is sometimes a cloud or fog-bank resting near the
earth, from the congelation and falling of all watery particles in the
atmosphere. When the sun strikes this cloud and one looks through it
the air seems filled with millions of microscopic gems, throwing off
many combinations of prismatic colors, and agitated and mingled by
some unseen force. Gradually the cloud melts away as it receives the
direct rays of light and heat.

[Illustration: FROSTED HORSES.]

The intense cold upon the road affects horses by coating them, with
white frost. Their perspiration congeals and covers them as one may
see the grass covered in a November morning. Nature has dressed these
horses warmly, and very often their hair may justly be called fur.
They do not appear to suffer from the cold; they are never blanketed,
and their stables are little better than open sheds. One of their
annoyances is the congelation of their breath, and in the coldest
weather the yemshicks are frequently obliged to break away the icicles
that form around their horses' mouths. I have seen a horse reach the
end of a course with his nose encircled in a row of icy spikes,
resembling the decoration sometimes attached to a weaning calf.

In a clear morning or evening of the coldest days the smoke from the
chimneys in the villages rises very slowly. Gaining a certain height,
it spreads out as if unable to ascend farther. It is always light in
color and density, and when touched by the sun's rays appears faintly
crimsoned or gilded. Once when we reached a small hill dominating a
village, I could see the cloud of smoke below me agitated like the
ground swell of the ocean. I had only a moment to look upon it ere we
descended to the level of the street.

I have not recorded the incidents of each day on the steppe in
chronological order, on account of their similarity and monotony. Just
one week after our departure from Barnaool we observed that the houses
were constructed of pine instead of birch, and the country began to
change in character. At a station where a fiery-tempered woman
required us to pay in advance for our horses, we were only twenty
versts from Tumen.

It is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it is only a
steppe (a thousand miles wide) between Tomsk and Tumen. Travelers from
Irkutsk to St. Petersburg consider their journey pretty nearly
accomplished on getting thus far along. The Siberians make light of
distances that would frighten many Americans. "From Tumen you will
have only sixteen hundred versts to the end of the railway," said a
gentleman to me one day. A lady at Krasnoyarsk said I ought to wait
until spring and visit her gold mines. I asked their locality, and
received the reply, "Close by here; only four hundred versts away. You
can go almost there in a carriage, and will have only a hundred and
twenty versts on horseback."

The best portion of Tumen is on a bluff eighty or a hundred feet above
the river Tura. The lower town spreads over a wide meadow, and its
numerous windmills at once reminded me of Stockton, California. We
happened to arrive on market day, when the peasants from the
surrounding country were gathered in all their glory for purposes of
traffic. How such a lot of merchandise of nearly every kind under the
Siberian sun could find either buyer or seller, it is difficult to
imagine. The market-place was densely thronged, but there seemed to be
very little traffic in progress.

The population of Tumen is about twenty thousand, and said to be
rapidly increasing. The town is prosperous, as its many new and
well-built houses bear witness. It has shorn Tobolsk of nearly all her
commerce, and left her to mourn her former greatness. It is about
three hundred versts from the ridge of the Urals, and at the head of
navigation on the Tura. Half a dozen steamers were frozen in and
awaited the return of spring, their machinery being stored to prevent
its rusting.

In the public square of Tumen there was a fountain, the first I saw in
Siberia. Men, women, boys, and girls were filling buckets and barrels,
which they dragged away on sleds.

When we returned from our drive, and were seated at dinner, the cook
brought a quantity of "Tumen carpets" for sale. He used all his
eloquence upon me, but in vain. These carpets were made by hand in the
villages around Tumen, their material being goat's hair. From their
appearance I judged that a coarse cloth was "looped" full of thread,
which was afterward cut to a plush surface. Some of the figures were
quite pretty. These carpets can be found in nearly every peasant house
in Western Siberia, where they are used as bed and table coverings,
floor mats, and carriage robes.

From Tumen to Nijne Novgorod the post is in the hands of a company,
and one can buy a ticket for any distance he chooses. We bought to
Ekaterineburg, 306 versts, paying nine copecks a verst for each
vehicle. At the stations it is only necessary to show the ticket,
which will bring horses without delay. The company has a splendid
monopoly, protected by an imperial order forbidding competition. The
peasants would gladly take travelers at lower rates if the practice
were permitted. The only thing they can do is to charter their horses
to the company at about one-third the ticket prices. Alexander would
make many friends among the people by curtailing the monopoly.

From the Tura the country became undulating as we approached the
Urals, but we passed no rugged hills. A great deal of the road lay
between double rows of birch trees, that serve for shade in summer and
do much to prevent the drifting of snow in winter. Forests of fir
appeared on the slopes, and were especially pleasing after the
half-desolation of the steppe.

The villages had a larger and more substantial appearance, that
indicated our approach to Europe. Long trains laden with freight from
Perm, blocked the way and delayed us. A few collisions made our sleigh
tremble, and in two instances turned it on its beam ends. We were
ahead of the tea trains that left Irkutsk with the early snows, so
that we passed few sledges going in our own direction. The second
night found us so near Ekaterineburg that we halted a couple of hours
for the double purpose of taking tea and losing time.

At the last station, about six in the morning, we were greeted with
Christmas festivities. While we waited in the traveler's room, two
boys sung or chanted several minutes, and then begged for money. We
gave them a few copecks, and their success brought two others, who
were driven away by the smotretal. I was told that poor children have
a privilege of begging in this manner on Christmas morning. There are
many beggars in the towns and villages of the Urals, and in summer
there is a fair supply of highwaymen. Several beggars surrounded our
sleigh as we prepared to depart and seemed determined to make the most
of the occasion.

The undulations of the road increased, and the fir woods became
thicker as we approached Ekaterineburg, nestled on the bank of the
Isset. Just outside the town we passed a large zavod, devoted to the
manufacture of candles. An immense quantity of tallow from the
Kirghese steppes undergoes conversion into stearine at this
establishment, and the production supplies candles to all Siberia and
part of European Russia.

As we entered the _slobodka_ and descended rapidly toward the river,
the bells were clanging loudly and the population was generally on its
way to church. The men were in their best shoobas and caps, while the
women displayed the latest fashions in winter cloaks. Several pretty
faces, rosy from the biting frost, peered at the strangers, who
returned as many glances as possible. Our yemshick took us to the
Hotel de Berlin, and, for the first time in eighteen hundred versts,
we unloaded our baggage from the sleighs. Breakfast, a bath, and a
change of clothes prepared me for the sights of this Uralian city.

For sight-seeing, the time of my arrival was unfortunate. Every kind
of work was suspended, every shop was closed, and nothing could be
done until the end of the Christmas holidays. I especially desired to
inspect the _Granilnoi Fabric_, or Imperial establishment for stone
cutting, and the machine shop where all steam engines for Siberia are
manufactured. But, as everything had yielded to the general
festivities, I could not gratify my desire.

Ekaterineburg is on the Asiatic side of the Urals, though belonging to
the European government of Perm. It has a beautiful situation, the
Isset being dammed so as to form a small lake in the middle of the
city. Many of the best houses overlook this lake, and, from their
balconies, one can enjoy charming views of the city, water, and the
dark forests of the Urals. The principal street and favorite drive
passes at the end of the lake, and is pretty well thronged in fine
weather. There are many wealthy citizens in Ekaterineburg, as the
character of the houses will attest. I was told there was quite a rage
among them for statuary, pictures, and other works of art. Special
care is bestowed upon conservatories, some of which contain tropical
plants imported at enormous expense. The population is about twenty
thousand, and increases very slowly.

[Illustration: VIEW OF EKATERINEBURG.]

The city is the central point of mining enterprises of the Ural
mountains, and the residence of the Nachalnik, or chief of mines. The
general plan of management is much like that already described at
Barnaool. The government mines include those of iron, copper, and
gold, the latter being of least importance. Great quantities of shot,
shell, and guns have been made in the Urals, as well as iron work for
more peaceful purposes. Beside the government works, there are
numerous foundries and manufactories of a private character. In
various parts of the Ural chain some of the zavods are of immense
extent, and employ large numbers of workmen. At Nijne Tagilsk, for
example, there is a population of twenty-five thousand, all engaged
directly or indirectly in the production of iron.

The sheet iron so popular in America for parlor stoves and stove pipe,
comes from Ekaterineburg and its vicinity, and is made from magnetic
ore. The bar iron of the Urals is famous the world over for its
excellent qualities, and commands a higher price than any other. Great
quantities of iron are floated in boats down the streams flowing into
the Kama and Volga. Thence it goes to the fair at Nijne Novgorod, and
to the points of shipment to the maritime markets.

The development of the wealth of the Urals has been largely due to the
Demidoff family. Nikite Demidoff was sent by Peter the Great, about
the year 1701, to examine the mines on both sides of the chain. He
performed his work thoroughly, and was so well satisfied with the
prospective wealth of the region that he established himself there
permanently. In return for his services, the government granted a
large tract to the Demidoffs in perpetuity. The famous malachite mines
are on the Demidoff estate, but are only a small portion of the
mineral wealth in the original grant. I have heard the Demidoff family
called the richest in Russia--except the Romanoff. Many zavods in the
Urals were planned and constructed by Nikite and his descendants, and
most of them are still in successful operation and have undergone no
change. The iron works of the Urals are very extensive, and capable
of supplying any reasonable demand of individual or imperial
character. At Zlatoust there is a manufactory of firearms and sword
blades that is said to be unsurpassed in the excellence of its
products. The sabres from Zlatoust are of superior fineness and
quality, rivaling the famous blades of Damascus and Toledo.

Close by the little lake in Ekaterineburg is the _Moneta Fabric,_ or
Imperial mint, where all the copper money of Russia is coined. It is
an extensive concern, and most of its machinery was constructed in the
city. The copper mines of the Urals are the richest in Russia, and
possess inexhaustible wealth. Malachite--an oxide of copper--is found
here in large quantities. I believe the only mines where malachite is
worked are in the Urals, though small specimens of this beautiful
mineral have been found near Lake Superior and in Australia.

About twenty-five years ago an enormous mass of malachite, said to
weigh 400 tons, was discovered near Tagilsk. It has since been broken
up and removed, its value being more than a million roubles. Sir
Roderick Murchison, while exploring the Urals on behalf of the Russian
government, saw this treasure while the excavations around it were in
progress. According to his account it was found 280 feet below the
surface. Strings of copper were followed by the miners until they
unexpectedly reached the malachite. Other masses of far less
importance have since been found, some of them containing sixty per
cent. of copper.

The gold mines of the Ural are less extensive now than formerly, new
discoveries not equaling the exhausted placers. They are principally
on the Asiatic slope, in the vicinity of Kamenskoi. The Emperor
Alexander First visited the mines of the Ural in 1824, and personally
wielded the shovel and pickaxe nearly two hours. A nugget weighing
twenty-four pounds and some ounces was afterward found about two feet
ibelow the point where His Majesty 'knocked off' work. A monument now
marks the spot, and contains the tools handled by the Emperor.



CHAPTER XLIX.


I had several commissions to execute for the purchase of souvenirs at
Ekaterineburg, and lost no time in visiting a dealer. While we were at
breakfast an itinerant merchant called, and subsequently another
accosted us on the street. At ordinary times, strangers are beset by
men and boys who are walking cabinets of semi-precious stones. A small
boy met me in the corridor of the hotel and repeated a lapidarious
vocabulary that would have shamed a professor of mineralogy.

At the dealer's, I was very soon in a bewildering collection of
amethyst, beryl, chalcedony, topaz, tourmaline, jasper, aquamarine,
malachite, and other articles of value. The collection numbered many
hundred pieces comprising seals, paper, weights, beads, charms for
watch chains, vases, statuettes, brooches, buttons, etc. The handles
of seals were cut in a variety of ways, some representing animals or
birds, while a goodly portion were plain or fluted at the sides.

The prettiest work I saw was in paper weights. There were imitations
of leaves, flowers, and grapes in properly tinted stone fixed upon
marble tablets either white or colored. Equal skill was displayed in
arranging and cutting these stones. I saw many beautiful mosaics
displaying the stones of the Ural and Altai mountains.

Natural crystals were finely arranged in the shape of miniature caves
and grottoes. Beads were of malachite, crystal, topaz, and variegated
marble, and seemed quite plentiful. Malachite is the most abundant of
the half-precious stones of the Ural, crystal and topaz ranking next.
Aquamarine was the most valuable stone offered. It is not found in
the Urals but comes from Eastern Siberia.

In another establishment there were little busts of the Emperor and
other high personages in Russia, cut in crystal and topaz. I saw a
fine bust of Yermak, and another of the elder Demidoff, both in topaz.
A crystal bust of Louis Napoleon was exhibited, and its owner told me
it would be sent to the _Exposition Universelle_. Learning that I was
an American, the proprietor showed me a half completed bust of Mr.
Lincoln, and was gratified to learn that the likeness was good. The
bust was cut in topaz, and when finished would be about six inches
high.

Though no work was in progress I had opportunity to look through a
private "fabric." Stone cutting is performed as by lapidaries every
where with small wheels covered with diamond dust or emery. Each
laborer has his bench and performs a particular part of the work under
the direction of a superintendent. Wages were very low, skilled
workmen being paid less than ordinary stevedores in America. For three
roubles, I bought a twelve sided topaz, an inch in diameter with the
signs of the zodiac neatly engraved upon it. In London or New York,
the cutting would have cost more than ten times that amount. The
Granilnoi Fabric employs about a hundred and fifty workmen, but no
private establishment supports more than twenty-five. The Granilnoi
Fabric was to be sold in 1867, and pass out of government control. The
laborers there were formerly crown peasants, and became free under the
abolition ukase of Alexander II. The palace and Imperial museum at St.
Petersburg contain wonderful illustrations of their skill.

Diamonds have been sought in the Urals, and the region is said to
resemble the diamond districts of Brazil. They have been found in but
a single instance, and there is a suspicion that the few discovered on
that occasion were a "plant."

We remained two days at Ekaterineburg, repairing sleighs and resting
from fatigue. On account of the holidays, we paid double prices for
labor, and were charged double by drosky drivers. At the hotel, the
landlord wished to follow the same custom, but we emphatically
objected. A theatrical performance came off during our stay, but we
were too weary to witness it. Near the hotel there was a "live beast
show" almost an exact counterpart of what one sees in America. Music,
voluble doorkeepers, gaping crowd of youngsters, and canvas pictures
of terrific combats between beasts and snakes, all were there.

According to our custom we prepared to start in the evening for
another westward stride. The thermometer was low enough to give the
snow that crisp, metallic sound under the runners only heard in cold
weather. We took tickets for Kazan, and ordered horses at nine
o'clock. As we left the city, we passed between two monument-like
posts, marking the gateway.

Two or three versts away, we passed the zavod of Verkne Issetskoi, an
immense concern with a population sufficient to found a score of
western cities. In this establishment is made a great deal of the
sheet-iron that comes to America. The material is of so fine a quality
that it can be rolled to the thickness of letter paper without
breaking. Every thing at the zavod is on a grand scale even to the
house of the director, and his facilities for entertaining guests. All
was silent at the time of our passage, the workmen being busy with
their Christmas festivities.

Leaving the zavod we were once more among the forests of the Urals,
and riding over the low hills that form this part of the range. The
road was good, but there were more _oukhabas_ than suited my fancy.

I was on constant lookout for the steep road leading over the range,
but failed to find it. Before leaving New York a friend suggested that
I should have a severe journey over the Ural mountains which were
deeply shaded on the m