Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

Persevere and prosper; or, The Siberian sable-hunter online

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taking care to say something of himself in
the course of his story :

" The Ostiacks are one of the most nume-
rous of the tribes of Tartars that inhabit
Siberia. They spread over the country to
the north of Tobolsk, along the banks of the
Obi, and the various streams that flow into


it. They do not like to dig the soil, so they
live on fish, and by hunting wild animals.
Some of them eat so much fish, that they
smell like whale oil. I have been in their
tents often, and they smell as strong as a
cask of herrings.

"You must know that I have been a
hunter for twenty-five years, and I have
made several expeditions into the north coun-
try, where the Ostiacks chiefly dwell. It is
a cold and desolate region ; no trees except
pines and willows grow there ; there is no
grass, and very few shrubs. Still, it was
once a good country for furs ; but the animals
are nearly gone now, and I do not wonder at
it, for these Ostiacks are such heathens !
They are not Christians, but believe in little
wooden images, which they will place on
their tables, and lay around them snuff, wil-
low bark, fish oil, and other things which
they deem valuable : having done this, they
call upon these images, which are their gods,
to make them lucky in fishing and hunting.
If the gods do not send them good luck, then
these foolish people give them a banging.



They cuff their heads, and knock them off
the tables, and switch them as if they were
so many naughty school-boys.

" Now, for my part, I wonder that fish, or
sables, or bears, or any other creatures that
are useful, will stay in a country where such
stupid people live. You must know that the
Ostiacks have a great dread of bears, so that
when they take the oath of allegiance to the

Russian government, they say, to make it
very strong, 'We hope we may be de-
voured by bears, if we do not keep this oath!'
" Beside all this, the Ostiacks, as you see
by those whom we have met, are small short
people, not more than five feet high. A
great many of the women are fat, and such
little round dumplings I never beheld ! The
hair of these people is of a reddish colour,


and floats down their shoulders. Their faces
are flat, and altogether they look like animals,
rather than human creatures. Their houses
are made of poles, set up in a circle, and
thatched with bark. In winter, the windows
are covered with expanded bladders. The
fire is made on one side of the room, and the

smoke circulates above, finding its way out.
as it can. Generally,, there is but one room
in a hut, and all the family are tumbled into
it at night.

But there is one thing I have to say in
praise of these Ostiacks. They understand
fishing and hunting. In chasing the bears,
they show courage and skill, and in taking
the sable so as not to break his skin, they
display true talent. I once knew an old


Ostiack that was nearly equal to myself in
hunting. He could see the track of an
ermine, marten, or sable, upon the snow-
crust, when nobody else could; he would
follow one of these creatures for a whole day,
pretending he could see the foot-prints ; but

I believe the old fellow could smell like a
dog. What beautiful sables and gray foxes
he caught ! He once got two sable skins
which were sent to St. Petersburg, and sold
for sixty pounds. The emperor bought
them himself, and sent the old fellow a
knife ornamented with a silver plate, and
the word "Nicholas" engraved upon it.


This the emperor said was to encourage the
hunter to get fine furs. But the old man
died soon after, and the people said it was
from mere pride, because the emperor had
paid him so much honour. He never hunted
any more, but strutted about, brandishing
his knife in the air, and saying, 6 Behold !
this is what Nicholas, the Czar of all the
Russias, has sent to Dwaff Khizan, the
greatest hunter of Siberia I' "

Alexis listened with interest to this account
of the Ostiacks by old Linsk : but his heart
really palpitated when the hunter told of the
rich sable furs sent to St. Petersburg by Dwaff
Khizan, and which not only brought a great
price, but won the favour of the emperor.
He immediately remembered the injunction
of his sister Kathinka, to be particular and
get rich sable furs ; and he also remembered
that she had spoken of sending them to the
princess Lodoiska. " After all my thinking
that the girl was romantic and conceited, to
fancy that she could send furs to a princess,
and attract her attention, now that we are
poor exiles in Siberia, perhaps she is right,


and has more sense than I have. At all
events, I will exert myself to procure some
sable furs finer than were ever seen before.
We are going to the coldest portions of
Siberia, and there it is said are the most
splendid furs in the world. It will be a great

thing to please Kathinka, and to relieve my
father from poverty ; beside, I should like to
beat old Linsk, vain and boastful as he is '"
With this ambitious conclusion, Alexis
stepped more quickly and proudly over the
level road, and, without thinking of it, had
soon advanced considerably before his party.
Coming to a place where the road divided,


he took that which led to the right, as it
seemed the best. He had not gone far, how-
ever, before he heard the loud call of Linsk.
Stopping till the party came up, Alexis found
that he had taken the wrong path. " That
road," said Linsk, "leads to the great town of
Tomsk; a place which has ten thousand
people in it, and I may add that one half of
them are drunkards. This is the more won-
derful, for the people have enough to do,
because the country in that quarter abounds
in valuable mines. All around Tomsk there
are salt lakes, and the waters are so impreg-
nated with minerals, that the bottoms of the
pools have a coat as white as snow.

"To the south of Tomsk, a great many miles,
are some mountains, called the Altai range.
In these mountains, there are mines of gold
and silver, and of platina, a metal more costly
than silver. The mines are wrought by exiles;
and, master Alexis, some of your countrymen
are there, as they ought to be. You ought
to thank the clemency and mercy of the
emperor, for not sending you and your father
there 1"


" Stop ! stop ! old man \" said Alexis ;

" say no more of that ! say no more of that !

My father ought to be sent to the mines !
For what ? For risking his life to save his
country ? For giving his wealth to Poland ?
For shedding his blood for the liberty of his
country ? Is patriotism then a crime ? Shame
on the emperor who makes it so \"

"Tut, tut, tut, tut \" said Linsk, with an
air of authority; "why, you talk rebellion as if
you had drunk it in with your mother's milk.
What are we all coming to, when youngsters
talk such pestilent stuff about liberty and .
patriotism ? Why, what have we to do with
liberty and patriotism ? Let us take care to
obey the emperor, and his officers, and those


who are in authority, and do our duty to each
other : that is all we have to do. But never
mind, boy ; I did not intend to hurt your
feelings : so do not think any more of what
I said about your father and the mines. I
believe he is an honest and noble gentleman,
though I am sorry he is so much misled.
Liberty and patriotism indeed ! Bah ! When
I hear about liberty and patriotism, I always
look well to my pockets, for they sound to
my ear very much like roguery and mischief.
Liberty and patriotism, forsooth ! as if we
common men were like wild animals, and, as
soon as we are of age, had a right to set up
for ourselves ! No ! no ! we are Christians,
and it is our duty to honour and obey the
emperor; we are his subjects, and he may do
as he pleases with us God bless him."

" I suppose it would be glory enough,"
said Alexis, having recovered his good hu-
mour, " to have our heads cut off, provided
it was done by command of the emperor !"

" Certainly," said Linsk, not discovering
the irony ; and here the conversation took
another turn.




"You were speaking of the mines," said
Alexis. " Do they produce great quantities
of the precious metals gold, silver, and

" Yes/ 5 said the old hunter, in reply. "The
mines produce the value of more than ten
millions of dollars a year. Not only do they
yield gold, and silver, and platina, but a great
deal of copper. Besides these, many precious
stones are found, such as the topaz, beryl,
onyx, garnets, diamonds, and green crystals
as beautiful as emeralds. All these mines
and all the minerals belong to the Czar, and
they are wrought by his serfs and slaves, and
by such exiles as are very bad and trouble-

"Those who talk about liberty and pa-
triotism, I suppose," said Alexis.
" Yes," said Linsk, snappishly.


Well/' said Alexis, "I should like to go
to that country, where there are such rich
minerals and precious stones. I think I
could pick up enough to make myself rich."

"And get your head taken off besides,"
said Linsk. " Let me tell you, my young
master, the metals and minerals belong to
the emperor, and it is stealing for any one to
take them, and whoever does so is sure to get
punished. I know a story about that "

" Tell it, I beg of you I" said Alexis: so
the hunter proceeded as follows to tell the
story of


"There was once a young nobleman of
Russia who was exiled to Siberia for some
offence to the Czar. This happened in the
time of Paul, near forty years ago. Well,
when he came to Tobolsk, he was very poor,
so he considered how he might get money
and become rich. He heard of the mines in
the mountains, and thither he went. He was
careful, however, not to let anybody know
his plan. He went at first to the Kolyran


mountains, but, as there were a great many
people at work there, he was afraid of being
detected in his scheme; so he proceeded
farther east, until he came to a tall mountain
called the Schlangenberg, which is the loftiest
of the Altai range.

"When he had got up to the very top of

the mountain, being weary, he laid himself
down to get some rest, and here he fell
asleep. While in this state, a man, in the
dress of a Tartar, seemed to stand before him,
and, making a low bow in the Eastern fashion,
said, 'What wouldst thou, son of a noble
house ?' To this the young Russian replied
' Wealth give me wealth : with this I can
purchase my liberty and return to Moscow,


and live again in happiness. Give me riches :
with these I could buy the very soul of the
emperor, for all he desires is money/

"When the young man said this, the
figure smiled on one side of his face, and
frowned on the other ; but he answered
blandly, ' Your wish shall be granted : fol-
low me !' Upon this, the Russian arose and
followed the mysterious stranger. They de-
scended to the foot of the mountain, and en-
tered a cave which was formed by nature in
the rocks. It seemed at first a dark and
gloomy place, with grizzly images around,
and a fearful roar as of mighty waterfalls,
tumbling amid the gashes and ravines of the
mountain ; but as they advanced farther,
the scene gradually changed. The darkness
disappeared, and at last they came to a vast
chamber, which seemed glittering with thou-
sands of lamps. The room appeared indeed
like a foiest turned to crystal, the branches
above uniting and forming a lofty roof, in the
gothic form. Nothing could exceed the
splendor of the scene. The floor was strewn
with precious stones of every hue, and dia-
monds of immense size and beauty glistened


around. As the adventurer trod among
them, they clashed against his feet as if he
was marching amid heaps of pebbles. Around
there were thousands of lofty columns, of a
pearly transparency, which seemed to send
forth an illumination like that of the moon ;
and these were studded with garnets, and
emeralds, and rubies.

" The Russian was delighted nay, en-
tranced. He walked along for more than an
hour, and still the vast room seemed to ex-
pand and grow more gorgeous as he pro-
ceeded. The diamonds were larger, and the
light more lovely, and by-and-by there came
to his ear a sound of music. It was faint,
but delicious ; and our hero looked around
for the cause of it. At last he saw what
seemed a river, and on going to the edge of
it, he discovered that it was a stream of pre-
cious stones, where garnets, and beryls, and
diamonds, and emeralds, and rubies, flowed
like drops of water, in one gushing, flashing
current ; and as they swept along, a sort of
gentle but entrancing melody stole out from
them, and seemed to melt the heart with its
gentle tones.


CfC This is indeed most lovely most en-
chanting !' said the youth to himself. ( Well
and truly has my guide performed his pro-
mise.' Saying this, he looked around for his
guide, but he had disappeared. The young
man waited for a time, but the wizard did not
return. At last he began to feel weary, and
looked about for a place to lie down ; but no
such place appeared. The floor of the mighty
hall was covered with precious stones, but
they were so pointed and sharp, that they
would have cut his flesh, if he had attempted
to lie upon them. Pretty soon, hunger was
added to the young man's wants. But how
could he satisfy it? There were emeralds,
and rubies, and sapphires, and diamonds, but
neither meat nor bread. At last he turned
round, and began to search for the way out
of the grotto, first filling his pockets with the
richest and rarest gems he could find. But
the more he sought for the passage, the more
remote he seemed to be from it. He, how-
ever, continued to wander on, but all in vain.
In a short time he became frantic ; he threw
up his hands, and tore his hair, and ran
fiercely from place to place, making the lofty


arches ring with his frightful screams. ( Take
your gold, take your jewels!' said he, c and
give me rest, give me bread/ f Give me
rest, give me bread/ said a fearful echo,
sounding through the vaults of the cavern,
and startling the ear of the bewildered youth.
Repeating his cry, by night and by day, he
continued to run wildly from place to place ;
and though forty years have rolled away since

he entered the enchanted cave, it is said he
is still there, and is still unable to obtain rest
or appease his hunger !"

" Is that all?" said Alexis, as the hunter
paused in his narration. "Yes," saidLinsk;
" and let it warn you and all others not to go
into the mountain, to steal the gems and the
gold that belong to the emperor."


" The story is a good one," said Alexis ;
tt and no doubt it has been used to frighten
people from interfering with the emperor's
mines ; but it is an allegory, which bears a
deeper meaning to my mind. It teaches us
that riches cannot bring rest or health, and
that a person surrounded with gold and gems
may still be a most wretched being. Those
very gems, indeed, may be the cause of his
distress, when they have been obtained by
crime, or avarice, or other unlawful means."





FOR several days, the adventurers con-
tinued their journey, without encountering
anything worthy of being recorded. It is
true that an hour seldom passed in which
thoughts, feelings, or incidents did not occur
to Alexis, of some interest ; and if we could
transfer them to our pages with the same
vividness that they touched his mind and
heart, it would be well to put them down.
Yet, at best, the pen can give but a poor
idea of what is going on in the brain and
bosom of a lively and sanguine youth, sepa-
rated from home and going forth to hunt
sables in the wilds of Siberia.

In about three weeks after their departure,
the travellers reached Yeniseisk, a considera-
ble place, situated on the river Yenisei. The
town is built chiefjy of wood, the houses


being low. Leaving this place, they pro-
ceeded in a north-easterly direction, usually
travelling about twenty-five miles a day.

It was now the month of September, and
already the weather began to grow severe,
and the snow to fall. The country also be-
came more and more desolate, and the inha-
bitants were more scattered. They met with
no villages, and frequently travelled a whole
day without seeing a single human habitation.
There were extensive marshy plains, upon
which a few groups of stunted willows were
to be seen ; but this was almost the only vege-
tation that the soil produced.

The journey was not only uninteresting
and depressing, but it was, in some respects,
laborious and severe. Old Linsk, however,
kept up the spirits of the party by his inces-
sant prattle ; and, as he had seen a good deal
of life and possessed a retentive memory, he
not only enlivened his companions, but he
communicated a large amount of useful in-
formation. It is true that all his opinions
were not just or wise, but among some chaff,
there was a good deal of wheat.

After crossing the river Yenisei, and leav-


ing the town of Yeniseisk, he had a good
deal to say about them both, particularly
the former. s( I once went down that river,"
said he, " entered the Arctic Ocean, passed
into the sea of Obi, and up the river Obi to
Tobolsk. The whole distance was more than
twenty-five hundred miles, and we were gone
six months.

" The purpose of our trip was to get ele-
phants' teeth, which are found on the banks
of the rivers, and along the shores of the
Arctic sea. There are no elephants living in
these regions now, nor are there any in all
Siberia ; the country is so cold that these
creatures cannot dwell there. It appears
that Siberia must have had a warmer climate
once than it has now, for not only do we find
elephants' bones, but those of the buffalo,
and other animals, which can only subsist in
warm countries. It was interesting to see
the bones of buffaloes and elephants along
the shore of the ocean ; but teeth were
scarce ; for, cold and desolate as the country
is, many people had been there before us, and
gathered up most of them. We made out
pretty well, however; for we entered the
forests as winter approached, and shot some


bears, and sables, and ermines ; and what we
lacked in elephants' teeth, we made up in
furs. Besides what we gained in the way of
trade, I got a good deal of information and
enjoyed myself very well, my plan being to
make the best of everything.

"Along the banks of the Yenisei, the in-
habitants are Ostiacks, and are chiefly fish-
ermen, and a sad set they are. I do not
know how it happens, but it seems to me
that those who live on fish have the most
thirsty throats of any persons in the world.
All the people were addicted to drinking
brandy, and never did I see so much drunk-
enness. It is bad enough all over Siberia :
the people here believe in Evil Spirits, but un-
fortunately they do not reckon brandy as one
of them. The man that invented brandy has
done more mischief to the human race than it
is possible to conceive ; and those who contrive
to sell it and diffuse it among mankind are
only aiding in brutifying the human species.
But it is a thrifty trade, and many rich men
are engaged in it: they flourish in this
world ; and so did the rich man we read of
in Scripture, but he did not fare very well in
another world. I cannot say how it is,


but I have always thought that Dives was a
brandy dealer, and that was the reason he
was so tormented."

" This is very strange/' said Alexis, " for
you drink brandy yourself, Linsk."

"That is all true," was the reply. "I
cannot help it. I have got into the habit of it,
and I cannot get out of it. It is one of the
worst parts of the story, that when brandy
has got its clutches upon you, you cannot
pull them off. It is with brandy as it is said
to be with the Evil Spirit when you have
once made a bargain with him, you must
go through with it. So it is with the
Ostiacks ; they whip their wooden gods be-
cause they do not send them good luck in
hunting and fishing ; but they should whip
their own backs, for if they fail in anything,
it is generally because they get drunk, and
are incapable of using their skill and strength
to advantage. They know that brandy is at
the bottom of all the mischief, but still they
drink, and lay all the ill luck to the gods that
they do not like to charge upon themselves.

" To the north of the Ostiacks are the
Samoides, who live along the shore of the



Arctic Ocean the whole extent of Siberia.
They are few in number, for the country is
so cold and barren, that it is impossible they
should greatly increase. They are very short,
and I believe are the smallest people in the

world. They eat a great deal of fish, and,
what is very odd. they seem to like it best
when it is a little tainted. They have many
reindeer, and in the autumn hunt white foxes,
with the skins of which they buy brandy.

"The country inhabited by the Samoides
is the most cold and dreary that can be


imagined. The snow lasts for nine months
of the year ; the storms are almost incessant
a great part of the time, and in winter, the
cold is so intense as to freeze brandy, though,
I must tell you, the people contrive to thaw
it again. But the most wonderful thing is
this: the sun sets in November, and does
not rise again till the next May ; so the night

is six months long! The moon, however,
shines a great part of the time, and it is never
dark during that period. The northern lights,
sometimes called Aurora Borealis, are very
brilliant, and it is easy to read by them.
The Samoides, however, have no books ; they
spend most of their time in winter in sitting
in their huts.






THE travellers soon after came in sight of
some huts belonging to the Tunguses, a very
singular race of people, who inhabit the mid-
dle portions of Siberia. They resemble the
Ostiacks, like them living in houses built of
poles set in a circle. They have no towns
nor villages, but they wander from place to
place, living entirely by hunting and fishing,
in which they display wonderful skill and
perseverance. In summer, they dwell on
the banks of the rivers, and in winter retire
to the wooded regions, where they pursue the
sable, ermine, marten, and black fox. They
have no fire-arms, but are adroit in the use
of the bow and arrow. In the spring, they
carry or send their furs to Yakoutsk, a con-
siderable town on the Olekminsk river, and
the great fur-market of Siberia.


In a short time, our adventurers came to
the group of huts which they had before
descried, and Linsk, who knew the habits of
the people, did not hesitate at once to go up
to one of them and prepare to enter it
through a hole about three feet high, that
served as a door. He was met at the en-
trance by a man of about fifty years of age,
and dressed in a short coat made of a wolf-
skin, and a pair of flannel trousers that looked
as much like a petticoat as anything else.
He gazed at the four hunters for a moment
with some distrust, but then seemed satis-
fied, and made a sign of welcome.

The conversation soon brought other per-
sons out of the several huts around. These
consisted of men, women, and children all
low in stature, and with skins of the colour
of a smoked ham. The men were dressed
nearly in the same fashion as the person first
described. The women were attired in short
cotton gowns and flannel petticoats that
reached but little below the knee. The chil-
dren were half naked, or clad in cotton wrap-
pers. Several of them had on seal-skin
jackets, which the men had cast off, reaching


down to the middle, and making them look
like half boy and half beast.

They were a queer-looking set of people
altogether, but seemed frank and good-na-
tured, and invited the strangers to spend the
night, which was now approaching, with them.
Linsk, who knew the language pretty well,
accepted the offer, and the party was led to
one of the largest huts. Alexis noticed some
fine rein-deer standing at a little distance
from the dwelling, and observed several large

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichPersevere and prosper; or, The Siberian sable-hunter → online text (page 2 of 7)