Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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

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membered him very well, when he called
upon us here. He is of Polish birth, but his
family is Russian, and he is now an officer of
the castle in Tobolsk. He arrived shortly after
you left us, and soon found us out, and has
been to see us frequently.

"You will desire to know all about our
dear father. He is now happily relieved from
fhe fear of immediate want ; the products of
my needle, so liberally paid for by the gover-
nor's lady, supply us with the few necessaries
of life. He spends a good deal of time in
reading ; for Suwarrow has furnished us with
books, and occasionally we get the Peters-
burg Gazette from the same source. He
seems more tranquil, but I see that sorrow is
gradually weaving its shadows over his brow


There is a settled sadness in his face, which
sometimes makes me weep. Oh, how changed
is his condition ! How is the light of his life
put out ! Dear Alexis, these things move me
to tears. I often desire that you were here
to share, and thus to soften our cares.

" I have had a great deal of anxiety for
you. Pray write me a long letter, and tell
me all about your journey. How have you
borne the long and weary march of two thou-
sand miles ? Alas, that Alexis Pultova should
have come to this ! And yet, my brother, it
may be good for you : I mean, it may pro-
mote your happiness. It may seem strange
to you, for it surprises myself, that I find a
real pleasure in my toil. I once thought
that labour was a curse, but I now find it a
blessing. It is associated in my mind with
the comfort and independence of our father;
there is something soothing and consoling to
think that I can be so useful. And you, I
trust, find the same compensation for your
exertions and privations.

" I have now written my sheet nearly full,
yet I have not told you a hundredth part of
what I think and feel. Oh that I could see


you, dear, dear Alexis ! I never loved you
so well as now, in your absence. I am not
content with this cold way of speaking to
you. I want to pour out my soul with the
lips to your own ear, and in your real pre-
sence. Yet I must not be impatient. I
would not recall you, for I believe you are in
the path of duty. Let the confidence that
an arm more powerful protects you nerve
your heart for your hardy enterprise. Write '
me a long letter. I shall write again in four
months, so that on your return to Yakutsk,
after your hunting excursion upon the banks
of the Lena, you will get news from us once
more. Father sends his blessing, and a
thousand kind prayers and wishes for your
safety. Suwarrow wishes to be kindly men-
tioned to you. Farewell! farewell !


We need hardly say that this tender epistte
drew many tears from Alexis. For a time, he
was almost overcome with a yearning for
home, but this feeling subsided, and he was
able to direct his attention to other matters.
The streets of Yakutsk presented many



objects of curiosity. There were parties of
Kamtschadales, in the town, muffled in
skins, and drawn on sledges by dogs ; and
there were Samoiedes, short copper-coloured
men, dressed in seal-skins, and drawn by
reindeer. These, and hunters of many other
tribes, were to be seen in the streets, all of
them seeking a market for their furs. There
were also merchants here to buy them, from

Russia, Tartary, Japan, and other coun-
tries. Nothing could be more curious than
the contrasts furnished by these different

Linsk had been here before, and understood
the manners and business of the place. He
was a good judge of furs, and having some
spare cash, he bought a few skins, remark-
able for their fine quality, knowing that he


could make a large profit by them on his
return to Tobolsk. These he deposited, for
safe-keeping, in the hands of a merchant.

After a few days, having made provision
for their wants, the hunters left Yakutsk,
and taking a northern course along the banks
of the Lena, pursued their way toward the
hunting-ground, where they hoped to gather
a rich harvest of sable-skins.

It was now mid- winter, and it is hardly-
possible to conceive of anything more dreary
than the country through which they passed.
It was a plain, covered deep with snow, over
which the wind was driving in its swift, un-
broken career. Not a 'house or hut was visi-
ble for leagues ; there was no path ; and the
travellers were obliged to guide themselves,
as they proceeded on the hard snow-crust,


like the voyager upon the sea, by the hea-
venly bodies, or occasional landmarks.

Pursuing their weary and lonely way
seeming, in the vast expanse, like bisects
creeping slowly on they reached at night a
small uninhabited hut, situated in a wooded
ravine, and designed for the shelter of tra-

Here the party made preparations for rest,
and soon fell asleep. Early the next morn-
ing, Linsk went forth, leaving Alexis and his
sons to their repose ; his object being to see
if he could not find some game, for he was
now becoming eager to enter upon business.
Scarcely had he proceeded two hundred
yards, when a bear sprung suddenly from a
thicket of fir trees, and rearing on his hind
legs, was about clasping the old hunter in hig



fore-legs. But Linsk was like a weasel
always on the watch. Quick as thought, he
seized the bear by the throat, and drawing
his dirk, plunged it into his bowels. He fell
with a fearful growl to the earth, and Linsk,
drawing back, levelled his rifle at his head,
and killed him in an instant. He then re-
turned to the hut, and called his companions
to rejoice in his triumph. They took some
refreshment, and proceeded to take off the
skin of the bear, which proved to be a very-
fine one.





AFTER securing the skin of the bear, the
travellers proceeded on their journey, the
weather still continuing clear, but intensely
cold. They were, however, well secured by
furs, and plodded cheerfully on, over the
snow-crust. There was little variety, for the
country was generally level, and they often
marched on for hours, without meeting a
single object of the least interest. No vil-
lages were to be seen over the wide wastes ;
not a human being met the view ; not a bird,
not a living thing, enlivened the prospect.
And it was as still as it was desolate ; for,
save when the wind sighed or howled over
the snow, not a sound was to be heard. It
seemed as if nature was in a repose, so pro-
found as to resemble death itself.



It is not remarkable that, after several
days of weary travel over a country like this,
our adventurers at last rejoiced to meet with
a small village of Tunguses. This was

situated in a little valley ; and so low were
the houses, that the travellers had come close
upon them before they were perceived. Their
approach was announced by the barking of


three or four shaggy wolf-dogs, which seemed
to exert their lungs to the utmost upon the
occasion, and one especially, the mother of
a litter of puppies.

The party was stared at in silence by the
inhabitants for a short time, but Linsk soon
announced himself and his friends as hunters;
and as he spoke in the Tungusian language,
the little party was at once made welcome.
Alexis was amused at the whole scene, which,
however, was very similar to what they had
before seen.

Supper was soon provided, for it was even-
ing when the travellers arrived. The fare
consisted of a piece of bear's flesh, which was
very juicy, and resembled pork. It seemed
to be esteemed a great delicacy by the people
themselves, and a number of persons came
into the hut where our adventurers were en-
tertained, and, somewhat unceremoniously,
helped themselves with their fingers to a
portion of the viands.

Our travellers had before seen something
of Tungusian life and manners ; but their
curiosity was excited anew by the greediness
which the people displayed upon the pre->


sent occasion men, women, and children.
But there was withal much good nature and
merriment among the party, and though the
speech was often rough and the manner un-
couth, good humour seemed to pervade the
whole scene.

When the meal was over, brandy was
brought in and circulated freely among the
men of the company. Some of the women
contrived to get a little for themselves through
the influence of their admirers. The party
soon grew merry, then boisterous, and at last
quarrelsome. There were some scuffling and
many hard words. Late at night, the revel
broke up, and the party separated.

It was late the next day, when Alexis and
his two young companions were called by
Linsk from their repose. They took an
ample breakfast, and then set forward upon
their journey. For several days, they pro-
ceeded without any occurrence worthy of
note. At last, they came to a little forest of
evergreen trees, in which they found two or
three small huts, which were now deserted
by their inhabitants; and here, as it was
evening, they concluded to spend the night.


Having slightly closed the entrance with a
few pieces of bark to exclude the cold, they
made a fire, and had sat down to their frugal
supper of dried deer's flesh, when the ever-
watchful ear of Linsk caught certain sounds
from without, which arrested his attention.
He had listened but a moment, when the
fragments at the door were pushed aside, and
a wolf thrust his head in at the opening, and
gazed intently upon the party. They were
all so taken by surprise, that, for a moment,
they neither spoke nor moved. It was not
long, however, before Linsk arose, seized his
gun, and was on the point of discharging it
at the wolf, when the latter suddenly with-
drew. The whole party fbUowed him out,
but what was their astonishment to see
around them a pack of at least forty wolves,
now ready to make a united attack upon
them ! It was night, and their glaring eye-
balls seemed like sparks of fire ; while their
teeth were laid bare, as if to rend their victims
in pieces. At the same time the barking,
yelping, and howling of the savage animals,
apparently driven to desperation by hunger,
were terrific. The whole scene was indeed



so unexpected and so startling, that Alexis
and his two young companions immediately
slunk back into the hut. Linsk followed,
but at least a dozen of the assailants were
at his heels, as he drew back through the
door. The old hunter saw in an instant
that there was but one mode of warfare
which offered the least chance of safety, and
this was, to face the enemy at the opening,

and to prevent them, at all hazards, from
effecting an entrance. Getting down upon
his knees, therefore, he looked his furious
assailants full in the face. His gun was in
his hand, and his knife ready in his belt.


Fixing his eye intently upon the wolves, so
as to watch every movement, he spoke rapidly
to the young men behind him, "Steady,
boys, steady ; do not be afraid. Draw up
close and keep your guns ready. What an
ill-mannered set they are ! I will give them
a dose directly. Now !"

At this instant, the hunters fired their
guns, and a yell of terror and anguish burst
from those of the pack which at the moment
were jammed into the entrance of the hut.
Two or three of them were killed, and seve-
ral wounded ; but others rushed into their
places, and in the space of a few seconds,
Linsk was again threatened with a mass of
savage creatures struggling for entrance at
the door. He soon gave them another shot,
and finally a third, and the disheartened
beasts, leaving eight or ten of their com-
panions dead or mortally wounded on the
scene of combat, retired, with many a howl,
into the echoing forest.

The next day was occupied in securing
the skins of the wolves, and the hunters con-
cluded to spend the following night in the
hut, taking care, however, to close the en-


trance firmly, against the possibility of an
attack like that of the preceding evening.

On the second morning, the party rose
early, and, instead of pursuing their journey,
they plunged into the forest, hoping to meet
with some sables or ermines. They had not
gone far before two little, dark-coloured ani-

mals, with very long bodies and short legs,
were seen running and leaping upon the
snow. Linsk uttered a deep " hush/' ap-
proached them carefully, under cover of a
large tree, and raising his gun to his eye,
seemed about to fire, when, suddenly lower-


ing his piece, he beckoned to Alexis: at
a signal given by Linsk, he fired; the
whole party ran to the spot, and, with
great exultation, picked up two fine sables.
These were the first that Alexis had killed,
and they brought to his mind so forcibly the
injunctions of Kathinka, and her intense de-
sire that he should be successful in his enter-
prise, that he burst into tears. The two sons
of Linsk looked at him with amazement, but
the old man guessed the cause of his emotion,
and by some sportive remark, diverted the
thoughts of the party into other channels.
The kindness of Linsk in thus giving Alexis
the first chance to fire, filled the heart of the
young hunter with gratitude.

They now pursued their sport, and before
the evening came, they had caught seven
sables and three ermines. They then returned
to their hut, and now made up their minds
to spend a few days at this place, for the
purpose of pursuing the object of their expe-




AGREEABLY to their plan, the sable-hun-
ters continued at the hut, following the game,
day after day, with the greatest ardour. The
forest proved to be very extensive, stretching
out for miles upon both sides of a little river
that flowed into the Lena. It was the very
depth of winter, and the snow fell almost
every day ; yet they were seldom prevented
from going out by the weather. They were
very successful in -their hunting, and a day
seldom passed in which they did not obtain
some good skins. They killed several bears,
wolves, and a great number of sables, ermines,
martens, squirrels, and lynxes.

In all their expeditions, Alexis showed him-
self as active, persevering, and skilful, as any
one of the party. It was a great object in ob-


taining the finest furs, to kill the animal with-
out breaking the skin of the body. In this art,
Alexis excelled ; for he could shoot with such
precision, as to bring down his game by
sending a ball through the head; but he
was of an ardent temper, and sometimes his
zeal led him into danger. One day, being at
a distance from his party, he saw a silver fox,

and pursued him for several hours, entirely
forgetting that he was separated from his
friends, and wandering to a great distance,
amid the mazes of the woods.

At last, in pursuing the fox, he entered a
wild and rocky dell, where perpendicular
cliffs, fringed by pines and hemlocks,
frowned over the glen. Plunging into the
place, which seemed almost like a vast cavern,
he soon came near the object of his pursuit,



and brought him with a bullet to the ground.
Before he had time to pick up his game, he
saw a couple of sables peering through a cre-
vice in a decayed oak that had taken root
high in the rocks above. Loading his gun,
he fired, and the animals immediately dis-

appeared within the cavity. Believing
they were killed, he clambered up the steep
precipice with great labour and no little
danger. At length, he reached the foot of
the tree which leaned from the cliff, over
the valley beneath. He immediately be-
gan to ascend it, not observing, in his eager-
ness, that it was rotten to the very root, and


trembled throughout its whole extent, as he
climbed up.

Up he went, heedless of all but the game,
until he reached the crevice, where two sables,
of the largest kind, were lying dead. He took
them out, and, for the first time, looked be-
neath: he was touched with a momentary thrill
of fear as he gazed down, and perceived the
gulf that yawned beneath him. At the same
moment he heard a crackling at the root of
the tree, and perceived a descending motion
in the limbs to which he clung. He now
knew that he was falling, and that, with the
vast mass, he must descend into the valley
beneath. The moment was almost too awful
for thought : yet his mind turned to his
father and sister,' with a feeling of farewell,
and a prayer to heaven for his soul; how
swift is the wing of thought in the moment
of peril ! He felt himself rushing downward
through the air; he closed his eyes; there
was a horrid crash in his ears, and he knew
no more.

The sound of the falling oak rung through
the glen, and, in the space of a few minutes.
a man, clothed as a hunter, emerged from


one of the caverns, at a little distance ; who
approached the spot where Alexis had
fallen; but at first nothing was to be seen
save the trunk of the tree, the rest being
imbedded in the snow ; and he was about

to turn away, when he saw the fox lying
at a little distance, and then perceived
one of the sables, half buried in the snow.
Finding that the animal was warm, as if
just killed, he looked around for the hunter.
Not seeing him, the truth seemed at once to


flash upon his mind ; and he began to dig in
the snow beneath the trunk of the tree. He
laboured with prodigious strength and zeal.
A large excavation was made, and pretty
soon he found the cap of Alexis. This in-
creased his exertions, and he continued to
dig with unabated ardour for more than an
hour. Buried at the depth of eight feet in
the snow, he found the young man, and with
great labour took him out from the place in
which he was imbedded, and which, but for
this timely aid, had been his grave.

The surface of the snow in the ravine was
so hard as to bear the man's weight, provided
as he was with huntsman's broad-soled shoes.
Still it was with great difficulty that he could
carry Alexis forward : he, however, succeeded
in bearing him to his cave, and had the
satisfaction of soon finding that the youth
was still alive ; that he was indeed only stun-
ned, and otherwise entirely unhurt. Alexis
soon awoke from his insensibility, and look-
ing around, inquired where he was. " You
are safe," said the stranger, " and in my
castle, where no one will come to molest you.
You are safe ; and now tell me your name. 3 '


For a moment, Alexis was bewildered, and
could not recollect himself, but after a little
time, he said falteringly, " Pultova, my
name is Alexis Pultova."

" Pultova !" said the stranger, with great
interest ; " are you of Warsaw the son of
Ludovicus Pultova?"

" I am," was the reply.

" Yes," said the other, "you are; I see by
the resemblance, you are the son of my
noble friend, General Pultova. And what
brought you here ?"

" I am a hunter,," said Alexis.

" Alas, alas !" said the man ; " and so it is
with the brave sons of poor Poland: scattered
over this desolate region of winter this wild
and lone Siberia banished, forgotten, save
only to be pursued and crushed by the venge-
ful heel of power. Oh God! O Heaven!
how long will thy justice permit such cruelty
toward those whose only crime is, that they
loved their country too well I" Saying these
words, the stranger's bosom heaved con-
vulsively, the tears fell fast down his cheeks,
and, as if ashamed of his emotion, lie rushed
out of the cavern.


Alexis was greatly moved, yet IMS curiosity
was excited, and he began to look around to
ascertain what all this might mean. He now,
for the first time, recollected his fall from the
tree. He perceived that he was in a lofty
cavern, in which he saw a bed made of skins,
a gun, and various other trappings belonging
to a hunter, and justly concluded that he
had been rescued by the stranger 5 to whom,
when he returned, as he did in a few mi-
nutes, Alexis poured out his grateful thanks
for saving his life.

They now entered into conversation : and
Alexis heard the details of his own rescue,
as well as the story of the hunter. He
was a Polish nobleman, who had taken part
in the struggle for liberty, and had also
shared in the doom of those patriots who
survived the issue. While conversing, they
thought they heard sounds without, and
going to the mouth of the cave, Alexis knew
the piercing tones of Linsk, and immediately
answered him. The old hunter, with his
two sons, came up, and there was a shaking
of hands all round. The story was soon told,
and the hunters were invited into the cave.


The evening was now approaching, and
Linsk, with his party, being pressed to spend
the night at the cave, cheerfully accepted the
request. A fire was kindled, a haunch of fat
bear's meat was roasted, and the company
sat down to their meal. There was for
a time a good deal of hilarity ; for, even in
comfortless situations, a sense of deliverance
from peril breaks into the heart, scattering
with its brief sunshine the gloom around.
So it was with the hunters, in the bosom
of the cavern, and in the scenes and season
of winter; the laugh, the joke, and the
story passed from one to the other. Even
the stern and stony brow of the stranger re-
laxed at some of the droll remarks and odd
phrases of Linsk, and unconsciously he be-
came interested in the passing scene.




As soon as they had finished their repast,
Alexis and his companions united in a request
that their host should relate to them his his-
tory. He commenced as follows :

" I am a native of Poland. You see me
here, clothed in skins, and a mere hunter like
yourselves. I am but a man, and a very poor
one, though the noblest blood of my country
flows in my veins. I had a vast estate,
situated thirty miles from Warsaw. 1 there
became acquainted with a Russian princess,
and loved her : my love was returned, and
we vowed fidelity to each other for life.
The revolution broke out, and I took an ac-
tive part in it. My suit had been favoured
by the emperor before, but now I was in-
formed that he frowned upon my hopes and
wishes, and that he looked upon me with a


special desire of vengeance. Twice was I
assailed by ruffians in the streets of Warsaw,
hired to take my life. In battle, I was re-
peatedly set upon by men, who had been
offered large rewards if they would kill or
capture me ; but I escaped all these dangers.

" The princess whom I loved was in the
Russian camp. I was one of a party who
broke in, by a desperate assault, and sur-
rounded the house where she dwelt. We
took her captive, and carried her to Warsaw.
She was offended, and would not see me;
but contrived her escape : I was near her
all the time, even during her flight. As we
were about to part, I made myself known to
her, and asked her forgiveness. She wept,
and leaned on my breast.

" Warsaw had that day fallen ; the hopes
of liberty had perished ; Poland was con-
quered ; the emperor w r as master of the lives
and fortunes of the people, and too well
did we know his cruel nature to have any
other hope than that of the gallows, the dun-
geon, or Siberia.

cc I told these things to the princess. She
heard me, and said she would share my fate.


While we were speaking, a close carriage and
six horses came near. It was nighty but the
moon was shining brightly. I perceived it
to be the carriage of Nicholas, the emperor ;
but at the moment I recognized it, it was set
upon by four men on horseback, who rushed
out of an adjacent thicket : they were heavily
armed, and, discharging their pistols, killed
the postilion and one of the guard. There
were but three of the emperor's men left, and
these would have been quickly despatched*
had I not dashed in, with my two attendants,
to the rescue. One of the robbers was killed,
and the others fled.

"Though Nicholas is harsh, he is no
coward. He had just leaped from the car-
riage, when the ruffians escaped. He was
perfectly cool, and, turning to me, surveyed
me for an instant : he had often seen me at
court, and, I think, recognized me. 'To
whom do I owe my safety ?' said he. ' To a
rebel P said I, and we parted.

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichPersevere and prosper; or, The Siberian sable-hunter → online text (page 4 of 7)