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LXX. - THE PILGRIMS:
Here where the shore was rugged as the waves,
Here on this rock, and on this sterile soil,
Where doom was writ of privilege and crown;
John BOYLE O'REILLY.
LXXI. - IN SIBERIA.
1. On the evening of the 6th of February, I left Irkutsk, and started on my lonely journey westward. Following the Russian custom, I had my baggage spread out over the bottom of the sleigh and covered with a quantity of straw. Placing over these a Japanese mattress and a number of fur robes, I secured a bed which was both soft and thick enough to deaden the shocks of rapid traveling over a rough road.
2. Several large pillows were placed at the back, to raise and support the shoulders and head, for the Russians have discovered that a half reclining posture is the most convenient in traveling, since every muscle is at rest, and yet the elevation of the head permits a view of the surrounding scenery.
3. Having learned by our rough experience in Tartary how necessary it is to clothe one's self in the manner which the natives of the country have found to be the best, I had taken every Russian precaution against the cold. Over a pair of thick and loose woolen trousers and a woolen shirt, I put on the close-fitting robe
worn by the peasants, reaching from the neck nearly to the ankles, and made of sheep-skin, with the wool inside, and, over this, a loose robe of the fur of the Arctic fox, with the hair also on the inner side.
4. My feet were encased in very loose boots made of felt, and reaching nearly to the knee. A Chinese skull-cap of felt, with fur lapels, protected the head and ears, while a long knitted comforter, covering the whole face below the eyes, after being crossed behind the neck and tied under the chin, protected the nose, throat, and lungs.
5. On getting into the sleigh, the traveler puts on, over all his other garments, a wrapper of deer-skin, with the hair outside to break the force of the wind, and furnished with loose sleeves and a collar, which, when raised, envelopes the head and face. Lying down, and putting his feet and legs in a large wolf-skin bag, he pulls over him a fur sleigh-robe which reaches nearly to the chin. He is now ready to defy the greatest severities of even a Siberian winter.
6. The cold, which had been increasing every day, seemed, on the first night out of Irkutsk, to have reached a more intense degree than I had yet experienced ; and, before midnight, my hands and feet were nearly frozen. At the first station, I stuffed my boots with dry hay, and was fortunate enough to find a woman with an ample muff, which I bought for a few roubles, and found to be preferable to any gloves.
7. After this, during the whole journey, I never for a minute suffered from cold. The nose is always the most difficult part of the body to protect; but, by pulling the comforter about an inch forward, and holding it there till it stiffens with the frozen breath, the whole face is kept warm by the heat of the breath.
8. Finding myself thoroughly defended against the severity of the weather, I now began to enjoy the wonderful night-scene which surrounded me. Three bounding horses carried the sleigh at almost railway speed over the road, dashing in rapid succession through groves of trees, through fields and forests, and over the hills and valleys of an uneven country, whose face was covered with a deep mantle of snow, rounding and softening all its outlines, and illuminating the whole scene with the tender light reflected from its pure surface. Overhead, the stars shone with flashing luster through an atmosphere whose purity is equaled only on the higher and dryer parts of the earth.
9. After a time, I allowed myself to yield to the call of the system for sleep, feeling that, protected as I was, there was no danger. On awakening, I was not a little startled at being unable to open my eyes. Feeling of the lids, I found them perfectly sensible, but the lashes were frozen together and to the edge of the comforter. After fruitless attempts to force them apart, I enveloped my head in the collar of the outer cloak, and gradually succeeded, by breathing, in raising the temperature sufficiently to thaw the icy chains. On looking at the thermometer, I found the mercury frozen, and even the brandy in my bottle had assumed an oily consistency.
10. At the station which we reached before sunrise,
I got out for breakfast. Having been warned of the impossibility of getting any decent food outside of two or three large cities, I had taken an abundant supply of tea, coffee, and sugar, and dinners for twenty-four days, in the shape of twenty-four plates of soup, each one frozen into a separate cake, and enough bread to last for several days.
11. Almost every Russian house owns an urn for boiling water, which is heated by charcoal in a tube extending from top to bottom. This is the only thing, excepting plates and glasses, and other rough table ware, that the traveler can count upon at Russian inns or, at least, in Siberia. The urn was heated, and, in a few minutes from the time of my arrival, I had made a sufficient breakfast on six or seven large glasses of tea and a couple of slices of dry bread.
LXXII. - LINES FROM THE COTTER'S SATURDAY
The toilworn cotter frae his labor
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;