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in this place is accepted as a standard value everywhere, and their prices remain fixed, scarcely ever varying. The price of other furs, on the contrary, varies very much in the market, depending frequently on their excellence and beauty. Such is the case with grey fox skins (siwodushki), the price of which frequently ranges from twenty-five to one hundred and twenty assignat rubles; and in like manner the skin of the black fox and of various species of striate fox, as well as the fur of blue reindeer and sables, is very uncertain.
In my estimation, however, no fur is equal in beauty to that of the black fox. The hair is long, soft and glossy, and as black as charcoal, without any admixture of brown, except a very narrow yellow stripe running from the throat to the belly in the shape of a cross.
On its legs a silvery hair, shooting out from the black, contributes to heighten the effect of the jet and throws out its lustre. These skins fetch four hundred assignat rubles, and are such a rarity that at the latest Obdorsk fair only twentyeight could be procured.
The skins of foxes from the district of Berezov are far more prized than those brought
from the steppe—not to speak of. the commonest foxes as bialodushki,* a name derived from their colour. This is a yellowish-white, intermixed in some parts with spots of black hair. Even' these obtain a higher price than those of the steppe. The latter are commonly browner; but their hair is dry and rough and liable to be soon rubbed off, whereas the fur of the more northern region is distinguished by a dense soft hair, and usually is much more durable.
The fur trade extends to the skins of a species of ducks, called gogarki ; which are most beautiful in appearance, and much in demand. Their colour is a dark violet, and the skin is very strong and elastic. They are used for little caps, and for outside coverings of fur shubas.
A quantity of feathers and swan skins are also exported from this place.
Though Berezov is admitted to be the seat of trade for the most valuable and most costly skins, yet, strange to say, it is very difficult to procure in the town any fur garment ready for
There are, in fact, no proper furriers or
* Bialodushki, literally, means
" white souls.”
tanners here. All the hides and skins are sent either to Irbit or Nijni Novogorod, where they are sold by fur dealers in their raw state, and undergo the process of tanning and dressing by others, and not till then do they find their way back in a finished condition to Berezov. Thus fur garments of the choicest quality are obtained in these towns at a much more reasonable price than at the original market.
The whole of the furs sold at Obdorsk as yasak, are in the first instance brought to the Custom-house at Berezov, and afterwards transported to the Government stores at Tobolsk. Here the skins of inferior quality are sold, and the more valuable portion sent to St. Petersburg. The last frequently includes most exquisite specimens.
The severe frost of the winter did not keep me indoors. Even when the mercury had frozen, and the alcohol, or spirit thermometer, was at 50° Reamur, I went out to try what effect it would produce upon me, and particularly on my skin and lungs. Much to my surprise, I did not experience any unpleasant sensation. I observed, however, that my breath was imme
diately transformed into a visible thick column of condensed vapour; and in all probability that very column surrounding me in a great degree screened my lungs from coming into immediate contact with the external air. The saliva, before it reached the ground, was congealed in the air. Owing, perhaps, to the quantity of clothing which I put on, the frost could not much affect my skin, and the little portion of my face that I had left uncovered could hardly be made the subject of experiment.
At the approach of winter, all the birds, unable to sustain the severity of frost, leave Berezov in flocks, with the single exception of the magpie, which, while keeping close to the precincts of the town, remains in undisputed possession of the aerial regions. There are no animals in the forests but those covered with thick warm fur, which is impervious to cold, and which Nature, in bountiful regard to their condition, has made denser and richer than that of any animals of their kind inhabiting more southern regions.
Despite the intensity of the cold, our land
lord sent out his servants to the river-side to fetch some hay. Two of the servants returned with frost-bitten faces. Brandy was applied to the frozen parts, and the application repeated until the smarting pain diminished. The parts continued for some time red, as if they had been subjected to blisters.