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and the fatal one fell on the eldest married
The consternation of the whole family at this result may be imagined. The aged mother, considering how much her elder son was required for the support of all, represented to the family that, were they to kill him, they could not even when the spring should arrive, improve their situation, for who would then be able to procure them subsistence? therefore, they had better all perish at once.
This representation was acknowledged by all the members of the family to be perfectly just. But who was to replace the appointed victim? A pause of dreadful significance ensued. At last, the aged matron interrupted this silence, and said : “Kill me! let me be eaten before you kill my son. I am old, and my life is of no use. Besides, I am not attached to life, and if I have lived long, it is because I could not help it.”
The matron's voluntary offer was accepted. She was killed, instead of her son, and her body afforded temporary sustenance to the family. A few days afterwards fishing became practi
cable, and the whole family was saved from starvation.
The Ostiak yourtas standing alone and dispersed amidst forests, do not admit of outward observation and scrutiny, and the inhabitants are unable to investigate the conduct and daily occupations of their neighbours. The incident I have described, would, in all probability, have never transpired, if the perpetrators of the horrible deed had not themselves voluntarily brought it to light, without in the least suspecting that they would be called to account for the confession. The case came to be known in this
When the spring arrived, and communication by water was re-established, one of the Berezovians who had, for many years previously, had mercantile relations with the ill-fated family, happened to visit them, and observing the absence of the mother, inquired what had become of her. “ Our mother is no more," replied the eldest son. “We have eaten her to save ourselves from perishing."
Astonished beyond measure, the visitor made further inquiries, and afterwards communicated all the particulars to the authorities. The entire
family were then brought to trial; and the consequence was, that the elder son was sentenced to the mines for life, and the younger, as the least guilty, not being of age, was banished to Surgut, a town situated three hundred versts from Berezov.
It was with great satisfaction that I hailed the close of the long great Lent at the beginning of April, being heartily weary of its irksome restrictions. Though I felt no particular desire for animal food, and still less for amusements, yet Lent, as observed in this place, caused me a kind of agony not easily described. Its close was the signal for some new arrangements in our house, turning all our apartments topsy turvy, and forcing me out of the ordinary routine, so that I was compelled to leave off my everyday occupations, which had become habitual to
In all houses at this season, a war of destruction is waged against cockroaches, hundreds and thousands of which are engendered during the winter. They are here called tarakina, and in Lithuania, prusaki, and are a species of insects unknown in Volthynia. Frost is called in aid as the only effectual auxiliary
The inmates of one half of the house are first dislodged, all the windows taken out, doors and stoves opened; and a few days afterwards the same operation is performed in the other half of the house. The cold air is not without its good effect; for, though it exposes the family to a fortnight's discomfort, at the expiration of that period, the number of these tiresome insects is much diminished. They are not indeed, wholly destroyed, as that is beyond all possibility, but they cease to be in a state of unceasing perpetuation. No sooner are the stoves again heated, than a new progeny rushes forth from hidden nooks and crannies, proving the indestructibility of the race.
Amidst the disorder into which the house was thrown by this crusade against cockroaches, I received a solemn embassy from the Khan of the Kirghies. Three Kirghies entered my apartments; one of whom bore a folded sheet of paper on the top of his head, and were followed by the Tartar interpreter, who had accompanied the Khan on the occasion of his paying me a visit. This functionary announced that the three Kirghie envoys were the bearers
of a present to me from the Khan, designed and made by himself. Then turning to the Kirghies, he took the folded paper from the head of the foremost, and presented it to me. I found it to contain another paper, cut in various designs and figures, which being executed by the Khan's own hand, was certainly a great curiosity. I desired the envoys to present my acknowledgments to the Khan, and they then took their departure. The Khan's work had nothing to recommend it, beyond his good intention. The figures consisted of arabesques, among which figures of palm trees predominated. evident that in exercising his skill in this work, he was only beguiling the weary hours of exile.
The week before Easter at Berezov is not distinguished by the observances of any particular rites, connected with repentance and cleansing from sin, since confession is not strictly insisted on. To confess once a year is considered even by the most devout persons quite sufficient. Even before marriage, confession is dispensed with, as not obligatory; and those who do confess, do so in a spirit more worldly than religious.