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Here and there rose a wooden hut, narrow and high, and some for want of proper attention, were falling into decay. Grass grew in the road, and felled trees, destined for the construction of the houses, lay about in piles, covered with toadstools and fungi.
The universal stillness, the grey twilight, and the utter loneliness of the spot, were calculated to dispose the mind to grave and mournful reflections, and I could not repress them. Why is it that autumn, however radiant with sunshine, always produces melancholy, and leaves the heart no sense of gladness? Why is it that spring invariably makes us cheerful, be the days ever so gloomy, wet, and chilly? I cannot tell, but such is always the effect on myself.
I still walked on. All was silence and solitude. Here and there, from the windows of solitary dwellings, single lights began to glimmer like lonely stars.
Numbers of dogs were silently prowling about, or lying on dunghills before the houses, and caused me some alarm. The Berezovian dogs are large and ugly, and not calculated to inspire confidence. My first idea was flight; but the dogs, as if they guessed my
thought, lifted up their heads so complacently, and cast such a calm look upon me, that I felt reassured. They seemed as if they would say:
“ You may pass in peace, we have no concern with you,” and in peace I passed accordingly.
Suddenly I perceived some form looming indistinctly in the distance. It moved towards me; and, at length, I saw it was an Ostiak, clad in his shaggy malca, his pallid face dingy with smoke, and his hair hanging in a cluster of plaits down his shoulders. He was hurrying on his way, as fast as he could, leaping lightly from one plank to another, and carried a lukoshko of freshly-caught fish in his hand. He was accompanied by a boy, pale and smutty as himself, but vigorous and light in his frame. He glided along at the side of the man, and easily kept pace with him, carrying on a lively, animated conversation, which, however, was quite unintelligible to me.
I turned aside to avoid meeting them, which, perhaps, 'caused them to regard me with more curiosity ; but they said nothing, and went on
The Aurora Borealis.
Of all the northern lights which I have seen at Berezov, the most splendid is the Aurora Borealis : it occurs
so frequently as to be deemed an ordinary phenomenon, and we saw it several times during the autumn.
It commonly commences with a red glare on one spot of the sky, gradually extending more or less over the horizon, and encompassing it with its radiance. Frequently the light is distinctly seen moving in different directions, sometimes with rapidity, sometimes slowly, while its form and outline constantly change. But of all the
Auroras I ever saw, none can compare with one I witnessed on the 9th of September, 1840, of which I will attempt a feeble description.
At ten o'clock at night, a loud crackling noise was heard in the air, as though coming from a distance. The Berezovians were not slow in divining what this uproar in the atmosphere betokened, but almost before they could rush to their windows, the whole of the environs were enveloped in one blaze of illumination. Called by our landlord, we hurried into the court-yard to contemplate the phenomenon, and were enraptured at what we saw; but to describe the spectacle is beyond the power of my feeble pen.
The night was 'frosty and clear. Every object around the earth, the forest and the town, were white with snow.
Berezov was no longer a miserable collection of huts, but radiant with lights, reflected by its covering of snow, looked like a world of enchantment. The different parts of the strange scenery seemed to form but a single grand and stately structure -- a structure with walls of flame, surmounted by a cone-like cupola of fire, which
towered over our heads. The light was neither red nor lurid, but beamed with mild, soft, indescribable lustre, unlike anything that can be imagined.
The entire fabric, as it seemed, gradually threw off the cupola, and assumed the form of a sugar-loaf. It was narrow at its base, but the summit or apex of the cone rose to such an immense height, as to bewilder the vision. It appeared as though it even penetrated the vault of heaven, and at that hour of extraordinary solemnity, permitted mortals, though but for a moment, to catch from their earthly vale a glimpse of that mysterious region inaccessible but to the spirits of the blessed.
The walls of the wondrous cone were formed by light floating clouds of silvery brightness, which curling upward like volumes of thin smoke, spread their luminous rays in every direction. These clouds rose like vapours from * the base, as if they were engendered in the earth,* and rolled rapidly up to the summit,
* This phenomenon is referred to in the “Cosmos, " by Humboldt, who
The connection of the polar light (Aurora) with the most delicate cirrous clouds