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Soswa, to see with my own eyes in what state
On my approaching it, I heard from time to time a deep rumbling sound, not unlike that of thunder at a distance, or of heavy chariots rolling over a pavement. I saw the water on both sides of the river, close to the banks, already frozen ; and only in the middle of the stream a current was flowing in the narrow bed, carrying onwards huge masses of ice. These it was that, by crushing and knocking against each other, produced the rumbling noise I have described. Masses accumulating on the shores, or pressed by succeeding floes when unable to pass farther, after a few minutes of struggle, became stationary, and soon formed a part of the frozen pack. In this manner, the surface, not yet covered, was gradually diminished; and the probable hour, when the whole river would be frozen over, was foretold by some of the more experienced spectators with as great confidence as skilful physicians designate that at which a patient's pulse must cease to beat.
On coming home, I found my chin was frostbitten, and I experienced besides a severe pain in
my hand; so that I was unable to hold my pen. This, I thought, was an attack of neuralgia.
Scarcely was I seated, when in came Madame X-- bringing intelligence that the river Waygulka was entirely frozen; and, as she had her own sledges and a horse, and was eager to take a drive, she requested my company in the excursion. I most willingly assented to her proposition, and having muffled myself with shawls, and put on a warm pelisse, went, thus armed against the frost, with Madame X—-, hoping I should enjoy a most delightful airing on ice as even and smooth as a table.
Having from my early years been used to carriage exercise, I much longed for so rare a pleasure here, and I even felt the necessity of it for the benefit of my health, as I know from long experience that a drive does me much more good than even the longest walk on foot. The eagerness, with which I accepted Madame X-'s proposition, could therefore but be equalled by the pleasure with which I set out on our trip. But at the very outset, at the first sight of her sledge, I could not help experiencing some disappointment. It appeared to be of so
singular a shape and construction, for though the external appearance resembled that of the sledges used in my own country, it was not, like them, hollow in the middle, but the cavity which in our sledges serves us as a receptacle for the feet, was completely planked over. I was quite at a loss how to take my seat in a vehicle so strangely constructed, until Madame Xinformed me, that the seat was taken sideways, so that the feet hung down, and holes were cut in the wooden frame, on both sides, for the accommodation of those who might be afraid of sliding down when placed in that position, and these holes afforded a hold for the feet.
I took this uncomfortable seat, according to her directions, and as well as I could. But another difficulty now arose.
We had no driver; and Madame X-proposed to take his place. This, doubtless, was very civil on her part, but was far from pleasing to me. was not ignorant, however, of her pretensions to proficiency in manly exercises, and perfect knowledge of everything ; and as the worst that could happen would perhaps, as I thought, be an upset, I did not long hesitate to intrust myself to her charioteering.
Luckily, we were not upset-not once. We at first drove along the banks of the Waygulka, and finding them everywhere frozen, ventured on the sheet of ice in the middle of the river; but here, instead of the ice being smooth and even, as I had fancied, we found it rugged in the extreme, the water having congealed in the shape of waves--a circumstance which could not but render our progress extremely unpleasant, the sledge being jostled and thrown about on all sides.
On our traversing these protuberances of solid waves, at every step the horse made they broke under his feet, leaving deep apertures behind, not only disagreeable to look at, but which might have caused a serious accident, particularly as we were the first who had ventured on the river, and no sledge had passed that way before us.
I begun at last to grow heartly tired of this irksome pleasure trip; and to say truth, I had every reason to apprehend, that in driving at random over unexplored and pathless places, the ice would break, and we should sink into the river, sledge and all. My companion, however, appeared not to mind that, and was only
rejoiced at being able on this occasion to give a proof of her courage and dexterity in masculine exercises. For my own part, rather than betray my timidity, I offered no opposition to her proceedings, and so we foolishly let our sledge bounce from one rugged wave to another amid the crackling and breaking of the ice, the noise of which was like the report of fire
Most luckily for me, Madame X— caught sight of another sledge, which was drawn by reindeer, and immediately drove towards it. We found it occupied by the police director's wife, who was also taking an airing ; and Madame X—- being, whenever amusement was concerned, as inflammable as a lucifermatch, she began to envy her neighbour's reindeer, and would have got into the other sledge, but felt embarrassed what to do with her own, and with me. On perceiving this, I proposed that she should take her seat with the director's wife, and leave her sledge in my charge. She eagerly jumped at my suggestion, and I no less eagerly grasped the horse's reins; and instantly turning towards the land, I found an even and more convenient road, on which I