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an instant, and then took out from the narta an arrow, and fitting it to his bow, exclaimed: “Proceed in the direction in which I shoot
As he spoke the string twanged and the arrow whizzed through the air; but in flying touched from spot to spot the surface of the earth, leaving behind traces on the snow, which marked distinctly the course of its flight. The hunters having so excellent a conductor before their eyes, without hesitating a moment, set off, resolved to speed in the traces of the flying arrow; thankfully bidding the stranger a cordial and grateful farewell.
They journeyed very long and very far, and though they had lost sight of the arrow, beheld its traces everywhere. At last, after a long journey, the traces disappeared, and they perceived the arrow sticking in the snow. All seven rushed forward at once to seize it, each being desirous to get possession of so wonderful a hunting weapon, invested with such powers as no living man had ever seen exhibited before.
The foremost thrust his long iron-spear in the snow, to make his reindeer halt; and then leaping from the sledge, rushed towards the arrow, in order to appropriate to himself the coveted
prize ; but he was sorely disappointed, for he found to his great astonishment, the arrow was so heavy, that he was quite unable to lift it. His companions, in succession, attempted the same feat, but were equally foiled; nor could they even united raise it from the earth. At length, they desisted from making any further efforts, wondering at the extraordinary strength of the unknown, whom they had seen, with their own eyes, handle the arrow as easily as though it were a feather; and at the same time, they were puzzled as to how they should find their promised mys, or knee-land, now that they had lost their miraculous conductor. While meditating on this subject, one of them happened to descry, at no great distance, three larches, a stone, and the trunk of a large cedar; and closer examination left no doubt, that this actually was the spot indicated by the hunter.
The Ostiaks were enraptured at this discovery, and as it flashed upon them, they beheld a number of young reindeer, martins, foxes, squirrels, and every kind of game flitting about in every direction.
Each forthwith grasped his bow and arrows, and poured their shafts into the midst of the throng, and not one failed of its
mark. This sport they continued, till all their nartas were loaded with game; whereupon, full of joy and glee, they started on their way homeward.
They were now not in the least perplexed as to the road, for they saw the furrows of their sledges on the snow, and these were a sufficiently safe guide; but on arriving at the spot, where they had met the unknown hunter, and finding the traces of his mammoth narta still visible, they began to consider whether they should not proceed on his track, with the view of paying him a visit, and thanking him for the good advice he had given them.
This they instantly resolved to do, but they had scarcely proceeded a few furlongs on their road, when they saw on either side of them large numbers of reindeer roaming about on pasture grounds; and these became more and more numerous as they progressed, so that they could not but wonder at the immense wealth of the owner of such vast herds. On one of the extensive plains, they saw numbers of bucks, adorned with high-branching antlers, scraping up the snow, in search of moss for food. In
another, they beheld herds of pieshkis, or young ones, some white, others of chesnut colour, and all as gay and healthy as fish, gamboling playfully on the tundras, gracefully tossing their heads, or sucking the teat of their smoothskinned and sleek-looking dams, while others strayed in an adjacent forest, where, climbing with their slender fore-feet and with their bodies half upraised, they picked the rich lichen from the trunks. In short, herds of these useful animals were seen grazing in countless numbers in every direction, as far as the hunters could
At last they perceived a tchoum (tent) at a distance, and as they drew near, observed that the traces of the mammoth narta were disappearing ; whence they inferred, that this was the habitation of the unknown hunter. At the tent, therefore, they halted.
On stepping inside, they beheld the owner of the tchoum, and immediately recognised their benevolent adviser, who knew them at a glance, and bade them welcome.
The Ostiaks recounted all the incidents of their journey, as well as its prosperous results, and it being the close of the day when they
arrived, he invited them to spend the night in his tchoum, and then went outside to arrange for their entertainment.
The host's family consisted of his wife and his aged father. After leaving his guests, he slaughtered a number of his choice reindeer, two for each hunter, and these he delivered to his wife to prepare for their use, but before doing so, he cut off the heads of all the slain animals, and placed them in front of the hunters. The Ostiaks wondered that he should have killed so many reindeer, and declared that they should not be able to consume a quarter of the feast.
“ This be as it may please you,” replied the generous host; “I mete out this quantity to you, as it is our accustomed ration. You may do with it as you like.” So saying, he ordered his wife to bring in a large brass cauldron, and pointing it out to the hunters, recommended them to boil so much of the meat as they would require, and make use of the remainder in any manner they thought proper.
The Ostiaks cooked only two of the deer, stowing the remainder in their sledges; but even the portion they cooked was more than