- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
222

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
222
by sat a man eating his breakfast. He had a long face
and a grizzled beard, and it seemed to me that he must
have a good deal of Russian blood. For that matter,
there were several with grizzled beards, which are not
usually seen among the natives. Vostrotin asked him
how much he owed the trader. Five hundred roubles he
replied, stuffing his mouth with small fish and drmking
tea meanwhile. Last winter he had only caught four
squirrels ; * and the fish he had caught this summer
only amounted to three poods (108 lb.). Besides that
there were a few eiks’ skins last winter. That was not
much to pay his debts with. Others answered that
they had got four poods of fish, some five, some as many
as ten. Only one had caught 100 poods (3611 lb.) ; but
that was in some of the tributaries of the Yenisei, and
they were only small fish.
It must be said that, in spite of their poverty and
possible future destitution, they seemed enviably happy
and contented ; and now they were all getting ready
to leave, as soon as they had had breakfast. They had
got their goods and had their spree, and now they were
homeward bound for the forests where they pass the
winter. Soon we saw them beginning to get their boats
ready, and there was a busy scene all along the beach.
They stow many of their things on the top of the roofs
of the boats, and the women were now occupied with
this.
While we stood talking to the man with the long
bearded face, who sat cross-legged by the fire eating,
we heard the continual, monotonous singing of a man’s
voice from the interior of the boat that lay close by.
When Vostrotin looked in on him and asked if he
* As already mentioned (p. 165), this remarkable lack of squirrels
must be due to an epidemic among them, which has attacked the hares
at the same time.

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