- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
329

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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IRKUTSK TO VLADIVOSTOK
329
year, when the tribute was not forthcoming at the
right time. All traders travelling through the country
have to pay a round sum to escape with a whole skin.
Those who do not pay are captured, and have the
choice of buying their freedom or being hanged. Those
who pay are thereby protected from all molestation.
This is plain and straightforward treatment ; the whole
thing is organized on the same lines as it was in mediæval
Europe.
They live in entrenched camps in the forests high up
among the mountains, and it is not easy to get at them ;
for they live above the thick and, in summer, entirely
impenetrable jungle. Narrow paths, made by and only
known to themselves, lead through the jungle up to the
camp. This jungle is a wilderness of swamps and
thickets, trees and creepers interwoven among the stems.
One of these creepers is said to be a wild fig, the fruit of
which is quite edible.
The Khunkhuses assemble in the spring and carry
on their business all the summer ; but they dåre not
stay till snow comes, as then it would be easy to follow
their tracks. They then separate and the cash collected
in the course of the summer is divided. They return to
China with their booty, to Chefu or Peking, or wherever
it may be, and pass the winter as peaceful labourers, or
as rich men living on their means, to vanish with the
migrating birds in the spring, when they again assemble
in the forests. The year after the war between Russia
and Japan was a specially good one for them, as so
many goods were required in the districts ravaged by
the war, and so many traders were on the road. When
their money was divided in the autumn, it came to
400 roubles a man.
Baron Huene once came to a camp where there were
900 men. These camps are well fortified, and every

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