- Project Runeberg -  Through Siberia - the land of the future /
330

(1914) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Arthur G. Chater - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH SIBERIA
man is armed with a Mannlicher rifle and a Browning
pistol. The Baron once had a message requesting him
to meet them for diplomatic negotiations. When he
arrived at their camp, they pointed out to him how
unreasonably expensive it must be for the Russian
Government to keep all these soldiers along the railway
to guard the line. They had considered the matter and
offered to take over the whole protection of the line for
a moderate annual consideration, which would be much
cheaper ; and they thought they could do it quite as
well as the soldiers. But the offer was not accepted;
the Government prefers to keep its soldiers there all the
same ; not the least of their uses has been to protect
the line against the Khunkhus bands.
It seems strange that such brigandage can go on
year after year in our time; but the Chinese Govern
ment takes no effective measures to stop it, not being
very greatly interested ; and to the Russians it is not
so simple a matter in a foreign country, and with the
subjects of another Government to deal with. Nor can
it be so very easy in these desolate, uninhabited and
trackless forest regions, and great efforts would be
needed to catch them. But the Baron thinks the
simplest way would be to take advantage of the winter,
when the jungle is not so overgrown and it is easier to
make one’s way ; then it would not be difficult to search
the tracts where they have their haunts and hiding
places in summer, and their huts and provision stores
might be destroyed. During the winter these mountains
are inhabited by Chinese who call themselves hunters
for furs, but who are really auxiliaries of the Khunkhuses.
They are expert gardeners who grow vegetables and
other things for them rn summer. Then they catch fish,
which is dried and stored, and they collect supplies of
game in the course of the winter; so that the Khun
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