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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 392 pages of information about Tent Life in Siberia.
He knew that it was certain death to drift out of sight of the bark in that sinking sloop, and he hoped to be able to swim alongside until he should be picked up.  I myself had not thought of this before, but I saw instantly that it offered a forlorn hope of escape, and I was just poised in the act of following his example when on the quarter-deck of the bark, already twenty feet away, a white ghost-like figure appeared with uplifted arm, and a hoarse voice shouted, “Stand by to catch a line!”

It was the Onward’s second mate.  He had heard our cries in his state-room as we drifted under the ship’s counter, and had instantly sprung from his berth and rushed on deck in his night-shirt.

By the dim light of the binnacle I could just see the coil of rope unwind as it left his hand; but I could not see where it fell; I knew that there would be no time for another throw; and it seemed to me that my heart did not beat again until I heard from the bow of the sloop a cheery shout of “All right!  I’ve got the line!  Slack off till I make it fast!”

In thirty seconds more we were safe.  The second mate roused the watch, who had apparently taken refuge in the forecastle from the storm; the sloop was hauled up under the bark’s stern; a second line was thrown to Bowsher, and one by one we were hoisted, in a sort of improvised breeches-buoy, to the Onward’s quarterdeck.  As I came aboard, coatless, hatless, and shivering from cold and excitement, the captain stared at me in amazement for a moment, and then exclaimed:  “Good God!  Mr. Kennan, is that you?  What possessed you to come off to the ship such a night as this?”

“Well, Captain,” I replied, trying to force a smile, “it didn’t blow in this way when we started; and we had an accident—­carried our mast away.”

“But,” he remonstrated, “it has been blowing great guns ever since dark.  We’ve got two anchors down, and we’ve been dragging them both.  I finally had them buoyed, and told the mate that if they dragged again we’d slip the cables and run out to sea.  You might not have found us here at all, and then where would you have been?”

“Probably at the bottom of the gulf,” I replied.  “I haven’t expected anything else for the last three hours.”

The ill-fated sloop from which we made this narrow escape was so crushed in her collision with the bark that the sea battered her to pieces in the course of the night, and when I went on deck the next morning, a few ribs and shattered planks, floating awash at the end of the line astern, were all of her that remained.

[Illustration:  War and Hunting Knives.  Snowbeaters used for beating snow from the clothing.]

CHAPTER XXXIX

START FOR ST. PETERSBURG ROUTE TO YAKUTSK—­A TUNGUSE ENCAMPMENT—­ CROSSING THE STANAVOI MOUNTAINS—­SEVERE COLD—­FIRE-LIGHTED SMOKE PILLARS—­ARRIVAL IN YAKUTSK

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