OF THESE CITIES,
Tobolsk is the handsomest.
Irkutsk is the pleasantest.
Yarkutsk is the coldest.
It is not surprising that Tobolsk should be the handsomest, for there the governor of Siberia resides.
A great many Chinese come to Irkutsk to trade, and they bring quantities of tea.
Yarkutsk is the coldest town in the world; there may be others nearer the north, but none lie exposed to such cold winds. The inhabitants scarcely dare admit the light, for fear of increasing the cold; and they make only one or two very small windows in their houses. Yet in summer vegetables grow freely in the gardens.
The Ostyaks live near the
The Buraets live near lake Baikal.
The Yakuts live near the Lena.
They are full of treasures; gold, silver, iron, copper, and precious stones. They are dug up by the banished Russians, and sent in great wagons to Russia, to increase the riches of the emperor.
It is impossible to look at Siberia, without being struck with the shape of Kamkatka, which juts out like a short arm. It is a peninsula. A beautiful country it is; full of mountains, and rivers, and woods, and waterfalls, and not as cold as might be expected. But there are not many people dwelling in it; for though it is larger than Great Britain, all the inhabitants might be contained in one of our small towns. And why are there so few in so fine a country? Because the people love brandy better than labor. They have been corrupted by the Russian soldiers, and traders, and convicts, and they are sickening and dying away.
A traveller once said to a Kamkatdale, “How should you like to see a ship arrive here from China, laden with tea and sugar?” “I should like it well,” replied the man, “but there is one thing I should like better—to see a ship arrive full of men; it is men we want, for our men are sick; of the twelve here, six are too weak to hunt or fish.”
But the ship that would do the most good to Kamkatka, is a missionary ship. The Greek church is the religion; but no religion is much thought of in Kamkatka; hunting and fishing only are cared for. Yet I fear if missionaries were to go to Kamkatka, the emperor of Russia would send them away.
Where there are few men, there are generally many beasts and birds; this is the case in Kamkatka.
One of the most curious animals in Siberia, is the Argalis, or mountain sheep. It is remarkable for its enormous horns, curled in a very curious manner. Think not it is like one of our quiet, foolish sheep; there is no animal at once so strong and so active. It is such a climber, that no wolf or bear can follow it to the high places, hanging over awful precipices, where it walks as firmly as you do upon the pavement. Sometimes a hunter finds it among the mountains, and just as he is going to shoot it, the creature disappears:—it has thrown itself down a precipice! Is it dashed to pieces? No, it fell unhurt, and has escaped without a bruise; for its bones are very strong, and its skin very thick.