II. THE YAKOUTA HUNTER.
Ivan slumbered not over his project. But a few days passed before he was ready to start. He purchased the horses required, and packed up all the varied articles necessary for his journey, and likely to please his Yakouta friend, consisting of tea, rum, brandy, tobacco, gunpowder, and other things of less moment. For himself he took a couple of guns, a pair of pistols, some strong and warm clothes, an iron pot for cooking, a kettle for his tea, with many minor articles absolutely indispensable in the cold region he was about to visit. All travelers in the north have found that ample food, and such drinks as tea, are the most effectual protection against the climate; while oily and fat meat is also an excellent preservative against cold. But Ivan had no need to provide against this contingency. His Yakouta friend knew the value of train-oil and grease, which are the staple luxuries of Siberians, Kamschatkans, and Esquimaux alike.
The first part of Ivan’s journey was necessarily to the yourte, or wigwam of Sakalar, without whom all hopes of reaching the goal of his wishes were vain. He had sufficient confidence in himself to venture without a guide toward the plain of Mioure, where his Yakouta friend dwelt. He started at early dawn, without warning of his departure any one save Maria, and ventured courageously on the frozen plain which reaches from Yakoutsk to the Polar Sea. The country is here composed of marshes, vast downs, huge forests, and hills covered with snow in the month of September, the time when he began his journey. He had five horses, each tied to the tail of the one before him, while Ivan himself was mounted on the first. He was compelled to ride slowly, casting his eyes every now and then behind to see that all was right. At night he stretched a bearskin under a bush, lit a huge fire, cooked a savory mess, and piling clothes over himself, slept. At dawn he rose, crammed his kettle full of clean snow, put it over the embers, and made himself tea. With this warm beverage to rouse him, he again arranged his little caravan, and proceeded on his way. Nothing more painful than this journey can be conceived. There are scarcely any marks to denote the road, while lakes, formed by recent inundations, arrest the traveler every half hour, compelling him to take prodigious rounds, equally annoying and perplexing.
On the morning of the third day Ivan felt a little puzzled about the road. He knew the general direction from the distant mountains, and he wished to avoid a vast morass. Before him was a frozen stream, and on the other side a hillock. Leaving the others to feed as well as they could, he mounted his best horse, and rode across. The ice bent under him as he went, and he accordingly rode gently; but just as he reached the middle, it cracked violently right across, and sank visibly under him. Ivan looked hurriedly round him. The ice was everywhere