Immagini della pagina

cal and statistical to prove. We have no objection to Toledo's being the greatest city in the world, if it can, especially as we shall have departed from the planet before the hundred years she requires will have elapsed, and shall be profoundly indifferent to the decline in value of our real estate which will follow the decreasing importance of New York. Meanwhile, we may venture to express a wish that the future greatest city of the world had a name of her own, and that her first settlers had not shared the folly of the settlers of Central New York in naming their villages after the greatest and most famous cities of the past. On this account, if on no other, since it seems the Fates allow us a choice, we prefer to believe that Chicago, rather than Toledo, is the place Berkeley had in his mind's eye.

Apropos of Mr. Chanler's proposal in the House of Representatives to levy a tax upon armorial-bearings, we mention a pamphlet by Mr. W. H. Whitmore, called "Reasons for the Regulation of the use of Coat-Armor in the United States, including a Plan for Taxing the Employment of such Insignia." Mr. Whitmore is evidently an enthusiast upon a subject which, however interesting it may be to antiquaries, can never, we should think, be of serious interest to any other persons. If, as he asserts, it is evident that the assumption of coat-armor is daily growing more and more frequent in our cities, we look upon it as only one of the forms of fashionable

folly, or, as in Marquis Tweed's case, one of the ways our American Democracy takes to prove its essential identity with Aristocracy. People of sense in this country, Mr. Whitmore may be assured, do not trouble their heads about coats-of-arms, and, in nine cases out of ten, those who have inherited them do not care enough about them to wear them, or to exhibit them on their coach-panels or on their plate. As for the proposed tax on coatsof-arms, while we have no objection to its being levied, we do not believe the money raised by it will go far toward paying the national debt on the one hand, nor that, on the other, the measure will have any influence in putting an end to the, perhaps, harmless folly of assuming coats-of-arms, whether they be the product of the wearer's fancy, or stolen from some lawful proprietor, as in the case of Marquis Tweed. In a country, however, where every wealthy Smith contrives, by hook or crook, to twist himself into something else—a Smythe, or a Smyth; where every Cook is a Cooke, and every Tailor, a Taylor, or a Tayleure, there will always be people who will try in various ways to conceal, or to falsely exalt, an origin, which, however respectable and honest in reality, may seem to them, from its connection with labor and poverty, vulgar and discreditable. In such a country it is pleasant to see, as we saw the other day, on the coachpanel of a wealthy apothecary of this city, no coat-of-arms, but a simple shield bearing the initial letter of his widely and honorably known name, and, for crest a mortar-andpestle.

[blocks in formation]



It was a clear, intensely cold morning, on the coast of Penjinsk Gulf. Although it was nearly ten o'clock, the sun had not yet risen, but the single white star in the east quivered faintly, and more faintly, in the widening orange of dawn, and the snowy mountains of Kamenoi came out in more and more distinct relief against the deepening flush of daybreak. A profound silence reigned around the lonely yourt in the woods which skirted the river, and but for the loaded sledges which stood among the trees, and the dogs, curled up like black balls on the snow, one would not have imagined that the huge snow-drift before him was a human habitation.

fort and architectural beauty indispensable in a house; and any thing which answered the prime requisite of shelter was accepted as a house, whatever might be its generic name, and how much so ever it might be lacking in other less important particulars. In fact, we availed ourselves of its shelter less with a view to comfort, than with the thought of lifting ourselves for the moment out of our daily barbarous life, and connecting by association with the great civilized world of which the house was a type.

As day slowly dawned, the howling of our wolfish dogs roused us from that deep sleep which only tired men know, and we groped our way out of the dark subterranean hut into the fresh crisp air of one of the most charming winter mornings which ever dawned on earth. The scene which met our eyes was distinctively Siberian in every particular: the wonderfully clear, transparent atmosphere, the dense gray mist hanging motionless over the open water of the Gulf, the vast snowy steppe stretching away from the fringe of timber to the white spectral mountains in the distance, and the dogs and sledges grouped carelessly here and there among the trees in the foreground, all composed a picture which has no counterpart outside of North-Eastern Asia. As a glit

The dilapidated and long-deserted yourt, covered by the drifting snows of a Siberian winter, was temporarily tenanted by one of the exploring parties of the Russo-American Telegraph Company, which was making its way across the vast steppes which border this part of the Okhotsk Sea, toward the Russian settlement of Ghijiga. The hut, long abandoned by its native builders and fallen to decay, was not particularly attractive as a residence; but three months of active open-air life had very materially modified the views of our party with regard to the degree of comEntered, in the year 1868, by C. T. PUTNAM & SON, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the U. S. for the Southern District of N. Y. VOL. II.-17

tering segment of the sun appeared between the distant cloud-like peaks of Kamenoi, the scene was one of enchanting beauty. The horizontal rays of light, colored by some subtle influence of atmosphere, seemed not merely to throw an external flush upon the objects which they touched, but to fairly transfuse and imbue them with a deep glow to their very centre, as if the rosy light were internal, and shone out through a translucent medium. The birches around the yourt, covered heavily with frost by the vapor from the open water of the Gulf, were lit up with a glory indescribable. Not only did every branch and delicate twig flash and sparkle like a string of jewels, but they seemed imbued by the red light of sunrise with color like rose-quartz. The birch which overhung the yourt was one intricate network of rosy lines, relieved by dazzling rainbow flashes of light as the gentle morning-air stirred the branches. It was the very apotheosis of a tree.

I thought of the Parsees and their fire-worshipping creed, and wondered no longer that they deified the luminary which produced such wondrous effects. As I stood in silent admiration by the door of the hut, a voice at my side exclaimed, "See the mirage!" and turning toward the western horizon, I beheld a tangible realization of the gorgeous dreams of the opium-eater. The wand of the Northern Enchanter had touched the far-away mountains, and out of a blue lake in the distance rose the walls and dome of" a city not builded with hands"—a vast Oriental city, whose uncertain outlines shimmered tremulously, as if seen through currents of heated air. Around the borders of the lake masses of dark foliage seemed to overhang the water and to be reflected from its depths, while the white walls above just caught the first flush of the rising sun. Never was the illusion of Summer in Wiuter, cf Life in Death, more palpable or more perfect. One almost instinctively glanced around to assure himself, by the sight of familiar objects, that it was not a dream; but as


his eye turned again to the westward across the dim blue lake, the vast outlines of the mirage still confronted him in their unearthly beauty, and. the "cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces" seemed by their mysterious solemnity to rebuke the doubt which would ascribe them to a dream. yet, what could it be called but an Oriental dream, tantalizing us with visions which could not be realized, and mocking us in the desolation of our Northern steppes with the unattainable glories of the tropics. The bright apparition faded-glowed, and faded again into indistinctness, and from its ruins rose two colossal pillars, sculptured from rose-quartz, which gradually and almost imperceptibly united their capitals and formed a Titanic arch like the grand portal of Heaven, through which one almost expected to see, passing and repassing, the bright inhabitants of another world. These in turn melted into an extensive fortress with massive bastions and buttresses, flanking towers and deep embrasures, and salient and reëntering angles, whose shadows and perspective were as natural as reality itself. Imagine this magnificent mirage suffused with a soft rosecolor by the rays of the rising sun, and the reader will be able perhaps to form a faint idea of one of the most beautiful of Northern phenomena. None of the many strange optical deceptions. dependent upon refraction, which are so prevalent in the far North, can compare with this in beauty and striking effect.

While yet lingering to catch the last glimpse of the fading mirage, my poetical reverie was abruptly terminated by the beating of a knife-handle on a messpan in the yourt, followed by a remark from Ford, to the effect that a man who had no music in his soul and was not moved by the concord of an extempore kettle-drum, wasn't fit to have any breakfast, and probably wouldn't have, -a delicate insinuation that breakfast was ready. It had the desired effect. The æsthetical gave way to the gastronomical, and I seated myself on a board, tin plate in hand, for breakfast.

Never before, I believe, had the black walls of that underground hut echoed to the sound of cheery American laughter and trans-oceanic jokes; but if smoke-dried logs have any appreciation of the humorous, they must have found it, as we did, decidedly more entertaining than the solemn bass-drum and wild native chant of former occupants.

To breakfast succeeded the prosaic every-day duty of harnessing dogs, packing sledges, and preparing, amid general confusion, for a start. The dogs jerked with impatient barks and whine at their restraining harness; cries and questions in Russian and English, and unintelligible but undoubted profanity in Korak, woke the echoes of the silent woods and startled the Siberian dryads from a century of lethargic sleep. The deep and sonorous Russian mingled strangely with the sibilant English and guttural Korak; and a listener might well imagine, as Ford remarked, that "Babel had broken loose." Our Irishman, Tom, laboring apparently under the mistaken impression that, in order to be understood by the natives, he had only to talk like an intoxicated Chinaman in California, shouted in stentorian tones, "Me say, John, you no sabe prenesee my bootee, eh?" To which the native replied with imperturbable gravity, but with doubtful relevancy, "How you do Goddam no sabe;" which formed the sum-total of his English acquisitions, but which unfortunately left the question of Tom's boots in a state of misty uncertainty. Nothing daunted, Tom hailed him again, varying his interrogatory this time with a little more Chinese and a little less English and Russian. The native was nonplussed, but like a skilful tactician he evaded the responsibility of the boots by taking refuge in his own language. Tom was evidently meditating the introduction into his next question of several forcible Chinese expletives, by way of quickening the native's perceptions, when Ford, who was listening with a smile of amusement, told him that the native didn't understand a word he said. "An' who wud a' thought," grumbled Tom, as he

set out with a discomfited air in quest of his own boots, "that the haythin' didn't parley - voo his own lingo!" Tom started with the supposition that all heathen spoke the same language, and as Koraks and Chinese were both heathen, the inference was obvious. His premises were faulty, but his logic was impregnable.

Gradually our energetic Cossacks brought order out of the prevailing confusion, and one by one the sledges departed, and the long line wound in a tortuous course across the steppe.

I had been studying attentively for several weeks the art or science, whichever it be, of dog-driving, with the laudable ambition of attaining future distinction among the natives, in the capacity of "kiour." I had found by some experience that these unlettered Koraks estimated a man not so much by what he knew that they did not, as by what he knew concerning matters with which they themselves were conversant; and I determined to demonstrate, even to their darkened understandings, that the knowledge of civilization was universal in its application, and that the white man, notwithstanding his disadvantage in color, could drive dogs better by intuition than they could by the aggregated wisdom of centuries; that in fact he could, if necessary, "evolve the principles of dogdriving out of the depths of his moral consciousness." I must confess, however, that I was not a thorough convert to my own ideas; and I therefore did not disdain to avail myself of the results of native experience as far as they coincided with my own convictions as to the nature of the True and Beautiful in dog-driving. I had watched every motion of my Korak driver, had learned theoretically the manner of thrusting the spiked stick between the uprights of the runners into the snow to act as a brake, had committed to memory and practised assiduously the guttural monosyllables which meant in dog-language "right" and "left," as well as many others which did not, but which I had heard addressed to dogs; and I" laid the


flattering unction to my soul" that I could drive as well as a Korak, if not better. To my inexperienced eye it was as easy as losing money in California mining-stocks. On this day, therefore, as the road was good and the weather propitious, I decided to put my ideas, original as well as acquired, to the test of practice. I accordingly motioned my Korak driver to take a back seat and deliver up to me the insignia of office. I observed in the expression of his lips, as he handed me the spiked stick, a sort of latent smile of ridicule, which indicated a very low estimate of my dog-driving abilities; but I treated it as Knowledge should always treat the sneers of Ignorance, with silent contempt; and seating myself firmly astride the sledge back of the arch, I shouted to the dogs, "Noo! Pashol!" My voice failed to produce the startling effect which I had anticipated. leader-a grim, bluff Nestor of a dogglanced carelessly over his shoulder, and very perceptibly slackened his pace. This sudden and marked disregard for my authority on the part of the dogs, did more than all the sneers of the Koraks to shake my confidence in my own skill. But my resources were not yet exhausted; and I hurled monosyllable, dissyllable, and polysyllable at their devoted heads-shouted "Ach! te shelma proclataya takaya! Smatree ya tibi dam!" but all in vain: the dogs were evidently insensible to rhetorical fireworks of this description, and manifested their indifference by a still slower gait. As I poured out upon them the last vial of my verbal wrath, Dodd, who understood the language which I was so recklessly using, drove slowly up, and remarked carelessly, "You swear pretty well for a beginner." Had the ground opened beneath me I should have been less astonished. "Swear! I swear! You don't mean to say that I've been swearing?" "Certainly you have, like a pirate." I dropped my spiked stick in dismay. Were these the principles of dog-driving which I had evolved out of the depths of my moral consciousness? They

seemed rather to have come from the depths of my immoral unconsciousness. "Why, you reckless reprobate," I exclaimed, impressively, "didn't you teach me those words yourself?" "Certainly I did," was the unabashed reply; "but you didn't ask me what they meant; you asked how to pronounce them correctly, and I told you. I didn't know but that you were making researches in comparative philology

trying to prove the unity of the human race by identity of oaths, or by a comparison of profanity to demonstrate that the Digger Indians were legitimately descended from the Chinese. You know that your head (which is a pretty good one in other respects) always was full of such nonsense." "Dodd," I observed, with a solemnity which I intended should awaken repentance in his hardened sensibilities, "I have been betrayed unwittingly into the commission of sin, and as a little more or less won't materially alter my guilt, I've as good a notion as ever I had to give you the benefit of some of your profane instruction." D. laughed derisively, and drove on. This little circumstance considerably dampened my enthusiasm, and made me very cautious in my use of foreign language. I feared the existence of terrific imprecations in the most common dog-phrases, and suspected lurking profanity even in the monosyllabic Khta and Hoogh, which I had been taught to believe meant "right" and "left." The dogs, quick to observe any lack of attention on the part of their driver, now took encouragement from my silence, and exhibited a doggish propensity to stop and rest, which was in direct contravention of all discipline, and which they would not have dared to do with an experienced driver. Determined to vindicate my authority by more forcible measures, I launched my spiked stick like a harpoon at the leader, intending to have it fall so that I could pick it up as the sledge passed. The dog, however, dodged it cleverly, and it rolled away ten feet from the road. Just at that moment three or four wild reindeer

« IndietroContinua »