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residence, probably, of some family connection or gossiping friend, about whose safety they were solicitous, or with whom they wished to compare notes about the late occurrences. Others, still more bold, assembled in little knots in the streets and public places, as if to discuss the recent outrages offered to the commonwealth, and the atrocious murders of their fellowcitizens.
We rose from the ground, and moved forward to take a nearer view of these public proceedings, when, yelp! yelp! yelp!-there was a shrill alarm passed from mouth to mouth; the meeting suddenly dispersed; feet twinkled in the air in every direction, and, in an instant, all had vanished into the earth.
The dusk of the evening put an end to our observations, but the train of whimsical comparisons produced in my brain, by the moral attributes which I had heard given to these little, social animals, still continued after my return to camp; and, late in the night, as I lay awake, after all the camp was asleep, and heard, in the stillness of the hour, a faint clamor of shrill voices from the distant village, I could not help picturing to myself the inhabitants gathered together in noisy assembly and windy debate, to devise plans for the public safety, and to vindicate the invaded rights and insulted dignity of the republic.
MIGRATION OF A KIRGHIS TRIBE (SIBERIA). WHEN the first pale, yellowish streaks were seen breaking over the steppe, and extending in narrow lines along the horizon, each few minutes added light and depth to their color, till they changed through all the shades of orange to a deep criinson, far more brilliant than ruby. Still the plain was a dark purple grey, and all objects upon it were indistinct, and almost lost in gloom. As one group of cattle after another rose out of the dusky vapor that shrouded the earth, they appeared magnified, which caused the neck and head of the camels to assume the proportions of some mighty antediluvian monster stalking over the plain; while the huge forms of the other creatures aided in the illusion.
Gradually the whole scene changed, and the commotion in the
aoul began; the bulls were up and bellowing, as if calling and marshalling their herds together for the march. Turning in another direction, the horses were seen with their heads thrown aloft and snorting; others were plunging and kicking furiously; while the sheep and goats, with their kids and lambs, seemed just rising into existence. A little later, as the sun rose, the plain was seen covered far and wide with myriads of living animals.
Soon after daylight, long lines of camels and horses were seen wending their way in a south-westerly direction, followed by herds of cattle. The sheep and goats were innumerable; they stretched over miles of country, and were following slowly in the
With each herd and flock there were a number of Kirghis, mounted on good horses ; these galloping to and fro added greatly to the general effect.
At the aoul, women in their best attire were taking down the yourts, and securing them on camels. Their household goods were being packed up by boys and girls, after which they were loaded on camels, bulls, and cows. These children of the steppe are not long in making their preparations to depart in search of new homes. In less than three hours all were ready, when we sprang into our saddles and rode away.
The camels formed a most curious portion of the spectacle, with the willow frame-work of the yourts hanging from their saddles, giving them the appearance of huge animals with wings just expanding for a flight. Others were loaded with the voilock coverings, placed across their packs, piled up high, and crowned with the circular top of the yourt. The poor creatures had burthens far larger than themselves, under which they evidently walked with difficulty. Then followed a string of bulls with bales of Boharian carpets slung over their saddles, and boxes and other household utensils placed above. Then a refractory bull was seen similarly loaded, with the large iron cauldron on the top. The furious beast went rushing on; presently the straps gave way, and the cauldron went rolling down the declivity. Seeing this he became frantic, leaping and plunging, and at each bound a part of his load was left behind. As the bales rolled over, he charged at them vigorously, and soon got rid of all his encumbrances. He now rushed at every horseman who happened o be in his course, and several had narrow escapes ; at last he took refuge among the herd. The Koumis bag, with its contents, so precious to Kirghis, was secured on a grave and careful bull, who moved along with stately dignity.
After these a number of cows joined in the procession, having two leathern bags secured on their backs with a young child sitting in each, watching the crowd of animals as they bounded past. Mingled with this throng were women dressed in their rich Chinese silk costumes, some crimson, others yellow, red, and green, and the elder females in black velvet kalats. A few of the young girls had foxskin caps, and others silk caps, richly embroidered in various colors. The matrons wore white calico headgear, embroidered with red, hanging down over their shoulders like hoods. Many were mounted on wild steeds, which they sat and managed with extraordinary ease and skill. Girls and boys were riding various animals, according to their ages; some of the elder ones horses, others young bulls, and some were even mounted on calves, having voilock boots secured to the saddles, into which the young urchins inserted their legs, guiding the beast by a thong secured to his nose. This was a cavalcade to be seen only in these regions.
A ride over the plain of somewhat more than two hours brought us to the foot of the mountains. We crossed a low hill, and beheld the entrance to the pass, which appeared filled with a mass of animals moving slowly onward. Turning towards the north, vast herds of cattle were seen, extending as far as my vision could reach, marching from various points in the steppe towards their pastures in the mountains ; and through this pass the enormous multitude must ascend.
Having stood a short time watching the living tide roll on, I rode into the valley and joined the moving mass.
The mouth of the pass was about 300 yards wide, between grassy slopes, up which it was impossible for either man or animal to climb. The whole width, and as far as I could see, was filled with camels, horses, and oxen. Kirghis were riding among them, shouting and using their whips on any refractory brute that came within their reach. At length we plunged into a herd of horses, with camels in the front, and bulls and oxen in our
We presently passed the grassy slopes to where the gorge narrowed to about 100 yards in width, with precipices rising up on each side to the height of 600 to 700 feet. From this mob of quadrupeds there was no escape on either side, and to turn back was utterly impossible, as we were now wedged in among wild horses. These brutes showed every disposition to kick, but, fortunately for us, without the power, the space for each animal being too limited. This did not, however, prevent them from using their teeth, and it required great vigilance and constant use of the whip to pass unscathed.
As we rode on, the scene became fearfully grand: the precipices increased in height at every hundred yards we advanced. In one place there were overhanging crags 900 feet above us, split and rent into fragments, ready apparently to topple over at the slightest impulse, while higher in the pass the scenery became more savage. Then we had the shouting of the men, the cry of the camels, the shrieks and snorting of the horses when bitten by their neighbors, with the bellowing of the bulls and oxen in our rear-a wonderfully savage chorus, heightened by the echoes resounding from crag to crag, accompanied by a constant drone, in the distant bleating of an immense multitude of sheep.
The bottom of the gorge ascended rapidly, which enabled me to look back, when I saw, about fifty paces in our rear, a phalanx of bulls, which no man would dare to face-even the Kirghis kept clear of these. They came steadily on, but the horses near them plunged and reared when the sharp horns gored their haunches. Another danger presently beset us.
The Kirghis said, a little further on the gorge was strewn with fallen rocks and small stones, and that riding over these would require great care, for if one of our steeds fell, it would be fatal to both horse and rider. Shortly we came to a recess in the precipice, and here two children, mounted on young bulls, had taken refuge. Having escaped from the crowd of animals, they had clambered up among the rocks, and the four were looking down at the passing mass in perfect calm. Poor creatures ! it was impossible to reach them, or afford them the least aid. The only thing that could be done was to urge them to remain still where they were.
The rough ground that had been inentioned by the Kirghis was now distinctly seen by the motion of the animals before us. Hitherto the stream of heads and backs had ran smoothly on; now, however, it became a rapid, where heads and tails were
tossed aloft in quick succession. We were approaching some jutting masses that formed a bend in the gorge. On reaching these, a terrific scene burst upon us. The pass was narrowed by huge blocks fallen from above, one of which was thirty-five to forty feet high, and somewhat more in width, standing about twenty paces from the foot of the rocks, and about 200 yards from us. The prospect was fearful, for as we rode on, the horses were being wedged more closely together between the frowning cliffs. All looked with anxiety at the pent-up tide of animals struggling onward, till they burst over the rocky barrier.
Each few minutes brought us nearer the danger. Not a word was spoken, but every eye was fixed on the horses bounding over the rocks. Several fell, uttering a shriek, and were seen no
Instinct seemed to warn the animals of their impending danger : they were, however, forced along by those behind; nor was it possible for us to see the ground over which we were riding. At length we came among the crowd of leaping horses; our own made three or four bounds, and the dreaded spot was passed. The gorge opened out wider: still it was filled with camels and horses moving slowly onward. To stop and look back was impossible, as the living stream came rushing on. Although accidents are often fatal to the people on this spot, and many animals belonging to each tribe are killed on the journey to and from the mountains, such is the apathy of these Asiatics, that they never think of removing a single stone. After the herds are passed, whatever remains of camel, horse, or any other animals, is gathered up, and feasted upon by the people.
COSSACK’S SENSE OF HONOR. THE Cossacks and Kalmucks display a finer sense of honor in their hunting than many highly civilised Europeans. Two Cossacks were out hunting the maral for two objects-food and antlers. They had followed the
up into the Alalan, and had been successful; sleeping at night near their spoil. The next morning they started again in pursuit, when, after some hours, they found a magnificent animal, whose horns were worth 120 roubles (£17), a prize well worth securing. They hunted