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Beasts, Men and Gods by Ferdinand Ossendowski

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by Ferdinand Ossendowski


When one of the leading publicists in America, Dr. Albert Shaw of
the Review of Reviews, after reading the manuscript of Part I of
this volume, characterized the author as "The Robinson Crusoe of
the Twentieth Century," he touched the feature of the narrative
which is at once most attractive and most dangerous; for the
succession of trying and thrilling experiences recorded seems in
places too highly colored to be real or, sometimes, even possible
in this day and generation. I desire, therefore, to assure the
reader at the outset that Dr. Ossendowski is a man of long and
diverse experience as a scientist and writer with a training for
careful observation which should put the stamp of accuracy and
reliability on his chronicle. Only the extraordinary events of
these extraordinary times could have thrown one with so many
talents back into the surroundings of the "Cave Man" and thus given
to us this unusual account of personal adventure, of great human
mysteries and of the political and religious motives which are
energizing the "Heart of Asia."

My share in the work has been to induce Dr. Ossendowski to write
his story at this time and to assist him in rendering his
experiences into English.


























































There are times, men and events about which History alone can
record the final judgments; contemporaries and individual observers
must only write what they have seen and heard. The very truth
demands it.



Part I




In the beginning of the year 1920 I happened to be living in the
Siberian town of Krasnoyarsk, situated on the shores of the River
Yenisei, that noble stream which is cradled in the sun-bathed
mountains of Mongolia to pour its warming life into the Arctic
Ocean and to whose mouth Nansen has twice come to open the shortest
road for commerce from Europe to the heart of Asia. There in the
depths of the still Siberian winter I was suddenly caught up in the
whirling storm of mad revolution raging all over Russia, sowing in
this peaceful and rich land vengeance, hate, bloodshed and crimes
that go unpunished by the law. No one could tell the hour of his
fate. The people lived from day to day and left their homes not
knowing whether they should return to them or whether they should
be dragged from the streets and thrown into the dungeons of that
travesty of courts, the Revolutionary Committee, more terrible and
more bloody than those of the Mediaeval Inquisition. We who were
strangers in this distraught land were not saved from its
persecutions and I personally lived through them.

One morning, when I had gone out to see a friend, I suddenly
received the news that twenty Red soldiers had surrounded my house
to arrest me and that I must escape. I quickly put on one of my
friend's old hunting suits, took some money and hurried away on
foot along the back ways of the town till I struck the open road,
where I engaged a peasant, who in four hours had driven me twenty
miles from the town and set me down in the midst of a deeply
forested region. On the way I bought a rifle, three hundred
cartridges, an ax, a knife, a sheepskin overcoat, tea, salt, dry
bread and a kettle. I penetrated into the heart of the wood to an
abandoned half-burned hut. From this day I became a genuine
trapper but I never dreamed that I should follow this role as long
as I did. The next morning I went hunting and had the good fortune
to kill two heathcock. I found deer tracks in plenty and felt sure
that I should not want for food. However, my sojourn in this place
was not for long. Five days later when I returned from hunting I
noticed smoke curling up out of the chimney of my hut. I
stealthily crept along closer to the cabin and discovered two
saddled horses with soldiers' rifles slung to the saddles. Two
disarmed men were not dangerous for me with a weapon, so I quickly
rushed across the open and entered the hut. From the bench two
soldiers started up in fright. They were Bolsheviki. On their big
Astrakhan caps I made out the red stars of Bolshevism and on their
blouses the dirty red bands. We greeted each other and sat down.
The soldiers had already prepared tea and so we drank this ever
welcome hot beverage and chatted, suspiciously eyeing one another
the while. To disarm this suspicion on their part, I told them
that I was a hunter from a distant place and was living there
because I found it good country for sables. They announced to me
that they were soldiers of a detachment sent from a town into the
woods to pursue all suspicious people.

"Do you understand, 'Comrade,'" said one of them to me, "we are
looking for counter-revolutionists to shoot them?"

I knew it without his explanations. All my forces were directed to
assuring them by my conduct that I was a simple peasant hunter and
that I had nothing in common with the counter-revolutionists. I
was thinking also all the time of where I should go after the
departure of my unwelcome guests. It grew dark. In the darkness
their faces were even less attractive. They took out bottles of
vodka and drank and the alcohol began to act very noticeably. They
talked loudly and constantly interrupted each other, boasting how
many bourgeoisie they had killed in Krasnoyarsk and how many
Cossacks they had slid under the ice in the river. Afterwards they
began to quarrel but soon they were tired and prepared to sleep.
All of a sudden and without any warning the door of the hut swung
wide open and the steam of the heated room rolled out in a great
cloud, out of which seemed to rise like a genie, as the steam
settled, the figure of a tall, gaunt peasant impressively crowned
with the high Astrakhan cap and wrapped in the great sheepskin
overcoat that added to the massiveness of his figure. He stood
with his rifle ready to fire. Under his girdle lay the sharp ax
without which the Siberian peasant cannot exist. Eyes, quick and
glimmering like those of a wild beast, fixed themselves alternately
on each of us. In a moment he took off his cap, made the sign of
the cross on his breast and asked of us: "Who is the master here?"

I answered him.

"May I stop the night?"

"Yes," I replied, "places enough for all. Take a cup of tea. It
is still hot."

The stranger, running his eyes constantly over all of us and over
everything about the room, began to take off his skin coat after
putting his rifle in the corner. He was dressed in an old leather
blouse with trousers of the same material tucked in high felt
boots. His face was quite young, fine and tinged with something
akin to mockery. His white, sharp teeth glimmered as his eyes
penetrated everything they rested upon. I noticed the locks of
grey in his shaggy head. Lines of bitterness circled his mouth.
They showed his life had been very stormy and full of danger. He
took a seat beside his rifle and laid his ax on the floor below.

"What? Is it your wife?" asked one of the drunken soldiers,
pointing to the ax.

The tall peasant looked calmly at him from the quiet eyes under
their heavy brows and as calmly answered:

"One meets a different folk these days and with an ax it is much

He began to drink tea very greedily, while his eyes looked at me
many times with sharp inquiry in them and ran often round the whole
cabin in search of the answer to his doubts. Very slowly and with
a guarded drawl he answered all the questions of the soldiers
between gulps of the hot tea, then he turned his glass upside down
as evidence of having finished, placed on the top of it the small
lump of sugar left and remarked to the soldiers:

"I am going out to look after my horse and will unsaddle your
horses for you also."

"All right," exclaimed the half-sleeping young soldier, "bring in
our rifles as well."

The soldiers were lying on the benches and thus left for us only
the floor. The stranger soon came back, brought the rifles and set
them in the dark corner. He dropped the saddle pads on the floor,
sat down on them and began to take off his boots. The soldiers and
my guest soon were snoring but I did not sleep for thinking of what
next to do. Finally as dawn was breaking, I dozed off only to
awake in the broad daylight and find my stranger gone. I went
outside the hut and discovered him saddling a fine bay stallion.

"Are you going away?" I asked.

"Yes, but I want to go together with these ---- comrades,'" he
whispered, "and afterwards I shall come back."

I did not ask him anything further and told him only that I would
wait for him. He took off the bags that had been hanging on his
saddle, put them away out of sight in the burned corner of the
cabin, looked over the stirrups and bridle and, as he finished
saddling, smiled and said:

"I am ready. I'm going to awake my 'comrades.'" Half an hour
after the morning drink of tea, my three guests took their leave.
I remained out of doors and was engaged in splitting wood for my
stove. Suddenly, from a distance, rifle shots rang through the
woods, first one, then a second. Afterwards all was still. From
the place near the shots a frightened covey of blackcock broke and
came over me. At the top of a high pine a jay cried out. I
listened for a long time to see if anyone was approaching my hut
but everything was still.

On the lower Yenisei it grows dark very early. I built a fire in
my stove and began to cook my soup, constantly listening for every
noise that came from beyond the cabin walls. Certainly I
understood at all times very clearly that death was ever beside me
and might claim me by means of either man, beast, cold, accident or
disease. I knew that nobody was near me to assist and that all my
help was in the hands of God, in the power of my hands and feet, in
the accuracy of my aim and in my presence of mind. However, I
listened in vain. I did not notice the return of my stranger.
Like yesterday he appeared all at once on the threshold. Through
the steam I made out his laughing eyes and his fine face. He
stepped into the hut and dropped with a good deal of noise three
rifles into the corner.

"Two horses, two rifles, two saddles, two boxes of dry bread, half
a brick of tea, a small bag of salt, fifty cartridges, two
overcoats, two pairs of boots," laughingly he counted out. "In
truth today I had a very successful hunt."

In astonishment I looked at him.

"What are you surprised at?" he laughed. "Komu nujny eti
tovarischi? Who's got any use for these fellows? Let us have tea
and go to sleep. Tomorrow I will guide you to another safer place
and then go on."



At the dawn of day we started forth, leaving my first place of
refuge. Into the bags we packed our personal estate and fastened
them on one of the saddles.

"We must go four or five hundred versts," very calmly announced my
fellow traveler, who called himself "Ivan," a name that meant
nothing to my mind or heart in this land where every second man
bore the same.

"We shall travel then for a very long time," I remarked

"Not more than one week, perhaps even less," he answered.

That night we spent in the woods under the wide spreading branches
of the fir trees. It was my first night in the forest under the
open sky. How many like this I was destined to spend in the year
and a half of my wanderings! During the day there was very sharp
cold. Under the hoofs of the horses the frozen snow crunched and
the balls that formed and broke from their hoofs rolled away over
the crust with a sound like crackling glass. The heathcock flew
from the trees very idly, hares loped slowly down the beds of
summer streams. At night the wind began to sigh and whistle as it
bent the tops of the trees over our heads; while below it was still
and calm. We stopped in a deep ravine bordered by heavy trees,
where we found fallen firs, cut them into logs for the fire and,
after having boiled our tea, dined.

Ivan dragged in two tree trunks, squared them on one side with his
ax, laid one on the other with the squared faces together and then
drove in a big wedge at the butt ends which separated them three or
four inches. Then we placed live coals in this opening and watched
the fire run rapidly the whole length of the squared faces vis-a-

"Now there will be a fire in the morning," he announced. "This is
the 'naida' of the gold prospectors. We prospectors wandering in
the woods summer and winter always sleep beside this 'naida.'
Fine! You shall see for yourself," he continued.

He cut fir branches and made a sloping roof out of them, resting it
on two uprights toward the naida. Above our roof of boughs and our
naida spread the branches of protecting fir. More branches were
brought and spread on the snow under the roof, on these were placed
the saddle cloths and together they made a seat for Ivan to rest on
and to take off his outer garments down to his blouse. Soon I
noticed his forehead was wet with perspiration and that he was
wiping it and his neck on his sleeves.

"Now it is good and warm!" he exclaimed.

In a short time I was also forced to take off my overcoat and soon
lay down to sleep without any covering at all, while through the
branches of the fir trees and our roof glimmered the cold bright
stars and just beyond the naida raged a stinging cold, from which
we were cosily defended. After this night I was no longer
frightened by the cold. Frozen during the days on horseback, I was
thoroughly warmed through by the genial naida at night and rested
from my heavy overcoat, sitting only in my blouse under the roofs
of pine and fir and sipping the ever welcome tea.

During our daily treks Ivan related to me the stories of his
wanderings through the mountains and woods of Transbaikalia in the
search for gold. These stories were very lively, full of
attractive adventure, danger and struggle. Ivan was a type of
these prospectors who have discovered in Russia, and perhaps in
other countries, the richest gold mines, while they themselves
remain beggars. He evaded telling me why he left Transbaikalia to
come to the Yenisei. I understood from his manner that he wished
to keep his own counsel and so did not press him. However, the
blanket of secrecy covering this part of his mysterious life was
one day quite fortuitously lifted a bit. We were already at the
objective point of our trip. The whole day we had traveled with
difficulty through a thick growth of willow, approaching the shore
of the big right branch of the Yenisei, the Mana. Everywhere we
saw runways packed hard by the feet of the hares living in this
bush. These small white denizens of the wood ran to and fro in
front of us. Another time we saw the red tail of a fox hiding
behind a rock, watching us and the unsuspecting hares at the same

Ivan had been silent for a long while. Then he spoke up and told
me that not far from there was a small branch of the Mana, at the
mouth of which was a hut.

"What do you say? Shall we push on there or spend the night by the

I suggested going to the hut, because I wanted to wash and because
it would be agreeable to spend the night under a genuine roof
again. Ivan knitted his brows but acceded.

It was growing dark when we approached a hut surrounded by the
dense wood and wild raspberry bushes. It contained one small room
with two microscopic windows and a gigantic Russian stove. Against
the building were the remains of a shed and a cellar. We fired the
stove and prepared our modest dinner. Ivan drank from the bottle
inherited from the soldiers and in a short time was very eloquent,
with brilliant eyes and with hands that coursed frequently and
rapidly through his long locks. He began relating to me the story
of one of his adventures, but suddenly stopped and, with fear in
his eyes, squinted into a dark corner.

"Is it a rat?" he asked.

"I did not see anything," I replied.

He again became silent and reflected with knitted brow. Often we
were silent through long hours and consequently I was not
astonished. Ivan leaned over near to me and began to whisper.

"I want to tell you an old story. I had a friend in Transbaikalia.
He was a banished convict. His name was Gavronsky. Through many
woods and over many mountains we traveled in search of gold and we
had an agreement to divide all we got into even shares. But
Gavronsky suddenly went out to the 'Taiga' on the Yenisei and
disappeared. After five years we heard that he had found a very
rich gold mine and had become a rich man; then later that he and
his wife with him had been murdered. . . ." Ivan was still for a
moment and then continued:

"This is their old hut. Here he lived with his wife and somewhere
on this river he took out his gold. But he told nobody where. All
the peasants around here know that he had a lot of money in the
bank and that he had been selling gold to the Government. Here
they were murdered."

Ivan stepped to the stove, took out a flaming stick and, bending
over, lighted a spot on the floor.

"Do you see these spots on the floor and on the wall? It is their
blood, the blood of Gavronsky. They died but they did not disclose
the whereabouts of the gold. It was taken out of a deep hole which
they had drifted into the bank of the river and was hidden in the
cellar under the shed. But Gavronsky gave nothing away. . . . AND
LORD HOW I TORTURED THEM! I burned them with fire; I bent back
their fingers; I gouged out their eyes; but Gavronsky died in

He thought for a moment, then quickly said to me:

"I have heard all this from the peasants." He threw the log into
the stove and flopped down on the bench. "It's time to sleep," he
snapped out, and was still.

I listened for a long time to his breathing and his whispering to
himself, as he turned from one side to the other and smoked his

In the morning we left this scene of so much suffering and crime
and on the seventh day of our journey we came to the dense cedar
wood growing on the foothills of a long chain of mountains.

"From here," Ivan explained to me, "it is eighty versts to the next
peasant settlement. The people come to these woods to gather cedar
nuts but only in the autumn. Before then you will not meet anyone.
Also you will find many birds and beasts and a plentiful supply of
nuts, so that it will be possible for you to live here. Do you see
this river? When you want to find the peasants, follow along this
stream and it will guide you to them."

Ivan helped me build my mud hut. But it was not the genuine mud
hut. It was one formed by the tearing out of the roots of a great
cedar, that had probably fallen in some wild storm, which made for
me the deep hole as the room for my house and flanked this on one
side with a wall of mud held fast among the upturned roots.
Overhanging ones formed also the framework into which we interlaced
the poles and branches to make a roof, finished off with stones for
stability and snow for warmth. The front of the hut was ever open
but was constantly protected by the guardian naida. In that snow-
covered den I spent two months like summer without seeing any other
human being and without touch with the outer world where such
important events were transpiring. In that grave under the roots
of the fallen tree I lived before the face of nature with my trials
and my anxiety about my family as my constant companions, and in
the hard struggle for my life. Ivan went off the second day,
leaving for me a bag of dry bread and a little sugar. I never saw
him again.



Then I was alone. Around me only the wood of eternally green
cedars covered with snow, the bare bushes, the frozen river and, as
far as I could see out through the branches and the trunks of the
trees, only the great ocean of cedars and snow. Siberian taiga!
How long shall I be forced to live here? Will the Bolsheviki find
me here or not? Will my friends know where I am? What is
happening to my family? These questions were constantly as burning
fires in my brain. Soon I understood why Ivan guided me so long.
We passed many secluded places on the journey, far away from all
people, where Ivan could have safely left me but he always said
that he would take me to a place where it would be easier to live.
And it was so. The charm of my lone refuge was in the cedar wood
and in the mountains covered with these forests which stretched to
every horizon. The cedar is a splendid, powerful tree with wide-
spreading branches, an eternally green tent, attracting to its
shelter every living being. Among the cedars was always
effervescent life. There the squirrels were continually kicking up
a row, jumping from tree to tree; the nut-jobbers cried shrilly; a
flock of bullfinches with carmine breasts swept through the trees
like a flame; or a small army of goldfinches broke in and filled
the amphitheatre of trees with their whistling; a hare scooted from
one tree trunk to another and behind him stole up the hardly
visible shadow of a white ermine, crawling on the snow, and I
watched for a long time the black spot which I knew to be the tip
of his tail; carefully treading the hard crusted snow approached a
noble deer; at last there visited me from the top of the mountain
the king of the Siberian forest, the brown bear. All this
distracted me and carried away the black thoughts from my brain,
encouraging me to persevere. It was good for me also, though
difficult, to climb to the top of my mountain, which reached up out
of the forest and from which I could look away to the range of red
on the horizon. It was the red cliff on the farther bank of the
Yenisei. There lay the country, the towns, the enemies and the
friends; and there was even the point which I located as the place
of my family. It was the reason why Ivan had guided me here. And
as the days in this solitude slipped by I began to miss sorely this
companion who, though the murderer of Gavronsky, had taken care of
me like a father, always saddling my horse for me, cutting the wood
and doing everything to make me comfortable. He had spent many
winters alone with nothing except his thoughts, face to face with
nature--I should say, before the face of God. He had tried the
horrors of solitude and had acquired facility in bearing them. I
thought sometimes, if I had to meet my end in this place, that I
would spend my last strength to drag myself to the top of the
mountain to die there, looking away over the infinite sea of
mountains and forest toward the point where my loved ones were.

However, the same life gave me much matter for reflection and yet
more occupation for the physical side. It was a continuous
struggle for existence, hard and severe. The hardest work was the
preparation of the big logs for the naida. The fallen trunks of
the trees were covered with snow and frozen to the ground. I was
forced to dig them out and afterwards, with the help of a long
stick as a lever, to move them from their place. For facilitating
this work I chose the mountain for my supplies, where, although
difficult to climb, it was easy to roll the logs down. Soon I made
a splendid discovery. I found near my den a great quantity of
larch, this beautiful yet sad forest giant, fallen during a big
storm. The trunks were covered with snow but remained attached to
their stumps, where they had broken off. When I cut into these
stumps with the ax, the head buried itself and could with
difficulty be drawn and, investigating the reason, I found them
filled with pitch. Chips of this wood needed only a spark to set
them aflame and ever afterward I always had a stock of them to
light up quickly for warming my hands on returning from the hunt or
for boiling my tea.

The greater part of my days was occupied with the hunt. I came to
understand that I must distribute my work over every day, for it
distracted me from my sad and depressing thoughts. Generally,
after my morning tea, I went into the forest to seek heathcock or
blackcock. After killing one or two I began to prepare my dinner,
which never had an extensive menu. It was constantly game soup
with a handful of dried bread and afterwards endless cups of tea,
this essential beverage of the woods. Once, during my search for
birds, I heard a rustle in the dense shrubs and, carefully peering
about, I discovered the points of a deer's horns. I crawled along
toward the spot but the watchful animal heard my approach. With a
great noise he rushed from the bush and I saw him very clearly,
after he had run about three hundred steps, stop on the slope of
the mountain. It was a splendid animal with dark grey coat, with
almost a black spine and as large as a small cow. I laid my rifle
across a branch and fired. The animal made a great leap, ran
several steps and fell. With all my strength I ran to him but he
got up again and half jumped, half dragged himself up the mountain.
The second shot stopped him. I had won a warm carpet for my den
and a large stock of meat. The horns I fastened up among the
branches of my wall, where they made a fine hat rack.

I cannot forget one very interesting but wild picture, which was
staged for me several kilometres from my den. There was a small
swamp covered with grass and cranberries scattered through it,
where the blackcock and sand partridges usually came to feed on the
berries. I approached noiselessly behind the bushes and saw a
whole flock of blackcock scratching in the snow and picking out the
berries. While I was surveying this scene, suddenly one of the
blackcock jumped up and the rest of the frightened flock
immediately flew away. To my astonishment the first bird began
going straight up in a spiral flight and afterwards dropped
directly down dead. When I approached there sprang from the body
of the slain cock a rapacious ermine that hid under the trunk of a
fallen tree. The bird's neck was badly torn. I then understood
that the ermine had charged the cock, fastened itself on his neck
and had been carried by the bird into the air, as he sucked the
blood from its throat, and had been the cause of the heavy fall
back to the earth. Thanks to his aeronautic ability I saved one

So I lived fighting for the morrow and more and more poisoned by
hard and bitter thoughts. The days and weeks passed and soon I
felt the breath of warmer winds. On the open places the snow began
to thaw. In spots the little rivulets of water appeared. Another
day I saw a fly or a spider awakened after the hard winter. The
spring was coming. I realized that in spring it was impossible to
go out from the forest. Every river overflowed its banks; the
swamps became impassable; all the runways of the animals turned
into beds for streams of running water. I understood that until
summer I was condemned to a continuation of my solitude. Spring
very quickly came into her rights and soon my mountain was free
from snow and was covered only with stones, the trunks of birch and
aspen trees and the high cones of ant hills; the river in places
broke its covering of ice and was coursing full with foam and



One day during the hunt, I approached the bank of the river and
noticed many very large fish with red backs, as though filled with
blood. They were swimming on the surface enjoying the rays of the
sun. When the river was entirely free from ice, these fish
appeared in enormous quantities. Soon I realized that they were
working up-stream for the spawning season in the smaller rivers. I
thought to use a plundering method of catching, forbidden by the
law of all countries; but all the lawyers and legislators should be
lenient to one who lives in a den under the roots of a fallen tree
and dares to break their rational laws.

Gathering many thin birch and aspen trees I built in the bed of the
stream a weir which the fish could not pass and soon I found them
trying to jump over it. Near the bank I left a hole in my barrier
about eighteen inches below the surface and fastened on the up-
stream side a high basket plaited from soft willow twigs, into
which the fish came as they passed the hole. Then I stood cruelly
by and hit them on the head with a strong stick. All my catch were
over thirty pounds, some more than eighty. This variety of fish is
called the taimen, is of the trout family and is the best in the

After two weeks the fish had passed and my basket gave me no more
treasure, so I began anew the hunt.



The hunt became more and more profitable and enjoyable, as spring
animated everything. In the morning at the break of day the forest
was full of voices, strange and undiscernible to the inhabitant of
the town. There the heathcock clucked and sang his song of love,
as he sat on the top branches of the cedar and admired the grey hen
scratching in the fallen leaves below. It was very easy to
approach this full-feathered Caruso and with a shot to bring him
down from his more poetic to his more utilitarian duties. His
going out was an euthanasia, for he was in love and heard nothing.
Out in the clearing the blackcocks with their wide-spread spotted
tails were fighting, while the hens strutting near, craning and
chattering, probably some gossip about their fighting swains,
watched and were delighted with them. From the distance flowed in
a stern and deep roar, yet full of tenderness and love, the mating
call of the deer; while from the crags above came down the short
and broken voice of the mountain buck. Among the bushes frolicked
the hares and often near them a red fox lay flattened to the ground
watching his chance. I never heard any wolves and they are usually
not found in the Siberian regions covered with mountains and

But there was another beast, who was my neighbor, and one of us had to go
away. One day, coming back from the hunt with a big heathcock, I
suddenly noticed among the trees a black, moving mass. I stopped
and, looking very attentively, saw a bear, digging away at an ant-
hill. Smelling me, he snorted violently, and very quickly shuffled
away, astonishing me with the speed of his clumsy gait. The
following morning, while still lying under my overcoat, I was
attracted by a noise behind my den. I peered out very carefully
and discovered the bear. He stood on his hind legs and was noisily
sniffing, investigating the question as to what living creature had
adopted the custom of the bears of housing during the winter under
the trunks of fallen trees. I shouted and struck my kettle with
the ax. My early visitor made off with all his energy; but his
visit did not please me. It was very early in the spring that this
occurred and the bear should not yet have left his hibernating
place. He was the so-called "ant-eater," an abnormal type of bear
lacking in all the etiquette of the first families of the bear

I knew that the "ant-eaters" were very irritable and audacious and
quickly I prepared myself for both the defence and the charge. My
preparations were short. I rubbed off the ends of five of my
cartridges, thus making dum-dums out of them, a sufficiently
intelligible argument for so unwelcome a guest. Putting on my coat
I went to the place where I had first met the bear and where there
were many ant-hills. I made a detour of the whole mountain, looked
in all the ravines but nowhere found my caller. Disappointed and
tired, I was approaching my shelter quite off my guard when I
suddenly discovered the king of the forest himself just coming out
of my lowly dwelling and sniffing all around the entrance to it. I
shot. The bullet pierced his side. He roared with pain and anger
and stood up on his hind legs. As the second bullet broke one of
these, he squatted down but immediately, dragging the leg and
endeavoring to stand upright, moved to attack me. Only the third
bullet in his breast stopped him. He weighed about two hundred to
two hundred fifty pounds, as near as I could guess, and was very
tasty. He appeared at his best in cutlets but only a little less
wonderful in the Hamburg steaks which I rolled and roasted on hot
stones, watching them swell out into great balls that were as light
as the finest souffle omelettes we used to have at the "Medved" in
Petrograd. On this welcome addition to my larder I lived from then
until the ground dried out and the stream ran down enough so that I
could travel down along the river to the country whither Ivan had
directed me.

Ever traveling with the greatest precautions I made the journey
down along the river on foot, carrying from my winter quarters all
my household furniture and goods, wrapped up in the deerskin bag
which I formed by tying the legs together in an awkward knot; and
thus laden fording the small streams and wading through the swamps
that lay across my path. After fifty odd miles of this I came to
the country called Sifkova, where I found the cabin of a peasant
named Tropoff, located closest to the forest that came to be my
natural environment. With him I lived for a time.

* * * * *

Now in these unimaginable surroundings of safety and peace, summing
up the total of my experience in the Siberian taiga, I make the
following deductions. In every healthy spiritual individual of our
times, occasions of necessity resurrect the traits of primitive
man, hunter and warrior, and help him in the struggle with nature.
It is the prerogative of the man with the trained mind and spirit
over the untrained, who does not possess sufficient science and
will power to carry him through. But the price that the cultured
man must pay is that for him there exists nothing more awful than
absolute solitude and the knowledge of complete isolation from
human society and the life of moral and aesthetic culture. One
step, one moment of weakness and dark madness will seize a man and
carry him to inevitable destruction. I spent awful days of
struggle with the cold and hunger but I passed more terrible days
in the struggle of the will to kill weakening destructive thoughts.
The memories of these days freeze my heart and mind and even now,
as I revive them so clearly by writing of my experiences, they
throw me back into a state of fear and apprehension. Moreover, I
am compelled to observe that the people in highly civilized states
give too little regard to the training that is useful to man in
primitive conditions, in conditions incident to the struggle
against nature for existence. It is the single normal way to
develop a new generation of strong, healthy, iron men, with at the
same time sensitive souls.

Nature destroys the weak but helps the strong, awakening in the
soul emotions which remain dormant under the urban conditions of
modern life.



My presence in the Sifkova country was not for long but I used it
in full measure. First, I sent a man in whom I had confidence and
whom I considered trustworthy to my friends in the town that I had
left and received from them linen, boots, money and a small case of
first aid materials and essential medicines, and, what was most
important, a passport in another name, since I was dead for the
Bolsheviki. Secondly, in these more or less favorable conditions I
reflected upon the plan for my future actions. Soon in Sifkova the
people heard that the Bolshevik commissar would come for the
requisition of cattle for the Red Army. It was dangerous to remain
longer. I waited only until the Yenisei should lose its massive
lock of ice, which kept it sealed long after the small rivulets had
opened and the trees had taken on their spring foliage. For one
thousand roubles I engaged a fisherman who agreed to take me fifty-
five miles up the river to an abandoned gold mine as soon as the
river, which had then only opened in places, should be entirely
clear of ice. At last one morning I heard a deafening roar like a
tremendous cannonade and ran out to find the river had lifted its
great bulk of ice and then given way to break it up. I rushed on
down to the bank, where I witnessed an awe-inspiring but
magnificent scene. The river had brought down the great volume of
ice that had been dislodged in the south and was carrying it
northward under the thick layer which still covered parts of the
stream until finally its weight had broken the winter dam to the
north and released the whole grand mass in one last rush for the
Arctic. The Yenisei, "Father Yenisei," "Hero Yenisei," is one of
the longest rivers in Asia, deep and magnificent, especially
through the middle range of its course, where it is flanked and
held in canyon-like by great towering ranges. The huge stream had
brought down whole miles of ice fields, breaking them up on the
rapids and on isolated rocks, twisting them with angry swirls,
throwing up sections of the black winter roads, carrying down the
tepees built for the use of passing caravans which in the Winter
always go from Minnusinsk to Krasnoyarsk on the frozen river. From
time to time the stream stopped in its flow, the roar began and the
great fields of ice were squeezed and piled upward, sometimes as
high as thirty feet, damming up the water behind, so that it
rapidly rose and ran out over the low places, casting on the shore
great masses of ice. Then the power of the reinforced waters
conquered the towering dam of ice and carried it downward with a
sound like breaking glass. At the bends in the river and round the
great rocks developed terrifying chaos. Huge blocks of ice jammed
and jostled until some were thrown clear into the air, crashing
against others already there, or were hurled against the curving
cliffs and banks, tearing out boulders, earth and trees high up the
sides. All along the low embankments this giant of nature flung
upward with a suddenness that leaves man but a pigmy in force a
great wall of ice fifteen to twenty feet high, which the peasants
call "Zaberega" and through which they cannot get to the river
without cutting out a road. One incredible feat I saw the giant
perform, when a block many feet thick and many yards square was
hurled through the air and dropped to crush saplings and little
trees more than a half hundred feet from the bank.

Watching this glorious withdrawal of the ice, I was filled with
terror and revolt at seeing the awful spoils which the Yenisei bore
away in this annual retreat. These were the bodies of the executed
counter-revolutionaries--officers, soldiers and Cossacks of the
former army of the Superior Governor of all anti-Bolshevik Russia,
Admiral Kolchak. They were the results of the bloody work of the
"Cheka" at Minnusinsk. Hundreds of these bodies with heads and
hands cut off, with mutilated faces and bodies half burned, with
broken skulls, floated and mingled with the blocks of ice, looking
for their graves; or, turning in the furious whirlpools among the
jagged blocks, they were ground and torn to pieces into shapeless
masses, which the river, nauseated with its task, vomited out upon
the islands and projecting sand bars. I passed the whole length of
the middle Yenisei and constantly came across these putrifying and
terrifying reminders of the work of the Bolsheviki. In one place
at a turn of the river I saw a great heap of horses, which had been
cast up by the ice and current, in number not less than three
hundred. A verst below there I was sickened beyond endurance by
the discovery of a grove of willows along the bank which had raked
from the polluted stream and held in their finger-like drooping
branches human bodies in all shapes and attitudes with a semblance
of naturalness which made an everlasting picture on my distraught
mind. Of this pitiful gruesome company I counted seventy.

At last the mountain of ice passed by, followed by the muddy
freshets that carried down the trunks of fallen trees, logs and
bodies, bodies, bodies. The fisherman and his son put me and my
luggage into their dugout made from an aspen tree and poled
upstream along the bank. Poling in a swift current is very hard
work. At the sharp curves we were compelled to row, struggling
against the force of the stream and even in places hugging the
cliffs and making headway only by clutching the rocks with our
hands and dragging along slowly. Sometimes it took us a long while
to do five or six metres through these rapid holes. In two days we
reached the goal of our journey. I spent several days in this gold
mine, where the watchman and his family were living. As they were
short of food, they had nothing to spare for me and consequently my
rifle again served to nourish me, as well as contributing something
to my hosts. One day there appeared here a trained
agriculturalist. I did not hide because during my winter in the
woods I had raised a heavy beard, so that probably my own mother
could not have recognized me. However, our guest was very shrewd
and at once deciphered me. I did not fear him because I saw that
he was not a Bolshevik and later had confirmation of this. We
found common acquaintances and a common viewpoint on current
events. He lived close to the gold mine in a small village where
he superintended public works. We determined to escape together
from Russia. For a long time I had puzzled over this matter and
now my plan was ready. Knowing the position in Siberia and its
geography, I decided that the best way to safety was through
Urianhai, the northern part of Mongolia on the head waters of the
Yenisei, then through Mongolia and out to the Far East and the
Pacific. Before the overthrow of the Kolchak Government I had
received a commission to investigate Urianhai and Western Mongolia
and then, with great accuracy, I studied all the maps and
literature I could get on this question. To accomplish this
audacious plan I had the great incentive of my own safety.



After several days we started through the forest on the left bank
of the Yenisei toward the south, avoiding the villages as much as
possible in fear of leaving some trail by which we might be
followed. Whenever we did have to go into them, we had a good
reception at the hands of the peasants, who did not penetrate our
disguise; and we saw that they hated the Bolsheviki, who had
destroyed many of their villages. In one place we were told that a
detachment of Red troops had been sent out from Minnusinsk to chase
the Whites. We were forced to work far back from the shore of the
Yenisei and to hide in the woods and mountains. Here we remained
nearly a fortnight, because all this time the Red soldiers were
traversing the country and capturing in the woods half-dressed
unarmed officers who were in hiding from the atrocious vengeance of
the Bolsheviki. Afterwards by accident we passed a meadow where we
found the bodies of twenty-eight officers hung to the trees, with
their faces and bodies mutilated. There we determined never to
allow ourselves to come alive into the hands of the Boisheviki. To
prevent this we had our weapons and a supply of cyanide of

Passing across one branch of the Yenisei, once we saw a narrow,
miry pass, the entrance to which was strewn with the bodies of men
and horses. A little farther along we found a broken sleigh with
rifled boxes and papers scattered about. Near them were also torn
garments and bodies. Who were these pitiful ones? What tragedy
was staged in this wild wood? We tried to guess this enigma and we
began to investigate the documents and papers. These were official
papers addressed to the Staff of General Pepelaieff. Probably one
part of the Staff during the retreat of Kolchak's army went through
this wood, striving to hide from the enemy approaching from all
sides; but here they were caught by the Reds and killed. Not far
from here we found the body of a poor unfortunate woman, whose
condition proved clearly what had happened before relief came
through the beneficent bullet. The body lay beside a shelter of
branches, strewn with bottles and conserve tins, telling the tale
of the bantering feast that had preceded the destruction of this

The further we went to the south, the more pronouncedly hospitable
the people became toward us and the more hostile to the Bolsheviki.
At last we emerged from the forests and entered the spacious
vastness of the Minnusinsk steppes, crossed by the high red
mountain range called the "Kizill-Kaiya" and dotted here and there
with salt lakes. It is a country of tombs, thousands of large and
small dolmens, the tombs of the earliest proprietors of this land:
pyramids of stone ten metres high, the marks set by Jenghiz Khan
along his road of conquest and afterwards by the cripple Tamerlane-
Temur. Thousands of these dolmens and stone pyramids stretch in
endless rows to the north. In these plains the Tartars now live.
They were robbed by the Bolsheviki and therefore hated them
ardently. We openly told them that we were escaping. They gave us
food for nothing and supplied us with guides, telling us with whom
we might stop and where to hide in case of danger.

After several days we looked down from the high bank of the Yenisei
upon the first steamer, the "Oriol," from Krasnoyarsk to
Minnusinsk, laden with Red soldiers. Soon we came to the mouth of
the river Tuba, which we were to follow straight east to the Sayan
mountains, where Urianhai begins. We thought the stage along the
Tuba and its branch, the Amyl, the most dangerous part of our
course, because the valleys of these two rivers had a dense
population which had contributed large numbers of soldiers to the
celebrated Communist Partisans, Schetinkin and Krafcheno.

A Tartar ferried us and our horses over to the right bank of the
Yenisei and afterwards sent us some Cossacks at daybreak who guided
us to the mouth of the Tuba, where we spent the whole day in rest,
gratifying ourselves with a feast of wild black currants and



Armed with our false passports, we moved along up the valley of the
Tuba. Every ten or fifteen versts we came across large villages of
from one to six hundred houses, where all administration was in the
hands of Soviets and where spies scrutinized all passers-by. We
could not avoid these villages for two reasons. First, our
attempts to avoid them when we were constantly meeting the peasants
in the country would have aroused suspicion and would have caused
any Soviet to arrest us and send us to the "Cheka" in Minnusinsk,
where we should have sung our last song. Secondly, in his
documents my fellow traveler was granted permission to use the
government post relays for forwarding him on his journey.
Therefore, we were forced to visit the village Soviets and change
our horses. Our own mounts we had given to the Tartar and Cossack
who helped us at the mouth of the Tuba, and the Cossack brought us
in his wagon to the first village, where we received the post
horses. All except a small minority of the peasants were against
the Bolsheviki and voluntarily assisted us. I paid them for their
help by treating their sick and my fellow traveler gave them
practical advice in the management of their agriculture. Those who
helped us chiefly were the old dissenters and the Cossacks.

Sometimes we came across villages entirely Communistic but very
soon we learned to distinguish them. When we entered a village
with our horse bells tinkling and found the peasants who happened
to be sitting in front of their houses ready to get up with a frown
and a grumble that here were more new devils coming, we knew that
this was a village opposed to the Communists and that here we could
stop in safety. But, if the peasants approached and greeted us
with pleasure, calling us "Comrades," we knew at once that we were
among the enemy and took great precautions. Such villages were
inhabited by people who were not the Siberian liberty-loving
peasants but by emigrants from the Ukraine, idle and drunk, living
in poor dirty huts, though their village were surrounded with the
black and fertile soil of the steppes. Very dangerous and pleasant
moments we spent in the large village of Karatuz. It is rather a
town. In the year 1912 two colleges were opened here and the
population reached 15,000 people. It is the capital of the South
Yenisei Cossacks. But by now it is very difficult to recognize
this town. The peasant emigrants and Red army murdered all the
Cossack population and destroyed and burned most of the houses; and
it is at present the center of Bolshevism and Communism in the
eastern part of the Minnusinsk district. In the building of the
Soviet, where we came to exchange our horses, there was being held
a meeting of the "Cheka." We were immediately surrounded and
questioned about our documents. We were not any too calm about the
impression which might be made by our papers and attempted to avoid
this examination. My fellow traveler afterwards often said to me:

"It is great good fortune that among the Bolsheviki the good-for-
nothing shoemaker of yesterday is the Governor of today and
scientists sweep the streets or clean the stables of the Red
cavalry. I can talk with the Bolsheviki because they do not know
the difference between 'disinfection' and 'diphtheria,'
'anthracite' and 'appendicitis' and can talk them round in all
things, even up to persuading them not to put a bullet into me."

And so we talked the members of the "Cheka" round to everything
that we wanted. We presented to them a bright scheme for the
future development of their district, when we would build the roads
and bridges which would allow them to export the wood from
Urianhai, iron and gold from the Sayan Mountains, cattle and furs
from Mongolia. What a triumph of creative work for the Soviet
Government! Our ode occupied about an hour and afterwards the
members of the "Cheka," forgetting about our documents, personally
changed our horses, placed our luggage on the wagon and wished us
success. It was the last ordeal within the borders of Russia.

When we had crossed the valley of the river Amyl, Happiness smiled
on us. Near the ferry we met a member of the militia from Karatuz.
He had on his wagon several rifles and automatic pistols, mostly
Mausers, for outfitting an expedition through Urianhai in quest of
some Cossack officers who had been greatly troubling the
Bolsheviki. We stood upon our guard. We could very easily have
met this expedition and we were not quite assured that the soldiers
would be so appreciative of our high-sounding phrases as were the
members of the "Cheka." Carefully questioning the militiaman, we
ferreted out the route their expedition was to take. In the next
village we stayed in the same house with him. I had to open my
luggage and suddenly I noticed his admiring glance fixed upon my

"What pleases you so much?" I asked.

He whispered: "Trousers . . . Trousers."

I had received from my townsmen quite new trousers of black thick
cloth for riding. Those trousers attracted the rapt attention of
the militiaman.

"If you have no other trousers. . . ." I remarked, reflecting upon
my plan of attack against my new friend.

"No," he explained with sadness, "the Soviet does not furnish
trousers. They tell me they also go without trousers. And my
trousers are absolutely worn out. Look at them."

With these words he threw back the corner of his overcoat and I was
astonished how he could keep himself inside these trousers, for
they had such large holes that they were more of a net than
trousers, a net through which a small shark could have slipped.

"Sell me," he whispered, with a question in his voice.

"I cannot, for I need them myself," I answered decisively.

He reflected for a few minutes and afterward, approaching me, said:
"Let us go out doors and talk. Here it is inconvenient."

We went outside. "Now, what about it?" he began. "You are going
into Urianhai. There the Soviet bank-notes have no value and you
will not be able to buy anything, where there are plenty of sables,
fox-skins, ermine and gold dust to be purchased, which they very
willingly exchange for rifles and cartridges. You have each of you
a rifle and I will give you one more rifle with a hundred
cartridges if you give me the trousers."

"We do not need weapons. We are protected by our documents," I
answered, as though I did not understand.

"But no," he interrupted, "you can change that rifle there into
furs and gold. I shall give you that rifle outright."

"Ah, that's it, is it? But it's very little for those trousers.
Nowhere in Russia can you now find trousers. All Russia goes
without trousers and for your rifle I should receive a sable and
what use to me is one skin?"

Word by word I attained to my desire. The militia-man got my
trousers and I received a rifle with one hundred cartridges and two
automatic pistols with forty cartridges each. We were armed now so
that we could defend ourselves. Moreover, I persuaded the happy
possessor of my trousers to give us a permit to carry the weapons.
Then the law and force were both on our side.

In a distant village we bought three horses, two for riding and one
for packing, engaged a guide, purchased dried bread, meat, salt and
butter and, after resting twenty-four hours, began our trip up the
Amyl toward the Sayan Mountains on the border of Urianhai. There
we hoped not to meet Bolsheviki, either sly or silly. In three
days from the mouth of the Tuba we passed the last Russian village
near the Mongolian-Urianhai border, three days of constant contact
with a lawless population, of continuous danger and of the ever
present possibility of fortuitous death. Only iron will power,
presence of mind and dogged tenacity brought us through all the
dangers and saved us from rolling back down our precipice of
adventure, at whose foot lay so many others who had failed to make
this same climb to freedom which we had just accomplished. Perhaps
they lacked the persistence or the presence of mind, perhaps they
had not the poetic ability to sing odes about "roads, bridges and
gold mines" or perhaps they simply had no spare trousers.



Dense virgin wood surrounded us. In the high, already yellow grass
the trail wound hardly noticeable in among bushes and trees just
beginning to drop their many colored leaves. It is the old,
already forgotten Amyl pass road. Twenty-five years ago it carried
the provisions, machinery and workers for the numerous, now
abandoned, gold mines of the Amyl valley. The road now wound along
the wide and rapid Amyl, then penetrated into the deep forest,
guiding us round the swampy ground filled with those dangerous
Siberian quagmires, through the dense bushes, across mountains and
wide meadows. Our guide probably did not surmise our real
intention and sometimes, apprehensively looking down at the ground,
would say:

"Three riders on horses with shoes on have passed here. Perhaps
they were soldiers."

His anxiety was terminated when he discovered that the tracks led
off to one side and then returned to the trail.

"They did not proceed farther," he remarked, slyly smiling.

"That's too bad," we answered. "It would have been more lively to
travel in company."

But the peasant only stroked his beard and laughed. Evidently he
was not taken in by our statement.

We passed on the way a gold mine that had been formerly planned and
equipped on splendid lines but was now abandoned and the buildings
all destroyed. The Bolsheviki had taken away the machinery,
supplies and also some parts of the buildings. Nearby stood a dark
and gloomy church with windows broken, the crucifix torn off and
the tower burned, a pitifully typical emblem of the Russia of
today. The starving family of the watchman lived at the mine in
continuing danger and privation. They told us that in this forest
region were wandering about a band of Reds who were robbing
anything that remained on the property of the gold mine, were
working the pay dirt in the richest part of the mine and, with a
little gold washed, were going to drink and gamble it away in some
distant villages where the peasants were making the forbidden vodka
out of berries and potatoes and selling it for its weight in gold.
A meeting with this band meant death. After three days we crossed
the northern ridge of the Sayan chain, passed the border river
Algiak and, after this day, were abroad in the territory of

This wonderful land, rich in most diverse forms of natural wealth,
is inhabited by a branch of the Mongols, which is now only sixty
thousand and which is gradually dying off, speaking a language
quite different from any of the other dialects of this folk and
holding as their life ideal the tenet of "Eternal Peace." Urianhai
long ago became the scene of administrative attempts by Russians,
Mongols and Chinese, all of whom claimed sovereignty over the
region whose unfortunate inhabitants, the Soyots, had to pay
tribute to all three of these overlords. It was due to this that
the land was not an entirely safe refuge for us. We had heard
already from our militiaman about the expedition preparing to go
into Urianhai and from the peasants we learned that the villages
along the Little Yenisei and farther south had formed Red
detachments, who were robbing and killing everyone who fell into
their hands. Recently they had killed sixty-two officers
attempting to pass Urianhai into Mongolia; robbed and killed a
caravan of Chinese merchants; and killed some German war prisoners
who escaped from the Soviet paradise. On the fourth day we reached
a swampy valley where, among open forests, stood a single Russian
house. Here we took leave of our guide, who hastened away to get
back before the snows should block his road over the Sayans. The
master of the establishment agreed to guide us to the Seybi River
for ten thousand roubles in Soviet notes. Our horses were tired
and we were forced to give them a rest, so we decided to spend
twenty-four hours here.

We were drinking tea when the daughter of our host cried:

"The Soyots are coming!" Into the room with their rifles and
pointed hats came suddenly four of them.

"Mende," they grunted to us and then, without ceremony, began
examining us critically. Not a button or a seam in our entire
outfit escaped their penetrating gaze. Afterwards one of them, who
appeared to be the local "Merin" or governor, began to investigate
our political views. Listening to our criticisms of the
Bolsheviki, he was evidently pleased and began talking freely.

"You are good people. You do not like Bolsheviki. We will help

I thanked him and presented him with the thick silk cord which I
was wearing as a girdle. Before night they left us saying that
they would return in the morning. It grew dark. We went to the
meadow to look after our exhausted horses grazing there and came
back to the house. We were gaily chatting with the hospitable host
when suddenly we heard horses' hoofs in the court and raucous
voices, followed by the immediate entry of five Red soldiers armed
with rifles and swords. Something unpleasant and cold rolled up
into my throat and my heart hammered. We knew the Reds as our
enemies. These men had the red stars on their Astrakhan caps and
red triangles on their sleeves. They were members of the
detachment that was out to look for Cossack officers. Scowling at
us they took off their overcoats and sat down. We first opened the
conversation, explaining the purpose of our journey in exploring
for bridges, roads and gold mines. From them we then learned that
their commander would arrive in a little while with seven more men
and that they would take our host at once as a guide to the Seybi
River, where they thought the Cossack officers must be hidden.
Immediately I remarked that our affairs were moving fortunately and
that we must travel along together. One of the soldiers replied
that that would depend upon the "Comrade-officer."

During our conversation the Soyot Governor entered. Very
attentively he studied again the new arrivals and then asked: "Why
did you take from the Soyots the good horses and leave bad ones?"

The soldiers laughed at him.

"Remember that you are in a foreign country!" answered the Soyot,
with a threat in his voice.

"God and the Devil!" cried one of the soldiers.

But the Soyot very calmly took a seat at the table and accepted the
cup of tea the hostess was preparing for him. The conversation
ceased. The Soyot finished the tea, smoked his long pipe and,
standing up, said:

"If tomorrow morning the horses are not back at the owner's, we
shall come and take them." And with these words he turned and went

I noticed an expression of apprehension on the faces of the
soldiers. Shortly one was sent out as a messenger while the others
sat silent with bowed heads. Late in the night the officer arrived
with his other seven men. As he received the report about the
Soyot, he knitted his brows and said:

"It's a bad mess. We must travel through the swamp where a Soyot
will be behind every mound watching us."

He seemed really very anxious and his trouble fortunately prevented
him from paying much attention to us. I began to calm him and
promised on the morrow to arrange this matter with the Soyots. The
officer was a coarse brute and a silly man, desiring strongly to be
promoted for the capture of the Cossack officers, and feared that
the Soyot could prevent him from reaching the Seybi.

At daybreak we started together with the Red detachment. When we
had made about fifteen kilometers, we discovered behind the bushes
two riders. They were Soyots. On their backs were their flint

"Wait for me!" I said to the officer. "I shall go for a parley
with them."

I went forward with all the speed of my horse. One of the horsemen
was the Soyot Governor, who said to me:

"Remain behind the detachment and help us."

"All right," I answered, "but let us talk a little, in order that
they may think we are parleying."

After a moment I shook the hand of the Soyot and returned to the

"All right," I exclaimed, "we can continue our journey. No
hindrance will come from the Soyots."

We moved forward and, when we were crossing a large meadow, we
espied at a long distance two Soyots riding at full gallop right up
the side of a mountain. Step by step I accomplished the necessary
manoeuvre to bring me and my fellow traveler somewhat behind the
detachment. Behind our backs remained only one soldier, very
brutish in appearance and apparently very hostile to us. I had
time to whisper to my companion only one word: "Mauser," and saw
that he very carefully unbuttoned the saddle bag and drew out a
little the handle of his pistol.

Soon I understood why these soldiers, excellent woodsmen as they
were, would not attempt to go to the Seybi without a guide. All
the country between the Algiak and the Seybi is formed by high and
narrow mountain ridges separated by deep swampy valleys. It is a
cursed and dangerous place. At first our horses mired to the
knees, lunging about and catching their feet in the roots of bushes
in the quagmires, then falling and pinning us under their sides,
breaking parts of their saddles and bridles. Then we would go in
up to the riders' knees. My horse went down once with his whole
breast and head under the red fluid mud and we just saved it and no
more. Afterwards the officer's horse fell with him so that he
bruised his head on a stone. My companion injured one knee against
a tree. Some of the men also fell and were injured. The horses
breathed heavily. Somewhere dimly and gloomily a crow cawed.
Later the road became worse still. The trail followed through the
same miry swamp but everywhere the road was blocked with fallen
tree trunks. The horses, jumping over the trunks, would land in an
unexpectedly deep hole and flounder. We and all the soldiers were
covered with blood and mud and were in great fear of exhausting our
mounts. For a long distance we had to get down and lead them. At
last we entered a broad meadow covered with bushes and bordered
with rocks. Not only horses but riders also began to sink to their
middle in a quagmire with apparently no bottom. The whole surface
of the meadow was but a thin layer of turf, covering a lake with
black putrefying water. When we finally learned to open our column
and proceed at big intervals, we found we could keep on this
surface that undulated like rubber ice and swayed the bushes up and
down. In places the earth buckled up and broke.

Suddenly, three shots sounded. They were hardly more than the
report of a Flobert rifle; but they were genuine shots, because the
officer and two soldiers fell to the ground. The other soldiers
grabbed their rifles and, with fear, looked about for the enemy.
Four more were soon unseated and suddenly I noticed our rearguard
brute raise his rifle and aim right at me. However, my Mauser
outstrode his rifle and I was allowed to continue my story.

"Begin!" I cried to my friend and we took part in the shooting.
Soon the meadow began to swarm with Soyots, stripping the fallen,
dividing the spoils and recapturing their horses. In some forms of
warfare it is never safe to leave any of the enemy to renew
hostilities later with overwhelming forces.

After an hour of very difficult road we began to ascend the
mountain and soon arrived on a high plateau covered with trees.

"After all, Soyots are not a too peaceful people," I remarked,
approaching the Governor.

He looked at me very sharply and replied:

"It was not Soyots who did the killing."

He was right. It was the Abakan Tartars in Soyot clothes who
killed the Bolsheviki. These Tartars were running their herds of
cattle and horses down out of Russia through Urianhai to Mongolia.
They had as their guide and negotiator a Kalmuck Lamaite. The
following morning we were approaching a small settlement of Russian
colonists and noticed some horsemen looking out from the woods.
One of our young and brave Tartars galloped off at full speed
toward these men in the wood but soon wheeled and returned with a
reassuring smile.

"All right," he exclaimed, laughing, "keep right on."

We continued our travel on a good broad road along a high wooden
fence surrounding a meadow filled with a fine herd of wapiti or
izubr, which the Russian colonists breed for the horns that are so
valuable in the velvet for sale to Tibetan and Chinese medicine
dealers. These horns, when boiled and dried, are called panti and
are sold to the Chinese at very high prices.

We were received with great fear by the settlers.

"Thank God!" exclaimed the hostess, "we thought. . ." and she broke
off, looking at her husband.



Constant dangers develop one's watchfulness and keenness of
perception. We did not take off our clothes nor unsaddle our
horses, tired as we were. I put my Mauser inside my coat and began
to look about and scrutinize the people. The first thing I
discovered was the butt end of a rifle under the pile of pillows
always found on the peasants' large beds. Later I noticed the
employees of our host constantly coming into the room for orders
from him. They did not look like simple peasants, although they
had long beards and were dressed very dirtily. They examined me
with very attentive eyes and did not leave me and my friend alone
with the host. We could not, however, make out anything. But then
the Soyot Governor came in and, noticing our strained relations,
began explaining in the Soyot language to the host all about us.

"I beg your pardon," the colonist said, "but you know yourself that
now for one honest man we have ten thousand murderers and robbers."

With this we began chatting more freely. It appeared that our host
knew that a band of Bolsheviki would attack him in the search for
the band of Cossack officers who were living in his house on and
off. He had heard also about the "total loss" of one detachment.
However, it did not entirely calm the old man to have our news, for
he had heard of the large detachment of Reds that was coming from
the border of the Usinsky District in pursuit of the Tartars who
were escaping with their cattle south to Mongolia.

"From one minute to another we are awaiting them with fear," said
our host to me. "My Soyot has come in and announced that the Reds
are already crossing the Seybi and the Tartars are prepared for the

We immediately went out to look over our saddles and packs and then
took the horses and hid them in the bushes not far off. We made
ready our rifles and pistols and took posts in the enclosure to
wait for our common enemy. An hour of trying impatience passed,
when one of the workmen came running in from the wood and

"They are crossing our swamp. . . . The fight is on."

In fact, like an answer to his words, came through the woods the
sound of a single rifle-shot, followed closely by the increasing
rat-tat-tat of the mingled guns. Nearer to the house the sounds
gradually came. Soon we heard the beating of the horses' hoofs and
the brutish cries of the soldiers. In a moment three of them burst
into the house, from off the road where they were being raked now
by the Tartars from both directions, cursing violently. One of
them shot at our host. He stumbled along and fell on his knee, as
his hand reached out toward the rifle under his pillows.

"Who are YOU?" brutally blurted out one of the soldiers, turning to
us and raising his rifle. We answered with Mausers and
successfully, for only one soldier in the rear by the door escaped,
and that merely to fall into the hands of a workman in the
courtyard who strangled him. The fight had begun. The soldiers
called on their comrades for help. The Reds were strung along in
the ditch at the side of the road, three hundred paces from the
house, returning the fire of the surrounding Tartars. Several
soldiers ran to the house to help their comrades but this time we
heard the regular volley of the workmen of our host. They fired as
though in a manoeuvre calmly and accurately. Five Red soldiers lay
on the road, while the rest now kept to their ditch. Before long
we discovered that they began crouching and crawling out toward the
end of the ditch nearest the wood where they had left their horses.
The sounds of shots became more and more distant and soon we saw
fifty or sixty Tartars pursuing the Reds across the meadow.

Two days we rested here on the Seybi. The workmen of our host,
eight in number, turned out to be officers hiding from the
Bolsheviks. They asked permission to go on with us, to which we

When my friend and I continued our trip we had a guard of eight
armed officers and three horses with packs. We crossed a beautiful
valley between the Rivers Seybi and Ut. Everywhere we saw splendid
grazing lands with numerous herds upon them, but in two or three
houses along the road we did not find anyone living. All had
hidden away in fear after hearing the sounds of the fight with the
Reds. The following day we went up over the high chain of
mountains called Daban and, traversing a great area of burned
timber where our trail lay among the fallen trees, we began to
descend into a valley hidden from us by the intervening foothills.
There behind these hills flowed the Little Yenisei, the last large
river before reaching Mongolia proper. About ten kilometers from
the river we spied a column of smoke rising up out of the wood.
Two of the officers slipped away to make an investigation. For a
long time they did not return and we, fearful lest something had
happened, moved off carefully in the direction of the smoke, all
ready for a fight if necessary. We finally came near enough to
hear the voices of many people and among them the loud laugh of one
of our scouts. In the middle of a meadow we made out a large tent
with two tepees of branches and around these a crowd of fifty or
sixty men. When we broke out of the forest all of them rushed
forward with a joyful welcome for us. It appeared that it was a
large camp of Russian officers and soldiers who, after their escape
from Siberia, had lived in the houses of the Russian colonists and
rich peasants in Urianhai.

"What are you doing here?" we asked with surprise.

"Oh, ho, you know nothing at all about what has been going on?"
replied a fairly old man who called himself Colonel Ostrovsky. "In
Urianhai an order has been issued from the Military Commissioner to
mobilize all men over twenty-eight years of age and everywhere
toward the town of Belotzarsk are moving detachments of these
Partisans. They are robbing the colonists and peasants and killing
everyone that falls into their hands. We are hiding here from

The whole camp counted only sixteen rifles and three bombs,
belonging to a Tartar who was traveling with his Kalmuck guide to
his herds in Western Mongolia. We explained the aim of our journey
and our intention to pass through Mongolia to the nearest port on
the Pacific. The officers asked me to bring them out with us. I
agreed. Our reconnaissance proved to us that there were no
Partisans near the house of the peasant who was to ferry us over
the Little Yenisei. We moved off at once in order to pass as
quickly as possible this dangerous zone of the Yenisei and to sink
ourselves into the forest beyond. It snowed but immediately
thawed. Before evening a cold north wind sprang up, bringing with
it a small blizzard. Late in the night our party reached the
river. Our colonist welcomed us and offered at once to ferry us
over and swim the horses, although there was ice still floating
which had come down from the head-waters of the stream. During
this conversation there was present one of the peasant's workmen,
red-haired and squint-eyed. He kept moving around all the time and
suddenly disappeared. Our host noticed it and, with fear in his
voice, said:

"He has run to the village and will guide the Partisans here. We
must cross immediately."

Then began the most terrible night of my whole journey. We
proposed to the colonist that he take only our food and ammunition
in the boat, while we would swim our horses across, in order to
save the time of the many trips. The width of the Yenisei in this
place is about three hundred metres. The stream is very rapid and
the shore breaks away abruptly to the full depth of the stream.
The night was absolutely dark with not a star in the sky. The wind
in whistling swirls drove the snow and sleet sharply against our
faces. Before us flowed the stream of black, rapid water, carrying
down thin, jagged blocks of ice, twisting and grinding in the
whirls and eddies. For a long time my horse refused to take the
plunge down the steep bank, snorted and braced himself. With all
my strength I lashed him with my whip across his neck until, with a
pitiful groan, he threw himself into the cold stream. We both went
all the way under and I hardly kept my seat in the saddle. Soon I
was some metres from the shore with my horse stretching his head
and neck far forward in his efforts and snorting and blowing
incessantly. I felt the every motion of his feet churning the
water and the quivering of his whole body under me in this trial.
At last we reached the middle of the river, where the current
became exceedingly rapid and began to carry us down with it. Out
of the ominous darkness I heard the shoutings of my companions and
the dull cries of fear and suffering from the horses. I was chest
deep in the icy water. Sometimes the floating blocks struck me;
sometimes the waves broke up over my head and face. I had no time
to look about or to feel the cold. The animal wish to live took
possession of me; I became filled with the thought that, if my
horse's strength failed in his struggle with the stream, I must
perish. All my attention was turned to his efforts and to his
quivering fear. Suddenly he groaned loudly and I noticed he was
sinking. The water evidently was over his nostrils, because the
intervals of his frightened snorts through the nostrils became
longer. A big block of ice struck his head and turned him so that
he was swimming right downstream. With difficulty I reined him
around toward the shore but felt now that his force was gone. His
head several times disappeared under the swirling surface. I had
no choice. I slipped from the saddle and, holding this by my left
hand, swam with my right beside my mount, encouraging him with my
shouts. For a time he floated with lips apart and his teeth set
firm. In his widely opened eyes was indescribable fear. As soon
as I was out of the saddle, he had at once risen in the water and
swam more calmly and rapidly. At last under the hoofs of my
exhausted animal I heard the stones. One after another my
companions came up on the shore. The well-trained horses had
brought all their burdens over. Much farther down our colonist
landed with the supplies. Without a moment's loss we packed our
things on the horses and continued our journey. The wind was
growing stronger and colder. At the dawn of day the cold was
intense. Our soaked clothes froze and became hard as leather; our
teeth chattered; and in our eyes showed the red fires of fever: but
we traveled on to put as much space as we could between ourselves
and the Partisans. Passing about fifteen kilometres through the
forest we emerged into an open valley, from which we could see the
opposite bank of the Yenisei. It was about eight o'clock. Along
the road on the other shore wound the black serpent-like line of
riders and wagons which we made out to be a column of Red soldiers
with their transport. We dismounted and hid in the bushes in order
to avoid attracting their attention.

All the day with the thermometer at zero and below we continued our
journey, only at night reaching the mountains covered with larch
forests, where we made big fires, dried our clothes and warmed
ourselves thoroughly. The hungry horses did not leave the fires
but stood right behind us with drooped heads and slept. Very early
in the morning several Soyots came to our camp.

"Ulan? (Red?)" asked one of them.

"No! No!" exclaimed all our company.

"Tzagan? (White?)" followed the new question.

"Yes, yes," said the Tartar, "all are Whites."

"Mende! Mende!" they grunted and, after starting their cups of
tea, began to relate very interesting and important news. It
appeared that the Red Partisans, moving from the mountains Tannu
Ola, occupied with their outposts all the border of Mongolia to
stop and seize the peasants and Soyots driving out their cattle.
To pass the Tannu Ola now would be impossible. I saw only one way--
to turn sharp to the southeast, pass the swampy valley of the
Buret Hei and reach the south shore of Lake Kosogol, which is
already in the territory of Mongolia proper. It was very
unpleasant news. To the first Mongol post in Samgaltai was not
more than sixty miles from our camp, while to Kosogol by the
shortest line not less than two hundred seventy-five. The horses
my friend and I were riding, after having traveled more than six
hundred miles over hard roads and without proper food or rest,
could scarcely make such an additional distance. But, reflecting
upon the situation and studying my new fellow travelers, I
determined not to attempt to pass the Tannu Ola. They were
nervous, morally weary men, badly dressed and armed and most of
them were without weapons. I knew that during a fight there is no
danger so great as that of disarmed men. They are easily caught by
panic, lose their heads and infect all the others. Therefore, I
consulted with my friends and decided to go to Kosogol. Our
company agreed to follow us. After luncheon, consisting of soup
with big lumps of meat, dry bread and tea, we moved out. About two
o'clock the mountains began to rise up before us. They were the
northeast outspurs of the Tannu Ola, behind which lay the Valley of
Buret Hei.



In a valley between two sharp ridges we discovered a herd of yaks
and cattle being rapidly driven off to the north by ten mounted
Soyots. Approaching us warily they finally revealed that Noyon
(Prince) of Todji had ordered them to drive the herds along the
Buret Hei into Mongolia, apprehending the pillaging of the Red
Partisans. They proceeded but were informed by some Soyot hunters
that this part of the Tannu Ola was occupied by the Partisans from
the village of Vladimirovka. Consequently they were forced to
return. We inquired from them the whereabouts of these outposts
and how many Partisans were holding the mountain pass over into
Mongolia. We sent out the Tartar and the Kalmuck for a
reconnaissance while all of us prepared for the further advance by
wrapping the feet of our horses in our shirts and by muzzling their
noses with straps and bits of rope so that they could not neigh.
It was dark when our investigators returned and reported to us that
about thirty Partisans had a camp some ten kilometers from us,
occupying the yurtas of the Soyots. At the pass were two outposts,
one of two soldiers and the other of three. From the outposts to
the camp was a little over a mile. Our trail lay between the two
outposts. From the top of the mountain one could plainly see the
two posts and could shoot them all. When we had come near to the
top of this mountain, I left our party and, taking with me my
friend, the Tartar, the Kalmuck and two of the young officers,
advanced. From the mountain I saw about five hundred yards ahead
two fires. At each of the fires sat a soldier with his rifle and
the others slept. I did not want to fight with the Partisans but
we had to do away with these outposts and that without firing or we
never should get through the pass. I did not believe the Partisans
could afterwards track us because the whole trail was thickly
marked with the spoors of horses and cattle.

"I shall take for my share these two," whispered my friend,
pointing to the left outpost.

The rest of us were to take care of the second post. I crept along
through the bushes behind my friend in order to help him in case of
need; but I am bound to admit that I was not at all worried about
him. He was about seven feet tall and so strong that, when a horse
used to refuse sometimes to take the bit, he would wrap his arm
around its neck, kick its forefeet out from under it and throw it
so that he could easily bridle it on the ground. When only a
hundred paces remained, I stood behind the bushes and watched. I
could see very distinctly the fire and the dozing sentinel. He sat
with his rifle on his knees. His companion, asleep beside him, did
not move. Their white felt boots were plainly visible to me. For
a long time I did not remark my friend. At the fire all was quiet.
Suddenly from the other outpost floated over a few dim shouts and
all was still. Our sentinel slowly raised his head. But just at
this moment the huge body of my friend rose up and blanketed the
fire from me and in a twinkling the feet of the sentinel flashed
through the air, as my companion had seized him by the throat and
swung him clear into the bushes, where both figures disappeared.
In a second he re-appeared, flourished the rifle of the Partisan
over his head and I heard the dull blow which was followed by an
absolute calm. He came back toward me and, confusedly smiling,

"It is done. God and the Devil! When I was a boy, my mother
wanted to make a priest out of me. When I grew up, I became a
trained agronome in order . . . to strangle the people and smash
their skulls. Revolution is a very stupid thing!"

And with anger and disgust he spit and began to smoke his pipe.

At the other outpost also all was finished. During this night we
reached the top of the Tannu Ola and descended again into a valley
covered with dense bushes and twined with a whole network of small
rivers and streams. It was the headwaters of the Buret Hei. About
one o'clock we stopped and began to feed our horses, as the grass
just there was very good. Here we thought ourselves in safety. We
saw many calming indications. On the mountains were seen the
grazing herds of reindeers and yaks and approaching Soyots
confirmed our supposition. Here behind the Tannu Ola the Soyots
had not seen the Red soldiers. We presented to these Soyots a
brick of tea and saw them depart happy and sure that we were
"Tzagan," a "good people."

While our horses rested and grazed on the well-preserved grass, we
sat by the fire and deliberated upon our further progress. There
developed a sharp controversy between two sections of our company,
one led by a Colonel who with four officers were so impressed by
the absence of Reds south of the Tannu Ola that they determined to
work westward to Kobdo and then on to the camp on the Emil River
where the Chinese authorities had interned six thousand of the
forces of General Bakitch, which had come over into Mongolian
territory. My friend and I with sixteen of the officers chose to
carry through our old plan to strike for the shores of Lake Kosogol
and thence out to the Far East. As neither side could persuade the
other to abandon its ideas, our company was divided and the next
day at noon we took leave of one another. It turned out that our
own wing of eighteen had many fights and difficulties on the way,
which cost us the lives of six of our comrades, but that the
remainder of us came through to the goal of our journey so closely
knit by the ties of devotion which fighting and struggling for our
very lives entailed that we have ever preserved for one another the
warmest feelings of friendship. The other group under Colonel
Jukoff perished. He met a big detachment of Red cavalry and was
defeated by them in two fights. Only two officers escaped. They
related to me this sad news and the details of the fights when we
met four months later in Urga.

Our band of eighteen riders with five packhorses moved up the
valley of the Buret Hei. We floundered in the swamps, passed
innumerable miry streams, were frozen by the cold winds and were
soaked through by the snow and sleet; but we persisted
indefatigably toward the south end of Kosogol. As a guide our
Tartar led us confidently over these trails well marked by the feet
of many cattle being run out of Urianhai to Mongolia.



The inhabitants of Urianhai, the Soyots, are proud of being the
genuine Buddhists and of retaining the pure doctrine of holy Rama
and the deep wisdom of Sakkia-Mouni. They are the eternal enemies
of war and of the shedding of blood. Away back in the thirteenth
century they preferred to move out from their native land and take
refuge in the north rather than fight or become a part of the
empire of the bloody conqueror Jenghiz Khan, who wanted to add to
his forces these wonderful horsemen and skilled archers. Three
times in their history they have thus trekked northward to avoid
struggle and now no one can say that on the hands of the Soyots
there has ever been seen human blood. With their love of peace
they struggled against the evils of war. Even the severe Chinese
administrators could not apply here in this country of peace the
full measure of their implacable laws. In the same manner the
Soyots conducted themselves when the Russian people, mad with blood
and crime, brought this infection into their land. They avoided
persistently meetings and encounters with the Red troops and
Partisans, trekking off with their families and cattle southward
into the distant principalities of Kemchik and Soldjak. The
eastern branch of this stream of emigration passed through the
valley of the Buret Hei, where we constantly outstrode groups of
them with their cattle and herds.

We traveled quickly along the winding trail of the Buret Hei and in
two days began to make the elevations of the mountain pass between
the valleys of the Buret Hei and Kharga. The trail was not only
very steep but was also littered with fallen larch trees and
frequently intercepted, incredible as it may seem, with swampy
places where the horses mired badly. Then again we picked our
dangerous road over cobbles and small stones that rolled away under
our horses' feet and bumped off over the precipice nearby. Our
horses fatigued easily in passing this moraine that had been strewn
by ancient glaciers along the mountain sides. Sometimes the trail
led right along the edge of the precipices where the horses started
great slides of stones and sand. I remember one whole mountain
covered with these moving sands. We had to leave our saddles and,
taking the bridles in our hands, to trot for a mile or more over
these sliding beds, sometimes sinking in up to our knees and going
down the mountain side with them toward the precipices below. One
imprudent move at times would have sent us over the brink. This
destiny met one of our horses. Belly down in the moving trap, he
could not work free to change his direction and so slipped on down
with a mass of it until he rolled over the precipice and was lost
to us forever. We heard only the crackling of breaking trees along
his road to death. Then with great difficulty we worked down to
salvage the saddle and bags. Further along we had to abandon one
of our pack horses which had come all the way from the northern
border of Urianhai with us. We first unburdened it but this did
not help; no more did our shouting and threats. He only stood with
his head down and looked so exhausted that we realized he had
reached the further bourne of his land of toil. Some Soyots with
us examined him, felt of his muscles on the fore and hind legs,
took his head in their hands and moved it from side to side,
examined his head carefully after that and then said:

"That horse will not go further. His brain is dried out." So we
had to leave him.

That evening we came to a beautiful change in scene when we topped
a rise and found ourselves on a broad plateau covered with larch.
On it we discovered the yurtas of some Soyot hunters, covered with
bark instead of the usual felt. Out of these ten men with rifles
rushed toward us as we approached. They informed us that the
Prince of Soldjak did not allow anyone to pass this way, as he
feared the coming of murderers and robbers into his dominions.

"Go back to the place from which you came," they advised us with
fear in their eyes.

I did not answer but I stopped the beginnings of a quarrel between
an old Soyot and one of my officers. I pointed to the small stream
in the valley ahead of us and asked him its name.

"Oyna," replied the Soyot. "It is the border of the principality
and the passage of it is forbidden."

"All right," I said, "but you will allow us to warm and rest
ourselves a little."

"Yes, yes!" exclaimed the hospitable Soyots, and led us into their

On our way there I took the opportunity to hand to the old Soyot a
cigarette and to another a box of matches. We were all walking
along together save one Soyot who limped slowly in the rear and was
holding his hand up over his nose.

"Is he ill?" I asked.

"Yes," sadly answered the old Soyot. "That is my son. He has been
losing blood from the nose for two days and is now quite weak."

I stopped and called the young man to me.

"Unbutton your outer coat," I ordered, "bare your neck and chest
and turn your face up as far as you can." I pressed the jugular
vein on both sides of his head for some minutes and said to him:

"The blood will not flow from your nose any more. Go into your
tepee and lie down for some time."

The "mysterious" action of my fingers created on the Soyots a
strong impression. The old Soyot with fear and reverence

"Ta Lama, Ta Lama! (Great Doctor)."

In the yurta we were given tea while the old Soyot sat thinking
deeply about something. Afterwards he took counsel with his
companions and finally announced:

"The wife of our Prince is sick in her eyes and I think the Prince
will be very glad if I lead the 'Ta Lama' to him. He will not
punish me, for he ordered that no 'bad people' should be allowed to
pass; but that should not stop the 'good people' from coming to us.

"Do as you think best," I replied rather indifferently. "As a
matter of fact, I know how to treat eye diseases but I would go
back if you say so."

"No, no!" the old man exclaimed with fear. "I shall guide you

Sitting by the fire, he lighted his pipe with a flint, wiped the
mouthpiece on his sleeve and offered it to me in true native
hospitality. I was "comme il faut" and smoked. Afterwards he
offered his pipe to each one of our company and received from each
a cigarette, a little tobacco or some matches. It was the seal on
our friendship. Soon in our yurta many persons piled up around us,
men, women, children and dogs. It was impossible to move. From
among them emerged a Lama with shaved face and close cropped hair,
dressed in the flowing red garment of his caste. His clothes and
his expression were very different from the common mass of dirty
Soyots with their queues and felt caps finished off with squirrel
tails on the top. The Lama was very kindly disposed towards us but
looked ever greedily at our gold rings and watches. I decided to
exploit this avidity of the Servant of Buddha. Supplying him with
tea and dried bread, I made known to him that I was in need of

"I have a horse. Will you buy it from me?" he asked. "But I do
not accept Russian bank notes. Let us exchange something."

For a long time I bargained with him and at last for my gold
wedding ring, a raincoat and a leather saddle bag I received a fine
Soyot horse--to replace one of the pack animals we had lost--and a
young goat. We spent the night here and were feasted with fat
mutton. In the morning we moved off under the guidance of the old
Soyot along the trail that followed the valley of the Oyna, free
from both mountains and swamps. But we knew that the mounts of my
friend and myself, together with three others, were too worn down
to make Kosogol and determined to try to buy others in Soldjak.
Soon we began to meet little groups of Soyot yurtas with their
cattle and horses round about. Finally we approached the shifting
capital of the Prince. Our guide rode on ahead for the parley with
him after assuring us that the Prince would be glad to welcome the
Ta Lama, though at the time I remarked great anxiety and fear in
his features as he spoke. Before long we emerged on to a large
plain well covered with small bushes. Down by the shore of the
river we made out big yurtas with yellow and blue flags floating
over them and easily guessed that this was the seat of government.
Soon our guide returned to us. His face was wreathed with smiles.
He flourished his hands and cried:

"Noyon (the Prince) asks you to come! He is very glad!"

From a warrior I was forced to change myself into a diplomat. As
we approached the yurta of the Prince, we were met by two
officials, wearing the peaked Mongol caps with peacock feathers
rampants behind. With low obeisances they begged the foreign
"Noyon" to enter the yurta. My friend the Tartar and I entered.
In the rich yurta draped with expensive silk we discovered a
feeble, wizen-faced little old man with shaven face and cropped
hair, wearing also a high pointed beaver cap with red silk apex
topped off with a dark red button with the long peacock feathers
streaming out behind. On his nose were big Chinese spectacles. He
was sitting on a low divan, nervously clicking the beads of his
rosary. This was Ta Lama, Prince of Soldjak and High Priest of the
Buddhist Temple. He welcomed us very cordially and invited us to
sit down before the fire burning in the copper brazier. His
surprisingly beautiful Princess served us with tea and Chinese
confections and cakes. We smoked our pipes, though the Prince as a
Lama did not indulge, fulfilling, however, his duty as a host by
raising to his lips the pipes we offered him and handing us in
return the green nephrite bottle of snuff. Thus with the etiquette
accomplished we awaited the words of the Prince. He inquired
whether our travels had been felicitous and what were our further
plans. I talked with him quite frankly and requested his
hospitality for the rest of our company and for the horses. He
agreed immediately and ordered four yurtas set up for us.

"I hear that the foreign Noyon," the Prince said, "is a good

"Yes, I know some diseases and have with me some medicines," I

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