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Bears, though they abound in Russia, are not to be met with, like wolves, in every part of the country; there are numerous districts in which they are never heard of, for they shun cultivation and human dwellings, and are only to be found in deep and extensive forests.
In some of those places where bears abound, there are men who make it their business in the winter to go in pursuit of them alone, and armed only with a strong knife and a spear, with which implements, by courage and dexterity, they succeed in destroying them.
Many years ago an English, or rather, I believe, a Scotch gentleman, who was settled in this country, and who was a great sportsman, was shooting small
in the woods in the north of Russia, when he heard the snoring of an animal, and looking round, after a little while, discovered the head of an enormous bear sleeping. Having only small shot in his gun, he retreated quietly, breaking the twigs as he went, in order that he might be able to find the spot again. He then made the best of his way to his temporary residence, a small cottage not far off, and proceeded immediately to cast a dozen balls: as soon as he was ready, he with some difficulty induced a peasant to accompany him with an axe and a dog to the spot where he had seen the bear, and which he easily found again. The noise which he made in approaching roused the animal, but as it raised its head, the
sportsman fired and killed it at one shot; he called in triumph to his attendant who had kept at a respectful distance, but in the middle of his exultation, a second bear came forth from behind the first. He was somewhat taken by surprise, however he fired his second barrel and broke the animal's leg, when lo! from the same prolific lair, a third bear appeared on the scene. The dog, however, came up and attracted its attention, while our hero took to his heels and ran away; his only object however was to gain time for reload
gun, and as soon as he had accomplished this necessary operation, he gallantly returned to the charge, and killed with his first barrel the third bear, which was still engaged with the dog, and with his second the wounded animal; having thus killed three bears single-handed in four shots. The peasant, as soon as he saw that they were all prostrate, ventured forward for the first time, and began most valiantly to hack away with his axe at the vanquished foe.
The large bear was the dam, and, as I am assured, an enormous beast, and the two others were cubs of a year old, quite grown enough to be dangerous.
In the Government of Novogorod which abounds in forests, and is much infested by these animals, the peasants have, I am told, a most singular method of ridding themselves of their disagreeable neighbours.
They find the young ones in the spring, and watching their opportunity, carry them off in the absence of their parents. They then fasten them on
a raft by nailing their feet to it, and set them afloat on the river. The old bears hear their cries, and follow the raft down the stream; at length the young ones die, and their parents become furious, and attack whatever they meet; but they are now at a considerable distance from their original haunts, so that those who were the authors of their misfortune, are not those who suffer from their vengeance.
I was told this story by a lady, who assured me she had herself seen a raft floating with the young bears dead
The Russians have some singular notions about bears; among other stories they say that a fashionable pair of bears relieve themselves from the troubles of education by employing as a preceptor for their young ones, a bear of inferior rank, who is weak and requires protection, and who takes charge of the young family while their parents go out to catch food. The bear leader, who is called in Russ, Pestoon, or pedagogue, takes his charge to play in the sun, on the outskirts of the wood, keeping watch himself, and warning them by a cry, if any danger approaches. This very sensible custom appears not to have been as yet introduced among the Novogorod bears, since it would otherwise prove a great protection to their progeny against the cruelties practised upon them in that part of the country.
Besides bears and wolves, lynxes are tolerably numerous in the forests near Petersburg; they are, how
ever, I believe, only destructive to hares; they are ugly beasts of a dirty striped grey, with a short tail, looking as if it had been docked.
There are no deer in most parts of Russia, but elks
may be met with in the wiņter within fifty miles of Petersburg: it, however, requires the assistance of one or two hundred peasants, as well as considerable skill and management to get the elks within shot. These noble animals stand about twenty hands high, but there is little except the pleasure of the pursuit to reward the sportsman, for the skin is coarse, and the flesh by no means a delicacy.
A peasant's wedding-Lawful periods for marriage-Etiquette for
marriages — Mariages de convenance – Parental authority-Anecdote of a Moscow merchant and his son-in-law.
Rascazava, Nov. 25th, 1837. We had a wedding here a few days ago, and we went into the gallery of the church to witness the ceremony, which began at half-past seven in the evening, and lasted nearly three-quarters of an hour. The bridegroom was a peasant of rather a superior class, and in good circumstances, but still a serf; and the bride was the daughter of a Tamboff tradesman. In a case like this the wife becomes a slave, but she regains her liberty at her husband's death if she survives him. The church was of course lighted up, and a small altar was placed in the middle; in front of the altar a carpet is always stretched, on which the couple stand, each holding a lighted taper during the ceremony: they walk up to it side by side, and it is supposed that whichever first sets foot on it, will hereafter have the upper hand in the household. Towards the latter part of the ceremony, after a