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- The Junior Classics, V5 - 72/72 -


fellow was a most detestable character, always keeping the produce of his grounds for extravagant markets.

TWO STRANGE ADVENTURES IN RUSSIA

By R. E. Raspe

I set off from Rome on a journey to Russia, in the midst of winter, from a just notion that frost and snow must, of course, mend the roads, which every traveller had described as uncommonly bad through the northern parts of Germany, Poland, Courland, and Livonia. I went on horseback as the most convenient manner of travelling; I was but lightly clothed, and of this I felt the inconvenience the more I advanced northeast. What must not a poor old man have suffered in that severe weather and climate, whom I saw on a bleak common in Poland, lying on the road, helpless, shivering and hardly having wherewithal to cover his nakedness? I pitied the poor soul; though I felt the severity of the air myself, I threw my mantle over him, and immediately I heard a voice from the heavens, blessing me for that piece of charity, saying: "You will be rewarded, my son, in time."

I went on: night and darkness overtook me. No village was to be seen. The country was covered with snow and I was unacquainted with the road.

Tired, I alighted and fastened my horse to something, like a pointed stump of a tree, which appeared above the snow. For the sake of safety, I placed my pistols under my arm and lay down on the snow, where I slept so soundly that I did not open my eyes till full daylight. It is not easy to conceive my astonishment to find myself in the midst of a village, lying in a church-yard, nor was my horse to be seen, but I heard him soon after neigh somewhere above me. On looking upwards, I beheld him hanging by his bridle to the weathercock of the steeple. Matters were now very plain to me: the village had been covered with snow overnight; a sudden change of weather had taken place; I had sunk down to the church-yard whilst asleep, gently, and in the same proportion as the snow had melted away; and what in the dark I had taken to be a stump of a little tree appearing above the snow, to which I had tied my horse, proved to have been the cross or weathercock of the steeple!

Without long consideration I took one of my pistols, shot the bridle in two, brought down the horse, and proceeded on my journey. He carried me well. Advancing into the interior parts of Russia, I found travelling on horseback rather unfashionable in winter, so I submitted, as I always do, to the custom of the country, took a single horse sledge, and drove towards St. Petersburg.

I do not exactly recollect whether it was Eastland or Jugemanland, but I remember that in the midst of a dreary forest I spied a terrible wolf making after me with all the speed of ravenous winter hunger. He soon overtook me; there was no possibility of escape. Mechanically I laid myself down flat in the sledge, and let my horse run for our safety. What I wished, but hardly hoped or expected, happened immediately after. The wolf did not mind me in the least, but took a leap over me, and falling furiously on the horse, began instantly to tear and devour the hind part of the poor animal, which ran the faster for his pain and terror. Thus unnoticed and safe myself, I lifted my head slyly up, and with horror I beheld that the wolf had ate his way into the horse's body. It was not long before he had fairly forced himself into it, when I took my advantage and fell upon him with the butt-end of my whip. This unexpected attack in his rear frightened him so much that he leapt forward with all his might, the horse's carcass dropped on the ground, but in his place the wolf was in the harness, and I on my part whipping him continually, we both arrived in full career safe at St. Petersburg, contrary to our respective expectations, and very much to the astonishment of the spectators.

SHOOTING A STAG WITH CHERRY-STONES

By R. E. Raspe

You have heard, I dare say, of the hunter and sportsman's saint and protector, St. Hubert, and of the noble stag which appeared to him in the forest with the holy cross between his antlers. I have paid my homage to that saint every year in good fellowship, and seen this stag a thousand times, either painted in churches or embroidered in the stars of his knights; so that, upon the honor and conscience of a good sportsman, I hardly know whether there may not have been formerly, or whether there are not such crossed stags even at this present day. But let me now relate that which happened to myself some little time ago.

I had been out shooting all day, and had quite expended my powder and shot, when I found myself unexpectedly in presence of a stately stag, looking at me as unconcernedly as if he had known of my empty pouches. I charged immediately with powder, and upon it a good handful of cherrystones, for I had sucked the fruit as far as the hurry would permit. Thus I let fly at him, and hit him just on the middle of the forehead, between his antlers; it stunned him-- he staggered--yet he made off, and I lost sight of him, to my chagrin.

This happened to me in France. Afterwards I visited Russia, and remained there for about a year.

At length, there being no immediate prospect of war with Turkey, I returned to France on leave for a few months, and was staying in the same chateau as I had been when I had fired off this remarkable charge.

We hunted again in the fine forest I had then traversed, with a gay party of French nobles and sportsmen. I had separated myself somewhat from my companions, when, in the opening of a beautiful glade, I beheld a noble stag, with a fine full-grown cherry-tree above ten feet high between his antlers.

I immediately recollected my former adventure, looked upon him as my property, and brought him to the ground by one shot, which at once gave me the haunch and cherry sauce, for the tree was covered with the richest fruit, the like of which I had never tasted before.

THE BARON'S WONDERFUL DOG

By R. E. Raspe

I had married a lady of great beauty, who, having heard of my sporting exploits, desired, a short time after our marriage, to go out with me on a shooting expedition. I went on in front to start something, and I soon saw my dog stop before several hundred coveys of partridges. I waited for my wife, who was following me with my lieutenant and a servant. I waited a long time; nobody came.

At length, very uneasy, I went back, and, when I was half-way to the place where I had left my wife, I heard lamentable groans. They seemed quite near, and yet I could see no trace of a human being. I jumped off my horse; I put my ear to the ground, and not only heard the groans distinctly rising from beneath, but my wife's voice and those of my lieutenant and servant.

I remarked at the same time, not far from the spot, the shaft of a coal-pit, and I had no doubt that my wife and her unfortunate companions had been swallowed up in it. I rode full speed to the nearest village to fetch the miners, who after great efforts succeeded in drawing the unfortunate individuals buried in the pit--which measured ninety feet--to the surface.

They first drew up the man-servant; then his horse; next the lieutenant; next his horse; and at length my wife on her little palfrey. The most curious part of this affair was that, in spite of the awful depth to which they had fallen, no one was hurt, not even the horses, if we except a few slight contusions. But they had had a terrible fright, and were quite unable to pursue our intended sport.

In all this confusion I quite forgot my setter, as no doubt you also have.

The next day I was obliged to go away on duty, and did not return home for a fortnight. On my return I asked for Diana, my setter. No one knew anything about her. My servants thought she had followed me. She was certainly lost, and I never hoped to see her again! At length a bright idea occurred to me:

"She is perhaps still watching the partridges."

I hastened, full of hope and joy, to the spot, and actually there she was!--my noble Diana--on the very place where I had left her a fortnight before.

"Hi, Diana!" I cried. "Seize them!"

She instantly sprang the partridges; they rose, and I killed twenty-five at one shot. But the poor beast had scarcely strength enough to follow me, she was so thin and famished. I was obliged to carry her back to the house on my horse, where rest, feeding, and great care soon restored her to health.

I was thoroughly glad to get her back again.


The Junior Classics, V5 - 72/72

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