Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/650

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


630 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

" Yes, he is very merciful, but bow are affairs otherwise ? "

" We are contented."

" How are the wife and daughters ? "

" They are contented."

" And the other children ? "

" They are all contented."

This peasant answered my first three questions with the words " We are contented." I was born among farmers, and believe that I know them well, as I have had much to do with them, but no German farmer ever told me he was contented.

I next turned from the family to the live-stock, and asked, " How many horses have you ?

" Thirty or thirty-five."

" Don't you know exactly ? "

"No, there may be some new colts, and some may have been stolen or eaten by wolves. I sometimes use six, sometimes eight, and some- times fourteen."

" Then you have twenty more than you use. You will sell them ? "

" That may be."

" But what will you do with so many extra beasts ? "

" That's nothing to you."

I would remark that the last answer is a polite form of expression among Siberian farmers. I continued :

" And how many head of cattle have you ? "

" That is my wife's affair."

" And how many hogs ? "

" Nobody knows."

" How large crops do your fields return ? "

" I am satisfied if I get ten times as much as I sow."

" Are your taxes heavy ? "

" We are satisfied with them."

" Have you farmers nothing to complain of ? "

" Oh, yes, we are getting crowded here ; there are beginning to be too many people in the country. If I were not so old, I should move farther east."

" But," I replied, in surprise, " where are the villages ? I don't see any."

My village-chief was silent, and shook his head doubtfully. The fact was, the nearest village was ten miles away. The man was sat- isfied with himself and his family, satisfied with his live-stock and his crops, and satisfied with his taxes, and over-population was apparently the only thing which he and his peers conceived needed to be set right. On this point we should remember that not nearly all the land is yet taken up, and that many of the farms are as large as, and sometimes larger than, the most extensive German manors. Even a spoiled American farmer would be satisfied with such an area. In the midst

�� �