Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/279

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267
ENTERTAINING VARIETIES.

enough to grant the same privileges to monkeys and crocodiles. In Lucknow there are two large monkey-hospitals, and several mahakhunds, where swarms of able-bodied Entellus-apes ("Honumans") and Rhesus baboons are fed at the expense of true believers. They get rice-pudding and sirup for dinner, while many hard-working but less sacred bipeds have to eat their rice "straight." But during the Sepoy rebellion the Mohammedan insurgents destroyed one of these establishments and expelled the inmates, including several venerable specimens of the white-headed Entellus, the holiest animal in the menagerie of the Hindoo Pantheon. For many weeks these long-tailed saints perambulated the streets in quest of cold lunch; and an eye-witness, Mrs. Allen Mackenzie, describes the indignation of the orthodox natives, who organized relief committees and monkey soup-houses, though the protracted siege had almost exhausted their own resources. To make matters worse, the streets swarmed with profane monkeys who had to forage for a living, and had no hesitation in black-mailing their sacred relatives. The Honumans had to submit to such outrages; nay, some of them learned to eat their rice-pudding without sirup, and probably consoled themselves with the hope of a better hereafter. They wandered from house to house, and in their great distress even accepted the assistance of unbelievers, but they absolutely refused to work.

—— A Cheerful Summer Resort.—On the hunting-grounds of the lower Lena, where the Fahrenheit thermometer often remains for weeks at 45° below zero, the Russian convicts are dressed in linen jackets, and wear tretschki (rawhide shoes) without stockings. And yet they form the élite corps of the Siberian exiles murderers, forgers, and highway robbers. Political offenders are sent to the mines of Berezov, where the average duration of life, or rather of slow death, is eight years and four months. The majority of the convicts die in less than five years. Minors work there from 6 a. m. till noon, and from 2 to 6 p. m.; adults from 6 a. m. to 6 p. m., without intermission. They have no Sunday, and only one holiday in the year, the birthday of the Czar. Their rations are those of a private soldier, viz., rye-bread and salt beef. After dark they are confined in log-pens, and have to pass the nights of the long Siberian winter between two army-blankets, the one covering the rough-hewed logs of the floor, the other their starved bodies, wrapped in the coarse linen uniform which they are permitted to change only once a month. Chimney-fires are allowed during the supper-hour, i. e., from 6 to 7 p. m., but the majority swallow their food in the dark, and devote the short interval of light and warmth to—entomological researches. The discipline is that of a dog-kennel—kicks and cudgel-blows—and malingering is discouraged by a simple and effective method: the sick (wounded excepted) are put on quarter-rations. Attempts at flight are less frequent than riots, for recaptured fugitives were knouted; mutineers are only shot.

Human beings can get used to worse things than Siberian rye-bread, but never to Siberian frosts, and the monthly fuel rations of the Berezov convicts are limited to one stavsnik (about half a cord) per cabin, though near the mines of the western slope the same mountain-range abounds with densely timbered districts. In an interview with the commander of Berezov, a correspondent of the "Cologne Gazette" suggested the propriety of removing the settlement to the timber-region. "It would probably please the prisoners," replied the commander, but the comfort of their keepers was of more consequence, and all his subalterns agreed that, on account of the trout-streams and cranberry-brakes of the eastern slope, Berezov was a more pleasant summer resort.