Troikas on Siberian Snow
Driving in a Troika Across the Siberian Snow
From: To Siberia, written 1878
Early short stories by Karl May took the ‘German adventurer’—still in third person narrative—across the entire globe; from Lapland to Haiti, from the Aleutians to China, as well as from the Wild West to the Orient, and South America to Africa.
Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh, Lulu.com
The first short scene takes the protagonist couple across the white expanse of Siberia, after the villains, and the second scene sees the villains caught in their own trap.
[…]A fast Russian troika rushed across the frozen, snow-covered plain towards the Waga, a tributary to the Dwina.
Inside the sleigh sat a gentleman and a young lady, both safely wrapped in precious fur.
“Ho-hey, my sweet, my dove, quickly my angel, ever faster, you idol of my soul—run my treasure,” thus the bearded coachman encouraged his horses with the affectionate expressions so natural to Sarmatian horse drivers.
At a break-neck speed, they covered kilometre upon kilometre until a distant, dark object became visible in the white, glimmering expanse of snow. It turned out to be a ferryman’s hut, and it stood at the banks of the Waga River.
The owner of the sleigh ordered the driver to stop in front of it. The ferryman rushed to greet them.
“Is the ice solid enough?”
“As solid as steel, sir.”
“Do you know for certain?”
“Of course, comrade. An elegant couple went across it only yesterday and it is colder today.”
“Who was that couple?”
“A lady and a gentleman. The sleigh driver dismounted and fetched hot tea from my fire. The gentleman is a colonel and his name was count Milanow.”
The passenger looked perplexed. “Did you hear the name correctly?”
“I did, comrade.”
“How far is it to the Dwina River?”
“If your horses hold out you will reach Dwianka castle before nightfall.”
“That’s where I’m headed.”
“The colonel as well.”
“Ah…!” He cast a pensive glance at the lady next to him, and then turned back to the ferryman. “Did he tell you that?”
“No, the sleigh driver did.”
“Good, thank you. Here is something for your tea!”
He threw a coin over to the ferryman, and then signalled the driver to continue the journey.
“What do you think about the trip of the colonel, Paulowna?”
“Coincidence or not?”
“Perhaps. Hm…! The governor is present at Dwianka, so I heard. We met in Paris, and then in London; we became casual acquaintances to pass the time, but I don’t know whether or not he’ll still remember me. I wanted to visit him and will stop there in any case, even if the colonel is with him. Night is approaching and there are wolves in the forest; we must stay at his estate.”
He reclined into the cushions and remained silent. The anticipated meeting with Milanow seemed to occupy him more than he wanted to admit.
The ferryman’s statement proved correct. Night hadn’t completely fallen, when the dark walls of Dwianka castle rose in front of the travellers. The sleigh passed through the broad, open gate into the spacious yard and stopped in front of the steps that led to the portal above.
The morning was still dark when a sleigh quietly glided through the gates and left the castle. It carried the colonel and Wanka.
When they arrived in the forest that grew down to the banks of the Dwina River, the driver used the whip on the horses and they immediately fell into their familiar stretched gallop.
“Finally, finally we’ll have satisfaction!” the colonel remarked.
Wanka remained silent, however, her joy about the revenge that seemed assured was no smaller than his.
The snow glowed; morning dawned. By the time the sleigh reached the banks of the river, it was completely light. Several mounted guards, posted at regular intervals along the far riverbank, came into view. As soon as the riders saw the sleigh approach, they moved to regroup in a spot where they anticipated the vehicle to cross.
“Continue on. The ice holds!” the colonel ordered.
The horses pulled the sleigh across the frozen river at a trot. When they arrived on the other, elevated side the colonel became aware of another vehicle that had stopped nearby under the trees.
“Halt!” the leader of the Cossacks shouted. The coachman obeyed the order. “The passport!” The colonel pulled out the wallet, removed the passport and handed it over. The officer took one look at it. “Step out of the sleigh!”
“I’m asking why?”
“I say out!”
“Oho, I wish to know the reason!”
The officer calmly reached for his saddle to untie the kantshu. “Out or I’ll help you along!”
“What’s with the club? Away with it, at once! The colonel, count von Milanow might misunderstand you otherwise!”
“Colonel? Count Milanow? Is this your passport?”
“By Hell, yes.”
“Good! It says here Baron and Baroness von Felsen. Out of the sleigh! I’m hetman and know what I have to do.”
The Cossack held the passport up for the colonel to see. He read the names; a terrible shock went through his body and before he could even think of resistance he was disarmed, pulled from the sleigh, together with his companion, and then dragged to the other vehicle, which rushed away with them and the large number of guards.
After a short while, another sleigh came over the river. No ‘stoi!’ stopped them; the Cossacks had caught the one they had expected and left. Only the snow revealed the clear tracks of the recent event.