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Michael Strogoff

7. The Passage Of The Yenisei
AT nightfall, on the 25th of August, the kibitka came in sight of Krasnoiarsk. The
journey from Tomsk had taken eight days. If it had not been accomplished as
rapidly as it might, it was because Nicholas had slept little. Consequently, it was
impossible to increase his horse's pace, though in other hands, the journey would
not have taken sixty hours.
Happily, there was no longer any fear of Tartars. Not a scout had appeared on
the road over which the kibitka had just traveled. This was strange enough, and
evidently some serious cause had prevented the Emir's troops from marching
without delay upon Irkutsk. Something had occurred. A new Russian corps,
hastily raised in the government of Yeniseisk, had marched to Tomsk to
endeavor to retake the town. But, being too weak to withstand the Emir's troops,
now concentrated there, they had been forced to effect a retreat. Feofar-Khan,
including his own soldiers, and those of the Khanats of Khokhand and Koun-
douze, had now under his command two hundred and fifty thousand men, to
which the Russian government could not as yet oppose a sufficient force. The
invasion could not, therefore, be immediately stopped, and the whole Tartar army
might at once march upon Irkutsk. The battle of Tomsk was on the 22nd of
August, though this Michael did not know, but it explained why the vanguard of
the Emir's army had not appeared at Krasnoiarsk by the 25th.
However, though Michael Strogoff could not know the events which had occurred
since his departure, he at least knew that he was several days in advance of the
Tartars, and that he need not despair of reaching before them the town of Irkutsk,
still six hundred miles distant.
Besides, at Krasnoiarsk, of which the population is about twelve thousand souls,
he depended upon obtaining some means of transport. Since Nicholas Pigassof
was to stop in that town, it would be necessary to replace him by a guide, and to
change the kibitka for another more rapid vehicle. Michael, after having
addressed himself to the governor of the town, and established his identity and
quality as Courier of the Czar--which would be easy-- doubted not that he would
be enabled to get to Irkutsk in the shortest possible time. He would thank the
good Nicholas Pigassof, and set out immediately with Nadia, for he did not wish
to leave her until he had placed her in her father's arms. Though Nicholas had
resolved to stop at Krasnoiarsk, it was only as he said, "on condition of finding
employment there." In fact, this model clerk, after having stayed to the last
minute at his post in Kolyvan, was endeavoring to place himself again at the
disposal of the government. "Why should I receive a salary which I have not
earned?" he would say.
In the event of his services not being required at Krasnoiarsk, which it was
expected would be still in telegraphic communication with Irkutsk, he proposed to
go to Oudinsk, or even to the capital of Siberia itself. In the latter case, he would
continue to travel with the brother and sister; and where would they find a surer
guide, or a more devoted friend?
 
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