24 Amba
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248 Amba Dersu’s Animism. Tracked by a Tiger. Dersu Speaks to the Animal. Kvandagou. Hunting at a Mineral Lick. Dersu Asks a Tiger Not to Be Angry. The Return. The Gold’s Anxiety. Night. A thick, heavy fog enveloped us the following day. It was gray, overcast, cold, and damp. After hastily drinking some tea and stuffing some sukhari into our pockets,DersuandIwentonaheadwhiletheotherspackeduptheequipment and loaded the horses. Since I was surveying our route, I usually left camp earlier than the rest. We walked so slowly that the detachment overtook us after only two hours. We did not catch up with them again until after they had already eaten a snack, rested a bit, and were packing uptocontinueon.Thesamethinghappenedintheafternoon:westarted out ahead of them but didn’t reach camp until mealtime. Dersu had told me the previous day that there were a lot of tigers in theseparts,andthathedidnotrecommendthatwewalkseparatelyfrom the detachment. I pressed on regardless of this caution. Our trail followed the right bank of the Li-Fudzin and sometimes wandered away from the river. Once we followed it deep into the forest, and it was difficult to tell which direction it was to the river. Then, quite unexpectedly, we were back at it and found ourselves on a bank high above the river. If one has not seen it for themselves, it is difficult to imagine how lush the forest understory can be in the Ussuri Kray. Visibility can drop 24 Amba 249 to zero after only a few paces. We often flushed animals from their beds at a distance of 4 to 6 meters, with only the noise of breaking twigs to indicate the direction in which they fled. This was exactly the kind of forest we had been walking in for the past two days. The weather had not been favorable. It was constantly drizzling, there were puddles on the trail, the grass was soaked, and large water droplets would occasionally fall on us from the trees above. There was a remarkable silence in the forest; it was as though nothing were alive. Even the woodpeckers were inexplicably absent. “What’s going on with this weather?” I said to my companion. “It’s not exactly fog and not exactly rain; it’s hard to define. What do you think, Dersu? Is this going to clear up, or will the weather deteriorate ?” The Gold looked up at the sky, his eyes moved across it, and then he continued on in silence. After a moment he stopped and said, “My think thisland,hills,andforestall people.Itsweatsnow.Listen!”Hewasalert. “He breathes . . . people all the same.” He went on ahead, continuing to tell me at length about his views of nature, how everything was alive just as humans were. It was already close to eleven o’clock in the morning. Judging by the time, the detachment should have caught up with us long ago, but we could not hear any sounds behind us in the forest. “We have to wait,” I told my companion. He stopped without saying anything and unslung his Berdan rifle. He leaned it against a tree, stuck his shooting stick into the dirt, and started to look for his pipe. “I cannot find pipe,” he said with annoyance and spat. He wanted to go back and look for it, but I suggested that he wait, assuming that one of the men in the detachment would come across it and save Dersu the trouble of doubling back. We stood there for a good twenty minutes, and it seemed like the old man really wanted a smoke. His patience expired; he took his rifle and turned to me. “My think pipe close. Have to go back.” Worried about the prolonged absence of the detachment, and fearing that something might have happened to one of the horses, I accompanied Dersu. The Gold went first and, as always, shook his head and spoke to himself aloud. 250 The 1906 Expedition “How can it be that my pipe is lost? Is it my age, or my bony head, or—” He stopped midsentence and left his thought hanging in the air. He took a step back, bent his knee to the ground, and stared at something at his feet. I approached. Dersu looked around, agitated, and said in a whisper: “Look, Captain, it Amba. He walk behind us. This awful bad. Trail very fresh; he just here.” It was true; there were extremely fresh and well-defined pugmarks of a large felid in the...


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Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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