Donald Mackenzie Wallace
The chief requisite for winter travelling in these icy regions is a plentiful supply of warm furs. An Englishman is very apt to be imprudent in this respect, and to trust too much to his natural power of resisting cold. To a certain extent this confidence is justifiable, for an Englishman often feels quite comfortable in an ordinary great coat when his Russian friends consider it necessary to envelop themselves in furs of the warmest kind; but it may be carried too far, in which case severe punishment is sure to follow, as I once learned by experience. I may relate the incident as a warning to others:
Главное — это запастись тёплой меховой одеждой для путешествия зимой в этих холодных краях. Англичанин склонен к беспечности в этом отношении, так как сильно полагается на свою природную способность переносить холод. До некоторой степени такая самоуверенность оправданна, ибо англичанин зачастую чувствует себя вполне удобно в обычном тёплом пальто, когда его русские друзья считают необходимым завернуться в самые тёплые меха. Однако не следует излишне доверяться этой нашей способности, ибо это может окончиться суровым наказанием. Однажды я убедился в этом на своём опыте.
One day in mid-winter I started from Novgorod, with the intention of visiting some friends at a cavalry barracks situated about ten miles from the town. As the sun was shining brightly, and the distance to be traversed was short, I considered that a light fur and a bashlyk — a cloth hood which protects the ears — would be quite sufficient to keep out the cold, and foolishly disregarded the warnings of a Russian friend who happened to call as I was about to start. Our route lay along the river due northward, right in the teeth of a strong north wind. A wintry
north wind is always and everywhere a disagreeable enemy to face; let the reader try to imagine what it is when the Fahrenheit thermometer is at 30 degrees below zero--or rather let him refrain from such an attempt, for the sensation produced cannot be imagined by those who have not experienced it. Of course I ought to have turned back--at least, as soon as a sensation of faintness warned me that the circulation was being seriously impeded--but I did not wish to confess my imprudence to the friend who accompanied me. When we had driven about three-fourths of
the way we met a peasant-woman, who gesticulated violently, and shouted something to us as we passed. I did not hear what she said, but my friend turned to me and said in an alarming tone —we had been speaking German — "Mein Gott! Ihre Nase ist abgefroren!" Now the word
"abgefroren," as the reader will understand, seemed to indicate that my nose was frozen off, so I put up my hand in some alarm to discover whether I had inadvertently lost the whole or part of the member referred to. It was still in situ and entire, but as hard and insensible as a bit of wood.
"You may still save it," said my companion, "if you get out at once and rub it vigorously with snow."
I got out as directed, but was too faint to do anything vigorously. My fur cloak flew open, the cold seemed to grasp me in the region of the heart, and I fell insensible.
How long I remained unconscious I know not. When I awoke I found myself in a strange room, surrounded by dragoon officers in uniform, and the first words I heard were, "He is out of danger now, but he will have a fever."
These words were spoken, as I afterwards discovered, by a very competent surgeon; but the prophecy was not fulfilled. The promised fever never came. The only bad consequences were that for some days my right hand remained stiff, and for a week or two I had to conceal my nose from public view.
If this little incident justifies me in drawing a general conclusion, I should say that exposure to extreme cold is an almost painless form of death; but that the process of being resuscitated is very painful indeed--so painful, that the patient may be excused for momentarily regretting that officious people prevented the temporary insensibility from becoming "the sleep that knows no waking."