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the ladies had ample subject of discourse, not forgetting the great tea-table topic--scandal; causing the old men to shake their heads, and declare such things were not when they were young. Ivan, however, had one unfailing subject of popularity with the ladies. Like most Russians who have had occasion to travel much in cold places, he relished a cup of tea even better than the punch, as he had learned by experience that there was more genuine warmth in the pot than in the bowl. Most Russian officers are known to share this opinion. Ivan had several times had his attention directed to Maria Vorotinska, a young and rich widow, who was the admiration of all Yakoutsk. Her husband had left her a fortune in knowledge of the fur trade and in rubles, with a comfortable house nicely furnished, in Siberia the very height of human felicity. It was commonly reported that Maria, young as she was, was the best bargainer in the land. She got her skins for less than anybody else, and sold them for a higher price. With these qualifications, she must, it was said, prove a jewel to Ivan, who was not a close buyer nor a hard seller. But Ivan for some time remained perfectly insensible both to these social advantages and the great beauty of the lady. He met her often, and even roasted her more nuts than any one else, which was a strong case of preference; but he did not seem caught in the fair one's toils. He neither ate, nor slept, nor amused himself one whit the less than when he first knew her. One evening, however, as Maria handed him his tea, with a hot cake, Ivan, whether owing to some peculiar smile on her face, or to the domestic idea which the act suggested, seemed certainly very much struck, and next day formally proposed. Maria laughed, and tossed her head, and spoke a few good-natured words; and then, without either accepting or rejecting him, hinted something about his youth, his want of devotion to business, and his want of fortune. Ivan, a little warmly, declared himself to be the best hunter in Yakoutsk, and hence the most practically-experienced of any in the trade, and then gave the sum-total of his possessions. "Just one quarter of what good old Vorotinska left me!" replied the prudent Maria. "But if I liked," replied Ivan, "I could be the richest merchant in Siberia." "How?" asked Maria a little curiously, for the mere mention of wealth was to her like powder to the war-horse. "Being almost the only Russian
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