Infomotions, Inc.Russian Rambles / Hapgood, Isabel Florence, 1850-1928



Author: Hapgood, Isabel Florence, 1850-1928
Title: Russian Rambles
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): russian; russia; peasant; count tolstoy
Contributor(s): Johnson, Frank Tenney, 1874-1939 [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 105,204 words (short) Grade range: 12-15 (college) Readability score: 51 (average)
Identifier: etext18165
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Title: Russian Rambles

Author: Isabel F. Hapgood

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK RUSSIAN RAMBLES ***




Produced by James Rusk (jrusk@excite.com)




RUSSIAN RAMBLES

BY

ISABEL F. HAPGOOD

AUTHOR OF "THE EPIC SONGS OF RUSSIA"

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 1895




TO RUSSIA AND MY RUSSIAN FRIENDS

I DEDICATE THESE NOTES OF MY SOJOURN WITH THEM. THEY MAY REST ASSURED
THAT, THOUGH MANY OF MY MOST CHERISHED EXPERIENCES ARE NOT RECORDED IN
THESE PAGES, THEY REMAIN UNFORGOTTEN, DEEPLY IMPRINTED ON MY HEART.




PREFACE.


The innumerable questions which have been put to me since my return to
America have called to my attention the fact that, in spite of all that
has been written about Russia, the common incidents of everyday life are
not known, or are known so imperfectly that any statement of them is a
travesty. I may cite, as an example, a book published within the past
two years, and much praised in America by the indiscriminating as a
truthful picture of life. The whole story hung upon the great musical
talent of the youthful hero. The hero skated to church through the
streets, gazed down the long aisle where the worshipers were assembled
(presumably in pews), ascended to the organ gallery, sang an impromptu
solo with trills and embellishments, was taken in hand by the enraptured
organist who had played there for thirty years, and developed into a
great composer. Omitting a mass of other absurdities scattered through
the book, I will criticise this crucial point. There are no organs or
organists in Russia; there are no pews, or aisles, or galleries for the
choir, and there are never any trills or embellishments in the church
music. A boy could skate to church in New York more readily than in
Moscow, where such a thing was never seen, and where they are not
educated up to roller skates. Lastly, as the church specified, St.
Vasily, consists of a nest of small churches connected by narrow,
labyrinthine corridors, and is approached from the street up two flights
of low-ceiled stairs, it is an impossibility that the boy should have
viewed the "aisle" and assembled congregation from his skates at the
door. That is a fair specimen of the distortions of facts which I am
constantly encountering.

It has seemed to me that there is room for a book which shall impart an
idea of a few of the ordinary conditions of life and of the characters
of the inhabitants, illustrated by apposite anecdotes from my personal
experience. For this purpose, a collection of detached pictures is
better than a continuous narrative of travel.

I am told that I must abuse Russia, if I wish to be popular in America.
Why, is more than I or my Russian friends can understand. Perhaps it
arises from the peculiar fact that people find it more interesting to
hear bad things of their neighbors than good, and the person who
furnishes startling tales is considered better company than the humdrum
truth-teller or the charitably disposed.

The truth is, that people too frequently go to Russia with the
deliberate expectation and intention of seeing queer things. That they
do frequently contrive to see queer things, I admit. Countess X. Z., who
in appearance and command of the language could not have been
distinguished from an Englishwoman, related to me a pertinent anecdote
when we were discussing this subject. She chanced to travel from St.
Petersburg to Moscow in a compartment of the railway carriage with two
Americans. The latter told her that they had been much shocked to meet a
peasant on the Nevsky Prospekt, holding in his hand a live chicken, from
which he was taking occasional bites, feathers and all. That they saw
nothing of the sort is positive; but what they did see which could have
been so ingeniously distorted was more than the combined powers of the
countess and myself were equal to guessing.

The general idea of foreign visitors seems to be that they shall find
the Russia of the seventeenth century. I am sure that the Russia of Ivan
the Terrible's time, a century earlier, would precisely meet their
views. They find the reality decidedly tame in comparison, and feel
bound to supply the missing spice. A trip to the heart of Africa would,
I am convinced, approach much nearer to the ideal of "adventure"
generally cherished. The traveler to Africa and to Russia is equally
bound to narrate marvels of his "experiences" and of the customs of the
natives.

But, in order to do justice to any foreign country, the traveler must
see people and customs not with the eyes of his body only, but with the
eyes of his heart, if he would really understand them. Above all things,
he must not deliberately buckle on blinders. Of no country is this axiom
more true than of Russia. A man who would see Russia clearly must strip
himself of all preconceived prejudices of religion, race, and language,
and study the people from their own point of view. If he goes about
repeating Napoleon I.'s famous saying, "Scratch a Russian and you will
find a Tatar," he will simply betray his own ignorance of history and
facts.

In order to understand matters, a knowledge of the language is
indispensable in any country. Naturally, very few possess this knowledge
in Russia, where it is most indispensable of all. There are guides, but
they are a lottery at best: Russians who know very little English,
English who know very little Russian, or Germans who are impartially
ignorant of both, and earn their fees by relating fables about the
imperial family and things in general, when they are not candidly
saying, "I don't know." I saw more or less of that in the case of other
people's guides; I had none of my own, though they came to me and begged
the privilege of taking me about gratuitously if I would recommend them.
I heard of it from Russians. An ideal cicerone, one of the attendants in
the Moscow Historical Museum, complained to me on this subject, and
rewarded me for sparing him the infliction by getting permission to take
us to rooms which were not open to the public, where the director
himself did the honors for us. Sometimes travelers dispense with the
guides, as well as with a knowledge of the language, but if they have a
talent for pronouncing what are called, I believe, "snap judgments,"
that does not prevent their fulfilling, on their return home, their
tacitly implied duty of uttering in print a final verdict on everything
from soup to government.

If the traveler be unusually lucky, he may make acquaintance on a
steamer with a Russian who can talk English, and who can and will give
him authentic information. These three conditions are not always united
in one person. Moreover, a stranger cannot judge whether his Russian is
a representative man or not, what is his position in the social
hierarchy, and what are his opportunities for knowing whereof he speaks.
"Do you suppose that God, who knows all things, does not know our table
of ranks?" asks an arrogant General in one of the old Russian comedies.
I have no doubt that the Lord does know that remarkable Jacob's ladder
which conducts to the heaven of high public place and the good things of
life, and whose every rung is labeled with some appetizing title and
privilege. But a newly arrived foreigner cannot know it, or the
traditions of the three greater, distinct classes into which the people
are divided.

Russians have become so used to hearing and reading remarkable
statements about themselves that they only smile indulgently at each
fresh specimen of ill-will or ignorance. They keep themselves posted on
what is said of them, and frequently quote choice passages for the
amusement of foreigners who know better, but never when they would be
forced to condescend to explanation. Alexander Dumas, Senior, once wrote
a book on Russia, which is a fruitful source of hilarity in that country
yet, and a fair sample of such performances. To quote but one
illustration,--he described halting to rest under the shade of a great
_kliukva_ tree. The _kliukva_ is the tiny Russian cranberry,
and grows accordingly. Another French author quite recently contributed
an item of information which Russians have adopted as a characteristic
bit of ignorance and erected into a standard jest. He asserted that
every village in Russia has its own gallows, on which it hangs its own
criminals off-hand. As the death penalty is practically abolished in
Russia, except for high treason, which is not tried in villages, the
Russians are at a loss to explain what the writer can have mistaken for
a gallows. There are two "guesses" current as to his meaning: the two
uprights and cross-beam of the village swing; or the upright, surmounted
by a cross-board, on which is inscribed the number of inhabitants in the
village. Most people favor the former theory, but consider it a pity
that he has not distinctly pointed to the latter by stating that the
figures there inscribed represent the number of persons hanged. That
would have rendered the tale bloodthirsty, interesting, absolutely
perfect,--from a foreign point of view.

I have not attempted to analyze the "complicated" national character.
Indeed, I am not sure that it is complicated. Russians of all classes,
from the peasant up, possess a naturally simple, sympathetic disposition
and manner, as a rule, tinged with a friendly warmth whose influence is
felt as soon as one crosses the frontier. Shall I be believed if I say
that I found it in custom-house officers and gendarmes? For the rest,
characters vary quite as much as they do elsewhere. It is a question of
individuals, in character and morals, and it is dangerous to indulge in
generalizations. My one generalization is that they are, as a nation,
too long-suffering and lenient in certain directions, that they allow
too much personal independence in certain things.

If I succeed in dispelling some of the absurd ideas which are now
current about Russia, I shall be content. If I win a little
comprehension and kindly sympathy for them, I shall be more than
content.

ISABEL F. HAPGOOD. New York, January 1, 1895.




CONTENTS

I. PASSPORTS, POLICE, AND POST-OFFICE IN RUSSIA.

II. THE NEVSKY PROSPEKT

III. MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE RUSSIAN CENSOR

IV. BARGAINING IN RUSSIA

V. EXPERIENCES

VI. A RUSSIAN SUMMER RESORT

VII. A STROLL IN MOSCOW WITH COUNT TOLSTOY

VIII. COUNT TOLSTOY AT HOME

IX. A RUSSIAN HOLY CITY

X. A JOURNEY ON THE VOLGA

XI. THE RUSSIAN KUMYS CURE

XII. MOSCOW MEMORIES

XIII. THE NIZHNI-NOVGOROD FAIR AND THE VOLGA




RUSSIAN RAMBLES.




I.

PASSPORTS, POLICE, AND POST-OFFICE IN RUSSIA.


We imported into Russia, untaxed, undiscovered by the custom-house
officials, a goodly stock of misadvice, misinformation, apprehensions,
and prejudices, like most foreigners, albeit we were unusually well
informed, and confident that we were correctly posted on the grand
outlines of Russian life, at least. We were forced to begin very
promptly the involuntary process of getting rid of them. Our anxiety
began in Berlin. We visited the Russian consul-general there to get our
passports _vised_. He said, "You should have got the signature of the
American consul. Do that, and return here."

At that moment, the door leading from his office to his drawing-room
opened, and his wife made her appearance on the threshold, with the
emphatic query, "_When_ are you coming?"

"Immediately, my dear," he replied. "Just wait a moment, until I get rid
of these Americans."

Then he decided to rid himself of us for good. "I will assume the
responsibility for you," he said, affixed his signature on the spot, to
spare himself a second visit, and, collecting his fees, bowed us out. I
suppose he argued that we should have known the ropes and attended to
all details accurately, in order to ward off suspicion, had we been
suspicious characters. How could he know that the Americans understood
Russian, and that this plain act of "getting rid" of us would weigh on
our minds all the way to the Russian frontier?

At Wirballen the police evoked a throb of gratitude from our relieved
hearts. No one seemed to suspect that the American government owned a
consul in Berlin who could write his name on our huge parchments, which
contrasted so strongly with the compact little documents from other
lands.

"Which are your passports?" asked the tall gendarme who guarded the door
of the restaurant, as we passed out to take our seats in the Russian
train.

"The biggest," I replied, without mentioning names, and he handed them
over with a grin. No fuss over passports or custom-house, though we had
carefully provided cause! This was beginning badly, and we were
disappointed at our tame experience.

On our arrival in St. Petersburg, we were not even asked for our
passports. Curiosity became restless within us. Was there some sinister
motive in this neglect, after the harrowing tales we had heard from a
woman lecturer, and read in books which had actually got themselves
printed, about gendarmes forcing themselves into people's rooms while
they were dressing, demanding their passports, and setting a guard at
their doors; after which, gendarmes in disguises (which they were clever
enough to penetrate) followed them all over the country? Why was it thus
with them, and not with us? The _why_ ripened gradually. We inquired if
the passports were not wanted.

"No; if you intend to remain only a few days, it is not worth while to
register them," was the startling reply; and those wretched, unwieldy
parchments remained in our possession, even after we had announced that
we did not meditate departing for some time. I hesitate to set down the
whole truth about the anxiety they cost us for a while. How many
innocent officers, in crack regiments (as we discovered when we learned
the uniforms), in search of a breakfast or a dinner, did we not take for
the police upon our tracks, in search of those concealed documents! Our
excitement was ministered to by the Tatar waiters, who, not having
knowledge of our nationality, mistook us for English people, and wrecked
our nerves by making our tea as strong and black as beer, with a view to
large "tea-money" for this delicate attention to our insular tastes.

If no one wanted those documents, what were _we_ to do with them? Wear
them as breastplates (folded), or as garments (full size)? No pocket of
any sex would tolerate them, and we had been given to understand by
veracious (?) travelers that it was as much as our lives were worth to
be separated from them for a single moment. At the end of a week we
forced the hotel to take charge of them. They were registered, and
immediately thrown back on our hands. Then we built lean-tos on our
petticoats to hold them, and carried them about until they looked aged
and crumpled and almost frayed, like ancestral parchments. We even slept
with them under our pillows. At last we also were nearly worn out, and
we tossed those Sindbad passports into a drawer, then into a trunk.
There they remained for three months; and when they were demanded, we
had to undertake a serious search, so completely had their existence and
whereabouts been lost to our lightened spirits. In the mean time we had
grasped the elementary fact that they would be required only on a change
of domicile. By dint of experience we learned various other facts, which
I may as well summarize at once.

The legal price of registration is twenty kopeks (about ten cents), the
value of the stamp. But hotel and lodging-house keepers never set it
down in one's bill at less than double that amount. It often rises to
four or five times the legal charge, according to the elegance of the
rooms which one occupies, and also according to the daring of the
landlord. In one house in Moscow, they even tried to make us pay again
on leaving. We refused, and as we already had possession of the
passports, which, they pretended, required a second registry, they could
do nothing. This abuse of overcharging for passport registration on the
part of landlords seems to have been general. It became so serious that
the Argus-eyed prefect of St. Petersburg, General Gresser (now
deceased), issued an order that no more than the law allowed should be
exacted from lodgers. I presume, however, that all persons who could not
read Russian, or who did not chance to notice this regulation, continued
to contribute to the pockets of landlords, since human nature is very
much alike everywhere, in certain professions. I had no occasion to test
the point personally, as the law was issued just previous to my
departure from the country.

The passport law seems to be interpreted by each man for himself in
other respects, also. In some places, we found that we could stay
overnight quite informally; at others, our passports were required. Once
we spent an entire month incognito. At Kazan, our balcony commanded a
full view of the police department of registry, directly opposite. The
landlord sniffed disdainfully at the mention of our passports, and I am
sure that we should not have been asked for them at all, had not one of
the officials, who chanced to be less wilted by the intense heat than
his fellows,--they had been gazing lazily at us, singly and in
battalions, in the intervals of their rigorous idleness, for the last
four and twenty hours,--suddenly taken a languid interest in us about
one hour before our departure. The landlord said he was "simply
ridiculous." On another occasion, a waiter in a hotel recognized the
Russians who were with us as neighbors of his former master in the days
of serfdom. He suggested that he would arrange not to have our passports
called for at all, since they might be kept overtime, and our departure
would thus be delayed, and we be incommoded. Only one of our friends had
even taken the trouble to bring a "document;" but the whole party spent
three days under the protection of this ex-serf. Of course, we bespoke
his attendance for ourselves, and remembered that little circumstance in
his "tea-money." This practice of detaining passports arbitrarily, from
which the ex-serf was protecting us, prevails in some localities,
judging from the uproar about it in the Russian newspapers. It is
contrary to the law, and can be resisted by travelers who have time,
courage, and determination. It appears to be a device of the landlords
at watering places and summer resorts generally, who desire to detain
guests. I doubt whether the police have anything to do with it. What we
paid the ex-serf for was, practically, protection against his employer.

Our one experience of this device was coupled with a good deal of
amusement, and initiated us into some of the laws of the Russian
post-office as well. To begin my story intelligibly, I must premise that
no Russian could ever pronounce or spell our name correctly unaided. A
worse name to put on a Russian official document, with its _H_ and its
double _o_, never was invented! There is no letter _h_ in the Russian
alphabet, and it is customary to supply the deficiency with the letter
_g_, leaving the utterer to his fate as to which of the two legitimate
sounds--the foreign or the native--he is to produce. It affords a
test of cultivation parallel to that involved in giving a man a knife
and fork with a piece of pie, and observing which he uses. That is the
American shibboleth. Lomonosoff, the famous founder of Russian literary
language in the last century, wrote a long rhymed strophe, containing a
mass of words in which the _g_ occurs legitimately and illegitimately,
and wound up by wailing out the query, "Who can emerge from the crucial
test of pronouncing all these correctly, unimpeached?" That is the
Russian shibboleth.

As a result of this peculiarity, our passports came back from each trip
to the police office indorsed with a brand-new version of our name. We
figured under Gepgud, Gapgod, Gabgot, and a number of other disguises,
all because they persisted in spelling by the eye, and would not accept
my perfect phonetic version. The same process applied to the English
name Wylie has resulted in the manufacture of Villie. And the pleasant
jest of it all was that we never troubled ourselves to sort our
passports, because, although there existed not the slightest family
resemblance even between my mother and myself, we looked exactly alike
in those veracious mirrors. This explained to our dull comprehension how
the stories of people using stolen passports could be true. However, the
Russians were not to blame for this particular absurdity. It was the
fault of the officials in America.

On the occasion to which I refer, we had gone out of St. Petersburg, and
had left a written order for the post-office authorities to forward our
mail to our new address. The bank officials, who should certainly have
known better, had said that this would be sufficient, and had even
prepared the form, on their stamped paper, for our signature. Ten days
elapsed; no letters came. Then the form was returned, with orders to get
our signatures certified to by the chief of police or the police captain
of our district! When we recovered from our momentary vexation, we
perceived that this was an excellent safeguard. I set out for the house
of the chief of police.

His orderly said he was not at home, but would be there at eleven
o'clock. I took a little look into the church,--my infallible receipt
for employing spare moments profitably, which has taught me many things.
At eleven o'clock the chief was still "not at home." I decided that this
was in an "official" sense only, when I caught sight of a woman
surveying me cautiously through the crack of the opposite door to the
antechamber. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that a woman calling
upon a chief of police was regarded as a suspicious character; and
rightly, after various shooting incidents in St. Petersburg. My
suspicions were confirmed by my memory of the fact that I had been told
that the prefect of St. Petersburg was "not at home" in business hours,
though his gray lambskin cap--the only one in town--was lying before
me at the time. But I also recollected that when I had made use of that
cap as a desk, on which to write my request, to the horror of the
orderly, and had gone home, the prefect had sent a gendarme to do what I
wanted. Accordingly, I told this orderly my business in a loud, clear
voice. The crack of the door widened as I proceeded, and at my last word
I was invited into the chief's study by the orderly, who had been
signaled to.

The chief turned out to be a polished and amiable baron, with a German
name, who was eager to render any service, but who had never come into
collision with that post-office regulation before. I remarked that I
regretted not being able to certify to ourselves with our passports, as
they had not been returned to us. He declared that the passports were
quite unnecessary as a means of identification; my word was sufficient.
But he flew into a rage over the detention of the passports. That
something decidedly vigorous took place over those papers, and that the
landlord of our hotel was to blame, it was easy enough to gather from
the meek air and the apologies with which they were handed to us, a
couple of hours later. The chief dispatched his orderly on the spot with
my post-office petition. During the man's absence, the chief brought in
and introduced to me his wife, his children, and his dogs, and showed me
over his house and garden. We were on very good terms by the time the
orderly returned with the signature of the prefect (who had never seen
us) certifying to our signatures, on faith. The baron sealed the
petition for me with his biggest coat of arms, and posted it, and the
letters came promptly and regularly. Thereafter, for the space of our
four months' stay in the place, the baron and I saluted when we met. We
even exchanged "shakehands," as foreigners call the operation, and the
compliments of the day, in church, when the baron escorted royalty. I
think he was a Lutheran, and went to that church when etiquette did not
require his presence at the Russian services, where I was always to be
found.

As, during those four months, I obtained several very special privileges
which required the prefect's signature,--as foreigners were by no
means common residents there,--and as I had become so well known by
sight to most of the police force of the town that they saluted me when
I passed, and their dogs wagged their tails at me and begged for a
caress, I imagined that I was properly introduced to the authorities,
and that they could lay hands upon me at any moment when the necessity
for so doing should become apparent. Nevertheless, one friend, having
applied to the police for my address, spent two whole days in finding
me, at haphazard. After a residence of three months, other friends
appealed in vain to the police; then obtained from the prefect, who had
certified to us, the information that no such persons lived in the town,
the only foreigners there being two sisters named Genrut! With this
lucid clue our friends cleverly found us. Those who understand Russian
script will be able to unravel the process by which we were thus
disguised and lost. We had been lost before that in St. Petersburg, and
we recognized the situation, with variations, at a glance. There is no
such thing as a real practical directory in Russian cities. When one's
passport is _vised_ by the police, the name and information therein set
forth are copied on a large sheet of paper, and this document takes its
place among many thousand others, on the thick wire files of the Address
Office. I went there once. That was enough in every way. It lingers in
my mind as the darkest, dirtiest, worst-ventilated, most depressing
place I saw in Russia.

If one wishes to obtain the address of any person, he goes or sends to
this Address Office, fills out a blank, for which he pays a couple of
kopeks, and, after patient waiting for the over-busy officials to search
the big files, he receives a written reply, with which he must content
himself. The difficulty, in general, about this system lies here: one
must know the exact Christian name, patronymic, and surname of the
person wanted, and how to spell them correctly (according to police
lights). One must also know the exact occupation of the person, if he be
not a noble living on his income, without business or official position.
Otherwise, the attempt to find any one is a harder task than finding the
proverbial needle in a haystack. A person who had been asked to call
upon us, and who afterward became a valued friend, tried three times in
vain to find us by this means, and was informed that we did not exist.
This was owing to some eccentricity in the official spelling of our
name. An application to the American Legation, as a desperate final
resort, served the purpose at last. The same thing happened when the
telegraph messenger tried to find us, to deliver an important cablegram.
Still, in spite of this experience, I always regarded my passport as an
important means of protection. In case of accident, one could be traced
by it. A traveler's passport once registered at the police office, the
landlord or lodging-house keeper is responsible for the life of his
guest. If the landlord have any bandit propensities, this serves as a
check upon them, since he is bound to produce the person, or to say what
has become of him. In the same way, when one is traveling by imperial
post carriage, the postilion must deliver his passenger safe and sound
at the next post station, or be promptly arrested. The passport serves
here as a sort of waybill for the human freight. When a foreigner's
passport is registered for the first time, he receives permission to
remain six months in the country. At the expiration of that period, on
formal application, a fresh permit is issued, which must be paid for,
and which covers one year. This takes the form of a special document,
attached to the foreign passport with cord and sealing-wax; and attached
to it, in turn, is a penalty for cutting the cord or tampering with the
official seal. These acts must be done by the proper officials. I
thought it might be interesting to attend to securing this special
permit myself instead of sending the _dvornik_ (the yard porter), whose
duties comprise as many odds and ends as those of the prime minister of
an empire.

At the office I was questioned concerning my religion and my occupation,
which had not been inquired into previously. The question about religion
was a mere formality, as they care nothing for one's creed. I stated, in
reply to the last question, that I was merely "a traveler."

"Don't say that; it's too expensive," returned the official, in a
friendly way.

"To whom? How?" I asked.

"To you, of course. A traveler, as a person of leisure, pays a huge
tax."

"Call me a literary person, then, if you like."

"That's not an occupation!" (Observe the delicate, unconscious sarcasm
of this rejoinder! As a matter of fact, the Russian idea of literary men
is that they all hold some government or other appointment, on the
committee of censorship, for example,--some ratable position. Upon
this they can depend for a livelihood, aside from the product of their
brains; which is practical, and affords a firm foundation upon which to
execute caprices.)

He suggested various things which I was not, and I declined to accept
his suggestions. We got it settled at last, though he shook his head
over my extravagant obstinacy in paying two dollars, when I might have
got off with half the sum and a lie. He imparted a good deal of amusing
information as to the manner in which people deliberately evade the
passport tax with false statements; for example, governesses, who would
scorn to be treated as nurses, get themselves described as _bonnes_ to
save money. I have no doubt that the authorities amiably assist them by
friendly suggestions, as in my own case; only I decline to sail under
false colors, by the authority of my own government or any other; so his
amiability was wasted so far as I was concerned.

It would seem to the ordinary reader that the police would be able to
lay hands on a man, when he was wanted, with tolerable promptness and
accuracy, after all the details which the law requires in these "address
tickets," as the local passports are called, had been duly furnished.
But I remember one case among several which impressed me as instructive
and amusing. The newspapers told the tale, which ran somewhat as
follows: A wealthy woman of position, residing in one of the best
quarters of St. Petersburg, hired a prepossessing young lackey as one of
her large staff of domestics. Shortly after his advent, many articles of
value began to disappear. Finally, suspicion having turned on this
lackey, he also disappeared, and the police undertook to find him. It
then became apparent that the fellow had used a false passport and
address, and was not to be found where he was inscribed. He caused an
exciting chase. This ended in the discovery of a regular robbers' nest,
where a large number of false passports were captured, the prepossessing
lackey and his friends having abandoned them in their attempt to escape.
The papers were also constantly remarking on the use made by peasant men
of their passports. The wife is inscribed on the husband's "document,"
separate passports for wives being, as a rule, difficult of attainment
in the lower classes. The peasants are thus able, and often willing, to
control their wives' places of residence and movements, and preserve
entire liberty of action for themselves, since their consent is required
for the separate passport, or for the wives' movements on the common
passport. In such cases the passport does become an instrument of
oppression, from either the Occidental or the Oriental point of view.

As for the stories told by travelers of officious meddling by the police
on their arrival in Russia, and of their footsteps being dogged, I have
recently been favored with some light on that subject. I believe the
tales, with reservations, since some perfectly innocent and truthful
friends of mine related to me their own similar experience. A man, who
seemed to their inexperienced eyes to be a police officer, told them
that the authorities thought three weeks, one in Petersburg and two
elsewhere, would be amply sufficient for their travels in Russia. They
had a high-priced French courier, who pretended to know a little
Russian. Perhaps he did know enough for his own purposes. He told them
that they were watched constantly, and translated for the officer. But
he did not tell them that they already had permission to remain in the
country for the customary six months. I made them get out their
passports, and showed them the official stamp and signature to that
effect. This clever courier afterward stole from them, in Warsaw, a
quantity of diamonds which he had helped them to purchase in Moscow, and
of whose existence and whereabouts in their trunks no one but himself
was aware. This helped me to an explanation. It is invariably the
couriers or guides, I find, who tell travelers these alarming tales, and
neglect to inform them of their rights. It certainly looks very much as
if some confederate of theirs impersonates a police official, and as if
they misinterpret. The stories of spies forever in attendance seem to be
manufactured for the purpose of extorting handsome gratuities from their
victims for their "protection," and for the purpose of frightening the
latter out of the country before their own ignorance is discovered. As I
never employed the guides, I never had any trouble with the police,
either genuine or manufactured. I visited the police stations whenever I
could make an excuse; and when I wished to know when and where the
Emperor was to be seen, I asked a policeman or a gendarme. He always
told me the exact truth unhesitatingly, and pointed out the best
position. It was refreshing after the German police, who put one through
the Inquisition as to one's self and one's ancestors as soon as one
arrives, and who prove themselves lineal descendants of Ananias or Baron
Munchausen when a traveler asks for information.

When we wished to leave the country, I again usurped the _dvornik's_
duties, and paid another visit to the passport office, to inspect its
workings. Our Russian passports were clipped out, and little books were
given us, which constituted our permission to leave Russia at any time
within the next three months, by any route we pleased, without further
ceremony. These booklets contained information relating to the tax
imposed on Russians for absenting themselves from their country for
various periods, the custom-house regulations which forbid the entry,
duty free, of more than one fur cloak, cap, and muff to each person,
etc., since these books form return passports for Russians, though we
surrendered ours at the frontier. As the hotel clerk or porter attends
to all passport details, few foreigners see the inside of the office, or
hear the catechisms which are conducted there, as I did. It is vulgar,
it smacks of commercial life, to go one's self. Apathy and lack of
interest can always be relied upon to brand one as aristocratic. In this
case, however, as in many others, I considered myself repaid for
following Poor Richard's advice: "If you want a thing done, do it
yourself; if not, send!"

To sum up the passport question: If his passport is in order, the
traveler need never entertain the slightest apprehension for a single
moment, despite sensational tales to the contrary, and it will serve as
a safeguard. If, for any good reason, his passport cannot be put in
order, the traveler will do well to keep out of Russia, or any other
country which requires such documents. In truth, although we do not
require them in this country, America would be better off if all people
who cannot undergo a passport scrutiny, and a German, not a Russian,
passport examination, were excluded from it.

I have mentioned the post-office in connection with our passports.
Subsequently, I had several entertaining interviews with the police and
others on that point. One Sunday afternoon, in Moscow, we went to the
police station of our quarter to get our change-of-address petition to
the post-office authorities signed. There was nothing of interest about
the shabby building or the rooms, on this occasion. The single officer
on duty informed us that he was empowered to attend only to cases of
drunkenness, breaches of the peace, and the like. We must return on
Monday, he declared.

"No," said I. "Why make us waste all that time in beautiful Moscow? Here
are our passports to identify us. Will you please to tell the captain,
as soon as he arrives to-morrow morning, that we are genuine, and
request him to sign this petition and post it?"

The officer courteously declined to look at the passports, said that my
word was sufficient, and accepted my commission. Then, rising, drawing
himself up, with the heels of his high wrinkled boots in regulation
contact, and the scarlet pipings of his baggy green trousers and tight
coat bristling with martial etiquette, he made me a profound bow, hand
on heart, and said: "Madam, accept the thanks of Russia for the high
honor you have done her in learning her difficult language!"

I accepted Russia's thanks with due pomp, and hastened into the street.
That small, low-roofed station house seemed to be getting too contracted
to contain all of us and etiquette.

Again, upon another occasion, also in Moscow, it struck us that it would
be a happy idea and a clever economy of time to get ourselves certified
to before our departure, instead of after our arrival in St. Petersburg.
Accordingly, we betook ourselves, in a violent snowstorm, to the police
station inside the walls of the old city, as we had changed our hotel,
and that was now our quarter.

A vision of cells; of unconfined prisoners tranquilly executing hasty
repairs on their clothing, with twine or something similar, in the
anteroom; of a complete police hierarchy, running through all the
gradations of pattern in gold and silver embroidery to the plain uniform
of the roundsman, gladdened our sight while we waited. A gorgeous
silver-laced official finally certified our identity, as usual without
other proof than our statement, and, clapping a five-kopek stamp on our
paper, bowed us out. I had never seen a stamp on such a document before,
and had never been asked to pay anything; but I restrained my natural
eagerness to reimburse the government and ask questions, with the idea
that it might have been a purely mechanical action on the part of the
officer, and in the hope of developments. They came. A couple of hours
later, a messenger entered our room at the hotel, without knocking, in
Russian lower-class style, and demanded thirty kopeks for the signature.
I offered to pay for the stamp on the spot, and supply the remaining
twenty-five kopeks when furnished with an adequate reason therefor.

"Is the captain's signature worth so much?" I asked.

"That is very little," was the answer.

"So it is. Is the captain's signature worth so little? Tell me why."

He could not, or would not.

I made him wait while I wrote a petition to the police. The burden of it
was: "Why? I was born an American and curious; not too curious, but just
curious enough to be interested in the ethnographical and psychological
problems of foreign lands. Why the twenty-five kopeks? It is plainly too
little or too much. Why?"

The messenger accepted the five kopeks for the stamp, and set out to
deliver the document. But he returned after a moment, and said that he
would intrust the five kopeks to my safe-keeping until he brought the
answer to my document,--which he had had just sufficient time to read,
by the way. That was the last I ever heard of him or of it, and I was
forced to conclude that some thirsty soul had been in quest of
"tea-money" for _vodka_. I am still in debt to the Russian government
for five kopeks.

The last time I arrived in Petersburg, I tried a new plan. Instead of
making a trip of a couple of miles to get the signature of our police
captain, or sending the petition at the languid convenience of the
overworked _dvornik_, I went to the general post-office, which was close
by, and made a personal request that my mail matter be delivered at my
new address. The proper official, whom I found after a search through
most of the building, during which I observed their methods, declared
that my request was illegal, and ordered me to go for the customary
signature. But by this time I had learned that the mere threat to make
Russian officials inspect my passport was productive of much the same
effect as drawing a pistol on them would have had. It was not in the
least necessary to have the document with me; going through the motions
was easier, and quite as good. Every man of them flushed up, and
repelled the suggestion as a sort of personal insult; but they
invariably came to terms on the spot. Accordingly, I tried it here.

This particular man, when I pretended to draw my "open sesame" spell
from my pocket, instantly dropped his official air, asked me to write my
name, with quite a human, friendly manner, and then remarked, with a
very every-day laugh, "That is sufficient. I have seen so much of it on
your previous petitions that I can swear to it myself much better than
the police captain could."

As an offset to my anecdotes about our being lost through inability to
riddle out our name on the part of the police, I must relate an instance
where the post-office displayed remarkable powers of divination. One day
I received an official notification from the post-office that there was
a misdirected parcel for me from Moscow, lying in the proper office,--
would I please to call for it? I called. The address on the parcel was
"Madame Argot," I was informed, but I must get myself certified to
before I could receive it.

"But how am I to do that? I am not Madame Argot. Are you sure the parcel
is for me?"

"Perfectly. It's your affair to get the certificate."

I went to the police station, one which I had not visited before, and
stated the case.

"Go home and send the _dvornik_, as is proper," replied the captain
loftily.

I argued the matter, after my usual fashion, and at last he affixed his
signature to my document, with the encouraging remark: "Well, even with
this you won't get that parcel, because the name is not yours."

"Trust me for that," I retorted. "As they are clever enough to know that
it is for me, they will be clever enough to give it to me, or I will
persuade them that they are."

Back I went to the post-office. I had never been in that department
previously, I may mention. Then I was shown a box, and asked if I
expected it, and from whom it came. I asserted utter ignorance; but, as
I took it in my hand, I heard a rattling, and it suddenly flashed across
my mind that it might be the proofs of some photographs which the Moscow
artist had "hurried" through in one month. The amiable post-office
"blindman," who had riddled out the address, was quite willing to give
me the parcel without further ado, but I said:--

"Open it, and you will soon see whether it really belongs to me."

After much protestation he did so, and then we exchanged lavish
compliments,--he on the capital likenesses and the skill of the
artist; I on the stupidity of the man who could evolve Argot out of my
legibly engraved visiting-card, and on the cleverness of the man who
could translate that name back into its original form.

The most prominent instance of minute thoughtfulness and care on the
part of the post-office officials which came under my notice occurred in
the depths of the country. I sent a letter with a ten-kopek stamp on it
to the post town, twelve versts distant. Foreign postage had been raised
from seven to ten kopeks, and stamps, in a new design, of the latter
denomination (hitherto non-existent) had been in use for about four
months. The country postmaster, who had seen nothing but the old issues,
carefully removed my stamp and sent it back to me, replacing it with a
seven-kopek stamp and a three-kopek stamp. I felt, for a moment, as
though I had been both highly complimented and gently rebuked for my
remarkable skill in counterfeiting!

As a parallel case, I may add that there were plenty of intelligent
people in New York city and elsewhere who were not aware that the United
States still issued three-cent stamps, or who could tell the color of
them, until the Columbian set appeared to attract their attention.




II.

THE NEVSKY PROSPEKT.


The Nevsky Prospekt!

From the time when, as children, we first encounter the words, in
geographical compilations disguised as books of travel, what visions do
they not summon up! Visions of the realm of the Frost King and of his
Regent, the White Tzar, as fantastic as any of those narrated of tropic
climes by Scheherezade, and with which we are far more familiar than we
are with the history of our native land.

When we attain to the reality of our visions, in point of locality at
least, we find a definite starting-point ready to our hand, where
veracious legend and more veracious history are satisfactorily blended.
It is at the eastern extremity of the famous broad avenue,--which is
the meaning of Prospekt. Here, on the bank of the Neva, tradition
alleges that Alexander, Prince of Novgorod, won his great battle--and,
incidentally, his surname of Nevsky and his post of patron saint of
Russia--over the united forces of the Swedes and oppressive Knights of
the Teutonic Order, in the year 1240.

Nearly five hundred years later, the spot was occupied by Rhitiowa, one
of the forty Finnish villages scattered over the present site of St.
Petersburg, as designated by the maps of the Swedes, whom Peter the
Great--practically Russia's second patron saint--expelled anew when
he captured their thriving commercial town, on the shore of the Neva,
directly opposite, now known as Malaya Okhta, possessed of extensive
foreign trade, and of a church older than the capital, which recently
celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary.

It was in 1710 that Peter I. named the place "Victory," in honor of
Prince-Saint Alexander Nevsky's conquest, and commanded the erection of
a Lavra, or first-class monastery, the seat of a Metropolitan and of a
theological seminary. By 1716 the monastery was completed, in wood, as
engravings of that day show us, but in a very different form from the
complex of stone buildings of the present day. Its principal facade,
with extensive, stiffly arranged gardens, faced upon the river,--the
only means of communication in that town, planted on a bog, threaded
with marshy streams, being by boat. In fact, for a long time horses were
so scarce in the infant capital, where reindeer were used in sledges
even as late as the end of the last century, that no one was permitted
to come to Court, during Peter the Great's reign, otherwise than by
water. Necessity and the enforced cultivation of aquatic habits in his
inland subjects, which the enterprising Emperor had so much at heart,
combined to counsel this regulation.

The bones of Prince Alexander were brought to St. Petersburg, from their
resting-place in the Vladimir Government, in 1724, Peter the Great
occupying his favorite post as pilot and steersman in the saint's state
barge, and they now repose in the monastery cathedral, under a canopy,
and in a tomb of silver, 3600 pounds in weight, given by Peter's
daughter, the devout Empress Elizabeth. In the cemetery surrounding the
cathedral, under the fragrant firs and birches, with the blue Neva
rippling far below, lie many of the men who have contributed to the
advancement of their country in literature, art, and science, during the
last two centuries.

Of all the historical memories connected with this monastery none is
more curious than that relating to the second funeral of Peter III. He
had been buried by his wife, in 1762, with much simplicity, in one of
the many churches of the Lavra, which contains the family tombs and
monuments not only of members of the imperial family, but of the noble
families most illustrious in the eighteenth century. When Paul I. came
to the throne, in 1796, his first care was to give his long-deceased
father a more fitting burial. The body was exhumed. Surrounded by his
court, Pavel Petrovitch took the imperial crown from the altar, placed
it on his own head, then laid it reverently on his father's coffin. When
Peter III. was transferred immediately afterward, with magnificent
ceremonial, to the Winter Palace, there to lie in state by the side of
his wife, Katherine II., and to accompany her to his proper
resting-place among the sovereigns of Russia, in the cathedral of the
Peter-Paul fortress, Count Alexei Grigorevitch Orloff was appointed,
with fine irony, to carry the crown before his former master, whom he
had betrayed, and in the necessity for whose first funeral he had played
the part of Fate. It was with considerable difficulty that he was hunted
up, while Emperor and pageant waited, in the obscure corner where he was
sobbing and weeping; and with still greater difficulty was he finally
persuaded to perform the task assigned to him in the procession.

Outside the vast monastery, which, like most Russian monasteries,
resembles a fortress, though, unlike most of them, it has never served
as such, the scene is almost rural. Pigeons, those symbols of the Holy
Ghost, inviolable in Russia, attack with impunity the grain bags in the
acres of storehouses opposite, pick holes, and eat their fill
undisturbed.

From this spot to the slight curve in the Prospekt, at the Znamenskaya
Square, a distance of about a mile, where the Moscow railway station is
situated, and where the train of steam tram-cars is superseded by less
terrifying horse-cars, the whole aspect of the avenue is that of a
provincial town, in the character of the people and the buildings, even
to the favorite crushed strawberry and azure washes, and green iron
roofs on the countrified shops. Here and there, not very far away, a
log-house may even be espied.

During the next three quarters of a mile the houses and shops are more
city-like, and, being newer than those beyond, are more ornamented as to
the stucco of their windows and doors. Here, as elsewhere in this
stoneless land, with rare exceptions, the buildings are of brick or
rubble, stuccoed and washed, generally in light yellow, with walls three
feet or more apart, warmly filled in, and ventilated through the
hermetically sealed windows by ample panes in the centre of the sashes,
or by apertures in the string-courses between stories, which open into
each room. Shops below, apartments above, this is the nearly invariable
rule.

It is only when we reach the Anitchkoff Bridge, with its graceful
railing of sea-horses, adorned with four colossal bronze groups of
horse-tamers, from the hand of the Russian sculptor, Baron Klodt, that
the really characteristic part of the Nevsky begins.

It is difficult to believe that fifty years ago this spot was the end of
the Petersburg world. But at that epoch the Nevsky was decorated with
rows of fine large trees, which have now disappeared to the last twig.
The Fontanka River, or canal, over which we stand, offers the best of
the many illustrations of the manner in which Peter the Great, with his
ardent love of water and Dutch ways, and his worthy successors have
turned natural disadvantages into advantages and objects of beauty. The
Fontanka was the largest of the numerous marshy rivers in that Arctic
bog selected by Peter I. for his new capital, which have been deepened,
widened, faced with cut granite walls, and utilized as means of cheap
communication between distant parts of the city, and as relief channels
for the inundating waves of the Gulf of Finland, which rise, more or
less, every year, from August to November, at the behest of the
southwest gale. That this last precaution is not superfluous is shown by
the iron flood-mark set into the wall of the Anitchkoff Palace, on the
southern shore of the Fontanka, as on so many other public buildings in
the city, with "1824" appended,--the date of one celebrated and
disastrous inundation which attained in some places the height of
thirteen feet and seven inches. This particular river derived its name
from the fact that it was trained to carry water and feed the fountains
in Peter the Great's favorite Summer Garden, of which only one now
remains.

At the close of the last century, and even later, persons out of favor
at Court, or nobles who had committed misdemeanors, were banished to the
southern shores of the Fontanka, as to a foreign land. Among the
amusements at the _datchas_,--the wooden country houses,--in the
wilder recesses of the vast parks which studded both shores, the chase
after wild animals, and from bandits, played a prominent part.

The stretch which we have traversed on our way from the monastery, and
which is punctuated at the corner of the canal and the Prospekt by the
pleasing brick and granite palace of the Emperor's brother, Grand Duke
Sergiei Alexandrovitch, which formerly belonged to Prince
Byeloselsky-Byelozersky, was the suburb belonging to Lieutenant-Colonel
Anitchkoff, who built the first bridge, of wood, in 1715. As late as the
reign of Alexander I., all persons entering the town were required to
inscribe their names in the register kept at the barrier placed at this
bridge. Some roguish fellows having conspired to cast ridicule on this
custom, by writing absurd names, the guards were instructed to make an
example of the next jester whose name should strike them as suspicious.
Fate willed that the imperial comptroller, Baltazar Baltazarovitch
Kampenhausen, with his Russianized German name, should fall a victim to
this order, and he was detained until his fantastic cognomen, so harsh
to Slavic ears, could be investigated.

By day or by night, in winter or summer, it is a pure delight to stand
on the Anitchkoff Bridge and survey the scene on either hand. If we gaze
to the north toward what is one of the oldest parts settled on the
rivulet-riddled so-called "mainland," in this Northern Venice, we see
the long, plain facade of the Katherine Institute for the education of
the daughters of officers, originally built by Peter the Great for his
daughter Anna, as the "Italian Palace," but used only for the palace
servants, until it was built over and converted to its present purpose.
Beyond, we catch a glimpse of the yellow wings of Count Scheremetieff's
ancient house and its great iron railing, behind which, in a spacious
courtyard, after the Moscow fashion so rare in thrifty Petersburg, the
main building lies invisible to us. If we look to the south, we find the
long ochre mass of the Anitchkoff Palace, facing on the Nevsky, upon the
right shore; on the left, beyond the palace of Sergiei Alexandrovitch,
the branch of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in old Russian style, with
highly colored saints and heads of seraphim on the outer walls; and a
perspective of light, stuccoed building,--dwellings, markets,
churches,--until the eye halts with pleasure on the distant blue dome
of the Troitzky cathedral, studded with golden stars. Indeed, it is
difficult to discover a vista in St. Petersburg which does not charm us
with a glimpse of one or more of these cross-crowned domes, floating,
bubble-like, in the pale azure of the sky. Though they are far from
being as beautiful in form or coloring as those of Moscow, they satisfy
us at the moment.

If it is on a winter night that we take up our stand here, we may catch
a distant glimpse of the numerous "skating-gardens," laid out upon the
ice cleared on the snowy surface of the canal. The ice-hills will be
black with forms flitting swiftly down the shining roads on sledges or
skates, illuminated by the electric light; a band will be braying
blithely, regardless of the piercing cold, and the skaters will dance
on, in their fancy-dress ball or prize races, or otherwise, clad so
thinly as to amaze the shivering foreigner as he hugs his furs.

By day the teamsters stand upon the quay, with rough aprons over their
ballet-skirted sheepskin coats, waiting for a job. If we hire one of
them, we shall find that they all belong to the ancient Russian Artel,
or Labor Union, which prevents competition beyond a certain point. When
the price has been fixed, after due and inevitable chaffering, one
_lomovoi_ grasps his shapeless cap by its worn edge of fur, bites a
kopek, and drops it in. Each of the other men contributes a marked
copper likewise, and we are invited to draw lots, in full view, to
determine which of them shall have the job. The master of the Artel sees
to it that there is fair play on both sides. If an unruly member
presumes to intervene with a lower bid, with the object of monopolizing
the job out of turn, he is promptly squelched, and, though his bid may
be allowed to stand, the man whose kopek we have drawn must do the work.
The winner chee-ee-eeps to his little horse, whose shaggy mane has been
tangled by the loving hand of the _domovoi_ (house-sprite) and hangs to
his knees. The patient beast, which, like all Russian horses, is never
covered, no matter how severe the weather may be, or how hot he may be
from exercise, rouses himself from his real or simulated slumber, and
takes up the burden of life again, handicapped by the huge wooden arch,
gayly painted in flowers and initials, which joins his shafts, and does
stout service despite his sorry aspect.

But the early summer is the season when the Fontanka is to be seen in
its most characteristic state. The brilliant blue water sparkles under
the hot sun, or adds one more tint to the exquisite hues which make of
the sky one vast, gleaming fire-opal on those marvelous "white nights"
when darkness never descends to a depth beyond the point where it leaves
all objects with natural forms and colors, and only spiritualizes them
with the gentle vagueness of a translucent veil. Small steamers, manned
by wooden-faced, blond Finns, connect the unfashionable suburban
quarters, lying near the canal's entrance into the Neva on the west,
with the fashionable Court quarter on the northern quays at its other
entrance into the Neva, seven versts away. They dart about like
sea-gulls, picking their path, not unfraught with serious danger, among
the obstructions. The obstructions are many: washing-house boats (it is
a good old unexploded theory in Petersburg that clothes are clean only
when rinsed in running water, even though our eyes and noses inform us,
unaided by chart, where the drainage goes); little flotillas of dingy
flat-boats, anchored around the "Fish-Gardens," and containing the
latter's stock in trade, where persons of taste pick their second
dinner-course out of the flopping inmates of a temporary scoop-net;
huge, unwieldy, wood barks, put together with wooden pegs, and steered
with long, clumsy rudders, which the poor peasants have painfully poled
--tramp, tramp, tramp, along the sides--through four hundred miles of
tortuous waterways from that province of the former haughty republic,
"Lord Novgorod the Great," where Prince Rurik ruled and laid the
foundations of the present imperial empire, and whence came Prince-Saint
Alexander, to win his surname of Nevsky, as we have seen, at the spot
where his monastery stands, a couple of miles, at most, away.

The boatmen, who have trundled all day long their quaint little barrows
over the narrow iron rails into the spacious inner courtyards of the
houses on the quay, and have piled up their wood for winter fuel, or
loaded it into the carts for less accessible buildings, now sit on the
stern of their barks, over their coarse food,--sour black bread,
boiled buckwheat groats, and salted cucumbers,--doffing their hats and
crossing themselves reverently before and after their simple meal, and
chatting until the red glow of sunset in the north flickers up to the
zenith in waves of sea-green, lilac, and amber, and descends again in
the north, at the pearl pink of dawn. Sleep is a lost art with these
men, as with all classes of people, during those nerve-destroying "white
nights." When all the silvery satin of the birch logs has been removed
from their capacious holds, these primitive barks will be unpegged, and
the cheap "bark-wood," riddled with holes as by a _mitrailleuse_, will
be used for poor structures on the outskirts of the town.

On the upper shore of this river, second only to the Neva in its
perennial fascination, and facing on the Prospekt, stands the Anitchkoff
Palace, on the site of a former lumber-yard, which was purchased by the
Empress Elizabeth, when she commissioned her favorite architect,
Rastrelli, to erect for Count Razumovsky a palace in that rococo style
which he used in so many palaces and churches during her reign and that
of Katherine II.,--the rococo style being, by the way, quite the most
unsuited discoverable for Russian churches.

Count Alexei Grigorevitch Razumovsky was the Empress Elizabeth's
husband, the uneducated but handsome son of a plain Kazak from Little
Russia, who attracted the attention of Elizaveta Petrovna as his sweet
voice rang out in the imperial choir, at mass, in her palace church.
When the palace was completed, in 1757, it did not differ materially
from its present appearance, as a painting in the Winter Palace shows,
except that its colonnade, now inclosed for the Imperial Chancellery and
offices, then abutted directly on the Fontanka. It has had a very varied
ownership, with some curious features in that connection which remind
one of a gigantic game of ball between Katherine II. and Prince
Potemkin. Count Razumovsky did not live in it until after the Empress
Elizabeth's death, in 1762. After his own death, his brother sold it to
the state, and Katherine II. presented it to Prince Potemkin, who
promptly resold it to a wealthy merchant-contractor in the commissariat
department of the army, who in turn sold it to Katherine II., who gave
it once more to Potemkin. The prince never lived here, but gave
sumptuous garden parties in the vast park, which is now in great part
built over, and sold it back to the state again in 1794. It was first
occupied by royalty in 1809, when the Emperor Alexander I. settled his
sister here, with her first husband,--that Prince of Oldenburg whose
territory in Germany Napoleon I. so summarily annexed a few years later,
thereby converting the Oldenburgs permanently into Russian princes.

The Grand Duke Heir Nicholas used it from 1819 until he ascended the
throne, in 1825, and since that time it has been considered the palace
of the heir to the throne. But the present Emperor has continued to
occupy it since his accession, preferring its simplicity to the
magnificence of the Winter Palace.

The high walls, of that reddish-yellow hue, like the palace itself,
which is usually devoted to government buildings in Russia, continue the
line of offices along the Prospekt, and surround wooded gardens, where
the Emperor and his family coast, skate, and enjoy their winter
pleasures, invisible to the eyes of passers-by.

These woods and walls also form the eastern boundary of the Alexandra
Square, in whose centre rises Mikeshin and Opekushin's fine colossal
bronze statue of Katherine II., crowned, sceptred, in imperial robes,
and with the men who made her reign illustrious grouped about her feet.
Among these representatives of the army, navy, literature, science, art,
there is one woman,--that dashing Princess Elizaveta Romanovna
Dashkoff, who helped Katherine to her throne. As Empress, Katherine
appointed her to be first president of the newly founded Academy of
Sciences, but afterward withdrew her favor, and condemned her to both
polite and impolite exile,--because of her services, the princess
hints, in her celebrated and very lively "Memoirs."

In the Alexandra Theatre, for Russian and German drama, which rears its
new (1828) Corinthian peristyle and its bronze quadriga behind the great
Empress, forming the background of the Square, two of the Empress's
dramas still hold the stage, on occasion. For this busy and energetic
woman not only edited and published a newspaper, the greater part of
which she wrote with her own hand, but composed numerous comedies and
comic operas, where the moral, though sufficiently obvious all the way
through, one would have thought, in the good old style is neatly labeled
at the end. These were acted first in the private theatres of the
various palaces, by the dames and cavaliers of the Court, after which
professional actors presented them to the public in the ordinary
theatres.

It is in vain that we scrutinize the chubby-cheeked countenance of the
bronze Prince Potemkin, at Katherine II.'s feet, to discover the secret
of the charm which made the imperial lady who towers above him force
upon him so often the ground upon which they both now stand. He stares
stolidly at the Prospekt, ignoring not only the Theatre, but the vast
structures containing the Direction of Theatres and Prisons, the
Censor's Office, Theatrical School, and other government offices in the
background; the new building for shops and apartments, where ancient
Russian forms have been adapted to modern street purposes; and even the
wonderfully rich Imperial Public Library, begun in 1794, to contain the
books brought from Warsaw, with its Corinthian peristyle interspersed
with bronze statues of ancient sages, on the garden side,--all of
which stand upon the scene of his former garden parties, as the name of
the avenue beyond the plain end of the Library on the Prospekt--Great
Garden Street--reminds us. Not far away is the site of the tunnel dug
under the Prospekt by the revolutionists, which, however, was
fortunately discovered in time to prevent the destruction of one of the
fairest parts of the city, and its most valuable buildings. With the
next block we enter upon the liveliest, the most characteristic portion
of the Nevsky Prospekt, in that scant fraction over a mile which is left
to us above the Anitchkoff Bridge.

Here stands the vast bazaar known as the _Gostinny Dvor_,--"Guests'
Court,"--a name which dates from the epoch when a wealthy merchant
engaged in foreign trade, and owning his own ships, was distinguished
from the lesser sort by the title of "Guest," which we find in the
ancient epic songs of Russia. Its frontage of seven hundred feet on the
Prospekt, and one thousand and fifty on Great Garden and the next
parallel street, prepare us to believe that it may really contain more
than five hundred shops in the two stories, the lower surrounded by a
vaulted arcade supporting an open gallery, which is invaluable for
decorative purposes at Easter and on imperial festival days. Erected in
1735, very much in its present shape, the one common throughout the
country, on what had been an impassable morass a short time before, and
where the ground still quakes at dawn, it may not contain the largest
and best shops in town, and its merchants certainly are not "guests" in
the ancient acceptation of the word; but we may claim, nevertheless,
that it presents a compendium of most purchasable articles extant, from
_samovari_, furs, and military goods, to books, sacred images, and
Moscow imitations of Parisian novelties at remarkably low prices, as
well as the originals.

The nooks and spaces of the arcade, especially at the corners and
centre, are occupied by booths of cheap wares. The sacred image,
indispensable to a Russian shop, is painted on the vaulted ceiling; the
shrine lamp flickers in the open air, thus serving many aproned,
homespun and sheepskin clad dealers. The throng of promenaders here is
always varied and interesting. The practiced eye distinguishes infinite
shades of difference in wealth, social standing, and other conditions.
The lady in the velvet _shuba_, lined with sable or black fox, her soft
velvet cap edged with costly otter, her head wrapped in a fleecy knitted
shawl of goat's-down from the steppes of Orenburg, or pointed hood--
the _bashlyk_--of woven goat's-down from the Caucasus, has driven
hither in her sledge or carriage, and has alighted to gratify the
curiosity of her sons. We know at a glance whether the lads belong in
the aristocratic Pages' Corps, on Great Garden Street, hard by, in the
University, the Law School, the Lyceum, or the Gymnasium, and we can
make a shrewd guess at their future professions by their faces as well
as by their uniforms. The lady who comes to meet us in sleeved pelisse,
wadded with eider-down, and the one in a short jacket have arrived, and
must return, on foot; they could not drive far in the open air, so
thinly clad.

At Christmas-tide there is a great augmentation in the queer "Vyazemsky"
and other cakes, the peasant laces, sweet Vyborg cracknels, fruit
pastils, and other popular goods, on which these petty open-air dealers
appear to thrive, both in health and purse. The spacious area between
the bazaar and the sidewalk of the Nevsky is filled with
Christmas-trees, beautifully unadorned, or ruined with misplaced
gaudiness, brought in, in the majority of cases, by Finns from the
surrounding country. Again, in the week preceding Palm Sunday, the
_Verbnaya Yarmaraka_, or Pussy Willow Fair, takes place here. Nominally,
it is held for the purpose of providing the public with twigs of that
aesthetic plant (the only one which shows a vestige of life at that
season), which are used as palms, from the Emperor's palace to the
poorest church in the land. In reality, it is a most amusing fair for
toys and cheap goods suitable for Easter eggs; gay paper roses,
wherewith to adorn the Easter cake; and that combination of sour and
sweet cream and other forbidden delicacies, the _paskha_, with which the
long, severe fast is to be broken, after midnight matins on Easter. Here
are plump little red Finland parrots, green and red finches, and other
song-birds, which kindly people buy and set free, after a pretty custom.
The board and canvas booths, the sites for which are drawn by lot by
soldiers' widows, and sold or used as suits their convenience, are
locked at night by dropping the canvas flap, and are never guarded;
while the hint that thefts may be committed, or that watching is
necessary, is repelled with indignation by the stall-keepers.

There is always a popular toy of the hour. One year it consisted of
highly colored, beautifully made bottle-imps, which were loudly cried as
_Amerikanskiya zhiteli_,--inhabitants of America. We inquired the
reason for their name.

"They are made in the exact image of the Americans," explained the
peasant vendor, offering a pale blue imp, with a long, red tongue and a
phenomenal tail, for our admiration.

"We are inhabitants of America. Is the likeness very strong?" we asked.

The crowd tittered softly; the man looked frightened; but finding that
no dire fate threatened, he was soon vociferating again, with a roguish
grin:--

"_Kupiti, kupi-i-iti! Prevoskhodniya Amerikanskiya zhiteli! Sa-a-miya
nastoyashtschiya!_"--Buy, buy, splendid natives of America! the most
genuine sort!

Far behind this Gostinny Dvor extends a complex mass of other curious
"courts" and markets, all worthy of a visit for the popular types which
they afford of the lower classes. Among them all none is more steadily
and diversely interesting, at all seasons of the year, than the
_Syennaya Ploshtschad_,--the Haymarket,--so called from its use in
days long gone by. Here, in the Fish Market, is the great repository for
the frozen food which is so necessary in a land where the church exacts
a sum total of over four months' fasting out of the twelve. Here the
fish lie piled like cordwood, or overflow from casks, for economical
buyers. Merchants' wives, with heads enveloped in colored kerchiefs, in
the olden style, well tucked in at the neck of their _salopi_, or
sleeved fur coats, prowl in search of bargains. Here sit the fishermen
from the distant Murman coast, from Arkhangel, with weather-beaten but
intelligent faces, in their quaint skull-caps of reindeer hide, and
baggy, shapeless garments of mysterious skins, presiding over the wares
which they have risked their lives to catch in the stormy Arctic seas,
during the long days of the brief summer-time; codfish dried and curled
into gray unrecognizableness; yellow caviar which resists the teeth like
tiny balls of gutta-percha,--not the delicious gray "pearl" caviar of
the sturgeon,--and other marine food which is never seen on the rich
man's table.

But we must return to the Nevsky Prospekt. Nestling at the foot of the
City Hall, at the entrance of the broad street between it and the
Gostinny Dvor, on the Nevsky, stands a tiny chapel, which is as thriving
as the bazaar, in its own way, and as striking a compendium of some
features in Russian architecture and life. Outside hangs a large image
of the "Saviour-not-made-with-hands,"--the Russian name for the sacred
imprint on St. Veronica's handkerchief,--which is the most popular of
all the representations of Christ in _ikoni_. Before it burns the usual
"unquenchable lamp," filled with the obligatory pure olive-oil. Beneath
it stands a table bearing a large bowl of consecrated water. On hot
summer days the thirsty wayfarer takes a sip, using the ancient Russian
_kovsh_, or short-handled ladle, which lies beside it, crosses himself,
and drops a small offering on the dish piled with copper coins near by,
making change for himself if he has not the exact sum which he wishes to
give.

Inside, many _ikoni_ decorate the walls. The pale flames of their
shrine-lamps are supplemented by masses of candles in the huge standing
candlesticks of silver. A black-robed monk from the monastery is
engaged, almost without cessation, in intoning prayers of various sorts,
before one or another of the images. The little chapel is thronged;
there is barely room for respectfully flourished crosses, such as the
peasant loves, often only for the more circumscribed sign current among
the upper classes, and none at all for the favorite "ground reverences."
The approach to the door is lined with two files of monks and nuns:
monks in high _klobuki_, like rimless chimney-pot hats, draped with
black woolen veils, which are always becoming; _tchernitzi_, or lay
sisters, from distant convents, in similar headgear, in caps flat or
pointed like the small end of a watermelon, and with ears protected by
black woolen shawls ungracefully pinned. Serviceable man's boots do more
than peep out from beneath the short, rusty-black skirts. Each monk and
nun holds a small pad of threadbare black velvet, whereon a cross of
tarnished gold braid, and a stray copper or two, by way of bait, explain
the eleemosynary significance of the bearers' "broad" crosses, dizzy
"reverences to the girdle," and muttered entreaty, of which we catch
only: "_Khristi Radi_"--For Christ's sake.

People of all classes turn in here for a moment of prayer, to "place a
candle" to some saint, for the health, in body or soul, of friend or
relative: the workman, his tools on his back in a coarse linen kit; the
bearded _muzhik_ from the country, clad in his sheepskin _tulup_, wool
inward, the soiled yellow leather outside set off by a gay sash; ladies,
officers, civilians,--the stream never ceases.

The only striking feature about the next building of importance, the
_Gradskaya Duma_, or City Hall, is the lofty tower, upon whose balcony,
high in air, guards pace incessantly, on the watch for fires. By day
they telegraph the locality of disaster to the fire department by means
of black balls and white boards, in fixed combinations; by night, with
colored lanterns. Each section of the city has a signal-tower of this
sort, and the engine-house is close at hand. Gradskaya Duma means,
literally, city thought, and the profundity of the meditations sometimes
indulged in in this building, otherwise not remarkable, may be inferred
from the fact discovered a few years ago, that many honored members of
the Duma (which also signifies the Council of City Fathers), whose names
still stood on the roll, were dead, though they continued to vote and
exercise their other civic functions with exemplary regularity!

Naturally, in a city which lies on a level with the southern point of
Greenland, the most characteristic season to select for our observations
of the life is winter.

The Prospekt wakes late. It has been up nearly all night, and there is
but little inducement to early rising when the sun itself sets such a
fashion as nine o'clock for its appearance on the horizon, like a pewter
disk, with a well-defined hard rim, when he makes his appearance at all.
If we take the Prospekt at different hours, we may gain a fairly
comprehensive view of many Russian ways and people, cosmopolitan as the
city is.

At half-past seven in the morning, the horse-cars, which have been
resting since ten o'clock in the evening, make a start, running always
in groups of three, stopping only at turnouts. The _dvorniki_ retire
from the entrance to the courtyards, where they have been sleeping all
night with one eye open, wrapped in their sheepskin coats. A few shabby
_izvostchiks_ make their appearance somewhat later, in company with
small schoolboys, in their soldierly uniforms, knapsacks of books on
back, and convoyed by servants. Earliest of all are the closed carriages
of officials, evidently the most lofty in grade, since it was decided,
two or three years ago, by one of this class, that his subordinates
could not reasonably be expected to arrive at business before ten or
eleven o'clock after they had sat up until daylight over their
indispensable club _vint_--which is Russian whist.

Boots (_muzhiki_) in scarlet cotton blouses, and full trousers of black
velveteen, tucked into tall wrinkled boots, dart about to bakery and
dairy shop, preparing for their masters' morning "tea." Venders of
newspapers congregate at certain spots, and charge for their wares in
inverse ratio to the experience of their customers; for regular
subscribers receive their papers through the post-office, and, if we are
in such unseemly haste as to care for the news before the ten o'clock
delivery--or the eleven o'clock, if the postman has not found it
convenient otherwise--we must buy on the street, though we live but
half a block from the newspaper office, which opens at ten. By noon,
every one is awake. The restaurants are full of breakfasters, and
Dominique's, which chances to stand on the most crowded stretch of the
street, on the sunny north side beloved of promenaders, is dense with
officers, cigarette smoke, and characteristic national viands
judiciously mingled with those of foreign lands.

Mass is over, and a funeral passes down the Nevsky Prospekt, on its way
to the fashionable Alexander Nevsky monastery or Novo-Dyevitche convent
cemeteries. The deceased may have been a minister of state, or a great
officer of the Court, or a military man who is accompanied by warlike
pageant. The choir chants a dirge. The priests, clad in vestments of
black velvet and silver, seem to find their long thick hair sufficient
protection to their bare heads. The professional mutes, with their
silver-trimmed black baldrics and cocked hats, appear to have plucked up
the street lanterns by their roots to serve as candles, out of respect
to the deceased's greatness, and to illustrate how the city has been
cast into darkness by the withdrawal of the light of his countenance.
The dead man's orders and decorations are borne in imposing state, on
velvet cushions, before the gorgeous funeral car, where the pall, of
cloth of gold, which will be made into a priest's vestment once the
funeral is over, droops low among artistic wreaths and palms, of natural
flowers, or beautifully executed in silver. Behind come the mourners on
foot, a few women, many men, a Grand Duke or two among them, it may be;
the carriages follow; the devout of the lower classes, catching sight of
the train, cross themselves broadly, mutter a prayer, and find time to
turn from their own affairs and follow for a little way, out of respect
to the stranger corpse. More touching are the funerals which pass up the
Prospekt on their way to the unfashionable cemetery across the Neva, on
Vasily Ostroff; a tiny pink coffin resting on the knees of the bereaved
parents in a sledge, or borne by a couple of bareheaded men, with one or
two mourners walking slowly behind.

From noon onward, the scene on the Prospekt increases constantly in
vivacity. The sidewalks are crowded, especially on Sundays and holidays,
with a dense and varied throng, of so many nationalities and types that
it is a valuable lesson in ethnography to sort them, and that a secret
uttered is absolutely safe in no tongue,--unless, possibly, it be that
of Patagonia. But the universal language of the eye conquers all
difficulties, even for the remarkably fair Tatar women, whose national
garb includes only the baldest and gauziest apology for the obligatory
veil.

The plain facades of the older buildings on this part of the Prospekt,
which are but three or four stories in height,--elevators are rare
luxuries in Petersburg, and few buildings exceed five stories,--are
adorned, here and there, with gayly-colored pictorial representations of
the wares for sale within. But little variety in architecture is
furnished by the inconspicuous Armenian, and the uncharacteristic Dutch
Reformed and Lutheran churches which break the severe line of this
"Tolerance Street," as it has been called. Most fascinating of all the
shops are those of the furriers and goldsmiths, with their surprises and
fresh lessons for foreigners; the treasures of Caucasian and Asian art
in the Eastern bazaars; the "Colonial wares" establishments, with their
delicious game cheeses, and odd _studena_ (fishes in jelly), their
pineapples at five and ten dollars, their tiny oysters from the Black
Sea at twelve and a half cents apiece.

Enthralling as are the shop windows, the crowd on the sidewalk is more
enthralling still. There are Kazaks, dragoons, cadets of the military
schools, students, so varied, though their gay uniforms are hidden by
their coats, that their heads resemble a bed of verbenas in the sun.
There are officers of every sort: officers with rough gray overcoats and
round lambskin caps; officers in large, flat, peaked caps, and
smooth-surfaced voluminous cape-coats, wadded with eider-down and lined
with gray silk, which trail on their spurs, and with collars of costly
beaver or striped American raccoon, and long sleeves forever dangling
unused. A snippet of orange and black ribbon worn in the buttonhole
shows us that the wearer belongs to the much-coveted military Order of
St. George. There are civilians in black cape-coats of the military
pattern, topped off with cold, uncomfortable, but fashionable chimneypot
hats, or, more sensibly, with high caps of beaver.

It is curious to observe how many opinions exist as to the weather. The
officers leave their ears unprotected; a passing troop of soldiers--
fine, large, hardy fellows--wear the strip of black woolen over their
ears, but leave their _bashlyks_ hanging unused on their backs, with
tabs tacked neatly under shoulder-straps and belts, for use on the
Balkans or some other really cold spot. Most of the ladies, on foot or
in sledges, wear bashlyks or Orenburg shawls, over wadded fur caps, well
pulled down to the brows. We may be sure that the pretty woman who
trusts to her bonnet only has also neglected to put on the necessary
warm galoshes, and that when she reaches home, sympathizing friends will
rub her vain little ears, feet, and brow with spirits of wine, to rescue
her from the results of her folly. Only officers and soldiers possess
the secret of going about in simple leather boots, or protected merely
by a pair of stiff, slapping leather galoshes, accommodated to the
spurs.

For some mysterious reason, the picturesque nurses, with their
pearl-embroidered, diadem-shaped caps, like the _kokoshniki_ of the
Empress and Court ladies, their silver-trimmed petticoats and jackets
patterned after the ancient Russian "soul-warmers," and made of pink or
blue cashmere, never have any children in their charge in winter.
Indeed, if we were to go by the evidence offered by the Nevsky Prospekt,
especially in cold weather, we should assert that there are no children
in the city, and that the nurses are used as "sheep-dogs" by ladies long
past the dangerous bloom of youth and beauty.

The more fashionable people are driving, however, and that portion of
the one hundred and fourteen feet of the Prospekt's width which is
devoted to the roadway is, if possible, even more varied and
entertaining in its kaleidoscopic features than the sidewalks. It is
admirably kept at all seasons. With the exception of the cobblestone
roadbed for the tramway in the centre, it is laid with hexagonal wooden
blocks, well spiked together and tarred, resting upon tarred beams and
planks, and forming a pavement which is both elastic and fairly
resistant to the volcanic action of the frost. The snow is maintained at
such a level that, while sledging is perfect, the closed carriages which
are used for evening entertainments, calls, and shopping are never
incommoded. Street sweepers, in red cotton blouses and clean white linen
aprons, sweep on calmly in the icy chill. The police, with their
_bashlyks_ wrapped round their heads in a manner peculiar to themselves,
stand always in the middle of the street and regulate the traffic.

We will hire an _izvostchik_ and join the throng. The process is simple;
it consists in setting ourselves up at auction on the curbstone, among
the numerous cabbies waiting for a job, and knocking ourselves down to
the lowest bidder. If our Vanka (Johnny, the generic name for cabby)
drives too slowly, obviously with the object of loitering away our
money, a policeman will give him a hint to whip up, or we may effect the
desired result by threatening to speak to the next guardian of the
peace. If Vanka attempts to intrude upon the privileges of the private
carriages, for whom is reserved the space next the tramway track and the
row of high, silvered posts which bear aloft the electric lights, a
sharp "_Beregis!_" (Look out for yourself!) will be heard from the first
fashionable coachman who is impeded in his swift career, and he will be
called to order promptly by the police. Ladies may not, unfortunately,
drive in the smartest of the public carriages, but must content
themselves with something more modest and more shabby. But Vanka is
usually good-natured, patient, and quite unconscious of his shabbiness,
at least in the light of a grievance or as affecting his dignity. It was
one of these shabby, but democratic and self-possessed fellows who
furnished us with a fine illustration of the peasant qualities. We
encountered one of the Emperor's cousins on his way to his regimental
barracks; the Grand Duke mistook us for acquaintances, and saluted. Our
_izvostchik_ returned the greeting.

"Was that Vasily Dmitrich?" we asked in Russian form.

"Yes, madam."

"Whom was he saluting?"

"Us," replied the man, with imperturbable gravity. Very different from
our poor fellow, who remembers his duties to the saints and churches,
and salutes Kazan Cathedral, as we pass, with cross and bared head, is
the fashionable coachman, who sees nothing but his horses. Our man's
cylindrical cap of imitation fur is old, his summer _armyak_ of blue
cloth fits, as best it may, over his lean form and his sheepskin
_tulup_, and is girt with a cheap cotton sash.

The head of the fashionable coachman is crowned with a becoming
gold-laced cap, in the shape of the ace of diamonds, well stuffed with
down, and made of scarlet, sky-blue, sea-green, or other hue of velvet.
His fur-lined armyak, reaching to his feet,--through whose silver
buttons under the left arm he is bursting, with pads for fashion or with
good living,--is secured about his portly waist by a silken girdle
glowing with roses and butterflies. His legs are too fat to enter the
sledge,--that is to say, if his master truly respects his own dignity,
--and his feet are accommodated in iron stirrups outside. He leans well
back, with arms outstretched to accord with the racing speed at which he
drives. In the tiny sledge--the smaller it is, the more stylish, in
inverse ratio to the coachman, who is expected to be as broad as it is
--sits a lady hugging her crimson velvet _shuba_ lined with curled
white Thibetan goat, or feathery black fox fur, close about her ears. An
officer holds her firmly with one arm around the waist, a very necessary
precaution at all seasons, with the fast driving, where drozhkies and
sledges are utterly devoid of back or side rail. The spans of huge
Orloff stallions, black or dappled gray, display their full beauty of
form in the harnesses of slender straps and silver chains; their
beautiful eyes are unconcealed by blinders. They are covered with a
coarse-meshed woolen net fastened to the winged dashboard, black,
crimson, purple, or blue, which trails in the snow in company with their
tails and the heavy tassels of the fur-edged cloth robe. The horses, the
wide-spreading reddish beard of the coachman, parted in the middle like
a well-worn whisk broom, the hair, eyelashes, and furs of the occupants
of the sledge, all are frosted with rime until each filament seems to
have been turned into silver wire.

There is an alarm of fire somewhere. A section of the fire department
passes, that imposing but amusing procession of hand-engine, three
water-barrels, pennons, and fine horses trained in the _haute ecole_,
which does splendid work with apparently inadequate means. An officer in
gray lambskin cap flashes by, drawn by a pair of fine trotters. "_Vot on
sam!_" mutters our _izvostchik_,--There he is himself! It is General
Gresser*, the prefect of the capital, who maintains perfect order, and
demonstrates the possibilities of keeping streets always clean in an
impossible climate. The pounding of those huge trotters' hoofs is so
absolutely distinctive--as distinctive as the unique gray cap--that
we can recognize it as they pass, cry like the _izvostchik_, "_Vot on
sam!_" and fly to the window with the certainty that it will be "he
himself."

* Since the above was written, this able officer and very efficient
prefect has died.

Court carriages with lackeys in crimson and gold, ambassadors' sledges
with cock-plumed chasseurs and cockaded coachmen, the latter wearing
their chevrons on their backs; rude wooden sledges, whose sides are made
of knotted ropes, filled with superfluous snow; grand ducal _troikas_
with clinking harnesses studded with metal plaques and flying tassels,
the outer horses coquetting, as usual, beside the staid trot of the
shaft-horse,--all mingle in the endless procession which flows on up
the Nevsky Prospekt through the Bolshaya Morskaya,--Great Sea
Street,--and out upon the Neva quays, and back again, to see and be
seen, until long after the sun has set on the short days, at six minutes
to three. A plain sledge approaches. The officer who occupies it is
dressed like an ordinary general, and there are thousands of generals!
As he drives quietly along, police and sentries give him the salute of
the ordinary general; so do those who recognize him by his face or his
Kazak orderly. It is the Emperor out for his afternoon exercise. If we
meet him near the gate of the Anitchkoff Palace, we may find him sitting
placidly beside us, while our sledge and other sledges in the line are
stopped for a moment to allow him to enter.

Here is another sledge, also differing in no respect from the equipages
of other people, save that the lackey on the low knife-board behind
wears a peculiar livery of dark green, pale blue, and gold (or with
white in place of the green at Easter-tide). The lady whose large dark
eyes are visible between her sable cap and the superb black fox shawl of
her crimson velvet cloak is the Empress. The lady beside her is one of
her ladies-in-waiting. Attendants, guards, are absolutely lacking, as in
the case of the Emperor.

Here, indeed, is the place to enjoy winter. The dry, feathery snow
descends, but no one heeds it. We turn up our coat collars and drive on.
Umbrellas are unknown abominations. The permanent marquises, of light
iron-work, which are attached to most of the entrances, are serviceable
only to those who use closed carriages, and in the rainy autumn.

Just opposite the centre of this thronged promenade, well set back from
the street, stands the Cathedral of the Kazan Virgin. Outside, on the
quay of the tortuous Katherine Canal, made a navigable water-way under
the second Katherine, but lacking, through its narrowness, the
picturesque features of the Fontanka, flocks of pigeons are fed daily
from the adjoining grain shops. In the curve of the great colonnade,
copied, like the exterior of the church itself, from that of St. Peter
at Rome, bronze statues, heroic in size, of generals Kutuzoff and
Barclay de Tolly, by the Russian sculptor Orlovsky, stand on guard.

Hither the Emperor and Empress come "to salute the Virgin," on their
safe return from a journey. Hither are brought imperial brides in
gorgeous state procession--when they are of the Greek faith--on
their way to the altar in the Winter Palace. We can never step into this
temple without finding some deeply interesting and characteristically
Russian event in progress. After we have run the inevitable gauntlet of
monks, nuns, and other beggars at the entrance, we may happen upon a
baptism, just beyond, the naked, new-born infant sputtering gently after
his thrice-repeated dip in the candle-decked font, with the priest's
hand covering his eyes, ears, mouth, and nostrils, and now undergoing
the ceremony of anointment or confirmation. Or we may come upon a bridal
couple, in front of the solid silver balustrade; or the exquisite
liturgy, exquisitely chanted by the fine choir in their vestments of
scarlet, blue, and silver, with the seraphic wings upon their shoulders,
and intoned, with a finish of art unknown in other lands, by priests
robed in rich brocade. Or it may be that a popular sermon by a
well-known orator has attracted a throng of listeners among the lofty
pillars of gray Finland granite, hung with battle-flags and the keys of
conquered towns. What we shall assuredly find is votaries ascending the
steps to salute with devotion the benignant brown-faced Byzantine Virgin
and Christ-Child, incrusted with superb jewels, or kneeling in "ground
reverences," with brow laid to the marble pavement, before the
_ikonostas_, or rood-screen, of solid silver. Our Lady of Kazan has been
the most popular of wonder-working Virgins ever since she was brought
from Kazan to Moscow, in 1579, and transported to Petersburg, in 1721
(although her present cathedral dates only from 1811), and the scene
here on Easter-night is second only to that at St. Isaac's when the
porticoes are thronged by the lower classes waiting to have their flower
and candle decked cakes and cream blessed at the close of the Easter
matins.

One of the few individual dwelling-houses which linger on the Nevsky
Prospekt, and which presents us with a fine specimen of the rococo style
which Rastrelli so persistently served up at the close of the eighteenth
century, is that of the Counts Stroganoff, at the lower quay of the
Moika. The Moika (literally, Washing) River is the last of the
semicircular, concentric canals which intersect the Nevsky and its two
radiating companion Prospekts, and impart to that portion of the city
which is situated on the (comparative) mainland a resemblance to an
outspread fan, whose palm-piece is formed by the Admiralty on the Neva
quay.

The stately pile, and the pompous air of the big, gold-laced Swiss
lounging at the entrance on the Nevsky, remind us that the Stroganoff
family has been a power in Russian history since the middle of the
sixteenth century.

It was a mere handful of their Kazaks, led by Yermak Timofeevitch, who
conquered Siberia, in 1581, under Ivan the Terrible, while engaged in
repelling the incursions of the Tatars and wild Siberian tribes on the
fortified towns which the Stroganoffs had been authorized to erect on
the vast territory at the western foot of the Ural Mountains, conveyed
to them by the ancient Tzars. Later on, when Alexei Mikhailovitch, the
father of Peter the Great, established a new code, grading punishments
and fines by classes, the highest money tax assessed for insult and
injury was fifty rubles; but the Stroganoffs were empowered to exact one
hundred rubles.

Opposite the Stroganoff house, on the upper Moika quay, rises the large,
reddish-yellow Club of the Nobility, representing still another fashion
in architecture, which was very popular during the last century for
palaces and grand mansions,--the Corinthian peristyle upon a solid,
lofty basement. It is not an old building, but was probably copied from
the palace of the Empress Elizabeth, which stood on this spot. Elizaveta
Petrovna, though she used this palace a great deal, had a habit of
sleeping in a different place each night, the precise spot being never
known beforehand. This practice is attributed, by some Russian
historians, to her custom of turning night into day. She went to the
theatre, for example, at eleven o'clock, and any courtier who failed to
attend her was fined fifty rubles. It was here that the populace
assembled to hurrah for Elizaveta Petrovna, on December 6, 1741, when
she returned with little Ivan VI. in her arms from the Winter Palace,
where she had made captive his father and his mother, the regent Anna
Leopoldina. It may have been the recollection of the ease with which she
had surprised indolent Anna Leopoldina in her bed-chamber which caused
her to be so uncertain in her own movements, in view of the fact that
there were persons so ill-advised as to wish the restoration of the
slothful German regent and her infant son, disastrous as that would have
been to the country.

We must do the Russians who occupy the building at the present day the
justice to state that they uphold religiously the nocturnal tradition
thus established by Elizaveta Petrovna, and even improve upon it. From
six o'clock in the evening onward, the long windows of the club, on the
_bel etage_, blaze with light. The occasional temporary obscurations
produced by the steam from relays of _samovari_ do not interfere
materially with the neighbors' view of the card-parties and the final
exchange of big bundles of bank-bills, which takes place at five o'clock
or later the next morning. Even if players and bills were duly shielded
from observation, the _mauvais quart d'heure_ would be accurately
revealed by the sudden rush for the sledges, which have been hanging in
a swarm about the door, according to the usual convenient custom of
Vanka, wherever lighted windows suggest possible patrons. Poor,
hard-worked Vanka slumbers all night on his box, with one eye open, or
falls prone in death-like exhaustion over the dashboard upon his
sleeping horse, while his cap lies on the snow, and his shaggy head is
bared to the bitter blasts.

Later on, the chief of police lived here, and the adjoining bridge,
which had hitherto been known as the Green Bridge, had its name changed
to the Police Bridge, which rather puzzling appellation it still bears.

A couple of blocks beyond this corner of the Nevsky, the Moika and the
Grand Morskaya, the Nevsky Prospekt ends at the Alexander Garden, backed
by the Admiralty and the Neva, after having passed in its course through
all grades of society, from the monks at the extreme limit, peasant
huts,--or something very like them, on the outskirts,--artistic and
literary circles in the Peski quarter (the Sands), well-to-do merchants
and nobles, officials and wealthy courtiers, until now we have reached
the culminating point, where the Admiralty, Imperial Palace, and War
Office complete the national group begun at the church.

When, in 1704, Peter the Great founded his beloved Admiralty, as the
first building on the mainland then designed for such purposes as this,
and not for residence, it was simply a shipyard, open to the Neva, and
inclosed on three sides by low wooden structures, surrounded by
stone-faced earthworks, moats, and palisades. Hither Peter was wont to
come of a morning, after having routed his ministers out of bed to hold
privy council at three and four o'clock, to superintend the work and to
lend a hand himself. The first stone buildings were erected in 1726,
after his death. In the early years of the present century, Alexander I.
rebuilt this stately and graceful edifice, after the plans of the
Russian architect Zakharoff, who created the beautiful tower adorned
with Russian sculptures, crowned by a golden spire, in the centre of the
immense facade, fourteen hundred feet long, which forms a feature
inseparable from the vista of the Prospekt for the greater part of its
length, to the turn at the Znamenskaya Square. On this spire, at the
present day, flags and lanterns warn the inhabitants of low-lying
districts in the capital of the rate at which the water is rising during
inundations. In case of serious danger, the flags are reinforced by
signal guns from the fortress. But in Peter I.'s day, these flags and
guns bore exactly the opposite meaning to the unhappy nobles whom the
energetic Emperor was trying to train into rough-weather sailors. To
their trembling imaginations these signal orders to assemble for a
practice sail signified, "Come out and be drowned!" since they were
obliged to embark in the crafts too generously given to them by Peter,
and cruise about until their leader (who delighted in a storm) saw fit
to return. There is a story of one unhappy wight, who was honored by the
presence aboard his craft of a very distinguished and very seasick
Persian, making his first acquaintance with the pleasures of yachting,
and who spent three days without food, tacking between Petersburg and
Kronstadt, in the vain endeavor to effect a landing during rough
weather.

When the present Admiralty was built, a broad and shady boulevard was
organized on the site of the old glacis and covered way, and later
still, when the break in the quay was filled in, and the shipbuilding
transferred to the New Admiralty a little farther down the river, the
boulevard was enlarged into the New Alexander Garden, one of the finest
squares in Europe. It soon became the fashionable promenade, and the
centre of popular life as well, by virtue of the merry-makings which
took place. Here, during the Carnival of 1836, the temporary cheap
theatre of boards was burned, at the cost of one hundred and twenty-six
lives and many injured persons, which resulted in these dangerous
_balagani_ and other holiday amusements being removed to the spacious
parade-ground known as the Empress's Meadow.

If we pass round the Admiralty to the Neva, we shall find its frozen
surface teeming with life. Sledge roads have been laid out on it, marked
with evergreen bushes, over which a _yamtschik_ will drive us with his
_troika_ fleet as the wind, to Kronstadt, twenty miles away. Plank
walks, fringed with street lanterns, have been prepared for pedestrians.
Broad ice paths have been cleared, whereon the winter ferry-boats ply,
--green garden-chairs, holding one or more persons, furnished with warm
lap-robes, and propelled by stout _muzhiks_ on skates, who will
transport us from shore to shore for the absurdly small sum of less than
a cent apiece, though a ride with the reindeer (now a strange sight in
the capital), at the Laplanders' encampment, costs much more.

It is hard to tear ourselves from the charms of the river, with its
fishing, ice-cutting, and many other interesting sights always in
progress. But of all the scenes, that which we may witness on Epiphany
Day--the "Jordan," or Blessing of the Waters, in commemoration of
Christ's baptism in the Jordan--is the most curious and typically
Russian.

After mass, celebrated by the Metropolitan, in the cathedral of the
Winter Palace, whose enormous reddish-ochre mass we perceive rising
above the frost-jeweled trees of the Alexander Garden, to our right as
we stand at the head of the Nevsky Prospekt, the Emperor, his heir, his
brothers, uncles, and other great personages emerge in procession upon
the quay. Opposite the Jordan door of the palace a scarlet, gold, and
blue pavilion, also called the "Jordan," has been erected over the ice.
Thither the procession moves, headed by the Metropolitan and the richly
vestured clergy, their mitres gleaming with gems, bearing crosses and
church banners, and the imperial choir, clad in crimson and gold,
chanting as they go. The Empress and her ladies, clad in full Court
costume at midday, look on from the palace windows. After brief prayers
in the pavilion, all standing with bared heads, the Metropolitan dips
the great gold cross in the rushing waters of the Neva, through a hole
prepared in the thick, opalescent, green ice, and the guns on the
opposite shore thunder out a salute. The pontoon Palace Bridge, the
quays on both sides of the river, all the streets and squares for a long
distance round about, are densely thronged; and, as the guns announce
the consecration, every head is bared, every right hand in the mass,
thousands strong, is raised to execute repeated signs of the cross on
brow and breast.

From our post at the head of the Prospekt we behold not the ceremony
itself but the framework of a great national picture, the great Palace
Square, whereon twenty thousand troops can manoeuvre, and in whose
centre rises the greatest monolith of modern times, the shaft of red
Finland granite, eighty-four feet in height, crowned with a
cross-bearing angel, the monument to Alexander I. There stand the
Guards' Corps, and the huge building of the General Staff, containing
the Ministries of Finance and of Foreign Affairs, and many things
besides, originally erected by Katherine II. to mask the rears of the
houses at the end of the Nevsky, and rebuilt under Nicholas I., sweeping
in a magnificent semicircle opposite the Winter Palace. Regiments
restrain the zeal of the crowd to obtain the few posts of vantage from
which the consecration of the waters is visible, and keep open a lane
for the carriages of royalty, diplomats, and invited guests. They form
part of the pageant, like the Empress's cream-colored carriage and the
white horses and scarlet liveries of the Metropolitan. The crowd is
devout and silent, as Russian crowds always are, except when they see
the Emperor after he has escaped a danger, when they become vociferous
with an animation which is far more significant than it is in more noisy
lands. The ceremony over, the throngs melt away rapidly and silently;
pedestrians, Finnish ice-sledges, traffic in general, resume their
rights on the palace sidewalks and the square, and after a state
breakfast the Emperor drives quietly home, unguarded, to his Anitchkoff
Palace.

If we glance to our left, and slightly to our rear, as we stand thus
facing the Neva and the Admiralty, we see the Prefecture and the
Ministry of War, the latter once the mansion of a grandee in the last
century; and, rising above the latter, we catch a glimpse of the upper
gallery, and great gold-plated, un-Russian dome, of St. Isaac's
Cathedral, which is visible for twenty miles down the Gulf of Finland.
The granite pillars glow in the frosty air with the bloom of a Delaware
grape. We forgive St. Isaac for the non-Russian character of the modern
ecclesiastical glories of which it is the exponent, as we listen eagerly
to the soft, rich, boom-boom-bo-o-om of the great bourdon, embroidered
with silver melody by the multitude of smaller bells chiming nearly all
day long with a truly orthodox sweetness unknown to the Western world,
and which, to-day, are more elaborately beautiful than usual, in honor
of the great festival. We appreciate to the full the wailing cry of the
prisoner, in the ancient epic songs of the land: "He was cut off from
the light of the fair, red sun, from the sound of sweet church-bells."

On the great Palace Square another characteristic sight is to be seen on
the nights of Court balls, which follow the Jordan, when the blaze of
electric light from the rock-crystal chandeliers, big as haystacks,
within the state apartments, is supplemented by the fires in the heater
and on the snow outside, round which the waiting coachmen warm
themselves, with Rembrandtesque effects of _chiaro-oscuro_ second only
to the picturesqueness of _dvorniki_ in their nondescript caps and
shaggy coats, who cluster round blazing fagots in less aristocratic
quarters when the thermometer descends below zero.

When spring comes with the magical suddenness which characterizes
Northern lands, the gardens, quays, and the Nevsky Prospekt still
preserve their charms for a space, and are thronged far into the night
with promenaders, who gaze at the imperial crowns, stars, monograms, and
other devices temporarily applied to the street lanterns, and the fairy
flames on the low curb-posts (whereat no horse, though unblinded, ever
shies), with which man attempts, on the numerous royal festival days of
early summer, to rival the illumination of the indescribably beautiful
tints of river and sky. But the peasant-_izvostchik_ goes off to the
country to till his little patch of land, aided by the shaggy little
farm-horse, which has been consorting on the Prospekt with thoroughbred
trotters all winter, and helping him to eke out his cash income, scanty
at the best of times; or he emigrates to a summer resort, scorning our
insinuation that he is so unfashionable as to remain in town. The
deserted Prospekt is torn up for repairs. The merchants, especially the
goldsmiths, complain that it would be true economy for them to close
their shops. The annual troops of foreign travelers arrive, view the
lovely islands of the Neva delta, catch a glimpse of the summer cities
in the vicinity, and dream, ah, vain dream! that they have also really
beheld the Nevsky Prospekt, the great avenue of the realm of the Frost
King and the White Tzar!*

* From _Scribner's Magazine_, by permission.




III.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE RUSSIAN CENSOR.


In spite of the advantage which I enjoyed in a preliminary knowledge of
the Russian language and literature, I was imbued with various false
ideas, the origin of which it is not necessary to trace on this
occasion. I freed myself from some of them; among others, from my theory
as to the working of the censorship in the case of foreign literature.
My theory was the one commonly held by Americans, and, as I found to my
surprise, by not a few Russians, viz., that books and periodicals which
have been wholly or in part condemned by the censor are to be procured
only in a mutilated condition, or by surreptitious means, or not at all.
That this is not the case I acquired ample proof through my personal
experience.

The first thing that an American does on his arrival in St. Petersburg
is to scan the foreign newspapers in the hotels eagerly for traces of
the censor's blot,--_le masque noir_, "caviare,"--his idea being
that at least one half of the page will be thus veiled from sight. But
specimens are not always, or even very often, to be procured with ease.
In fact, the demand exceeds the supply sometimes, if I may judge from my
own observations and from the pressing applications for these
curiosities which I received from disappointed seekers. The finest of
these black diamonds may generally be found in the inventive news
columns of the London dailies and in the flippant paragraphs of "Punch."

Like the rest of the world, I was on the lookout for the censor's work
from the day of my arrival, but it was a long time before my search was
rewarded by anything except a caricature of the censor himself in
"Kladderadatsch." That it was left unmasked was my first proof that that
gentleman, individually and collectively, was not deficient in a sense
of humor. The sketch represented a disheveled scribe seated three
quarters submerged in a bottle of ink, from the half-open cover of which
his quill pen projected like a signal of distress. This was accompanied
by an inscription to the effect that as the Russian censor had blacked
so many other people, he might now sit in the black for a while himself.
Perhaps the censor thought that remarks of that sort came with peculiar
grace from martinet-ruled Berlin. About this time I received a copy of
the "Century," containing--or rather, not containing--the first
article in the prohibited series by Mr. Kennan. I made no remonstrance,
but mentioned the fact, as an item of interest, to the sender, who
forthwith dispatched the article in an envelope. The envelope being
small, the plump package had the appearance of containing a couple of
pairs of gloves, or other dutiable merchandise. Probably that was the
reason why the authorities cut open one end. Finding that it was merely
innocent printed matter, they gave it to me on the very day of its
arrival in St. Petersburg, and thirteen days from the date of posting in
New York. I know that it was my duty to get excited over this incident,
as did a foreign (that is, a non-Russian) acquaintance of mine, when he
received an envelope of similar plump aspect containing a bulky
Christmas card, which was delivered decorated with five very frank and
huge official seals, after having been opened for contraband goods. I
did not feel aggrieved, however, and, being deficient in that Mother Eve
quality which attributes vast importance to whatever is forbidden, I
suggested that nothing more which was obnoxious to the Russian
government should be sent to me.

But when a foreigner offered the magazine to me regularly, unmutilated,
I did not refuse it. When a Russian volunteered to furnish me with it,
later on, I read it. When I saw summaries of the prohibited articles in
the Russian press, I looked them over to see whether they were well
done. When I saw another copy of the "Century," with other American
magazines, at the house of a second Russian, I did not shut my eyes to
the fact, neither did I close my ears when I was told that divers
instructors of youth in Petersburg, Moscow, and elsewhere were in
regular receipt of it, on the principle which is said to govern good men
away from home, viz., that in order to preach effectively against evil
one must make personal acquaintance with it. I was also told at the
English Bookstore that they had seven or eight copies of the magazine,
which had been subscribed for through them, lying at the censor's office
awaiting proper action on the part of the subscribers. What that action
was I did not ask at the time, in my embarrassment of riches. It will be
perceived that when we add the copies received by officials, and those
given to the members of the Diplomatic Corps who desired it, there was
no real dearth of the "Century" at any time.

About this time, also, I had occasion to hunt up a package of
miscellaneous newspapers, which had lingered as such parcels are apt to
linger in all post-offices. In pursuance of my preconceived notions, I
jumped to the conclusion that the censor had them, regardless of the
contingency that they might have been lost out of Russia. I called to
ask for the papers. The official whom I found explained, with native
Russian courtesy, that I had come to the wrong place, that office being
devoted to foreign matter in book form; but that, in all probability,
the papers had become separated from their wrapper in the newspaper
department (which was heedless) when they had been opened for
examination, and hence it had been impossible to deliver them. Still,
they might have been detained for some good reason, and he would
endeavor to find some record of them.

While he was gone, my eyes fell upon his account-book, which lay open
before me. It constituted a sort of literary book-keeping. The entries
showed what books had been received, what had been forbidden, what was
to be erased, whose property had been manipulated, and, most interesting
of all, which forbidden books had been issued by permission, and to
whom. Among these I read the titles of works by Stepniak, and of various
works on Nihilism, all of which must certainly have come within the
category of utterly proscribed literature, and not of that which is
promptly forwarded to its address after a more or less liberal
sprinkling of "caviare." As I am not in the habit of reading private
records on the sly, even when thus tempted, I informed the official on
his return of my action, and asked a question or two.

"Do you really let people have these forbidden books?" "Certainly," was
his half-surprised, half-indignant reply. "And what can one have?"
"Anything," said he, "only we must, of course, have some knowledge of
the person. What would you like?"

I could only express my regret that I felt no craving for any prohibited
literature at that moment, but I told him that I would endeavor to
cultivate a taste in that direction to oblige him; and I suggested that,
as his knowledge of me was confined to the last ten minutes, I did not
quite understand how he could pass judgment as to what mental and moral
food was suited to my constitution, and as to the use I might make of
it. He laughed amiably, and said: "_Nitchevo_,--that's all right; you
may have whatever you please." I never had occasion to avail myself of
the offer, but I know that Russians who are well posted do so, although
I also know that many Russians are not aware of their privileges in this
direction. It is customary to require from Russians who receive
literature of this sort a promise that they will let no other person see
it,--an engagement which is as religiously observed as might be
expected, as the authorities are doubtless aware.

I did not pursue my search for the missing papers. I had allowed so much
time to elapse that I perceived the uselessness of further action; they
were evidently lost, and it mattered little as to the manner. Shortly
afterwards I received the first of my only two specimens of censorial
"caviare." It was on a political cartoon in a New York comic paper. I
sent it back to America for identification of the picture, and it was
lost between New York and Boston; which reconciled me to the possible
carelessness of the Russian post-office in the case of the newspapers
just cited.

My next experience was with Count Lyeff N. Tolstoy's work entitled
"Life." This was not allowed to be printed in book form, although nearly
the whole of it subsequently appeared in installments, as "extracts," in
a weekly journal. I received the manuscript as a registered mail packet.
The author was anxious that my translation should be submitted in the
proof-sheets to a philosophical friend of his in Petersburg, who read
English, in order that the latter might see if I had caught the sense of
the somewhat abstract and complicated propositions. It became a problem
how those proof-sheets were to reach me safely and promptly. The problem
was solved by having them directed outright to the censor's office,
whence they were delivered to me; and, as there proved to be nothing to
alter, they speedily returned to America as a registered parcel. My own
opinion now is that they would not have reached me a whit less safely or
promptly had they been addressed straight to me. The bound volumes of my
translation were so addressed later on, and I do not think that they
were even opened at the office, the law to the contrary notwithstanding.
All this time I had been receiving a New York weekly paper with very
little delay and no mutilation. But at this juncture an amiable friend
subscribed in my name for the "Century," and I determined to make a
personal trial of the workings of the censorship in as strong a case as
I could have found had I deliberately desired to invent a test case. I
may as well remark here that "the censor" is not the hard-worked,
omnivorous reader of mountains of print and manuscript which the words
represent to the mind of the ordinary foreigner. The work of auditing
literature, so to speak, is subdivided among such a host of men that
office hours are brief, much of the foreign reading, at least, is done
at home, and the lucky members of the committee keep themselves
agreeably posted upon matters in general while enjoying the fruits of
office.

The censor's waiting-room was well patronized on my arrival. An official
who was holding a consultation with one of the visitors inquired my
business. I stated it briefly, and shortly afterwards he retired into an
adjoining room, which formed the beginning of a vista of apartments and
officials. While I waited, a couple of men were attended to so near me
that I heard their business. It consisted in obtaining official
permission to print the bills and programmes of a musical and variety
entertainment. To this end they had brought not only the list of
performers and proposed selections, but also the pictures for
advertisement, and the music which was to be given. As the rare traveler
who can read Russian is already aware, the programme of every public
performance bears the printed authorization of the censor, as a matter
of course, quite as much as does a book. It is an easy way of
controlling the character of assemblages, the value of which can hardly
be disputed even by those prejudiced persons who insist upon seeing in
this Russian proceeding something more arbitrary than the ordinary city
license which is required for performances elsewhere, or the Lord
Chancellor's license which is required in England. In Russia, as
elsewhere, an ounce of prevention is worth fully a pound of cure. This,
by the way, is the only form in which a foreigner is likely to come in
contact with the domestic censure in Russia, unless he should wish to
insert an advertisement in a newspaper, or issue printed invitations to
a gathering at his house, or send news telegrams. In these cases he may
be obliged to submit to delay in the appearance of his advertisement, or
requested to go to the elegance and expense of engraved invitations, or
to detain his telegram for a day or two. Such things are not unknown in
Germany.

Just as these gentlemen had paid their fee, and resigned their documents
to the official who had charge of their case, another official issued
from the inner room, approached me, requested me to sign my name in a
huge ledger, and, that being done, thrust into my hands a bulky
manuscript and departed. The manuscript had a taking title, but I did
not pause to examine it. Penetrating the inner sanctum, I brought out
the official and endeavored to return the packet. He refused to take it,
--it was legally mine. This contest lasted for several minutes, until I
saw a literary-looking man enter from the anteroom and look rather
wildly at us. Evidently this was the owner, and, elevating the
manuscript, I inquired if it were his. He hastened to my assistance and
proved his rights. But as erasures do not look well in account-books,
and as my name already occupied the space allotted to that particular
parcel, he was not requested to sign for it, and I believe that I am
still legally qualified to read, perform, or publish--whatever it was
--that talented production.

A dapper little gentleman, with a dry, authoritative air, then emerged
and assumed charge of me. I explained my desire to receive, uncensured,
a journal which was prohibited.

"Certainly," said he, without inquiring how I knew the facts. "Just
write down your application and sign it."

"I don't know the form," I answered.

He seemed surprised at my ignorance of such an every-day detail, but
fetched paper and dictated a petition, which I wrote down and signed.
When we reached the point where the name of the publication was to be
inserted, he paused to ask: "How many would you like?"

"How many copies of the 'Century'? Only one," said I.

"No, no; how many periodical publications would you like?"

"How many can I have on this petition?" I retorted in Yankee fashion.

"As many as you please. Do you want four--six--eight? Write in the
names legibly."

I gasped, but told him that I was not grasping; I preferred to devote my
time to Russian publications while in Russia, and that I would only add
the name of the weekly which I was already receiving, merely with the
object of expediting its delivery a little. The document was then
furnished with the regulation eighty-kopek stamp (worth at that time
about thirty-seven cents), and the business was concluded. As I was in
summer quarters out of town, and it was not convenient for me to call in
person and inquire whether permission had been granted, another stamp
was added to insure the answer being sent to me. The license arrived in
a few days, and the magazine began to come promptly, unopened. I was not
even asked not to show it to other people. I may state here that, while
I never circulated any of the numerous prohibited books and manuscripts
which came into my possession during my stay in Russia, I never
concealed them. I showed the "Century" occasionally to personal friends
of the class who could have had it themselves had they taken any
permanent interest in the matter; but it is certain that they kept their
own counsel and mine in all respects.

Everything proceeded satisfactorily until I went to Moscow to stay for a
time. It did not occur to me to inform the censor of my move, and the
result was that the first number of the magazine which I received there
was as fine a "specimen" as heart could desire. The line on the
title-page which referred to the obnoxious article had been scratched
out; the body of the article had been cut out; the small concluding
portion at the top of a page had been artistically "caviared." Of
course, the article ending upon the back of the first page extracted had
been spoiled. On this occasion I was angry, not at the mutilation as
such, but at the breach of faith. I sat down, while my wrath was still
hot, and indited a letter to the head censor in Petersburg. I do not
recollect the exact terms of that letter, but I know I told him that he
had no right to cut the book after granting me leave to receive it
intact, without first sending me word that he had changed his mind, and
giving valid reasons therefor; that the course he had adopted was
injudicious in the extreme, since it was calculated to arouse curiosity
instead of allaying it, and that it would be much better policy to
ignore the matter. I concluded by requesting him to restore the missing
article, if he had preserved it, and if he had not, to send at once to
London (that being nearer than New York) and order me a fresh copy of
the magazine at his expense.

A month elapsed, no answer came; but at the end of the month another
mutilated "Century" arrived. This time I waited two or three days in the
hope of inventing an epistle which should be more forcible--if such a
thing were possible--than my last, and yet calm. The letter was half
written when an official envelope made its appearance from Petersburg,
containing cut pages and an apologetic explanation to the effect that
the Moscow censor, through an oversight, had not been duly instructed in
his duty toward me. A single glance showed me that the inclosed sheets
belonged to the number just received, not to the preceding number. I
drove immediately to the Moscow office and demanded the censor. "You can
tell me what you want with him," said the ante-room Cerberus. "Send me
the censor," said I. After further repetition, he retired and sent in a
man who requested me to state my business. "You are not the censor," I
said, after a glance at him. "Send him out, or I will go to him." Then
they decided that I was a connoisseur in censors, and the proper
official made his appearance, accompanied by an interpreter, on the
strength of the foreign name upon my card. Convinced that the latter
would not understand English well, like many Russians who can talk the
language fluently enough, I declined his services, produced my documents
from the Petersburg censor, and demanded restitution of the other
confiscated article. I obtained it, being allowed my pick from a neatly
labeled package of contraband goods. That scratched, cut, caviared
magazine is now in my possession, with the restored sheets and the
censor's apology appended. It is my proof to unbelievers that the
Russian censor is not so black as he is painted.

As we shook hands with this Moscow official, after a friendly chat, I
asked him if he would be a little obtuse arithmetically as to the old
and new style of reckoning, and let me have my January "Century" if it
arrived before my departure for Petersburg, as my license expired
January 1. He smilingly agreed to do so. I also called on the Moscow
book censor, to find some books. The courtesy and readiness to oblige me
on the part of the officials had been so great, that I felt aggrieved
upon this occasion when this censor requested me to return on the
regular business day, and declined to overhaul his whole department for
me on the spot. I did return on the proper day, and watched operations
while due search was being made for my missing property. It reached me a
few days later, unopened, the delay having occurred at my banker's, not
in the post-office or censor's department.

On my return to Petersburg, my first visit was to the censor's office,
where I copied my original petition, signed it, and dismissed the matter
from my mind until my February "Century" reached me with one article
missing and two articles spoiled. I paid another visit to the office,
and was informed that my petition for a renewal of permission had not
been granted.

"Why didn't you send me word earlier?" I asked.

"We were not bound to do so without the extra stamp," replied my dapper
official.

"But why has my application been refused?"

"Too many people are seeing that journal; some one must be refused."

"Nonsense," said I. "And if it is really so, _I_ am not the proper
person to be rejected. It will hurt some of these Russian subscribers
more than it will me, because it is only a question of _when_ I shall
read it, not of whether I shall read it at all. I wonder that so many
demoralizing things do not affect the officials. However, that is not
the point; pray keep for your own use anything which you regard as
deleterious to me. I am obliged to you for your consideration. But you
have no right to spoil three or four articles; and by a proper use of
scissors and caviare that can easily be avoided. In any case, it will be
much better to give me the book unmutilated."

The official and the occupants of the reception-room seemed to find my
view very humorous; but he declared that he had no power in the matter.

"Very well," said I, taking a seat. "I will see the censor.

"I am the censor," he replied.

"Oh, no. I happen to be aware that the head censor is expected in a few
minutes, and I will wait."

My (apparently) intimate knowledge of the ways of censors again won the
day. The chief actually was expected, and I was granted the first
audience. I explained matters and repeated my arguments. He sent for the
assistant.

"Why was not this application granted?" he asked impressively.

"We don't know, your Excellency," was the meek and not very consistent
reply.

"You may go," said his Excellency. Then he turned graciously to me. "You
will receive it."

"Uncut?"

"Yes."

"But will they let me have it?"

"Will--they--let--you--have--it--when--I--say--so?" he
retorted with tremendous dignity.

Then I knew that I should have no further trouble, and I was right. I
received no written permission, but the magazine was never interfered
with again. Thus it will be seen that one practically registers
periodicals wholesale, at a wonderfully favorable discount.

During the whole of my stay in Russia I received many books unread,
apparently even unopened to see whether they belonged on the free list.
In one case, at least, volumes which were posted before the official
date of publication reached me by the next city delivery after the
letter announcing their dispatch. Books which were addressed to me at
the Legation, to assure delivery when my exact address was unknown or
when my movements were uncertain, were, in every case but one, sent to
me direct from the post-office. I have no reason to suppose that I was
unusually favored in any way. I used no "influence," I mentioned no
influential names, though I had the right to do so.

An incident which procured for me the pleasure of an interview with the
chief censor for newspapers and so forth will illustrate some of the
erroneous ideas entertained by strangers. I desired to send to some
friends in Russia a year's subscription each of a certain American
magazine, which sometimes justly receives a sprinkling of caviare for
its folly, but which is not on the black list, and is fairly well known
in Petersburg. After some delay I heard from home that the publishers
had consulted the United States postal officials, and had been informed
that "_no_ periodical literature could be sent to Russia, this being
strictly prohibited." I took the letter to the newspaper censor, who
found it amusingly and amazingly stupid. He explained that the only
thing which is absolutely prohibited is Russian text printed outside of
Russia, which would never be delivered. He did not explain the reason,
but I knew that he referred to the socialistic, nihilistic, and other
proscribed works which are published in Geneva or Leipzig. Daily foreign
newspapers can be received regularly only by persons who are duly
authorized. Permission cannot be granted to receive occasional packages
of miscellaneous contents, the reason for this regulation being very
clear. And _all_ books must be examined if new, or treated according to
the place assigned them on the lists if they have already had a verdict
pronounced upon them. I may add, in this connection, that I had the
magazines I wished subscribed for under another name, to avoid the
indelicacy of contradicting my fellow-countrymen. They were then
forwarded direct to the Russian addresses, where they were duly and
regularly received. Whether they were mutilated, I do not know. They
certainly need not have been, had the recipients taken the trouble to
obtain permission as I did, if they were aware of the possibility. It is
probable that I could have obtained permission for them, had I not been
pressed for time.

I once asked a member of the censorship committee on foreign books on
what principle of selection he proceeded. He said that disrespect to the
Emperor and the Greek Church was officially prohibited; that he admitted
everything which did not err too grossly in that direction, and, in
fact, _everything_ except French novels of the modern realistic school.
He drew the line at these, as pernicious to both men and women. He asked
me if I had read a certain new book which was on the proscribed list. I
said that I had, and in the course of the discussion which ensued, I
rose to fetch the volume in question from the table behind him to verify
a passage. (This occurred during a friendly call.) I recollected,
however, that that copy had not entered the country by post, and that,
consequently, the name of the owner therein inscribed would not be found
on the list of authorized readers any more than my own. I am sure,
however, that nothing would have happened if he had seen it, and he must
have understood my movement. My business dealings were wholly with
strangers.

It seems to be necessary, although it ought not to be so, to remind
American readers that Russia is not the only land where the censorship
exists, to a greater or less extent. Even in the United States, which is
popularly regarded as the land of unlicensed license in a literary
sense,--even in the Boston Public Library, which is admitted to be a
model of good sense and wide liberality,--all books are not bought or
issued indiscriminately to all readers, irrespective of age and so
forth. The necessity for making special application may, in some cases,
whet curiosity, but it also, undoubtedly, acts as a check upon unhealthy
tastes, even when the book may be publicly purchased. I have heard
Russians who did not wholly agree with their own censorship assert,
nevertheless, that a strict censure was better than the total absence of
it, apparently, in America, the utterances of whose press are regarded
by foreigners in general as decidedly startling.*

* From _The Nation_




IV.

BARGAINING IN RUSSIA.


In Russia one is expected to bargain and haggle over the price of
everything, beginning with hotel accommodations, no matter how
obtrusively large may be the type of the sign "_Prix Fixe_" or how
strenuous may be the assertions that the bottom price is that first
named. If one's nerves be too weak to play at this game of continental
poker, he will probably share our fate, of which we were politely
apprised by a word at our departure from a hotel where we had lived for
three months--after due bargaining--at their price. "If you come
back, you may have the corresponding apartments on the floor below [the
_bel etage_] for the same price." In view of the fact that there was no
elevator, it will be perceived that we had been paying from one third to
one half too much, which was reassuring as to the prospect for the
future, when we should decide to return!

If there be a detestable relic of barbarism, it is this custom of
bargaining over every breath one draws in life. It creates a sort of
incessant internal seething, which is very wearing to the temper and
destructive of pleasure in traveling. One feels that he must chaffer
desperately in the dark, or pay the sum demanded and be regarded as a
goose fit for further plucking. So he forces himself to chaffer, tries
to conceal his abhorrence of the practice and his inexperience, and
ends, generally, by being cheated and considered a grass-green idiot
into the bargain, which is not soothing to the spirit of the average
man. When I mention it in this connection I do not mean to be understood
as confining my remarks exclusively to Russia; the opportunities for
being shorn to the quick are unsurpassed all over the continent, and
"one price" America's house is too vitreous to permit of her throwing
many stones at foreign lands. Only, in America, the custom is now
happily so obsolete in the ordinary transactions of daily life that one
is astonished when he hears, occasionally, a woman from the country ask
a clerk in a city shop, "Is that the least you'll take? I'll give you so
much for these goods." In Russia, the surprise would be on the other
side.

The next time I had occasion to hire quarters in a hotel for a sojourn
of any length I resorted to stratagem, by way of giving myself an object
lesson. I looked at the rooms, haggled them down, on principle, to what
seemed to me really the very lowest notch of price; I was utterly worn
out before this was accomplished. I even flattered myself that I had
done nearly as well as a native could have done, and was satisfied. But
I sternly carried out my experiment. I did not close the bargain. I
asked Princess----to try her experienced hand. Result, she secured the
best accommodations in the house for less than half the rate at which I
had been so proud of obtaining inferior quarters! When we moved in, the
landlord was surprised, but he grasped the point of the transaction, and
seemed to regard it as a pleasant jest against him, and to respect us
the more for having outwitted him. The Princess apologized for having
made such bad terms for us, and meant it! I suspect that that was a very
fair sample of the comparative terms obtained by natives and outsiders
in all bargains.

It is one of those things at which one smiles or fumes, according to the
force of the instinct for justice with which he has been blessed--or
cursed--by nature. Nothing, unless it be a healthy, athletic
conscience, is so wofully destructive of all happiness and comfort in
this life as a keen sense of justice!

There are, it is true, persons in Russia who scorn to bargain as much as
did the girl of the merchant class in one of Ostrovsky's famous
comedies, who was so generous as to blush with shame for the people whom
she heard trying to beat down exorbitant prices in the shops, or whom
she saw taking their change. The merchant's motto is, "A thing is worth
all that can be got for it." Consequently, it never occurs to him that
even competition is a reason for being rational. One striking case of
this in my own experience was provided by a hardware merchant, in whose
shop I sought a spirit lamp. The lamps he showed me were not of the sort
I wished, and the price struck me as exorbitant, although I was not
informed as to that particular subject. I offered these suggestions to
the fat merchant in a mild manner, and added that I would look elsewhere
before deciding upon his wares.

"You will find none elsewhere," roared the merchant--previously soft
spoken as the proverbial sucking dove--through his bushy beard, in a
voice which would have done credit to the proto-deacon of a cathedral.
"And not one kopek will I abate of my just price, _yay Bogu!_ [God is my
witness!] They cost me that sum; I am actually making you a present of
them out of my profound respect for you, _sudarynya!_ [He had called me
Madame before that, but now he lowered my social rank to that of a
merchant's wife, out of revenge.] And you will be pleased not to come
back if you don't find a lamp to suit your peculiar taste, for I will
not sell to you. I won't have people coming here and looking at things
and then not buying!"

It was obviously my turn to retort, but I let the merchant have the last
word--temporarily. In ten minutes another shopkeeper offered me lamps
of identical quality and pattern at one half his price, and I purchased
one, such as I wished, of a different design for a small sum extra. I
may have been cheated, but, under the circumstances, I was satisfied.

Will it be believed? Bushybeard was lying in wait for me at the door,
ready to receive me, wreathed in smiles which I can describe only by the
detestable adjective "affable," as I took pains to pass his
establishment on my way back. Then the spirit of mischief entered into
me. I reciprocated his smiles and said: "Ivan Baburin, at shop No. 8,
round the corner, has dozens of lamps such as you deal in, for half the
price of yours. You might be able to get them even cheaper, if you know
how to haggle well. But I'm afraid you don't, for you seem to have been
horribly cheated in your last trade, when you bought your present stock
at the price you mentioned. How could any one have the conscience to rob
an honest, innocent man like you so dreadfully?"

He looked dazed, and the last time I cast a furtive glance behind me he
had not recovered sufficiently to dash after me and overwhelm me with
protestations of his uprightness, _yay Bogu!_ and other lingual
cascades.

From the zest with which I have beheld a shopman and a customer waste
half an hour chaffering an article up and down five kopeks (two and a
half cents or less), I am convinced that they enjoy the excitement of
it, and that time is cheap enough with them to allow them to indulge in
this exhilarating practice.

What is the remedy for this state of things? How are foreigners, who
pride themselves on never giving more than the value of an article, to
protect themselves? There is no remedy, I should say. One must haggle,
haggle, haggle, and submit. Guides are useless and worse, as they
probably share in the shopkeeper's profit, and so raise prices.
Recommendations of shops from guides or hotels are to be disregarded.
Not that they are worthless,--quite the reverse; only their value does
not accrue to the stranger, but to the other parties. It may well be, as
veteran travelers affirm, that one is compelled to contribute to this
mutual benefit association in any case; but there is a sort of
satisfaction after all in imagining that one is a free and independent
being, and going to destruction in his own way, unguided, while he gets
a little amusement out of his own shearing.

Any one who really likes bargaining will get his fill in Russia, every
time he sets foot out of doors, if he wishes merely to take a ride.
There are days, it is true, when all the cabmen in town seem to have
entered into a league and agreed to demand a ruble for a drive of half a
dozen blocks; and again, though rarely, they will offer to carry one
miles for one fifth of that sum, which is equally unreasonable in the
other direction. In either case one has his bargaining sport, at one end
of the journey or the other. I find among my notes an illustration of
this operation, which, however, falls far short of a conversation which
I once overheard between a lower-class official and an _izvostchik_, who
could not come to terms. It ended in the uniformed official exclaiming:
"You ask too much. I'll use my own horses," raising a large foot, and
waving it gently at the cabmen.

"Home-made!" (literally, "self-grown") retorted one _izvostchik_. The
rival bidders for custom shrieked with laughter at his wit, the official
fled, and I tried in vain--wonderful to relate--to get the attention
of the group and offer them a fresh opportunity for discussion by trying
to hire one of them.

My note-book furnishes the following: "If anybody wants a merry
_izvostchik_, with a stylish flourishing red beard, I can supply him. I
do not own the man at present, but he has announced his firm intention
of accompanying me to America. I asked him how he would get along
without knowing the language?

"'I'd serve you forever!' said he.

 "'How could I send you on an errand?' said I.

"'I'd serve you forever!' said he.

"That was the answer to every objection on my part. He and a
black-haired _izvostchik_ have a fight for my custom nearly every time I
go out. Fighting for custom--in words--is the regular thing, but the
way these men do it convulses with laughter everybody within hearing,
which is at least half a block. It is the fashion here to take an
interest in chafferings with cabmen and in other street scenes.

"'She's to ride with me!' shouts one. '_Barynya_, I drove you to Vasily
Island one day, you remember!' 'She's going with me; you get out!' yells
the other. 'She drove on the Nevsky with me long before she ever saw
you; didn't you, _barynya_? and the Liteinaya,' and so on till he has
enumerated more streets than I have ever heard of. 'And we're old, old
friends, aren't we, barynya? And look at my be-e-autiful horse!'

"'Your horse looks like a soiled and faded glove,' I retort, 'and I
won't have you fight over me. Settle it between yourselves,' and I walk
off or take another man, neither proceeding being favorably regarded. If
any one will rid me of Redbeard I will sell him for his passage-money to
America. I am also open to offers for Blackbeard, as he has announced
his intention of lying in wait for me at the door every day, as a cat
sits before a mouse's hole." Vanka (the generic name for all
_izvostchiki_) gets about four dollars or four dollars and a half a
month from his employer, when he does not own his equipage. In return he
is obliged to hand in about a dollar and a quarter a day on ordinary
occasions, a dollar and a half on the days preceding great festivals,
and two dollars and a half on festival days. If he does not contrive to
extract the necessary amount from his fares, his employer extracts it
from his wages, in the shape of a fine. The men told me this. As there
are no fixed rates in the great cities, a bargain must be struck every
time, which begins by the man demanding twice or thrice the proper
price, and ends in your paying it if you are not familiar with accepted
standards and distances, and in selling yourself at open-air auction to
the lowest bidder, acting as your own auctioneer, in case you are
conversant with matters in general.

Foreigners can also study the bargaining process at its best--or worst
--in the purchase of furs. The Neva freezes over, as a rule, about the
middle of November, and snow comes to stay, after occasional light
flurries in September and October, a little later. Sometimes, however,
the river closes as early as the end of September, or as late as within
a few days of Christmas. Or the rain, which begins in October, continues
at intervals into the month of January. The price of food goes up,
frozen provisions for the poorer classes spoil, and more suffering and
illness ensue than when the normal Arctic winter prevails. In spite of
the cold, one is far more comfortable than in warmer climes. The "stone"
houses are built with double walls, three or four feet apart, of brick
or rubble covered with mastic. The space between the walls is filled in,
and, in the newer buildings, apertures with ventilators near the
ceilings take the place of movable panes in the double windows. The
space between the windows is filled with a deep layer of sand, in which
are set small tubes of salt to keep the glass clear, and a layer of
snowy cotton wadding on top makes a warm and appropriate finish. The
lower classes like to decorate their wadding with dried grasses, colored
paper, and brilliant odds and ends, in a sort of toy-garden arrangement.
The cracks of the windows are filled with putty or some other solid
composition, over which are pasted broad strips of coarse white linen.
The India rubber and other plants which seem so inappropriately placed,
in view of the brief and scant winter light, in reality serve two
purposes--that of decoration and that of keeping people at a
respectful distance from the windows, because the cold and wind pass
through the glass in dangerous volume.

Carpets are rare. Inlaid wooden floors, with or without rugs, are the
rule. Birch wood is, practically, the exclusive material for heating.
Coal from South Russia is too expensive in St. Petersburg; and imported
coal is of the lignite order, and far from satisfactory even for use in
the open grates, which are often used for beauty and to supplement the
stoves.

In the olden times, the beautifully colored and ornamented tile stoves
were built with a "stove bench," also of tiles, near the floor, on which
people could sleep. Nowadays, only peasants sleep on the stove, and they
literally sleep on top of the huge, mud-plastered stone oven, close to
the ceiling. In dwellings other than peasant huts, what is known as the
"German stove" is in use. Each stove is built through the wall to heat
two rooms, or a room and corridor. The yard porter brings up ten or
twelve birch logs, of moderate girth, peels off a little bark to use as
kindling, and in ten minutes there is a roaring fire. The door is left
open, and the two draught covers from the flues--which resemble the
covers of a range in shape and size--are taken out until the wood is
reduced to glowing coals, which no longer emit blue flames. Then the
door is closed, the flue plates are replaced, and the stove radiates
heat for twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours, or longer, according to
the weather and the taste of the persons concerned,--Russian rooms not
being kept nearly so hot as American rooms.

In this soft, delightful, and healthy heat, heavy underclothing is a
misery. Very few Russians wear anything but linen, and foreigners who
have been used to wear flannels generally are forced to abandon them in
Russia. Hence the necessity for wrapping up warmly when one goes out.

Whatever the caprices of the weather, during the winter, according to
the almanac, furs are required, especially by foreigners, from the
middle of October or earlier until May. People who come from Southern
climes, with the memory of the warm sun still lingering in their veins,
endure their first Russian winter better than the winters which follow,
provided their rashness, especially during the treacherous spring or
autumn, does not kill them off promptly. Therefore, the wise foreigner
who arrives in autumn sallies forth at once in quest of furs. He will
get plenty of bargaining and experience thrown in.

First of all, he finds that he must reconstruct his ideas about furs. If
he be an American, his first discovery is that his favorite sealskin is
out of the race entirely. No Russian would pay the price which is given
for sealskin in return for such a "cold fur," nor would he wear it on
the outside for display, while it would be too tender to use as a
lining. Sealskin is good only for a short jacket between seasons for
walking, and if one sets out on foot in that garb she must return on
foot; she would be running a serious risk if she took a carriage or
sledge. All furs are used for linings; in short, by thus reversing
nature's arrangement, one obtains the natural effect, and wears the fur
next his skin, as the original owner of the pelt did. Squirrel is a
"cold," cheap fur, used by laundresses and the like, while mink, also
reckoned as a "cold" fur, though more expensive, is used by men only, as
is the pretty mottled skin obtained by piecing together sable paws. The
cheapest of the "downy" furs, which are the proper sort for the climate,
is the brown goat, that constantly reminds its owner of the economy
practiced, by its weight and characteristic strong smell, though it has
the merit of being very warm. Next come the various grades of red fox
fur,--those abundantly furnished with hair,--where the red is pale
and small in area, and the gray patches are large and dark, being the
best. The _kuni_, which was the unit of currency in olden days, and was
used by royalty, is the next in value, and is costly if dark, and with a
tough, light-weight skin, which is an essential item of consideration
for the necessary large cloaks. Sables, rich and dark, are worn, like
the _kuni_, by any one who can afford them,--court dames, cavaliers,
archbishops, and merchants, or their wives and daughters,--while the
climax of beauty and luxury is attained in the black fox fur, soft and
delicate as feathers, warm as a July day. The silky, curly white Tibetan
goat, and the thick, straight white fur of the _psetz_, make beautiful
evening wraps for women, under velvets of delicate hues, and are used by
day also, though they are attended by the inconvenience of requiring
frequent cleaning. Cloth or velvet is the proper covering for all furs,
and the colors worn for driving are often gay or light. A layer of
wadding between the fur and the covering adds warmth, and makes the
circular mantle called a _rotonda_ set properly. These sleeveless
circular cloaks are not fit for anything but driving, however, although
they are lapped across the breast and held firmly in place by the
crossed arms,--a weary task, since they fall  open at every breeze
when the wearer is on foot,--but they possess the advantage over a
cloak with sleeves that they can be held high around the ears and head
at will. The most inveterate "shopper" would be satisfied with the
amount of running about and bargaining which can be got out of buying a
fur cloak and a cap!

The national cap has a soft velvet crown, surrounded by a broad band of
sable or otter, is always in fashion, and lasts forever. People who like
variety buy each year a new cap, made of black Persian lambskin, which
resembles in shape that worn by the Kazaks, though the shape is modified
every year by the thrifty shopkeepers.

The possibilities for self delusion, and delusion from the other
quarter, as to price and quality of these fur articles, is simply
enormous. I remember the amusing tags fastened to every cloak in the
shop of a certain fashionable furrier in Moscow, where "asking price"
and "selling price" were plainly indicated. By dint of inquiry I found
that "paying price" was considerably below "selling price." Moscow is
the place, by the way, to see the coats intended for "really cold
weather" journeys, made of bear skin and of reindeer skin, impervious to
cold, lined with downy Siberian rat or other skins, which one does not
see in Petersburg shops.

The furs and the Russians' sensible manner of dressing in general, which
I have described, have much to do with their comfort and freedom from
colds. No Russian enters a room, theatre, or public hall at any season
of the year with his cloak and overshoes, and no well-trained servant
would allow an ignorant foreigner to trifle with his health by so doing.
Even the foreign churches are provided with cloak-rooms and attendants.
And the Russian churches? On grand occasions, when space is railed off
for officials or favored guests, cloak-racks and attendants are provided
near the door for the privileged ones, who must display their uniforms
and gowns as a matter of state etiquette. The women find the light shawl
--which they wear under their fur to preserve the gown from hairs, to
shield the chest, and for precisely such emergencies--sufficient
protection. On ordinary occasions, people who do not keep a lackey to
hold their cloaks just inside the entrance have an opportunity to
practice Russian endurance, and unless the crowd is very dense, the
large and lofty space renders it quite possible, though the churches are
heated, to retain the fur cloak; but it is not healthy, and not always
comfortable. It would not be possible to provide cloak-rooms and
attendants for the thousands upon thousands who attend church service on
Sundays and holidays. With the foreign churches, whose attendance is
limited comparatively, it is a different matter.

One difficulty about foreigners visiting Russia in winter is, that those
who come for a short visit are rarely willing to go to the expense of
the requisite furs. In general, they are so reckless of their health as
to inspire horror in any one who is acquainted with the treacherous
climate. I remember a couple of Americans, who resisted all
remonstrances because they were on their way to a warmer clime, and went
about when the thermometer was twenty-five to thirty degrees below zero
Reaumur, in light, unwadded mantles, reaching only to the waist line,
and with loose sleeves. A Russian remarked of them: "They might have
shown some respect for the climate, and have put on flannel compresses,
or a mustard plaster at least!" Naturally, an illness was the result. If
such people would try to bargain for the very handsome and stylish
coffins which they would consider in keeping with their dignity, they
would come to the conclusion that furs would prove cheaper and less
troublesome. But furs or coffins, necessaries or luxuries, everything
must be bargained for in Holy Russia, and with the American affection
for the national game of poker, that should not constitute an objection
to the country. Only non-card-players will mind such a trifle as bluff.*

* Reprinted, in part, from _Lippincott's Magazine_.




V.

EXPERIENCES.


So much has been said about the habits of the late Emperor Alexander
III. in his capital, that a brief statement of them will not be out of
place, especially as I had one or two experiences, in addition to the
ordinary opportunities afforded by a long visit and knowledge of the
language and manners of the people.

When the Emperor was in St. Petersburg, he drove about freely every day
like a private person. He was never escorted or attended by guards. In
place of a lackey a Kazak orderly sat beside the coachman. The orderlies
of no other military men wore the Kazak uniform. Any one acquainted with
this fact, or with the Emperor's face, could recognize him as he passed.
There was no other sign; even the soldiers, policemen, and gendarmes
gave him the same salute which they gave to every general. At Peterhoff,
in summer, he often drove, equally unescorted, to listen to the music in
the palace park, which was open to all the public.

On occasions of state or ceremony, such as a royal wedding or the
arrival of the Shah of Persia, troops lined the route of the procession,
as part of the show, and to keep the quiet but vigorously surging masses
of spectators in order; just as the police keep order on St. Patrick's
Day in New York, or as the militia kept order and made part of the show
during the land naval parade at the Columbian festivities in New York.
On such occasions the practice as to allowing spectators on balconies,
windows, and roofs varied. For example, during the Emperor's recent
funeral procession in Moscow, roofs, balconies, open windows, and every
point of vantage were occupied by spectators. In St. Petersburg, the
public was forbidden to occupy roofs, balconies, lamp-posts, or
railings, and it was ordered that all windows should be shut, though, as
usual, no restriction was placed on benches, stools, and other aids to a
view. A few days later, when the Emperor Nicholas II. drove from his
wedding in the Winter Palace to the Anitchkoff Palace, roofs, balconies,
and open windows were crowded with spectators. I saw the Emperor
Alexander III. from an open balcony, and behind closed windows.

On the regular festivals and festivities, such as St. George's Day, New
Year's Day, the Epiphany (the "Jordan," or Blessing of the Neva), the
state balls, Easter, and so forth, every one knew where to look for the
Emperor, and at what hour. The official notifications in the morning
papers, informing members of the Court at what hour and place to present
themselves, furnished a good guide to the Emperor's movements for any
one who did not already know. On such days the approaches to the Winter
Palace were kept open for the guests as they arrived; the crowd was
always enormous, especially at the "Jordan." But as soon as royalties
and guests had arrived, and, on the "Jordan" day, as soon as the Neva
had been blessed, ordinary traffic was resumed on sidewalks of the
Winter Palace (those of the Anitchkoff Palace, where the Emperor lived,
were never cut off from public use), on streets, and Palace Square.
Royalties and guests departed quietly at their pleasure.

I was driving down the Nevsky Prospekt on the afternoon of New Year's
Day, 1889, when, just at the gate of the Anitchkoff Palace, a policeman
raised his hand, and my sledge and the whole line behind me halted. I
looked round to see the reason, and beheld the Emperor and Empress
sitting beside me in the semi-state cream-colored carriage, painted with
a big coat of arms, its black hood studded with golden doubleheaded
eagles, which the present Emperor used on his wedding day. A coachman,
postilion, and footman constituted the sole "guard," while the late
prefect, General Gresser, in an open calash a quarter of a mile behind,
constituted the "armed escort." They were on the roadway next to the
horse-car track, which is reserved for private equipages, and had to
cross the lines of public sledges next to the sidewalk. On other
occasions, such as launches of ironclad war vessels, the expected
presence of the Emperor and Empress was announced in the newspapers. It
was easy enough to calculate the route and the hour, if one wished to
see them. I frequently made such calculations, in town and country, and,
stranger though I was, I never made a mistake. When cabinet ministers or
high functionaries of the Court died, the Emperor and Empress attended
one of the services before the funeral, and the funeral. Thousands of
people calculated the hour, and the best spot to see them with absolute
accuracy. At one such funeral, just after rumors of a fresh "plot" had
been rife, I saw the great crowd surge up with a cheer towards the
Emperor's carriage, though the Russians are very quiet in public. The
police who were guarding the route of the procession stood still and
smiled approvingly.

But sometimes the streets through which the Emperor Alexander III. was
to pass were temporarily forbidden to the public; such as the annual
mass and parade of the regiments of the Guards in their great
riding-schools, and a few more. I know just how that device worked,
because I put it to the proof twice, with amusing results.

The first time it was in this wise: There exists in St. Petersburg a
Ladies' Artistic Circle, which meets once a week all winter, to draw
from models. Social standing as well as artistic talent is requisite in
members of this society, to which two or three Grand Duchesses have
belonged, or do belong. The product of their weekly work, added to gifts
from each member, is exhibited, sold, and raffled for each spring, the
proceeds being devoted to helping needy artists by purchasing for them
canvas, paints, and so forth, to clothing and educating their children,
or aiding them in a dozen different ways, such as paying house-rent,
doctor's bills, pensions, and so forth, to the amount of a great many
thousand dollars every year. When I was in Petersburg, the exhibitions
took place in the ballroom and drawing-room of one grand ducal palace,
while the home and weekly meetings were in the palace of the Grand
Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna, now dead. An amiable poet, Yakoff
Petrovitch, invited me to attend one of these meetings,--a number of
men being honorary members, though the women manage everything
themselves,--but illness prevented my accompanying him on the evening
appointed for our visit. He told me, therefore, to keep my invitation
card. Three months elapsed before circumstances permitted me to use it.

One evening, on my way from an informal call of farewell on a friend who
was about to set out for the Crimea, I ordered my _izvostchik_ to drive
me to the Michael Palace. We were still at some distance from the palace
when a policeman spoke to the _izvostchik_, who drove on instead of
turning that corner, as he had been on the point of doing.

"Why don't you go on up that street?" I asked.

"Impossible! Probably the _Hosudar_ [Emperor] is coming," answered
cabby.

"Whither is he going?"

"We don't know," replied cabby, in true Russian style.

"But I mean to go to that palace, all the same," said I.

"Of course," said cabby tranquilly, turning up the next parallel street,
which brought us out on the square close to the palace.

As we drove into the courtyard I was surprised to see that it was filled
with carriages, that the plumed chasseurs of ambassadors and footmen in
court liveries were flitting to and fro, and that the great flight of
steps leading to the grand entrance was dotted thickly with officers and
gendarmes, exactly as though an imperial birthday _Te Deum_ at St.
Isaac's Cathedral were in progress, and twenty or twenty-five thousand
people must be kept in order.

"Well!" I said to myself, "this appears to be a very elegant sort of
sketch-club, with evening dress and all the society appurtenances. What
did Yakoff Petrovitch mean by telling me that a plain street gown was
the proper thing to wear? This enforced 'simplification' is rather
trying to the feminine nerves; but I will not beat a retreat!"

I paid and dismissed my _izvostchik_,--a poor, shabby fellow, such as
Fate invariably allotted to me,--walked in, gave my furs and galoshes
to the handsome, big head Swiss in imperial scarlet and gold livery, and
started past the throng of servants, to the grand staircase, which
ascended invitingly at the other side of the vast hall. Unfortunately,
that instinct with whose possession women are sometimes reproached
prompted me to turn back, just as I had reached the first step, and
question the Swiss.

"In what room shall I find the Ladies' Artistic Circle?"

"It does not meet to-night, madame," he answered. "Her Imperial Highness
has guests."

"But I thought the Circle met every Wednesday night from November to
May."

"It does, usually, madame; to-night is an exception. You will find the
ladies here next week."

"Then please to give me my _shuba_ and galoshes, and call a sledge."

The Swiss gave the order for a sledge to one of the palace servants
standing by, and put on my galoshes and cloak. But the big square was
deserted, the ubiquitous _izvostchik_ was absent, for once, it appeared,
and after waiting a few minutes at the grand entrance, I repeated my
request to an officer of gendarmes. He touched his cap, said:
"_Slushaiu's_" (I obey, madame), and set in action a series of shouts of
"_Izvostchik! izvo-o-o-o-stchik!_" It ended in the dispatch of a
messenger to a neighboring street, and--at last--the appearance of a
sledge, visibly shabby of course, even in the dark,--my luck had not
deserted me.

I could have walked home, as it was very close at hand, in much less
time than it took to get the sledge, be placed therein, and buttoned
fast under the robe by the gendarme officer: but my heart had quailed a
little, I confess, when it looked for a while as if I should be
compelled to do it and pass that array of carriages and lackeys afoot. I
was glad enough to be able to spend double fare on the man (because I
had not bargained in advance), in the support of my little dignity and
false pride.

As I drove out of one gate, a kind of quiet tumult arose at the other.
On comparing notes, two days later, as to the hour, with a friend who
had been at the palace that night (by invitation, not in my way), I
found that the Emperor and Empress had driven up to attend these Lenten
_Tableaux Vivants_, in which several members of the imperial family
figured, just as I had got out of the way.

This was one of the very few occasions when I found any street reserved
temporarily for the Emperor, who usually drives like a private citizen.
I have never been able to understand, however, what good such
reservation does, if undertaken as a protective measure (as hasty
travelers are fond of asserting), when a person can head off the
Emperor, reach the goal by a parallel street, and then walk into a
small, select imperial party unknown, uninvited, unhindered, as I
evidently could have done and almost did, woolen gown, bonnet, and all,
barred solely by my own question to the Swiss at the last moment.

That the full significance of my semi-adventure may be comprehended,
with all its irregularity, let me explain that my manner of arrival was
as unsuitable--as suspicious, if you like--as it well could be. I
had no business to drive up to a palace, in a common sledge hired on the
street, on such an occasion. I had no business to be riding alone in an
open sledge at night. Officers from the regiments of the Guards may,
from economy, use such public open sledges (there are no covered sledges
in town) to attend a reception at the Winter Palace, or a funeral mass
at a church where the Emperor and Empress are present. I have seen that
done. But they are careful to alight at a distance and approach the
august edifice on their own noble, uniformed legs. But a woman--
without a uniform to consecrate her daring--!

However, closed carriages do not stand at random on the street in St.
Petersburg, any more than they do elsewhere, and cannot often be had
either quickly or easily, besides being expensive.

Nevertheless, neither then nor at any other time did I ever encounter
the slightest disrespect from police, gendarmes, servants (those severe
and often impertinent judges of one's attire and equipage), nor from
their masters,--not even on this critical occasion when I so patently,
flagrantly transgressed all the proprieties, yet was not interfered with
by word or glance, but was permitted to discover my error for myself, or
plunge headlong, unwarned, into the Duchess's party, regardless of my
unsuitable costume.

On the following Wednesday, I drove to the palace again in the same
style of equipage, and the same gown, which proved to be perfectly
proper, as Mr. Y. P. had told me, and was greeted with a courteous and
amiable smile by the head Swiss, who had the air of taking me under his
special protection, as he conducted me in person, not by deputy, to the
quarters of the Circle.

I had another illustrative experience with closed streets. In February
come the two grand reviews of the Guards, stationed in Petersburg,
Peterhoff, and Tzarskoe Selo, on the Palace Place. They are fine
spectacles, but only for those who have access to a window overlooking
the scene, as all the streets leading to the Place are blockaded by the
gendarmerie, to obviate the disturbance of traffic. On one of these
occasions, I inadvertently selected the route which the Emperor was to
use. I was stopped by mounted gendarmes. I told them that it was too far
to walk, with my heavy furs and shoes, and they allowed me to proceed. A
block further on, officers of higher grade in the gendarmerie rode up to
me and again declared that it was impossible for me to go on; but they
yielded, as did still higher officers, at two or three advanced posts. I
believe that it was not intended that I should walk along that street
either; I certainly had it all to myself. I know now how royalty feels
when carefully coddled, and prefer to have my fellow-creatures about me.
I alighted, at last, with the polite assistance of a gendarme officer,
at the very spot where the Emperor afterward alighted from his sledge
and mounted his horse. At that time I was living in an extremely
fashionable quarter of the city, where every one was supposed to keep
his own carriage. The result was that the _izvostchiki_ never expected
custom from any one except the servants of the wealthy, and none but the
shabbiest sledges in town ever waited there for engagements.
Accordingly, my turnout was very shabby, and the gendarmes could not
have been impressed with respect by it. On the other hand, had I used
the best style of public equipage, the likatchi, the kind which consists
of an elegant little sledge, a fine horse, and a spruce, well-fed,
well-dressed driver, it is probable that they would not have let me pass
at all. Ladies are not permitted, by etiquette, to patronize these
_likatchi_, alone, and no man will take his wife or a woman whom he
respects to drive in one. Had I foreseen that there would be any
occasion for inspiring respect by my equipage, I would have gone to the
trouble and expense of hiring a closed carriage, a thing which I did as
rarely as possible, because nothing could be seen through the frozen
window, because they seemed much colder than the open sledges, and had
no advantage except style, and that of protecting one from the wind,
which I did not mind.




VI.

A RUSSIAN SUMMER RESORT.


The spring was late and cold. I wore my fur-lined cloak (_shuba_) and
wrapped up my ears, by Russian advice as well as by inclination, until
late in May. But we were told that the summer heat would catch us
suddenly, and that St. Petersburg would become malodorous and unhealthy.
It was necessary, owing to circumstances, to find a healthy residence
for the summer, which should not be too far removed from the capital.
With a few exceptions, all the environs of St. Petersburg are damp.
Unless one goes as far as Gatschina, or into the part of Finland
adjacent to the city, Tzarskoe Selo presents the only dry locality. In
the Finnish summer colonies, one must, perforce, keep house, for lack of
hotels. In Tzarskoe, as in Peterhoff, villa life is the only variety
recognized by polite society; but there we had--or seemed to have--
the choice between that and hotels. We decided in favor of Tzarskoe, as
it is called in familiar conversation. As one approaches the imperial
village, it rises like a green oasis from the plain. It is hedged in,
like a true Russian village, but with trees and bushes well trained
instead of with a wattled fence.

During the reign of Alexander II., this inland village was the favorite
Court resort; not Peterhoff, on the Gulf of Finland, as at present. It
is situated sixteen miles from St. Petersburg, on the line of the first
railway built in Russia, which to this day extends only a couple of
miles beyond,--for lack of the necessity of farther extension, it is
just to add. It stands on land which is not perceptibly higher than St.
Petersburg, and it took a great deal of demonstration before an Empress
of the last century could be made to believe that it was, in reality, on
a level with the top of the lofty Admiralty spire, and that she must
continue her tiresome trips to and fro in her coach, in the
impossibility of constructing a canal which would enable her to sail in
comfort. Tzarskoe Selo, "Imperial Village:" well as the name fits the
place, it is thought to have been corrupted from _saari_, the Finnish
word for "farm," as a farm occupied the site when Peter the Great
pitched upon it for one of his numerous summer resorts. He first
enlarged the farmhouse, then built one of his simple wooden palaces, and
a greenhouse for Katherine I. Eventually he erected a small part of the
present Old Palace. It was at the dedication of the church here,
celebrated in floods of liquor (after a fashion not unfamiliar in the
annals of New England in earlier days), that Peter I. contracted the
illness which, aggravated by a similar drinking-bout elsewhere
immediately afterward, and a cold caused by a wetting while he was
engaged in rescuing some people from drowning, carried him to his grave
very promptly. His successors enlarged and beautified the place, which
first became famous during the reign of Katherine II. At the present
day, its broad macadamized streets are lighted by electricity; its
_Gostinny Dvor_ (bazaar) is like that of a provincial city; many of its
sidewalks, after the same provincial pattern, have made people prefer
the middle of the street for their promenades. Naturally, only the lower
classes were expected to walk when the Court resided there.

Before making acquaintance with the famous palaces and parks, we
undertook to settle ourselves for the time being, at least. It appeared
that "furnished" villas are so called in Tzarskoe, as elsewhere, because
they require to be almost completely furnished by the occupant on a
foundation of bare bones of furniture, consisting of a few bedsteads and
tables. This was not convenient for travelers; neither did we wish to
commit ourselves for the whole season to the cares of housekeeping, lest
a change of air should be ordered suddenly; so we determined to try to
live in another way.

Boarding-houses are as scarce here as in St. Petersburg, the whole town
boasting but one,--advertised as a wonderful rarity,--which was very
badly situated. There were plenty of _traktiri_, or low-class
eating-houses, some of which had "numbers for arrivers"--that is to
say, rooms for guests--added to their gaudy signs. These were not to
be thought of. But we had been told of an establishment which rejoiced
in the proud title of _gostinnitza_, "hotel," in city fashion. It looked
fairly good, and there we took up our abode, after due and inevitable
chaffering. This hotel was kept, over shops, on the first and part of
the second floor of a building which had originally been destined for
apartments. Its only recommendation was that it was situated near a very
desirable gate into the Imperial Park.

Our experience there was sufficient to slake all curiosity as to Russian
summer resort hotels, or country hotels in provincial towns, since that
was its character; though it had, besides, some hindrances which were
peculiar, I hope, to itself. The usual clean, large dining-room, with
the polished floor, table decorated with plants, and lace curtains, was
irresistibly attractive, especially to wedding parties of shopkeepers,
who danced twelve hours at a stretch, and to breakfast parties after
funerals, whose guests made rather more uproar on afternoons than did
those of the wedding balls in the evening, as they sang the customary
doleful chants, and then warmed up to the occasion with bottled
consolation. The establishment being shorthanded for waiters, these
entertainments interfered seriously with our meals, which we took in
private; and we were often forced to go hungry until long after the
hour, because there was so much to eat in the house!

Our first experience of the place was characteristic. The waiter, who
was also "boots," chambermaid, and clerk, on occasion, distributed two
sheets, two pillows, one blanket, and one "cold" (cotton) coverlet
between the two beds, and considered that ample, as no doubt it was
according to some lights and according to the almanac, though the
weather resembled November just then, and I saw snow a few days later.
Having succeeded in getting this rectified, after some discussion, I
asked for towels.

"There is one," answered Mikhei (Micah), with his most fascinating
smile.

The towel was very small, and was intended to serve for two persons!
Eventually it did not; and we earned the name of being altogether too
fastidious. The washstand had a tank of water attached to the top, which
we pumped into the basin with a foot-treadle, after we became skillful,
holding our hands under the stream the while. The basin had no stopper.
"Running water is cleaner to wash in," was the serious explanation. Some
other barbarian who had used that washstand before us must also have
differed from that commonly accepted Russian opinion: when we plugged up
the hole with a cork, and it disappeared, and we fished it out of the
still clogged pipe, we found that six others had preceded it. It took a
champagne cork and a cord to conquer the orifice.

Among our vulgar experiences at this place were--fleas. I remonstrated
with Mikhei, our typical waiter from the government of Yaroslavl, which
furnishes restaurant _garcons_ in hordes as a regular industry. Mikhei
replied airily:--

"_Nitchevo!_ It is nothing! You will soon learn to like them so much
that you cannot do without them."

I take the liberty of doubting whether even Russians ever reach that
last state of mind, in a lifetime of endurance. Two rooms beyond us, in
the same corridor, lodged a tall, thin, gray-haired Russian merchant,
who was nearly a typical Yankee in appearance. Every morning, at four
o'clock, when the fleas were at their worst and roused us regularly (the
"close season" for mortals, in Russia, is between five and six A. M.),
we heard this man emerge from his room, and shake, separately and
violently, the four pieces of his bedclothing into the corridor; not out
of the window, as he should have done. So much for the modern native
taste. It is recorded that the beauties of the last century, in St.
Petersburg, always wore on their bosoms silver "flea-catchers" attached
to a ribbon. These traps consisted of small tubes pierced with a great
number of tiny holes, closed at the bottom, open at the top, and each
containing a slender shaft smeared with honey or some other sticky
substance. So much for the ancient native taste.

Again, we had a disagreement with Mikhei on the subject of the roast
beef. More than once it was brought in having a peculiar
blackish-crimson hue and stringy grain, with a sweetish flavor, and an
odor which was singular but not tainted, and which required imperatively
that either we or it should vacate the room instantly. Mikhei stuck
firmly to his assertion that it was a prime cut from a first-class ox.
We discovered the truth later on, in Moscow, when we entered a Tatar
horse-butcher's shop--ornamented with the picture of a horse, as the
law requires--out of curiosity, to inquire prices. We recognized the
smell and other characteristics of our Tzarskoe Selo "roast ox" at a
glance and a sniff, and remained only long enough to learn that the best
cuts cost two and a half cents a pound. Afterward we went a block about
to avoid passing that shop. The explanation of the affair was simple
enough. In our hotel there was a _traktir_, run by our landlord, tucked
away in a rear corner of the ground floor, and opening on what Thackeray
would have called a "tight but elegant" little garden, for summer use.
It was thronged from morning till night with Tatar old-clothes men and
soldiers from the garrison, for whom it was the rendezvous. The horse
beef had been provided for the Tatars, who considered it a special
dainty, and had been palmed off upon us because it was cheap.

I may dismiss the subject of the genial Mikhei  here, with the remark
that we met him the following summer at the Samson Inn, in Peterhoff,
where he served our breakfast with an affectionate solicitude which
somewhat alarmed us for his sobriety. He was very much injured in
appearance by long hair thrown back in artistic fashion, and a livid
gash which scored one side of his face down to his still unbrushed
teeth, and nearly to his unwashed shirt, narrowly missing one eye, and
suggested possibilities of fight in him which, luckily for our peace of
mind, we had not suspected the previous season.

Our chambermaid at first, at the Tzarskoe hostelry, was a lad fourteen
years of age, who dusted in the most wonderfully conscientious way
without being asked, like a veteran trained housekeeper. We supposed
that male chambermaids were the fashion, judging from the offices which
we had seen our St. Petersburg hotel "boots" perform, and we said
nothing. A Russian friend who came to call on us, however, was shocked,
and, without our knowledge, gave the landlord a lecture on the subject,
the first intimation of which was conveyed to us by the appearance of a
maid who had been engaged "expressly for the service of our high
nobilities;" price, five rubles a month (two dollars and a half; she
chanced to live in the attic lodgings), which they did not pay her, and
which we gladly gave her. Her conversation alone was worth three times
the money. Our "boots" in St. Petersburg got but four rubles a month,
out of which he was obliged to clothe himself, and furnish the brushes,
wax, and blacking for the boots; and he had not had a single day's
holiday in four years, when we made his acquaintance. I won his eternal
devotion by "placing a candle" vicariously to the Saviour for him on
Christmas Day, and added one for myself, to harmonize with the brotherly
spirit of the season.

Andrei, the boy, never wholly recovered from the grief and resentment
caused by being thus supplanted, and the imputation cast upon his powers
of caring for us. He got even with us on at least two occasions, for the
offense of which we were innocent. Once he told a fashionable visitor of
ours that we dined daily in the _traktir_, with the Tatar clothes
peddlers and the soldiers of the garrison, with the deliberate intention
of shocking her. I suppose it soothed his feelings for having to serve
our food in our own room. Again, being ordered to "place the _samovar_"
he withdrew to his chamber, the former kitchen of the apartment, and
went to sleep on the cold range, which was his bed, where he was
discovered after we had starved patiently for an hour and a half.

Andrei's supplanter was named Katiusha, but her angular charms
corresponded so precisely with those of the character in "The Mikado"
that we referred to her habitually as Katisha. She had been a serf, a
member of the serf aristocracy, which consisted of the house servants,
and had served always as maid or nurse. She was now struggling on as a
seamstress. Her sewing was wonderfully bad, and she found great
difficulty in bringing up her two children, who demanded fashionable
"European" clothing, and in eking out the starvation wages of her
husband, a superannuated restaurant waiter, also a former serf, and
belonging, like herself, to the class which received personal liberty,
but no land, at the emancipation. Her view of the emancipation was not
entirely favorable. In fact, all the ex-serfs with whom I talked
retained a soft spot in their hearts for the comforts and
irresponsibility of the good old days of serfdom.

Katiusha could neither read nor write, but her naturally acute powers of
observation, unconsciously trained by constant contact with her former
owners, were of very creditable quality. She possessed a genuine talent
for expressing herself neatly. For example, in describing a concert to
which she had been taken, she praised the soprano singer's voice with
much discrimination, winding up with, "It was--how shall I say it?--
round--as round--as round as--a cartwheel!"

Her great delight consisted in being sent by me to purchase eggs and
fruit at the market, or in accompanying me to carry them home, when I
went myself to enjoy the scene and her methods. In her I was able to
study Russian bargaining tactics in their finest flower. She would
haggle for half an hour over a quarter of a cent on very small
purchases, and then would carry whatever she bought into one of the
neighboring shops to be reweighed. To my surprise, the good-natured
venders seemed never to take offense at this significant act; and she
never discovered any dishonesty. When wearied out by this sort of thing,
I took charge of the proceedings, that I might escape from her agonized
groans and grimaces at my extravagance. After choking down her emotion
in gulps all the way home, she would at last clasp her hands, and moan
in a wheedling voice:--

"Please, _barynya_,* how much did you pay that robber?"

* Mistress.

"Two kopeks* apiece for the eggs. They are fine, large, and fresh, as
you see. Twenty kopeks a pound for the strawberries, also of the first
quality."

* About one cent.

Then would follow a scene which never varied, even if my indiscretion
had been confined to raspberries at five cents a pound, or currants at a
cent less. She would wring her hands, long and fleshless as fan handles,
and, her great green eyes phosphorescent with distress above her hollow
cheeks and projecting bones, she would cry:--

"Oh, _barynya_, they have cheated you, cheated you shamefully! You must
let me protect you."

"Come, don't you think it is worth a few kopeks to be called 'a pearl,'
'a diamond,' 'an emerald'?"

"Is _that_ all they called you?" she inquired, with a disdainful sniff.

"No; they said that I was 'a real general-ess.' They knew their
business, you see. And they said '_madame_' instead of '_sudarynya_.'*
Was there any other title which they could have bestowed on me for the
money?"

*_Sudarynya_ is the genuine Russian word for "madam," but, like
_spasibo_, "thank you," it is used only by the lower classes. Many
merchants who know no French except _madame_ use it as a delicate
compliment to the patron's social position.

She confessed, with a pitying sigh, that there was not, but returned to
her plaint over the sinfully wasted kopeks. Once I offered her some
"tea-money" in the shape of a basket of raspberries, which she wished to
preserve and drink in her tea, with the privilege of purchasing them
herself. As an experiment to determine whether bargaining is the outcome
of thrift and economy alone, or a distinct pleasure in itself, it was a
success. I followed her from vender to vender, and waited with exemplary
patience while she scrutinized their wares and beat down prices with
feverish eagerness, despite the fact that she was not to pay the bill. I
put an end to the matter when she tried to persuade a pretty peasant
girl, who had walked eight miles, to accept less than four cents a pound
for superb berries. I think it really spoiled my gift to her that I
insisted on making the girl happy with five cents a pound. After that I
was not surprised to find Russian merchants catering to the taste of
their customers by refusing to adopt the one-price system.

It was vulgar to go to market, of course. Even the great mastiff who
acted as yard dog at the bazaar made me aware of that fact. He always
greeted me politely, like a host, when he met me in the court at market
hours. But nothing could induce him even to look at me when he met me
outside. I tried to explain to him that my motives were scientific, not
economical, and I introduced Katiusha to him as the family bargainer and
scapegoat for his scorn. He declined to relent. After that I understood
that there was nothing for it but to shoulder the responsibility myself,
and I never attempted to palliate my unpardonable conduct in the eyes of
the servants of my friends whom I occasionally encountered there.

The market was held in the inner courtyard of the _Gostinny Dvor_, near
the chapel, which always occupies a conspicuous position in such places.
While the shops under the arcade, facing on the street, sold everything,
from "gallantry wares" (dry goods and small wares) to nails, the inner
booths were all devoted to edibles. On the rubble pavement of the court
squatted peasants from the villages for many versts round about, both
Russian and Finnish, hedged in by their wares, vegetables, flowers,
fruit, and live poultry. The Russians exhibited no beautiful costumes;
their proximity to the capital had done away with all that. At first I
was inexperienced, and went unprovided with receptacles for my
marketing. The market women looked up in surprise.

"What, have you no kerchief?" they asked, as though I were a peasant or
petty merchant's wife, and could remove the typical piece of gayly
colored cloth from my head or neck. When I objected to transporting eggs
and berries in my only resource, my handkerchief, they reluctantly
produced scraps of dirty newspaper, or of ledgers scrawled over with
queer accounts. I soon grew wise, and hoarded up the splint strawberry
baskets provided by the male venders, which are put to multifarious uses
in Russia.

After being asked for a kerchief in the markets, and a sheet when I went
to get my fur cloak from its summer storage at a fashionable city shop,
and after making divers notes on journeys, I was obliged to conclude
that the ancient merchant fashion in Russia had been to seize the
nearest fabric at hand,--the sheet from the bed, the cloth from the
table,--and use it as a traveling trunk.

The Finns at the market were not to be mistaken for Russians. Their
features were wooden; their expression was far less intelligent than
that of the Russians. The women were addicted to wonderful patterns in
aprons and silver ornaments, and wore, under a white head kerchief, a
stiff glazed white circlet which seemed to wear away their blond hair.
These women arrived regularly every morning, before five o'clock, at the
shops of the baker and the grocer opposite our windows. The shops opened
at that hour, after having kept open until eleven o'clock at night, or
later. After refreshing themselves with a roll and a bunch of young
onions, of which the green tops appeared to be the most relished, the
women made their town toilet by lowering the very much reefed skirt of
their single garment, drawing on footless stockings, and donning shoes.
At ten o'clock, or even earlier, they came back to fill the sacks of
coarse white linen, borne over their shoulders, with necessaries for
their households, purchased with the proceeds of their sales, and to
reverse their toilet operations, preparatory to the long tramp homeward.
I sometimes caught them buying articles which seemed extravagant
luxuries, all things considered, such as raisins. One of their
specialties was the sale of lilies of the valley, which grow wild in the
Russian forests. Their peculiar little trot-trot, and the indescribable
semi-tones and quarter-tones in which they cried, "_Land-dy-y-y-shee!_"
were unmistakably Finnish at any distance.

The scene at the market was always entertaining. Tzarskoe is surrounded
by market gardens, where vegetables and fruits are raised in highly
manured and excessively hilled-up beds. It sends tons of its products to
the capital as well as to the local market. Everything was cheap and
delicious. Eggs were dear when they reached a cent and a half apiece.
Strawberries, huge and luscious, were dear at ten cents a pound, since
in warm seasons they cost but five. Another berry, sister to the
strawberry, but differing from it utterly in taste, was the _klubnika_,
of which there were two varieties, the white and the bluish-red, both
delicious in their peculiar flavor, but less decorative in size and
aspect than the strawberry.

The native cherries, small and sour, make excellent preserves, with a
spicy flavor, which are much liked by Russians in their tea. The only
objection to this use of them is that both tea and cherries are spoiled.
Raspberries, plums, gooseberries, and currants were plentiful and cheap.
A vegetable delicacy of high order, according to Katiusha, who
introduced it to my notice, was a sort of radish with an extremely fine,
hard grain, and biting qualities much developed, which attains enormous
size, and is eaten in thin slices, salted and buttered. I presented the
solitary specimen which I bought, a ninepin in proportions, to the
grateful Katiusha. It was beyond my appreciation.

Pears do not thrive so far north, but in good years apples of fine sorts
are raised, to a certain extent, in the vicinity of St. Petersburg.
Really good specimens, however, come from Poland, the lower Volga,
Little Russia, and other distant points, which renders them always
rather dear. We saw few in our village that were worth buying, as the
season was phenomenally cold, and a month or three weeks late, so that
we got our strawberries in August, and our linden blossoms in September.
Apples, plums, grapes, and honey are not eaten--in theory--until after
they have been blessed at the feast of the Transfiguration, on August 18
(N. S.),--a very good scheme for giving them time to ripen fully for
health. Before that day, however, hucksters bearing trays of honey on
their heads are eagerly welcomed, and the peasant's special dainty--
fresh cucumbers thickly coated with honey--is indulged in unblessed.
Honey is not so plentiful that one can afford to fling away a premature
chance!

When the mushroom season came in, the market assumed an aspect of
half-subdued brilliancy with the many sombre and high-colored varieties
of that fungus. The poorer people indulge in numerous kinds which the
rich do not eat, and they furnish precious sustenance during fasts, when
so many viands are forbidden by the Russian Church and by poverty. One
of the really odd sights, during the fast of Saints Peter and Paul (the
first half of July), was that of people walking along the streets with
bunches of pea-vines, from which they were plucking the peas, and eating
them, pods and all, quite raw. It seemed a very summary and wasteful way
of gathering them. This fashion of eating vegetables raw was imported,
along with the liturgy, from the hot lands where the Eastern Church
first flourished, and where raw food was suitable. These traditions, and
probably also the economy of fuel, cause it to be still persisted in, in
a climate to which it is wholly unsuited. Near Tzarskoe I found one
variety of pea growing to the altitude of nearly seven feet, and
producing pods seven inches long and three wide. The stalks of the
double poppies in the same garden were six and seven feet high, and the
flowers were the size of peonies, while the pods of the single poppies
were nine inches in circumference.

One of the great festivals of the Russian Church is Whitsunday, the
seventh Sunday after Easter; but it is called Trinity Sunday, and the
next day is "the Day of Spirits," or Pentecost. On this Pentecost Day a
curious sight was formerly to be seen in St. Petersburg. Mothers
belonging to the merchant class arrayed their marriageable daughters in
their best attire; hung about their necks not only all the jewels which
formed a part of their dowries, but also, it is said, the silver ladles,
forks, and spoons; and took them to the Summer Garden, to be inspected
and proposed for by the young men.

But the place where this spectacle can be seen in the most charming way
is Tzarskoe Selo. We were favored with superb weather on both the festal
days. On Sunday morning every one went to church, as usual. The small
church behind the Lyceum, where Pushkin was educated, with its
un-Russian spire, ranks as a Court church; that in the Old Palace across
the way being opened only on special occasions, now that the Court is
not in residence. Outside, the choir sat under the golden rain of acacia
blossoms and the hedge of fragrant lilacs until the last moment, the
sunshine throwing into relief their gold-laced black cloth vestments and
crimson belts. They were singers from one of the regiments stationed in
town, and crimson was the regimental color. The church is accessible to
all classes, and it was crowded. As at Easter, every one was clad in
white or light colors, even those who were in mourning having donned the
bluish-gray which serves them for festive garb. In place of the Easter
candle, each held a bouquet of flowers. In the corners of the church
stood young birch-trees, with their satin bark and feathery foliage, and
boughs of the same decked the walls. There is a law now which forbids
this annual destruction of young trees at Pentecost, but the practice
continues, and the tradition is that one must shed as many tears for his
sins as there are dewdrops on the birch bough which he carries, if he
has no flowers. Peasant women in clean cotton gowns elbowed members of
the Court in silks; fat merchants, with well-greased, odorous hair and
boots, in hot, long-skirted blue cloth coats, stood side by side with
shabby invalid soldiers or smartly uniformed officers. Tiny peasant
children seated themselves on the floor when their little legs refused
further service, and imitated diligently all the low reverences and
signs of the cross made by their parents. Those of larger growth stood
with the preternatural repose and dignity of the adult Russian peasant,
and followed the liturgy independently. One little girl of seven,
self-possessed and serenely unconscious, slipped through the crowd to
the large image of the Virgin near the altar, grasped the breast-high
guard-rail, and kissed the holy picture in the middle of her agile
vault. When some members of the imperial family arrived, the crowd
pressed together still more closely, to make a narrow passage to the
small space reserved for them opposite the choir. After the ever
beautiful liturgy, finely expressed special prayers were offered, during
which the priest also carried flowers.

Another church service on the following day--a day when public offices
are closed and business ceases--completed the religious duties of the
festival. In the afternoon, the whole town began to flock to the
Imperial Park surrounding the Old Palace,--people of the upper circles
included,--the latter from motives of curiosity, of course. Three
bands of the Guards furnished the music. On the great terrace, shaded by
oak-trees hardly beyond the bronze-pink stage of their leafage, played
the hussars. Near the breakfast gallery, with its bronze statues of
Hercules and Flora, which the common people call "Adam and Eve" (the
Ariadne on Naxos, in a neighboring grotto, is popularly believed to be
"a girl of seven years, who was bitten by a snake while roaming the
Russian primeval forest, and died"), were the cuirassiers. The
_stryelki_ (sharpshooters) were stationed near the lake, the central
point for meetings and promenades during the lovely "white nights;"
where boats of every sort, from a sail-boat or a Chinese sampan to an
Astrakhan fishing-boat or a snowshoe skiff, are furnished gratis all
summer, with a sailor of the Guard to row them, if desired. Round and
round and round, unweariedly, paced the girls. They were bareheaded and
in slippered feet, as usual, but had abandoned the favorite ulster,
which too often accompanies extremities thus unclad, to display their
gayest gowns. The young men gazed with intense interest. Here and there
a young fellow in "European clothes" was to be seen conversing with the
more conservative young merchants, who retained the wrinkled boots
confining full trousers, the shirt worn outside the trousers, the cloth
vest, and the blue cloth long coat of traditional cut.

It was like a scene from the theatre. Across the lake, dotted with
boating parties, stretched lawns planted with trees chosen for their
variety of foliage, from the silver willow to the darkest evergreens,
while the banks were diversified with a boat-house, a terraced grotto, a
Turkish kiosk with a bath, bridges, and so on. Of the immense palace
which stood so near at hand the graceful breakfast gallery alone was
visible, while high above the waving crests of the trees the five
cupolas of the palace church, in the shape of imperial crowns, seemed to
float in the clear blue sky like golden bubbles. The lawns within the
acacia-hedged compartments were dazzling with campanulas, harebells,
rose campions, and crimson and yellow columbine, or gleamed with the
pale turquoise of forget-me-nots. We had only to enter the adjoining
park surrounding the Alexander Palace, built for Alexander I. by his
grandmother, Katherine II., to find the Field of the Cloth of Gold
realized by acres of tall double Siberian buttercups, as large and as
fragrant as yellow roses.

Soldiers of the garrison strolled about quietly, as usual. The pet of
the hussars was in great form, and his escort of admiring comrades was
larger than ever. They thrust upon him half of their tidbits and
sunflower seeds,--what masses of sunflower seeds and handbill
cigarettes were consumed that day, not to mention squash seeds, by the
more opulent!--and waited eagerly for his dimpled smile as their
reward. When the bands were weary, the regimental singers ranged
themselves in a circle, and struck up songs of love, of battle, and of
mirth, amid the applause and laughter of the crowd. Now and then a
soldier would step into the middle of the circle and dance. The slight,
agile, square-capped _stryelki_ spun round until their full-plaited
black tunics stood out from their tightly belted waists like the skirts
of ballet dancers. The slender, graceful hussars, with their
yellow-laced scarlet jackets and tight blue trousers, flitted to and fro
like gay birds. The best performer of all was a cuirassier, a big blond
fellow, with ruddy cheeks and dazzling teeth. Planting his peakless
white cloth cap with its yellow band firmly on his head, he stepped
forward, grasping in each hand a serried pyramid of brass bells, which
chimed merrily as he squatted, leaped, and executed eccentric steps with
his feet, while his arms beat time and his fine voice rolled out the
solo of a rollicking ballad, to which the rest of the company furnished
the chorus as well as their laughter and delighted applause of his
efforts permitted. His tightly fitting dark green trousers, tall boots,
and jacket of white cloth trimmed with yellow set off his muscular form
to great advantage. A comrade stood by, shaking the _buntchuk_, an
ornamental combination of brass half-moons, gay horsetails, and bells,
--the Turkish staff of command, which is carried as a special privilege
by several Russian cavalry regiments. There is nothing that a company of
Russians likes better than a spirited performance of their national
dances, whether it be high-class Russians at a Russian opera in the
Imperial Theatre, or the masses on informal occasions like the present.
This soldier, who danced with joy in every fibre, was quite willing to
oblige them indefinitely, and seemed to be made of steel springs. He
stopped with great reluctance, and that only when his company was
ordered peremptorily to march off to barracks at the appointed hour.

How many weddings resulted from that day's dress parade I know not. But
I presume the traditional "match-makers" did their duty, if the young
men were sufficiently impressed by the girls' outfits to commission
these professional proposers to lay their hearts and hands at the feet
of the parents on the following day. They certainly could not have been
hopelessly bewitched by any beauty which was on show. The presence of
the soldiers, the singing, music, and dancing, framed in that exquisite
park, combined to create a scene the impression of which is far beyond
comparison with that of the same parade in the Summer Garden at St.
Petersburg.

This grand terrace of the Old Palace is a favorite resort for mothers
and children, especially when the different bands of the Guards'
regiments stationed in the town furnish music. But not far away, in the
less stately, more natural park surrounding the Alexander Palace, the
property of the Crown Prince, lies the real paradise of the children of
all classes. There is the playground, provided with gymnastic apparatus,
laid out at the foot of a picturesque tower, one of the line of signal
towers, now mostly demolished, which, before the introduction of the
telegraph, flashed news from Warsaw to St. Petersburg in the then
phenomenally short space of twenty-four hours. The children's favorite
amusement is the "net." Sailors of the guard set up a full-rigged ship's
mast, surrounded, about two feet from the ground, by a wide sweep of
close-meshed rope netting well tarred. Boys and girls of ambition climb
the rigging, swing, and drop into the net. The little ones never weary
of dancing about on its yielding surface. A stalwart, gentle giant of a
sailor watches over the safety of the merrymakers, and warns, teaches,
or helps them, if they wish it.

Their nurses, with pendent bosoms and fat shoulders peeping through the
transparent muslin of their chemises, make a bouquet of colors, with
their gay _sarafani_, their many-hued cashmere caps attached to
pearl-embroidered, coronet-shaped _kokoshniki_, and terminating in
ribbons which descend to their heels, and are outshone in color only by
the motley assemblage of beads on their throats.

Here, round the gymnastic apparatus and the net, one is able for the
first time to believe solidly in the existence of Russian children. In
town, in the winter, one has doubted it, despite occasional coveys of
boys in military greatcoats, book-knapsacks of sealskin strapped to
their shoulders to keep their backs straight, and officer-like caps. The
summer garb of the lads from the gymnasia and other institutes consists
of thin, dark woolen material or of coarse gray linen, made in the
blouse or Russian shirt form, which portraits of Count Lyeff
Nikolaevitch Tolstoy, the author, have rendered familiar to foreigners.
It must not be argued from this fact that Count Tolstoy set the fashion;
far from it. It is the ordinary and sensible garment in common use,
which he has adopted from others, not they from him. It can be seen on
older students any day, even in winter, in the reading-room of the
Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg, on the imperial choir in the
Winter Palace as undress uniform for week-day services, and elsewhere.

Some indulgent mothers make silk blouses for their sons, and embroider
them with cross-stitch patterns in colored floss, as was the fashion a
number of years ago, when a patriotic outburst of sentiment was
expressed by the adoption of the "national costume," for house wear, by
adults of both sexes. From this period dates also, no doubt, that style
of "peasant dress" which can be seen occasionally, in unfashionable
summer resorts, on girls not of the highest class by any means, and
which the city shops furnish in abundance as genuine to misguided
foreigners. Every one is familiar with these fantastic combinations of
colored lace insertion with bands of blue cotton worked in high colors,
and fashioned into blouses and aprons such as no peasant maid ever wore
or beheld.

What strikes one very forcibly about Russian children, when one sees
them at play in the parks, is their quiet, self-possessed manners and
their lack of boisterousness. If they were inclined to scream, to fling
themselves about wildly and be rude, they would assuredly be checked
promptly and effectually, since the rights of grown people to peace,
respect, and the pursuit of happiness are still recognized in that land.
But, from my observation of the same qualities in untutored peasant
children, I am inclined to think that Russian children are born more
agreeable than Western children; yet they seem to be as cheerful and
lively as is necessary, and in no way restricted. Whistling, howling,
stamping, and kindred muscular exercises begin just over the Western
frontier, and increase in violence as one proceeds westward, until Japan
is reached, or possibly the Sandwich Islands, by which time, I am told,
one enters the Orient and the realm of peace once more.

What noise we heard in Tzarskoe came from quite another quarter. As we
were strolling in the park one afternoon, we heard sounds of uproarious
mirth proceeding from the little island in the private imperial garden,
where the Duchess of Edinburgh, in her girlhood, had a pretty Russian
cottage, cow-stalls, and so forth, with flower and potato beds. She and
her brothers were in the habit of planting their pussy willows, received
on Palm Sunday, on the bank of the stream, and these, duly labeled, have
now grown into a hedge of trees. The screen is not perfect, however, and
glimpses of the playground are open to the public across the narrow
stream. On this summer afternoon, there was a party of royalties on the
island, swinging on the Giant Steps. The Giant Steps, I must explain,
consist of a tall, stout mast firmly planted in the earth, bound with
iron at the top, and upholding a thick iron ring to which are attached
heavy cables which touch the ground. The game consists of a number of
persons seizing hold of these cables, running round the mast until
sufficient impetus is acquired, and then swinging through the air in a
circle. The Tzarevitch* who had driven over from the great camp at
Krasnoe Selo, and whom I had seen in the church of the Old Palace that
morning at a special mass, with the angelic imperial choir and the
priests from the Winter Palace sent down from Petersburg for the
occasion, was now sailing through the air high up toward the apex of the
mast. One of his imperial aunts, clad in a fleecy white gown, occupied a
similar position on another cable. It was plain that they could not have
done their own running to gain impetus, and that the gardeners must have
towed them by the ends of the ropes. The other grand dukes and duchesses
were managing their own cables in the usual manner. The party included
the king and queen of Greece and other royal spectators. What interested
me most was to hear them all shrieking and conversing in Russian, with
only occasional lapses into French, instead of the reverse.

* The present Emperor, Nicholas II.

But everything is not royal in the vicinity of these summer parks and
palaces. For example, just outside of Tzarskoe Selo, on the Petersburg
highway, lies a Russian village called Kuzmino, whose inhabitants are as
genuine, unmodified peasants as if they lived a hundred miles from any
provincial town. Here in the north, where timber is plentiful, cottages
are raised from the ground by a half-story, without windows, which
serves as a storeroom for carts, sledges, and farming implements. The
entrance is through a door beside the large courtyard gate, which rears
its heavy frame on the street line, adjoining the house, in Russian
fashion. A rough staircase leads to the dwelling-rooms over the shed
storeroom. Three tiny windows on the street front, with solid wooden
shutters, are the ordinary allowance for light. In Kuzmino, many of the
windows had delicate, clean white curtains, and all were filled with
blooming plants. A single window, for symmetry, and a carved balcony
fill in the sharp gable end of such houses, but open into nothing, and
the window is not even glazed. Carved horses' heads, rude but
recognizable, tuft the peak, and lacelike wood carving droops from the
eaves. The roofs also are of wood.

This was the style of the cottages in Kuzmino. The name of the owner was
inscribed on the corner of each house; and there appeared to be but two
surnames, at most three, in the whole village. One new but unfinished
house seemed to have been built from the ridgepole downward, instead of
in the usual order. There were no doorways or stairs or apertures for
communication between the stories, which were two in number. It was an
architectural riddle.

As a stroll to the village had consumed an unexpected amount of time, we
found ourselves, at the breakfast hour, miles away from our hotel. We
instituted a search for milk, and were directed at random, it seemed,
until a withered little old peasant, who was evidently given to
tippling, enlisted himself as our guide. He took us to the house of a
woman who carried milk and cream to town twice a week, and introduced us
with a comical flourish.

The family consisted of an old woman, as dried and colorless as a
Russian codfish from Arkhangel, but very clean and active; her son, a
big, fresh-colored fellow, with a mop of dark brown curls, well set off
by his scarlet cotton blouse; his wife, a slender, red-cheeked brunette,
with delicate, pretty features; and their baby girl. They treated us
like friends come to make a call; refused to accept money for their
cream; begged us to allow them to prepare the _samovar_, as a favor to
them, and send for white rolls, as they were sure we could not eat their
sour black bread; and expressed deep regret that their berries were all
gone, as the season was past. They showed us over their house in the
prettiest, simplest way, and introduced us to the dark storeroom where
their spare clothing and stores of food for the winter, such as salted
cucumbers in casks, and other property, were packed away; to a narrow
slip of a room on the front, where the meals for the family were
prepared with remarkably few pots and no pans; to the living-room, with
its whitewashed stone-and-mud oven in one corner, for both cooking and
heating, a bench running round the walls on three sides, and a clean
pine table in the corner of honor, where hung the holy images. They had
a fine collection of these images, which were a sign of prosperity as
well as of devotion. The existence of another tiny room also bore
witness to easy circumstances. In this room they slept; and the baby,
who was taking her noonday nap, was exhibited to us by the proud papa.
Her cradle consisted of a splint market basket suspended from the
ceiling by a stout wire spring, like the spring of a bird-cage, and
rocked gently. The baby gazed at us with bright, bird-like eyes and
smiled quietly when she woke, as though she had inherited her parents'
gentle ways. We believed them when they said that she never cried; we
had already discovered that this was the rule with Russian children of
all classes.

They were much interested to learn from what country we came. I was
prepared to find them unacquainted with the situation of America, after
having been asked by an old soldier in the park, "In what district of
Russia is America?" and after having been told by an _izvostchik_ that
the late Empress had come from my country, since "Germany" meant for him
all the world which was not Russia, just as the adjective "German"
signifies anything foreign and not wholly approved.

"Is America near Berlin?" asked our peasant hosts.

"Farther than that," I replied.

They laughed, and gave up the riddle after a few more equally wild
guesses.

"It is on the other side of the world," I said.

"Then you must be nearer God than we are!" they exclaimed, with a sort
of reverence for people who came from the suburbs of heaven.

"Surely," I said, "you do not think that the earth is flat, and that we
live on the upper side, and you on the lower?"

But that was precisely what they did think, in their modesty, and, as it
seemed a hopeless task to demonstrate to them the sphericity of the
globe, I left them in that flattering delusion.

I asked the old woman to explain her holy pictures to me, as I always
enjoyed the quaint expressions and elucidations of the peasants, and
inquired whether she thought the _ikona_ of the Virgin was the Virgin
herself. I had heard it asserted very often by over-wise foreigners that
this was the idea entertained by all Russians, without regard to class,
and especially by the peasants.

"No," she replied, "but it shows the Virgin Mother to me, just as your
picture would show you to me when you were on the other side of the
world, and remind me of you. Only--how shall I say it?--there is
more power in a wonder-working _ikona_ like this."

She handed me one which depicted the Virgin completely surrounded by a
halo of starlike points shaded in red and yellow flames. It is called
"the Virgin-of-the-Bush-that-burned-but-was-not-consumed," evidently a
reminiscence of Moses. She attached particular value to it because of
the aid rendered on the occasion which had demonstrated its
"wonder-working" (miraculous) powers. It appeared that a dangerous fire
had broken out in the neighborhood, and was rapidly consuming the
close-set wooden village, as such fires generally do without remedy. As
the fire had been started by the lightning, on St. Ilya's Day (St.
Elijah's), no earthly power could quench it but the milk from a
jet-black cow, which no one chanced to have on hand. Seeing the flames
approach, my old woman, Domna Nikolaevna T., seized the holy image, ran
out, and held it facing the conflagration, uttering the proper prayer
the while. Immediately a strong wind arose and drove the flames off in a
safe direction, and the village was rescued. She had a thanksgiving
service celebrated in the church, and placed I know not how many candles
to the Virgin's honor, as did the other villagers. Thus they had learned
that there was divine power in this _ikona_, although it was not,
strictly speaking, "wonder-working," since it had not been officially
recognized as such by the ecclesiastical authorities.

These people seemed happy and contented with their lot. Not one of them
could read or write much, the old woman not at all. They cultivated
berries for market as well as carried on the milk business; and when we
rose to go, they entreated us to come out on their plot of land and see
whether some could not be found. To their grief, only a few small
cherries were to be discovered,--it was September,--and these they
forced upon us. As we had hurt their feelings by leaving money on the
table to pay for the cream, we accepted the cherries by way of
compromise. The old woman chatted freely in her garden. She had been a
serf, and, in her opinion, things were not much changed for the better,
except in one respect. All the people in this village had been crown
serfs, it seemed. The lot of the crown serfs was easier in every way
than that of the ordinary private serfs, so that the emancipation only
put a definite name to the practical freedom which they already enjoyed,
and added a few minor privileges, with the ownership of a somewhat
larger allotment of land than the serfs of the nobility received. I knew
this: she was hardly capable of giving me so complete a summary of their
condition. But--it was the usual _but_, I found--they had to work
much harder now than before, in order to live. The only real improvement
which she could think of, on the inspiration of the moment, was, that a
certain irascible crown official, who had had charge of them in the
olden days, and whose name she mentioned, who had been in the habit of
distributing beatings with a lavish hand whenever the serfs displeased
him or obeyed reluctantly, had been obliged to restrain his temper after
the emancipation.

"Nowadays, there is no one to order us about like that, or to thrash
us," she remarked.

We found our fuddled old peasant guide hanging about for "tea-money,"
when we bade farewell to my friend Domna, who, with her family, offered
us her hand at parting. He was not too thoroughly soaked with "tea"
already not to be able to draw the inference that our long stay with the
milkwoman indicated pleasure, and he intimated that the introduction fee
ought to be in proportion to our enjoyment. We responded so cheerfully
to this demand that he immediately discovered the existence of a dozen
historical monuments and points of interest in the tiny village, all
invented on the spot; and when we dismissed him peremptorily, he took
great care to impress his name and the position of his hut on our
memories, for future use.

We had already seen the only object of any interest, the large church
far away down the mile-long street. We had found a festival mass in
progress, as it happened to be one of the noted holidays of the year. As
we stood a little to one side, listening to the sweet but
unsophisticated chanting of the village lads, who had had no training
beyond that given in the village school, a woman approached us with a
tiny coffin tucked under one arm. Trestles were brought; she set it down
on them, beside us. It was very plain in form, made of the commonest
wood, and stained a bright yellow with a kind of thin wash, instead of
the vivid pink which seems to be the favorite hue for children's coffins
in town. The baby's father removed the lid, which comprised exactly half
the depth, the mother smoothed out the draperies, and they took their
stand near by. Several strips of the coarsest pink tarlatan were draped
across the little waxen brow and along the edges of the coffin. On these
lay such poor flowers as the lateness of the season and the poverty of
the parents could afford,--small, half-withered or frost-bitten
dahlias, poppies, and one stray corn-flower. The parents looked gently
resigned, patient, sorrowful, but tearless, as is the Russian manner.
After the liturgy and special prayers for the day, the funeral service
was begun; but we went out into the graveyard surrounding the church,
and ran the gauntlet of the beggars at the door,--beggars in the midst
of poverty, to whom the poor gave their mites with gentle sympathy.

Russian graveyards are not, as a rule, like the sunny, cheerful homes of
the dead to which we are accustomed. This one was especially melancholy,
with its narrow, tortuous paths, uncared-for plots, and crosses of
unpainted wood blackened by the weather. The most elaborate monuments
did not rise above tin crosses painted to simulate birch boughs. It was
strictly a peasant cemetery, utterly lacking in graves of the higher
classes, or even of the well to do.

On its outskirts, where the flat, treeless plain began again, we found a
peasant sexton engaged in digging a grave. His conversation was
depressing, not because he dwelt unduly upon death and kindred subjects,
but because his views of life were so pessimistic. Why, for example, did
it enter his brain to warn me that the Finnish women of the neighboring
villages,--all the country round about is the old Finnish
Ingermannland,--in company with the women of his own village, were in
the habit of buying stale eggs at the Tzarskoe Selo shops to mix with
their fresh eggs, which they sold in the market, the same with intent to
deceive? A stale egg explains itself as promptly and as thoroughly as
anything I am acquainted with, not excepting Limburger cheese, and
Katiusha and I had had no severe experiences with the women whom he thus
unflatteringly described. He seemed a thoroughly disillusioned man, and
we left him at last, with an involuntary burden of misanthropic ideas,
though he addressed me persistently as _galubtchik_,--"dear little
dove," literally translated.

If I were to undertake to chronicle the inner life of Tzarskoe, the
characteristics of the inhabitants from whom I received favors and kind
deeds without number, information, and whatever else they could think of
to bestow or I could ask, I should never have done. But there is much
that is instructive in all ranks of life to be gathered from a prolonged
sojourn in this "Imperial Village," where world-famed palaces have their
echoes aroused at seven in the morning by a gentle shepherd like the
shepherd of the remotest provincial hamlets, a strapping peasant in a
scarlet cotton blouse and blue homespun linen trousers tucked into tall
wrinkled boots, and armed with a fish-horn, which he toots at the
intersection of the macadamized streets to assemble the village cattle;
where the strawberry peddler, recognizable by the red cloth spread over
the tray borne upon his head, and the herring vender, and rival
ice-cream dealers deafen one with their cries, in true city fashion;
where the fire department alarms one by setting fire to the baker's
chimneys opposite, and then playing upon them, by way of cleaning them;
where Tatars, soldiers, goats, cows, pet herons, rude peasant carts,
policemen, and inhabitants share the middle of the road with the
liveried equipages of royalty and courtiers; where the crows and pigeons
assert rights equal to those of man, except that they go to roost at
eight o'clock on the nightless "white nights;" and where one never knows
whether one will encounter the Emperor of all the Russias or a
barefooted Finn when one turns a corner.




VII.

A STROLL IN MOSCOW WITH COUNT TOLSTOY.


"Have you ever visited a church of the Old Believers?" Count Tolstoy
asked me one evening. We were sitting round the supper-table at Count
Tolstoy's house in Moscow. I was just experimenting on some pickled
mushrooms from Yasnaya Polyana,--the daintiest little mushrooms which
I encountered in that mushroom-eating land. The mushrooms and question
furnished a diversion which was needed. The baby and younger children
were in bed. The elders of the family, some relatives, and ourselves had
been engaged in a lively discussion; or, rather, I had been discussing
matters with the count, while the others joined in from time to time. It
began with the Moscow beggars.

"I understand them now, and what you wrote of them," I said. "I have
neither the purse of Fortunatus nor a heart of flint. If I refuse their
prayers, I feel wicked; if I give them five kopeks, I feel mean. It
seems too little to help them to anything but _vodka_; and if I give ten
kopeks, they hold it out at arm's length, look at it and me
suspiciously; and then I feel so provoked that I give not a copper to
any one for days. It seems to do no good."

"No," said Count Tolstoy with a troubled look; "it does no good. Giving
money to any one who asks is not doing good; it is a mere civility. If a
beggar asks me for five kopeks, or five rubles, or five hundred rubles,
I must give it to him as a politeness, nothing more, provided I have it
about me. It probably always goes for _vodka_."

"But what is one to do? I have sometimes thought that I would buy my man
some bread and see that he ate it when he specifies what the money is
for. But, by a singular coincidence, they never ask for bread-money
within eye-shot of a bakery. I suppose that it would be better for me to
take the trouble to hunt one up and give the bread."

"No; for you only buy the bread. It costs you no personal labor."

"But suppose I had made the bread?--I can make capital bread, only I
cannot make it here where I have no conveniences; so I give the money
instead."

"If you had made the bread, still you would not have raised the grain,
--plowed, sowed, reaped, threshed, and ground it. It would not be your
labor."

"If that is the case, then I have just done a very evil thing. I have
made some caps for the Siberian exiles in the Forwarding Prison. It
would have been better to let their shaved heads freeze."

"Why? You gave your labor, your time. In that time you could probably
have done something that would have pleased you better."

"Certainly. But if one is to dig up the roots of one's deeds and
motives, mine might be put thus: The caps were manufactured from
remnants of wool which were of no use to me and only encumbered my
trunk. I refused to go and deliver them myself. They were put with a lot
of other caps made from scraps on equally vicious principles. And,
moreover, I neither plowed the land, sowed the grass, fed the sheep,
sheared him, cleansed and spun the wool, and so on; neither did I
manufacture the needle for the work."

The count retreated to his former argument,--that one's personal labor
is the only righteous thing which can be given to one's fellow-man; and
that the labor must be given unquestioningly when asked for.

"But it cannot always be right to work unquestioningly. There are always
plenty of people who are glad to get their work done for them. That is
human nature."

"We have nothing to do with that," he answered. "If a man asks me to
build his house or plow his field, I am bound to do it, just as I am
bound to give the beggar whatever he asks for, if I have it. It is no
business of mine _why_ he asks me to do it."

"But suppose the man is lazy, or wants to get his work done while he is
idling, enjoying himself, or earning money elsewhere for _vodka_ or what
not? I do not object to helping the weak, or those who do not attempt to
shirk. One must use discrimination."

But Count Tolstoy persisted that the reason for the request was no
business of the man anxious to do his duty by aiding his fellow-men,
although his sensible wife came to my assistance by saying that she
always looked into the matter before giving help, on the grounds which I
had stated. So I attacked from another quarter.

"Ought not every person to do as much as possible for himself, and not
call upon others unless compelled to do so?"

"Certainly."

"Very good. I am strong, well, perfectly capable of waiting on myself.
But I detest putting on my heavy Russian galoshes, and my big cloak; and
I never do either when I can possibly avoid it. I have no right to ask
you to put on my galoshes, supposing that there were no lackey at hand.
But suppose I were to ask it?"

"I would do it with pleasure," replied the count, his earnest face
relaxing into a smile. "I will mend your boots, also, if you wish."

I thanked him, with regret that my boots were whole, and pursued my
point. "But you _ought_ to _refuse_. It would be your duty to teach me
my duty of waiting on myself. You would have no right to encourage me in
my evil ways."

We argued the matter on these lines. He started from the conviction that
one should follow the example of Christ, who healed and helped all
without questioning their motives or deserts; I taking the ground that,
while Christ "knew the heart of man," man could not know the heart of
his brother-man,---at least not always on first sight, though
afterward he could make a tolerably shrewd guess as to whether he was
being used as a cat's-paw for the encouragement of the shiftless. But he
stuck firmly to his "resist not evil" doctrine; while I maintained that
the very doctrine admitted that it was "evil" by making use of the word
at all, hence a thing to be preached and practiced against. Perhaps
Count Tolstoy had never been so unfortunate as to meet certain specimens
of the human race which it has been my ill-luck to observe; so we both
still held our positions, after a long skirmish, and silence reigned for
a few moments. Then the count asked, with that winning air of good-will
and interest which is peculiar to him:--

"Have you ever visited a church of the Old Believers?"

"No. They told me that there was one in Petersburg, but that I should
not be admitted because I wore a bonnet instead of a kerchief, and did
not know how to cross myself and bow properly."

"I'll take you, if you like," he said. "We will go as guests of the
priest. He is a friend of mine." Then he told us about it. Many years
ago, a band of Kazaks and their priests migrated across the frontier
into Turkey because they were "Old Believers;" that is to say, they
belonged to the sect which refused to accept the reforms of errors
(which had crept into the service-books and ritual through the
carelessness of copyists and ignorance of the proper forms) instituted
by the Patriarch Nikon in the time of Peter the Great's father, after
consulting the Greek Patriarchs and books. In earlier times, these Old
Believers burned themselves by the thousand. In the present century,
this band of Kazaks simply emigrated. Then came the Crimean war. The
Kazaks set out for the wars, the priest blessed them for the campaign,
and prayed for victory against Russia. Moreover, they went to battle
with their flock, and were captured. Prisoners of war, traitors to both
church and state, these three priests were condemned to residence in a
monastery in Suzdal. "I was in the army then," said Count Tolstoy, "and
heard of the matter at the time. Then I forgot all about it; so did
everybody else, apparently. Long afterward, an Old Believer, a merchant
in Tula, spoke to me about it, and I found that the three priests were
still alive and in the monastery. I managed to get them released, and we
became friends. One died; one of the others is here in Moscow, a very
old man now. We will go and see him, but I must find out the hour of the
evening service. You will see the ritual as it was three hundred years
ago."

"You must not utter a word, or smile," said one of the company. "They
will think that you are ridiculing them, and will turn you out."

"Oh, no," said the count. "Still, it is better not to speak."

"I have had some experience," I remarked. "Last Sunday, at the Saviour
Cathedral, I asked my mother if I should hold her heavy fur coat for
her; and she smiled slightly as she said, 'No, thank you.' A peasant
heard our foreign tongue, saw the smile, and really alarmed us by the
fierce way in which he glared at us. We only appeased his wrath by
bowing low when the priest came out with the incense."

So that plan was made, and some others.

When we were descending the stairs, Count Tolstoy came out upon the
upper landing, which is decorated with the skin of the big bear which
figures in one of his stories, and called after us:--

"Shall you be ashamed of my dress when I come to the hotel for you?"

"I am ashamed that you should ask such a question," I answered; and he
laughed and retreated. I allowed the lackey to put on my galoshes and
coat, as usual, by the way.

The next afternoon there came a series of remarkable knocks upon our
door, like a volley of artillery, which carried me across the room in
one bound. Servants, messengers, and the like, so rarely knock in Russia
that one gets into the way of expecting to see the door open without
warning at any moment, when it is not locked, and rather forgets what to
do with a knock when a caller comes directly to one's room and announces
himself in the ordinary way. There stood Count Tolstoy. He wore a
peasant's sheepskin coat (_tulup_). The _tulup_, I will explain, is a
garment consisting of a fitted body and a full, ballet skirt, gathered
on the waist line and reaching to the knees. The wool is worn on the
inside. The tanned leather exterior varies, when new, from snow white to
gray, pale or deep yellow, or black, according to taste. A little
colored chain-stitching in patterns on the breast and round the neck
gives firmness where required. In this case the _tulup_ was of a deep
yellow hue; over it streamed his gray beard; peasant boots of gray felt,
reaching to the knee, and a gray wool cap of domestic manufacture
completed his costume.

"It is too cold for our expedition, and I am afraid that I started a
little late also," he said, as he divested himself of his sheepskin. "I
will find out the exact hour of service, and we will go on Christmas
Eve."

It was only 15 to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and I felt inclined
to remonstrate. But it is useless to argue with a Russian about the
thermometer; and, moreover, I discovered that the count had come all the
long way on foot, and was probably afraid of freezing us. I politely but
not quite truthfully agreed that Christmas Eve was a better time.

Presently he proposed to go to the shop where books for popular reading
are published by the million at from one and a half to five kopeks. He
had business there in connection with some popular editions of the
masterpieces of all ages and literatures.

The temperature of our room was 65 degrees, but the count's felt boots
and a cardigan jacket, worn over his ordinary costume of dark blue
trousers and strap-belted blouse, made him uncomfortable, and he sought
coolness in the hall while we donned our outdoor garments. The only
concession in the way of costume which I could make to suit the occasion
was to use a wool instead of a fur cap.

This was not sufficient to prevent us from being a remarkable trio in
the eyes of all beholders, beginning with the real _muzhik_ ("boots")
and the waiter, who were peering round corners in disapproval. Our
appearance at the door effected a miracle. I could not believe my ears,
but not one of the numerous cabbies standing in front of the hotel
opened his lips to offer his services. Ordinarily, we had to run the
gauntlet of offers. On this occasion the men simply ranged themselves in
a silent, gaping row, and let us pass in peace. I had not supposed that
anything could quell a Russian cabby's tongue. Did they recognize the
count? I doubt it. I had been told that every one in Moscow knew him and
his costume; but diligent inquiry of my cabbies always elicited a
negative. In one single instance the man added: "But the count's a good
gentleman and a very intimate friend of a chum of mine!"

"Are you a good walker?" asked the count, as he plied his thick stick,
evidently recently cut in the grove adjoining his house. "I walk
everywhere myself. I never ride; I can't, for I never have any money."

I announced myself as a crack pedestrian,--but not when burdened with
Russian coat and galoshes. And I added: "I hope that you do not expect
us to walk all those versts to church, because we must stand through the
whole service afterward; they would be too strict to allow us chairs."

"We will go in the horse-cars, then," he replied. "But this constant use
of horses is a relic of barbarism. As we are growing more civilized, in
ten years from now horses will have gone out of use entirely. But I am
sure that, in enlightened America, you do not ride so much as we do
here."

Familiar as I am with Count Tolstoy's theories, this was a brand-new one
to me. I thought of several answers. Bicycles I rejected as a
suggestion, because the physical labor seems to be counterbalanced by
the cost of the steel steed. I also restrained myself from saying that
we were coming to look upon horses as a rather antiquated, slow, and
unreliable mode of locomotion. I did not care to destroy the count's
admiration for American ways too suddenly and ruthlessly, so I said:--

"I think that people ride more and more, with us, every year. If they do
not ride even more than they do, it is because we have not these
thousands of delightful and cheap carriages and sledges. And how are
people to get about, how are burdens to be carried, how is the day long
enough, if one goes everywhere on foot? Are the horses to be left to
people the earth, along with the animals which we now eat and which we
must give up eating?"

"That will regulate itself. It is only those who have nothing to do who
have no time to do it in, and must be carried, in all haste, from place
to place. Busy people always have time for everything." And the count
proceeded to develop this argument. The foundation, of course, was the
same as for his other doctrines,--the dependence on one's self,
freeing others from bondage to his wants and whims. The principle is
excellent; but it would be easier for most of us to resist the
temptation to do otherwise on a desert island, than to lead such a
Robinson Crusoe and physical encyclopedic existence in a city of today.
This is almost the only argument which I felt capable of offering in
opposition.

Thus we discussed, as we walked along the streets of China Town. When
the sidewalk was narrow, the count took to the gutter. And so we came to
the old wall and the place where there is a perennial market, which
bears various names,--the Pushing Market, the Louse Market, and so on,
--and which is said to be the resort of thieves and receivers of stolen
goods. Strangers always hit upon it the first thing. We had ventured
into its borders alone, had chatted with a cobbler, inspected the
complete workshop on the sidewalk, priced the work,--"real, artistic,
high-priced jobs were worth thirty to forty kopeks,"--had promised to
fetch our boots to be repaired with tacks and whipcord,--"when they
needed it,"--and had received an unblushing appeal for a bottle of
_vodka_ in which to drink the health of ourselves and the cobblers. With
true feminine faith in the efficacy of a man's presence, we now enjoyed
the prospect of going through the middle of it, for its entire length. I
related the cobbler episode to explain why I did not give the count a
job, and the count seemed to find no little difficulty in not laughing
outright.

Imagine a very broad street, extending for several blocks, flanked on
one side by respectable buildings, on the other by the old, battlemented
city wall, crowned with straggling bushes, into which are built tiny
houses with a frontage of two or three windows, and the two stories so
low that one fancies that he could easily touch their roofs. These last
are the real old Moscow merchant houses of two or three hundred years
ago. They still serve as shops and residences, the lower floor being
crammed with cheap goods and old clothes of wondrous hues and patterns,
which overflow upon the very curbstone. The signs of the fur stores,
with their odd pictures of peasant coats and fashionable mantles, add an
advertisement of black sheepskins which precisely resemble rudely
painted turtles. In the broad, place-like street surged a motley, but
silent and respectful crowd. A Russian crowd always is a marvel of
quietness,--as far down as the elbows, no farther! Along the middle of
the place stood rows of rough tables, boxes, and all sorts of
receptacles, containing every variety of bread and indescribable meats
and sausages. Men strolled about with huge brass teapots of _sbiten_ (a
drink of honey, laurel leaves, spices, etc.), steaming hot. Men with
trays suspended by straps from their necks offered "delicious" snacks,
meat patties kept hot in hot-water boxes, served in a gaudy saucer and
flooded with hot bouillon from a brass flask attached to their girdles
behind; or sandwiches made from a roll, split, buttered, and clapped
upon a slice of very red, raw-looking sausage, fresh from the water-box.
But we did not feel hungry just then, or thirsty.

"There are but two genuine Russian titles," said the count, as we walked
among the merchants, where the women were dressed like the men in
sheepskin coats, and distinguished only by a brief scrap of gay
petticoat, and a gay kerchief instead of a cap on the head, while some
of the dealers in clothing indulged in overcoats and flat caps with
visors, of dark blue cloth. "Now, if I address one of these men, he will
call me _batiushka_, and he will call you _matushka_."*

* A respectfully affectionate diminutive, equivalent to _dear little
father, dear little mother_.

We began to price shoes, new and old, and so forth, with the result
which the count had predicted.

"You can get very good clothing here," the count remarked, as a man
passed us, his arm passed through the armholes of a pile of new vests.
"These mittens," exhibiting the coarse, white-fingered mittens which he
wore, piles of the same and stockings to match being beside us, "are
very stout and warm. They cost only thirty kopeks. And the other day, I
bought a capital shirt here, for a man, at fifty kopeks" (about
twenty-five cents).

I magnanimously refrained from applying to that shirt the argument which
had been used against my suggestion in regard to giving bread. This
market goes on every day in the year, hot or cold, rain, sun, or shine.
It is a model of neatness. Roofs improvised from scraps of canvas
protect the delicate (?) eatables during inclement weather. In very
severe weather the throng is smaller, the first to beat a retreat being,
apparently, the Tatars in their odd _kaftans_ "cut goring," as old women
say, who deal in old clothes, lambskins, and "beggars' lace." Otherwise,
it is always the same.

Our publisher's shop proved to be closed, in accordance with the law,
which permits trading--in buildings--only between twelve and three
o'clock on Sundays. On our way home the count expressed his regret at
the rapid decline of the republican idea in America, and the surprising
growth of the baneful "aristocratic"--not to say snobbish--sense.
His deductions were drawn from articles in various recent periodical
publications, and from the general tone of the American works which had
come under his observation. I have heard a good deal from other Russians
about the snobbishness of Americans; but they generally speak of it with
aversion, not, as did Count Tolstoy, with regret at a splendid
opportunity missed by a whole nation.

I am sorry to say that we never got our expedition to the Old Believers'
Church, or the others that were planned. Two days later, the count was
taken with an attack of liver complaint, dyspepsia,--caused, I am
sure, by too much pedestrian exercise on a vegetable diet, which does
not agree with him,--and a bad cold. We attended Christmas Eve service
in the magnificent new Cathedral of the Saviour, and left Moscow before
the count was able to go out-of-doors again, though not without seeing
him once more.

I am aware that it has become customary of late to call Count Tolstoy
"crazy," or "not quite right in the head," etc. The inevitable
conclusion of any one who talks much with him is that he is nothing of
the sort; but simply a man with a hobby, or an idea. His idea happens to
be one which, granting that it ought to be adopted by everybody, is
still one which is very difficult of adoption by anybody,--peculiarly
difficult in his own case. And it is an uncomfortable theory of
self-denial which very few people like to have preached to them in any
form. Add to this that his philosophical expositions of his theory lack
the clearness which generally--not always--results from a course of
strict preparatory training, and we have more than sufficient foundation
for the reports of his mental aberration. On personal acquaintance he
proves to be a remarkably earnest, thoroughly convinced, and winning
man, although he does not deliberately do or say anything to attract
one. His very earnestness is provocative of argument.*

* From _The Independent_.




VIII.

COUNT TOLSTOY AT HOME.


On one winter's day in Moscow, the Countess Tolstoy said to us: "You
must come and visit us at Yasnaya Polyana next summer. You should see
Russian country life, and you will see it with us. Our house is not
elegant, but you will find it plain, clean, and comfortable."

Such an invitation was not to be resisted. When summer came, the family
wrote to say that they would meet us at the nearest station, where no
carriages were to be had by casual travelers, if we would notify them of
our arrival. But the weather had been too bad for country visits, and we
were afraid to give Fate a hint of our intentions by announcing our
movements; moreover, all the trains seemed to reach that station at a
very late hour of the night. We decided to make our appearance from
another quarter, in our own conveyance, on a fair day, and long before
any meal. If it should prove inconvenient for the family to receive us,
they would not be occasioned even momentary awkwardness, and our retreat
would be secured. We had seen enough of the charmingly easy Russian
hospitality to feel sure of our ground otherwise.

Accordingly, we set out for Tula on a June day that was dazzling with
sunshine and heat, after the autumnal chill of the recent rains. As we
progressed southward from Moscow the country was more varied than north
of it, with ever-changing vistas of gently sloping hills and verdant
valleys, well cultivated, and dotted with thatched cottages which stood
flatter on the ground here than where wood is more plentiful.

The train was besieged at every station, during the long halts customary
on Russian railways, by hordes of peasant children with bottles of rich
cream and dishes of fragrant wild strawberries. The strawberries cost
from three to four cents a pound,--not enough to pay for picking,--
and the cream from three to five cents a bottle.

Halfway to Tula the train crosses the river Oka, which makes so fine a
show when it enters the Volga at Nizhni Novgorod, and which even here is
imposing in breadth and busy with steamers. It was not far from here
that an acquaintance of mine one day overtook a wayfarer. He was
weather-beaten and travel-stained, dressed like a peasant, and carried
his boots slung over his shoulder. But there was something about him
which, to her woman's eye, seemed out of keeping with his garb. She
invited him to take advantage of her carriage. He accepted gladly, and
conversed agreeably. It appeared that it was Count Tolstoy making the
journey between his estate and Moscow. His utterances produced such an
effect upon her young son that the lad insisted upon making his next
journey on foot also.

We reached Tula late in the evening. The guidebook says, in that amusing
German fashion on which a chapter might be written, that "the town lies
fifteen minutes distant from the station." Ordinarily, that would mean
twice or thrice fifteen minutes. But we had a touch of our usual luck in
an eccentric cabman. Vanka--that is, Johnny--set out almost before
we had taken our seats; we clutched his belt for support, and away we
flew through the inky darkness and fathomless dust, outstripping
everything on the road. We came to a bridge; one wheel skimmed along
high on the side rail, the loose boards rattled ominously beneath the
other. There are no regulations for slow driving on Russian bridges
beyond those contained in admonitory proverbs and popular legends. One's
eyes usually supply sufficient warning by day. But Vanka was wedded to
the true Russian principle, and proceeded in his headlong course _na
avos_ (on chance). In vain I cried, "This is not an obstacle race!" He
replied cheerfully, "It is the horse!"

We were forced to conclude that we had stumbled upon the hero of Count
Tolstoy's story, Kholstomir, in that gaunt old horse, racing thus by
inspiration, and looking not unlike the portrait of Kholstomir in his
sad old age, from the hand of the finest animal-painter in Russia,
which, with its companion piece, Kholstomir in his proud youth, hangs on
the wall in the count's Moscow house.

Our mad career ended at what Vanka declared to be the best hotel; the
one recommended by the guidebook had been closed for years, he said. I,
who had not found the guide-book infallible, believed him, until he
landed us at one which looked well enough, but whose chief furnishing
was smells of such potency that I fled, handkerchief clapped to nose,
while the limp waiter, with his jaw bound up like a figure from a German
picture-book, called after me that "perhaps the drains _were_ a little
out of order." Thrifty Vanka, in hopes of a commission, or bent upon
paying off a grudge, still obstinately refused to take us to the hotel
recommended; but a hint of application to the police decided him to
deposit us at another door. This proved to be really the best house in
town, though it does not grace the printed list. It was on the usual
plan of inns in Russian country towns. There was the large, airy
dining-room, with clean lace curtains, polished floor, and table set
with foliage plants in fancy pots; the bedrooms, with single iron beds,
reservoir washstands, and no bed linen or towels without extra charge.

The next morning we devoted to the few sights of the town. The Kremlin,
on flat ground and not of imposing size, makes very little impression
after the Moscow Kremlin; but its churches exhibit some charming new
fancies in onion-shaped cupolas which we had not noticed elsewhere, and
its cathedral contains frescoes of a novel sort. In subject they are
pretty equally divided between the Song of Solomon and the Ecumenical
Councils, with a certain number of saints, of course, though these are
fewer than usual. The artist was evidently a man who enjoyed rich stuffs
of flowered patterns, and beautiful women.

The Imperial Firearms Factory we did not see. We had omitted to obtain
from the Minister of War that permission without which no foreigner of
either sex can enter, though Russians may do so freely, and we did not
care enough about it to await the reply to a telegram. We contented
ourselves with assuring the officer in charge that we were utter
simpletons in the matter of firearms, afraid of guns even when they were
not loaded,--I presume he did not understand that allusion,--and
that it was pure curiosity of travelers which had led us to invade his
office.

However, there was no dearth of shops where we could inspect all the
wares in metal for which this Russian Birmingham has been celebrated
ever since the industry was founded by men from Holland, in the
sixteenth century. In the matter of _samovars_, especially, there is a
wide range of choice in this cradle of "the portable domestic hearth,"
although there are only two or three among the myriad manufacturers
whose goods are famed for that solidity of brass and tin which insures
against dents, fractures, and poisoning.

During the morning we ordered round a _troika_ from the posting-house.
It did not arrive. Probably it was asleep, like most other things on
that warm day. It was too far off to invite investigation, and sallying
forth after breakfast to hire an _izvostchik_, I became a blessed
windfall to a couple of bored policemen, who waked up a cabman for me
and took a kindly interest in the inevitable bargaining which ensued.
While this was in progress, up came two dusty and tattered
"pilgrims,"--"religious tramps" will designate their character with
perfect accuracy,--who were sufficiently wide awake to beg. I
positively had not a kopek in change; but not even a Russian beggar
would believe that. I parried the attack.

"I'm not an Orthodox Christian, my good men. I am sure that you do not
want money from a heretic."

"Never mind; I'm a bachelor," replied one of them bravely and
consolingly.

When we had all somewhat recovered from this, the policemen, catching
the spirit of the occasion, explained to the men that I and my money
were extremely dangerous to the Orthodox, both families and bachelors,
especially to pious pilgrims to the shrines, such as they were, and they
gently but firmly compelled the men to move on, despite their vehement
protestations that they were willing to run the risk and accept the
largest sort of change from the heretic. But I was obdurate. I knew from
experience that for five kopeks, or less, I should receive thanks,
reverences to the waist or even to the ground; but that the gift of more
than five kopeks would result in a thankless, suspicious stare, which
would make me feel guilty of some enormous undefined crime. This was
Count Tolstoy's experience also. We devoted ourselves to cabby once
more.

Such a winning fellow as that Vanka was, from the very start! After I
had concluded the bargain for an extra horse and an apron which his
carriage lacked, he persuaded me that one horse was enough--at the
price of two. To save time I yielded, deducting twenty-five cents only
from the sum agreed on, lest I should appear too easily cheated. That
sense of being ridiculed as an inexperienced simpleton, when I had
merely paid my interlocutor the compliment of trusting him, never ceased
to be a pain and a terror to me.

The friendly policemen smiled impartially upon Vanka and us, as they
helped to pack us in the drosky.

Tula as we saw it on our way out, and as we had seen it during our
morning stroll, did not look like a town of sixty-four thousand
inhabitants, or an interesting place of residence. It was a good type of
the provincial Russian town. There were the broad unpaved, or badly
paved, dusty streets. There were the stone official buildings, glaring
white in the sun, interspersed with wooden houses, ranging from the
pretentious dwelling to the humble shelter of logs.

For fifteen versts (ten miles) after we had left all these behind us, we
drove through a lovely rolling country, on a fine macadamized highway
leading to the south and to Kieff. The views were wide, fresh, and fair.
Hayfields, plowed fields, fields of green oats, yellowing rye,
blue-flowered flax, with birch and leaf trees in small groves near at
hand, and forests in the distance, varied the scene. Evergreens were
rarer here, and oak-trees more plentiful, than north of Moscow. The
grass by the roadside was sown thickly with wild flowers: Canterbury
bells, campanulas, yarrow pink and white, willow-weed (good to
adulterate tea), yellow daisies, spiraea, pinks, corn-flowers, melilot,
honey-sweet galium, yellow everlasting, huge deep-crimson crane's-bill,
and hosts of others.

Throughout this sweet drive my merry _izvostchik_ delighted me with his
discourse. It began thus. I asked, "Did he know Count Tolstoy?"

"Did he know Count Tolstoy? Everybody knew him. He was the first
gentleman in the empire [!]. There was not another such man in all the
land."

"Could he read? Had he read the count's 'Tales'?"

"Yes. He had read every one of the count's books that he could lay his
hands on. Did I mean the little books with the colored covers and the
pictures on the outside?" (He alluded to the little peasant "Tales" in
their original cheap form, costing two or three cents apiece.)
"Unfortunately they were forbidden, or not to be had at the Tula shops,
and though there were libraries which had them, they were not for such
as he."*

* At this time, in Moscow, the sidewalk bookstalls, such as this man
would have been likely to patronize, could not furnish a full set of the
_Tales_ in the cheap form. The venders said that they were "forbidden;"
but since they openly displayed and sold such as they had, and since any
number of complete sets could be obtained at the publishers' hard by,
the prohibition evidently extended only to the issue of a fresh edition.
Meanwhile, the _Tales_ complete in one volume were not forbidden. This
volume, one of the set of the author's works published by his wife, cost
fifty kopeks (about twenty-five cents), not materially more than the
other sort. As there was a profit to the family on this edition, and
none on the cheap edition, the withdrawal of the latter may have been
merely a private business arrangement, to be expected under the
circumstances, and the cry of "prohibition" may have been employed as a
satisfactory and unanswerable tradesman's excuse for not being supplied
with the goods desired.

"How had they affected him? Why, he had learned to love all the world
better. He knew that if he had a bit of bread he must share it with his
neighbor, even if he did find it hard work to support his wife and four
small children. Had such a need arisen? Yes; and he had given his
children's bread to others." (He pretended not to hear when I inquired
why he had not given his own share of the bread.) "Was he a more honest
man than before? Oh, yes, yes, indeed! He would not take a kopek from
any one unless he were justly entitled to it."

"And Count Tolstoy! A fine man, that! The Emperor had conferred upon him
the right to release prisoners from the jail,--had I noticed the big
jail, on the left hand as we drove out of town?" (I took the liberty to
doubt this legend, in strict privacy.) "Tula was a very bad place; there
were many prisoners. Men went to the bad there from the lack of
something to do." (This man was a philosopher, it seemed.)

So he ran on enthusiastically, twisting round in his seat, letting his
horse do as it would, and talking in that soft, gentle, charming way to
which a dozen adjectives would fail to do justice, and which appears to
be the heritage of almost every Russian, high or low. It was an
uncomfortable attitude for us, because it left us nowhere to put our
smiles, and we would not for the world have had him suspect that he
amused us.

But the gem of his discourse dropped from his lips when I asked him
what, in his opinion, would be the result if Count Tolstoy could
reconstruct the world on his plan.

"Why, naturally," he replied, "if all men were equal, I should not be
driving you, for example. I should have my own horse and cow and
property, and I should do no work!"

I must say that, on reflection, I was not surprised that he should have
reached this rather astonishing conclusion. I have no doubt that all of
his kind--and it is not a stupid kind, by any means--think the same.
I tried to tell him about America, where we were all equals in theory (I
omitted "theory"), and yet where some of us still "drive other people,"
figuratively speaking. But he only laughed and shook his head, and said
he did not believe that all men were equal in such a land any more than
they were in Russia. That was the sort of wall against which I was
always being brought up, with a more or less painful bump, when I
attempted to elucidate the institutions of this land of liberty. He
seemed to have it firmly fixed in his brain that, although Count Tolstoy
worked in the fields "like one of us poor brethren," he really did no
work whatever.

Thus did I obtain a foretaste of the views held by the peasant class
upon the subject of Count Tolstoy's scheme of reformation, since this
man was a peasant himself from one of the neighboring villages, and an
average representative of their modes of thought.

At last we reached the stone gateposts which mark the entrance to the
park of Yasnaya Polyana (Clearfield), and drove up the formerly splendid
and still beautiful avenue of huge white birch-trees, from whose ranks
many had fallen or been felled. The avenue terminated near the house in
hedges of lilacs and acacias.

Most of the family were away in the fields, or bathing in the river. But
we were cordially received, assured that our visit was well timed and
that there were no guests, and were installed in the room of the count's
eldest son, who was at his business in St. Petersburg.

Then I paid and dismissed the beaming Vanka, whose name chanced to be
Alexei, adding liberal "tea-money" for his charming manners and
conversation. My sympathy with the hardship of being unable to procure
books had moved me so deeply that I had already asked the man for his
address, and had promised to send him a complete set of the count's
"Tales" from Moscow.

We parted with the highest opinion of each other. Alas! a day or two
later one of the count's daughters happened to inquire how much I had
paid for the carriage, probably in consequence of former experiences,
and informed me that I had given just twice as much as any cabman in
Tula would have been glad to take. (The boredom of those policemen must
have been relieved by another smile--behind our backs.) Then I repeated
my conversation with that delicately conscientious _izvostchik_,
nurtured on the "Tales," and mentioned my promise. Even the grave count
was forced to laugh, and I declared that I should be afraid to send the
set of books, for fear of the consequences.

When we were ready, being unfamiliar with the house, we asked the maid
to conduct us to the countess. She took this in its literal sense, and
ushered us into the bedroom where the countess was dressing, an
introduction to country life which was certainly informal enough.

We dined at a long table under the trees at a little distance from the
house. The breeze sifted the tiny papery birch seeds into our soup and
water. Clouds rolled up, and at every threat of the sky we grasped our
plates, prepared to make a dash for the house.

The count, who had been mowing, appeared at dinner in a grayish blouse
and trousers, and a soft white linen cap. He looked even more
weather-beaten in complexion than he had in Moscow during the winter, if
that were possible. His broad shoulders seemed to preserve in their
enhanced stoop a memory of recent toil. His manner, a combination of
gentle simplicity, awkward half-conquered consciousness, and
half-discarded polish, was as cordial as ever. His piercing
gray-green-blue eyes had lost none of their almost saturnine and withal
melancholy expression. His sons were clad in the pretty blouse suits of
coarse gray linen which are so common in Russia in the summer, and white
linen caps.

After dinner, on that first evening, the countess invited us to go to
the fields and see her husband at work. He had not observed the good old
recipe, "After dinner, rest awhile," but had set off again immediately,
and we had been eager to follow him. We hunted for him through several
meadows, and finally came upon him in a sloping orchard lot, seated
under the trees, in a violent perspiration. He had wasted no time,
evidently. He was resting, and chatting with half a dozen peasants of
assorted ages. It appeared that he had made a toilet for dinner, since
he now wore a blue blouse faded with frequent washing, and ornamented
with new dark blue patches on the shoulders. It was the same blouse with
which Repin's portrait of him engaged in plowing had already made us
familiar.

We talked with the peasants. They remained seated, and gave no greeting.
I do not think they would have done so on any other estate in Russia. It
is not that the count has inspired his humble neighbors with a higher
personal sense of independence and the equality of man; all Russian
peasants are pretty well advanced along that path already, and they
possess a natural dignity which prevents their asserting themselves in
an unpleasant manner except in rare cases. When they rise or salute, it
is out of politeness, and with no more servility than the same act
implies in an officer of the Guards in presence of a Court dame. The
omission on this occasion interested me as significant.

The conversation turned upon the marriage of one of the younger men,
which was to come off in a neighboring village two days later, at the
conclusion of the fast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. A middle-aged
peasant took up the subject in a rather unpleasant and not very
respectful manner, saying that he saw no use for priests, who had
everything provided for them (_na gatovayu ruku_), and charged so high
for baptizing and marrying.

"They demand seven rubles for marrying this fellow," said he. "I'll do
it for a ruble, and be glad to."

"If it is so easy, go pass your examinations and become a priest at
once," replied the countess.

"I don't know enough for that."

"Then go hire yourself out as a clown. You are always making bad jokes."

The man was subdued. The count took no part in this conversation, and
looked somewhat disturbed when the other men joined disagreeably in the
laugh against their comrade. He turned the subject.

"Look at the oldest of these men," he said to us in English. "He has
lost the first joint of all the fingers on one hand from frost."

He was a weak-looking, withered little man, but when they began to mow
again, at the count's suggestion, he grasped his scythe as well as any
of them. The scythes were short, thick, straight, looked very heavy, and
were set on very long, straight handles, so that it was not necessary to
stoop in mowing.

We watched the party for a while. The count made good progress over the
uneven ground and thin grass, as though he were used to the work which
he has described so inimitably in "Anna Karenin." (Another reminder of
this book is the old nurse of Levin, who still lives on the place, has
charge of the dogs because she is fond of animals, and carries her mania
to the extent of feeding and petting the black beetles. The grave of
Karl Ivanovitch, the tutor in "Childhood, Boyhood, Youth," which lies in
the cemetery a mile or two distant, is another memento of his writings.)
As we strolled back to the house, we paused to look at the long white
stables, the thatched granary with walls of wattled tree boughs, and
other farm buildings. In the space between the house and the
dining-table we found the children, with their cousins, the French
tutor, and the English governess, engaged in a game of ball called
_wapta_, which involves much running and some skill.

To this table the _samovar_ was brought about half past seven, and the
early tea, the children's tea, was served at twilight in the open air
heavy with the perfume of the linden-trees. Late tea was always served
in the house, in the large hall, accompanied by various viands, and by
wild strawberries fetched by the peasant children.

That evening the count talked to me chiefly about the pamphlets on the
Hopedale community and the peace doctrines advocated by Adin Ballou,
which had been sent to him shortly before from America. He had then
learned for the first time that his principles in that direction had
been anticipated, and he seemed to be genuinely gratified to know that
this was the case. He prophesied that this movement in favor of
non-resistance would attract much more attention in the future than it
has attracted in the past. The fate of Mr. Ballou's community did not
seem to shake his faith.

Naturally, the house was the first point which engaged our attention. In
1860, Count Tolstoy, being then thirty-two years of age, made up his
mind unalterably that he would never marry. All the world knows that
when the count has irrevocably determined upon anything he immediately
furnishes substantial proof of his convictions. On this occasion his
demonstration took the form of selling the manor house, which was taken
down and set up again on another estate in the same government by the
purchaser. The wings of the former house alone remained, detached
buildings, such as were used in the olden days to accommodate the
embroiderers, weavers, peasant musicians and actors of the private
troupes kept by wealthy grandees, as a theatre, or as extra apartments.
The count occupied one of these wings.

Two years later, he changed his mind and married. He brought his
beautiful bride of half his age to this tiny wing,--it chanced to be
tiny in this case,--and there she lived for seventeen years. The
horrible loneliness of it, especially in winter, with not a neighbor for
miles, unless one reckon the village at the park gate, which could not
have furnished anything but human beings, and never a congenial
companion for her! Needless to say that she never had on a low-bodied
gown, never went to the theatre or a ball, in all her fair young life;
and to the loneliness of the country must be added the absolute
loneliness during the absences of the count, who had much reading to do
in Moscow for the historical portions of his great war drama. When he
got tired of his village school, of his experiments upon the infant
peasant mind, of things in general, he could and did go away for rest.
The countess did not. Decidedly, the Countess Sophia Tolstoy is one of
those truly feminine heroines who are cast into shadow by a brilliant
light close to them, but a heroine none the less in more ways than need
be mentioned. Her self-denial and courage gave to the world "War and
Peace" and "Anna Karenin;" and she declares that were it to do over
again she would not hesitate a moment. The public owes the count's wife
a great debt of gratitude, and not of reproaches, for bravely opposing
his fatal desire to live in every detail the life of a peasant laborer.
Can any one blessed with the faintest particle of imagination fail to
perceive how great a task it has been to withstand him thus for his own
good; to rear nine healthy, handsome, well-bred children out of the much
larger family which they have had; to bear the entire responsibility of
the household and the business?

She remarked, one day, that there was no crying need for the Russian
nobility to follow her husband's teachings and give away all their goods
in order to be on a level with the peasants. Plenty of them would soon
attain that blissful state of poverty in the natural course of things,
since they were not only growing poorer every year, but the distribution
of inheritances among the numerous children was completing the work, and
very many would be reduced to laboring with their hands for a living.
This is perfectly true. There is no law of primogeniture in Russia. The
one established by Peter the Great having produced divers and grievous
evils, besides being out of harmony with the Russian character, it was
withdrawn. All the male children share equally in the father's estate as
in title. The female children receive by law only an extremely small
portion of the inheritance, but their dowry is not limited.

Among the count's most ardent followers is one of his daughters. She
does everything for herself, according to his teachings, in a manner
which American girls, in even moderately well-to-do families, would
never dream of. She works for the peasants in various ways, and carries
out her father's ideas in other matters as far as possible. Her Spartan
(or Tolstoyan) treatment of herself may be of value in character-
building, as mortification of the flesh is supposed to be in
general. Practically, I think the relations between peasants and nobles
render her sacrifices unavailing. For example: one of the peasant women
having been taken ill,--there was a good deal of sickness in the
village,--she went to the hayfield to do the woman's work and prevent
the forfeit of fifteen or twenty cents, the price of the day's labor. We
strolled out to find her. The thermometer must have stood at 100 degrees
F., and although the dry inland heat can be better borne than the same
amount of damp heat, it was far from being comfortable weather even for
indolent persons. We found her under a tree, resting and drinking cold
tea, while she awaited the return, from some errand of their devising,
of the peasant women who had been at work with her. She looked
wretchedly ill, and we tried to prevail on her to go back to the house
with us. But the count (who was not well enough to work) happened along,
and as he said nothing she decided to stay and to resume labor at once,
since the women seemed to have been detained.

As we beat a retreat homeward under that burning sun, we discovered the
nature of the peasant women's urgent business. They were engaged in
stripping the count's bushes of their fruit and devouring it by the
handful. We could not persuade him to interfere. "They want it, or they
would not take it," he said. It was none of our business, to be sure,
but those strong, muscular women offered such a contrast, in physique
and conduct, to the fair, delicate young girl whom we had just left that
we felt indignant enough to attack them ourselves, if it would have done
any good. The next day his daughter was more seriously ill than the
peasant woman whose place she had taken. I should not have felt unhappy
to learn that those women had been uncomfortably ill in consequence of
their greediness.

The count has no longer a school for the peasant children, by the way.
The necessity for that is past. But he must have been an original
professor. A friend of mine in St. Petersburg, who was interested,
during the sixties, in the secular Sunday-schools for workingmen who
could not attend on week days, repeated to me the count's method as
imparted to her by himself while visiting the capital. He objected to
the rules which compelled the men to be regular in attendance, on the
ground that learning must not be acquired thus mechanically, under
compulsion, but when the scholar feels an inward impulse. He would not
listen to the suggestion that this method would hardly answer when study
must be prosecuted on specified days under penalty of eternal ignorance.
He said that when he found his peasant pupils indisposed to learn he
dismissed the school, went home, and occupied himself in his own
affairs. After an interval, more or less long, a scuffling of feet and a
rapping would become audible at the door, and small voices would plead:
"Please, Lyeff Nikola'itch, we want to study. Please, come and teach
us." He went, and they made rapid progress because all was purely
voluntary.

One of the whitened stone wings of the old manor house stands unchanged.
It is occupied in summer by the countess's sister and her family. She is
a handsome and clever woman, who translates, and who has written some
strong short stories. The wing used by the count has been enlarged to
meet the requirements of the large family, and yet it is not a great or
imposing house. At one end a stone addition, like the original building,
contains, on the ground floor, the count's two rooms, which open on an
uncovered stone terrace facing the hedge-inclosed lawn, with beds of
bright flowers bordering it, and the stately lindens of the grand
avenues waving their crests beyond in the direction of the ponds. Over
these rooms and the vestibule is the hall, indispensable as a
dining-room and a play-room for the small children in wet weather and in
winter. A wooden addition at the other end furnishes half a dozen rooms
for members of the family, the tutor and the maids. Near by stand
several log cottages,--the bakehouse, the servants' dining-room, and
other necessary offices.

The count's study is very plain. The walls are in part lined with
bookcases; in part they are covered with portraits of relatives and of
distinguished persons whom he admires. There are more bookcases in the
vestibule, for people are constantly sending him books of every
conceivable sort. I imagine that the first copies of every book,
pamphlet, and journal on any hobby or "ism," especially from America,
find their way to the address of Count Tolstoy. He showed me some very
wild products of the human brain. The hall upstairs has a polished wood
floor, as is usual with such rooms, and a set of very simple wicker
furniture. Portraits of ancestors, some of whom figure in "War and
Peace," hang upon the walls. A piano, on which the count sometimes
plays, and a large table complete the furniture. Everything in the house
is severely simple. If I take the liberty of going into these details,
it is in the interest of justice. The house has been described in print
--from imagination, it would seem--as "a castle luxuriously
furnished," and the count has been reproached with it. Cheap as the
furniture is, he grumbled at it when it was purchased; he grumbles at it
still, and to me spoke of it as "sinful luxury." But then he cannot be
regarded a fair judge of what constitutes luxury.

The whole house, outside and in, is modest in the extreme. The park with
its avenues of lindens, which were in full bloom during our visit, the
ponds and lawns and forest, must have been superb in the time of his
grandfather, and even of his mother, from whom he inherited it. A grove
and thicket now occupy the site of the former manor, and screen the view
of each wing from the other. Vegetable gardens and berry patches lie
near at hand, and beds of brilliant but not rare flowers enliven the
immediate vicinity of the house.

The estate is large and fertile, though it does not lie in the famous
"black-earth zone." This begins a few miles south of it.

Plain wholesome food, simple dress, an open-air life without fixed
programme, were what we found. In the morning, after drinking tea or
coffee, with bread and butter, in the hall, we usually strolled through
the lovely forest, filled with flowers and perfumes, to the little river
about a mile distant, for a bath. The unpainted board bath-house had
seats running along the walls, and steps leading down into the water. A
framework supporting thick screens of golden rye straw extended far out
over the stream. A door upstream swung open at will for ambitious
swimmers. It was a solitary spot. The peasant girls pitching hay in the
meadows beyond with three-pronged boughs stripped of their leaves were
the only persons we ever saw. Clad in their best scarlet cotton
_sarafani_ and head kerchiefs, they added greatly to the beauty of the
landscape. Haying is such easy work compared to the rest of the summer
labors, that the best gowns are donned as for a festival.

If the boys got ahead of us on those hot mornings, when we had dispensed
with every article of clothing not absolutely necessary, we lay in the
shadow of the fragrant birches at the top of the hill on the soft, short
sward, which seems in Russia to grow as thick in dense forests as in
open glades, and waited until they could tear themselves from the cool
embrace of the stream. Then we went in, great and small, but with no
bathing-dress. The use of such a garment on such an occasion would be
regarded as a sign that one was afflicted with some bodily defect which
one was anxious to conceal. By the time we had refreshed ourselves and
rambled back, searching for early mushrooms through the forest or the
great plantation of birches set out by the count's own hands a quarter
of a century before, and grown now to stout and serviceable giants, the
twelve o'clock breakfast was ready under the trees. At this informal
meal every one sat where he pleased, and helped himself. At dinner, on
the contrary, my place was always at the count's left hand. We sat on
whatever offered itself. Sometimes I had a wooden chair, sometimes a bit
of the long bench like a plasterer's horse. Once, when some one rose
suddenly from the other end of this, I tumbled over on the count and
narrowly escaped wrecking his dinner.

At no meal did the count ever eat a mouthful of meat, despite urgent
persuasion. Boiled buckwheat groats, salted cucumbers, black bread, eggs
with spinach, tea and coffee, sour _kvas_ (beer made from black bread),
and cabbage soup formed the staple of his diet, even when ill, and when
most people would have avoided the cucumbers and _kvas_, at least.

The family generally met as a whole for the first time at breakfast. The
count had been busy at work in the fields, in writing or reading in his
study; the boys with their tutor; the countess copying her husband's
manuscript and ordering the household. After breakfast every one did
what he pleased until dinner. There was riding, driving,--anything that
the heat permitted. A second bath, late in the afternoon, was indulged
in when it was very hot. The afternoon bathing party generally drove
down in a _lineika_, a sort of long jaunting-car with a central bench,
not too wide, on which the passengers sit back to back, their feet
resting on a narrow footboard which curves over the wheels as a shield.
This _lineika_ had also cross-seats at each end, and with judicious
packing could be made to hold sixteen persons. As it was upholstered in
leather and had no springs, there was some art in keeping one's seat
when the three horses were going at full speed over the uneven forest
road.

After breakfast I sometimes sat under the trees with the countess, and
helped her sew on baby Ivan's clothes, for the pleasure of her
conversation. Nothing could be more fascinating. This beautiful woman
has not rusted during her long residence in the country. There are few
better informed women than she, few better women of business, few women
who are so clever and practical.

One day, as I was sitting, armed with thimble and needle, waiting for
her, the count discovered a hole in his pocket, and asked his niece to
mend it for him. She had not her implements. I volunteered,--to do the
mending, not to lend the wherewithal. The pocket was of black silk, my
thread of white cotton, but that was of no consequence. I seated myself
comfortably on the sand, and speedily discovered not one hole, but a row
of holes such as wear along the seams of pockets. The count was greatly
annoyed at the trouble he was giving me, protested as I began on each
new hole, and was very restless. I was finally obliged to speak.

"Lyeff Nikola'itch," I said, "do me the favor to sit still. Your
reputation as well as mine is involved in this work. It must be done
thoroughly and neatly quite as much for your sake as for mine."

"How so?" he asked in surprise.

"My woman's reputation for neat mending trembles in the balance; and do
not you advocate the theory that we should help our fellow-men? You have
helped others; it is your turn now to be experimented on. And besides,
if the fellow-man obstinately refuses to be helped by others, how are we
to do our duty by him? How could you work for others, if they persisted
in following out the other half of your doctrine and doing everything
for themselves? 'Tis plain that you understand how to render services
far better than to receive them. Reform. Submit."

The count laughed, with a sort of grim bewilderment in his eye, and
behaved in an exemplary manner for the few remaining moments. I mentally
thanked Fate for providing me with an opportunity for suggesting an
object lesson on a point which had puzzled me not a little, and which I
had been pining to attack in some form. He did not explain away my
difficulties, it is true, but I was satisfied with having presented the
other side of the shield to his attention.

On another occasion, as we sat under the trees, a peasant came, scythe
on shoulder, to complain to the countess of his wrongs. No one ever went
to the count, knowing that his wife had full management. Peasants who
came in a deputation to parley about hiring or buying extra land, and so
on, applied directly to her. The comrades of this Vasily Alexei'itch had
got two buckets of _vodka_, and had forced him, who detested liquor, to
drink of it. Then they had become quarrelsome (he was peaceable), and
they had torn his shirt--so! Hereupon he flung back his coat, worn in
Russian fashion with the sleeves hanging, and let his faded red cotton
shirt fall from his muscular shoulders, leaving him nude to the waist,
save for the cheap little baptismal cross suspended round his neck by a
cord. The small boys set up a shout of laughter at his story and his
action. The countess rebuked him sharply for such conduct before the
children, and refused to interfere in the quarrel. The man pulled his
torn shirt over his body and slouched off. That evening, after tea, the
count happened to hit upon a couple of Mr. Rider Haggard's books for
discussion, and, for the benefit of those in the company who had not
read it, gave the chief points of "She" in particularly lively style,
which kept us all in laughter. In describing the heroine, he said that
"she was clothed in an airy garment, like Vasily Alexei'itch;" and again
that "she dropped her garment, and stood like Vasily Alexei'itch." He
pronounced "She" and other works of Haggard "the lowest type of
literature," and said that "it was astonishing how so many English
people could go wild over them." He seemed to read everything, good and
bad, and to possess not only an omnivorous literary appetite, but a
wonderful memory for books, even in small details.

Among the innumerable things which he read were Mormon publications,
sent him regularly from headquarters. I cannot explain the object of the
Mormons in making him the point of attack. He thought very highly of the
doctrines of the Mormons as set forth by themselves, and could not
understand why they were "persecuted" in America. No one had ever sent
him documents on the other side of the question, and he seemed as
ignorant of it as I was of the Mormon arguments. In answer to his
queries, I told him that the problems involved were too numerous,
serious, and complicated for me to enter upon; that the best way, under
such circumstances, was for him to read statements set down in black and
white by recognized authorities on the subject; and that I would cause
books on the matter to be forwarded to him, which I did. But he
persisted that our government is in the wrong.

"It is a shame," said he, "that in a great and free country like America
a community of people should be so oppressed, and not allowed that
liberty of which you boast."

"You know your Dickens well," I answered. "Have you any recollection of
Martin Chuzzlewit? You will remember that when Martin was in America
with Mark Tapley he saw a slave being sold. Mark Tapley observed that
'the Americans were so fond of Liberty that they took liberties with
her.' That is, in brief, what ails the Mormons. The only argument in
favor of them which can possibly be made is that their practice, not
their preaching, offers the only solution of your own theory that all
women should be married. But that theory has never been advanced in
extenuation of their behavior. I offer it to you brand new, as a slight
illustration of a very unpleasant subject."

One day, during a chat in his study, he had praised Dickens.

"There are three requisites which go to make a perfect writer," he
remarked. "First, he must have something worth saying. Second, he must
have a proper way of saying it. Third, he must have sincerity. Dickens
had all three of these qualities. Thackeray had not much to say; he had
a great deal of art in saying it; but he had not enough sincerity.
Dostoevsky possessed all three requisites. Nekrasoff knew well how to
express himself, but he did not possess the first quality; he forced
himself to say something, whatever would catch the public at the moment,
of which he was a very keen judge. As he wrote to suit the popular
taste, believing not at all in what he said, he had none of the third
requisite." He declared that America had not as yet produced any
first-class woman writer, like George Eliot and George Sand.

Count Tolstoy's latest book at that time was "What to Do?" It was much
discussed, though not very new. It will be remembered that in the final
chapter of that work he argues that woman's whole duty consists in
marrying and having as large a family as possible. But, in speaking of
Mr. Howells's "The Undiscovered Country," which he had just discovered,
--it was odd to think he had never heard of Mr. Howells before,--he
remarked, in connection with the Shakers, that "it was a good thing that
they did not marry."

He said this more than once and at some length. I did not like to enter
on the subject lest he should go too far, in his earnestness, before the
assembled company. Therefore I seized an opportunity to ask his wife how
he reconciled that remark with his creed that all women should marry.

She answered that it certainly was not consistent, but that her husband
changed his opinion every two years; and, to my consternation, she
instantly appealed to him. He did not go into details, however. He
pulled out a letter which he had received from a Russian woman, a
stranger to him. The writer said: "While acknowledging the justice of
your views, I must remark that marriage is a fate which is not possible
to every woman. What, then, in your opinion, should a woman who has
missed that fate do?"

I was interested in his reply, because six months earlier he had advised
me to marry. I inquired what answer he intended to send,--that is, if
he meant to reply at all. He said that he considered the letter of
sufficient importance to merit an answer, and that he should tell her
that "every woman who had not married, whatever the reason, ought to
impose upon herself the hardest cross which she could devise, and bear
it."

"And so punish herself for the fault of others, perhaps?" I asked. "No.
If your correspondent is a woman of sufficient spirit to impose that
cross, she will also have sufficient spirit to retort that very few of
us choose our own crosses; and that women's crosses imposed by Fate,
Providence, or whatever one pleases to call it, are generally heavier,
more cruel, than any which they could imagine for themselves in the
maddest ecstasy of pain-worship. Are the Shaker women, of whom you
approve, also to invent crosses? And how about the Shaker men? What is
their duty in the matter of invoking suffering?"

He made no reply, except that "non-marriage was the ideal state," and
then relapsed into silence, as was his habit when he did not intend to
relinquish his idea. Nevertheless I am convinced he is always open to
the influence--quite unconsciously, of course--of argument from any
quarter. His changes of belief prove it.

These remarks anent the Shakers seemed to indicate that another change
was imminent; and as the history of his progress through the links of
his chain of reasoning was a subject of the greatest interest to me, I
asked his wife for it. It cannot be called anything but a linked
progress, since the germs--nay, the nearly full-fledged idea--of his
present moral and religious attitude can be found in almost all of his
writings from the very beginning.

When the count married, he had attained to that familiar stage in the
spiritual life where men have forgotten, or outgrown, or thoroughly
neglected for a long time the religious instruction inculcated upon them
in their childhood. There is no doubt that the count had been well
grounded in religious tenets and ceremonies; the Russian church is
particular on this point, and examinations in "the law of God" form part
of the conditions for entrance to the state schools. But, having reached
the point where religion has no longer any solid grasp upon a man, he
did not like to see other people observe even the forms.

Later on he began a novel, to be called "The Decembrists." The
Decembrists is the name given to the participants in the disorders of
1825, on the accession of the Emperor Nicholas I. to the throne. Among
the preparations which he made for this work were excursions taken with
the object of acquainting himself with the divers dialects and
peculiarities of expression current in the different parts of the
empire. These he collected from pilgrims on the highways and byways.

"A pilgrim," said the witty countess, "is a man who has grown tired of
the jars and the cares and responsibilities of the household; out of
patience with the family in general. He feels the necessity, inborn in
every Russian, for roaming, for getting far away from people, into the
country and the forests. So he makes a pilgrimage to some distant
shrine. I should like to be a pilgrim myself, but the family ties me
down. I feel the need of freshening up my ideas."

In these excursions the count came to see how great a part religion
plays in the life of the lower classes; and he argued that, in order to
get into sympathy with them, one must share their ideas as to religion.
Accordingly he plunged into it with his customary ardor,--"he has a
passionate nature,"--and for several years he attended every church
service, observed every rite, kept every fast, and so on. He thought it
horrible if those about him did not do the same,--if they neglected a
single form. I think it quite probable that he initiated the trouble
with his stomach by these fasts. They are nothing to a person who has
always been used to them; but when we consider that the longer fasts
cover about four solid months,--not to mention the usual abstinence on
Wednesdays and Fridays and the special abstinences,--and that milk,
eggs, cheese, and butter are prohibited, as well as other customary
articles of food, it is not difficult to imagine the effect of sudden
and strict observance upon a man accustomed during the greater part of
his life to a meat diet. The vegetable diet in which he now persists
only aggravates the evil in one who is afflicted with liver trouble, and
who is too old to train his vital economy in fresh paths.

His religious ardor lasted until he went to church one day, during the
last Russo-Turkish war, when prayers were offered for the success of the
Russian army. It suddenly struck him that it was inconsistent with "Love
your enemies," "Love one another," "Do not kill," that prayers should be
offered for the death of enemies. From that day forth he ceased to go to
church, as he had also perceived that the practice of religious forms
did not, in reality, bring him much nearer to the peasants, and that one
must live among them, work among them, to appreciate their point of
view.

The only surprising thing about this is that he should never have
noticed that the army is prayed for, essentially in the same sense, at
every church service. After the petitions for the Emperor and the
imperial family, the liturgy proceeds, "And we pray for the army, that
Thou wilt assist Them [that is, the Imperial family and its army], and
subdue all foes and enemies under Their feet." Perhaps these familiar
words came home to him with special force on that particular day, as
familiar words sometimes do. Possibly it was a special prayer. In any
case, the prayer was strictly logical. If you have an army, pray for it;
and the only prayer that can be offered is, obviously, not for its
defeat. That would be tantamount to praying for the enemy; which might
be Scriptural, in one way, but would be neither natural, popular, nor
further removed from objections of murder than the other.

But Count Tolstoy was logical, also, in another way. Once started on
this train of thought, most worldly institutions of the present day,
beginning with the army, appeared to him opposed to the teaching of
Christ, on which point no rational man will differ from him. As to the
possibility of living the life of Christ, or even the advisability of
trying it, at this period of the world, that is quite another matter.

It is not necessary for me to recapitulate here that which all the world
knows already,--the minute details of his belief in personal property,
labor, the renunciation of art and science, and so forth. We discussed
them. But I neglected my opportunities to worry him with demands for his
catechism, which his visitors delight in grinding out of him as though
from a machine, when the reading public must be sufficiently informed on
that score already. I have endeavored to set down only the special
illustrations of his doctrines, out of the rich mass of his
conversation.

Those who have perused attentively his earlier works will have perceived
that there is really very little that is absolutely new in these
doctrines. They are so strictly the development of ideas which are an
integral part of him, through heredity, environment, and personal bias,
that the only surprise would be that he should not have ended in this
way. Community of goods, mutual help, and kindred doctrines are the
national birthright of every Russian, often bartered, it is true. But
long residence in the country among the peasants who do not preach these
doctrines, but simply practice them, naturally affected the thoughtful
student of humanity though he was of a different rank. He began to
announce his theories to the world, and found followers, as teachers of
these views generally do,--a proof that they satisfy an instinct in
the human breast. Solitary country life anywhere is productive of such
views.

Disciples, or "adepts," began to make pilgrimages to the prophet. There
is a characteristic, a highly characteristic history of one such who
came and established himself in the village at the count's park gate.

"This F. was a Jew, who did not finish his studies, got led astray by
socialists, and joined a community where, like the other members, he
lived out of marriage with a young girl student. At last he came across
a treatise of Lyeff Nikolaevitch, and decided that he was wrong and
Lyeff Nikolaevitch right. He removed to Yasnaya Polyana, married his
former mistress, and began to live and work among the peasants." (He
first joined the Russian church, and one of the count's daughters stood
godmother for him.) "His wife worked also; but, with delicate health and
two small children to care for, she could do little, through weakness
and lack of skill. The peasants laughed at him and at Lyeff
Nikola'itch."

Mrs. F. came to the countess with her griefs, and the latter helped her
with food, clothing, and in other ways. "One day nothing remained in the
house to eat but a single crust. F. was ill. His wife, who was also ill
and feeble, went off to work. On her return she found no bread. Some one
had come along begging '_Khristi radi_' [for Christ's sake], and F. had
given him the crust,--with absolute consistency, it must be confessed.
This was the end. There was a scene. The wife went back to her friends.
F. also gave up, went off to Ekaterinoslaff, learned the tailor's trade,
and married again!" How he managed this second marriage without
committing bigamy, in view of the laws of Russia on that point, I am at
a loss to understand.

"All my husband's disciples," said the countess, "are small, blond,
sickly, and homely; all as like one to another as a pair of old boots.
You have seen them. X. Z.--you know him--had a very pretty talent
for verses; but he has ruined it and his mind, and made himself quite an
idiot, by following my husband's teachings."

The count provided a complement to these remarks in a conversation on
Russian writers. He said of a certain author; "That man has never been
duly appreciated, has never received the recognition which his genius
deserves. Yet you know how superbly he writes,--or rather, did write.
He has spoiled himself now by imitating me. It is a pity."

This ingenuous comment is rescued from any tinge of conceit or egotism
by its absolute simplicity and truth. The imitation referred to is of
the moral "Tales" for popular reading of the lower classes, which my
cabman had studied. The pity of it is, when so many of the contemporary
writers of Russia owe their inspiration, their very existence, to
Turgeneff and Tolstoy having preceded them, that a man who possesses
personal talent and a delightful individual style should sacrifice them.
In his case it is unnecessary. Count Tolstoy's recognition of this fact
is characteristic.

The countess's description of the "adepts" was as clever as the rest of
her remarks, and absolutely accurate. One of them was at the house for a
day or two. (I had seen them elsewhere as well.) He had evidently got
himself a new blouse for the visit. It was of coarse blue and white
cloth, checked, and so stiff with newness that, having a long slit and
only one button, at the neck, I could see the whole of his hairy breast
every time I looked at him from the left side. I sympathized with Prince
K., who being next him at table turned his back on him and ignored him
conversationally; which embarrassed the young man extremely. Apropos of
his shirt, I never saw any one but the count himself wear a shirt that a
real peasant would have worn; and I do not believe that even he had one
of the characteristic red cotton garments which are the peasant's pride.

I found this adept interesting when he sat opposite me, and he incited
the count to vivacity. He contributed a very good anecdote illustrative
of the count's followers.

A man in one of the southern governments--which one is immaterial here
--sent a quantity of lithographed copies of five or ten forbidden books
(Tolstoy's and others) to a disciple of Tolstoy in one of the northern
governments. In the village of this disciple, some young women students
in the higher or university courses for women, and followers of Tolstoy,
were living for the summer in peasant fashion, and working in the
fields, "_to the scornful pity of the peasants_" (I italicize this
phrase as remarkable on the lips of an adept.) These young women, having
heard of the dispatch by post of the books, and being in the town,
thought to do the count's disciple a favor by asking if they had
arrived. Had they refrained, nothing would have happened and the books
would have been delivered without a question. As it was, attention was
attracted to the parcel by the inquiry of these girls of eccentric
behavior. The fifty or sixty copies were confiscated; the girls'
passports were taken from them. The disciple appealed to a relative in
high official position in their behalf. The girls were informed, in
consequence, that they might hire themselves out to work for this
disciple of gentle birth as much as they liked; but they were forbidden
to work for or among the peasants. The adventure was not ended when this
story was told. Whether the students were satisfied with the permission
to work I do not know. Probably not; their fellow-disciple would not
have scorned them as the peasants did, and contradiction, that spice of
life to enthusiastic worshipers of impracticable ideas, would have been
lacking. In my opinion, the authorities committed an error in judgment.
They should have shown more faith in the peasants, the toil, and the
girls' unhardened frames. All three elements combined could have been
trusted to effect a permanent cure of those disciples by the end of the
harvest, had they been gently encouraged not only to work with the
peasants but to prove that they were capable of toiling and enduring in
precisely the same manner and measure.

Still the authorities very naturally looked upon the action of the girls
as a case of _idti v narod_ (going to the people), in the sense
understood by the revolutionary propagandists. Their prohibition was
based on this ground.

In some way we got upon the subject of English things and ways. The
count's eyes flashed.

"The English are the most brutal nation on earth!" he exclaimed. "Along
with the Zulus, that is to say. Both go naked: the Zulus all day long,
the Englishwomen as soon as dinner is served. The English worship their
muscle; they think of it, talk of it. If I had time, I should like to
write a book on their ways. And then their executions, which they go to
see as a pleasure!"

I asked which nation was a model, in his opinion.

"The French," he answered, which seemed to me inconsistent, when he told
of the execution which he had witnessed in Paris, where a father had
lifted up his little child that it might have a good view of the horrors
of the guillotine.

"Defective as is Russian civilization in many respects," he said, "you
will never find the Russian peasant like that. He abhors deliberate
murder, like an execution."

"Yet he will himself commit murder," I objected. "There has been a
perfect flood of murders reported in the newspapers this very spring.
Those perpetrated in town were all by men of the peasant class; and most
of them were by lads under twenty years of age."

He insisted that I must have misread the papers. So I proceeded to
inquire, "What will a peasant do in case of an execution?"

"He will murder, but without premeditation. What he will do in case of
an execution I can illustrate for you by something which occurred in
this very neighborhood some years ago.

"The regimental secretary of a regiment stationed at Z. was persecuted
by one of his officers, who found fault with him continually, and even
placed him under arrest for days at a time, when the man had only obeyed
his own orders. At last the secretary's patience failed him, and one day
he struck the officer. A court-martial followed. I was chosen to defend
him. He was sentenced to death. I appealed to the Emperor through Madame
A.,--you know her. For some reason she spoke to one of the ministers.
'You have not stated the number of his regiment; that is indispensable,'
was the reply. Evidently this was a subterfuge, that time might be
consumed in correspondence, and the pardon might arrive too late. The
reason for this was, in all probability, that just at this time a
soldier had struck an officer in Moscow and had been condemned. If one
were pardoned, in justice the other must be also. Otherwise discipline
would suffer. This coincidence was awkward for the secretary, strong as
his case was, and he was shot.

"The adjutant's hands trembled so with emotion that he could not apply
the bandage to the prisoner's eyes. Others tried and gave it up. Well,
as soon as that man was buried his grave was covered with flowers,
crosses, and all sorts of things by the peasants, who came many versts
from all directions, as to the grave of a martyr. Masses for the dead
were ordered there, in uninterrupted succession, by these poor peasants.
The feeling was so great and appeared to be spreading to such an extent
that the authorities were forced not only to prohibit access to the
grave, but even to level it off so that it could not be found. But an
Englishman! If he were told to cut the throat of his own father and eat
him, he would do it."

"Still, in spite of your very striking illustration, and your doubts as
to my having read the papers correctly," I remarked, "I am sure that the
Russian peasant does, occasionally, murder with premeditation. He is a
fine-tempered, much-enduring, admirable fellow, I admit, but he is
human. He cannot be so different in this respect from all other races of
men. Moreover, I have the testimony of a celebrated Russian author on my
side."

"What author? What testimony?"

"Have you ever read The 'Power of Darkness'? The amount of deliberation,
of premeditation, in any murder is often a matter of opinion; but the
murder of the child in the last act of that comedy is surely deliberate
enough to admit of no difference of judgment. Don't you think that the
author supports me?"

He gasped at my audacity in quoting his own writings against him, and
retreated into the silence which was his resource when he could not or
would not answer. Put him in a corner and he would refuse to come out.

Beggars used to come while we were eating out-of-doors; some called
themselves "pilgrims." The count would give them a little money, and
they would tramp off again. One day, when the birthday of an absent
member of the family was being celebrated, and we were drinking healths
in _voditchka_ (a sort of effervescent water flavored with fruit
juices), we had a distinguished visitor, "Prince Romanoff." This was the
crazy Balakhin mentioned in "What to Do?" as having had his brain turned
by the sight of the luxury in the lives of others. His rags and patches,
or rather his conglomeration of patches, surpassed anything we had seen
in that line. One of the lads jumped up and gave him a glass of
raspberry _voditchka_, telling him that it was rare old wine. The man
sipped it, looked through it, and pretended (I am sure that it was mere
pretense) to believe that it was wine. He promised us all large estates
when the Emperor should give him back his own, now wrongfully withheld
from him.

Balakhin stayed about the place, making himself at home with the
servants, for twenty-four hours or more. I believe that he strays about
among the landed proprietors of the district as a profession. In spite
of his willingness to call himself "Prince Romanoff" as often as any one
chose to incite him thereto, this did not impress me as a proof that he
was too deranged to earn his own living, with his healthy frame, if he
saw fit. I had observed the mania for titles in other persons (not all
Russians, by any means) who would vigorously resent the imputation that
they should be in a lunatic asylum. Moreover, this imperial "Prince
Romanoff" never forgot his "manners." He invariably rose when his
superiors (or his inferiors, perhaps I should say) approached, like any
other peasant, and he looked far more crafty than crazy.

As the peasants were all busy haying, we postponed our visit to the
village until the afternoon of Peter and Paul's day, in the hope that we
should then find some of them at home. The butler's family were drinking
tea on the porch of their neat new log house with a tinned roof, at the
end of the village near the park gate. They rose and invited us to honor
them with our company and share their meal. We declined, for lack of
time.

One of the count's daughters had told me of a curious difference
existing between the cut of the aprons of maidens and of those of
married women. I had been incredulous, and she suggested that I put the
matter to the test by asking the first married woman whom we should see.
We found a pretty woman, with beautiful brown eyes and exquisite teeth
(whose whiteness and soundness are said to be the result of the sour
black bread which the peasants eat exclusively), standing at the door of
her cottage.

"Here's your chance!"

"Show me your window, please," I said.

She laughed, and turned her back to me. There was the "window," sure
enough. The peasant apron, which is fastened under the armpits, is
pretty evenly distributed as to fullness all the way round, and in the
case of a maiden falls in straight lines in the back. But the married
woman makes hers with a semicircular opening a few inches below the
band. The points of the opening are connected by a loop of fringe, a
couple of cords not always tied, or anything that comes handy,
apparently for ornament. Now, when the husband feels moved to
demonstrate his affection for his spouse by administering a beating, he
is not obliged to fumble and grope among those straight folds for the
awkward triangular little opening, quite unsuited to accommodate his
fist. He can grasp her promptly by the neck of her chemise and this
comfortable semicircle, and not force her to doubt his love by delay and
hesitation in expression. I asked the pretty woman if her husband found
it very useful. "Sometimes," she answered nonchalantly. The Russian
peasant theory is: "No beating, no jealousy; no jealousy, no love."

She offered to sell us a new petticoat similar to the one which she
wore. It was of homespun, hard-twisted wool _etamine_ very durable, of a
sort which is made, with slight variations, in several governments.
Ordinarily, in this district, it is of a bright scarlet plaided off with
lines of white and yellow. A breadth of dark blue cotton is always
inserted in the left side. When a woman is in mourning, the same plaid
on a dark blue foundation is used. Married women wear coarse chemises
and aprons of homespun linen; and their braided hair coiled on top of
the head imparts a coronet shape to the gay cotton kerchief which is
folded across the brow and knotted at the nape of the neck.

Young girls wear cotton chemises and aprons and print dresses, all
purchased, not home made. It is considered that if a girl performs her
due share of the house and field work she will not have time to weave
more than enough linen for her wedding outfit, and the purchase of what
is needed before that unhappy event is regarded as a certificate of
industry. I call it an unhappy event because from the moment of her
betrothal the prospective bride wears mourning garments. Black beads for
the neck are the height of fashion here.

The girl's gown, called a _sarafan_, is plaited straight and full into a
narrow band, and suspended just below the armpits by cross-bands over
the shoulders. She prefers for it plain scarlet cotton (_kumatch_), or
scarlet printed in designs of yellow, white, and green. Her head
kerchief matches in style. Her betrothal gown and kerchief have a dark
blue or black ground with colored figures.

The bargain for the petticoat was closed at two rubles, its real worth,
subject to "sister's approbation,"--an afterthought on the part of the
pretty woman. When she brought it to us at the house, a couple of hours
later, modestly concealed under her apron, and with sister's blessing,
she demanded half a ruble more, because we had not beaten her down, and
perhaps also as an equivalent for sister's consent.

She showed us her cottage, which was luxurious, since it had a brick
half for winter use, exactly corresponding to the summer half of logs.
Behind, in a wattled inclosure, were the animals and farming implements.
It was not a cheerful dwelling, with its tiny windows, wall benches to
serve as seats and beds, pine table, images in the corner, great
whitewashed oven, in which the cooking was done, and on which, near the
ceiling, they could sleep, and sheepskin coats as well as other garments
lying about.

Practically, a small Russian village consists of one street, since those
peasants who live on the occasional parallel or side lanes are "no
account folks," and not in fashion. It seemed inconsistent that ranks
and degrees should exist in peasant villages; but human nature is much
the same in the country as in capitals, even in the village of the man
who advocates absolute equality of poverty, and despite the views of my
merry _izvostchik_ Alexei.

The aged mother of the woman to whom the count's daughter was carrying a
gift of a new kerchief was at home, and bestowed some smacking kisses in
thanks. The old woman even ran after us to discharge another volley of
gratitude on the young countess's pretty cheeks.

In the evening we set out once more for the village, to see the choral
dances and hear the songs with which the peasants celebrate their
holidays. A dozen or so of small peasant girls, pupils of the count's
daughter, who had invited themselves to swing on the Giant Steps on the
lawn opposite the count's study windows, abandoned their amusement and
accompanied us down the avenue, fairly howling an endless song in shrill
voices that went through one's nerves.

As we emerged from the shadows of the avenue and proceeded up the broad,
grassy village street to the place of assembly, the children dispersed.
A crowd was collected at a fairly level spot ready for the dancing. All
wore their gayest clothes. The full moon, with brilliant Jupiter close
beside her, furnished an ideally picturesque light, and displayed the
scene to the greatest advantage. Low gray cottages framed the whole.

It was a grand occasion. One of the count's sons had brought his violin,
his cousin had a _balalaika_, a triangular peasant guitar, and one of
the lackeys had his harmonica, to play for the dancing. The young men
sat on a rough improvised bench; the servant stood beside them. The
peasants seemed shy. They hesitated and argued a good deal over
beginning each song. Finally they joined hands and circled slowly to the
tones of the generally monotonous airs. Some of the melodies were lively
and pleasing, but the Great Russian peasant woman's voice is undeniably
shrill. The dancing, when some bold peasant ventured to enter the
circle, after much urging and pushing, was far tamer and more unvarying
than I had seen elsewhere. We felt very grateful to our maid, Tatiana,
for stepping forward with spirit and giving us a touch of the genuine
thing.

Alas! the fruits of Tatiana's civilization were but too visible in her
gown of yellow print flounced to the waist and with a tight-fitting
bodice. The peasant costume suits the dance far better. Her partner was
unworthy of her, and did not perform the squat-and-leap step in proper
form. She needed Fomitch, the butler, who had been obliged to stay at
home and serve tea; to his regret, no doubt, since we were informed that
"he danced as though he had ten devils in his body." As we saw no
prospect of any devils at all,--and they are very necessary for the
proper dash in Russian dancing,--we strolled home, past the pond where
the women were wont to wash their clothes, and up the dark avenue.
Perhaps the requisite demons arrived after our departure. It was a
characteristic scene, and one not readily to be forgotten.

One of the most enjoyable incidents of the evening was the rehearsal of
the maid's coquettish steps and graces given by one of our young
hostesses for the benefit of those members of the family who had not
been present. It reminded us of the scene in "War and Peace" after the
hunt, when charming young Countess Natalya Ilinitchna astonishes her old
relative by her artistic performance of the Russian dance, which she
must have inherited with the traditions of her native land, since she
had never learned it.

Balalaika duets were one of the joys of our evenings under the trees,
after dinner. The young men played extremely well, and the popular airs
were fascinating. Our favorite was the "_Barynya-Sudarynya_," which
invariably brings out volleys of laughter and plaudits when it is sung
on the stage. Even a person who hears it played for the first time and
is ignorant of the words is constrained to laughter by the merry air. In
the evenings there were also hare-and-hounds hunts through the meadows
and forests, bonfires over which the younger members of the family
jumped in peasant fashion, and other amusements.

In consequence of vegetarian indiscretions and of trifling with his
health in other ways during the exceptionally hot weather then
prevailing, the count fell ill. When he got about a little he delighted
to talk of death. He said he felt that he was not going to live long,
and was glad of it. He asked what we thought of death and the other
world, declaring that the future life must be far better than this,
though in what it consisted he could not feel any certainty. Naturally
he did not agree with our view, that for the lucky ones this world
provides a very fair idea of heaven, because his ideal was not happiness
for all, but misery for all. He will be forced to revise this ideal if
he ever really comes to believe in heaven.

During this illness I persuaded him to read "Looking Backward," which I
had received as I was leaving Moscow. When I presented it to him, he
promised to examine it "some time;" but when I give books I like to hear
the opinion of the recipient in detail, and I had had experience when I
gave him "Robert Elsmere." Especially in this case was I anxious to
discuss the work.

At first he was very favorably impressed, and said that he would
translate the book into Russian. He believed that this was the true way:
that people should have, literally, all things in common, and so on. I
replied that matters would never arrive at the state described unless
this planet were visited by another deluge, and neither Noah nor any
other animal endowed with the present human attributes saved to continue
this selfish species. I declared that nothing short of a new planet,
Utopia, and a newly created, selected, and combined race of Utopian
angels, would ever get as far as the personages in that book, not to
speak of remaining in equilibrium on that dizzy point when it should
have been once attained. He disagreed with me, and an argument royal
ensued. In the course of it he said that his only objection lay in the
degree of luxury in which the characters of the new perfection lived.

"What harm is there in comfort and luxury to any extent," I asked,
"provided that all enjoy it?"

"Luxury is all wrong," he answered severely. "You perceive the sinful
luxury in which I live," waving his hand toward the excessively plain
furniture, and animadverting with special bitterness on the silver forks
and spoons. "It is all a fallacy that we can raise those below us by
remaining above them. We must descend to their level in habits,
intelligence, and life; then all will rise together."

"Even bread must have yeast; and if we all make ourselves exactly alike,
who is to act as yeast? Are we to adopt all vices of the lower classes?
That would be the speediest way of putting ourselves on a complete
equality with them. But if some of us do not remain yeast, we shall all
turn out the flattest sort of dough."

"We certainly cannot change the position of a thing unless we go close
enough to grasp it, unless we are on the same plane with it."

"Perhaps not; but being on the same plane does not always answer. Did
you ever see an acrobat try that trick? He puts one leg on the table,
then tries to lift his whole body by grasping the other leg and putting
it on a level to begin with. Logically, it ought to succeed and carry
the body with it, if your theory is correct. However, it remains merely
a curious and amusing experiment, likely to result in a broken neck to
any one not skilled in gymnastics, and certain to end in a tumble even
for the one who is thus skilled."

He reiterated his arguments. I retorted that human beings were not moral
kangaroos, who could proceed by leaps, and that even the kangaroo is
obliged to allow the tip of his tail to follow his paws. I said that in
the moral as well as in the physical world it is simply a choice between
standing still and putting one foot before the other; that one cannot
get upstairs by remaining on the bottom step; one member of the body
must rise first.

We were obliged to agree to disagree, as usual, but I fancy that he may
have changed to my opinion of the book and the subject by this time. I
have already noted that he is open to influence.

One evening, as we sat on the steps of the uncovered terrace outside his
study, the conversation fell on the book which he was then engaged upon,
and which the countess had shown us that she was copying for the fourth
time. He had been busy on it for two years. Neither of them went into
details nor mentioned the plot, but I had heard on my arrival in Russia,
twenty months previously, that it related to the murder of a woman by
her husband, and had a railway scene in it. I did not interrogate them,
and when the count said that he hoped I would translate the book when it
should be finished I accepted the proposal with alacrity. I inquired
whether I was to read it then.

"You may if you wish," was the reply, "but I shall probably make some
changes, and I should prefer that you would wait; but that shall be as
you please."

His wife said that he might suddenly take a fancy to view the subject
from an entirely different point, and write the book all over.

I declined to anticipate my future pleasure by even glancing at it, and
I asked no questions. Neither did I ask to see "The Fruits of
Civilization," which was already written and named, I was not there to
exploit their hospitality.

The count and his wife differed as to what ought to be the fate of the
coming volume. He wished to give it to the world (that is, to some
publisher) for nothing. She argued that some one, the publisher at
least, would make money out of it; then why not let his own family have
the profit, as was just? He insisted that it was wrong, inconsistent, in
the same strain as he discusses the subject of his writings in "What to
Do?" But she urged him, in case he would not consent to justice, to
leave the manuscript with her, unpublished, so that the family could use
it after his death. (When the book was ready it was named "The Kreutzer
Sonata.")

I think that every one must side with the countess in her view of this
matter and in her management of the family. It is owing solely to her
that the younger members of the family are receiving that education to
fit them for their struggle with life which her husband bestowed upon
the elder members voluntarily. It is due to her alone, also, that her
husband is still alive. It is not an easy task to protect the count
against himself. One adds to one's admiration for the count's literary
genius an admiration for the countess's talent and good sense by an
extended acquaintance with this family.

More than one community has been organized for the express purpose of
carrying out the life of toil which Count Tolstoy has advocated at
times. One of these communities, of which I had direct information,
purchased an estate of a landed proprietor, including the manor house,
and began to work. This acquisition of an estate by them, while the
count would like to give away his as sinful to retain, does not strike
one as a good beginning. However, they did not use the manor house, but
lived in one small peasant hut. "They all slept on the floor and
benches, men and women," said a Russian to me. A wealthy man had sold
his property to join this community against the wishes of his wife, who
accompanied him, nevertheless. When her baby came, they allowed her to
occupy a room in the mansion and required no work from her, since she
had the care of the child. "They never swept or scrubbed anything, and
they propagated every insect known to man, and probably a few new ones."
But the count has never preached this doctrine, or that an indefinite
number of persons should occupy a single cottage. Thus do his too
enthusiastic disciples discredit him by running into excesses.

So far as he is concerned, there is not the slightest doubt that he
would gladly attempt the life which he advocates. But if he were to take
up his residence in a peasant's cottage, and try to support himself on
what his labors brought in exclusively, he would be dead in less than a
month. He suffers from liver disease; he has not been used to hard labor
from early youth; he cannot, at his age, accustom himself to it any more
than he can compel his stomach to accept a purely vegetable diet in
place of the meat diet on which he has been brought up. He strives
conscientiously to do it. Even the fits of illness caused by his severe
treatment of himself do not break his spirit. He exercises not the
slightest calculation or forethought in the care of his health, either
before it breaks down or afterwards. For example: about five years ago
he bruised his leg seriously against the wheel of a peasant cart.
Instead of resting it, he persisted in working. Erysipelas developed.
The Tula doctor paid him numerous visits, at fifteen rubles a visit.
Then gangrene threatened, and a doctor was sent for from Moscow. He was
a celebrity; price three hundred and fifty rubles. This was penny wise
and pound foolish, of course. But in all probability the count feels the
responsibility of exerting his will in this matter of labor all the more
because it does not come easy to him, and he attributes to weakness of
will power what a peasant would recognize as simple physical exhaustion.
The peasant would not hesitate to climb to the top of his oven and stay
there until his illness was over, with not a thought whether the work
were done or not; and yet the peasant would work far beyond the bounds
of what one would suppose that a man could endure. But Count Tolstoy
overrates his powers of endurance, and, having exhausted his forces in
one desperate spurt, he is naturally obliged to spend more than a
corresponding amount of time in recuperating, even if no serious
complication intervenes; and this gives rise to the accusation of
laziness and insincerity from those who chance to see him in one of
these intervals of rest.

Another point which is too often lost sight of by people who disapprove
of his labor theories is that, while he advocates living in all respects
like a peasant, descending to that level in mind as well as in body,
which doctrine seems to include the incessant toil of the masses, he has
also announced his theory that men should divide their time each day
between (1) hard labor unto perspiration and callosities; (2) the
exercise of some useful handicraft; (3) exercise of the brain in writing
and reading; (4) social intercourse; sixteen hours in all. This is not a
programme which a peasant could follow out. In summer, during the
"suffering" season, the peasant toils in the fields for nearly the whole
of the twenty-four hours instead of the four thus allotted. In winter,
when no field labor is possible, he is likely to spend much more than
four hours at whatever remunerative handicraft he may be acquainted
with, or in intercourse with his fellow-men (detrimental as likely as
not), and a good deal less in reading at any season of the year, for
lack of instruction, interest, or books. On the other hand, this
reasonable _regime_ is not practicable for many men of other than
peasant rank. It happens to be perfectly practicable for Count Tolstoy
when his health permits. But as he has also said much about doing
everything for one's self, earning in some form of common labor all that
one spends, those who remember this only, and who know how little can be
earned by a whole day's toil in Russia, not to mention toil divided
between two branches, which agriculture does not permit, are not
altogether to blame for jumping to the conclusion that the count makes
no effort to practice what he preaches. He does what he can. He is
reproached with having made over his property to his wife and with
living as before. It is really difficult to see what other course is
open to him. An unmarried man, under obligations to no one but himself,
may reasonably be blamed for not carrying out the doctrine which he
volunteers to teach the world. A married man can only be blamed for
volunteering the doctrine. No blame can possibly attach to the wife who
defends the interest of the family to the extent of working havoc with
his doctrines.

Even if Count Tolstoy were able to support himself, he certainly could
not support a wife and the nine living children out of sixteen which he
has had. There is no justice in expecting the adult members of the
family to accept and practice his doctrines. They do not compel him to
accept theirs, though they are in the majority. The little ones could
not feed themselves, even were they ideal peasant children. It would be
nearer the truth to say that the countess has taken possession of the
property; she administers it wisely and economically, for the good of
the family and her husband. She issued, about five years ago, a cheaper
edition of her husband's works, the only edition available hitherto
having been very expensive. The wisdom of her step was proved by the
large profits derived from it in the course of three years,--fifty
thousand dollars,--all of which was applied to the needs of the
family.

The count is not the only one at Yasnaya Polyana to deny himself. For
the past two winters the whole family have remained on the estate, and
have not gone to Moscow, with the exception of one who is in business at
the capital, one member who is at his studies, and one who is married
and resides on another estate. This is because the income did not amount
to a certain sum, a very moderate sum in American eyes, without which a
stay in town would have been imprudent.

The question naturally follows: If the countess holds the property, and
the count continues to get the good of it, in a modest way; if the count
does not do everything for himself, and earn his daily bread by manual
toil, is not he mentally unbalanced to proclaim his theories to the
world, and to change his mind so often on other points?

The answer is: No. Undoubtedly the count, when he attained to his
convictions on the subject of poverty and labor, hoped to carry his
family with him. The countess, like a brave woman, like a devoted wife
and mother, refused to adopt his views. She is willing to shoulder the
responsibility of her refusal, and her conduct is an honor to her. As
for his changes of doctrine, we are all very much like him in the matter
of inconsistency. Only, as very few of us enjoy the renown or the
authority of Count Tolstoy, it rarely occurs to us to proclaim our
progressive opinions to the world; at most, one or two experiences cure
us of that weakness, even if any one thinks it worth while to notice
them in the slightest degree. Very few of us are so deeply rooted in our
convictions, or so impressed with their importance to the world as
principles, that we will raise a finger to defend them. We alternately
know that we shall never change them again, and suspect that we may see
something better at any moment; and we refrain from committing ourselves
unnecessarily in any form which can be brought up against us hereafter.

The case is precisely the reverse with Count Tolstoy. He is so full of
the missionary spirit, so persuaded of the truth and value of his
beliefs, that he rushes into print with them instantly. There they are,
all ready for those who do not sympathize with him to use as missiles
when he gets a new inspiration. Change of opinion is generally progress.
Continuity, an absolute lack of change, means stagnation and death in
the mental as well as in the physical world. As the count is impressible
and reads much, his reading and meditation are fruitful of novelties,
which he bravely submits to the judgment of the world without pausing to
consider whether they coincide with his other utterances or not. That he
does not always express his abstract ideas clearly is the inevitable
result of the lack of philosophical training.

But enthusiastic souls who grieve over the imperfections in the present
organization of society are always waiting for some one of warmer zeal
to lead them. Such persons perceive the ideal side of every argument,
interpret doctrines with their hearts, not with their heads, and are
fired by the newest conception of social relations. As one of the most
marked characteristics of Count Tolstoy lies in infusing his own
personality into every word he writes, it is only natural that these
people should adopt him as their guide. It is not the fault of any one
in particular that he has abandoned a doctrine by the time others have
mastered it. The only refuge is in the cry of Hamlet:--

"The time is out of joint; O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set
it right."

Thus much I think I may say of the home life of the famous Russian
writer without sinning against the duties imposed by the frank and
cordial hospitality for which we are indebted to the family. It has
seemed time to enter a protest against various misrepresentations and
misconceptions in regard to them which are current. In conclusion, I beg
leave to explain that my spelling of the name is that used by themselves
when writing in English, and in print upon their French cards.




IX.

A RUSSIAN HOLY CITY.


It was close on midnight when we left Yasnaya Polyana. A large and merry
party of Count Tolstoy's children and relatives escorted us: some in the
baggage cart, perched on our luggage; some in the jaunting-car-like
_lineika_ with us, on our moonlight drive to the little station where we
were to join the train and continue our journey southward.

We should have preferred to travel by daylight, as we were possessed of
the genuine tourist greed for seeing "everything;" but in this case, as
in many others in Russia, the trains were not arranged so that we could
manage it.

There is very little variety along the road through central Russia, but
the monotony is of a different character from that of the harsh soil and
the birch and pine forests of the north. The vast plains of this
_tchernozyom_--the celebrated "black earth zone"--swell in long, low
billows of herbage and grain, diversified only at distant intervals by
tracts of woodland. But the wood is too scarce to meet the demands for
fuel, and the manure of the cattle, well dried, serves to eke it out, a
traveling native in our compartment told us, instead of being used, as
it should be, to enrich the land, which is growing poor. Now and then,
substantial brick cottages shone out amidst the gray and yellow of the
thatched log huts in the hamlets. We heard of one landed proprietor who
encouraged his peasant neighbors to avoid the scourge of frequent
conflagrations by building with brick, and he offered a prize to every
individual who should comply with the conditions. The prize consisted of
a horse from the proprietor's stables, and of the proprietor's presence,
in full uniform and all his orders, at the house-warming. The advantages
of brick soon became so apparent to the peasants that they continued to
employ it, even after their patron had been forced to abolish the
reward, lest his horses and his time should be utterly exhausted.

Minor incidents were not lacking to enliven our long journey. In the
course of one of the usual long halts at a county town, a beggar came to
the window of our carriage. He was a tall, slender young fellow, about
seven-and-twenty years of age. Though he used the customary forms,--
"Give me something, _sudarynya_* if only a few kopeks, _Khristi
radi!_"** there was something about him, despite his rags, there was an
elegance of accent in his language, to which I was not accustomed in the
"poor brethren" generally.

* Madam. ** For Christ's sake.

I pretended ignorance of Russian and the sign language, but watched him
as I continued my conversation in English. Thereupon my man repeated his
demands in excellent French, with a good accent. I turned on him.

"This is unusual," I said in Russian, by way of hinting that I belonged
to the category of the willfully deaf. "Accept my compliments on your
knowledge of French and of Russian. But be so good as to explain to me
this mystery before I contribute."

"Madam," he retorted, "I'd have you know that I am a gentleman,--a
gentleman of education."

"Then pray solve the other mystery,--why you, strong, young, healthy,
handsome, are a professional beggar."

He stalked off in a huff. Evidently he was one of that class of "decayed
nobles" of whom I had heard many curious tales in Moscow; only he had
decayed at a rather earlier age than the average.

As we proceeded southward, pretty Little Russian girls took the place of
the plainer-featured Great Russian maidens. Familiar plants caught our
eyes. Mulleins--"imperial sceptre" is the pretty Russian name--began
to do sentinel duty along the roadside; sumach appeared in the thickets
of the forests, where the graceful cut-leaved birch of the north was
rare. The Lombardy poplar, the favorite of the Little Russian poets,
reared its dark columns in solitary state. At last, Kieff, the Holy
City, loomed before us in the distance.

I know no town in Russia which makes so picturesque and characteristic
an impression on the traveler as Kieff. From the boundless plain over
which we were speeding, we gazed up at wooded heights crowned and dotted
with churches. At the foot of the slope, where golden domes and crosses,
snowy white monasteries and battlemented walls, gleamed among masses of
foliage punctuated with poplars, swept the broad Dnyepr. It did not seem
difficult then to enter into the feelings of Prince Oleg when he reached
the infant town, on his expedition from unfertile Novgorod the Great, of
the north, against Byzantium, and, coveting its rich beauty, slew its
rulers and entered into possession, saying, "This shall be the Mother of
all Russian Cities." We could understand the sentiments of the pilgrims
who flock to the Holy City by the million.

The agreeable sensation of approach being over, our expectations, which
had been waxing as the train threaded its way through a ravine to the
station, received a shock. It was the shock to which we were continually
being subjected whenever we made pious pilgrimages to places of historic
renown. On each occasion of this sort we were moved to reflect deeply on
the proverbial blessings of ignorance. It makes a vast difference in
one's mental comfort, I find, whether he accepts the present
unquestioningly, with enthusiasm, and reconstructs the historic past as
an agreeable duty, or whether he already bears the past, in its various
aspects, in his mind, in involuntary but irrational expectation of
meeting it, and is forced to accept the present as a painful task! Which
of these courses to pursue in the future was the subject of my
disappointed meditations, as we drove through the too Europeanized
streets, and landed at a hotel of the same pattern. It is easy to
forgive St. Petersburg, in its giddy youth of one hundred and
seventy-five winters, for its Western features and comforts; but that
Kieff, in its venerable maturity of a thousand summers, should be so
spick and span with newness and reformation seemed at first utterly
unpardonable. The inhabitants think otherwise, no doubt, and deplore the
mediaeval hygienic conditions which render the town the most unhealthy
in Europe, in the matter of the death-rate from infectious diseases.

Our comfortable hotel possessed not a single characteristic feature,
except a line on the printed placard of regulations posted in each room.
The line said, "The price of this room is four rubles [or whatever it
was] a day, except in Contract Time." "Contract Time," I found, meant
the Annual Fair, in February, when the normal population of about one
hundred and sixty-six thousand is swelled by "arrivers"--as travelers
are commonly designated on the signboards of the lower-class hotels--
from all the country round about. When, prompted by this remarkable
warning, I inquired the prices during the fair, the clerk replied
sweetly,--no other word will do justice to his manner,--"All we can
get!" Such frankness is what the French call "brutal."

The principal street of the town, the Krestchatik, formerly the bed of a
stream, in front of our windows, was in the throes of sewer-building.
More civilization! Sewage from the higher land had lodged there in
temporary pools. The weather was very hot. The fine large yellow bricks,
furnished by the local clay-beds, of which the buildings and sidewalks
were made, were dazzling with heat. It is only when one leaves the
low-lying new town, and ascends the hills, on which the old dwellers
wisely built, or reaches the suburbs, that one begins thoroughly to
comprehend the enthusiastic praises of many Russians who regard Kieff as
the most beautiful town in the empire.

The glare of the yellow brick melts softly into the verdure of the
residence quarter, and is tempered into inoffensiveness in the Old Town
by the admixture of older and plainer structures, which refresh the eye.
But the chief charm, unfailing, inexhaustible as the sight of the ocean,
is the view from the cliffs. Beyond the silver sweep of the river at
their feet, animated with steamers and small boats, stretches the
illimitable steppe, where the purple and emerald shadows of the sea
depths and shallows are enriched with hues of golden or velvet brown and
misty blue. The steppe is no longer an unbroken expanse of waving
plume-grass and flowers, wherein riders and horses are lost to sight as,
in Gogol's celebrated tale, were Taras Bulba and his sons, fresh from
the famous Academy of Kieff, which lies at our feet, below the cliffs.
Increasing population has converted this virgin soil into vast
grainfields, less picturesque near at hand than the wild growth, but
still deserving, from afar, of Gogol's enraptured apostrophe: "Devil
take you, steppe, how beautiful you are!"

Naturally, our first pilgrimage was to the famous Kievo-Petcherskaya
Lavra, that is, the First-Class Monastery of the Kieff Catacombs, the
chief monastic institution and goal of pilgrims in all the country, of
which we had caught a glimpse from the opposite shore of the river, as
we approached the town. Buildings have not extended so densely in this
direction but that a semblance of ascetic retirement is still preserved.
Between the monastery and the city lies the city park, which is not much
patronized by the citizens, and for good reasons. To the rich wildness
of nature is added the wildness of man. Hordes of desperadoes, "the
barefoot brigade," the dregs of the local population, have taken up
their residence there every spring, of late years, in the ravines and
the caves which they have excavated, in humble imitation of the holy men
of the monastery of old. From time to time the police make a skirmish
there, but an unpleasant element of danger is still connected with a
visit to this section of the city's heart, which deters most people from
making the attempt.

Beyond this lie the heights, on which stand the fortress and the
Catacombs Monastery. Opposite the arsenal opens the "Holy Gate;" all
Russian monasteries seem to have a holy gate. "The wall, fourteen feet
in height, and more in some places, surrounding the principal court, was
built by Hetman Mazeppa," says the local guide-book. Thus promptly did
we come upon traces of that dashing Kazak chieftain, who would seem,
judging from the solid silver tombs for saints, the churches, academy,
and many other offerings of that nature in Kieff alone, to have spent
the intervals between his deeds of outrageous treachery and immorality
in acts of ostentatious piety. In fact, his piety had an object, as
piety of that rampant variety usually has. He meditated betraying Little
Russia into the power of Poland; and knowing well how heartily the
Little Russians detested the Poles because of the submission to the Pope
of Rome in those Greek churches designated as Uniates, he sought to
soothe their suspicions and allay their fears by this display of
attachment to the national church. His vaingloriousness was shown by his
habit of having his coat of arms placed on bells, _ikonostasi_,* and
windows of the churches he built. In one case, he caused his portrait to
be inserted in the holy door of the _ikonostas_,--a very improper
procedure,--where it remained until the middle of the last century.
Highly colored frescoes of the special monastery saints and of
historical incidents adorned the wall outside the holy gate. Inside, we
found a monk presiding over a table, on which stood the image of the
saint of the day, a platter covered with a cross-adorned cloth, for
offerings, and various objects of piety for sale.

* Image screens.

The first thing which struck us, as we entered the great court, was the
peculiar South Russian taste for filling in the line of roof between the
numerous domes with curving pediments and tapering turned-wood spirelets
surmounted by golden stars and winged seraphs' heads surrounded by rays.
The effect of so many points of gold against the white of the walls,
combined with the gold of the crosses, the high tints of the external
frescoes, and the gold of the cupolas, is very brilliant, no doubt; but
it is confusing, and constitutes what, for want of a better word, I must
call a Byzantine-rococo style of architecture. The domes, under Western
influence, during the many centuries when Kieff was divorced from
Russia, under Polish and Lithuanian rule, assumed forms which lack the
purity and grace of those in Russia proper. Octagonal cupolas supported
on thick, sloping bases involuntarily remind one of the cup-and-ball
game. Not content with this degenerate beginning, they pursue their
errors heavenward. Instead of terminating directly in a cross, they are
surmounted by a lantern frescoed with saints, a second octagonal dome, a
ball, and a cross. These octagons constitute a feature in all South
Russian churches.

Along the sides of the court leading to the great Assumption Cathedral
stood long, plain one and two story buildings, the cells of the monks.
Rugs of fine coloring and design were airing on the railings in front of
them. I examined their texture, found it thick and silky, but could not
class it with any manufacture of my acquaintance. I looked about for
some one to question. A monk was approaching. His long, abundant hair
flowed in waves from beneath the black veil which hung from his tall,
cylindrical _klobuk_, resembling a rimless silk hat. His artistically
cut black robe fell in graceful folds. I should describe him as
dandified, did I dare apply such an adjective to an ecclesiastical
recluse. I asked him where such rugs were to be found. He answered that
they were of peasant manufacture, and that I could probably find them in
Podol, the market below the cliffs. These specimens had been presented
to the monastery by "zealous benefactors."

Then he took his turn at questioning. I presume that my accent was not
perfect, or that I had omitted some point of etiquette in which an
Orthodox Russian would have been drilled, such as asking his blessing
and kissing his hand in gratitude, by way of saying "good-morning," or
something of that sort. His manner was that of a man of the world,
artistically tinged with monastic conventionality, and I wondered
whether he were not an ex-officer of the Guards who had wearied of Court
and gayeties. He offered to show us about, and took us to the
printing-house, founded in the sixteenth century. It is still one of the
best and most extensive in the country, with a department of
chromo-lithography attached for the preparation of cheap pictures of
saints. One of the finest views in town is from the balcony at the rear
of this building, and the monk explained all the points to us.

There was an air of authority about our impromptu guide, and the
profound reverences bestowed upon him and upon us by the workmen in the
printing-house, as well as by all the monks whom we met, prompted me to
inquire, as we parted from him, to whom we were indebted for such
interesting guidance and explanations.

"I am _otetz kaznatchei_," he replied, with a smile, as he not only
offered his hand, but grasped mine and shook it, with an expression of
his cordial good wishes, instead of bestowing upon me a mechanical cross
in the air, and permitting me to kiss his plump little fingers in
return, as he would undoubtedly have done had I been a Russian. I
understood the respect paid, and our reflected importance, when I
discovered that the "Father Treasurer" occupies the highest rank next to
the permanent head of the monastery officially, and the most important
post of all practically.

Shortly after, the question fever having attacked me again, I accosted
another monk, equal in stateliness of aspect to the Father Treasurer. He
informed me that from seven hundred to one thousand persons lived in the
monastery. Not all of them were monks, some being only lay brethren.
Each monk, however, had his own apartments, with a little garden
attached, and the beautiful rugs which I had seen formed part of the
furnishings of their cells. A man cannot enter the monastery without
money, but fifty rubles (about twenty-five dollars) are sufficient to
gain him admittance. Some men leave the monastery after a brief trial,
without receiving the habit. "In such a throng one comes to know many
faces," he said, "but not all persons."

I inquired whether it were not a monotonous, tiresome life.

"It seems so to you!" he replied, when he had recovered from his
amazement; and when I mentioned the liturgy which is peculiar to the
monastery cathedral, and famed throughout Russia as "the Kieff-Catacombs
singing," all he found to say was, "It is very long."

He took advantage of the chance presented by a trip to his cell to get
us some water, to remove his tall _klobuk_. He must have read in our
glances admiration of his beauty mingled with a doubt as to whether it
were not partly due to this becoming cowl and veil, and determined to
convince us that it was nature, not adventitious circumstances, in his
case. I think he must have been content with the expression of our
faces, as he showed us the way to the most ancient of all the churches
in Kieff,--in Russia, in fact,--built by Prince-Saint Vladimir
immediately after his return from the crusade in search of baptism.

The church door was locked. The wife of the deacon in charge was
paddling about barefooted, in pursuit of her fowls, in the long grass of
the dooryard. She abandoned the chickens and hunted up her husband, who
took a peep at us, and then kept us waiting while he donned his best
cassock before escorting us.

It is a very small, very plain church which adjoined Prince Vladimir's
summer palace, long since destroyed, and still preserves its gallery for
women and servants, and a box for the ladies of the household.
Everything about it is nine hundred years old, except the roof and the
upper portion of the walls. The archaic frescoes of angels in the
chancel, which date from the same period, and are the best in Kieff,
were the only objects which the deacon could find to expound, to enhance
the "tea-money" value of his services in putting on his best gown and
unlocking the door, and he performed his duty meekly, but firmly. We did
ours by him, and betook ourselves to the principal church, the Cathedral
of the Assumption, where less is left to the imagination.

There, very few of the frescoes are more than a hundred and sixty years
old, the majority dating back less than sixty years, and being in a
style to suit the rococo gilt carving, and the silver-gilt Imperial Gate
to the altar. In the _papert_, or corridor-vestibule, a monk who was
presiding over a Book of Eternal Remembrance invited us to enter our
subscriptions for general prayers to be said on our behalf, or for
special prayers to be said before the "wonder-working image" of the
Assumption so long as the monastery shall exist.

"We are not _pravoslavny_" (Orthodox Christians), I said. But, instead
of being depressed by this tacit refusal, he brightened up and plied us
with a series of questions, until he really seemed to take a temporary
interest in life, in place of his permanent official interest in death
alone, or chiefly.

Service was in progress, in accordance with the canons of the Studieff
monastery, adopted by St. Fedosy in the eleventh century. The singers,
placed in an unusual position, in the centre of the church, were as
remarkable for their hair as for their voices and execution. The
russet-brown and golden locks of some of them fell in heavy waves to
their waists. In fact, long, waving hair seemed to be a specialty with
the monks of this monastery, and they wore it in braids when off duty. I
had seen priests in St. Petersburg who so utterly beyond a doubt frizzed
their scanty hair on days of grand festivals, that the three tufts
pertaining to the three too slender hair pins on which they had been
done up stood out in painfully isolated disagreement. What would they
not have given for such splendid manes as these Kieff singers possessed!

We ascended to the gallery, to obtain a better view of the scene.
Peasant men in sheepskins (_tulupi_),--the temperature verged on 100
degrees Fahrenheit,--in coats of dark brown homespun wool girt with
sashes which had once been bright; female pilgrims in wadded coats girt
into shapelessness over cotton gowns of brilliant hues, knelt in prayer
all about the not very spacious floor. Their traveling-sacks on their
backs, the tin tea-kettles and cooking paraphernalia at their belts,
swayed into perilous positions as they rocked back and forth, striking
the floor devoutly with their brows, rising only to throw back their
long hair, cross themselves rapidly, and resume the "ground
salutations," until we were fairly dizzy at the sight. Some of them
placed red, yellow, or green tapers--the first instance of such a taste
in colors which we had observed--on the sharp points of the silver
candelabra standing before the holy pictures in the _ikonostas_, already
overcrowded. A monk was incessantly engaged in removing the tapers when
only half consumed, to make way for the ever-swelling flood of fresh
tapers. Another monk was as incessantly engaged in receiving the
_prosfori_. A _prosfora_ is leavened bread in the shape of a tiny double
loaf, which is sold at the doors of churches, and bears on its upper
surface certain symbolic signs, as a rule. The Communion is prepared
from similar loaves by the priest, who removes certain portions with a
spear-shaped knife, and places them in the wine of the chalice. The wine
and bread are administered with a spoon to communicants. From the loaves
bought at the door pieces are cut in memory of dead friends, whose souls
are to be prayed for, or of living friends, whose health is prayed for
by the priest at a certain point of the service, in accordance with the
indications sent up to the altar with the loaves on slips of paper, such
as "For the soul of Ivan Vasilievitch," "For the health of Tatiana
Pavlovna." Thus is preserved the memory of early Christian times, when
the Christians brought wine and oil and bread for their worship; and the
best having been selected for sacred use, portions were taken from the
remainder in memory of those who sent or brought them, after the rest
was used to refresh the congregation during a pause in the all-night
service between vespers and matins. After the service, in our modern
times, the _prosfori_ are given back to the owners, who cross themselves
and eat the bread reverently on the spot or elsewhere, as blessed but
not sacramental. At this monastery, the _prosfori_ prepared for memorial
use had a group of the local saints stamped on top, instead of the usual
cross and characters. It is considered a delicate attention on the part
of a person who has been on a pilgrimage to any of the holy places to
bring back a _prosfora_ for a friend. It is very good when sliced and
eaten with tea, omitting the bottom crust, which may have been dated in
ink by the pilgrim. Some of the peasants at this monastery church sent
in to be blessed huge packages of _prosfori_ tied up in gay cotton
kerchiefs.

The service ended, and the chief treasure of the monastery, the
miraculous image of the Assumption of the Virgin,--the Falling Asleep
of the Virgin is the Russian name,--was let slowly down on its silken
cords from above the Imperial Gate, where a twelve-fold silver lamp,
with glass cups of different colors, has burned unquenched since 1812,
in commemoration of Russia's deliverance from "the twelve tribes," as
the French invasion is termed. The congregation pressed forward eagerly
to salute the venerated image. Tradition asserts that it was brought
from Constantinople to Kieff in the year 1073, with the Virgin's special
blessing for the monastery. By reason of age and the smoke from
conflagrations in which the monastery has suffered, the image is so
darkened that one is cast back upon one's imagination and the copies for
comprehension of this treasure's outlines. What is perfectly
comprehensible, however, is the galaxy of diamonds, brilliants, and gems
thickly set in the golden garments which cover all but the hands and
feet of the personages in the picture, and illuminate it with flashes of
many-hued light. After a few minutes, the image was drawn up again to
its place,--a most unusual position for a valued holy image, though
certainly safe, and one not occupied, so far as I am aware, by any other
in the country.

It occurred to us that it might prove an interesting experiment to try
the monastery inn for breakfast, and even to sojourn there for a day or
two, and abandon the open sewers and other traces of advanced
civilization in the town. Our way thither led past the free lodgings for
poor pilgrims, which were swarming with the devout of both sexes,
although it was not the busiest season for shrine-visiting. That comes
in the spring, before the harvest, at all monasteries, and, in this
particular monastery, on the feast of the Assumption, August 15 (Russian
style), 27 (European style). But there was a sufficient contingent of
the annual one million pilgrims present to give us a very fair idea of
the reverence in which this, the chief of all Russian monasteries, is
held, and of the throngs which it attracts. But, as usual in Russia,
sight alone convinced us of their existence; they were chatting quietly,
sitting and lying about with enviable calmness, or eating the sour black
bread and boiled buckwheat groats provided by the monastery. I talked
with several of them, and found them quite unconscious that they were
not comfortably, even luxuriously, housed and fed.

The inn for travelers of means was a large, plain, airy building, with
no lodgers, apparently. The monks seemed frightened at the sight of us.
That was a novelty. But they escorted us over the house in procession.
We looked at a very clean, very plain room, containing four beds. It
appeared, from their explanations, that pilgrims have gregarious tastes,
and that this was their nearest approach to a single room. I inquired
the price. "According to your zeal," was the reply. How much more
effective than "What you please" in luring the silver from lukewarm
pockets! The good monks never found out how warm our zeal was, after
all, for the reason that their table was never furnished with anything
but fish and "fasting food," they said, though there was no fast in
progress. The reason why, I could not discover; but we knew our own
minds thoroughly on the subject of "fasting food," from mushroom soup,
fish fried in sunflower oil, and coffee without milk to that most
insipid of dessert dishes, _kisel_, made of potato flour, sweetened, and
slightly soured with fruit juice. They told us that we might have meat
sent out from town, if we wished; but as the town lay several versts
distant, that did not seem a very practical way of coquetting with the
Evil One under their roof. Accordingly, we withdrew; to their relief, I
am sure. As we had already lived in a monastery inn, it had not occurred
to us that there could be any impropriety in doing so, but that must
have been the cause of their looks of alarm. I believe that one can
remain for a fortnight at this inn without payment, unless conscience
interferes; and people who had stayed there told me that meat had been
served to them from the monastery kitchen; so that puzzle still remains
a puzzle to me.

We went to see the brethren dine in the refectory, an ancient, vaulted
building of stone, near the cathedral. Under a white stone slab near the
entrance lie the bodies of Kotchubey and Iskra, who were unjustly
executed by Peter the Great for their loyal denunciation of Mazeppa's
meditated treachery. Within, the walls of the antechamber were decorated
with dizzy perspective views of Jerusalem, the saints, and pious elders
of the monastery. At the end of the long dining-hall, beyond an
_ikonostas_, was a church, as is customary in these refectories. Judging
from the number of servitors whom we had met hurrying towards the cells
with sets of porcelain dinner-trays, not many monks intended to join the
common table, and it did not chance to be one of the four days in the
year when the Metropolitan of Kieff and other dignitaries dine there in
full vestments.

At last, a score of monks entered, chanted a prayer at a signal from a
small bell, and seated themselves on benches affixed to the wall which
ran round three sides of the room. The napkins on the tables which stood
before the benches consisted of long towels, each of which lay across
four or five of the pewter platters from which they ate, as the table
was set in preparation. If it had been a festal day, there would have
been several courses, with beer, mead, and even wine to wash them down.
As it was, the monks ate their black bread and boiled buckwheat groats,
served in huge dishes, with their wooden spoons, and drank _kvas_,
brewed from sour black bread, at a signal from the bell, after the first
dish only, as the rule requires. While they ate, a monk, stationed at a
desk near by, read aloud the extracts from the Lives of the Saints
appointed for the day. This was one of the "sights," but we found it
curious and melancholy to see strong, healthy men turned into monks and
content with that meagre fare. Frugality and dominion over the flesh are
good, of course, but minds from west of the Atlantic Ocean never seem
quite to get into sympathy with the monastic idea; and we always felt,
when we met monks, as though they ought all to be off at work somewhere,
--I will not say "earning money," for they do that as it is in such
great monasteries as that of Kieff, but lightening the burden of the
peasants, impossible as that is under present conditions, or making
themselves of some commonplace, practical use in the world.

The strongest point of the Lavra, even equal to the ancient and
venerated _ikona_ of the Assumption in the great cathedral, is the
catacombs, from which the convent takes its name.

In the days of the early princes of Kieff, the heights now occupied by
the Lavra were covered with a dense growth of birch forest, and entirely
uninhabited. Later on, one of the hills was occupied by the village of
Berostovo, and a palace was built adjoining the tiny ancient "Church of
the Saviour in the Birch Forest," which I have already mentioned. It was
the favorite residence of Prince-Saint Vladimir, and of his son, Prince
Yaroslaff, after him. During the reign of the latter, early in the
eleventh century, the priest of this little church, named Ilarion,
excavated for himself a tiny cave, and there passed his time in devout
meditation and solitary prayer. He abandoned his cave to become
Metropolitan of Kieff. In the year 1051, the monk Antony, a native of
the neighboring government of Tchernigoff, came to Kieff from Mount
Athos, being dissatisfied with the life led in the then existing
monasteries. After long wanderings over the hills of Kieff, he took
possession of Ilarion's cave, and spent his days and nights in pious
exercises. The fame of his devout life soon spread abroad, and attracted
to him, for his blessing, not only the common people, but persons of
distinction. Monks and worldlings flocked thither to join him in his
life of prayer. Among the first of these to arrive was a youth of the
neighborhood, named Fedosy. Antony hesitated, but at last accepted the
enthusiastic recruit.

The dimensions of holy Antony's cave were gradually enlarged; new cells,
and even a tiny church, were constructed near it. Then Antony, who
disliked communal life, retreated to the height opposite, separated from
his first residence by a deep ravine, and dug himself another cave,
where no one interfered with him. This was the origin of the caves of
Fedosy, known at the present day as the "far catacombs," and of the
caves of Antony, called the "near catacombs." The number of the monks
continued to increase, and they soon erected a small wooden church
aboveground, in the name of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, as
well as cells for those who could not be contained in the caverns. At
the request of holy Antony, the prince gave the whole of the heights
where the catacombs are situated to the brethren, and in 1062 a large
new monastery, surrounded by a stockade, was erected on the spot where
the Cathedral of the Assumption now stands. Thus was monastic life
introduced into Russia.

The venerated monastery shared all the vicissitudes of the "Mother of
all Russian Cities" in the wars of the Grand Princes and the incursions
of external enemies, such as Poles and Tatars. But after each disaster
it waxed greater and more flourishing. Restored, after a disastrous fire
in 1718, by the zeal of Peter the Great and his successors, enriched by
the gifts of all classes, the Lavra now consists of six monasteries,--
like a university of colleges,--four situated within the inclosure,
while two are at a distance of several versts, and serve as retreats and
as places of burial for the brethren. The catacombs, abandoned as
residences on the construction of the cells above ground, have not
escaped disasters by caving in. Drains to carry off the percolating
water, and stone arches to support the soil, have been constructed, and
a flourishing orchard has been planted above them to aid in holding the
soil together. Earthquakes in the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries
permanently closed many of them, and when the Tatars attacked the town,
in the thirteenth century, the monks boarded up all the niches and
filled in the entrances with earth. Some of these boards were removed
about a hundred years ago; some are still in place. The original extent
of the caves cannot now be determined.

The entrance to the near catacombs of St. Antony is through a long
wooden gallery supported on stone posts, at a sharp slope, as they are
situated twenty-four fathoms below the level of the cathedral, and
twenty-two fathoms above the level of the Dnyepr.

A fat merchant, with glowing black eyes and flowing, crisp, black beard,
his tall, wrinkled boots barely visible beneath his long, full-skirted
coat of dark blue cloth, hooked closely across his breast, descended the
gallery with us. Roused to curiosity, probably, by our foreign tongue,
he inquired, on the chance of our understanding Russian, whence we came.

I had already arrived at the conclusion that the people at Kieff,
especially the monks and any one who breathed the atmosphere within
their walls, were of an enterprising, inquisitive disposition. My last
encounter had been with the brother detailed, for his good looks and
fascinating manners, to preside over the chief image shop of the
monastery.

"Where do you come from?" he had opened fire, with his most bewitching
glance.

"From the best country on earth."

"Is it Germany?"

The general idea among the untraveled classes in Russia is, that all of
the earth which does not belong to their own Emperor belongs to Germany,
just as _nyemetzky_ means "German" or "foreign," indifferently.

"No; guess again," I said.

"France?"

"No; further away."

"England, then?"

"No."

"Hungary?"

Evidently that man's geography was somewhat mixed, so I told him.

"America!" he exclaimed, with great vivacity. "Yes, indeed, it is the
best land of all. It is the richest!"

So that is the monastic as well as the secular standard of worth! This
experience, repeated frequently and nearly word for word, had begun to
weary me. Consequently I led the fat merchant a verbal chase, and
baffled him until he capitulated with, "Excuse me. Take no offense, I
beg, _sudarynya_. I only asked so by chance." Then I told him with the
same result.

This was not the last time, by many, that I was put through my national
catechism in Kieff. Every Kievlyanin to whom I spoke quizzed me. Of
course I was on a grand quizzing tour myself, but that was different, in
some way.

Over the entrance to these catacombs stands a church. The walls of the
vestibule where my mother, the merchant, and I waited for a sufficient
party to assemble, were covered with frescoes representing the passage
of the soul through the various stages of purgatory. Beginning with the
death scene (which greatly resembled the _ikona_ of the Assumption in
the cathedral) in the lower left-hand corner, the white-robed soul,
escorted by two angels, passed through all the halting-places for the
various sins, each represented by the appointed devil, duly labeled. But
the artist's fancy had not been very fruitful on this fascinating theme.
The devils were so exactly alike that the only moral one could draw was,
that he might as well commit the biggest and most profitable sin on the
list, and make something out of it in this life, as to confine himself
to the petty peccadilloes which profit not here, and get well punished
hereafter. The series ended with the presentation of the soul before the
judgment seat, on the fortieth day after death. Round the corner,
Lazarus reclining in Abraham's bosom and the rich man in the flames were
conversing, their remarks crossing each other in mid-air, in a novel
fashion.

When the guide was ready, each of us bought a taper, and the procession
set out through the iron grating, down a narrow, winding stair, from
which low, dark passages opened out at various angles. On each side of
these narrow passages, along which we were led, reposed the
"incorruptible" bodies of St. Antony and his comrades, in open coffins
lacquered or covered with sheets of silver. The bodies seemed very
small, and all of one size, and they were wrapped in hideous prints or
plaid silks. At the head of each saint flickered a tiny shrine-lamp,
before a holy picture (_ikona_) of the occupant of the coffin. It was a
surprise to find the giant Ilya of Murom, who figures as the chief of
the _bogatyri_ (heroes) in the Russian epic songs, ensconced here among
the saints, and no larger than they. Next to the silk-enveloped head of
St. John the Great Sufferer, which still projects as in life, when he
buried himself to the neck in the earth,--as though he were not
sufficiently underground already,--in order to preserve his purity,
the most gruesome sight which we beheld in those dim catacombs was a
group of chrism-exuding skulls of unknown saints, under glass bells.

On emerging from this gloomy retreat, we postponed meditating upon the
special pleasure which the Lord was supposed to have taken in seeing
beings made to live aboveground turning into troglodytes, and set out
for the Fedosy, or far catacombs, in the hope that they might assist us
in solving that problem.

We chose the most difficult way, descending into the intervening ravine
by innumerable steps to view the two sacred wells, only to have our
raging thirst and our curiosity effectually quenched by the sight of a
pilgrim thrusting his head, covered with long, matted hair, into one of
them. The ascent of more innumerable steps brought us to the cradle of
the monastery, Ilarion's caverns.

In the antechamber we found a phenomenally stupid monk presiding over
the sale of the indispensable tapers, and the offerings which the devout
are expected to deposit, on emerging, as a memento of their visit. These
offerings lay like mountains of copper before him. The guide had taken
himself off somewhere, and the monk ordered us, and the five Russians
who were also waiting, to go in alone and "call to the monk in the
cave." We flatly declined to take his word that there was any monk, or
to venture into the dangerous labyrinth alone, and we demanded that he
should accompany us.

"No guide--no candles, no coppers," we said.

That seemed to him a valid argument. Loath to leave his money at the
mercy of chance comers, he climbed up and closed the iron shutters of
the grated window,--the cliff descended, sheer, one hundred and two feet
to the Dnyepr at that point,--double-locked the great iron doors, and
there we were in a bank vault, with all possible customers excluded.
Luckily, the saints in these caverns, which differed very little from
those in the former, were labeled in plain letters, since the monk was
too dull-witted to understand the simplest questions from any of us. At
intervals we were permitted a hasty glimpse of a cell, about seven feet
square, furnished only with a stone bench, and a holy picture, with a
shrine-lamp suspended before it. Ugh! There were several sets of
chrism-dripping saintly skulls in these catacombs, also,--fifteen of
the ghastly things in one group. I braced my stomach to the task, and
scrutinized them all attentively; but not a single one of them winked or
nodded at me in approval, as a nun from Kolomna, whom I had met in
Moscow, asserted that they had at her. I really wished to see how an
eyeless skull could manage a wink, and hoped I might be favored.

After traversing long distances of this subterranean maze, and peering
into the "cradle of the monastery," St. Antony's cell, the procession
came to a halt in a tiny church. There stood a monk, actually, though we
might have wandered all day and come out on the banks of the Dnyepr
without finding him, had we gone in without a guide. Beside him, denuded
of its glass bell, stood one of the miraculous skulls. The first Russian
approached, knelt, crossed himself devoutly, and received from the
priest the sign of the cross on his brow, administered with a soft,
small brush dipped in the oil from the skull. Then he kissed the
priest's hand, crossed himself again, and kissed the skull. When we
beheld this, we modestly stood aside, and allowed our companions, the
other four Russian men, to receive anointment in like manner, and pass
on after the monk, who was in haste to return to his bank vault. As I
approached the priest, he raised his brush.

"We are not Orthodox Christians, _batiushka_,"* I said. "But pray give
us your blessing."

* Little father.

He smiled, and, dropping his brush, made the sign of the cross over us.
I was perfectly willing to kiss his pretty, plump hand,--I had become
very skillful at that sort of thing,--but I confess that I shrank from
the obligatory salute to the skull, and from that special chrism.
Nevertheless, I wished the Russians to think that I had gone through
with the whole ceremony, if they should chance to look back. I felt sure
that I could trust the priest to be liberal, but I was not so certain
that our lay companions, who were petty traders and peasants, might not
be sufficiently fanatical to construe our refusal into disrespect for
their church, and resent it in some way.

Though we returned to the monastery more than once after that, we were
never attracted to the catacombs again, not even to witness the mass at
seven o'clock in the morning in that subterranean church. The beautiful
services in the cathedral, the stately monks, the picturesque pilgrims,
with their gentle manners, ingenuous questions, and simple tales of
their journeys and beliefs, furnished us with abundant interest in the
cheerful sunlight aboveground.

Next to the Catacombs Monastery, the other most famous and interesting
sight of Kieff is the Cathedral of St. Sophia. Built on the highest
point of the ancient city, with nine apses turned to the east, crowned
by one large dome and fourteen smaller domes,--all gilded, some
terminating in crosses, some in sunbursts,--surrounded by turf and
trees within a white wall, with entrance under a lofty belfry, it
produces an imposing but reposeful effect. The ancient walls, dating
from the year 1020, are of red brick intermixed with stone, stuccoed and
washed with white. It has undergone changes, external and internal,
since that day, and its domes and spires are of the usual degenerate
South Russian type, without a doubt of comparatively recent
construction. So many of its windows have been blocked up by additions,
and so cut up is its space by large frescoed pillars, into sixteen
sections, that one steps from brilliant sunshine into deep twilight when
he enters the cathedral. It is a sort of church which possesses in a
high degree that indefinable charm of sacred atmosphere that tempts one
to linger on and on indefinitely within its precincts. Not that it is so
magnificent; many churches in the two capitals and elsewhere in Russia
are far richer. It is simply one of those indescribable buildings which
console one for disappointments in historical places, as a rule, by
making one believe, through sensations unconsciously influenced, not
through any effort of the reason, that ancient deeds and memories do, in
truth, linger about their birthplace.

Ancient frescoes, discovered about forty years ago, some remaining in
their original state, others touched up with more or less skill and
knowledge, mingle harmoniously with those of more recent date. Very
singular are the best preserved, representing hunting parties and
banquets of the Grand Princes, and scenes from the earthly life of
Christ. But they are on the staircase leading to the old-fashioned
gallery, and do not disturb the devotional character of the decoration
in the church itself.

From the wall of the apse behind the chief of the ten altars gazes down
the striking image of the Virgin, executed in ancient mosaic, with her
hands raised in prayer, whom the people reverently call "The
Indestructible Wall." This, with other mosaics and the frescoes on the
staircase, dates from the eleventh century.

I stood among the pillars, a little removed from the principal aisle,
one afternoon near sunset, listening to the melodious intoning of the
priest, and the soft chanting of the small week-day choir at vespers,
and wondering, for the thousandth time, why Protestants who wish to
intone do not take lessons from those incomparable masters in the art,
the Russian deacons, and wherein lies the secret of the Russian
ecclesiastical music. That simple music, so perfectly fitted for church
use, will bring the most callous into a devotional mood long before the
end of the service. Rendered as it invariably is by male voices, with
superb basses in place of the non-existent organ, it spoils one's taste
forever for the elaborate, operatic church music of the West performed
by choirs which are usually engaged in vocal steeplechases with the
organ for the enhancement of the evil effects. My meditations were
interrupted by the approach of a young man, who asked me to be his
godmother! He explained that he was a Jew from Minsk, who had never
studied "his own religion," and was now come to Kieff for the express
purpose of getting himself baptized by the name of Vladimir, the tenth
century prince and patron saint of the town. As he had no acquaintances
in the place, he was in a strait for god-parents, who were
indispensable.

"I cannot be your godmother," I answered. "I am neither _pravoslavnaya_
nor Russian. Cannot the priest find sponsors for you?"

"That is not the priest's place. His business is merely to baptize. But
perhaps he might be persuaded to manage that also, if I had better
clothes."

He wore a light print shirt, tolerably clean, belted outside his dark
trousers, and his shoes and cap were respectable enough.

I recalled instances which I had heard from the best authority--a
priest--of priests finding sponsors for Jews, and receiving medals or
orders in reward for their conversion. I recalled an instance related to
me by a Russian friend who had acted, at the priest's request, as
godmother to a Jewess so fat that she stuck fast in the receptacle used
for the baptism by immersion; and I questioned the man a little. He said
that he had a sister living in New York, and gave me her name and
address in a manner which convinced me that he knew what he was saying.
He had no complaint to make of his treatment by either Russians or Jews;
and when I asked him why he did not join his sister in America, he
replied,

"Why should I? I am well enough off here."

Perhaps I ought to state that he was a plumber by trade. On the other
hand, justice demands the explanation that Russian plumbing in general
is not of a very complicated character, and in Minsk it must be of a
very simple kind, I think.

He intended to return to Minsk as soon as he was baptized. How he
expected to attend the Russian Church in Minsk when he had found it
inexpedient to be baptized there was one of the points which he omitted
to explain.

I was at last obliged to bid him a decisive "good-day," and leave the
church. He followed, and passed me in the garden, his cap cocked
jauntily over his tight bronze curls, and his hips swaying from side to
side in harmony. Under the long arch of the belfry-tower gate hung a
picture, adapted to use as an _ikona_, which set forth how a mother had
accidentally dropped her baby overboard from a boat on the Dnyepr, and
coming, disconsolate, to pray before the image of St. Nicholas, the
patron of travelers, she had found her child lying there safe and sound;
whence this holy picture is known by the name of St. Nicholas the Wet.

Before this _ikona_ my Jew pulled off his cap, and crossed himself
rapidly and repeatedly, watching me out of the corner of his eye,
meanwhile, to see how his piety impressed me. It produced no particular
effect upon me, except to make me engage a smart-looking cabby to take
me to my hotel, close by, by a roundabout route. Whether this Jew
returned to Minsk as Vladimir or as Isaac I do not know; but I made a
point of mentioning the incident to several Russian friends, including a
priest, and learned, to my surprise, that, though I was not a member of
a Russian Church, I could legally have stood godmother to a man, though
I could not have done so to a woman; and that a godmother could have
been dispensed with. Men who are not members of the Russian Church can,
in like manner, stand as godfathers to women, but not to men. Moreover,
every one seemed to doubt the probability of a Jew quitting his own
religion in earnest, and they thought that his object had been to obtain
from me a suit of clothes, practical gifts to the godchild being the
custom in such cases. I had been too dull to take the hint!

A few months later, a St. Petersburg newspaper related a notorious
instance of a Jew who had been sufficiently clever to get himself
baptized a number of times, securing on each occasion wealthy and
generous sponsors. Why the man from Minsk should have selected me, in my
plain serge traveling gown, I cannot tell, unless it was because he saw
that I did not wear the garb of the Russian merchant class, or look like
them, and observation or report had taught him that the aristocratic
classes above the merchants are most susceptible to the pleasure of
patronizing converts; though to do them justice, Russians make no
attempt at converting people to their church. I have been assured by a
Russian Jew that his co-religionists never do, really, change their
faith. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how they can even be
supposed to do so, in the face of their strong traditions, in which they
are so thoroughly drilled. Therefore, if Russians stand sponsors to
Jews, while expressing skepticism as to conversion in general, they
cannot complain if unscrupulous persons take advantage of their
inconsistency. I should probably have refused to act as godmother, even
had I known that I was legally entitled to do so.

Our searches in the lower town, Podol, for rugs like those in the
monastery resulted in nothing but amusement. Those rugs had been made in
the old days of serfdom, on private estates, and are not to be bought.

By dint of loitering about in the churches, monasteries, catacombs,
markets, listening to that Little Russian dialect which is so sweet on
the lips of the natives, though it looks so uncouth when one sees their
ballads in print, and by gazing out over the ever beautiful river and
steppe, I came at last to pardon Kieff for its progress. I got my
historical and mythological bearings. I felt the spirit of the Epic
Songs stealing over me. I settled in my own mind the site of Fair-Sun
Prince Vladimir's palace of white stone, the scene of great feasts,
where he and his mighty heroes quaffed the green wine by the bucketful,
and made their great brags, which resulted so tragically or so
ludicrously. I was sure I recognized the church where Diuk Stepanovitch
"did not so much pray as gaze about," and indulged in mental comments
upon clothes and manners at the Easter mass, after a fashion which is
not yet obsolete. I imagined that I descried in the blue dusk of the
distant steppe Ilya of Murom approaching on his good steed Cloudfall,
armed with a damp oak uprooted from Damp Mother Earth, and dragging at
his saddle-bow fierce, hissing Nightingale the Robber, with one eye
still fixed on Kieff, one on Tchernigoff, after his special and puzzling
habit, and whom Little Russian tradition declares was chopped up into
poppy seeds, whence spring the sweet-voiced nightingales of the present
day.

The "atmosphere" of the cradle of the Epic Songs and of the cradle of
Pravoslavnaya Russia laid its spell upon me on those heights, and even
the sight of the cobweb suspension bridge in all its modernness did not
disturb me, since with it is connected one of the most charming modern
traditions, a classic in the language, which only a perfect artist could
have planned and executed.

The thermometer stood at 120 degrees Fahrenheit when we took our last
look at Kieff, the Holy City.




X.

A JOURNEY ON THE VOLGA.


I.

We had seen the Russian haying on the estate of Count Tolstoy. We were
to be initiated into the remaining processes of the agricultural season
in that famous "black earth zone" which has been the granary of Europe
from time immemorial, but which is also, alas! periodically the seat of
dire famine.

It was July when we reached Nizhni Novgorod, on our way to an estate on
the Volga, in this "black earth" grainfield, vast as the whole of
France; but the flag of opening would not be run up for some time to
come. The Fair quarter of the town was still in its state of ten months'
hibernation, under padlock and key, and the normal town, effective as it
was, with its white Kremlin crowning the turfed and terraced heights,
possessed few charms to detain us. We embarked for Kazan.

If Kazan is an article in the creed of all Russians, whether they have
ever seen it or not, Matushka Volga (dear Mother Volga) is a complete
system of faith. Certainly her services in building up and binding
together the empire merit it, though the section thus usually referred
to comprises only the stretch between Nizhni Novgorod and Astrakhan,
despite its historical and commercial importance above the former town.

But Kazan! A stay there of a day and a half served to dispel our
illusions. We were deceived in our expectations as to the once mighty
capital of the imperial Tatar khans. The recommendations of our Russian
friends, the glamour of history which had bewitched us, the hope of the
Western for something Oriental,--all these elements had combined to
raise our expectations in a way against which our sober senses and
previous experience should have warned us. It seemed to us merely a
flourishing and animated Russian provincial town, whose Kremlin was
eclipsed by that of Moscow, and whose university had instructed, but not
graduated, Count Tolstoy, the novelist. The bazaar under arcades, the
popular market in the open square, the public garden, the shops,--all
were but a repetition of similar features in other towns, somewhat
magnified to the proportions befitting the dignity of the home port of
the Ural Mountains and Siberia.

The Tatar quarter alone seemed to possess the requisite mystery and
"local color." Here whole streets of tiny shops, ablaze with
rainbow-hued leather goods, were presided over by taciturn,
olive-skinned brothers of the Turks, who appeared almost handsome when
seen thus in masses, with opportunities for comparison. Hitherto we had
thought of the Tatars only as the old-clothes dealers, peddlers,
horse-butchers, and waiters of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Here the
dignity of the prosperous merchants, gravely recommending their really
well-dressed, well-sewed leather wares, bespoke our admiration.

The Tatar women, less easily seen, glided along the uneven pavements now
and then, smoothly, but still in a manner to permit a glimpse of short,
square feet incased in boots flowered with gay hues upon a green or
rose-colored ground, and reaching to the knee. They might have been
houris of beauty, but it was difficult to classify them, veiled as they
were, and screened as to head and shoulders by striped green _kaftans_
of silk, whose long sleeves depended from the region of their ears, and
whose collar rested on the brow. What we could discern was that their
black eyes wandered like the eyes of unveiled women, and that they were
coquettishly conscious of our glances, though we were of their own sex.

We found nothing especially striking among the churches, unless one
might reckon the Tatar mosques in the list; and, casting a last glance
at Sumbeka's curious and graceful tower, we hired a cabman to take us to
the river, seven versts away.

We turned our backs upon Kazan without regret, in the fervid heat of
that midsummer morning. We did not shake its dust from our feet. When
dust is ankle-deep that is not very feasible. It rose in clouds, as we
met the long lines of Tatar carters, transporting flour and other
merchandise to and from the wharves across the "dam" which connects the
town, in summer low water, with Mother Volga. In spring floods Matushka
Volga threatens to wash away the very walls of the Kremlin, and our
present path is under water.

Fate had favored us with a clever cabman. His shaggy little horse was as
dusty in hue as his own coat,--a most unusual color for coat of either
Russian horse or _izvostchik_. The man's _armyak_ was bursting at every
seam, not with plenty, but, since extremes meet, with hard times, which
are the chronic complaint of Kazan, so he affirmed. He was gentle and
sympathetic, like most Russian cabmen, and he beguiled our long drive
with shrewd comments on the Russian and Tatar inhabitants and their
respective qualities.

"The Tatars are good people," he said; "very clean,--cleaner than
Russians; very quiet and peaceable citizens. There was a time when they
were not quiet. That was ten years ago, during the war with Turkey. They
were disturbed. The Russians said that it was a holy war; the Tatars
said so, too, and wished to fight for their brethren of the Moslem
faith. But the governor was not a man to take fright at that. He
summoned the chief men among them before him. 'See here,' says he. 'With
me you can be peaceable with better conscience. If you permit your
people to be turbulent, I will pave the dam with the heads of Tatars.
The dam is long. Allah is my witness. Enough. Go!' And it came to
nothing, of course. No; it was only a threat, though they knew that he
was a strong man in rule. Why should he wish to do that, really, even if
they were not Orthodox? A man is born with his religion as with his
skin. The Orthodox live at peace with the Tatars. And the Tatars are
superior to the Russians in this, also, that they all stick by each
other; whereas a Russian, _Hospodi pomilui!_ [Lord have mercy] thinks of
himself alone, which is a disadvantage," said my humble philosopher.

We found that we had underrated the power of our man's little horse, and
had arrived at the river an hour and a half before the steamer was
appointed to sail. It should be there lading, however, and we decided to
go directly on board and wait in comfort. We gave patient Vanka liberal
"tea-money." Hard times were evidently no fiction so far as he was
concerned, and we asked if he meant to spend it on _vodka_, which
elicited fervent asseverations of teetotalism, as he thrust his buckskin
pouch into his breast.

Descending in the deep dust, with a sense of gratitude that it was not
mixed with rain, we ran the gauntlet of the assorted peddlers stationed
on both sides of the long descent with stocks of food, soap, white felt
boots, gay sashes, coarse leather slippers too large for human wear, and
other goods, and reached the covered wharf. The steamer was not there,
but we took it calmly, and asked no questions--for a space.

We whiled away the time by chaffering with the persistent Tatar venders
for things which we did not want, and came into amazed possession of
some of them. This was a tribute to our powers of bargaining which had
rarely been paid even when we had been in earnest. We contrived to avoid
the bars of yellow "egg soap" by inquiring for one of the marvels of
Kazan,--soap made from mare's milk. An amused apothecary had already
assured us that it was a product of the too fertile brain of Baedeker,
not of the local soap factories. May Baedeker himself, some day, reap a
similar harvest of mirth and astonishment from the sedate Tatars, who
can put mare's milk to much better use as a beverage!

In the hope of obtaining a conversation-lesson in Tatar, we bought a
Russo-Tatar grammar, warranted to deliver over all the secrets of that
gracefully curved language in the usual scant array of pages. But the
peddler immediately professed as profound ignorance of Tatar as he had
of Russian a few moments before, when requested to abate his exorbitant
demands for the pamphlet.

By the time we had exhausted these resources one o'clock had arrived.
The steamer had not. The office clerk replied to all inquiries with the
languid national "_saytchas_" which the dictionary defines as meaning
"immediately," but which experience proves to signify, "Be easy; any
time this side of eternity,--if perfectly convenient!" Under the
pressure of increasingly vivacious attacks, prompted by hunger, he
finally condescended to explain that the big mail steamer, finding too
little water in the channel, had "sat down on a sand-bank," and that two
other steamers were trying to pull her off. "She might be along at three
o'clock, or later,--or some time." It began to be apparent to us why
the success of the Fair depends, in great measure, on the amount of
water in the river.

Our first meal of bread and tea had been eaten at seven o'clock, and we
had counted upon breakfasting on the steamer, where some of the best
public cooking in the country, especially in the matter of fish, is to
be found. It was now two o'clock. The town was distant. The memory of
the ducks, the size of a plover, and other things in proportion, in
which our strenuous efforts had there resulted, did not tempt us to
return. Russians have a way of slaying chickens and other poultry almost
in the shell, to serve as game.

Accordingly, we organized a search expedition among the peddlers, and in
the colony of rainbow-hued shops planted in a long street across the
heads of the wharves, and filled chiefly with Tatars and coarse Tatar
wares. For the equivalent of seventeen cents we secured a quart of rich
cream, half a dozen hard-boiled eggs, a couple of pounds of fine
raspberries, and a large fresh wheaten roll. These we ate in courses, as
we perched on soap-boxes and other unconventional seats, surrounded by
smoked fish, casks of salted cucumbers, festoons of dried mushrooms,
"cartwheels" of sour black bread, and other favorite edibles, in the
open-fronted booths. A delicious banquet it was,--one of those which
recur to the memory unbidden when more elaborate meals have been
forgotten.

Returning to the wharf with a fresh stock of patience, we watched the
river traffic and steamers of rival lines, which had avoided sand-banks,
as they took in their fuel supplies of refuse petroleum from the scows
anchored in mid-stream, and proceeded on their voyage to Astrakhan. Some
wheelbarrow steamers, bearing familiar names, "Niagara" and the like,
pirouetted about in awkward and apparently aimless fashion.

Passengers who seemed to be better informed than we as to the ways of
steamers began to make their appearance. A handsome officer deposited
his red-cotton-covered traveling-pillow and luggage on the dock and
strolled off, certain that no one would unlock his trunk or make way
with his goods. The trunk, not unusual in style, consisted of a
red-and-white tea-cloth, whose knotted corners did not wholly repress
the exuberance of linen and other effects through the bulging edges.

A young Tatar, endowed with india-rubber capabilities in the way of
attitudes, and with a volubility surely unrivaled in all taciturn Kazan,
chatted interminably with a young Russian woman, evidently the wife of a
petty shopkeeper. They bore the intense heat with equal equanimity, but
their equanimity was clad in oddly contrasting attire. The woman looked
cool and indifferent buttoned up in a long wadded pelisse, with a hot
cotton kerchief tied close over ears, under chin, and tucked in at the
neck. The Tatar squatted on his haunches, folded in three nearly equal
parts. A spirally ribbed flat fez of dark blue velvet, topped with a
black silk tassel, adorned his cleanly shaven head. His shirt, of the
coarsest linen, was artistically embroidered in black, yellow, and red
silks and green linen thread in Turanian designs, and ornamented with
stripes and diamonds of scarlet cotton bestowed unevenly in unexpected
places. It lay open on his dusky breast, and fell unconfined over full
trousers of home-made dark blue linen striped with red, like the gussets
under the arms of his white shirt. The trousers were tucked into high
boots, slightly wrinkled at the instep, with an inset of pebbled
horsehide, frosted green in hue, at the heels. This green leather was a
part of their religion, the Tatars told me, but what part they would not
reveal. As the soles were soft, like socks, he wore over his boots a
pair of stiff leather slippers, which could be easily discarded on
entering the mosque, in compliance with the Moslem law requiring the
removal of foot-gear.

Several peasants stood about silently, patiently, wrapped in their
sheepskin coats. Apparently they found this easier than carrying them,
and they were ready to encounter the chill night air in the open wooden
bunks of the third-class, or on the floor of the fourth-class cabin. The
soiled yellow leather was hooked close across their breasts, as in
winter. An occasional movement displayed the woolly interior of the
_tulup's_ short, full ballet skirt attached to the tight-fitting body.
The peasants who thus tranquilly endured the heat of fur on a midsummer
noon would, did circumstances require it, bear the piercing cold of
winter with equal calmness clad in cotton shirts, or freeze to death on
sentry duty without a murmur. They were probably on their way to find
work during the harvest and earn a few kopeks, and very likely would
return to their struggling families as poor as they went. As we watched
this imperturbable crowd, we became infected with their spirit of
unconcern, and entered into sympathy with the national _saytchas_--a
case of atmospheric influence.

At last the steamer arrived, none the worse for its encounter with the
bar. Usually, the mail steamers halt three hours--half-merchandise
steamers four hours--at Kazan and other important towns on the Volga,
affording hasty travelers an opportunity to make a swift survey in a
drosky; but on this occasion one hour was made to suffice, and at last
we were really off on our way to the estate down the river where we were
to pay our long-promised visit.

We were still at a reach of the river where the big steamer might sit
down on another reef, and the men were kept on guard at the bow, with
hardly an intermission, gauging the depth of the water with their
striped poles, to guide the helmsman by their monotonous calls:
"_Vosim!_" "_Schest-s-polovino-o-o-iu!_" "_Sim!_" (Eight! Six and a
half! Seven!) They had a little peculiarity of pronunciation which was
very pleasing. And we soon discovered that into shallower water than
five and a half quarters we might not venture.

The river was extremely animated above the mouth of the Kama, the great
waterway from the mines and forests of the Ural and Siberia. Now and
then, the men on a float heavily laden with iron bars, which was being
towed to the Fair at Nizhni Novgorod, would shout a request that we
would slacken speed, lest they be swamped with our swell. Huge rafts of
fine timber were abundant, many with small chapel-like structures on
them, which were not chapels, however. Cattle steamers passed, the
unconfined beasts staring placidly over the low guards of the three
decks, and uttering no sound. We had already learned that the animals
are as quiet as the people, in Russia, the Great Silent Land. Very brief
were our halts at the small landings. The villagers, who had come down
with baskets of fresh rolls and berries and bottles of cream, to supply
hungry passengers whose means or inclination prevented their eating the
steamer food, had but scant opportunity to dispose of their perishable
wares.

As the evening breeze freshened, the perfume of the hayfields was wafted
from the distant shores in almost overpowering force. The high right
bank, called the Hills, and the low left shore, known as the Forests,
sank into half-transparent vagueness, which veiled the gray log-built
villages with their tiny windows, and threw into relief against the
evening sky only the green roofs and blue domes of the churches,
surmounted by golden crosses, which gleamed last of all in the vanishing
rays of sunset. A boatload of peasants rowing close in shore; a
red-shirted solitary figure straying along the water's edge; tiny
sea-gulls darting and dipping in the waves around the steamer; a vista
up some wide-mouthed affluent; and a great peaceful stillness brooding
over all,--such were the happenings, too small for incidents, which
accorded perfectly with the character of the Volga. For the Volga cannot
be compared with the Rhine or the Hudson in castles or scenery. It has,
instead, a grand, placid charm of its own, imperial, indefinable, and
sweet. One yields to it, and subscribes to the Russian faith in the
grand river.

No one seemed to know how much of the lost time would be made up. Were
it spring, when Mother Volga runs from fifty to a hundred and fifty
miles wide, taking the adjoining country into her broad embrace, and
steamers steer a bee-line course to their landings, the officers might
have been able to say at what hour we should reach our destination. As
it was, they merely reiterated the characteristic "_Ne znaem_" (We don't
know), which possesses plural powers of irritation when uttered in the
conventional half-drawl. Perhaps they really did not know. Owing to a
recent decree in the imperial navy, officers who have served a certain
number of years without having accomplished a stipulated amount of sea
service are retired. Since the Russian war vessels are not many, while
the Naval Academy continues to turn out a large batch of young officers
every year, the opportunities for effecting the requisite sea service
are limited. The officers who are retired, in consequence, seek
positions on the Volga steamers, which are sometimes commanded by a
rear-admiral, in the imperial uniform, which he is allowed to retain, in
addition to receiving a grade. But if one chances upon them during their
first season on the river, their information is not equal to their fine
appearance, since Mother Volga must be studied in her caprices, and
navigation is open only, on the average, between the 12th of April and
the 24th of November. Useless to interrogate the old river dogs among
the subordinates. The "We don't know" is even more inveterate with them,
and it is reinforced with the just comment, "We are not the masters."

Knowing nothing, in the general uncertainty, except that we must land
some time during the night, we were afraid to make ourselves comfortable
even to the extent of unpacking sheets to cool off the velvet divans,
which filled two sides of our luxurious cabin. When we unbolted the
movable panels from the slatted door and front wall, to establish a
draft of fresh air from the window, a counter-draft was set up of
electric lights, supper clatter, cigarette smoke, and chatter, renewed
at every landing with the fresh arrivals. We resolved to avoid these
elegant mail steamers in the future, and patronize the half-merchandise
boats of the same line, which are not much slower, and possess the
advantage of staterooms opening on a corridor, not on the saloon, and
are fitted with skylights, so that one can have fresh air and quiet
sleep.

At four o'clock in the morning we landed. The local policeman, whose
duty it is to meet steamers, gazed at us with interest. The secret of
his meditations we learned later. He thought of offering us his
services. "They looked like strangers, but talked Russian," he said. The
combination was too much for him, and, seeing that we were progressing
well in our bargain for a conveyance, he withdrew, and probably solved
the riddle with the aid of the postboy.

The estate for which we were bound lay thirty-five versts distant; but
fearing that we might reach it too early if we were to start at once, I
ordered an equipage for six o'clock. I was under the impression that the
man from the posting-house had settled it for us that we required a pair
of horses, attached to whatever he thought fit, and that I had accepted
his dictation. The next thing to do, evidently, was to adopt the Russian
stop-gap of tea.

The wharfinger, who occupied a tiny tenement on one end of the dock,
supplied us with a bubbling _samovar_, sugar, and china, since we were
not traveling in strictly Russian style, with a fragile-nosed teapot and
glasses. We got out our tea, steeped and sipped it, nibbling at a bit of
bread, in that indifferent manner which one unconsciously acquires in
Russia. It is only by such experience that one comes to understand the
full--or rather scanty--significance of that puzzling and
oft-recurring phrase in Russian novels, "drinking tea."

As we were thus occupied in one of the cells, furnished with a table and
two hard stuffed benches, to accommodate waiting passengers, our postboy
thrust his head in at the door and began the subject of the carriage all
over again. I repeated my orders. He said, "_Kharasho_" (Good), and
disappeared. We dallied over our tea. We watched the wharfinger's boys
trying to drown themselves in a cranky boat, like the young male animals
of all lands; we listened to their shrill little songs; we counted the
ducks, gazed at the peasants assembled on the brow of the steep hill
above us, on which the town was situated, and speculated about the
immediate future, until the time fixed and three quarters of an hour
more had elapsed. The wharfinger's reply to my impatient questions was
an unvarying apathetic "We don't know," and, spurred to action by this,
I set out to find the posting-house.

It was not far away, but my repeated and vigorous knocks upon the door
of the _izba_ (cottage), ornamented with the imperial eagle and the
striped pole, received no response. I pushed open the big gate of the
courtyard alongside, and entered. Half the court was roofed over with
thatch. In the far corner, divorced wagon bodies, running-gear, and
harnesses lay heaped on the earth. A horse, which was hitched to
something unsubstantial among those fragments, came forward to welcome
me. A short row of wagon members which had escaped divorce, and were
united in wheeling order, stood along the high board fence. In one of
them, a rough wooden cart, shaped somewhat like a barrel sawed in two
lengthwise, pillowed on straw, but with his legs hanging down in an
uncomfortable attitude, lay my faithless postboy (he was about forty
years of age) fast asleep. The neighboring vehicle, which I divined to
be the one intended for us, was in possession of chickens. A new-laid
egg bore witness to their wakefulness and industry.

While I was engaged in an endeavor to rouse my should-be coachman, by
tugging at his sleeve and pushing his boots in the most painful manner I
could devise, a good-looking peasant woman made her tardy appearance at
the side door of the adjoining _izba_, and seemed to enjoy the situation
in an impartial, impersonal way. The horse thrust his muzzle gently into
his master's face and roused him for me, and, in return, was driven
away.

I demanded an explanation. Extracted by bits in conversational spirals,
it proved to be that he had decided that the carriage needed three
horses, which he had known all along; and, chiefly, that he had desired
to sleep upon a little scheme for exploiting the strangers. How long he
had intended to pursue his slumberous meditations it is impossible to
say.

He dragged me through all the mazes of that bargain once more.
Evidently, bargaining was of even stricter etiquette than my extensive
previous acquaintance had led me to suspect; and I had committed the
capital mistake of not complying with this ancestral custom in the
beginning. I agreed to three horses, and stipulated, on my side, that
fresh straw should replace the chickens' nest, and that we should set
out at once,--not _saytchas_ but sooner, "this very minute."

I turned to go. A fresh difficulty arose. He would not go unless I would
pay for three relays. He brought out the government regulations and
amendments,--all that had been issued during the century, I should
think. He stood over me while I read them, and convinced myself that his
"_Yay Bogu_" (God is my witness) was accurately placed. The price of
relays was, in reality, fixed by law; but though over-affirmation had
now aroused my suspicions, in my ignorance of the situation I could not
espy the loophole of trickery in which I was to be noosed, and I agreed
once more. More quibbling. He would not stir unless he were allowed to
drive the same horses the whole distance, though paid for three relays,
because all the horses would be away harvesting, and so forth and so on.
Goaded to assert myself in some manner, to put an end to these
interminable hagglings, I asserted what I did not know.

"Prince X. never pays for these relays," I declared boldly.

"Oh, no, he does n't," replied the man, with cheerful frankness. "But
you must, or I'll not go."

That settled it; I capitulated once more.

We had omitted to telegraph to our friends, partly in order to save them
the trouble of sending a carriage, partly because we were thirsting for
"experiences." It began to look as though our thirst was to be quenched
in some degree, since we were in this man's power as to a vehicle, and
it might be true that we should not be able to obtain any other in the
town, or any horses in the villages, if indeed there were any villages.
Fortified by another volley of "_Yay Bogu_" of triumphant fervor, we
survived a second wait. At last, near nine o'clock, we were able to pack
ourselves and our luggage.

The body of our _tarantas_, made, for the sake of lightness, of woven
elm withes, and varnished dark brown, was shaped not unlike a baby
carriage. Such a wagon body costs about eight dollars in Kazan, where
great numbers of them are made. It was set upon stout, unpainted
running-gear, guiltless of springs, in cat's-cradle fashion. The step
was a slender iron stirrup, which revolved in its ring with tantalizing
ease. It was called a _pletuschka,_ and the process of entering it
resembled vaulting on horseback.

Our larger luggage was tied on behind with ropes, in precarious fashion.
The rest we took inside and deposited at our feet. As there was no seat,
we flattened ourselves out on the clean hay, and practiced Delsartean
attitudes of languor. Our three horses were harnessed abreast. The reins
were made in part of rope; so were the traces. Our _yamtschik_ had
donned his regulation coat over his red shirt, and sat unblenchingly
through the heat. All preliminaries seemed to be settled at last. I
breathed a sigh of relief, as we halted at the posting-house to pay our
dues in advance, and I received several pounds of copper coin in change,
presumably that I might pay the non-existent relays.

The _troika_ set off with spirit, and we flattered ourselves that we
should not be long on the road. This being a county town, there were
some stone official buildings in addition to the cathedral, of which we
caught a glimpse in the distance. But our road lay through a suburb of
log cabins, through a large gate in the wattled town fence, and out upon
the plain.

For nearly five hours we drove through birch forests, over rolling
downs, through a boundless ocean of golden rye, diversified by small
patches of buckwheat, oats, millet, and wheat. But wheat thrives better
in the adjoining government, and many peasants, we are told, run away
from pressing work and good wages at hand to harvest where they will get
white bread to eat, and return penniless.

Here and there, the small, weather-beaten image of some saint, its face
often indistinguishable through stress of storms, and shielded by a
rough triangular penthouse, was elevated upon a pole, indicating the
spot where prayers are said for the success of the harvest.
Corn-flowers, larkspur, convolvulus, and many other flowers grew
profusely enough among the grain to come under the head of weeds.

The transparent air allowed us vast vistas of distant blue hills and
nearer green valleys, in which nestled villages under caps of thatch,
encircled by red-brown fences cleverly wattled of long boughs. In one
hollow we passed through a village of the Tchuvashi, a Turkish or
Finnish tribe, which was stranded all along the middle Volga in
unrecorded antiquity, during some of the race migrations from the
teeming plateaux of Asia. The village seemed deserted. Only a few small
children and grannies had been left at home by the harvesters, and they
gazed curiously at us, aroused to interest by the jingling harness with
its metal disks, and the bells clanging merrily from the apex of the
wooden arch which rose above the neck of our middle horse.

The grain closed in upon us. We plucked some ears as we passed, and
found them ripe and well filled. The plain seemed as trackless as a
forest, and our postboy suspected, from time to time, that he had lost
his way among the narrow roads. A few peasant men whom we encountered at
close quarters took off their hats, but without servility, and we
greeted them with the customary good wishes for a plentiful harvest,
"_Bog v pomozh_" (God help), or with a bow. The peasant women whom we
met rarely took other notice of us than to stare, and still more rarely
did they salute first. They gazed with instinctive distrust, as women of
higher rank are wont to do at a stranger of their own sex.

Although the grain was planted in what seemed to be a single vast field,
belonging to one estate, it was in reality the property of many
different peasants, as well as of some proprietors. Each peasant had
marked his plot with a cipher furrow when he plowed, and the outlines
had been preserved by the growing grain. The rich black soil of the
fallow land, and strips of turf separating sections, relieved the
monotony of this waving sea of gold.

The heat was intense. In our prone position, we found it extremely
fatiguing to hold umbrellas. We had recourse, therefore, to the device
practiced by the mountaineers of the Caucasus, who, in common with the
Spaniards, believe that what will keep out cold will also keep out heat.
We donned our heavy wadded pelisses. The experiment was a success. We
arrived cool and tranquil, in the fierce heat, at the estate of our
friends, and were greeted with fiery reproaches for not having allowed
them to send one of their fifteen or twenty carriages for us. But we did
not repent, since our conduct had secured for us that novel ride and a
touch of our coveted "experience," in spite of the strain of our thirty
hours' vigil and the jolts of the springless vehicle.

Then we discovered the exact extent of our _yamtschik's_ trick. He had
let us off on fairly easy terms, getting not quite half more than his
due. By the regular route, we might really have had three relays and
made better time, had we been permitted. By the short cut which our wily
friend had selected, but one change was possible. This left the price of
two changes to be credited to his financial ability (in addition to the
tea-money of gratitude, which came in at the end, all the same), and the
price of the one which he would not make. And, as I was so thoughtless
as not to hire him to carry away those pounds of "relay" copper, I
continued to be burdened with it until I contrived to expend it on
peasant manufactures. The postboy bore the reputation of being a very
honest fellow, I learned,--something after the pattern of the charming
cabby who drove us to Count Tolstoy's estate.

The village, like most Russian villages, was situated on a small river,
in a valley. It consisted of two streets: one running parallel with the
river, the other at right angles to it, on the opposite bank. The
connecting bridge had several large holes in it, on the day of our
arrival, which were mended, a few days later, with layers of straw and
manure mixed with earth. We continued, during the whole period of our
stay, to cross the bridge, instead of going round it, as we had been
advised to do with Russian bridges, by Russians, in the certainty that,
if we came near drowning through its fault, it would surely furnish us
with an abundance of straws to catch at.

In one corner of the settlement, a petty bourgeois,--there is no other
word to define him,--the son of a former serf, and himself born a
serf, had made a mill-pond and erected cloth-mills. His "European"
clothes (long trousers, sack coat, Derby hat) suited him as ill as his
wife's gaudy silk gown, and Sunday bonnet in place of the kerchief usual
with the lower classes, suited her face and bearing. He was a quiet,
unassuming man, but he was making over for himself a handsome house,
formerly the residence of a noble. Probably the money wherewith he had
set up in business had been wrung out of his fellow-peasants in the
profession of a _kulak_, or "fist," as the people expressively term
peasant usurers.

On the other side of the river stood the church, white-walled,
green-roofed, with golden cross, like the average country church, with
some weather stains, and here and there a paling missing from the fence.
Near at hand was the new schoolhouse, with accommodations for the
master, recently erected by our host. Beyond this began the inclosure
surrounding the manor house, and including the cottages of the coachmen
and the steward with their hemp and garden plots, the stables and
carriage houses, the rickyard with its steam threshing machine and
driers, and a vast abandoned garden, as well as the gardens in use. The
large brick mansion, with projecting wings, had its drawing-rooms at the
back, where a spacious veranda opened upon a flower-bordered lawn,
terminating in shady acacia walks, and a grove which screened from sight
the peasant cottages on the opposite bank of the river. A hedge
concealed the vegetable garden, where the village urchins were in the
habit of pilfering their beloved cucumbers with perfect impunity, since
a wholesome spanking, even though administered by the Elder of the
Commune, might result in the spanker's exile to Siberia. Another
instance of the manner in which the peasants are protected by the law,
in their wrongs as well as their rights, may be illustrated by the case
of a load of hay belonging to the owner of the estate, which, entering
the village in goodly proportions, is reduced to a few petty armfuls by
the time it reaches the barn, because of the handfuls snatched in
passing by every man, woman, and child in the place.

No sound of the village reached us in our retreat except the choral
songs of the maidens on holiday evenings. We tempted them to the lawn
one night, and overcame their bashfulness by money for nuts and apples.
The airs which they sang were charming, but their voices were undeniably
shrill and nasal, and not always in harmony. We found them as reluctant
to dance as had been the peasants at Count Tolstoy's village. Here we
established ourselves for the harvest-tide.

II.

Our life at Prince X.'s estate on the Volga flowed on in a
semi-monotonous, wholly delightful state of lotus-eating idleness,
though it assuredly was not a case which came under the witty
description once launched by Turgeneff broadside at his countrymen: "The
Russian country proprietor comes to revel and simmer in his ennui like a
mushroom frying in sour cream." Ennui shunned that happy valley. We
passed the hot mornings at work on the veranda or in the well-filled
library, varying them by drives to neighboring estates and villages, or
by trips to the fields to watch the progress of the harvest, now in full
swing. Such a visit we paid when all the able-bodied men and women in
the village were ranged across the landscape in interminable lines,
armed with their reaping-hooks, and forming a brilliant picture in
contrast with the yellow grain, in their blue and scarlet raiment. They
were fulfilling the contract which bound them to three days' labor for
their landlord, in return for the pasturage furnished by him for their
cattle. A gay kerchief and a single clinging garment, generally made of
red and blue in equal portions, constituted the costume of the women.
The scanty garments were faded and worn, for harvesting is terribly hard
work, and they cannot use their good clothes, as at the haying, which is
mere sport in comparison. Most of the men had their heads protected only
by their long hair, whose sunburnt outer layer fell over their faces, as
they stooped and reaped the grain artistically close to the ground.
Their shirts were of faded red cotton; their full trousers, of
blue-and-red-striped home-made linen, were confined by a strip of coarse
crash swathed around the feet and legs to the knee, and cross-gartered
with ropes. The feet of men and women alike were shod with low shoes of
plaited linden bark over these cloths.

They smiled indulgently at our attempts to reap and make girdles for the
sheaves,--the sickles seemed to grow dull and back-handed at our
touch,--chatting with the dignified ease which characterizes the
Russian peasant. The small children had been left behind in the village,
in charge of the grandams and the women unfit for field labor. Baby had
been brought to the scene of action, and installed in luxury. The
cradle, a cloth distended by poles, like that of Peter the Great, which
is preserved in the museum of the Kremlin at Moscow, was suspended from
the upturned shafts of a _telyega_ by a stiff spiral spring of iron,
similar to the springs used on bird-cages. The curtain was made of the
mother's spare gown, her _sarafan_. Baby's milk-bottle consisted of a
cow's horn, over the tip of which a cow's teat was fastened. I had
already seen these dried teats for sale in pairs, in the popular
markets, but had declined to place implicit faith in the venders' solemn
statements as to their use.

It was the season which the peasants call by the expressive title
_strada_ (suffering). Nearly all the summer work must be done together,
and, with their primitive appliances, suffering is the inevitable
result. They set out for the fields before sunrise, and return at
indefinite hours, but never early. Sometimes they pass the night in the
fields, under the shelter of a cart or of the grain sheaves. Men and
women work equally and unweariedly; and the women receive less pay than
the men for the same work, in the bad old fashion which is, unhappily,
not yet unknown in other lands and ranks of life. Eating and sleeping
join the number of the lost arts. The poor, brave people have but little
to eat in any case,--not enough to induce thought or anxiety to return
home. Last year's store has, in all probability, been nearly exhausted.
They must wait until the grain which they are reaping has been threshed
and ground before they can have their fill.

One holiday they observe, partly perforce, partly from choice, though it
is not one of the great festivals of the church calendar,--St. Ilya's
Day. St. Ilya is the Christian representative of the old Slavic god of
Thunder, Perun, as well as of the prophet Elijah. On or near his name
day, July 20 (Old Style), he never fails to dash wildly athwart the sky
in his chariot of fire; in other words, there is a terrific
thunderstorm. Such is the belief; such, in my experience, is the fact,
also.

Sundays were kept so far as the field work permitted, and the church was
thronged. Even our choir of ill-trained village youths and boys could
not spoil the ever-exquisite music. There were usually two or three
women who expected to become mothers before the week was out, and who
came forward to take the communion for the last time, after the newborn
babes and tiny children had been taken up by their mothers to receive
it.

Every one was quiet, clean, reverent. The cloth-mill girls had
discovered our (happily) obsolete magenta, and made themselves hideous
in flounced petticoats and sacks of that dreadful hue. The sister of our
Lukerya, the maid who had been assigned to us, thus attired, felt
distinctly superior. Lukerya would have had the bad taste to follow her
example, had she been permitted, so fast are evil fashions destroying
the beautiful and practical national costumes. Little did Lukerya dream
that she, in her peasant garb, with her thick nose and rather unformed
face, was a hundred times prettier than Annushka, with far finer
features and "fashionable" dress.

Independent and "fashionable" as many of these villagers were, they were
ready enough to appeal to their former owners in case of illness or
need; and they were always welcomed. Like most Russian women who spend
any time on their estates, our hostess knew a good deal about medicine,
which was necessitated by the circumstance that the district doctor
lived eight miles away, and had such a wide circuit assigned to him that
he could not be called in except for serious cases. Many of the remedies
available or approved by the peasants were primitive, not to say heroic.
For example, one man, who had exhausted all other remedies for
rheumatism, was advised to go to the forest, thrust the ailing foot and
leg into one of the huge ant-hills which abounded there, and allow the
ants to sting him as long as he could bear the pain, for the sake of the
formic acid which would thus be injected into the suffering limb. I
confess that I should have liked to be present at this bit of--
surgery, shall I call it? It would have been an opportunity for
observing the Russian peasant's stoicism and love of suffering as a
thing good in itself.

The peasants came on other errands, also. One morning we were startled,
at our morning coffee, by the violent irruption into the dining-room, on
his knees, of a man with clasped hands uplifted, rolling eyes, and hair
wildly tossing, as he knocked his head on the floor, kissed our
hostess's gown, and uttered heart-rending appeals to her, to Heaven, and
to all the saints. "_Barynya!_ dear mistress!" he wailed. "Forgive! _Yay
Bogu_, it was not my fault. The Virgin herself knows that the carpenter
forced me to it. I'll never do it again, never. God is my witness!
_Barynya! Ba-a-rynya! Ba-a-a-a-a-a-rynya!_" in an indescribable, subdued
howl. He was one of her former serfs, the keeper of the dramshop; and
the carpenter, that indispensable functionary on an isolated estate, had
"drunk up" all his tools (which did not belong to him, but to our
hostess) at this man's establishment. The sly publican did not offer to
return them, and he would not have so much as condescended to promises
for the misty future, had he not been aware that the law permits the
closing of pothouses on the complaint of proprietors in just such
predicaments as this, as well as on the vote of the peasant Commune.
Having won temporary respite by his well-acted anguish, he was ready to
proceed again on the national plan of _avos_ which may be vulgarly
rendered into English by "running for luck."

But even more attractive than these house diversions and the village
were the other external features of that sweet country life. The
mushroom season was beginning. Equipped with baskets of ambitious size,
we roamed the forests, which are carpeted in spring with lilies of the
valley, and all summer long, even under the densest shadow, with rich
grass. We learned the home and habits of the shrimp-pink mushroom, which
is generally eaten salted; of the fat white and birch mushrooms, with
their chocolate caps, to be eaten fresh; of the brown and green butter
mushroom, most delicious of all to our taste, and beloved of the black
beetle, whom we surprised at his feast. However, the mushrooms were only
an excuse for dreaming away the afternoons amid the sweet glints of the
fragrant snowy birch-trees and the green-gold flickerings of the pines,
in the "black forest," which is a forest composed of evergreens and
deciduous trees. Now and then, in our rambles, we met and skirted great
pits dug in the grassy roads to prevent the peasants from conveniently
perpetrating thefts of wood. Once we came upon a party of timber-thieves
(it was Sunday afternoon), who espied us in time to rattle off in their
rude _telyega_ with their prize, a great tree, at a rate which would
have reduced ordinary flesh and bones to a jelly; leaving us to stare
helplessly at the freshly hewn stump. Tawny hares tripped across our
path, or gazed at us from the green twilight of the bushes, as we lay on
the turf and discussed all things in the modern heaven and earth, from
theosophy and Keely's motor to--the other extreme.

When the peasants had not forestalled us, we returned home with masses
of mushrooms, flower-like in hue,--bronze, pink, snow-white, green,
and yellow; and Osip cooked them delicately, in sour cream, to accompany
the juicy young blackcock and other game of our host's shooting. Osip
was a _cordon bleu_, and taxed his ingenuity to initiate us into all the
mysteries of Russian cooking, which, under his tuition, we found
delicious. The only national dish which we never really learned to like
was one in which he had no hand,--fresh cucumbers sliced lengthwise
and spread thick with new honey, which is supposed to be eaten after the
honey has been blessed, with the fruits, on the feast of the
Transfiguration, but which in practice is devoured whenever found, as
the village priest was probably aware. The priest was himself an
enthusiastic keeper of bees in odd, primitive hives. It was really
amazing to note the difference between the good, simple-mannered old man
in his humble home, where he received us in socks and a faded cassock,
and nearly suffocated us with vivaciously repetitious hospitality, tea,
and preserves, and the priest, with his truly majestic and inspired
mien, as he served the altar.

Among the wild creatures in our host's great forests were hares, wolves,
moose, and bears. The moose had retreated, for the hot weather, to the
lakes on the Crown lands adjacent, to escape the maddening attacks of
the gadflies. Though it was not the hungry height of the season with the
wolves, there was always an exciting possibility of encountering a stray
specimen during our strolls, and we found the skull and bones of a horse
which they had killed the past winter. From early autumn these gray
terrors roam the scene of our mushroom-parties, in packs, and kill
cattle in ill-protected farmyards and children in the villages.

It was too early for hare-coursing or wolf-hunting, but feathered game
was plentiful. Great was the rivalry in "bags" between our host and the
butler, a jealously keen sportsman. His dog, Modistka (the little
milliner), had taught the clever pointer Milton terribly bad tricks of
hunting alone, and was even initiating her puppies into the same evil
ways. When "Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe;" returned triumphantly from the
forest with their booty, and presented it to their indignant masters,
there were fine scenes! Bebe and his brothers of the litter were so
exactly alike in every detail that they could not be distinguished one
from the other. Hence they had been dubbed _tchinovniki_ (the
officials), a bit of innocent malice which every Russian can appreciate.

Of the existence of bears we had one convincing glimpse. We drove off,
one morning, in a drizzling rain, to picnic on a distant estate of our
host, in a "red" or "beautiful" forest (the two adjectives are
synonymous in Russian), which is composed entirely of pines. During our
long tramp through a superb growth of pines, every one of which would
have furnished a mainmast for the largest old-fashioned ship, a bear
stepped out as we passed through a narrow defile, and showed an
inclination to join our party. The armed Russian and Mordvinian
foresters, our guides and protectors, were in the vanguard; and as Misha
seemed peaceably disposed we relinquished all designs on his pelt,
consoling ourselves with the reflection that it would not be good at
this season of the year. We camped out on the crest of the hill, upon a
huge rug, soft and thick, the work of serfs in former days, representing
an art now well-nigh lost, and feasted on nut-sweet crayfish from the
Volga, new potatoes cooked in our gypsy kettle, curds, sour black bread,
and other more conventional delicacies. The rain pattered softly on us,
--we disdained umbrellas,--and on the pine needles, rising in
hillocks, here and there, over snowy great mushrooms, of a sort to be
salted and eaten during fasts. The wife of the priest, who is condemned
to so much fasting, had a wonderfully keen instinct for these particular
mushrooms, and had explained to us all their merits, which seemed
obscure to our non-fasting souls. Our Russian forester regaled us with
forest lore, as we lay on our backs to look at the tops of the trees.
But, to my amazement, he had never heard of the _Leshi_ and the
_Vodyanoi_, the wood-king and water-king of the folk-tales. At all
events, he had never seen them, nor heard their weird frolics in the
boughs and waves. The Mordvinian contributed to the entertainment by
telling us of his people's costumes and habits, and gave us a lesson in
his language, which was of the Tatar-Finnish variety. Like the Tchuvashi
and other tribes here on the Volga, the Mordvinians furnish pleasurable
excitement and bewilderment to ethnographists and students of religions.

These simple amusements came to an end all too soon, despite the rain.
We were seized with a fancy to try the peasant _telyega_ for the
descent, and packed ourselves in with the rug and utensils. Our
Mordvinian, swarthy and gray-eyed, walked beside us, casting glances of
inquiry at us, as the shaggy little horse plunged along, to ascertain
our degrees of satisfaction with the experiment. He thrust the dripping
boughs from our faces with graceful, natural courtesy; and when we
alighted, breathless and shaken to a pulp, at the forester's hut, where
our carriages awaited us, he picked up the hairpins and gave them to us
gravely, one by one, as needed. We were so entirely content with our
_telyega_ experience that we were in no undue haste to repeat it. We
drove home in the persistent rain, which had affected neither our bodies
nor our spirits, bearing a trophy of unfringed gentians to add to our
collection of goldenrod, harebells, rose-colored fringed pinks, and
other familiar wild flowers which reminded us of the western hemisphere.

The days were too brief for our delights. In the afternoons and
evenings, we took breezy gallops through the forests, along the boundary
sward of the fields, across the rich black soil of that third of the
land which, in the "three-field" system of cultivation, is allowed to
lie fallow after it has borne a crop of winter grain, rye, and one of
summer grain, oats. We watched the peasants plowing or scattering the
seed-corn, or returning, mounted side-saddle fashion on their horses,
with their primitive plows reversed. Only such rich land could tolerate
these Adam-like earth-scratchers. As we met the cows on their way home
from pasture, we took observations, to verify the whimsical barometer of
the peasants; and we found that if a light-hued cow headed the
procession the next day really was pretty sure to be fair, while a dark
cow brought foul weather. As the twilight deepened, the quail piped
under the very hoofs of our horses; the moon rose over the forest, which
would soon ring with the howl of wolves; the fresh breath of the river
came to us laden with peculiar scents, through which penetrated the
heavy odor of the green-black hemp.

One day the horses were ordered, as usual. They did not appear. The
cavalryman who had been hired expressly to train them had not only
neglected his duty, but had run away, without warning, to reap his own
little field, in parts unknown. He had carefully observed silence as to
its existence, when he was engaged. This was item number one. Item
number two was that there was something the matter with all the horses,
except Little Boy, Little Bird, and the small white Bashkir horse from
the steppes, whose ear had been slit to subdue his wildness. The truth
was, the steward's young son had been practicing high jumping, bareback,
in a circus costume of pink calico shirt and trousers, topped by his
tow-colored hair. We had seen this surreptitious performance, but
considered it best to betray nothing, as the lad had done so well in the
village school that our hosts were about to send him to town, to
continue his studies at their expense.

The overseer, another soldier, was ordered to don his uniform and
accompany us. He rebelled. "He had just got his hair grown to the square
state which suited his peasant garb, and it would not go with his
dragoon's uniform in the least. Why, he would look like a Kazak!
Impossible, utterly!" He was sternly commanded not to consider his hair;
this was not the city, with spectators. When he finally appeared, in
full array, we saw that he had applied the shears to his locks, in a
hasty effort to compromise between war and peace without losing the cut.
The effect was peculiar; it would strike his commanding officer dumb
with mirth and horror. He blushed in a deprecating manner whenever we
glanced at him.

There was a bath-house beside the river. But a greater luxury was the
hot bath, presided over by old Alexandra. Alexandra, born a serf on the
estate, was now like a humble member of the family, the relations not
having changed, perceptibly, since the emancipation, to the old woman's
satisfaction. She believed firmly in the _Domovoi_ (the house sprite),
and told wonderful tales of her experiences with him. Skepticism on that
point did not please her. When the horses were brought round with matted
manes, a sign of an affectionate visit from the _Domovoi_, which must
not be removed, under penalty of his displeasure, it was useless to tell
Alexandra that a weasel had been caught in the act, and that her sprite
was no other. She clung to her belief in her dreaded friend.

The bath was a small log house, situated a short distance from the
manor. It was divided into anteroom, dressing-room, and the bath proper.
When we were ready, Alexandra, a famous bath-woman, took boiling water
from the tank in the corner oven, which had been heating for hours, made
a strong lather, and scrubbed us soundly with a wad of linden bast
shredded into fibres. Her wad was of the choicest sort; not that which
is sold in the popular markets, but that which is procured by stripping
into rather coarse filaments the strands of an old mat-sack, such as is
used for everything in Russia, from wrappers for sheet iron to bags for
carrying a pound of cherries. After a final douche with boiling water,
we mounted the high shelf, with its wooden pillow, and the artistic part
of the operation began. As we lay there in the suffocating steam,
Alexandra whipped us thoroughly with a small besom of birch twigs,
rendered pliable and secure of their tender leaves by a preliminary
plunge in boiling water. When we gasped for breath, she interpreted it
as a symptom of speechless delight, and flew to the oven and dashed a
bucket of cold water on the red-hot stones placed there for the purpose.
The steam poured forth in intolerable clouds; but we submitted,
powerless to protest. Alexandra, with all her clothes on, seemed not to
feel the heat. She administered a merciless yet gentle massage to every
limb with her birch rods,--what would it have been like if she had
used nettles, the peasants' delight?--and rescued us from utter
collapse just in time by a douche of ice-cold water. We huddled on all
the warm clothing we owned, were driven home, plied with boiling tea,
and put to bed for two hours. At the end of that time we felt made over,
physically, and ready to beg for another birching. But we were warned
not to expose ourselves to cold for at least twenty-four hours, although
we had often seen peasants, fresh from their bath, birch besom in hand,
in the wintry streets of the two capitals.

We visited the peasants in their cottages, and found them very reluctant
to sell anything except towel crash. All other linen which they wove
they needed for themselves, and it looked as even and strong as iron.
Here in the south the rope-and-moss-plugged log house stood flat on the
ground, and was thatched with straw, which was secured by a ladder-like
arrangement of poles along the gable ends. Three tiny windows, with
tinier panes, relieved the street front of the house. The entrance was
on the side, from the small farmyard, littered with farming implements,
chickens, and manure, and inclosed with the usual fence of wattled
branches. From the small ante-room designed to keep out the winter cold,
the store-room opened at the rear, and the living-room at the front. The
left hand corner of the living-room, as one entered, was occupied by the
oven, made of stones and clay, and whitewashed. In it the cooking was
done by placing the pots among the glowing wood coals. The bread was
baked when the coals had been raked out. Later still, when desired, the
owners took their steam bath, more resembling a roasting, inside it, and
the old people kept their aged bones warm by sleeping on top of it,
close to the low ceiling. Round three sides of the room ran a broad
bench, which served for furniture and beds. In the right-hand corner,
opposite the door,--the "great corner" of honor,--was the case of
images, in front of which stood the rough table whereon meals were
eaten. This was convenient, since the images were saluted, at the
beginning and end of meals, with the sign of the cross and a murmured
prayer. The case contained the sacred picture wherewith the young couple
were blessed by their parents on their marriage, and any others which
they might have acquired, with possibly a branch of their Palm Sunday
pussy willows. A narrow room, monopolizing one of the windows, opened
from the living-room, beyond the oven, and served as pantry and kitchen.
A wooden trough, like a chopping-tray, was the washtub. The ironing or
mangling apparatus consisted of a rolling-pin, round which the article
of clothing was wrapped, and a curved paddle of hard wood, its
under-surface carved in pretty geometrical designs, with which it was
smoothed. This paddle served also to beat the clothes upon the stones,
when the washing was done in the river, in warm weather. A few wooden
bowls and spoons and earthen pots, including the variety which keeps
milk cool without either ice or running water, completed the household
utensils. Add a loom for weaving crash, the blue linen for the men's
trousers and the women's scant _sarafans_, and the white for their
aprons and chemises, and the cloth for coats, and the furnishing was
done.

The village granaries, with wattled walls and thatched roofs, are placed
apart, to lessen the danger from fire, near the large gates which give
admission to the village, through the wattled fence encircling it. These
gates, closed at night, are guarded by peasants who are unfitted,
through age or infirmities, for field labor. They employ themselves, in
their tiny wattled lean-tos, in plaiting the low shoes of linden bark,
used by both men and women, in making carts, or in some other simple
occupation. An axe--a whole armory of tools to the Russian peasant--
and an iron bolt are their sole implements.

We were cut off from intercourse with one of the neighboring estates by
the appearance there of the Siberian cattle plague, and were told that,
should it spread, arrivals from that quarter would be admitted to the
village only after passing through the disinfecting fumes of dung fires
burning at the gate.

Incendiaries and horse-thieves are the scourges of village life in
Russia. Such men can be banished to Siberia, by a vote of the Commune of
peasant householders. But as the Commune must bear the expense, and
people are afraid that the evil-doer will revenge himself by setting the
village on fire, if he discovers their plan, this privilege is exercised
with comparative rarity. The man who steals the peasant's horse condemns
him to starvation and ruin. Such a man there had been in our friends'
village, and for long years they had borne with him patiently. He was
crafty and had "influence" in some mysterious fashion, which made him a
dangerous customer to deal with. But at last he was sent off. Now,
during our visit, the village was trembling over a rumor that he was on
his way back to wreak vengeance on his former neighbors. I presume they
were obliged to have him banished again, by administrative order from
the Minister of the Interior,--the only remedy when one of this class
of exiles has served out his term,--before they could sleep
tranquilly.

When seen in his village home, it is impossible not to admire the
hard-working, intelligent, patient, gentle, and sympathetic _muzhik_, in
spite of all his faults. We made acquaintance with some of his
democratic manners during a truly unique picnic, arranged by our
charming hosts expressly to convince us that the famous sterlet merited
its reputation. We had tried it in first-class hotels and at their own
table, as well as at other private tables, and we maintained that it was
merely a sweet, fine-grained, insipid fish.

"Wait until we show you _zhiryokha_ [sterlet grilled in its own fat] and
_ukha_ [soup] as prepared by the fishermen of the Volga. The Petersburg
and Moscow people cannot even tell you the meaning of the word
'_zhiryokha_'" was the reply. "As for the famous 'amber' soup, you have
seen that even Osip's efforts do not deserve the epithet."

Accordingly, we assembled one morning at seven o'clock, to the sound of
the hunting-horn, to set out for a point on the Volga twelve miles
distant. We found Milton, the Milliner, and the whole litter of
officials in possession of the carriage, and the coachman's dignity
relaxed into a grin at their antics, evoked by a suspicion that we were
going hunting. Our vehicle, on this occasion, as on all our expeditions
to field and forest, was a stoutly built, springless carriage, called a
_lineika_, or little line, which is better adapted than any other to
country roads, and is much used. In Kazan, by some curious confusion of
ideas, it is called a "guitar." Another nickname for it is "the
lieutenant's coach," which was bestowed upon it by the Emperor Nicholas.
The Tzar came to visit one of the Volga provinces, and found a _lineika_
awaiting him at the landing, for the reason that nothing more elegant,
and with springs, could scale the ascent to the town, over the rough
roads. The landed proprietors of that government were noted for their
dislike for the service of the state, which led them to shirk it,
regardless of the dignity and titles to be thus acquired. They were in
the habit of retiring to their beloved country homes when they had
attained the lowest permissible rung of that wonderful Jacob's ladder
leading to the heaven of officialdom, established by Peter the Great,
and dubbed the Table of Ranks. This grade was lieutenant in the army or
navy, and the corresponding counselor in the civil service. The story
runs that Nicholas stretched himself out at full length on it for a
moment, and gave it its name. Naturally, such men accepted the Emperor's
jest as a compliment, and perpetuated its memory.

This style of carriage, which I have already described in my account of
our visit to Count Tolstoy, is a development of the Russian racing-gig,
which is also used for rough driving in the country, by landed
proprietors. In the latter case it is merely a short board, bare or
upholstered, on which the occupant sits astride, with his feet resting
on the forward axle. Old engravings represent this uncomfortable model
as the public carriage of St. Petersburg at the close of the last
century.

Our _troika_ of horses was caparisoned in blue and red leather, lavishly
decorated with large metal plaques and with chains which musically
replaced portions of the leather straps. Over the neck of the middle
horse, who trotted, rose an ornamented arch of wood. The side horses,
loosely attached by leather thongs, galloped with much freedom and
grace, their heads bent downward and outward, so that we could watch
their beautiful eyes and crimson nostrils. Our coachman's long _armyak_
of dark blue cloth, confined by a gay girdle, was topped by a close
turban hat of black felt, stuck all the way round with a row of eyes
from a peacock's tail. He observed all the correct rules of Russian
driving, dashing up ascents at full speed, and holding his arms
outstretched as though engaged in a race, which our pace suggested.

Our road to the Volga lay, at first, through a vast grainfield, dotted
with peasants at the harvest. Miles of sunflowers followed. They provide
oil for the poorer classes to use in cooking during the numerous fasts,
when butter is forbidden, and seeds to chew in place of the unattainable
peanut. Our goal was a village situated beneath lofty chalk hills,
dazzling white in the sun. A large portion of the village, which had
been burned a short time before, was already nearly rebuilt, thanks to
the ready-made houses supplied by the novel wood-yards of Samara.

The butler had been dispatched on the previous evening, with a
wagon-load of provisions and comforts, and with orders to make the
necessary arrangements for a boat and crew with fisherman Piotr. But,
for reasons which seemed too voluble and complicated for adequate
expression, Piotr had been as slow of movement as my bumptious
_yamtschik_ of the posting-station, and nothing was ready. Piotr, like
many elderly peasants, might sit for the portrait of his apostolic
namesake. But he approved of more wine "for the stomach's sake" than any
apostle ever ventured to recommend, and he had ingenious methods of
securing it. For example, when he brought crayfish to the house, he
improved the opportunity. The fishermen scorn these dainties, and throw
them out of the nets. The fact that they were specially ordered was
sufficient hint to Piotr. He habitually concealed them in the steward's
hemp patch or some other handy nook, and presented himself to our host
with the announcement that he would produce them when he was paid his
"tea-money" in advance, in the shape of a glass of _vodka_. The swap
always took place.

In spite of this weakness, Piotr was a very well-to-do peasant. We
inspected his establishment and tasted his cream, while he was
exhausting his stock of language. His house was like all others of that
region in plan, and everything was clean and orderly. It had an air
about it as if no one ever ate or really did any work there, which was
decidedly deceptive, and his living-room contained the nearest approach
to a bed and bedding which we had seen: a platform supported by two legs
and the wall, and spread with a small piece of heavy gray and black
felt.

Finding that Piotr's eloquence had received lengthy inspiration, we bore
him off, in the middle of his peroration, to the river, where we took
possession of a boat with a chronic leak, and a prow the exact shape of
a sterlet's nose reversed. But Piotr swore that it was the stanchest
craft between Astrakhan and Rybinsk, and intrepidly took command,
steering with a long paddle, while four alert young peasants plied the
oars. Piotr's costume consisted of a cotton shirt and brief trousers.
The others added caps, which, however, they wore only spasmodically.

A picnic without singing was not to be thought of, and we requested the
men to favor us with some folk-songs. No bashful schoolgirls could have
resisted our entreaties with more tortuous graces than did those
untutored peasants. One of them was such an exact blond copy of a pretty
brunette American, whom we had always regarded as the most affected of
her sex, that we fairly stared him out of countenance, in our amazement;
and we made mental apologies to the American on the spot.

"Please sing 'Adown dear Mother Volga,'" the conversation ran.

"We can't sing." "We don't know it." "You sing it and show us how, and
we will join in."

The Affected One capped the climax with "It's not in the mo-o-o-ode now,
that song!" with a delicate assumption of languor which made his
comrades explode in suppressed convulsions of mirth. Finally they
supplied the key, but not the keynote.

"Give us some _vodka_, and we may, perhaps, remember something."

Promises of _vodka_ at the end of the voyage, when the danger was over,
were rejected without hesitation. We reached our breakfast-ground in
profound silence.

Fortunately, the catch of sterlet at this stand had been good. The
fishermen grilled some "in their own fat," by salting them and spitting
them alive on peeled willow wands, which they thrust into the ground, in
a slanting position, over a bed of glowing coals. Anything more
delicious it would be difficult to imagine; and we began to revise our
opinion of the sterlet. In the mean time our boatmen had discovered some
small, sour ground blackberries, which they gallantly presented to us in
their caps. Their feelings were so deeply wounded by our attempts to
refuse this delicacy that we accepted and actually ate them, to the
great satisfaction of the songless rogues who stood over us.

Our own fishing with a line resulted in nothing but the sport and
sunburn. We bought a quantity of sterlet, lest the fishermen at the camp
where we had planned to dine should have been unlucky, placed them in a
net such as is used in towns for carrying fish from market, and trailed
them in the water behind our boat.

We were destined to experience all possible aspects of a Volga
excursion, that day, short of absolute shipwreck. As we floated down the
mighty stream, a violent thunderstorm broke over our heads with the
suddenness characteristic of the country. We were wet to the skin before
we could get at the rain-cloaks on which we were sitting, but our
boatmen remained as dry as ever, to our mystification. In the middle of
the storm, our unworthy vessel sprung a fresh leak, the water poured in,
and we were forced to run aground on a sand-bank for repairs. These were
speedily effected, with a wad of paper, by Piotr, who, with a towel cast
about his head and shoulders, looked more like an apostle than ever.

It appeared that our fishing-camp had moved away; but we found it, at
last, several miles downstream, on a sand-spit backed with willow
bushes. It was temporarily deserted, save for a man who was repairing a
net, and who assured us that his comrades would soon return from their
trip, for supplies, to the small town which we could discern on the
slope of the hillshore opposite. There was nothing to explore on our
sand-reef except the fishermen's primitive shelter, composed of a bit of
sail-cloth and a few boards, furnished with simple cooking utensils, and
superintended by a couple of frolicsome kittens, who took an unfeline
delight in wading along in the edge of the water. So we spread ourselves
out to dry on the clean sand, in the rays of the now glowing sun, and
watched the merchandise, chiefly fish, stacked like cord wood, being
towed up from Astrakhan in great barges.

At last our fisher hosts arrived, and greeted us with grave courtesy and
lack of surprise. They began their preparations by scouring out their
big camp kettle with beach sand, and building a fire at the water's edge
to facilitate the cleaning of the fish. We followed their proceedings
with deep interest, being curious to learn the secret of the genuine
"amber sterlet soup." This was what we discovered.

The fish must be alive. They remain so after the slight preliminaries,
and are plunged into the simmering water, heads and all, the heads and
the parts adjacent being esteemed a delicacy. No other fish are
necessary, no spices or ingredients except a little salt, the
cookery-books to the contrary notwithstanding. The sterlet is expensive
in regions where the cook-book flourishes, and the other fish are merely
a cheat of town economy. The scum is not removed,--this is the capital
point,--but stirred in as fast as it rises. If the _ukha_ be skimmed,
after the manner of professional cooks, the whole flavor and richness
are lost.

While the soup was boiling and more sterlet were being grilled in their
own fat, as a second course, our men pitched our tent and ran up our
flag, and the butler set the table on our big rug. It was lucky that we
had purchased fish at our breakfast-place, as no sterlet had been caught
at this camp. When the soup made its appearance, we comprehended the
epithet "amber" and its fame. Of a deep gold, almost orange color, with
the rich fat, and clear as a topaz, it was utterly unlike anything we
had ever tasted. We understood the despair of Parisian gourmets and
cooks, and we confirmed the verdict, provisionally announced at
breakfast, that the sterlet is the king of all fish. As it is
indescribable, I may be excused for not attempting to do justice to it
in words.

While we feasted, the fishermen cooked themselves a kettle of less
dainty fish, as a treat from us, since the fish belong to the contractor
who farms the ground, not to the men. Their meal ended, the regulation
cross and prayer executed, they amiably consented to anticipate the
usual hour for casting their net, in order that we might see the
operation. The net, two hundred and fifty fathoms in length, was
manoeuvred down the long beach well out in the stream by one man in a
boat, and by five men on shore, who harnessed themselves to a long cable
by halters woven from the soft inner bark of the linden-tree. We grasped
the rope and helped them pull. We might not have been of much real
assistance, but we learned, at least, how heavy is this toil, repeated
many times a day, even when the pouch reveals so slender a catch as in
the present instance. There was nothing very valuable in it, though
there was variety enough, and we were deceived, for a moment, by several
false sterlet.

The small _samovar_ which we had brought gave us a steaming welcome, on
our return to camp. Perched on the fishermen's seatless chair and stool,
and on boxes, we drank our tea and began our preparations for departure,
bestowing a reward on the men, who had acted their parts as impromptu
hosts to perfection. It was late; but our men burst into song, when
their oars dipped in the waves, as spontaneously as the nightingales
which people these shores in springtime,--inspired probably by the full
moon, which they melodiously apostrophized as "the size of a
twenty-kopek bit." They sang of Stenka Razin, the bandit chief, who kept
the Volga and the Caspian Sea in a state of terror during the reign of
Peter the Great's father; of his "poor people, good youths, fugitives,
who were no thieves nor brigands, but only Stenka Razin's workmen." They
declared, in all seriousness, that he had been wont to navigate upon a
felt rug, like the one we had seen in Piotr's cottage; and they disputed
over the exact shade of meaning contained in the words which he was in
the habit of using when he summoned a rich merchant vessel to surrender
as his prize. Evidently, Stenka was no semi-epic, mythical hero to them,
but a living reality.

"Adown dear Mother Volga, Adown her mighty sweep,"

they sang; and suddenly ran the boat aground, and fled up the steep
slope like deer, carrying with them their tall winter boots of gray
felt, which had lain under the thwarts all day. We waited, shivering in
the keen night air, and wondering whether we were deserted on this
lonely reach of the river at midnight. If the apostle Peter understood
the manoeuvre, he was loyal and kept their counsel. He gave no comfort
beyond the oracular _saytchas_, which we were intended to construe as
meaning that they would be back in no time.

When they did return, after a long absence, their feet were as bare as
they had been all day. Their boots were borne tenderly in their arms,
and were distended to their utmost capacity with apples! In answer to
our remonstrances, they replied cheerfully that the night was very warm,
and that the apples came from "their garden, over yonder on the bank."
On further questioning, their village being miles distant, they
retorted, with a laugh, that they had gardens all along the river; and
they offered to share their plunder with us. The Affected One tossed an
apple past my head, with the cry, "Catch, Sasha!" to our host, of whose
familiar name he had taken note during the day. After this and other
experiences, we were prepared to credit an anecdote which had been
related to us of a peasant in that neighborhood, to illustrate the
democratic notions of his class which prevailed even during the days of
serfdom. One of the provincial assemblies, to which nobles and peasants
have been equally eligible for election since the emancipation, met for
the first time, thus newly constituted. One of the nobles, desirous of
making the peasants feel at home, rose and began:--

"We bid you welcome, our younger brothers, to this "--

"We are nobody's inferiors or younger brothers any more," interrupted a
peasant member, "and we will not allow you to call us so."

The nobles took the hint, and made no further unnecessary advances. Yes,
these Volga peasants certainly possess as strong a sense of democratic
equality as any one could wish. But the soft ingenuousness of their
manners and their tact disarm wrath at the rare little liberties which
they take. Even their way of addressing their former masters by the
familiar "thou" betokens respectful affection, not impertinence.

Our men soon wearied of pulling against the powerful current, dodging
the steamers and the tug-boats with their strings of barks signaled by
constellations of colored lanterns high in air. Perhaps they would have
borne up better had we been able to obtain some Astrakhan watermelons
from the steamer wharves, which we besieged in turn as we passed. They
proposed to tow us. On Piotr's assurance that it would be a far swifter
mode of locomotion, and that they would pay no more visits to "their
gardens," we consented. They set up a mast through an opening in one of
the thwarts, passed through a hole in its top a cord the size of a
cod-line, fastened this to the stern of the boat, and leaped ashore with
the free end. Off they darted, galloping like horses along the old
tow-path, and singing vigorously. Piotr remained on board to steer. As
we dashed rapidly through the water, we gained practical knowledge of
the manner in which every pound of merchandise was hauled to the great
Fair from Astrakhan, fourteen hundred and forty miles, before the
introduction of steamers, except in the comparatively rare cases where
oxen were made to wind windlasses on the deck of a bark. It would have
required hours of hard rowing to reach our goal; but by this means we
were soon walking across the yielding sands to Piotr's cottage. Our
cunning rogues of boatmen took advantage of our scattered march to
obtain from us separately such installments of tea-money as must, in the
aggregate, have rendered them hilarious for days to come, if they paid
themselves for their minstrelsy in the coin which they had suggested to
us before breakfast.

Piotr's smiling wife, who was small, like most Russian peasant women,
had baked us some half-rye, half-wheat bread, to our order; she made it
remarkably well, much better than Osip. We secured a more lasting
memento of her handiwork in the form of some towel ends, which she had
spun, woven, drawn, and worked very prettily. Some long-haired heads
were thrust over the oven-top to inspect us, but the bodies did not
follow. They were better engaged in enjoying the heat left from the
baking.

It was two o'clock in the morning when we drove through the village
flock of sheep, that lay asleep on the grassy street. With hand on
pistol, to guard against a possible stray wolf, we dashed past the
shadowy chalk hills; past the nodding sunflowers, whose sleepy eyes were
still turned to the east: past the grainfields, transmuted from gold to
silver by the moonlight; past the newly plowed land, which looked like
velvet billows in its depths of brown, as the moon sank lower and lower
beyond in a mantle of flame.

By this time practice had rendered us expert in retaining our seats in
the low, springless _lineika_; fortunately, for we were all three
quarters asleep at intervals, with excess of fresh air. Even when the
moon had gone down, and a space of darkness intervened before the day,
our headlong pace was not slackened for a moment. As we drove up to the
door, in the pearl-pink dawn, Tulip, the huge yellow mastiff with tawny
eyes, the guardian of the courtyard, received us with his usual
ceremony, through which pierced a petition for a caress. We heeded him
not. By six o'clock we were fast asleep. Not even a packet of letters
from home could keep our eyes open after that four-and-twenty hours'
picnic, which had been unmarred by a single fault, but which had
contained all the "experiences" and "local color" which we could have
desired.

How can I present a picture of all the variations in those sweet,
busy-idle days? They vanished all too swiftly. But now the rick-yard was
heaped high with golden sheaves; the carts came in steady lines,
creaking under endless loads, from those fields which, two years later,
lay scorched with drought, and over which famine brooded. The peasant
girls tossed the grain, with forked boughs, to the threshing-machine,
tended by other girls. The village boys had a fine frolic dragging the
straw away in bundles laid artfully on the ends of two long poles
fastened shaft-wise to the horse's flanks. We had seen the harvesting,
the plowing with the primitive wooden plow, the harrowing with equally
simple contrivances, and the new grain was beginning to clothe the soil
with a delicate veil of green. It was time for us to go. During our
whole visit, not a moment had hung heavy on our hands, here in the
depths of the country, where visitors were comparatively few and
neighbors distant, such had been the unwearied attention and kindness of
our hosts.

We set out for the river once more. This time we had a landau, and a
cart for our luggage. As we halted to drink milk in the Tchuvash
village, the inhabitants who chanced to be at home thronged about our
carriage. We espied several women arrayed in their native costume, which
has been almost entirely abandoned for the Russian dress, and is fast
becoming a precious rarity. The men have already discarded their dress
completely for the Russian. We sent one of the women home to fetch her
Sunday gown, and purchased it on the spot. Such a wonderful piece of
work! The woman had spun, woven, and sewed it; she had embroidered it in
beautiful Turanian, not Russian, patterns, with silks,--dull red, pale
green, relieved by touches of dark blue; she had striped it lengthwise
with bands of red cotton and embroidery, and crosswise with fancy
ribbons and gay calicoes; she had made a mosaic of the back which must
have delighted her rear neighbors in church; and she had used the gown
with such care that, although it had never been washed, it was not badly
soiled. One piece for the body, two for the head, a sham pocket,--that
was all. The footgear consisted of crash bands, bast slippers, rope
cross-garters. The artists to whom I showed the costume, later on,
pronounced it an ethnographical prize.

These Tchuvashi are a small, gray-eyed, olive-skinned race, with
cheek-bones and other features like the Tatars, but less well preserved
than with the latter, in spite of their always marrying among
themselves. There must have been dilution of the race at some time, if
the characteristics were as strongly marked as with the Tatars, in their
original ancestors from Asia. Most of them are baptized into the Russian
faith, and their villages have Russian churches. Nevertheless, along
with their native tongue they are believed to retain many of their
ancient pagan customs and superstitions, although baptism is in no sense
compulsory. The priest in our friends' village, who had lived among
them, had told us that such is the case. But he had also declared that
they possess many estimable traits of character, and that their family
life is deserving of imitation in more than one particular. This village
of theirs looked prosperous and clean. The men, being brought more into
contact with outsiders than the women, speak Russian better than the
latter, and more generally. It is not exactly a case which proves
woman's conservative tendencies.

On reaching the river, and finding that no steamer was likely to arrive
for several hours, we put up at the cottage of a prosperous peasant,
which was patronized by many of the neighboring nobles, in preference to
the wretched inns of that suburb of the wharves. The "best room" had a
citified air, with its white curtains, leaf plants, pretty china tea
service, and photographs of the family on the wall. These last seemed to
us in keeping with the sewing-machine which we had seen a peasant woman
operating in a shop of the little posting-town inland. They denoted
progress, since many peasants cherish religious scruples or
superstitions about having their portraits taken in any form.

The athletic sons, clad only in shirts and trousers of sprigged print,
with fine chestnut hair, which compensated for their bare feet, vacated
the room for our use. They and the house were as clean as possible.
Outside, near the entrance door, hung the family washstand, a
double-spouted teapot of bronze suspended by chains. But it was plain
that they did not pin their faith wholly to it, and that they took the
weekly steam bath which is customary with the peasants. Not everything
was citified in the matter of sanitary arrangements. But these people
seemed to thrive, as our ancestors all did, and probably regarded us as
over-particular.

To fill in the interval of waiting, we made an excursion to the heart of
the town, and visited the pretty public garden overhanging the river,
and noteworthy for its superb dahlias. As we observed the types of young
people who were strolling there, we recognized them, with slight
alterations only, which the lapse of time explained, from the types
which we had seen on the stage in Ostrovsky's famous play "The
Thunderstorm." The scene of that play is laid on the banks of the Volga,
in just such a garden; why should it not have been on this spot?

All peasant _izbui_ are so bewilderingly alike that we found our special
cottage again with some difficulty, by the light of the young moon. By
this time "the oldest inhabitant" had hazarded a guess as to the line
whose steamer would arrive first. Accordingly, we gathered up our small
luggage and our Tchuvash costume, and fairly rolled down the steep,
pathless declivity of slippery turf, groping our way to the right wharf.
How the luggage cart got down was a puzzle. Here we ordered in the
_samovar_, and feasted until far into the night on the country dainties
which we had brought with us, supplemented by one of the first
watermelons from Astrakhan, which we had purchased from a belated dealer
in the deserted town market. The boat was late, as a matter of course;
but we understood the situation now, and asked no questions. When it
arrived, we and our charming hosts, whose society we were to enjoy for a
few days longer, embarked for Samara, to visit the famous kumys
establishments on the steppes.

Russian harvest-tide was over for us, leaving behind a store of memories
as golden as the grain, fitly framed on either hand by Mother Volga.




XI.

THE RUSSIAN KUMYS CURE.


It is not many years since every pound of freight, every human being,
bound to Astrakhan from the interior of Russia simply floated down the
river Volga with the current. The return journey was made slowly and
painfully, in tow of those human beasts of burden, the _burlaki_. The
traces of their towpath along the shores may still be seen, and the
system itself may even be observed at times, when light barks have to be
forced upstream for short distances.

Then some enterprising individual set up a line of steamers, in the face
of the usual predictions from the wiseacres that he would ruin himself
and all his kin. The undertaking proved so fabulously successful and
profitable that a wild rush of competition ensued. But the competition
seems to have consisted chiefly in the establishment of rival lines of
steamers, and there are some peculiarities of river travel which still
exist in consequence. One of these curious features is that each
navigation company appears to have adopted a certain type of steamer at
the outset, and not to have improved on that original idea to any marked
degree. There are some honorable exceptions, it is true, and I certainly
have a very definite opinion concerning the line which I would patronize
on a second trip. Another idea, to which they have clung with equal
obstinacy, though it is far from making amends for the other, is that a
journey is worth a certain fixed sum per verst, utterly regardless of
the vast difference in the accommodations offered.

Possibly it is a natural consequence of having been born in America, and
of having heard the American boast of independence and progress and the
foreign boast of conservatism contrasted ever since I learned my
alphabet, not to exaggerate unduly, that I should take particular notice
of all illustrations of these conflicting systems. Generally speaking, I
advocate a judicious mixture of the two, in varying proportions to suit
my taste on each special occasion. But there are times when I distinctly
favor the broadest independence and progress. These Volga steamers had
afforded me a subject for meditations on this point, at a distance, even
before I was obliged to undergo personal experience of the defects of
conservatism. Before I had sailed four and twenty hours on the broad
bosom of Matushka Volga, I was able to pick out the steamers of all the
rival lines at sight with the accuracy of a veteran river pilot. There
was no great cleverness in that, I hasten to add; anybody but a blind
man could have done as much; but that only makes my point the more
forcible. It was when we set out for Samara that we realized most keenly
the beauties of enterprise in this direction.

We had, nominally, a wide latitude of choice, as all the lines made a
stop at our landing. But when we got tired of waiting for the steamer of
our preference,--the boats of all the lines being long overdue, as
usual, owing to low water in the river,--and took the first which
presented itself, we found that the latitude in choice, so far as
accommodations were concerned, was even greater than had been apparent
at first sight.

Fate allotted us one of the smaller steamers, the more commodious boats
having probably "sat down on a sand-bar," as the local expression goes.
The one on which we embarked had only a small dining-room and saloon,
one first-class cabin for men and one for women, all nearly on a level
with the water, instead of high aloft, as in the steamers which we had
hitherto patronized, and devoid of deck-room for promenading. The
third-class cabin was on the forward deck. The second-class cabin was
down a pair of steep, narrow stairs, whose existence we did not discover
when we went on board at midnight, and which did not tempt us to
investigation even when we arose the next morning. Fortunately, there
were no candidates except ourselves and a Russian friend for the six red
velvet divans ranged round the walls of the tiny "ladies' cabin," and
the adjoining toilet-room, and the man of the party enjoyed complete
seclusion in the men's cabin. In the large boats, for the same price, we
should have had separate staterooms, each accommodating two persons.
However, everything was beautifully clean, as usual on Russian steamers
so far as my experience goes, and it made no difference for one night.
The experience was merely of interest as a warning.

The city of Samara, as it presented itself to our eyes the next morning,
was the liveliest place on the river Volga next to Nizhni Novgorod.
While it really is of importance commercially, owing to its position on
the Volga and on the railway from central Russia, as a depot for the
great Siberian trade through Orenburg, the impression of alertness which
it produces is undoubtedly due to the fact that it presents itself to
full view in the foreground, instead of lying at a distance from the
wharves, or entirely concealed. An American, who is accustomed to see
railways and steamers run through the very heart of the cities which
they serve, never gets thoroughly inured to the Russian trick of taking
important towns on faith, because it has happened to be convenient to
place the stations out of sight and hearing, sometimes miles out of the
city. Another striking point about Samara is the abundance of red brick
buildings, which is very unusual, not to say unprecedented, in most of
the older Russian towns, which revel in stucco washed with white, blue,
and yellow.

But the immediate foreground was occupied with something more attractive
than this. The wharves, the space between them, and all the ground round
about were fairly heaped with fruit: apples in bewildering variety,
ranging from the pink-and-whiteskinned "golden seeds" through the whole
gamut of apple hues; round striped watermelons and oval cantaloupes with
perfumed orange-colored flesh, from Astrakhan; plums and grapes. After
wrestling with these fascinations and with the merry _izvostchiki_, we
set out on a little voyage of discovery, preparatory to driving out to
the famous kumys establishments, where we had decided to stay instead of
in the town itself.

Much of Samara is too new in its architecture, and too closely resembles
the simple, thrifty builders' designs of a mushroom American settlement,
to require special description. Although it is said to have been founded
at the close of the sixteenth century, to protect the Russians from the
incursions of the Kalmucks, Bashkirs, and Nogai Tatars, four disastrous
conflagrations within the last forty-five years have made way for
"improvements" and entailed the loss of characteristic features, while
its rank as one of the chief marts for the great Siberian trade has
caused a rapid increase in population, which now numbers between
seventy-five and eighty thousand.

One modern feature fully compensates, however, by its originality, for a
good many commonplace antiquities. Near the wharves, on our way out of
the town, we passed a lumber-yard, which dealt wholly in ready-made log
houses. There stood a large assortment of cottages, in the brilliant
yellow of the barked logs, of all sizes and at all prices, from fifteen
to one hundred dollars, forming a small suburb of samples. The lumber is
floated down the Volga and her tributaries from the great forests of
Ufa, and made up in Samara. The peasant purchaser disjoints his house,
floats it to a point near his village, drags it piecemeal to its proper
site, sets it up, roofs it, builds an oven and a chimney of stones,
clay, and whitewash, plugs the interstices with rope or moss, smears
them with clay if he feels inclined, and his house is ready for
occupancy. Although such houses are cheap and warm, it would be a great
improvement if the people could afford to build with brick, so immense
is the annual loss by fire in the villages. Brick buildings are,
however, far beyond the means of most peasants, let them have the best
will in the world, and the ready-made cottages are a blessing, though
every peasant is capable of constructing one for himself on very brief
notice, if he has access to a forest. But forests are not so common
nowadays along the Volga, and, as the advertisements say, this novel
lumber-yard "meets a real want." When the Samarcand railway was opened,
a number of these cottages, in the one-room size, were placed on
platform cars, and to each guest invited to the ceremony was assigned
one of these unique drawing-room-car coupes.

About four miles from the town proper, on the steppe, lie two noted
kumys establishments; one of them being the first resort of that kind
ever set up, at a time when the only other choice for invalids who
wished to take the cure was to share the hardships, dirt, bad food, and
carelessly prepared kumys of the tented nomads of the steppes. The
grounds of the one which we had elected to patronize extended to the
very brink of the Volga. In accordance with the admonitions of the
specialist physicians to avoid many-storied, ill-ventilated buildings
with long corridors, the hotel consists of numerous wooden structures,
of moderate size, chiefly in Moorish style, and painted in light colors,
scattered about a great inclosure which comprises groves of pines and
deciduous trees,--"red forest" and "black forest," as Russians would
express it,--lawns, arbors, shady walks, flower-beds, and other things
pleasing to the eye, and conducive to comfort and very mild amusement.
One of the buildings even contains a hall, where dancing, concerts, and
theatricals can be and are indulged in, in the height of the season,
although such violent and crowded affairs as balls are, in theory,
discountenanced by the physicians. All these points we took in at one
curious glance, as we were being conducted to the different buildings to
inspect rooms. I am afraid that we pretended to be very difficult to
please, in order to gain a more extensive insight into the arrangements.
As the height of the season (which is May and June) was past, we had a
great choice offered us, and I suppose that this made a difference in
the price, also. It certainly was not unreasonable. We selected some
rooms which opened on a small private corridor. The furniture consisted
of the usual narrow iron bedstead (with linen and pillows thrown in
gratis, for a wonder), a tiny table which disagreeably recalled American
ideas as to that article, an apology for a bureau, two armchairs, and no
washstand. The chairs were in their primitive stuffing-and-burlap state,
loose gray linen covers being added when the rooms were prepared for us.
Any one who has ever struggled with his temper and the slack-fitting
shift of a tufted armchair will require no explanation as to what took
place between me and my share of those untufted receptacles before I
deposited its garment under my bed, and announced that burlap and tacks
were luxurious enough for me. That one item contained enough irritation
and excitement to ruin any "cure."

The washstand problem was even more complicated. A small, tapering brass
tank, holding about two quarts of water, with a faucet which dripped
into a diminutive cup with an unstoppered waste-pipe, was screwed to the
wall in our little corridor. We asked for a washstand, and this
arrangement was introduced to our notice, the chambermaid being
evidently surprised at the ignorance of barbarians who had never seen a
washstand before. We objected that a mixed party of men and women could
not use that decently, even if two quarts of water were sufficient for
three women and a man. After much argument and insistence, we obtained,
piecemeal: item, one low stool; item, one basin; item, one pitcher.
There were no fastenings on the doors, except a hasp and staple to the
door of the corridor, to which, after due entreaty, we secured an oblong
padlock.

The next morning, the chambermaid came to the door of our room opening
on the private corridor while we were dressing, and demanded the basin
and pitcher. "Some one else wants them!" she shouted through the door.
We had discovered her to be a person of so much decision of character,
in the course of our dealings with her on the preceding day, that we
were too wary to admit her, lest she should simply capture the utensils
and march off with them. As I was the heaviest of the party, it fell to
my lot to brace myself against the unfastened door and parley with her.
Three times that woman returned to the attack; thrice we refused to
surrender our hard-won trophies, and asked her pointedly, "What do you
do for materials when the house is full, pray?" Afterwards, while we
were drinking our coffee on the delightful half-covered veranda below,
which had stuffed seats running round the walls, and a flower-crowned
circular divan in the centre, a lively testimony to the dryness of the
atmosphere, we learned that the person who had wanted the basin and
pitcher was the man of our party. He begged us not to inquire into the
mysteries of his toilet, and refused to help us solve the riddle of the
guests' cleanliness when the hotel was full. I assume, on reflection,
however, that they were expected to take Russian or plain baths every
two or three days, to rid themselves of the odor of the kumys, which
exudes copiously through the pores of the skin and scents the garments.
On other days a "lick and a promise" were supposed to suffice, so that
their journals must have resembled that of the man who wrote: "Monday,
washed myself. Tuesday, washed hands and face. Wednesday, washed hands
only." That explanation is not wholly satisfactory, either, because the
Russians are clean people.

As coffee is one of the articles of food which are forbidden to kumys
patients, though they may drink tea without lemon or milk, we had
difficulty in getting it at all. It was long in coming; bad and
high-priced when it did make its appearance. As we were waiting, an
invalid lady and the novice nun who was in attendance upon her began to
sing in a room near by. They had no instrument. What it was that they
sang, I do not know. It was gentle as a breath, melting as a sigh, soft
and slow like a conventional chant, and sweet as the songs of the
Russian Church or of the angels. There are not many strains in this
world upon which one hangs entranced, in breathless eagerness, and the
memory of which haunts one ever after. But this song was one of that
sort, and it lingers in my memory as a pure delight; in company with
certain other fragments of church music heard in that land, as among the
most beautiful upon earth.

I may as well tell at once the whole story of the food, so far as we
explored its intricate mysteries. We were asked if we wished to take the
_table d'hote_ breakfast in the establishment. We said "yes," and
presented ourselves promptly. We were served with beefsteak, in small,
round, thick pieces.

"What queer beefsteak!" said one of our Russian friends. "Is there no
other meat?"

"No, madam."

We all looked at it for several minutes. We said it was natural, when
invalids drank from three to five bottles of the nourishing kumys a day,
that they should not require much extra food, and that the management
provided what variety was healthy and advisable, no doubt; only we would
have liked a choice; and--what queer steak!

The first sniff, the first glance at that steak, of peculiar grain and
dark red hue, had revealed the truth to _us_. But we saw that our
Russian friends were not initiated, and we knew that their stomachs were
delicate. We exchanged signals, took a mouthful, declared it excellent,
and ate bravely through our portions. The Russians followed our example.
Well--it was much tenderer and better than the last horseflesh to
which we had been treated surreptitiously; but I do not crave horseflesh
as a regular diet. It really was not surprising at a kumys
establishment, where the horse is worshiped, alive or dead, apparently,
in Tatar fashion.

That afternoon we made it convenient to take our dinner in town, on the
veranda of a restaurant which overlooked the busy Volga, with its mobile
moods of sunset and thunderstorm, where we compensated ourselves for our
unsatisfactory breakfast by a characteristically Russian dinner, of
which I will omit details, except as regards the soup. This soup was
_botvinya_. A Russian once obligingly furnished me with a description of
a foreigner's probable views on this national delicacy: "a slimy pool
with a rock in the middle, and creatures floating round about." The rock
is a lump of ice (_botvinya_ being a cold soup) in the tureen of
strained _kvas_ or sour cabbage. _Kvas_ is the sour, fermented liquor
made from black bread. In this liquid portion of the soup, which is
colored with strained spinach, floated small cubes of fresh cucumber and
bits of the green tops from young onions. The solid part of the soup,
served on a platter, so that each person might mix the ingredients
according to his taste, consisted of cold boiled sterlet, raw ham, more
cubes of cucumber, more bits of green onion tops, lettuce, crayfish,
grated horseradish, and granulated sugar. The first time I encountered
this really delectable dish, it was served with salmon, the pale,
insipid northern salmon. I supposed that the lazy waiter had brought the
soup and fish courses together, to save himself trouble, and I ate them
separately, while I meditated a rebuke to the waiter and a strong
description of the weak soup. The tables were turned on me, however,
when Mikhei appeared and grinned, as broadly as his not overstrict sense
of propriety permitted, at my unparalleled ignorance, while he gave me a
lesson in the composition of _botvinya_. That _botvinya_ was not good,
but this edition of it on the banks of the Volga, with sterlet, was
delicious.

We shirked our meals at the establishment with great regularity, with
the exception of morning coffee, which was unavoidable, but we did
justice to its kumys, which was superb. Theoretically, the mares should
have had the advantage of better pasturage, at a greater distance from
town; but, as they cannot be driven far to milk without detriment, that
plan involves making the kumys at a distance, and transporting it to the
"cure." There is another famous establishment, situated a mile beyond
ours, where this plan is pursued. Ten miles away the mares pasture, and
the kumys is made at a subsidiary cure, where cheap quarters are
provided for poorer patients. But, either on account of the
transportation under the hot sun, or because the professional "taster"
is lacking in delicacy of perception, we found the kumys at this rival
establishment coarse in both flavor and smell, in comparison with that
at our hostelry.

Our mares, on the contrary, were kept close by, and the kumys was
prepared on the spot. It is the first article of faith in the creed of
the kumys expert that no one can prepare this milk wine properly except
Tatars. Hence, when any one wishes to drink it at home, a Tatar is sent
for, the necessary mares are set aside for him, and he makes what is
required. But the second article of faith is that kumys is much better
when made in large quantities. The third is that a kumys specialist, or
doctor, is as indispensable for the regulation of the cure as he is at
mineral springs. The fourth article in the creed is that mares grazing
on the rich plume-grass of the steppe produce milk which is particularly
rich in sugar, very poor in fat, and similar to woman's milk in its
proportion of albumen, though better furnished: all which facts combine
to give kumys whose chemical proportions differ greatly from those of
kumys prepared elsewhere. Moreover, on private estates it is not always
possible to observe all the conditions regarding the choice and care of
the mares.

At our establishment there were several Tatars to milk the mares and
make the kumys. The wife of one of them, a Tatar beauty, was the
professional taster, who issued her orders like an autocrat on that
delicate point. She never condescended to work, and it was our opinion
that she ought to devote herself to dress, in her many leisure hours,
instead of lounging about in ugly calico sacks and petticoats, as
hideous as though they had originated in a backwoods farm in New
England. She explained, however, that she was in a sort of mourning. Her
husband was absent, and she could not make herself beautiful for any one
until his return, which she was expecting every moment. She spent most
of her time in gazing, from a balcony on the cliff, up the river, toward
the bend backed by beautiful hills, to espy her husband on the steamer.
As he did not come, we persuaded her, by arguments couched in silver
speech, to adorn herself on the sly for us. Then she was afraid that the
missing treasure might make his appearance too soon, and she made such
undue haste that she faithlessly omitted the finishing touch,--
blacking her pretty teeth. I gathered from her remarks that something
particularly awful would result should she be caught with those pearls
obscured in the presence of any other man when her husband was not
present; but she may have been using a little diplomacy to soothe us.
Though she was not a beauty in the ordinary sense of the Occident, she
certainly was when dressed in her national garb, as I had found to be
the case with the Russian peasant girls. Her loose sack, of a medium but
brilliant blue woolen material, fell low over a petticoat of the same
terminating in a single flounce. Her long black hair was carefully
braided, and fell from beneath an embroidered cap of crimson velvet with
a rounded end which hung on one side in a coquettish way. Her neck was
completely covered with a necklace which descended to her waist like a
breast-plate, and consisted of gold coins, some of them very ancient and
valuable, medals, red beads, and a variety of brilliant objects
harmoniously combined. Her heavy gold bracelets had been made to order
in Kazan after a pure Tatar model, and her soft-soled boots of rose-pink
leather, with conventional designs in many-colored moroccos, sewed
together with rainbow-hued silks, reached nearly to her knees. Her
complexion was fresh and not very sallow, her nose rather less like a
button than is usual; her high cheek-bones were well covered, and her
small dark eyes made up by their brilliancy for the slight upward slant
of their outer corners.

Tatar girls, who made no pretensions to beauty in dress or features, did
the milking, and were aided in that and the other real work connected
with kumys-making by Tatar men. According to the official programme, the
mares might be milked six or eight times a day, and the yield was from a
half to a whole bottle apiece each time. Milk is always reckoned by the
bottle in Russia. I presume the custom arose from the habit of sending
the _muzhik_ ("Boots") to the dairy-shop with an empty wine-bottle to
fetch the milk and cream for "tea," which sometimes means coffee in the
morning. The mare's milk has a sweetish, almond-like flavor, and is very
thin and bluish in hue.

At three o'clock in the morning, the mares are taken from the colts and
shut up in a long shed which is not especially weather-proof. In fact,
there is not much "weather" except wind to be guarded against on the
steppe. In about two hours, when the milk has collected, the colts
follow them voluntarily, and are admitted and allowed to suck for a few
seconds. Halters are then thrown about their necks, and they are led
forward where the mothers can nose them over and lick them. The
milkmaid's second assistant then puts a halter on the neck of a mare and
holds her, or ties up one leg if she be restive. In the mean time the
foolish creature continues to let down milk for her foal. The milkmaid
kneels on one knee and holds her pail on the other, after having washed
her hands carefully and wiped off the teats with a clean, damp cloth. If
the mare resists at first, the milk obtained must not be used for kumys,
as her agitation affects the milk unfavorably. Roan, gray, and chestnut
mares are preferred, and in order to obtain the best milk great care
must be exercised in the choice of pasture and the management of the
horses, as well as in all the minor details of preparation.

The milking-pails are of tin or of oak wood, and, like the oaken kumys
churn, have been boiled in strong lye to extract the acid, and well
dried and aired. In addition to the daily washing they are well smoked
with rotten birch trunks, in order to destroy all particles of kumys
which may cling to them.

The next step after the milk is obtained is to ferment it. The ferment,
or yeast, is obtained by collecting the sediment of the kumys which has
already germinated, and washing it off thoroughly with milk or water. It
is then pressed and dried in the sun, the result being a reddish-brown
mass composed of the micro-organisms contained in kumys ferment, casein,
and a small quantity of fat. Twenty grains of this yeast are ground up
in a small quantity of freshly drawn milk in a clean porcelain mortar,
and shaken in a quart bottle with one pound of fresh milk,--all mare's
milk, naturally,--after which it is lightly corked with a bit of
wadding and set away in a temperature of +22 degrees to +26 degrees
Reaumur. In about twenty-four hours small bubbles begin to make their
appearance, accompanied by the sour odor of kumys. The bottle is then
shaken from time to time, and the air admitted, until it is in a
condition to be used as a ferment with fresh milk. Sometimes this
ferment fails, in which case an artificial ferment is prepared.

One pint of ferment is allowed to every five pints of fresh milk in the
cask or churn, and the whole is beaten with the dasher for about an
hour, when it is set aside in a temperature of +18 degrees to +26
degrees Reaumur. When, at the expiration of a few hours, the milk turns
sour and begins to ferment vigorously, it is beaten again several times
for about fifteen minutes, with intervals, with a dasher which
terminates in a perforated disk, after which it is left undisturbed for
several hours at the same temperature as before, until the liquid begins
to exhale an odor of spirits of wine. The delicate offices of our Tatar
beauty, the taster, come in at this point to determine how much freshly
drawn and cooled milk is to be added in order rightly to temper the sour
taste. After standing over night it is ready for use, and is put up in
seltzer or champagne bottles, and kept at a temperature of +8 degrees to
+12 degrees Reaumur. At a lower temperature vinegar fermentation sets in
and spoils the kumys, while too high a temperature brings about equally
disastrous results of another sort. Kumys has a different chemical
composition according to whether it has stood only a few hours or
several days, and consequently its action differs, also.

The weak kumys is ready for use at the expiration of six hours after
fermentation has been excited in the mare's milk, and must be put into
the strongest bottles. The medium quality is obtained after from twelve
to fourteen hours of fermentation, and, if well corked, will keep two or
three days in a cool atmosphere. The third and strongest quality is the
product of diligent daily churning during twenty-four to thirty-six
hours, and is thinner than the medium quality, even watery. When
bottled, it soon separates into three layers, with the fatty particles
on top, the whey in the middle, and the casein at the bottom. Strong
kumys can be kept for a very long time, but it must be shaken before it
is used. It is very easy for a person unaccustomed to kumys to become
intoxicated on this strong quality of milk wine.

The nourishing effects of this spirituous beverage are argued,
primarily, from the example of the Bashkirs and the Kirghiz, who are
gaunt and worn by the hunger and cold of winter, but who blossom into
rounded outlines and freshness of complexion three or four days after
the spring pasturage for their mares begins. Some persons argue that
life with these Bashkirs and an exclusive diet of kumys will effect a
speedy cure of their ailments. Hence they join one of the nomad hordes.
This course, however, not only deprives them of medical advice and the
comforts to which they have been accustomed, but often gives them kumys
which is difficult to take because of its rank taste and smell, due to
the lack of that scrupulous cleanliness which its proper preparation
demands.

There are establishments near St. Petersburg and Moscow where kumys may
be obtained by those who do not care to make the long journey to the
steppe; but the quality and chemical constituents are very different
from those of the steppe kumys, especially at the best period, May and
June, when the plumegrass and wild strawberry are at their finest
development for food, and before the excessive heats of midsummer have
begun.

As I have said, when people wish to make the cure on their own estates,
the indispensable Tatar is sent for, and the requisite number of
middle-aged mares, of which no work is required, are set aside for the
purpose. But from all I have heard, I am inclined to think that benefit
is rarely derived from these private cures, and this for several
reasons. Not only is the kumys said to be inferior when prepared in such
small quantities, but no specialist or any other doctor can be
constantly on hand to regulate the functional disorders which this diet
frequently occasions. Moreover, the air of the steppe plays an important
part in the cure. When a person drinks from five to fifteen or more
bottles a day, and sometimes adds the proper amount of fatty, starchy,
and saccharine elements, some other means than the stomach are
indispensable for disposing of the refuse. As a matter of fact, in the
hot, dry, even temperature of the steppe, where patients are encouraged
to remain out-of-doors all day and drink slowly, they perspire kumys.
When the system becomes thoroughly saturated with this food-drink,
catarrh often makes its appearance, but disappears at the close of the
cure. Colic, constipation, diarrhoea, nose-bleed, and bleeding from the
lungs are also present at times, as well as sleeplessness, toothache,
and other disorders. The effects of kumys are considered of especial
value in cases of weak lungs, anaemia, general debility caused by any
wasting illness, ailments of the digestive organs, and scurvy, for which
it is taken by many naval officers.

In short, although it is not a cure for all earthly ills, it is of value
in many which proceed from imperfect nutrition producing exhaustion of
the patient. There are some conditions of the lungs in which it cannot
be used, as well as in organic diseases of the brain and heart,
epilepsy, certain disorders of the liver, and when gallstones are
present. It is drunk at the temperature of the air which surrounds the
patient, but must be warmed with hot water, not in the sun, and sipped
slowly, with pauses, not drunk down in haste; and generally exercise
must be taken. Turn where we would in those kumys establishments, we
encountered a patient engaged in assiduous promenading, with a bottle of
kumys suspended from his arm and a glassful in his hand.

Coffee, chocolate, and wine are some of the luxuries which must be
renounced during a kumys cure, and though black tea (occasionally with
lemon) is allowed, no milk or cream can be permitted to contend with the
action of the mare's milk unless by express permission of the physician.
"Cream kumys," which is advertised as a delicacy in America, is a
contradiction in terms, it will be seen, as it is made of cow's milk,
and cream would be contrary to the nature of kumys, even if the mare's
milk produced anything which could rightly pass as such. Fish and fruits
are also forbidden, with the exception of _klubniki_, which accord well
with kumys. _Klubnika_ is a berry similar to the strawberry in
appearance, but with an entirely different taste. Patients who violate
these dietary rules are said to suffer for it,--in which case there
must have been a good deal of agony inside the tall fence of our
establishment, judging by the thriving trade in fruits driven by the old
women, who did not confine themselves to the outside of the gate, as the
rules required, but slipped past the porter and guardians to the house
itself.

We found the kumys a very agreeable beverage, and could readily perceive
that the patients might come to have a very strong taste for it. We even
sympathized with the thorough-going patient of whom we were told that he
set oft regularly every morning to lose himself for the day on the
steppe, armed with an umbrella against possible cooling breezes, and
with a basket containing sixteen bottles of kumys, his allowance of food
and medicine until sundown. The programme consisted of a walk in the
sun, a drink, a walk, a drink, with umbrella interludes, until darkness
drove him home to bed and to his base of supplies.

We did not remain long enough, or drink enough kumys, to observe any
particular effects on our own persons. As I have said, we ate in town,
chiefly, after that breakfast of kumys-mare beefsteak and potatoes of
the size and consistency of bullets. During our food and shopping
excursions we found that Samara was a decidedly wide-awake and driving
town, though it seemed to possess no specialties in buildings,
curiosities, or manufactures, and the statue to Alexander II., which now
adorns one of its squares, was then swathed in canvas awaiting its
unveiling. It is merely a sort of grand junction, through which other
cities and provinces sift their products. In kumys alone does Samara
possess a characteristic unique throughout Russia. Consequently, it is
for kumys that multitudes of Russians flock thither every spring.

The soil of the steppe, on which grows the nutritious plume-grass
requisite for the food of the kumys mares, is very fertile, and immense
crops of rye, wheat, buckwheat, oats, and so forth are raised whenever
the rainfall is not too meagre. Unfortunately, the rainfall is
frequently insufficient, and the province of Samara often comes to the
attention of Russia, or even of the world, as during the dearth in 1891,
because of scarcity of food, or even famine, which is no novelty in the
government. In a district where the average of rain is twenty inches,
there is not much margin of superfluity which can be spared without
peril. Wheat grows here better than in the government just north of it,
and many peasants are attracted from the "black-bread governments" to
Samara by the white bread which is there given them as rations when they
hire out for the harvest.

But such a singular combination of conditions prevails there, as
elsewhere in Russia, that an abundant harvest is often more disastrous
than a scanty harvest. The price of grain falls so low that the cost of
gathering it is greater than the market value, and it is often left to
fall unreaped in the fields. When the price falls very low, complaints
arise that there is no place to send it, since, when the ruble stands
high, as it invariably does at the prospect of large crops, the demand
from abroad is stopped. The result is that those people who are situated
near a market sell as much grain and leave as little at home as possible
in order to meet their bills. The price rises; the unreaped surplus of
the districts lying far from markets cannot fill the ensuing demand. The
income from estates falls, and the discouraged owners who have nothing
to live on resolve to plant a smaller area thereafter. Estates are
mortgaged and sold by auction; prices are very low, and often there are
no buyers.

The immediate result of an over-abundant harvest in far-off Samara is
that the peasants who have come hither to earn a little money at reaping
return home penniless, or worse, to their suffering families. Some of
them are legitimate seekers after work; that is to say, they have no
grain of their own to attend to, or they reap their own a little earlier
or a little later, and go away to earn the ready money to meet taxes and
indispensable expenditures of the household, such as oil, and so on.
"_Pri khlyeby bez khlyeby_" is their own way of expressing the
situation, which we may translate freely as "starvation in the midst of
plenty." Thus the extremes of famine-harvest and the harvest which is an
embarrassment of riches are equally disastrous to the poor peasant.

Samara offers a curious illustration of several agricultural problems,
and a proof of some peculiar paradoxes. The peasants of the neighboring
governments, which are not populated to a particularly dense degree,--
twenty male inhabitants to a square verst (two thirds of a mile), and
not all engaged in agriculture,--have long been accustomed to look
upon Samara as a sort of promised land. They still regard it in that
light, and endeavor to emigrate thither, for the sake of obtaining
grants of state land, and certain immunities and privileges which are
accorded to colonists. This action is the result of the paradox that
overproduction exists hand in hand with too small a parcel of land for
each peasant!

Volumes have been written, and more volumes might still be written, on
this subject. But I must content myself here with saying that I believe
there is no province which illustrates so thoroughly all the distressing
features of these manifold and complicated problems of colonization, of
permanent settlements, with the old evils of both landlords and peasants
cropping up afresh, abundant and scanty harvests equally associated with
famine, and all the troubles which follow in their train, as Samara.
Hence it is that I can never recall the kumys, which is so intimately
connected with the name of Samara, without also recalling the famine,
which is, alas, almost as intimately bound up with it.




XII.

MOSCOW MEMORIES.


St. Petersburg is handsome, grand, impressive. Moscow is beautiful,
poetic, sympathetic, and pervaded by an atmosphere of ancient Russia,
which is indescribable, though it penetrates to the marrow of one's
bones if he tarry long within her walls. Emperor Peter's new capital
will not bear comparison, for originality, individuality, and
picturesqueness with Tzar Peter's Heart of Holy Russia, to which the
heart of one who loves her must, perforce, often return with longing in
after days,--"white-stoned golden-domed, Holy Mother Moscow."

But a volume of guide-book details, highly colored impressionist
sketches, and dainty miniature painting combined would not do justice to
Moscow. Therefore, I shall confine myself to a few random reminiscences
which may serve to illustrate habits or traits in the character of the
city or the people.

"'Eography," says Mrs. Booby, in one of the famous old Russian comedies
which we were so fortunate as to witness on the Moscow stage: "Ah! good
heavens! And what are cabmen for, then? That's their business. It's not
a genteel branch of learning. A gentleman merely says: 'Take me to such
or such a place,' and the cabman drives him wherever he pleases."

Nowadays, it is advisable to be vulgar and know the geography of Moscow,
if one is really enjoying it independently. It is a trifle less
complicated than the geography of the Balkan Principalities, and, unlike
that of the Balkan Principalities, it has its humorous side, which
affords alleviation. The Moscow cabby has now, as in the time of Mrs.
Booby, the reputation of being a very hard customer to deal with. He is
not often so ingenuous, even in appearance, as the man who drove close
to the sidewalk and entreated our custom by warbling, sweetly: "We must
have work or we can't have bread." He is only to be dreaded, however, if
one be genteelly ignorant, after Mrs. Booby's plan. I cannot say that I
ever had any difficulty in finding any place I wanted, either with the
aid (or hindrance) of an _izvostchik_, or on foot, in Moscow or other
Russian towns. But for this and other similar reasons I acquired a
nickname among the natives,--_molodyetz_, that is to say, a dashing,
enterprising young fellow, the feminine form of the word being
nonexistent. A Russian view of the matter is amusing, however.

"I never saw such a town in which to hunt up any one," said a St.
Petersburg man in Moscow to me. "They give you an address: 'Such and
such a street, such a house.' For instance, 'Green Street, house of Mr.
Black.' You go. First you get hold of the street in general, and
discover that the special name applies only to one block or so, two or
three versts away from the part where you chance to have landed. Moscow
is even more a city of magnificent distances, you know, than St.
Petersburg. Next you discover that there is no 'house of Mr. Black.' Mr.
Black died, respected and beloved, God be with him! a hundred years ago
or less, and the house has changed owners three times since. So far, it
is tolerably plain sailing. Then it appears that the house you are in
search of is not in the street at all, but tucked in behind it, on a
parallel lane, round several corners and elbows." (I will explain, in
parenthesis, that the old system of designating a house by the name of
the owner, which prevailed before the introduction of numbers, still
survives extensively, even in Petersburg.)

"The next time you set out on a search expedition," continued my
informant, after a cup of tea and a cigarette to subdue his emotions,
"you insist on having the number of the house. Do you get it? Oh yes!
and with a safeguard added, 'Inquire of the laundress.' [This was a
parody on, "Inquire of the Swiss," or "of the yard-porter."] You start
off in high feather; number and guide are provided, only a fool could
fail to find it, and you know that you are a person who is considered
rather above the average in cleverness. But that is in Petersburg, and I
may as well tell you at once that clever Petersburgers are fools
compared to the Moscow men, in a good many points, such as driving a
hard bargain. Well, suppose that the house you want is No. 29. You find
No. 27 or No. 28, and begin to crow over your cleverness. But the next
house on one side is No. 319, and the house on the other side is No. 15;
the one opposite is No. 211, or No. 7, or something idiotic like that,
and all because the city authorities permit people to retain the old
district number of the house, to affix the new street number, or to post
up both at their own sweet will! As you cannot find the laundress to
question, under the circumstances, you interview every Swiss
[hall-porter], yard-porter, policeman, and peasant for a verst round
about; and all the satisfaction you get is, 'In whose house? That is Mr.
Green's and this is Mr. Bareboaster's, and yonder are Count Thingumbob's
and Prince Whatyoumaycall's.' So you retreat once more, baffled."
Fortifying himself with more tea and cigarettes, the victim of Moscow
went on:--

"But there is still another plan. [A groan.] The favorite way to give an
address is, 'In the parish of Saint So-and-So.' It does n't pin you down
to any special house, street, or number, which is, of course, a decided
advantage when you are hunting for a needle in a haystack. And the
Moscow saints and parishes have such names!" Here the narrator's
feelings overcame him, and when I asked for some of the parochial titles
he was too limp to reply. I had already noticed the peculiar
designations of many churches, and had begun to suspect myself of
stupidity or my cabman and other informants of malicious jesting. Now,
however, I investigated the subject, and made a collection of specimens.
These extraordinary names are all derived--with one or two exceptions
for which I can find no explanation--from the peculiarities of the
soil in the parish, the former use to which the site of the church was
put, or the avocations of the inhabitants of its neighborhood in the
olden times, when most of the space outside of the Kremlin and China
Town was devoted to the purveyors and servants of the Tzars of Muscovy.

St. Nicholas, a very popular saint, heads the list, as usual. "St.
Nicholas on Chips" occupies the spot where a woodyard stood. "St.
Nicholas on the Well," "St. Nicholas Fine Chime," are easily understood.
"St. Nicholas White-Collar" is in the ancient district of the court
laundresses. "St. Nicholas in the Bell-Ringers" is comprehensible; but
"St. Nicholas the Blockhead" is so called because in this quarter dwelt
the imperial hatmakers, who prepared "blockheads" for shaping their
wares. "St. Nicholas Louse's Misery" is, probably, a corruption of two
somewhat similar words meaning Muddy Hill. "St. Nicholas on Chickens'
Legs" belonged to the poulterers, and was so named because it was raised
from the ground on supports resembling stilts. "St. Nicholas of the
Interpreters" is in the quarter where the Court interpreters lived, and
where the Tatar mosque now stands. Then we have: "The Life-Giving
Trinity in the Mud," "St. John the Warrior" and "St. John the Theologian
in the Armory," "The Birth of Christ on Broadswords," "St. George the
Martyr in the Old Jails," "The Nine Holy Martyrs on Cabbage-Stalks," on
the site of a former market garden, and the inexplicable "Church of the
Resurrection on the Marmot," besides many others, some of which, I was
told, bear quite unrepeatable names, probably perverted, like the last
and like "St. Nicholas Louse's Misery," from words having originally
some slight resemblance in sound, but which are now unrecognizable.

Great stress is laid, in hasty books of travel, on the contrasts
presented by the Moscow streets, the "palace of a prince standing by the
side of the squalid log hut of a peasant," and so forth. That may,
perhaps, have been true of the Moscow of twenty or thirty years ago. In
very few quarters is there even a semblance of truth in that description
at the present day. The clusters of Irish hovels in upper New York among
the towering new buildings are much more picturesque and noticeable. The
most characteristic part of the town, as to domestic architecture, the
part to which the old statements are most applicable, lies between the
two lines of boulevards, which are, in themselves, good places to study
some Russian tastes. For example, a line of open horse-cars is run all
winter on the outer boulevard, and appreciated. Another line has the
centre of its cars inclosed, and uninclosed seats at the ends. The
latter are the most popular, at the same price, and as for heating a
street-car, the idea could never be got into a Russian brain. A certain
section of the inner boulevard, which forms a sort of slightly elevated
garden, is not only a favorite resort in summer, but is thronged every
winter afternoon with people promenading or sitting under the
snow-powdered trees in an arctic fairyland, while the mercury in the
thermometer is at a very low ebb indeed. It is fashionable in Russia to
grumble at the cold, but unfashionable to convert the grumbling into
action. On the contrary, they really enjoy sitting for five hours at a
stretch, in a temperature of 25 degrees below zero, to watch the
fascinating horse races on the ice.

In the districts between the boulevards, one can get an idea of the town
as it used to be. In this "Earth Town" typical streets are still to be
found, but the chances are greatly against a traveler finding them. They
are alleys in width and irregularity, paved with cobblestones which seem
to have been selected for their angles, and with intermittent sidewalks
consisting of narrow, carelessly joined flagstones. The front steps of
the more pretentious houses must be skirted or mounted, the street must
be crossed when the family carriage stands at the door, like the most
characteristic streets in Nantucket. Some of the doorplates--which are
large squares of tin fastened over the _porte cochere_, or on the gate
of the courtyard--bear titles. Next door, perhaps, stands a log house,
flush with the sidewalk, its moss calking plainly visible between the
huge ribs, its steeply sloping roof rising, almost within reach, above a
single story; and its serpent-mouthed eave-spouts ingeniously arranged
to pour a stream of water over the vulgar pedestrian. The windows, on a
level with the eyes of the passer-by, are draped with cheap lace
curtains. The broad expanse of cotton wadding between the double windows
is decorated, in middle-class taste, with tufts of dyed grasses, colored
paper, and other execrable ornaments. Here, as everywhere else in
Moscow, one can never get out of eye-shot of several churches; white
with brilliant external frescoes, or the favorite mixture of crushed
strawberry and white, all with green roofs and surmounted with domes of
ever-varying and original forms and colors, crowned with golden crosses
of elaborate and beautiful designs. Ask a resident, whether prince or
peasant, "How many churches are there in 'Holy Moscow town'?" The answer
invariably is, "Who knows? A forty of forties," which is the old
equivalent, in the Epic Songs, of incalculable numbers. After a while
one really begins to feel that sixteen hundred is not an exaggerated
estimate.

Very few of the streets in any part of the town are broad; all of them
seem like lanes to a Petersburger, and "they are forever going up and
down," as a Petersburg cabman described the Moscow hills to me, in
serious disapproval. He had found the ground too excitingly uneven and
the inhabitants too evenly dull to live with for more than a fortnight,
he confessed to me. Many of the old mansions in the centre of the town
have been converted into shops, offices, and lodgings; and huge, modern
business buildings have taken the places formerly occupied, I presume,
by the picturesque "hovels" of the travelers' tales.

One of the most interesting places in the White Town to me was the huge
foundling asylum, established by Katherine II., immediately after her
accession to the throne. There are other institutions connected with it,
such as a school for orphan girls. But the hospital for the babies is
the centre of interest. There are about six hundred nurses always on
hand. Very few of them have more than one nursling to care for, and a
number of babies who enter life below par, so to speak, are accommodated
with incubators. The nurses stand in battalions in the various large
halls, all clad alike, with the exception of the woolen _kokoshnik_,--
the coronet-shaped headdress with its cap for the hair,--which is of a
different color in each room. It requires cords of "cartwheels"--the
big round loaves of black bread--to feed this army of nurses. If they
are not fed on their ordinary peasant food, cabbage soup and sour black
bread, they fall ill and the babies suffer, as no bottles are used.

The fact that the babies are washed every day was impressed on my mind
by the behavior of the little creatures while undergoing the operation.
They protested a little in gentle squeaks when the water touched them,
but quieted down instantly when they were wiped. It is my belief that
Russian children never cry except during their bath. I heard no
infantile wailing except in this asylum, and very little there. Many
Russian mothers of all ranks still tie up their babies tightly in
swaddling clothes, on the old-fashioned theory that it makes their limbs
straight. But these foundlings are not swaddled. After its bath, the
baby is laid on a fresh, warm, linen cloth, which is then wrapped around
it in a particular manner, so that it is securely fastened without the
use of a single pin. Two other cloths, similarly wrapped, complete the
simple, comfortable toilet. This and another Russian habit, that of
allowing a baby to kick about in its crib clad only in its birthday
suit, I commend to the consideration of American mothers.

The last thing in the asylum which is shown to visitors is the manner in
which the babies are received, washed, weighed, and numbered. It was
early in December when I was there, but the numbers on the ivory disks
suspended from the new arrivals' necks were a good many hundred above
seventeen thousand. As they begin each year with No. 1, I think the
whole number of foundlings for that particular year must have been
between eighteen and nineteen thousand. The children are put out to
board, after a short stay at the asylum, in peasant families, which
receive a small sum per month for taking care of them. When the boys
grow up they count as members of the family in a question of army
service, and the sons of the family can escape their turn, I was told,
if matters are rightly managed. The girls become uniformed servants in
the government institutions for the education of girls of the higher
classes, or marry peasants.

The most famous of the gates which lead from the White Town through the
white, machicolated walls into China Town* is the Iversky, or gate of
the Iberian Virgin. The gate has two entrances, and between these
tower-crowned openings stands a chapel of malachite and marble, gilded
bronze and painting. The Iversky Virgin who inhabits the chapel, though
"wonder-working," is only a copy of one in the monastery on Mount Athos.
She was brought to Russia in 1666, and this particular chapel was built
for her by Katherine II. Her garment and crown of gold weigh between
twenty-seven and twenty-eight pounds, and are studded with splendid
jewels. But the Virgin whom one sees in the chapel is not even this
copy, but a copy of the copy. The original Virgin, as we may call the
first copy for convenience, is in such great demand for visits to
convents and monasteries, to private houses and the shops of wealthy and
devout merchants, that she is never at home from early morn till late at
night, and the second copy represents her to the thousands of prayerful
people of all classes, literally, who stop to place a candle or utter a
petition. The original Virgin travels about the town, meanwhile, in a
blue coach adorned with her special device, like a coat of arms, and
drawn by six horses; and the persons whom she honors with a visit offer
liberal gifts. The heads of her coachman, postilions, and footman are
supposed to be respectfully bared in all weathers, but when it is very
cold these men wind woolen shawls, of the nondescript, dirt color, which
characterizes the hair of most peasants, adroitly round their heads,
allowing the fringe to hang and simulate long locks. The large image of
the Virgin, in its massive frame, occupies the seat of honor. A priest
and a deacon, clad in crimson velvet and gold vestments, their heads
unprotected, even in the most severe weather, by anything but their own
thick hair, sit respectfully with their backs to the horses. When the
Virgin drives along, passers-by pause, salute, and cross themselves.
Evidently, under these circumstances, it is difficult for a foreigner to
get a view of the original Virgin. We were fortunate, however. Our first
invitation in Moscow was from the Abbess of an important convent to be
present at one of the services which I have mentioned,--a sort of
invocation of the Virgin's blessing,--in her cell, and at the
conclusion of the service we were asked if we would not like to "salute
the Virgin" and take a sip of the holy water "for health." Of course we
did both, as courtesy demanded. Some time after that, as we were driving
along the principal street of China Town, I saw an imposing equipage
approaching, and remarked, "Here comes the Iversky Virgin."

* Ancient Moscow, lying in a walled semicircle just outside the walls of
the Kremlin. All the trading was done on the "Red Square," where the
Gostinny Dvor now stands, and all Oriental merchants were known by the
common designation of "Chinese." At the present day "Chinese" has been
replaced by "German," to designate foreigners in general.

"Excuse me, madam," said my cabman,--I had not addressed him, but as I
had spoken involuntarily in Russian he thought I had,--"it is not the
Virgin, it is only the Saviour. Don't you see that there are only four
horses?"

"Very true; and St. Sergius drives with three, and St. Pantaleimon with
two,--do they not? Tell me, which of them all would you ask to visit
you, if you wished a blessing?"

"St. Pantaleimon is a good, all-round saint, who helps well in most
cases," he replied thoughtfully. This seemed a good opportunity to get a
popular explanation of a point which had puzzled me.

"Which," I asked, "is the real miraculous Iversky Virgin?--the one in
the chapel, the one who rides in the carriage, or the original on Mount
Athos?"

"It is plain that you don't understand in the least," answered my
_izvostchik_, turning round in his seat and imperiling our lives by his
driving, while he plunged into the subject with profound earnestness.
"None of them is the Virgin, and all of them are the Virgin. All the
different Virgins are merely different manifestations of the Virgin to
men. The Virgin herself is in heaven, and communicates her power where
she wills. It is like the Life-giving Trinity." Assuming that as a
foreigner, and consequently a heretic, I did not understand the doctrine
of the Trinity, he proceeded to expound it, and did it extremely well. I
lent half an ear in amazement to him, and half an ear I reserved for the
objurgations of the drivers who were so good as to spare our lives in
that crowded thoroughfare while my theological lesson was in progress.

While I am speaking of this unusual cabman, I may mention some unusual
private coachmen in Moscow who use their masters' sledges and carriages
for public conveyances while their owners are safely engaged in theatre
or restaurant. I do not think that trick could be played in Petersburg.
I found it out by receiving an amazingly reasonable offer from a very
well-dressed man with a superb gray horse and a fine sledge. As we
dashed along at lightning speed, I asked the man whether he owned that
fine turnout or worked on wages. "I own it myself," he said curtly.
Therefore, when I alighted, I slipped round behind the sledge and
scrutinized it thoroughly under the gaslight. The back was decorated
with a monogram and a count's coronet in silver! After that I never
asked questions, but I always knew what had happened when I picked up
very comfortable equipages at very reasonable rates in places which were
between gas lanterns and near theatres and so forth.

I should not be doing my duty by a very important factor in Russian life
if I omitted an illustration of the all-pervading influence of
"official" rank, and the prestige which acquaintance with officialdom
lends even to modest travelers like ourselves. It was, most
appropriately, in the Kremlin, the heart of Russia, that we were favored
with the most amusing of the many manifestations of it which came within
our experience. We were looking at the objects of interest in the
Treasury, when I noticed a large, handsomely bound book, flanked by pen
and ink, on a side table. I opened the book, but before I could read a
word an attendant pounced upon me.

"Don't touch that," he said peremptorily.

"Why not? If you do not wish people to look at this collection of
ancient documents,--I suppose that is what it is,--you should lock
it up, or label it 'Hands off!'"

"It is n't ancient documents, and you are not to touch it," he said,
taking the book out of my hands. "It is strictly reserved for the
signatures of _distinguished_ visitors,--crowned heads, royal princes,
ambassadors, and the like."

"Then it does not interest me in the least, and if you would label it to
that effect, no one would care to disturb it," I said.

Very soon afterwards we were joined by one of the powerful officials of
the Kremlin. He had made an appointment to show us about, but was
detained for a few moments, and we had come on alone and were waiting
for him. As we went about with him the attendants hovered respectfully
in the rear, evidently much impressed with the friendly, unofficial tone
of the conversation. When we had made the round with much deliberation,
we excused our official friend to his duties, saying that we wished to
take another look at several objects.

No sooner was he gone than the guardian of the autograph album pounced
upon us again, and invited us to add our "illustrious" names to the
list. I refused; he entreated and argued. It ended in his fairly
dragging us to the table and standing guard over us while we signed the
sacred book. I did not condescend to examine the book, though I should
have been permitted then; but--I know which three royal princes
immediately preceded us.

As I am very much attached to the Russian Church, anything connected
with it always interested me deeply. One of the prominent features of
Moscow is the number of monasteries and convents. The Russian idea of
monastic life is prayer and contemplation, not activity in good works.
The ideal of devout secular life is much the same. To meet the wants in
that direction of people who do not care to join the community, many of
the convents have small houses within their inclosures, which they let
out to applicants, of whom there is always an abundance. The occupants
of these houses are under no restrictions whatever, except as to
observing the hours of entry and exit fixed by the opening and closing
of the convent gates; but, naturally, it is rather expected of them that
they will attend more church services than the busy people of "the
world." The sight of these little houses always oppressed me with a
sense of my inferiority in the matter of devoutness. I could not imagine
myself living in one of them, until I came across a group of their
occupants engaged in discussing some racy gossip with the nuns on one of
the doorsteps. Gossip is not my besetting weakness, but I felt relieved.
Convents are not aristocratic institutions in Russia as they are in
Roman Catholic countries, and very few ladies by birth and education
enter them. Those who do are apt to rise to the post of abbess,
influential connections not being superfluous in any calling in Russia
any more than in other countries.

If I were a nun I should prefer activity. I think that contemplation,
except in small doses, is calculated to produce stupidity. Illustration:
I was passing along a street in Moscow when my eye fell upon an elderly
nun seated at the gate of a convent, with a little table whereon stood a
lighted taper. Beside the taper, on a threadbare piece of black velvet,
decorated with the customary cross in gold braid, lay a few copper coins
before a dark and ancient _ikona_. Evidently, the public was solicited
to contribute in the name of the saint there portrayed, though I could
not recollect that the day was devoted to a saint of sufficient
importance to warrant the intrusion of that table on the narrow
sidewalk. I halted and asked the nun what day it was, and who was the
saint depicted in the image. She said she did not know. This seemed
incredible, and I persisted in my inquiry. She called a policeman from
the middle of the street, where he was regulating traffic as usual, and
asked him about the _ikona_ and the day, with the air of a helpless
child. Church and State set to work guessing with great heartiness and
good-will, but so awkwardly that it was the easiest thing in the world
for me to refute each successive guess. When we tired of that, I gave
the nun a kopek for the entertainment she had unconsciously afforded,
and thanked the policeman, after which the policeman and I left the good
nun sitting stolidly at the receipt of custom.

Quite at the opposite pole was my experience one hot summer day in the
Cathedral of the Assumption, where the emperors have been crowned for
centuries; or, to speak more accurately, the two poles met and embraced
in that church, the heart of the heart of Holy Russia. The early
Patriarchs and Metropolitans are buried in this cathedral in superb
silver-gilt coffins. Of these, the tomb and shrine of Metropolitan Jona
seems to be the goal of the most numerous pilgrimages. I stood near it,
in the rear corner of the church, one Sunday morning, while mass was in
progress. An unbroken stream of people, probably all of them pilgrims to
the Holy City, her saints and shrines, passed me, crossed themselves,
knelt in a "ground reverence," kissed the saint's coffin, then the hand
of the priest, who stood by to preserve order and bless each person as
he or she turned away. To my surprise, I heard many of them inquire the
name of the shrine's occupant _after_ they had finished their prayers.
After the service and a little chat with this priest, who seemed a very
sensible man, we went forward to take another look at the Vladimir
Virgin, the most famous and historical in all Russia, in her golden
case. A gray-haired old army colonel, who wore the Vladimir cross,
perceiving from our speech that we were foreigners, politely began to
explain to us the noteworthy points about the church and the Virgin. It
soon appeared, however, that we were far more familiar with them all
than he was, and we fell into conversation.

"I am stationed in Poland," he said, "and I have never been in Moscow
before. I am come on a pilgrimage to the Holy City, but everything is so
dear here that I must deny myself the pleasure of visiting many of the
shrines in the neighborhood. It is a great happiness to me to be present
thus at the mass in my own _pravoslavny_ church, and in Moscow."

"But there are Orthodox churches in Poland, surely," I said.

"Yes," he replied, "there are a few; and I go whenever I get a chance."

"What do you do when you have not the chance?"

"I go to whatever church there is,--the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran,
the Synagogue."

"Is that allowed?" I asked. I knew very well that Russians attend Roman
Catholic and Protestant churches when abroad, as a matter of course,
though I had not before heard of the Synagogue in the list, and I wished
to hear what the earnest old colonel would say.

"Why not? why should n't I?" he replied. "We all go to church to worship
God and to pray to Him. Does it matter about the form or the language? A
man has as much as he can do to be a Christian and an honest man,--
which are two very different things nowadays, apparently,--without
troubling himself about those petty details."

It is almost superfluous to say that we swore friendship with the
colonel on the spot, on those foundations. Our acquaintance ended with
our long talk there in the cathedral, since we could not well stop in
Poland to accept the delightful old officer's invitation to visit him
and his wife. But the friendship remains, I hope.

When he left us, a young fellow about seventeen years of age, who had
been standing near us and listening to the last part of our conversation
with an air of profound and respectful interest which obviated all trace
of impertinence, stepped up and said:--

"May I have the pleasure of showing you about the cathedral? You seem to
appreciate our Russian ways and thoughts. I have taken a good deal of
interest in studying the history and antiquities of my native city, and
I may be able to point out a few things to you here."

He was a pleasant-faced young fellow, with modest, engaging manners; a
student in one of the government institutions, it appeared. He looked
very cool and comfortable in a suit of coarse gray linen. He proved to
be an admirable cicerone, and we let him escort us about for the
pleasure of listening, though we had seen everything many times already.
I commented on his knowledge, and on the evident pride which he took in
his country, and especially in his church, remarking that he seemed to
be very well informed on many points concerning the latter, and able to
explain the reasons for things in an unusual way.

"Yes,"  he answered, "I am proud and fond of my country and my church.
We Russians do not study them as we should, I am ashamed to say. There,
for instance, is my cousin, Princess----, who is considered a very
well-informed young woman on all necessary points. She was to make her
communion, and so some one brought her to the church while the Hours
were being read, as is proper, though she usually comes very much later.
She had not been there ten minutes before she began to ask: 'When does
the Sacrament come? Is n't it pretty soon?' and she kept that up at
short intervals, despite all I could do to stop her. I am quite sure,"
he added, "that I need not explain to you, though you are a foreigner,
where the Hours and the Sacrament come in the service?"

"No: the Hours precede the Liturgy, and the administration of the
Sacrament comes very nearly at the end of all."

"Exactly. You understand what a disgrace such ignorance was on my
cousin's part."

He was charming, amusingly frank on many points which I had supposed to
be rather delicate with members of the "Orthodox" (as I must call it for
the lack of a possible English equivalent for _pravoslavny_) Russian
Church, but so well-bred and intelligent, withal, that we were sincerely
sorry to say good-by to him at the door of our hotel.




XIII.

THE NIZHNI NOVGOROD FAIR AND THE VOLGA.


The most picturesque and appropriate way of reaching Nizhni Novgorod is
by the Volga, with which its life is so intimately connected, and the
most characteristic time to see the Volga steamers is on the way
upstream during the Fair.

What an assortment of people we had on board! To begin with, our boat
was commanded by a Vice-Admiral in full uniform. His family was with
him, spending the summer on board sailing up and down the river between
Nizhni Novgorod and Astrakhan.

The passengers over whom the vice-admiral ruled were delightfully
varied. There were Russians from every quarter of the empire, and of as
many races, including Armenians. One of the latter, an old man with a
physiognomy not to be distinguished, even by our Russian friends who
were traveling with us, from that of a Jew, seemed to take no interest
in anything except in telling over a short rosary of amber beads, and
standing guard at all stopping-places over his cabin, which he was
determined to occupy alone, though he had paid but one fare. After he
had done this successfully at several landing-places and had consigned
several men to the second cabin, an energetic man appealed to the
admiral. It required some vigorous language and a threat to break open
the door if the key were not forthcoming, before the admiral could
overcome the resistance of the obstinate old Armenian, who protested, in
very bad Russian, that he was very ill indeed, and should certainly die
if any one entered his cabin. He was still alive when we reached the end
of our voyage, and had cleverly made his cabin-mate pay for all his
food.

Among the second-class passengers was a party of students returning to
the University of Kazan. They exhibited all degrees of shabbiness, but
this was only the modest plumage of the nightingale, apparently. For
hours they sang songs, all beautiful, all strange to us, and we listened
entranced until tea, cigarettes, and songs came to an end in time to
permit them a few hours of sleep before we reached their landing. The
third-class passengers, who were also lodged on the upper deck, aft,
included Tatars and other Mohammedans from the Orient, who spread their
prayer-rugs at sundown and went through their complicated devotions with
an air of being quite oblivious to spectators. Several got permission
from the admiral to ascend to the hurricane deck. But this, while
unnecessary as a precaution against crowding or interference from their
numerous Russian fellow-passengers, rendered them more conspicuous; and
even this was not sufficient to make the instinctively courteous
Russians stare at or notice them.

The fourth-class passengers were on the lower deck. Among them was a
company of soldiers in very shabby uniforms, who had been far down the
river earning a little money by working in the harvest fields, where
hands are always too few, and who were returning to garrison at Kazan.
Some enterprising passengers from Astrakhan had laid in a large stock of
the delicious round watermelons and luscious cantaloupe melons. By the
time we reached Kazan, there were not many melons left in that
improvised shop on the lower deck, Russians are as fond of watermelons
as are the American negroes.

At Samara we had seen enormous bales of camel's-hair, weighing upwards
of eight hundred pounds, in picturesque mats of red, yellow, and brown,
taken on board for the Fair. The porters seemed to find it easy to carry
them on their backs, aided only by a sort of small chair-back, with a
narrow, seat-like projection at the lower end, which was fastened by
straps passing over the shoulders and under the arms. When we left
Kazan, I noticed that a huge open barge was being towed upstream
alongside us, that it was being filled with these bales, to lighten the
steamer for the sand-bars and shallows of the upper river, and that a
monotonous but very musical cadence was being repeated at intervals, in
muffled tones, somewhere on board. I went down to the cargo department
of the lower deck and found the singers,--the herculean porters. One
after another they bent their backs, and two mates hoisted the huge
bales, chanting a refrain which enabled them to move and lift in unison.
The words were to the following effect: "If all don't grasp together, we
cannot lift the weight." The music was sad, but irresistibly sweet and
fascinating, and I stood listening and watching until the great barge
was filled and dropped behind, for the company's tug to pick up and tow
to Nizhni with a string of other barges.

It is probably a vulgar detail, but I must chronicle the fact that the
cooking on these Volga steamers--on the line we patronized, at least
--is among the very best to be found in Russia, in my experience. On
the voyage upstream, when they are well supplied with sterlet and other
fish, all alive, from Astrakhan, the dinners are treats for which one
may sigh in vain in the capitals of St. Petersburg and Moscow, with
their mongrel German-French-Russian cookery. The dishes are very
Russian, but they are very good.

I remember one particularly delicious concoction was composed of fresh
sterlet and sour cabbage, with white grapes on top, baked to a brown
crispness.

We arrived at our wharf on the Volga front of the old town of Nizhni
Novgorod about five o'clock in the afternoon. Above us rose the steep
green hills on whose crest stood the Kremlin, containing several ancient
churches, the governor's house, and so forth. On a lower terrace, to
right and left, stood monasteries and churches intermingled with shops
and mediocre dwellings. The only noteworthy church was that in front of
us, with its picturesque but un-Russian rococo plaster decoration on red
brick, crowned by genuine Russian domes and crosses of elaborately
beautiful patterns.

But we did not pause long to admire this part of the view, which was
already familiar to us. What a change had come over the scene since we
had bidden it farewell on our way downstream! Then everything was dead,
or slumbering, except the old town, the city proper; and that had not
seemed to be any too much awake or alive. The Fair town, situated on the
sand-spit between the Volga and the mouth of the Oka, stood locked up
and deserted, as it had stood since the close of last year's Fair. Now,
as we gazed over the prow of the steamer, we could see the bridge across
the Oka black with the swarming masses of pedestrians and equipages.

The steamer company allows its patrons to sleep (but not to eat) on
board the night after arrival and the night before starting, and we
availed ourselves of the privilege, having heard that it was often no
easy matter to secure accommodations in the Fair, and having no
intention of returning to our former hotel, miles from all the fun, in
the upper town, if we could help it.

The only vacant rooms in the Fair seemed to be at the "best hotel," to
which we had been recommended, with a smile of amusement which had
puzzled us, by a Moscow friend, an officer in the army. Prices were very
high at this hotel, which, like American summer hotels, is forced to
make its hay for the year during the season of six weeks, after which it
is locked up. Our room was small; the floor, of rough boards, was bare;
the beds were not comfortable. For the same price, in Petersburg or
Moscow, we should have had a spacious room on the _bel etage_,
handsomely furnished, with rugs on an inlaid floor.

Across one corner of the dining-room was built a low platform, on which
stood a piano. We soon discovered its use. Coming in about nine o'clock
in the evening, we ordered our _samovar_ for tea in the dining-room,--
a most unusual place. The proper place was our own room. But we had
found a peculiar code of etiquette prevailing here, governed by
excessive modesty and propriety, no doubt, but an obstructionist
etiquette, nevertheless. The hall-waiter, whose business it is to serve
the _samovar_ and coffee, was not allowed to enter our room, though his
fellows had served us throughout the country, after the fashion of the
land. Here we were compelled to wait upon the leisure of the
chambermaid, a busy and capricious person, who would certainly not be on
hand in the evening if she was not in the morning. Accordingly, we
ordered our tea in the dining-room, as I have said. Presently, a chorus
of girls, dressed all alike, mounted the platform, and sang three songs
to an accompaniment banged upon the piano by a man. Being violently
applauded by a long table-full of young merchants who sat near, at whom
they had been singing and staring, without any attempt at disguise, and
with whom they had even been exchanging remarks, they sang two songs
more. They were followed by another set of girls, also in a sort of
uniform costume, who sang five songs at the young merchants. It appeared
that one party was called "Russian singers," and the other "German
singers." We found out afterwards, by watching operations on another
evening, that these five songs formed the extent of their respective
repertories.

A woman about forty-five years of age accompanied them into the room,
then planted herself with her back against the wall near us, which was
as far away from her charges as space permitted. She was the
"sheep-dog," and we soon saw that, while discreetly oblivious of the
smiles, glances, and behavior of her lambs,--as all well-trained
society sheep-dogs are,--she kept darting sharp looks at us as though
we were doing something quite out of the way and improper. By that time
we had begun to suspect, for various reasons, that the Nizhni Fair is
intended for men, not for--ladies. But we were determined quietly to
convince ourselves of the state of affairs, so we stood our ground,
dallied with our tea, drank an enormous quantity of it, and kept our
eyes diligently in the direction where those of the sheep-dog should
have been, but never were.

Their very bad singing over, the lambs disappeared to the adjoining
veranda. The young merchants slipped out, one by one. The waiters began
to carry great dishes of peaches, and other dainty fruits,--all worth
their weight in gold in Russia, and especially at Nizhni,--together
with bottles of champagne, out to the veranda. When we were satisfied,
we went to bed, but not to sleep. The peaches kept that party on the
veranda and in the rooms below exhilarated until nearly daylight. I
suppose the duenna did her duty and sat out the revel in the distant
security of the dining-room. Several of her charges added a number of
points to our store of information the next day, at the noon breakfast
hour, when the duenna was not present.

We began to think that we understood our Moscow friend's enigmatic
smile, and to regret that we had not met him and his wife at the Fair,
as we had originally arranged to do.

The far-famed Fair of Nizhni Novgorod--"Makary," the Russians call it,
from the town and monastery of St. Makary, sixty miles farther down the
Volga, where it was held from 1624 until the present location was
adopted in 1824--was a disappointment to us. There is no denying that.
Until railways and steamers were introduced into these parts, and
facilitated the distribution of goods, and of commonplaceness and
monotony, it probably merited all the extravagant praises of its
picturesqueness and variety which have been lavished upon it. The
traveler arrives there with indefinite but vast expectations. A fancy
dress ball on an enormous scale, combined with an International
Exposition, would seem to be the nearest approach possible to a
description of his confused anticipations. That is, in a measure, what
one sees; and, on the other hand, it is exactly the reverse of what he
sees. I must confess that I think our disappointment was partly our own
fault. Had we, like most travelers who have written extravagantly about
the Fair, come to it fresh from a stay of (at most) three weeks in St.
Petersburg and Moscow only, we should have been much impressed by the
variety of types and goods, I have no doubt. But we had spent nearly two
years in the land, and were familiar with the types and goods of the
capitals and of other places, so that there was little that was new to
us. Consequently, though we found the Fair very interesting, we were not
able to excite ourselves to any extravagant degree of amazement or
rapture.

The Fair proper consists of a mass of two-story "stone" (brick and
cement) buildings, inclosed on three sides by a canal in the shape of a
horseshoe. Through the centre runs a broad boulevard planted with trees,
ending at the open point of the horseshoe in the residence occupied by
the governor during the Fair (he usually lives in the Kremlin of the
Upper Town), the post-office, and other public buildings. Across the
other end of the boulevard and "rows" of the Gostinny Dvor, with their
arcades full of benches occupied by fat merchants or indolent visitors,
and serving as a chord to the arc of the horseshoe, run the "Chinese
rows," which derive their name from the style of their curving iron
roofs and their ornaments, not from the nationality of the merchants, or
of the goods sold there. It is, probably, a mere accident that the
wholesale shops for overland tea are situated in the Chinese rows. It is
a good place to see the great bales of "Kiakhta tea," still in their
wrappings of rawhides, with the hair inside and the hieroglyphical
addresses, weights, and so forth, cut into the skins, instead of being
painted on them, just as they have been brought overland from Kiakhta on
the Chinese border of Siberia. Here, also, rises the great Makary
Cathedral, which towers conspicuously above the low-roofed town. Inside
the boundary formed by this Belt Canal, no smoking is allowed in the
streets, under penalty of twenty-five rubles for each offense. The
drainage system is flushed from the river every night; and from the
ventilation towers, which are placed at short intervals, the blue smoke
of purifying fires curls reassuringly. Great care is necessary in this
department, and the sanitary conditions, though as good as possible, are
never very secure. The whole low sandspit is often submerged during the
spring floods, and the retreating waters leave a deposit of slime and
debris behind them, which must be cleared away, besides doing much
damage to the buildings.

The peculiarity of this Makary Fair is that nothing is sold by sample,
in modern fashion; the whole stock of goods is on hand, and is delivered
at once to purchasers. The taciturn, easy-going merchants in those
insignificant-looking shops of the Gostinny Dvor "rows," and, to a small
extent, in the supplementary town which has sprung up outside the canal,
set the prices for tea and goods of all sorts all over Russia and
Siberia for the ensuing year. Contracts for the future are dated, and
last year's bills fall due, at "Makary." It is hard to realize.

All the firms with whose shops we had been familiar in Petersburg and
Moscow had establishments here, and, at first, it seemed not worth while
to inspect their stocks, with which we felt perfectly acquainted. But we
soon discovered that our previous familiarity enabled us to distinguish
certain articles which are manufactured for the "Fair" trade
exclusively, and which are never even shown in the capitals. For
example, the great porcelain houses of St. Petersburg manufacture large
pipe-bowls, ewers (with basins to match) of the Oriental shape familiar
to the world in silver and brass, and other things, all decorated with a
deep crimson bordering on magenta, and with gold. The great silk houses
of Moscow prepare very rich and very costly brocades of this same deep
crimson hue, besprinkled with gold and with tiny bouquets of bright
flowers, or in which the crimson is prominent. They even copy the large,
elaborate patterns from the robes of ancient Doges of Venice. All these,
like the pipes and ewers, are made to suit the taste of customers in
Bokhara and other Eastern countries, where a man's rank is, to a certain
degree, to be recognized by the number and richness of the _khalati_
which he can afford to wear at one time. This is one of the points in
which the civilization of the East coincides very nearly with the
civilization of the West. The _khalat_ is a sort of dressing-gown, with
wide sleeves, which is girt about the waist with a handsome shawl; but
it would strike a European that eight or ten of these, worn one on top
of the other, might conduce to the preservation of vanity, but not to
comfort, in the hot countries where the custom prevails. The Bokhariots
bring to the Fair _khalati_ of their own thin, strong silk, in hues more
gaudy than those of the rainbow and the peacock combined, which are
always lined with pretty green and white chintz, and can be bought for a
very reasonable price in the Oriental shops, together with jeweled arms
and ornaments, rugs, and a great variety of fascinating wares.

The choicest "overland" tea--the true name is "Kiakhta tea"--can be
had only by wholesale, alas! and it is the same with very many things.
There are shops full of rolls of _sarpinka_, a fine, changeable gingham
in pink and blue, green and yellow, and a score of other combinations,
which washes perfectly, and is made by the peasants far down the Volga,
in the season when agricultural labor is impossible. There are furs of
more sorts than the foreign visitor is likely ever to have seen before;
iron from the Ural mines by the ton, on a detached sand-spit in the Oka
River; dried and salted fish by the cord, in a distant, too odorous
spot; goldsmiths' shops; old-clothes shops, where quaint and beautiful
old costumes of Russia abound; Tatar shops, filled with fine,
multi-colored leather work and other Tatar goods, presided over by the
stately Tatars from whom we had bought at Kazan; shops piled with every
variety of dried fruit, where prime Sultana raisins cost forty cents for
a box of one hundred and twenty pounds. Altogether, it is a varied and
instructive medley.

We learned several trade tricks. For example, we came upon the agency of
a Moscow factory, which makes a woolen imitation of an Oriental silken
fabric, known as _termalama_. The agent acknowledged that it was an
imitation, and said that the price by the piece was twenty-five cents a
yard. In the Moscow Oriental shops the dealers sell it for eight times
that price, and swear that it is genuine from the East. A Russian friend
of ours had been cheated in this way, and the dealers attempted to cheat
us also,--in vain, after our Nizhni investigations.

Every one seemed to be absorbed in business, to the exclusion of every
other thought. But sometimes, as we wandered along the boulevard, and
among the rows, we found the ground of the Gostinny Dvor strewn with
fresh sprays of fragrant fir, which we took at first to be a token that
a funeral had occurred among some of the merchants' clerks who lived
over the shops. However, it appeared that a holy picture had been
carried along the rows, and into the shops of those who desired its
blessing on their trade, and a short service had been held. The "zeal"
of these numerous devout persons must have enriched the church where the
_ikona_ dwelt, judging from the number, of times during our five days'
stay that we came upon these freshly strewn paths.

The part of the Fair which is most interesting to foreigners in general,
I think, is the great glass gallery filled with retail booths, where
Russians sell embroidery and laces and the handiwork of the peasants in
general; where Caucasians deal in the beautiful gold and silver work of
their native mountains; where swarthy Bokhariots sit cross-legged, with
imperturbable dignity, among their gay wares, while the band plays, and
the motley crowd bargains and gazes even in the evening when all the
other shops are closed.

I learned here an extra lesson in the small value attached by Russians
to titles in themselves. It was at the Ekaterinburg booth, where
precious and semi-precious stones from the Ural and Siberia, in great
variety and beauty, were for sale. A Russian of the higher classes, and,
evidently, not poor, inquired the price of a rosary of amethysts, with a
cross of assorted gems fit for a bishop. The attendant mentioned the
price. It did not seem excessive, but the bargainer exclaimed, in a
bantering tone,--

"Come now, prince, that's the fancy price. Tell me the real price."

But the "prince" would not make any reduction, and his customer walked
away. I thought I would try the effect of the title on the Caucasians
and Bokhariots. I had already dropped into the habit of addressing
Tatars as "prince," except in the case of hotel waiters,--and I might
as well have included them. I found to my amusement that, instead of
resenting it as an impertinence, they reduced the price of the article
for which I was bargaining by five kopeks (about two and a half cents)
every time I used the title, though no sign of gratification disturbed
the serene gravity of their countenances any more than if they had been
Americans and I had addressed them as "colonel" or "judge," at
haphazard. Truly, human nature varies little under different skies! But
I know now, authoritatively, that the market value of the title of
"prince" is exactly two and a half cents.

One evening we drove across the bridge to take tea at a garden on the
"Atkos," or slope,--the crest of the green hill on which stands the
Kremlin. In this Atkos quarter of the town there are some really fine
houses of wealthy merchants, mingled with the curious old dwellings of
the merely well-to-do and the poor. In the garden the tea was not very
good, and the weedy-looking chorus of women, the inevitable adjunct to
every eating establishment at the Fair, as we had learned, sang
wretchedly, and were rewarded accordingly when one of their number came
round to take up a collection. But the view! Far below, at our feet,
swept broad "Matushka Volga." The wharves were crowded with vessels.
Steamers and great barges lay anchored in the stream in battalions.
Though the activity of the day was practically over, tugs and small
boats were darting about and lending life to the scene. We were on the
"Hills" side of the river. Far away, in dreamy dimness, lay the flat,
blue-green line of the "Forests" shore. On our left was the mouth of the
Oka, and the Fair beyond, which seemed to be swarming with ants, lay
flat on the water level. The setting sun tinged the scene with pale rose
and amber in a mild glow for a while, and then the myriad lights shone
out from the city and river with even more charming effect.

Our next visit to the old town was in search of a writer who had
published a couple of volumes of agreeable sketches. It was raining
hard, so we engaged an _izvostchik_ who was the fortunate possessor of
an antiquated covered carriage, with a queer little drapery of scarlet
cotton curtains hanging from the front of the hood, as though to screen
the modesty of "the young person" from the manners, customs, and sights
of the Fair,--about which, to tell the truth, the less that is said in
detail the better. Certainly, more queer, old-fashioned carriages and
cabmen's costumes are to be seen at the Fair than anywhere else in the
country. As we were about to enter our antique conveyance, my mother's
foot caught in the braid on the bottom of her dress, and a long strip
gave way.

"I must go upstairs and sew this on before we start," said she,
reentering the hotel.

The _izvostchik_ ran after us. "Let me sew it on, Your High Well-born,"
he cried. Seeing our surprise, he added, "God is my witness,--_yay
Bogu!_ I am a tailor by trade."

His rent and faded coat did not seem to indicate anything of the sort,
but I thought I would try him, as I happened to have a needleful of silk
and a thimble in my pocket. I gave them to him accordingly. He knelt
down and sewed on the braid very neatly and strongly in no time. His
simple, friendly manner was irresistibly charming. I cannot imagine
accepting such an offer from a New York cabby,--or his offering to do
such a job.

When we reached the old town, I asked a policeman where to find my
author. I thought he might be able to tell me at once, as the town is
not densely populated, especially with authors;--and for other
reasons. He did not know.

"Then where is the police office or the address office?" I asked. (There
is no such thing as a directory in Russian cities, even in St.
Petersburg. But there is an address office where the names and
residences on passports are filed, and where one can obtain the address
wanted by paying a small fee, and filling out a form. But he must know
the baptismal name and the patronymic as well as the surname, and, if
the person wanted be not "noble," his profession or trade in addition!)

"There is no address office," he answered, "and the police office is
closed. It is after four o'clock. Besides, if it were open, you could
not find out there. We keep no record here, except of soldiers and
strangers."

I thought the man was jesting, but after questioning him further, I was
forced to conclude that it might be true, thought it certainly was
amazing. As the author in question had been sent to Siberia once or
twice, on the charge of complicity in some revolutionary proceedings, it
did seem as though the police ought to be able to give his address, if
Russia meant to live up to the reputation for strict surveillance of
every soul within her borders which foreigners have kindly bestowed upon
her.

As a house-to-house visitation was impossible, I abandoned the quest,
and drove to a photographer's to buy some views of the town. The
photographer proved to be a chatty, vivacious man, and full of
information. I mentioned my dilemma to him. He said that the policeman
had told the exact truth, but that my author, to his positive knowledge,
was in the Crimea, "looking up material." Then he questioned me as to
what we had seen at the Fair, mentioning one or two places of evening
entertainment. I replied that we had not been to those places. I had
understood that they were not likely to suit my taste. Had I been
rightly informed, or ought I to have gone to them in spite of warning?

"No," he replied frankly, after a momentary hesitation, "you ought not
to see them. But all the American women do go to them. There was a party
here last year. O-o-o-oh, how they went on! They were told, as you have
been, that they ought not to go to certain places; so of course they
went, and took the men in the party with them,--which was just as
well. I'd have given something to see their faces at the time, or even
afterwards! An Englishman, who had traveled everywhere, and had seen
everything, told me that nowhere, even in India, had he seen the like of
the doings at this Fair; and he was greatly shocked." He added that an
officer could not appear at these places in uniform.

I begged the photographer to remember in future that there were several
sorts of American women, and that not all of them worked by the law of
contraries. In my own mind I wondered what those particular women had
done, and wished, for the hundredth time, that American women abroad
would behave themselves properly, and not earn such a reputation for
their country-people.

On Sunday we went to the Armenian church, to see the service and to meet
some Armenian acquaintances. We found the service both like and unlike
the Russian, in many points approaching more nearly to the Greek form.
The music was astonishing. An undercurrent of sound, alternating between
a few notes, was kept up throughout the service, almost without a break.
At times, this undercurrent harmonized with the main current of intoning
and chanting, but quite as often the discord was positively distressing.
Perceiving that we were strangers, the Armenians showed their
hospitality in an original way. First, when one of the congregation went
forward to the chancel railing and received from the priest the triple
kiss of peace, which he then proceeded to communicate to another person,
who passed it on in dumb show, and so on through the whole assembly,
neither men nor women would run the risk of offending us by offering the
simulated kiss. Secondly, and more peculiar, besides throwing light on
their motives in omitting the kiss, they deliberately passed us by when
they brought round the plate for the collection! This was decidedly
novel! A visit to the Armenian church in St. Petersburg convinced us
that the discordant music was not an accident due to bad training, but
deliberate and habitual. I noticed also that the men and women, though
they stood on opposite sides of the church, as with the Russian Old
Ritualists, with the women on the left,--in the State Church, at
Court, the women stand on the right,--they crossed themselves from
left to right, like Roman Catholics, instead of the other way about, as
do the Russians.

As we were exploring the Tatar shops at noon, we heard the muezzin
calling to prayer from the minaret of the mosque close by, and we set
off to attend the service. If we had only happened to have on our
galoshes, we might have complied with etiquette by removing them, I
suppose, and could have entered in our shoes. At least, the Russian
policeman said so, and that is very nearly what the Tatars did. They
kicked off the stiff leather slippers in which they scuff about, and
entered in their tall boots, with the inset of frosted green pebbled
horsehide in the heel, and soft soles, like socks. As it was, we did not
care to try the experiment of removing our shoes, and so we were obliged
to stand in the vestibule, and look on from the threshold. Each Tatar,
as he entered, pulled out the end of his turban, and let it float down
his back. Where the turban came from for the prayers, I do not know.
None of the Tatars had worn a turban in the shops from which they had
just come in large numbers, abandoning the pressing engagements of the
busy noontide. Several individuals arrived very late, and decided not to
enter. All of these late comers, one after the other, beckoned me
mysteriously out of sight of the congregation and the _mollah_, and
whispered eagerly:--

"How do you like it?"

"_Very_ much," I answered emphatically; whereupon they exhibited signs
of delight which were surprising in such grave people, and even made a
motion to kiss my hand.

At least, that is what the motion would have meant from a Russian. Next
to the magnificent ceremonial of the Russian Church, the opposite
extreme, this simplicity of the congregational Mussulman worship is the
most impressive I have ever seen.

The manner of our departure from Nizhni Novgorod was characteristically
Russian,--but not by our own choice. We decided to go on up the Volga
by steamer, see the river and a few of the towns, and return from some
point, by rail, to Moscow.

The boat was advertised to start from the wharf, in the old town, at six
o'clock in the evening. We went aboard in good season, and discovered
that there were but three first-class staterooms, the best of which (the
only good one, as it afterwards appeared) had been captured by some
friends of the captain. We installed ourselves in the best we could get,
and congratulated each other when the steamer started on time. We had
hardly finished the congratulations when it drew up at another wharf and
made fast. Then it was explained to us that it was to load at this
wharf, at the "Siberian Landing," a point on the Volga shore of the Fair
sand-spit, miles nearer our hotel than the one to which we had driven
through torrents of rain. We were to make our real start at ten o'clock
that night! The cold was piercing. We wrapped ourselves up in our wadded
cloaks and in a big down quilt which we had with us, and tried to sleep,
amid the deliberate bang-bang-bang of loading. When the cargo was in we
slept. When we woke in the morning we began to exchange remarks, being
still in that half comatose condition which follows heavy slumber.

"What a delightfully easy boat!" "Who would have expected such
smoothness of motion from such an inferior-looking old craft?" "It must
be very swift to have no motion at all perceptible. Whereabouts are we,
and how much have we missed?"

I rose and raised the blind. The low shore opposite and far away, the
sandy islet near at hand, the river,--all looked suspiciously like
what our eyes had rested upon when we went to bed the night before. We
would not believe it at first, but it was true, that we had not moved a
foot, but were still tied up at the Siberian Landing. Thence we returned
to the town wharf, no apologies or explanations being forthcoming or to
be extracted, whence we made a final start at about nine o'clock, only
fifteen hours late! And the company professed to be "American"!

Progress up the river was slow. The cold rain and wind prevented our
availing ourselves of the tiny deck. The little saloon had no outlook,
being placed in the middle of the boat. The shores and villages were not
of striking interest, after our acquaintance with the lower Volga. For
hours all the other passengers (chiefly second-class) were abed,
apparently. I returned to my cabin to kill time with reading, and
presently found the divan and even the floor and partition walls
becoming intolerably hot, and exhaling a disagreeable smell of charred
wood. I set out on a tour of investigation. In the next compartment to
us, which had the outward appearance of a stateroom, but was inclosed on
the outside only by a lattice-work, was the smoke-pipe. The whistle was
just over our heads, and the pipe almost touched the partition wall of
our cabin. That partly explained the deadly chill of the night before,
and the present suffocating heat. I descended to the lower deck. There
stood the engine, almost as rudimentary as a parlor stove, in full sight
and directly under our cabin; also close to the woodwork. It burned
wood, and at every station the men brought a supply on board; the
sticks, laid across two poles in primitive but adequate fashion, being
deposited by the simple process of widening the space between the poles,
and letting the wood fall on the deck with a noise like thunder. The
halts and "wooding up" seemed especially frequent at night, and there
was not much opportunity for sleep between them. Our fear of being
burned alive also deprived us of the desire to sleep. We were nearly
roasted, as it was, and had to go out on the deck in the wind and rain
at short intervals, to cool off.

There was nothing especially worthy of note at any of the landings,
beyond the peculiar windmills, except at Gorodetz, which is renowned for
the manufacture of spice-cakes, so the guide-book said. I watched
anxiously for Gorodetz, went ashore, and bought the biggest "spice-cake"
I could find from an old woman on the wharf. All the other passengers
landed for the same purpose, and the old woman did a rushing business.
After taking a couple of mouthfuls, I decided that I was unable to
appreciate the merits of my cake, as I had been, after repeated efforts,
to appreciate those of a somewhat similar concoction known under the
name of "Vyazemsky." So I gave the cake to the grateful stewardess, and
went out on deck to look at a ray of sunlight.

"Where's your cake?" asked a stern voice at my elbow. The speaker was a
man with long hair and beard, dressed like a peasant, in a conical fur
cap and a sheepskin coat, though his voice, manner, and general
appearance showed that he belonged to the higher classes. Perhaps he was
an "adept" of Count Tolstoy, and was merely masquerading in that
costume, which was very comfortable, though it was only September.

"I gave it to the stewardess," I answered meekly, being taken by
surprise.

"What! Didn't you eat it? Don't you know, madam, that these spice-cakes
are renowned for their qualities all over Russia, and are even carried
to the remotest parts of Siberia and of China, also, I believe, in great
quantities? [He had got ahead of the guide-book in that last
particular!] _Why_ didn't you eat it?"

"It did not taste good; and besides, I was afraid of indigestion. It
seemed never to have been cooked, unless by exposure to the sun, and it
was soggy and heavy as lead. You know there has been a great deal of
rain lately, and what sun we have even now is very pale and weak, hardly
adapted to baking purposes."

This seemed to enrage my hairy mentor, and he poured out a volume of
indignant criticism, reproach, and ejaculations, all tangled up with
fragments of cookery receipts, though evidently not the receipt for the
Gorodetz cakes, which is a secret. The other passengers listened in
amazement and delight. When he paused for breath, I remarked:--

"Well, I don't see any harm in having bestowed such a delicate luxury on
the poor stewardess. Did any of you think to buy a cake for her? And why
not? I denied myself to give her pleasure. Look at it in that light for
a while, sir, if my bad taste offends you. And, in the mean while, tell
me what has inspired you with the taste to dress like a peasant?"

That settled him, and he retreated. That evening he and the friend with
whom he seemed to be traveling talked most entertainingly in the little
saloon, after supper. The friend, a round, rosy, jolly man, dressed in
ordinary European clothes, was evidently proud of his flow of language,
and liked to hear himself talk. Actors, actresses, and theatres in
Russia, from the middle of the last century down to the present day,
were his favorite topic, on which he declaimed with appropriate gestures
and very noticeable management of several dimples in his cheeks. As a
matter of course, he considered the present day degenerate, and lauded
the old times and dead actors and actresses only. It seemed that the
longer they had been dead, the higher were their merits. He talked very
well, also, about books and social conditions.

The progress of the weak-kneed steamer against wind and current was very
slow and uncertain, and we never knew when we should reach any given
point. Even the mouths of the rivers were not so exciting or important
in nature as they used to look to me when I studied geography. I
imparted to the captain my opinion that his engine was no better than a
_samovar_. He tried hard to be angry, but a glance at that ridiculous
machine convinced him of the justice of my comparison, and he broke into
a laugh.

We left the steamer at Yaroslavl (it was bound for Rybinsk), two hundred
and forty-one miles above Nizhni-Novgorod, and got our first view of the
town at daybreak. It stands on the high west bank of the river, but is
not so picturesque as Nizhni. Access to the town is had only through
half a dozen cuts and ravines, as at Nizhni; and what a singular town it
is! With only a little over thirty thousand inhabitants, it has
seventy-seven churches, besides monasteries and other ecclesiastical
buildings. There are streets which seem to be made up chiefly of
churches,--churches of all sizes and colors, crowned with beautiful
and fantastic domes, which, in turn, are surmounted by crosses of the
most charming and original designs.

Yaroslavl, founded in 1030, claims the honor of having had the first
Russian theatre, and to have sheltered Biron, the favorite of the
Empress Anna Ioannovna (a doubtful honor this), with his family, during
nineteen years of exile. But its architectural hints and revelations of
ancient fashions, forms, and customs, are its chief glory, not to be
obscured even by its modern renown for linen woven by hand and by
machinery. For a person who really understands Russian architecture,--
not the architecture of St. Petersburg, which is chiefly the invention
of foreigners,--Yaroslavl and other places on the northern Volga in
this neighborhood, widely construed, are mines of information and
delight. However, as there are no books wherewith a foreigner can inform
himself on this subject, any attempt at details would not only seem
pedantic, but would be incomprehensible without tiresome explanations
and many illustrations, which are not possible here. I may remark,
however, that Viollet-le-Duc and Fergusson do not understand the subject
of Russian architecture, and that their few observations on the matter
are nearly all as erroneous as they well can be. I believe that very few
Russians even know much scientifically about the development of their
national architecture from the Byzantine style. Yaroslavl is a good
place to study it, and has given its name to one epoch of that
development.

With the exception of the churches, Yaroslavl has not much to show to
the visitor; but the bazaar was a delight to us, with its queer pottery,
its baskets for moulding bread, its bread-trays for washtubs, and a
dozen other things in demand by the peasants as to which we had to ask
explanations.

Breezy, picturesque Yaroslavl, with its dainty, independent cabbies, who
object to the mud which must have been their portion all their lives,
and reject rare customers rather than drive through it; with its
churches never to be forgotten; its view of the Volga, and its typical
Russian features! It was a fitting end to our Volga trip, and fully
repaid us for our hot-cold voyage with the _samovar_ steamer against the
stream, though I had not believed, during the voyage, that anything
could make up for the tedium. If I were to visit it again, I would
approach it from the railway side and leave it to descend the river. But
I would not advise any foreigner to tackle it at all, unless he be as
well prepared as we were to appreciate its remarkable merits in certain
directions.

A night's journey landed us in Moscow. But even the glories of Moscow
cannot make us forget the city of Yaroslaff the Great and Nizhni
Novgorod.







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