THE LAND OF THOR.
J. ROSS BROWNE,
AUTHOR OF "YUSEF," "CRUSOE'S ISLAND," "AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN GERMANY," ETC.
Illustrated by the Author.
NEW YORK: HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE. 1867.
BY J. ROSS BROWNE.
AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN GERMANY. Illustrated by the Author. 12mo, Cloth, $2 00.
THE LAND OF THOR. Illustrated by the Author. 12mo, Cloth, $2 00.
CRUSOE'S ISLAND: A Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk. With Sketches of Adventure in California and Washoe. Illustrations. 12mo, Cloth. $1 75.
YUSEF; or, The Journey of the Frangi. A Crusade in the East. With Illustrations. 12mo, Cloth, $1 75.
Published by HARPER & BROTHERS, New York.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, by HARPER & BROTHERS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.
I. IMPRESSIONS OF ST. PETERSBURG 9
II. A PLEASANT EXCURSION 25
III. VIEWS ON THE MOSCOW RAILWAY 39
IV. MOSCOW 52
V. TEA-DRINKING 60
VI. THE PETERSKOI GARDENS 65
VII. THE "LITTLE WATER" 73
VIII. THE MARKETS OF MOSCOW 77
IX. THE NOSE REGIMENT 88
X. THE EMPEROR'S BEAR-HUNT 92
XI. RUSSIAN HUMOR 97
XII. A MYSTERIOUS ADVENTURE 104
XIII. THE DENOUEMENT 125
XIV. THE KREMLIN 134
XV. RUSSIAN MANNERS AND CUSTOMS 155
XVI. DESPOTISM versus SERFDOM 165
XVII. REFORM IN RUSSIA 170
XVIII. A BOND OF SYMPATHY 185
XIX. CIVILIZATION IN RUSSIA 193
XX. PASSAGE TO REVEL 209
XXI. REVEL AND HELSINGFORS 218
XXII. A BATHING SCENE 227
XXIII. ABO—FINLAND 236
XXIV. STOCKHOLM 248
XXV. WALKS ABOUT STOCKHOLM 262
XXVI. THE GOTHA CANAL 272
XXVII. VOYAGE TO CHRISTIANA 291
XXVIII. FROM CHRISTIANIA TO LILLEHAMMER 302
XXIX. HOW THEY TRAVEL IN NORWAY 310
XXX. A NORWEGIAN GIRL 317
XXXI. HOW THEY LIVE 335
XXXII. JOHN BULL ABROAD 354
XXXIII. WOMEN IN NORWAY AND GERMANY 361
XXXIV. DOWN THE DRIVSDAL 368
XXXV. A NORWEGIAN HORSE-JOCKEY 372
XXXVI. OUT OF MONEY 381
XXXVII. ICELANDIC TRAVEL 383
XXXVIII. HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN 387
XXXIX. VOYAGE TO SCOTLAND 398
XL. THE JOLLY BLOODS 404
XLI. THE FAROE ISLANDS 408
XLII. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF ICELAND 426
XLIII. REYKJAVIK, THE CAPITAL OF ICELAND 431
XLIV. GEIR ZOEGA 440
XLV. THE ENGLISH TOURISTS 445
XLVI. THE ROAD TO THINGVALLA 449
XLVII. THE ALMANNAJAU 465
XLVIII. THINGVALLA 476
XLIX. THE ROAD TO THE GEYSERS 490
L. THE GEYSERS 503
LI. THE ENGLISH SPORTS IN TROUBLE 527
LII. A FRIGHTFUL ADVENTURE 537
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Laborers and Shipwrights 10
Russian and Finn 11
Cooper's Shop and Residence 15
Merchant, Peddlers and Coachman 18
Fish Peddler 29
Young Peasants 31
Dvornick and Postman 35
Glazier, Painter, Carpenters 37
Hay Gatherers 46
Prisoners for Siberia 58
Mujiks at Tea 63
Russian Theatre 68
The Peterskoi Gardens 72
Old-clothes' Market 78
Pigs, Pups, and Pans 87
Imperial Nosegay 90
Skinned and Stuffed Man 100
Frozen Animals in the Market 101
Mujik and Cats 103
Effects of "Little Water" 111
Russian Beggars 115
Gambling Saloon 122
A Passage of Politeness 157
In Norseland 292
The Steamer entering the Fjord 295
Coast of Norway 297
The Islands 299
Approach to Christiania 303
Station-house, Logen Valley 313
"Good-by—Many Thanks!" 322
Norwegian Peasant Family 324
The Post-girl 330
Waiting for a Nibble 341
A Drinking Bout 345
A Norwegian Farm 347
Norwegian Church 348
Parish Schoolmaster 349
Dovre Fjeld 353
Playing him out 356
English Sportsman 358
Bear Chase 359
Peasant Women at Work 360
Wheeling Girls 363
Justice of the Peace 365
Model Landlord 367
Drivsdal Valley 369
Passage on the Driv 371
The Prize 375
Traveling on Foot 382
The great Geyser 385
Hans Christian Andersen 394
A Dandy Tourist 406
View in Faroe Islands 409
Faroese Children 412
Faroese Islanders 414
Kirk Goboe 421
Farm-house and Ruins 423
Faroese on Horseback 425
Natural Bridge 427
Coast of Iceland 429
The Meal-sack 430
Reykjavik, the Capital of Iceland 432
Governor's Residence, Reykjavik 434
Icelandic Houses 435
Church at Reykjavik 436
Icelanders at Work 438
Geir Zoega 441
Icelandic Horses 443
English Party at Reykjavik 447
A Rough Road 451
Taking Snuff 454
An Icelandic Bog 459
Geir Zoega and Brusa 463
Entrance to the Almannajau 466
The Almannajau 467
Skeleton View of the Almannajau 469
Outline View of Thingvalla 470
Fall of the Almannajau 472
Icelandic Shepherd-girl 473
Church at Thingvalla 477
The Pastor's House 479
The Pastor of Thingvalla 485
Skeleton View of the Logberg 488
Thingvalla, Logberg, Almannajau 489
Diagram of the Logberg 490
An Artist at Home 492
Effigy in Lava 495
The Hrafnajau 497
The Tintron Rock 499
Bridge River 502
Shepherd and Family 506
The Strokhr 516
Great Geyser and Receiver 525
Strokhr and Receiver 525
The English Party 533
Interior of Icelandic Hut 536
An Awkward Predicament 540
THE LAND OF THOR.
IMPRESSIONS OF ST. PETERSBURG.
I landed at St. Petersburg with a knapsack on my back and a hundred dollars in my pocket. An extensive tour along the borders of the Arctic Circle was before me, and it was necessary I should husband my resources.
In my search for a cheap German gasthaus I walked nearly all over the city. My impressions were probably tinctured by the circumstances of my position, but it seemed to me I had never seen so strange a place.
The best streets of St. Petersburg resemble on an inferior scale the best parts of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. Nothing in the architecture conveys any idea of national taste except the glittering cupolas of the churches, the showy colors of the houses, and the vast extent and ornamentation of the palaces. The general aspect of the city is that of immense level space. Built upon islands, cut up into various sections by the branches of the Neva, intersected by canals, destitute of eminent points of observation, the whole city has a scattered and incongruous effect—an incomprehensible remoteness about it, as if one might continually wander about without finding the centre. Some parts, of course, are better than others; some streets are indicative of wealth and luxury; but without a guide it is extremely difficult to determine whether there are not still finer buildings and quarters in the main part of the city—if you could only get at it. The eye wanders continually in search of heights and prominent objects. Even the Winter Palace, the Admiralty, and the Izaak Church lose much of their grandeur in the surrounding deserts of space from the absence of contrast with familiar and tangible objects. It is only by a careful examination in detail that one can become fully sensible of their extraordinary magnificence. Vast streets of almost interminable length, lined by insignificant two-story houses with green roofs and yellow walls; vast open squares or ploschads; palaces, public buildings, and churches, dwindled down to mere toy-work in the deserts of space intervening; countless throngs of citizens and carriages scarcely bigger than ants to the eye; broad sheets of water, dotted with steamers, brigs, barks, wood-barges and row-boats, still infinitesimal in the distance; long rows of trees, forming a foliage to some of the principal promenades, with glimpses of gardens and shrubbery at remote intervals; canals and dismal green swamps—not all at one sweep of the eye, but visible from time to time in the course of an afternoon's ramble, are the most prominent characteristics of this wonderful city. A vague sense of loneliness impresses the traveler from a distant land—as if in his pilgrimage through foreign climes he had at length wandered into the midst of a strange and peculiar civilization—a boundless desert of wild-looking streets, a waste of colossal palaces, of gilded churches and glistening waters, all perpetually dwindling away before him in the infinity of space. He sees a people strange and unfamiliar in costume and expression; fierce, stern-looking officers, rigid in features, closely shaved, and dressed in glittering uniforms; grave, long-bearded priests, with square-topped black turbans, their flowing black drapery trailing in the dust; pale women richly and elegantly dressed, gliding unattended through mazes of the crowd; rough, half-savage serfs, in dirty pink shirts, loose trowsers, and big boots, bowing down before the shrines on the bridges and public places; the drosky drivers, with their long beards, small bell-shaped hats, long blue coats and fire-bucket boots, lying half asleep upon their rusty little vehicles awaiting a customer, or dashing away at a headlong pace over the rough cobble-paved streets, and so on of every class and kind. The traveler wanders about from place to place, gazing into the strange faces he meets, till the sense of loneliness becomes oppressive. An invisible but impassable barrier seems to stand between him and the moving multitude. He hears languages that fall without a meaning upon his ear; wonders at the soft inflections of the voices; vainly seeks some familiar look or word; thinks it strange that he alone should be cut off from all communion with the souls of men around him; and then wonders if they have souls like other people, and why there is no kindred expression in their faces—no visible consciousness of a common humanity. It is natural that every stranger in a strange city should experience this feeling to some extent, but I know of no place where it seems so strikingly the case as in St. Petersburg. Accustomed as I was to strange cities and strange languages, I never felt utterly lonely until I reached this great mart of commerce and civilization. The costly luxury of the palaces; the wild Tartaric glitter of the churches; the tropical luxuriance of the gardens; the brilliant equipages of the nobility; the display of military power; the strange and restless throngs forever moving through the haunts of business and pleasure; the uncouth costumes of the lower classes, and the wonderful commingling of sumptuous elegance and barbarous filth, visible in almost every thing, produced a singular feeling of mingled wonder and isolation—as if the solitary traveler were the only person in the world who was not permitted to comprehend the spirit and import of the scene, or take a part in the great drama of life in which all others seemed to be engaged. I do not know if plain, practical men are generally so easily impressed by external objects, but I must confess that when I trudged along the streets with my knapsack on my back, looking around in every direction for a gasthaus; when I spoke to people in my peculiar style of French and German, and received unintelligible answers in Russian; when I got lost among palaces and grand military establishments, instead of finding the gasthaus, and finally attracted the attention of the surly-looking guards, who were stationed about every where, by the anxious pertinacity with which I examined every building, a vague notion began to get possession of me that I was a sort of outlaw, and would sooner or later be seized and dragged before the Czar for daring to enter such a magnificent city in such an uncouth and unbecoming manner. When I cast my eyes up at the sign-boards, and read about grand fabrications and steam-companies, and walked along the quays of the Neva, and saw wood enough piled up in big broad-bottomed boats to satisfy the wants of myself and family for ten thousand years; when I strolled into the Nevskoi, and jostled my way through crowds of nobles, officers, soldiers, dandies, and commoners, stopping suddenly at every picture-shop, gazing dreamily into the gorgeous millinery establishments, pondering thoughtfully over the glittering wares of the jewelers, lagging moodily by the grand cafes, and snuffing reflectively the odors that came from the grand restaurations—when all this occurred, and I went down into a beer-cellar and made acquaintance with a worthy German, and he asked me if I had any meerschaums to sell, the notion that I had no particular business in so costly and luxurious a place began to grow stronger than ever. A kind of dread came over me that the mighty spirit of Peter the Great would come riding through the scorching hot air on a gale of snowflakes, at the head of a bloody phalanx of Muscovites, and, rising in his stirrups as he approached, would demand of me in a voice of thunder, "Stranger, how much money have you got?" to which I could only answer, "Sublime and potent Czar, taking the average value of my Roaring Grizzly, Dead Broke, Gone Case, and Sorrowful Countenance, and placing it against the present value of Russian securities, I consider it within the bounds of reason to say that I hold about a million of rubles!" But if he should insist upon an exhibit of ready cash—there was the rub! It absolutely made me feel weak in the knees to think of it. Indeed, a horrid suspicion seized me, after I had crossed the bridge and begun to renew my search for a cheap gasthaus on the Vassoli Ostrou, that every fat, neatly-shaved man I met, with small gray eyes, a polished hat on his head drawn a little over his brow, his lips compressed, and his coat buttoned closely around his body, was a rich banker, and that he was saying to himself as I passed, "That fellow with the slouched hat and the knapsack is a suspicious character, to say the least of him. It becomes my duty to warn the police of his movements. I suspect him to be a Hungarian refugee."
With some difficulty, I succeeded at length in finding just such a place as I desired—clean and comfortable enough, considering the circumstances, and not unusually fertile in vermin for a city like St. Petersburg, which produces all kinds of troublesome insects spontaneously. There was this advantage in my quarters, in addition to their cheapness—that the proprietor and attendants spoke several of the Christian languages, including German, which, of all languages in the world, is the softest and most euphonious to my ear—when I am away from Frankfort. Besides, my room was very advantageously arranged for a solitary traveler. Being about eight feet square, with only one small window overlooking the back yard, and effectually secured by iron fastenings, so that nobody could open it, there was no possibility of thieves getting in and robbing me when the door was shut and locked on the inside. Its closeness presented an effectual barrier against the night air, which in these high northern latitudes is considered extremely unwholesome to sleep in. With the thermometer at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the atmosphere, to be sure, was a little sweltering during the day, and somewhat thick by night, but that was an additional advantage, inasmuch as it forced the occupant to stay out most of the time and see a great deal more of the town than he could possibly see in his room.
Having deposited my knapsack and put my extra shirt in the wash, you will now be kind enough to consider me the shade of Virgil, ready to lead you, after the fashion of Dante, through the infernal regions or any where else within the bounds of justice, even through St. Petersburg, where the climate in summer is hot enough to satisfy almost any body. The sun shines here, in June and July, for twenty hours a day, and even then scarcely disappears beneath the horizon. I never experienced such sweltering weather in any part of the world except Aspinwall. One is fairly boiled with the heat, and might be wrung out like a wet rag. Properly speaking, the day commences for respectable people, and men of enterprising spirit—tourists, pleasure-seekers, gamblers, vagabonds, and the like—about nine or ten o'clock at night, and continues till about four or five o'clock the next morning. It is then St. Petersburg fairly turns out; then the beauty and fashion of the city unfold their wings and flit through the streets, or float in Russian gondolas upon the glistening waters of the Neva; then it is the little steamers skim about from island to island, freighted with a population just waked up to a realizing sense of the pleasures of existence; then is the atmosphere balmy, and the light wonderfully soft and richly tinted; then come the sweet witching hours, when
"Shady nooks Patiently give up their quiet being."
None but the weary, labor-worn serf, who has toiled through the long day in the fierce rays of the sun, can sleep such nights as these. I call them nights, yet what a strange mistake. The sunshine still lingers in the heavens with a golden glow; the evening vanishes dreamily in the arms of the morning; there is nothing to mark the changes—all is soft, gradual, and illusory. A peculiar and almost supernatural light glistens upon the gilded domes of the churches; the glaring waters of the Neva are alive with gondolas; miniature steamers are flying through the winding channels of the islands; strains of music float upon the air; gay and festive throngs move along the promenades of the Nevskoi; gilded and glittering equipages pass over the bridges and disappear in the shadowy recesses of the islands. Whatever may be unseemly in life is covered by a rich and mystic drapery of twilight. The floating bath-houses of the Neva, with their variegated tressel-work and brilliant colors, resemble fairy palaces; and the plashing of the bathers falls upon the ear like the gambols of water-spirits. Not far from the Izaak Bridge, the equestrian statue of Peter the Great stands out in bold relief on a pedestal of granite; the mighty Czar, casting an eagle look over the waters of the Neva, while his noble steed rears over the yawning precipice in front, crushing a serpent beneath his hoof. The spirit of Peter the Great still lives throughout Russia; but it is better understood in the merciless blasts of winter than in the soft glow of the summer nights.
Wander with me now, and let us take a look at the Winter Palace—the grandest pile, perhaps, ever built by human hands. Six thousand people occupy it during the long winter months, and well they may, for it is a city of palaces in itself. Fronting the Neva, it occupies a space of several acres, its massive walls richly decorated with ornamental designs, a forest of chimneys on top—the whole pile forming an immense oblong square so grand, so massive, so wonderfully rich and varied in its details, that the imagination is lost in a colossal wilderness of architectural beauties. Standing in the open plozchad, we may gaze at this magnificent pile for hours, and dream over it, and picture to our minds the scenes of splendor its inner walls have witnessed; the royal fetes of the Czars; the courtly throngs that have filled its halls; the vast treasures expended in erecting it; the enslaved multitudes, now low in the dust, who have left this monument to speak of human pride, and the sweat and toil that pride must feed upon; and while we gaze and dream thus, a mellow light comes down from the firmament, and the mighty Czars, and their palaces, and armies, and navies, and worldly strifes, what are they in the presence of the everlasting Power? For "it is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers."
But these dreamings and these wanderings through this city of palaces would be endless. We may feast our eyes upon the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace, the Senate-house, the palace of the Grand-duke Michael, the Column of Alexander, the colleges, universities, imperial gardens and summer-houses, and, after all, we can only feel that they are built upon the necks of an enslaved people; that the mightiest Czars of Russia, in common with the poorest serfs, are but "as grasshoppers upon the earth."
The istrovoschik (sneeze and you have the word)—in plain English, the drosky drivers—are a notable feature in St. Petersburg. When I saw them for the first time on the quay of the Wassaly Ostrow, where the steamer from Stettin lands her passengers, the idea naturally impressed my mind that I had fallen among a brotherhood of Pilgrims or Druids. Nothing could be more unique than the incongruity of their costume and occupation. Every man looked like a priest; his long beard, his grave expression of countenance, his little black hat and flowing blue coat, gathered around the waist by means of a sash, his glazed boots reaching above the knees, his slow and measured motions, and the sublime indifference with which he regarded his customers, were singularly impressive. Even the filth and rustiness which formed the most prominent characteristics of the class contributed to the delusion that they might have sprung from a Druidical source, and gathered their dust of travel on the pilgrimage from remote ages down to the present period. It is really something novel, in the line of hackery, to see those sedate fellows sitting on their little droskys awaiting a customer. The force of competition, however, has of late years committed sad inroads upon their dignity, and now they are getting to be about as enterprising and pertinacious as any of their kindred in other parts of the world. The drosky is in itself a curiosity as a means of locomotion. Like the driver, it is generally dirty and dilapidated; but here the similitude ends; for, while the former is often high, his drosky is always low. The wheels are not bigger than those of an ordinary dog-cart, and the seat is only designed for one person, though on a pinch it can accommodate two. Generally it consists of a plank covered with a cushion, extending lengthwise in the same direction as the horse, so that the rider sits astride of it as if riding on horseback; some, however, have been modernized so as to afford a more convenient seat in the usual way. Night and day these droskys are every where to be seen, sometimes drawn up by the sidewalk, the driver asleep, awaiting a customer, but more frequently rattling full tilt over the pavements (the roughest in the world) with a load, consisting, in nine cases out of ten, of a fat old gentleman in military uniform, a very ugly old lady with a lapdog, or a very dashy young lady glittering with jewels, on her way, perhaps, to the Confiseur's or somewhere else. But in a city like St. Petersburg, where it is at least two or three miles from one place to another, every body with twenty kopecks in his pocket uses the drosky. It is the most convenient and economical mode of locomotion for all ordinary purposes, hence the number of them is very large. On some of the principal streets it is marvelous how they wind their way at such a rattling pace through the crowd. To a stranger unacquainted with localities, they are a great convenience. And here, you see, commences the gist of the story.
On a certain occasion I called a drosky-man and directed him to drive me to the United States Consulate. Having never been there myself, I depended solely upon the intelligence and enterprise of the istrovoschik. My knowledge of the Russian consisted of three words—the name of the street and dratzall kopeck, the latter being the stipulated fare of twenty kopecks. By an affirmative signal the driver gave me to understand that he fully comprehended my wishes, and, with a flourish of his whip, away we started. After driving me nearly all over the city of St. Petersburg—a pretty extensive city, as any body will find who undertakes to walk through it—this adroit and skillful whipster, who had never uttered a word from the time of starting, now deliberately drew up his drosky on the corner of a principal street and began a conversation. I repeated the name of the street in which the consulate was located, and dratzall kopeck. The driver gazed in my face with a grave and placid countenance, stroked his long beard, tucked the skirts of his long blue coat under him, and drove on again. After rattling over a series of the most frightful cobble-stone pavements ever designed as an improvement in a great city, through several new quarters, he again stopped and treated me to some more remarks in his native language. I answered as before, the name of the street. He shook his head with discouraging gravity. I then remarked dratzall kopeck. From the confused answer he made, which occupied at least ten minutes of his time, and of which I was unable to comprehend a single word, it was apparent that he was as ignorant of his own language as he was of the city. In this extremity he called another driver to his aid, who spoke just the words of English, "Gooda-morkig!" "Good-morning," said I. From this the conversation lapsed at once into remote depths of Russian. In despair I got out of the drosky and walked along the street, looking up at all the signs—the driver after me with his drosky, apparently watching to see that I did not make my escape. At length I espied a German name on a bakery sign. How familiar it looked in that desert of unintelligible Russian—like a favorite quotation in a page of metaphysics. I went in and spoke German—vie gaetz? You are aware, perhaps, that I excel in that language. I asked the way to the United States Consulate. The baker had probably forgotten his native tongue, if ever he knew it at all, for I could get nothing out of him but a shake of the head and nicht furstay. However, he had the goodness, seeing my perplexity, to put on his hat and undertake to find the consul's, which, by dint of inquiry, he at length ascertained to be about half a mile distant. We walked all the way, this good old baker and I, he refusing to ride because there was only room for one, and I not liking to do so and let him walk. The drosky-man followed in the rear, driving along very leisurely, and with great apparent comfort to himself. He leaned back in his seat with much gusto, and seemed rather amused than otherwise at our movements. At length we reached the consulate. It was about three hundred yards from my original point of departure. Any other man in existence than my istrovoschik would have sunk into the earth upon seeing me make this astounding discovery. I knew it by certain landmarks—a church and a garden. But he did not sink into the earth. He merely sat on his drosky as cool as a cucumber. I felt so grateful to the worthy baker, who was a fat old gentleman, and perspired freely after his walk, that I gave him thirty kopecks. The drosky-man claimed forty kopecks, just double his fare. I called in the services of an interpreter, and protested against this imposition. The interpreter and the drosky-man got into an animated dispute on the question, and must have gone clear back to the fundamental principles of droskyism, for they seemed likely never to come to an end. The weather was warm, and both kept constantly wiping their faces, and turning the whole subject over and over again, without the slightest probability of an equitable conclusion. At length my interpreter said, "Perhaps, sir, you had better pay it. The man says you kept him running about for over two hours; and since you have no proof to the contrary, it would only give you trouble to have him punished." This view accorded entirely with my own, and I cheerfully paid the forty kopecks; also ten kopecks drink-geld, and a small douceur of half a ruble (fifty kopecks) to the gentleman who had so kindly settled the difficulty for me. After many years' experience of travel, I am satisfied, as before stated, that a man may be born naturally honest, but can not long retain his integrity in the hack business. He must sooner or later take to swindling, otherwise he can never keep his horses fat, or make the profession respectable and remunerative. Such, at least, has been my experience of men in this line of business, not excepting the istrovoschik of St. Petersburg.
A PLEASANT EXCURSION.
I had the good fortune, during my ramble, to meet with a couple of fellow-passengers from Stettin. One of them was a rough, weather-beaten man of middle age, with rather marked features, but not an unkindly expression. His mysterious conduct during the voyage had frequently attracted my attention. There was something curious about his motions, as if an invisible companion, to whom he was bound in some strange way, continually accompanied him. He drank enormous quantities of beer, and smoked from morning till night a tremendous meerschaum, which must have held at least a pint of tobacco. When not engaged in drinking beer and smoking, he usually walked rapidly up and down the decks, with his hands behind him and his head bent down, talking in a guttural voice to himself about "hemp." He slept—or rather lay down, for I don't think he ever slept—with his head close to mine on a bench in the cabin, and it was a continued source of trouble to me the way he puffed, and groaned, and talked about "hemp." Sometimes he was half the night arguing with himself about the various prices and qualities of this useful article, but I did not understand enough of his blat deutsch to gather the drift of the argument. All I could make out was "Zweimal zwei macht vier—(a puff)—sechs und vierzig—(a groan)—acht und sechzig macht ein hundert—(a snort)—sieben tausend—acht tausend fuenf und dreissig thaler—(a sigh)—schilling—kopeck—ruble—hemphf! Mein Gott! Zwei und dreissig tausend—hemphf—ruble—(a terrible gritting of the teeth)—sechs und fuenfzig—Gott im Himmel!—Ich kann nicht schlafen!" Here he would jump up and shout "Kellner! Kellner! ein flask bier!—sechs und zechzig—zweimal acht und vierzig! Kellner, flask bier!—Liebe Gott—was ist das?—Nine und sechzig—flask bier! Kleich! Kleich!" When the beer came he would drink off three bottles without stopping, then light his pipe, fill the cabin with smoke, and after he had done that go on deck to get the fresh air. I could hear him for hours walking up and down over my head, and thought I could occasionally detect the words. "Hemphf—ruble—thaler—fuenfmal sechs und zwanzig—mein Gott!" It was evident the man was laboring under some dreadful internal excitement about the price of hemp. What could it be? Was he going to hang himself? Did he contemplate buying some Russian hemp for that purpose especially? The mystery was heightened by the fact that he was frequently in close conversation with the young man whom I have already mentioned as my other fellow-passenger, and they both talked about nothing else but hemp. What in the name of sense were they going to do with hemp in Mechlenberg, their native country, where people were beheaded—unless they meant to hang themselves? The mystery troubled me so much that I finally made bold to ask the young man if his friend had committed any serious crime, and whether that was the reason he talked so much about hemp? These North Germans are a queer people. I don't think they ever suspect any body to be joking. They take the most outrageous proposition literally, and never seem to understand that there can be two meanings to any thing. As Sydney Smith says of the Scotch, it would take a surgical operation to get a joke well into their understanding. When I propounded this question to my young fellow-passenger—a very amiable and intelligent young man—he looked distressed and horror-stricken, and replied with great earnestness, "Oh no, he is a very respectable man. I am certain he never committed a crime in his life." "But," said I, "if he doesn't intend to hang somebody, why should he rave about hemp all night?" "Oh, he is a rope-maker. He is going to Russia to buy a cargo of hemp, and he's afraid prices will go up unless he gets there soon. The head wind and chopping sea keep us back a good deal." "Yes, yes, I understand it all now. Suppose, my young friend, you and I go to work and help the steamer along a little? It would be doing a great service to the cause of hemp, and enable me to sleep besides." The Mechlenberger looked incredulous. "How are we to do it?" he asked at length. "Oh, nothing easier!" I answered. "Just put a couple of these handspikes in the lee scuppers—so! and hold her steady!" At this the Mechlenberger, who was a very genial and good-natured fellow, could scarcely help laughing, the absurdity of the idea struck him so forcibly. Seeing, however, that I looked perfectly in earnest, he was kind enough to explain the erroneous basis of my calculation, and accordingly entered into an elaborate mathematical demonstration to prove that what we gained by lifting we would lose by the additional pressure of our feet upon the decks! After this I was prepared to believe the story of the old Nuremberger, who, when about to set out on his travels, got on top of his trunk and took hold of each end for the purpose of carrying it to the post station. The question about the hemp was too good to be lost, and my young friend had too strong a business head not to perceive the delightful verdancy of my character. He accordingly took the earliest opportunity to mention it to his comrade, Herr Batz, the rope-maker, who never stopped laughing about the mistake I had made till we got to St. Petersburg. They were both very genial, pleasant fellows, and took a great fancy to the Herr American who thought Herr Batz was going to hang himself, and who had proposed to steady the steamer by means of a handspike. Such primitive simplicity was absolutely refreshing to them; and, since they enjoyed it, of course I did, and we were the best of friends.
On the present occasion, after we had passed the usual compliments it was proposed that we should hire a boat, as the night was fine, and take a trip down to the Kamennoi Island. I was delighted to have two such agreeable companions, and readily acceded to the proposition. A young Russian in the hemp business accompanied us, and altogether we made a very lively and humorous party. I was sorry, however, to be prejudiced in the estimation of the Russian by having the hemp and handspike story repeated in my presence, but finally got over that, and changed the current of the conversation by asking if the Emperor Alexander would send me to Siberia in case I smoked a cigar in the boat? To which the Russian responded somewhat gravely that I could smoke as many cigars on the water as I pleased, although it was forbidden in the streets on account of the danger of fire; but that, in any event, I would merely have to pay a fine, as people were only sent to Siberia for capital crimes and political offenses.
We got a boat down near the Custom-house, at a point of the Vassoli Ostrou, called the Strelka, and were soon skimming along through a small branch of the Neva, toward the island of Krestofskoi. The water was literally alive with boats, all filled with gay parties of pleasure-seekers, some on their way to the different islands, some to the bath-houses which abound in every direction, and all apparently enjoying a delightful time of it. Passing to the right of the Petrofskoi Island, whose grass-covered shores slope down to the water like a green carpet outspread under the trees, we soon reached the Little Nevka, about three miles from our starting-point. We disembarked on the Krestofskoi Island, near the bridge which crosses from Petrofskoi. On the right is a beautiful palace belonging to some of the royal family, the gardens of which sweep down to the waters of the Nevka, and present a charming scene of floral luxuriance. Gondolas, richly carved and curiously shaped, lay moored near the stone steps; the trestled bowers were filled with gay parties; pleasant sounds of voices and music floated upon the air, and over all a soft twilight gave a mystic fascination to the scene. I thought of the terrible arctic winters that for six months in the year cast their cold death-pall over the scene of glowing and tropical luxuriance, and wondered how it could ever come to life again; how the shrubs could bloom, and the birds sing, and the soft air of the summer nights come back and linger where such dreary horrors were wont to desolate the earth.
The constant dread of infringing upon the police regulations; the extraordinary deference with which men in uniform are regarded; the circumspect behavior at public places; the nice and well-regulated mirthfulness, never overstepping the strict bounds of prudence, which I had so often noticed in the northern states of Germany, and which may in part be attributed to the naturally conservative and orderly character of the people, are not the prominent features of the population of St. Petersburg. It appeared to me that in this respect at least they are more like Americans than any people I had seen in Europe; they do pretty much as they please; follow such trades and occupations as they like best; become noisy and uproarious when it suits them; get drunk occasionally; fight now and then; lie about on the grass and under the trees when they feel tired; enjoy themselves to their heart's content at all the public places; and care nothing about the police as long as the police let them alone. I rather fancied there must be a natural democratic streak in these people, for they are certainly more free and easy in their manners, rougher in their dress, more independent in their general air, and a good deal dirtier than most of the people I had met with in the course of my travels. I do not mean to say that rowdyism and democracy are synonymous, but I consider it a good sign of innate manliness and a natural spirit of independence when men are not afraid to dress like vagabonds and behave a little extravagantly, if it suits their taste. It must be said, however, that the police regulations or St. Petersburg, without being onerous or vexatious, are quite as good as those of any large city in Europe. When men are deprived of their political liberties, the least that can be done for them is to let them enjoy as much municipal freedom as may be consistent with public peace. I should never have suspected, from any thing I saw in the city or neighborhood of St. Petersburg, that I was within the limits of an absolute despotism. If one desires to satisfy himself on this point he must visit the interior.
I was led into this train of reflection partly by the scenes I had witnessed during my rambles through the city and on the way down the river, and partly by what we now saw on the island of Krestofskoi. A bridge unites this island with the Petrofskoi, and two other bridges with the islands of Kamennoi and Elaghinskoi. It was eleven o'clock at night, yet the twilight was so rich and glowing that one might readily read a newspaper in any of the open spaces. The main avenues were crowded with carriages of every conceivable description—the grandly decorated coach of the noble, glittering with armorial bearings and drawn by four richly-caparisoned horses; the barouche, easy and elegant, filled with a gay company of foreigners; the drosky, whirling along at a rapid pace, with its solitary occupant; the kareta, plain, neat, and substantial, carrying on its ample seats some worthy merchant and his family; the nondescript little vehicle, without top, bottom, or sides—nothing but four small wheels and a cushioned seat perched on springs, with an exquisite perched astride upon the street, driving a magnificent blood horse at the rate of 2.40; and English boxes with stiff Englishmen in them; and French chaises with loose Frenchmen in them; and a New York buggy with a New York fancy man in it; and hundreds of fine horses with dashing Russian officers in uniform mounted on them, and hundreds of other horses with secretaries and various young sprigs of nobility struggling painfully to stay mounted on them; and, in short, every thing grand, fanciful, and entertaining in the way of locomotion that the most fertile imagination can conceive. Don't do me the injustice, I pray you, to consider me envious of the good fortune of others in being able to ride when I had to walk, for it does me an amazing deal of good to see people enjoy themselves. Nothing pleases me better than to see a fat old lady, glittering all over with fine silks and jewels, leaning back in her cushioned carriage, with her beloved little lapdog in her arms—two elegant drivers, four prancing horses, and a splendid little postillion in front; two stalwart footmen, in plush breeches, behind, with variegated yellow backs like a pair of wasps. Can any thing be more picturesque? It always makes me think of a large June-bug dragged about by an accommodating crowd of fancy-colored flies! And what can be more imposing than a Russian grandee? See that terrific old gentleman, sitting all alone in a gorgeous carriage, large enough to carry himself and half a dozen of his friends. Orders and disorders cover him from head to foot. He is the exact picture of a ferocious bullfrog, with a tremendous mustache and a horribly malignant expression of eye, and naturally enough expects every body to get out of his way. That man must have had greatness thrust upon him, for he never could have achieved it by the brilliancy of his intellect. Doubtless he spends much of his time at the springs, but they don't seem to have purified his body, or subdued the natural ferocity of his temper. His wife must have a pleasant time. I wonder if he sleeps well, or enjoys Herzain's essays on Russian aristocracy? But make way, ye pedestrian rabble, for here comes a secretary of legation on horseback—make way, or he will tumble off and inflict some bodily injury upon you with the points of his waxed mustache! I know he must be a secretary of legation by the enormous polished boots he wears over his tight breeches, the dandy parting of his hair, the supercilious stupidity of his countenance, and the horrible tortures he suffers in trying to stick on the back of his horse. Nobody else in the world could make such an ass of himself by such frantic attempts to show off and keep on at the same time. I'll bet my life he thinks he is the most beautiful and accomplished gentleman ever produced by a beneficent Creator. Well, it is a happy thing for some of us that we don't see ourselves as others see us; if we did, my friends in the hemp business and myself would fare badly. Beregrissa! Padi! Padi!—have a care! make way, for here comes a cloud of dust, and in that cloud of dust is a kibitka, drawn by three wild horses, and in that kibitka, half sitting, half clinging to the side, is an official courier. Crack goes the whip of the yamtschick; the three fiery horses fly through the dust; the courier waves his hand to an officer on horseback, and with a whirl and a whisk they disappear. Pashol! I hope they won't break their necks before they get through.
Soon the main road branches out in various directions, and we strike off with the diverging streams of pedestrians, families of the middle and lower classes, young men of the town, gay young damsels with their beaux, burly tradesmen, tinkers, tailors, and hatters, waiters and apprentices, sailors and soldiers, until we find ourselves in the midst of a grand old forest. Open glades, pavilions, and tables are visible at intervals; but for the most part we are in a labyrinthian wilderness of trees, rich in foliage, and almost oppressive in their umbrageous density, while
"Deep velvet verdure clothes the turf beneath, And trodden flowers their richest odors breathe."
Insects flit through the still atmosphere; the hum of human voices, softened by distance, falls soothingly upon the ear; and as we look, and listen, and loiter on our way, we wonder if this can be the dreamland of the arctic regions? Can there ever be snow-storms and scathing frosts in such a land of tropical luxuriance? Thus, as we lounge along in the mellow twilight amid the groves of Katrofskoi, what charming pictures of sylvan enjoyment are revealed to us at every turn! Rustic tables under the great wide-spreading trees are surrounded by family groups—old patriarchs, and their children, and great-grandchildren; the steaming urn of tea in the middle; the old people chatting and gossiping; the young people laughing merrily; the children tumbling about over the green sward. Passing on we come to a group of Mujiks lying camp-fashion on the grass, eating their black bread, drinking their vodka, and sleeping whenever they please—for this is their summer home, and this grass is their bed. Next we come to a group of officers, their rich uniforms glittering in the soft twilight, their horses tied to the trees, or held at a little distance by some attendant soldiers. Dominoes, cards, Champagne, and cakes are scattered in tempting profusion upon the table, and if they are not enjoying their military career, it is not for want of congenial accompaniments and plenty of leisure. A little farther on we meet a jovial party of Germans seated under a tree, with a goodly supply of bread and sausages before them, singing in fine accord a song of their faderland. Next we hear the familiar strains of an organ, and soon come in sight of an Italian who is exhibiting an accomplished monkey to an enraptured crowd of children. The monkey has been thoroughly trained in the school of adversity, and makes horrible grimaces at his cruel and cadaverous master, who in ferocious tones, and without the least appearance of enjoying the sport, commands this miniature man to dance, fire a small gun, go through the sword exercise, play on a small fiddle, smoke a cigar, turn a somersault, bow to the company, and hold out his hat for an unlimited number of kopecks. Herr Batz suggests that such a monkey as that might be taught to spin ropes, and our younger Mechlenberger laughs, and says he once read a story of a monkey that shaved a cat, and then cut off his own or the cat's tail, he could not remember which. This reminds the Russian of a countess in Moscow who owned a beautiful little dog, to which she was greatly attached. She required her serfs to call it "My noble Prince," and had them well flogged with the knout whenever they approached it without bowing. One day a cat got hold of the noble Prince, and gave him a good scratching. The countess, being unable to soothe her afflicted poodle, caused the cat's paws to be cut off, and served up on a plate for his unhappy highness to play with—after which the noble pug was perfectly satisfied! Of course, we all laughed at the Russian's story, but he assured us it was a well authenticated fact, and was generally regarded as a most delicate jeu d'esprit. Not to be behindhand in the line of cats and monkeys, I was obliged to tell an anecdote of a Frenchman, who, on his arrival in Algiers, ordered a ragout at one of the most fashionable restaurants. It was duly served up, and pronounced excellent, though rather strongly flavored. "Pray," said the Frenchman to the maitre d'hotel, "of what species of cat do you make ragouts in Algiers?" "Pardon, monsieur," replied the polite host, "we use nothing but monkeys in Africa!" Disgusted at this colonial barbarism, the Frenchman immediately returned to Paris, where he remained forever after, that he might enjoy his customary and more civilized dish of cat. Herr Batz had not before heard of such a thing, neither had the young Mechlenberger, and they both agreed that cats must be a very disgusting article of food. The Russian, however, seemed to regard it as nothing uncommon, and gave us some very entertaining accounts of various curious dishes in the interior of Russia, to which cats were not a circumstance.
With such flimsy conversation as this we entertain ourselves till we reach a village of summer residences on the Kamennoi Island. Here we pause a while to enjoy the varied scenes of amusement that tempt the loiterer at every step; the tea-drinking parties out on the porticoes, the gambling saloons, the dancing pavilions, the cafes, the confectioneries, with their gay throngs of customers, their gaudy colors, their music, and sounds of joy and revelry. A little farther on we come to a stand of carriages, and near by a gate and a large garden. For thirty kopecks apiece we procure tickets of admission. This is the Vauxhall of Kamennoi. We jostle in with the crowd, and soon find ourselves in front of an open theatre.
So passes away the time till the whistle of a little steamer warns us of an opportunity to get back to the city. Hurrying down to the wharf, we secure places on the stern-sheets of a screw-wheeled craft not much bigger than a good-sized yawl. It is crowded to overflowing—in front, on top of the machinery, in the rear, over the sides—not a square inch of space left for man or beast. The whistle blows again; the fiery little monster of an engine shivers and screams with excess of steam; the grim, black-looking engineer gives the irons a pull, and away we go at a rate of speed that threatens momentary destruction against some bridge or bath-house. It is now two o'clock A.M. The rays of the rising sun are already reflected upon the glowing waters of the Neva. Barges and row-boats are hurrying toward the city. Carriages are rolling along the shady avenues of the islands. Crowds are gathered at every pier and landing-place awaiting some conveyance homeward. Ladies are waving their handkerchiefs to the little steamer to stop, and gentlemen are flourishing their hats. The captain blows the whistle, and the engineer stops the boat with such a sudden reversion of our screw that we are pitched forward out of the seats. Some of the passengers clamber up at the landing-places, and others clamber down and take their places. The little engine sets up its terrific scream again; the hot steam hisses and fizzes all over the boat; involuntary thoughts of maimed limbs and scalded skins are palpably impressed upon every face; but the little steamer keeps on—she is used to it, like the eels, and never bursts up. Winding through the varied channels of the Neva, under bridges, through narrow passes, among wood-boats, row-boats, and shipping, we at length reach the landing on the Russian Quay, above the Admiralty. Here we disembark, well satisfied to be safely over all the enjoyments and hazards of the evening.
Evening, did I say? The morning sun is blazing out in all his glory! We have had no evening—no night. It has been all a wild, strange, glowing freak of fancy. The light of day has been upon us all the time. And now, should we go to bed, when the sun is shining over the city, glistening upon the domes of the churches, illuminating the windows of the palaces, awaking the drowsy sailors of the Neva? Shall we hide ourselves away in suffocating rooms when the morning breeze is floating in from the Gulf of Finland, bearing upon its wings the invigorating brine of ocean, or shall we,
"Pleased to feel the air, Still wander in the luxury of light?"
VIEWS ON THE MOSCOW RAILWAY.
The St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad has been in operation some eight or ten years, and has contributed much to the internal prosperity of the country. In the summer of 1862 it was extended as far as Vladimir, and now connects St. Petersburg with Nijni Novgorod, one of the most important points in the empire, where the great annual fair is held, where tea-merchants and others from all parts of Tartary and China meet to exchange the products of those countries with those of the merchants of Russia. During the present year (1862) it is expected that the line of railway connection will be completed from St. Petersburg to the Prussian frontier, and connect with the railroads of Prussia, so that within twelve months it will be practicable to travel by rail all the way from Marseilles or Bordeaux to Nijni Novgorod.
The Moscow and St. Petersburg Railway is something over four hundred miles in length, and consists of a double track, broad, well graded, and substantially constructed. The whole business of running the line, keeping the cars and track in repair, working the machine-shops, etc., embracing all the practical details of the operative department, is let out by contract to an American company, while the government supervises the financial department, and reserves to itself the municipal control.[A] It is a remarkable fact, characteristic of the Russians, that while they possess uncommon capacity to acquire all the details of engineering, and are by no means lacking in mechanical skill, they are utterly deficient in management and administrative capacity. Wasteful, improvident, and short-sighted, they can never do any thing without the aid of more sagacious and economical heads to keep them within the bounds of reason. Thus, at one time, when they undertook to run this line on their own account, although they started with an extraordinary surplus of material, they soon ran the cars off their wheels, forgetting to keep up a supply of new ones as they went along; ran the engines out of working order; kept nothing in repair; provided against no contingency; and were finally likely to break down entirely, when they determined that it would be better to give this branch of the business out by contract. One great fault with them is, they labor under an idea that nothing can be done without an extraordinary number of officers, soldiers, policemen, and employes of every description—upon the principle, I suppose, that if two heads are better than one, the ignorance or inefficiency of a small number of employes can be remedied by having a very great number of the same kind. In other words, they seem to think that if five hundred men can not be industrious, skillful, and economical, five thousand trained in exactly the same schools, and with precisely the same propensities, must be ten times better. Even now there is not a station, and scarcely a foot of the railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow, that is not infested with an extraordinary surplus of useless men in uniform. At the great depots in each of these cities the traveler is fairly confused with the crowds of officers and employes through which he is obliged to make his way. Before he enters the doorways, liveried porters outside offer to take his baggage; then he passes by guards, who look at him carefully and let him go in; then he finds guards who show him where to find the ticket-office; when he arrives at the ticket-office, he finds a guard or two outside, and half a dozen clerks inside; then he buys his ticket, and an officer examines it as he goes into the wirthsaal; there he finds other officers stationed to preserve order; when the bell rings the doors are opened; numerous officers outside show him where to find the cars, and which car he must get into; and when he gets into a car he sits for a quarter of an hour, and sees officers going up and down outside all the time, and thinks to himself that people certainly can not be supposed to have very good eyes, ears, or understanding of their own in this country, since nobody is deemed capable of using them on his individual responsibility. I only wonder that they don't eat, drink, sleep, and travel for a man at once by proxy, and thereby save him the trouble of living or moving at all. In fact, I had some thought of asking one of these licensed gentlemen if the regulations could not be stretched a point so as to embrace the payment of my expenses; but it occurred to me that if I were relieved of that responsibility, they might undertake at the same time to write these letters for me, which would be likely to alter the tone and thereby destroy my individuality. But it must be admitted that good order, convenience, politeness, and comfort are the predominant characteristics of railway travel in Russia. The conductors usually speak French, German, and English, and are exceedingly attentive to the comfort of the passengers. The hours of starting and stopping are punctually observed—so punctually that you can calculate to the exact minute when you will arrive at any given point. Having no watch, I always knew the time by looking at my ticket. Between St. Petersburg and Moscow there are thirty-three stations, seven of which are the grand stations of Lubanskaia, Malovischerskaia, Okoulourskaia, Bologovskaia, Spirovskaia, Tver, and Klinskaia. The rest are small intermediate stations. At every seventy-five versts—about fifty miles—the cars stop twenty minutes, and refreshments may be had by paying a pretty heavy price for them. At the points above-named there are large and substantial edifices built by the company, containing various offices, spacious eating-saloons, ante-chambers, etc., and attached to which are extensive machine-shops, and various outbuildings required by the service. Occasionally towns may be seen in the vicinity of these stations, but for the most part they stand out desolate and alone in the dreary waste of country lying between the two great cities. At every twenty-five versts are sub-stations, where the cars stop for a few minutes. These are also large and very substantial edifices, but not distinguished for architectural beauty, like many of the stations in France and Germany. Usually the Russian station consists of an immense plain circular building, constructed of brick, with very thick walls, and a plain zinc roof, the outside painted red, the roof green; wings or flanges built of the same material extending along the track; a broad wooden esplanade in front, upon which the passengers can amuse themselves promenading, and a neat garden, with other accommodations, at one end. Some of the large stations are not only massive and of enormous extent, but present rather a striking and picturesque appearance as they are approached from the distance, standing as they do in the great deserts of space like solitary sentinels of civilization. The passengers rush out at every stopping-place just as they do in other parts of the world, some to stretch their limbs, others to replenish the waste that seems to be constantly going on in the stomachs of the traveling public. I don't know how it is, but it appears to me that people who travel by railway are always either tired, thirsty, or hungry. The voracity with which plates of soup, cutlets, sandwiches, salad, scalding hot tea, wine, beer, and brandy are swallowed down by these hungry and thirsty Russians, is quite as striking as any thing I ever saw done in the same line at Washoe. But it is not a feature confined to Russia. I notice the same thing every where all over the world; and what vexes me about it is that I never get tired myself, and rarely hungry or thirsty. Here, in midsummer, with a sweltering hot sun, and an atmosphere that would almost smother a salamander, were whole legions of officers, elegantly-dressed ladies, and a rabble of miscellaneous second and third class passengers like myself, puffing, blowing, eating, drinking, sweating, and toiling, as if their very existence depended upon keeping up the internal fires and blowing them off again. It is dreadful to see people so hard pushed to live. I really can't conjecture what sort of a commotion they will make when they come to die. A sandwich or two and a glass of tea lasted me all the way to Moscow—a journey of eighteen hours, and I never suffered from hunger, thirst, or fatigue the whole way. If I had "gone in" like other people, I would certainly have been a dead man before I got half way; and yet, I think, two sandwiches more would have lasted me to the Ural Mountains. It continually bothers me to know how the human stomach can bear to be tormented in this frightful way. Per Baccho! I would as soon be shot in the hand with an escopette ball as drink the quantity of wine and eat the quantity of food that I have seen even women and children dispose of, as if it were mere pastime, on these railway journeys. I think it must be either this or the frost that accounts for the extraordinary prevalence of red noses in Russia, and it even occurred to me that the stations are painted a fiery red, so that when travelers come within range of the refracted color their noses may look pale by contrast, and thereby remind them that it is time to renew the caloric.
[A] This contract terminated last year (1865).
With the exception of the seventy-five versts between Moscow and Tver, I can not remember that I ever traveled over so desolate and uninteresting a stretch of country as that lying between St. Petersburg and Moscow. For a short distance out of St. Petersburg there are some few villas and farms to relieve the monotony of the gloomy pine forests; then the country opens out into immense undulating plains, marshy meadows, scrubby groves of young pine, without any apparent limit; here and there a bleak and solitary village of log huts; a herd of cattle in the meadows; a wretched, sterile-looking farm, with plowed fields, at remote intervals, and so on hour after hour, the scene offering but little variety the whole way to Tver. The villages are wholly destitute of picturesque effect. Such rude and miserable hovels as they are composed of could scarcely be found in the wildest frontier region of the United States. These cabins or hovels are built of logs, and are very low and small, generally consisting of only one or two rooms. I saw none that were whitewashed or painted, and nothing like order or regularity was perceptible about them, all seeming to be huddled together as if they happened there by accident, and were obliged to keep at close quarters in order to avoid freezing during the terrible winters. Some of them are not unlike the city of Eden in Martin Chuzzlewit. The entire absence of every thing approaching taste, comfort, or rural beauty in the appearance of these villages; the weird and desolate aspect of the boggy and grass-grown streets; the utter want of interest in progress or improvement on the part of the peasantry who inhabit them, are well calculated to produce a melancholy impression of the condition of these poor people. How can it be otherwise, held in bondage as they have been for centuries, subject to be taxed at the discretion of their owners; the results of their labors wrested from them; no advance made by the most enterprising and intelligent of them without in some way subjecting them to new burdens? Whatever may be the result of the movement now made for their emancipation, it certainly can not be more depressing than the existing system of serfage. Looking back over the scenes of village life I had witnessed in France and Germany—the neat vine-covered cottages, the little flower-gardens, the orchards and green lanes, the festive days, when the air resounded to the merry voices of laughing damsels and village beaux—
"The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whispering lovers made"—
the joyous dancers out on the village green, the flaunting banners and wreaths of flowers hung in rich profusion over the cross-roads—with such scenes as these flitting through my memory, I could well understand that there is an absolute physical servitude to which men can be reduced, that, in the progress of generations, must crush down the human soul, and make life indeed a dreary struggle. In the splendor of large cities, amid the glitter and magnificence of palaces and churches, the varied paraphernalia of aristocracy and wealth, and all the excitements, allurements, and novelties apparent to the superficial eye, the real condition of the masses is not perceptible. They must be seen in the country—in their far-off villages and homes throughout the broad land; there you find no disguise to cover the horrible deformities of their bruised and crushed life; there you see the full measure of their civilization. In the huts of these poor people there is little or no comfort. Many of them have neither beds nor chairs, and the occupants spend a sort of camp life within doors, cooking their food like Indians, and huddling round the earthen stove or fireplace in winter, where they lie down on the bare ground and sleep in a mass, like a nest of animals, to keep each other warm. Their clothing is of the coarsest material, but reasonably good, and well suited to the climate. The men are a much finer-looking race, physically, than their masters. I saw some serfs in Moscow who, in stature, strong athletic forms, and bold and manly features, would compare favorably with the best specimens of men in any country. It was almost incredible that such noble-looking fellows, with their blue, piercing eyes and manly air, should be reduced to such a state of abject servitude as to kiss the tails of their master's coats! Many of them had features as bold and forms as brawny as our own California miners; and more than once, when I saw them lounging about in their big boots, with their easy, reckless air, and looked at their weather-beaten faces and vigorous, sunburnt beards, I could almost imagine that they were genuine Californians. But here the resemblance ceased. No sooner did an officer of high standing pass, than they manifested some abject sign of their degraded condition.
Some of the agricultural implements that one sees in this country would astonish a Californian. The plows are patterned very much after those that were used by Boaz and other large farmers in the days of the Patriarchs; the scythes are the exact originals of the old pictures in which Death is represented as mowing down mankind; the hoes, rakes, and shovels would be an ornament to any museum, but are entirely indescribable; and as for the wagons and harnesses—herein lies the superior genius of the Russians over all the races of earth, ancient or modern, for never were such wagons and such harnesses seen on any other part of the globe. To be accurate and methodical, each wagon has four wheels, and each wheel is roughly put together of rough wood, and then roughly bound up in an iron band about four inches wide, and thick in proportion. Logs of wood, skillfully hewed with broad-axes, answer for the axle-tree; and as they don't weigh over half a ton each, they are sometimes braced in the middle to keep them from breaking. Upon the top of this is a big basket, about the shape of a bath-tub, in which the load is carried. Sometimes the body is made of planks tied together with bullock's hide, or no body at all is used, as convenience may require. The wagon being thus completed, braced and thorough-braced with old ropes, iron bands, and leather straps, we come to the horses, which stand generally in front. The middle horse is favored with a pair of shafts of enormous durability and strength. He stands between these shafts, and is fastened in them by means of ropes; but, to prevent him from jumping out overhead, a wooden arch is out over him, which is the chef-d'oeuvre of ornamentation. This is called the duga, and is the most prominent object to be seen about every wagon, drosky, and kibitka in Russia. I am not sure but a species of veneration is attached to it. Often it is highly decorated with gilding, painted figures, and every vagary of artistic genius, and must cost nearly as much as the entire wagon. Some of the dugas even carry saintly images upon them, so that the devout driver may perform his devotions as he drives through life. To suppose that a horse could pull a wagon in Russia without this wooden arch, the utility of which no human eye but that of a Russian can see, is to suppose an impossibility. Now, the shafts being spread out so as to give the horse plenty of room at each side, it becomes necessary, since they are rather loosely hung on at the but-ends, to keep them from swaying. How do you think this is done? Nothing easier. By running a rope from the end of each shaft to the projecting end of the fore axle, outside of the wheels. For this purpose the axle is made to project a foot beyond the wheels, and the only trouble about it is that two wagons on a narrow road often find it difficult to pass. It is very curious to see these primitive-looking objects lumbering about through the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The horses are most commonly placed three abreast. In the ordinary kibitka or traveling wagon the outside horses are merely fastened by ropes, and strike out in any direction they please, the whip and a small rein serving to keep them within bounds. It is perfectly astonishing with what reckless and headlong speed these animals dash over the rough pavements. Just imagine the luxury of a warm day's journey in such a vehicle, which has neither springs nor backed seats—three fiery horses fastened to it, and each pulling, plunging, and pirouetting on his own account; a ferocious yamtschick cracking his whip and shrieking "Shivar! shivar!"—faster! faster!—the wagon, rattling all over, plunging into ruts, jumping over stones, ripping its way through bogs and mud-banks; your bones shaken nearly out of their sockets; your vertebrae partially dislocated; your mouth filled with dust; your tongue swollen and parched; your eyes blinded with grit; your yamtschick reeling drunk with vodka, and bound to draw to the destined station—or some worse place; your confidence in men and horses shaken with your bones; your views of the future circumscribed by every turn of the road—oh! it is charming; it is the very climax of human enjoyment. Wouldn't you like to travel in Russia?
In addition to the villages which are scattered at frequent intervals along the route, the gilded dome of a church is occasionally seen in the distance, indicating the existence of a town; but one seldom catches more than a glimpse of the green-covered roofs of the houses, over the interminable patches of scrubby pine. It is not a country that presents such attractive features as to induce the mere tourist to get out and spend a few days rambling through it. In these dreary solitudes of marshes and pines, the inhabitants speak no other language than their own, and that not very well; but well or ill, it is all Greek—or rather Russian—to the majority of people from other countries.
But, as I said before, this habit of digression will be the death of me. Like a rocket, I start off splendidly, but explode and fall to pieces in every direction before I get half way on my journey. If the scintillations are varied and gayly colored, to be sure, the powder is not utterly lost; but the trouble of it is, if one keeps going off like rockets all the time, he will never get any where, and in the end will leave nothing but smoke and darkness to the gaping multitude.
If my memory serves me, I was talking of the Emperor Alexander's convoy of private railway carriages—the most magnificent affair of the kind, perhaps, in existence. It was made purposely for his use, at a cost of more than a hundred thousand dollars, and presented to him by the American company, Winans and Company. Nothing so magnificent in decoration, and so admirably adapted to the convenience, comfort, and enjoyment of a royal party has ever been seen in Europe. The main carriage—for there are several in the suite—called, par excellence, the emperor's own, is eighty-five feet long, and something over the usual width. It rests upon two undivided sleepers of such elastic and well-grained wood that they would bear the entire weight of the carriage, without the necessity of a support in the middle, forming a single stretch or arch, from axle to axle, of about seventy feet. The springs, wheels, brakes, and various kinds of iron-work, are of the finest and most select material, and highly finished in every detail, combining strength and durability with artistic beauty. The interior of the main or imperial carriage is a masterpiece of sumptuous ornamentation. Here are the richest of carvings; the most gorgeous hangings of embroidered velvet; mirrors and pictures in profusion; carpets and rugs that seem coaxing the feet to linger upon them; tables, cushioned sofas, and luxurious arm-chairs; divans and lounges of rare designs, covered with the richest damask; exquisite Pompeian vases and brilliant chandeliers—all, in short, that ingenuity could devise and wealth procure to charm the senses, and render this a traveling palace worthy the imperial presence. Connected with the main saloon is the royal bedchamber, with adjoining bathing and dressing rooms, equally sumptuous in all their appointments. Besides which, there are smoking-rooms, private offices, magnificent chambers for the camarilla, the secretaries, and body-guard of the emperor. The whole is admirably arranged for convenience and comfort; and it is said that the motion, when the convoy is under way, is so soft and dreamy that it is scarcely possible to feel a vibration, the effect being as if the cars were floating through the air, or drawn over tracks of down. Fully equal to this, yet more subdued and delicate in the drapery and coloring, are the apartments of the empress. Here it may truly be said is "the poetry of motion" realized—saloons fit for the angels that flit through them, of whom the chiefest ornament is the empress herself—the beautiful and beloved Maria Alexandrina, the charm of whose presence is felt like a pleasant glow of sunshine wherever she goes. Here are drawing-rooms, boudoirs, apartments for the beautiful maids of honor, reading-rooms, and even a dancing-saloon, from which it may well be inferred that the royal party enjoy themselves. If the emperor fails to make himself agreeable in this branch of his establishment, he deserves to be put out at the very first station. But he has the ladies at a disadvantage, which probably compels them to be very tolerant of his behavior; that is to say, he can detach their branch of the establishment from his own, and leave them on the road at any time he pleases by pulling a string; but I believe there is no instance yet on record of his having availed himself of this autocratic privilege. It is usually understood at the start whether the excursion is to be in partnership or alone. When the emperor goes out on a hunting expedition, he is accompanied by a select company of gentlemen, and of course is compelled to deprive himself of the pleasure of the more attractive and intoxicating society of ladies, which would be calculated to unsteady his nerves, and render him unfit for those terrific encounters with the bears of the forest upon which his fame as a hunter is chiefly founded.
What the great Napoleon thought when he gazed for the first time across the broad valley that lay at his feet, and caught the first dazzling light that flashed from the walls and golden cupolas of the Kremlin—whether some shadowy sense of the wondrous beauties of the scene did not enter his soul—is more than I can say with certainty; but this much I know, that neither he nor his legions could have enjoyed the view from Sparrow Hill more than I did the first glimpse of the grand old city of the Czars as I stepped from the railroad depot, with my knapsack on my back, and stood, a solitary and bewildered waif, uncertain if it could all be real; for never yet had I, in the experience of many years' travel, seen such a magnificent sight, so wildly Tartaric, so strange, glowing, and incomprehensible. This was Moscow at last—the Moscow I had read of when a child—the Moscow I had so often seen burnt up in panoramas by an excited and patriotic populace—the Moscow ever flashing through memory in fitful gleams, half buried in smoke, and flames, and toppling ruins, now absolutely before me, a gorgeous reality in the bright noonday sun, with its countless churches, its domes and cupolas, and mighty Kremlin.
Stand with me, reader, on the first eminence, and let us take a bird's-eye view of the city, always keeping in mind that the Kremlin is the great nucleus from which it all radiates. What a vast, wavy ocean of golden cupolas and fancy-colored domes, green-roofed houses and tortuous streets circle around this magic pile! what a combination of wild, barbaric splendors! nothing within the sweep of vision that is not glowing and Oriental. Never was a city so fashioned for scenic effects. From the banks of the Moskwa the Kremlin rears its glittering crest, surrounded by green-capped towers and frowning embattlements, its umbrageous gardens and massive white walls conspicuous over the vast sea of green-roofed houses, while high above all, grand and stern, like some grim old Czar of the North, rises the magnificent tower of Ivan Veliki. Within these walls stand the chief glories of Moscow—the palaces of the Emperor, the Cathedral of the Assumption, the House of the Holy Synod, the Treasury, the Arsenal, and the Czar Kolokol, the great king of bells. All these gorgeous edifices, and many more, crown the eminence which forms the sacred grounds, clustering in a magic maze of beauty around the tower of Ivan the Terrible. Beyond the walls are numerous open spaces occupied by booths and markets; then come the principal streets and buildings of the city, encircled by the inner boulevards; then the suburbs, around which wind the outer boulevards; then a vast tract of beautiful and undulating country, dotted with villas, lakes, convents, and public buildings, inclosed in the far distance by the great outer wall, which forms a circuit of twenty miles around the city. The Moskwa River enters near the Presnerski Lake, and, taking a circuitous route, washes the base of the Kremlin, and passes out near the convent of St. Daniel. If you undertake, however, to trace out any plan of the city from the confused maze of streets that lie outspread before you, it will be infinitely worse than an attempt to solve the mysteries of a woman's heart; for there is no apparent plan about it; the whole thing is an unintelligible web of accidents. There is no accounting for its irregularity, unless upon the principle that it became distorted in a perpetual struggle to keep within reach of the Kremlin.
It is sometimes rather amusing to compare one's preconceived ideas of a place with the reality. A city like Moscow is very difficult to recognize from any written description. From some cause wholly inexplicable, I had pictured to my mind a vast gathering of tall, massive houses, elaborately ornamented; long lines of narrow and gloomy streets; many great palaces, dingy with age; and a population composed chiefly of Russian nabobs and their retinues of serfs. The reality is almost exactly the reverse of all these preconceived ideas. The houses for the most part are low—not over one or two stories high—painted with gay and fanciful colors, chiefly yellow, red, or blue; the roofs of tin or zinc, and nearly all of a bright green, giving them a very lively effect in the sun; nothing grand or imposing about them in detail, and but little pretension to architectural beauty. Very nearly such houses may be seen every day on any of the four continents.
Still, every indication of life presents a very different aspect from any thing in our own country. The people have a slow, slouching, shabby appearance; and the traveler is forcibly reminded, by the strange costumes he meets at every turn—the thriftless and degenerate aspect of the laboring classes—the great lumbering wagons that roll over the stone-paved streets—the droskies rattling hither and thither with their grave, priest-like drivers and wild horses—the squads of filthy soldiers lounging idly at every corner—the markets and market-places, and all that gives interest to the scene, that he is in a foreign land—a wild land of fierce battles between the elements, and fiercer still between men—where civilization is ever struggling between Oriental barbarism and European profligacy.
The most interesting feature in the population of Moscow is their constant and extraordinary displays of religious enthusiasm. This seems to be confined to no class or sect, but is the prevailing characteristic. No less than three hundred churches are embraced within the limits of the city. Some writers estimate the number as high as five hundred; nor does the discrepancy show so much a want of accuracy as the difficulty of determining precisely what constitutes a distinct church. Many of these remarkable edifices are built in clusters, with a variety of domes and cupolas, with different names, and contain distinct places of worship—as in the Cathedral of St. Basil, for instance, which is distinguished by a vast number of variegated domes, and embraces within its limits at least five or six separate churches, each church being still farther subdivided into various chapels. Of the extraordinary architectural style of these edifices, their many-shaped and highly-colored domes, representing all the lines of the rainbow, the gilding so lavishly bestowed upon them, their wonderfully picturesque effect from every point of view, it would be impossible to convey any adequate idea without entering into a more elaborate description than I can at present attempt.
But it is not only in the numberless churches scattered throughout the city that the devotional spirit of the inhabitants is manifested. Moscow is the Mecca of Russia, where all are devotees. The external forms of religion are every where apparent—in the palaces, the barracks, the institutions of learning, the traktirs, the bath-houses—even in the drinking cellars and gambling-hells. Scarcely a bridge or corner of a street is without its shrine, its pictured saint and burning taper, before which every by-passer of high or low degree bows down and worships. It may be said with truth that one is never out of sight of devotees baring their heads and prostrating themselves before these sacred images. All distinctions of rank seem lost in this universal passion for prayer. The nobleman, in his gilded carriage with liveried servants, stops and pays the tribute of an uncovered head to some saintly image by the bridge or the roadside; the peasant, in his shaggy sheepskin capote, doffs his greasy cap, and, while devoutly crossing himself, utters a prayer; the soldier, grim and warlike, marches up in his rattling armor, grounds his musket, and forgets for the time his mission of blood; the tradesman, with his leather apron and labor-worn hands, lays down his tools and does homage to the shrine; the drosky-driver, noted for his petty villainies, checks his horse, and, standing up in his drosky, bows low and crosses himself before he crosses the street or the bridge; even my guide, the saturnine Dominico—and every body knows what guides are all over the world—halted at every corner, regardless of time, and uttered an elaborate form of adjurations for our mutual salvation.
Pictures of a devotional character are offered for sale in almost every booth, alley, and passage-way, where the most extraordinary daubs may be seen pinned up to the walls. Saints and dragons, fiery-nosed monsters, and snakes, and horrid creeping things, gilded and decorated in the most gaudy style, attract idle crowds from morning till night.
It is marvelous with what profound reverence the Russians will gaze at these extraordinary specimens of art. Often you see a hardened-looking ruffian—his face covered with beard and filth; his great, brawny form resembling that of a prize-fighter; his costume a ragged blouse, with loose trowsers thrust in his boots; such a wretch, in short, as you would select for an unmitigated ruffian if you were in want of a model for that character—take off his cap, and, with superstitious awe and an expression of profound humility, bow down before some picture of a dragon with seven heads or a chubby little baby of saintly parentage.
That these poor people are sincere in their devotion there can be no doubt. Their sincerity, indeed, is attested by the strongest proofs of self-sacrifice. A Russian will not hesitate to lie, rob, murder, or suffer starvation for the preservation of his religion. Bigoted though he may be, he is true to his faith and devoted to his forms of worship, whatever may be his short-comings in other respects. It is a part of his nature; it permeates his entire being. Hence no city in the world, perhaps—Jerusalem not excepted—presents so strange a spectacle of religious enthusiasm, genuine and universal, mingled with moral turpitude; monkish asceticism and utter abandonment to vice; self-sacrifice and loose indulgence. It may be said that this is not true religion—not even what these people profess. Perhaps not; but it is what they are accustomed to from infancy, and it certainly develops some of their best traits of character—charity to each other, earnestness, constancy, and self-sacrifice.
On the morning after my arrival in Moscow I witnessed from the window of my hotel a very impressive and melancholy spectacle—the departure of a gang of prisoners for Siberia. The number amounted to some two or three hundred. Every year similar trains are dispatched, yet the parting scene always attracts a sympathizing crowd. These poor creatures were chained in pairs, and guarded by a strong detachment of soldiers. Their appearance, as they stood in the street awaiting the order to march, was very sad. Most of them were miserably clad, and some scarcely clad at all. A degraded, forlorn set they were—filthy and ragged—their downcast features expressive of an utter absence of hope. Few of them seemed to have any friends or relatives in the crowd of by-standers; but in two or three instances I noticed some very touching scenes of separation—where wives came to bid good-by to their husbands, and children to their fathers. Nearly every body gave them something to help them on their way—a few kopecks, a loaf of bread, or some cast-off article of clothing. I saw a little child timidly approach the gang, and, dropping a small coin into the hand of one poor wretch, run back again into the crowd, weeping bitterly. These prisoners are condemned to exile for three, four, or five years—often for life. It requires from twelve to eighteen months of weary travel, all the way on foot, through barren wastes and inhospitable deserts, to enable them to reach their desolate place of exile. Many of them fall sick on the way from fatigue and privation—many die. Few ever live to return. In some instances the whole term of exile is served out on the journey to and from Siberia. On their arrival they are compelled to labor in the government mines or on the public works. Occasionally the most skillful and industrious are rewarded by appointments to positions of honor and trust, and become in the course of time leading men.