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English sense of honour and love of integrity. His wife has visited England, and before her marriage she lived chiefly in the society of Petersburg, as one of the maids of honour of the Empress. They both speak English nearly as well as we speak it ourselves; and with their knowledge of the world, and thorough acquaintance with the peculiarities and institutions of their own country, we could not be in better hands for information or entertainment. Of their kindness and hospitality our prolonged visit is a standing proof.
Not unfrequently an agreeable neighbour or two come uninvited to dinner or to: tea, and we pass our pleasantest evenings in the easy conversation of this intimate society. A few evenings ago a small party of this kind had assembled, and the subject of presentiments came under discussion. Every one had his story, drawn from his own experience or that of his friends, of a presentiment fulfilled in some unlooked-for
At last my sister-in-law told us the following anecdote, many of the particulars of which had occurred within her own knowledge, while the rest are well authenticated. The story may almost rival the tale of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, of famous memory.
She said that in former days she had been intimate at Petersburg with a lady who married a General R—* Years passed, and the General was appointed to a command at Warsaw, their family now consisting of seven children, of whom the eldest was a beautiful girl of eighteen. After the General and his family had been for some time established at Warsaw, Madame R— wrote to my sister-in-law giving her an account of a visit which the Emperor Nicholas and the Empress had paid to the capital of Poland, adding that a remarkable tide of fortune had on this occasion flowed in upon themselves. In the space
of little more than a week her husband had been appointed Aide-de-Camp General to the Emperor; she herself had received the Cockade, a decoration conferring on a lady precedence at Court; her daughter had been named maid of honour to the Empress ; and her eldest son had received a
(Note to second edition.)—This anecdote was not given in the former edition, but so many years have now passed that no pain can be caused by its publication.
commission. Madame R- concluded her letter by saying, “I assure you so much good fortune frightens me, and I cannot enjoy it from a dread that some reverse must come.” For this apprehension there seemed no grounds when her letter arrived ; but about six months afterwards Madame R- was sitting at home at Warsaw working, with her daughter by her side, when the latter said, “ Mamma, I've such a headache that I must go and lie down." Her mother's bed-room opened, as is usual, into the sitting-room, and the girl went into it and lay down, leaving the door open. Madame R- continued working, and after a time, chancing to look up, she saw her daughter had come back and was sitting again by her. She noticed, however, that she had changed her dress, and she said, “Sophie, I thought you meant to lie down and keep your head quiet.” To this remark there was no answer, and the girl seemed not to hear. She then called her sharply by name to rouse her; upon which Sophie answered out of the next room, and immediately appeared at the door. She looked towards her mother, and said, in a terrified voice, “ Good Heavens ! there I am!” bursting into tears, and saying she had not long to live. The figure in the chair then vanished. Her mother did not confess that the figure had been visible to herself, but she told her daughter that she must have seen herself suddenly in the glass. However, next day poor Sophie was seized with scarlet fever, and she died in a fortnight. ;
A few months after this sad event the Polish Revolution broke out, and General R-, being captured by the Poles, was imprisoned at Warsaw for three months, during which time he endured the most cruel treatment. His wife escaped with her children to Vienna, where for some time she was absolutely dependent on charity. A sister, married to a Russian Colonel of Artillery, accompanied her to Vienna, leaving of necessity her husband at his post. In an engagement with the Poles, the Colonel's men mutinied and refused to fire at a critical moment. In despair he blew his own brains out with a pistol on the spot. General R—'s health was so shattered by his sufferings and privations in prison that he did not survive his release many months. His widow has since lost another
daughter, and she is now living in reduced circumstances at Petersburg.
My sister-in-law added, “ Such is my instance of a presentiment realised. With respect to the marvellous part of the story, 'I but say the tale as 'twas said to me;' but my authority is Madame R— herself, who is by nature a particularly gay and happy-minded person, without a tinge of romance or enthusiasm in her character. I can answer for it that the letter I received from her in the heyday of her prosperity expressing her presentiments was genuine, and that her subsequent misfortunes are well-established and notorious matters of fact."
Severity of frost — Frost-bites Snow-storms in the Steppes — Panic
Destruction of the Winter Palace by fire – Conduct of the Emperor and Empress · Anecdote - Washerwomen in winter -- Sentinels Christmas gaieties Mode of issuing invitations Morning calls Ladies' dress — Evening parties — Room for improvement — Separation of the sexes in society - Secret police — Count Benkendorf - National Remarkable occurrence at a masquerade,
Tamboff, January 16th, 1837. The frost has now lasted for two months without interruption, and the winter is considered very severe even for Russia. We have frequently had by Reaumur's thermometer * twenty-four or twenty-five, and sometimes even thirty, degrees of frost. And the intensity of this cold has been often increased by wind; for twenty degrees of frost on a still day are more supportable than ten with a wind. The difficulty in going out is to preserve the face, especially the nose and forehead, from being frost-bitten or rather frozen. When this misfortune occurs no pain is felt, but the part affected becomes hard and white.f It is easily cured at first by rubbing the skin with snow till the circulation is restored ; but if it is neglected the effects of the frost are very painful, and sometimes a wound ensues which may end in mortification. If the skip be blistered the application of goose-oil is considered an excellent remedy. Four years ago upwards of five hundred persons were frozen to death in the course of the winter in this Government, which, it must be remembered, sists chiefly of open steppes, where the effects of a high wind are most formidable. The snow is blown into enormous drifts, burying man and horse, while it entirely obliterates the tracks; and the traveller who loses his way must almost inevitably perish on these unsheltered plains. From the scarcity of wood on the steppes the inhabitants have little fuel, except straw and
* One degree of Reaumur's scale equals two and a quarter of Fahrenheit's, nearly.
† A stranger will often stop a person in the street to tell him that his nose or his cheek is frozen.
dried cow-dung; the latter, it is said, making a very hot fire, and, if properly managed, being entirely free from any unpleasant smell when burning. In the severe winter which I have mentioned, viz. that of 1833-4, a complete panic was excited. A gloomy foreboding of evil seized men's imaginations, and not only many among the common people, but even some of a higher class, were terrified by a prophecy which announced that on the first day of the new year then ensuing there would be no less than one hundred and ninety degrees of frost, when man and beast must necessarily perish.
The English papers have, no doubt, made you acquainted with a great calamity which has lately occurred at Petersburg, in the destruction of the magnificent Winter Palace by fire, on the night of the 29th of December. Various reports have been spread as to the cause of this misfortune. It has been hinted that it was not altogether accidental, and that the authors of the calamity are conspirators against the government. All such rumours, however, appear to be utterly groundless, and it seems that the fire undoubtedly originated in want of precaution on the part of those who were charged with the care of the stoves; some of which were out of order, so as to ignite the adjoining wood-work. This it is supposed had been smouldering for a day or two; and it is even said that a smell of burning had been noticed, and yet that no precautions were taken. Be this as it may, the fire broke out on the night which I have mentioned, while the Emperor and Empress with their grown-up children were at the theatre where Taglioni was dancing. A messenger was immediately sent to the Emperor, who came away without alarming the Empress, under the pretence that a courier had arrived with despatches for his own hand.
He found that the young Grand Dukes had been already taken out of the Palace and placed in a carriage to await his directions; and that the valuable Crown jewels had also been removed to a place of security. His Majesty therefore proceeded at once to his own private apartments in the burning palace, and, with the assistance of his valet-de-chambre, packed up and secured his private papers. Having completed this important task, he sent to inform the Empress of the disaster.