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reserved for sledges which have poles instead of shafts, these being dangerous in the close ranks, as, in the case of a sudden stoppage, the point of the pole may run, not against a back panel, but against the back of the person in the next sledge.
We ourselves have joined the procession more than once with a large party, in a sledge holding ten or twelve people, and drawn by four horses, and, our pole procuring for us admission to the open centre-space, we have been able to drive rapidly up and down the street, so as to pass in review the two lines of sledges on either side. The weather during the whole week has been most beautiful- - a hard frost and a bright sun. The Tamboff promenaders, however, instead of enjoying the fine and pleasant portion of the day, do not begin to appear till about four o'clock, when the sun is near the horizon. By five o'clock the street is crowded, and the sledgers continue patiently to glide up and down till nearly seven. This fashion arises, I presume, from the Russian habit of wasting two or three hours of the short daylight in a siesta after an early dinner. The lower orders consider it very unlucky not to appear in a sledge at the promenade once at least during the carnival; and they deem it equally unlucky not to get drunk in the course of the week. There are, however, few among them who run any risk on the ground of sobriety. During the last two days happy has been the master who has had a cook sober enough to dress his dinner, or a servant steady enough to place it on the table.
On Thursday there was a public assembly, the last of the season, and yesterday there was a masquerade for the servants and the lower class of tradesmen. We went with some friends into the gallery to witness the scene, and the decorum, and even politeness, which prevailed was quite as great as among the more fashionable society which had appeared in the same room the night before. The ladies' maids were dressed in imitation of their mistresses, contrary to their usual custom, and for the most part they wore neither mask nor fancy dress. The men were equipped in general in various grotesque costumes, being disguised by veils placed over their faces instead of masks; the veils being thrown off as the wearers became heated with dancing. Waltzes, quadrilles, and Polonaises were executed with tolerable success, but the Russian dance,
which was frequently repeated, was the great attraction of the evening. This is performed by two persons at a time, and is a sort of pantomime representing a courtship. The partners are placed opposite to one another about seven or eight feet apart. The gentleman first advances with many graceful and winning steps to his fair vis-à-vis, who remains in her place. He then figures in various attractive attitudes before her, but in vain, as she turns brusquely round and rejects him, upon which he finally retires. It is now the lady's turn to make similar advances, which are received in like manner with demonstrations of scorn. This alternate advance and retreat is carried on for some time; the talent of the performers consisting in the coquetry displayed on both sides, and in the grace and variety of their movements. At last, the lady, instead of rejecting her suitor, deigns to accept his attentions, and to receive the kiss which concludes the dance.
Such is the Russian dance, but yesterday I only saw it executed correctly once; the performers on the occasion being a masked man and a very pretty girl dressed in the Russian costume, who both played their parts extremely well. With the exception of this one instance, the performers were all men, and the dance in each case became a caricature and a trial of skill and activity between the two partners, which could invent the most extraordinary and grotesque steps and attitudes, and which could keep up longest the violent exertion of this amusement.
A farewell dinner was yesterday given by the nobility of the • province of Tamboff to the ex-Governor on his departure. I was favoured with an invitation, and was glad of the opportunity of witnessing a public dinner in this country. About seventy gentlemen were assembled on the occasion ; the tables being laid so as to form three sides of an oblong. At four o'clock the ex-Governor arrived, and was received by the principal people in the room; a military band, which was stationed in the gallery, striking up a national air as he entered. We sat down to dinner almost immediately, the guest of the day being placed in the centre of the cross-table. He was supported on his right hand by my brother-in-law, who, being Marshal, officiated as President; and on his left by two Generals, Oushakoff* and Arapoff; I sat opposite to these gentlemen. The dinner was very good, all the best cooks in the town having contributed their services, without, as the event proved, “spoiling the broth.” Towards the conclusion of dinner we stood up
and drank the Emperor's health in champagne, the wine always used for toasts in Russia. The band played God save the King," the glasses were replenished, and the President then gave the health of the ex-Governor without speech or comment. We again rose to do honour to the toast, and the compliment was acknowledged in a few words. General Oushakoff's health was next drunk with congratulations on a new Order which he had lately received. He briefly returned thanks, and, dinner being by this time brought to a closė, we rose from table, and coffee was handed round the room, where we stood conversing in groups. The ex-Governor soon after mad his bow and took his leave, but not till the champagne had once more circulated as a stirrup-cup to wish him a safe journey to Petersburg
A public dinner in England is, as we all know, generally arranged for the purpose of allowing some person or persons an opportunity of making speeches, and expressing opinions on public matters: but this can never be the case in Russia, where no one is permitted to discuss political topics. Under these circumstances the few words in which the toasts were yesterday proposed and responded to were far preferable to long and fulsome eulogies of the gentlemen to whom the compliment of drinking their healths was paid ; followed by equally tedious and equally sincere assurances of deep feeling and boundless gratitude in return.
* His name is now familiar to English ears, from the command he held in the Crimean campaign of 1855.
Intention of leaving Tamboff - State of the weather - Expedition to Bonderry — Ouchabas — Night-travelling on a Steppe - Losing the way · A cloth manufactory in a lady's hands — Return to Tamboff.
Tamboff, March 1st, 1838. This will, I think, be my last letter from Tamboff, for we have already dispatched a great part of our luggage by a carrier, and we mean to set out for Moscow ourselves in a few days. Indeed, from the present state of the weather, it seems that we have no time to lose,* for the frost is giving way, and, if the thaw continues, the ice on the rivers will become unsafe, and the winter roads be altogether spoiled. Indeed, I am afraid that they will at any rate be very indifferent, as a good deal of snow has fallen lately, and the weather has become mild, the thermometer having been above the freezingpoint both yesterday and to-day. Until very lately the roads have been remarkably good this winter for travelling, owing to the severity of the frost, and the comparatively small quantity of snow on the ground. It has now, however, become very deep in this part of the country, and the surface is doubtless much cut up by the incessant traffic of the arbozes. I have already had a little specimen of a winter journey, in an expedition which I made a few days ago with General A--and Mr. R-, the English gentleman who, as I have already told you, is residing in his house. The General was setting off on a long journey, intending on his way to visit a large cloth manufactory belonging to a widowed sister, which he superintends in her absence; and he kindly proposed to R- and myself to accompany him so far on his road, sleeping as he meant to do himself at his sister's house, called Bonderry, between fifty and sixty versts hence, and returning home the next
* This proved a groundless alarm, as the frost returned with great severity, and lasted till the 10th of April.
day, while he proceeded on his journey. We accepted the invitation, and set off in a heavy fall of snow, about four o'clock on Sunday evening, Monday being a day on which a Russian will seldom, if he can avoid it, commence a journey. The General and I travelled in a kibitka, a low vehicle with a hood which I have already described to you; and R— followed close behind us in a large open sledge, extremely comfortable and well built, and in which we both returned home the next day. The first part of the road was pronounced on the whole to be not amiss, though we met with some tolerably deep holes, or ouchabas, as they are termed. Each vehicle had three horses, and we performed a stage of three-and-thirty versts, nearly five-and-twenty miles, in two hours and five minutes, our shaft horse trotting the whole way. When we proceeded, after changing horses, we found the road much worse; and occasionally, when travelling at a fast pace, we were thrown so decidedly on our beam-ends, that until I became somewhat used to the thing I thought it impossible that the kibitka could right itself again. This, however, it always did, thanks to its projecting elbow.
The night became exceedingly dark; the last ten versts of our journey lay across an open steppe; and the snow, which had now been falling heavily for some hours, had completely obliterated the discoloured line which would otherwise have marked the road, which was now as white as the rest of the plain. It was not, therefore, surprising that in a few minutes we found, from the horses sinking up to their knees in the soft snow, that we were off the beaten track, while we did not even know whether it lay to the right or to the left. The servants and drivers were now obliged to get down, and to walk about, stamping with their feet, to find the hard line of road. It was a good while before they succeeded in their search, and we had quite time enough to meditate on the prospect of passing the night where we were, an event which seemed by no means improbable. At length, however, the people hit on the beaten track, which was not in reality many yards from us, and we were once more in motion; one of the men walking before us for some distance to feel the way. We did not again lose our road, and, the direction of the wind