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having been observed, to prevent the chance of our unwittingly turning back and retracing our steps, we at length had the satisfaction of seeing the lights of the village to which we were going Soon afterwards we found ourselves comfortably installed in Madame L—'s house, which was large and handsome, and where everything was prepared for our reception.
The following morning we went with the General over a great part of the manufactory, which is established for the supply of soldiers' cloth. It is one of the largest establishments of the kind in Russia, the number of persons employed amounting to nearly three thousand. There is a Frenchman at the head of the concern; but Madame L-, the proprietress, superintends it herself when at home. This may seem rather an unusual undertaking for a woman; but in Russia, where nearly every landed proprietor is a manufacturer, ladies often exhibit a taste and a capacity for conducting business which is not often developed among our own countrywomen.
After going over the manufactory, which I need not describe, but which seemed well and systematically conducted, we had an early dinner; and I then took leave of my kind friend the General, and set off with Mr. R— on our return to Tamboff. The day was most disagreeable; we had a high wind, with a driving sleet; and nothing could be more dismal than our view as we crossed the steppe in which we had lost our road the night before. A flat waste, covered with snow, surrounded us on every side, the horizon being obscured by the falling sleet. As we approached the boundary of the plain, the trees and other objects which indistinctly presented themselves gave the idea of a shore for which we were steering across the sea. The road abounded in ouchabas, and our sledge pitched up and down, and from side to side, like a boat in rough water. At the same time our battered persons bore undeniable testimony to the hard solidity of the surface over which we were travelling. It grew dark before we reached Tamboff; and we missed our way more than once in a plain four or five miles wide which skirts the town. The lights, however, which were visible before us, marked our direction; and by sometimes catching sight of a verst-post, and sometimes of the black railing of a bridge, of which there are several over hollow watercourses, our driver managed to steer across the waste, and to bring us safely to our journey's end. A kibitka is a very comfortable carriage to recline in, and the motion is highly agreeable at a rapid pace on a fair road; but the jolt, when the kibitka plunges through an ouchaba, will make the fire flash out of the eyes. I have seen quite enough in this little trip to convince me that a long journey at this moment will not be pleasant; for the best season for winter travelling is now past, and we must expect bad roads and changeable weather. We shall therefore be doubtless very happy when we can look back upon the nine hundred miles of snow which we must traverse between Tamboff and Petersburg. We do not mean to stay long among our friends at Moscow, for fear the winter should break up and detain us. Travelling at that moment is in every way inconvenient; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to cross the rivers during the floods produced by the melting of the snow in spring. We shall travel to Moscow in a kibitka, and we shall then hire a diligence to take us to Petersburg, whence I hope to date my next letter.
Arrival at St. Petersburg — Appearance of thaw at Tamboff - Departure
- Increase of cold - The first halt - Motion of kibitka — A long stage - Journeying along rivers — Arrival at Moscow – A winter scene Stay at Moscow - Character of the hotels – A winter-diligence A snow-storm — Slow progress Deep holes in the snow – Small quantity of snow further north – Prince Serge Galitzin Visitors not announced in Russia A party at Prince Serge's — The Prince of Georgia
- The Cheremetieff and Galitzin hospitals at Moscow - Scanty population of that city.
St. Petersburg, March 27th, 1898. You will perceive by the date of this letter that we have completed the journey which we were about to undertake when I last wrote; and you will be glad to find that we have made so long a stride on our way homewards ; for, in point of time, Petersburg will be as near to England as to Tamboff when the navigation of the Gulf of Finland is open. This, however, will not be the case for some weeks to come. The Baltic steamboats will not begin to ply till the second week in May at the earliest.
We arrived here on Saturday last, having spent ten days in Moscow on our way; and before I give you any account of our journey, I may as well say, that, although Petersburg is now so full that it is difficult to meet with lodgings, we have been fortunate enough to engage an excellent set of rooms, clean and well-furnished, in one of the best situations in the town—the Little Million—at the Hôtel de la Bourse, kept by a French
Here we established ourselves yesterday, and, having also provided ourselves with a servant, we are comfortably settled for the remainder of our stay in this country.
last letter from Tamboff I told you that the state of the weather caused us some fear that the ice on the rivers might become unsafe, and the roads be unfit for sledge travelling. The thaw which excited our alarm continued for
two days after I wrote. On Saturday (the 3rd) Reaumur's thermometer stood six degrees above the freezing-point, about forty-five or forty-six degrees of Fahrenheit. The snow was melting fast, the streets were flowing with water, and the accounts which we received of the roads were such that we determined to risk no longer delay, but to set out the following night on our journey, instead of waiting till Tuesday, as we had previously fixed. We feared, indeed, that we had already postponed moving too long; but about half an hour after we had determined on this precipitate flight, a friend came in and said he had good news for us. He told us that the wind had just changed to the north, and that we might expect a return of frost. In fact, to our great delight, before we went to bed, the thermometer was below zero, and the snow was beginning to grow crisp again, and the following morning we had three degrees of cold. We did not however choose again to alter our plans or trust to the continuance of this favourable weather, so by the evening everything was ready for our departure.
The last moments of our stay do not tempt me to dwell upon
them. We took leave of our countryman R–, whom we left with much regret in this distant spot, and we said farewell to some other friends. Finally we bade adieu to my brother and sister-in-law, whose kindness and hospitality had been unbounded during the long period which we had spent in their house ; and who, on our departure, as during our stay, forgot nothing which could contribute to our comfort and accommodation. At length, well wrapped up, we arranged ourselves in the kibitka, and set out a quarter of an hour before midnight, to the great satisfaction of our Russian attendant, who would not willingly have commenced the journey on Monday. The road, as we expected, was in a very indifferent state; but the cold, which at first was not intense, increased rapidly, and therefore the snow became hard. Though its surface was much broken, we were able to proceed rapidly, and, by eight o'clock in the morning, we were about forty miles from Tamboff.
We had intended to breakfast at Kazloff, but our istvostchik drove us through the town without stopping, and we reached
no other place where any tolerable accommodation was to be found till five o'clock in the afternoon. Having travelled for seventeen hours without interruption, except to change horses, we were by this time somewhat chilled, very much cramped, and exceedingly hungry, as it was out of the question to eat in the kibitka, all our provisions being frozen hard. I had slept the greater part of the way in spite of our incessant tossing up and down, and from side to side, in the ouchabas. We had now travelled a hundred and seventy versts, and in the small town of Riask we enjoyed the luxury of entering clean and warm rooms, the same in which we had breakfasted on our way from Moscow in the autumn. Here we disencumbered ourselves of cloaks, warm boots, and caps,
which we placed around the stove, while our basket, well stored by our kind friends at Tamboff with everything we could require on the road, was produced. A steaming samovar soon made its appearance ; and hot tea and cold partridge pie were not the less agreeable for our seventeen hours' tossing over the snow. After remaining here about an hour and a half, and getting thoroughly warmed, we wrapped ourselves up once more, and, travelling all night, reached Riazan about eight o'clock on the Tuesday morning. At Riazan we got a comfortable breakfast at a tolerable inn. We had found the road very bad all night, and we constantly felt the sensation of being upset when the kibitka tilted sideways on the projecting elbow, After a time, however, we paid little attention to these occurrences, or even to the shock with which the vehicle righted itself after one of the runners had been lifted off the ground. Owing to the piercing wind which met us, we were forced to keep the leather veil, which closed up the front of the kibitka, almost always lowered, so that we travelled for the most part entirely in the dark, consoling ourselves by observing, whenever we looked forth, that nothing could be more dreary or dismal than the monotonous waste of snow which extended around us on every side as we journeyed along. From Riazan we were obliged to engage horses, our team being a tröika, to take us without changing all the way to Columnia, a distance of more than seventy miles. These horses were of the hardy Bashkir breed, which I mentioned in my account