Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

care

of the horse-fair at Tamboff. They seemed equally insensible to fatigue and to cold, accomplishing their long stage with apparent ease in ten hours, including a stoppage to bait of two hours. During the bait they were not unharnessed or cleaned, but they stood to feed in an open shed, where their shaggy coats speedily became stiff with ice, as the moisture from their bodies froze. We left Riazan at ten in the morning, and we reached Columnia by eight in the evening. During the greater part of this day we travelled along the ice of the Occa, and of another river which runs into it. So long as we were on the ice the road was smooth and good, but the banks which we had to ascend and descend were steep and dangerous, and more than once we were nearly upset, owing to the lessness of our istvostchik, who drove us down these slippery places in such a manner that the kibitka overpowered the horses and swung round sideways. Towards evening the frost became very intense, and when we reached Columnia we were told that there were then twenty-five degrees of cold by Reaumur, and this with a searching wind. We, however, stopped here no longer than was necessary to procure horses, which we did after a long delay,

At the next station we supped, and we were obliged to proceed again with the same horses. The road, during these two stages, was worse than ever, and we got on very slowly, expecting constantly to be upset in spite of our previous experience, and it was ten o'clock on the Wednesday morning before we reached the second station; the horses which had brought us from Columnia being thoroughly jaded before they had finished their journey. The window-panes at the inn where we breakfasted were filled with writing, and I discovered among the various inscriptions a few lines in English. We had now the satisfaction of knowing that we were but twenty versts from the end of our journey, and, procuring fresh horses, we were driven rapidly along over an excellent road, and our passports were demanded at the gates of Moscow before one o'clock. We drove to the Hôtel du Nord in the Tverskoi, to which we had been recommended, and where we established ourselves. I cannot say much for the comfort or cleanliness of our apartments.

The only picturesque object which we saw during the whole journey was a village through which we passed on the last morning, a little after six o'clock, just as the sun was rising. It being the time at which the peasants light their stoves, the smoke was curling in the bright clear air from nearly every house in the village ; and the long straggling street happened to be filled by a large arboze (or string of carriers' sledges), the coats of the horses, and the long beards and fur caps of the drivers, being white with frost. The whole scene, which, lighted up by the rising sun, was really very striking, formed no bad picture of a winter morning in Russia, affording a characteristic view of the dwellings, costumes, and occupations of the people at this season of the year.

We never suffered much from cold during our journey, intense as the frost was.

Its most unpleasant effect was its congealing the breath in such a manner as to cover our fur collars with icicles. These became partially melted on touching the skin, so that it was very difficult to keep our faces from being constantly wet. We were always obliged to dry at the fire everything that had been within reach of the mouth, whenever we entered a house.

I have little to say of our stay at Moscow, which only lasted ten days, during which time we both suffered much from colds and sore throats. The weather was very unpleasant, and the streets so encumbered with snow,* that it was excessively disagreeable to drive about on account of the ouchabas, while it was out of the question to walk any distance, owing to the slippery and neglected state of the foot pavements. Our hotel, morever, was so uncomfortable that we should hardly have remained as long as we did, had not M—'s family, with whom we spent most of our time, been in town. The hotels in Moscow are, I believe, celebrated for dirt and discomfort, and the Hôtel du Nord possesses these qualities in perfection.f

* The streets of Moscow, at this time, from the sandy colour and loose consistency of the snow, had exactly the appearance of being thickly covered with moist sugar.

+ We found too late that we ought to have gone to Mrs. Howard's hotel, which is said to be really clean and comfortable.

Once at Moscow we considered the remaining five hundred miles of our journey as nothing in comparison to the four hundred which we had already travelled, taking it for granted that the high-road between the two capitals was never in a very bad state, even in winter. We hired a diligence built for four passengers in addition to the conductor and driver, paying three hundred roubles (about twelve guineas) for the journey to Petersburg, with a guinea to the conductor on our arrival.

Comfortably arranged in this vehicle; a vasok, consisting of two coupés in one body, fixed on runners and without springs ; we started from Moscow on Monday evening the 19th, about six o'clock, hoping to arrive at Petersburg on Thursday. Our expectations, however, of a good road were grievously disappointed. As soon as we got into the country we found a snow-storm raging in full force; while the road was so bad from the quantity of soft snow and from the drifts, that we were four hours and a half in performing a stage of not more than twenty miles. We stopped for supper at one of the Imperial inns which I described to you last summer. We intended to proceed immediately, but our conductor, who spoke French and German, came in presently to say that some travellers, who had just come up on their way to Moscow, gave such an account of the road, especially in one spot, where a diligence was already sticking fast, that he thought we had better remain where we were till morning, when, at least, if we got into a difficulty we might obtain assistance. We accordingly wrapped ourselves in our cloaks and lay down on sofas to wait for daylight; and the next day we had every reason to be satisfied with our prudence in not travelling in: the dark. We were dragged along with much difficulty, and were nearly six hours performing a stage of less than threeand-twenty miles. I need not trouble you with a detail of every stage. Suffice it to say that we were obliged to stop again the second night for some hours, and that the journey the following day was worse than anything we had hitherto experienced.* The ouchabas were deep and wide, and we were

* Great numbers of men were employed along the road in filling up the holes and levelling the snow, and in some places the snow-plough was also

N

aware that a close carriage with luggage on the roof is more readily overturned than a kibitka. We more than once stuck fast in the bottom of a hole, and were obliged to get out before the horses could extricate the diligence. At other times, to avoid this difficulty, the istvostchik would put his horses full gallop at an ouchaba, in order that the impetus with which we descended one side of the ditch might carry us up the other side, We escaped all misfortunes, however, except aching bones, and arrived on Wednesday evening at Torjok, which we had expected to reach in twenty-four hours instead of forty-eight. From this spot we found that the road gradually improved, the quantity of snow diminishing as we proceeded northwards, so that all that night and all the next day we glided smoothly and rapidly along. Late on Thursday night we lay down to rest on sofas for about three hours, and, starting again before daylight, we reached Novogorod to breakfast.

Here the snow, which farther south lay so deep, was hardly sufficient to cover the ground, and we had already met diligences travelling on wheels. During the remainder of our journey, a distance of more than two hundred versts, we experienced as much difficulty from scarcity of snow as we had in the earlier part of our journey from its superabundance. The road in some places was quite bare, or was covered only with a thin coating of ice, which in the day-time was thawed by the sun, so that we frequently stuck fast in the mud. At length, two stages from Petersburg, we found a diligence upon wheels, into which we transferred ourselves and our luggage, and, meeting with no further difficulties, arrived at Petersburg, as I have already told you, on Saturday evening; having been five days and nights, instead of three, upon the road. We drove to a private hotel, where we got temporary accommodation, and yesterday we moved into our present quarters.

When I wrote from Moscow in the autumn, I told it was yearly losing ground in point of society. The rich and fashionable, with all who seek amusement or promotion, flock to Petersburg ; which, as the residence of the Court and the seat of Government, affords in these respects far higher attracin use to remove the drifts; but the snow fell faster than it could be cleared away, and as soon as one hole was filled up another was formed,

you that

tions than the ancient capital can hold out. I am assured that there is but one private house in Moscow which is at all kept up on a splendid scale, and that house I fortunately had an opportunity of visiting; although, from an accidental delay, my letter of introduction to its owner, Prince Serge Galitzin, did not arrive till two or three days before our departure from Moscow. It, however, immediately procured me the honour of a call from the Prince, accompanied by an invitation to a party; and he was kind enough, when I saw him, to express his regret at not hearing sooner of our arrival at Moscow; adding, that he had expected to see us in the autumn at his villa in the neighbourhood, when we passed through Moscow on our way from Yaroslav. This visit we had intended to pay, meaning to drive over in the morning and to return in the evening, but some accident had deprived us of the pleasure. Prince Serge, who has a large fortune, and who lives in a manner suited to it, is a specimen of modern refinement engrafted on the character of the old Russian Grand Seigneur, a race which is now become nearly extinct. The Russian nobles have seldom fortune enough to unite refinement with splendour and profusion; and they have generally learned to prefer the comfort of a moderate-sized well-furnished house, with a suitable establishment, to the cold and empty magnificence of their ancient overgrown palaces, and ill-appointed retinues of ser: vants. The huge old house at Moscow is deserted for a modein residence at Petersburg.

I have probably told you, in some former letter, how little it is the custom in this country for servants to announce a visitor, and this to a stranger is rather embarrassing, as, on entering a crowded room, he does not know where to find the master or mistress of the house. I experienced this difficulty in some degree when I went to Prince Serge Galitzin's party. After walking through a long suite of empty saloons, I at last came to the apartments which were lighted up, and then I had to seek my host, whom I had never yet seen, in two large rooms filled with card-players, every one of whom was equally a stranger to me. The servants, of whom there were a great number in attendance, motioned me on, and pointed to the right; and when I had at length penetrated into the inner room, the

« ForrigeFortsett »