Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

bone, and he is very generally blamed for the manner in which in his frequent journeys he risks his life without any object, considering how valuable that life is to the preserving the internal peace and tranquillity of Russia, which would incur the utmost risk should any unfortunate accident place a young and inexperienced sovereign on the throne in the place of Nicholas, whose firm and severe character smothers rebellion and discontent.

The accident which has just occurred happened as follows. At Tiflis, the Master-of-police put the horses belonging to the fire-engines to the Emperor's carriage. These being spirited animals, accustomed to be driven at a great pace, were not easy to manage; and it seems that a peasant who knew little of driving, and was not used to the horses, was put on the box, in place of the man who usually had the charge of them, but whom it was not etiquette to send with the Emperor because he was a soldier.

In descending a steep mountain by a zigzag road overhanging a precipice, the servant neglected to lock the wheel, the horses refused to hold, and broke into a gallop, and at length, at a corner, the leaders, instead of taking the turn, jumped over the low parapet, against which the calêche was dashed and upset, with violence, the front part of it being broken to pieces. The Cossack soldiers who were escorting the Emperor immediately cut the traces, and the leaders fell down the precipice, the postillion

escaping. Count Orloff, who was with the Emperor, had his shoulder dislocated; the Emperor fell over him, and was received in the arms of the officer of Cossacks, to whom, seeing he was much alarmed, he said, “Don't be frightened, I am not hurt;” he then shook himself to ascertain the fact, crossed himself, and thanked God for having preserved him, and presently asked for a horse, which he mounted and rode fifteen miles to the next station, where he got another carriage, and proceeded on his journey. He travels at the rate of from fifteen to eighteen miles an hour, being preceded by an avant-courier, so that he finds horses always waiting, and the time allowed for changing is but two minutes. It is said, that he went into Georgia contrary to his original intentions, in order to enquire into certain abuses and acts of tyranny under which it was alleged that the people were suffering. The result of his visit was, that various abuses were rectified, and the perpetrators punished. The colonel of a regiment at Tifflis, in particular, a man who was also son-in-law to the Governor, was convicted of numerous acts of cruelty and perversion of his authority. The Emperor ordered his epaulettes to be stripped off; and seeing that every one hesitated to obey his orders, he tore them off with his own hands, declaring that the guilty officer was unworthy to wear them, and then he presented the forfeited epaulettes to the brotherin-law of the disgraced colonel, the governor's son,

expressing a hope that he would do them more credit. If his conduct in thus with his own hand executing his own decrees was not very dignified, his just and impartial decisions have gained His Majesty, as we hear, great credit and popularity in Georgia.

The Emperor has incurred perils by sea as well as by land this year; for in one of his late excursions on the Black Sea, his vessel, a steamer, was nearly driven on shore in a storm, and was for some time in considerable danger. On landing, he was received by the Empress and his family, but he had hardly stepped ashore, before a Tartar girl pressed forward into the group and, kneeling down, presented a petition ; the Emperor was very angry at the intrusion, and exclaimed that it was very hard he could not be left undisturbed by strangers at the moment of meeting with his wife and children, after an absence; upon this the petitioner said, “ Yes, Sire, but the Tartars also are your children.” The Emperor looked down, and saw that it was his own eldest and, it is said, favourite daughter, the Grand Duchess Marie. *

* A portrait of the Grand Duchess Marie in this disguise was painted, and presented by her to her father on his name's-day this

year.

LETTER XI.

Frost-White hares---Russian game-laws—A wolf in a house–The

mode in which these animals catch dogs-Anecdotes of wolvesTheir haunts-Modes of destroying them-By poison, pitfalls, traps, shooting—A man besieged by wolves-Bears—Good sportBear-shooting--Mode in Novogorod of getting rid of bears Singu. lar notions with respect to these animals–Lynxes—Elks.

1

Rascazava, November 20th, 1837. The winter, according to our English ideas, has now fairly set in, and that with considerable severity. Since the beginning of this month, with the exception of a thaw once or twice, for a day or two, we have had very severe frost, and the ice over the rivers is beginning to be passable, even for horses and vehicles. Nevertheless, in Russia it is still considered as autumn; for, with the exception of a mere occasional sprinkling, we have as yet no snow, which is so far an advantage, that the ground is dry and hard under foot, and we are not precluded from taking exercise and enjoying the sunshine.

Of all animals it appears to me that the hares just at present have most reason to wish for snow; they

[ocr errors]

are by this time perfectly white, and until the ground is the same colour with themselves, they may be seen sitting fifty yards off, and must fall a very easy prey to their enemies the wolf and the eagle, to say nothing of human pursuers, who in this country make no scruple of shooting a hare upon its form.

You perhaps may not be aware that there are game-laws in Russia, which prohibit the destruction of game in the spring; these laws, however, are not, I believe, very rigidly enforced.

I was presented, the other day, with the skin of a large wolf, which was killed last winter in rather a curious way, in a neighbouring gentleman's house. The house, which is small, is situated in a retired spot on the outskirts of a large wood, which extends up to the very door.

There were some puppies about, which must have attracted the wolf, and, emboldened by famine, he followed one of them into the house, a step which eventually proved as fatal to himself as to his prey, but he at least had the satisfaction of one more feast before he died. The house-door opened into a small ante-room, on one side of which was the kitchen, and on the other a room, in which the cook’s wife either lived or was in some way employed. This woman came in, and calling to her husband in the kitchen to say that she had seen a strange dog follow one of the puppies into the house, she went into her own room; as it was dusk the mistake of the woman was easily made.

« ForrigeFortsett »