Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

With this implement he soon reduces to order, and brings back to the herd, any refractory animal which is inclined to stray: the want of fences renders his constant attendance necessary. There is an abundance of water and wood, birch, and Scotch, and spruce fir, both for fuel and ordinary uses on the estate, which also contains lime and brick earth.

The peasants live entirely in villages, of which at Krasnoe there are four, the mansion-house, with its appendages, forming a part of the largest: this is, I believe, a universal custom in Russia, where solitary houses are rarely seen. The roofs are covered either with thatch, boards, thin sheets of iron or guttered tiles, as slates are unknown; the most usual, because the cheapest covering for the peasants' houses, is a slovenly thatch.

These houses are, however, in general, extremely warm and substantial; they are built for the most part of unsquared logs of deal, laid one upon another and firmly secured at the corners, where the ends of the timbers cross, and are hollowed out so as to receive and hold one another: they are also fastened together by wooden pins and uprights in the interior. The four corners are supported upon large stones or roots of trees, so that there is a current of air under the floor to preserve the timber from damp; in the winter, earth is piled up all round to exclude the cold; the interstices between the logs are stuffed with moss and clay, so that no air can enter. The windows are very small, and are fre

quently cut out of the wooden wall after it is finished. In the centre of the house is a stove called a peech, which heats the cottage to an almost unbearable degree ; the warmth, however, which a Russian peasant loves to enjoy within doors is proportioned to the cold which he is required to support without : his bed is the top of his peech, and when he enters his house in the winter, pierced with cold, he throws off his sheepskin coat, stretches himself on his stove, and is thoroughly warmed in a few minutes.

There are two important appendages to the village of Krasnoe, which must be mentioned, viz. the hospital for the peasants, and the bath.

The former is under the superintendence of a German doctor who lives in the house, and is engaged at a fixed stipend. This provision for the proper attendance of their people when sick, is an act of humanity which, I believe, the proprietors of few estates in this country neglect if they can afford it.

The Russian bath is indispensable in every village, , and there is scarcely a servant or peasant of either sex, whether young or old, who does not use it every Saturday in the year. You are aware that it is a vapour bath. A room containing a stove is furnished with benches rising like steps one behind the other to the roof: stones are heated on the stove, and water is poured upon them, so as to fill the room, which is carefully closed, with steam. The bather commences by placing himself on the lowest bench, and

gradually ascends till he reaches the highest, where the heat of course is greatest; he also promotes the circulation of the blood, and increases the action of the heat upon his skin, by flapping himself all over with small birch twigs. He will often rush out of the bath when at the hottest, plunge into cold water, or even roll in the snow, and return.

This weekly purification of the person must tend greatly to the health of the Russian peasant, whose long hair and beard, and sheep-skin coat, are not favourable to cleanliness.

LETTER IV.

Mode of life in the country-Language-Russian patronymics

System of country visiting-Guests—A dinner visit— Village fêteRussian swing-Intense heat-Remarks on the gaiety of the people-An enthusiast“A runaway serf.

Krasnoe, August 10th, 1837. We have now been here nearly six weeks, though I. can scarcely persuade myself of the fact, so quickly and agreeably has the time flown by. Our life, however, has been extremely quiet and regular. We breakfast about nine, or half-past, after which Mand I retire to our own sitting-room, where we occupy ourselves, without in general being interrupted, till at two o'clock we all assemble for dinner; after dinner some of the ladies usually visit our room to work, talk, and read; towards five we think of going out to walk, ride, drive, or row; at seven we have tea, after which we go out again, and often come in but just in time for supper at ten or half-past ten. We have a boat somewhat less than a barge, which I pull, often with three or four passengers on board, and considering her tonnage she goes wonderfully

well. The lake, which has been formed by damming up the waters of two brooks flowing into one another, stretches up a hollow to a considerable extent; and as we can penetrate both of the little rivers for some distance, we can easily enjoy a pull of an hour and a half or two hours.

Besides the members of the family and ourselves, we have also, as inmates of the house, a German doctor and his wife; this gentleman, I have already mentioned, is engaged to attend the family and the peasants in sickness; and a little orphan girl, of noble birth, but ruined fortune, whom the young ladies educate according to a charitable custom extremely prevalent in Russia.

I have not made much progress in the Russian language, beyond acquiring the names of a few articles of every-day use. It is admitted by common consent to be extremely difficult, and strangers, who merely intend to pass a short time in the country, have little inducement to bestow much labour upon the study. All Russians of the educated classes speak French, with as much facility in general as their na

and
many

of them use it almost as much as Russ. in talking to one another, even when no foreigners are present. The Russian language, however, it is said, is rapidly gaining ground in fashionable society, owing to the encouragement of the Emperor, who very wisely will not allow himself to be addressed by his subjects in any other, and who is highly

tive tongue,

« ForrigeFortsett »