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and though five were detained upon suspicion, and further enquiries were made, nothing was eventually discovered, and I need not say that poor R- never recovered any of his property.
of his property. His pelisse had cost eight hundred roubles, so that with the watch and chain, and the money which was stolen, his loss must have amounted to sixty or seventy pounds. He found afterwards that the attack was premeditated, and intended, not for himself, but for another gentleman, who frequented the same coffee-house, and who was known to carry, habitually, a considerable sum of money in his pocket. The possibility of such an outrage being perpetrated with impunity in the heart of the city, and on a bright moonlight night, a circumstance which I omitted before to mention, does not say much for the vigilance with which the streets of Moscow are watched at night.* The following anecdotes will show that the acuteness of the police is sometimes pretty severely taxed.
A person, dressed in the uniform of a General, came some time ago into the shop of a jeweller at Moscow, I believe that of Mr. Rosenstrauch, the Prussian Consul—and asked to see some of his highest priced diamond rings, saying that he wanted one as a present for a lady to whom he was going to be
* The number of dark lanes with blank walls, and the lonely character of the streets of Moscow, render an efficient patrol extremely requisite, and at the same time, from the vast extent of the city, very difficult to establish. The lighting of the streets is disgracefully bad, except, as I am informed, when the Emperor is present.
married. He was immediately shown a number of very valuable and splendid rings, which he examined very attentively, seeming much puzzled in his choice. While this was going on, a beggar opened the shopdoor, and the jeweller told him to go away, but the General said, in a compassionate tone, that he had a few copecks which he would give, and beckoning the man, he dropped them into his hat. The beggar began to thank him with the usual whine, but the General cut him short very gruffly and bade him be off; he then resumed his examination of the rings, and at last said that they were all so handsome, that he could not make up his mind which to select, but that he must bring the lady to choose for herself. The jeweller, as he replaced the box, counted over the rings and perceived that one was missing; he asked the General if he had put one in his pocket by mistake; this was denied, and after some further search for the lost ring, he was at last obliged to tax his customer with having stolen it. The General was, of course, highly indignant at the charge, but the jeweller persisted, saying that he should send for the police to search him, which he at last did, though warned by his Excellency of the danger of making a false accusation against a man of his rank.
The General was searched, but the ring was not found, and it was now his turn to become the accuser, by charging the shopkeeper with a false attack
upon his character.
In the end the affair cost the poor
man two or three thousand roubles before it was settled, in addition to the loss of the ring, which was, perhaps, worth as much more: for the person whom he was accused of defaming was really a general, though his conduct, on this occasion, was certainly “unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,” he having, in fact, stolen the ring, and then got rid of it by dropping it, with the copecks, into the hat of his confederate, the pretended beggar.
The following story records the prowess of a Polish lady, who, not long ago, honoured Moscow with her residence, and who seems to have been a most accomplished swindler. It is said that by this exercise of her talents she realised, in the course of one year, between three and four thousand pounds, all of which she spent in the same period, since economy was not one of her virtues. This lady, on one occasion, being in the occupation of a house, obtained, on credit, a quantity of fire-wood, to the value of five hundred roubles: of the best of this she had a considerable quantity piled in her ante-room, as if for
She then sent for a dealer, not her creditor as may be supposed, and asked him if he would like to purchase some wood, as she had an estate about forty versts from Moscow, on which she meant to cut down a large quantity. The man said that he should have no objection to become the purchaser of the whole, if they could agree about the price. “Why," said she, “ you had better go down and look at the
wood.” “I will go to-morrow,” said he, “but I should wish first to know whether we are likely to deal.”
The lady then named the extent of ground which she meant to clear, and describing the quality of the wood as most excellent, said that the price which she asked was forty thousand roubles. “Well,” said the tradesman, “ that is rather too much, but if I find that the article answers your description, I shall not mind offering five-and-thirty thousand.” The lady said that as she wanted a sum of money, she would not dispute about a trifle, though the price she at first asked was little enough; she, however, pressed strongly for an immediate conclusion to the business, and offered to take the tradesman down in her carriage that evening into the country to see the wood. He, however, declared that he was too busy then to leave home, but that he would go the next day : upon this, she replied that she could not wait, and that she must therefore try to deal with some one else. At length the man, considering, from the description which he had received of the wood, that the purchase was likely to turn out profitable, said, that as they were so nearly agreed about terms, he should wish to conclude the bargain at once, and that he would go the following day to satisfy himself, and examine the wood, begging the lady, in the mean time, to take some hand-money as an earnest. To this proposal, however, she refused to accede, insisting
that the man should accompany her into the country that evening if he intended to deal with her.
The conversation went on in this manner for some time, the tradesman assuring her that he could not leave his business that day, and the lady urging the point, till at length a happy idea appeared to strike her, and she said, “ After all, perhaps it is unnecessary for you go down at once to my estate, for
you judge of the wood by this sample,” showing him the pile in the ante-room: “I must tell you, however, that this is merely some inferior stuff which I am cutting for my own use."
The dealer was delighted with the specimen thus pointed out, and the wood for sale being, as he was assured, of very much better quality, he determined not to lose so good a bargain, and therefore said that he felt quite satisfied, and would close at once with the lady's offer, if she would accept hand-money, according to the Russian custom, and consider the business as settled.
“ No," said she, “I am in need of money certainly, and for that reason I consent to take a low price for my wood, but I want a considerable sum, and two or three hundred roubles will be of no use to me." “Well, madam," said the dealer, “I shall not be easy unless the bargain is struck, so I must beg of you to take this on account," handing her notes to the amount of six thousand roubles. The money was with some difficulty received, and the unfortunate victim departed well