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Russian Rambles
by Isabel F. Hapgood
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Our experience there was sufficient to slake all curiosity as to Russian summer resort hotels, or country hotels in provincial towns, since that was its character; though it had, besides, some hindrances which were peculiar, I hope, to itself. The usual clean, large dining-room, with the polished floor, table decorated with plants, and lace curtains, was irresistibly attractive, especially to wedding parties of shopkeepers, who danced twelve hours at a stretch, and to breakfast parties after funerals, whose guests made rather more uproar on afternoons than did those of the wedding balls in the evening, as they sang the customary doleful chants, and then warmed up to the occasion with bottled consolation. The establishment being shorthanded for waiters, these entertainments interfered seriously with our meals, which we took in private; and we were often forced to go hungry until long after the hour, because there was so much to eat in the house!

Our first experience of the place was characteristic. The waiter, who was also "boots," chambermaid, and clerk, on occasion, distributed two sheets, two pillows, one blanket, and one "cold" (cotton) coverlet between the two beds, and considered that ample, as no doubt it was according to some lights and according to the almanac, though the weather resembled November just then, and I saw snow a few days later. Having succeeded in getting this rectified, after some discussion, I asked for towels.

"There is one," answered Mikhei (Micah), with his most fascinating smile.

The towel was very small, and was intended to serve for two persons! Eventually it did not; and we earned the name of being altogether too fastidious. The washstand had a tank of water attached to the top, which we pumped into the basin with a foot-treadle, after we became skillful, holding our hands under the stream the while. The basin had no stopper. "Running water is cleaner to wash in," was the serious explanation. Some other barbarian who had used that washstand before us must also have differed from that commonly accepted Russian opinion: when we plugged up the hole with a cork, and it disappeared, and we fished it out of the still clogged pipe, we found that six others had preceded it. It took a champagne cork and a cord to conquer the orifice.

Among our vulgar experiences at this place were—fleas. I remonstrated with Mikhei, our typical waiter from the government of Yaroslavl, which furnishes restaurant garcons in hordes as a regular industry. Mikhei replied airily:—

"Nitchevo! It is nothing! You will soon learn to like them so much that you cannot do without them."

I take the liberty of doubting whether even Russians ever reach that last state of mind, in a lifetime of endurance. Two rooms beyond us, in the same corridor, lodged a tall, thin, gray-haired Russian merchant, who was nearly a typical Yankee in appearance. Every morning, at four o'clock, when the fleas were at their worst and roused us regularly (the "close season" for mortals, in Russia, is between five and six A. M.), we heard this man emerge from his room, and shake, separately and violently, the four pieces of his bedclothing into the corridor; not out of the window, as he should have done. So much for the modern native taste. It is recorded that the beauties of the last century, in St. Petersburg, always wore on their bosoms silver "flea-catchers" attached to a ribbon. These traps consisted of small tubes pierced with a great number of tiny holes, closed at the bottom, open at the top, and each containing a slender shaft smeared with honey or some other sticky substance. So much for the ancient native taste.

Again, we had a disagreement with Mikhei on the subject of the roast beef. More than once it was brought in having a peculiar blackish-crimson hue and stringy grain, with a sweetish flavor, and an odor which was singular but not tainted, and which required imperatively that either we or it should vacate the room instantly. Mikhei stuck firmly to his assertion that it was a prime cut from a first-class ox. We discovered the truth later on, in Moscow, when we entered a Tatar horse-butcher's shop—ornamented with the picture of a horse, as the law requires—out of curiosity, to inquire prices. We recognized the smell and other characteristics of our Tzarskoe Selo "roast ox" at a glance and a sniff, and remained only long enough to learn that the best cuts cost two and a half cents a pound. Afterward we went a block about to avoid passing that shop. The explanation of the affair was simple enough. In our hotel there was a traktir, run by our landlord, tucked away in a rear corner of the ground floor, and opening on what Thackeray would have called a "tight but elegant" little garden, for summer use. It was thronged from morning till night with Tatar old-clothes men and soldiers from the garrison, for whom it was the rendezvous. The horse beef had been provided for the Tatars, who considered it a special dainty, and had been palmed off upon us because it was cheap.

I may dismiss the subject of the genial Mikhei here, with the remark that we met him the following summer at the Samson Inn, in Peterhoff, where he served our breakfast with an affectionate solicitude which somewhat alarmed us for his sobriety. He was very much injured in appearance by long hair thrown back in artistic fashion, and a livid gash which scored one side of his face down to his still unbrushed teeth, and nearly to his unwashed shirt, narrowly missing one eye, and suggested possibilities of fight in him which, luckily for our peace of mind, we had not suspected the previous season.

Our chambermaid at first, at the Tzarskoe hostelry, was a lad fourteen years of age, who dusted in the most wonderfully conscientious way without being asked, like a veteran trained housekeeper. We supposed that male chambermaids were the fashion, judging from the offices which we had seen our St. Petersburg hotel "boots" perform, and we said nothing. A Russian friend who came to call on us, however, was shocked, and, without our knowledge, gave the landlord a lecture on the subject, the first intimation of which was conveyed to us by the appearance of a maid who had been engaged "expressly for the service of our high nobilities;" price, five rubles a month (two dollars and a half; she chanced to live in the attic lodgings), which they did not pay her, and which we gladly gave her. Her conversation alone was worth three times the money. Our "boots" in St. Petersburg got but four rubles a month, out of which he was obliged to clothe himself, and furnish the brushes, wax, and blacking for the boots; and he had not had a single day's holiday in four years, when we made his acquaintance. I won his eternal devotion by "placing a candle" vicariously to the Saviour for him on Christmas Day, and added one for myself, to harmonize with the brotherly spirit of the season.

Andrei, the boy, never wholly recovered from the grief and resentment caused by being thus supplanted, and the imputation cast upon his powers of caring for us. He got even with us on at least two occasions, for the offense of which we were innocent. Once he told a fashionable visitor of ours that we dined daily in the traktir, with the Tatar clothes peddlers and the soldiers of the garrison, with the deliberate intention of shocking her. I suppose it soothed his feelings for having to serve our food in our own room. Again, being ordered to "place the samovar" he withdrew to his chamber, the former kitchen of the apartment, and went to sleep on the cold range, which was his bed, where he was discovered after we had starved patiently for an hour and a half.

Andrei's supplanter was named Katiusha, but her angular charms corresponded so precisely with those of the character in "The Mikado" that we referred to her habitually as Katisha. She had been a serf, a member of the serf aristocracy, which consisted of the house servants, and had served always as maid or nurse. She was now struggling on as a seamstress. Her sewing was wonderfully bad, and she found great difficulty in bringing up her two children, who demanded fashionable "European" clothing, and in eking out the starvation wages of her husband, a superannuated restaurant waiter, also a former serf, and belonging, like herself, to the class which received personal liberty, but no land, at the emancipation. Her view of the emancipation was not entirely favorable. In fact, all the ex-serfs with whom I talked retained a soft spot in their hearts for the comforts and irresponsibility of the good old days of serfdom.

Katiusha could neither read nor write, but her naturally acute powers of observation, unconsciously trained by constant contact with her former owners, were of very creditable quality. She possessed a genuine talent for expressing herself neatly. For example, in describing a concert to which she had been taken, she praised the soprano singer's voice with much discrimination, winding up with, "It was—how shall I say it?— round—as round—as round as—a cartwheel!"

Her great delight consisted in being sent by me to purchase eggs and fruit at the market, or in accompanying me to carry them home, when I went myself to enjoy the scene and her methods. In her I was able to study Russian bargaining tactics in their finest flower. She would haggle for half an hour over a quarter of a cent on very small purchases, and then would carry whatever she bought into one of the neighboring shops to be reweighed. To my surprise, the good-natured venders seemed never to take offense at this significant act; and she never discovered any dishonesty. When wearied out by this sort of thing, I took charge of the proceedings, that I might escape from her agonized groans and grimaces at my extravagance. After choking down her emotion in gulps all the way home, she would at last clasp her hands, and moan in a wheedling voice:—

"Please, barynya,* how much did you pay that robber?"

* Mistress.

"Two kopeks* apiece for the eggs. They are fine, large, and fresh, as you see. Twenty kopeks a pound for the strawberries, also of the first quality."

* About one cent.

Then would follow a scene which never varied, even if my indiscretion had been confined to raspberries at five cents a pound, or currants at a cent less. She would wring her hands, long and fleshless as fan handles, and, her great green eyes phosphorescent with distress above her hollow cheeks and projecting bones, she would cry:—

"Oh, barynya, they have cheated you, cheated you shamefully! You must let me protect you."

"Come, don't you think it is worth a few kopeks to be called 'a pearl,' 'a diamond,' 'an emerald'?"

"Is that all they called you?" she inquired, with a disdainful sniff.

"No; they said that I was 'a real general-ess.' They knew their business, you see. And they said 'madame' instead of 'sudarynya.'* Was there any other title which they could have bestowed on me for the money?"

*Sudarynya is the genuine Russian word for "madam," but, like spasibo, "thank you," it is used only by the lower classes. Many merchants who know no French except madame use it as a delicate compliment to the patron's social position.

She confessed, with a pitying sigh, that there was not, but returned to her plaint over the sinfully wasted kopeks. Once I offered her some "tea-money" in the shape of a basket of raspberries, which she wished to preserve and drink in her tea, with the privilege of purchasing them herself. As an experiment to determine whether bargaining is the outcome of thrift and economy alone, or a distinct pleasure in itself, it was a success. I followed her from vender to vender, and waited with exemplary patience while she scrutinized their wares and beat down prices with feverish eagerness, despite the fact that she was not to pay the bill. I put an end to the matter when she tried to persuade a pretty peasant girl, who had walked eight miles, to accept less than four cents a pound for superb berries. I think it really spoiled my gift to her that I insisted on making the girl happy with five cents a pound. After that I was not surprised to find Russian merchants catering to the taste of their customers by refusing to adopt the one-price system.

It was vulgar to go to market, of course. Even the great mastiff who acted as yard dog at the bazaar made me aware of that fact. He always greeted me politely, like a host, when he met me in the court at market hours. But nothing could induce him even to look at me when he met me outside. I tried to explain to him that my motives were scientific, not economical, and I introduced Katiusha to him as the family bargainer and scapegoat for his scorn. He declined to relent. After that I understood that there was nothing for it but to shoulder the responsibility myself, and I never attempted to palliate my unpardonable conduct in the eyes of the servants of my friends whom I occasionally encountered there.

The market was held in the inner courtyard of the Gostinny Dvor, near the chapel, which always occupies a conspicuous position in such places. While the shops under the arcade, facing on the street, sold everything, from "gallantry wares" (dry goods and small wares) to nails, the inner booths were all devoted to edibles. On the rubble pavement of the court squatted peasants from the villages for many versts round about, both Russian and Finnish, hedged in by their wares, vegetables, flowers, fruit, and live poultry. The Russians exhibited no beautiful costumes; their proximity to the capital had done away with all that. At first I was inexperienced, and went unprovided with receptacles for my marketing. The market women looked up in surprise.

"What, have you no kerchief?" they asked, as though I were a peasant or petty merchant's wife, and could remove the typical piece of gayly colored cloth from my head or neck. When I objected to transporting eggs and berries in my only resource, my handkerchief, they reluctantly produced scraps of dirty newspaper, or of ledgers scrawled over with queer accounts. I soon grew wise, and hoarded up the splint strawberry baskets provided by the male venders, which are put to multifarious uses in Russia.

After being asked for a kerchief in the markets, and a sheet when I went to get my fur cloak from its summer storage at a fashionable city shop, and after making divers notes on journeys, I was obliged to conclude that the ancient merchant fashion in Russia had been to seize the nearest fabric at hand,—the sheet from the bed, the cloth from the table,—and use it as a traveling trunk.

The Finns at the market were not to be mistaken for Russians. Their features were wooden; their expression was far less intelligent than that of the Russians. The women were addicted to wonderful patterns in aprons and silver ornaments, and wore, under a white head kerchief, a stiff glazed white circlet which seemed to wear away their blond hair. These women arrived regularly every morning, before five o'clock, at the shops of the baker and the grocer opposite our windows. The shops opened at that hour, after having kept open until eleven o'clock at night, or later. After refreshing themselves with a roll and a bunch of young onions, of which the green tops appeared to be the most relished, the women made their town toilet by lowering the very much reefed skirt of their single garment, drawing on footless stockings, and donning shoes. At ten o'clock, or even earlier, they came back to fill the sacks of coarse white linen, borne over their shoulders, with necessaries for their households, purchased with the proceeds of their sales, and to reverse their toilet operations, preparatory to the long tramp homeward. I sometimes caught them buying articles which seemed extravagant luxuries, all things considered, such as raisins. One of their specialties was the sale of lilies of the valley, which grow wild in the Russian forests. Their peculiar little trot-trot, and the indescribable semi-tones and quarter-tones in which they cried, "Land-dy-y-y-shee!" were unmistakably Finnish at any distance.

The scene at the market was always entertaining. Tzarskoe is surrounded by market gardens, where vegetables and fruits are raised in highly manured and excessively hilled-up beds. It sends tons of its products to the capital as well as to the local market. Everything was cheap and delicious. Eggs were dear when they reached a cent and a half apiece. Strawberries, huge and luscious, were dear at ten cents a pound, since in warm seasons they cost but five. Another berry, sister to the strawberry, but differing from it utterly in taste, was the klubnika, of which there were two varieties, the white and the bluish-red, both delicious in their peculiar flavor, but less decorative in size and aspect than the strawberry.

The native cherries, small and sour, make excellent preserves, with a spicy flavor, which are much liked by Russians in their tea. The only objection to this use of them is that both tea and cherries are spoiled. Raspberries, plums, gooseberries, and currants were plentiful and cheap. A vegetable delicacy of high order, according to Katiusha, who introduced it to my notice, was a sort of radish with an extremely fine, hard grain, and biting qualities much developed, which attains enormous size, and is eaten in thin slices, salted and buttered. I presented the solitary specimen which I bought, a ninepin in proportions, to the grateful Katiusha. It was beyond my appreciation.

Pears do not thrive so far north, but in good years apples of fine sorts are raised, to a certain extent, in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. Really good specimens, however, come from Poland, the lower Volga, Little Russia, and other distant points, which renders them always rather dear. We saw few in our village that were worth buying, as the season was phenomenally cold, and a month or three weeks late, so that we got our strawberries in August, and our linden blossoms in September. Apples, plums, grapes, and honey are not eaten—in theory—until after they have been blessed at the feast of the Transfiguration, on August 18 (N. S.),—a very good scheme for giving them time to ripen fully for health. Before that day, however, hucksters bearing trays of honey on their heads are eagerly welcomed, and the peasant's special dainty— fresh cucumbers thickly coated with honey—is indulged in unblessed. Honey is not so plentiful that one can afford to fling away a premature chance!

When the mushroom season came in, the market assumed an aspect of half-subdued brilliancy with the many sombre and high-colored varieties of that fungus. The poorer people indulge in numerous kinds which the rich do not eat, and they furnish precious sustenance during fasts, when so many viands are forbidden by the Russian Church and by poverty. One of the really odd sights, during the fast of Saints Peter and Paul (the first half of July), was that of people walking along the streets with bunches of pea-vines, from which they were plucking the peas, and eating them, pods and all, quite raw. It seemed a very summary and wasteful way of gathering them. This fashion of eating vegetables raw was imported, along with the liturgy, from the hot lands where the Eastern Church first flourished, and where raw food was suitable. These traditions, and probably also the economy of fuel, cause it to be still persisted in, in a climate to which it is wholly unsuited. Near Tzarskoe I found one variety of pea growing to the altitude of nearly seven feet, and producing pods seven inches long and three wide. The stalks of the double poppies in the same garden were six and seven feet high, and the flowers were the size of peonies, while the pods of the single poppies were nine inches in circumference.

One of the great festivals of the Russian Church is Whitsunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter; but it is called Trinity Sunday, and the next day is "the Day of Spirits," or Pentecost. On this Pentecost Day a curious sight was formerly to be seen in St. Petersburg. Mothers belonging to the merchant class arrayed their marriageable daughters in their best attire; hung about their necks not only all the jewels which formed a part of their dowries, but also, it is said, the silver ladles, forks, and spoons; and took them to the Summer Garden, to be inspected and proposed for by the young men.

But the place where this spectacle can be seen in the most charming way is Tzarskoe Selo. We were favored with superb weather on both the festal days. On Sunday morning every one went to church, as usual. The small church behind the Lyceum, where Pushkin was educated, with its un-Russian spire, ranks as a Court church; that in the Old Palace across the way being opened only on special occasions, now that the Court is not in residence. Outside, the choir sat under the golden rain of acacia blossoms and the hedge of fragrant lilacs until the last moment, the sunshine throwing into relief their gold-laced black cloth vestments and crimson belts. They were singers from one of the regiments stationed in town, and crimson was the regimental color. The church is accessible to all classes, and it was crowded. As at Easter, every one was clad in white or light colors, even those who were in mourning having donned the bluish-gray which serves them for festive garb. In place of the Easter candle, each held a bouquet of flowers. In the corners of the church stood young birch-trees, with their satin bark and feathery foliage, and boughs of the same decked the walls. There is a law now which forbids this annual destruction of young trees at Pentecost, but the practice continues, and the tradition is that one must shed as many tears for his sins as there are dewdrops on the birch bough which he carries, if he has no flowers. Peasant women in clean cotton gowns elbowed members of the Court in silks; fat merchants, with well-greased, odorous hair and boots, in hot, long-skirted blue cloth coats, stood side by side with shabby invalid soldiers or smartly uniformed officers. Tiny peasant children seated themselves on the floor when their little legs refused further service, and imitated diligently all the low reverences and signs of the cross made by their parents. Those of larger growth stood with the preternatural repose and dignity of the adult Russian peasant, and followed the liturgy independently. One little girl of seven, self-possessed and serenely unconscious, slipped through the crowd to the large image of the Virgin near the altar, grasped the breast-high guard-rail, and kissed the holy picture in the middle of her agile vault. When some members of the imperial family arrived, the crowd pressed together still more closely, to make a narrow passage to the small space reserved for them opposite the choir. After the ever beautiful liturgy, finely expressed special prayers were offered, during which the priest also carried flowers.

Another church service on the following day—a day when public offices are closed and business ceases—completed the religious duties of the festival. In the afternoon, the whole town began to flock to the Imperial Park surrounding the Old Palace,—people of the upper circles included,—the latter from motives of curiosity, of course. Three bands of the Guards furnished the music. On the great terrace, shaded by oak-trees hardly beyond the bronze-pink stage of their leafage, played the hussars. Near the breakfast gallery, with its bronze statues of Hercules and Flora, which the common people call "Adam and Eve" (the Ariadne on Naxos, in a neighboring grotto, is popularly believed to be "a girl of seven years, who was bitten by a snake while roaming the Russian primeval forest, and died"), were the cuirassiers. The stryelki (sharpshooters) were stationed near the lake, the central point for meetings and promenades during the lovely "white nights;" where boats of every sort, from a sail-boat or a Chinese sampan to an Astrakhan fishing-boat or a snowshoe skiff, are furnished gratis all summer, with a sailor of the Guard to row them, if desired. Round and round and round, unweariedly, paced the girls. They were bareheaded and in slippered feet, as usual, but had abandoned the favorite ulster, which too often accompanies extremities thus unclad, to display their gayest gowns. The young men gazed with intense interest. Here and there a young fellow in "European clothes" was to be seen conversing with the more conservative young merchants, who retained the wrinkled boots confining full trousers, the shirt worn outside the trousers, the cloth vest, and the blue cloth long coat of traditional cut.

It was like a scene from the theatre. Across the lake, dotted with boating parties, stretched lawns planted with trees chosen for their variety of foliage, from the silver willow to the darkest evergreens, while the banks were diversified with a boat-house, a terraced grotto, a Turkish kiosk with a bath, bridges, and so on. Of the immense palace which stood so near at hand the graceful breakfast gallery alone was visible, while high above the waving crests of the trees the five cupolas of the palace church, in the shape of imperial crowns, seemed to float in the clear blue sky like golden bubbles. The lawns within the acacia-hedged compartments were dazzling with campanulas, harebells, rose campions, and crimson and yellow columbine, or gleamed with the pale turquoise of forget-me-nots. We had only to enter the adjoining park surrounding the Alexander Palace, built for Alexander I. by his grandmother, Katherine II., to find the Field of the Cloth of Gold realized by acres of tall double Siberian buttercups, as large and as fragrant as yellow roses.

Soldiers of the garrison strolled about quietly, as usual. The pet of the hussars was in great form, and his escort of admiring comrades was larger than ever. They thrust upon him half of their tidbits and sunflower seeds,—what masses of sunflower seeds and handbill cigarettes were consumed that day, not to mention squash seeds, by the more opulent!—and waited eagerly for his dimpled smile as their reward. When the bands were weary, the regimental singers ranged themselves in a circle, and struck up songs of love, of battle, and of mirth, amid the applause and laughter of the crowd. Now and then a soldier would step into the middle of the circle and dance. The slight, agile, square-capped stryelki spun round until their full-plaited black tunics stood out from their tightly belted waists like the skirts of ballet dancers. The slender, graceful hussars, with their yellow-laced scarlet jackets and tight blue trousers, flitted to and fro like gay birds. The best performer of all was a cuirassier, a big blond fellow, with ruddy cheeks and dazzling teeth. Planting his peakless white cloth cap with its yellow band firmly on his head, he stepped forward, grasping in each hand a serried pyramid of brass bells, which chimed merrily as he squatted, leaped, and executed eccentric steps with his feet, while his arms beat time and his fine voice rolled out the solo of a rollicking ballad, to which the rest of the company furnished the chorus as well as their laughter and delighted applause of his efforts permitted. His tightly fitting dark green trousers, tall boots, and jacket of white cloth trimmed with yellow set off his muscular form to great advantage. A comrade stood by, shaking the buntchuk, an ornamental combination of brass half-moons, gay horsetails, and bells, —the Turkish staff of command, which is carried as a special privilege by several Russian cavalry regiments. There is nothing that a company of Russians likes better than a spirited performance of their national dances, whether it be high-class Russians at a Russian opera in the Imperial Theatre, or the masses on informal occasions like the present. This soldier, who danced with joy in every fibre, was quite willing to oblige them indefinitely, and seemed to be made of steel springs. He stopped with great reluctance, and that only when his company was ordered peremptorily to march off to barracks at the appointed hour.

How many weddings resulted from that day's dress parade I know not. But I presume the traditional "match-makers" did their duty, if the young men were sufficiently impressed by the girls' outfits to commission these professional proposers to lay their hearts and hands at the feet of the parents on the following day. They certainly could not have been hopelessly bewitched by any beauty which was on show. The presence of the soldiers, the singing, music, and dancing, framed in that exquisite park, combined to create a scene the impression of which is far beyond comparison with that of the same parade in the Summer Garden at St. Petersburg.

This grand terrace of the Old Palace is a favorite resort for mothers and children, especially when the different bands of the Guards' regiments stationed in the town furnish music. But not far away, in the less stately, more natural park surrounding the Alexander Palace, the property of the Crown Prince, lies the real paradise of the children of all classes. There is the playground, provided with gymnastic apparatus, laid out at the foot of a picturesque tower, one of the line of signal towers, now mostly demolished, which, before the introduction of the telegraph, flashed news from Warsaw to St. Petersburg in the then phenomenally short space of twenty-four hours. The children's favorite amusement is the "net." Sailors of the guard set up a full-rigged ship's mast, surrounded, about two feet from the ground, by a wide sweep of close-meshed rope netting well tarred. Boys and girls of ambition climb the rigging, swing, and drop into the net. The little ones never weary of dancing about on its yielding surface. A stalwart, gentle giant of a sailor watches over the safety of the merrymakers, and warns, teaches, or helps them, if they wish it.

Their nurses, with pendent bosoms and fat shoulders peeping through the transparent muslin of their chemises, make a bouquet of colors, with their gay sarafani, their many-hued cashmere caps attached to pearl-embroidered, coronet-shaped kokoshniki, and terminating in ribbons which descend to their heels, and are outshone in color only by the motley assemblage of beads on their throats.

Here, round the gymnastic apparatus and the net, one is able for the first time to believe solidly in the existence of Russian children. In town, in the winter, one has doubted it, despite occasional coveys of boys in military greatcoats, book-knapsacks of sealskin strapped to their shoulders to keep their backs straight, and officer-like caps. The summer garb of the lads from the gymnasia and other institutes consists of thin, dark woolen material or of coarse gray linen, made in the blouse or Russian shirt form, which portraits of Count Lyeff Nikolaevitch Tolstoy, the author, have rendered familiar to foreigners. It must not be argued from this fact that Count Tolstoy set the fashion; far from it. It is the ordinary and sensible garment in common use, which he has adopted from others, not they from him. It can be seen on older students any day, even in winter, in the reading-room of the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg, on the imperial choir in the Winter Palace as undress uniform for week-day services, and elsewhere.

Some indulgent mothers make silk blouses for their sons, and embroider them with cross-stitch patterns in colored floss, as was the fashion a number of years ago, when a patriotic outburst of sentiment was expressed by the adoption of the "national costume," for house wear, by adults of both sexes. From this period dates also, no doubt, that style of "peasant dress" which can be seen occasionally, in unfashionable summer resorts, on girls not of the highest class by any means, and which the city shops furnish in abundance as genuine to misguided foreigners. Every one is familiar with these fantastic combinations of colored lace insertion with bands of blue cotton worked in high colors, and fashioned into blouses and aprons such as no peasant maid ever wore or beheld.

What strikes one very forcibly about Russian children, when one sees them at play in the parks, is their quiet, self-possessed manners and their lack of boisterousness. If they were inclined to scream, to fling themselves about wildly and be rude, they would assuredly be checked promptly and effectually, since the rights of grown people to peace, respect, and the pursuit of happiness are still recognized in that land. But, from my observation of the same qualities in untutored peasant children, I am inclined to think that Russian children are born more agreeable than Western children; yet they seem to be as cheerful and lively as is necessary, and in no way restricted. Whistling, howling, stamping, and kindred muscular exercises begin just over the Western frontier, and increase in violence as one proceeds westward, until Japan is reached, or possibly the Sandwich Islands, by which time, I am told, one enters the Orient and the realm of peace once more.

What noise we heard in Tzarskoe came from quite another quarter. As we were strolling in the park one afternoon, we heard sounds of uproarious mirth proceeding from the little island in the private imperial garden, where the Duchess of Edinburgh, in her girlhood, had a pretty Russian cottage, cow-stalls, and so forth, with flower and potato beds. She and her brothers were in the habit of planting their pussy willows, received on Palm Sunday, on the bank of the stream, and these, duly labeled, have now grown into a hedge of trees. The screen is not perfect, however, and glimpses of the playground are open to the public across the narrow stream. On this summer afternoon, there was a party of royalties on the island, swinging on the Giant Steps. The Giant Steps, I must explain, consist of a tall, stout mast firmly planted in the earth, bound with iron at the top, and upholding a thick iron ring to which are attached heavy cables which touch the ground. The game consists of a number of persons seizing hold of these cables, running round the mast until sufficient impetus is acquired, and then swinging through the air in a circle. The Tzarevitch* who had driven over from the great camp at Krasnoe Selo, and whom I had seen in the church of the Old Palace that morning at a special mass, with the angelic imperial choir and the priests from the Winter Palace sent down from Petersburg for the occasion, was now sailing through the air high up toward the apex of the mast. One of his imperial aunts, clad in a fleecy white gown, occupied a similar position on another cable. It was plain that they could not have done their own running to gain impetus, and that the gardeners must have towed them by the ends of the ropes. The other grand dukes and duchesses were managing their own cables in the usual manner. The party included the king and queen of Greece and other royal spectators. What interested me most was to hear them all shrieking and conversing in Russian, with only occasional lapses into French, instead of the reverse.

* The present Emperor, Nicholas II.

But everything is not royal in the vicinity of these summer parks and palaces. For example, just outside of Tzarskoe Selo, on the Petersburg highway, lies a Russian village called Kuzmino, whose inhabitants are as genuine, unmodified peasants as if they lived a hundred miles from any provincial town. Here in the north, where timber is plentiful, cottages are raised from the ground by a half-story, without windows, which serves as a storeroom for carts, sledges, and farming implements. The entrance is through a door beside the large courtyard gate, which rears its heavy frame on the street line, adjoining the house, in Russian fashion. A rough staircase leads to the dwelling-rooms over the shed storeroom. Three tiny windows on the street front, with solid wooden shutters, are the ordinary allowance for light. In Kuzmino, many of the windows had delicate, clean white curtains, and all were filled with blooming plants. A single window, for symmetry, and a carved balcony fill in the sharp gable end of such houses, but open into nothing, and the window is not even glazed. Carved horses' heads, rude but recognizable, tuft the peak, and lacelike wood carving droops from the eaves. The roofs also are of wood.

This was the style of the cottages in Kuzmino. The name of the owner was inscribed on the corner of each house; and there appeared to be but two surnames, at most three, in the whole village. One new but unfinished house seemed to have been built from the ridgepole downward, instead of in the usual order. There were no doorways or stairs or apertures for communication between the stories, which were two in number. It was an architectural riddle.

As a stroll to the village had consumed an unexpected amount of time, we found ourselves, at the breakfast hour, miles away from our hotel. We instituted a search for milk, and were directed at random, it seemed, until a withered little old peasant, who was evidently given to tippling, enlisted himself as our guide. He took us to the house of a woman who carried milk and cream to town twice a week, and introduced us with a comical flourish.

The family consisted of an old woman, as dried and colorless as a Russian codfish from Arkhangel, but very clean and active; her son, a big, fresh-colored fellow, with a mop of dark brown curls, well set off by his scarlet cotton blouse; his wife, a slender, red-cheeked brunette, with delicate, pretty features; and their baby girl. They treated us like friends come to make a call; refused to accept money for their cream; begged us to allow them to prepare the samovar, as a favor to them, and send for white rolls, as they were sure we could not eat their sour black bread; and expressed deep regret that their berries were all gone, as the season was past. They showed us over their house in the prettiest, simplest way, and introduced us to the dark storeroom where their spare clothing and stores of food for the winter, such as salted cucumbers in casks, and other property, were packed away; to a narrow slip of a room on the front, where the meals for the family were prepared with remarkably few pots and no pans; to the living-room, with its whitewashed stone-and-mud oven in one corner, for both cooking and heating, a bench running round the walls on three sides, and a clean pine table in the corner of honor, where hung the holy images. They had a fine collection of these images, which were a sign of prosperity as well as of devotion. The existence of another tiny room also bore witness to easy circumstances. In this room they slept; and the baby, who was taking her noonday nap, was exhibited to us by the proud papa. Her cradle consisted of a splint market basket suspended from the ceiling by a stout wire spring, like the spring of a bird-cage, and rocked gently. The baby gazed at us with bright, bird-like eyes and smiled quietly when she woke, as though she had inherited her parents' gentle ways. We believed them when they said that she never cried; we had already discovered that this was the rule with Russian children of all classes.

They were much interested to learn from what country we came. I was prepared to find them unacquainted with the situation of America, after having been asked by an old soldier in the park, "In what district of Russia is America?" and after having been told by an izvostchik that the late Empress had come from my country, since "Germany" meant for him all the world which was not Russia, just as the adjective "German" signifies anything foreign and not wholly approved.

"Is America near Berlin?" asked our peasant hosts.

"Farther than that," I replied.

They laughed, and gave up the riddle after a few more equally wild guesses.

"It is on the other side of the world," I said.

"Then you must be nearer God than we are!" they exclaimed, with a sort of reverence for people who came from the suburbs of heaven.

"Surely," I said, "you do not think that the earth is flat, and that we live on the upper side, and you on the lower?"

But that was precisely what they did think, in their modesty, and, as it seemed a hopeless task to demonstrate to them the sphericity of the globe, I left them in that flattering delusion.

I asked the old woman to explain her holy pictures to me, as I always enjoyed the quaint expressions and elucidations of the peasants, and inquired whether she thought the ikona of the Virgin was the Virgin herself. I had heard it asserted very often by over-wise foreigners that this was the idea entertained by all Russians, without regard to class, and especially by the peasants.

"No," she replied, "but it shows the Virgin Mother to me, just as your picture would show you to me when you were on the other side of the world, and remind me of you. Only—how shall I say it?—there is more power in a wonder-working ikona like this."

She handed me one which depicted the Virgin completely surrounded by a halo of starlike points shaded in red and yellow flames. It is called "the Virgin-of-the-Bush-that-burned-but-was-not-consumed," evidently a reminiscence of Moses. She attached particular value to it because of the aid rendered on the occasion which had demonstrated its "wonder-working" (miraculous) powers. It appeared that a dangerous fire had broken out in the neighborhood, and was rapidly consuming the close-set wooden village, as such fires generally do without remedy. As the fire had been started by the lightning, on St. Ilya's Day (St. Elijah's), no earthly power could quench it but the milk from a jet-black cow, which no one chanced to have on hand. Seeing the flames approach, my old woman, Domna Nikolaevna T., seized the holy image, ran out, and held it facing the conflagration, uttering the proper prayer the while. Immediately a strong wind arose and drove the flames off in a safe direction, and the village was rescued. She had a thanksgiving service celebrated in the church, and placed I know not how many candles to the Virgin's honor, as did the other villagers. Thus they had learned that there was divine power in this ikona, although it was not, strictly speaking, "wonder-working," since it had not been officially recognized as such by the ecclesiastical authorities.

These people seemed happy and contented with their lot. Not one of them could read or write much, the old woman not at all. They cultivated berries for market as well as carried on the milk business; and when we rose to go, they entreated us to come out on their plot of land and see whether some could not be found. To their grief, only a few small cherries were to be discovered,—it was September,—and these they forced upon us. As we had hurt their feelings by leaving money on the table to pay for the cream, we accepted the cherries by way of compromise. The old woman chatted freely in her garden. She had been a serf, and, in her opinion, things were not much changed for the better, except in one respect. All the people in this village had been crown serfs, it seemed. The lot of the crown serfs was easier in every way than that of the ordinary private serfs, so that the emancipation only put a definite name to the practical freedom which they already enjoyed, and added a few minor privileges, with the ownership of a somewhat larger allotment of land than the serfs of the nobility received. I knew this: she was hardly capable of giving me so complete a summary of their condition. But—it was the usual but, I found—they had to work much harder now than before, in order to live. The only real improvement which she could think of, on the inspiration of the moment, was, that a certain irascible crown official, who had had charge of them in the olden days, and whose name she mentioned, who had been in the habit of distributing beatings with a lavish hand whenever the serfs displeased him or obeyed reluctantly, had been obliged to restrain his temper after the emancipation.

"Nowadays, there is no one to order us about like that, or to thrash us," she remarked.

We found our fuddled old peasant guide hanging about for "tea-money," when we bade farewell to my friend Domna, who, with her family, offered us her hand at parting. He was not too thoroughly soaked with "tea" already not to be able to draw the inference that our long stay with the milkwoman indicated pleasure, and he intimated that the introduction fee ought to be in proportion to our enjoyment. We responded so cheerfully to this demand that he immediately discovered the existence of a dozen historical monuments and points of interest in the tiny village, all invented on the spot; and when we dismissed him peremptorily, he took great care to impress his name and the position of his hut on our memories, for future use.

We had already seen the only object of any interest, the large church far away down the mile-long street. We had found a festival mass in progress, as it happened to be one of the noted holidays of the year. As we stood a little to one side, listening to the sweet but unsophisticated chanting of the village lads, who had had no training beyond that given in the village school, a woman approached us with a tiny coffin tucked under one arm. Trestles were brought; she set it down on them, beside us. It was very plain in form, made of the commonest wood, and stained a bright yellow with a kind of thin wash, instead of the vivid pink which seems to be the favorite hue for children's coffins in town. The baby's father removed the lid, which comprised exactly half the depth, the mother smoothed out the draperies, and they took their stand near by. Several strips of the coarsest pink tarlatan were draped across the little waxen brow and along the edges of the coffin. On these lay such poor flowers as the lateness of the season and the poverty of the parents could afford,—small, half-withered or frost-bitten dahlias, poppies, and one stray corn-flower. The parents looked gently resigned, patient, sorrowful, but tearless, as is the Russian manner. After the liturgy and special prayers for the day, the funeral service was begun; but we went out into the graveyard surrounding the church, and ran the gauntlet of the beggars at the door,—beggars in the midst of poverty, to whom the poor gave their mites with gentle sympathy.

Russian graveyards are not, as a rule, like the sunny, cheerful homes of the dead to which we are accustomed. This one was especially melancholy, with its narrow, tortuous paths, uncared-for plots, and crosses of unpainted wood blackened by the weather. The most elaborate monuments did not rise above tin crosses painted to simulate birch boughs. It was strictly a peasant cemetery, utterly lacking in graves of the higher classes, or even of the well to do.

On its outskirts, where the flat, treeless plain began again, we found a peasant sexton engaged in digging a grave. His conversation was depressing, not because he dwelt unduly upon death and kindred subjects, but because his views of life were so pessimistic. Why, for example, did it enter his brain to warn me that the Finnish women of the neighboring villages,—all the country round about is the old Finnish Ingermannland,—in company with the women of his own village, were in the habit of buying stale eggs at the Tzarskoe Selo shops to mix with their fresh eggs, which they sold in the market, the same with intent to deceive? A stale egg explains itself as promptly and as thoroughly as anything I am acquainted with, not excepting Limburger cheese, and Katiusha and I had had no severe experiences with the women whom he thus unflatteringly described. He seemed a thoroughly disillusioned man, and we left him at last, with an involuntary burden of misanthropic ideas, though he addressed me persistently as galubtchik,—"dear little dove," literally translated.

If I were to undertake to chronicle the inner life of Tzarskoe, the characteristics of the inhabitants from whom I received favors and kind deeds without number, information, and whatever else they could think of to bestow or I could ask, I should never have done. But there is much that is instructive in all ranks of life to be gathered from a prolonged sojourn in this "Imperial Village," where world-famed palaces have their echoes aroused at seven in the morning by a gentle shepherd like the shepherd of the remotest provincial hamlets, a strapping peasant in a scarlet cotton blouse and blue homespun linen trousers tucked into tall wrinkled boots, and armed with a fish-horn, which he toots at the intersection of the macadamized streets to assemble the village cattle; where the strawberry peddler, recognizable by the red cloth spread over the tray borne upon his head, and the herring vender, and rival ice-cream dealers deafen one with their cries, in true city fashion; where the fire department alarms one by setting fire to the baker's chimneys opposite, and then playing upon them, by way of cleaning them; where Tatars, soldiers, goats, cows, pet herons, rude peasant carts, policemen, and inhabitants share the middle of the road with the liveried equipages of royalty and courtiers; where the crows and pigeons assert rights equal to those of man, except that they go to roost at eight o'clock on the nightless "white nights;" and where one never knows whether one will encounter the Emperor of all the Russias or a barefooted Finn when one turns a corner.



VII.

A STROLL IN MOSCOW WITH COUNT TOLSTOY.

"Have you ever visited a church of the Old Believers?" Count Tolstoy asked me one evening. We were sitting round the supper-table at Count Tolstoy's house in Moscow. I was just experimenting on some pickled mushrooms from Yasnaya Polyana,—the daintiest little mushrooms which I encountered in that mushroom-eating land. The mushrooms and question furnished a diversion which was needed. The baby and younger children were in bed. The elders of the family, some relatives, and ourselves had been engaged in a lively discussion; or, rather, I had been discussing matters with the count, while the others joined in from time to time. It began with the Moscow beggars.

"I understand them now, and what you wrote of them," I said. "I have neither the purse of Fortunatus nor a heart of flint. If I refuse their prayers, I feel wicked; if I give them five kopeks, I feel mean. It seems too little to help them to anything but vodka; and if I give ten kopeks, they hold it out at arm's length, look at it and me suspiciously; and then I feel so provoked that I give not a copper to any one for days. It seems to do no good."

"No," said Count Tolstoy with a troubled look; "it does no good. Giving money to any one who asks is not doing good; it is a mere civility. If a beggar asks me for five kopeks, or five rubles, or five hundred rubles, I must give it to him as a politeness, nothing more, provided I have it about me. It probably always goes for vodka."

"But what is one to do? I have sometimes thought that I would buy my man some bread and see that he ate it when he specifies what the money is for. But, by a singular coincidence, they never ask for bread-money within eye-shot of a bakery. I suppose that it would be better for me to take the trouble to hunt one up and give the bread."

"No; for you only buy the bread. It costs you no personal labor."

"But suppose I had made the bread?—I can make capital bread, only I cannot make it here where I have no conveniences; so I give the money instead."

"If you had made the bread, still you would not have raised the grain, —plowed, sowed, reaped, threshed, and ground it. It would not be your labor."

"If that is the case, then I have just done a very evil thing. I have made some caps for the Siberian exiles in the Forwarding Prison. It would have been better to let their shaved heads freeze."

"Why? You gave your labor, your time. In that time you could probably have done something that would have pleased you better."

"Certainly. But if one is to dig up the roots of one's deeds and motives, mine might be put thus: The caps were manufactured from remnants of wool which were of no use to me and only encumbered my trunk. I refused to go and deliver them myself. They were put with a lot of other caps made from scraps on equally vicious principles. And, moreover, I neither plowed the land, sowed the grass, fed the sheep, sheared him, cleansed and spun the wool, and so on; neither did I manufacture the needle for the work."

The count retreated to his former argument,—that one's personal labor is the only righteous thing which can be given to one's fellow-man; and that the labor must be given unquestioningly when asked for.

"But it cannot always be right to work unquestioningly. There are always plenty of people who are glad to get their work done for them. That is human nature."

"We have nothing to do with that," he answered. "If a man asks me to build his house or plow his field, I am bound to do it, just as I am bound to give the beggar whatever he asks for, if I have it. It is no business of mine why he asks me to do it."

"But suppose the man is lazy, or wants to get his work done while he is idling, enjoying himself, or earning money elsewhere for vodka or what not? I do not object to helping the weak, or those who do not attempt to shirk. One must use discrimination."

But Count Tolstoy persisted that the reason for the request was no business of the man anxious to do his duty by aiding his fellow-men, although his sensible wife came to my assistance by saying that she always looked into the matter before giving help, on the grounds which I had stated. So I attacked from another quarter.

"Ought not every person to do as much as possible for himself, and not call upon others unless compelled to do so?"

"Certainly."

"Very good. I am strong, well, perfectly capable of waiting on myself. But I detest putting on my heavy Russian galoshes, and my big cloak; and I never do either when I can possibly avoid it. I have no right to ask you to put on my galoshes, supposing that there were no lackey at hand. But suppose I were to ask it?"

"I would do it with pleasure," replied the count, his earnest face relaxing into a smile. "I will mend your boots, also, if you wish."

I thanked him, with regret that my boots were whole, and pursued my point. "But you ought to refuse. It would be your duty to teach me my duty of waiting on myself. You would have no right to encourage me in my evil ways."

We argued the matter on these lines. He started from the conviction that one should follow the example of Christ, who healed and helped all without questioning their motives or deserts; I taking the ground that, while Christ "knew the heart of man," man could not know the heart of his brother-man,—-at least not always on first sight, though afterward he could make a tolerably shrewd guess as to whether he was being used as a cat's-paw for the encouragement of the shiftless. But he stuck firmly to his "resist not evil" doctrine; while I maintained that the very doctrine admitted that it was "evil" by making use of the word at all, hence a thing to be preached and practiced against. Perhaps Count Tolstoy had never been so unfortunate as to meet certain specimens of the human race which it has been my ill-luck to observe; so we both still held our positions, after a long skirmish, and silence reigned for a few moments. Then the count asked, with that winning air of good-will and interest which is peculiar to him:—

"Have you ever visited a church of the Old Believers?"

"No. They told me that there was one in Petersburg, but that I should not be admitted because I wore a bonnet instead of a kerchief, and did not know how to cross myself and bow properly."

"I'll take you, if you like," he said. "We will go as guests of the priest. He is a friend of mine." Then he told us about it. Many years ago, a band of Kazaks and their priests migrated across the frontier into Turkey because they were "Old Believers;" that is to say, they belonged to the sect which refused to accept the reforms of errors (which had crept into the service-books and ritual through the carelessness of copyists and ignorance of the proper forms) instituted by the Patriarch Nikon in the time of Peter the Great's father, after consulting the Greek Patriarchs and books. In earlier times, these Old Believers burned themselves by the thousand. In the present century, this band of Kazaks simply emigrated. Then came the Crimean war. The Kazaks set out for the wars, the priest blessed them for the campaign, and prayed for victory against Russia. Moreover, they went to battle with their flock, and were captured. Prisoners of war, traitors to both church and state, these three priests were condemned to residence in a monastery in Suzdal. "I was in the army then," said Count Tolstoy, "and heard of the matter at the time. Then I forgot all about it; so did everybody else, apparently. Long afterward, an Old Believer, a merchant in Tula, spoke to me about it, and I found that the three priests were still alive and in the monastery. I managed to get them released, and we became friends. One died; one of the others is here in Moscow, a very old man now. We will go and see him, but I must find out the hour of the evening service. You will see the ritual as it was three hundred years ago."

"You must not utter a word, or smile," said one of the company. "They will think that you are ridiculing them, and will turn you out."

"Oh, no," said the count. "Still, it is better not to speak."

"I have had some experience," I remarked. "Last Sunday, at the Saviour Cathedral, I asked my mother if I should hold her heavy fur coat for her; and she smiled slightly as she said, 'No, thank you.' A peasant heard our foreign tongue, saw the smile, and really alarmed us by the fierce way in which he glared at us. We only appeased his wrath by bowing low when the priest came out with the incense."

So that plan was made, and some others.

When we were descending the stairs, Count Tolstoy came out upon the upper landing, which is decorated with the skin of the big bear which figures in one of his stories, and called after us:—

"Shall you be ashamed of my dress when I come to the hotel for you?"

"I am ashamed that you should ask such a question," I answered; and he laughed and retreated. I allowed the lackey to put on my galoshes and coat, as usual, by the way.

The next afternoon there came a series of remarkable knocks upon our door, like a volley of artillery, which carried me across the room in one bound. Servants, messengers, and the like, so rarely knock in Russia that one gets into the way of expecting to see the door open without warning at any moment, when it is not locked, and rather forgets what to do with a knock when a caller comes directly to one's room and announces himself in the ordinary way. There stood Count Tolstoy. He wore a peasant's sheepskin coat (tulup). The tulup, I will explain, is a garment consisting of a fitted body and a full, ballet skirt, gathered on the waist line and reaching to the knees. The wool is worn on the inside. The tanned leather exterior varies, when new, from snow white to gray, pale or deep yellow, or black, according to taste. A little colored chain-stitching in patterns on the breast and round the neck gives firmness where required. In this case the tulup was of a deep yellow hue; over it streamed his gray beard; peasant boots of gray felt, reaching to the knee, and a gray wool cap of domestic manufacture completed his costume.

"It is too cold for our expedition, and I am afraid that I started a little late also," he said, as he divested himself of his sheepskin. "I will find out the exact hour of service, and we will go on Christmas Eve."

It was only 15 to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and I felt inclined to remonstrate. But it is useless to argue with a Russian about the thermometer; and, moreover, I discovered that the count had come all the long way on foot, and was probably afraid of freezing us. I politely but not quite truthfully agreed that Christmas Eve was a better time.

Presently he proposed to go to the shop where books for popular reading are published by the million at from one and a half to five kopeks. He had business there in connection with some popular editions of the masterpieces of all ages and literatures.

The temperature of our room was 65 degrees, but the count's felt boots and a cardigan jacket, worn over his ordinary costume of dark blue trousers and strap-belted blouse, made him uncomfortable, and he sought coolness in the hall while we donned our outdoor garments. The only concession in the way of costume which I could make to suit the occasion was to use a wool instead of a fur cap.

This was not sufficient to prevent us from being a remarkable trio in the eyes of all beholders, beginning with the real muzhik ("boots") and the waiter, who were peering round corners in disapproval. Our appearance at the door effected a miracle. I could not believe my ears, but not one of the numerous cabbies standing in front of the hotel opened his lips to offer his services. Ordinarily, we had to run the gauntlet of offers. On this occasion the men simply ranged themselves in a silent, gaping row, and let us pass in peace. I had not supposed that anything could quell a Russian cabby's tongue. Did they recognize the count? I doubt it. I had been told that every one in Moscow knew him and his costume; but diligent inquiry of my cabbies always elicited a negative. In one single instance the man added: "But the count's a good gentleman and a very intimate friend of a chum of mine!"

"Are you a good walker?" asked the count, as he plied his thick stick, evidently recently cut in the grove adjoining his house. "I walk everywhere myself. I never ride; I can't, for I never have any money."

I announced myself as a crack pedestrian,—but not when burdened with Russian coat and galoshes. And I added: "I hope that you do not expect us to walk all those versts to church, because we must stand through the whole service afterward; they would be too strict to allow us chairs."

"We will go in the horse-cars, then," he replied. "But this constant use of horses is a relic of barbarism. As we are growing more civilized, in ten years from now horses will have gone out of use entirely. But I am sure that, in enlightened America, you do not ride so much as we do here."

Familiar as I am with Count Tolstoy's theories, this was a brand-new one to me. I thought of several answers. Bicycles I rejected as a suggestion, because the physical labor seems to be counterbalanced by the cost of the steel steed. I also restrained myself from saying that we were coming to look upon horses as a rather antiquated, slow, and unreliable mode of locomotion. I did not care to destroy the count's admiration for American ways too suddenly and ruthlessly, so I said:—

"I think that people ride more and more, with us, every year. If they do not ride even more than they do, it is because we have not these thousands of delightful and cheap carriages and sledges. And how are people to get about, how are burdens to be carried, how is the day long enough, if one goes everywhere on foot? Are the horses to be left to people the earth, along with the animals which we now eat and which we must give up eating?"

"That will regulate itself. It is only those who have nothing to do who have no time to do it in, and must be carried, in all haste, from place to place. Busy people always have time for everything." And the count proceeded to develop this argument. The foundation, of course, was the same as for his other doctrines,—the dependence on one's self, freeing others from bondage to his wants and whims. The principle is excellent; but it would be easier for most of us to resist the temptation to do otherwise on a desert island, than to lead such a Robinson Crusoe and physical encyclopedic existence in a city of today. This is almost the only argument which I felt capable of offering in opposition.

Thus we discussed, as we walked along the streets of China Town. When the sidewalk was narrow, the count took to the gutter. And so we came to the old wall and the place where there is a perennial market, which bears various names,—the Pushing Market, the Louse Market, and so on, —and which is said to be the resort of thieves and receivers of stolen goods. Strangers always hit upon it the first thing. We had ventured into its borders alone, had chatted with a cobbler, inspected the complete workshop on the sidewalk, priced the work,—"real, artistic, high-priced jobs were worth thirty to forty kopeks,"—had promised to fetch our boots to be repaired with tacks and whipcord,—"when they needed it,"—and had received an unblushing appeal for a bottle of vodka in which to drink the health of ourselves and the cobblers. With true feminine faith in the efficacy of a man's presence, we now enjoyed the prospect of going through the middle of it, for its entire length. I related the cobbler episode to explain why I did not give the count a job, and the count seemed to find no little difficulty in not laughing outright.

Imagine a very broad street, extending for several blocks, flanked on one side by respectable buildings, on the other by the old, battlemented city wall, crowned with straggling bushes, into which are built tiny houses with a frontage of two or three windows, and the two stories so low that one fancies that he could easily touch their roofs. These last are the real old Moscow merchant houses of two or three hundred years ago. They still serve as shops and residences, the lower floor being crammed with cheap goods and old clothes of wondrous hues and patterns, which overflow upon the very curbstone. The signs of the fur stores, with their odd pictures of peasant coats and fashionable mantles, add an advertisement of black sheepskins which precisely resemble rudely painted turtles. In the broad, place-like street surged a motley, but silent and respectful crowd. A Russian crowd always is a marvel of quietness,—as far down as the elbows, no farther! Along the middle of the place stood rows of rough tables, boxes, and all sorts of receptacles, containing every variety of bread and indescribable meats and sausages. Men strolled about with huge brass teapots of sbiten (a drink of honey, laurel leaves, spices, etc.), steaming hot. Men with trays suspended by straps from their necks offered "delicious" snacks, meat patties kept hot in hot-water boxes, served in a gaudy saucer and flooded with hot bouillon from a brass flask attached to their girdles behind; or sandwiches made from a roll, split, buttered, and clapped upon a slice of very red, raw-looking sausage, fresh from the water-box. But we did not feel hungry just then, or thirsty.

"There are but two genuine Russian titles," said the count, as we walked among the merchants, where the women were dressed like the men in sheepskin coats, and distinguished only by a brief scrap of gay petticoat, and a gay kerchief instead of a cap on the head, while some of the dealers in clothing indulged in overcoats and flat caps with visors, of dark blue cloth. "Now, if I address one of these men, he will call me batiushka, and he will call you matushka."*

* A respectfully affectionate diminutive, equivalent to dear little father, dear little mother.

We began to price shoes, new and old, and so forth, with the result which the count had predicted.

"You can get very good clothing here," the count remarked, as a man passed us, his arm passed through the armholes of a pile of new vests. "These mittens," exhibiting the coarse, white-fingered mittens which he wore, piles of the same and stockings to match being beside us, "are very stout and warm. They cost only thirty kopeks. And the other day, I bought a capital shirt here, for a man, at fifty kopeks" (about twenty-five cents).

I magnanimously refrained from applying to that shirt the argument which had been used against my suggestion in regard to giving bread. This market goes on every day in the year, hot or cold, rain, sun, or shine. It is a model of neatness. Roofs improvised from scraps of canvas protect the delicate (?) eatables during inclement weather. In very severe weather the throng is smaller, the first to beat a retreat being, apparently, the Tatars in their odd kaftans "cut goring," as old women say, who deal in old clothes, lambskins, and "beggars' lace." Otherwise, it is always the same.

Our publisher's shop proved to be closed, in accordance with the law, which permits trading—in buildings—only between twelve and three o'clock on Sundays. On our way home the count expressed his regret at the rapid decline of the republican idea in America, and the surprising growth of the baneful "aristocratic"—not to say snobbish—sense. His deductions were drawn from articles in various recent periodical publications, and from the general tone of the American works which had come under his observation. I have heard a good deal from other Russians about the snobbishness of Americans; but they generally speak of it with aversion, not, as did Count Tolstoy, with regret at a splendid opportunity missed by a whole nation.

I am sorry to say that we never got our expedition to the Old Believers' Church, or the others that were planned. Two days later, the count was taken with an attack of liver complaint, dyspepsia,—caused, I am sure, by too much pedestrian exercise on a vegetable diet, which does not agree with him,—and a bad cold. We attended Christmas Eve service in the magnificent new Cathedral of the Saviour, and left Moscow before the count was able to go out-of-doors again, though not without seeing him once more.

I am aware that it has become customary of late to call Count Tolstoy "crazy," or "not quite right in the head," etc. The inevitable conclusion of any one who talks much with him is that he is nothing of the sort; but simply a man with a hobby, or an idea. His idea happens to be one which, granting that it ought to be adopted by everybody, is still one which is very difficult of adoption by anybody,—peculiarly difficult in his own case. And it is an uncomfortable theory of self-denial which very few people like to have preached to them in any form. Add to this that his philosophical expositions of his theory lack the clearness which generally—not always—results from a course of strict preparatory training, and we have more than sufficient foundation for the reports of his mental aberration. On personal acquaintance he proves to be a remarkably earnest, thoroughly convinced, and winning man, although he does not deliberately do or say anything to attract one. His very earnestness is provocative of argument.*

* From The Independent.



VIII.

COUNT TOLSTOY AT HOME.

On one winter's day in Moscow, the Countess Tolstoy said to us: "You must come and visit us at Yasnaya Polyana next summer. You should see Russian country life, and you will see it with us. Our house is not elegant, but you will find it plain, clean, and comfortable."

Such an invitation was not to be resisted. When summer came, the family wrote to say that they would meet us at the nearest station, where no carriages were to be had by casual travelers, if we would notify them of our arrival. But the weather had been too bad for country visits, and we were afraid to give Fate a hint of our intentions by announcing our movements; moreover, all the trains seemed to reach that station at a very late hour of the night. We decided to make our appearance from another quarter, in our own conveyance, on a fair day, and long before any meal. If it should prove inconvenient for the family to receive us, they would not be occasioned even momentary awkwardness, and our retreat would be secured. We had seen enough of the charmingly easy Russian hospitality to feel sure of our ground otherwise.

Accordingly, we set out for Tula on a June day that was dazzling with sunshine and heat, after the autumnal chill of the recent rains. As we progressed southward from Moscow the country was more varied than north of it, with ever-changing vistas of gently sloping hills and verdant valleys, well cultivated, and dotted with thatched cottages which stood flatter on the ground here than where wood is more plentiful.

The train was besieged at every station, during the long halts customary on Russian railways, by hordes of peasant children with bottles of rich cream and dishes of fragrant wild strawberries. The strawberries cost from three to four cents a pound,—not enough to pay for picking,— and the cream from three to five cents a bottle.

Halfway to Tula the train crosses the river Oka, which makes so fine a show when it enters the Volga at Nizhni Novgorod, and which even here is imposing in breadth and busy with steamers. It was not far from here that an acquaintance of mine one day overtook a wayfarer. He was weather-beaten and travel-stained, dressed like a peasant, and carried his boots slung over his shoulder. But there was something about him which, to her woman's eye, seemed out of keeping with his garb. She invited him to take advantage of her carriage. He accepted gladly, and conversed agreeably. It appeared that it was Count Tolstoy making the journey between his estate and Moscow. His utterances produced such an effect upon her young son that the lad insisted upon making his next journey on foot also.

We reached Tula late in the evening. The guidebook says, in that amusing German fashion on which a chapter might be written, that "the town lies fifteen minutes distant from the station." Ordinarily, that would mean twice or thrice fifteen minutes. But we had a touch of our usual luck in an eccentric cabman. Vanka—that is, Johnny—set out almost before we had taken our seats; we clutched his belt for support, and away we flew through the inky darkness and fathomless dust, outstripping everything on the road. We came to a bridge; one wheel skimmed along high on the side rail, the loose boards rattled ominously beneath the other. There are no regulations for slow driving on Russian bridges beyond those contained in admonitory proverbs and popular legends. One's eyes usually supply sufficient warning by day. But Vanka was wedded to the true Russian principle, and proceeded in his headlong course na avos (on chance). In vain I cried, "This is not an obstacle race!" He replied cheerfully, "It is the horse!"

We were forced to conclude that we had stumbled upon the hero of Count Tolstoy's story, Kholstomir, in that gaunt old horse, racing thus by inspiration, and looking not unlike the portrait of Kholstomir in his sad old age, from the hand of the finest animal-painter in Russia, which, with its companion piece, Kholstomir in his proud youth, hangs on the wall in the count's Moscow house.

Our mad career ended at what Vanka declared to be the best hotel; the one recommended by the guidebook had been closed for years, he said. I, who had not found the guide-book infallible, believed him, until he landed us at one which looked well enough, but whose chief furnishing was smells of such potency that I fled, handkerchief clapped to nose, while the limp waiter, with his jaw bound up like a figure from a German picture-book, called after me that "perhaps the drains were a little out of order." Thrifty Vanka, in hopes of a commission, or bent upon paying off a grudge, still obstinately refused to take us to the hotel recommended; but a hint of application to the police decided him to deposit us at another door. This proved to be really the best house in town, though it does not grace the printed list. It was on the usual plan of inns in Russian country towns. There was the large, airy dining-room, with clean lace curtains, polished floor, and table set with foliage plants in fancy pots; the bedrooms, with single iron beds, reservoir washstands, and no bed linen or towels without extra charge.

The next morning we devoted to the few sights of the town. The Kremlin, on flat ground and not of imposing size, makes very little impression after the Moscow Kremlin; but its churches exhibit some charming new fancies in onion-shaped cupolas which we had not noticed elsewhere, and its cathedral contains frescoes of a novel sort. In subject they are pretty equally divided between the Song of Solomon and the Ecumenical Councils, with a certain number of saints, of course, though these are fewer than usual. The artist was evidently a man who enjoyed rich stuffs of flowered patterns, and beautiful women.

The Imperial Firearms Factory we did not see. We had omitted to obtain from the Minister of War that permission without which no foreigner of either sex can enter, though Russians may do so freely, and we did not care enough about it to await the reply to a telegram. We contented ourselves with assuring the officer in charge that we were utter simpletons in the matter of firearms, afraid of guns even when they were not loaded,—I presume he did not understand that allusion,—and that it was pure curiosity of travelers which had led us to invade his office.

However, there was no dearth of shops where we could inspect all the wares in metal for which this Russian Birmingham has been celebrated ever since the industry was founded by men from Holland, in the sixteenth century. In the matter of samovars, especially, there is a wide range of choice in this cradle of "the portable domestic hearth," although there are only two or three among the myriad manufacturers whose goods are famed for that solidity of brass and tin which insures against dents, fractures, and poisoning.

During the morning we ordered round a troika from the posting-house. It did not arrive. Probably it was asleep, like most other things on that warm day. It was too far off to invite investigation, and sallying forth after breakfast to hire an izvostchik, I became a blessed windfall to a couple of bored policemen, who waked up a cabman for me and took a kindly interest in the inevitable bargaining which ensued. While this was in progress, up came two dusty and tattered "pilgrims,"—"religious tramps" will designate their character with perfect accuracy,—who were sufficiently wide awake to beg. I positively had not a kopek in change; but not even a Russian beggar would believe that. I parried the attack.

"I'm not an Orthodox Christian, my good men. I am sure that you do not want money from a heretic."

"Never mind; I'm a bachelor," replied one of them bravely and consolingly.

When we had all somewhat recovered from this, the policemen, catching the spirit of the occasion, explained to the men that I and my money were extremely dangerous to the Orthodox, both families and bachelors, especially to pious pilgrims to the shrines, such as they were, and they gently but firmly compelled the men to move on, despite their vehement protestations that they were willing to run the risk and accept the largest sort of change from the heretic. But I was obdurate. I knew from experience that for five kopeks, or less, I should receive thanks, reverences to the waist or even to the ground; but that the gift of more than five kopeks would result in a thankless, suspicious stare, which would make me feel guilty of some enormous undefined crime. This was Count Tolstoy's experience also. We devoted ourselves to cabby once more.

Such a winning fellow as that Vanka was, from the very start! After I had concluded the bargain for an extra horse and an apron which his carriage lacked, he persuaded me that one horse was enough—at the price of two. To save time I yielded, deducting twenty-five cents only from the sum agreed on, lest I should appear too easily cheated. That sense of being ridiculed as an inexperienced simpleton, when I had merely paid my interlocutor the compliment of trusting him, never ceased to be a pain and a terror to me.

The friendly policemen smiled impartially upon Vanka and us, as they helped to pack us in the drosky.

Tula as we saw it on our way out, and as we had seen it during our morning stroll, did not look like a town of sixty-four thousand inhabitants, or an interesting place of residence. It was a good type of the provincial Russian town. There were the broad unpaved, or badly paved, dusty streets. There were the stone official buildings, glaring white in the sun, interspersed with wooden houses, ranging from the pretentious dwelling to the humble shelter of logs.

For fifteen versts (ten miles) after we had left all these behind us, we drove through a lovely rolling country, on a fine macadamized highway leading to the south and to Kieff. The views were wide, fresh, and fair. Hayfields, plowed fields, fields of green oats, yellowing rye, blue-flowered flax, with birch and leaf trees in small groves near at hand, and forests in the distance, varied the scene. Evergreens were rarer here, and oak-trees more plentiful, than north of Moscow. The grass by the roadside was sown thickly with wild flowers: Canterbury bells, campanulas, yarrow pink and white, willow-weed (good to adulterate tea), yellow daisies, spiraea, pinks, corn-flowers, melilot, honey-sweet galium, yellow everlasting, huge deep-crimson crane's-bill, and hosts of others.

Throughout this sweet drive my merry izvostchik delighted me with his discourse. It began thus. I asked, "Did he know Count Tolstoy?"

"Did he know Count Tolstoy? Everybody knew him. He was the first gentleman in the empire [!]. There was not another such man in all the land."

"Could he read? Had he read the count's 'Tales'?"

"Yes. He had read every one of the count's books that he could lay his hands on. Did I mean the little books with the colored covers and the pictures on the outside?" (He alluded to the little peasant "Tales" in their original cheap form, costing two or three cents apiece.) "Unfortunately they were forbidden, or not to be had at the Tula shops, and though there were libraries which had them, they were not for such as he."*

* At this time, in Moscow, the sidewalk bookstalls, such as this man would have been likely to patronize, could not furnish a full set of the Tales in the cheap form. The venders said that they were "forbidden;" but since they openly displayed and sold such as they had, and since any number of complete sets could be obtained at the publishers' hard by, the prohibition evidently extended only to the issue of a fresh edition. Meanwhile, the Tales complete in one volume were not forbidden. This volume, one of the set of the author's works published by his wife, cost fifty kopeks (about twenty-five cents), not materially more than the other sort. As there was a profit to the family on this edition, and none on the cheap edition, the withdrawal of the latter may have been merely a private business arrangement, to be expected under the circumstances, and the cry of "prohibition" may have been employed as a satisfactory and unanswerable tradesman's excuse for not being supplied with the goods desired.

"How had they affected him? Why, he had learned to love all the world better. He knew that if he had a bit of bread he must share it with his neighbor, even if he did find it hard work to support his wife and four small children. Had such a need arisen? Yes; and he had given his children's bread to others." (He pretended not to hear when I inquired why he had not given his own share of the bread.) "Was he a more honest man than before? Oh, yes, yes, indeed! He would not take a kopek from any one unless he were justly entitled to it."

"And Count Tolstoy! A fine man, that! The Emperor had conferred upon him the right to release prisoners from the jail,—had I noticed the big jail, on the left hand as we drove out of town?" (I took the liberty to doubt this legend, in strict privacy.) "Tula was a very bad place; there were many prisoners. Men went to the bad there from the lack of something to do." (This man was a philosopher, it seemed.)

So he ran on enthusiastically, twisting round in his seat, letting his horse do as it would, and talking in that soft, gentle, charming way to which a dozen adjectives would fail to do justice, and which appears to be the heritage of almost every Russian, high or low. It was an uncomfortable attitude for us, because it left us nowhere to put our smiles, and we would not for the world have had him suspect that he amused us.

But the gem of his discourse dropped from his lips when I asked him what, in his opinion, would be the result if Count Tolstoy could reconstruct the world on his plan.

"Why, naturally," he replied, "if all men were equal, I should not be driving you, for example. I should have my own horse and cow and property, and I should do no work!"

I must say that, on reflection, I was not surprised that he should have reached this rather astonishing conclusion. I have no doubt that all of his kind—and it is not a stupid kind, by any means—think the same. I tried to tell him about America, where we were all equals in theory (I omitted "theory"), and yet where some of us still "drive other people," figuratively speaking. But he only laughed and shook his head, and said he did not believe that all men were equal in such a land any more than they were in Russia. That was the sort of wall against which I was always being brought up, with a more or less painful bump, when I attempted to elucidate the institutions of this land of liberty. He seemed to have it firmly fixed in his brain that, although Count Tolstoy worked in the fields "like one of us poor brethren," he really did no work whatever.

Thus did I obtain a foretaste of the views held by the peasant class upon the subject of Count Tolstoy's scheme of reformation, since this man was a peasant himself from one of the neighboring villages, and an average representative of their modes of thought.

At last we reached the stone gateposts which mark the entrance to the park of Yasnaya Polyana (Clearfield), and drove up the formerly splendid and still beautiful avenue of huge white birch-trees, from whose ranks many had fallen or been felled. The avenue terminated near the house in hedges of lilacs and acacias.

Most of the family were away in the fields, or bathing in the river. But we were cordially received, assured that our visit was well timed and that there were no guests, and were installed in the room of the count's eldest son, who was at his business in St. Petersburg.

Then I paid and dismissed the beaming Vanka, whose name chanced to be Alexei, adding liberal "tea-money" for his charming manners and conversation. My sympathy with the hardship of being unable to procure books had moved me so deeply that I had already asked the man for his address, and had promised to send him a complete set of the count's "Tales" from Moscow.

We parted with the highest opinion of each other. Alas! a day or two later one of the count's daughters happened to inquire how much I had paid for the carriage, probably in consequence of former experiences, and informed me that I had given just twice as much as any cabman in Tula would have been glad to take. (The boredom of those policemen must have been relieved by another smile—behind our backs.) Then I repeated my conversation with that delicately conscientious izvostchik, nurtured on the "Tales," and mentioned my promise. Even the grave count was forced to laugh, and I declared that I should be afraid to send the set of books, for fear of the consequences.

When we were ready, being unfamiliar with the house, we asked the maid to conduct us to the countess. She took this in its literal sense, and ushered us into the bedroom where the countess was dressing, an introduction to country life which was certainly informal enough.

We dined at a long table under the trees at a little distance from the house. The breeze sifted the tiny papery birch seeds into our soup and water. Clouds rolled up, and at every threat of the sky we grasped our plates, prepared to make a dash for the house.

The count, who had been mowing, appeared at dinner in a grayish blouse and trousers, and a soft white linen cap. He looked even more weather-beaten in complexion than he had in Moscow during the winter, if that were possible. His broad shoulders seemed to preserve in their enhanced stoop a memory of recent toil. His manner, a combination of gentle simplicity, awkward half-conquered consciousness, and half-discarded polish, was as cordial as ever. His piercing gray-green-blue eyes had lost none of their almost saturnine and withal melancholy expression. His sons were clad in the pretty blouse suits of coarse gray linen which are so common in Russia in the summer, and white linen caps.

After dinner, on that first evening, the countess invited us to go to the fields and see her husband at work. He had not observed the good old recipe, "After dinner, rest awhile," but had set off again immediately, and we had been eager to follow him. We hunted for him through several meadows, and finally came upon him in a sloping orchard lot, seated under the trees, in a violent perspiration. He had wasted no time, evidently. He was resting, and chatting with half a dozen peasants of assorted ages. It appeared that he had made a toilet for dinner, since he now wore a blue blouse faded with frequent washing, and ornamented with new dark blue patches on the shoulders. It was the same blouse with which Repin's portrait of him engaged in plowing had already made us familiar.

We talked with the peasants. They remained seated, and gave no greeting. I do not think they would have done so on any other estate in Russia. It is not that the count has inspired his humble neighbors with a higher personal sense of independence and the equality of man; all Russian peasants are pretty well advanced along that path already, and they possess a natural dignity which prevents their asserting themselves in an unpleasant manner except in rare cases. When they rise or salute, it is out of politeness, and with no more servility than the same act implies in an officer of the Guards in presence of a Court dame. The omission on this occasion interested me as significant.

The conversation turned upon the marriage of one of the younger men, which was to come off in a neighboring village two days later, at the conclusion of the fast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. A middle-aged peasant took up the subject in a rather unpleasant and not very respectful manner, saying that he saw no use for priests, who had everything provided for them (na gatovayu ruku), and charged so high for baptizing and marrying.

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