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an hour in such a manner as appeared to afford them great diversion, they left me, and proceeded to another house.
A custom exists at Berezov with which I was very much pleased, which is to preserve the articles of dress worn by members of the family at their marriage, and these are laid up in the wardrobe chamber from generation to generation. It is, however, considered no desecration of these valued mementos to use them on the occasion of the Christmas masquerades; and thus one may, at such seasons, behold a series of costumes of past ages brought again to light, and it must be owned, that the re-appearance on the living scene of the identical wedding-dresses worn at different periods, recals the past more vividly than could be done by any records, or the most faithful traditions. For my own part, I examined them with the zeal and interest of an antiquary
The exceeding long nights of the Christmas season, are connected with a number of superstitious observances and ceremonies. of the New Year in particular is believed to be invested with marvellous attributes, enabling individuals under certain conditions and influences,
to look into the secrets of the future. Indeed, the people of Berezov in general are exceedingly credulous, and prone to believe anything supernatural and wonderful, such as the existence of apparitions, the efficacy of incantations, and all sorts of shams. They are passionately fond of having their destiny foretold, and not only greedily listen, but give implicit faith to all kinds of tales, however marvellous they may be, not allowing any doubt to be cast upon them. Every one possesses an inexhaustible fund of such stories; and though they are for the most part inconsistent with the ordinary course of nature, they are as firmly convinced of their truth, as if they related to something quite simple and self-evident. One story, which I happened to hear, is not a bad specimen of these wondrous tales, and will show to what an extent the credulity of the people is carried. It was narrated to me by no less an authority than a professor at the school of Berezov, and turns on an incident which he said had occurred to himself.
M. Kalmykow, for that is the teacher's name, was, during the last winter, at a friend's house where there was an evening party, forming a
The company did not break up till unusually late; and he himself left about an hour after midnight, and went towards home with a secretary of police, whose house was situated in the same part of the town as his
But when they were passing the policeoffice, the secretary intimated that he would stop there, instead of going home, and sleep at the office, adding: “I do not wish to disturb my mother, who must have long since gone to bed, and perhaps would rebuke me for being out so late.”
Accordingly, they parted, and Professor Kalmykow continued his way alone. He had, however, gone but a few he perceived his former companion by his side, and on expressing surprise, learnt that he had found the police office shut, and was therefore compelled to go on, but, not to disturb his mother, he would pass the remainder of the night in the streets, till the people got up to light the fires, and he entreated the Professor to remain with him, and share his vigil
. Kalmykow, however, being sleepy, would not assent to this proposition ; but, as he was much pressed, he at last acceded.
The night was very cold, and there was a piercing wind, and,
to protect himself from the blast, Kalmykow drew the hood of his fur shuba over his face, and led the way into a bye-street.
Having traversed a couple or more streets, the Professor's weariness became overpowering, and he begged his companion to go home; but he replied that they had now to wait bat a short time, and they still walked on, only at a quicker step, being benumbed with cold. After walking for some time, Mr. Kalmykow thinking that they could not be far from his house, uncovered his face to see where they were, and was much surprised, on looking round, to find that he was in a place which he did not recognize. He instantly turned to his companion to inquire where they were, and found that he had vanished.
He was now perfectly amazed, and made the sign of the cross. At last, through the twilight of daybreak, he discovered that he was far from town, in a lonely spot by the river Waygulka. He repeated the sign of the cross, and gaining strength from fear, ran as fast as he could towards the town, arriving quite breathless at his own house, while all its inmates were yet buried in sleep.
Up to this moment everything appears natural, and all might easily be accounted for. But next morning, the Professor meeting the Secretary, asked him why he had played him such a trick, and the latter, hearing to his astonishment the whole account of the incident, assured him that after he had parted with him in front of the police-office, he had been admitted into the police-office, and there remained for the rest of the night. The rest of the policemen, not excepting even the watchman on duty, bore testimony to what the Secretary stated. A few days after I had heard this story, I happened to meet the Secretary, and asked him concerning the real facts of the case; but all I gained in reply was that he could only testify to his having been in the Professor's company till they arrived at the police office, where they had parted, and he did not again see him till the next day.
This is but one of thousands of stories circulating at Berezov, which during the long winter evenings are recounted as something extraordinary and mysterious, and are received by the auditors as unquestionable truths. indeed be conceded that some of the narratives,